Is There a Way Out?/ Questioning Enlightenment (Oshana 2012 Report # 2)

Tallinn Intensive, June 9th, 2012

We began the Tallinn intensive with energy work and kept it up for about two hours. It felt like twice that. For the first hour or so, I was enjoying it and noticing effects in my awareness, a lightening and a clearing out. Dave’s advice began to seem doable, and I began to feel as though it was really possible to be disciplined enough for my awareness to re-inhabit the body. I was feeling so uplifted that I began to fantasize about how I was going to be the “champion” Dave was looking for, the one who would carry the Transmission into the future.

I wondered if I was like the inverse of Dave in some way: he had lived a clean, spiritually-focused life from the age of five and become enlightened at a young age. Now he was talking about his body wearing out and the need to find a successor while only in his mid-forties. My own journey had been almost the opposite, a decadent, almost nihilistic youth, followed by psychedelic use and occult dabbling (and more than dabbling); now I felt like something of a physical and spiritual train wreck. Perhaps I had gone through everything I had gone through in order to be able to experience a rebirth in middle age? I could become an enlightened transmitter with a special knowledge of the darkness!

My fantasies began to dwindle and die during the second hour, as I became increasingly tired, and my thoughts grew defeatist and despairing. Dave kept reminding us this was only the warm-up, and that we were rushing through all the exercises and needed to spend much longer on them at home. It seemed as though hours and hours would be needed every day performing energy work just to clear the body enough to allow for the light to land. By the last stretch of the workout, I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t continue any longer. I was relieved to see at least two other people (girls) had already curled into balls on the floor.

Another thing: Since I hadn’t read the intensive description before coming I hadn’t expected energy work. After all that sweating for two hours in my jeans, I realized I would have to wear the same trousers for the rest of my trip. It was an example of my casual, “fly by the seat of my pants” approach being unconscious self-sabotage. I was reluctant to take the whole enlightenment thing too seriously, but as a result I wasn’t taking it seriously enough. This meant I was making simple practical mistakes and reducing the benefits.

For the last part of the day, Dave talked more generally about getting enlightened and the Transmission legacy. I felt a tiredness in the room, both in myself and in Dave. In fact, almost everyone was lying down by now. Dave’s words seemed heavy and intended to pressure us, to drive home the inauthenticity of our lives. I felt as though I had heard it all before, that Dave was banging the same drum and that no one, especially him, wanted to hear it. Later, I thought about how this was perhaps why most spiritual teachers preached that there is “nothing to do,” the alternative being that there really is something to do, which is a message no one wants to hear.

When Dave uses the term “spiritual seeker,” he might as well be using the term “warrior,” at least as I have always understood it. He’s an odd contradiction: on the surface, he seems to employ the most generic and user-friendly terms (enlightenment, spirituality, soul, God), while at the core of him is something rigorous, demanding, and highly exclusive, if only because it is so demanding.

Afterword

For an enlightened teacher to avoid the slavish devotion or blind admiration of his “students,” simply warning them against these things is not enough. (When a Master says “I am no different from you,” that only elevates him further in his disciples’ eyes: “Oh, he’s not only awesome, he’s humble too!”) Perhaps the only sure way for such fantasies and projections to be kept in check is if the teacher’s limitations are nakedly apparent, to constantly remind the student that the “master” is just an ordinary person with an extraordinary perspective.

This would not only confound our ideas about what enlightenment is about, but also continuously punch holes in any idealized view we might have of the teacher himself. In my case, it leaves me to negotiate with my doubts, and to ask myself how relevant these things really are. Does it matter what Dave is capable of as “an enlightened being,” compared to the question of how reliable, accurate, and useful his guidance and example is to me, and how honest and trustworthy he is as a person? The question of how he fits my beliefs about what “enlightenment” is, is largely irrelevant.

In fact, the whole question, “Is Dave Oshana enlightened?” is a red herring. No one but Dave can know the answer, and it doesn’t actually make any difference, as far as I can see. Well, clearly it makes a difference if he is enlightened or not, but all we can judge are the effects of being with Dave, and of being open to his teaching and guidance. We can only know where he is at by going there. Does enlightenment actually mean anything to anyone who hasn’t experienced it?

