On Being Truthful by Adyashanti

“I have found over the years of working with people, even people who have had very deep and profound awakenings, that most people have a fear of being truthful, of really being honest—not only with others, but with themselves as well. Of course, the core of this fear is that most people know intuitively that if they were actually totally truthful and totally sincere and honest, they would no longer be able to control anybody.

We can not control somebody with whom we have been truthful. We can only control people if we tell half-truths, if we shave down what is true. When we tell the total truth, our inside is suddenly on the outside. There’s nothing hidden anymore. For most human beings, being that exposed brings up incredible fear. Most people walk around thinking, “My god, if anybody could look inside of me, if anybody could see what is happening in there, what my fears are, what my doubts are, what my truths are, what I really perceive, they would be horrified.”

Most people are protecting themselves. They are holding a lot of things in. They are not living honest, truthful, and sincere lives, because if they were to do so, they would have no control. Of course, they don’t have control anyway, but they would have no illusion of control, either.

Most people don’t get out of childhood without having many experiences of being wounded for telling the truth. Someone said, “You can’t say that,” or “You shouldn’t say that,” or “That wasn’t appropriate.” As a result, most of us have very deep underlying conditioning that being just who we are is not okay. We have been conditioned to believe that there are times when it is okay to be truthful and honest, and there are times when it is not okay to be truthful and honest. Most human beings actually have an imprinting—not only in their minds, but in their bodies and their emotions—that if they are honest, if they are real, something bad is going to happen. Somebody is not going to like it. They won’t be able to control their environment if they tell the truth.

But telling the truth is an aspect of awakening. It may not seem like it, because it’s very practical and very human. It’s not transcendent. It’s not about pure consciousness, it’s about how pure consciousness manifests as a human being in an undivided way. We must be able to manifest what we realize, and we must also come to grips with and start to notice the very forces within us that keep us from manifesting truthfulness in every situation.

Almost every time I’ve given a talk like this in public, someone will come up to me later and say, “You know that talk you gave on truthfulness and honesty and all that?” And I’ll go, “Yeah, I remember the talk.” And they’ll say, “Well, somebody came up in the parking lot afterward and decided that she needed to tell me all the rotten things she thought about me, in the name of honesty.

And I just kind of shake my head. I hesitate to even give talks on this topic, because it’s so easy to misunderstand.

Truth is a very high standard. Truth is not a plaything. To tell what is true within ourselves is not to tell what we think; it is not to tell our opinion. It is not to dump the garbage can of our mind onto somebody else. All of that is illusion, distortion, projection. Truth is not unloading our opinions onto someone. That is not truth. Truth is not telling our beliefs about things. That is not truth. Those are ways that we actually hide from truth.

Truth is much more intimate than that. When we tell the truth, it has the sense of a confession. I don’t mean a confession of something bad or wrong, but I mean the sense where we come completely out of hiding. Truth is a simple thing. To speak the truth is to speak from a sense of total and absolute unprotectedness.

To tell truth with any consistency, we not only have to meet every place in ourselves that is afraid of telling truth, we also have to see the belief structure we have that tells us, “I can’t do that.” Those belief structures are by their very nature based in unreality. To know this is not enough; you have to actually see it, to really perceive exactly what you believe. What are the exact belief structures that cause you to go into duality, that cause you to go into conflict and hiding? Only then can you tell truth in the way I’m discussing here.

Freedom is the realization that everything and everybody gets to be exactly as they are. Unless we’ve come to that point, unless we’ve seen that this is how reality sees things, then we’re actually withholding freedom from the world. We’re seeing it as a possession, and we’re only concerned with ourselves. How good I can feel? How free I can feel? True freedom is a gift to everything and everybody.

The important thing is allowing the whole world to wake up. Part of allowing the whole world to wake up is recognizing that the whole world is free—everybody is free to be as they are. Until the whole world is free to agree with you or disagree with you, until you have given the freedom to everyone to like you or not like you, to love you or hate you, to see things as you see them or to see things differently—until you have given the whole world its freedom—you’ll never have your freedom.

This is an important part of awakening, and it is an easy part to miss. Again, if we were fully awake, it would be impossible to miss this, but most people do not awaken all at once. The idea of freedom is very important, however. Everybody gets to be as they are. Only when everyone is allowed to be as they are—when you have given them that freedom, the freedom they already possess—do you find within yourself the capacity to be honest and real and true.

We cannot be true as long as we are expecting or wanting others to agree with us. That will cause us to contract—maybe they won’t like what I say; maybe they won’t agree; maybe they won’t like me. When we are protecting ourselves, we are also withholding freedom from everybody else. When we realize that we are the one and only Spirit that manifests as everything and everyone, in the very nature of that realization is total freedom for all.

There is a certain fearlessness in this realization. People sometimes come to me and say, “Well, Adya, there’s still some inner place”—and, I find, it’s often a very early childhood place—“that’s afraid to just be what I know to be true.” And, of course, I’ll say, “You have to look at it, to see how you, yourself, formed certain belief structures based on what happened in the past. You have to look into it and see if those belief structures are really true.” But also, we need to recognize that we have no way of knowing or predicting how the world will receive us. Part of being awake is being willing to be crucified. If we think that to be awake means the whole world will agree with us, then we are in a total delusion.

Inside human consciousness there is a deep taboo that says it is not okay to realize the truth of being. I’m not talking about preaching it, necessarily; I’m talking about just being what you perceive. This taboo says, “That’s not okay. You will be crucified for that; you will be killed for it.” Of course, in our human history, people have been killed for it. We have a long history in many societies of getting rid of or killing truly enlightened beings, because true enlightenment does not conform to the dream state. In fact, many times the dream state feels offended and threatened by true enlightenment, because a truly enlightened being cannot be controlled. Even the threat of death cannot control an enlightened being.

