Updated: Dec 14, 2019
"What is the existential dilemma?"
In this teaching, Shunyamurti clarifies the problem caused by an inadequate level and amount of consciousness, and the blind spots of the ego that one has to be free of in order to deal with the challenges of life.
"At some point, the person who is on the path…will recognize that full consciousness requires the sublimation of desire. Without sublimation, one remains in that animal psychology that does not have access to one’s divine essence."
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It’s a joy to see all of you sannyasis. Everyone here is a sannyasi. Some have renounced the lower chakras, some renounced the upper. Everyone renounces something. They are the real renunciates, they are the ones missing out, you know. And then some renounce renunciation, because they have realized the nonduality of the two.
So, I made a few notes before coming that I thought I would share with you and have you make some comments on them, that I thought might be useful for the context of this evening.
Is it funny already? Yeah? That’s great. So “The Seven Clarifications of the Existential Dilemma” which I think may be relevant to everyone here, assuming you are under the illusion that you exist. Hopefully no one here is plagued by that delusion, but just in case.
What is the existential dilemma? Well, first of all, it’s a very recent dilemma.
Existentialism as a philosophy, you know, was basically born, at least it came to fruition in the post-war years in Paris, with Jean-Paul Sartre, and his ilk—Camus and let’s see, who is the other one? Who was Lacan’s sidekick? I forgot his name now. But in any case, it started earlier, you could say, even with Nietzsche and others—Kierkegaard, is sometimes considered an existentialist but I think he’s too religious to really belong in that category—but the point of existentialism in its Sartrean form is that existence precedes essence. In fact, existence replaces essence, truthfully, because the understanding of reality was that we find ourselves thrown into a situation without having any understanding of who we are or why we’re here or what it’s all about, and the question, the dilemma of the existentialist is: “Should I invent myself? Or should I discover myself?” You see the two are very different.
Now, the existentialist believes that it’s not really possible to discover yourself, your essence, because you are too busy dealing with your existence in which you’re clueless about your essence. So, what you have to do is to invent an identity and a purpose and a philosophy, if you will, which might not be existentialism, but you have to invent your paradigm, your frame of reference, or else, of course, you borrow that of the culture at large, but then you’re not living authentically. You see? If you live with a borrowed perspective that you haven’t fully internalized or authentically recognized as true, then you’re living in bad faith. Right? So, the existential dilemma is: how does one become authentic?
So, I don’t know that most people any longer, since the 60s, are really that concerned with the problem, but it’s still one that, in some way, forces itself upon everyone in the, let’s say, the moments of a life crisis, where one is really being tested, where one’s life situation has become intolerable. And one recognizes that either one grows, or one is somehow going to be taken out by the lower death drive, or by a need to become more unconscious, in order to escape the anguish of the existential lostness, and incoherence, and incapacity to create or discover an authentic identity and a path forward, in one’s life. Otherwise, one stagnates or falls into quicksand and enters into a worse situation in which the crisis is decided by not deciding, and then the karmic consequences of the indecision determine a much deeper level of the abyss than one had even recognized, which is the facing of the loss of existence before one had even discovered one’s reality.
So, OK. Let’s clarify this problem. So, the problem is caused by an inadequate level and amount of consciousness. In order to deal with the challenges of life, one has to be free of the blind spots that an ego is going to have, toward its own reality, as a result of not knowing its essence, and, therefore, not having access to the resources that that essence provides, in order to be able to overcome difficulties, and to be able to have a clear vision of what must be done in any given situation. “What is to be done?” is the classical question. Lenin wrote a book of that nature when he was in his existential crisis regarding Bolshevism and the future of the Russian Revolution. But it’s a question that everyone must face in many moments in life.
And the inadequacy of one’s level of consciousness will result in an inability to meet the challenge of love, the challenge of organization, the challenge of perseverance, the challenge of living in truth, the challenge of having the willpower to face any internal, external resistances, and the power to overcome all fear. As well as, of course, the overcoming of the lack of creative intelligence and imagination that is often required to face situations that seem hopeless or without a solution.
