Translating the Absolute: A Dialogue with Bentinho Massaro
Updated: Jan 11, 2021
I fucking love Instagram.
It's a total guilty pleasure, antithetical to all my highest values of presence, not attaching to an image-based identity, and focusing awareness on the highest potential for life. Hours of endlessly scrolling vapid content, and obsessing over the perfect caption to showcase a highlight-reel photo can send one into a delusional, narcissistic frenzy.
Despite this, there is the odd time that social media is used for the intention of actually connecting with others. What's extra cool is that platforms like Instagram give you the opportunity to connect with people outside your immediate social circle who you otherwise wouldn't have access to connecting to, like authors, celebrities, and in a recent experience I had, popular spiritual teachers.
Bentinho Massaro is a bit of a ninja when it comes to directing people towards 'enlightenment'. Many people are drawn in by his teachings on popular new age concepts, like "creating your own reality" and manifesting your dream life. While he's jabbing away at people with these teachings which he recognizes as materialistic, and driven by ego-based desires, he sneaks in with a right hook of non-dual teachings about realizing absolute unity with infinite itself.
His methods of guiding people to self realization are evocative of eastern teachings from the Yoga Sutras and Vedantic scriptures, communicated in concise, contemporary language. Having this direct communication is particularly important for English speaking spiritual seekers who would otherwise be bogged down by diluted interpretations of sanskrit, and other dead foreign languages.
That being said, there are still a few obstacles to grokking what his teachings are trying to get across. The first issue is that in most cases, he is describing the inexplicable; enlightenment and mystical states are often aptly said so out of this world that words can't capture their essence, and I've experienced this firsthand to be true.
Words are symbols that point to a particular reality (for example, the word water describes the hydrating liquid that you recognize in so many contexts) - they are not, however, the reality themselves (as in, you can't drink or swim in the word water). When it comes to enlightenment teachings, it's very easy to mistake the map for the territory, which is to say, it's easy to mistake being able to articulate and logically grasp the concept of enlightenment with the realization of enlightenment itself. This confusion of concepts with the reality they represent can be a disorienting obstacle on one's path (as it was on mine for many years).
The other challenge that some seekers new to Bentinho's work might run into is that he uses a language that is unique to his views of cosmology. Not many people without a die-hard background in new age spirituality will immediately understand what is meant by "incarnating under the influence of the veil of 3rd density manifestation", or even more fundamentally, what is meant by "infinite and the absolute".
Recently I had the opportunity to have an exchange with him over direct messaging on Instagram. My hope was that I could make deeper sense of a recent realization I'd had in meditation that was far beyond my scope of comprehension. I'd witnessed a state that was beyond a subject-object relationship, and hence, felt wrong of me to say that "I" had experienced anything - the state was of pure boundlessness, total perfect peace, and retroactively seemed to be what I'd read about in so many scriptures and descriptions made by sages of "ultimate freedom". My consciousness felt transformed by the "non-experience", but I was troubled by how I collapsed back into my humanity and all the karmic quibbles it came with.
He and I dove deep into the nuances of this realization of the absolute, distinguished it from other states of realization where one is immersed in pure consciousness, or feeling at one with everything. Most importantly, we discussed the importance of respecting and playing out the experience of individuation despite having glimpsing the infinite beyond.
Bentinho reposted our conversation on his page as a reference to his students, but I wanted to write this article to provide the most accessible and simplified translation of his teachings, and our conversation as I could muster. My intention behind Conscious Grounding is to bring as much of heaven down to earth as I can - and when talking about the absolute state of ultimate realization on the spiritual journey, that is a monumental task.
I'll be going point-by point in our interaction and adding in commentary/elaboration so that it's easier to understand on a deeper level. As you read though, remember that the map is not the territory, and that even if you logically understand the points being discussed, it is another matter altogether to have the realizations yourself in first person on your own journey.
Also, please remember that these are my own interpretations, and my views, your views, and Bentinho's views on cosmological specifics will likely differ.
1. The interaction began by Ben posting a concise guide of his methods of meditation/self-realization:
Sense perceptions can include stimulation of the 5 physical senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing), but also senses of thought, memory, and mind. There are senses of your self-image, senses of meaning behind situations in your life, and even more subtle senses of energy beyond the physical body and mind.
