The only reality is the raw experience of life prior to the mind’s involvement.
We are constantly seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and touching nothing but the Truth.
The mind discriminates, interprets, evaluates and judges our sensory input. Thereby it creates a parallel world that does not exist independent of our minds, a mirage of ideas, beliefs and opinions about reality.
This dream world is the source of us living out imaginary stories of right and wrong, better and worse, me and other. And both, the most exalted as well as the most painful moments of our lives are simply caused by whether reality fits our mind-made stories.
The whole of humanity is a big act. As long as we are convinced that our fictitious stories about reality hold true, we are hopelessly caught up in our roles and ideologies and forever struggle and strive on the spot.
The only way out of the story is to fully see through and acknowledge it. Transcendence is neither being lost in the story nor denying or rejecting it.
The mind is not a mistake and, so, to be human means to put on an act. But at the same time, when we are ignorant about reality and take our role too seriously, our life becomes a drag.
For playing is fun when everybody tries to win without being invested in the outcome. Thus the sages consciously play out their fake acts in a genuine manner and with compassion.
Nothing – not even ourselves – exists the way we think it does.
What is ultimately real is … this, and there is no other Truth, ever.
Shed your illusions,
wake up to reality,
and be one.
This is a song I recorded recently with a friend
As you have noticed, somehow I have not had the itch lately to write on this blog. One of the main reasons is that I feel like I have said everything I wanted to say already, and that I am starting to get bored at myself repeating myself. Anyway, I am currently traveling again sitting in a street cafe in lovely Tirana/ Albania while it is raining. I can’t help it but when I am relaxing and resting, like now, I quiet naturally come to think about the human situation and the universe.
Something I have been wanting to share for some time is a “translation” of Eastern spiritual terms into Western (psychological) concepts. While concept remains concept no matter how it is framed, the de-mystification of Eastern terms is a necessary task in one’s spiritual journey, I think. I’ve seen it many, many times that people get lost in the spaced-out mumbo-jumbo of the esoteric new-age kind just because they misinterpret spiritual terms as real facts or as magical gates to another world. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Spiritual terms are very clever down-to-earth symbolic tools pointing to immediate everyday experiences and not to imaginary worlds. They try to break the hallucinatory spell of the mental image world, not replace it with a new one. For it is our images of the world that create our suffering. It’s the fight against our own mental “ghosts” that create Samsara.
Thus, this post is all about spiritual terms (“pointers”) and what message they actually want to bring across.
All One / Not Two
The universe is a completely inter-dependent, symbiotic organism. Nothing is not connected to the universe/ organism (“IT”). Since all there is, is IT it is misleading to speak of “all one”, because “one” implies “two”. Thus, “not-two” or “non-dual” is the correct pointer pointing to that which transcends other-ness.
“Not-two” is not something that can be grasped by the mind because our minds are hard-wired to work in dualistic terms (aka “pairs of opposites”). We can only know “good” as we contrast it with “bad” and vice versa. “Good” and “bad” either arise co-dependently in our minds or they won’t arise at all. So, our mental world, the source of our suffering, is made up of such pairs of opposites. Or in other words, our minds create the (mental) world we live in by interpreting the sensory experience according to our dualistic ideas about reality.
So, “not-two” is the tool to transcend the dualistic mind and thus the ultimate pointer to the unfiltered, immediate experience of the present moment: that which “is” prior to the mental noise about it. The experience of “not-two” is the experience of “this as it is” (“reality”).
Ignorance / Dream-State / Maya
Because of the pair of opposites, we perceive the world as separate bits and pieces while in reality they are different aspects of IT. The most fundamental illusion of that kind is the perception of a “me” vs. an “other”. Yes, we are different individuals but at the same time a mask of IT. We are all IT. Everything is what it is and at the same time IT. Two and not-two simultaneously.
Attachments are psychological hang-ups due to clinging or resisting to mental images of reality. These mental images of reality (“how things should be”) are based on judging aspects of IT as “desirable” or “undesirable” and thus are rooted in ignorance about the fundamental nature of IT.
The human organism’s survival function that defines one’s characteristic social role. The social role is the ego’s answer to our fears of vulnerability. In fact, all of the ego’s expressions (like assertion, denial or adaptation) are based on this fear which in turn is nurtured by the ignorance about IT.
One’s genuine personality that is covered by the social role and only shown when we feel “safe”.
The capability and readiness to emotionally sharing somebody else’s vulnerability as one’s own vulnerability is acknowledged.
Living hung-up on one’s attachments.
Realization of the illusory nature of one’s mental images. Experience of “reality”.
Liberation / Nirvana
Emancipation from one’s self- or socially induced mental images about reality.
The state when mental images have become transparent and are dismissed easily as devoid of reality.
The absence of the urge to seek for change, to produce results or to one-up due to the falling away of the need to justify or prove one-self after liberation.
This is the last Q&A part (for the time being)…
What do you mean when you say “we are enlightened by nature”?
When there is fear we see the world through the veils of Maya, the great illusion of separateness. When fear is absent, the veil is lifted, and we see the (same) world through our Buddha-eyes as it really is. So, enlightenment is nothing that can be achieved. It is the falling away of fear.
How to untrap myself from the ego?
You see, the trap and what is trapped are basically one and the same thing. It’s called the self or ego. That’s why “we” can never untrap ourselves. To try to untrap ourselves is to trap ourselves by believing in a trap from which we can be untrapped. The only thing that will help, is to realize that the self, the trap, only “seems” to exist separately but in reality it is a hallucination. This undermines any urge to do or to not do anything to untrap ourselves and, voilá, we will realize that we were never trapped. It was all an illusion.