So, that’s the situation, but the problem is exacerbated because people, at the ego level, do not want more consciousness. Consciousness is a problem for the ego. That’s why people remain in ignorance, avidya, that’s why they remain with a repressed subconscious—the one that Freud was always so obsessed about. And the ego does not want to know truths and aspects of its existential situation that are too unbearable, that reveal its lack, that reveal its pettiness, its inauthenticity, its narcissism, its perversion, its pathologies, to itself in too clear a way. It wants to be able to project out, and judge others, and try to remain in the clear from superego self-attacks, as well as from accurate assessments from others, of one’s situation, and it wants to hide from its own consciousness, because it doesn’t feel like it could make changes, even if it knew the information that it doesn’t want to know, that instead of knowing mentally, it chooses to either somatize as a physical symptom, or project as a karmic symptom of suffering, or in some way defer or delay dealing with, that ends up augmenting the negative karma that results from the lack of consciousness.
So, the ego, because it is living an inauthentic existence, and in bad faith—by definition, the ego at its own level of identification with the body—cannot escape an animalistic psychology. OK? Because the body is an animal, the body is not divine, and so one does not have access to a divinized psychology. One has access only to the animalistic impulses and proddings and drives, of the lower three chakras. It doesn’t receive the input from the higher chakras—that’s partly what’s repressed and unavailable—it’s in the superconscious level, it doesn’t enter into consciousness. And the subconscious level doesn’t get entered into either: it gets acted out, or acted in, in terms of a sickness, physical or mental, and it doesn’t get processed, it doesn’t get released. OK? Everyone with me so far in the logic of this? OK.
So, instead of authentically transcending the ego, they seek a pseudo-spiritual solution to this imperative of inner development and growth. Because a pseudo-spiritual solution means you don’t actually have to enter the superconscious and see accurately the whole panorama of the ugliness of the subconscious, and of the ego’s refusal to grow out of its identitarian nexus with the physical organism that keeps it in a lower level of psychology, in which all it can choose to do is indulge its desire for jouissance, for the animalistic desires of enjoyments that are the cause of bad karma and of existential difficulties.
So, the a pseudo-spiritual approach has one benefit which is that, in an immediate sense, it will relieve the ego’s guilt for not growing, by allowing itself to believe that it is on a path of growth, but a path that’s so gradual and so usually superficial, and that doesn’t deal with the real issues in the subconscious—perhaps like a neo-advaita path in which one claims nonduality before its been achieved, and voila, there’s no need to actually do any work to get there in reality and overcome the dualities and the internal conflicts that are necessary for nonduality to be truly realized.
So, this acceptance of a more theoretical model that produces, at best, a “laya state”, or a spacing out, or a master’s discourse of enlightenment rather than a true release from the ego-mind, will end up, of course, proving an insufficient attempt at the resolution of a problem, that simply creates a further existential difficulty, because of the added guilt for having chosen an inauthentic path in the first place. And then you have levels of subconsciously accumulating shame in addition to the guilt.
So, at some point, the person who is on the path, whether because they’re suffering enough that they’re willing to open to this, or because their caliber of soul permits them the capacity to see the truth, they will recognize that consciousness, real consciousness, full consciousness, requires the sublimation of desire. Without the sublimation of desire, one remains in that animal psychology that does not have access to one’s divine essence. And one, therefore, remains a victim, of the animal identification that brings one into a dense frequency of the illusion of living an inconsistent multiplicity of a world full of paranoia-inducing objects, and also the mirage of objects of desire, that always prove to have dangers that one did not want to recognize, and that leads to a, usually a kind of devastation, in which one recognizes, finally, the weakness of one’s ability to perceive reality as it is, because one feels that one could not stand alone in the Real, without having the crutch of dependency upon others. And, therefore, cannot afford to leave home, in a psychological sense, and to abandon the crutches and the identifications of the child-ego, and the parental superego figures in the mind, and their projections externally in order to discover who one is, in the Real, and eternal, bodiless sense, that full consciousness alone can bring.
OK, I’m putting four and five together because they represent the external level of the problem, which is that a healthy culture, a real culture, is based on a collective agreement that we all sublimate our desires together, and live on a non-animalistic level, because then there can be trust, there can be true ethics, there can be a sense of justice, there can be an agreed upon criterion for fairness, and rightness, and good, and appropriateness, and dharma in the general sense of it. And this collective agreement, which used to be known as “the social contract”, if anyone read Rousseau, or any of the philosophers of that period, of the early modern period when there still was a social contract, there still was a basis in the common understanding of our nature in transcending the ego—that we are children of God, that we pertain to a higher order than the animal order, and that our obligation is to be stewards of this reality, in the service of God, and to cherish nature, to cherish the divine feminine, to cherish the virtues of the divine masculine and the power of protection and guardianship, and the reverence for wisdom, for divine love and truth and harmony, etc., etc. All of those days in which the classical virtues and the agreement on commons—there would be common areas of the land, that would be open to everyone regardless of any class and that everyone would have the opportunity to nourish themselves and have the freedom to find a mode of being that would be able to enhance their lives, and that everyone would be taken care of by the collective, from cradle to grave, that kind of thing. That social contract was destroyed, of course, by capitalism etc., etc.—meaning imperialism, colonialism and all of that, the other side effects and consequences of the capitalist revolutions—the American revolution, the French revolution, etc.—that destroyed a corrupted aristocracy, when it wasn’t corrupted and the divine right of kings was still functioning, of course, we were in a much higher state—it stopped functioning; the revolutions were necessary, but they were not revolutions that raised consciousness but simply adapted to the lower level, and made that the new norm.
