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[Open Centre] Newsletter

Dearest Friends,

I hope that this newsletter finds you happy and thriving wherever you are in the world!

We have some good news to share about a major project that has come to completion and Jaya shares some of the spiritual wealth that has touched her life through parenting Gyan. A lovely poem from Mary Oliver follows Jaya’s words. I have included a link to the photos of Ramana Maharshi which we attempted to offer in the last newsletter but the link did not function correctly. And finally, an inspiring interview with Yvan Amar which is a bit lengthy but well worth the time it takes to read. First, our good news...



Please got to www.opendharma.org to take a look.

Many thanks to Ernest Conill and Delphine Chagot and their daughters Laia and India for their patience and creativity in making it happen over the last 2 years. Also many thanks to Karen Sumey, Chad Bennett, Nadha Sutara, Dave Adair, Chris Savidge, Benoit Martin, and Ulrike Doehler for all their ongoing help. Please enjoy the downloadable talks, the new menu, the first Sangha Interviews, new photos, and many other things. You can always check what is new on the web by clicking on the website news tab in the upper right area.

Please let us know if you have suggestions or experience technical difficulties. Some changes had to be postponed till the next round of updates in a few months.



Some words from Jaya:

One thing that I love about being Gyan's mother is that it somehow really clarifies what is important in spiritual practice. For example, I love that it is impossible to "get it right." We can do our best, we can do well, we can do and be with joy and intelligence--but "right" is impossible. There are so many versions and ideas of what is right.  And they conflict. There is no way out except by being true to what feels in tune, and at the same time completely accepting the criticism that comes from total strangers and close friends and family alike. Sometimes maybe explaining our own point of view, our values. And getting on with what is important.

Another parenting lesson that inspires my spiritual practice:

Accept that it is challenging, and then accept the challenge. No matter what our situation is, there are challenges--even privilege is challenging....How many people do we know who can handle abundance with grace, and thrive with it? Instead of thinking of our lives and their difficulties as drudgery, damaged goods, an accident, or a curse, we can bring all our resources and creativity to our challenges.


Am I Not Among the Early Risers

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be

worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,

to gather blueberries,

thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

What countries, what visitations,

what pomp

would satisfy me as thoroughly as Blackwater Woods

on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Here is an amazement--once I was twenty years old and in

every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,

and in every motion of the green earth there was

a hint of paradise,

and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace--the same darkness.

Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.

Above the child who will recover and the child who will

not recover, the same energies roll forward

from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

~Mary Oliver


Rare Photos of Ramana Maharshi

In 1949 a Life photographer and a journalist came to Ramanasramam from the US to write an illustrated magazine story about Ramana Maharshi. A few of the photos were published that year, along with the article, but most were not. The organisation that owns the photos has now posted all of them online here…



Yvan Amar Interview

Yvan Amar was an influential French spiritual teacher and author who died in 1999. He lived in India for many years as a disciple of Chandra Swami Udasin who he recognised as being his Guru. He also was to study closely with the French master Jean Klein and with Ramana Maharshi's disciple Sri Poonjaji (Papaji).

Yvan: It was November. I was brought to the Swami's room. Nothing extraordinary happened, but I immediately knew several things. The beauty I saw in that man was for me an undeniable testimony. This beauty could only be given by an experience of the ultimate. Standing in front of him I felt that I could never forget him and I never would lie to him.

With him I could live what we in the Western world know so rarely:
the total relationship with a human being. He truly embodied what is meant by the word `guru'. In Sanskrit, this word means `weight' - what has weight and is heavy. The words `gravity' and `gravitation' come from the same root.] The guru is a person of weight, as one can say that a word is heavy - having an important meaning - or that person has a lot of weight on the scale of decision making. The guru is the weight of what he represents because he embodies this spirit he has realized - he carries the weight of this experience. He gives weight, importance, to what surrounds him. He gives a center of gravity to things. Things which were out he sets back to their natural center of gravity. When one is in the guru's presence, one is transformed by this effect and right away one feels linked to the Real. The relationship I've had with him has been that kind of linkage. It is beyond words.

