February 21, 2001

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. Over 12 years ago a small group of you first gathered in Barbara and Hal's living room to ask me questions. Out of that simple beginning, Deep Spring Center has evolved. Last night at the board meeting the question was raised, 'What is Deep Spring Center?" The president of your country may give a state of the union message, so I would claim the opportunity to offer a 'state of the spiritual path" message.

Those in that early group, including Barbara, had no experience with Buddhism. I did not define myself as a Buddhist and I still don't. I am a teacher. What I come to teach is very simple: human kindness. Compassion. Deepening wisdom. Liberation in the deepest sense and in every sense. The non-dual experience of all that is.

The Buddha also was not a Buddhist. The word 'Buddha" simply means 'one who is awake," and he was awake. Part of what I'm teaching, then, is simply to be awake. Awake to what? To your true self, which has no religious referent.

Many of those at the board meeting last night said it seemed we had become a Buddhist organization. What does that mean? Is it a group of people who are awake? Are you awake? Waking up, perhaps; opening your eyes, looking around. Not yet fully awake. In the act of awakening, you are Buddhas-to-be. Every being, whatever their religious affiliation-Christian, Jewish, Moslem-they are all Buddhas-to-be, or we might state it, awakened-ones-to-be. Actually I would phrase it by saying that they have always been awake but they haven't yet noticed. That state of bright awakening is just out of reach behind the sleepiness in the eyes. And when you are awake, then the kindness, the wisdom, the skill to live one's life in ways of non-harm and that support non-duality, are all expressions of that awake nature.

I teach this as drawn from Buddhism because in all my many lifetimes with innumerable spiritual practices, this is the path that most clearly articulated the balance and path necessary to come to this full realization of true being. It is the path in which I found freedom, and so I deeply honor and value this path. I also honor the Buddha, the one who uncovered The Path. But it is not a religious path, in the traditional sense, since it is not based on a set of beliefs and strictures. It is simply the path to awakening, the path to knowing your true nature and the true nature of all that is.

As we journey on that path, we speak of many things, and yet set aside many more. Some of you have heard a story about the Buddha and 'A Handful of Leaves." He was on the edge of a forest with a group of his students. They said to him, 'Do you teach us all that you know?" He reached down, picked up a handful of leaves from the forest floor and said, 'This is what I teach you, and," pointing to all the forest, 'this is what I know. But this handful of leaves, this is all you needed to know."

People can become sidetracked and lose their way so easily on the path. In his great compassion, he did not want to support that wandering off the path into detours but to help people stay focused. It's very simple: you are suffering. Look at the causes of your suffering. See that there is an end to it. And here are some practical steps to lead you to that end. Don't get sidetracked.

He spoke to a very specific culture, which is the India of 2500 years ago. People there were mostly Hindu and had certain religious beliefs. They believed in the existence of many gods to whom they prayed, so there was a way out of taking responsibility for themselves. They believed in a caste system and that some people were inherently better or worse than other people, dependent on their karma. They saw karma but understood it more as punishment: if you suffer this is the result of past harmful action. There was much ritual, not so much honest purification.

The Buddha did not say, 'There is no God," nor did he say, 'There is a God." He said, 'There are no gods of the sorts you imagine, when you pray to all these deities. You have responsibility for what you create. It expresses itself as karma, and you have the choice, always, to perpetuate those difficult karmic patterns or to make a shift and find freedom. At first, this is freedom from suffering on a relative plane, and then freedom on an absolute plane."

He did not say to his followers, 'Now worship me." In fact, he said quite the contrary, simply, 'I am a man, a friend on this path. What I have realized, you can realize. None of us are gods. Walk this path with me, he urged.' If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it."

Five hundred years later and in a different part of the world, the one known as Jesus was born. Unlike the Buddha, who came into that final incarnation with the almost fully developed potential for full realization, but not yet having realized that potential, the one known as Jesus had realized that potential before in a prior lifetime. He came into a different world than the Buddha, the Old Testament world where the Jewish rabbis were concerned with justice, concerned with kindness, but also where there was the teaching, 'An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth." People had not begun to recognize the divine potential and their responsibility to express it. There was a duality: humans and God. Jesus attempted to break down the dual construct by teaching love and that the divine heart of love is within each being.

Both of these great teachers taught lovingkindness, compassion, forgiveness. Jesus taught it by what he did and what he said. He was the essence of kindness, peace, forgiveness. He modeled it in every way, as did the Buddha. The people in Jesus' part of the world at that time, most of them, were not ready for a specific path. It would have been too great a shift for them. First they had to learn the teachings of loving kindness and non-harm.

