For this months main feature we have quite a unique offering. A delightful play of opposites if-you-will; a special feature from a UK Non-Duality imprint who primarily publishes works on the contemporary expression of Advaita by Western authors/teachers…brought to you by a Western site who often features authors/teachers from the UK and Europe!
We thought it was only natural that we hook up and give you an extensive behind-the-scenes look at this growing indie company. This offering has been in the works for a couple of years [believe it or not] as both parties have a very busy daily schedule yet maintain private personal lives.
Since its inception in 2004, Non-Duality Press has set out to make available the clearest contemporary writing on non-duality. Having read many of their offerings, we feel their books represent a substantial contribution to the understanding of Liberation, both as a resource for those that are familiar with the subject and an inspiration for those in the process of discovery.
If you are new to these writings, we hope you feel inspired to explore the perspectives contained in their books after reading this exclusive interview with Julian Noyce.
According to your website, you discovered there was: “a need for authentic and accessible contemporary writing on the subject” —please tell us more about your creation of Non-Duality Press and how that came about.
When we published our first book in 2004 it was very obvious that there were many worthwhile communicators or realizers who weren’t being published and were unlikely to be published any time soon. Books of any quality in this field could be numbered in the dozens rather than the thousands. So, my impression at this time, was that the non-dual community (such as it was), or people who might be interested in this approach, were not being very well served by publishers. Certainly, one or two books a year might emerge, or, after a large fanfare, a picture book with photos of Ramana Maharshi might be published. With the exception of Advaita Press who published Balsekar’s and Wayne Liquorman’s books, and Inner Directions, the scene at that time seemed slow and lumbering. This was not reflecting my experience and the impression that there seemed to be the beginnings of a genuine integration and re-expression of Eastern teachings in the West.
Nathan Gill, ‘Sailor’ Bob Adamson, Leo Hartong and Joan Tollifson. These teachers had many years of experience behind them but were not hamstrung by dogma or affiliated to any particular lineage. I found this an exciting development; so-called enlightened communicators, with Western conditioning, expressing and living something that just a few years earlier was previously thought to the preserve of gurus from the East. These writers were cultured and widely read but also ‘ordinary’ and accessible.
Returning to your question, in 2003 I starting a small business importing books from around the world, mostly from the US and India, for sale in the UK where they were quite difficult to get hold of. This happened to coincide with the internet becoming more accessible so that I was able to construct and maintain a website. Some of these titles were quite costly to import so I initially spoke to Sailor Bob’s people in Australia and asked if they would license Bob’s book to me for re-publishing in Europe. This was the first book we published and from there I asked Nathan Gill who I had known for several if he would like to write something. We then took on two excellent books by Joan Tollifson and Leo Hartong that had initially been self-published. I wondered in the early days if enough worthwhile manuscripts would come along but as we can see there has been a blossoming of writing on this subject since then.
Since you are primarily publishing books by Western authors and communicators, who is your target audience and or what is the ultimate goal for NDP?
We don’t think in terms of a target audience, our readers seem to come from very varied backgrounds with long seeking histories or no seeking history at all. I think it’s a wonderful aspect of this teaching that people who drift off the street and into a meeting with no prior experience can sometimes have more sense of this than long-time seekers. That isn’t to say I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for long-term seekers, by the way – but this so-called ‘scene’ is nothing if not paradoxical.
Ultimately, I feel the goal is simply to reflect how the current of non-duality and the perennial philosophy is being expressed now as best we can using words and books.
What are your thoughts on the e-book revolution? How long do you think (actual) physical books will be “officially supported” by readers and or readily available?
All our new books are published simultaneously now as paperbacks and e-books and we are gradually converting all our backlist of titles to ebooks. We were interested in e-books some years ago but the formats and platforms for selling them were so chaotic (many people cite the Betamax vs VHS analogy which fits quite well) that we didn’t really start our ebooks program until last year. We are lucky enough to be flexible with both formats, paperback and digital books; we don’t have a huge investment in hard-copy books. At the moment both are selling well with a small drop in paperback sales which is easily made up for by digital sales. I am surprised and quite happy that many readers are still very attached to physical books and we will continue to supply these and even have the occasional hardback edition planned for next year.
What are the greatest challenges you face with your business in 2013?
I think our greatest challenge is finding the right size for the company. We have no shortage of manuscript submissions but it seems to work best in terms of workload and quality if we publish between 8 and 10 books per year, perhaps even fewer. These represent what we feel are the ‘best of the best’ or the most original writing, or books we just like to take a chance on because they have a certain quality that we like.
The book trade and publishing has changed dramatically in the last twenty years and is still in flux. There is so much free material available now and this can be challenging for publishers but it seems there is still a place for a well written and carefully edited book so the foundations of the business still feel valid.
On a personal level, I find bookkeeping (accounts) a challenge – I don’t resent doing it but it seems to be a separate occupation in itself…!
Is this publishing company your primary [day] job or is this a “pro hobby” at this point? What do you like to do for fun outside of working on new projects for the press?
Very much a full-time job for the last few years – I worked part-time as an events organiser for a well-known teacher but now Non-Duality Press is my full-time job and that is more than enough to keep me occupied. Catherine, my wife, helps with editing and we have two very valuable freelancers who have worked with us on design and proofreading almost since the start of the business.
Are you an author and or writer yourself perhaps? —tell us a bit about yourself please…
I am not a natural writer although Jeff Foster likes my writing and encourages me to write more. I felt recently that it would be an interesting project to try to bring together a book about current thinking on ‘consciousness’ (entheogens, psychology, non-duality etc.); the current state of play and convergence in all these fields, the direction things are going and whether alternative ideas are becoming mainstream (and, indeed, if any of this is important…!). However, I’m not sure if it will happen.
I wasn’t a great reader when I was young but developed a passion for books after leaving school and ended up working in the book trade when I left and on and off ever since. I also worked as a gardener and furniture maker and still like to spend time with those activities when I can. And, of course, seeking and reading voraciously around this subject often go hand-in-hand as many of us know.
I met Ramesh Balsekar in 1993 and Jean Klein in 1995 and these two people were particularly influential teachers for me. Balsekar was an anomaly in the ‘90s – here was this relatively ordinary guy, apparently ‘enlightened’ who spoke about this in a very different way from the way his own teacher had communicated. If you could overcome you own projections, you could sit in a room with him at that time as an equal.
How many books and or authors have you published by your imprint thus far? What are some of the more popular titles?
We have around 60 books in print now. Our most popular books are by Greg Goode, Rupert Spira, Jeff Foster, Jean Klein and John Wheeler. We have a great affection for the majority of the books we publish – even though some sell better than others.
What does Non-Duality mean to you?
Read the books!
There are so many great books out there on the subject —who are some of your personal favorites and why? (These can be from NDP or other publishers!)
From our own list, two that come to mind are Goner by Louis Brawley and Perfect Brilliant Stillness by David Carse. Both of these are classics in this field. Goner is about the final years and death of UG Krishnamurti written by a close associate of UG’s. I found it moving and, although it’s sometimes hard to see the relevance of UG’s life to one’s own, his experience and surrender were both quite staggering. Perfect Brilliant Stillness is a beautiful and well-written account of an unexpected awakening which is then un-picked and put into context. Very compelling and erudite but also accessable. Many people including Terence Stamp, have told me it is one of their favourite books, but it’s not that well-known. I would also put All There Is by Tony Parsons in my top 5 titles – it feels very complete to me somehow.
I feel awful leaving out so many books, apologies to all the others we publish, we love them as well, of course.
There appears to be a flowering of ND expression in the last few years, what do you attribute this too? Will ND ever make it to the mainstream?
Traditional religions and paths have some beautiful aspects to them but also, it appears, many pitfalls. Many people are looking for answers (I kind of agree with the sweeping statement that we are all seekers of something) but don’t want easy answers or the extra baggage that sometimes comes with them. Maybe that’s why this approach seems to be spreading so rapidly now.
I don’t want to make any definite predictions but I think that this approach could be mainstream in the future. As Jerry Katz points out, the word nonduality or non-duality are already being used so much more frequently in the most unlikely of places. However intuitive you are, I don’t think it’s possible to tell which way this will go, perhaps the perennial philosophy was never meant to be that popular but just stay quietly in the background while the drama plays out at the front of the stage.
What are your thoughts on the traditional Satsang format? It seems some teachers are getting away from that – at least in America. Is it time for something “new” along these lines perhaps?
Absolutely right – it’s such a fraught subject. If I never see another Paypal Donate button it will be too soon! Integrating the traditional format into the West is challenging – for people who feel they want to share this in a wider way the traditional format appears to set up a distance between teacher and taught and I think as we continue to integrate and evolve this teaching in the West one of the main challenges is to break down this division as skillfully as possible. I don’t know what direction that will take.
Satyam Nadeen attempted leaderless Satsangs many years ago and Greg Goode wrote a pivotal article, From the Age of the Guru to the age of the Friend. Jerry Katz is also a great advocate of non-duality for the people. What I do sense , though, is that putting in many hours on Facebook and approaching this with a business plan probably isn’t the answer if you want to promote yourself or spread this message . It doesn’t seem to work that way. Aside from a few healthy discussion groups, and a bit of fun, I’m not aware of anything significant that has happened [on] Facebook. The people drawn to this teaching are often very intuitive and although self-promoting teachers do appear to have some success it tends to be rather ephemeral. Authenticity seems to win out in the end. Books and teachers seem to have a natural level of popularity and there is very little that can be done about that – I like it that way.
Is teacher or guru a “dirty” word? There is so much talk and or material floating around online about these topics, to be or not to be. People are claiming they are “teachers” when clearly they are not, and folks that are really helping people prefer not to be called teachers at all. We all know how much excess baggage that the word “guru” has with it. Please elaborate.
Catherine and I sometimes wince when we notice another teacher announce themselves but she also reminds me how valuable some teachers have been in our lives. It’s not black and white, unfortunately. Four of our most popular writers/teachers also keep up full time day jobs – I admire this.
On the other hand, those people who are full-time teachers may have valid reasons for being in that position, most often because there is a demand for their availability.
Is there a new Eckhart Tolle out there living today? It seems Byron Katie has quite a following and of course Adyashanti. Some folks liken these individuals as “rock stars” of the scene [unfortunately] — what’s your take?
Eckhart’s popularity is puzzling and I don’t mean that negatively … I don’t think you can manufacture this type of popularity, it’s a phenomenon which I haven’t found an explanation for. I think there could well be another communicator who reaches huge numbers of people at some point. If they could do that whilst maintaining the essence of the teaching it would be delightful.
I think there is a growing list of words and or “spiritual cliches’ that potentially hold back some folks in the West. Some words are: Ego, Enlightenment, Spiritual or Spirituality, Awareness, Awakening & even the word nonduality. Other examples could be purple lotus flowers, Buddha’s or [traditional] Satsang events. Thoughts?
I agree – we are seeing the emergence of a much more culturally stripped and grounded expression in recent years. I love the rich symbolism and romance of the older traditions but they can also be a huge impediment to people seeing the relevance of this communication in their own lives.
