Personal Meets Transpersonal: Part 2 (archives)
In this interview from the archives, Igor Kufayev offers personal insights into the nature of awakening and transformation of human consciousness. Transcribed from the 1st interview with Rick Archer for the Buddha at the Gas Pump, Costa Rica, March 2012
- Fusion of the Three States of Consciousness
- Defining Samadhi
- The Final Blow – the Slashing of Reality as it was Known
- The Triangle of Creation Itself
- The End of the Personal Story
- Living in Constant Déjà Vu
- Enlightenment is not a Moment in Time – it is an Ever-expanding Process
- The Human Being as a Structure of Devatas (Deities)
- Talking about the Experience of Self-Realization
- Wrapping it up
1. Fusion of the Three States of Consciousness
Igor: I should point out that by then, for me waking, dreaming, sleeping, deep sleep were all fused into one. When I am saying that, I am consciously emphasizing that that was literally a fusion of all three states of consciousness. In what sense? In the sense that during the dreaming state while sleeping, my consciousness, the Witness, is constantly aware of all that is happening in the body. So, I’m basically not sleeping anymore! So I might just as well get up and do something else!
Rick: Same as during deep sleep, right?
Igor: The same during deep sleep. And more interestingly during the waking state, I would actually feel as if I am asleep while I am doing something. As you know from the technical point of view, each relative state of consciousness also has three others within itself; it is just within the waking state there are dreaming in waking, waking in waking, and deep sleep in waking.
Rick: I have never heard it explained quite that way.
Igor: This is something quite interesting. There is actually a podcast where I am talking about lucid dreaming, in which I explain it in great detail.
Rick: Of course I have heard it explained that Consciousness becomes a continuum. So it is not like you are in the waking state while you are in the sleeping state, but it is more like Consciousness itself – which underlies all states – is lively enough so that it is not overshadowed by any of the three states. Hence, throughout the night during sleep, Consciousness remains awake – which it already is of course; but in terms of one’s experiential orientation to it, wakefulness in that pure sense persists, even though the body is asleep. I suppose that is what you are referring to.
Igor: Sure, but in order to understand that, we have to introduce the existence of all the three in each. So there are nine states of consciousness so to speak; three as the main states of consciousness that literally rotate around the transcendental state of consciousness. The transcendental is the only real one, and the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep are the concentric energies of finer degrees of vibration. But within each of them, there are also three present – and that is very important to understand.
The simplest example is that when you go through the waking state of consciousness throughout the day, you are experiencing waking in waking, when the acuity of the senses is at its peak. So literally, your senses, your mind, your whole physiology – all of the lights are turned on. You are fully taking everything in, and you are experiencing the world where everything is at its maximum, right? Every faculty.
Then there comes a moment when you feel a bit drowsy, you feel a little bit tired, and that is when another wave comes in – and that is dreaming in waking. You experience the dreaming state, but you are still in waking – you are not literally dreaming. Yet again, there is a deep sleep state in waking. Sometimes, literally you can be doing something, and you find yourself nodding – usually when the nervous system is too tired. Let’s say when you are sitting as a passenger next to someone who is driving – hopefully you are not driving yourself – and you are sitting, you are aware of the road and everything, and then in the next moment you find your head dropped. You are not in a dream, you’re not seeing this in a dream – and that is where deep sleep kicks in during waking.
Rick: Well is it really deep sleep in waking, or is it just a shift from waking to sleep? I’ve done that – one time I almost drove off the road! I woke up with my head on my chest starting to nod off – but I was asleep.
Igor: That could well be the dreaming in waking, but the point I am trying to make is that classically in the yogic tradition, there are nine states of consciousness in addition to the three main ones – but within each one. In the same way, now to reverse the example, when you are sleeping, let’s say dreaming – dreaming in dreaming is when you have complete absorption in the dream. Waking in dreaming is when you’re still aware of the surroundings, you can still hear, let’s say, something happening next to you. You can hear some sounds, so the senses are not fully switched off. There are some remains, remnants, from the waking state that are present. And deep sleep in dreaming likewise is when you are switching off completely. Because let’s face it: the waking state is when the senses and the mind are the most tuned in, the fully cognitive processes; the dreaming state is when the senses are switched off and only the mind abides in itself; and then the deep sleep state of consciousness is when the senses and the mind switches off, and you abide in a different state of consciousness altogether – yet there are gradations, there are transitions. Like in order to go from one room to go to another room, let’s say there is an intermediary room – that’s a primitive example.
But what happened to me is that all of these were fused, so that throughout the day I would experience a variety of phenomena. Let me go back quickly so that the listeners can fully understand that in relation to meditation: when we meditate – when you go into a profound state of meditation – and before you even hit the transcendental state of consciousness, before you arrive at transcendental consciousness, you arrive to it through deep sleep and waking. Do you see what I am saying?
Rick: I don’t understand.
Igor: Well, in order for you to experience the transcendental state of consciousness fully, there would have to be this gradation – Consciousness cannot just shift from one state of consciousness to another.
Rick: So the mind and body settle down?
Igor: Exactly. So the senses start to withdraw naturally.
Rick: I see what you are saying; so it is sort of like a deep sleep state.
Igor: Exactly. In fact, many people experience that, and they confuse that with a true sense of transcendence, or Samadhi. I would actually take the courage to say that most meditators, at first, experience deep sleep in waking. And in fact, many meditators recall or complain that they fall asleep in meditation instead of meditating.
Rick: Right. Even their head falls down…
Igor: Even their head falls down sometimes, yes. Consciousness cannot just move from one state to another state in a rapid jump. It can – when it has a total acquaintance with all of them. When we talk about beings like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, he was going into Samadhi and into the waking state within a very short period of time. He would speak to his disciples, and suddenly he found himself in Samadhi while he is standing on his feet, so the students have to catch him before he collapses then and there.
However, we are talking about ordinary experiences with people whose nervous system is not expanded to that degree yet.
