Dada Gavand's autobiography, Intelligence Beyond Thought, contains a remarkably informative description of what he did that led to his waking up. This portion of the book is one of the clearest and most precise depictions of sadhana, of spiritual practice, that has ever been written. He shares with us the whole concrete experience so we are able to see not only what he did but also how it felt. We also see the ferocious intensity and motivation that were required to make the practice work. He put his whole life aside to focus on this one thing, his sadhana.
Dada has no interest in scriptures or concepts about enlightenment. But he does emphasize a few words to which he gives special meanings, including ‘aloof’ and ‘polyangular’. We think these words deserve the reader's close attention.
The following excerpt from the book contains nearly the entire description of his sadhana. We include parts of chapter 2, all of chapters 3 and 4, and part of chapter 5. This is a small portion of the book, which contains 28 chapters. The title ‘How Dada Gavand Woke Up’ does not appear in the book.
The autobiography begins with Dada’s portrayal of himself as a dutiful eldest son who took his family responsibilities very seriously. At the age of 38, in 1955, he decided to sever those ties. He said good-bye to his family and traveled to a remote area in search of a secluded place where he could live alone and meditate. His journey took him to Sajjangad, a small mountain in rural Maharashtra, where he spent his first night in an inn for pilgrims. Ringing bells and loud prayers kept him up most of the night.
FIRST THING NEXT MORNING, I realized that I had to find another place. I could not stay in that busy area with so much commotion. I was worried, too, that in such a popular spot someone might recognize me and inform my family. So I walked around the mountain, exploring the whole area. Much of it was uninhabited and quite a jungle. In a small residential area I asked the people if they knew of any solitary place to live in, but no one could think of any such place.
As I continued exploring around the mountain, I came across a small hut consisting of just one empty room about 7 × 9 feet in size, with a small door and tiny window. Somehow I felt attracted to it and the surrounding area. No one lived nearby. It was quite a distance away from the temple with all its noise and people. My excitement grew as I contemplated living in this solitary little hut.
I rushed back to the ashram office where I found the temple manager and asked him if I could stay in that hut. He flatly refused, saying that it was not at all fit to live in. He pointed out that he had plenty of convenient rooms at the ashram. That remote place posed some risks, he warned, with nobody nearby. The ashram could not assume responsibility for someone staying there.
Disappointed, Dada left the man's office in a dejected mood, but the next day he went back and tried again.
Suddenly he asked me, “What type of sadhana are you doing that you need a special place?” Generally spiritual practice consists of repeating ‘mantras’ a certain number of times per day, plus chanting, reading holy books and doing other kinds of worship or ‘pooja’.
I replied that my way of worship was simple and somewhat unconventional. I intended to stand back and observe my thoughts, desires and emotions with a view to understanding my true nature. For that I wanted a totally quiet place.
The manager refused a second time. Dada left but once again, he returned the next day.
At this third meeting, I saw that he softened a little. Finally he said, “Well, if you will be entirely responsible for yourself, then you can try it for a few days.”
Jubilantly I thanked him and immediately went to the hut and cleaned it up thoroughly. So after three days of patient pleading, I had somehow been granted my wish. Finally, here was my quiet and solitary spot on a mountain top! At last, in this noisy and restless world, I had found my quiet nest!
Intense longing of many years
And revolt of spirit has brought me here.
In scorching sun and gusty wind,
I climbed the mount to reach your door.
Alone, determined, devoted one.
With bleeding heart and battered soul.
Lifting heavy steps one by one,
To meet the mysterious, the unknown One.
After this, I experienced a great relief, feeling completely relaxed and totally unburdened. Thus began my stay on the mountain. I was determined to spend minimal time on my daily chores. I made a make-shift stove or ‘chulah’ using three stones. Dry twigs were available in plenty around the but and served as fire wood. I cooked my rice early in the morning, ate half of it then and saved the other half for the evening. That left me with the whole day to be with myself. There was nothing for me to read, no prayers to chant, and nothing to keep me occupied. I had seen the limitation and thus the futility of all that.
To live with nothing to keep my mind occupied and nothing special to attract me was at first very difficult. It required intense watchfulness to keep my inwardness and not be active outwardly. I had to be alertly aware most of the time, so that it would not be easy for the thought-mind to indulge in its usual ways. Only when my concentration lapsed and I became a bit more dull would the thoughts, desires and emotions find their easy way in. Looking into myself every moment, discovering all the subtle wanderings of the mind, became my way of living.
Dada’s stay in the hut on Sajjangad Mountain started quietly, but local residents soon became suspicious and a police inspector came to question him. Dada managed to convince the inspector that he was harmless, and nobody ever bothered him again.
So the days passed quietly in subdued silence. However, my recent conversation with the inspector about my identity and my past triggered a fresh chain of thoughts. I wondered at this sudden opening of the floodgates after a period of quietude. Several thoughts and memories stormed my mind. First I began to remember my mother. Floods of anxiety swept over me: ‘What would her state of mind be? What would she be thinking, now that I had not returned after a few days? She must be worrying a lot and would probably be fasting. My mother and brother will be searching for me everywhere. I wonder if they have sought the help of the police.’
Such strong thoughts about my mother kept returning. My mind did not recall anything else, such as leaving behind my property, money and other possessions. Concern for my mother always remained my strongest thought. At times I cried intensely, with tears streaming down. The memory of my mother remained constantly with me.
During quiet moments I gradually began to discover that in addition to the image of my mother, many other accumulated experiences, memories and psychological-emotional bonds were hiding quietly inside me. Even when I had no conscious image of my mother and when I was not doing anything in particular, other thoughts emerged, just pouring out. They were not even much related to what was happening at the time. I saw the thought process going on actively and constantly, regardless of the actual situation!
The strong image of my mother made me aware of these other thought activities in my mind. I grew more inward, more watchful, to find out what was happening inside. I saw that beyond these obvious thoughts some other subtle, hidden emotions and attachments at deeper levels were also present. As they came one by one I witnessed them attentively. I observed that the mind is not one homogeneous unit, but a rather fragmented bunch with many different levels of thoughts and emotions. Many underlying feelings and subterranean currents were seeking conscious recognition.
In this intense watchfulness, I saw that my mind was much more complex than just an instrument for decision-making. A portion of the mind always hides somewhere. I had never been in touch with the whole mind and all its hidden aspects. Gradually, I started making contact with the submerged layers, which had been unknown to me until then. It became a hard task of perseverance and patience to see those deeper, unknown layers.