Unusual question time | What do you think about at night before bed? haha
I really try not to think just before bedtime. I have to be quite strict with myself or I will be thinking about non-duality every hour of the day and night – and that would never do!
What would you say is the most satisfying part of your job and your greatest accomplishment(s)?
I think many of these books we publish might have been overlooked by traditional publishers (because of the subject, I fondly imagine, not the quality!) so to make them available as best we can has probably been the most satisfying part of the job. It can be quite a workload at times but it’s always a welcome surprise when people email me and say they really enjoyed a particular book or what an effect it has had on them. Also, giving a break and a small income to some very worthwhile writers.
I guess being able to make a contribution to how all this appears to be evolving is a great privilege and I am very aware of that.
What are your plans for NDP? Any last words you would like to add?
We plan to explore different areas such as recovery from addiction, with the focus on non-duality. We also have an interest in different faith approaches (Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism etc.) and how these relate to contemporary non-duality. We already have e-books on our website but may move into downloadable films rather than DVDs which are a wee bit clunky and expensive to ship. We don’t strategize a great deal, I find this subject a little different from the standard sales and marketing which might be appropriate for other products.
Overall, we just plan to continue providing interesting books to readers interested in this for as long as there is a demand.
by Srinivasa Rao
The book proposes a contemporary framework for critiquing Advaita and formulating its basic thesis in a more logical and convincing way. Any proper theory in philosophy and science has to follow from accepted assumptions. Hence the book begins by identifying basic presuppositions required for Advaita and determining the different cognitive possibilities arising out of them. After thus determining what is logically and conceptually possible and impossible in Advaita, the new framework is used to assess whether the traditionally held Advaitic concepts and theories are satisfactory and acceptable.
This is done in many chapters covering discussions of the notions of:
cosmic ignorance (māyā),
individual ignorance (avidyā),
entities that are different from the real and the unreal (sadasadvilaksana)
…and so on.
The book argues that all these concepts (as specifically formulated and defended in traditional Advaita for centuries after Śankara), are simply faulty and untenable both individually and as related clusters of concepts.
Traditional Advaita has also defended an elaborate ontology of experiences like mistaking a rope-for a snake. It has also heavily defended the metaphysical thesis of the empirical world of our experience being a total illusion. The logical faults and conceptual inadequacies of this ontology and metaphysics are also discussed in great detail, offering absolutely new criticisms of them.
Despite this almost totally negative portrayal of traditional Advaita, the book is also quite positive in showing that any belief in non-duality is still very much philosophically possible and necessary.
About the Author
Srinivasa Rao is former Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, Bangalore University. Affiliated to IIT Kanpur, he earlier taught at Mysore University. Advaita has been extensively studied by various schools of philosophy in classical India. In contemporary times [keep in mind the original printing was in 1985], however, it has only been compared to the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and F.H. Bradley.
Srinivasa supplements the classical Indian analysis with many special concepts and techniques extensively used in contemporary Western logic and analytic philosophy. He also discusses whether what classical Advaita had maintained centuries ago can still be maintained, and if at all it is possible, in exactly which way.
This book, from Oxford University Press, will be of considerable interest to scholars, teachers, and students of Indian philosophy perhaps.
*All the above text is from the author and Oxford University Press/Scholarship Online website.
by Steve Taylor
One of the basic ideas of contemporary Advaita is that you can’t ‘do anything’ to wake up. Effort of any kind reinforces the ego, and so strengthens the sense of separateness. Making an effort to wake up is counterproductive. The goal of becoming enlightened actually takes you further away from the state. In this article, I’m going to look at whether my research into ‘spiritual awakening’ supports this view.
One of my main interests is in the connection between awakening and psychological turmoil. I have found that, while awakening sometimes happens for no apparent reason, in most cases it’s triggered by – or at least related to – intense psychological suffering. When I was researching and writing my book Out of the Darkness, I found dozens of cases of people who were in a state of intense turmoil due to bereavement, addiction, depression, serious illness, disability, facing death and so forth – but at a certain point, usually when they let go or stopped resisting their predicament, something gave way inside them. Their normal identity collapsed, but rather than bringing a nervous breakdown, something else arose in its place. A latent higher self emerged, and became their new identity, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. They were now in an awakened state, with a new sense of wonder, meaning and connection, a feeling of lightness, and freedom from anxiety and discontent. They felt re-born, with a new identity. Years later – even decades – they were still filled with inner peace. Some of them expected the state to fade after a while, but in most cases it didn’t. It became their normal, stable and permanent identity.
I spoke to an alcoholic who reached ‘rock bottom’ and lost everything but then became liberated; a woman who has lived in a state of wakefulness ever since being told she had breast cancer; a woman whose daughter died and who lost her business and savings in the aftermath, but suddenly shifted into an enlightened state and has never grieved for her daughter since. I spoke to a man who became paralyzed after falling from a bridge onto a river bed, who struggled for months with pain and despair, then underwent a spiritual rebirth and now lives in a state of permanent bliss. I also interviewed a 90-year-old man named Russell Williams who underwent transformation over 60 years ago, after a long period of mental torment brought on by his experiences in the Second World War. As he described it:
“I was in a state of desperation…and it was suddenly as if a blanket was dropped over me. I felt an incredible sense of peace and freedom, a completely different person inside. And that freedom and peace have continued inside me right until now.”
At the time Russell knew nothing about spirituality, and it was several years before he fully understood the shift he experienced. Eventually he became a spiritual teacher, and has held twice weekly talks in Manchester, England for the past 50 years. (In fact, it’s quite common for people who experience these ‘suffering-induced transformational experiences’ – as I have called them – to become spiritual teachers. Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie and many others – including some non-duality teachers – went through periods of intense turmoil before awakening.)
Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between this transformation and a previous interest in spirituality, or a history of spiritual practice. Only a small number of the people I spoke to were following spiritual practices or traditions, or even familiar with the basic ideas of spirituality. They weren’t mystics or monks, or even spiritual seekers. They were ‘ordinary’ people with ordinary jobs, who happened to go through intense psychological turmoil. As a result, like Russell, it took them a long time to comprehend what had occurred. Initially, although they felt liberated and peaceful, many of them felt slightly bemused by their new state. Usually, they went through a slow process of gravitating towards spiritual books and other ‘awakened’ people, until they finally had a framework to make sense of their new state.
This seems to back up the non-duality movement’s doubts about spiritual practice. It seems to confirm that awakening is something which just happens, rather than being consciously induced. However, my research did highlight one positive effect of spiritual practice. The small number of people who did have a prior interest in spirituality, or a history of spiritual practice, underwent a smoother transformation than others. Aside from some initial confusion, a number of ‘shifters’ also went through a difficult period of integration, where they had psychiatric disturbances, physical problems and found it difficult to cope with daily life. They felt strange energies welling up inside them, couldn’t sleep, had visions, or found it difficult to think clearly or to speak. They went through a very unstable phase but finally ‘settled down’ into a stable awakened state. But the people who were engaged in spiritual practice didn’t undergo these difficulties. They were like people who immigrate to a different country and find it easy to settle down, because they’ve learned the language beforehand and familiarized themselves with its customs and culture. The others were like people who were suddenly kidnapped by strangers and dropped into a completely foreign culture without any preparation.
It may be that spiritual practice provides a gradual opening to higher energies and potentials, so that when the full shift into awakening occurs, it isn’t as drastic. Those energies and potentials don’t overwhelm us, because we’ve already opened ourselves to them.
So these findings seem to give credence to the idea that there is no direct connection between spiritual practice and awakening, at least not when awakening occurs in a sudden and dramatic way. At the same time, spiritual practice does help us prepare for awakening, if it should occur. In other words, practice probably won’t increase your chances of immigrating to a different country, but if you do happen to land in that strange place of awakening, it will help you to adjust to life there.
Steve Taylor’s research into ‘spiritual awakening’ is published as Out of the Darkness, available at Amazon.
The book has been described by Andrew Harvey as ‘A wonderfully clear and inspiring book…Its importance for our times cannot be exaggerated’; while Dan Millman has written that ‘Each page highlights the resilience of our human spirit.’
Steve’s website is www.stevenmtaylor.co.uk
You are constantly imagining that you are experiencing objective things, but you are not. You do not actually see an object–that lamp over there, for instance. It is not the object you are seeing.
Isn’t it obvious to you that you are experiencing a phenomenon of the brain? You cannot see the lamp.You are not inside your head looking out at the lamp. A bizarre phenomenon of the brain produces the sensation that there is a lamp over there.
Where is it anyway?
A reflected image twists around in the eyeball, and nerve impulses and electrical currents flash around the meat-brain in order to construct an illusion, a sensation, an idea. What is objective about it?
It is just your own fascination. It is your own mind. It is your own Consciousness, modified by organs of experience. It is mind. It is harmless enough in itself, really, but you are so distracted by it that you have lost your humor. You have lost your true position. You do not have a right relationship to experience. The right relationship to all experience is to exist as the Transcendental Consciousness, the Radiant Reality Itself, in which phenomena arise without necessity, humorously.
The wrong relationship to experiential phenomena is to presume that you are a separate person, a separate consciousness, in the midst of a world that you know nothing about, that somehow encloses you, that is objective to you, that is separate from you. In that case, you see, experience is a very serious business. You have no option but to submit to it, to be distracted and tormented by it.
*Post re-blogged by permission from Martin Goulding
In this essay, Rupert Spira explores three of the most common topics raised by students of non-duality: deep sleep, death and reincarnation. As Rupert explains, thoughts, sensations and perceptions do not take place in a waking state, a dream state or an after-life state. The waking, dream and after-life states are only made of the always-now thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions which all appear in the same timeless, placeless, here-and-now of Presence.
On the subject of death, Rupert asks, What is Consciousness’ experience of death? It has none. How could Consciousness experience its own death or disappearance? It would have to remain present to ‘have’ such an experience. In order for Consciousness to disappear, its substance would have to disappear into something. What would Consciousness dissolve into? There is nothing present other than itself into which it could go. We, that is Consciousness, have never and could never experience our own disappearance. The death of what we are, Consciousness, is therefore simply an idea – never an experience.
We invite you to join Rupert Spira as he explores these topics in-depth and offers a glimpse into That which is dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake. -Jeff Keller
Deep Sleep, Death and Reincarnation
Q: On waking up after dreamless deep sleep, identification continues with the same set of bodily sensations. Does that mean identification still remains at a subtler level while in deep sleep? If so, does this tendency of identification continue even after the death of physical body? If so, this would imply that mind survives death?
Identification is always in the form of a thought. For instance, the primary identification is a thought that goes something like this: “I, Consciousness, am located in and as the sensation called ‘the body.’”
RUPERT SPIRA: The only substance to that identification is the thought that thinks it, although it is further substantiated by feelings in the body. Consciousness itself is not actually implicated by this thought any more than a screen is implicated by an image that appears on it.
Consciousness is always only ‘experiencing’ itself, in the sense of being itself, just as the screen is only ever being itself.
