Punya interviews Avikal about his work
Last summer I met Avikal after he had given a Satori retreat, together with Ganga, at the Corfu Buddha Hall. After the initial small-talk (in Italian) I heard from him that he is now living in Sydney, Australia and that in (our) spring and autumn he comes to Europe to give workshops. His favourite places in Italy are the Cascina Cavalta close to the Garda Lake and the Villaggio Globale in Tuscany. He also visits St. Petersburg, Osho Risk in Denmark, places in Croatia and Osho Nisarga in Dharmsala.
Due to the nature of his work the locations are almost always the same because the workshops he gives are not one-off events. He tells me that he only wants to work where he can go back regularly, where he can leave behind a support group run by his assistants so that the participants have someone to turn to in between modules and can take part in inquiry sessions even in his absence. As he says: “It’s not enough to have an experience and then go back to your day-to-day life without the capacity to integrate that experience.”
And now to the questions:
You call your work Essence. Can you explain what it is?
Essence is the Bridge between Personality and Being. It helps transform our lives as we come in touch with qualities of our Being, qualities which shatter our whole belief system and our ways of behaving. Maybe a graphic example can help understand how it works. For our Institute we have chosen this logo and there in the middle you see the triangle:
At one of the three points of the triangle we have Personality (how the being is distorted in survival). Then there’s the Absolute (the totality, the undifferentiated manifestation of Being). And then there’s what we call the Bridge, the Essence, which lies between the Absolute and the distortion of the day-to-day life, the Personality. Essence is the expression of how Being manifests itself in each individual, in its very different and specific ways.
For instance, when the Absolute manifests through you, the interviewer, it has the same quality as when it manifests through me, Avikal. But the taste, the flavour, in the mix is personal, absolutely unique.
And that difference influences how we work, how we act?
Yes. First understand Being as an impersonal reality. Love is present. Just like now. It’s the same love, but the way it manifests is absolutely personal. We move on to understand how it is unique in the way it manifests and how it relates to the Personality. See it as a process where everything comes together in a union, in a unity. We constantly travel between all these different dimensions of reality, most of the time unconsciously, but sometimes consciously.
We can, for example, be in anger in the Personality and then in the next moment we gain a sudden understanding. Then we touch what is beneath the anger, some quality around our strengths. From these strengths, we can move on to dissolve completely, and then we find ourselves in the Absolute. From there we return, bringing awareness to this inner process of constant transformation and travelling into different realities which are all here at the same time.
So inquiry is a crucial part of the process?
Right. Remember being at a discourse with Osho. You could arrive in any kind of mind state. And then, at some point, something would start settling. Space would open up inside. The ego would dissolve even temporarily and then you would feel bliss, joy. Where does the joy come from? It has always been there. The only thing is that we can touch it because there is no hindrance, no ego saying, “No, no, joy is not good. You can’t feel it. You don’t deserve it.” (That’s the ‘inner judge’ speaking!)
Can you explain what you mean by ‘inner judge’?
About 15 years ago I started focusing on the main obstacle to being ourselves as well as being curious and loving. And the answer that I came up with is the ‘inner judge’. There is a structure inside of us that is constantly sabotaging, judging, making ourselves feel wrong or worthless. Looking at myself and at many friends and sannyasins, I could see that even though we had meditated a lot, more was necessary in order to deal with the judge.
We need awareness, not just as an abstract capacity to be present, but also as action and the capacity to change behaviour in everyday life. The ‘inner judge’ – or the ‘superego’ as I sometimes call it – manifests itself through reactivity. Basically, instead of living I keep reacting to life. Reactivity constantly pulls me back into a certain relationship with my inner judge. That’s why I put a lot of energy into understanding how the superego works and what its relationship is with me.
The ‘inner judge’ is basically father and mother, but also all authority figures that, at an unconscious level, keep running our lives. And because it’s painful to deal with it internally, we tend to point the finger at other people and blame them, whether it’s my girlfriend or ‘society’.
Isn’t the ‘inner judge’ useful in some instances, like for survival?
There are moments when the ‘inner judge’ may seem to give a helping hand. Like when you’re playing music, or doing a sport. But what is important is to understand how it works. Judgment has a lot to do with survival. But, is survival all there is to life?
What is not needed is self-aggression, guilt or shame because with the package of the judge, you don’t only get the judgment which can be useful, you also get a certain energy attached to it and that energy comes from the way our parents put a specific conditioning inside of us. So, for me, to become an adult means to be capable of having self-assessment, self-evaluation without all those components of manipulation, aggression, guilt and anger.
The only way out is to become aware of the mechanism and to discover how it works. If I do a job, I might need to have some sort of comparison. But this is about doing. It’s about activity. As a Being, I don’t need self-assessment. I only need Presence. Self-assessment is about Being that manifests through activity, relating. But when you are, for example, in meditation, do you need a judge? No.
It’s important to understand where it’s needed and when it’s not. So, for example, the Zen Masters call it ‘The Barking Dog’. It’s good to have a dog that barks. But if the dog comes and barks constantly in your head and is the owner of your day-to-day, moment-to-moment life, then it’s not good. You need to be the master.
So the inner judge is not something we destroy. We just put it there like a dog. When it’s needed, we use it. We survive and then we put it back in its place. And that’s what most people don’t know how to do because the relation with the inner judge is basically unconscious. The activity of the inner judge is almost entirely unconscious. And as long as it’s unconscious, the inner judge is in charge.
Remember how, at some point in our lives, we dealt with our parents? We said to them, “You know what? I love you and you have your life. I have my life.” We have to do same thing internally. Of course, it’s much more difficult because we are completely identified with it. So, the first thing is to recognise that the inner judge is just a mechanism that keeps following specific rules and specific patterns.
