In my previous post, I abridged the full transcript of Ramesh Balsekar’s conversation with Leonard Cohen in early 1999, because it was very long. Here are the missing bits, including Ramesh’s teaching on Satori. For the dialogue to run smoothly, I have retained some of the exchanges in Part One.
Ramesh Balsekar: But you used the word “resonance”.
Leonard Cohen: Yes Sir.
RB – Can you explain that a little bit, Leonard?
LC – I found that during some of the rigorous retreats that we’re subjected to, I would find myself opening one of your books, specifically The Final Truth; and I would find that your writing would illuminate the discourses of our Master, and vice versa. That resonance became very discernible. It became urgent that I …
RB – A similar thing happened to me.
RB – You know Wei Wu Wei? Have you heard of Wei Wu Wei? – particularly one book which a friend of mine gave me twenty years ago, which I knew was a treasure, but I couldn’t understand it – I kept it aside. So that was what used to be – what my teacher said, and what was said in the book – amazing. Is that the sort of thing you mean?
LC – Yes Sir, it is.
RB – I see. And in particular, The Final Truth?
LC – Well, that was the book I happened to have with me in my pack. I would open it at any free moment, and the words would rise up, illuminating the whole day.
RB – Yes, I see. Have you read any other books of mine?
LC – Yes, I have just finished “Pointers”. I have it with me now. But I read it very, very slowly. It seems that one section can occupy me for long, long periods.
RB – Yes. And then, you’ve been here ten days! But you’ve been so silent!
LC – I’ve been sipping at the nectar. It’s very delicious to be here.
RB – Yes. So now, what you have heard these ten days, and what you have read in the book, and your original understanding – how do they resonate? Can you explain that a little bit?
LC – On the intellectual model, your model becomes clearer and clearer to me – your conceptual presentation – and so does my old Teacher’s. On the experiential level, I feel the weakening of certain proprietorial feelings of doership … … You know, over the years, especially anybody who hangs around a Zendo meditation hall, is going to get a lot of ‘free samples’, as you put it. If you sit for long hours every day and are subjected to sleeplessness and protein deficiency, you’re going to start having experiences that are interesting … … A greed for those kinds of experiences develops. Which is what happens in monasteries.
RB – I see. You see, what happens is – Wayne and I had a very brief talk a couple of days ago; we were both walking on the roof. He made a point that while certain practices bringing about these free samples, inflate the ego, could these practices also not inflate the ego to an extent where it bursts? Which is one way for the annihilation of the ego.
LC – That is a very excellent characterisation of this kind of practice.
RB – That is what it is supposed to do. But I told Wayne, the explosion will happen if that is the will of God, and if it is the will of God, that that bodymind organism follow THAT PATH. This reminded me of the story of Lao Tsu and his disciple, which I’m sure you know, but I will repeat it. A disciple went to Lao Tsu with his face flushed with the vigour of achievement. And he told him, “Master! I’ve got it!” Lao Tsu compassionately placed his hands on the disciple’s shoulders and told him, “Son, you have NOT got it.” You’ve heard this story?
LC – No, Sir.
RB – Oh really? Oh well! He said, “No my son, you haven’t got it.” So, dejected, the disciple went away. Some time later he came back again, fell at the Master’s feet and said “Master, it has happened.”
Lao Tsu looked into his eyes, knew it, and raised him up saying, “Now tell me what happened.” The disciple explained, “I was so SURE that I had got what I wanted, all the experiences, all the joy, I knew I had got it; but when you told me that I had NOT got it, I accepted that as the truth. But it was also the truth as far as I was concerned, that I had done all I could, and yet you said I had achieved nothing. So the result was: accepting BOTH as the truth. I went about my way, not wanting anything, not expecting anything; and suddenly I noticed that the joyous experiences had gone, but a peace had descended. And it also struck me then, that this was the peace that I was after – not achieving anything!”
So this is the peace that came when the seeking stopped. You see? So, it was the destiny of the mindbody organism of that particular disciple, that the ego be bloated to an extent where it burst; and the pin that burst it was Lao Tsu telling him “No, you haven’t got it!”
But again, the danger IS – if it is the will of God and the destiny of that bodymind organism – that the ego will bloat, and stay bloated at a level where the bloated ego considers himself a Master, you see? and wants and does get hundreds and thousands of disciples! And the bloated ego stays there. So it may not get pricked.
But, when the ego gets weaker and weaker and weaker, then it has to ultimately die, finding out “Who is doing anything? Who is seeking anything? Who is to get anything? You see? That is why I said, the only Sadhana I recommend, is to find out at the end of the day, how many actions that I remember having happened today, were MY actions, and how many just happened?
And I dare say that an honest analysis will make the ego come to the conclusion that no actions were HIS actions, or HER actions! And if this happens day after day – it may start with the end of the day, but it will be found that this analysis happens many times DURING the day! – until towards the end, an action happens and the analysis that it was not my action, happens almost simultaneously; so that with the firmest possible conviction, with unconditional acceptance that I do nothing, the question arises, not intellectually “Who am I?” but from the very depths of frustration – it can be said, frustration of the ego – “If I have not been doing, if no act is my action, who is this ME I’ve been so concerned about?”