The identifying thought is known as a ‘thought’ only to thought itself. It is only thought that says it is a ‘thought.’ Consciousness only knows ‘it’ as itself.
The same is true of all sensations and perceptions. Only thought knows them as ‘sensations’ and ‘perceptions.’ Consciousness is too close to all experience, too intimately, utterly ‘one with’ all experience to know it as something other than itself.
Only thought seemingly steps back from experience and labels one part of it ‘thought’ or ‘mind,’ another part ‘sensation’ or ‘body’ and another part ‘perception’ or ‘world.’ Without this ‘stepping back’ of thought, there is only the utter intimacy, directness and immediacy of Consciousness being itself. Experiencing is another name for this.
However, thought can never really ‘step back’ or ‘out of’ experience itself. It seems to ‘step back’ or ‘out of’ from its own imaginary point of view.
Now, having seen that the identification of Consciousness with anything other than itself never really happens, that is, it is only imagined to happen, let us consider deep sleep. We can look at deep sleep from two points of view: 1) from the perspective of the waking state, that is, ‘on waking up,’ and 2) from the point of view of experience itself.
From the perspective of the waking state, deep sleep appears as a vague memory of a blank nothingness, which apparently lasts for an undetermined period of time. This memory, like all memories, comes in the form of a thought, which, like all thoughts, irrespective of whether they are about the past, present or future, take place ‘now.’
The ‘deep sleep,’ to which the ‘memorising-thought’ refers, is utterly non-existent at the time of the memorising thought. In other words, the only evidence, in the waking state, for the existence of an experience called ‘deep sleep’ comes in the form of a thought.
That thought refers to a period of deep sleep that is not present at the time of the thought about it and can therefore never be verified. Therefore, the memory of deep sleep in the morning does not prove deep sleep. It proves nothing but itself. In fact, it doesn’t even prove itself, because it (the thought to be proved) vanishes as soon as it appears. So truly, thought, be it in the form of memory or indeed any other form, indicates nothing but Consciousness.
Waking-state-thought imagines that time exists independently of its being thought about. As a result of this presumption thought imagines that deep sleep (which is conceived as an absence of mind) lasts for a period of time.
In other words, thought ‘forgets’ that time is a creation of its own imagination and imagines it to be present even when thought is not, that is, in deep sleep. As a result deep sleep is imagined, from the point of view of the waking state, to have lasted for a period of time.
However, the state of deep sleep that the waking mind imagines is never actually experienced as such. Nor could it even be imagined, for to imagine something, some apparently objective quality would have to be present. Therefore thought first imagines deep sleep and, in order to conceive of it in its own language of apparent objectivity, it superimposes onto it the qualities of blankness and duration.
From the point of view of experience itself, which is the only valid point of view, what is known as deep sleep, is simply the presence of Consciousness without the appearance of mind (taking mind here to include all thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving).
Prior to the arising of mind there is only Consciousness knowingbeing its own self. However, there is no appearance of time or space ‘there’ let alone any of the objects that are imagined to populate time and space. And therefore, of course, there is no ‘prior to the arising of mind’ because without mind there is no time. In fact, even with mind, there is no time, but there is at least the illusion of time ‘then.’
Therefore, what is known as deep sleep is only ‘deep’ and only ‘sleep’ from the point of view of the mind. By ‘deep’ the mind means, deeper than its usual surface thinking and by ‘sleep’ the mind means ‘the absence of itself.’
In its ignorance the mind conceives this absence of itself as nothingness, because all it knows and values are apparent objects. It does not know and cannot know the presence of Consciousness and hence it conceives of deep sleep as a dark, blank nothingness.
But from the point of view of experience, which means from the point of view of Consciousness, there is no experience of a dark, blank nothingness. Rather, there is only the ‘experience’ of itself, which means only the presence or being of itself. This is neither deep, dark, blank or asleep. It dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake.
Consciousness is not the opposite of un-consciousness. For Consciousness there is no ‘off.’ It is always ‘on.’ It never ceases to know/be itself. However, to say ‘always’ or ‘never’ already brings in imaginary time in which Consciousness is imagined to reside. Consciousness does not reside in time. It resides in itself, as itself, alone.
What is considered to be deep sleep from the point of view of the waking mind is ‘wide-awakeness’ for Consciousness. There are three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping only from the imaginary point of view of thought. For Consciousness there are not three states. There is only the one ever-present reality of itself alone.
The three states could be likened to a film, a document and a screen-saver appearing on a computer screen. The differences are not for the screen, they are for the mind.
Consciousness ‘never’ ceases to be this ‘wide-awakeness.’ The term ‘deep sleep’ is a misinterpretation of the reality of experience from the ignorant point of view of thought, that is, from the point of view that ignores the reality of experience.
The ‘dream’ and ‘waking’ states are two other interpretations or names that the mind gives to the reality of Consciousness, when it (Consciousness or experience) is imagined through the limiting and distorting lens of thought.
When we watch television we say that we are seeing a ‘film,’ the ‘news’ or a ‘documentary.’ Each of these labels is only a different name for the same screen, just as the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states are different names that thought gives to the reality of Consciousness.
For the screen there is always only itself, just as for Consciousness there is only knowingbeing itself.
It takes something outside the screen, one who imagines they are not the screen, to see the ‘film,’ the ‘news’ and the ‘documentary,’ just as it takes an imaginary entity who has seemingly separated itself from the seamless totality of experience to apparently see something other than Consciousness.
For Consciousness, there is only its own ever-presence. The categories of ‘waking, dreaming and deep sleep’ or of ‘mind, body and world,’ that is, the apparent multiplicity and diversity of all seeming things, is for the mind, not for Consciousness.
We could say that in this ever-present wide-awakeness, which the mind calls ‘deep sleep,’ the dreaming and waking minds arise, project a world that is seemingly outside Consciousness and ‘then’ subside.
However, the adventure of the dreaming and waking mind is for thought alone. It is not for Consciousness. Consciousness is always ‘at home,’ resting in its own being. It never takes the journey!
At no time is there ever an entity that falls asleep, that dreams a dream, that rests unknowingly in deep sleep or that subsequently wakes up. Such an entity and the states in which it considered to operate are all made only of the current thought that thinks them.
Now, with that as background, we can look more closely at the question as to whether identification remains at a subtler level in deep sleep.
Identification is simply a thought and a thought does not last in time. Time ‘lasts,’ or rather, is imagined to last, only with the thought that imagines it.
It is only from the point of view of thought that identification is considered real at all, let alone that it lasts in time. In other words, it is thought alone that imagines identification to be real and then imagines a duration of time in which it is supposed to last.
Why then does identification re-appear on waking? It doesn’t. Nothing re-appears. Even if we concede provisionally that ‘something’ truly appears, then, when that ‘something’ disappears it disappears absolutely, never to appear again.
It is only a thought that claims that the current appearance is a reappearance of an old appearance. However, every appearance, including the thought that imagines re-appearance, is brand new.
Identification and re-identification are as substantial as the thought that think them and all thoughts are paper tigers.
If identification was real and if it had lasted for countless millennia through innumerable births, we would have a real problem on our hands. Fortunately that problem is only real for the imaginary one that imagines it. For Consciousness, there is no identification, no bondage, no liberation and no problem.
All that is ‘required’ is to stand knowing as That, which simply means to notice that That is what we eternally are. In due course the mind and body are gradually realigned with this ‘new perspective,’
Now, does the mind survive death?
Let us consider what is meant by ‘death.’ Death could refer to the body, the mind or Consciousness.
In the conventional model of experience, it is believed that the body is born into a ready-made world and contains the mind, which in turn contains Consciousness.
We have seen, however, that it is truer to say that Consciousness contains the mind and that the body, made only of sensing and perceiving, is ‘part’ of the mind.
That is, we have seen that there are, in experience, no physical bodies or objects. We have seen that the apparently perceived object, body, other or world is made only of sensing/perceiving. In other words, we have seen that all so-called physical objects are made out of mind.
Therefore, it no longer makes sense to speak of the death of the physical body. Any theory of death that takes, as its starting point, the reality of the physical body and, therefore, its subsequent death, is flawed from the outset.
A truer (but not completely true) statement would be to say that the body is simply the current sensation or perception ‘of the body’ and that that ‘body’ disappears or dies every time that sensation or perception disappears. We have seen that a body, or indeed any object, does not last in time and that the ‘lasting body’ is a concept, not an experience.
In other words, every time the current sensation or perception of the body disappears, the ‘body’ dies, so we have experienced countless ‘deaths’ of the body. In fact, the ‘body’ is being born and dying ‘all the time’ and each appearance of the body is a brand new body.
Does the mind survive these deaths? In this question the mind is conceived not only as a vast container of all thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions, but also as a vast generator of such. However, no such mind has ever been experienced. Such a container/generator is simply a concept. It is imagined with the thought that thinks it.
The mind, in the broadest sense of the term is simply the current thought, image, sensation or perception. Like the body, it is born with every new appearance and it dies with every disappearance. It neither survives or continues.
In other words, there is no mind, body or world, as such, so we cannot meaningfully speak of their possible survival. The mind, body and world are simply the names that thought gives to the current thought, sensation and perception, respectively, and there is no continuity of thoughts, sensations and perceptions.
At a deeper level the mind, body and world are the names that thought gives to Consciousness and consciousness does not continue. It is ever-present.
Either way, there is no survival or continuity. There is only the ever-presence of Consciousness.
* * *
However, this does not mean that when a sensation/perception (the body) disappears, it will not be ‘followed by’ a thought. In that sense there is nothing to suggest that the mind does not survive the death of the body. Thoughts keep coming after the ‘body’ has disappeared.
In fact, that is exactly what happens at night. When we ‘fall asleep’ the body, that is, the current sensation or perception vanishes, but dream thoughts and images appear. This is the experience of mind without a body. In fact, mind is always experienced without a body. The body is just one of the possible ‘shapes’ of the mind.
In a dream a new, seamless body/world-image appears. Dream-thinking subsequently identifies the ‘I’ of Consciousness with the dream body, thereby apparently separating the new dream-body/world-image into two ‘things’ – the ‘dream-I’ and the ‘dream-world’ – creating the illusion of duality in exactly the same way that waking-thinking does in the waking state.
Dream-thinking then wonders whether its thoughts will continue after the death of the dreamed entity, without realising that the dreamed entity, the dreamed body and its dreamed death are themselves simply thoughts.
What is also interesting to notice is that the thoughts and feelings of the waking state tend to become the environment of the dream state. In other words, what was on the ‘inside’ during the waking state becomes the ‘outside,’ in which the dream seems to take place. Hence the value of dream analysis in psychology.
There is nothing to suggest that this pattern will not continue after the ‘death’ of the waking body, which as we have already seen, is simply the disappearance of a bodily sensation, but not necessarily the cessation of mind. In other words, there is nothing to suggest that thoughts and feelings that ‘continue’ to arise after the death of the body will seem to derive their content from the previous thoughts and feelings of the now apparently deceased entity, just as dream images seem to derive their content from the waking state.
