A Letter from Adya

A Letter from Adya

By Adyashanti


A letter was shared from beloved teacher and SAND presenter Adyashanti in early September 2023. Connect with Adyashanti at Open Gate Sangha.

Dear Friends,

As I write this, a late summer rain shower is dancing across the high Sierra Nevada mountains where Mukti and I live, bringing with it the first foretelling of fall, as the aspen trees in the canyon below are just beginning to turn from green to golden yellow, as the nights begin to cool. The hints of change and transformation are in the air.

It is said that there is a time and place for all things. But what does that mean in each of our lives? For me it means intuitively sensing the beginning and ending of things. And for me this intuition is a very embodied, physical phenomenon. The body is a profound source of wisdom when we begin to listen and sense into its way of communicating. When body, mind, and spirit align, wisdom is born and revealed.

For the last few years, I have been sitting with the idea of when to retire from active teaching. Not that I always planned on retiring from teaching, but as the years of personal physical challenges wore on (more on that later) I sensed that there was a limited period of time that I would be able to continue teaching.

And now that time has come. This October (at an exact date to be determined) I will be retiring from active teaching. Meaning I will no longer be doing live teaching events, either in person or on the internet. I do however plan on dedicating more time to writing as well as recording more deep dive spiritual teachings. Mukti, I am happy to say, will become the permanent head teacher at Open Gate Sangha.

The reasons for me stepping down from active teaching are many and varied. And yet I waited to make any decision about my future teaching role until I got a very clear and unambiguous intuitive knowing of what to do. And when it came it was absolutely clear. Body, mind, and spirit aligned into a united knowing that this is the time to step down from active teaching. The words when they came were as simple as could be, “it is done.” When this happens, I call it “united knowing,” when the body feels a deep and embodied “yes,” and the mind knows and understands, and the spirit brightens and dances. This intuitive knowing has always served me well, and I rely on it day to day.

The more relative reasons to step back from teaching have to do with many years of intense and often overwhelming physical pain that was so challenging that when the pain issue was finally resolved after more than 15 years, my mind and body began experiencing significant trauma and PTSD issues related to all the years of intense pain. While the ultimate core of consciousness remains untouched by whatever happens in time and space (and what a wonderful resource of peace this is), the body-mind is very much affected and needs to be approached and supported on its own terms. As I write this I have been, and am still now, addressing every level of my being and feel quite optimistic that everything is on a good and positive track.

The effects of such a long and exhausting ordeal, however, have been significant on both my body and mind. While the core of consciousness (awareness) is forever free and untouched, the body-mind has its own reality as well. And this reality contains, in potential, all the body-mind’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Paradoxically, these same years of intense challenge contained some of the most wonderful, inspiring, and blissful moments of my life.

And yet . . . under the challenging circumstances I lived with, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have given everything that I had to give to the teaching work of serving the dharma. And notwithstanding the underlying physical hardships I was living with, these years of teaching have been filled with unexpected grace and blessings beyond my imagination. Most of those blessings have to do with the profound honor and privilege of being a teacher to so many amazing and beautiful people. Each and every one of you, being in your core the very peace and freedom that you seek. I have also been blessed to work with some of the most amazing, talented, and committed people that I have ever met, both on staff and as dedicated volunteers, in numbers too great to count.

The human connections are what I value most about teaching. To an introverted semi-recluse Zen-Taoist nature lover, it is the shared moments of revelation, laughter, tears, and amazement with students and colleagues that live long in my heart. The profound courage that I have witnessed time and again over the years, as people face into the great mystery of their being and confront that which has been long-avoided and denied, will remain a source of living inspiration to me. Beyond all the theory and theology that supports (or sometimes degrades) spirituality, it is the human mind and spirit that is the true place and substance of spiritual work.

As a teacher I have always sought to help people not only with awakening but with achieving true spiritual sovereignty and a connected human autonomy. This delicate interplay between openness to a teacher and a teaching, while also standing in one’s true autonomy, is at the core of everything I teach. As a sort of spiritual midwife my task was simply to evoke into wakefulness the true nature of each person and to midwife its conscious entry into the world. The true nature is always and already within each student, the teacher simply evokes it into consciousness and then helps orient it to this human life.

Teachings, even the best of them, need to be brought to life in the flesh and blood of our everyday lives. For true understanding belongs not only to our minds but also, and even more profoundly, to our bodies and spirit. With such easy access to an endless array of spiritual teachings these days it is easy for our spirituality to become a head trip of abstractions. Teachings need be related to as prompts for spiritual practice and inquiry, not as monolithic and ultimate statements of reality. I have met just as many nondual fundamentalists as any other type of fundamentalist, and always with the same close-minded certainty and underlying fear that all fundamentalists share. A totally certain mind is a closed and protected mind; a mind that is essentially afraid of the immensity of the reality it claims to know. It is vital to understand that deep spiritual practice has a lot more to do with conceptual unknowing than knowing. Wisdom is fully embodied and digested experience, not simply concepts in relationship to still more concepts.

I am fully aware that my stepping away from live teaching will impact those of you who are students of my teaching. The student-teacher relationship is profound and mysterious, and I am sensitive to the many different ways that each of you will experience my stepping down from teaching. But stepping down does not mean stepping away. I can truly say that my teacher, Arvis, is with me just as much today, and possibly even more than when I was going to see her every Sunday. Something about her lives in me, and still teaches me, and is a constant presence in my life, even though she hasn’t publicly taught for nearly thirty years. I still contemplate her statement that “enlightenment is standing on your own two feet.” And every time I do I smile in both recognition and the wonderful inexhaustible wisdom contained within such a simple statement. Perfect Zen.

I have started so many letters for Open Gate Sangha with, “My dear friends.” I do this because it’s the way I feel about all of you. And because I want to close any perceived distance or separation that results from the many projections that we spiritual teachers receive. Because at the end of the day, we are all not only timeless consciousness but also simply embodied human beings with all the strengths and vulnerabilities that come with human incarnation. Enlightenment is not about becoming superhuman, which is a persistent and damaging spiritual fantasy. It is about becoming authentic and real at the most fundamental level of our being. It just so happens that waking up and becoming authentic and real is no small task.And so, my friends, I want to say thank you. I love you, and I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for your heart, your courage, your love, and your sincerity. I could have never imagined the last 27 years in my wildest dreams. For an introverted and quiet kid this was all quite unexpected.

And yet I have no feelings of endings. I sense unfolding, renewal, and a revitalization of spirit not only in myself, but in the sangha as well.I do plan on attending some of the Sunday Community Practice sessions (which Mukti will be teaching), and when I do, I will be leading the silent meditations and ringing the bells. So, this is not an ending as much as a transformation. The teaching will continue with Mukti, and I will be her silent support. And perhaps from time to time I’ll write a book or record a teaching.

There are some people who excel onstage often displaying a sort of charisma that charms people. While there are others whose realization is most clearly noticeable in their quiet but bright and vital presence, and most importantly in the way they move and act in their everyday life. Deeply embodied awakening often moves in this more subtle, quiet and embodied way. Arvis was like that, and Mukti is like that as well. You’ve got to pay close attention, but when you do, such teachers are like a life-giving stream of spirit bubbling up from the earth.

So, l will leave you in good hands. And perhaps we will each notice how the living and conscious presence that we are is always and already right here. And in that space, there is no coming or going, there is only eternal meeting.

~ Adyashanti

From SAND 19:

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