The pain of leaving home and the haunting images of my mother had unintentionally forced me to look inward and search from where the pain emanated. The enigma of what I saw there shifted my focus of watchfulness entirely. This inquiry no longer entailed experiencing enlightenment. Now I had no goal in view, and I did not even think about God, Heaven, Spirit or the other-dimensional energy mentioned by many mystics. The challenge became my own self, me, the mind.
So, naturally, the focus of day-to-day living was to be aware and conscious of all the constant mind activity, the whole internal psychological structure and its operation. This ongoing challenge required that I maintain total awareness, to be open and attentive to every inner movement of thought, to be watchful and honest about the play of my own mind. Awareness is just that: to watch with objective attention and to sense oneself within and without. One has to watch impersonally, without trying to alter anything and without words or thoughts. One has to see things as they are, without any bias or reaction, hopes or fears.
In the beginning, one’s watching is fragmented, as one part of the mind watches another. However, gradually, with increased sensitivity and alertness, one steps out of the field of thought and watches with one’s whole being. The body, mind, senses and sensitivity are jointly involved in a unique amalgamation as one unit, to make full contact.
My heightened awareness and my passion simply did not allow me to be distracted and kept me right on the track. Looking constantly within, with alert awareness, became the way of my life. My mind could no longer hide in fanciful ideas or escape in wishful thoughts, plans or pursuits. Without any fixed routine or discipline of any kind, just to live simply, attentive in the present became my way of living in the mountain hut.
During this period I hardly slept. Everything in my mind became active. With intense watchfulness I observed all that was happening in the chasm of my mind. Even though I lay down, sleep did not oblige me. I saw that sleep is just an escape for the active mind, to hide for a little while.
Thus began my game of observing aloofly and understanding honestly and frankly, the wonder of the uncharted territory of mind. I could not lean on anyone or ask questions. With no books to guide me, no prayers to satisfy me, no chants to lull me, and no activities to escape into, I faced only my complex mind — the totality of the internal psychological structure — directly and squarely at every moment.
The last few months had been an incredible time of psychological turmoil and inner revolt. I had abandoned my family, home and security. Then I arrived at this unknown and solitary place. Occasionally, I would reflect on the recent upheaval and all that led up to it. The memories of that upheaval often nagged at me.
Now I was in this little hut, still without a clue as to what I was going to do or how I would carry out my new life of solitude. I had no guide or point of reference, no way to find the right approach or to set a definite goal, with no instructor or plan. The only thing I knew was that my old way of living was too mundane and superficial and no longer held any meaning for me. It was over and finished. But I felt unsure about what would come next, how I would live and act. No interest remained in any ideology or theology, as I understood these to be wishful, intellectual dogmas. I saw the limitations of philosophy and religion, and such theories held no fascination. I had no attachment to any ancient doctrine, teacher or tradition. With no newspaper or radio available, I lived free from all those influences.
Desires and dreams I knew to be largely the outcome of cultural conditioning. All such pursuits had lost their allure and catch. I observed how the mind plays with those dreams and excitements. Through endless pursuits and sensations, using thought, the mind keeps one's energy engaged.
Now it felt as if all the wishful ways of my mind, with its usual movements and pursuits, were sensing their own end. Although my mind drew a blank in terms of dreams and plans, it was not dull or dead in any way. It did not become lethargic. On the contrary, the mind began to watch rigorously, and its pondering continued, but without a goal in view. The vibrancy and strong urge of inquiry operated, but not tied to any thinking, planning, or imagining. Instead an intense search within went on, a constant internal vigil. This was clearly a goal-less inquiry without any objective or direction.
My mind had lost its impulse to create hope, as the fictitious nature of thought began to unfold. All the escapist flights of my mind were seeing their own futility. There being no movement of thought, wanting, expecting, planning, etc., I had to face whatever happened at every moment. This brought a state of acceptance. With clarity of perception, I accepted every situation as it came along, and did not put up any struggle. The desiring mind began to slow down and hesitatingly came to its end.
I began to feel intense aloneness. In fact it took enormous courage and vigilance to live alone, with no escape from looking at oneself, facing what is. Finally one has to accept oneself as whatever one is.
Gradually, I began to sense a new intensity, a fresh surge of vibrancy without thought. I felt openness, a kind of quietude and space, but not like a deadness or void. The absence of thought/idea activity is not the negation of energy. Rather, it is only the elimination of thought as the dominant and compulsive drive. I could sense that the energy remained intact, active and alert — in fact it became more vibrant than before. The mind energy became more free, unburdened from fervent thoughts of past and future. and thus was very much in the present.
At that point the flight of my mind outside had diminished. The usual thought-mind was quiet yet sensitively alert. In that interval of quietude without thought, the unconscious layers had an opportunity to surface.
I arrived at this hut as a young man, healthy and vigorous, so to a certain extent there still existed a movement of subtle emotional activity and submerged feelings. The fact that I had left my house and my people, especially my mother. hung heavily upon me. The idea that I had abandoned my loved ones began to torment me terribly.
Although I had willingly and purposefully left them, some part of me remained attached to my family. I remembered and thought very much about my mother and brother, wondering how the family would fare without me. I got worried that my mother might become extremely unhappy over my leaving home, that she might suffer emotionally as a result. A part of my mind somehow kept trying to generate fear in relation to my mother.
Then I remembered my brother, thinking he also would suffer difficult times because of my absence. He did not know much about business, yet I felt he was capable and just the right age to learn. Still my mind continued to generate thoughts and concerns about him too. I recognized a subtle fear lurking behind these hidden thoughts and projections.
For the first time, I sensed the element of fear in myself, having always assumed myself to be a fearless person and not timid in any way. I had gone through some experiences which were proof of my fearlessness, both when hunting animals and also during the Indian Independence movement in 1944. Taking an active part in the freedom struggle had been a very risky and dangerous move. The police were after me! For hunting, too, fearlessness is necessary. From a very young age I used to go out with a gun and take on any hunting challenge, even attacking a wild boar when it came charging at me. Boars are really very terrifying creatures. I had once even attempted to shoot a tiger at night, hiding on a ‘machan’ or a special platform in a tree.