What is the Buddha’s method to gain enlightenment?
Buddhism is a dialectic process. That means, one does not need to believe in dogmatic statements or follow any rules. The method is a dialogue between student and teacher. The process starts with a departure point, usually a problem. Now, the master will try to make the student intuitively grasp that there is no solution to the problem, because it is illusory. There are several techniques to do that but all have one thing in common: that the student is encouraged to persist in trying to resolve the problem intellectually or experientially until (s)he knows by himself that it can’t be resolved because it never existed.
Is humanity crazy?
Humanity is not crazy but ignore-ant of its oneness with what is and, thus, irrationally fearful of itself and its environment. That’s why Western man seems to keep getting busier and busier. The more he tries to escapes what is, the busier he gets escaping. The faster he hurries, the slower he goes.
If nothing can be done to enlighten oneself, what is your teaching?
The teaching is to undermine the illusion of “something to get” because the urge to seek it is what keeps us in bondage.
Tantra or renunciation, which method is better?
Both methods work because neither renunciation nor indulgence will bring you peace. But if followed to their respective extremes, you may realize just that and consequently be free.
What’s the problem with self-consciousness?
Self-consciousness is a feedback mechanism. It is the self being conscious about itself. The idea of self and consciousness, experiencer and experience, is the foundation of duality. Duality means that there is an (apparent) entity and there is what this (apparent) entity experiences. The more self-conscious we are, the more we feel to be a separate entity “having” experiences. Any feedback loop works like an amplifier. In this case it amplifies our illusory separateness and thus our fears.
Alan Watts once said that being conscious of oneself is like hearing your own ears due to a Tinnitus. Any organ ceases to work smoothly when it gets in its own way. It then becomes the potential source of all kinds of problems and hang-ups.
If that example does not make sense, think of a situation when you just seemed to “flow” with life, even if it was just for a short time, when there was no “you” being conscious about yourself. There was no duality, just what is, moment by moment, a sort of oneness of experience and experiencer. Or in the words of Zen-master Dogen: “to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things”.
From what has been said it could be argued that the development of self-consciousness marks the “fall of man” as portrayed in the bible (knowledge of good and evil, introduction of shame, etc.). Does that mean, though, that we should strive to perpetually go with the “Truth” of “flow” experiences and “forget” about ourselves? Even if we could (which I doubt), my answer is no. Just as self-consciousness is the source of suffering, it is also the source of great joy, gratitude and appreciation for life. How would you know that you are happy, if you ceased to be self-conscious? Could you be grateful for life if you ceased to know you existed? To wholeheartedly stay with one leg in the “dream”-world of separateness is what makes life worth living. This is the teaching of the middle way. Separateness is samsara is nirvana. If we dropped out of the “dream” completely, we would cease to have a genuine human experience. That’s hardly what we want. Wouldn’t you agree?
Many Yogi’s are saying we should stop thinking. You say we shouldn’t mind our thinking…
When the Yogi’s refer to thinking they mean the conceptual, evaluative, judgmental function of the mind under the spell of Maya (the illusion of separation invoking fear). This sort of thinking is the source of the duality of “right” vs. “wrong”, “me” and “other”. By realizing non-duality, this comes to a halt, and there is no more minding of anything, not even our “ordinary” thinking.
Often the Yogi’s are misunderstood, though. We think they suggest to stop thinking altogether. That would be like trying to stop our blood from flowing; it can’t be done and it mustn’t be done.
“The goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue”. What’s that supposed to mean?
The quote is from Confucius. It means that prescribed virtue is never genuine virtue. It is a form of hypocrisy which leads to inner conflict if not acknowledged. It also often brings about a “must-save-the-world”-attitude in people as the inner conflict is projected onto the outside world.
History tells us that “righteous” wars are always the longest and most brutal one’s (think of religious wars, or ideological wars like WW1 and WW2, etc). If one fights for the “good” it is easier to mobilize people and justify the means of war. The road to hell is indeed often paved with good intentions.
Is money “bad”?
Money is stored energy. You do something and as a compensation for the efforts you get this thing called money that can be exchanged for other people’s efforts.
Money is not something that can be experienced. You cannot touch, smell, see, taste or hear it. You can only see a number on a screen or a sheet of paper or cloth representing money. Money is not real, it is a symbol.
Symbols have the power to impoverish peoples lives. Symbols are lifeless, have no “soul” (because they have no experiential value). Thus, if we worship a symbol, turn it into our “God”, we, ourselves turn into lifeless zombies.
Wealth is appreciating what money can be exchanged for. If we don’t trade money for experiences, we have no wealth. To worship the symbol is to miss what it stands for (that’s what Buddha meant when he said that “the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon”). Money stands for wealth and wealth is (the experience of) being alive. So, money is not bad per se. But it is often mistaken for what it is not: a source of life in itself.
Ok, I am not doing anything anymore. I stopped seeking. Why am I not enlightened?
You still want to get it by trying to not get it. You are still seeking. Seeking means expecting results for your actions. You are deceiving yourself.
I am a mess. Will enlightenment settle things for me?
So, you’ve found out you’re a mess. Congratulations! You’ve already come a long way. Now, there’s an important last step to make. Ask yourself: what’s the problem with being a mess? Is there really a problem with being a mess or could it be that you only think it is a problem? Who says what is normal and what is messy? Have you ever seen a messy arrangement in nature? Or is nature beautiful exactly because it is not orderly and not all similar? You see “enlightenment” is not getting anywhere else or being anyone else than where and what you already are. There is nothing to be gotten out of it but the abandonment of our illusions.
