An excerpt from the interview with OM. C. Parkin
Abridged Version (40 % of the integral text)
Source: This is the abridged Version of an interview with OM C. Parkin conducted by Premananda in June 2008 for his book ‘European Masters - Blueprints for Awakening’.
I am in Hamburg, sitting with OM C.Parkin in a beautiful room with pictures of Papaji, Gangaji and Ramana Maharshi, and the sound of the birds from the garden. It’s the 14th of June.
Premananda: Ramana Maharshi proposed the fundamental question, ‘Who am I?’ Who are you?
OM C. Parkin: (Long Silence) You and I are not different. I have a certain personality. I have a certain background that gives a personal flavour to the format of the teaching.
Many Western seekers are looking for enlightenment as if it is an experience. What is enlightenment?
Enlightenment is the complete marriage between the absolute and the relative. Ramesh Balsekar (Blueprints for Awakening – Indian Masters) gives the definition that it is the end of the idea of personal doership, and I like this definition very much because it implies the end of every kind of personal flavour to the purity of the Advaita (nondual) teaching.
As I said, there is a personality and there is also a personal flavour. There is also a personal way of transmitting the teaching of what I call the ‘inner network’ of different aspects of the teaching. Advaita is the essence; I call it the essence of everything. The essence of the teaching is the purity of the core of the teaching, but it is not the whole teaching. The variety of beings is so great that there are many different aspects, and different forms might also focus on different aspects of the teachings or give different entrance gates to the same essence, to the same core. And of course, my form is not Indian; there is Western blood flowing through my organism.
I believe you are publishing a book about Master Eckhart (German Christian mystic)?
No, I haven’t published a book on him yet, but I am definitely very much in touch with him and I also quote him in my talks. In the Middle Ages, Germany had a very strong mystic core within the Christian mainstream, so when I was younger I was, like most people, rebellious against everything that had to do with Christianity and with Jesus, but this has completely changed.
Do you bring Jesus into your teachings?
Well, not the person of Jesus, but definitely what Jesus stands for, and I definitely work with the Bible. I’m very close to different Christian mystics. I see my position more like a melting pot between where this Eastern lineage and the Western lineage actually meet and create something completely new, which is not new at all but is perhaps new in its form.
Are there any qualifications for enlightenment? Is practise necessary, and if yes, which form do you suggest?
I have a very sober and, I would say, even internally scientific view because I don’t see any difference between mysticism and inner science. History has taught us that there are very rare cases where this final realisation of Being, what we call enlightenment, happens suddenly. For example, it could occur through accidents, through shocks, through different very extreme situations. However, nobody can wait for such a thing to happen.
I myself can say grace happened through a car accident. I didn’t have a realised teacher. This accident evoked a state of clinical death, and so I could say death was my first teacher. This was such a major shock for the whole system that it actually wiped out everything. So, of course, if the personal will tries to imitate that and says, ‘Okay, I am going to drive against an oak tree like you did,’ maybe the result will be solely injury and more suffering rather than enlightenment. So this is not something that the I can do.
It’s not a practice that you would suggest? (Both Laugh)
I wouldn’t suggest this practice. It is not a practice we can rely on. (Both Laugh)
You have some milder practices maybe?
One instance of clinical death out of thousands or a million could maybe evoke this ‘no state of mind’, but I definitely suggest the path of sadhana (spiritual practise). I am teaching people to do whatever has to be done; do the work that has to be done. I might call it the homework; everybody has to do his homework.
I call Western sadhana the inner work. There is no absolute definition of what has to be done. The work I do with people relies on experience, their own experience and their own understanding of the functioning of what is responsible for illusion. And this is definitely the mind. So it makes sense to examine the mind and to see who this mind is, what we call mind.
This is definitely what I call a Western contribution to wisdom in general. The knowledge of the mind, and especially the knowledge of the subconscious, is, to my understanding, much more important for Western students than for Eastern students.
I spent some time with Osho and there was a very full-on programme of groups doing this kind of inner work, but for Indian people Osho used to say, ‘Oh! You don’t need to do that.’