Many incidents in my life were adventurous and actually quite hazardous. Some of these actions required courage, and I knew that I had responded bravely. Ever since boyhood I acted boldly. In the sport of cricket, as captain of the team, I used to take up challenges as well as throw some to the other side. I never thought of myself as fearful or timid by any measure. So I assumed no fear existed in me.
When I went to that solitary mountain place, I suddenly became alone. There in that total aloneness I began to see fears coming out of somewhere in me. They arose about several things. 'What if someone robs me?' I started feeling afraid of getting sick due to my poor diet. 'If I become sick, nobody will look after me. What will happen then? I might even die here, all alone'. My mind suddenly started imagining all sorts of fearful things.
However there was no basis in reality for any of this. Thoughts were being generated from within my own mind. By producing thoughts of fear, my mind was prompting me to leave that area and go to some other better place that would be more comfortable and safe. But I saw that all of this came from some hidden part of my own mind. The fear and its source were hiding inside my own self, whereas nothing fearful actually existed outside in reality.
Despite knowing this, that there was nothing to fear, I saw how the fears grew stronger every day. This perplexing situation made me become more and more conscious of them, recognizing that fears existed somewhere inside me only. Now they were finally getting a chance to come out. With nobody to talk to about this, nobody to console me, no teacher to ask what to do, I had to be with myself and face myself squarely. No matter what thdughts arose, pleasant or unpleasant, it was not possible for me to escape, so I confronted the interior — my mind — in toto. As my inquiry was honest, I could not act in any other way or escape from myself.
In that confrontation with my mind I began to watch myself piercingly like a hawk. That watching of fear and all the other movements of subtle thoughts became my main occupation. In solitude I faced and watched everything in myself to understand the working and content of my internal apparatus. I had to unearth and understand all the hidden aspects of a self that had never been known to me before.
The drive of the mind in the outer world had gradually diminished and finally ended. It no longer provoked me to be busy externally with activity. Thought-mind remained quiet on that level, so now that which was hidden got a chance to show up. As if a lid had been removed, all the submerged material started surfacing. As I watched, more and more fears began to show up. I wondered at them because I had never been aware that they were even a part of me. Why were they there, and in what way had they been affecting me? I had to acknowledge that they had been hidden all this time, deep down in some part of my mind.
Along with the thoughts of fear, sex also became an important issue. Sexual thoughts and urges began to show up slowly. These, too, I had to face, watch and know. There was no scope for acting on them. I finally reached a point where these thoughts became very strong, obsessive and nagging.
Again that made me wonder why these particular thoughts came so intensely and insistently. I knew that I was not interested in sex. I had experienced how it is a shock to the whole nervous system and brain and only wastes vital energy. Knowing this, I wondered why now this particular drive of thought-emotion tried to take possession of me. Strong desires with their subtle movements tormented me. Where was this compulsion arising from, and where had all of this been hiding? I had to keep myself alert and acutely aware to see it all at every moment. I was surprised to see how the mind continuously creates these strong images and desires entirely on its own.
Finally, I began to question the actual validity of all these thoughts. Was there any reality to that constant stream of thought? I questioned the purpose and even the substance of these subtle promptings of my mind. Something from inside came up, such as a thought of danger or a sexual fantasy or whatever other thought, creating a psychological need or reason for me to act upon it.
All of this I just dispassionately watched. I observed that these unnecessary, mundane and sundry thoughts and emotions emerged on their own, having their own complex play, independent of reality. The concerns about my family members had no basis. I knew I had no real reason to worry, because they would be all right. To worry from such a far-off distance had no meaning. My mind knew these facts intellectually, but still an undercurrent of apprehension regarding my family persisted. Fear was unnecessary, but still it came up and persisted independently, on its own!
Usually, in regular life, whenever there is any idea, any emotion, any urge, any movement of thought, we act on it. We take it to be factual, with its own logic and validity. Yet I realized that whatever my mind may generate, think or imagine may not be at all real. And it certainly doesn't require that I should act on every arising impulse.
Instead of taking thoughts seriously or automatically acting on any of them, I started wondering and questioning: ‘why and how are these thoughts coming now? Is there any validity to this activity of thinking continually?’
Fear and sex were predominant thoughts at that time, along with some intense feelings for my mother. These urges had never been strong in me in the past, so I started wondering why they now came suddenly and so aggressively. In this I began to see the play of imagination and mental cravings, how the mind sends out an idea that demands an action. All these mental projections surfaced one by one, being played out in front of me. I saw it as a kind of drama in mental space, but absolutely without roots in reality.
The realization came that the human mind is a creature of impulse, capriciously creating thoughts, which then compel us to act on them.
This drama lasted for several days and nights. I endured this unusual situation with patience, observant and keenly aware of each thought as it came, but without taking any action or ever getting carried away by them. This battle raged within and without, day and night. All of my mind's outer pursuits and cravings had come to an end. Now, in the absence of outer activities, I was confronted totally with my inner activity — the hidden self.
All the turbulent content stuffed deep inside started coming out. I tried to watch everything objectively and face it without any distraction or escape. Of course the first impulse was to leave the hut and go elsewhere to be free of this internal chaos. Even the priest of the nearby temple had asked me to stay close to the temple. ‘Maybe I should go there instead, to be safe,’ I mused.
But if I had gone there amidst other people, I would not have been alone or able to face myself squarely and totally. The urgency of not letting the mind start to play its subtle games and tricks now became an overriding necessity. Was something in me trying to induce me to give up? I simply had to understand the domineering mind and its ceaseless thrust and movement of thought. This required a confrontation with the totality of my psychological structure.
Everyday activities and the habit patterns of the conscious mind do not allow the content of the deep, hidden elements to surface easily. Only through intense aloof observation can all that is hidden have a chance to surface. Otherwise everything remains submerged while still very subtly affecting actions.
But now I could no longer yield to fantasies, emotions and pursuits. I did not act on any thought that came up. I stayed face to face with my inner reality, to know and experience the internal mechanism without creating more ideas and getting carried away with them.
This went on for a long time. Turmoil racked my entire mind, causing me many sleepless nights. The surface network of thoughts and actions had been broken up, and no stable layers of the mind remained. Everything was in flux and constant turmoil like boiling water.
The usual order and domination of the mind mechanism had been disturbed by my watching it so intensely. I came to see it as just a machine with its own routines, traditions, laws and habits. It has its own grooves to function in and patterns to follow.
