Jean Klein

jean klein

Jean Klein (October 19, 1912 – February 22, 1998) was a French mystic, spiritual teacher, and author on nonduality topics. According to Jean Klein, it is only in a “spontaneous state of interior silence that we can open ourselves to our true nature: the ‘I Am’ of pure consciousness.”

Jean Klein was born in Berlin and spent his childhood in Brno and Prague. He studied musicology and medicine in Vienna and Berlin, becoming a physician. Having left Germany in 1933 for France, he secretly worked with the French Resistance in the Second World War. After the war, Klein again left for India to study Yoga and Advaita Vedanta for three years. During those three years he met a spiritual teacher of Advaita, “Panditji” Rao, and returned to the West to become a spiritual teacher himself. He died in 1998 in Santa Barbara, California. Several of his disciples, including Francis Lucille, went on to become spiritual teachers themselves.

He had what he calls “a strong urge for freedom” as a teenager. He read Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche, and was especially influenced by Gandhi, whose teaching of ahimsa/non-violence led him to become a vegetarian when he was 16. He also read people like Coomaraswamy, Aurobindo, and Krishnamurti (though he found Theosophy itself too sentimental). But the person who had the greatest impact on him was Rene Guenon. Dr. Klein describes his reading of The Symbolism of the Cross (which, like all Guenon’s books, deals with metaphysics, cosmology, and tradition) as a turning point. At the same time, he had experiences that confirmed what he had read. He describes a “glimpse of oneness or self-awareness” that occurred when he was 17:

“I was waiting one warm afternoon for a train. The platform was deserted and the landscape sleepy. It was silent. The train was late, and I waited without waiting, very relaxed and free from all thinking. Suddenly a cock crowed and the unusual sound made me aware of my silence. It was not the objective silence I was aware of, as often happens when one is in a quiet place and a sudden sound throws into relief the silence around. No, I was ejected into my own silence. I felt myself in awareness beyond the sound or the silence. Subsequently, this feeling visited my several times.”

He went on to become a doctor and outwardly lived an ordinary life. But there was still “a lack of fulfillment”. Then he “felt a certain call to go to India” and arrived there around 1950. He says that he was no looking for a guru. In fact, he had no preconceptions of any kind — a central element in his teaching:

“I was left with no reference to anything in my previous experience. In this suspension of evaluation I was catapulted into an openness, a receptivity to everything.”

But he did meet a teacher, “Panditji” Rao. Dr. Klein refers to him simply as ‘Pandiji and says that ” I never asked personal questions and I never spoke personally about him. It was a sacred relationship” (Transmission of the Flame, xiv):

“My master always pointed out to me during our life together that all perceptions need an Ultimate Perceiver. The ultimate perceiver can never be the object of perception. Once false identification with the body is understood, we are led to the question ‘Who am I?’– and the one who asks is himself the vivid answer. The searcher is himself that which is sought.

Then one morning, between deep sleep and awakening, there was a sudden vanishing of all the residues of ‘my persons’, each having believed themselves hitherto to be a doer, a sufferer, an enjoyer. All this vanished completely, and I was seized in full consciousness by an all-penetrating light, without inside or outside. This was the awakening in Reality, in the I am… I knew myself in the actual happening, not as a concept, but as a being without localisation in time or space. In this non-state there was a freedom, full and objectless joy.”

This realization is regarded by those who have accepted Dr. Klein as their teacher as ‘total illumination’. It therefore makes him quite independent of his own teacher. But he says that he had an “urge to communicate my experience to all other beings” and his master suggested that he do so in Europe since he was himself European. In several of his books, it is stated that he “was sent back to teach Vedanta”, which he started teaching about 1960.

“People came to me. I have never taken myself for a teacher, so I never solicited students. The teacher only appears when asked to teach.”

Like all teachings that hold that our real nature is truth, what Dr. Klein says is essentially simple:

“You are primal awareness. Life is only primal awarenss. Between two thoughts or two perceptions you are. You know moments in your life when a thought completely disappears into silence, but still you are.”

