Interview with Jack H. Barratt
Jack H. Barratt is a writer and speaker whose work focuses primarily on expounding the truths of universal, non-denominational, natural spirituality. This mode of spirituality is most directly communicated and transmitted within the sphere of the Dattatreya-Avadhūta Tradition to which Jack belongs.
The sole impetus for Jack’s work is the urging of his Guru, Brahmarṣi Mohanji, to ‘speak’ and ‘keep talking about Dattā. Thus, Jack’s personal motto is, in the words of the great spiritual Master, Rang Avadhūta Maharaj: ‘Who can remain silent although he may be dumb, when the teacher says, “Speak”?”
The Awakening Times had the pleasure of talking to Jack, ostensibly this was to be an interview about his new book on U.G. Krishnamurti, but became a spontaneous conversation in which he shared his experiences and outlook on life and spirituality.
The Awakening Times (TAT): Jack Barratt, here to talk about your new book about U.G. Krishnamurti. What is the inspiration behind it, and the reason you wrote it?
Jack Barratt (JB ): I was inspired to write it because I was very interested in him at a young age. He was kind of the first avadhūta who I discovered, or connected to when I was a teenager. At that time, I didn’t know what an avadhūta was. I didn’t know what Dattātreya, or anything like that was. I started with Jiddu Krishnamurti; he was more famous. Then somehow, I wound up with U.G. Krishnamurti; watching his videos on YouTube. There was just something about this guy that attracted me tremendously. I think it was probably his fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t say that he was a guru, or enlightened or anything. Actually, he just tore all this to pieces; all the spiritual teachers, he just said that it’s all nonsense and they’re all con men, but in typical avadhūta fashion, no matter what they say or what they do, they still radiate a power and I was attracted to that. But that was kind of when I was younger and after many years, I came back to look at what he was saying and I understood it a bit more. So, I wanted to make a new book 1. Because he was the first avadhūta I connected to, and 2. Because I think nobody really understands what he says.
TAT: That brings me to something I wanted to talk about: Why do you think a Master would slam, or seemingly slam, other traditions and other Masters?
JB: In the case of U.G. Krishnamurti, if you look at the very first talks, there was a book called “The Biology of Enlightenment” which was right after he came into the so-called “natural state”, and in that, you see that he’s quite happy to say that he is in the same state as Paramahansa Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma… So, it’s interesting that later, every day he was slamming Jiddu Krishnamurti, I think every day for the rest of his life, he slammed him, and then all the other ones that he was saying were nonsense. The only conclusion that I could come to was that he was not slamming those Masters per se, he was slamming the images that other people had created of those Masters. He was seeing that people had a very stagnant image of these Masters and their teachings, which people do; once Masters leave the body, most of the time, their teachings become reified. Look at all of the ordinary religions. Look at the teachings of Jesus, for instance, the monstrosities in the world that we call “churches” and the so-called “priests”, who are all supposedly carriers of Jesus’s message.
If they were Masters, then they are formless, no matter what they say or what they do. I think that in the case U.G., he was slamming the ideas that people had about these Masters, which was basically keeping them imprisoned within their own framework of perception. That’s what has to happen eventually: Even spiritual thinking and spiritual concepts have to go out the window.
TAT: If a Master is in reality formless, why take form?
JB: Well, as long as there are beings to be instructed, beings to learn, beings to evolve, then a bridge has to be supplied. It’s just nature; if plants grow, there has to be sun for the plant, there has to be water, I just see it as a part of natural, organic movement. But the Master being formless, it’s not as though the Master is formless at the start of their lives, but think most of what we call Masters or avadhūtas are already pre-established beings, but the very act of them taking a body means that they already inherit the mother and the father’s lineage, through that. So, even a totally pre-liberated, pre-established avadhūta or siddha, as soon as they take a body, if there’s something dodgy in the mother or the father’s lineage karma, then before they come to their actual state, they have to burn that through their own experience. This is why I think people question why, if a person is an avatār, why are they not at age two or three already enlightened, already teaching and this kind of stuff. Historically, you can see in the case of some Masters which were born in very, very pure lineages, these ones are enlightened as children, but it’s very difficult in this age, I think.