Rick: And we are also talking about Samadhi as a state which comes and goes; obviously there are levels of development in which whatever is experienced in Samadhi is integrated so much that you could be riding a bicycle at the same time when living in that state.
Igor: Well, I’m not going to say that I am skeptical about that, because there are a lot of things that you read and people emphasizing – when people want to point out that they are established, they want to say that they are functioning in this world in Unity Consciousness. And this is a very big theme; I don’t want to culminate this conversation, because we still…
Rick: We still have plenty of time to explore it.
Igor: Since you have mentioned that, I would say that technically speaking, it is not possible.
2. Defining Samadhi
Rick: Well, if by Samadhi we mean the complete withdrawal of the senses from their objects – so you’re totally absorbed in Pure Consciousness – then sure, you couldn’t be speaking, or riding a bicycle, or doing anything. But I mean the whole goal of spiritual evolution – as I understand it – is for a development to take place whereby that ground state of being is lived in the midst of activity, and in the midst of using your mind, and your body, and your senses, and everything else. It’s not lost, so it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. The term Nirvakalpa Samadhi or Nitya Samadhi means without break; it never ends, regardless of what you are doing.
Igor: Yes, well Nirvakalpa Samadhi is of several types. Basically, Nirvakalpa Samadhi and Savikalpa Samadhi – for instance, I don’t know if you’ve heard that some great teachers actually preferred Savikalpa Samadhi. Because that is what you are talking about – Samadhi with awareness. Samadhi with awareness allows you to experience the world outside, while you are fully in a Self-referral state of consciousness.
And that allows the integration on the biological level, on the physiological level, for you to go out and function in an altered state of consciousness without losing much of that, let’s say, in order to be in a full participation, in a full possession, of your senses. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, it is a yogic or spiritual catatonia. Often you cannot do anything – you cannot speak, you cannot move, you cannot do anything. The metabolic process is zero; there is nothing happening.
This is a very, very big theme, it is a very interesting theme, because that takes us to very different views of what constitutes total Self-realization or full Enlightenment. Because even within the Indian subcontinent, there are different branches of enlightenment. There is the kind of like the “Ramana Maharshi type” often mentioned on your program, and often mentioned among the nondualists, and they have him as their proto-guru. I have a bit of a question about that, because Ramana Maharshi had Kundalini awakening at the age of 16, and then spent 10 years in a cave before he came out and actually said, “Nothing needs to be done.” So you have to take it with a pinch of salt.
Rick: Some say 26 years in the cave; anyway, it’s the same principle. He was so absorbed that insects were chewing his legs and everything, and he didn’t even know it.
Igor: Exactly. Not only that but as far as I know, his limbs, because he didn’t care at all – he wasn’t a yogi in that classical Hatha yoga tradition. He neglected his body so much that he then had to spend a long time to rehabilitate his limbs. He wasn’t able to walk. If you notice some of the pictures of Ramana Maharshi, he is often sitting with his legs straight, outstretched – before he was able to again sit with his legs crossed, in the cross-legged position.
It might all seem irrelevant, but it is actually very much relevant to this whole theme that you are trying to tackle in this program, of the variety of human experience in relation to the ultimate experience, and what it does to us – what it does to our physiology.
Rick: I don’t want to get you off track, but incidentally, this whole thing of coming out and saying, “You don’t have to do anything,” I think in terms of what I’ve learned of him so far, is a misrepresentation because he actually really accommodated himself to whatever level of evolution or experience people were at. He would sometimes initiate someone with a mantra, he would sometimes tell them that they didn’t have to do anything, sometimes he would give a mahavakya, and he would do all sorts of different things according to who he was talking to. Some people saw that as inconsistent, but he was just basically modifying the message and speaking according to level of consciousness of the listener.
Igor: I’m glad you said that because I actually personally feel that we have very little knowledge of Ramana Maharshi’s teaching. We have a fraction, one facet of what perhaps constituted his entire output as the teacher, and mainly through that Englishman – what’s his name?
Rick: David Godman?
Igor: No, Paul Brunton. He was an Englishman who went and sat at the feet of Ramana Maharshi. Very noncommittal – he was moving from guru to guru, and eventually he was questioning [everything]. All of the books which one can find in the English language have that transcription of a conversation between him and Ramana Maharshi. There is nothing whatsoever written by the actual disciples of Ramana Maharshi who have spent decades next to the great master. Have you ever heard of anything written by his closest disciple, the silent muni?
Rick: No, but I’m not an expert on Ramana Maharshi, so I can’t hope to represent…
Igor: Neither am I – I’m not an expert, but I’ve delved into that tradition and I wanted to fully understand the different branches and different perspectives on the whole thing. To me it became apparent that we are in the midst of probably the most erroneous misrepresentation of a great teaching. As you said earlier, people are repeating what he said then and there to a particular state of consciousness, as his teaching. That is not his teaching! Can you imagine if Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came and gave one lecture somewhere in the 60’s, and then we base his whole teaching on just one lecture? That’s what I am trying to say.
Rick: Right. Most of these guys, and most spiritual traditions in fact – if you read the Bible it contradicts itself all over the place, and that is because there are so many different angles, and so many different things may have been said to different people on different occasions, in different contexts, and so on. Any one teacher does the same thing according to who he is talking to, so you have to take the whole big picture.
In fact, this show is a representation of that really, because I regard the whole field of spirituality as tremendously diverse and extensive. I interview all kinds of people, some of whom might seem to be complete contradicting one another – but I see them as facets of a much larger picture.
Igor: Sure. Well, it’s just like seeing the tree for instance. If somebody, let’s say an extraterrestrial who has a different biological life, arrived here and saw a tree in spring with no leaves – just a blossoming tree – he would say, “Wow! That’s a tree!” Then the next time he comes, and leaves have appeared and the tree is full of leaves, and “Wow! That’s an entirely different tree!” Then the fruit starts to develop and grow – so what is the actual culminating phase of that tree? That’s the question.
Likewise, everything unfolds sequentially, as you mentioned in the scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita itself is that perfect example where the earlier yogas are being emphasized as the most important yogas; but once you progress further and further, you can see that they fall away until basically you worship your Self, and nothing else is left.
