Episode 16: Gangaji - "The Diamond in Your Pocket": Part 2 - Spirituality and Community (Satsang)
Gangaji – "The Diamond in Your Pocket": Part 2 - Spirituality and Community (Satsang)
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Gangaji: I’m Gangaji and I have just spent a wonderful hour speaking with Duncan Campbell and his beautiful show on keeping the flame of truth alive, and I’m really honored to be a part of it. I am grateful that this is alive and functioning so beautifully. What a great mind you have, how much you can hold in your mind, that’s great. Such a great connection.
Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo and Quantum Physicist David Bohm. Mutually participatory dialogues has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning, a dia-flow of logos, meaning, beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So, join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in ‘Living Dialogues.’
Welcome once again to Living Dialogues. I’m your host, Duncan Campbell, and again, I’m delighted to have my friend and renowned speaker, we may say, Gangaji, born Toni Roberson, as my guest. Gangaji is the author of “The Diamond in your Pocket; Discovering your True Radiance”, a book with a forward by Eckhart Tolle. And as we’ve mentioned on other occasions, she has spent a lifetime in exploring both the inner world and the outer world, and today she is seen as a teacher and author who travels the world offering her own invitation to fully recognize the absolute freedom and unchanging peace that is the truth of one’s being.
Now that introduction comes from the book jacket of “The Diamond in Your Pocket”, and I’d like to give you the opportunity, Gangaji, to give your own self description, because I know that you say, “Well, sometimes people see me as a teacher, but that’s not necessarily how I see myself.” And so, maybe you can give your own description.
Gangaji: I see myself as a student.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah.
Gangaji: I’m a student of life.
Duncan Campbell: mm hmm.
Gangaji: I was lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher who revealed himself as my “sat guru”.
Duncan Campbell: mm hmm.
Gangaji: That’s what I call it. That’s the words he used, although I’d never used those words before.
Duncan Campbell: And “sat” means “truth” …
Gangaji: Means “truth”
Duncan Campbell: …and “guru” means …
Gangaji: “Revealer.” Uh huh.
Duncan Campbell: Revealer of the light.
Duncan Campbell: Remover of the darkness.
Gangaji: Remover of the darkness is even better. And in my meeting him and really paying very close attention to what he was saying, which was basically, “Be still. Stop. Stop following your story.” I discovered the sat guru to be life itself, and the circumstances of life are the test of the guru.
And if they are met open-heartedly, even with whatever comes with that open-heartedness - defensiveness, fear, anguish, bewilderment, whatever - then the test revealed a deeper capacity for the heart to open and the by-product of that is love and compassion, and more peace, and more fulfillment.
Duncan Campbell: Now sometimes people looking in at the outside, and hear stories about Poonja-ji, your teacher, or even Ramana Maharshi, who preceded him. They say, “Well, this notion that somehow you can stop the search.” And “You’re already enlightened,” is just too facile, it’s just too easy. It seems to have become almost, we might say, fashionable to say, “Oop, no need for the search. I’m actually blocking myself by searching.”
And so they dismiss this whole tradition, or this whole teaching, we might say, as some kind of new age version of the lazy man’s guide to enlightenment, or titles like that that appear in the bookstore that are designed to sort of seduce people into thinking, “Well, there must be an easier way than spending a lifetime in meditation,” and so on. And although there may be an easier way, it’s not as I’ve just described, and so let’s talk about how you respond when somebody may say to you what I’ve just said, characterizing stopping the search as maybe some kind of quick fix that’s missing the point.
Gangaji: Well, I remember, back in Berkley in the early ‘70s, I saw a huge picture of Ramana Maharshi and there was a little book of his there. I opened it up and read a little bit, and I absolutely knew what he was saying was the truth. But I closed the book and I said, “But this has nothing to do with my life though.” My life is …
Duncan Campbell: Good for him!
Gangaji: My life is way too complicated for that truth. Then I spent the next 20 years doing what I thought I had to do to find my happiness. When I finally met my teacher, and told him about this incident, he said, “Whoa, that’s what brought you to me. Now you’re ready.”
Duncan Campbell: Mm hmm.
Gangaji: So it is a very simple truth to stop everything, but it’s not necessarily easy. It can – if one stops and is conscience of what is present, because it’s not stop and then go into a stupor, stop and go to sleep, stop and follow your desires. It’s really stop, and be here with what is here and what may be here is a lifetime of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. And that pain is there to be met. Often – well again, I have to speak for myself. I had used spiritual experiences and even spiritual practices to avoid stopping and meeting that pain. And so, it is simple. Stop, give up your seeking, and it can be the, and is usually, the most challenging moment of a person’s life. So that has to be a kind of readiness for it. I usually say it has to be enough disillusionment with one’s activities to get something that is permanently satisfying, so that you’re willing to try anything.