For myself, it comes down to a very basic question: Is there a way out? Is there a state of awareness, an experience, that is free from conditioning, delusion, and unnecessary suffering? If I come upon someone who claims to have found a way out, in such a way that seems plausible, I am going to investigate that claim as closely as I can. If I find enough evidence to support their claim, I hope I am willing to throw caution to the wind and (without relinquishing my critical faculties or capacity for discernment) to put my trust in that person’s greater insight and wisdom. There’s really no other way to test it.

My body may know the answer, but my mind can still doubt the body. It is what the mind does best. And in the absence of knowing, all that is left is belief. Believing that the Transmission is real is useless: it is just an opinion. I have to know. But the only way to know is to proceed as if it were real, in order to find out. That means to proceed without believing, which leaves only trust: trust in Dave, to a degree, but mostly trust in myself and above all, trust in life. Trust that this is the path that I am meant to be taking. The funny thing is, I really don’t doubt it. Whatever path I am on, it must be the right one. But I  doubt all the rest, the details, the moment to moment decisions, which always come down to the one decision: to surrender or not to surrender.

Many times in the day I just want to yell at the top of my lungs that none of this makes sense and that I cannot possibly be expected to live my life according to such a preposterous and outlandish premise.

Redefining Enlightenment (June 14th)

Mind Without a Center

At the Tallinn intensive, Dave spoke about how, when he first became enlightened, he was unable or unwilling to go back into his mind due to a feeling of disgust. From this I understood that the mind was still present, but that he was no longer confined, restricted, or defined by it.

During an informal, impromptu Skype conversation initiated by Dave on June 14th, I brought the subject up and said that I had not heard a description of this kind from other spiritual teachers. I asked if there was some basic difference between Dave’s enlightenment and that claimed by other people. I imagined his mind as like a snake skin after the snake has shed it, still intact but empty of life. I wondered if his awareness of his old mind as a separate “thing” might be contrasted with people who took their mind with them into enlightenment, and so became an enlightened ego. Maybe the shell of Dave’s mind was there, I thought, as a necessary reminder not to get tricked into identifying with the constructs of belief? I didn’t express any of this fully, and Dave’s response was just to describe more exactly his experience.

He said that, although he was (to this day) able to go back into his mind, it was similar to when a hand is covered with water-resistant cream before submerging itself in water: the cream prevents the water molecules from touching the skin, so although the hand appears to be submerged, it is not actually in the water. Similarly, when he went into his (old) mind, after enlightenment, he was able to look around at the contents without being exposed to them or becoming identified with them. This was even despite his efforts to do so, he said.

On the one hand (no pun intended), he wanted to be able to test his enlightenment through full immersion in those old constructs or beliefs; on the other, he wanted to be able to meet people in the midst of their experience, and to have a fuller understanding of what they were going through while identified with the contents of their minds. Although he had got better at it, he said, he was still unable to go all the way into the mind; it was like he had a bungee cord attached to his back, making sure he never got lost in there.

I said it was probably just as well. He agreed.

I asked if the old mind was the same as “Dave,” the self that died or vanished when he became enlightened. He said that it was all the stuff which Dave had accumulated. I asked if it was “all that was left of Dave” and he said that it was, but that it, the mind, had fallen into disarray since he had left it, because it no longer had an organizing principle or center (he described it as a cobweb without a center). I told him I thought this was valuable information and he suggested that I write it down.

I forget if it was before or after this part of the conversation, but I commented to him that for most people, enlightenment equated with perfect, total realization, infallibility and impeccability. I said that his version of enlightenment refuted such an idea, but that many people didn’t make it past that first, crucial claim of being enlightened.

They never got to see that Dave was redefining enlightenment as something simpler, less grandiose, and more comprehensible. It was, as far as I could tell, simply a permanent leaving behind of the confines of the mind.

The Easter Bunny of “Enlightenment”

I started this document to sum up what Dave had said to me about his relationship to his mind, post-enlightenment. For the writer and the seeker in me, this is where the “meat” is, not only of today’s conversation but of my relationship with Dave overall. How could I not be drawn to find out more about this subject and want to report my findings to the world?