Rick: Okay, good. Well, that was a bit of a diversion, but I think we covered some important points. So, where were we?
3. The Final Blow – the Slashing of Reality as it was Known
Igor: We were at the point where I was to experience the “final blow” of this intermingling between “me experiencing this” or “who is experiencing this?” So that happened in the state just before I sent to sleep, or before the waking state shifted into the dream state.
I was gliding over myself again in that lucid dreaming-like state, and my body was lying on the bed. I remember how that usual sensation of that liquid light just started moving from the feet. People talk about how Kundalini, that it’s at the base of the spine – and I am not saying that everything has to happen in the same way – but my experience is that it actually rises not from the base of the spine, but it always rises from the feet. That is where the stir is, and then the energy just moved very fast in that kind of flowing motion, and then when it reached the area of my neck, the sound became incredibly refined.
Because I was already hearing all this nada, all of these different variety of sounds – and suddenly this sound was transformed into a sound of the flute. I am saying it arrived at the point of the neck, because that is where I remember feeling the sensation. But they say that when the Kundalini reaches the heart level, you hear the unstruck sound for the first time. And it is reminiscent of the sound of the flute – but at the time, I didn’t know that. I just heard the most profoundly beautiful sound of the flute – literally, flute – nothing else. It was coming everywhere; it was coming from outside of me, it was coming from within myself. I got up, sat on the bed, looked around, and there was no source of that sound. Part of me is telling myself that “That comes from you,” yet another part of me was very curious, “Where does this sound come from?”
So I started wandering around, and I am in a totally delirious state of totally being lost in bliss – the elation is indescribable. That sound probably lasted for several days. I don’t remember what I was doing during that time. I don’t even think I was eating much – or even if I was eating, it was basically a total absorption in that beautiful sound. I don’t even remember if I was meditating, because it was not important. The sound filled everything.
What happened next – again, I was lying down resting on my back, and suddenly I felt something from behind my eyes, something within the skull. It was literally like bubbles of fizzy water – like when you drink fizzy water, the gas sometimes gets into your nose. It felt like that inside my brains, inside the cavities in my head.
Rick: Like a tingling?
Igor: Like a tingling sensation, but pronounced tingling. And at that very instance, it was as if someone slashed my forehead with a sharp object. It was like the sensation of it being slashed and opened – and it happened in a split second. And when it happened – this is it, Rick. What I experienced in terms of the physicality of that experience, this whole reality literally became like a paper. I’m trying to use the language – and English is not my first language – but I don’t think I can speak about it better in Russian.
Rick: You mean the whole reality of the world became sort of flimsy or ephemeral?
4. The Triangle of Creation Itself
Igor: Flat. Literally, it’s flat. The three-dimensionality is illusory, and the slashing of it was as literal as it was factual. So imagine, it’s as if you have slashed a screen on which something was shown, and it was perfectly three-dimensional – and suddenly it is no longer. It’s like it just rolls out. And behind that screen of that slashed reality – if I were to still use the language – was the moment of creation. It was not the moment of creation as you might imagine it as in astrophysics, in quantum physics and astronomy. It was not like a Big Bang – it was actually a very precise and beautiful manifestation within manifestation within manifestation. What it was: something which looked like a triangle, like an equilateral – immediately as if the light would pour out, it will come and become the world immediately, like instantaneously.
I’m trying to explain it, but it’s very hard. It is very hard, because it’s like I have to use that linear perspective of it becoming. But imagine if something, on the animated level, like a ray of light that comes out of that triangle, which is light itself, immediately becomes the world, through the galaxies and everything through the world – our planet, solar system, everything, and us, the world – and it spits out again from that triangle and it becomes the world, endlessly. Endlessly. Endlessly.
Rick: So you had this experience – is there any idea of what this triangle is or was? And are you still having it this way, or was this just at that time that you experienced it?
Igor: That experience was like the experience which – you forgot to ask, “Who was I in relation to that experience?” Because I was no longer witnessing or merging with the light as it was before in that experience of bliss, as I am being one with the light. That whole universe is coming out of me. It is literally coming out of the I-ness of myself. The reason why I am saying that it was coming out of me is because, where else is it coming out of?
Igor: Even the light itself is born out of myself.
Rick: You don’t mean that it is born out of Igor Kufayev, you mean it is born out of the Universal Self which you had become identified with instead of just your individuality, right?
Igor: Well, to tell you the truth, it makes absolutely no difference! Because if I say, “Yes,” in intellectual terms, that sounds more appropriate; but when that happens, it makes absolutely no difference whether it happens from the individual perspective or from the universal perspective –there is no perspective. Do you see what I mean? It just happens on that level where there is absolutely no division whatsoever.
It’s good that you mentioned what happened to Igor Kufayev, because when I regained body consciousness…
Rick: After several days…
5. The End of the Personal Story
Igor: Well, I don’t know how many – maybe three – days that lasted. There was a very strange attitude towards “who was I?” It was as if going back to this identity was like when you wake up from a dream, and in that dream you were someone – do you really give much attention to who you were in the dream if your waking state identity is much more important, is much more factual? Do you see what I mean?
So when I actually got back to the full acuity of the senses and this bodily perception, even when I looked in the mirror, there was this absolutely absent – I was just looking, almost like, “So who am I then?” Not “who am I?” as I am looking at this body, but “Who am I then?” Do you see what I mean?
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Igor: What I later understood is that it’s called depersonalization, or the total death of ego – when you completely no longer understand who you are. And with that, the process of integration has started, because this was the beginning of long years of actually integrating that into life. Because it was not easy to live when all this falls away, when all of this drops completely and you no longer identify. Because people were just eager, “Oh, these experiences you are talking about, walking around – come on, where are the pictures? Where are the images? We want to see its manifestation!” The people who were close to me on that level, who were also seekers of truth, they were all eager to see the paintings that I will bash out now in that state. Do you see what I mean?