So today, we are living in an extreme anti-culture, where not only are we not educated to sublimate our desires, but we are taught to de-sublimate them. We are taught that we’re not animalistic enough. And, therefore, it is very difficult to make a choice of a lifestyle of the sublimation and purification of desire, when all the messages you’re getting out there is that you’re missing out on the enjoyments of the lower chakras, and “nice guys finish last”, kind of thing, and take advantage of life to have the most intense perverse enjoyments possible. And that’s basically what you see going on, among the political elites and the people who are determining the devolution of the social order.
And therefore, we live in a situation that is completely upside down from anything that has a historical precedent, and we are forced to be outsiders and outcasts, because of our desire to live a virtuous life, that actually makes sense at a higher level, and that can bring back truth, love, power, the light of wisdom and harmony, etc, into the world.
So, the promotion of the de-sublimation, by the big Other of society, then gets internalized as a superego attack that happens in your mind—if you choose a life of a sannyasi, in the true sense—and that will constantly try to drag you down, until you have eliminated any superego attachments internally, and freed yourself from whatever umbilical cords to the social order still might remain in the subconscious—and you have completely given yourself to the highest level of consciousness, which is the total sublimation of desire, until there is no desire left but the desire for union with God. And that brings nonduality, in the true sense.
So, the full consciousness in which the entirety of the full spectrum of all the levels of consciousness are integrated, unified, and made coherently ordered so that the highest governs the lowest—not the reverse—creates a chain of command internally, between God, the soul, and the operating ego-system, so that a single unified consciousness, then, is able to realize itself horizontally as well as vertically. And then the nonduality becomes manifest, which is the avataric embodiment, and that’s jivanmukti, or liberation.
It’s very important that one recognize that liberation does not mean denial of subconscious desires, nor suppression of them, or repression of them, nor is it the obsession with religious behavior, such as prayers or counting rosary beads or reciting mantras, or even meditating, OK? It’s not about that, it has nothing to do with the behavioral level of your life. It has to do with the fact that you are transcended from the egoic identity with the behavior of the organism, and that power of true Presence is now the motivating intelligence that is operating the organism. So, there’s no focus upon “What do I do?” Because that “I” no longer exists. That’s what you’ve been liberated from.
So, number seven is the recognition of the fact that, now—in this historical moment—our real essential nature is reasserting itself. It’s not a question of your ego choosing it, although choosing it helps it to reassert itself without resistance, thus there won’t be any glitches or symptoms of suffering that come with that reassertion, but the reassertion by the Self of its rights to eliminate the suffering in the world, through its reappearance and revelation of its true nature, is happening. And the only thing that one can determine is: what side are you on? Are you completely surrendered to this force that is happening and that is guiding your life toward opportunities that would otherwise not appear, but also of existential crisis that force one to make a decision. And without making that decision, the reassertion can then come in the form of a turning of the screw. And if you don’t want to be screwed, you will choose the surrender to bliss. But that choice then requires the sublimation of all other desires that are different from that of the desire for complete realization of the supreme Being, that is your essential nature.
OK, so that’s the existential situation we find ourselves in, and it is revealing itself in, I think, a very rapid pace, including all of the implications thereof, that are now enacting themselves in a way that is writ large on a planetary scope, in terms of the collapse of the current order, that is not adequate to the challenges that cannot sustain itself, that is falling, and thus it doesn’t need to be opposed at any horizontal, conflictive sense. It simply needs to be replaced by a higher level of coherence, of love, of unity, of faithfulness to that power that is re-establishing a new order. And that, to me, is the function and the honor of all of those who are awakened to this historic reality of the moment.
So, that’s the context in which we have an ashram, and which we are gathering this evening.