This primal awareness is that which underlies all other kinds of awareness.

“At first you may experience silent awareness only after the dissolution of perception, but later you will be in the silence in both the presence and absence of objects.”

Dr. Klein also calls this ultimate subject, the witness and the Self. And though it may sound very removed from ordinary life, in fact it is the opposite because, no longer caught up in objects and therefore in desire and fear, it is open and free. So its true nature is love.

“But when you take yourself for somebody, all relationships are from object to object, man to woman, mother to son, personality to personality. And there is no communication, no possibility for love.”

A natural question at this stage is, ‘If our true nature is free and loving, where does everything else come from: attachment, desire, fear, the world itself?’ Answer:

“The world of names and forms is the result of mental activity. Ignorance begins at the very moment when the ego takes names and forms to be separate realities.”

So how do we avoid identifying with the body and mind and all the objects that mind projects? The first stage is what Dr. Klein calls listening. He defines this as global awareness, which is not limited to any of the five senses (or the mind):

“If you let your attention go to your ear, you’ll feel that it is constantly grasping. It is the same with the eye, the mind and all your organs. Let the grasping go and you will find your whole body is spontaneously an organ of sensitivity. The ear is merely a channel for this global sensation. It is not an end in itself. What is heard is also felt, seen, smelled and touched. Your five senses, intelligence and imagination are freed and come into play. You feel it is being completely expanded in space, without centre or border. The ego, which is a contraction, can find no hold in this presence, and anxiety, like and dislike dissolve.”

But this is only the first step. It leads on to realization of the Self, “our true nature” which “is reached by a complete elimination of the world of objects”.

“He who aims at Ultimate Reality places no accent on the things of the world: it would seem completely futile to him since he has ascertained the unreality of things…The world is directed towards the perceiver, it celebrates the ultimate perceiver. He who is established in the Self is in no way interested in theologies and cosmologies. The construction of a cosmological hypothesis, such as the one which looks upon the world as a divine game, is a mental hypothesis due to ignorance, which does not understand the true nature of the Ultimate.”

Elsewhere, Dr. Klein is unequivocal in his rejection of evolution (spiritual, not physical):

“This notion of evolution is one of the most characteristic errors of modern thought….It is the belief that more can come out of less, that better can be produced by worse. Evolution in the strict meaning of the word, is only an unfolding, a passing from what is implicit to that which is explicit, from what is not manifest to that which is manifest. It produces nothing. It never produces, let alone creates. We cannot rely on it in our search for salvation or liberation. Liberation is not a problem of evolution, for no evolution can lead to liberation, which is the result of discernment only…. We are not concerned with evolving, but we should endlessly put the question ‘who am I?’ to ourselves.”

Given that Advaita, as Dr. Klein teaches it, is the direct approach to reality, it cannot make use of any method or technique.

“All technique aims to still the mind. But in fact it dulls the mind to fix it on an object. The mind loses its natural alertness and subtleness. It is no longer an open mind…Meditation belongs to the unknowable…The point of sitting in meditation is only to find the meditator. The more you look, the more you will be convinced that he cannot be found…Fundamentally, you are nothing, but you are not aware of this and project energy in seeking what you are…When, by self-inquiry, you find out that the meditator does not exist, all activity becomes pointless and you come to a state of non-attaining, an openness to the unknowable.”

But there is an obvious question here. If there is no meditator and hence no one to find the truth, what is the function of the teacher? Answer: to make this truth manifest.

“Ultimately there is no longer a subject who sees nor an object which is seen. There is only oneness. That is what I come here to communicate.”


Further recommended reading on Jean Klein, from an interview with Stephan Bodian:

More excerpts from his writings:

“There are basically two known approaches to truth, the gradual and the direct. In the direct approach the premise is that you are the truth, there is nothing to achieve.