It’s quite a big piece of work because, in the personality structure, the ‘inner judge’ part is the last one that becomes formed and is also why when we go back inside, it’s the first thing we meet. It takes six to seven years for the inner judge to develop. And that’s also why so many children, when they’re around six or seven, have this feeling that they’re completely out of place within the family. “This isn’t really my family. Maybe the gypsies brought me here.”
This corresponds to a very specific moment in childhood when the child is confronted with a choice: “If I want to belong, I need to give up myself; then I’ll be protected, supported. Yes, of course, dominated, but now, I belong. Otherwise, if I do not give up myself, I will be isolated, rejected and abandoned.”
For a child it would be very painful to be abandoned.
Well, there’s the cellular terror of being exiled, excluded – and that’s what the inner judge exploits. Whenever we push against the boundaries of what is ‘acceptable’, the inner judge brings up those cellular memories. And we don’t understand how such a small thing can activate so much fear, and produce so many powerful reactions.
To be isolated or abandoned is not a real choice for an ordinary child. Osho could do it. He tells us that when he was six years old, he called together his whole family and told them, “If you want something from me, you have to ask me please. Otherwise, I will always say no.”
But in most of us, this ‘no’ is completely denied. It’s a significant moment in a child’s life. It also explains why, if you ask someone about their memories before six or seven, there’s so little because that’s when we abandon our essence, our true nature.
What is the process? How do you find the ‘inner judge’? How do you access it?
We start with learning how to recognise the physical symptoms and their location. It’s a process of discovering.
If I start paying attention, I will notice that when I judge myself I experience, for example, a contraction in my solar plexus or I feel something in my back or I feel a heaviness in my head. It’s very individual, very personal. There isn’t just one thing.
Or I might notice that every time that I want to express myself in a group, I get a particular tension in my throat. That’s it, that’s the symptom! So, I do the inquiry. I go there. I close my eyes. I ask, “What is this? What is happening here? How come that until a moment ago everything was fine and then all of a sudden, it’s gone?”
Precisely when you need your throat, it goes.
Exactly. That’s when inquiry becomes an incredible tool.
I go in… and in… and in…
Connect. Stay there. Stay there. Sense it.
Feel it. Ask.
It’s like having a box that is closed, but by staying present, the box starts to slowly, slowly open and then… images start arising. Suddenly, I remember… Oh, yes, that time that my father said, “Shut up – you don’t know what you’re talking about.” I go, “Wow!” Then I might start connecting images and physical sensations. And then an emotion suddenly arises and I feel pissed off. “Ah,” I say, “There is a connection between this thing here, the memory of my father, a particular message and an emotion that comes up like anger.”
Then – and it’s quite magical – comes a moment when everything suddenly falls into place: “Aha, this is how it works.” Then another piece and another piece and another piece. It’s a long process. It’s not something that you can go through in one or two sessions. This is the reason why there is a commitment over years when someone starts the process.
As a teacher, I give you some practical tools that you can use, like inquiry, like certain forms of communication and suchlike. But then you need to go on your journey. And on that journey, it’s good to have a mirror. That’s why there are tutors who help you by saying, “Look here. You could go this way or you could go this way. Watch out if you go this way. The inner judge might attack you.”
What do you love about this work and how did it all start?
At some point, looking at myself and looking around, I realised that there was a piece missing. And I could see that there was a little bit of work done with the ‘inner judge’, for example, in Primal or in Anti-Fischer-Hoffman, but nobody was really focusing directly on it. Just as Osho tells us stories of how God hid himself inside Man’s heart, so, too, to make the mechanism of the inner judge completely efficient, it had to go into the unconscious, from where it works. So, you no longer even realise that it’s happening. Or maybe you realise it a day or a few hours later. That’s why it’s difficult to really work directly with it because it’s buried so deep in the unconscious.
Why I love it? The different angles of approach make this work fascinating. There really isn’t one thing that’s better than another. It depends on where each individual is. If I’m dealing with issues about, for example, relationships, I can look at it from how I have distorted ideas about what a relationship should be.
By getting stuck in a particular distortion, I don’t allow Essence to manifest. But the Essence of love manifests in the spontaneous way of Being. Or I can look at it from the perspective of the Absolute: who is relating to whom? In the Absolute, no relation is possible because there is no duality, no separation. So, the question of relationship doesn’t make any sense. You are me and I am you and let’s experience that. It’s totally fascinating.
And everyone has their own story.
Yes, and there’s so much richness. This is the old understanding around uniqueness. Uniqueness is not comparable. In uniqueness, there is no judge possible because how can I compare something that is unique? There is absolutely no self-judgment. And of course, in uniqueness, there’s no guilt, no shame. There is no “I’m not good enough” because even if while singing I make a sound that is theoretically not perfect, it is perfect in that moment because it fits perfectly with the situation in that moment.
Another example: you do the Dynamic and you are all over the place and then suddenly, something completely breaks through any kind of limitation and idea of how it should or should not be and there is that moment of complete perfection and presence. In that moment, there is no judge. If you notice, in that moment, that there’s no judge, it’s because it’s not needed.
Life without the judge?
It is important that we start recognising that we already know life without self-judgment. Many times, we just need to be aware of it and be able to really move into this territory with more presence, in a more skilled way. That’s all. It’s just a question of skill.
Read Kaiyum’s reviews of two of Avikal’s books: ‘Freedom to be Yourself’ and ‘Without a Mask’
Avikal is founder and director of the Integral Being Institute which is active in Europe, Asia and Australia. In his newest books published by O-Books – Freedom to be Yourself and Without a Mask – with the respective, revealing subtitles Mastering the inner judge and Discovering your authentic self – Avikal provides far-seeing insight into his world of training and personal development. Avikal lives in Sydney, Australia. www.integralbeing.com