In the new ‘after-death’ dream, the imagined entity may again imagine that its thoughts and feelings are a continuation of a previous day or a previous life and hence the myth of the reincarnated entity will forever perpetuate itself in the dream of the imaginary entity.
Therefore, what for the imagined entity is life after life after life is, from the point of view of reality, dream within dream within dream all ‘taking place’ timelessly, placelessly.
However, even if we provisionally accept the above model (and it is only a half true model, truer than the conventional model but not completely true) it is important to remember that the mind, as it is normally conceived, is also only the current thought or image. Every time a thought or image ends, the mind dies.
So, having first seen that the body is, as it were, a subset of the mind and that the mind ‘continues’ to ‘produce’ thoughts, images sensations and perceptions, after the ‘death’ of the body, we can now see that the mind is equally fragile, that is, it never survives, as such. It is always vanishing. In other words, thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions do not take place in a waking state, a dream state or a after-life state. All thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions take place in the same timeless placeless here-and-now, and the waking, dream, deep sleep and after-life states are all simply made out of the thought that thinks them.
Now what about Consciousness?
Consciousness is all that is conscious or knowing and all that is truly present. What is Consciousness’ experience of death? It has none. How could Consciousness experience its own death or disappearance? It would have to remain present to ‘have’ such an experience.
In order for Consciousness to disappear its substance would have to disappear into something. What would Consciousness dissolve into? There is nothing present other than itself into which it could go. We, that is Consciousness, has never and could never experience its own disappearance.
Therefore death is never an experience. It is a concept. The entire dilemma about death originates with the thought that mistakenly identifies Consciousness with a limited body. In other words, the idea of death is only possible when Consciousness is seemingly ignored or forgotten.
Of course, Consciousness cannot ignore or forget itself. It can and does only ever know itself. It is only an arising thought, which imagines that Consciousness is not present, that seemingly obscures Consciousness’ knowingbeing itself and, as a result, posits as a reality, death and the attendant fear of disappearance, which is the hallmark of the apparently separate entity.
What has been said thus far is based upon the idea that thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions appear and disappear within Consciousness.
This idea is useful in that it overturns the conventional view that Consciousness is located inside a mind, which is located inside a body and which is, in turn, born into the world, and replaces it with a model that is closer to experience, where the mind, body and world are all seen as spontaneous arisings or appearances within Consciousness.
However, this new model should also be abandoned in due course because if we go deeply into experience itself, we find that it is not accurate.
In experience we do not find a succession of appearances. A succession of appearances can never be an actual experience because it is only possible to experience one appearance at a time. In other words, a multiplicity and therefore a diversity of appearances is never a current experience but rather only the current thought about ‘multiplicity and diversity,’ which refers to something that is never actually experienced.
In other words, multiplicity, diversity, appearance, disappearance, birth, death, time, space, causality are all paper tigers. They are made only of the thought that thinks them.
Our actual experience is that experience itself is ever-present. And the only substance present in all experience is Consciousness itself. Therefore we can say from our own intimate direct experience that all we know is Consciousness’ knowingbeing itself, that is, all Consciousness knows is itself.
Nothing ever appears or disappears. The same is true, relatively speaking, in a film. It seems as if people, objects, places, events and situations are appearing and disappearing but actually there is always only ever the screen. It doesn’t come or go. It does nothing. And because the screen is the only reality of the film, nothing can be said to truly come or go. What or where would anything come from or to where would such a thing go? It would have to come from outside the screen. But there is nowhere in the film outside the screen.
The same is true of experience. There is nothing outside Consciousness. There is nothing inside Consciousness. Consciousness is ever present and dimensionless, always knowing its own being. Nothing new comes into it. Nothing disappears out of it. There is nowhere from which or to which such a ‘thing’ could come and go and nothing out of which such a ‘thing’ could be made.
Consciousness is timelessly, placelessly, ever-present knowingbeing itself alone.
RUPERT SPIRA is an artist and Non-duality Teacher. Check out his website here, where he shares his views and experiences related to Non duality, Ceramics, Meditation, Advaita, Vedanta, Consciousness and Awareness.
*All ceramics above by Rupert.
*Chapter excerpt used by permission from the author.
Only More So
The world after awakening to enlightenment is exactly as your world is right now, only more so. With no illusion of separateness, the awakened is now the entire experiencing of whatever is. Awakening to the actuality of what is makes everything exactly as it is, only more so.
For the awakened, everything is different and everything is exactly the same. Tastes in music, art, food, humor, etc. remain essentially the same. Thoughts and feelings continue to arise of their own accord just as before. Family and friends remain as they are. The history of every body is absolutely the same, down to the smallest detail. If there is a memory of dropping an ice cream cone at age five, that memory remains. The only difference for the awakened is that they are no longer distracted by the illusion of separateness. This leaves everything exactly as it has always been, only more so.
“Tastes in music, art, food, humor, etc. remain essentially the same” – Gary Crowley
The awakened rests in the understanding that there is no conscious choice over the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that arise within us. There is understanding that each human being is a unique pattern of neurological development and adaptation that functions outside any concept of conscious will. Each neurology simply encounters life situations and reacts in its own idiosyncratic way. The already established neurology just does what it does. After all, how could it not?
Being linked in the chain of cause and effect does not confuse the awakened. There is no struggle and strain as the chain unwinds. Everyone and everything still does what they do within the chain. There is an understanding that no one in the physical world acts as pure causality. When investigated, our experiencing is understood to be a long chain of linked effects, each prior effect becoming the cause for another effect as the chain unwinds. This understanding allows the awakened to effortlessly be the experiencing of life itself.
*Excerpt from Chapter Seven (Re-Integration: Awakening to Enlightenment) from the book From Here to Here – Turning Toward Enlightenment by Gary Crowley.
Gary Crowley was born in 1965 and was raised in Massachusetts as a practical-minded New Englander. He graduated from Stanford University in 1987 with degrees in Economics and Political Science. At a young age, he was attracted to Eastern philosophy and spiritual writings that seemed to offer a glimpse of something greater than the life he had known growing up.
However, by 2001, Gary finally gave up on all forms of spiritual seeking after decades on the path. He surrendered under the weight of the many well-intended spiritual teachings he’d accumulated over the years. All the study had not caused the shift in awareness that he’d so earnestly sought and had been so often promised. The problem, he then realized, was that he had been simply piling up concepts without addressing the very foundation –his sense of “self” –that was doing the seeking. He discovered that it is only by dismantling our assumptions about “who we are,” and not merely describing a state of being such as oneness or wholeness, that we can bring about a natural opening to a new way of experiencing life.
by Rupert Spira
Every time I Open My Eyes
I invite the world to take shape
And every time the world takes shape
I ‘m invited to open my eyes
And see the world raw and naked
Holding out its hand
Calling me into it’s self
Where I am taken into the Transparency of Things
And find myself transparent there
Standing on the edge looking down
And in to the dark silent pool in which the world is cradled
And I am cradled there, held with all things
And hold all things in myself
Myself, not a thing in the world but this – Here – Seeing
In which the world opens, inviting and offering itself
And every time it is seen – It dies
And in dying, holds out it’s hand again
Asking to be taken in
And every time I take it in
I too die
And in dying – am known
As this Here – Seeing
Every Time I Open My Eyes
THE UNKNOWABLE REALITY OF THINGS DVD by Neti Neti Films coming soon.
(It takes two to vibrate)
by Peter Francis Dziuban
That just about sums up the Science and Nonduality Conference for 2010.
Whose conference was it, really? The One who was really present, the One whose show it truly was, definitely showed up! There weren’t really many of “us” all experiencing Presence at a conference called SAND. It’s the other way around. Presence was “doing its thing”—which appeared as a lot of people at a conference.
That was the most noticeable (and beautiful) thing about SAND —a pervading Love or Oneness, despite the many perspectives being offered.
*“The Science and Nonduality Conference was created to provide an arena where various aspects of nonduality can be explored, discussed, and experienced. Part seminar, part festival, part conference, this event explores how science combines with meditation, philosophy, art, music, dance, and entheogens to point the way to nondual experience. Also to aid in integrating nonduality into daily life and to deepen the understanding of a fundamental nondual reality.”
At times there were differences of opinion (between science and nonduality, and even within each group), but for the most part they were mutually respected. SAND is growing (and it’s to be expected that the very bringing together of such seemingly diverse groups results in lots of viewpoints. That’s the whole idea. That also makes it a word-fest. There were so many perspectives at the conference, at times it seemed “all over the place.” But it was as if no one really cared because the Love underlying all the words was so full, so simple and beautiful.
The instant there’s an attempt to express Presence in words, it opens the door for differences of meaning. Particularly when it comes to the “c” word (consciousness), the differences really kick in—not only between science and nonduality, but even among nondualists. Perhaps at upcoming conferences there could be more emphasis on meaning or definitions. Maybe even a panel discussion. This has come up before, but it’s an ongoing issue, and at a very basic level it would really help—especially for those who are new.
Without getting overly intellectual or conceptual, what might help is just a simple, “Whaddya’ mean specifically, when you use the word ‘consciousness’?” It keeps everyone on the same page and prevents misunderstandings—all of which helps to minimize the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome.
A few concrete examples: At conferences, emotions and enthusiasm can run high, so it’s easy to be enthusiastic when there may not always be a valid reason for enthusiasm. One of the more well-known speakers was A.H. Almaas, who gave a sobering (but honest) assessment in his closing talk. He pointed out that scientific terms such as nonlocality and interconnectivity (which refer to atomic particles) are sometimes hazily linked with nonduality. In other words, Almaas is being very specific by what he means when using such terms. Linking those terms together implies some sort of relationship, a sort of intersection between science and nonduality. But does such a thing really exist?
Anything in the so-called realm of interconnectivity or nonlocality involves energy, which is essentially vibration. However, it takes two to vibrate. Non-duality ain’t two. When you stop to consider it, non-duality really is another way of saying non-vibration! What’s more, all vibration occurs in time. Almaas aptly pointed out that a basic notion of nonduality is that it is “outside” of time. So if you agree with what Almaas means by nonduality, then energy, interconnectivity and nonlocality aren’t really part of nonduality—though it may appear as if they are.
Meanwhile, isn’t it great that Love goes right on being Love. Presence goes right on being Presence.
Now for the “c” word. One well-known scientist, Robert Lanza, spoke about his new theory (and book of the same name), called Biocentrism. This is oversimplifying, but basically he’s addressing the issue of which came first—the universe or consciousness. Traditional materialist science says it was the universe that came first, and that life and consciousness then gradually evolved on earth. Lanza’s theory is pointing to the reverse; there’s enough evidence to consider the possibility that consciousness, life (bio) came first, and everything else is centered around it.
Some scientists are now willing to equate matter with what is called “consciousness.” What Lanza and perhaps (some of the other scientists) mean by the word “consciousness” is what many nondualists would call “body-mind.”
