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Waking Up (Out of the Teaching) – Scott Kiloby

Beyond the Dogma of Oneness

What is amazing about spirituality today is the multitude of choices at your fingertips from orthodox religion, to new age spirituality, to modern, progressive forms of spirituality (including nonduality). This radical diversity is found not only in spirituality but in music, politics, science, and every other area of life. Consciousness seems to be more diversified than ever, to put it one way.

By simply clicking the mouse on your computer, you can visit different spiritual landscapes—Mādhyamaka Buddhism, Mahamudra Buddhism, Advaita Vedānta, Gnostic Christianity, Kabbalism, Taoism and more. Within each of those particular headings, there are subdivisions—particular teachings and messages that branch off in their own unique way.

Today, modern nondual teachings are branching out more and more, with more diversity. They are translating, and simplifying nonduality, taking it out of its previous cultural frameworks and making it available to a wider audience. Some of these modern nondual messages come from this particular lineage, others from that lineage, and still others from no lineage at all. Yet every language comes from somewhere, because language is learned.

If we were just talking about various styles of music or flavors of ice cream, it wouldn’t be a big deal to enjoy the different styles or taste the diversity of flavors. But when it comes to finding the right teaching or message, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Which one has the truth? Are they all saying the same thing? Is teaching X’s definition of enlightenment the same as teaching Y’s? Should I notice thoughts, take short moments of awareness, or just realize there is no one? Should I meditate? Am I already awareness? Is there no doer to do any of those things?

This diverse spiritual landscape can seem mind-boggling! It only seems mind-boggling when:

1.) you are looking for ultimate truth or

2.) you believe you have already found ultimate truth [within one of the flavors]

When I was on a spiritual search and the seeking energy was running the show, it was easier to focus just on one message. I tasted many flavors, but I tended to simplify it by sticking with one or two messages that resonated with me. As I focused on one or two clear teachings, it was easy to stick with an investigation into my present experience. I just recognized present awareness as often as possible and questioned some of my core beliefs. That kind of focus made it possible to see that the self that I took myself to be (including the self that was being propped up by a lot of worldly knowledge from spiritual teachings) wasn’t there at all. That was the freedom. That was the transformation.

When we focus on one or two flavors, it can simplify things greatly. Otherwise we can get trapped into a comparative religion dialogue, which doesn’t lend itself to awakening . . . just to a lot of worldly knowledge. We are often looking for some comforting mental position that all teachings are pointing to the same truth. Spiritual transformation has really never been about comforting the self with positions. In the non-dual traditions it has been about the freedom of seeing through that self.

In realizing freedom through my favorite teaching, the temptation was to make that path into some sort of absolute truth. I felt that fundamentalist “tug” towards the feeling of “I know” and “I HAVE it.” I wanted to tell people about how my language was the one and only right language. I was completely ignorant of this. It was a blind spot. Without knowing it, the teaching itself, the message itself, had become the new clothing for an ego. In seeing this blind spot in the way any thought or set of thoughts can be seen for what they are—just thoughts—the possibility of “waking up” out of my language arose. I saw that, although the freedom and the transformation out of ego was real, the language was a set of learned ideas. A straight jacket, if it is taken on as belief.

All languages are sets of learned ideas, aren’t they? Is there an exception? Life is a dynamic play of diversity. The beauty today is in discovering the limitations of speaking within a particular language about awakening or nonduality and then exploring new landscapes—science, psychology, music, art, philosophy, other teachings (most of which I dismissed as “just concepts” in my non-dual investigation). Non-duality doesn’t outlaw this exploration. It makes it possible because it allows one to see through the self that would claim that truth only looks a certain way (“My way”).

I remember when I believed that Advaita Vedānta, the teaching itself, was ultimate truth. I didn’t see that it was a language. It wasn’t until I took up the language of Dzogchen that I saw that Advaita was only one particular way of talking about awareness. Dzogchen felt energetically different from Advaita. And it wasn’t until I took up the language of Mādhyamaka Buddhism that I saw that the notion of awareness, itself, is a language. In Mādhyamaka Buddhism, they don’t see awareness as an ultimate reality underlying, permeating, or “prior to” false appearances. In certain schools of Mādhyamaka Buddhism, they don’t essentialize emptiness. In other words, they don’t consider emptiness to be an “ultimate” reality as they do in other forms of Buddhism or as awareness is treated as an “ultimate” reality in Advaita. Emptiness is not a substance or anything one should reify in those schools. They see it as a dependent arising, no more inherently existing than toothpaste.

