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Jed McKenna?

Posted by Charles:

I see your book excerpt is from a practitioner of Ziji Rinpoche and her Short Moments teaching. I love her teachings since Alan Neachell posted them on YouTube when she was Candace O’Denver. I will happily read this pdf.

There has been a new thread I’ve been following with interest. Have you read Jed McKenna (a pseudonym, I believe)? There is a trilogy but you can skip Book 2, which has little of interest. He espouses waking up, which he describes in uncomforting terms. One of his ideas is about the near zero success rate of all spiritual teachers, because we don’t want to wake up we just want to be more comfortable. I read this excerpt yesterday, I’d be curious to see what you think, especially regarding the satsang we share. Ignore his personality, focus on the ideas:

 

“How can it be that we’re essentially the same now as we were at the most distant reaches of recorded history? Why does our outer environment change while our inner landscape stays the same? Because that’s the first rule of this club: Always Outward. Never Inward.

So it follows as a matter of certainty that anyone who espouses any teaching or doctrine or philosophy is necessarily a member of the club. Any spiritual teacher who allows students to ask questions and gives them answers is a member of the Outward Only club; an unwitting—and thereby all the more insidious—agent of ignorance.

The world is full of respected and beloved spiritual and religious teachers. People ask them questions and they provide answers; question and answer, question and answer, on and on, talk and more talk, more like spiritual therapy than spiritual warfare, but all questions, no matter how sincere or heart-felt, are really the same question, Outward?, and all answers, no matter how profound or wise, are really the same answer, Yes. The subtext of every question is, Am I making progress by asking questions and trying to understand the answers? And the subtext of every answer is, Yes, you are going somewhere while sitting here talking or reading. This is progress. Be at peace. You are progressing and well-progressed.

That’s the obvious lie we want to hear and those who tell it most convincingly are the most respected and revered and sought after. A shining example of this is the much-beloved Ramana Maharshi. His core teaching, if you ask Bob or any of Ramana’s many fans, is, “Ask yourself, Who am I?”

So what’s the problems with that? There is none. In fact, it’s perfect; a complete spiritual teaching in five words. So perfect, in fact, that anyone who actually does it will actually awaken. Ask yourself, Who am I? If you do it, you will become enlightened. There is no possible alternative.

The only way self-inquiry can fail to work is if you fail to do it. That’s a pretty important point so I’ll say it again: The only way self-inquiry—Ask yourself, Who am I?—can fail to result in enlightenment is if you fail to do it.

“So,” I ask Bob, whose book is dedicated to Ramana, “why aren’t Ramana’s many thousands of adoring students and devotees awake? That seems like a pretty fair question, doesn’t it?” “I don’t think it’s fair to assume—” he begins. “No need to be defensive,” I say, “I’m agreeing with Ramana. I’m saying self-inquiry is the bomb. I’m completely on board.” “But you’re also saying… what are you saying?” “That Ramana’s failure to produce awakened beings was nearly total.” “Oh, well, that’s hardly—” “When, on the face of it, his success rate should be total. Shouldn’t it?” “I don’t know, I suppose—” “So what are we missing? Why isn’t this adding up? What aren’t we understanding about this?”

I glance over at Bob as he chews on the problem. He is visibly agitated; experiencing a bit of Spiritual Dissonance, it’s safe to assume. He’s sure Ramana was a great man, a great teacher, a saint, a sage, whatever he thinks all that means. That’s the inner belief. But even after trying to quibble about Ramana’s success rate for fifteen deleted paragraphs, he has to agree that it’s abysmal at best. That’s the outer reality. Eventually, he can no longer help but see the obvious. “They’re not doing it?” he says, making it a question. “Who’s not doing what?”