Enlightenment, like all meaningful concepts, has become weighed down by conceptual baggage. It has become shrouded and obscured by presumptions, fantasy, misconception, and self-serving deception. Now millions of people are chasing after and eulogizing over something they do not even begin to understand. The thing with enlightenment is—like “God”, “truth” and “reality”—if there is such a thing, it is the only thing that really counts. Because without it, our experience is by definition partial, incomplete, invalid.

Enlightenment has been misrepresented to the point that people who might actually be capable of experiencing it are not interested: they know better than to believe in such an absurdity.

Enlightenment is supposed to be freedom from illusion. By even the shaky definitions that we have, that’s the least we can expect from it. It’s only natural if people want to argue that enlightenment is really only the ultimate and supreme illusion. That’s one way to take all the pressure off of attempting to get free from illusion. We can tell ourselves that a person claiming to be enlightened is even more deluded than we are. Nine times out of ten (or 99 out of 100), it’s probably true. But what about that one exception?

I am curious about the criteria which people use for dismissing, as they do, a person’s claims to being enlightened without investigation. I am not suggesting that they should investigate every claim of enlightenment, but only to reserve judgment prior to a full investigation or, at the very least, to offer up their criteria for examination by others. In the case of the most common and sweeping criteria—that enlightenment means never saying you are—they could explain the reasoning behind their argument, rather than simply stating it as a self-evident hypothesis. And also, most crucially of all, explain what they think they mean by “enlightenment.”

If our definitions of enlightenment come (according to the skeptical reasoning) from people who were not enlightened, then why are these skeptics using those same definitions to disprove the claims of the enlightened?

What if someone claims to be enlightened but defines enlightenment in a way that is radically (or subtly) different from the standard definitions of enlightenment?

18 thoughts on “Is There a Way Out?/ Questioning Enlightenment (Oshana 2012 Report # 2)”

  1. If you do an exercise it develops some strength seemingly unrelated to the exercise. Like if you lift something up off the ground, no matter what the goal of moving that object is, you are going to get a stronger back unless you make it more complex that it needs to be with the mind. Then something might just break. Assuming you just move objects or packets of energy, or change reality in anyway with Intent, then what you used to do that will get stronger and thicker. That habit of use will eventually become visible to you like how lifting makes muscles become visible.

    People with natural strengths are good at particular exercises. They then sell these exercise plans which use a strength they were born with or developed early. Like if you have a strong back, you can pick heavy stuff up off the ground well.

    Then you can form a group of adult wanna be’s around what ever your childhood strength is. Don’t directly call it that strength, make it an activity or state enabled by that strength, so it seems like it is an activity someone could do rather than just what that the leader is. None of the followers ever progress at a deep level because the Teacher is only in that position because of their past, not anything they are having the students do in the present.

    e.g. If you have a developed strong emotional or energy body, you can move emotions and experiences/energy around. Both student and teacher often mistake the ability for the strength which allows for the ability Eg I want to move all negative emotion out of my field. Or I want to move, or pull, or allow all my consciousness into my body.

    This is all just strength training. You do it for a long time thinking you are going to get somewhere until eventually you realize you’ve gotten very strong, very sensitive, or very focused. Typical kung fu story. want iron grip? Then Pull out all the thick roots of this weed in this field before I will teach you. I learned nothing! he yells in anguish as he crumbles the rock in his hand to pebbles.

    All unrelated to anything you accomplished with the exercises that developed it. What is a muscle? I was weeding? Fascia? Neuro impulses?

    A story unrelated to my story got reinforced and made more real via the purity of my effort?

    Then you become conscious of the body which develops through effort and you can see through yourself and all the teachers very clearly. So through to all which is living and all which is dying. At this point, most people convert to orthodox christianity because they see a similarity between the Goodness in themselves and the Goodness in christ, and attributing that goodness to Christ – or at very least to what ever you want to call the understandable aspect of God/Infinity – is a super easy way to drop the ego and move on with life.

    Basically, just like everyone else, all the trouble was getting out of balanced. Some stuff was really strong. Other things were really weak. If a strength Gets out of hand, all the ignored stuff has to be made strong. like in other words you might have to obtain worldly success. Get rich. Be liked. etc. Or at least develop the strength that would let you easily do that, even if what ever that is isn’t important. The balanced strength is. Or just wait to die. That evens all the strengths out.