TAT: You mentioned a natural state, and being re-established in a state, which implies being fallen from, or forgetting a state. What is that state of not being natural?
TAT: It has to be “re-established”, because just “established” implies that it’s something new, but when we talk about reality, the way perceive it is that, there’s only one reality, one consciousness, one space of awareness without centre or circumference, and within itself, it simulates different ways of knowing, experiencing, and understanding itself. Some ways that it does that may appear to be ignorant. It may appear as if it forgets its own nature, but it’s just itself has forgotten its own nature, then other modes it may appear in such a way where it knows itself. What people usually call ignorance, or not being enlightened, is only an example of consciousness experiencing itself in a less full mode, but it’s still consciousness, there has still never ever been such a thing as something outside of consciousness, no such thing has existed. That’s my opinion.
TAT: You mentioned in the introduction of your book, in the case of U.G., a lack of internal or emotional content.
JB: Spiritual paths are essentially just dissolution of the mind. That’s it. There’s no spiritual path outside of that. What we call Karma Yoga, or Bhakti Yoga; all of these modes that make one’s mind more refined, more still, more centred, more subtle, they’re all only there to eventually bring us to that place where we can completely dissolve the mind, where there’s only internal silence, and there’s never been an emotion felt without thought occurring with it. That’s what I would say about avadhūtas, that they are mindless beings in that sense. There’s no personal thought content. At the very centre of personal thought content is: “I am the body,” or “I am.” From that, like a tree, the entirety of the rest of our thoughts and emotions spread out, but if that is picked out, then it’s game over.
It’s that sense that when I say the word “I”, I’m referring to some kind of separate, individuated, self-existing being that’s separate from everything else, and separate from all other such beings. For me the confusion is that actually there’s only one “I”, and that’s the “I” of reality itself. So, if I sit here, and I look out the window and I just feel that there is an awareness there of something. There is just a basic sense of aliveness. “I’m awake, I’m alive.” If I just leave that there before saying, “I am this, I am that, that is this, that is that,” there is just a basic presence, awakeness. Then of course, we do something with it. For me that basic presence, that basic sense of “I am, there is something there,” that is reality’s own awareness of itself. But after that, it goes into one pattern or the other. That reality-consciousness is always there, it’s never ever elsewhere. In the Sufi tradition, they say it’s closer to us than our own jugular vein.
TAT: That’s why Osho, when they asked him about his enlightenment, said that the first thing he did was laugh, at the whole journey.
JB: I think it has to be; I think that all these Masters have to have a sense of humour, I think that’s the end of the journey: just laughter.
TAT: What is this mind that needs to be dissolved?
JB: It’s that very root of, “I am a separate, individuated being existing in the body.” That whole thing has to be destroyed without remainder. There are many different layers there. The thing is, you haven’t got a chance in the world of dissolving that very deepest root, while there is still very dense, heavy accretion. If you look at almost everything; the techniques and stuff that the great Master Mohanji has given, it’s to purify the mind, for people to become lighter, happier, brighter, more serving beings. Only by becoming a full human being; basically content, trustworthy, generous, serving, virtuous in that way, can you have a prayer dissolving the mind. That’s the preparation. A lot of people go way off here, they think that all of that stuff can be skipped and take shortcuts. A lot of people do this with psychedelics and all kinds of stuff and they get in a terrible mess. You can’t skip all of that stuff, because eventually all of this stuff will come up if it’s not cleaned out. If you look at all of these paths; if you look at Patañjali’s system, if you look at the Buddhist system, they all put virtuous action at the very, very root, because all of these Masters knew that there’s no point in talking about, samādhi, liberation (mokṣa), until you were a solid being. That’s the first part.
