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In the Round: Nondual Roundtable [Part 2]

Right back at you with Part Two of our wildly popular Nondual Roundtable Series. In case you missed the First Round (or been living under a rock), there is a flowering of expression that’s taking place and it’s nothing short of amazing — especially with Western audiences! In a nutshell I decided to track down six key authors/teachers or speakers to help shed some light on various topics and I asked them some unique questions in the process.

BTW a round table discussion is typically a form of small group communication and is really useful when it comes to learning. The group is usually focused on a single subject and group cooperation and or participation is key to the overall success of the group. Our version however,  is more like an “interview”. I asked the same questions to all the participants. Of course there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to answering questions on topics like this. We hope you find the results interesting nonetheless.

This is the second post in the series, which concentrates on EXPERIENCE and features: Rupert Spira, Scott Kiloby, Nirmala, Gary Crowley, Randall Friend and Greg Goode. There will be six different posts (i.e. “rounds”) with these six participants covering six main topics. If you would like to ask these gents any questions then the COMMENT SECTION is the place to do it. The comment section is located at the end of the discussion.

 

Round Two Questions

…………………………………………..

ABOUT EXPERIENCE

Many people come to various nondual messages having no idea what nonduality is. Please give your best explanation of what the realization of nonduality is in your view (what it looks, feels, tastes like and what is actually being experienced).

 

 

RUPERT SPIRA:

It does not look, feel or taste like anything and yet it makes all seeming things see-able, feel-able and taste-able….our desire to experience it as a sight, a feeling or a taste compels it to seem as if absent and propels the entity we imagine our self to be into an endless search in the future for what is deemed to be missing here and now.

Some people may not understand the particular language of non-duality but everyone knows their own being. What does it taste like? It tastes like our own being. It is that close and that obvious. How could we not know our own being? Do we not know ‘I am?’ And is ‘I am’ known by something other than our self? No! It is ‘I’ that knows ‘I am.’ In other words, ‘I’ is both present and aware. That is the primary, most intimate and obvious fact of experience. If we cease to superimpose any further beliefs upon this aware being that we intimately know our self to be and allow the implications of this to touch every aspect of our life, our search and our unhappiness would cease right there.

 

SCOTT KILOBY:

It feels like freedom, like having no position to land on. It’s like not being able to find a separate object anywhere I look. Life is experienced as a seamless flow, where any thought, emotion, or experience (negative or positive) is possible but where none of them cause time-bound suffering or seeking. Sometimes life hurts like hell, because someone dies or a friend is in trouble, but the hurt feels inseparable from the bliss. It’s all allowed. There is never any sense of knowing what is going to happen next. There is great love. The heart just wants to open more and more, loving everybody and everything until it hurts. Then loving some more because of a deep knowing that love is really all there is, and all that’s worth talking about.

 

NIRMALA:

Very simply, the realization of nonduality is the recognition of what has always been true: that everything we experience is a part of one thing.

To give a sense of what it is like to realize this, imagine if you woke up one morning and inadvertently discovered that everything in your house was made of clay. All of the furniture and appliances, and even the walls and ceilings of your house turned out to be made of clay. And then even more strangely, you noticed that your own body and the bodies of your family and pets were made of that same clay in a slightly wetter and therefore softer state. Imagine how profoundly that would alter your view of reality to know that everything was made of the same stuff.

Well the “clay” that actually makes up this world and everything in it is a more mysterious substance. Just as regular clay can take on different shapes and forms, this essential “clay” of Being can form all the different atoms and molecules of matter, and all of the different forms of energy and subtle reality. Everything is made of this one substance of Being including your body, the world, your thoughts, your feelings, the light shining in the window, and the subtle experiences of presence and true nature. When this is realized, everything still looks and feels the same and yet there is a knowing of the underlying truth that it is really one thing. It is subtle and yet this realization profoundly transforms the way you understand and relate to yourself, the world and everything in it.

 

GARY CROWLEY:

You are the nondual experiencing of duality (life experienced in time), continually. That is what you are, all the time, whether or not there has been an awakening to it.

Nonduality is merely the experiencing of this-here-now as the everythingness of what “you” are, continually. Awakening to it changes everything, and it changes nothing. As a matter of fact, whenever there is an experiencing of living that does not include the lens of yourself as an entity with a separate, independent, individual volition, i.e. free-will, then you’re having a nondual experience of sorts. For most people this occurs often in their lives with positive or calm experiencings where they “forget themselves” and they identify themselves as the experiencing of that moment.

Those who have awakened to the actuality of what they are, simply include all of the dualistic experiencing of living as what they are.