Whaddya’ mean by consciousness or body-mind? It is an experience that is inseparable from the five sensations (or mentations), as well as thoughts, emotions, and other phenomena. But that kind of phenomenal experience is very different from what some nondualists take pure consciousness or awareness to mean.
If you push it further, anything said to be in the matter/mind realm is finite. It involves time, constant change, form, energy, cause and effect, observer and observed, etc. Even if something is understood to be only a mental form instead of a physical form, the very fact that it can be observed as a mental form means it’s finite. It is not formless, timeless, changeless, infinite—which is how consciousness is often defined in nonduality (same as Being). So, again, they’re very different things. Needless to say, some nondualists might have a hard time calling this “consciousness” or awareness.
Maybe the topic of “which came first” is going down a wrong path—asking cause/effect type questions based on an old “model” that is fast becoming obsolete. And here’s where a nondual perspective can offer science new insights. Some nondualists would say Awareness, Being, is timeless, thus not in the realm of cause and effect. From this perspective, it’s clear that neither the universe nor “body-mind” came “first”—but that both seem to arise simultaneously. And this seems to hold true from a deep investigation of direct experience.
The arising universe is like a coin with two sides. Look at the coin from one side and it seems to be material. Look at it from the other side and it can just as readily be called mental. But both sides of the coin are there simultaneously—so “first” is a moot point—both are equally valid if one is talking about finity. And again, either way, material or mental, it’s all finite (call it the coin of finity). Only when “seeing” from an Infinite perspective of nonduality, is one completely “off the coin” of finite arisings, and able to see both sides for what they are. Imagine trying to see both sides of a coin clearly when looking from only one of the sides, from finite mind or finite matter. Can’t do it.
This is not to imply that there’s anything “incorrect” with finity or body-mind. It’s not only a big part of everyday experience—it IS everyday experience! It’s also the workplace of science—so it’s simply a matter of recognizing and appreciating the difference in perspectives.
Meanwhile, Love goes right on being Love.
Then, from a strict Advaitan perspective, one might say, “Wait a minute. Being is not an arising. And to Being, when is it the case that Being is not all that is being? Never. So, to Being, do finite arisings whether called material or mental, really even occur? No. To NOW, does not-NOW ever occur? So does time and its finite arisings ever really occur?
And from the perspective of some nondual Buddhist Emptiness teachings, one wouldn’t even necessarily agree there is something called “Being” or “Awareness” as if it were some underlying permanent state.
It’s fine (in fact, unavoidable) to have the many perspectives—but let’s all put clarity to work for us. The beauty of whaddya’ mean? is that it’s an asking for further clarity, it’s remaining open—rather than a rush to judgment in disagreement. It forces a closer looking by everyone, to see what common ground there really may be—or not. And if not, well, at least we know. So the quest for a common ground continues…regardless, Love goes right on being Love.
*excerpt from the SAND website.
Peter Francis Dziuban is the author of CONSCIOUSNESS IS ALL - Now Life Is Completely New. He was a speaker at the recent SAND 2010 conference. Peter also lectures and holds meetings regularly on nonduality and the Infinite, and is available for personal consultations.
For more info please visit: Consciousness Is All
Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness. For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever-present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.
The Science and Nonduality Conference has been created to provide an arena where various aspects of nonduality can be explored, discussed, and experienced. Part seminar, part festival, part conference, this event explores how science combines with meditation, philosophy, art, music, dance, and entheogens to point the way to nondual experience, to aid in integrating nonduality into daily life, and to deepen the understanding of a fundamental nondual reality. The mission is to bring these ideas to a wider community through conferences, an ongoing workshop series, films, DVDs, and podcasts.
In the last century Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being —consciousness, subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity —fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.
Science and Nonduality is a journey, an exploration of the nature of awareness —the essence of life from which all arises and subsides.
Speakers and Bios
*this week we are highlighting six nonduality speakers in this post
Francis speaks about one thing: awareness, our true nature, the Absolute. This is the ancient teaching of nonduality, the common ground of Advaita Vedanta, Ch’an Buddhism, Zen,Taoism and Sufism, the same common ground which is at the core of the message left behind by the founders of all great religions.Website: www.francislucille.com
Scott Kiloby is a Non-Dual author/teacher from Southern Indiana (USA). He is the author of “Love’s Quiet Revolution: The End of the Spiritual Search” and “Reflections of the One Life: Daily Pointers to Enlightenment.” He is also the creator of a revolutionary addiction recovery method called Natural Rest. His book, “Natural Rest: Finding Recovery Through Presence,” is scheduled for release in early 2011. Website: www.kiloby.com
Pamela speaks the Truth of advaita, non-duality -that the universe is one undivided whole. For the last ten years she has traveled widely in the United States, Canada and Europe, holding satsang and giving private sessions. Week-long retreats have been held in Mexico, Costa Rica, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA. She has endeared herself to many through her lighthearted humor and compassion, and deep understanding of what it is to be human. She lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Website: www.pamelasatsang.com
Chuck Hillig is a modern spiritual teacher, author and licensed psychotherapist whose clarity of expression has earned him the admiration and praise of many notable writers and lecturers in this area. Chuck writes personally and directly about the essence of non-dual spirituality and presents its astonishing truths to the average reader in ways that are unique, completely accessible and absolutely life-changing. Using his studies in both eastern philosophy and western psychology, Chuck’s five unique books present a world view that shows his readers how to fully live a truly enlightened and authentic life in the 21st Century by waking up to who they really are. His books and interviews about non-dualism have been published in nine languages. Chuck appears in the new Leap 3.0 movie as well as in many recent videos on YouTube. Website: www.chuckhillig.com
Advaita Vedanta teacher
During the 1970s, Radha studied Advaita Vedanta and Sanskrit with Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Since her return from India, she has taught Vedanta extensively on both coasts and was one of the founders and the administrative manager of Sandeepany West, Institute for the Study of Vedanta and Sanskrit, located in Piercy, California, and later, of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Institute for the Study of Advaita Vedanta and Sanskrit, in Pennsylvania. She currently teaches Advaita Vedanta and Sanskrit in California. She is a faculty member of the East West Psychology Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she teaches Advaitia Vedanta and Spiritual Counseling.
Jerry Katz received an M.S. in biology from the University of New Mexico where he conducted the University’s initial research into the pineal gland. In childhood he had initiations into his existence as “I Am.” In his late twenties he spent two years attending to “I Am” while working a stressful job. At age 45, the “I Am” dropped away. At 48, in 1997, he was moved to present nonduality in a way that was accessible, and started nonduality.com. He is also the editor of One: Essential Writings on Nonduality, and publisher and co-editor of the Nonduality Highlights. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he organizes regular nonduality gatherings.
There will also be many worthwhile workshops taking place all week long:
2 DAYS PRE CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS
Selected presenters offer an exciting opportunity to engage and discuss their ideas in an interactive workshop setting. I think there are still some one day event passes available.
If you are attending this years event you may want to check out these two pre-conference workshops. Jeff and Scott never fail to deliver! Register here now…space is very limited.
Wednesday morning, October 20, 2010
Wednesday afternoon, October 20, 2010
After a 20 year drug addiction, Scott began looking into non-dual presence and found that it holds the key to releasing the cycle of addiction. In this workshop, Scott will share simple ways to recognize presence.
I am very happy to be able to bring you this special post. With Greg’s permission, we are serializing an updated version of his book Nondualism in Western Philosophy (which is not available anywhere else on the web for free). The book will appear in three parts. Without further ado, here is Part 1.
This is a series of pointers to how the Western approach can assist with one’s self-inquiry. It is less a historical survey, and more a collection of Western views that might serve as tools for inquiry, along with suggestions on how these tools might be used. The conclusion consists of a practical, forward-looking dialogue. I haven’t included every philosopher in the Western tradition to have written something that might be considered nondual. Instead, my choices are pragmatic. I’ve chosen the writers I have found most helpful in skillfully deconstructing the classic dualisms that seem to block people doing nondual inquiry.
So for example, the well known Heidegger and Nietzsche are not covered, though they wrote several things that can be helpful. Yet the lesser known writers Brand Blanshard and Colin M. Turbayne are covered, as I find that readers may regard their approaches as helpful.
Nondualism is an experience, a mode of existence of the self and world, and a metaphysical view about reality. As an experience, it is a sweet, nonobjective sense of presence, of borderlessness, and lack of separation. As a mode of existence of the self and world, it is said to be a matter of fact. As a metaphysical view, nondualism holds that reality is not composed of a multiplicity of things. This seems vague, and it is because beyond this point, the varieties of nondualism disagree. If reality is not a multiplicity of things, is it then just one thing? Or less? Just what is reality? Some nondualists say that reality is awareness. Some say it is voidness. Some say it is a net of jewels, where each jewel is composed of the reflections from all the other jewels. And some nondualists say that the nature of reality is that it has no nature.
What’s Wrong with Dualism Anyway?
So why is nondualism a goal? Does it feel better? Is it more true?
Most of the philosophers who write on nondualism argue that dualism falsely claims to be an accurate picture of our experience. They also argue that it causes suffering. These are two slightly different approaches.
Nondualism’s “false claim” argument challenges dualism’s claim to correctly represent reality. Dualism claims to be a view about how things really are, but when the view and its presuppositions are looked into, they are found not to be in accord with our experience. Our experience, say nondualists, is truly without borders, edges or separation. Therefore, the notion that the world is made up of divisions between self and other, good and bad, here and there, past and future, does not make sense. We only seem to experience these divisions. These divisions do not really exist, so we do not really experience them. Nondualism, it is argued, can correct the misinterpretation of our experience and restore our original wholeness.
Nondualism’s “argument from suffering” has to do with dualism’s effects – dualism leads to suffering and misery. Nondualists feel that a dualistic and divided experience of the world results in feeling separated (separated from what we take to be external objects, other people, the world, etc.). Feeling separated leads to feeling finite and vulnerable. It leads to suffering. This can be alleviated: a deep intuitive understanding of our nondual, unbroken experience is the end of the experience of separation. Therefore it is tantamount to the end of suffering.
Nondualism East and West
Eastern and Western approaches to nonduality reflect the more general differences between Eastern and Western approaches to philosophy. Eastern philosophy is most often pursued within the context of the Eastern spiritual traditions. Western philosophy can occasionally be found within Western spiritual traditions, but it is much more active outside them.
Eastern philosophy has very strong nondual traditions, which include Taoism, several forms of Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta (the nondual extension of Hinduism). These traditions are also explicitly “soteriological.” That is, their purpose is to resolve the big questions of life and death, and to alleviate suffering. The experiential resolution of these matters is regarded as liberation or enlightenment. And the philosophies themselves are illustrated by hundreds of stories in which teachers assist students on their quest.
Western philosophy was originally practiced in a very similar way. “Know thyself” was inscribed on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece. Practiced famously by Socrates, philosophy was engaged as a sort of care of the self, or an investigation into the way the self and world exist. The philosophies of the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and Boethius were avowedly therapeutic. But after the 18th century, philosophy became more and more academicized; it was removed from practical, personal and transformational use. Western philosophy’s goal became to discover the grounds of scientific truth and the limits of mans’ ability to know it.