People can be basically happy, content, people get to a stage where they can have relationships with people, earn money, and abundance, be of service; do a bit of charitable work and be connected to a master, then it’s only a question of whether you want to be liberated. Are you tired of this mode of existence, of being an individual in relationship to others and an outside world, if you’re not tired of that, there’s no point in talking about absolute liberation. Better than just to say, “Okay, I want to be more of this, or more like that.” There has to be exhaustion. Coming back to the book, the amazing thing about U.G. was that if you look at his life story, he didn’t do any of this crap that most spiritual seekers do. He said, “Why are all these people telling me that if I have to be spiritual, that I shouldn’t be angry? I feel anger, anger is real. Let it be there. I’m an angry person. Why are they saying that I shouldn’t be sexual or whatever. It’s there; it’s real. How can I deny myself?” If you read his biography, it looks like he eventually just threw everything out, but what you do see, as a thread running through it, is that he genuinely did become exhausted with this mode of existence; eventually he wasn’t interested in anything.
If you can actually get to that point, when looking out into what we call the world, you don’t see anything and think, “If I get this, it’s going to make my life better,” or, “This is going to make me happy.” Nor do you see anything that you think, “I need to avoid this, otherwise, it’s going to kind of destabilise me.” If you could begin to see the world in that way, which is spontaneous detachment, not forced, not forced at all; an exhaustion… U.G. went through all of this, he got married, he had 3 kids, and he said, “I only got married so that I could have sexual experience, and I was very clear with my wife about that.” He did it and these things just exhausted themselves for him.
If you can have that, if that naturally happens to somebody, then what are they going to think about? They’re not interested in anything, nor are they scared of anything. What are you going to think about that? Because, thinking usually comes into those 2 modes: either desiring, or fearing. If a person is like that, then they probably don’t need to do all of these spiritual gymnastics. There is a place for them, but in these rare cases… Maybe U.G. was also one such being; established already in the previous life.
TAT: That makes me think of suppression. If You begin to tire, if disillusionment begins to set in, but desires remain, and you know suppression is not an option, how then to proceed?
JB: I would say this: If I have a desire to do this, what is the thing that says “I shouldn’t do this because that’s against my spirituality,” but what is spirituality? It’s just an idea. This already means that the self is split into 2: “I want to do this, but…” I would say in this case, do what you want to do, but be aware of it happening. At least then you remain whole. “This is there, I’m going to consciously go through it, and then we see.” I think that’s the best way to go. I spoke to people about things like smoking. Almost everybody that I’ve spoken to, who has managed to quit smoking or drinking, did it on the flip of a coin basically; just a moment – finished. I haven’t spoken to anyone for whom it was like all a long battle: “I did one week, then another week, and then another week, and then I got there kind of gradually.” For me, you just have to go through these things and you have to learn through them. You have to be conscious and say, “Look, I am projecting some kind of fulfilment into this, let me be mindful of when I get slapped in the face.”
TAT: This demands contemplation as well?
JB: That is the main thing, no matter what’s happening in life, there has to be at least a little part of you, at least 0.5%, that’s just watching. One part of us that’s not completely absorbed in what appears to be happening. That’s the path, whatever it starts off as, a bit of mindfulness, 0.1%, then keep growing and growing, then that reaches 100%, and then you’re that.
I’ve never, ever resonated with any kind of suppressive path. My whole life, I just do what I want to and deal with the consequences.
TAT: Tell us a bit about your journey.
JB: I have a feeling that up until my teenage years, I was completely not conscious at all. I can’t remember having many deep thoughts and feelings until that time, but when I got to the age of 13 or 14, I became extremely depressed. I started to hate everything, hate everyone, hate going into school; this disillusionment that we’re talking about. I didn’t know what to do, because in ordinary society, non-spiritualised society, this just means that you’re depressed. I got put on this antidepressant medication when I was 14, it messed up a lot of hormonal stuff and it was very bad. But I actually know a lot of people now from the past who were also on antidepressant medication. Now I look and I say, “Well, how are you living but you wouldn’t be depressed?” Even the Buddhist 1st Noble Truth is duḥkha, suffering. That’s the condition of this existence: suffering. Even when you go through this process of dissolving the mind. First you think, “If I just get rid of all of this horrible negative crap, all of this jealousy, anger, then I can just be left with the positive side of my mind”. It doesn’t work like this, because positive still means that there’s an attachment there. As long as there’s an attachment to something that changes, as soon as that thing changes, your happiness will change with it, to suffering. So, even on that journey you learn that all thought is actually suffering, compared to the great bliss of reality itself. It comes in stages, every time you go into a new level you think, “ Oh, this is it,” I remember thinking that.