These are constantly in flux, and are ever-changing; your body will make you feel hungry, thirsty, sleepy, horny in unending waves, the attachments to certain ideas you have about who you are and what your values are can change on a whim with the advent of new information. Even subtle energies will fluctuate as they move in and out of your field of awareness. In the early stages of a meditation practice, you become aware of how turbulent and chaotically random these thoughts and senses can arise within consciousness.
Despite these fluctuations, there is a fixed undercurrent that you can tune into as you meditate; thoughts and sensations arise, but there is an awareness that witnesses them. The sensation of that presence being there is the sense that "I am" - an awareness of your own existence.
You can first recognize that awareness, and then make it your focal point for the meditation.
This can be where some may start to lose the train of thought in some of the language being used;
In day to day life, the sense of "I am" is usually followed up with a descriptor of location, quality, emotion, time, character, or relationship.
"I am meditating." "I am focusing"
"I am sitting in my bedroom as I do this meditation"
"I am going to work after this"
"I am feeling sore"
"I am hungry"
Whatever follows the words "I am" are the fluctuations that you are attempting to look beyond. The more you tune into the "I am" without the added context of a descriptor afterwards, the less bound by a sense of location, a sense of personality, a sense of mental activity, a sense of being in the ways that you might be stuck typically defining yourself.
Allow yourself to continually return your point of attention to "I am" instead of the descriptors that typically follow it (Including the "I am focusing on the I am - drop the second part, and JUST focus on I AM). This growing relationship of awareness without context creates a clear state of mind for consciousness to abide in.
In simple terms, this is a process for dropping the ideas you have about yourself, and to experience an essence of your greater Self beyond your conceptions of who you are.
As you have a deeper relationship with the sense of "I am", you can go further and explore the "I" that is recognizing its existence. This is an art of observing without labeling, experiencing without description - because every recognized quality of the "I" is a variation of "I am...", or "the I is like...", and is an objectification instead of an identification with the "I".
This would be why he describes it as a "super subtle realization" - because there are so many ways for the logical mind to collapse it into an objectification through logic and description. It requires patience, vigilance in recognizing the tendencies of the mind to label, and an utmost surrender.
If it seems impossible, good. It IS impossible for the limited mind to contain the infinite Self. Keep gracefully feeling into the "I am", and the "I" will reveal itself to you.
This is where the poverty of words reveals itself. It is very easy to SAY "recognize a You that exists prior to awareness (as in, the pure awareness that you've developed a relationship through your inquiry with the "I am/I").
The obvious issue/paradox comes up - if there is an "I" that exists prior to awareness, how am I aware of it? Where is there recognition beyond awareness? This was the frustration I had when trying to explain this state of being, as it is genuinely a state that is paradoxical in nature - it is an experience beyond experiences. A knife cannot cut itself, a fingertip cannot feel itself, and the eye looking outward cannot see itself (it can see its reflection, but not itself). All of these things require a relationship to an external other in order for it perform its function. What would an eye do if it had nothing to see? What would the I do if it had nothing to be aware of - not even awareness itself?
This is a realization in which no subject-object relationship exists. When people say that they experienced a sense of being one with everything, there is still a subject-object relationship there:
"I (subject) am one with everything (object)".
This is why it is the absolute; there is nowhere to go from here. There is no everything, because there is no thing; there is no-thing, infinite emptiness, freedom in its purest form. This is what the sages called nirvana, moksha, enlightenment, total freedom in the purest form of spiritual realization.
This is also why Bentinho phrased this as "What may reveal itself to you" instead of "What you will find is..."
This is not something that you can realize, even from the perspective of the pure, aware "I". It is revealed, and is not guaranteed. In many spiritual traditions, this state is attributed to spontaneity or grace- an "accidental" realization that happens in spite of yourself, not because of it. My own realization was brought on by the thought that "enlightenment is useless because usefulness is only a concept wrought on by the individual/personal self, and the subject-object relationships it exists in". When I let go of enlightenment as something that would personally benefit me (as a person), it happened to me.
I've been reluctant to say that I've realized enlightenment, because how fucking stupid is it to go around and say you're enlightened? Like I said - it's actually useless. I still collapsed back into experience, into my sense of being an individual instead of occupying infinite freedom permanently, still get flustered and react to my environment, and am still very much just a human being trying to figure out how to live his life. The only slight difference is that "I" peeped infinite for a timeless moment - but I, Anthony, the person, wasn't there when it happened.