Every step to achieve something is going away from it. The ‘path,’ which strictly speaking is not a path from somewhere to somewhere, is only to welcome, to be open to the truth, the I Am. When you have once glimpsed your real nature it solicits you. There is therefore nothing to do, only be attuned to it as often as invited. There is not a single element of volition in this attuning. It is not the mind which attunes to the I am but the I am which absorbs the mind.

In the gradual approach you are bound to the mind. The mind is under the illusion that if it changes, alters states, stops, etc., it will be absorbed in what is beyond it. This misconception leads to the most tragic state in which a truth-seeker can find himself: he has bound himself in his own web, a web of the most subtle duality.

Q: If I am perfect and there is nothing to do, why am I here, why this existence on the planet?

A: It is only to be knowingly in this perfection.

Q: But my lack of knowing belongs to imperfection so how can I be perfect? There is still ignorance to dispel.

A: Your use of perfection and imperfection are concepts, interdependent counterparts. The truth that is your nearest fundamental nature is beyond complementaries. In the absence of imperfection and perfection you live in your presence, your wholeness. Be it.”

“Silence is our real nature. What we are fundamentally is only silence. Silence is free from beginning and end. It was before the beginning of all things. It is causeless. Its greatness lies in the fact that it simply is. In silence all objects have their home ground. It is the light that gives objects their shape and form. All movement, all activity is harmonized by silence. Silence has no opposite in noise. It is beyond positive and negative. Silence dissolves all objects. It is not related to any counterpart which belongs to the mind. Silence has nothing to do with mind. It cannot be defined but it can be felt directly because it is our nearness. Silence is freedom without restriction or center. It is our wholeness, neither inside nor outside the body. Silence is joyful, not pleasurable. It is not psychological. It is feeling without a feeler. Silence needs no intermediary. Silence is holy. It is healing. There is no fear in silence. Silence is autonomous like love and beauty. It is untouched by time. Silence is meditation, free from any intention, free from anyone who meditates. Silence is the absence of oneself. Or rather, silence is the absence of absence. Sound which comes from silence is music. All activity is creative when it comes from silence. It is constantly a new beginning. Silence precedes speech and poetry and music and all art. Silence is the home ground of all creative activity. What is truly creative is the word, is Truth. Silence is the word. Silence is Truth. The one established in silence lives in constant offering, in prayer without asking, in thankfulness, in continual love.”

“Your real self, your true nature is what is closest to you: it is yourself. Each step taken to reach it moves you further away from there. Attention is not inside nor outside, so you can never go to meditation. When you try to meditate you create a state, you have a goal you are trying to achieve. Meditation is not a reduction, not a kind of interiorization . Meditation is an instantaneous apperception. So that when there is still even the slightest anticipation of going somewhere, or achieving something you go away – because meditation is your natural state, presence IS. The mind can be still from time to time, but the nature of the mind is activity, is function. Your body can be empty, relaxed from time to time, but your body is also function. It is therefore a violence against nature to attempt to stop the mind or body functions.”

“The timeless is in the now. It is in the heart centre. The head belongs to time. You can never experience the timeless in the head. The heart is the timeless. It is only at this point that there is presence.”

“It is only through silent awareness that our physical and mental nature can change. This change is completely spontaneous. If we make an effort to change we do no more than shift our attention from one level, from one thing, to another. We remain in a vicious circle. This only transfers energy from one point to another. It still leaves us oscillating between suffering and pleasure, each leading inevitably back to the other. Only living stillness, stillness without someone trying to be still, is capable of undoing the conditioning our biological, emotional and psychological nature has undergone. There is no controller, no selector, no personality making choices. In choiceless living the situation is given the freedom to unfold. You do not grasp one aspect over another for there is nobody to grasp. When you understand something and live it without being stuck to the formulation, what you have understood dissolves in your openness. In this silence change takes place of its own accord, the problem is resolved and duality ends. You are left in your glory where no one has understood and nothing has been understood.”

“The root of all desires is the one desire: to come home, to be at peace. There may be a moment in life when our compensatory activities, the accumulation of money, learning and objects, leaves us feeling deeply apathetic. This can motivate us towards the search for our real nature beyond appearances. We may find ourselves asking, ‘Why am I here? What is life? Who am I?’ Sooner or later any intelligent person asks these questions. What you are looking for is what you already are, not what you will become. What you already are is the answer and the source of the question. In this lies its power of transformation. It is a present actual fact. Looking to become something is completely conceptual, merely an idea. The seeker will discover that he is what he seeks and that what he seeks is the source of the inquiry.”

“Our surroundings are not contained by name and form. You are neither the body nor the mind, these are limits you identify with through a lack of clear-sightedness. When you are attentive to a tree or flower, the perception, shape, name and concept are not the only things present. There is also the All-presence that you share with them and that you are both part of. The very name and form spring forth from this eternal background, the All-presence. This is instantaneous awareness that cannot be reached by thought.”

“We can sense and change our brain. For when the brain becomes relaxed, we feel ourselves no longer localized in the thinking factory of the forehead, but we feel ourselves behind, in the upper cervical vertebrae. When we feel ourselves behind, in our neck, we can no longer see from the point of view of the individual which projects individual objects. Because the individual is a thought construct which comes from the frontal area. From behind there is no longer any concretization. There is only a vague cloud of objectivity. Then this subtle localization behind the neck dissolves down into the heart, and the heart is the last door, the last expansion. Finally, we become free also from the heart. We become emptiness, emptiness without border and without center. We are the universe and the universe is us. But I would say, take note of all this and immediately forget it.”

“The mind must come to a state of silence, completely empty of fear, longing and all images. This cannot be brought about by suppression, but by observing every feeling and though without qualification, condemnation, judgement, or comparison. If unmotivated alertness is to operate the censor must disappear. There must simply be a quiet looking at what composes the mind. In discovering the facts just as they are, agitation is eliminated, the movement of thoughts becomes slow and we can watch each thought, its cause and content as it occurs. We become aware of every thought in its completeness and in this totality there can be no conflict. Then only alertness remains, only silence in which there is neither observer nor observed. So do not force your mind. Just watch its various movements as you would look at flying birds. In this uncluttered looking all your experiences surface and unfold. For unmotivated seeing not only generates tremendous energy but frees all tension, all the various layers of inhibitions. You see the whole of yourself. Observing everything with full attention becomes a way of life, a return to your original and natural meditative being.”

“The world exists only when we think about it; creation stories are for children. In reality the world is created every moment.”

“If the ego is in the slightest way separated from its source, it yearns to find it again. This search comes from the remembrance of unity and plenitude. As every experience emanates from the non-experience which is our real being, the me also bears the scent of its source. This remembering is awakened through those moments of desirelessness and in deep sleep.”

“If you let your attention go to your ear, you’ll feel that it is constantly grasping. It is the same with the eye, the mind and all your organs. Let the grasping go and you will find your whole body is spontaneously an organ of sensitivity. The ear is merely a channel for this global sensation. It is not an end in itself. What is heard is also felt, seen, smelled and touched. Your five senses, intelligence and imagination are freed and come into play. You feel it is being completely expanded in space, without centre or border. The ego, which is a contraction, can find no hold in this presence, and anxiety, like and dislike dissolve.”

Jean Klein: An appreciation by Sky McCain

“I became aware of Jean Klein quite by chance in 1986. My wife Marian was attending the California Institute of Integral Studies and came home one day from a meeting with a psychologist in San Francisco . She told me that this woman had a photograph of Jean Klein on her desk and told Marian that Jean was her teacher and that she had incorporated his methods and teachings into her practice.

A couple of months later, we were browsing the used book section of the East West book store in Menlo Park, CA, when I spotted fairly worn copy of Be Who You Are by Jean. Having had a brief look and remembering what Marian had told me, I bought it, took it home and read it. Although I had no prior knowledge of Advaita or background in non-duality, it reminded me of what I had struggled with in the little book by Ken Wilbur called No Boundary. Wilbur had explained in several ways the concept that there is no separate I in here looking out at a separate world. As Jean says, there is only the seeing with nobody doing the seeing. Captivated, I felt a desire to know more. I thought my opportunity had come when I saw a notice announcing a Friday evening talk in Santa Cruz , CA . Marian and I drove over the mountain from Silicon Valley to attend. Unfortunately, Jean had taken ill according to the cancellation notice on the door. Marian felt like it was just not going to happen for her, but I felt an even greater desire to meet him. My next opportunity came up when I saw a notice for a Friday evening talk and weekend body movement retreat in Oakland . I booked it and attended.

By Saturday evening, I was feeling disappointment and voiced it to a few of Jean’s faithful followers over dinner. One of them recommended that I mention it to Jean. I was immediately horrified and just couldn’t see myself criticising this wonderful man. My problem was fairly trivial, looking back. I simply was disappointed that I had made no personal, psychic connection with Jean even though I admired him from what I had read. Perhaps I wanted some attention.

The final event was a dialogue session. Typically, many of his friends would bring cut flowers and vases to place up front around the pillow that he sat on for the session. Jean would enter at the appointed time while we sat in silence and meditation. He would sit and immediately scan the room from right to left, then close his eyes for a varying length of time. Then he would usually but not always, just start speaking. After a few minutes of talking, he would quietly say, “Are there any questions?” There always were and such a variety. Jean would look intently, listening carefully, and then look away for a few seconds. I firmly believe that he was not rationalizing. Then he would answer. His answer was not always exactly right to the point of what was asked, but most appeared to find it helpful and looked satisfied.

I thought about mentioning my disappointment and remember that he was talking to someone on my far right hand side. After feeling a resolve to ask, I was aware of kind, loving thoughts rushing into my beingness as I waited for him to acknowledge me. Soon, he moved his head around to the right until he saw my hand and immediately looked straight into my eyes. We held eye contact for what seemed a timeless period and I was first aware of a movement out of normal consciousness. I had been there several time before but pulled myself back this time because I wanted to speak. We gazed at each other and I was bathed in or came into an indescribable state. It was beyond joy or pleasure or satisfaction. The best I can say is that I saw infinity in his eyes. Then I explained my feelings and he answered. My memory of what he said is dim mainly because, I guess, I was so overwhelmed with the experience. All I remember was that he said to be patient. When he finished, I felt filled and complete. How had he known what I desired before I spoke? Looking back, I feel like that I was given grace, perhaps the Transmission of the Flame which is the title of one of his dialogue books. Naturally I have pondered about what happened to me. From that moment, I moved permanently, so far, out of the realm of searching, of being on a path. Hopefully, I got the message and realize that there is nowhere to go and nobody going anywhere. I saw him several times afterwards and was privileged to met him at a social gathering of the faithful, so to speak, and blessed with a few minutes of his time and shared time with he and Emma Edwards, during a visit to his home before he died.

At an evening early the next year, I was sitting after the dialogue session with Marian and felt the strong desire just to thank him for making himself available to speak and be with us. I voiced this to Marian who asked me to turn around and observe him talking to a younger man behind me. She said, “Why don’t you go up to him?” So, I went closer and when the other chap was finished, I walked over and was greeted with a huge smile. Just after I did tell him how grateful I was that he had come there to be with us, I noticed, suddenly, that he looked over my shoulder and I saw the most beautific smile come over his face. He just radiated love and joy. I had never seen or experienced such beautiful and intense, concentrated loveliness. Curious, I turned to my left and saw that the object of his countenance was Marian who was walking up to him. He held out both hands and took hers. I don’t remember what, if anything was said. I was just too shaken and stunned. I thought, what wouldn’t a person give to be looked at like that.

So, to me, Jean was an avatar. He left me with total freedom; no obligations, no guilt, just a bottomless pool of truth.”


About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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