Awareness Watching Awareness

Some comments on meetings with Vernon Howard

From Nonduality Salon - Issue #403 Highlights

Some Vernon Howard quotes:
474. "The invented self is rudeness itself."

475. "There is a definite connection between mental sickness and bad manners. Watch for the connection. As you mingle with people, watch how neurosis frequently lashes out at people with contemptuous behaviour and outrageous demands. The problem is that mental sickness never sees bad manners as bad manners, which is what keeps it sick and bad."

476. "Unpleasant behaviour is sick behaviour. Few people want to think about this fact. Unpleasant people are sick people. You know the thousand varieties of unpleasantness including sarcastic accusations, delerious demands, repulsive self-worship, a cold and hostile face. If another person is unpleasant, realize that your wish for sunlight must have nothing to do with his darkness."

477. "An inconsiderate person does not see how much unecessary work he selfishly piles on others. Not seeing this fact, he hurts with unbelieving indignation when told about it."

478. "People are surly and rude because their attention is locked in the downward position. They have become what they have attended to."

479. "Plain and simple courteous behaviour? Self-centeredness never heard of it."

480. "Courtesy can't be explained to a rude mind."

481. "Connect suffering with rudeness."

482. "If your behaviour is unpleasant, see that you have chosen midnight over noon and see that you will stumble and fall in your own darkness."

483. "The only way to have good manners is to wake up."

So what am I supposed to 'do' with the insights quoted? It corners me into self-centered behavior. Maybe it's elsewhere in Vernon Howard's writings, and elsewhere within the sphere of your own intent, but I don't hear any compassion for the mentally ill and those who behave unpleasantly. That is more important than whether I personally am bent toward noon or midnight.

Jerry you have given a good description of what makes Vernon Howard quite different from all the other "Teachers" that I have encountered. As far a being cornered that is very much a good description. However this being cornered was so intensely magnified in Vernon Howards classes with Vernon Howard there. And the being cornered and the apparant lack of compasssion were related and part of the same Teaching device.

Most of the Teachers I have encountered do not speak with a threatening tone. However Vernon Howard did. Arriving at Vernon Howards classes there was the sense that one had been tricked. It is something like one thinking, "Oh great I am going to now get a chance to attend the classes of the Teacher who wrote these excellent books." And then one goes to the class, and to get a better view sits in the front row and there is a lion sitting there in the chair instead of a Spiritual Teacher. Or one might say it was like going to a class and finding that one is caught in a web and a spider is sitting in the chair. Vernon Howard was bizarre. I attended his classes three times a week for three months in Boulder City, Nevada around 23 years ago. At the New Life web site they have sound clips of Vernon Howard. However they are not selecting any clips of Vernon Howard screaming at the top of his lungs. Vernon Howard was very sucessful in this cornering of the ego notion. So people in the class did not exhibit self centered behaviour. It was sort of like someone having a hand gun to ones head saying if you dare play even one of your little ego games with me your brains will be on the table. So no one played due to his tremdous ability to convey a sense of seriousness and threat.

I remember there was one odd women who had a few followers who came for a visit to the class and she was told to raise her hand before speaking she started to say "I resent...." Vernon just looked at her and raised his hand, it was that "don't you dare" look. She did not go beyond the word resent. She said only the two words. It reminds me of some kind of power, some kind of siddhi maybe. Vernon Howard was truly amazing at conveying that there is a rattlesnake in front of you and the only way to be safe is to not play a single ego game now.

The lack of compassion for the ego notion runs throughout Vernon Howards Teachings. The atmosphere was somewhat concentration camp like. One of the rules upon first arriving in the class was I was not to speak to any females in the class. If they approached me to talk I could respond however I was not to approach them and speak to them. Why? Because that was not the purpose of the class. The purpose of the class was not a social club.

I once asked Vernon Howard, "Is the purpose of this class to end the illusion of the ego?" He asked me to repeat the question so I repeated it. Vernon said "Yes. Well stated." The purpose of the classes were not to indulge the ego, pretending such indulgence and play is actually a way to end the ego notion illusion, as is so common in satsangs today. Vernon Howard had zero tolerance and zero compassion for the ego notion.

Vernon once said: "God is a NO a thousand miles high." Vernon said a NO a thousand miles high to the ego notion in every class that he gave. And his don't you DARE play an ego game with me theme ran throughout his teaching, and that Don't and that dare were a thousand miles high also. Regarding your not hearing any compassion for the mentally ill etc. I never heard any compassion for the ego notion coming from Vernon Howard. His way was more like if one had a cancer to cut out the cancer. Not to coddle it, no to nuture it, no to help it grow, just to cut it out and end it.

Compassion is a part of the ego dream. The Self is not in need of Compassion. It is whole, complete, perfect and alone. There is no one whom one could have compassion for.

Bhagavan Ramana once said referring to the Bodhisattva vow of not attaining the final liberation until all sentient beings have been liberated: "It is like saying I will not wake up from the dream until all the dream characters have awakened from the dream."

Regarding compassion being more important than whether you are bent to noon or to midnight. This brings up something significant about how one approaches a Teaching. If I am studying Vernon Howard, as an example, what matters is only if Vernon Howard finds being bent toward noon or midnight more important or if he finds compassion to be more important. Whatever opinions I may have have gathered have no importance, with this one exception: it is good to be aware of any such opinions because then I can make sure they do not influence the study. If one is not aware of them then they will gather evidence to support their view. So it is good to be aware of them and then to not allow them to influence the study.

One day at the Vernon Howard class a sign had been added and it said in really huge letters: "If you know more than the Teacher what are you doing in this class?" Where does one find aspirants who do not think they know better than the sages? Such aspirants are so rare. This manifests itself in so many ways, subtle, complex, clever intepretations. Thinking one has discovered the "flaw" in a Sage's Teaching or some way to improve it. Such people probably know better than to take the knife out of the surgeons hand and begin cutting, trying out one of their pet theories. However this same wisdom that lets them know better than to do that, does not apply to their approach to a Sage's Teaching. This is because the ego notion wishes to preserve itself and it has millions of such strategies for doing so.

There was one form of self-centered behaviour that one could engage in regarding the Vernon Howard classes. That is to leave them. That was an option available to the cornered ego.

Vernon once said: "Everyone who leaves this class raises the level of this class." Vernon Howard once said that "in some esoteric classes the use of the words love and peace is prohibited"

Why this is: What humans call love and peace is not love and peace. Love and Peace are ways that one could attempt to describe the Self. So instead of focussing on a fantasy about love and peace, proceeding to end ego notion illusion was recommended.

The web page for New Life Foundation (Vernon Howard) is:

Vernon Howard's body is no longer living.

If there is such a thing as a compassionate act that the ego notion can do, the ego notion ending the ego notion would be that compassionate act.


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Michael Langford