I discovered incredible freedom through Mādhyamaka Buddhism, just as I had discovered freedom before through teachings from Eckhart Tolle, then Great Freedom, and so many others. Yet, with the different language of  Buddhism, it was a different flavor of freedom. I found the Integral language at one point, and discovered a totally different kind of freedom, one that did not match the freedom found in either Advaita or other teachings exactly. In Integral, non-dual realization is only one facet. The world of relative form is totally included in Integral, which is very unlike many forms of Advaita and other traditions where relative or conventional existence is treated like a bad movie one has to turn off before one can be “awakened.” When one begins to see that there are many languages, each providing its own, unique realization, where does that leave the notion of absolute truth? In Advaita, absolute truth is awareness or consciousness. In some other language it isn’t.

In this exploration, the more I identified strongly with a language, the more it felt like there really WAS an “I” there, underneath the language, so to speak. There was a separate self sense that just wanted to be right, to prevail over other languages, to “outshine” any opposition, to set myself apart as something separate that owned the truth, as someone who knows. And that’s just ego, any way you slice it.

The possibility of waking up out of the dream of being a separate self, through the use of a spiritual teaching, is amazing. Many traditions talk about that. What is more amazing [for me] is the possibility of waking up from one’s own teaching, lineage, tradition, or message. It’s like waking up from the idea of “I know how it REALLY is” into an openness that wants to explore the diverse landscape of life—to explore how it is within each view. So that becomes my new language—openness.

In openness, it is difficult to feel like a self that has the answers. It is difficult to believe that I KNOW what truth is. It is difficult to believe that my language is delivering truth. This can be scary for those who are really looking for the mind to deliver something Absolute. It can really be scary for those who are holding onto a lineage or teaching for dear life. This openness is like having a language, but holding it “lightly and ironically” as Richard Rorty (a postmodern philosopher) stated. It is knowing that you have a perspective—you have a view—but the view is open. It is so open that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to ever utter a sentence that starts with, “I know . . .” That complete unknowing leaves you in a place where you would rather say, “I want to know, I want to explore the various landscapes. I don’t just want to enjoy the tree in my backyard. I want to walk across the street and enjoy my neighbors trees. I want to enjoy the sky, the birds, the weeds, the water, the buildings, and the prairie down the road.” I want to see every aspect of life. I’m not interested in claiming I own the truth, but rather in simply exploring the different colors and shapes truth takes. Discovering!

It’s not self-seeking at that point. It is not coming from lack—but from the sense of abundance. Look at all the amazing, diverse forms in life! This is something else entirely. It stops being about finding a single truth somewhere, hidden within a particular tradition. It starts being about recognizing the freedom in seeing truth everywhere, including in the very thing you disagree with. The thing I disagree with is REVEALING to me where the sense of a separate self is, where it lies. It lies in wanting to claim ownership of truth. I call this new language “openness.” That’s my language, held lightly and ironically. The key is not to take it as the one and only truth, above all others. In that case, it’s just ego, sliced another way, cleverly disguised as “freedom” again.

Awakening, within my language, is awakening out of nonduality itself. It’s the enjoyment of a sandwich without relying on the notion that the sandwich and me are One. It’s about exploring duality itself. It is about moving beyond the dogma of Oneness, into a simple enjoying of whatever appearances appear, whether the appearances are treated as separate or not. It’s about exploring even those languages or appearances that threaten whatever dogma I am carrying around now as another blind spot. Now I can’t even stand on the side of nonduality and plant my flag in the ground, saying “This is it.” Ah, that feels like freedom!

Scott Kiloby is a noted author/international speaker from Southern Indiana (USA). He latest book is Reflections of the One Life: Daily Pointers to Enlightenment.  Scott also has two popular e-books available: Doorway to Total Liberation and Living Realization.

In addition to details of his meetings and many workshops, there are many essays, quotations and videos which can be viewed on his web site. He also holds frequent Living Realization meetings all over the world (in person) and online via Web Ex and teleconferencing.

Check out Scott’s website here


14 responses

  1. Jennifer Goodman

    Wow, this “Waking Up” piece is definitely cutting edge!

    It probably won’t appeal to newbies and or to a great number of people (who are just trying to find their beginning teaching) but maybe it is just the kind of thing that certain teachers would like!

    Great article.

    September 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm

  2. Glenda

    Your courage to freefall and your willingness to not land anywhere is so refreshing Scott, Big thankyou again.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:00 pm

  3. tom sullivan

    So now we’re supposed to agree with everything?

    Give me a break!

    September 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

    • Ain't Life Grand

      of course not -hmmm

      Probably another aspiring “teacher”…

      September 9, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    • Amanda Peterson

      Finally – I detect a move in our society towards equality of views, pluralism, and diversity of views!

