Werner Erhard on ‘Mastery in Life’

THE ‘Werner Erhard’ descended upon 1000+ people at the Yogi Sabhagruh auditorium (behind Swamy Narayan Temple, Dadar-E) in Mumbai yesterday at 7 PM. Every one of the attendees there were either ‘est’ or ‘Landmark Forum’ graduates. I was able to spot one Landmark Forum leader: Ms. Arunaraje and several seminar leaders including the famous actor Ashish Vidhyarthi.

I reached the venue at 6:00 PM, one hour in advance. The hall was mostly full by the time I reached. But the organizers (Landmark Education – Mumbai Centre) of the event helped in finding for me a seat on the second row of the hall. I sat along with Vijee Raaj and Wahida, both of them were my SELP coaches.

Gopal Rao introduced Werner Erhard. And as he himself put it – many people were perhaps ‘annoyed’ by it, because why introduce a man that everyone already knows a lot about? BTW, I had heard a lot about Gopal Rao from some of my friends who had done the Landmark Forum about 6-7 years ago. It was nice to see him in real life.

When Werner came on to the stage, the audience gave him a standing ovation – for about 90 seconds. The sound from the applause was almost deafening. Werner graciously took in all the applause and set out to create for us the topic of his talk – Mastery in life. In the rest of this blog post I am going to give a summary of what he talked about in first person – its just easier that way 🙂 Note: what I have written below may or may-not accurately reflect what Werner said in the talk. But it accurately reflects what I got out of it.

Mastery about any aspect comes about from mastering the conversational or linguistic domain of that aspect. Conversational or linguistic domain is composed by a set of special and carefully chosen terms networked together to talk about a specific aspect. For example the conversational domain for a physician consists of a bunch of specialized terms about the human body and how they are interconnected. A master physician interacts with his world (of patients, ailments, cures etc) using those set of specialized terms. Without those terms a physican would have little or no access to powerfully relating to his world. For example the balloon like structure (in my chest) that helps in breathing in and out is labelled as Lungs. Who cares about what ‘God’ or the ‘Creator’ intended to call it – but labeling it using a specialized term called ‘Lung’ enables us to powerfully understand it and also understand the disorders that can happen for the Lung.

To be a master in one’s life – it is important to master the conversational domain of life. This domain, which consists of specialized terms that are networked together, helps in powerfully relating to (or powerfully interpret) life and surely have a powerful access to creating the life that we want. Werner was very open about one thing in his talk. The conversational domain that he was talking about was not the truth. He doesnt claim to have access to the truth. However he did ask us all to try on the conversational domain and see if it works for us in enabling us to have a powerful access to life! – Fair enough, I thought. In the end I figured that the conversational domain was more than fair enough – it was (for me atleast) rather accurate. I dont know the truth either, but until I do – this conversational domain surely works for me.

The conversational domain for mastery over ones life consists of the following specialized terms

  • The way of Being
  • The way we ‘wound up being’
  • Action or acting
  • ‘What you are dealing with’
  • Occur
  • Correlate
  • Source of action and the way of being
  • Over Here/Over There/Consciousness

Now, lets go over each of those terms one at a time – very quickly. [Side Note: Werner had promised to host his full presentation on the web. On 21st Jan 2011, the slides became available. You can download the presentation from here]

The way of Being is ‘whats happening internally’ in a person from moment to moment and situation to situation. It is a sum total of the person’s metal state (attitude), emotional state (mood), bodily sensations and thought processes (which includes memory). A person’s being changes from moment to moment and situation to situation. It is important to note that a person’s being has nothing to do with who he/she really is. Whatever be a person’s being – that being is all but one way of being. While it is true that most of us have a typical way of being, but it is really important to know that the typical way of being is still one way of being.

The way we ‘wound up being’ – Our early years and growth into adulthood kind of gives us the typical way of being – which Werner calls as the ‘way we wound up being’. This way of being is what we have ‘resigned’ to being. We have gotten so resigned to this way of being that we have created that way of being – as who we are. A lot of us have resigned ourselves to – ‘I am being a hardworking employee’ to a point that who we are has become ‘a hardworking employee’. Note: the ‘way we would up being’ has nothing right about it and nothing wrong about it. But it limits our access to a whole range of beings that we could be. As said before, it is important to know that the ‘way we wound up being’ is just one way of being.

Action or acting – is in the realm of language that brings about something. Language includes spoken words/sentences, unspoken words/sentences (thinking) and what is said by one’s actions as reflected in the saying ‘action speaks louder than words’. Language also includes gestures, rituals and other imitable phenomenon when they say something. Basically action or acting means doing something. The ‘doing’ of ‘something’ always communicates something – which is the reason why action is said to be in the realm of language, or atleast accessible by it.

A person’s Actions are consistent with his/her way of Being. However ‘Action’ is not caused by the ‘way of Being’. Infact the neural patterns that give the ‘way of Being’ for an individual are interconnected with the neural patterns that gives way to Action. In-effect, ‘Action’ and the ‘way of Being’ show up within one single package. One doesnt cause the other, one doesnt influence the other – rather they are both together.

This ‘insight’ is pretty powerful and I am not sure if you got it. Think about it :- ‘Action’ and ‘way of Being’ show up together, in one single package. If one can, theoritically, take on another ‘way of Being’ – new actions show up. Similarly if one starts performing new ‘Actions’ – a new ‘way of Being’ becomes available for him/her.

This brings us to the question – “What is the source of our ‘way of Being’ and ‘Action’?”. Well we already said that before, the source is the nerual network in our brain. Knowing that, however, doesnt provide us with access to it. As in, we cannot put our hands into the brain and rework the neural  network to bring about a new ‘way of Being’ or new set of ‘Actions’.