Thus, as a human being, we can’t have these childish ideas that enlightenment means “everybody loves me.” Maybe everybody will love you, but more likely some will and some won’t. But when you have given the whole world its freedom, then you have gone a long way toward finding your own freedom. They are tied inextricably, one to the other.

The most important thing is not that you try to convince anybody of the truth that you see. What is really important is that you are truthful with yourself. If you can be truthful with yourself, then you can be truthful with anybody. There is no real usefulness in becoming overly focused on being truthful with everybody else. Although that’s necessary, the place to start is with yourself—can you be totally sincere with yourself? Can you go to that place that is beyond blame, beyond judgment, beyond should and shouldn’t? Can you go to that place that is so sincere you won’t shy away from any part of yourself that is still in conflict; you won’t use the perception of truth to hide from something that feels less than liberating?

It is really a question of sincerity. As I said, this is not a self-improvement program. Once you discover the level of sincerity and honesty I am describing, you find that sincerity and honesty are manifestations of the absolute nature of being. To be this sincere with yourself may not be easy, initially. You may see things about yourself you don’t want to see. You may see the parts of yourself that stand in seemingly stark contrast to everything you have realized. Nonetheless, this is where awakening moves; awakening moves toward and into that which is not awake. Sincerity is what allows this movement to happen, and it does happen if you are real with yourself.

Coming completely out of hiding, being willing to see every point of fixation, every way you go into division, enables this part of the journey to continue. As this happens, you feel your heart opening, your mind opening; you feel yourself opening on levels that you never dreamed possible. These levels are not just transcendent of humanness, but also right within your humanness, because there is no separation between your human being and your divine being.

Sincerity is the key. You have to be willing; you have to want to see everything. When you want to see everything, you will see everything.

A lot of students who come to see me have the unconscious idea that enlightenment means one should be able to feel complete happiness, total bliss, and total freedom in any situation. This is one of the unconscious beliefs that many people have about awakening, and it’s another misperception.

If you believe the misperception that enlightenment is only about happiness, bliss, and freedom, you will be motivated to transcend or escape those areas of your life that feel less than fully functional. But sooner or later, as we become more awake, we find that there is more and more pressure to encounter and deal with those areas of our lives that we have been avoiding, where we are less than fully conscious.

I have found that a lot of people become quite afraid when they start to realize where this whole movement of awakening is taking them, that it is taking them into an area where they will be called to be unusually honest and real and come completely out of hiding. This is contrary to the idea of awakening being simply a transcendence of life, the finding of a safe haven in some inner experience where we don’t have to deal with life as it is. Awakening is, in fact, quite the opposite: it’s a state of being in which we find the capacity to deal with our lives as they actually are. But as I said, many people are afraid of this part of the process, because it demands that we come out of hiding on every level.”

~ Adyashanti, The End of Your World

Knowledge vs. Shoulds

“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Nothing is more revealing than personal experience. One can read hundreds of books on personal development and spirituality, understand them intellectually and still find, despite all the teachings, that the personality is geared towards immature attitudes.

You see, you haven’t been acquainted with yourself. You think yourself to be only that part of you that wills and decides. But if you pay attention, if you learn to look at yourself like an objective thing in the world, you will learn that you actually hold beliefs that go against those that you hold in your mind.

So what is that part that pulls in the opposite direction, seemingly geared towards self-sabotage or towards distrust, fear, anxiety? Why does it seem to have a mind of its own?

The things we don’t know about ourselves are in our unconscious. From there, they manifest as feelings, disturbances, conflicts, fears that seem out of proportion to what we experience or completely out of place. What we usually do when we encounter them is explain them away as caused by an external stimulus. After all, the mind likes to make assumptions about what it sees, that is precisely the way optical illusions work.

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But if you sit with the emotions, if you observe yourself and draw out the underlying belief, you will get in contact with a part of you that has been suppressed for a long time and because of this suppression, it did not get a chance to mature. So in one part of the personality you are an adult, a mature individual, capable of great insight, and in this other part, you are still a child, because you had disowned a part of yourself early on.

Now, as long as you don’t link knowledge with experience, as long as you don’t bring this truth into your emotions, into that immature part of your being, not by force, but by self-observation, truth can become disembodied knowledge. It can become a rule, a should, a rigid demand, disconnected from the being, as though it were an authority figure giving out orders.

I mean, nobody likes preachers, right?

And just like you can shift responsibility on authority figures, so you can shift responsibility onto ideas, instead of following the truth within. And what value does your act have if it doesn’t come from within?

If there’s a part of you that is still inclined to do something despite the knowledge you have, then do you really know? Do you really understand? In that sense, I think there is value in negative experience, in choosing what you want to do. Then you will learn by experience how that knowledge applies, even if it means suffering.

Now, I do not meant to advice doing something despite knowing it to be wrong. If you know it to be wrong, I think all effort should be geared towards understanding why it is wrong and where that inclination originates from within you. But if you are not convinced that something is right or wrong, then I think there is value in that experience for you.

I think that’s why they say “don’t take my word for it, see for yourself”. I always thought that they say that in a way that means… “hey, you can verify it if you like, but I’m telling you, it’s true.” When in fact they mean “you must understand this for yourself, experientially – in your emotions, otherwise it has no value, it just becomes yet another idea onto which you shift responsibility.” That’s why you need to see how it applies to you! You must let your actions stem from within, from your own perspective, not from the perspective of your shoulds, as good as they sound.

If you are unconvinced, experience will reveal it to you. There is a world of difference between finding things in yourself intellectually vs. experientially.