Ramana Maharshi used the words “Who am I” because in English there is a marvellous distinction between ‘I’ and ‘me’, but in the Tamil language and most other languages I am told, this distinction is not there. So when Ramana Maharshi said, “Find out who am I”, he really meant, “Who is this me I’m so concerned about?”
If this process starts, it is the will of God. And if this process reaches a certain depth – every step is God’s will and the destiny of that body-mind organism – the actual arising of this question is there a me, out of DEEPEST FRUSTRATION, is what is perhaps called THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
In the time lag between the arising of the question and the arising of an answer, the deepest frustration is the dark night of the soul. And the dark night of the soul awakens you into the answer: “There never has been a ‘me’. There is thinking, but no thinker. There is doing, but no doer.” The thinker, the doer, the experiencer, comes later, and becomes proud, or has a feeling of guilt. Thinking happens. A thought arises and leads to some action. And later on, the individual ego doer comes in and says “I had a brilliant idea which I put into practice, and now I am Bill Gates, making five hundred dollars every second.” That is how thought occurs. But the one who says ‘I thought’ comes later. And it was God’s will and the destiny of the mindbody organism that that should happen. Albert Einstein in his total humility, has gone on record as saying the equation came to him from outside.
LC – I think that’s the experience of every artist and mind worker.
RB – Yes. Nureyev the ballet dancer has said, “Nureyev dances best when Nureyev isn’t there.” And the same thing is said by I suppose, any artist in whatever field. So, proceeding this way, even that depends on the will of God and the destiny of the organism.
There’s a tiny book, an abridged edition of the Bhagavad Gita. Have you read it?
LC – This edition, no.
RB – Bhagavad Gita is seven hundred verses. Someone told me that Ramana Maharshi had condensed it into forty-three or forty-eight verses. This friend of mine who used to come regularly, had a copy, so I said, “Would you give me that copy?” He said “Yes, yes, I’ll bring it next time.” And four times he came, and four times he forgot. So I said, “Ramana Maharshi’s answer to me is clear. Do it on your own!” – (Laughter.) “Don’t read MY collection!”
And so I started doing it: so mine came to sixty-six verses. And one of those verses is this: “Out of thousands of people there is one seeker. Out of the many seekers, there is ONLY ONE who knows me in principle.” You see? So the many seekers who don’t reach this ultimate end, obviously have to be following paths which are not supposed to lead them to the end, during the process of that bodymind organism anyway.
So the misconception “What is the best path? Which is the best Spiritual path?” – there is no “best spiritual path”. There is only a particular spiritual path for you, or for this particular bodymind organism, at that moment of its development. So the Source will send this bodymind organism to that Guru who is appropriate for him or her at the time; all the bodymind organism can do, is to follow that Guru to whom he has been sent.
But my only point is this: many Gurus, unfortunately, tie down their disciples, saying “Now you have come to me. You wanted to be initiated. Now our relationship is life-long.” You see? But to me, that is ridiculous. You initiated him, but who sent him to you? That Source certainly has the right to send that disciple somewhere else! Who is this Guru, to bind him for life? Therefore the word “Guru hopping” is used in a sort of derogatory way.
LC – Guru …?
RB – Guru Hopping. (Laughter). It’s used in a derogatory way. To me, it is perfectly logical and acceptable.
LC – In the Zen tradition as you know, monks went from one Master to another, in search of different aspects of the teaching. I don’t feel I am betraying my Teacher by being here.
RB – Yes. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. In fact, Wayne told me, you told your Teacher.
LC – Yes.
RB – And he didn’t ask for …?
LC – Yes. He asked me to cook him one last meal. Because I’m his cook.
RB – I see. So, Leonard, is he likely to ask you when you go back, what did you learn?
LC – My understanding, he will discern exactly. I think the issue more urgent, is whether I stay there or not.
RB – Yes. But if he does ask you – which is not impossible, is it? – what would you say, Leonard?
LC – Well, we have – I would try to convey to him in the terms that – but he doesn’t speak English … … I would probably gasho to him. (Bows deeply)
RB – This is gasho?
LC – Yes, and depending on the truth of the moment, whether I could step aside from the understanding and let the understanding communicate itself …
RB – The answer is, “I don’t know”. Is that what you meant?
LC – It’s correct.
RB – Then that is absolutely correct: “I don’t know what answer will come out.”
LC – He has, you know, the Japanese rigour. So he would question, he would listen carefully to my saying “I don’t know”. Because “I don’t know” is the answer to many koans.
RB – No no. What I’m saying is: “I don’t know” is your answer to me.
LC – Ah Yes. Yes, Sir.
RB – That I DON’T know what will come out of my lips if such a question were asked. That’s what I meant. When I said “I don’t know”, what I mean is – that would be your answer to my question about what you should say.
You see? So some experience happens. Then people want more experiences. This greed as you quite rightly said, for the experience. Wanting – ananda means ‘bliss’. But the word ‘calm’ or ‘cool’ – deep down, that is how the word has come – cool, or calm. At one stage Ramana Maharshi uses the word ‘bliss’ because it has come down – not Ramana Maharshi, but in the translation. One point I came across, which I have triple underlined – he said: “Calm is superior to bliss.” The word I prefer is “peace”.
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