It is really a pity that today, in the West, the word `guru' has become a word of insult. When we hear the media speaking of a guru, they are usually speaking of one person trying to manipulate and exploit others. Although really the guru is the archetype of the most accomplished person, of the Sage, of the rare human being capable of Loving. You will never find any cult surrounding these beings.

In India, there are what are called `ashrams'. These are places of discipline, of effort, where people try to escape from the only cult existing on earth - the cult of selfishness. Ashrams are schools of vigilance, of consciousness, of trying to leave behind personal interests. This reality is indeed very far away from the one held around here in the West.

With the guru, the closer you get to him, the more his presence reminds you not to sleep. Being near him was being near me! Where I could once hope to perpetuate a dream, I was now being forced to be near myself, to end the myth I tried to perpetuate about my relationship to him. Having a guru is the exact opposite of alienating oneself to another.

An accumulation of experience can never change a person. On the other hand, when the crucial experience occurs, the one called Awakening, Illumination, then there is a radical seeing of what gives meaning to all these experiences. Then there is a change. This is the only difference that can exist between one person and another. One's life is only the addition of all one's experiences, one's understanding is also due to the sum of experiences, and its meaning is only due to this sum. Then there is the one in which there has been this dramatic experience which is more than the sum of one's experiences. which gives meaning not only to one's experiences, but to all there is. Suddenly everything has a meaning, IS meaning, because in the heart of experience we ARE that meaning.

Awakening, Illumination gives a lethal strike which attacks the heart of our behavior, the mechanism of personal interest which used to lead our behavior, everything which created our way of behaving, [but more years are needed for this new way of being to really take place.]

In 1979 came a crucial confrontation. Even though I had lived near Chandra Swami, Jean Klein, and Poonjaji, I had the feeling that I was living a lie, and that I did not really live in tune with myself. I'd become a relatively respected yogi, I could stay still for a couple of hours in silence, I dressed in white, and I had a relatively controlled life, but inside I knew I was still the same. I had modified a lot of things, but deep in my heart nothing had changed. I realized that for years I had been aiming for something which was located outside the world, transcending it, what we would call Being, the Soul, the Real, something Unchanging that fear cannot reach. I became aware it was an ultimate hiding place that I was looking for and that all the teachings I received were received only because they were giving security from the fear I had of the world. I was always looking for a `beyond' - beyond the body, beyond emotions, beyond thoughts, beyond change, and beyond duality. In fact, that search for a point `beyond' was always a way to escape from what was right here.

At one point I saw that lie and saw that deep in me it didn't fit me, that I couldn't live in a thing like that. I also felt that in the world there was a way to act in tune with oneself, and if I tried to know what was my own way and was practicing it, I would be on the path of Being. I realized then there could be two ways, that Enlightenment, Awakening, was not only transcendent, out of the world. I had lived a misunderstanding, what could be called the `exclusive privilege of transcendence', as if the transcendental had exclusive privilege of the Real, and that in the world there was no other possibility than to live first the transcendent, and then come back to the world. Deep in me I felt the answer was no. There should exist a way in the world, a way of the immanent, where it was possible to live the Real. I thought I was taking an enormous risk, but I knew I couldn't do anything else. I couldn't go back, nor make a U-turn. I was taking the risk to leave everything I had been doing for years. Suddenly, I was getting rid of my status as a great yogi, of someone who could create inner silence, etc. I told my wife that day, "I'm taking an incredible chance. I renounce everything that I believed for so many years, but I don't give up. I just renounce a certain way of looking. Maybe I'll become like those I was laughing at in the past, the ordinary person who watches TV, goes to the movies, and acts like everybody else." And I added,"It is stronger than me - I cannot do anything else." I took the risk of life, the risk not to look for anything beyond.