    • thanks; I can see you’ve put a lot of through into this. I’m not sure if it addresses the subject of Oshana energy work however, which relates to detoxification more than developing any skillset.

      • Oshana Energy-Work Method I clears the channel, the body.
        Oshana Energy-Work Method II gathers and transmits energy.
        They are not the same.
        Method II was taught only 16 years after Method I.

  2. The Narva river at Tallinn, Narva meaning ‘waterfall’ or ‘stream’ , a border river between the Third Rome Muscovites and the Teutonic Order facing opposite. How appropriate.
    Your right, it doesnt matter if he’s enlightened or not. Interesting that being a conduit for power ages one prematurely.

  3. For myself, it comes down to a very basic question: Is there a way out? Is there a state of awareness, an experience, that is free from conditioning, delusion, and unnecessary suffering?

    All states of awareness are subject to those things, because a state, by definition, arises from a cause other than itself, is temporary, and is not self-sustaining. Fortunately, however, enlightenment is not a state of awareness or an experience. Neither of these terms describe it.

    Even more fortunately, although it’s not an experience it is nevertheless possible to encounter the truth of this non-experience, on ceasing to identify with your experience as yourself (ego), because what you really are is something beyond experience. This does not entail a rejection or exclusion of anything at all from your awareness but, rather, a radical inclusion of everything that arises within it. This is the means by which the apparent but false separation between the bits of experience that seem to be “you” (but which are actually just like all the other bits that seem to be the impressions the “you” is having) are finally seen through. (Not rejected, not ended, but simply seen for what they are.)

    You are already, right now, something completely beyond your experience, completely enlightened, so your question is redundant in the sense that you don’t need a “way out”; you are already out and this is already it. But what needs to happen is your realisation of how this is the case.

    Here endeth the sermon. 😉 <3

    • Are you enlightened?

      I feel there ought to be a loose rule here, “No defining enlightenment by the unenlightened.” Aka, no sermons. 😉

      • I’ve had awakenings, and have been fundamentally changed by them, so what I’ve written is on the basis of personal experience, but the process has continued on and on after my initial awakening, and I’ve come across people who are more enlightened than I am, in the sense they seem to see and understand aspects of awakening that I presently do not. It doesn’t seem as if it’s entirely a binary thing.

        I really enjoyed Prisoner of Infinity, which is what has brought me to check out your work in more detail. (The rave review in Fortean Times led me to the book.) Your perspective on the relationship between spirituality and mental health (my pet subject at the moment) is really interesting, and I’m looking forward to the remainder of your dialogues with Dave.

        My experience has been that having had an awakening experience (which I regard as the real thing), my mental health has become more challenged (panic attacks; derealisations). I’ve seen this also in others who have followed a similar path, whereas others carry on just fine. I feel as if bits of the psyche that are clinging still to a pre-awakened sense of self are causing the issue, and the challenges are pointing the way ahead to deeper levels of realisation. So you can probably see why I’m so intrigued by the quite different perspective that you seem to offer!

        • I have had “awakenings” too but whether I have been “fundamentally changed by them” is something I now question. I would now equate them with “spiritual states” which relate more closely to siddhis than enlightenment IMO. I believe (tho I may of course be wrong) that you are making the common western error of conflating these two things and of associating enlightenment, as I did, with some super-spiritual state rather than, as I now imagine it to be, the final removal/dissolving/integration of the foreign implant of trauma-generated false identity.

          In this sense, as Dave Oshana says, it is very much binary. Either a person is pregnant or not, alive or not, enlightened or not. However, I’m approaching this as a logical question, and this includes the logical acceptance that a) I cannot know what enlightenment is until it has happened to me; b) if I do not know what something is, how can I know if I am getting closer to it? I can only describe my own changing experience of living.

