Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Seeing the Essence
John Wheeler

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John Wheeler


John's website has been inactive for some years.

In my first conversation with Bob Adamson, the very first thing he asked me was (as I recall it), “Well, do you know what it is? Do you know what Nisargadatta Maharaj understood and what he was pointing to? Is it absolutely clear yet?” I remained silent. All my former concepts and acquired knowledge were utterly useless. After a pause, he asked me, “Do you exist right now? Are you aware right now?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “That’s it! That is what is being pointed out. It is your own being and awareness. You know it already. It is just recognizing this. There is nothing more to know beyond this.”

In the course of talking with Bob, it became clear to me that all the things that we normally do in the name of spiritual seeking take us farther and farther away from the heart of the matter, the essential understanding. The direct understanding of who we are requires no time, no effort, no practice and no maintenance. In fact, all of those things are based on wrong ideas. As a result, they only obscure the direct seeing of what is clearly present. There are no levels of understanding; there is nothing to maintain or cultivate; there are no levels of awakening; there is nothing to embody; there is nothing which needs to deepen. All of these things imply time, which is simply a mental concept. They also imply a separate individual to traverse through the various stages and experiences. None of these things exist in the presence-awareness. Existence can never become more existent. Awareness can never become more aware. The absence of a separate “I” can never become more absent.

It is not to say that all those states and experiences do not appear to occur for one who takes himself to be a seeker. But they only carry on as long as the essential understanding is not clear. Some people call insights that occur along the way “awakenings.” In that case, another word is coined for the “final” understanding. Some call that “liberation” or “enlightenment.” The spiritual verbiage often obscures the heart of the matter, which is the clear seeing of what is present, here and now.

In the recognition of presence-awareness, as it is, it is clear that all talk of “awakening versus liberation,” “levels of understanding,” “embodying the understanding,” “going deeper,” not to mention all forms of practicing, striving and seeking, only arise from a lack of clarity and are not ultimately real. They only arise at the level of conceptual thought, when the essence is not understood.

Teachers that uncompromisingly point to the essential understanding and refuse to support any conceptual positions, even spiritual ones, are comparatively rare. They are like bright mirrors that reflect your own true nature without the least distortion. In some sense, you experience this by the amount of clarity you feel and how clearly the understanding unfolds for you. With this kind of uncompromising pointing, your understanding is swift, powerful and lasting. You see profound changes in how you view and experience life. You no longer need to wait for the next awakening, the next book, the next satsang or the next retreat in order to “get it.” There remain no unanswered questions and doubts. You no longer struggle with conditioning, getting and losing it, falling back into ignorance, dealing with unresolved states, etc.

From the start, you are shown that: “It is your own being and awareness. You know it already. It is just recognizing this. There is nothing more to know beyond this.”


Your own sense of existence-awareness is immediately known and available at all times. It is not an attainment. There is no technique or process involved. You cannot gain it or lose it. It is here now. Knowing this fully is all the enlightenment there is. You just need to see it clearly.

Thoughts and experiences never obscure your true nature. It is always completely free and available. We just didn’t see it because we were looking in the wrong direction. Once it is clearly pointed out, we can see this quickly and with no effort. Once you see that who you are is constantly with you, you don’t have an experience of moving in and out of peace or clarity. It is only due to contrary concepts that we seem to lose it; in fact, the thoughts are mistaken. Once we see this, the thoughts lose their grip.

The belief that you are a separate person is the cause of all ignorance, suffering, anxiety, doubt, fear, etc. — that is, all self-centered activity. Have a direct look to see if you can find the person you have imagined yourself to be. Ask yourself questions such as, “Am I really separate from my nature as presence-awareness?” and “Does the assumed separate person that I imagine myself to be really exist?” This is not a practice or technique. You just have to look directly and clearly. Once you see that there never has been a person, all problems are resolved conclusively. All problems are for the person, not for your real nature. You just get clear on what you really are and that is the end of the game. This does not take time really. It is more a matter of clear seeing.

As long as there is a remnant of belief in separation, the separation seems to continue. But it is all imagination based on a lack of questioning. A few well-placed questions dismantle the whole façade and you find yourself — easily and naturally — in your natural state of clarity, presence and freedom. And it does not leave you. You cannot lose what you are.


The mind is just a tool of the awareness. The thoughts appear in the awareness. However, whether the mind is present or not, the awareness still remains. For example, when thoughts are present, there is a knowingness of them. And when the mind is still or non-active, there is a knowingness of the absence of thoughts.

Even if there is no thinking about an individual “I,” there is still the awareness. Awareness just silently illumines the thinking, perceiving and all kinds of relative knowing. Like I have said elsewhere, it is like the sun constantly shining above the clouds no matter what is happening below. That is your true nature. There are no clouds in your real being. It is always fair and clear. No chance of rain.


Teachings recorded in books don’t seem to be enough to trigger the understanding in a direct way for most seekers. They give a hint or taste, but cannot fulfill the heart’s deepest yearnings. Thus, for a lot of us, there arises the need for a living contact. I know there are cases of spontaneous understanding, but they don’t seem to be all that common. On the other hand, there are hundreds, even thousands, of records of this understanding happening in the context of a teacher and student relationship. What is the key here?

Well, I can talk from my experience with Bob Adamson. He knew what he was talking about. He lived the experience. Because of this understanding, he was able to focus on the key points and avoid all the irrelevancies. He had been guided to this by a superb teacher (Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj). Most importantly, there was a powerful presence or energy behind his words. I would not call it anything mystical, just a confidence and clarity born of knowing. It is hard to understand this until you actually experience it.

I keep saying in various ways that this understanding is not dependent on time, but rather on seeing what is true — even now. Even my talking about understanding tends to make it sound like there is some such thing. There really isn’t! It is hard to convey in words because the mind wants to read them and turn them into a goal, as if “the understanding” is not here, and then start trying to get “it.” It really is not like that, even though we imagine it to be. When I met Bob and talked to him, he “blew me out of the water.” I felt like a train hitting into the side of a granite mountain. Full stop. I am not implying it was a painful or dramatic experience, but rather the machinery of the mind just hit an impasse, due to the simplicity of what was being pointed to.

In various words, the essence came down to:

What is pointed to is the very sense of presence and awareness that is here right now. It is fully present, fully realized, and fully known. You are actually fully enlightened, fully awake, fully realized NOW. The mind balks at this. It wants something tricky, mystical or subtle. The mind will never get this. PERIOD. I never would have understood this had Bob not picked me up (metaphorically speaking) and bodily thrown me headlong into it. The moment I tried to emerge by bringing back my mind and questions, he would push me back into the fact of the immediacy of this present-awareness. There was a back-and-forth momentum for a few talks with him, but he absolutely would not budge from this, and all my “escape routes” were annihilated. All my excuses, like “It can’t be this,” “This is too easy,” and all the doubts, questions and “what ifs” just got blasted out from under me, even as I tried to formulate them.

This is why I have such a high regard for a good teacher. Of course, without that type of guidance, the seeking may go on ad infinitum. A waste of time, if you ask me!

In the last analysis, though, all that is being pointed to is the fact of your own being. Knowing your real nature is the essential point. So, whether you come to this knowing spontaneously or with the guidance of a teacher, ultimately does not matter. One way or another, you just need to see the essence for yourself.

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Page last updated: 17-Aug-2016