At once I gave up everything which made me live. It has been total - nothing was preserved, nothing was kept. I progressively felt something I never felt since I was born. I felt Life itself. I went to what was there and felt that Life come into me. There are very simple experiences which come at that time, but they are absolutes. I felt that Life was loving me, as I was, like I was.

It is like if this Life had been waiting for me. I then understood why the great mystics were talking of the Divine Mother, because this feeling of the love of Life towards us, it is like the absolute feeling of love of a mother. We have the feeling to be in the arms of the Divine Mother. This was no vision, no hallucination - it was something very simple, very solid, very immediate, which was taking me from inside and that I was recognizing I really had the feeling that life was loving me.

An absolute feeling of confidence was growing. As much as I used to feel in conflict, in separation, in permanent fear, now grew a confidence in Life. The immediate feeling was that this confidence was my nature. This experience only grew bigger for three days until there was an absolute trust in what was there, not needing it to be an object. And then everything disappeared - the Divine Mother, Yvan Amar, and there was only an absolute reality in which there was no division, no conflicts. This was the obviousness of Being.

Everything I had heard about was the obviousness, was what I was.
Everything that I saw was bringing me back to that Reality I was. And of course any idea about reaching something had vanished forever, thus nothing was to be reached,thus I had always been this.

And it was obvious that what Ramakrishna and my Master had spoken about, and what all the great scriptures I'd read said was,"Everything in fact is Brahman, the Real." The only thing I could tell people visiting me was also obvious,"You are also This." It was obvious, every being was This. To say "I am That" or "You are That" was the same thing. What was the great surprise of this awakening was that it was This, that which I tried to go beyond in order to realize it somewhere else, in transcending.

It was revealed that this life was flowing from instant to instant, this permanent change, this great process that was the Real, and that it was the fear of this change that had made me look for an immovable reality beyond change. This changing was reality and to be the reality was to be that change and not to be out of balance with that change - it is to be one with the movement of Life. I had looked for years for an eternal knowledge which could end all ignorance and in fact, I found no knowledge. This movement by its nature is mystery, and to be in the movement of Life is to BE the mystery. Thus it was not to know the mystery where at once something was known, but to know the mystery as we ARE the mystery. When I was asked at that time what was the meaning of this awakening, I replied,"It is very simple. I shifted from a sorrowful misunderstanding to a joyful misunderstanding."

It had carefully erased in me the idea of an acquired knowledge, and this joyful ignorance, this joyful misunderstanding was a lot more intelligent than all the knowings I had learned. This lasted a week or ten days. As it was not something I had learned, but was my true nature, I never imagined this could disappear, could stop, although as suddenly as it came - but it never `came' - I found myself out of balance, again in duality, in the feeling of separation. It was hell, because there is no other way of living separation but as hell, when one had been living united in a non-dual state. I was completely lost. I used to ask myself,"How could one lose this?". And then several things occurred to me which explained many things about the personal behavior of some awakened beings and teachers.

First, there is the universal feeling of enormous loss that is felt when one is not anymore in that consciousness, and I think many beings balance that loss - I did it in the beginning - through the worship given to them by their fellows and friends, due to the fact that the person who has lived such an experience has charisma. Then grows this relationship around worship. The person who doesn't live Awakening anymore, but has such charisma feels fed by the adoration of the people who are really fascinated by this charisma. This is one of the first great traps of the one beginning to be Awakened.

[The interviewer asks Yvan if this Awakening is what is referred to as `kundalini awakening' or `shaktipat']

If you mean by shaktipat this awakening of consciousness, this obviousness in the middle of which one is apart from nothing, where one is everything which has been and will be, that there is nothing to wait for nothing ever that was lost, synonymous with the absence of fear, where there is the infinite ability to love, if this is what you call `shaktipat', I agree and say,"this is it." To me, there is an appropriate word - `awakening'. To me, the awakening of kundalini is the beginning of a process of which the fulfillment is non-dual enlightenment, where there are no others.