I was curious about why that was, why am I zoom back into here as a human being, and why didn't I get to anchor into that infinite freedom?
This is a good lead in to his next point:
Bentinho admits he hasn't gone through this stage, and is only speculating on what it might be - to permanently abide in the absolute freedom of infinite, and drop every sense of separation/other to return to the source of it all.
Here's a bit of a translation of what he may be talking about, from my vantage point:
..."leaving behind" a sense of one's experience of Creation forever.
Creation is everything that is dual, separate, and experiences an "other" in creation. This includes consciousness and the awareness of it, because there is a subject-object split between consciousness and awareness.
To be truly "done", and not out of an imbalanced reaction to suffering
This is the recognition that many people pursue Self realization as a form of escapism from their lives. These enlightened states make one realize and understand that existence as we witness it as an individual is an illusion, but wanting your reality to be unreal is an imbalanced form of spiritual escapism and will end up causing more problems for you in the long term.
Peace with your life is a pre-requisite to deeper spiritual realizations, not the result of it. You will not find reprieve from your suffering on earth by trying to hide from it in the infinite void.
...but through a completed understanding and inclusion of the relative aspects of the mind/body/spirit complex.
Self realization, in this case, is being identified as the logical conclusion to Self inquiry (duh). Understanding the nature of the mind, compassionate detachment from the body, and exploring the nuances of the spirit (IE, the senses of consciousness that lie beyond the body and mind, as explored in the previous inquiries into "I am" without the context of the body-mind). Coming from a place of peace, and understanding the relative nature of how the body, mind, and even spirit/soul are relative and relational in nature (IE, implying a self and another in order to know itself), you are then able to grasp the absolute, which is not relative in nature.
Again, there is an implication that if you're trying to escape your relative nature and the pain of how your body/mind/soul relates in its existence, and try to forcefully exclude/avoid it, you won't be able to move beyond it - you're stuck there.
Infinity is already permanent as an intuitive, blended recognition...
Bentinho I think is referring to his own experience, and feels congruent with my own. Once it's realized, it's realized, and you have an intuitive grasp of its absolution, even within the context of your relative, individual existence (hence, "blended").
....but to only be Infinite Directly without any remaining interests in Creation/Illusion is my sense of what's next.
By capitalizing "Infinite Directly", he's making a distinction between the blended/intuitive sense of realizing infinite, and resting in that realization permanently, without any added context of individuation (IE, a personal self). He refers to Creation and Illusion as synonyms, because in the context of the absolute, they are - within the reality of One, there is no "other" - other, in this case, is creation. "What's next" is the next, and final stage of the spiritual journey, as there will remain no self, no consciousness to journey onward - simply the One, existing as the One.
For me personally, this means completing/dropping the shepherding consciousness allegiance.
Bentinho's self-defined purpose is the idea of "shepherding consciousness" - one that realizes the absolute, and helps bring other expressions of consciousness back home to it. In order to occupy Infinity Directly, his personal attachments to this mission (and implication/insinuations of "others" needing him when it is all One Infinite) must be recognized as an impediment, and dropped.
This made me wonder - will the death of my body and mind count as dropping any allegiances I have to personal purpose and relationships?
My own speculation about death is that after the death of the body and mind, one will either go onto identify with either subtler aspects of consciousness (which I've personally experienced beyond the body and mind- and are what people call a soul), or there is a reincarnation that occurs as the sense of identity within consciousness becomes more dense into form.
What if you realized the Absolute during your lifetime though, and instead of identifying with the subtle aspects of consciousness until you reincarnate, you bypass that altogether and reside in the Infinite Directly?
This was where I opened our dialogue (my messages will be in grey, his in white). Assuming that there are people who realize the Absolute, but don't accomplish permanent residency in its direct experience, perhaps that was their destiny after death.
I personally recognize that senses of my body and mind (what I called my "gross form" in this message) were typically what have been pulling me out of these states of realization.
Opening with the humble recognition that he could be entirely wrong in his interpretation, Bentinho replies by suggesting that the individual self isn't simply the body and mind, and that one has to be "done" with creation on the levels of body, mind, and soul (IE, even on subtler realms of awareness) in order to permanently be Infinite Directly.