In order to answer ‘the question’ – we will need to master the next three terms.

‘What you are dealing with’ is a sum total of the way world _is_ for you. This includes

  • The circumstances in which you are working shows up for you
  • The circumstances on which you are working shows up for you
  • How you show up for yourself within the above circumstances

Occur is a term given to the phenomenon of something ‘showing up’ for someone. There are two aspects to reality: (a) the objective isness of it (b) the subjective presence of it in the consciousness of a person. Occur is a term that deals with the latter phenomenon. In short by “Occur” we mean ‘exists in some manner for a person’.

Correlate. This is a tricky term depending on how you look at it. It is possible for two things to be connected to each other – without one being the effect of the other. Infact cause/effect is all but one kind of correlation. Correlate is a term for relation between two phenomenon such that either of the two inter-related phenomena are natrually, necessarily, closely connected to the other. This means when we say “A is a correlate of B”, we mean to say – A is naturally, necessarily closely connected to B, but A doesnt cause B and B doesnt cause A.

Source of action and the way of being

Now that we know the three key terms, lets come face to face with the answer to the question.

Q: What is the source to our ‘way of being’ and ‘action’?

A: Our ‘way of being’ and ‘action’ is a ‘correlate’ of the way in which ‘what we are dealing with’ ‘occurs’ for us.

See if you can read the above statement a bunch of times after going over the meanings of the terms ‘way of being’, ‘action’, ‘correlate’, ‘what we are dealing with’ and ‘occur’. Keep reading the above statement until you have mastered it.

What occurs for us is shaped or influenced by language and is always accessible by it. Using language we can alter the occurinng world to alter ‘what we are dealing with’ shows up for us – which correlates back to our ‘way of being’ and ‘action’.

Over here, Over there and Consciousness

This term is best explained and understood by looking at the following video in which Werner demonstrates it for participants at a seminar on Performance. Click on the YouTube video below and fast forward to time: 46 min and 40 seconds.

The core take-away of Werner’s talk was this – “Who I am is the space in which it all shows up. It is in this space others show up for me and I show up for me. It is this space that provides the occoring world and hence an access to my way of Being in any given situation and the actions thereof.”

Why is this a phenomenal insight? – Because it gives us access to releasing ourselves from the ‘way we wound up being’. The default and typical way of being is __not__ who we are.


That is the underlying, natural and perpetual way of being for human beings.

After inquiring into this for several months, I had a fresh original experience which engulfed my experience of life. I had a Zen like experience of “I AM ANOTHER YOU“.

Closing remarks: I am really happy to have seen Werner Erhard in real life atleast once. Having read so much about him – I had always wondered what he was like in real life. This program was an opportunity to see him in person. It is something I am going to cherish and remember for long!

[Quick Update: Related post – http://ceomag.in/tribute-to-werner-erhard-who-is-visiting-india-shortly/

Leadership an Ontological Model – Workshop from Michael Jensen, Werner Erhard, Steve Zaffron and Kari Granger]







13 responses to “Werner Erhard on ‘Mastery in Life’”

  1. Anjan Avatar

    amazing.. i missed this session.. thanks for recreating for me.. i am looking forward for the video. please write to me as soon as you get to know about the video around this. thanks again

  2. Chaitra Avatar

    Nice explaination Prashanth. Opened my mind to a new horizon of understanding. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Srikky Avatar

    Prashanth – I still havent got dis wen u say — “If one can, theoritically, take on another ‘way of Being’ – new actions show up. Similarly if one starts performing new ‘Actions’ – a new ‘way of Being’ becomes available for him/her.” Did u mean by taking on another way of being as by means of the language and alterin the occurin world?
    U rem Jayashree asked a question about the Soldier who is on a call of duty and is in the battle killin human beings.. u rem dis? d soldier’s thought process is-in-dance-with his actions of killing.. but then his emotional state cud be of remorse.. so is it dat d soldier’s way of being is the dominant attribute among mental, emotional, body sensations and thoughts eh? Can u recreate dis for me?
    Also What I got Ultimately was ‘WHO I AM IS THE CLEARING(SPACE) in which everything shows up and THE LANGUAGE! Language is d choice and access I have to alter who I am at a moment.. Wat do u think?

    1. Prashanth Udupa Avatar
      Prashanth Udupa

      Yes, I do think Language offers access to transform our clearing. But we will miss the point when we think of language as “talking”. Language includes words coming out of the mouth, words in the head (thoughts), words unexpressed (silence) and words that come about from actions (as in actions speak louder than words). Taking actions consistent with a possibility naturally transforms our way of being.

  4. Sanjeev Bansal Avatar
    Sanjeev Bansal

    Dear Prashant,Thank you so much for taking me to an Evening with Mr.Werner Erhard in Mumbai through your above explaination.Turly Awesome!Truly indebted to you.touched,moved and inspired.Regards,Sanjeev

    1. Prashanth Udupa Avatar
      Prashanth Udupa

      @Sanjeev: I am glad that it made an impact on you.

  5. Nilabshu Avatar

    Dear Prashant,
    I was also present at the Werner event in Mumbai. I was not able to fully recollect what he said, so i was searching on the net if i could get any article or site for it. so i came across your’s. It is really amazing & it will refresh what i heard. Thanks a lot. at the end of the event, it was said that they would put up the slides on an url. do u have any idea about that?if u have plz tell. thanks again. Nilanshu

    1. Prashanth Udupa Avatar
      Prashanth Udupa

      Dont know it yet. I will ping the Landmark Office in Bangalore and ask them if they know the link.

      1. Prashanth Udupa Avatar
        Prashanth Udupa

        I did ask the Landmark Education office in Bangalore about the slides. They don’t have it yet. But they have promised to notify me as soon as they have it. I will then immediately update this post.

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