How does non-objection and activism go together? They seem contradictory…
Non-objection is not becoming irresponsible or stop caring about the world. Non-objection is an internal alignment with what “is”. This alignment bestows peace. From this place of peace, activism is actually much more effective because it comes from the heart as opposed to from the mind. What does that mean? Activism which tries to change the world is usually ideological and, thus, from the mind. It purports ideas which are supposed to make the world a “better” place to live. But all ideologies create winners and losers, just as there is no action which is purely “good” or purely “bad”, ever. Activism from the heart is concerned with action to alleviate suffering of those who can’t handle it (anymore). It is not concerned with ideas on how to make suffering go away altogether. That’s a subtle but very important difference. If you want to make suffering go away, you are trying to do the impossible, to find a way of “winning” without “losing”. Thus, you keep yourself and all your followers in the wheel of samsara, the endless struggle to always stay up without ever going down.
Which level is real: the relative (personal) or the absolute (impersonal)?
There are no two levels of reality! This separation never took place other than in our minds. The only reality is “this” that you are now experiencing. What you can think of is conceptual and never real. That’s the whole teaching of non-duality in a nutshell.
What do you mean by “unknowing”?
Imagine you knew you were so intimately and seamlessly connected with the universe that you were in fact no different from it. And imagine you knew that the universe is the totality of all there is (without exception). How could you know anything about the fundamental nature of the world for certain? That which is everything cannot be identified, classified, observed, measured, etc, because there is no other, outside this totality, who could perform these tasks on it. It is the primordial and eternal (non-dual) subject-object. So, it completely defies logical analysis.
The universe as a whole will forever be ungraspable, just like the eye can’t see the eye. Whatever is said about it is speculation. What is it? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Does it have a purpose? Since we are the universe, there is nothing we definitively know about ourselves (our Selves!) either. This is the final frontier, the end of knowledge (“veda” = knowledge; “anta” = end) short-circuiting all seeking.
Your teaching implies an autonomous “I”. But there is no “I” who is doing anything!
What do you mean there is no I? IT is I, and I am IT. That’s why we talk of “non-duality”: no difference between I and other. To say there is no “I” would suggest there is only “other”. Everything is “other” is only one side of the coin of “Truth”. The other side is everything is “I”.
To realize that the “I” is not as real as we used to think is a good starting point, though. The great sage Ramana Maharshi outlined a three-step approach to non-dual realization:
The world is unreal (~the “I” is unreal)
Only Brahman is real (~awakening to the Absolute)
The world is Brahman (~the “I” and the Absolute are one and the same)
All seekers get stuck at level 1 and level 2 for some time. First we need to leave the relative level of reality to be open to awaken to its opposite, the absolute level. Finally, the journey after awakening takes us to consolidate these polar concepts. Non-dual realization is to know that these levels are not different. Never have, never will be. They are one and the same, because there is nothing apart from the totality of “this” reality. Separation never took place other than in our minds. Even to speak of “non-duality” is delusional because there never was a “real” duality ever! Wake up!
By the way, the “there is nobody home” and the “nobody is doing anything” kind of talk is sometimes called the “Lucknow disease” (named after the place in India where modern advaita “guru” Papaji used to teach) or the “advaita shuffle” (jumping to the absolute level at odd times).
What’s your opinion on “direct pointing” exercises? Do you think they are futile?
The direct pointing approach tries to facilitate the intuitive experience of a very simple point: there is no individual person separate from the stream of consciousness. The sense of personality is a function of consciousness just as hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, seeing, feeling and thinking is. At the same time the approach tries to clarify who “you” actually are. The “real” you is something which can’t be experienced or pinned down for the same reason the eye can’t see itself: the source of measurement can never measure itself (in the absence of a reflecting device like a mirror that feeds the measurement back to its source). The fact that there is measurement, that there is seeing, implies a measuring source, an eye. So, the “real” you can never be experienced (or known) because it is that which makes experiencing possible. But the fact that there is experience implies that a “real” you (whatever it is) exists. So, all you can ever know is that you exist because you exist. I am that I am. Full stop.
All “pointing” then ultimately points to this: you are fundamentally that unknown thing which enables/ activates/ vitalizes everything. The social role you are playing in the game of life is not you, it is a mask (that by biological default cannot be removed but only glimpsed through occasionally). This insight is what “individuation” (as understood by C.G. Jung) is all about: you are not your social role, your mask, so don’t take it so damned seriously. An individuated person takes himself lightly and thus has an elevated sense of being. Or as D.T. Suzuki said “Satori is like an everyday experience, only two inches above the ground”.
Now, whether the pointing approach actually works or not, I have my doubts. As you try to realize the absence of a “you”, all you accomplish is a strengthening of the sense of you. Have you ever managed to relax by willingly trying to relax? All your trying will ever do is to prevent relaxation from happening by itself. You are getting in your own way. Thus, in my experience finding the trust to give up control is key to realization, not intellectual exercises in finding nobody (which in a way, though, could be seen as a method to get into your own way so consistently that you eventually give up and finally let “you” go).
What is your take on quantum mechanics, matrix, evolution of consciousness, etc.?
If you like to play around with these things, go ahead, entertain yourself. They won’t get you any peace, though. I am always amazed by all these complicated new-age theories. The “Truth” is so simple and yet everybody comes up with so much complicated stuff about it. Instead of reading about these things or watch endless Youtube videos, go out for a walk. It’s all always there in front of us. There is nothing “hidden”. Fact is that we can’t acknowledge reality as it is, as long as our selves feel threatened by it. You see, seeking “more” or “different”, is always an expression of fear, of not “good/ safe enough yet”.