          The awakenings I had via drugs, occult rituals, & extreme behaviors of other sorts, were very different in nature to the sort of slow, steady process of becoming more embodied and at peace in my life that has occurred since I gave all that up, via the most ordinary disciplines such as house renovation, group interactions, working in the community, and living with another person on a daily basis. I see no real comparison between the two, frankly, and currently I see very little value in the first kind of awakening, for me at least (though also for those I have encountered who have taken a similar path). In fact, I now tend to see those experiences as having a negative value, insofar as they made it much harder to live an ordinary existence and settle into my body with all its limitations and discomforts. However this probably isn’t a binary thing; some of the visions and insights I experienced via my extreme pursuits have proven to have some meaning later in life; but compared to the toll that those pursuits took on my body overall, I cannot conclude that it was worth it.

          You allude to this here: My experience has been that having had an awakening experience (which I regard as the real thing), my mental health has become more challenged (panic attacks; derealisations). I’ve seen this also in others who have followed a similar path

          For me this would be evidence that what is occurring is not so much an awakening (which I see as occurring in the body and nowhere else), but similar to the sort of psychic opening/rupture caused by psychedelics. While it does allow for access to other aspects of existence outside the ego and the ordinary senses, it is only at the cost of further alienation-dissociation from the physical.

        • “Distressed awakenings” are fascinating, perplexing and a topic that I have been researching with interest. It makes sense, that in many cases, it never was going to be a “smooth move” because prior traumatic conditioning creates a fragmented and barbed false-identity which tenaciously resists being aborted.

  4. Christ what a sordid mess postmodern relativist magick is, the cultural logic of late capitalism , to quote Ser Fred Jameson , ‘the dialectical reatructuring of cultural dominates and subordinates’ , ‘shedding of psychic identity and centred subject’ ( honey pot) , and this beauty, ‘ baleful and alienating paratextual reiification’.
    Abandon all hope ye who enter here , useful only as Metaxu.

  5. I have a few questions, probably because I am not sure what you (or Dave O) mean by enlightenment;
    Can an enlightened person live with unresolvable paradox? What about unresolved, and possibly unresolvable, emotional pain?
    Which historical persons do you believe were enlightened? What do you know of their lives, and how do their lives differ from your own?
    My list would include (besides Gautama Buddha), Thomas Merton, a monk named Brother Lawrence, and Augustine of Hippo.
    I wish you every success with your spiritual journey!

    • @Aibohphobia

      > I have a few questions, probably because I am not sure what you (or Dave O) mean by enlightenment;

      It means to be what you really are, something that imagination cannot imagine.

      > Can an enlightened person live with unresolvable paradox?

      Everyone does.

      > What about unresolved, and possibly unresolvable, emotional pain?

      That might be a faulty model. It does not make sense to me. However, I am sure we could explore together, face-to-face. Abstract, impersonal and anonymous comments will not get far.

      > Which historical persons do you believe were enlightened? What do you know of their lives, and how do their lives differ from your own?

      I am unsure. I am attracted to elements of stories about Jesus and Buddha and Thomas Anderson.

      > I wish you every success with your spiritual journey!

      We are all in the same body.

      To know about Enlightenment Transmission, me or create some synergy, contact me initially via my contact-form: https://www.daveoshana.com/contact

  6. It would certainly be interesting to hear what Dave has to say about those questions, but whether you post your answers in a blog or not, I think it would help you (or anyone) to see what sort of response you can muster.
    For my own part, I think that Gautama Buddha, Merton, Lawrence, and Augustine were all enlightened, and at the same time lived with paradoxes they could not resolve and enduring emotional pain.
    It would be great to see what Dave O says too!
    Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving weekend! 😉

    • OK but I don’t have much of an opinion on whether Buddha was enlightened or not, or even whether he existed; tho I tend to assume both it’s not based on a very deep familiarity with the history or the teachings.

      Can an enlightened person live with unresolvable paradox? What about unresolved, and possibly unresolvable, emotional pain?

      These questions are bit abstract for me to know how to answer them. By definition, tho, an enlightened person can live with anything. As can we all; what choice we got? I think you mean, can enlightenment resolve these things?

  7. Thank you, Jasun. You describe the nuances and subtleties well. How rare and wonderful to catch a live one in a sea of bland nothing-new spiritual offerings.

    • Two true, I second that. A true find in a sea of no-nothing fake outs. Truth does not have to speak loudly, it is deafeningly and definitively obvious.

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