In any psychological element such as fear, one fear is linked with other fears. If you are open to one fear and watch it impersonally with total attention, and without acting upon it, then all related fears, including the subconscious ones, will come to the surface, even as the watcher or the 'I' goes into abeyance. You will then see the whole of fear, which is by then delinked from the object or event which triggered it.
But generally you get caught in one fear, relate it to one object or person, and see only that. The mind creates a separate, obsessive drive in relation to that object alone. It concerns itself with and so concentrates its attention solely around that particular object of fear. This way the fragmentary drive of the mind isolates itself and remains unrelated to the other parts of the fear aspect. As a result, you are unable to understand fear in its totality and to rise above it.
I began to see this psychological mechanism inside me, how it is composed of different layers and segments. This seemingly solid structure is made up of so many divisions, and the mind works only through these channels, one at a time. It has developed its own complex but fragmented system of organization. For instance, it has divided life energy into different forms and has given them different names such as emotional energy, intellectual energy, sexual energy etc. In actuality, life is one whole energy, and there is no such thing as different energies.
However, ‘divide and rule’ is a cunning technique of the mind, which donates and uses this energy by splitting it into different levels and compartments. Such fragmentation imposes a limitation upon this energy. The mind perpetuates itself very cleverly and effectively through such exclusionary actions, working with one fragment, one idea at a time, in quick succession and in an endless chain. But in this subtle way it never allows you to see its own working in its entirety and in one sweep at a given moment. I clearly witnessed the limited and fragmentary nature of the mind in its naked reality.
This can create an almost unbearable psychological condition. At times it became too much for me to sustain the impact of this intense state on the body and brain. Then I would go out for a walk, relax, look at the sky, scan the limitless horizon, feel the beauty of nature around — all without thought. The important thing was that I never lapsed into any escapes. Generally, the mind instinctively finds some escapist activity to keep the thought process going, such as reading a book, talking with somebody, etc. I was very much alert and attentive to this habit of escaping. Now because of this vigilance, the mind could not easily find any escapes by way of distraction in order to retreat into its known grooves and compartments.
Hidden matter can only be released when the mind is still and free of obsessive ideas, when there is openness in the whole psychological structure. In such openness of mind — when all the exclusionary compartments are dissolved — the mind energy acquires a new velocity. It becomes intense, vigorous and sensitive.
The first change I saw was how my whole mind started operating freely, and how there were no compartments working in isolation. Because the mind energy was no longer driven into channels by thought, the whole mind field became more vibrant and cohesive. This intensity required my constant alertness and attention. Existing in this state of mind, with this quality of unfragmented, total energy, kept me awake all the time.
In this way of looking at myself — at every thought, fear and movement of the mind — I saw the structure of what is called ego. This me — the ego, the collection of images, plans and ideas about myself — all of this came under intense objective observation. My ego — that crystallized central entity of self — was disturbed. I saw that its usual method of working swiftly through different comparpments, levels and fragments had slowed down. Ego works with only one idea at a time and moves in one exclusive direction. It cannot work as a whole. It is not at all a cohesive unit and never utilizes the entire energy of the mind field. By its very nature it is limited and incapable of using the total energy. Isolated and fragmented activity is the pattern, organization and structure of the ego-mind. Usually, the thought-action-reaction chain is the only internal process we know. This chain of ceaseless thoughts creates its own ‘logic’, its own illusion of cohesiveness. Our duties, commitments, and wishful pursuits based on thoughts all create a pattern for our life. That pattern and its fulfillment create unending interests, desires and actions. This becomes our operating system, which continues intact until death.
As I began to recognize thoughts as stray things moving in space, they lost their appearance of interconnectedness. Every thought was seen as a separate entity. Only our identification with and attachment to a thought give it continuity, time and space, thus creating the logic necessary to justify its line of action. This so-called ‘logic’ is nothing but a subtle and clever activity of the conditioned influences of the fragmented mind. It formulates its wishful plan of action for the smooth fulfillment of the goal of desire. I perceived and understood this one-sided illusory activity of the ‘logical’ mind. Its tempo and luster were lost, its thrust diminished, and my mind slowed down automatically without putting up resistance.
But now, I was not acting on any thought, idea, memory or emotion that entered my mind. Because thoughts were separated from action, my mind, the ego, lost the capacity to generate its own logic. This loss of ego-driven activity — the mind's logic — had quite an effect. Disrupting the pattern, subduing and arresting the thrust of thought, had disturbed the ego-mind greatly. Now my ego was actually fighting for its very survival. I saw it no longer as an assertive, strong entity, but only as unrelated components.
Thus the ego lost its strength. With that deep and clear perception of the fragmentary nature of the ego-mind, its fighting capacity as a unit diminished totally and scattered in disarray. It surprised me how experiencing intimately the fragments of ego helped me to loosen its crystallized structure.
With this experience of the disarray of the ego, I started feeling a kind of inner vibrancy. I sensed a new motion or flow not at all like my usual mind activity. My mind and brain began to feel an expanded awareness with nothing hidden within. All its contents and movements were revealed, and it assumed a new vibrancy.
The intensity of this vibrant state used to affect my brain and head and make me tired, at times leaving me almost exhausted. That kind of vigorous activity sometimes overwhelmed me. I saw that the nervous system and brain are not used to handling or sustaining the vibrancy of that total experience. When it became too much, I would relax, let go for a while and sit quietly, or go out for a walk along the rim of the mountain.
That kind of watchfulness became my meditation. Slowly my awareness grew much stronger in response to meeting the challenge of the thought-emotion mind. As the intensity of the thoughts of fear and sex grew, my watchfulness also became proportionately more and more intense.
The moment my attention wavered, thoughts and then the desires would rush in. To keep them at bay, to keep myself free, I had to be intensely attentive. In order to see every single desire that entered my mind, my inward awareness became very sharp and clear. I could see every fleeting thought as it appeared in my mental space. The catchment area of my awareness became much wider, and polyangular attention came into being. I became conscious of the broader landscape of my mental space, since the divisions of all the hidden layers were eliminated and became one open unified space.
This gave me a fresh capacity to look within, and my watchfulness and alertness grew even more intense. Multiangular attention became much deeper to discover all those inadvertent movements of subtle thought/emotional drives, which the sex impulse is. I watched that enticing subtle thought activity within me, how it starts and slowly develops. I saw that sex is nothing but an idea, a fanciful imagining that starts building and shaping itself. When it becomes focused, strong and vivid, it acts upon the body, influencing the nerves and glandular system.