Even if they claim otherwise, new-age theories are based on ignoring the unity of all things. What’s there to improve, develop, enhance, practice, etc. if we knew that we were that which is everything, which by definition is immaculate (because it has no opposite)? The benefit of traditional spiritual practice (like meditation) is that once we shut up for a while, be on our own and make our fears conscious, these new-age theories become completely obsolete. I guarantee you that if you actually had the guts to sit on your own for a few weeks or months, you would come to the same conclusion, that new-age is seeking for the sake of avoiding. Why eat candy when you can get a good meal?
What’s your message in a nutshell?
All is well, but our fears and insecurities suggest otherwise. The way to deal with our fears and insecurities is to look at them and to realize that a) they are ok, and eventually, b) they are based on an illusion.
Any last words?
Once you know you are god incarnate, you can relax and finally allow yourself to be a genuine human being. And once you allow yourself to be a genuine human being, you stop struggling to become a god.
End of Question & Answer
What do you mean by “there is neither good nor bad”?
First of all, there is no “good” without “bad” and no “bad” without “good”. “Good” and “bad” are co-dependent concepts of reality. The “good” creates the “bad” and vice versa because only through their opposite can “good” or “bad” be defined and conceptualized.
Second, what we label “good” or “bad” is subjective, that is, not considered so by everyone. “Good” or “bad” are quite arbitrary concepts.
Third, “good” or “bad” depends on perspective. The universe is a completely interdependent organism that is always in balance (otherwise it would not be stable). Pushing here is like pulling there and pushing there is like pulling here. Hence, every “good” action has “bad” outcomes for something or somebody somewhere (and vice versa). There are no purely “good” or “bad” actions, ever. “No bad actions” does not mean that genocide or things like that are ok. Morals and ethics are “good” from a human perspective. But from the perspective of the rest of nature, it is “bad” news. The more people need to live on the planets resources, the more these finite resources will need to be exploited.
Where does “good” and “bad” come from?
Whenever we turn something unpleasant into a problem, we create the “bad”. So, fundamentally, the “bad” is the expression of our inability to deal with fear. It is something we humans create out of ignore-ance, not something that is inherently present in the universe.
How to get rid of desire?
First of all, realize that the desire to get rid of desire is still a desire. So, in that sense, you are trapped. You can’t do much about it, really.
Nevertheless, I suggest the following: think your desires through to the very end. I mean what if your desires became true? What if you became enlightened, immortal, famous, rich, the world’s savior, etc.? What would you do with it? What would you do when the whole world was saved? What would you do with enlightenment or celebrity status? Would you be happy ever after, “done”? Would you think “mission accomplished” and retire? Ask yourself honestly: how many times have you satisfied a desire and immediately replaced it with another one?
What I am suggesting is this: you are not actually interested in fulfilling or getting rid of your desires, you are interested in keep on looking for something that does not exist: the everlasting “goodie”. You see, even your spiritual seeking is just another facet of this game. The fascination with it arises because you dislike what is. You can’t stand it. You mistrust it. It reminds you of your unresolved issues, wounds and fears. It’s like a shadow hanging over you that you want to run away from. But because your shadow follows you everywhere you must keep going. You must be on the move always. That’s why you are doomed to be restless with no capacity to find rest in the ordinariness of the present moment. Basically, what I am saying is that you are stuck with desires because you are a coward. To try to get rid of desires is the cowards way of hiding from his own fears.
So then, to make the long story short: to get rid of desire, that is, to undermine it, all you need is to find the trust to allow yourself to be a vulnerable human being. It’s that simple. Let your heart be touched and it will provide you with unconditional gratitude for life.
How to get rid of fear?
By thinking you fears through to the very end you’ll notice they are irrational and based on separation. For example, the fear of death is the fear of going unconscious without ever regaining consciousness, like going to sleep without ever waking up. Would that be so horrible? As long as we are unconscious there is nobody to worry and nothing to worry about. And the first experience after being unconscious must be becoming conscious again. So, where’s the problem with death?
You see, (psychological) problems are mind-constructs. To get rid of them, opposition will not do. It will only reinforce the problematic nature of the problem. To get rid of a problem, you need to convince yourself that your problem has never been a problem in the first place, because it was illusory.
How to transcend thoughts? Controlling or observing them?
First of all, maybe you can ask yourself the question: what’s wrong with thoughts? As you will see if you try, doing something (e.g. managing/ controlling) or not doing something about thoughts (e.g. observing) gives them a separate and unique identity. It creates an illusory duality between “you” and the thoughts. So, whatever you do or not do to transcend thoughts, prevents thought-transcendence!
There is a solution, though. The solution is exactly the realization that there is no solution. If you want to not be bothered by thoughts, that is, if you want to transcend them, don’t mind them! You’ll see that your mind will become very quiet because most mental noise is a feedback-loop of judgmental thoughts about thoughts about thoughts, etc.
Trust the perfection of the universe which certainly has not created thoughts to torture or challenge us. Look around: has the universe ever made a mistake?
What’s the “meaning” of life?
The universe is inherently playful. It perpetually creates “the ten thousand things” as it joyfully vibrates (goes “on” and “off” continuously). It has no specific purpose other than to dance this dance.
We are the universe in ecstatic motion. So, our lives inherently serve no specific purpose either. And neither does the life of any other living organism. That doesn’t mean that life is meaningless per se. Flowers are meaningful to bees, for example. Everything plays its part in the great song.
Ask yourself: what would you do if you did not have any external or internal expectations to fulfill? You would get together with your friends and sing and dance and play. So, the meaning of life is to live, to vibrate and dance according to the beat of our heart, the universe. What could be more simple to understand?