Western philosophy became more a scientific than a salvific enterprise. These days, there is not a generally accepted goal in Western philosophy corresponding to liberation or enlightenment. Whereas Eastern philosophy is practiced in temples and ashrams, Western philosophy is studied in libraries and academies. The West has most often left its life-and-death questions to the churches, cathedrals, synagogues and hospitals.
Before examining the nondualist strands in Western philosophy, we should say a few words about Western mysticism. The writings of the great Western mystics tend to overlap both philosophy and religion. Their writings are not as logically precise as philosophy; neither do they require the same level of faith as religious writings.
Mysticism is often pursued by the nondual inquirer for the depth of its wisdom and how it penetrates man’s most subtle experiences. To pursue the mystical path, one does not so much follow a line of argumentation; rather one enters openly and whole-heartedly into experience. Mysticism and philosophy compliment each other. Many people find it more effective to engage both modes than either one alone.
Notable Western mystics and their works include The Gospel of Thomas and other works in the Nag Hammadi Library; the writings of Rabbi Akiva (40-135); The Zohar (150CE) by Shimon Bar Yochai (fl. 135 – 170); the Sepher Yetzirah; or The Book Of Creation (before 6th Cent.); Dionysius, the Pseudo-Areopagite (BCE 500); Origines Adamantius (Origen) (c. 185-254); the monks of the Philokalia (c200-600); Meister Johannes Eckhart (1260-1327/8); The Cloud of Unknowing (14th Cent.); Theresa of Avila (1515-1582); St. John of the Cross (1524-1591); or Brother Lawrence (c. 1605-1691).
How Nondualism is Done in the West
Proving the nondual nature of reality is not an overall goal for Western philosophy. A few philosophers have created nondual metaphysical theories; and others have argued against metaphysics altogether. But most philosophers who dissolve or dismiss dualities are not nondualists. The dualities left in the dust by these writers are merely casualties of their other work. In fact, the cleverest and most persuasive arguments tend to come from the works focused on narrow and specific issues, and don’t discuss all of reality at once. These arguments can be very helpful in the course of one’s nondual inquiry. As the old-time news editors used to say, “We can use it!”
We will examine some of the best known arguments that can be helpful in nondual inquiry, even if a given argument is not used by its author in to establish nondualism. Sometimes it is most effective to proceed piecemeal. Most of the well-known Western arguments take one (or more) of the following broad strategies.
A. Monist philosophies. Monist philosophies argue that the universe is truly made from only one kind of thing. An example would be that the entire universe is only God or consciousness. These kinds of views are the ones most similar to Eastern nondualism. Most monist arguments proceed by building systems, not so much by employing clever logic and dialectics.
Some of the most famous Western philosophies are the great monisms, which claim one kind of thing as the basis or true nature of everything else. In some monist philosophies, the one kind of thing is numerically single. Ancient examples of this single-style monism include the theory of Parmenides (b. 510 BCE), in which everything is “the One,” i.e., one unchanging substance discernible only through reasoning, and the more lively view of Heraclitus (540-475 BCE), in which “All is flux.” Hegel is a grand modern example with his system of absolute consciousness.
Other monist philosophies are not as “nondual.” That is, their one true kind of existent is numerically multiple. The one kind of thing is found in many identical parts or different places. Such ideas are found among the ancient atomists like Leucippus (c. 450 BCE), who argued that the world is made out of many identical particles. This notion is remarkably close to various modern scientific theories, which have proposed various kinds of elementary particles as the ultimate constituents of the world.
B. Reductive philosophies. Reductive philosophies hold that the universe is made of fewer kinds of things than we think. Their goal is not to end up at nondualism, but rather to show that certain kinds of things that we take for granted do not exist and can be reduced to other things. A reductive philosophy might argue, for example, that the world is not really made up of external objects, ideas and minds, but can be accounted for by ideas and minds only. Other reductionists are materialists.
Since reductive philosophies do not try to rid the world of all dualisms at once, they can focus more attention on particular issues. Reductive arguments tend to be dialectically clever and precise. They end up doing more damage to a duality such as “mental vs. physical” than the gentle suggestions of a soft-focus monism. Democritus, Berkeley, Locke and more recently, Paul and Patricia Churchland provide strong examples of reductionism.
C. Anti-metaphysical philosophies. Anti-metaphysical philosophies argue against any kind of metaphysical basis whatsoever. The classic anti-metaphysician was Sextus Empricus (160-210 CE), the Ancient Greek Pyrhhonian skeptic with one of the most radical, deconstructive arguments in the entire Western tradition – that we can reach a state of mental calm and peace if we suspend judgment on all claims, issues and conclusions, and follow impressions, inclinations and conventions as they arise. Even belief is not necessary; it leads to agitation.
Anti-metaphysical philosophy is also called “anti-essentialism” or “anti-foundationalism” and became a trend in the 20th century. Its most famous advocates are John Dewey, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W.V.O. Quine, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Donald Davidson, Nelson Goodman and Richard Rorty. They argue in a variety of ways that we just don’t need metaphysics anymore, along with its nest of dualisms.
Anti-metaphysical philosophers argue that it makes no sense to claim what something really is. They argue equally against monist and reductionist claims that certain things are metaphysically basic. Anti-metaphysics challenges anything’s claim as basic, fundamental, as constituting the ground of anything else. Instead of discussing what we think the universe really is, anti-metaphysical philosophies suggest we come up with new ways of thinking, speaking and experiencing. This, they say, is the route to greater happiness and social harmony.
Anti-metaphysics can be of great assistance in one’s nondual inquiry. If one loses conviction in the truth or accuracy of metaphysical pronouncements about the world, the body and the mind, one is thereby freed from several sticky attachments. As free, we will not experience ourselves or the world in terms of the dualisms of mind/matter, good/evil, self/other, subjective/objective, appearance/reality, fact/value, free will/determinism, and so forth.
The Nondualist Reaction to Descartes
Modern nondual metaphysics seek to ground our world and our experience in what reality truly is. These efforts historically began as a reaction to dualism, which is the view that reality consists of more than one kind of thing. The most prominent kind of dualism, inspired by Rene Descartes (1596-1650), holds that there are two kinds of existing things, physical and mental. Descartes’ monumental Discourse on Method (1637) is the classical statement of this kind of dualism. He begins with the mental side, whose reality he demonstrates by arguing that it is undeniable. He argues that “I think, therefore I am,” and proceeds as follows. Since I think, I cannot be mistaken about my existence. Even if I am being fooled by (what Descartes calls) an “evil genius,” I am nevertheless a conscious, thinking being. This establishes the mental side.
Descartes argues for the physical side of the dualism by invoking God’s existence, and God’s nature as non-deceitful. God has given us the faculties that seem to perceive external physical objects. Surely God would not deceive us about the existence of physical things! Therefore physical things exist in addition to mental things.
Most versions of Western monism that come after Descartes accede to his distinction between mental and physical. Some monisms come down on the materialist side, others on the nonmaterialist side. Among materialist monisms, some suggest particles as the ultimate constituent. Other materialist monisms decline to specify just what kind of material or particle is the ultimate one, leaving that detail to the discoveries of science. Nonmaterialist monisms tend to favor consciousness or idea or Being or even God as basic.
*Stay tuned for Part Two and Part Three in a future post.
Greg Goode has been a philosophical counselor since 1996 and has extensive experience with online consultation. As a philosophical counselor, Greg is nationally certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, trained by Prof. Lou Marinoff, author of the well-known Plato Not Prozac! and by California State University, Fullerton’s J. Michael Russell —a true pioneer in the philosophical consultation movement.
Greg is a well-known innovator for having combined the ancient “direct-path” method of self-inquiry with modern electronic media. Nondual inquiry includes the powerful teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. Greg studied Advaita Vedanta through the Chinmaya Mission, Sri Atmananda, Jean Klein, and Francis Lucille. He studied the Mahayana teachings of Pure Land Buddhism through Jodo-Shinshu, and studied Chinese Middle-Way Buddhism through the lineage of the pre-eminent scholar of Chinese Buddhism, Master Yin-Shun of Taiwan, P.R.C., author of The Way to Buddhahood.
All text herein copyright Greg Goode, 2007. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this monograph may be reproduced in any manner without prior permission from the author.
*This feature also showcases a digital abstract art piece from Sam Blight
The spiritual journey is a movement away from over-identification with the body and mind to the rediscovery of our true identity as infinite Being, and this can be two different movements. The first movement is dis-identification with the body and mind. Since identification is just a movement of thought, dis-identification is simply a movement away from thought. The ego identification that we experience most of the time is the result of repeated thoughts about “I,” “me,” and “mine.” That is all there is to it, but while we are thinking these thoughts the sense of self is contained in them. And since most of our self-referencing thoughts are about our body, our thoughts, our feelings, and our desires, the sense of self is usually contained in the body and mind.
Dis-identification from the thought form of the ego can occur whenever there is a deep questioning of the assumption that is present in most of our thoughts that we are the body and the mind. Inquiry using the question, “Who am I?” can naturally weaken the assumption that we are the body and the mind. In fact, any deep questioning of our thoughts and assumptions can loosen our over-identification with thought, since so many of our thoughts aren’t very true. Experiences of no thought can also weaken this identification because in the absence of thought, is an absence of identification. We all experience this when we get so caught up in what we are doing that we completely “forget ourselves.”
Alternatively, sensing the Presence that is aware of the thoughts can also disentangle us from the tendency to identify with our thoughts. The second movement of the spiritual journey is this recognition, or realization, of our true nature as Presence, or limitless Awareness. It is a wonderful surprise to discover that everything that really matters in life, including peace, joy, and love, is found in this empty Awareness. This emptiness is incredibly full and rich. It has intelligence, strength, and compassion. Whenever we experience a deeper quality of Being, such as clarity, peace, satisfaction, value, happiness, or love, it’s coming from this spacious Presence.
The surprising thing is that while these two movements can occur simultaneously, they can also happen apart from each other. When this happens, the movement from ego identification to our essential nature is incomplete. Although it’s a profound insight and a huge relief to discover, by examining and questioning our thoughts, that we are not the body or the mind (after all, if I’m not my body, then these aren’t my aches and pains; and if I’m not my mind, then these aren’t my problems), by itself this insight only reveals our false assumptions, not the truth about who we really are. So it’s possible to dissolve the ego by seeing through the mind without actually experiencing our true nature, which is a Heart-centered experience. In a sense, you can wake up out of your mind but not be in your Heart.
When this happens, there is a sense of relief from all the grief caused by over-identification with the body and mind but also often a deep sense of meaninglessness: If I don’t exist, then what’s the point? It doesn’t matter anymore what the fictional I does or what happens to it. In fact, it feels like nothing matters at all because everything is so clearly an illusion.
When seekers are led or just find their own way to a deep experience of no self, they can then form a new, more subtle belief that this absence of self is all there is. “I’m not my body, I’m not my mind, I don’t exist” are seen as the final conclusions. From a purely logical perspective, what more is there to say, since there’s no one here to say it or hear it! And while these conclusions are true, they aren’t the whole truth.