But when the thought of sex is objectively and deeply observed right in its beginning, in the stillness of the total energy field, the incoming idea loses its hold and ability to initiate action. It just loses its strength. Instead, a vibrant, effervescent space within is experienced. I saw this drama being played out right before my eyes, inside of me. What an enchanting and mystical revelation!
That confrontation with the thought of sex helped me greatly. When the idea of sex became strong, I took that challenge, equally strongly, just to know why and from where this impulse came. I found that the idea of sex is very subtle. It works quietly, like a thief in the night. To catch the subtle movement, you need to have acute awareness all around within you. The challenge of sex gave me a new quality of in-depth watchfulness with high voltage awareness. To catch a dog one has to move faster than the dog. To arrest this subtle movement of thought/emotion, one has to reach the highest degree of sensitivity and watchful alertness. I watched all those thoughts coming, taking shape, moving very quietly, subtly surfacing, becoming more exclusive, crude and vivid, and then influencing the body to stimulate the action. When the idea becomes very assertive and strong, it demands an action. It dictates to the body, influences the glandular system, and then involuntarily, action has to follow. The element of sex showed me this aspect of myself — how a feeling slowly and subtly builds itself up into an idea. And when it develops into a one-pointed strong desire, it projects out to compel action.
The understanding and clear perception of what was actually taking place within me grew and expanded, making me see that it is possible to watch and deal with this incoming thought before it triggers any response. I became eager to find out if one can dissolve all thoughts that create longing and demand action. With wonderment and curiosity I started to look into myself, questioning if one can actually stop the flow of thought entirely!
So I took up that challenge: to observe and follow the whole trajectory of thought and its movements, which becomes sex. Watching with total attention into myself I experienced that it is possible to dissolve the thought of sex right at the beginning. Without such an intense level of watchfulness I would have indulged in thought again. But I saw that in that sharpened state of polyangular watchfulness, thought does get dissolved. It no longer continues. Then only the pure watchfulness, and state of heightened energy within remain. Pure watchfulness can dissolve thought, leaving a quietude and state of deep inwardness.
This was an important experience: indulgence in thought dissipates the energy, whereas dissolving thought through watchfulness liberates the energy, augmenting its flow.
Once again, I experienced a heightened vibrancy — the experience of energy which is free from thought or mind.
Thus the idea of sex had helped me discover the secret of dissolving thought. Because its challenge was so strong, it demanded equally strong attention. Nothing else had helped me so much to understand myself. Experiencing the transformation of sex energy came as a great revelation to me, because I saw that dissolving thought could be used for releasing energy.
Some thoughts like sex, fear and anger have more energy locked in them than others. Dissolution of even a single dominant thought could augment and enrich my energy reserves, thereby enabling me to arrest the thrust of subsequent thoughts. The progression of thought to action dissipates energy, but when watched, understood and dissolved, it becomes a rich source of energy. Thus, I realized that thought is a potential energy source.
This first realization about the nature and source of the sex drive gave me a new confidence. I felt that I could deal with myself, with my own emotions and conditionings. Usually when the thought of sex becomes obsessive, one is helplessly carried away and compelled to act upon it. Now I had learned the secret of being free of this compulsion: to maintain aloofness and detachment from the thought which excites and instigates the feeling and finally culminates in action.
The second understanding was that the very attempt to maintain aloofness while watching a problem is itself problematic.
In our usual way of approaching problems, total aloofness never comes. Even in our mental inquiry about our own problems, we become related and attached to them. We are not aware of this binding relationship that we have formed with problems and consequently we never get over them. We do not question the actual validity of the issue or of the thought, or see the nature of our relationship with it.
Normally we think that a particular emotion, thought or behavior is itself the problem, and that we have to eliminate it or replace it by its opposite. But thought can never truly resolve the problem. Actually, it is the thought/mind that is the problem maker, and hence any mental inquiry into a problem is a self-defeating exercise, because one is only going round and round in circles. There can never be a comprehensive solution to a problem as long as the mind is attempting to find it because the mind itself is the source and substance of the problem and casts its heavy shadow upon it.
The crucial question then, is whether it is possible to be completely free of the spell of the mind while inquiring into a problem and trying to find its solution.
When one is not in the grip of thought but intensely alert about the issue as a whole, that heightened alertness itself becomes a powerful energy-field. In that state of pulsating sensitivity, both the thinker and the thought, the problem maker and the problem vanish magically. This is the creative act of the mysterious Unknown. Indeed, the vibrant state of attentive alertness is an invitation to the spirit of the Unknown — a magic key to open the door for the Timeless to come in.
These were the insights that I gathered from my inquiry into myself. In looking at and questioning the validity of the very problem of sex, and pondering intensely and honestly on why the problem should arise again and again, my connection with it was suddenly snapped. I was released from its grip. Due to my in-depth questioning and the very intensity of it, the sexual urge disintegrated. For the first time I experienced freedom from the obsession and domination of the aggressive thought/feeling. This release from the burden of thought/action brought relaxation and a feeling of unique quietude.
After taking the full challenge of the sex drive, and experiencing the disintegration of that thought-induced sex urge, the idea of sex just vanished for quite some time, giving me a deep sense of relief. Prior to this time, that idea had been creating intoxicating pictures and images, which incessantly occupied my mind.
Then came upon me a flood of sensitivity, with a previously unknown intensity. This surge was released from somewhere within me. Energy which had been caught up and used by the emotional drive of thought was no longer kept bound. This generated heightened sensitivity and a feeling of wonder at how this had happened. I found that my awareness and attention into myself became much deeper and more profound. With this intense awareness I could see more dispassionately many other thought-related issues, including fear and grief. This increased awareness brought me a new clarity which gave sobriety, depth and balance to my perception. It introduced a state of objectivity, detachment and aloofness.
As I enjoyed this new surge of energy, one day a fearful situation developed in my hut. The tiny room, about 7 × 9 feet, had very dim lighting. Only one tiny oil lamp provided light, there being no electricity. As I sat casually on my little mat spread on the floor, suddenly I noticed something moving on the floor in front of me. I became conscious of the zig zag movement made by a reddish, reptile-like creature. This dangerous-looking animal, maybe 8 to 12 inches long, had many legs and claws. Although I knew this to be a centipede, I had never seen one that big. I thought it must surely be poisonous because it was so unusually large and dangerous looking!