To seek “meaning” is non other than an expression of (an imaginary) disconnection from one’s own being. It’s the old, old search for the elusive one “thing” that will makes us forever happy so that we will never be sad again. Can you see how this immature fantasy is nothing but an escape from the “down” parts of one’s existence? Can you see that this is the stuff Samsara is made of? Nirvana is not getting this “one” thing; it’s losing the itch to escape from oneself.
Why do you say life should be approached as play?
Life makes most sense when we play, that is, when we do something that does not need to serve a particular purpose. Playing is always a goal-unoriented activity.
However, because of our unconscious fear and mistrust in all things natural (especially our inner), our main motivation, our goal, in life is to (im-)prove, better or enhance ourselves (or any other variation of one-upmanship). This is obviously serious business and has nothing to do with play anymore. In that state of consciousness, the state of lack, we miss life completely because we are so focused on our goals that we won’t allow ourselves to “play” anymore. Goal-orientation suffocates creativity. This is what Jesus meant when he said “unless you become like little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. And this unplayful seriousness will bug us our entire life since we can never ever reach our goal of happiness and peace as long as we are not deeply convinced that everything is fundamentally ok the way it is, which, obviously, includes first and foremost ourselves.
What is love?
Love is that which comes from a place beyond “right” and “wrong”. Hence, it is unconditional/ non-judgmental acceptance.
How to open the heart of compassion?
One thing about humans is that whenever we are afraid or even slightly suspicious of another person we are retreating far into our persona, our mask and fail to see a connection. This place inside our shells is a desperate and lonely place.
We usually need to see vulnerability in others to lose our fears, trust, come “out”, connect and start to care (that’s why looking at a baby or at cute animals is a big ego-slayer!). Compassion flows as we know that deep down, behind our masks everybody is as vulnerable a human being as we are. Thus, the key to our heart is acknowledging our own vulnerability.
End of part 4 (of 5)
What do you mean by trust and mistrust?
The definition of trust I like the most is the “readiness or willingness to be vulnerable and hurt”. Trust is not mere reliability. Nor is it faith or the belief that everything will turn out fine. It is the expression of genuine openness and thus it has a risk component in it, the risk to one’s integrity.
As I point out over and over again, our un-readiness to open up to the inner world is an expression of mistrust nourished by our fears of vulnerability. As we lose this fear, we gain trust in ourselves and are thus liberated from the continuous frustration of conscious and unconscious self-doubting, self-(im)proving and self-evaluating according to peer-group opinion. With this liberation we change from the mode of becoming into the mode of being. Or in other words, while before, the “journey” was deemed a mere necessity to reach the “goal”, the “goal” has now become the mere reason to go on a journey. “Now”, the on-going process, the journey, has become more important than “then”, the final destination.
What do you mean by “life is in the dream”. Aren’t we supposed to get out of it?
Our live’s “dramas” are ungrounded, illusory since they are based on the illusion of life and death. Nevertheless, they do set the stage for a magnificent play. Every captivating story needs drama and the world’s play is no different. Only that the actors on the world stage have forgotten that they are acting and that life is play. They live in a “dream” of good vs. bad, completely one with their role (yes, spiritual seeking is also a role!) afraid to lose and eager to win. Some will wake up to this “dream”, most won’t.
Now, is the not waking up a bad thing? No, it isn’t. Just as the “salt” in every play is the dramatic turn of events, the “juice” of life is provided by its ups and downs. That’s why most people don’t want to wake up. Even if they say so, they really don’t. They wan’t to keep going (at least a bit more) because they are thrilled by the question “will I make it?”. Isn’t the adventure to wake up, or trying to drop-out of the “drama” not itself just another chapter in the drama?
Now, a realized person does not drop-out of the play either. (S)he has awoken to the fact that (s)he is dreaming, that it’s all play and that (s)he, her self, is an act, a fake, a mask of the universe (the Latin word “persona” means mask). So, by virtue of this realization (s)he has become a lucid dreamer and does not mistake the “dream” for serious business. And that changes one’s view of the “dream”-state completely. It is now seen as an open invitation to explore and flirt with the joys and sorrows of human existence (that’s why in Buddhism a realized person, a so-called “Bodhisattva”, is sometimes described as a being who “joyfully participates in the sorrows of the world”). Only the actor who in the back of his mind knows that he is playing an act in a story (in which nothing can ever go “wrong” or made “right”) is free to wholeheartedly give himself to it and really enjoy his (fake) act. Only he is a “genuine fake”, as the great Alan Watts would put it.
Is indulging in the senses a hindrance to enlightenment?
A sensualist who is not also a mystic is all meat and, thus, superficial. But a mystic who is not also a sensualist is all bones and, thus, lifeless.
Can I “follow my bliss” to enlightenment?
I love Joseph Campbell, who popularized the slogan. He taught me many things. But he was not a mystic. He even said so himself. He never had a mystical experience. For me, his mantra “follow your bliss” leans too much towards changing one’s present life for a better life rather than changing one’s consciousness of one’s present life. And that’s a big difference. One says follow your passion and you’ll find fulfillment in life, the other says fulfillment is here now if you don’t object to life. So, to “follow one’s bliss” is the non-mystic way of finding bliss and peace. It is the way of those who believe they are separate and who unconsciously think they stand in competition with the universe from which they have to first wrench their share of bliss. It is for those who haven’t realized that “one’s bliss” does not have to be followed because it never parts.
Is nirvana never-ending bliss?
No, but never-ending peace and serenity. What’s the difference? Bliss is an experience. Peace and serenity is being in non-objection to whatever experience, bliss or piss.
What do you define as seeking and why does it defeat its purpose?
