Suicide and Awakened BehaviourA written exchange about the validity of suicide and the behaviour of non-dual teachers
Since I have always appreciated and somehow honoured your wisdom and knowledge in this field I dare to ask you about the following thing/question that keeps coming up again and again in an unresolved manner. In case you feel to comment on it or help me clarify this issue I’d be really thankful.
It’s regarding Nathan Gill’s suicide. You probably have heard about it. This whole event triggered so many seemingly unresolved questions here. I wonder if I misunderstood non-duality. Do you have any explanations that could perhaps bring some light into this seemingly incongruent event?.. I am so confused about it… or is any behaviour possible despite having been awakened for years to one’s true nature?
Another conflict that arises here, is the question about the awakening of the heart qualities. I see that there is a huge difference in the expressions of awakened people. Is this not a form of identification with strong fears…? or is it really just happening…like everything else??? I am just wondering and so confused. Also, I know a popular non-dual teacher, who is having an affair for years without his wife knowing.(Sorry, I know that sounds silly) but I am not writing this because I am interested in their business or because I have any objection about it - not at all, but I am interested if I might got some ideas wrong or if I live with false ideals I might have accumulated over the years like “living from the heart”, e.g living from integrity or honesty etc…Are these just some rosy ideas I have about a kind of general heart-behaviour? Seems some awaken but there is not tranformation on a heart level, and with otheres there is - or is it all just happening: an affair, suicide…etc…It seems such a contradiction to the old master’s messages of surrender, honesty & integrity, trust to be provided for or helped for, etc…
I wrote to you because you seem to have an in-depth understanding of people who just teach neo-advaita and people who perhaps transcended things. As you can see I am very confused…Perhpas you want to comment.
Thank you, with gratitude,
Thank you for your email and my apologies for delaying to respond.
I don’t respond to questions by email these days but am touched by your question and have therefore made an exception.
You say, “I see that there is a huge difference in the expressions of awakened people”. I would be cautious in considering that everyone who speaks or writes about non-duality has awakened to their true nature. Even if it were true, recognising one’s true nature is just a beginning, and does not, in my opinion, qualify one to speak formally in public of these matters. After this recognition there is a process in which the way we think, feel, act, perceive and relate is gradually realigned with our new experiential understanding. In fact, this is an endless process in which the body, mind and world are gradually pervaded by and saturated with the infinite light of pure Consciousness.
There is little or no precedent for ‘awakening to one’s true nature’ in the West and, therefore, the term is susceptible to being appropriated indiscriminately as a general term to describe a wide variety of different experiences and levels of understanding. However, in every other field of education there are degrees. Why should the same not be so for teaching, sharing or communicating the non-dual experience or understanding? Is one who has mastered long multiplication qualified to teach maths at university, or one who has mastered the scale of C major qualified to give master classes on the piano?
There is a considerable difference between teachings that are currently being presented under the broad umbrella of ‘Non-Duality’, and thus it is a mistake to believe that they are all talking about or from the same experience or understanding. Many of these so called teachings reduce the true experiential, non-dual understanding to a series of formulaic platitudes that lack the love, depth and spontaneity that are the hallmark of true understanding, and as such they mislead people who are genuinely interested in lasting peace and happiness.
If we see people behaving in ways that, under normal circumstances, we would find unacceptable, we should trust our response, whilst always remaining open to the possibility that there may be elements in the situation that we are unaware of and that may, therefore, vindicate their behaviour. However, we should be cautious of using the so called non-dual understanding to justify behaviour that in any other field would be considered unacceptable. In order to justify such behaviour, some expressions of contemporary non-duality claim that ‘it is all simply happening by itself to no one’, thereby allowing the ego that is at the heart of such behaviour to remain undetected. Suffice to say here that I would encourage you to choose your teaching carefully. In short, trust your intuition.
As regards suicide, from a materialistic point of view, the body gives rise to the mind and the mind gives rise to Consciousness. Thus, from this point of view, the death of the body puts an end to the mind and, therefore, it puts an end to our suffering. However, from the spiritual point of view the body is an appearance in the mind, and the mind is made of pure Consciousness. Therefore, from this point of view, the death of the body is simply the cessation of an appearance in the mind; it is not the end of mind itself. And, just as when we fall asleep at night, the waking-state body and its world vanish and the mind creates a new dreamed body with its new dreamed world, so there is nothing to suggest that on the death of the body at ‘physical death’, the same mind that gave rise to it will not give rise to another body with its own world, in order to experience whatever residues are still remaining in that mind, including its suffering. In this case suicide would give, at best, only temporary relief from suffering. This is not an answer from the absolute point of view, but rather a relative response to the question of suicide.
Please don’t consider what I have said above a personal comment about Nathan Gill, whom I considered a friend, although I didn’t know him well. I do not know about the circumstances of his death and cannot, therefore, comment.
I would be very happy to discuss all this further with you and, if you would like to, recommend one of my meetings or webinars.
I wish you well.
With kind regards,