I watched this creature moving about on the floor, thinking it would simply go out since the doorway was open. But then to my amazement, more of the same kind began to appear! One more came, and then another and another, until seven or eight of them were all crawling around on the floor in front of me. They zigzagged everywhere in the small room, with more coming through the door! I just sat there on my mat watching them. Once I thought of jumping out of the room, but I knew that would be impossible. I could not make any move to get out because the room was so small and so many of them were slithering around.
They crawled and crowded all around me, even getting on the mat upon which I sat! I could not believe this awful situation. In that dark, shadowy light I watched in amazement all these strong, frightful, foot-long creatures, which I knew to be poisonous. The fear of being bitten, of suffering horribly, of death alone in that hut — all these imaginations swirled in my mind. No neighbors could hear me if I shouted for help. I was completely alone and isolated.
The situation suddenly gave me a great shock. What could I do? The creatures had me surrounded. I could not move. Besieged from all sides, something inside me became totally frightened, a deep terror I had never experienced before. Ordinarily, I would have done something. I would have acted, jumped up and attempted to kill those creatures. But I had no physical or mental reaction to the fact in front of me. My total energy experienced the event, with no thought of killing them in my mind. I was simply face to face with fear, and that horror was total. I sensed and felt something intensely active within. My entire being became completely consumed by this intense sensitivity of fear.
I fully sensed that feeling without reacting in any way. A reaction would have been to do something, to run or jump. But that did not happen. Fear itself is a reaction, but through aloof observation it loses its strength. I experienced the fear and stayed with it, accepting the situation fully, without escaping into action. I remained in that situation for quite some time, just facing myself, watching every movement inside, afraid yet very alert, without reacting to it in any way. In this state of total experiencing, no room existed for any thought or reaction of any kind.
For some time I experienced fully my internal fear, just forgetting about those dangerous creatures. They may have been crawling everywhere. I simply forgot entirely about their presence. My internal state of fear consumed me completely. I was no longer afraid ‘of’ something, there being no object or cause. This was the pure feeling of total fear.
In the all-encompassing and total state of fear, the idea of the dangerous creatures did not play a role. I had no memory of the centipedes, or awareness of whether they remained there or not. I experienced total inwardness without thought. In facing and accepting this pure feeling of fear in its totality, without any reaction or idea, there came a cohesive, unfragmented sensitivity. I watched as the intensity reached its maximum degree, still with no thought of danger or of the centipedes.
And then, the energy that the idea of fear and the related action would have consumed was released. Surprisingly I experienced a new surge, a freedom from the domination of reactionary thought-mind over my life energy. What a revelation and tranquility! And the centipedes disappeared on their own, as quietly as they had appeared, totally unnoticed.
Through these experiences I saw how the mind starts with a thought or idea such as sex or fear and then builds it up silently. This stimulates the imagination, which then affects the body, nervous system and glands. That in turn stimulates some action or reaction.
Seeing thought in its entirety, in my own internal energy field, without getting carried away by any reaction, brought a new depth of attention. In this way I began to see vividly and fully how the mind mechanism operates using thought. With that clear perception, I saw that thought activity started losing its importance and hence also its grip. My mind was losing its mind-ness.
In that freedom from the usual thought/reaction sequence, a new state of thoughtless attention awoke. This brought into play a fresh quality of energy, which is alertly attentive, but without any movement of thought. When that constant stream of thought came to an end, the whole sphere of mind remained tranquil, serene and utterly quiet. This was a totally new experience: existence without the push/pull of thoughts, urges, emotions, fears, worries, etc.
When thought-bound-up energy is freed, this brings a new, expanded sensitivity and vibrancy, which is a unique experience. It is a great asset in the discovery of what is hidden within the realm of mind. But this sensitivity or vibrancy, if not perceived rightly, with detached awareness, invites the hidden elements of emotionality to enter. It makes you either highly alert and alive within to remain free of them, or it creates the possibility of slipping into the pool of emotionality, which we harbor deep down within ourselves.
So although heightened sensitivity is an important asset, it can become a liability if the intensity of objective awareness and detachment diminishes. One needs to have a very acute awareness in order to catch the inadvertent slip into emotionality. The challenge is to maintain this heightened sensitivity while allowing the hidden emotional levels to surface freely but without being carried away by them. Then one can understand the whole significance of emotionality, which in turn enriches one’s own degree of sensitivity. In this way the newly freed energy and sensitivity continue to gather and expand without being dissipated by still-hidden reactions and emotions.
Such a slip actually happened to me very poignantly one day. When I was sitting quietly alone, a thought of my mother subtly crept in. As I loved my mother dearly, I inadvertently savored the memory of her. I let the memories of past times come up, remembering how much she always did for me, worrying about her well-being, wondering what she would be doing now. All these thoughts kept streaming past. I became increasingly emotional until I found myself crying over the fact of having left her months before. The memories and the weeping and more thoughts and more emotionality just went on and on until I was completely drained by it all.
But some part of me aloofly watched the thought-emotion reaction chain. This episode of sentimentality came about from a single thought of my mother. Somewhere I saw and understood that the thought of my mother was simply a memory, a mental image of her. The thought itself had no validity. It was only sentimentality, a wisp of the past, a mere fantasy. What news did I have of her now? Besides, what could I do from here? I saw how my thoughts and memories had grown and accelerated into an avalanche, deteriorating into emotionality, and thus draining me. I recognized the fictitious and empty nature of the emotional reaction that had been caused by a single thought.
From then on, thought itself became the focal point of my attentive awareness. What had been the use of my draining myself in this way? I saw how an idea stimulates another mental movement or reaction which we call emotion, and then begins to glorify it in the name of something acceptable like love. For the first time, I saw that these surges of emotions and sentiments are just another kind of thought.
Such thought-induced reaction then stimulates the glands and nervous system, which in turn affects other areas of the physical body. We then experience it physically, having actual tears, which give it the feel of reality. I saw that the mind produces this effect, playing with it, and glorifying these thoughts, safely labeling them as love or whatever else. I watched this process start, build up, and go on with its own momentum. Then this whole emotional play would recede, leaving me very sensitive and inwardly alone.