Seeking is doing something to get something as opposed to doing something just for the sake of doing it. In Hindu terminology seeking it is being “attached to the fruit of one’s actions” and in modern psychological language it’s called “extrinsic” motivation (as opposed to “intrinsic” motivation).
Being “extrinsically” motivated means to put more importance on the ends than the means. It is performance (ego!) oriented with a strong emphasize on reaching goal in the future. If we work for the money, power or fame or meditate to get enlightened, we are “extrinsically” motivated. We do whatever it takes now, even things we don’t actually like doing, to reach our goals one day. In short, our behavoir is externally controlled, or, in spiritual lingo: we look for happyness outside ourselves.
On the other hand, to be “intrinsically” motivated means to make the means ends in themselves (“the journey is the goal”). It is task/ activity oriented emphasizing the present moment. We work or meditate simply for its own sake, because we enjoy it, now. Our behavior generates from inside.
Every “intrinsic” motivation can be replaced by “extrinsic” motivation, though, once fear or desire gets involved (think of artists “selling their souls”). And that’s what’s happening to all of us to some extent. Socially conditioned values and goals, low self-esteem, fear or greed catapult us into a wasteland of commonplaceness because at some point we stopped doing what we liked for external motives.
So, back to the topic. The “extrinsically” motivated spiritual search to be in the present-moment is self-defeating, because it precisely denies what is sought. It’s seeking to stop seeking. Hence, the goal of the mystic way is to undermine extrinsic motivational urges so that we are freed to lead a live according to our genuine interests. This idea is sometimes summarized in the statement: THIS IS IT!
Why won’t I get it that I am IT?
You won’t get it because you are already IT. There is nothing to understand or get. Since you are IT, by trying to wake up to IT, you stay asleep. So, you need to dispel the persistent illusion that you are not IT. But you don’t want that really, because you like chasing the illusion that something “grand” could be realized. It gives you the permission to be disconnected with yourself, your feelings, emotions, your innate vulnerability.
I want enlightenment so bad, why can’t I get it?
Desiring (or not desiring) is expressive of objection to what is. Hence, to want enlightenment is to miss it. To not want enlightenment is to miss it, too. If you want to wake up, you will forever stay asleep, because enlightenment is simply to be in non-objection to what always already is.
How to be in the “now”?
It’s always now. When else could it be? Whatever we are experiencing right now, is what is now! Even if we wanted, we could never not be “now”. Why would you want to go where you already are? That doesn’t make sense at all.
But somehow this seems very hard to grasp. Why? Because we don’t want the “now” unconditionally, we want the blissful, happy variation of it. And we call that the “now”.
The tragic-comic predicament of mankind is that we seek what we already always have because pretending we haven’t found it yet gives us the pretext to distract ourselves from the more difficult variations of reality. In that sense, the whole spiritual quest is just another way (usually once we have exhausted most other ways) to fool ourselves into thinking that we are “on track” to hit the ultimate jackpot while it actually serves the purpose to remain in cozy distance to what is going on right now.
Even in the earnest spiritual seeking, what we ultimately still secretly want is always staying “up” without ever going “down”. That’s what’s keeping us trapped in Samsara, no matter how disciplined or piously we practice.
Why can’t we see that the reason we create all sorts of ideas about how to “access” the present-moment, is to avoid being unconditionally touched by it? What are we afraid of? I think we are afraid that reality may hurt us, that it may remind us of our vulnerable side, of our mortality. So, the self-help, self-improvement and new age section in bookstores is where fearful people like us find their excuses to keep on seeking that which they wish to ignore through the seeking: their tender and vulnerable heart. It’s a very cunning mechanism. Let’s face it: seeking is cowardice in action, it’s the way of avoidance.
Now then, there are two ways to come to rest in the present moment. We could either try and find a way to always do things we enjoy doing. For most of us, though, this is not realistic. And even “bliss followers” bounce back and forth between bliss-states and piss-states, probably even more so than the John Doe’s amongst us. The other option is to realize the futility of escaping from what is by seeing that the universe is our very own nature and can’t be escaped from, that there is nowhere to go and that there is nothing to achieve ever because life has no specific purpose. This undermines our extrinsically motivated urge to always “get somewhere” (else) in life and to perpetually keep avoiding ourselves. Once we stop living for the sake of ignoring our fragility because we are afraid, we start living life for its own sake because its too great a thing to miss out.
Will I get enlightened by only thinking positively?
It is true that the quality of life depends on the quality of one’s thoughts. However, if you hold unconscious fears you will inevitably have fearful “negative” thoughts. Trying to override these thoughts with affirmative statements creates struggle, self-condemnation and hypocrisy. Let your thoughts alone. They come and go. There’s nothing wrong with them.
Can I “manifest” my wishes mentally?
Maybe, I don’t know. I doubt it, though.
What’s more interesting, though, is this: why would you want your wishes to be fulfilled anyway? To me that shows one thing: you feel separate and you are afraid (because desires and fears are co-dependent, they are each others symptoms). So what I am saying is that if you weren’t afraid you wouldn’t have a catalogue of wishes to manifest.
End of Part 3
Is the ego a mistake?
No. Its biological function is survival. First of all, if we had no concept that trying to stroke a predatory animal could be dangerous, our species would have died out long time ago. Since the universe runs on a constant amount of energy, life necessarily needs to live on other life. Every organism has to die, otherwise there would not be “room” for new organisms. However, to be able to grow old enough to pass on its genes (and raise its next generation to maturity), every organism is endowed with a survival mechanism. The psychic tension that is created when we experience something which puts our organism at risk serves exactly this function. The ego’s job is to react to the tension and find ways to release it (e.g. by getting out of the danger zone, eliminating the danger, etc). It is an automated mechanism by which the organism learns to survive long enough to continue in the form of its progeny.