Duncan Campbell: Mm hmm.
Gangaji: Primarily, stop looking for something. And in that, the mind is thrown back into itself and the guardians at the gate of the final realization of self are all kinds of reasons why not to stop. Or what you will lose, or how self-indulgent it is, or it’s just some flaky technique of no technique.
So I just ask people to investigate it for themselves. It’s certainly nothing that I’m preaching to people to do. It’s just an opportunity that mainly we’re – we don’t even know is available. We either know to dissociate and go to sleep, or to go after and indulge. And there’s another way, and that’s simply to stop and meet.
Duncan Campbell: And this is what happens in what’s called satsang. So perhaps we could talk about satsong, and what it is, and how it functions as a vehicle for people, individually and together, to actually stop and meet themselves.
Gangaji: Well, when my teacher first used the word “stop” with me, I thought I knew what he meant, and so I became very still, physically. And then the word sank in a little deeper, and it’s like, “That has nothing to do with the physical. That’s not what he’s talking about.” And finally I recognized that there was this ongoing conversation in my mind that had been going on as long as I could remember, that was evolving, or changing, or regressing at different emotional components.
And I realized he’s talking about stop following that. And when I realized that, it was relief, and there was a flood of bliss, and then after that, there were also all the reasons why this couldn’t be this simple, and what about different situations. And then there were emotions that had to be faced.
And so basically, when I meet with people in satsang, I’m supporting them in that, either by directing them with whatever words are coming out of my mouth, or by having dialogues and conversations with them. So that parts of the story can be told to evoke whatever needs to be evoked, but then the story is left behind, and we actually are pointing each other into a deeper realm of what can’t be spoken, and yet is always here. And that’s really the point of satsang, what is always here. Our stories change about ourselves, our politics change, governments change, our bodies change, our thoughts change, but what is always here. And that’s what my teacher calls sat, or truth.
Duncan Campbell: And the meaning of “sang” for “sanga” is “community”.
Ganaji: Yes, and so we are together, supporting each other in that, and challenging each other in to when that becomes conceptualized, and just another mode of actually avoiding stopping.
Duncan Campbell: Mm hmm. It’s like going to church can become like an empty ritual, or it can be a very fulfilling communal experience. For instance, in the Sufi tradition, they have a word for it called “sema”, where people come together in community, with the recognition that together, we might say, they can create an energy field or a force field that is higher, and more powerful, and more amplified than one can have by oneself.
And so there’s a reason why we come together in community, to confirm, and reaffirm, and support each other.
And then, what they do is, they gather self consciously to listen for the sound of the divine, is how they describe it. Perhaps, not unlike a Quaker meeting, where people come together, and then as a person is moved to speak, if they feel it is relevant, if they feel like they should share, they share. There could be other modalities of course. There could be someone who presents a talk, there could be dialogue circles, there could be breaking into small groups. There’s all sorts of ways to come together and to share with the sense that you’re going to do so in a way that evokes something that is perhaps not yet present.
That to me is really the purpose of dialogue and these programs for it, called “Living Dialogues”, are understood to be occasions when someone can get together with another person, and then through a deep listening, there’s an evocation of a – an understanding that was not present when we started out. And there’s no agenda, there’s no 10 points to be covered, and yet we just sort of follow intuitively this sense of what is it that wants to be said. I also feel very strongly this acknowledgement that the knowledge that there is a deep listening audience that cares about these topics is also part of the evocation process, that when people come together it’s not necessary, and particularly a larger group, for everyone to talk.
Duncan Campbell: Like one person speaking to another person from the heart, everyone feels the reality of that, because we can feel that, yes, this person is, in a very real sense, just like me, even though the superficial story might have different markings. This is me. And then you can feel that oneness without having to think of it as a concept.
You can just feel how beautiful – you know I really feel the essence of that person. What a gift that they were able to speak so open-heartedly and so directly; I have so much appreciation for that.
Gangaji: That’s really, to me, the essence of it, because we become very attached to our own storyline as unique, and that we are isolated, and we feel separate. And we can come together in groups and feel the energy of being together, because we are social animals, and it feels good. But, when we come together, like on this program with the listeners, and in meetings where we’re actually questioning in the deepest level, “What are our lives about, and how are they being used,” we are serving each other.
And in that, there is no teacher other than the dialogue itself, or the circumstances that are brought us here, emotionally, physically, circumstancially, and that all are included. And that’s the possibility that it’s not limited to a particular meeting, even though a meeting can stimulate it, and honor it, and be of service for it spreading out.
It can actually be the way we meet others all the time, whether it’s spoken or self-consciously talked about that way, it’s an approach. It’s an approach to recognizing that we are in this together, and we must support one another, and we can either support one another or we can bring each other down. And there’s a choice there.