From that aloneness came a surge of tenderness. This again would make me weep. My whole body and nervous system became very delicate and sensitive. Tears appeared, just rolling down my face, leaving me in wonderment as to their source. Something wept from deep within, but I could not put a name or cause on it. I saw how so much was locked up inside me. I had not been aware of these choked-up emotional pockets within myself. This whole experience helped me realize a highly sensitive inner state.
The realization of this sensitivity was subtle and total. Tremendous sorrow existed somewhere in me. But I saw no trace of the apparent cause, not like sadness about something in particular. I sat quietly and the tears would just flow. Although wide awake and watchful to see if mere sentimental ideas caused this, I had no trace of thought. Absolutely no thoughts came about anything, any situation, person or event from the past or in the present.
I could not understand why I would be weeping without any cause whatsoever. I felt as if the whole of myself became flooded with pure sensitivity and tenderness. My entire being wept, as though something was affecting me from hidden, unknown levels, from my very depths. As if a lid had been taken off a tight, very full container, something gushed out from the innermost part of my being.
This was a total experience of the sorrow of life. The personal or causal emotions of ‘my’ sadness no longer remained. I faced the totality of sorrow, deep and well-hidden within. I had not been aware of this huge accumulated reservoir. It was not the memory of a personal suffering which would have a specific cause, but rather the sorrow of being human, an unknown accumulation of pain, both my own and that of the whole of humanity. This had been kept hidden below around the root of my personality, in the depths of my individuality. Like fear, this pure, elemental sorrow had been suppressed and kept deep below the surface.
Such deep-rooted feelings can be triggered by a single thought. When one stays alert and watchful, what starts out as a thought loses its relevance, and one remains face to face with this internal reservoir of grief. The experience of profound sorrow is unrelated to any specific cause. Therefore one is totally consumed by the sorrow.
This is the causeless creation of Life. Which is totally beyond the comprehension of thought-mind. It was my first experience of a state which is free from idea, free from the memory-mind, and free from cause and effect.
I saw that we ordinarily play only on the surface of the mind, interacting on that level. The hidden cannot emerge when the mind is occupied in its superficial and external activity. However, I came to realise that once the submerged is allowed to come up freely, it can be looked at and understood objectively. It has to be seen aloofly, with no effort to act upon it or analyze the reasons for its appearing. To see without bringing in any thought: that is awareness. In this state, that which is hidden and suppressed will surface freely.
In the beginning, when I felt that incredible, deep sorrow, it intimidated me completely and made me fearful. But facing and sensing this fear fully, in its totality, without thoughts or escapes, gave a new magnitude of intensity to my awareness. Watchfulness — this all-around attention into myself of what was before me and within — brought about a state of totality of being, an attentiveness without attachment, plus freedom from all ideas, thoughts or dreams. Only complete perception, a polyangular intense watchfulness, can bring this about. This was a prelude to experiencing the wholeness of life.
Thus my weeping and sensing of sorrow helped me experience my deeper, hidden personality. Usually we weep over some particular idea. We feel a cause or disturbance that stimulates the emotional response. But that response is a fragment with a specific cause. Now, weeping did not occur in a fragmented way, not from feeling sad about some particular incident. Earlier there had been a time when an idea — a memory about my mother — made me cry. Only that fragment of my being which retained the thought of my mother wept then.
Generally when we shed tears, it is over a single cause. One part weeps, feels sorry, feels self-pity, etc., and this part is consciously unrelated to other parts. We have one cause, a reason, and we say that this one is making us unhappy. But the current cause is only the tip of the iceberg, a fragment. We have to transmute the fragment with intense, unattached inwardness, which will lead us to the totality.
Basically, we never face any issue in its totality. It is necessary to face ourselves openly, to see all the parts, to experience the problem in its entirety. To see all of it, inside and out at the same time, is to end it. This is the key.
Now I began to see the exclusionary role of thought/idea, which gets eliminated in the chasm of total awareness. Weeping became a total experience, an in-depth fact of life. It brought about an increased depth of awareness. That weeping and the resulting psychological tenderness free from thought brought about a sense of wholeness and integration. I saw that the whole of my self became tender and sensitive, acutely alert and attentive.
With awe and wonder I experienced this state of high-voltage sensitivity of the whole being, without the presence of any thought whatsoever. In this state there is no idea, no shadow of mind as thought, no cause. This is a causeless state, an impersonal experience of Life energy.
My crying over my mother was a solitary idea, a fragment, but that triggered the experience of total-ness of being. All the unknown sorrow within me poured forth, and this led me to experience pure, elemental sorrow. This in turn led me to experience the totality of myself, with no hidden pockets. It was a wonderful revelation to discover how the total experience of sorrow had the capacity to bring out the fragrance of wholeness of being.
I spent my days and nights in such intense self-observation with full, multiangular attention, and it developed into a kind of meditation. This was not prayer, not concentration of thought, nor a hopeful pursuit of any wishful idea. Rather, my meditation involved a constant vigilance into this whole movement of thought/emotional activity within and without.
I did not try to find out or analyze the cause of any of these emotions, fears, or urges of the mind’s wanderings. Instead I allowed this ego-mind to come out in its full flood, in its naked passion and expression, so that its whole picture could be seen, the entire content observed. In this dispassionate observation, the momentum of the thought process slowed down. Its intensity just diminished. Then, the next minute, some other stray thought would show up, but not with its usual strength to capture the Life energy for its own play.
Watchful alert observation in every moment became my way of living in the hut. I saw that the intensity and depth of watchful attention were increasing, and I felt a kind of objectivity within. As the depth of perception and aloofness of observation expanded, the thought process slowed down, and I experienced serenity and tranquility. I threw up undigested thoughts as it were, and experienced a great sense of relief and freshness as a result. I was cleansed of all the stored up psychological toxins of the past.
During this time I did not indulge in any intellectual, analytical or logical thought/mind activity or react in any way. I did not label the thoughts good or bad, or feel either sorry or happy. I did not look for explanations, nor did I judge or cling to any particular memories. Hence, alert and aloof observation occurred unhindered. I no longer cared to indulge in any psychological games of analysis and positive or negative reaction.
With this dynamic and intense watchfulness within and without came some moments of quietude, followed by a sense of deep relaxation. But soon another set of thoughts or totally unexpected ideas would emerge out of nowhere on the horizon of mind and take me completely unawares. I observed everything as it came along.