Basically, if you didn't "get there" when you were alive, there's no reason you would suddenly "get there" when you die.
In his teachings, Bentinho encourages strongly to not fall into the transcendentalist trap of dismissing the personal self altogether because it's "an illusion" relative to the Absolute, but instead encourages people to integrate and understand the (personal) self on all levels as a stable method to realize the Infinite Self.
My own spiritual journey has been heavily influenced by Patanjali's Yoga sutras and the Vedas, which talk about the idea of "karma". Karma is maybe one of the most misunderstood concepts ever, as per people saying "karma's a bitch", insinuating it as some sort of cosmic punishment or reward for bad or good behaviour respectively.
Karma is the subtle, unseen undercurrent that moves within causality - it is the butterfly effect, the seen and unseen consequences within cause-and-effect. Karma is an energy that leaves an imprint on you, and forms who you are.
If you accumulated karma throughout lifetimes, you could have a sense of "unfinished business" right down to the subtle level of the soul/consciousness.
But even in the yoga sutras, the realization of the Absolute is said to "burn up" the entire storehouse of karma on every level, leading to moksha (ultimate freedom). What is this unfinished business then that keeps you separate from total union with that freedom?
Bentinho again answers by stating that this is speculation on his part; I think this is a stroke of brilliance as a spiritual teacher, because it is a very common pitfall for students to project images of omniscience onto their teachers, and this ends up being an impediment to the student developing their own inner experience/wisdom.
Bentinho mentions "Ra" which is a "channeled entity" that compiled a set of non-dual teachings new age teachings called "The Law of One". He's heavily influenced by these writings, and refers to a "3rd density veil" that obscures the human mind from witnessing truth of higher realms.
I admittedly don't really understand the Law of One's cosmology to offer an in-depth interpretation of what it means by "densities" of reality, but my speculation is that you could look at the "3rd density veil" as the physical reality we live in, with all its separation, self-other relationships, physical senses, and the duality between pain and pleasure.
There are a few nuanced points that you might miss just reading through this quickly:
We are ALL of it already: even with the perceived imbalances, or sense of unfinished business, etc, we are already the infinite One.
Reducing spiritual realization to trying to eliminate ego/thought is erroneous; it is in itself creating duality by creating a separation between ego, thought, and the One.
Perhaps perceiving separation between "the Absolute" and the realms of individuated is the imbalance that creates that separation.
It's not often that you meet people that you can speak to directly in such abstract terms and feel understood - it really can feel like you're speaking a whole different language (hence why I've taken up to writing this article to attempt to translate what was said).
I asked about his experience to see if it was relatable to mine in any way; after realizing the Absolute beyond experience, my experiences felt significantly less real, or significantly more abstract.
When I say "there's a sense of a witness having replaced the agent", I'm saying that it feels like I'm identified with a greater, infinite witnessing consciousness that is simply watching my human experience unfold. Even my sense of free will seems like a happening, versus something that I control on an individual basis.
In the yoga sutras, there are two types of absorption that are described - objective samadhi, and objectless samadhi. Objective samadhi is the absorption of the subject into a particular object of focus, such as the energy of divinity, the sense of "I am", bliss, or even oneness with all things. There again, remains a subject-object relationship, with an object to become absorbed into.
Objectless samadhi is far more subtle, because there is no object at all to become absorbed in. It is beyond experience, which Bentinho says when he affirms here "The Absolute is not an experience". There is no-thing outside the One to experience, and hence, "infinite beyondness" - endlessly beyond anything because it is also beyond any beginning. Even calling it The Absolute is incorrect, because it's not a "thing".
This is a very subtle point, because most people have spiritual realizations that are very beautiful, potent, and even personally transformative experiences. In seeking ultimate realization, however, we are asked to look past even bliss, love, pure consciousness, and senses of union with all to realize Absolute Infinite.
I got flustered here, because he articulated what I've been trying to figure out how to say. "The absolute is not an experience" is something I realized, but didn't really know how to put into words. "I" didn't experience anything, because there can't be an "I" to look at "the One" - because I+One = two! So one can't experience infinite.
It seems paradoxical that this can be realized - and by realized, I don't mean intellectually grasped. I mean to have the sense of "I" and any semblance of boundaries in an external universe existing at all completely vanish into a timeless moment of Infinite freedom.