“Followers of Ramana; they’re not doing the self-inquiry practice.” “Yes,” I agree, “if we stated the situation correctly—self-inquiry leads to awakening and Ramana’s followers don’t awaken—then that’s the only conclusion we can come to. So then, if that’s his teaching, then why don’t his students practice it?” “I just don’t think—” he starts and stops, then starts again. “I don’t agree that, I mean, I’ve done it myself, you know. I’ve practiced self-inquiry—” “The sincere practice of self-inquiry would require a year or two of excruciatingly intense processing to go all the way through,” I say, cutting off his attempt to scurry out a back door.

“It’s not like a question to be answered or an epiphany to be realized or a thought to be pondered, it’s more like a mountain of ignorance that has to be pulverized into particulate, stone by stone. Do you understand that?” He sees that door slam shut. “Yeah, okay. Yes.” “So you didn’t actually do it?” He sits quietly for awhile. “Well, I thought I did, I suppose. I kind of thought I was doing it, by following Ramana’s teachings, by reading and trying to understand the dialogues and the books written about him, I guess I thought the whole thing was this sort of process of self-inquiry.

I thought that if you were into Ramana Maharshi, that’s what it meant, that you were doing self-inquiry just by learning what he taught.” The inner twelve year-old is thus revealed. Here’s this intelligent, accomplished, distinguished-looking guy seeing his fabrications dismantled, like a kid caught cheating by the teacher. “As opposed to a specific process?” I ask. “No, there was kind of a process too. I did this thing where I’d go into a sort of introspective mode, well, once in a while. Like, I’d ask myself, who is experiencing this? Who is having this conversation with Jed right now?

Who is out sunning himself on this beautiful day?” I’m not too surprised to hear about Bob’s weak and ineffectual method of self-inquiry; witnessing in its mildest and least disruptive form. I don’t assume that if I had this conversation with a random sampling of a thousand Ramana devotees that I’d get these same responses, but I do assume that none of them would be awake. And though I don’t think that many would claim to be awake, I do think that most or all would claim to be making real progress in that direction.

Looking at Ramana Maharshi and self-inquiry affords us a very clear view of this phenomenon, but now that we know what we’re looking for, we can increase our altitude and broaden our perspective and take a random sampling of all spiritual seekers. Why isn’t anyone going anywhere? Because they’ve convinced themselves that they are going somewhere. Why? Because their spiritual masters and advisors tell them they are.

Why are their spiritual masters and advisors telling them they’re going somewhere? To get the gig. We pick our teachers. We get what we wish for. We want cozy, uninterrupted slumber and the dream of spiritual progress, and that’s what we get. If all Ramana had ever said was, Ask yourself, Who am I?, if that had been his answer to every single question put to him, then he’d have been the perfect teacher with the perfect teaching, but no one would have ever heard of him and we wouldn’t be discussing him now.

We know about him because of all the thousands of questions people asked him and all the thousands of answers he gave, but every single one of those questions was the exact same question: Outward? And every single answer he ever gave was the exact same answer: Yes! Self-inquiry was not Ramana’s core teaching. That’s Maya’s shell game and we’re the suckers lining up, eager to get fleeced. But as every swindler and con-man knows, you can’t cheat an honest man.

Ramana’s true core teaching, if you care to pull back the curtain and look, was Outward. In real progress, there are no questions or answers, there is no knowledge or teaching, there is only going and not going. Inward.”

One Source

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Created: June 20, 2024 
Last modified: June 20, 2024

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One response to “Jed McKenna?”

  1. Holger Avatar
    Holger

    I understood that Ramana Maharshi’s “Who Am I” was only a concession for his Western visitors.

    I read the text, but wasn’t very excited.
    “Practicing self-inquiry” is a funny phrase.

    What are the core misconceptions, the basic wisdoms?

    – You are not the one you think you are.
    – Thoughts and feelings are always from the past.
    – Happiness is not in the circumstances.

    – The sense of separation/lack is 10% faulty thinking and 90% muscle-memory.
    – Our true nature is always whole and complete, but veiled by the me-belief.
    – “Beyond doubt, I am; but what I don’t know what I am.”

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