Awaken: David, I want to first thank you for so generously agreeing to spend this time with us today…
I know our awakened readers will appreciate and benefit from your words and advice. We have a traditional way of beginning these conversations…and that is with the question of what it means to awaken?
David R. Hawkins: The mind has become silent. Logical or sequential thought has stopped, and instead, there is silence and stillness, and continuous, effortless unfolding and presentation as revelation. Knowingness unfolds of itself and the divinity of All That Is silently shines forth as self-evident and self-effulgent. All stands forth in complete and continuous revelation. There is no need to seek or get for everything already is in its totality and completeness. All seeming action takes place on its own.
Awaken: You say that there is no need to seek, but yet that is what most of us are doing, as we do our spiritual work, taking up our various and sundry practices…
David: Neither Truth nor Enlightenment is something to be found… acquired, gained, or possessed. That which is the Infinite Presence is always present and its realization occurs of itself when the obstacles to that realization are removed. It is therefore not necessary to study the truth but only to let go of that which is fallacious.
Moving away the clouds does not cause the sun to shine but merely reveals that which was hidden all along. Spiritual work, therefore, is primarily a letting go of the presumably known for the unknown, with the promise of others who have done it that the effort is more than well rewarded at the end. On the earthly level, gold is not created but merely revealed by chipping away at that which obscures it.
Awaken: So, it has more to do with one’s commitment to not be pulled asunder?
David: One of the main spiritual tools is intention, which sets up priorities and hierarchies of values that energize one’s efforts. Spiritual work is a commitment and also an exploration. The way has been opened by those who have gone before and have seen the possibility in consciousness for others to follow.
Awaken: And in order to align themselves with this commitment, many seekers have traditionally practiced various means of renunciation, by way of removing themselves from the world and from material enticements, so as to facilitate this process of letting go. Do you consider any of the various forms of renunciation a necessary step in spiritual advancement?
David: Does spiritual commitment mean one has to give up the world? No, of course not. It means merely that worldly life needs to be recontextualized, restructured, and envisioned differently. It is not the world that is a trap, but one’s attachment to it, along with one’s observations that cloud the search for Truth. Some attractions themselves are merely time wasters, while others are serious traps with grim consequences in which the unaware become immersed.
On the other hand, it is sometimes only as the result of the sheer agony of one’s having gone astray that hitting bottom, letting go, and accepting better choices occurs. Therefore, one can never say it is wrong for anyone to follow any particular pathway, for it may be the very means of their ultimate salvation, as painful as it may be.
Awaken: Once this salvation has been achieved, what becomes of the awakened person… Can you speak about this transformation?
David: The Self, in its totality and completeness, is beyond and before all worlds, universities, or time, dependent on nothing and caused by nothing. The Self is beyond existence, neither subject to existence nor nonexistence, beginning nor ending, time nor space. It cannot even be included in the concepts of ‘is’ or ‘is not’. The Self is neither manifest nor unmanifest and is beyond any dimensions implied by such categorization of concepts.
Awaken: What effect does this experience have on the individual’s ability to “come back down to earth,” shall we say, and live in the world where so much lack of consciousness exists?
David: The capacity to operate cogently in the world of ordinary experience requires some major adjustments. There is a continuity and oneness between the ‘realms’ of duality and non-duality, and non-duality pervades all duality. The limitation within duality is really one of awareness. This limitation of awareness appears to be the consequence of focus.
Human beings seem to be innocent due to their extreme unawareness and unconsciousness of their reality. In this state, they are run by programming and illusory belief systems. At the same time, the purity of spirit shines forth as their intrinsic beauty.
It might be said in modern terms that people are run by their ‘software programs’ of which they are unconscious. Each person is in the process of the evolution of consciousness, with some more evolved than others. Each one represents the unfolding of consciousness under different conditions and therefore has different levels of appearance. It is as though each person is caught in a certain level and cannot proceed to another level without the consent, decision and agreement of the will.
The intrinsic innocence is because, comparably, the person is like the hardware, and their actions and beliefs are like the software. The hardware is unaffected by the software programs which they are following blindly without awareness of significance or consequence of these actions. Classically, the unconscious software programs are called ‘karma.’
Awaken: I’d like to go back to something you said a moment ago… The limitations within duality… This is an idea that is discussed so much within spiritual discourse… such as in the Vedas… the imperative to “enter into non-duality,” as one progresses into enlightenment. Can you speak to this point?
David: In non-duality, in no one instant can any such thing as a ‘problem,’ ‘conflict,’ or ‘suffering’ occur. This all arises in anticipation of the next instant or recall of the past. It appears to be the product of fear, and its purpose is to control the next instant of experience and ensure its survival. It seems to vacillate between fear of the future and regret over the past, and the desire and sense of time, which stems from the illusion of lack. With a sense of completion, desire ceases. That which believes it is finite fears for its survival.
Awaken: You also spoke a few minutes ago, of our obsession with the ego self… which you described as a “compilation of personalities held together by vanity and fear.” I would like to better understand this… what exactly is the ego?