Underlying all the mind’s activity is the non-conceptual reality of Being, or our true nature. It is a pure, empty, aware space that is full of the subtle substance of Presence and all of its essential qualities: peace, joy, love, clarity, strength, value, and much more. How can that be—empty space that is full of everything that matters? The mind can’t grasp it fully, as Presence exists beyond concepts. And yet, that is what we really are. We experience it with more subtle senses than the physical senses and the mind. We “sense” it by being it. We just are this full, yet empty, Presence.
It is this second movement of realization of Presence that counteracts the belief that since I (as ego) don’t exist, therefore nothing exists and everything is an illusion. The realization of Presence, or Essence, gives back to our life a heartfelt sense of meaning and purpose, which becomes a pure expression of the wonder and beauty of this deeper reality. Instead of living a life in service to the ego’s wants and needs, we are moved to fulfill the deepest purpose of a human life: to serve and express freedom, joy, beauty, peace and love. By itself, the realization of no self can end up dry and lifeless, but when the Heart opens wide to the greater truth of the true Self, life is anything but dry and lifeless.
“When the Heart opens wide to the greater truth of the true Self, life is anything but dry and lifeless” - Nirmala
The opposite can also occur: Our awareness can move into pure Presence and be filled with a sense of the limitless goodness of our true nature. And while any experience of our true nature does, to some extent, loosen the identification with the limited idea of ourselves that we call the ego, an experience of our true nature by itself doesn’t always dissolve the ego completely. Having a profound experience of our true nature doesn’t take away our capacity to identify. It doesn’t render us incapable of thought. We can still return to thinking of ourselves as a limited self—but one that has now tasted our true nature.
So, after such an experience, if the habit of identification with the body and mind does continue, it may still be necessary to deconstruct the mistaken beliefs related to ego identification. There’s a place for inquiring into the false beliefs and assumptions of our identification with the body and mind, and a place for inquiring into the underlying reality. The difference is that inquiry into our true nature isn’t a purely mental activity. Because of the subtle nature of Presence, the inquiry has to be subtle and wholehearted. To discover what’s really here requires subtlety, patience, persistence, courage, tenderness, compassion, curiosity, and ultimately everything you’ve got! The momentum of our usual identification with thoughts and physical reality shapes our perception to such a great degree that breaking through to the more subtle dimensions of perception can be a challenge.
It helps to pursue the inquiry into true nature with both the Heart and the body. The mind’s view is so easily distorted by belief and conditioning that the experience beneath the shoulders is often a more direct and open doorway into Presence. What are you experiencing right now in your shoulders? In your heart? In your belly? What is the space around your arms and legs like right now? Is there energy flowing in your body right now? Questions like these can direct you to a more fruitful exploration, especially if you ask them with your whole being and not just with your mind.
It is a saving grace that this deeper reality is always present. Sometimes it only touches us in an unguarded moment of deep loss or profound beauty. In the end, there’s no escaping from the truth. Illusions come and go, beliefs come and go, but the underlying Presence remains.
To experience Presence, all we have to do is stop believing in our thoughts and sense our being. It is really that simple, although doing this isn’t necessarily easy. One of the things that makes experiencing Presence a challenge is the sense of identity we naturally have. Anytime we add something to the statement “I am,” as in “I am scared” or “I am a bird watcher,” our identity moves into that thought. This is what it means to identify with thought. A thought by itself has little power or significance. But a thought that begins with “I” or “I am” or one that is about me, my possessions, or my experience evokes a sense of identity. It’s as if our true nature moves into or tries on the shape and feel of the thought. Dissolving or deconstructing the thoughts that we identify with can free our essential identity from an assumption that it is somehow contained in our body or our mind. Seeing the falseness of those ideas opens the door for our deepest sense of our own existence to move out of the tight confines of our beliefs and ego identifications.
Often when the sense of self is set free from the structures of ego-centered thought, it naturally expands into a full experience of true nature. We call a sudden expansion into true nature like this an awakening, as it seems we have awakened to a whole new reality that is rich and full of joy, peace, and love.
However, then it is possible for the sense of self, or identity, to move into a different belief or an assumption of no self. This happens most often when the focus of a teaching or inquiry is on the negation of false identifications, without a counter-balancing emphasis on the underlying reality of Presence. Some spiritual practices are specifically designed to negate false identifications, such as the practice of seeing that you are not this and not that until nothing is left. Some spiritual teachers and teachings emphasize the non-existence of a separate individual and go on to suggest that not only is the individual not real, but the world and everything in it is also not real.
There is a profound truth in this perspective, as it penetrates and dissolves the usual belief or assumption that the ego, our thoughts, and physical reality are more real than more subtle levels of reality. Even when we have tasted a deeper reality, we often return to an ego-centered perspective because of the momentum of our involvement with the physical and mental realms. Even in the face of profound experiences to the contrary, there’s a habit of assuming that our physical body and our beliefs and other thoughts are what is most important, so much so that we think that everything that pops into our heads is important. We even use the argument, “That’s what I think” to justify our position, as if thinking something makes it true. Since our most common thought or assumption is the assumption that “I am the body” or “I am my thoughts, feelings, and desires,” this pointing to the falseness or incompleteness of those most basic beliefs is vitally important to loosening the grip of the ego.
However, in the absence of the experience of our true nature, there is this danger of the sense of self simply landing on a new belief in no self. The sense of self moves from a limited and painful identification with the mind’s idea of who you are to a more open and freeing idea of emptiness and non-existence. While this may be a relief, it can eventually be just as limiting as the original ego identification. When our sense of self has identified with nothingness, emptiness, or no self, we can become stuck there. This is often reflected in a kind of defensiveness of this new identification: Anytime you are challenged, you deflect the criticism or conflict by retreating more fully into the idea of no self. Or you turn the tables on those challenging you and try to convince them that they don’t exist, therefore their concerns aren’t valid. This new identification with no self can feel flat, dry, and detached. Life feels like it has no meaning or value. So what was once a helpful and freeing dissolving of limiting structures has become a new fossilized and limiting identity.
Because it is your essential identity or sense of self that moves into or identifies with the concept of emptiness or no self, it is a very convincing new identification. Whenever identity moves into an experience, it doesn’t just experience it but actually becomes it to a degree. When your sense of self is firmly planted in the body and egoic mind, it feels like that is who you are. And when, instead of just experiencing emptiness, your identity or sense of self moves fully into emptiness or no self, it also is very convincingly felt as who you are. When you move so fully into identification with something that it no longer feels like an experience but who you really are, the experience becomes more global and convincing.
This is the power of identification to make an egoic thought and the false self, or ego, seem more real than it is. The power of identification can also make the dry emptiness and meaninglessness of no self seem more real. They are both illusions, but it is through identification that illusions are made to seem real. Being or consciousness is ultimately the one that is identifying, and when limitless eternal Being identifies to create illusion, it does a good job of it!
“Thought is always a temporary phenomenon, no identification is ever permanent” – Nirmala
However, no matter how powerful the illusion of the egoic self or no self is when we are identified with it, identification is still simply a movement of thought followed by a movement of our sense of self into that thought. Since thought is always a temporary phenomenon, no identification is ever permanent. In fact, every identification only lasts as long as the thought triggering it. We become “stuck” in identification by repeating a lot of similar thoughts. The sense of an egoic self or no self are both created by a pattern of repeated thoughts that identity moves into.
Because this movement of thought is temporary, there is always, in every moment, the possibility of touching the deeper reality of our true nature. What is even more amazing is when, with repeated experiences of our true nature, our identity, or sense of self, moves into the realm of essential reality. Eventually it becomes obvious that Presence is actually who we are. When our identity moves into our true nature, there is no suffering and no dryness or emptiness. We simply are all the peace, joy, and love in the universe.
There is nothing you can do to move your identity, or sense of self, into your true nature. Identity isn’t something you do; it is what you are. However, the sense of identity follows your awareness, and since you are ultimately everything, it can and will identify with whatever is in your awareness. This is the danger of a teaching that doesn’t point to or convey the existence of true nature. If something isn’t even talked about or considered, it’s much less likely that awareness will notice it and that identity will shift into it. This is why it’s important to teach and explore all the qualities of Presence, such as joy, peace, and love, so that awareness begins to touch them and identity eventually shifts to the underlying truth of Being.
A subtle distinction needs to be made between your true identity and the sense of self you have in any moment. Your true identity has and always will be the infinite spaciousness of Being, including all forms, both physical and subtle, and all the formless emptiness of pure space. But your sense of self is a flexible means for this limitless Being to experience itself from many different perspectives. By having this ability to move in and out of all kinds of experiences and appear to become them by identifying with them, Being gets to try on many different experiences or illusions, from the most contracted and limited to the most expanded and blissful. Without this capacity, Being would be a static existence of infinite potential that is never expressed. By moving its identity into and identifying with the myriad perspectives of limited experience, this potential becomes experienced in form and movement.
So while mis-identification is the root of all your “problems,” it isn’t and never has been a mistake. Being has very purposefully shifted its identity in and out of infinite apparent selves to try them all on for size. Being stuck in identification is itself an illusion, since all identification is temporary. Every expression of life is an expression of the right way to be, if the right way to be is simply to express our limitless capacity to experience identification and dis-identification, form and formlessness. The deepest, fullest experience of anything is to become it, and that is what Being has been up to all along.
The ultimate freedom is the discovery that it is fine to identify and dis-identify. True freedom demands no limits, not even limits against limitation. Since Being itself is completely free and cannot be harmed, it has been endlessly exploring every possibility of that freedom. This perspective will allow you to hold everything, even the spiritual journey, lightly. The goal is and always has been the journey itself. You can be curious about this whole process of identification with the ego, with no self, and with true nature simply for its own sake. It is a rich and mysterious world of perception and reality that we as consciousness inhabit. Why not taste it all? Life is and has always been this endless movement in and out of identification, in and out of forms and formlessness.
*from That is That: Essays About True Nature (which is a collection of articles and answers to questions posed by spiritual seekers). If you would like to read the entire e-book, click here. Copyright © 2010 by Daniel Erway (aka Nirmala).
After a lifetime of spiritual seeking, Nirmala met his teacher, Neelam, a devotee of H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji). She convinced Nirmala that seeking wasn’t necessary; and after experiencing a profound spiritual awakening in India, he began offering satsang and Nondual Spiritual Mentoring with Neelam’s blessing. This tradition of spiritual wisdom has been most profoundly disseminated by Ramana Maharshi, a revered Indian saint, who was Papaji’s teacher.
Nirmala offers a unique vision and a gentle, compassionate approach, which adds to this rich tradition of inquiry into the truth of Being. He is also the author of several books including Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self.
He has offered satsang throughout the United States and Canada since 1998. Nirmala lives in Sedona, Arizona with his wife, Gina Lake.
If you enjoyed this article, please visit Endless Satsang Foundation to discover other works by Nirmala.