Something we don't realize in the beginning is that once one has lived Awakening, one has only one idea in mind, and that is to live it again, to recreate it. It took me a long time to understand that awakening was impossible to be lived again - it is only to be embodied. Time was needed to slowly and progressively embody that process for it to become more and more alive .For a long time we try to reproduce what through memory becomes a phenomena, as if it had been a phenomena, although it is not one. Then one is again the prisoner of psychological mechanisms which make it an object of memory and as something reproducible - and it's not - one can never reproduce Enlightenment. The only possibility is to cooperate with the awakening process which started, and as long as one does it in the most sincere and honest manner, one becomes a better transmitter of that process.

 I went to see Chandra Swami. He gave me a teaching that I was to live a life enabling this consciousness to incarnate more in me. (Yvan tells of Swamiji asking him to teach, showing him how to teach, to transmit and initiate.) I started to teach, but wanted it to be discreet, as I had the feeling that what I was living was still growing, and I was to elaborate a specific teaching I didn't yet know.
This was extraordinary. I wasn't to serve the people a
ready-made gimmick. I felt that what I lived was allowing a Teaching in the heart of the relationship with the people coming to see me. And this is what happened. From 1989, people came.

At the beginning I felt people came because of me, what I was bearing. They would ask questions, and from the answers coming out of our relating, a teaching started to grow. In fact, it was the teaching which was important, not so much the person they were talking to.
Meanwhile, the process of embodying the Awakened state kept growing. I was not what one could dream about as a Satguru, who is an absolute incarnation of the Real. I felt growing in me something which was my nature, my destiny, which was more and more obvious in the relationship I had with my people. I noticed people were becoming more and more disciples of this teaching, and not of me. At first the teacher had been important, but slowly the teaching was becoming more important.

I then understood that this was allowing people not to have a master anymore, but to be disciples of a teaching in which they recognized themselves. This teaching had the traditional basis of all teachings, in that it was revealing the wrong mechanisms which perpetuate the dream, the sleep, and it was also feeding the remembrance (through traditional practices) of the presentiment of the Real and making it grow in everyone. A teaching was thus born which had nothing to do with it's beginning context, which was India. This teaching is really born in the West. Slowly, a terminology, a language of this teaching was structured.

At the same time, I saw - and if I didn't see it, my wife did - lapses in my own life. Some things were not yet clear. I realized that in the middle of this unfoldment was still some selfishness. This has to be said. One can be Enlightened and at the same time be stuck in egoic mechanisms of self-protection, when the Awakening doesn't touch all parts of one's being. It's important to say here that the intelligence of the Enlightenment brings to light only those places inside to which we have opened the doors. Then all the work is to keep on opening the doors of the dark areas for the light of Awakening to come in. It is alive in me. In the heart of my being, I know I am Free. I know I am Awakened, Enlightened, and undeniably Free. At the same time, I knew this was not enough, and that there are places of consciousness which have to be penetrated by that quality, that intelligence.

Something becomes obvious, which is the need of an ethic. This ethic is not something which comes by force to give beings a civilized polish, but it is to recognize in one's own heart that there are fundamental laws that lead life, and it is only when we are in tune with those laws that we are in tune with the Force which leads the world and its great religions, which is Love. This has been my last great opening on the path. It was through the life with my family that I felt the great forces through which the Awakening could be embodied more and more in life. I had always thought that Awakening could deny morals, as Awakening is morality itself, its own law, but in fact it is not.

There are differences among the Awakened teachers due to what extent their opening has acknowledged the laws of Love and Life. Then the teaching which arises is not only of Freedom, but also of Wisdom and Responsibility. To love is to be responsible.

It is unthinkable to get Enlightened alone - one makes the wholeness grow. The teaching I was giving was not to create Enlightened ones, but to help beings recognize that they are already Free - not to make people think they should get Enlightened for themselves alone in order to get an advantage, but to realize we could grow together.