Papaji was saying, ‘Do Self-enquiry. Ask yourself this question: “Who am I?” Ask it once, ask it right and then you are free.’
Well, Nisargadatta, for example, said that in order to give an answer to this question, ‘Who am I?’ you should first answer the question, ‘Who am I not?’ So definitely, without a full understanding of who I’m not, how can this question ‘Who am I?’ be finally answered? Ramana Maharshi was also brought up in the Indian stream, not in the Western stream. I see many Westerners who go to India and who get insights on Advaita on certain levels, but the insights are definitely limited. The knowledge of the mind is, to my understanding, a very important contribution to the unfolding of the whole for Westerners.
I agree with you. Recently I have become interested in the Enneagram and I advertise it as ‘know who you are not’. It fits with what you were just saying. Maybe you can say more about the Enneagram because I think you also use it.
The Enneagram definitely presents valuable insights on the subconscious and on the whole structure of mind that you are not. The mind is not as personal as it seems but is put together by history and has collective roots. The whole idea of an ‘I’ is not as personal as it seems. But the Enneagram also shows the natural qualities of the being, and these natural qualities differ. Not every human being has the same natural qualities. Let’s say the light that is shining on this diamond is being reflected in different ways. With one person it might seem more greenish and with another person it might seem more yellowish. These are different virtues, different essential qualities.
Of course from an absolute point of view, this is still what you are not. Some Advaita teachers call this level the primary illusion. It’s as if leela itself, God’s play, has natural ways of appearing that show up when the mind, the false ‘I’, gets out of the way. For example, the archetype of ‘holy’, which might shine in natural ways through different organisms, will never be the same as the archetype of the ‘hero’ or the ‘philosopher’. So this organism is working in a different archetypical way then your organism, for example.
The problem with the concept of enlightenment is that people have certain ideas of how enlightenment manifests, and Westerners, when we look at the collective colouring of the idea of enlightenment, have in their minds the archetype of ‘holy’ because the manifestation of enlightenment in a human being within the Christian tradition has always been identified with the holy. Then they link certain attributes to this archetype of ‘holy’, but enlightenment is much more indefinable – it’s unpredictable.
This Blueprints project, which has involved interviewing about forty-five awakened people, shows clearly that everyone has a different flavour. There is no archetypical enlightened person. The idea of a perfect enlightened archetype causes the seeker much trouble.
That’s right. People have a historically restricted idea about enlightened beings and it’s valuable to look into the collective colouring. I am saying to Westerners, no matter whether you define yourself to be Christian or not, you are Christian anyway – you left the church it doesn’t matter! Your mind has at least two thousand years of Christian colouring behind it.
So, this is really what the power of misunderstanding is about. It is not about one personal life. It has been accumulated through thousands of years, and people underestimate the power of this collective history.
Thirty years ago I went to India and connected deeply with Advaita, but actually when you start to speak about the mysticism of the West I can see there is this part inside which hasn’t been given much space. So actually, what you are saying is touching me and it’s very interesting.
This access to the Western collective roots happened quite naturally in my case. There is no concept about what should or shouldn’t come to me. I think the gift of a Western teacher is that he or she understands the Western mind much better than an Eastern teacher. From an absolute point of view it’s all the same, but it’s not only about the absolute. It is about the marriage between the absolute and the relative, being and becoming. Indian Advaita Teachers don’t seem to be interested in that, but I am, more and more.
An Indian Advaita teacher cannot teach Western people in the same way as a Western teacher. This is quite natural. I would never claim that I could teach Indian people in the same way an Indian teacher could either.
Having said that, it seems that Papaji, who was of course Indian, had a tremendous influence on many Western people who have since become teachers. I guess the biggest nursery for the present Western teachers has come through his influence.