Anyway, only with what you’d call sexual maturity, when the body becomes fully formed, when I was 14, I finished growing physically already, after that nothing changed. Whoever I was, that started to come into the body, so I started getting into reading books like Jiddu Krishnamurti,
U.G. Krishnamurti, I started playing music; classical music, jazz and I could improvise, but with that came a great misery: “Look where I am. Looking at this disaster. Look at the ignorance around me.” I thought everyone around me was stupid; the superficiality. And it was strange that even though I suffered a great deal in in these years, somehow, and it’s a bit narcissistic to say, but I still felt that there was a more nobility in my suffering than, a lot of other people with their superficial, block headed, temporary, ego-based satisfaction. I saw so many people going from teenage life into adulthood and then it hit them that – this is it; people assume when they’re kids and teenagers that something good is coming.
TAT: Was there a moment where you were able to pinpoint: “This is why suffering”?
JB: No, I don’t think that ever happened. One day, somehow miraculously, it’s not explainable, there was a lightbulb moment and things just started to shift. I think maybe somehow there was some kind of transformation already that was trying to happen then, some kind of imbalance maybe, because I’d have different kinds of energetic sensations also from this time, it was like something was trying to be born and only from around age 18, 19, did it start to shift and all of that negative stuff started to dissolve by itself. Bit by bit from there, I started working on my awareness, naturally.
TAT: You mentioned the avadhūta’s path. What is that? What is an avadhūta?
JB: For me, an avadhūta is just a perfectly free being. It’s a being who has ceased to be a being, who has just become everything, who has dissolved all possible, even the minute strands of individuality and feeling of separation. Such a being doesn’t operate within any structure, with any framework. More and more, I think it’s just a totally natural being; you can’t think that they’re going to be like this, or going to be like that. The way they express themselves takes such interesting forms. Sometimes they can appear crazy, sometimes they can appear more ordinary than ordinary. Either way, avadhūtas have a way of concealing their realisation.
TAT: Do you think this is an intentional concealment? I once asked Mohanji (whom both Jack and the interviewer consider as their Guru, who has never called himself an avadhūta, but who many other Masters have referred to as such.) about this, and he said, “I’m ready to reveal myself fully, but you must attain a that level of subtlety.”
JB: I think the more an avadhūta deepens in silence, that realisation just gets buried deeper and deeper within themselves, and it takes more subtlety for the people around them to notice. They’re not just going to come out and say, “Look, this is who I am.” I think it can’t be too easy.
TAT: Do you think they are as hungry to share as we are to experience?
JB: 100%. Definitely. If they were to meet someone who’s extremely sincere, and also ripe, then with a flick of a finger, they can give them anything. From these beings everyone just takes what they can get; your glass will always be as full as you are ready to empty it. The other thing about avadhūtas is that they’ll always work on you. If you’re in their vicinity, they will always work on you, even if you encounter them in an ordinary mode. Like if you’re a plumber or something. If they have a house, and you go to that house to fix something, they’ll always work on you. Even if it’s through humour, through making you laugh, even if it’s not through what we call a satsaṅg. It’s just the nature of an avadhūta. The power of consciousness, the śakti, is usually confined, or the śakti of our existence is held within our individuality. Our thoughts are going on day and night and that śakti is being held within those thoughts, absorbed into those thoughts. That’s coming all the time. That’s manifested through our life energy, through our breath. So, what happens if that stops? Śakti becomes totally free and all pervasive. That’s why Masters have this open quality, because they have become the universal energy, not just the individual energy, as Mohanji says, “From the unit to the universe.” When this is operating, when somebody comes into the presence of that being that śakti starts to naturally work, and they won’t even know; it will just be completely automatic. This is another thing about avadhūtas: they don’t have to try to teach, to guide, to instruct, just being in that presence, it happens. Their presence also opens people up.