During this period I slept very little. Sleep became a state of very subtle and sensitive wakefulness. When I watched intensely in this way, no state of forgetting or falling into semi-consciousness was possible. In sleep we usually lose ourselves and forget everything for a while. But for me there could be no escape even during sleep. Although I slept, rested or lay down, there was no forgetfulness, but a state of wakefulness and attentiveness all the time. I would lie down yet stay awake all night, and in the morning I would realize that I had not slept at all! But I often did not feel tired from this sleeplessness.
Actually, I had two responses to this experience: sometimes the feeling of not having slept and of being exhausted, yet at other times I felt fully rested. However, the whole experience of basically staying awake continuously day and night was extremely strenuous. My body, brain and eyes got very tired. At such times I would just let go of everything and relax, go out for a walk on the edge of the mountain and observe the vast panorama before me. Looking at the deep green valleys below and the blue expanse of sky above filled my being to the brim. This touch of fullness rejuvenated me and charged me again with renewed sensitivity, creating a feeling of incredible enormity.
A few days passed like this, and I began to realize that the mind, the thought process, had lost its capacity to escape into any of its safe pockets such as outward activity, or even sleep. I watched everything internal at every moment. All the thought/idea activities came up to the surface of the mind and into the field of awareness. I saw sleep as nothing but going into the hidden pockets of the mind and playing there while the conscious mind lies at rest. All these subtle layers gradually became exposed, were observed, understood fully and thus eliminated. The whole structure of mind and its every movement were under constant observation. No hiding places remained for the thought/emotion activity.
As I faced each aspect of myself, the watching became deeper and more intense. I saw the mechanism of my mind again and again in relation to each fear, each thought of sex, each memory, each emotion. I saw that the mind flows like a fountain, gushing with the water of thoughts/emotions/desires, all rushing to go out somewhere for their fulfillment in action.
With this intense watchfulness, the fountain of thoughts slowed down, with fewer and fewer desires, less gushing of the waters. I began to experience moments when no desires and no thoughts at all came into the mind. creating a kind of interval or space within. That interval was very powerful, vibrant and yet comforting. I was curious to find out if one could stay in that thoughtless, desireless state for more and more time. But then this subtle desire, the very thought of wanting that state, would itself make the thoughtless interval disappear.
I totally accepted whatever went on in my mind, without a desire to change anything. This internal watching and accepting became my way of living. My entire world was what was happening in this little hut, and I was in touch with that world with the whole of my being.
I began to remain fully in my own energy field without any interference by my own mind. Thought activity started dissipating and losing its grip. Endurance and tolerance became my way of life. I saw that the intensity of this highly charged sensitivity — the energy free from thought — was becoming very obvious and strong within me. I watched, felt and objectively observed everything happening inside.
What a wonderful experience to be in this state, to see how the mind as an entity slowly lost its capacity to assert itself over the energy! Surprisingly I was witnessing a new momentum of pure tranquil energy quietly and mysteriously flowing within.
Then this energy field itself took charge of my life.
In alert and attentive perception
Energy dissipation is arrested
And is gathered within
To stay at home,
Tranquil and serene.
My days and nights passed in this intense, watchful, attentive state, in an almost unbroken momentum of awareness. At times I wondered where this whole adventure would take me. A deep sense of wonderment crept in about the experiences and states through which I was passing. I had no expectation or fear of any kind. I simply watched every internal movement, accepting life as it was unfolding.
My path and my journey consisted of totally facing myself and passing through the unknown. As this inner pilgrimage continued, one day the mystery of life suddenly and unexpectedly struck like a lightning bolt!
Around noon, I cooked my rice as usual and put out the wood fire. Although the rice was ready, I decided to wait a few minutes for it to cool before eating. I drew back a little and sat casually on my mat, with my mind completely at rest.
Suddenly, in that quiet and inadvertent moment, totally unanticipated, a mysterious action struck.
Something inside me literally exploded, giving me the shock of my life.
In a split second a fountain of unknown energy sprang forth from within. This surprising energy flow was of a truly new kind, different from anything I had ever sensed or experienced before. It felt soft, sensitive, joyful and dynamic yet peaceful. It filled me with profound reverence, deep awe and love. Such a mystical and powerful explosion in my inner domain was a miraculous event.
This explosion affected and transformed my entire personality. In this dramatic breakthrough in consciousness, the whole crystallized structure of the ego/mind got literally shattered. This opened up an energy flow of a totally new kind. No mind — no thinker or I — remained while this was happening. A dynamic, intuitive state came into existence, where the past in the form of memories and the future in the form of desires were not there. This brought in a flow of total now-ness.
I did not know where this flow of new and different energy came from or how all this had occurred. The whole experience happened very suddenly and unexpectedly, and was extremely pleasant and deeply blissful. I never had experienced such a flow of all-powerful energy in my life. It swept me off my feet and took charge of me completely. I was steeped in joy, dynamicity and ecstasy, feeling a real freedom and inner tranquility. Everything inside and out became intensely alive, giving me a taste of the vibrant present. A celestial shower drenched my whole being, submerging me in serenity.
Something unknown and mysterious had taken place! I was overflowing with happiness, and in that excitement I got up and even danced around the room in total abandonment. I was the most ecstatic person on earth at that moment. My life had been touched by the sublime and sacred.
How long I remained in this state I do not know. Eventually, the upsurge of ecstasy subsided, but thought activity was still entirely absent, not even lurking in the corners to come creeping in stealthily. Instead, I experienced profound quietude. The flow of this fountain of new energy slowly diminished, leaving behind deep feelings of humility and reverence. For the first time I vividly experienced a totally serene state in my whole being. I sat down on the floor and immediately became engrossed in an intense inwardness with profound silence.
From this point onward my meditation took a different form. It became a play of this new internal energy. I could sense only the flow, a glow within, of this new energy moving quietly. A momentum of twinkling energy, this fountain of intuitive flow initiated the beginning of a totally new life experience.
When all wanderings and searchings came to an end
Mind realized there is nowhere for him to go.
I sat then alone, in utter humility and anonymity
Oh, then you came to visit me uninvited!
From Intelligence Beyond Thought. Copyright 2006 Dada Gavand. Used by permission.
This page was first published on June 14, 2014 and last revised on August 30, 2023.