Igor: Instead, if I were to tell them that I don’t know what the heck they were talking about, I would probably alienate them. And at that time, many people thought that I was mildly gone – or gone, to put it mildly. I guess this culminates this whole idea of – the personal story finished then and there. That was the end of me as I knew it.
Rick: How many years ago was that?
Igor: That was 2002; it was exactly ten years ago.
Rick: So the last ten years have been years of integration?
Igor: I would say the first five years were the years of integration. The first five years were literally the years of integration. The actual, full experience of this what is technically known as Unity Consciousness – obviously Maharishi gave that beautiful explanation of Cosmic Consciousness (CC), God Consciousness (GC), and Unity Consciousness (UC). When you read that – when I read that – it all made sense. It’s all very beautiful, and that example with the rose – you remember that, by now, classical example with all the sap, the colorless sap? And you still understand it on an intellectual level. But when it happens, it actually happens on the physiological level – at least that is what happened to me – because your whole endocrine system changes, the hormone production changes. And coming back into the world of the senses happens not through integrating it on the intellectual level – to me it happened the other way around. For me it happened from the level of, literally, not being able to perceive anything other than how the cognitive processes were functioning in a new way; because the old network of the cognitive response was either completely burnt out or rewired.
Rick: So, give us a concrete example of this. Let’s say you are walking down the street, or eating your lunch, or just having an ordinary experience – how was the cognitive process functioning or not functioning as opposed to the ordinary way that it used to function?
Igor: At first the whole reality was as if I was experiencing it through some kind of filter or film; the three-dimensionality of the world was greatly diminished at first. It’s very different from what I’ve heard – because I’ve heard that, on the contrary, the whole world should become more beautiful. And indeed it was beautiful, but it was beautiful from the inside – like I didn’t need the world to be beautiful on the outside anymore.
Rick: Did the outside world seem kind of unreal or like some kind of a movie where you couldn’t take it in the least bit seriously?
6. Living in Constant Déjà Vu
Igor: In the early years – let’s say for the next two to three years – there was this sensation that all of this has happened. The déjà vu was constant. People started saying [something] – I was not interested because I knew all that happened before. I am going somewhere – because I was an artist and I was a successful artist, so I wasn’t literally sitting in a group of hippies who were all too happy listening to the story, “Oh, yeah!” – I would actually be taken by those people who were close to me, to some circles where very educated people who were professionally involved in the world in whatever domain, extremely successful, very opulent. When you get the attention of their time – for instance, let’s say that this guy is from a banking background, and he starts to say something and I’m like, “This has happened already.” So I am sitting there, dumb there. I would often find myself feeling completely, “Oh my God! I must be looking so daft,” because I’m not reacting at all. There was no enthusiasm in me, because I couldn’t manufacture that enthusiasm.
Rick: Would you know what the guy was going to say, because there was a sense of it having happened, or was it just more of a powerful déjà vu kind of thing?
Igor: It wasn’t like a premonition or psychic experience at all. I had lots of those psychic experiences – we would need another interview to cover that!
Rick: So there was a sort of apathy or disinterest?
Igor: Well, it wasn’t a disinterest. It was more of – when something happened, let’s say you watch a movie, and you like the fact that the movie is thrilling. Why is the movie thrilling? Because you’re not knowing…
Rick: Because you don’t know what is going to happen.
Rick: It’s suspenseful…
Igor: Absolutely – that was gone. It’s like you’re watching this movie for a second time – that movie already happened! And you know what? I actually remembered that that’s what Paramahansa Yogananda talked about in his Autobiography of a Yogi, which I read years ago. Do you know that he talked about the nauseating experience of reality when it was reoccurring itself? That was exactly what I was experiencing. Not that it was nauseating – because he gave that as an example for those readers to understand that all this world that we cherish so much, has happened billions and zillions of times!
Rick: So are you saying literally that everything that we go through has actually happened before, or are you just saying that it seemed that way after you had this awakening?
Igor: I am saying that the perspective of consciousness has shifted, so I was no longer perceiving it from the individual perspective. So I was perceiving it from the perspective of the One who had shot that film! I shot that film, compiled it, and now I am screening it – so how interesting can that be?
Rick: Right (laughs).
Igor: So it’s like, okay, maybe I can show some enthusiasm at the reception, because I still need to promote this movie; this movie still needs to be seen, it needs to hit number one – for lack of a better metaphor.
Rick: So I take it that you grew out of the phase?
7. Enlightenment is not a Moment in Time – it is an Ever-expanding Process
Igor: Well, that phase was a very interesting one nevertheless, because that phase only allowed me to experience the internal expansion deeper and deeper. Enlightenment – the way that I perceive and understand it from that level of the way things need to be put into language – is only marked by the awakening; but awakening itself is an opening into a completely different field of experiences. Enlightenment itself is not a moment in time – and could never be. It is an ever-expanding process, so that ever-expanding process happens on the level of the Heart, because that’s where it proceeds from in the first place, and that’s where it drew me.
Because this world was no longer a fascinating ground, let’s say, all my energy was used in exploring the inner dimension, and that carried on for several years. It carried on for several years, until it felt like – I am anticipating your question or your summary, because this is what happens often in your interviews of which I have seen quite a few, maybe four or five full interviews, that you often ask to elaborate on that process of “How does it feel through the senses?”
Rick: Yeah, another thing I am thinking right now is what you are describing, in a way, sounds like what Maharishi used to talk about in terms of Cosmic Consciousness, where there would be this inner realization but that the world would appear flat and disinteresting. Then, there would be a natural move of awakening of the heart and deepening of appreciations, and then that flatness would gradually transform into a very rich, refined celestial appreciation. What you have been saying for the past few minutes reminded me of that.
Igor: As I said, that technically speaking, let’s say speaking from the point of view of how it is being outlined in language, it made sense to me even before. It made perfect sense to me, but how it happened in actuality is a very different thing. It’s not that I want to keep going back to the physiology of these whole experiences – because Unity takes place on the level of the senses, and that’s what is the greatest mystery of all. When you go back to the experience of the world – and, let’s say, what you just mentioned, like in Cosmic Consciousness the world is flat because the duality is apparent there, you feel the richness inside and you feel all this imperfection outside – but that wasn’t even exactly what I was talking about.