Duncan Campbell: I think that’s really beautifully put, because if we come in really focused on our own storyline, that very simple thing that you just said, it’s not always easy to remember, but it is the key, because that’s where we actually can find joy, and happiness, and that sense of being “at one” with others, because it’s there all the time. If we just kind of get out of the way, you know, …
Gangaji: That’s it.
Duncan Campbell: …With our own storyline. Exactly. And in the particular modality of the meetings that you conduct, it usually has somebody coming from the audience, for those not familiar with this method or way of coming together, and they sit in the front of the room. And the two of you engage in exactly what you’re talking about, a real dialogue, where there is no teacher and there is no student.
In other words, there’s no identified role that one person is empty and the other person is full, and you have to sort of transfer some knowledge from one person to the other. And that really is the adolescent modality that the collective, the world population has been caught up in for millennia, at this point. That somehow the Moses on the mountain idea, that one person climbs the metaphorical mountain and meets the essence of the mystery, whether it’s called God, or the Creator, or Spirit, and somehow has an illumination. And then comes down and essentially franchises it to [laughter] the people who are willing to take the secondary experience rather than having their own direct experience.
And that’s how, in some sense, religion as an organized institution is designed to give comfort to people. Not to confront them with their own pain, not to show them how to go deeply into their own self-empowerment, but to basically be like comfort food in a way. You go to church, and you’re told things that make you feel good. And that is the gap between the original transfiguring experience of the mystery of the founder of the religion, usually, and how it can devolve over time. Now that’s not to say, of course, that institutional religion, per say, is always that way, but frequently one encounters that.
Gangaji: Yes, you know, and even that can serve a purpose, because often we do need comforting. It’s just that when there’s something deeper calling us, when we have to know what it was that brought us to religion in the first place, and is still unsatisfied because it’s usually some connection with the founder, and what the founder was saying. For me, it was Christ.
And it was very interesting that it was my Hindu guru that actually opened up a deeper relationship for me with the love of Christ in my heart, which somehow, I had been – well, it hadn’t been squelched by the church, but it hadn’t been allowed to thrive and grow. And to – so that it is I and my Father at one, so that we are one with Christ, so that we are not looking for the Christ, we are the Christ. We are the Messiah, serving each other in that.
Duncan Campbell: And that, I think, is what Joseph Campbell meant when saying follow your bliss, is that through trail and error, through being willing to be in the world, to confront your own experience, to share your own experience, and then listen to people’s feedback, and then to share stories back and forth, you come to an understanding. Just through the feeling of when you’re aligned with the energy of the universe, as we mentioned in a poem by Luat Su, when you remember the source, and you become naturally tolerant, and dignified, kind-hearted, disinterested, amused. Then you know that this is the taste of pure water, as Rumi would say.
This is your bliss. But it doesn’t mean you’re going around as a bliss ninny, as someone who’s got some kind of transcendent smile on their face all the time. It just means that you’re in your flow. And then you can meet whatever happens as it arises, including the death of a loved on, or a – any kind of a event that might be called a …
Gangaji: That’s right.
Duncan Campbell: … Tragedy, because that’s also what is, as our friend Byron Katie is fond of saying, “Loving what is is the only way not to suffer.” So you’re not looking for something other than what is, your looking at how to be fully there with what is.
Gangaji: Yeah, whether you wanted it there or not becomes irrelevant, it’s here.
Duncan Campbell: I was thinking of that Rumi poem, actually. The end line is quoted frequently, but the beginning lines are not quoted so frequently. The end lines are, “there’s a field out there, beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing. I’ll meet you there.” But what proceeds that is “when we wake up every morning alone and frightened, do not go to the study, and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. There are thousands of ways to kiss the earth. There’s a field out there, beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing. I’ll meet you there.”
And that preamble to me is so illuminating, because what it basically says is that the nature of the mind is such is that there’s always change and flow. And as you’ve pointed out many times, there’s always the possibility of doubt and fear, whether it’s self doubt, or fear of others, or doubting others, the mind itself is full of thoughts that just arise all of the time. And instead of going to the study, and beginning reading, and seeking refuge in an ideology or a concept, or ideas of how to be, a religion of any kind, take down a musical instrument. Be willing to sing your own song. Be willing to tune yourself to the energy of the universe. And with gratitude and respect there are thousands of ways to kiss the earth and acknowledge the wonder of being, even as you started awaking from your sleep with doubt, and fear, and confusion. And then you can say full-heartedly, you know, there’s a field out there, not beyond right doing and wrongdoing, but beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing. And then you know what’s right, and you can meet at that place. You know?
For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell