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Cain Carroll: The Four Dignities

The Four Dignities:
The Spiritual Practice of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down

Who is Cain Carroll?

Cain Carroll

an excerpt from: The American Awakening: Western Spiritual Leaders and Eastern Tradition
by Christian Michael Sarkar (forthcoming, 2016)

"Birth of the Radiant Self"
Cain Carroll's Radiant Awakening


Cain Carroll's first encounter with the illusory self happened while brushing his teeth in the bathroom as a curious five year old. Looking at his reflection, he instinctively pointed and said, "that is not who I am."

He knew then, for the first time, that he was not the image in the mirror.

His mother, who was to become his primary spiritual teacher, told Cain: "It's true, the person in the mirror is not who you are. You must find out who you really are." Until her death in 2004, she would insist, "You too easily believe your own lies. To know who you truly are, you have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself."

"But how do I know what is true and what is not?" Cain asked many times.

"The answer," she always said, "is found inside your own experience. It's a matter of listening to the part of yourself that always knows the truth."

But wisdom did not come easily.

The Martial Arts

Cain and brotherAt 13, Cain began intense physical training in wrestling and judo. After six years of competition, he began to see how many martial artists concealed deep emotional pain and fear of intimacy behind their toughness. During sweaty matches, Cain would often feel his opponent's suffering hidden behind physical prowess and technical skill. His coaches would scream at him to "get aggressive, be fierce, and attack!"

But Cain hesitated. This hesitation cost him many matches. Although he loved the intensity and presence that competitive martial arts demanded, something about forcefully dominating another person felt wrong to him. He noticed himself becoming guarded and calculated. He started to relate to the world as an opponent and life as a battle. Clearly, something was amiss.

The College Years: Turning to the East

Spiritually disenchanted and physically injured -— with two broken ribs, dislocated joints, constant lower back pain, and numerous soft tissue injuries -— Cain walked away from martial arts and turned to yoga and meditation. In college, the injuries from competitive martial arts, as well as numerous life-long health conditions, fostered a burning desire to learn how to heal his own body. Dissatisfied with the unsuccessful treatments he received within the conventional system of medicine, he began an in-depth study of holistic healing methods: Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy, and Classical Chinese Medicine. By applying the principles of these ancient wisdom traditions, he was able to heal the injuries and transform his health.

Beginning in his 20s, Cain traveled and studied under the tutelage of many eminent teachers of Daoism, Buddhism, Yoga, and Chinese Medicine in India, Nepal, China, Tibet, Thailand and South America. He trained with great dedication on his personal quest, going on extensive retreats and practicing traditional methods of yoga, qigong, and meditation year after year.

Spiritual Egoism

With MomOnce, on a trip home, he casually asked his mother why she did not follow a particular tradition or have any spiritual symbols or artifacts in her home. "I don't need techniques or special items to remind me of what is naturally the case all the time," she explained to the yogi-in-training.

At the time, in his mother's kitchen, Cain was blinded by dogmatic attachment to his yogic identity. He egoistically judged her, thinking she was not sophisticated enough to understand the complex philosophy and symbolism of Asian spiritual traditions — mantras, yantras, mudras, deities, ancient texts — and that he had become "more spiritual" than her.

Her simple response took Cain a long time to grasp.


After many more years of intensive practice of yoga and meditation, Cain met with an unforeseen turn of fate. He traveled to California to attend a weekend yoga workshop with a visiting teacher from Europe. At one point in the class, participants were asked to find a partner for a specific series of exercises. Cain walked directly to Revital and said, "Would you like to be my partner?" As their eyes met, a shared moment of recognition occurred. "Yes, I'd love to," she said. Neither of them could have imagined in that initial meeting what such a "partnership" would eventually become. Years later, they both recall that day: "It felt like coming home."

Called to the path of a solitary yogi, Cain had always felt that marriage and family life were not important to him. Revital shared a similar sentiment. As a yogini, meditation practitioner, and Classical Indian dancer, she lived in India for many years and dedicated much of her time to inner cultivation.

Cain lived in Arizona, Revital in California. Over the next year, they flew to visit each other every three weeks. As their relationship deepened, it became clear that something more was developing. They decided to get engaged and go on an extended retreat together in India.

During their time in India, they arranged to get married at a small rural ashram where the sadhu (hermit-yogi) that Cain was studying with lived and practiced.

