What are the origins of this kind of Intensives?
The first EI was held on 2 July 1968. The fact that such EIs are still being held 25 years later, shows that the format of the Enlightenment Intensive (EI) offers sufficient amount of truth-experience people can use in their efforts to realise the Truth. Nevertheless (even if that is so), their long term value, as a method of Truth-realisation, will not be established if people do not practice EI during the next 100 years.
Charles Berner (on the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Enlightenment Intensive)
The Enlightenment Intensive was created by the American psychotherapist and spiritual teacher Charles Berner (1929 – 2007), also known by the name of Yogeshvar Muni. His parents actively practiced psychotherapy, so he was introduced to the world of spirituality at a very early age. As a young boy, Berner visited the ashram of a great Indian sage and saint Sri Ramana Maharshi with his father, and it left a great impression on him. From that moment onward, the focus of Berner’s life was spiritual growth.
During the 60’s Berner developed various systems of personal development and he came to realise that people cannot achieve greater progress in this process because they identify too strongly with the false image of who they are, with their ego, staying unconscious of their real Self.
After observing this, he wanted to help them, so he started contemplating on how to speed up the process of self-realisation.
Although throughout his life he studied metaphysical sciences and traditional techniques of self-realisation, such as zen meditation and jñana yoga, he realised that these methods were too slow for the average modern man. One morning in 1968 he got inspired and had an idea on how to connect the question “Who am I”, used since the ancient times in the yoga tradition, with communicational techniques in dyad form.
The first Intensive was held in the Californian desert and proved to be very successful. Because of their high efficiency, he continued to hold Intensives around the world, gradually changing and improving the programme.
Berner’s 99th Intensive was held at Berkley in 1975. After that he trained others to conduct his Intensives.
In former Yugoslavia, the Enlightenment Intensive was promoted by Ž. M. Slavinski, who participated in a number of Enlightenment Intensives and had the experience of Direct Realisation of Truth. Based on various experiences while practicing and conducting the Enlightenment Intensive, Slavinski introduced new changes.
There are many anonymous masters of the Enlightenment Intensive, one of which is my Spiritual Teacher, Swami Brahmajñanananda who, just like Slavinski, also perfected the technique and created a version of it under the name Awareness Intensive.
Dyadic structure of the intensive
The basic/primary method for attaining enlightenment is holding one’s attention for a prolonged period of time on the desired object of enlightenment. This is difficult to do because one becomes distracted; one’s attention is drawn to a great variety of things. To counter this, one can use various instruments which aid in holding one’s attention on the object of enlightenment. The flame of a candle, geometric drawings, bells, breathing, the stomach, pain, pleasure, conscious/deliberate action, the Sun, the moon, these are all just some examples of such instruments used for practicing keeping one’s attention on an object. Statements repeated mentally or out loud, such as mantras or the repetition of questions such as koans give the best results. This is because the cyclic nature of such methods constantly returns or draws one’s attention back to the object of enlightenment. Even then, one can forget to count the breath or repeat the mantra or koan, so sooner or later such a one-sided stream disrupts the balance of the mind and one falls into murcha (an unconscious trans). Murcha is the highest form of meditation which can, with intermissions, last for years until one lifts one’s self high enough for the meditative contemplation to be sustained long enough to lead to enlightenment.
The strength of the dyadic structure of the AI lies in the fact that another person repetitively asks you to focus your attention on the object of enlightenment. A person is prone to do for others that which they will not or cannot do for themselves. A dyad also brings the cycle to the beginning every five minutes, keeping the contemplating individual away from falling into an unconscious trans. Apart from this, the dyadic structure is fun. The highest form of enjoyment is sharing the truth with others. The person shares with his dyad partner whatever truth he discovers in contemplation on his object of enlightenment. Moreover, even when someone is an attentive partner bearing understanding, their focus is on enlightenment, on who or what the individual is in their essence, which is the actual object of enlightenment.