Contemplating the Nature of Experience
This extraordinary book is beautifully written and exceptionally clear. Simple and direct, it leads the reader through a series of “contemplations” designed to explore and illuminate our actual experience here and now. This book is a rare jewel, definitely one of the very best books on non-duality I have ever come across, and I recommend it very highly.
There is also a beautiful 2-DVD set available with the same title as the book and I very highly recommend these two DVD’s in addition to the book.
In both the book and the DVD’s, Rupert’s insight and expression is crystal clear, subtle, nuanced, intelligent, and rooted in presence. The words come directly from the boundlessness to which they point. Rupert avoids so many pitfalls that I see many other teachers fall into, pitfalls such as turning themselves into special people, making enlightenment into a coveted future attainment, getting stuck on one side of an apparent duality like choice or no choice, falling into new belief systems, or withdrawing into a kind of detached transcendence that regards the world as merely an illusion. Very highly recommended. Book review by Joan Tollifson
Rupert Spira: Artist and Non-duality Teacher
From an early age Rupert was deeply interested in the nature of Reality. For twenty years he studied the teachings of Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Rumi, Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Robert Adams, until he met his teacher, Francis Lucille, twelve years ago. Francis introduced Rupert to the teaching of Jean Klein, Parmenides, Wei Wu Wei and Atmananda Krishnamenon and, more importantly, directly indicated to him the true nature of experience.
Rupert’s first book, “The Transparency of Things,” subtitled “Contemplating the Nature of Experience,” was published last year by Non-Duality Press. He is presently working on his second book, “It is what I am.”
You can see a fine video interview with Rupert on Conscious TV
And you can find more about Rupert here on his website.
No teachers, no students. No awakened beings, no unawakened beings. No path nor absence of a path. No gurus, no disciples. Simply life making love to itself, dancing as all of this, appearing as something we call ‘world’, as all that you see and all that you cannot see, arising and falling back into the barest emptiness, timelessly and forever…
And the emptiness is not a cold, dark, empty emptiness —but a rich, full, alive emptiness, pregnant with infinite possibility, saturated with this… incomprehensible intimacy that should, by all accounts, be impossible —and yet, undeniably, is.
Nothing is not nothing, not the absence of all things, but also the presence of them, so that nothing is really everything…. and so it all ends not in nihilism, but in wonder, in fascination, in the kind of gratitude that breaks your heart.
Yes, all that is left is a radical simplicity that cannot be taught, cannot be formulated, reified, systematized, and ultimately cannot even be named —but still, it is all there is, and all there has ever been, and all there needs to be, because only a separate mind would ever want more.
It’s right here and right now. It’s there in and as the cup of coffee on the table in front of you, in each and every breath, in the wrinkles on your father’s face, in the feeling of the wind on your cheeks as you walk to the supermarket, in the pain in the chest as the body dies —and you’ve been seeking it your entire life without knowing it.
It’s beyond ‘awareness’ and ‘contents of awareness’ – it’s not pure consciousness (a blank space devoid of the personal) because blankness needs content to be known and experienced as blankness, just as emptiness needs form to be known and experienced as emptiness and vice versa – it’s not the witness behind the world because it’s also the world in its entirety which nothing can separate itself from in the first place and call itself a ‘witness’ – it’s not Absolute as opposed to relative or vice versa because that very division never existed in the first place – it’s not ‘nobody here’ or ‘there is no me’, although those very personal viewpoints are allowed to arise and fall away naturally – it’s not ‘advaita’ as opposed to ‘neo-advaita’ or ‘neo-advaita’ as opposed to ‘advaita’ but it allows these man-made divisions to play themselves out – it’s not opposed to anything because it is everything including all opposition, even opposition to opposition – it’s not mine or yours but it does not deny the possibility of mine and yours and relationship between them – it’s not pure absence as opposed to presence or vice versa, but those concepts are allowed to arise too – it’s not a teaching, but perhaps, and only perhaps, it can formulate itself as a self-destructing teaching, a kind of teaching which annihilates itself in the end, a temporary language which has no authority but that which you give it, and in the end (and there is no end), has no authority at all. Because in the end (which is the beginning), life is the only authority, and all the teachings of the world burn up in the fire of unbounded freedom.
When you try to put this into words, you always fail.
Thank goodness it doesn’t need to be put into words.
And so, once again, beyond words or lack of them —Welcome Home to what you really are.
Check out Jeff’s website: Life Without A Centre
Jeff Foster graduated in Astrophysics from Cambridge University in 2001. He holds meetings and retreats in the UK and Europe, clearly and directly pointing to the frustrations surrounding the spiritual search, to the nature of mind, and to the Clarity at the heart of everything. His uncompromising approach, full of humor and compassion, shatters the mind’s hopes for a future awakening, revealing the awakening that is always already present, right in the midst of life.
by Maren Springsteen
My heart just shines
that I am not just
one of the things I observe
that seem to hide their
cloaked in a veil
of different appearances.
My heart just shines
that I am also not just
the one that
observes these appearances,
There seems to be lurking, within some spiritual teachers, a dark side. Let’s just call it the “guru principle.” It’s that energy where you can tell a spiritual teacher really believes what he or she is saying. All the texts say that nonduality is not based in belief. It is about dispelling beliefs that make up the “self.” Teachers are fine, in a relative sense, like calling an apple an “apple” —even though it isn’t really a separate thing. But if the teacher believes he really IS a teacher, then that Guru persona seems like another form of “self (i.e. ego).
[Of course] this isn’t the case with all spiritual teachers. Some carry the light of wisdom without that serious, “I have the truth” look in their face, and they just want to be helpful —without wanting you to buy into their specialness. But sometimes, when listening to certain teachers [especially the ones who really believe that people should follow them or that enlightenment can only be gained through transmission within the presence of the teacher] it is downright eerie —as if the teacher has just put on a new mask of ego. He or she has gone from “ego-seeker” to “ego-teacher.” It’s pretty clever, but it’s ego all the way.
For some, the teachings that are most attractive today are the ones that do not make the teacher into a glorious, “greater-than-you”, superhuman figure. Who needs that anyway when we have comic books!
Luckily, many authors or teachers are aware of the fact that language never speaks absolute truth. But unfortunately some do not get this and that is ultimately their baggage. You have to buy completely into concepts of the teacher or lineage, wholesale, without question. You have to buy into the teacher persona him/herself and that’s asking too much when most just want to be free OF separation.
Some traditions have devotion to the guru as a main aspect of the message, and I respect that. I guess I can only speak for myself. I’m tired of buying into the guru persona, wherever it shows up. Yet nondual teachings are still helpful to me, to point out of ego traps. I want the cake without the icing, the teaching without the teacher persona.
Who do you believe? What are you buying?
Maybe the best thing a Guru can do is show me that he isn’t a Guru at all. Then I might be interested in what he is “selling.”
by Stephen Williamson
I was a spiritual seeker who came across non duality. Reading the books and listening to speakers on non duality, it seemed that in all the speakers and authors there was a revolutionary moment when they ‘got it’, when non duality ceased to be an intellectual theory and became a reality.
Then one day I too ‘got it’. There was no self, no separateness, no doer. My state was recognized by one of the leading speakers on non duality in the UK. I had joined the elite few who no longer sought awakening, but were actually awake! I felt important.
As I adjusted to my new state I began to observe in myself and others an inconsistency. I got to know many non duality speakers. Whilst some of these speakers claimed to come from a space of no self, their actions seemed to come from the self. Character traits of self-importance, ambition and indignation, usually associated with the ego, were seen. This indicated a lack of freedom rather than the liberation they talked about when speaking. If I challenged this, I was told that importance appears, ambition appears, but it has been experienced by no one because there is no one, the self does not exist.
I was not too sure about this. All I could do was investigate and reflect on my own experience. I came across writings on Tibetan Buddhism where non duality is regarded as a stage along the way to full enlightenment. This resonated with me. I had previously thought that non duality was “the end of the spiritual journey“. It was the top of the spiritual mountain. No where else to go.
Chris Hebard is the owner of a non-profit online resource called Stillness Speaks, which is a portal facilitating the use of direct inquiry for self-realization. It shares its namesake in honor of Eckhart Tolle —a physical embodiment of the living principles of a Truth that never changes.
Please visit Stillness Speaks if you are interested in direct inquiry, meditation, satsang and yoga in the pursuit of self-realization and enlightenment. Join us as John (Nonduality Mag.) digs deeper into the mind of Chris with some interesting questions…
Can you please tell me how you first became interested in non duality?
Chris Hebard: There is the story of Chris, perhaps an interesting one. First, let’s state the obvious: there are no rules. Truth is not found in the story, and no one’s is more or less important than any other. Stories merely reflect truth in all it’s glory, and this story is no exception. Nothing that is shared here is meant to imply anything. It is simply the record of this journey.
Some come to this gracefully, gently —while others [like me] have to be hit over the head with a 2×4. There was absolutely no interest here in non-duality [at all] before 2006. Just the opposite, my life was total resistance to what is. In fact, I would have placed non-duality in the trash bin along with many other seemingly new age hi-jinx like power crystals, pet psychics and UFOs.
Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment
An interview with Adyashanti
Tami Simon: Let’s return to your metaphor of awakening being compared to a rocket ship achieving liftoff. How do people know if their rocket ship of being has actually taken off? I could imagine some people being deluded about this.
Maybe they have read lots of books about spiritual awakening, so they make the leap in their mind that awakening has occurred, but perhaps in reality they are simply sputtering on the ground. How do we know for sure that we have attained liftoff?
Adyashanti: It’s not an easy question to answer. The only way I can answer it is to reiterate what the nature of awakening is. The moment of awakening is very similar to when you wake up from a dream at night. You feel that you have awakened from one world to another, from one context to a totally different context. On a feeling level, that is the feeling of awakening. This whole separate self that you thought was real, and even the world that you thought was objective, or other, all of a sudden seems as if it’s not as real as you thought.
I’m not saying it is or isn’t a dream; I’m saying that it’s…
*excerpt interview from Sounds True. Please read the full article here
“When I first met Adyashanti [in the Fall of 2004] I was struck by the original and fresh way he taught about spiritual awakening. Although he honored his Zen lineage, he emphasized the importance of not relying on a specific teacher or method for realization. Instead, he talked about how important it is to look to our own direct experience and fearlessly explore the territory of our own lives.” – Tami Simon (Sounds True Publisher)
“I’ve always been fascinated with the figure beautifully rendered and by pattern and decoration. In my new work, I focus on these two interests: my figure studies are given a context within the designs found in erotic Japanese “Shunga” prints, Persian miniatures and the pattern traditions of Eastern Art: realism and pattern/Eastern and Western aesthetics.” – Michael Bergt
“The history of art can be seen as an attempt to balance these two intentions: to create the illusion of three dimensions, or focus more on an interpretive, abstract quality, thereby enhancing pattern and decoration. This reflects the contrast between a literal and symbolic view of the world—confirming what we perceive—contrasted with what we feel about what we perceive.”
*excerpt from Integral Life. Please read more of this great post here.
Enjoy the art!