by Adrian Brooks
Words can only point to the mystery revealed in awakening. No one has ever been able to describe phenomenal mysticism for, by definition, Self-realization is beyond explanation. Thus, language may indicate but can't possibly convey the simple, overwhelming discovery. While aware of such limitation, I wish to share my personal revelation and encourage others to embark on their own journey with confidance in their choice. As an enthusiastic participant in the most extreme and outrageous vanguards of the 60's and 70's, I've lived through the 80's and 90's with profound gratitude that I was able to contribute to and be enriched by modern gay culture. Though HIV+ since 1981, I never felt despair. Possibly this is because I seroconverted before AIDS was even discovered so there wasn't any sense of guilt that I'd ignored a life-threatening danger. Instead, like all the others infected so early -- 95% of whom are now dead -- I paid an unexpected toll for sexual liberation.
There have been many attempts to explain or contain the implications of who we are and what the past means now that the giddy rush of revolution has led legions into various forms of recovery or puritanical sobriety. The youthful exuberance of babyboomers who cut our teeth on devotion to progressive social change is marginalized or trivialized as a sort of collective acting out by pundits who weren't ever in the front lines of the Movement. Academics and Monday morning cultural quarterbacks now theorize that such flash points must be subdued by mature reappraisal and function mainly to initiate the first flush of liberation, always a heady passing moment. I disagree.
I believe there always was -- and still is -- a clear and radiant stream connecting us to that wrenching era of "peace, love and flowers," when opposing war or racism might result in being attacked, jailed, rejected or ridiculed. I perceive that light shining today just as it did then. It has never been diminished or extinguished. Indeed, it never could be -- for it is the fundamental truth implicit in spirituality. It animates justice in societies just as it nurtures individuals who seek the self. I speak from experience -- as an anti-war activist in 1966; then volunteer worker for Martin Luther King until his assasination in 1968; as a Quaker who refused to go to Vietnam; in New York's SOHO from 1970-1972 with Andy Warhol or in San Francisco scripting shows and performing as a star of the now legendary "Angels of Light" (1974-1980) -- I lived in the white hot center of counterculture. As a poet, I was in the vanguard of that outspoken gay liberation generation. As a novelist, I celebrated homosexual love in 1980. As a playwright, I devoted years to free theater and, as an activist, conducted workshops for young writers. All these pursuits were political acts of devotion to the emerging gay communiiy as well as pit stops in a spiritual, personal odyssey. In retrospect, as social movements are calcified into whatever slogan survives in collective memory, it's easy to lose track of what drew adventurous spirits together, binding us in a commitment to iconoclastic tribalism. I attest there was a soulful undercurrent to those years of cultural upheaval, a profound vision and search which cannot possibly go out of date or be marginalized by revisionist theories as to who we were and why we did what we did. Devotion to this ideal became my life even after I quit the avant-garde in 1983.
In 1985, dispirited by the "me decade" and numbed by romantic stalemate, I left America -- electing to divide my time between Europe and India. Over the years, in addition to the personality-based guru cults marketing wisdom to Westerners, I had direct contact with several enlightened masters. Although occasionally there was a language barrier, no speech was necessary. Soul recognized soul. In 1994, I stumbled upon an audio cassette of an American born teacher named Gangaji who carries on the lineage of Ramana Maharshi (d. 1950), a man who lived and taught mainly in silence but who is now considered the foremost saint of 20th century India and one of the great religious figures of all time. Though I was not looking for a guru, when I heard her voice I knew I'd found my master. Gangaji conducts satsang (gatherings where Truth is welcomed and examined) in Marin County -- just north of San Francisco. Returning to California, I met her in person on October 15,1995, asking her to guide me to self-realization without allowing any possibility of escape. She agreed. Again, soul recognized soul.
On January 12,1998, on the night of a full moon, Gangaji fulfilled her promise. Through her Grace, I was given the gift of the awareness I'd sought throughout my life. The experience of innate perfection, consciousness of Consciousness Itself, was revealed. And in that boundless recognition, the Truth was exposed: that I am (and we are) That which has been sought. This state or condition is born into each human being and exists in full -- quite beyond defect.
In my case, transformation occurred at 5:00 am. I woke from sleep into miracle. There was no celestial music, no visual image; I only sensed I was a minuscule pinprick in the center of a vast ocean of tranquil, perfect consciousness. That awareness was absolutely steady and unshakable -- but permeated by Ramana. Essentially, he summoned me to a reunion across time and illusionary death. This was beyond Mind, beyond idea, memory, concept, theory or personality. Gradually, I grew aware that this recognition was what Gangaji indicates and what her master acquired from Ramana. No different from the transcendent message of Christ, Buddha and the Gita, it is so simple: that (we) are already perfect "as is," and that our true nature is beyond form, name or any idea of who we take ourselves to be. All that is illusion. This condition is inborn, a birthright inhabit-ing every atom of our being just as it represents the changeless dynamic flux of eternity. Put simply, it is Divine Consciousness wait-ing to be discovered. Saturated by unfolding awareness of eternal cosmic silence, I realized loving intelligence inhabited every aspect of the universe -- Truth beyond form. In fact, all form -- life forms, planetary form, galactic form -- arises and subsides in That. Now I found myself able to "reverse" the process -- imagining that, instead of my being a tiny "spectator" to this cosmic play, I might contain everything within. Thus, rather than being the microcosm, I could be the macrocosm. Effortlessly and without any shift in focus, this "process of reversal" checked out without shaking or diminishing awareness. Throughout this fluid transition, I witnessed That which exists beyond limitation: my own Self.
