THE HEART OF NONDUALITY
Here is Amoda's article just published in this season's Inzicht Magazine (in Dutch) with the theme of The Feminine and Nonduality. This is the English translation ...
When — twenty years ago — the grace of awakening revealed itself to me, it happened so effortlessly and naturally that it took me by surprise. And yet the impact of this awakening on my everyday perception and relationship to life was radical in every way. It was as if a faucet of light had been turned on and flowed into every aspect of my life and every cell of my being, allowing me to see through the eyes of wholeness and love.
This wholeness and this love was deeper than the periphery of my personhood and beyond gender. It was prior to my knowledge of myself and more fundamental than any thought or feeling. And yet this wholeness and this love infused this mind, this heart, and this body … and this was known to be inseparable from the mind, heart, and body of existence itself.
I didn’t have any living spiritual teacher as my guide … although I had been immersed for several years in the fragrance of Osho’s teachings. Somehow Osho’s emphasis on the synthesis love and meditation was the perfect environment for my own awakening. In some ways, I was totally on my own in coming to understand this awakening, and if I had given it a voice back then I would have said it was a profound inner marriage of feminine (unbounded heart) and masculine (unbounded awareness) that transcended gender. For me, this is what awakening is … at least when it is fully integrated in the human life.
But when I looked around at traditional spiritual teachings, spiritual masters, and “enlightened beings”, it seemed there was illumination of mind without illumination of heart and with little understanding or exploration of the human being within it all. I didn’t hear about surrender or forgiveness or tenderness. I didn’t hear about the vulnerability that comes with honest “self-exposure”. I didn’t hear about the willingness to sit with our repressed emotions, our fears, our hurts. And I didn’t hear about enlightenment in the midst of intimate relationships. Some traditional spiritual teachings did mention compassion but even then it seemed divorced from the actual lived reality. On top of it all, almost all spiritual masters were male and almost all had no secular life but a clandestine power structure based on knowledge and inherited authority … and usually with a dose of money and sex thrown in. It was a patriarchy not much different to the religious patriarchy of Christianity, and many scandals of abuse of that power and cultism have emerged over time.
Even in contemporary spiritual circles, I observed that male teachers were more prominent and more pedestalized than female teachers who tended to remain in relative obscurity. And again, as in many traditional teachings, the male teachers veered heavily in the direction of awakening as a transcendent state and avoided any conversation about the human experience. Of course, this is not always the case and there are many examples (especially these days) of both male and female teachers who have an integrated expression of awakening.
In any case, I didn’t really give any of this much thought until I started attracting a small following myself and dialoging with spiritual seekers … ordinary people searching for peace and fulfillment in the modern world. As I spoke in small groups and in one to one sessions, I noticed that many of the male seekers had a very conceptualized — and disembodied — view of awakening. In particular, the understanding of nonduality was very intellectual and devoid of heart. For these individuals, the human experience was something to be avoided or denied … feelings, emotions, vulnerability, intimate relationships were all something that got in the way of the pristine state of emptiness. Sometimes this attempt to erase the human experience was very extreme and what I saw was an incredible inner conflict, a suppression of feeling that seemed to have its roots in family and societal conditioning. It was a very “hard” absolutist perspective … and one that I tried to soften through constant clear-pointing to the discovery of freedom in the midst of the comings and goings of the human life. I had come to know nonduality — through my own direct experience — as a unified understanding of the relative and the absolute. I had experienced form as a reflection of the formless and how these are inseparable from each other. I had seen an excruciating beauty in the bittersweetness of the human experience at the same time as knowing the freedom of not deriving my identity from these experiences. All of this had necessitated a falling open into the heart of existence and into my own heart that then opened the door to the groundless ground of Being.
Perhaps the masculine psyche refuses to loosen its grip as easily as the feminine psyche. Perhaps the natural capacity for surrender — which is really a deep relaxation into the unknown — is innate to a woman’s physiology and psychology. For me, surrender is effortless and intelligent … why argue with reality? For me, embodiment as an inclusion of our humanity is not in opposition to transcendence as an untangling of identity from the human experience. It’s a great paradox to be fully awake and fully human.
When it comes to how this awakeness is expressed through my teaching, I would say there is no gender bias. I do not lean towards the feminine spiritual stereotypes of mantra or sacred dance as a way to express love and devotion. I do not particularly focus on intimacy or emotions or feelings or the body as some female teachers do. And I do not try to embody the archetype of “the mother” to portray a spiritual image of the divine feminine. But neither do I have an absolutist view of nonduality. For me, it is all included and it is all expressed through the unity of heart and mind. Yes, I have a female body and a female way of moving and speaking. Yes, I am unafraid of being a woman … although I don’t feel identified with being a woman but rather as a human being wearing a disguise as a woman. I have always had a clear mind and I have always loved how words can be used to describe something indescribable. And that’s how it comes through me … as a clear-pointed arrow that “delves into the heart of things”.
So really, there’s no essential difference between men and women when it comes to nondual awakening. But there is often a difference in how they are perceived and how they are received by others. There’s an unfortunate (and mostly unrecognized) bias that veers towards giving male teachers more authority and recognition. It’s easier to dismiss or belittle a female teacher … to mistake the outer representation for the inner truth. I myself, have been “accused” of looking too glamorous (and therefore not really awakened) or not looking glamorous enough (and therefore not worthy of being in the public eye) … you can’t win when it comes to people’s ideas of what a spiritual teacher should look like!
There’s also a slight difference in that a male teacher may have more worldly ambition (and sometimes more worldly skills) and often attracts a team of helpers, whereas the female awakened one may have less impetus to offer her gifts on a worldly level. Of course, this is a generalization and there are many exceptions. But I have seen these subtle differences take place in the public arena … a kind of subtle one-upmanship that is endemic in a mostly male-dominated world. Whilst women today (at least in most of the western countries) are independent and can hold positions of power, if we look back historically and if we look into many cultures today we have to admit that women are second-class citizens suppressed by patriarchal beliefs.
Perhaps it is time for women to rise up into their true wisdom … one that allows the illumination of awake mind to flow — through humility and tenderness — into the depths of our humanity.
~ Amoda Maa
From the original Dutch version in Inzicht Magazine ... https://inzicht.org/huidig-nummer/
Thanks for reading Amoda Maa Writing! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support the Foundation.