But we will still take this as a reference point: and then you go to God Consciousness, and then again, the experience is very different because you no longer feel the world as separate from yourself. The merging with the Ishta-devata – that experience with your own personal aspect of God – basically, you dissolve in that personal aspect of God, and you see and experience this world as yourself. But it’s still, again, it’s a conceptual picture.
What is happening on a physical level? What is happening on the physiological level? That is the most interesting.
Rick: Why is that the most interesting?
Igor: Well, because that’s the most unexplainable. That’s the most paradoxical I guess.
Rick: Are you talking about it being interesting in terms of it might be interesting to a neurophysiologist who would like to study it, or are you talking more in terms of an esoteric understanding and experience of physiology?
Igor: It doesn’t matter – whatever angle it could be viewed from. But I’m talking about my own experience, how I perceive it. And I perceive it as an artist above all.
Rick: So why is the physiological component the most interesting for you?
Igor: Because the whole notion of the existence of God, it’s being completely rearranged. The idea of free will is being readdressed. I believe that it’s a kind of full responsibility that the reality is created by a multitude of conscious impressions. So it’s like we are molding this reality because of that. So this physiology, it’s not just physiology. All too often in philosophical esoteric traditions – Advaita Vedanta, nondual, and Sri Adi Shankara – this whole concept of maya, this world is not real, right? “Only Brahman is real, only Consciousness is real.” Yet my own experience is that it is not so. This is why in my biographical notes, probably you have noticed that I have introduced the Kashmir Shaiva tradition because that’s where I found the most answers in terms of what I was experiencing.
What I was experiencing was that kind of whole phenomena that, according to Kashmir Shaivism, maya or Shakti is not unreal – it’s just as real as Shiva. And specifically, the doctrine of Spanda – which literally means a throb, a vibration – is something that I constantly experience on a Heart level, constantly. As I speak to you now, and as I go through my daily life, through my daily experiences – it’s something that constantly emanates from my Heart. It emanates from my Heart, and it is projected back into it.
So this unreality that I’ve experienced myself, if I were, let’s say, to refer to those experiences of the slashed reality and everything being flat, perhaps that would constitute for me the world as being maya. But as the unfoldment took place further, and when I had this very distinctive outpouring of Consciousness through the senses and through the whole body – because actually, on the physiological level, sometimes you can feel [it] as a stream of liquid light that comes through your brain cortexes and into your body, [that] permeates everything with the same bliss. The same bliss that was experienced internally is experienced through the contact of the senses with their objects.
And that’s what I called the most mysterious thing, and that is why I made my way out of the reclusive way of life. Look at me now – I have two small kids, a beautiful wife, and I am living the life of a householder, and I don’t know where there is more bliss! I don’t know where there is more bliss – where the bliss is inside or the bliss is outside – I’m completely lost!
Rick: I find it handy to think of physics when I hear people saying the kind of thing that you’re saying. A physicist might say, “Sure, if you boil everything down to its essence, then you have a field of pure potentiality and you don’t have matter and forces of nature such as gravity – it’s just all of that essence, unmanifest pure potentiality.” But then in the next breath they have to say, “But that doesn’t mean all of that stuff isn’t real in its own domain.”
A physicist doesn’t say, “Oh, nothing is real, therefore I’ll just walk off the edge of this building or I’ll walk in front of this car and it will pass right through me.” He has to obey the laws of nature at every level, and all of those laws have been worked out in great mathematical detail, so he wouldn’t say that they are not real. He might say that perhaps they are not ultimately fundamental, but each level has its own significance, its own reality, its own integrity, and its own laws.
This whole thing about Shakti, and the world is maya, and so on – it’s like you can take all of these different perspectives; and it’s not that one refutes the other, it’s that they are all different windows on the totality of reality. How does that sit with you?
Igor: Sure. It is undeniably so.
Rick: So Shankara was no dummy. I think he had a pretty good handle on things, but he wasn’t a householder either – although he actually explored that realm.
Igor: It’s not that I am doubting Shankara’s experience – not at all! In fact, this is the way that I think all teachings are being interpreted – this is how I view it. In the same way, you can interpret Ramana Maharshi’s teaching in many, many ways to suit your own perspectives and understandings. I see that a lot in nondualist circles, and this whole idea of the instantaneous Self-realization in the culture which we live in today. We don’t have to go far – look what happened to Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is at most applied at a therapeutic level.
Instead of doing the undoing of the individual egoic reality, it often reinforces the connection between the body and the ego. All of these people who practice yoga in that way – because they do not practice it in the way that thousands and thousands of years old tradition have been passed from generation to generation, from heart-to-heart – and look what happened to it.
I even read an article about a year ago before coming to Costa Rica, written by an eminent scholar, Wendy Doniger. She is one of the chief editors of the State University of New York’s publication, SUNY, and she wrote this letter on yoga where she tries to summarize this whole concept of yoga and how it has been taken to the West and different branches – and she’s obviously very knowledgeable. But what really amazed me in that overview that she gave is that, in a way, she dared to suggest that yoga takes its own form in the West now – like the self-proclaimed “American Yoga” so to speak.
I find it very bizarre, because in the domain of the exploration of Consciousness, very few countries can claim an uninterrupted investigation in that field. In the Western Hemisphere it is still in a very, very early stage. And this is why some people find it very perplexing, “How can I meditate for three or four decades, and then this kid comes and starts teaching me?” It is inconceivable, because everything is perceived in a linear perspective. No matter what we say, there is always something left in the level of the collective level of consciousness, in the collective level of the nation, when there is, let’s say, an exploration of Consciousness taken to its conclusive stage of Self-realization. Are you following me?
Rick: I think so. I think you are starting to talk about how yoga and other spiritual things such as Advaita have been watered down in the west, and into the sort of McDonald’s culture of quick and easy.