It is important that the attention is held on enlightenment and on the object of enlightenment as much as possible.
Communication is the cause of man’s ruin, and a potential cure for all.
Our whole lives are made of interpersonal relationships and we can say that successful communication is the key for a healthy and happy life. Many times, you must have found yourself in a situation when you wanted to tell something to someone, but you didn’t have the opportunity or you kept your thought to yourself for other reasons (such as shame, fear of rejection, etc.). Remember how you feel when you are not able to communicate something.
Communication is also a crucial part of the Intensive. Working in pairs (dyads) gives you the opportunity to communicate everything you are aware of (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, images) to another. Why is this necessary? If you keep all content that arises in your consciousness during your contemplation on the question “Who am I” to yourself, i.e. if you do not express (communicate) it after having recognised it, you will remain in false identification. In that way, Direct Realisation of Truth is not possible.
Many have come to learn that by facing their inner challenges at the Intensive, they enhance their ability to face the same challenges in real life. The process of sharing your inner journey with other participants of the Intensive offers enormous support and encouragement.
»Master, what do I do if there is nothing that I am aware of?«
»Bring it out; give me that nothing.«
»But if I have nothing, how can I bring it out? It is emptiness.«
»Present it to me. If you do not communicate it to me, you will keep it within yourself and you will keep yourself within it.«
(section from the book “Nitya yoga” by Swamija Brahmajñananande)
Since ancient times, people have been asking the same questions. Self-Enquiry is obviously something that comes naturally to us. The world-known Indian guru Sri Ramana Maharshi attained the ultimate destination of Self-Enquiry. His main teaching was the technique of ‘Ātma-vichara’ (self-enquiry), which is one of the most important practices of self-realisation according to the Advaita Vedanta tradition, first practiced more than 10 000 years ago.
Vichara: a word in Sanskrit, meaning enquiry, exploration, examination.
Ātma-vichara : self-enquiry or self-examination.
The process of self-enquiry is holding ones continuous attention on being aware of the inner “I” or “I am”. Ātma-vichara brings our attention back to the source of all thoughts. To awaken, we have to forget all our existing concepts on existence and non-existence, on what and who we are and who we have been to this moment, or thought we were. Surrendering to something impalpable is a leap into the unknown.
The technique of Ātma-vichara uses the question “Who am I”, exploring the source of the “I” thought, as well as where it disappears. Ātma-vichara helps us dare dive into the depths of who we are and to go so deep until all our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations dissolve in the ocean of Consciousness where the “Self” resides.
The Self is Consciousness
Ramana Maharshi says that the Self is consciousness:
The Truth is that the Self is constant, unchangeable Consciousness. The object of enquiry is to find the real nature of the Self as Consciousness.
Giving up being aware of all that is not the Self leads to pure consciousness.
You are Consciousness. Consciousness is another name for you. If you are consciousness, it is not necessary to achieve it, or to cultivate it. All you need to do is give up being aware of all other things that are not the Self. If one gives up being aware of other things, all that is left is pure consciousness, and that is the Self.
A SHORT MEDITATION EXERCISE
Step one: You are not your body
Imagine you are on your deathbed. Focus your attention on each individual part of your body and relax that part of the body. Forget about the body. You are not your body.
Step two: You are not your mind or your thoughts
You are not your mind, or your thoughts. All thoughts that arise serve only the ego, the false “I” presenting itself as the real You. When there is no ego, your thoughts have no one to serve and they disappear. Where are you in relation to your thoughts and your mind? You are not your mind, nor your thoughts
Step three: Consciousness is all there is
The breath of awareness expanding in your heart is Consciousness. Become aware of the present moment. Be here and now. Do not think about the past or the future, stay awake to this present moment. Consciousness is all there is. Be conscious of your consciousness.
The inexhaustible source of the entire universe, the Self of all there is, the ocean of pure Consciousness – that is Truth. That limitless I – is You. (TAT TVAM ASI)