If they’re in a state of silence, and a person comes to them, they’ll operate from that silence, they’ll see whatever that person needs. This is actually something that distinguishes real Masters from half-baked Masters. Half-baked Masters will have some kind of, even very subtle, system. It’s someone who maybe has got some experience, maybe they’re awakened, maybe they’ve done some voluntary practices and they got some siddhis (spiritual powers) or something, but because they still have some conceptuality remaining, some framework within them, it means that when they’re so-called “teaching”, they’ll be leaning on something of the past, something dead, something thought based, but when it comes to an avadhūta, there is nothing there whatsoever; they’re not leaning on anything. There was one avadhūta, I think his name was Nampali Baba, who didn’t speak, he would come only and teach people in dreams. In normal life he didn’t speak. Obviously, he radiated, like a living with radiating like a living liṅga. Some of them do kind of crossover and do speak, do give so-called “teachings”, but avadhūtas teach through absolutely everything that they do, and everything that they do not do. There’s nothing stagnant about it either. Whatever boxes we have, they’ll just break the boxes apart.
TAT: A lot of the terminology that we use to communicate these ideas comes from India, so many of the Masters come from India, all these technologies for elevation come from India. What do you think it is about India?
JB: For whatever reason, I don’t know what reason, a lot of these great beings, great Masters were localised to that area, mainly in our recent history. By recent history, I mean, the past few 1000 years. I think if you went back, really, really far maybe you’d find more in other places as well. Maybe in the deeper scientific analysis of the Earth, there’d be a reason why they came to that place and not that place. We’re living in a time now though, where the West is really opening, and soon we won’t have to distinguish the West from India in this regard. Something that I’ve noticed, being a Westerner, I think that in spiritual terms, these days, it’s helpful to grow up as a Westerner with no religious background. I was already a self-proclaimed atheist at 9 years old. This meant for me that there was no religious baggage in this life. We’ve got this term, “Guru”, for instance, and if you grow up with this, then that term already has some kind of association, that means that your framework of perception is already conditioned in that way, but somehow, I feel that some Westerners, when they approach these things, they come fresher, when they actually get into these things, they actually mean something. I don’t want to offend anyone, but there is a kind of superficial religiosity, or religiosity that’s just just based around going to the temple and asking for something, asking for a new car, new job, for a son or daughter to get married.
TAT: What does day to day life look like for you now, having been charged with care of the newly installed deities at the Mohanji Centre of Benevolence (MCB) in the UK?
JB: This is interesting actually, none of my paths, including writing Avadhūta Gītā, involved any kind of ritual activity; temple activity, lamps, incense, mantras, or any of this. I was always very gung-ho that this is unnecessary on the avadhūta path.
TAT: That’s also a concept, right?
JB: Yeah, maybe that’s part of why Guruji put me in here (laughter). I’ve experienced that some places contain power. When you do things like āratī (ritual offering of a light lamp, camphor and incense and food to a deity or Master) every day, you build up power in that place. Really, a temple is a place that is buzzing with power, with energy which is transformative. The job of a pūjārī (priest) is to maintain that, build that, and make sure it doesn’t get dissipated. For me, it has turned into a very practical job and I take it quite seriously now. It’s amazing, when I offer food, naivedya, I use the proper mantras, the proper mudrās, when you say the last thing, the “svāhā”, you can feel the deity come and accept the offering. And it’s for people; you see people come in and they say, “When I’m in here, when I leave, I feel happy.” Maybe I’ve broadened my narrow mindedness.
TAT: Parting words?
JB: Something that someone said to me today, about coming to MCB, is that there’s some kind of energy here which allows people just to relax into being natural, freely themselves, expressive, humorous, and for me, that’s the path, that’s my path. There’s nothing complicated about it, it’s just been natural, full stop. That’s Dattā, for me Dattā means “natural”. When Mohanji says, “Be You,” be you 1,000% as an individual, quirks, humour, desires – as long as they don’t hurt other people. Once you’re in that, then you can just relax, relax, relax, then you can be everything and expand, but first be natural as a person. Everything follows from that.
Get Jack’s books here.
Check out the MyDattatreya website here.
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