Igor: Absolutely. Take two teaspoonfuls with some sugar, hot water, and…
Rick: So you have these people who read a little of Ramana Maharshi and a little Nisargadatta, and they get conversant with the terminology, and they gain some intuitive understanding, and they think that’s all there is to it, that’s all these guys were talking about. I guess that’s what you were referring to; whereas I think this interview has illustrated that there can be something much more profound that one experiences. It’s not a mere understanding, right?
Igor: That and more. What I am saying is that let’s say in a country like India, in Central Asia and in parts of China, in that whole of acumen – perhaps in Japan and perhaps in other parts of the world – it has been an uninterrupted practice for millennia. Each time there is a new level reached, it leaves a sediment almost on a genetic level…
Rick: It is kind of in the blood of those people.
Igor: Exactly, and I am not afraid of saying that, because for the nondualists, realization doesn’t even happen to the body. I have heard many teachers, even very distinctive teachers – I think I’ve even heard some of the teachers that you respect greatly – say that realization never happens to “me.”
Rick: They say it doesn’t happen to a “me” – well, even the Gita says that, “The Self realizes itself by Itself.” I mean basically what they are saying is that it is not like the individuality somehow suddenly incorporates universality; they’re just saying that universality kind of wakes up to its own true nature. But I think they would say that happens through the instrumentality of a body. I mean if you don’t have a body, this isn’t going to happen.
Igor: Exactly. Well, you’ve said it. It’s very interesting – you said one long sentence, and in that sentence, there were several contradicting elements. They are contradictory, because they are paradoxical. How can Consciousness realize Itself in the first place, if Consciousness is unbound?
Rick: And how can it never not be unbound?
Rick: And how could It ever have lost Itself?
Igor: Exactly. So this is why the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism gave me that full apprehension, because it was backed up by my own experience. In a way, I could say that Maharishi’s Vedic Science is the same explanation of the same process. I feel like I actually said that to someone in a blog that I was running, that I see tremendous similarity between the Kashmir Shaiva tradition and Maharishi’s Vedic Science, in terms of the Veda being present in the physiology; in terms of the Veda being the vibrations, the knowledge structured throughout the physiology.
It’s just that somehow to my artistic sensibility, I prefer that Shaivistic tradition – the Aham Shiva. Even breathing is no longer breathing – you don’t breathe as a human being. Because this normal process of inhalation and exhalation is one of the most mysterious mantras of all – So’ham. And that mantra So’ham is where Shiva repeats his own name constantly through every living being. So whether you are aware of it or not, you are a yogi – but some yogis are consciously coming on top of themselves and realizing Shiva within, or Supreme Consciousness within, while others are still not separate from it, and yet they are as if submerged in that “placenta of sleep.”
Rick: Speaking of the connection between Maharishi’s teaching and Kashmir Shaivism, Maharishi and Swami Lakshmanjoo were good friends, and Lakshmanjoo was a well-known proponent of Kashmir Shaivism.
Let’s bring this experience back to you now. You had a five-year integration period, and now you have a young wife, you have a couple of young kid – so you’re very integrated, I would say it seems to be. From all appearances, you are living an ordinary life in many respects, but what is your subjective reality now? What is your inner experience now in the midst of this ordinary life on a day-to-day, nitty-gritty basis?
Igor: I don’t know if I understand your question in the right way, but…
Rick: Okay, take a crack at it, and we’ll see.
Igor: Because I kind of want to take advantage and, let’s say, answer it a way that not many people seem to have the guts to speak about. Because we all talk about it translates on the mental level, but how many people say what actually happens on the physiological level? Again, I keep going back to the physiology – I keep going back. All of the scriptures – Jainist, Buddhist, yogic scriptures, Tantric scriptures, Vedic scriptures – all agree on one thing: that realization takes place only in the body. Swami Brahmananda Saraswati gave this most beautiful speech – one of the very few speeches that were recorded – where he talks about the preciousness of being born in a human body. The Buddha, Gautama, talks about the unlikelihood that in this long evolutionary process of reincarnations, that you will get a human body again.
Were these guys kidding, or just trying to kind of organize us? It’s like when I tell my daughter, “If you’re not going to go to sleep now, I am not going to read you a book!” Right? So she runs to bed – is this one of those?
Rick: Maharishi used to say that, “Even the angels are jealous, because they don’t have the physiology to attain the kind of enlightenment that the human being is capable of.”
8. The Human Being as a Structure of Devatas (Deities)
Igor: The whole drama of creation from the Vedic perspective is that the devas, or devatas, which when Maharishi talks about angels – I want to just elaborate on what you just said, because many people still don’t understand what devatas or devas are. What are these deities?
People have the understanding that there is astrology – like the planets are structured in our physiology. But ultimately speaking, there is no human being. Ultimately speaking, the whole human being is a structure of devatas – every part of our physiology is a particular domain of a particular divinity. And I’ve experienced that – it’s a very beautiful experience. As I said, we could talk about this as one separate program.
Rick: So is that the kind of thing that you are referring to, when you talk about the importance of the physiology in this whole realm of Enlightenment?
Rick: That is what you are actually referring to?
Igor: Absolutely! If you disregard your physiology, what you are doing is you are disregarding that beautiful, subtle structure of the universe which is restructured in the human physiology – and as important at every level, because if you remove one level, it collapses like a domino effect. Going back to Maharishi’s beautiful example of even angels in heaven are jealous – and this is runs as a leitmotif in many traditions – the reason why they are jealous, and the reason why we are bound is interconnected, is interlinked. While they are jealous, they function in our body by overshadowing the experience of who we are. It is their job.
Rick: The devatas?
Igor: The devatas. Because as soon as the human being realizes [his Self], he cuts out the devatas. Do you see what I mean?
Rick: They are like the middleman so to speak.