David: In summation, it can be said that the ego is a compilation of positionalities held together by vanity and fear. It is undone by radical humility which undermines its propagation.
Awaken: It seems that the ego is at the source of so much of our suffering, so why don’t we commit to relinquishing it with the same urgency as if our “head was on fire,” as the Zen monks would say? In other words, why it is so difficult to disengage from this ego self?
David: Throughout one’s lifetime, the ego-self has been the focus of one’s endeavors; therefore, the emotional investment in it has been enormous. The ego is both the source and the object of striving and is heavily imbued with sentiment, as well as the whole gamut of human feelings, failings, gains and losses, victories and tragedies. One becomes obsessed with and enamored of this entity, its roles, and it’s vicissitudes. The sheer mass of investment in this self makes it seem too valuable to relinquish. We are anchored to it by all the years of intimate familiarity — the hopes, the expectations, and the dreams. One becomes attached to this ‘me’ that is thought to be central to the experience of life itself.
Awaken: Do you think this reluctance to relinquish the ego has to do with the fear of death?\
David: In addition to this enormous lifetime investment in what we believe to be our self, there appears on the horizon of the future… the specter of death. The awful information that this ‘me’ is actually fated to come to an end seems incredulous. The prospect of death as an ending to the ‘me’ seems unfair, bizarre, unreal, and tragic. It makes one angry and frightened. The whole panoply of emotions that have been lived through as a consequence of being alive now have to be replayed, but this time, about death itself.
The relinquishment of the ego self as one’s central focus involves the letting go of all these layers of attachments and vanities, and what eventually comes face-to-face with the ego’s primary function of control to ensure continuance and survival. Therefore, the ego clings to all its faculties because their basic purpose, to ensure its survival, is the ‘reason’ behind its obsession with gain, winning, learning, alliances, and accumulation of possessions, data, and skills. The ego has endless schemes for enhancing survival — some gross, some obvious, others subtle and hidden.
Awaken: So, really, the whole thing boils down to the fear of death, which only seems terrifying when when we are looking through the lens of the ego…
David: To the average person, all the foregoing seem formidable and bad news indeed. For those who are involved in advanced spiritual work, however, the good news becomes apparent. In actuality, the ego self doesn’t have to die at all; life doesn’t come to an end; existence does not cease; and no horrible, tragic fate is waiting to end life at all. Like the ego self, the whole story is imaginary. One does not even have to destroy the ego or even work on it. The only simple task to be accomplished is to let go of the identification with the ego as one’s real self!
Awaken: So, it’s not that we get rid of the ego, we just stop identifying with it as our true self, and all of the fears attached to it evaporate of their own accord?
David: With this relinquishment of identification, it actually goes right on walking and talking, eating and laughing, and the only difference is that, like the body, it becomes ‘that’ instead of ‘me’ or ‘this.’
All that is necessary, then, is to let go of ownership, authorship, and the delusion that one invented or created this self and see that it was merely a mistake. That this is a very natural and inevitable mistake is obvious. Everyone makes it, and only if you discover the error and are willing or able to correct it.
Awaken: I’d like to further explore this process of “letting go of ownership.” What does that really mean in practice?
David: People say, “I know myself.“ But what does that mean? In ordinary parlance, it means to be aware of the nature of the ego and therefore implies awareness of one’s own psychology, the ego, and its forms. The search is progressively ‘within’ to discover the source of the knowingness of the sense of ‘I.’
The awareness of the Self is an actuality that replaces the ego as the seat of the sense of ‘me’ or ‘I.’ The individual ‘I’ can only be aware of itself or its existence as a consequence of the greater Awareness. This is the innate quality of the Divine ‘I’ which is its source and the focus of the spiritual search. As such, it is that which is nonverbal, which is the source of experiencing, witnessing, and observing. By analogy, one comes to realize that one is the water and not the fish.
Awaken: Do you advocate a certain practice to facilitate this expansion of awareness?
David: To look within is an attitude rather than a technique or spiritual practice. This means to relinquish the fascination with the content of mind and world which it reflects. This detachment may be felt initially as a possible loss, as if one is facing experiencing the death of the world and all its promises. Such a death may be possibly experienced as such, but it is merely the passing of an illusion. The source of pleasure never was without but was always within. It was never the world that granted pleasure at all, but one’s own enjoyment of it.
Awaken: But, I see this attitude of relinquishing as a sort of practice in its own right… because it takes great courage to face the fear of the “death of the world,” and all its promises, even in a symbolic sense…
David: It is not really the loss of the world itself that is feared, but boredom. Boredom passes when it is recognized as merely the consequence of coming into a yearning for the past or the future, and it is only the ego that can be bored. The ego thrives on novelty and is completely dependent on what is happening ‘next.’ The ego therefore thrives and lives on anticipation of future satisfaction instead of experiencing the absolute completion which is available only in the Now.