The existential problem starts when we are conditioned to experience irrational fears (e.g. the fear of death, the fear of minorities) and thus develop a rigid set of “right” vs. “wrong” concepts (e.g. laziness is bad, thin is beautiful). Every such dual/ polar concept is a seed for irrational psychic tension to arise when it is triggered by inner or outer circumstances. Usually in our over-civilized and over-conceptualized world, by the time we are into our 30ties, our ego is almost constantly “active” trying to find ways to deal with these accumulated, irrational fears and out-of-touch-with-reality concepts.
Am I a puppet of the universe or am I the master? Is there free will or not?
Both, the ideas of fatalism (puppet) and free will (master) are based on fear. The source of this fear lies in the notion of an independent agent, a separate “you”. But you are an inter-dependent agent. Look at the ocean. Does the ocean push the wave or the wave push the ocean? Neither/ nor because ocean and wave are one inseparable process, the same “thing”. So, the wave is neither the puppet nor the master of the ocean because it IS the ocean.
A fatalist person tends to feel like a victim, is amotivated and depressive. A mastery-type of person tends to live a life of struggle to one-up on himself and his environment. The person who transcends the notion of separateness, though, becomes autonomous, that is, free from the urge to hide from or dominate his life.
If I start to live by letting things happen, will I become passive?
No. As you are liberated from the urge to compulsively control and justify yourself, a lot of previously wasted life energy is freed up. However, what seemed important before (e.g. possessions, status, satisfaction of desires, etc.) may lose its appeal. So often, ambition, restraint or the need for gratification are not pursued for their own sake (that is, because one enjoys it) but have their source in a feeling of lack or fear. They are dysfunctional “survival” (ego!) strategies which weaken our organism as they suck out lots of life energy. When we make these strategies and their underlying beliefs conscious, see that they are socially conditioned and realize that they are self-defeating, we clear them from the organism.
What do you mean when you say “everything is One” or “non-dual”?
Very simplified, physics tells us that energy is vibration (a continuous interval of “on” and “off”) and that all matter is energy. So everything is vibration (think of Shiva’s dance!). What is suggested here is that fundamental to existence is a uni-form field of vibrations (the uni-verse). Reality as we know it manifests itself by certain vibrations of this field being picked up by our sense organs and processed by our brains (if our “receivers” were different it could be possible to see or hear radio-waves or x-rays, for example).
Given that our bodies, thoughts, feelings, etc. are also vibrations, we are basically vibration perceiving vibration. Or in “non-dual” lingo: We are all that IS, perceiving itself through itself.
It is important to realize that although absolute reality is “not-two”, for a reality to manifest there needs to be a relationship between two seemingly separate things: receiver and received; self and other. Maya, the illusion of duality, is a necessary mask of the universe to be able to discover itself. Duality is the stage from which to depart on this amazing adventure called life.
What do you mean when you say “there is no time”?
Time is the notion of a progressive series of events. But what if there was no such progression because all these events are not happening in a series of different moments but in the very same (endless) moment? The present moment is like a TV screen that can show millions of movies without fundamentally changing. It is forever still, the same, while at the same time it can forever host motion and alteration.
Is there cause and effect?
On a fundamental level, the answer is no. If there was cause and effect, there must have been a first cause that brought the universe into being (something like the “Big Bang”). But if that was so, what could have caused this first cause? There is no solution to this problem unless we assume that something can start out of nothing. So, there must have been something always. Hence, the fundamental reality, the uni-form field, is uncaused.
It is also forever unaffected, itself, because it is the only thing there is. Causes and effects refer to two different manifestations which are, however, in essence one and the same thing. So, fundamentally, causes are caused by themselves and effects affect themselves. While “things” happen, nothing really happens.
Is there death?
Since the separate self is an illusion, dying is an illusion.
What then is that which we call death? Let’s look at the ocean-wave example. A wave is defined as a form consisting of a trough, a crest and another trough. It is a certain configuration of the ocean. Now, the only constant in the ocean is continuous change of configuration (because the universe is a vibratory thing). So, we could say that the ocean is constantly wave-ing.
Similarly, we could say that the universe is constantly materialize-ing, gas-ing, light-ing, heat-ing, liquidize-ing and therefore flower-ing, animal-ing, people-ing, etc. All these forms in the universe are void of inherent, that is, independent existence just as a wave is not inherently different from the ocean. What we call death is simply the transition of one form of “spirit” (or energy/ vibration) into another. And because this fundamental essence of being never depletes, the universe will not disappear either. It will just keep changing its configuration. Forever, and ever and ever.
What changes when we embrace change?
When we don’t, we are involved, that is, we struggle in vain to always stay on the sunny side of life. E.g. we spiritual seekers try to stay in a happy, aware, meditative mood always, although that’s impossible. We want just the “good” without the “bad”. This is Samsara.
When we lose the fear of change, that is, when we do not object to it, though, we transcend Samsara, because we are not involved anymore. With non-involvement I mean that there is no more struggle, no more “self” (ego).
So, in a way nothing changes: changes still happen. After the sun comes the rain. But in another way everything changes because we are at peace, in non-objection to whatever is (ourselves!). And this peace, this not wavering, is the anchor to the “now”.
End of Part 2
The next few posts will be Q&A’s that I have compiled over the last year writing this blog. The questions start of basic and broad and get more and more specific.
Hope you enjoy the dialogue. Further questions welcome (to: truthlesstruth[at]gmail.com).
Why do we feel separated, alienated from our environment?