Here we must recognize that there is a steady progression of souls. This, what I call, spark of God, in one moment recognizes with self-awareness, 'I am," and in that moment it experiences itself as moving out of the 'garden," so to speak, separate from God. 'If I am, then I am here and God is there." This is essential, just as an infant must learn that he or she is not the mother. Such a being could never mature if there is no sense of separation from the mother. And yet, in another way, the mother and the child are never separate.

This self-awareness and experience of leaving the Garden, then, are essential to your growth. But where would you go? How could there ever be an inside and an outside to the Garden in an ultimate sense? How could you ever be separate from God? That would be like taking the waters that pour themselves on the ocean in a storm, and saying, 'Well, they're separate from the ocean." They're just the ocean in another form. The water that evaporates and then rains down on the ocean as clouds, it's just the ocean raining on itself. You, my dear ones, are God expressing itself.

But, there is this experience of separation. You are each unique. For some, there is anger about it, even to challenging God. For some, there is grief. For some, helplessness. For some, dismay or an attitude of 'I don't care."

Then you move through a period of self-centeredness. All beings do this. No matter what form you express yourself in-mineral, plant, animal, human-there will be this time of self-centeredness. Somewhere along the way there is an awakening, a first awakening, a first glimpse, 'When I harm others, I harm myself."

Buddhism in Buddhist countries is quite different in the way it evolved than the way it is here. In many countries there are not so much practitioners doing a deep meditation practice but people who go to a temple once a week, light some candles or incense, say some prayers, bow a few times, and feel they have done their religious duty, earned some kind of merit. We can't look down on these people. They're no different than the millions here who go to church or synagogue once or twice a year, or even weekly, but don't have any clear sense of what it means to be a spiritual being walking a spiritual path.

But eventually there is an awakening, an experience that one cannot harm another. Barbara looks back with enormous gratitude to the being who was most instrumental in that awakening for her well over 2000 years ago. The being she was was a young man living in poverty on a coast in Asia. Pirates came. They boosted his ego. He looked up to them. They were older and more powerful. They said, 'Show us where the gold is. Bring us some and you may come with us."

So he went to the temple where a priest was sitting in meditation. It doesn't matter what religion it was. He had known this priest since childhood. He knew there were valuable objects in the temple. So great was his need and his greed, not for money for himself but need and greed to be loved, to be powerful, to be safe, he did not ask the priest, 'I need to take these objects," he just reached out a hand and stabbed him, to move him out of the way of his desire.

The priest rolled over in his arms. He had enough goodness in him to catch this man, hold him, dying, bleeding in his arms. The priest looked up at the one that Barbara was and said, 'I forgive you. May you learn to forgive yourself."

In that moment, the world cracked open for this young man. He who had never thought he had anything to forgive himself for, that the world owed him everything, saw that in killing this priest he had killed himself. Had killed his mother, his father, his teachers, his future children.

He was able to lay the priest down and leave without taking anything, filled with regret. He went back to the pirates and said, 'No, I did not get anything there and I cannot join you." Now they thought he was holding out on them. They tortured him. 'Where did you hide it?" He only would say, 'I did not take anything." And finally as he died, 'I forgive you." So he learned literally to forgive them, but of course not yet himself.

This self-forgiveness seems to be the heart of every spiritual path. You don't need to remember past lives. All of you have done things in this lifetime for which you feel regret. All of you have experienced greed and anger, jealousy, impatience, even if you didn't act on it, and felt regret.

In many lifetimes after that first lifetime of awakening, most of you probably acted on those impulses of fear and negativity. But there was something new moving through you which was a deep aspiration to live your life with kindness and with love. An aspiration to come home. The divine, however you named it, might have been seen or experienced as a brilliant light and yourself as shadow. There may have been despair, 'I am not worthy to stand in that light, much less to consider myself a part of that light. I am covered with soil."

Then for most of you in this culture, a new piece of the path developed in that there was the deep aspiration to live your life with love and you didn't know how. Come back to Jesus, here. So many of those whom he addressed had not really awakened. There was an intention to follow literal commandments but there was always an excuse. 'Do not kill." But if he kills your sister or your brother, then you may kill him.

Jesus was attempting to wake people up. Barbara feels such deep gratitude toward the priest who was killed, truly considers him her spiritual father, and offers the merit of any good practice or work to him. That does not mean she does not revere other teachers as well, but he was the one who, in giving his life, literally woke her up.

Jesus, because of the power of his being, woke up so many beings. When you are taught to hit back when you are hit, and then somebody not only says, 'Turn the other cheek," but does it, not only says, 'Love others as yourself," but does it, it's very inspiring. If done without pride, it can make you feel, 'I can do that also."