      Maybe this is something a lot of teachers haven’t caught onto yet?

      *”wake up” call?!

      September 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm

  4. Hi Tom,

    Supposed to agree with everything? Apparently not… 🙂

    More like having fun with everything, including this comment section.

    Oh yea, I forgot, there is no one to have fun. 🙂

    September 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

    • Gilbert Mills

      Although science and rational thinking has been in the “pilot seat”,(so-to-speak) on Earth for a couple of hundred years (along with religion) as the leading beacons of truth, that is starting to change.

      Since the 60’s people have been liking the variety and vastness of ideas/views, and not liking fundamentalism more and more.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

  5. mareninthesky

    Beautiful, sincere, earnest and so very lucidly expressed yet again, Bravo, dear Scott!

    Yes, remaining completely open and having the courage to not know, even drop one’s favourite teachings ain’t easy, yet is such a beautifully loving way of living a fully integrated life with compassion and as Love itself.

    Many thanks for this heartwarming feature yet again, dear Matt, clear seeing and living from the heart at once obviously is the case here!


    September 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm

  6. What a great contribution Scott!!!

    September 10, 2010 at 2:10 am

  7. tom sullivan

    “The thing I disagree with is REVEALING to me where the sense of a separate self is, where it lies.”

    Do you really believe this?

    September 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

  8. Since reading Scott’s beautifully written essay on openness and awakening out of the rigidity of any one particular teaching, thoughts on the paradox inherent in any thinking about truth, teachings, and nature of reality have been floating around in my mind. Here are some counterpoints to add to the flavor.

    Let us agree that fundamentalist positions that hold that any school of thought, tradition, religion, language, or concept can have a lock on truth are inherently misguided. All positions are contained within the nature of things as opposed to actually being the truth of it. The description can never be the thing; this is self-evident. This is where many of our current religions have veered off the track, when they put forth the notion that the descriptions, i.e. the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, are the actual truth as opposed to what they are attempting to point to.

    On the other hand, the view from here is that all valid teachings on truth and the nature of things do point in the same direction, what may be called, borrowing from Zen, the ‘suchness’ of things as they are. All earnest inquiry into truth must look in the direction of what is here prior to language, prior to conceptual formulation of any sort. If this is followed to the end of the mind’s ability to formulate ideas, where can we end up but in unknowing? At that point, any description or formulation at all, i.e. oneness or duality, existence or non-existence, something or nothing, emptiness or form, must either fall away or lead us into hell, or at least out of the Garden of Eden, which is itself merely a depiction of what’s here now prior to language and conceptual knowledge.

    So in a sense if we open our mouth to speak, we turn from the truth. But of course we don’t, for how could it be possible to turn from truth, the truth is inherent everywhere. The true truth has no opposite, for all is contained within it, all is an expression of it. But if we are going to have discourse on truth and the nature of things, openness must be tempered with discernment, for all teachings are not equal. Much of what passes for understanding or knowledge is nothing of the sort. Much of what is said comes out of ignorance or the misunderstanding that truth may be captured within language.

    Furthermore, I am not sure it is possible to arrive at true openness with discernment without at least an initial awakening out of the concept of self, for to be stuck in this concept is to be stuck in conceptual reality without any way out. A conceptual self can only see a conceptual reality. At least this was my experience, certain teachings such as the Heart Sutra were hopelessly out of reach, even after decades of practice, until the simplicity and beauty of its pointing were revealed in a flash of realization. What is realized is the same always, although experienced in numerous ways and known by many names: awareness, consciousness, stillness, presence, Being, etc. But the instant the mind gets involved; the variety of interpretations is endless.

    The known becomes clear as the unknown, and the unknown comes round to the known, and all becomes the miraculous dance of isness.

    Even with that, too much has been said.

    September 14, 2010 at 10:08 pm

  9. Dave

    My understanding is this – we do not travel any spiritual path. There is no waking up from anything. WE are the path that is traveled, WE are the waking up, WE are the expression of Be-ing. We are the be-ing of pure “Be”. The actuality of pure potential. WE, as a mind/body are the lens through which Infinity sees, WE are also the see-ing. There is no “I” as a singularity, there is an “I” as an expression, a movement, an actuality. Is a wave a thing, a singularity, or is it just a movement of the water? Both?

    December 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

    • Ray

      Dear Dave,

      When I am reading non-duality there is an open
      aware sense of presence, however when I go
      into the house to get a glass of water there is a return
      to the thinking self.

      Are you able to comment on this?

      Thank you

      April 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

  10. Gosh, how will I brush my teeth if toothpaste is conditional? I was with you until you said that! You do have a beautiful way of relating your experiences, though.

    February 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm

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