Awaken: What you have explained about boredom is very interesting… The idea that “only the ego can be bored” because it is always looking for the next new thing, reveals a deeper understanding of the fears that we have been discussing. The ego fears boredom because it lacks the stillness which is only found within, and in complete presence! This also explains why there is no need to live as a recluse, as the idea is to be fully functional and present in this world…
David: With very little practice, one can acquire the capacity to function in the world with only minor interruption of reflection and contemplation. This is the most fruitful and meaningful activity of spiritual work. Meditation as it is usually practiced, however, is limited in time and place and often involves seclusion and cessation of activity. Although contemplation and reflection seem less intense, actually, by their constant influence, they wear away the obstacles. Contemplation is therefore a mode of meditation that is not lesser or inferior to sit-down, cross-legged meditation.
Awaken: So it’s a way of living one’s life in the usual way, but in a different attitude?
David: There is a shift of values from worldly accomplishment to spiritual realization, which colors all activity. It places it in a different context. The overreaching goal of life becomes altered, and life‘s events take on a different significance and meaning, as though placed in a new dimension. Eventually, the focus is on the inner, silent, motionless, still presence of Awareness itself, rather than on its passing content. Suddenly, the sense of ‘I’ shifts from the content to the context, which is the universal ‘I’ of the self.
Awaken: Forgive me for pushing on this just a little more, but just to be clear, there aren’t any specific practices, such as breathing exercises, or mantra, or prayer, or other rituals, that you recommend for the purpose of advancing on one’s spiritual journey, and realizing this universal ‘I’?
David: None of these is necessary. It is useful to recognize that religions have their own agendas and limitations. The spiritual pathway to enlightenment is unique. It is not the same as ‘practicing a religion.’ Religions tend to emphasize historical events, their geographical locations, and past cultures with political alliances. Enlightenment happens in the present moment and is outside time, history, or geography, which are therefore irrelevant.
Awaken: But I do recall you speaking of certain contemplative meditations…
David: There is a meditation we could call “What if, and then what?” This exercise is based on the willingness to surrender the ego’s illusions to the reality of God. We start with “What if we let go of something we desire or value?” And ask, “And then what?” That brings up the next obstacle. We ask if we are willing to surrender to God, which brings up the next obstacle.
Eventually, the willingness to surrender every illusion that happiness is out there brings an awareness that one’s existence from moment to moment is solely by the grace of God. One’s life is sustained as a function of the presence of God, and the materiality which we thought sustained it is in itself an expression of God’s will for us. One’s own efforts to sustain life is a ‘given’ and not a personal invention. The ego thinks we survive in spite of God‘s will rather than because of it.
Awaken: You speak often about how rare it is for human beings to transcend into the highest levels of consciousness. You even give numerical values to varying states of consciousness. What is the highest level?
David: Only four percent of the world’s population is able to transcend the consciousness level of 500, the level of love. Love approaches unconditional love at level 540, which is the level of healing. In the calibrated level of the 500s, progress becomes clear and obvious. The goal is best described as lovingness towards all life and dedication to its support.
Thus, in the 500s, one becomes forgiving, charitable, benign, peaceful, and easygoing. One’s happiness is independent of external circumstances or events. Judgmentalism disappears and is replaced by desire for understanding and compassion. The innate beauty and perfection of all things begins to be revealed. It is common to break into tears at the extent of the beauty that is apparent in all that exists. The recurrence of any thoughts or feelings that are less than loving is experienced as painful or unwelcome.
Awaken: I’ve met so many people who are by most standards, loving people, but have been dealt a hard knock, and it is all too easy and common to point to their anger as “righteous” and justified… With so many examples of horrendous breaches of justice, either on a personal level, or on a political level, such as genocides and such, I must ask, is there such a thing as “justified anger?”
David: The willingness to let go of resentment reveals that all so-called justifications are rationalizations and excuses. They are the projections of blame and represent a narcissistic personality. Resentments are really childish and based on kindergarten notions of fairness. Nothing in the universe has anything to do with fairness.
Instead, everything represents universal justice outside present time and locality. All resentments represent the justification of blame and projection of responsibility, seeing oneself as victim. For the spiritual student, even if the other person was ‘wrong,’ they still have to be forgiven. All resentments calibrate below the level of 200 and are not in integrity. There is no gain in harboring them.
The modern trend toward ‘political correctness’ is a great source of conflict, strife, and suffering (calibrate at 190). It is based on imaginary ‘rights.’ In reality, there are no such things as ‘rights.’ They are all social imaginings. Nothing in the universe has any rights. The whole area of ‘rights’ leads to a ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude, confrontiveness, conflict, concepts of perpetrator and victim, illusions of causality, and revenge. All this displaces taking personal responsibility for one’s own experience of life, which is the level one has to reach for…
Awaken: Finally, what is happiness?
David: The true source of joy and happiness is the realization of one’s existence in this very moment. The source of pleasure always comes from within, even though it is occasioned by some external event or acquisition. In any one instant of time, no such thing as a problem can exist. Unhappiness arises from going beyond the reality of the Now and creating a story out of the past or the future which, because neither exists, has no reality.
Awaken: David, I want to once again, thank you sincerely for your time today. It was an honor to share this moment with you.