His purpose was not to lay a specific path of instruction but to wake people up, to wake them out of the enactment of their fear and negativity. And he did that superbly. And then he said to them further, 'I am the way." This was the path he described. By 'I am the way," he did not mean the personal man was the way, but the I Am. The divine within and without. This divine essence of all being, this is the way. When you come to know 'I Am," he said, then you will come to know who you are. And then you cannot possibly do harm any more because this divinity is all-pervading

So he didn't just wake people up, he gave them a path. And it spoke to the people of his time and of that place. It helped them see the possibility of making different choices. It helped them see the possibilities of love.

I don't want to single these two teachers out as if they have been the only ones. So many great teachers have taught loving kindness. What I find remarkable about the Buddha's path is that it directly addresses most of you in your culture and who are spiritual seekers of this level, where you are awake, in part, but don't know what to do with your negativity. So many of you, millions of you, are stuck in this place where you so deeply want to come home.

If your hands have done harm, you'll feel you have to cut them off before you can come home. But you are meant to come home whole and not in pieces. There's nothing to cut off. The power of these teachings, then, is that it invites you to look at the inclination to whack yourselves into little pieces and sort those pieces into good and bad, to let go of all of that and recognize that that is just more negativity, more practicing of fear, hatred and control.

When the heart opens to the human dilemma, the human who has felt it must divide itself and conquer itself, and yet has finally seen, 'This won't work," is home. It's just the last mile left to walk. Now, the last mile is steep. I'm not saying it's easy. The first thing you need to learn is deeper kindness. It is from kindness and not force that we track the habitual tendencies to judgment, control, and even hatred, and commit to the decision, 'This has not worked. It's time to try something new."

Then the practices taught by the Buddha offer specific ways of attending and finding balance. We watch the arising of pleasant and unpleasant mind and body states, seeing the habitual way we greet those states, with attachment to the pleasant and with aversion to the unpleasant. Then we watch the body contractions around attachment and aversion. Try it yourself. Reach out and pull something into you. Feel your body contract. Grab it. Now turn your hands and push away, and feel the body contract. It's very strong. But we give it very simple labels: aversion, attachment. There are no stories there, just the contracted state, known just as it is.

Wisdom begins to develop about how it arises and how it ceases. Wisdom begins to develop that this is not my anger but is simply the fruit of conditions. It is made up of what we call non-self elements. Anger is made up of fear, memories of past pain. Old stories. The desire to be safe, and habit energy. Those are the conditions and when they come together the result will be anger. We begin to see that instead of attacking the result and saying, 'I am unworthy of God. I am unworthy to come home as long as this anger is present in me." We can instead say, 'Here is anger." And just that simple noting characteristics: impermanent; not self; hard and contracted. There's a little bit of space and patience and a willingness to watch this anger rather than judging it and hating it. Kindness is in charge rather than fear.

As wisdom and compassion develop and deepen, and also the ability to stay present in your lives, some of you find the Buddha's path very helpful and some of you are more drawn back into your own religions to explore, bringing in kindness instead of hatred. 'In what ways can I find realization in this religious path with which I resonate?" It doesn't matter; the paths are all leading to the same place.

There's one more part to this puzzle. Many of you come with questions about all those leaves in the forest. Past lives, beings on other planes, energy experiences, the nature of channeling. Now, I'm not the Buddha, I'm not living in India 2500 years ago. I also do not claim to be right; simply, I've learned to trust my own experience. Many of you have heard me say about some questions, 'This one I will not answer. You don't need to know." But also about some of these questions I do answer because you are older now than you were then, and many of you were alive then. You have insight now that you did not have then. Without going deeply into these answers as a sidetrack, a certain amount of spiritual inquiry seems to be helpful to many of you. My choice has been to make it available. Those who wish to be a part of our meditation program and not be involved with this kind of spiritual inquiry, that's fine. Those who wish to be a part of it, it's here.

The discursive mind cannot get at 'Who am I," I don't mean I, Aaron, I mean who any of you are. Who am I? Who are you?

If you think you're somebody, who were you before you were that somebody? What were you? Right here in this paper tissue (Holding up a tissue) we see the tree, the sun, the rain, the soil. Without those, this tissue couldn't exist. Is there anything you can point to and say, 'This is me, separate from anything else"? This kind of reflection will not bring you to freedom but it will support your meditation practice. So we ask some useful questions. If the questions swing around to beings on the Pleiades, for example, well yes, of course, there are beings everywhere. They all have the same issue-how do I find freedom? How do I express my energy with more kindness, more wisdom, and with non-harm? So it doesn't matter; you're here. Don't worry about them out there. Do what you have to do right here.

What I see as the primary work of Deep Spring Center is that we especially draw to us those beings who are struggling with alienation with the shadow of the self, those who have a very keen sense of the divine, a very deep longing to go home, and feel lost. My wish is simply to give you the tools that have most helped me because I know that you can find your way. It gives me such joy to see deep love, spaciousness and peacefulness dawning in so many of you, and to see your hearts opening to yourself and others.