Igor: Absolutely. The middleman is being cut out, so they are doing their job – so ignorance has its purpose, as well as Self-realization. You can actually find that in every tradition, and very beautifully in the Mediterranean or in the ancient Greek tradition. It’s the same thing – the gods are constantly watching the battleground of man, interfering, going, and intermingling among the mortals. But they are keeping the mortals constantly occupied with their little dramas, because if the mortal will awaken to who he is or who she is, or what it is, then the whole Olympus – the structure of Olympus – collapses.
Rick: So in that sense, would you say that the devatas are our enemies, because they are kind of thwarting our awakening, or is that a completely benign evolutionary kind of function that they serve until it is no longer appropriate – and then it is relinquished and eliminated?
Igor: Well, I would say that they are enemies to the one who doesn’t know his Self or her Self, but they are dear friends to the one who befriends his Self or her Self. So this is how it functions. The devatas will obstruct the experience of Consciousness because devatas rule the senses. You know very well that in Sanskrit, the senses are indriyas, and the chief of all of the gods in heaven, in the celestial domain, is Indra – the prototype god of Jupiter in Roman mythology or Zeus in Greek mythology.
So Indra is the one who holds the thunderbolt, right? The symbol of the thunderbolt is that he holds the energy, he holds this whole Shakti in his hand. The Vedic tradition is deeply interconnected with pre-Vedic times even, in terms of the historical India. The whole Vedic tradition as it is is cognized by rishis, and is what gave birth to the Vedic civilization. Yet, that knowledge, that supreme knowledge, has to be decoded over and over again. Because when it is taken at face value, it is understood on the intellectual level, on a systematic level. But what are these devatas? They are the senses. They are your eyes, your mouth, the tastes that you taste, the sounds that you hear, the sensations that you experience – these are the devatas functioning.
Rick: Here’s an interesting question – that makes sense to me. And it is commonly said that it is absorption in sensory experience that overshadows and keeps one in bondage; many spiritual traditions say that. Meditation practice itself is a kind of reversal of that fixation on outer sensory experience; it’s a turning within, and a transcending of the senses ultimately. But the interesting thing is that if you use a mantra, that takes place with a mantra which itself is the name or form of some devata.
So there is something paradoxical here. Because on one hand you are saying that devatas keep us bound, but here if you have a mantra, the devata is being utilized to liberate you – how do you reconcile that?
Igor: You see, that’s exactly it, because the mantra is the key. Actually, the question itself has the answer within it. Because by its nature, mantra consists of that primordial sound – the sound of the matrix – [and] by plugging into the original matrix, you can unplug this whole thing.
Some say that anything can serve as a mantra – I’m sure you have heard that kind of concept: that if you repeat it enough times, any word will eventually become mantra. It is because every word – and this is where we are touching a little bit on the tradition of Tantra – that every word manifested in any language is the manifestation of shaktis, of all the shaktis. Going back to the Kashmir Shaiva tradition, this is where I found the most beautiful, and the most, let’s say, complex explanation of this whole concept of matrix.
The Sanskrit language itself, it’s the language of nature as we both know. Everyone who has ever heard Maharishi speaking about Sanskrit knows that it is the language that allows light to pass through. It’s the language of nature itself for which sound and form are inseparable. In the Kashmir Shaiva tradition, in the scriptures, it is said that 52 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet – all of their vowels and consonants – correspond to the primordial vibrations. So anything named outside of the roots – everything has roots. Every word that you can trace in the world – if you take every human language – can be traced back to the original manifestation of Shakti. How can it be otherwise?
Because language is the manifestation of Consciousness on the audible level, right? So for that reason, every word is the vibration of its primordial energy. The word “Rick” and the word “Igor” are also vibrating primordial energies of that same Shakti. But the mantric words are specifically formulated that take a shortcut – it’s just like taking a faster vehicle. Or taking a faster airplane – something that just takes you there.
If you repeat the word “Rick,” you will probably still arrive, because the vibration of “R,” “I,” “C,” and “K,” it has the same principle that Maharishi explained in his lectures on sound – how the waves collapse into the point, and then expand themselves into the sound, and then collapses again. “Rick,” actually – Rig Ved…
Rick: Yeah, I have a Veda named after me, but there’s no Igor Veda though.
Igor: No. No, so I wouldn’t use my name [laughs]. So this is my take on your question on why the mantra helps to undo the devatas if it is part of the original structure of the devatas. Well that’s precisely why, because that’s the key! The name is the key. Every name is a sound, and mantra is a sound that belongs to that primordial matrix.
I know that we are bound to culminate this discussion, and I was going to say that way back, when you wanted to see: how does it feel when people are established? What does it constitute? What experiences give us the key or the reassurance that we are indeed not hallucinating? That we are indeed not creating mental constructs, or we are indeed not making it up? Or are not fed on the memories of experience which are bound to wane, as is the nature of all experiences – and what is that?
9. Talking about the Experience of Self-Realization
Igor: Why do people not talk about it – or it is something that is meant to be kept secret? But every scripture talks about the experience of jivanmukta – liberated while alive. And that experience of constantly being in the presence of one’s own Light, factually. If you close your eyes or you don’t close your eyes, you see the Light inside yourself. That Light is constantly there, and you are constantly in the presence of the Primordial Sound. These two keys – sound and light – that’s what accompanies the bewildered yogi. That’s what accompanies the mystic, and that’s what accompanies the man who has realized himself. I don’t hear people often speak about it – is it because they are too shy? Of course, one can say “All of this is subjective.” Somebody has a flash of light – I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about –
Rick: I think with a lot of people in contemporary spirituality, any mention of any light, sound – anything that’s kind of experiential in nature – is regarded as transitory, ephemeral. People are talking more in terms of awakening to that which is not apprehended through the senses, which doesn’t have any qualities, which is just that which essentially one is. And many people who talk that way actually dismiss or reject discussions of anything of an experiential nature. In fact, they reject traditions. There are some people who appear to have had a genuine awakening, but who regard all traditions as sort of antiquated and perhaps even confusing, and say that one should not give them any authority or respect.
Igor: Sure. But how do I know that I am expanding with space, Rick?
Rick: From your experience.
Igor: No, it’s because I am actually, constantly in the presence of that sound…
Rick: Why space?