I was thrown off by this, because every other mystical state or spiritual realization I had retained a sense of an agent to witness it, there was always a subject (me) and an object (the realization). These realizations were still experiences, as in, I was there to experience them.
Going beyond experience altogether, and then coming back into the realm of experience was disorienting. Trying to explain it was even more so.
This conversation helped me realize I was trying use my mind to make sense of a reality that exists independent and outside of my mind, and that it was paradoxical/impossible.
(Note: I erroneously used the term mahasamadhi here, which is the yogic term for when one consciously leaves their body to permanently experience objectless samadhi, or to permanently be Infinite Directly.)
I'm going to go a little slower here and translate point by point...
The veil can be penetrated and we can work with the storehouse of data which exists in our individuated illusion complexes while incarnated
This is the idea that while we're alive, we can see past the illusions of identifying with certain aspects of our bodies, minds, and even souls to glimpse deeper truths of reality.
It's just that it deserves a bit more respect
Dismissing the body/mind/soul/individual experience as an illusion without really looking into it is an act of the ego/personality, and can cause distortions of perception when seeking these higher truths.
Otherwise one may be blind to some anchors which can flare back up later on, whether in this life or beyond incarnation in 3rd density vehicle/veil.
Saying the mind is an illusion is itself an act of the mind and will create massive blind spots for how the mind works. Dissociation from the body will make it a poorly equipped machine to navigate to the realization of the Absolute. And dismissing the fact that your soul may have a purpose for you, or there is a greater context for your life beyond the personal self (IE, in a cosmic context with the rest of conscious existence) can create a "seed of karma" that could grow into another snag that keeps you in separation.
I really want to emphasize that Bentinho is trying to point out that you shouldn't try to ignore the fact that you have a body, mind, and soul in favour of transcendental consciousness. This is something my friends and I have criticized in hearing some of Bentinho's earlier works (it felt like he was dismissing physical reality and human life as unreal in some of his lectures), but in the big picture of his core teachings, everything needs to be acknowledged, respected, understood, and integrated as the path to transcendence.
It's very tempting to disregard your experience as an individual person living in the world as an illusion upon having deep spiritual realizations that bind you to a sense of Infinite.
Reality truly doesn't feel real after a moment like that, and it would seem logical to go on treating it as unreal.
But doing so would create blind spots in your experience - like being unable to see that despite realizing absolute unity beyond experience, here I am still asking ANOTHER for perspective and insight, and how hilariously ironic that is.
If realizing the infinite doesn't absolve you immediately of the human experience, then you better get really diggy with understanding every layer of it so that you drop it all when you're ready to go.
In the conclusion of our exchange, Bentinho cements his integrity as a spiritual teacher by insisting that where I go with this realization is ultimately up to me - he shares his intentions for his own journey, but ultimately doesn't claim to know what path mine should be.
He reposted the entire conversation on his page, as well as this reminder (bolding is mine):
"Please remember to follow your own instincts and path. I'm merely sharing my opinion.
Just as other teachers' answers could not satisfy and address everything within me and I chose to always stay true to my deepest instincts regarding my own journey and duty/honour as a specific type of teacher with its own blueprint and unique paradoxes to resolve;
so too I cannot satisfy every question and paradox currently residing in your soul or mind.
The subtler you go, the less outer teachers may be able to satisfy your seeking. At the initial stages general answers can satisfy most questions, but in the more advanced stages, even scriptures dry up and it's all between you and the Creator/Infinite Intelligence directly."
This exchange solidified so much for me - a deep respect for Bentinho as a teacher and seeker, a more lighthearted sense of humour about enlightenment and spirituality, and perhaps most profoundly, a peace with never being able to articulate my own deepest spiritual realizations - because there's no point in doing so anyways.
Instead, I will be living my life trying to refine my individual self on the levels of body, mind, and soul to live in deeper integrity with my highest values, to embody love and empower people to express their potential and have their own experiences (or non-experiences) of higher truth and realization. I will live a life of service and creative enjoyment, relish in the relational and relative, and trust that the Absolute is there - where could Infinite Oneness have to go, anyways?
PS- If this was up your alley, sign up for my email newsletter or email me personally at Anthony @consciousgrounding.com