It's not that anger stops, although eventually it will, but rather, anger is seen for what it is, just a collection of conditions. Like a drop of rain falling on the ground and then soaking into the earth. Anger is just energy. You don't have to be afraid of it. Greed, fear, any of these heavy emotions; as you learn that you can trust yourself not to enact them, and that you don't have to deny them or hate them, you stop giving them energy. This means you stop supporting the conditions out of which these resultant emotions arise. Eventually they'll go.

So what are we doing here? In my mind we're not a religious organization. But we are bringing to people both through discussions like tonight's and through meditation instruction and practice, an opening to your true nature. It is my experience that once you directly contact that true nature and begin to trust it, you will not be so absorbed in your negativity, nor so frightened by it. Then you will stop giving it energy and it will die away, leaving your true radiant and beautiful selves. The self which is no-self! Not separate. Able to dwell skillfully in the world without attachment or aversion. Able to love passionately and let go fully. Able to be who you are, for indeed you are all divine.

I thank you. I will be happy to speak to your questions. That is all.

S: I am experiencing grief for a long time over a divorce. I think it is long enough. It's distracting me from my work. How to move on?

Aaron: I am Aaron. First, briefly, we must note that the nature of grief is that it is an expression both of love and of fear. In your English language you have but one word for it. Love-based grief is sorrow. It doesn't take that which is lost so personally but acknowledges the whole transition, the impermanence of everything in this world and that that which is lovely today will fade.

There is a certain tenderness there. There is a certain sense of equanimity with the grief. Fear-based grief takes it more personally. 'Will I be safe? Will I be hurt?" It wants to strike out in its pain. The biggest difficulty is it is never just one or the other; they come together. It's important, then, to ask yourself: along with the tenderness and sorrow, what anger or other feeling might be here?

The way I like to phrase it is, what might this grief be protecting me from? If we're attached to anything, we hold onto it because we feel safer with it than without it. In your case I would not think that it's protecting you from getting back to your work. You have not said to me that your work was unpleasant to you and you've said you would like to get back into your work. This is something you'll have to look at. I think it's more likely that the grief is protecting you from a deeper anger, an anger that may be fully illogical: feeling abandoned, feeling unsafe. Even if you wanted to be out of this marriage, there might still be feelings of abandonment, feelings of rage, even. It could even come back to that first spark of God, feeling yourself cast out of the garden. (Loudly) 'What do you mean I'm out!?" But how can I say that to God? If God says I'm out, I must be bad, I must be flawed. And therein lies at least part of the heart of the grief and the pain of all abandonment.

I am not saying this is what it is, only ask yourself this question: if I were not feeling grief what might I be experiencing? What is it that holds me to this grief, painful though it is, because something else is more frightening? If you can ask yourself that question with gentleness and spaciousness, hold your hands on your heart, feel that tender place that hurts, be merciful to yourself. You might say, 'I am feeling pain, terrible pain. May I be free of suffering," and then reflect on all the beings in the world who have lost loved ones. They're all feeling pain. 'May they be free of suffering." Allow yourself to ease gently into it. If you see anger, judgment, any of these so-called negative emotions, don't pounce on yourself with vengeance. Can there be kindness? Mercy? I think slowly the truth will emerge if you let it and that which has held the grief in place will be seen as hollow. Then the grief will dissolve. Is this an adequate answer or would you like me to speak further? If so, please phrase your question. I pause.

Barbara: Let's have one more question before the break.

Q: Does Aaron conceive or think of himself in terms of his own shadow side?

Aaron: I am Aaron. No, Q, not at all. I'm happy to say that that illusion of shadow is gone for good. I pause.

Barbara: He says, does that give you hope? He says, it really does go. He says, that's not to say that he's always right. He can still make mistakes. He can still be confused occasionally about something or misunderstand. But he doesn't see that as an out-speaking of shadow in himself, just, 'Here is a place where there is not full clarity." Forgive it. Learn and move on.

Aaron: I am Aaron. As you probably are aware, I am very cautious. I have a very strong intention to do no harm and will err on the side of caution. I'm no longer moved to answer somebody to try to fix something for them; I've learned a deep trust of people's situations and their ability to use them fruitfully. And I'm no longer moved to please people to get them to like me; there's no me.

Occasionally I have overstepped what I feel is the appropriate boundary of answer, said more to a person than was useful. An example that comes to mind was a person who wanted desperately to know who he had been in a certain past life. He had a strong sense of where he had lived, had seen that lifetime very clearly. He even went to that village which he had driven through and had such a d