This is right. When we look at the reality of the spiritual Eastern collective and the spiritual Western collective in the modern age, the difference is definitively that the invisible spiritual matrix is still more vivid, sane and visible in the Eastern hemisphere. It has been very much destroyed in our hemisphere. So, this is definitely a great advantage in Eastern cultures, and India, in a very specific way, is the cradle of spirituality on earth. India is something special. It’s not just one country; it’s the source.
Yes, I feel it like that. Something happens just spending time on the land there.
Yes. That’s why it’s natural that the major impulses come from India to Europe, to the States, to Australia and the Western world in general and not vice versa. Although, this doesn’t mean that the Indian collective could not learn from what I call the Western contribution, which is also very valuable. The minds of Indian people work differently, but it doesn’t mean that the knowledge about the mind is completely unnecessary.
About a year ago an Indian book publisher wanted to organise a tour through India where I would give meetings to the middle class. I was absolutely shocked because I wondered why they would come and listen to someone from the West like me. He said that actually, the middle class has also lost its roots with this collective in India. So they have become quite like Western people, in a way.
Yes. This is something that we can observe in the whole world in the modern age. The whole world is becoming more and more westernised. This is a stream that doesn’t come from spirituality directly; it comes from the mundane level, it comes from economy. This is like an over layer of the whole loss of spirituality that has been transferred into economy and …
Technological things, materialism.
Materialism actually, yes. It is interesting to see that this whole stream of materialism that starts covering the whole world is, again, in a concealed way, Christian culture trying to propagate itself. It’s interesting to see how Christianity, through this, let’s say, deviation, finds another way to convert the world and to work as missionaries in a very different way. I think that most people are not even aware of that.
Ramana Maharshi said that Self-enquiry is the most direct route to realising the Self. What do you say about Self-enquiry and how to conduct Self-enquiry?
I differentiate between small-self enquiry, and great-Self enquiry. Ramana’s Self-enquiry in its core is what I call the great-Self enquiry. The inner work, the Western sadhana that is necessary to penetrate the illusions of mind and to allow the subconscious to actually surface into consciousness, is what I call small-self enquiry.
So you could say small-self enquiry is definitely the enquiry into what you are not. Call it a preparation, call it ‘unveiling’ so that the sky is clear and this question, ‘Who am I?’ has no limits and can just pop up and unfold into wholeness, into everything. It doesn’t hit any limits. Every subconscious layer of mind is a limit, and sometimes, as I said at the beginning, in very rare cases, it is definitely possible that this question just penetrates every layer of illusion, every layer of dust that has settled internally, and goes right through everything to the absolute.
So, yes, this finally leads to a contradictory approach, because while I’m working on something, whatever the sadhana is, I shouldn’t postpone the question, ‘Who am I?’ I’m open for this question at any moment, any given moment, and at the same time I do my inner work. Many people who have gotten in touch with Advaita have not realised what I call the paradox path. They believe that sadhana and the sudden realisation of the absolute do not go together.
Now that we’ve been talking for some time I am starting to get a sense of your approach. But having spent a long time with Papaji, he hardly ever went into what you are calling the inner work or the illusion. His whole thing was to just cut right through that, and he had enough energy or perception or power to do that. I am not quite sure exactly how it worked; grace is maybe the right word.
Well, after having observed people, and even teachers, who came from Papaji for years after this happened, I can say that Papaji was a big door opener for many people. But these inner doors often didn’t stay open. I remember people who couldn’t find the mind while sitting in his living room in Lucknow in 1992, but later their mind struck back.
Great openings happened where people thought, ‘This is enlightenment.’ But this was not necessarily the total destruction of the power of mind as a separate entity. This was not the complete understanding of mind or the destruction of the subconscious. This was a great opening that lasted for a while but which was still limited.
It is definitely true that this power came through Papaji. It is definitely not true, through my observation, that this was final understanding for many people. There was a time and a space where great openings happened but I am not going only for great openings anymore. You have to cook with water. There are some rare times and spaces when you can cook with champagne but actually you have to cook with water; and to trace the mind you really need certain qualities like discipline, certain radical qualities that this organism has to learn, because otherwise great openings of the sky will only be temporary.