If we call the experience of the only thing there is, “oneness”
We create a distinction between one and many.
“Oneness” is a subtle trap.
It does not liberate.
It keeps one tightly bound to duality.
One and many are non-dual.
They are fundamentally the same.
So if you were to say “one” and “many” are one,
you haven’t understood a single thing.
The many and the one are not different,
but they are not one.
Duality and unity are dualistic concepts.
To transcend the duality, think:
Neither one, nor many, but both.
Such realization is called “non-duality”.
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
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
Once we start to hang out in spiritual circles of the Buddhist or Advaita kind we soon enough come across statements like “life is an illusion” or “life is just a dream”. While teachings pointing to the “unreality” of the world as we perceive it through the filter of our minds are very helpful, I find spiritual seekers often get stuck in it. And whenever seekers get stuck, it is because they mistake the metaphor for the reference.
All the “dream”-metaphor refers to is the fact that how we perceive the world is fundamentally subjective. The image of the world as we know it is a function of our individual set of conditioned beliefs of good and bad (in time and space). The judgmental (good vs. bad) interpretation of the stream of experiences creates the illusion of an observatory experiencer, an entity separate from the stream. This split is the source of duality: there is a “me” experiencing and evaluating what is happening within and without. Accordingly, non-duality is realizing the “me” as another experience, as another aspect of the stream. It is the awakening to the truth that all there is, is the stream of experience. Thus, by entering the stream, “we”, the subjective “judge” dissolves. And by no longer objecting or trying to control the stream, we flow with it and suffering ends.
Unfortunately, for many people I have met, the metaphor seems to mean that they should suspend judgement or negate their subjective experiences. Both approaches, though, are expressions of a fundamentally judgmental nature. They can’t work, because whenever we do something to get something we are operating from a stance of good vs. bad. “I should not judge” is as judgmental as it gets.
Spiritual pointers and metaphors are not meant to make us do something but simply to acknowledge and accept how it is. Hence, to enter the stream (and dissolve the “judge”) all one has to do is to fully acknowledge our imaginary views of the world. Once we don’t care about judgement anymore, we have transcended judgement, and we enter. When we say “yes” to everything, even to our conditioned “no’s”, unity is restored. Nirvana is Samsara fully embraced.
There are certain ways to bring this state of surrender about. Ramana Maharshi for example would say that the world is unreal (a subjective image), that fundamentally only Brahman (the “raw” stream of experience) was real, but that in the end, the world was Brahman. So, even the subjective judgement (the “me”) is an expression of the sacred, because it is also an experience. There is only experience, unity, and “thou art that”.
The (teaching-)approach which works for me is a bit different, though. I compare living with going to the movies. We all know that the whole fun of going to the movies is to forget that is a movie and to get lost in the plot. So, if we kept telling us it was “just” a movie or “just” an illusion, we could have stayed home, because it negates the whole movie experience. The same applies to life. If we keep telling ourselves that life is “just” a dream, we keep ourselves out of, that is, detached from life (see an older post on detachment). To get the most out of a movie experience one has to get wholeheartedly involved in the plot. Hence, getting completely sucked in by life without wobbling or hesitating, to live for the sake of playing out our part on the world stage, whatever this part turns out to be, that is the enlightened life. It is a sacred “yes”, which is unconditional, which does not expect anything in return and which, for those reasons, will yield constant surprise, wonder and gratefulness. A “dream” it is, but what an amazing one!
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
If we take a moment to think about it, the problem most schools of thought are ultimately concerned with is a) how to avoid suffering, and/ or b) how to find happiness (or “meaning”) in life.
The way non-dual philosophies deal with these issues is to point to a state of receptive, purposeless “being” (present) as the source of happiness and “meaning” and to the realization that our concepts of “good” and “bad” are responsible for our hang-ups. So, according to non-dual teachings, a) the illusory nature of the duality of opposites and, b) the (conditioned) continuous attempt to be in charge of internal processes are at the core of our existential problems. In conjunction they create the illusion of a separate entity, a tension called “ego”, in space and time.
While “being” is relatively easily found in love, the arts, any “flow” activity or meditative practice, the avoidance of suffering is much harder to come by. That’s probably the reason why the Buddha put the emphasis of his teachings on suffering and not on happiness. The potential problem with happiness-philosophies is that they inherently create reasons for suffering in that they propagate a striving for happiness and a consequential rejection of states of unhappiness. A philosophy of suffering, on the other hand, will go right at the core of the problem of existential dis-ease: the tendency to judge and reject. It aims at providing peace of mind in whatever state, happy or sad.
From early childhood we learn to navigate through life by means of fear and attraction. It is what drives our actions (or karma), and eventually, our whole lives. The judging attitude inherent in grasping and rejecting agitate our minds and make life seem somewhat murky. Consequently, we lose touch with reality as it actually “is”. And instead of gratitude, wonder and awe for life, we are wandering within the narrow boundaries of desire and fear through a world of commonplaces. So, the striving for happiness must create dissatisfaction. This is the ultimate paradox of existence. That by trying to attain something, we create an idea of its opposite and, thus, we forever remain in the cycle of judging and suffering. The world of ideas is the portal to Samsara.
Although our maps of navigation cause our suffering by liking and disliking certain aspects of what is really “One”, we cling to them, fearing to get lost without any opinion to hold on to. That’s why enlightenment is such an illusive thing, accessible only for those trusting and loving life to the point of complete unknowing. To transcend “good” and “bad” we have to find a way to accept and embrace everything as sacred, as making sense in the grander scheme of things beyond our ego. This is exactly what is happening when we have a mystical experience (or Satori) and get a glimpse at the world through the eyes of the impersonal, the Absolute.
Unfortunately, though, almost all seekers will misunderstand the mystical message at first. They will take the viewpoint of the Absolute (or cosmic consciousness), as the “real” view, dismissing ordinary consciousness. This, again, just keeps the cycle of dissatisfactory existence turning. After all, even if Brahman is the only reality, the world is Brahman, or in Buddhist terminology, form is emptiness. Same thing, no difference. So, cosmic consciousness implies the sacredness of ordinary consciousness.
So then, the ultimate liberation (moksha) according to the non-dual traditions of the East, is to be free of even the concept of freedom. That is, liberation is to have no fundamental objection to what is happening. It is a cleansing of the mind of ideas of right and wrong. That way, we relax and the tension of the “ego” gives way to peace and serenity in times of joy as well as in times of sorrow. All states are seen as equally valid manifestations of this “One” sacred universe. Nothing is never not (part of) IT. Not even our feelings of separateness. No-thing whatsoever.
Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.
My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
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It’s quite a long article. Hope you find it helpful nevertheless.
I am going to be on holidays for two weeks now.
Looking forward to re-connect when I am back.