Wedding in Odisha

RevitalOnce the word got out that a couple from the USA was to be married in the traditional Vedic way, hundreds of people came from neighboring villages to attend the ceremony.

In the months to follow, Revital devoted her days to studying Odissi Indian Dance, while Cain stayed mostly in his hut near the ashram practicing yoga and meditation.

Spiritual Escapism

There, in middle of his morning meditation, suddenly, the entire bottom fell out of his sadhana (personal practice). Everything stopped. He could no longer chant his mantra or perform the visualizations and complex breathing exercises he had been instructed in. Body and mind disappeared. The sense of a solid individuated self was gone. There was only vast open space, luminous and cognizant. His yogic identity and position in the classical lineage of yogic teachings dissolved in that one instant. The personal game of false identification was destroyed, utterly lost.

Cain immediately understood that many of the yoga practices he had been dedicated to were merely expressions of this game of avoidance; attempts to escape something immediate and unconformable inside himself. He saw how the entire enterprise of ambitious spiritual practice was based in a set of erroneous assumptions — what he called The Cosmology of Insufficiency — and that he must find a way of self-cultivation that is straightforward, safe and effective.

With this, Cain traveled North to the Himalayas where he took his mala, loincloth, deer skin, and all the sacred articles he had received from his teachers, and placed them in the Ganges River. On his knees in tears, with great appreciation for his teachers and all he had learned, he knew he must once and for all let go of the orthodox traditions he had studied under. It was time to forge his own path. This was at once liberating and terrifying.

Returning to the USA, Cain understood that he had fallen prey to spiritual escapism. Blinded by a hidden agenda to rise above ordinary life and attain something transcendent, he had invested everything into the path of a yogi. He could perform elaborate yoga postures, advanced breathing techniques, and could willfully still his mind in meditation. But it was clear to him that he had attained nothing more than a spiritual ego, a new type of façade. This, he finally understood, was the self-delusion his mother warned him about in his childhood years. Yoga was his life and livelihood. Yet, when he was brutally honest with himself, all of this had become a form of avoidance and fantasy.

He came to describe this life-shattering event as The Great Disillusionment.

The Radiant Awakening

Cain entered into a period of deep self-reflection. One double-question continued to stick in his mind like a thorn: "What am I running from? What am I chasing?"

He pondered this question intensely, using self-honesty to penetrate further and further into himself. He then beheld the fundamental predicament: the assumption of a separate self and the intuitive knowing that this fabricated self is unreal, empty. "How absurd!" he thought, "I've been both running from and chasing the truth of my own Being."

In a burst of uncontrollable laughter, he realized that the very thing he had desperately tried to avoid is exactly what he had been looking for. For Cain, this marked the end of seeking.

The night before his mother's passing, Cain finally came to see that her simple wisdom had touched the peak of the mountain and contained the essence of all that he had been in search of. Open-heartedness, fearless love and relentless self-honesty were the heart of her message to him; three things she humbly embodied until her last breath.

Cain had finally realized that the Radiant Self is inherently complete, in need of no exotic adornments or special attainments. He discovered that the secrets of healing and awakening were already and always present within his natural state of being. It was simply a matter of releasing the habits of resistance, avoidance, and distraction. The practice was nothing more than abiding in constant intimate relationship with the Living Moment. His mother’s words, “The answer is found inside your own experience” had finally hit home.

He understood that the ego-based spiritual search is a form of exotic escapism, and that many aspects of the old spiritual systems -— transcendentalism, extreme practices, and the sticky guru-disciple relationship -— were no longer appropriate or effective for modern people. A universal approach was needed, free of dogma and the limitations of culture; one that begins with a clear understanding of inherent wholeness, then cultivates self-healing and awakened living in all Nine Spheres of Life.

For the next decade, living with his wife Revital and raising a daughter, Cain quietly developed, tested and distilled this direct teaching for our troubled times. Applying his approach, he has witnessed profound spiritual awakening in his students, helped many people heal themselves of major injuries and cure "incurable diseases". Along the way he published several books, taught experts and novices, and developed a series of instructional DVDs.

The name eventually given to this fresh approach is The Radiant Awakening.

Cain Carroll teaches The Radiant Awakening to people around the world via the Internet, through live events, and face-to-face meetings with groups and individuals.

In addition to public events, Cain brings The Radiant Awakening to businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, schools, and other institutions.