 There is a teaching today which arises from everywhere and that I've experienced in conscious relationship which is that it is impossible to grow without growing together. It is a question with implications for the whole human species. Today's teaching cannot be for personal Awakening. People grow in a relationship where there is neither the other nor I who grows, but the relating from one to the other which makes both of us grow.

The Awakened one has a function in the growing of the world. I call an Awakened one the one whose function is to make people evolve. The Philosopher's Stone transforms metals into gold, it makes them grow towards gold. What happens when a metal meets the Philosopher's Stone?
The metal realizes that it's true nature is to be gold. It is not to be iron, but it is a state of growing of gold. One is freed because one is not only iron but one is gold in the form of iron, in a growing stage. The Philosopher's Stone doesn't produce Philosopher's Stones.
It is subtle, but important, because a lot of people come to a teaching and want to be like the teacher. It is a mistake. The role of a teacher is to be a teacher, but this is not everyone's destiny. The Awakened state one lives is related to one's duty.

Interviewer: So you link the duty of teaching with the state of being Awake?

Yvan: Yes, to the Awakened duty.

Interviewer: Don't you think one can be Awakened without being a teacher?

Yvan: Yes, absolutely, but in that case I don't call them awakened, I call them freed.

Interviewer: Is the inner state the same?

Yvan: One has recognized what is identical between oneself and the Awakened one. When one approaches the Awakened one, one feels that what they say is what oneself says. One recognizes they share in common the same Freedom. The person is Free because nothing can make him captive of the others. This growing Freedom has many ways to express itself. It could be a salesperson, a publisher, a designer, or whatever, it is not important. To be an Awakened one is to be that vision which gives recognition of the nature of Freedom, and also the skill to teach. This is a very specific thing. Inherent in the state of Awakening of a teacher is a quality which gives him or her through the years the authority of transmission, the ability to transmit.
Every being living this Liberation is contagious, but there is a great difference between contagiousness and transmission. For me, an Awakened one is contagious to the time and place in which he lives.
He's traditionally a traitor. He is going to betray the old forms to reveal the new ones. He's going to give a shape of today to the eternal in the teaching he gives. But the quality of consciousness of the Awakened one and those of any being who has recognized profoundly their nature to be Freedom and not separate from what Is - this is completely identical. There is no difference in quality - this is sure. This ist he final goal of any teaching, and at the same time the teaching finds in the

Awakened state that which invites people to grow together.

I noticed that when I was a student around other students that there was a great rivalry among them to know who was going to Awaken, who were the most ready. They would speak ill of one another. Although Awakening has nothing to do with something one deserves, I noticed that a teaching that put Awakening in the first rank had a tendency to make the endeavor very individual, personal, and to make people very selfish.

What I wanted to put in the teaching was the obligation to relate to one another and forget about the personal goal of Awakening, Illumination, Enlightenment, and to recognize that it is only possible to grow together, taking a risk with the other, so in meeting we could find together what we are not able to find alone. I saw that the great things I realized was because my family or the people I was relating with helped me. I realized that the peak of the teaching is when one ceases to be the victim of the other and becomes his disciple. Then it is possible to say that something has happened.

When we forget this obsession with Awakening, we can really begin to relate with what is. I understood that in India, an important thing is not only meeting the guru, but extending the guru to all that exists, to meet the Real in everything, everywhere. The great teaching there was to keep consciously relating with everything. This is the choice to grow which is by it's nature, the nature of awareness. In Sanskrit, `Brahman' means `to grow' We see that growing doesn't bring us to a reality - growing IS the reality.

When Christ says,"I am the way, the truth, the life." he does not say,"I am the end of the way." He says,I am the way." In fact, when we enter the process of permanent growth and we don't try to reach a permanent destination, a final goal that we call `Awakening' or something else, the growth itself becomes the living consciousness, and in that growth everything is included. I can say that people living this live the change we talked about before.

 ---Translated from the French


With Metta,

Erika and the Newsletter Team

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