Once able to perceive that we are consciousness beyond form and that form supports the illusion of separateness (an illusionary separateness supporting the ego-in-action -- that ego which must defend, attack, acquire, hunt, feed, compete and justify itself) I saw human tumult was unnecessary. There had never been reason for turmoil. It was only a manifestation of that same Mind which prevents us from achieving release by keeping us in bondage through our attachments and enslaved by desires. Such addiction or craving for sensation must engender pain. Reflecting on the pointlessness of egoistic struggle and the futility of chasing sense pleasures, I might X-ray the theories which give rise to mental strategies and the projections promoting such activity. But absolutely nothing could impugn or tarnish the radiance inherent in every human soul. That we live shadowed lives until this is discovered is indisputable. That we must set aside the Mind (which functions on the illusion of being incomplete to keep us subservient) is a given for who we truly are bears no relation to any preconception -- including those of being ignorant or enlightened. But the reward for devotion to the Truth is the non-negotiable certainty of an end to suffering.
As the experience allows retroactive reappraisal, I perceived a purpose hidden in the most difficult challenges of my life; each exemplified a lesson I needed to learn. Since childhood, there was an intense yearning for freedom -- a fire burning in my heart. Still, defining myself as a gay man who grew up wanting love and hunting it relentlessly, I'd been unable to distinguish between real love and an idealized false condition which wears a romantic mask but trades in heartache: the endless repetition of desire or temporary fulfillment followed by an inevitable craving for More Sens-ation. Even while sensing that this appetite (based on the misidentification of body-as-Self and defined by image, age or desirability) was an itch which could never be appeased, I devoted years to the pursuit of an ephemeral safe base which might gratify my hunger while easing the ache of a loneliness I wasn't brave enough to acknowledge or secure enough to confront. I was afraid to look in and discover I was empty.
I was not ready or willing to hear the glad news: that I already was complete and that nothing needed doing. I had never been separated from indwelling truth, a truth which could be realized merely by turning consciousness upon itself, by asking "Who am I?" and -- via that simple question or through direct experience -- recognizing there is "no one home" inside and that unawakened existence is a series of illusions projected upon the blank screen of perfect consciousness.
If it sounds abstract, let me be clear: we are all born divine and have the ability to awaken to the innate glory of our own Self, freed from any bondage. In that awakening, there is the attainment of true freedom, freedom from attachment, desire and the confusions born of Mind. Put simply, the Mind is an addict and must generate "satisfaction" by using the constant vanishing point -- the promise of pleasure -- as its lure. But Freedom is always present and the opportunity for awakening never absent. We are always invited to help ourselves to boundless fulfillment for it is both manifest and omnipresent: divine spirit in love with itself.
To awaken to the reality that we are each perfect, that nothing need be done, that we already are That Which We Seek requires only an instant of pure silence. Ultimate freedom is attained by putting aside the Mind completely, allowing space for the Self to be unveiled. It is as simple and attainable as that.
It is counter productive (and only guarantees even more pain) to squander time or place the flowers of one's aspirations at the wrong shrine. In a consumer world culture built on disposable commodities, a society dependent on youth and beauty or money and fame as substitutes for true value, we are pressured every day of our lives to buy into the Lie. The Big Lie which assures us that, if only we have more or "improve," we will be happy. Be wealthy. Find true love. And live "happily ever after." We may devote lifetimes to the Big Lie. In fact we have. That is why we are here. Earth is a planet for people who didn't get it right in prior incarnations. Truth is where we all arrive in the end, however we postpone or evade the reckoning. There we find sanctuary and the endlessly renewable resource of the Self. Such refuge requires no practice; it has no initiation, no proof of merit, no litany or formal regulations, no qualifications, entrance requirements or dogma. It lies gloriously beyond any structural limitation -- as basic as breath.
Witnessing mankind's futile attempts to control aging, loneliness and death, sentient beings must recognize that the answer to existence cannot possibly be found nor enduring freedom attained until we surrender to the spiritual content of our own hearts. All else is a fata morgana but this is destiny, one which wants claiming. This is the purpose of a human birth and can be fulfilled gloriously, beyond all illusions of achievement in the world. Or delusions of success.
In declaring this, I do not intend to warn anyone (especially the young) against the joy of love. Or making love. I am no Puritan and this report is neither a midlife repudiation of "the excesses of a misspent youth" nor an effort to convert others to my particular path. However, I do indeed bear witness to everyone's potential for self realization and state an unequivocal belief that attachment to pleasure, identification with the senses or the body-as-self causes pain. No more certain path to suffering exists. That is the central, cautionary message of the Buddha -- a teaching borne out in Reality by the ruthless Truth of existence.
Still, Liberation does not preclude experience and the Truth is not reserved for renunciates. While there is enormous potential value in sharing intimacy, love and tenderness, it must be remembered that these are only experiences. Beautiful and precious as such states may be, they represent the opportunity for a greater awakening. Can one find self-realization and remain in relationship? Of course. As long as Truth is recognized and served, there is no problem. I testify as one who pursued every available trail and survived to tell this story. For me, all the lessons became blessings in the end because, in the end, every good story (and life well lived) points to freedom. But that is no reason to delay, for time is never guaranteed nor can we be certain life will last long enough to take us the distance. As one who indulged countless diversions, I can attest that there is no limit on Grace nor any qualification for inclusion among the angels. Consciousness itself is the answer and the key to whom you have always been. Therein you may discover the sacred Self, That which you are. RSVP.
Adrian Brooks lives in San Francisco. He is available for satsang or private consultation. He can be contacted at (415) 252-5959.