Igor: Because space is inseparable from sound. This universe came as –
Rick: You mean the sound “OM,” or what sound?
Igor: That’s the sound, that’s the Primordial Sound of the pranava –
Rick:So in your case, there’s a continuum of that Primordial Sound within your realm of experience, as well as the expansiveness of unboundedness.
Igor: That’s something that as soon as all of the physical sounds subside, especially when you retire for instance – as soon as other sounds are screened sufficiently –
Rick: The Primordial Sound is there underlying it all.
Igor: Yeah, absolutely. Constantly, constantly – that is why you are constantly awake, because that sound is uninterrupted. You are like in an ocean of sound which emanates from you – and you are that sound. You are One with that sound through all of the states – waking, dreaming, deep sleep – you are constantly carried by these sounds, and these sounds emanate from you. Because when it becomes very quiet around, that sound literally comes from you.
And this is a confirmation of why the human being, human physiology, is divine. It’s not divine because we believe it is so or because we have some kind of culture – that esoteric, Perennial Traditions tell us it is so. It is a factual experience – it’s a factual experience that one can relate to others.
And I think it is nothing to be ashamed of – to share that experience – because otherwise we are constantly hiding behind mental concepts, mental realities. And I can say that an illiterate man who has experienced awakening and full realization, will be able to relate his experiences. He may not become a teacher – don’t get me wrong. He may not become articulate in terms of leading and being able to relate that experience to others, but he will be able to transfer that experience by a sheer faculty of his physiology – because the physiology is the same in all of us.
Rick: I think I understand. I guess I don’t have a question.
Igor: That’s all that I wanted to point out. And the same with the internal experience of light. For instance, in some traditions, Muktananda was talking openly about Neeleshwari – about the Blue Pearl as the ultimate experience of God Consciousness. I am not saying Unity Consciousness here because I don’t even want to talk about Unity Consciousness, because it is absolutely irrelevant to the plane of conversation we are having here.
In fact, God Consciousness and Unity Consciousness are so near that they’re almost indistinguishable, and that’s what Maharishi was talking about as well. Once you gain one, you will automatically gain the other.
Rick: Right, in time.
Igor: Automatically – there’s no doubt about it.
10. Wrapping it up
Rick: Since we have been going on for quite a while – and we could probably go on for an equal amount of time talking about things – I think what we should do is conclude this interview. Then, sometime later – maybe six months from now or something like that, or maybe even sooner, we can see how the schedule goes, have another one. In the meanwhile, we could both listen to this and you can sort of think, “Okay, here are a bunch of important points that I would really like to make clearer or I didn’t even bring up, that I would like to talk about,” and we’ll have another one. We’ll prepare it carefully and systematically, so we don’t talk about the same stuff over again – or maybe we will, but we’ll elaborate and make it clearer. Would you like to do that?
Igor: I would love to – absolutely!
Rick: Okay. Also, when we do this I think it’s important – and I think you’ve done this pretty well, because you laid a whole foundation about how your experiences evolved – we’ll want to keep bringing it back to the experiences’ verification of the point you are making. Because anybody can read a bunch of spiritual books and talk a lot about Kundalini and everything else. So the more that you can elaborate on any point that’s made in light of your own experience, I think the more interesting it will be for people. And you’ve have done that through this interview.
Igor: Can I just say one more thing in relation to what we just said, Rick?
Igor: I totally agree with you, because actually the most important thing for people to realize is that the notion of Kundalini and prana have to be very clearly understood. Kundalini is only in relation to Consciousness still being coiled; in fact the word Kunda-lini means “the one that is coiled.” So actually, everyone is in Kundalini – everyone’s consciousness is Kundalini.
Igor: Yes, coiled. Most people’s consciousness is coiled, because that is the age that we live in now. And it becomes Prana Shakti when it’s uncoiled, when it is awakened, and when it’s literally doing its work – it’s no longer Kundalini. That is a technical distinction, but it’s a very important one, because then you realize the importance of prana – and that is a whole theme altogether. And I’m glad you said that, because if there is a chance for us to talk again, I would like to emphasize the whole notion of prana. Because that will take us beyond devatas; that’s what is very interesting and is a big theme on its own.
Rick: Yeah, we can do that. In fact, people who are listening to this interview – if they’ve stuck with us this long – can submit questions either to you or to me. Then when we do the next one, we’ll go through those questions – not only things you might want to talk about, but things that people might want to hear you talk about.
Incidentally, I never really asked you, but I presume that the shaking went away when the channels were completely clear – right? You don’t shake anymore, do you?
Igor: I don’t shake – you see I sat normally here today, and I didn’t shake! It doesn’t mean that I don’t shake – sometimes it’s very beautiful. It’s lovely – sometimes it occurs.
Rick: Some energy clearing things?
Igor: Well, I’ll tell you what. Sometimes this shaking is like a pipe – when there’s too much bliss coming out, and let’s say you’re not totally, completely in a position to take that bliss, then it’s like the pressure builds up.
Rick: The physiology has to adapt to it.
Igor: Exactly. Then when you sit down, you will start to vibrate a little bit. Like the hose pipe will start moving on its own – but once you unleash the water and allow it to come out, then it will no longer do that.
Rick: Right. Basically, you can fly on airplanes now without too much concern?
Igor: Oh yeah, for sure.
Rick: Okay, good. So this has been a wide-ranging interview. If I were more skilled as an interviewer, perhaps I would have unfolded it in a more systematic way. We’ve kind of meandered around a little bit, but I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ll do another one, and perhaps for that one we’ll be a little bit more prepared because it will be based on this one, and on questions that people have sent in.
That about covers it. I really appreciate your having taken the time to do this, Igor.
Igor: It was a great pleasure, I really enjoyed it.
Rick: I really enjoyed it. Thanks for getting in touch, and thank you to those who have been watching or listening, and stay tuned. See you next time.
Cover Image: Igor Kufayev in Roussillon, Provence, France in 2004. Courtesy of Flowing Wakefulness.