Whenever our attention is focused on our experiences (thoughts, feelings, sense impressions) there arises the illusion of an experiencer, a separate agent. The experiencer is nothing but an echo of experience itself, an experience of experience (or a self-experience). With this separate agent arises fear and a feeling of alienation. Whenever our attention comes to rest on experiencing itself (which is the natural state), this illusion vanishes and we feel at ease.
Our attention gets focused on experiences when we grasp or reject them (which happens automatically in accord with our unconscious fears and desires). When we are in a complete affirmative mind state, judging is transcended, the “experiencer” collapses for a while and we seem to flow along with life and feel “one” with it.
It is important to realize that this “flow” is always there. It’s not something we need to first align ourselves with. Everything, including our fears, our confusions, our restlessness, the boredom and our anxieties are part of it too. Mostly, though, we reject these unpleasant sensations and get caught up in the illusion of separation. In this rejection mode, the (illusory) “experiencer” goes about trying to hide from these aspects of the “flow”, push them away or channel them. However, this is an impossible task, because the “experiencer” has no control over the “flow” whatsoever. We simply cannot decide to feel, think or sense this way or that way or not at all. All such futile pursuits ever accomplish is exhaustion, depression or repression.
The only way to stop anything from moving that we have no control over is by moving with it at the same pace. Or in other words, by non-objecting to what is (already g(fl)o(w)ing on) we keep on flowing with life and find our stillness in motion.
Why do we object to reality?
As we feel separate from the universe, we live in unconscious existential angst. This angst is the driving force of Samsara, the endless, frustrating struggle to fight with or to flight from what is. Our fears make us continuously seek either control or distraction, because truly resting in the present moment would mean coming face to face with our unconscious fears. How long can you be all by yourself before you get the itch to “do” something to distract yourself from yourself or to try to become more than you are?
How to realize our unity with the universe?
Actually, our non-separation with the universe is the most obvious fact. Read any science book and you’ll get the point. However, since in our aculturisation process we were conditioned to fear and mistrust our inner selves and our environment, we are under the spell of illusory separateness from the universe within and without.
Any attempt to unify ourselves will perpetuate the illusion of a separate entity that seeks unification. So, to realize our unity is to see through our illusion of separation. The only way to do that is to convince ourselves that our fears are fundamentally ungrounded.
My advice is this: spend some time alone into nature (e.g. a cave, a monastery, etc.) try out psychedelics (in a beneficial setting, with professional guidance, respect and care!), or, alternatively, seek so hard to unify yourself with the universe (yourself!) until you get the point that “you are riding on a horse asking where the horse is!” (~Ajahn Chah).
Will I ever be able to see through my illusion of separateness?
No, not by any effort from your side. It’s an illusion to ever be able get out of an illusion, because you can never get out from what does not exist in the first place. You were there from the beginning. You are never not IT.
Is spiritual practice relevant?
All goal-oriented practices are ways to try to outsmart the way things are. So, they are inherently non-affirmative to what is and, thus, increase the illusion of separation. It’s like wearing a CIA-shirt when going on a undercover mission. It defeats its own purpose. But spiritual practices do it so consistently that the practitioner may eventually burst into a liberating awakening experience.
Practice is relevant as long as we are under the illusion of separateness. Once we “know”, practice becomes irrelevant (but not necessarily futile, because one could still go on practicing for the sheer enjoyment of practicing).
What is liberation?
Liberation is granting yourself the freedom to allow yourself every experience genuinely, to respect and non-object to it. Liberation is something you give to yourself! It’s the freedom to be ashamed, to be a fool, to be embarrassed, to be angry, to feel sad, etc. By not minding you re-align with the universe and pacify the heart and mind. Or in other words, a liberated being lives completely autonomous, free from social conditioning of “good” vs. “bad”.
So, liberation is not about freeing oneself ideologically or physically from social conventions, but about gaining the ability to move within one’s social sphere without getting “hung-up” on it.
Wouldn’t civilisation fall apart if we all acted genuinely without a control feature?
I think its the other way around. I think civilization is falling apart, because of too much civilization. As we are trained to not attend properly to our emotions, feelings and urges we not only develop the dangerous illusion of a separate self but also act them out in harmful ways. Think of priests molesting children in the name of God, or the general violence against our natural habitat, mother earth.
Our cultures and societies in general deeply mistrust our innermost being. Therefore, it emphasizes the need to control it. But go, get lost in nature and ask yourself this question: has the universe ever produced a mistake? Has there ever been a “wrong” snowflake or a weird constellation of stars? All is happening perfectly coordinated and orchestrated by itself. Why not trust the universe’s intelligence? Or ask yourself the following question: if you can’t trust the universe, the fore- and background of all there is, whom could you trust? You couldn’t trust anybody, not even yourself! So you would have to come up with checks and controls and because you couldn’t trust the checker and controller either you would have to come up with a check for the checks and a control for the controllers, etc. As a consequence, you would never find peace, you would never be at ease. So then, tell me what reasonable option do we have other than to take the risk to trust the universe?
How to quiet the mind?
The desire to quiet the mind is a rejection of the disquiet mind. In other words, the disquiet mind is rendered into a problem. To try to get rid of a problem is to enforce it, because the very trying validates the problem by giving it credit. So, the attempt to get rid of a (psychological) problem by problematizing it is as accomplishable as trying to not see an elephant when you think you see one. It can’t be done. The source of any psychological problem is the thought of a problem. You can never ever not have a problem as long as you think you have one.
How to solve this dilemma? What to do? Do nothing. Do not mind the disquiet mind and it will calm down by itself. Once you realize this, the problem of a disquiet mind ceases to be problematic and will not bother you again.
End of part one