 

RANDALL FRIEND:

Realization is simply coming to recognize first, that what you are is not a thing among things – as the “subject” you cannot be located in any terms the mind can come up with. The “subject” is never subject to objectification by any means – it has no attributes, no form – it is absolutely impossible to IDENTIFY the subject. But the mind cannot deal with mystery well – it must have something upon which to place thingness or objectivity upon the subject – therefore the body and thoughts are a poor substitute for what you are.

We notice that the subject is outside the realm of the mind’s attempt at objectification. The subject is not a feeling, not a sensation, not perceived, not seen, felt, smelt, tasted, touched or heard. Yet at all times, it is perfectly present. The presence of the subject is obvious – to BE the subject means to know – to be aware of – aware of the object or experience.

The subject can therefore be pointed to with the word “experiencing” – to be the true subject is to be the experiencing but there is nowhere to place the objective “experiencER”. No “thing” upon which to place independent existence.

Experiencing is happening, obviously. The bell rings – experience. Experiencing OF the bell and the experience “bell”. Yet this distinction or separation is not ACTUAL – it is still the mind’s attempt to describe reality in terms of thingness – in terms of opposites – in terms it can grasp. There is no actual division between the experiencing “hearing” and the experience “ringing”. They are the exact same reality – the same IS-ness. They are not-two.

So you are the subject, but the subject cannot be located as a thing. The subject is both presence and absence – always perfectly present yet absent of any content. Experience not only fills this absence, this capacity, it is in fact the very same “thing”.

 

GREG GOODE:

*Editors Note: Greg chose to answer these questions as from the emptiness teachings (as descended from Nagarjuna). For more on the background to the emptiness teachings click here.

The way the emptiness teachings explain nonduality is freedom from the extremes of being and non-being, existence and non-existence, eternalism and nihilism. Things don’t exist absolutely. And on the other hand you don’t have an utter void of non-existence either. Things change, and you are deeply at peace in this. You are not any one fixed thing, so there is no threat in change or movement.

“One who is in harmony with emptiness

is in harmony with all things.”

             -Nagarjuna

There is a very palpable freedom and love in this. You experience a non-grasping, non-referential joy as a self that is neither bound by other things and people, nor disconnected from them. This brings a deep appreciation of community, which is experienced as an aspect of the relational and empty nature of the self. It becomes impossible to experience anyone else as separate or irrelevant.

The body, the mind, as well as emotion, thought, action and language are freed up in an incredible lightness and vibrancy. They are no longer experienced as opaque, mysterious separate metaphysical lumps trying to relate to each other. The conventional self does not turn away from the conventional world, but engages it world in a light, free, joyful way.

The heart expands outward, because the old artificially conceived borders cutting you off from others have disappeared.

What happens then? What I sometimes call “joyful irony.” The irony is the freedom from views and extremes. The joy is the freedom from suffering. It manifests as lightness, love, enthusiasm, compassion, and creative energy.

 

Art E. Resendes

I. In nondual realization, does one’s story drop away completely or does it tend to arise less?


RUPERT:

There are no rules, but usually, after it has been clearly seen that the inside self and its counterpart the outside world, are non-existent as such, these old beliefs will continue to arise for some time out of habit.

For how long these old residues of thinking, feeling, acting and relating on behalf of an imaginary inside self arise varies, but no longer fuelled by the belief that these thoughts and feelings represent the reality of our experience, it is natural that in time they die down.

 

SCOTT:

I can only speak from my direct experience. That’s true of all my responses here. The belief that the “story of Scott” is my real identity, is seen through. The self is seen to be illusory or dream-like, yet still there for conventional or “convenient” purposes. For the most part, the story doesn’t arise, except in very practical ways, like when I’m simply conversing with someone and I point to personal experience to relate to the other person’s story or conversation. This is how we engage each other as humans, whether there has been an “awakening” or not. In the story, the difference between how the story is experienced now (when it arises) as opposed to how it used to be experienced is huge. The story no longer causes suffering or seeking when it arises. And even if those movements arise, they vanish so quickly, leaving no emotional trace, like a paintbrush stroke on water. There is no sense of an inherent or separate identity that sticks around as a constant. The story is like a voice that sounds itself or doesn’t sound itself. Either way, there is freedom. No preference for thinking v. not thinking.

 

NIRMALA:

I define realization as the ongoing, endless discovery and recognition of our limitless nature. In this sense, every moment of every person’s life is a realization of some sort. Even when as a child we realize our ability to tie our shoes, we are realizing something about our nature.

It is my observation that when it comes to much bigger realizations about our true nature, that there is no formula or pattern that applies to everyone. Sometimes the story drops away a lot and sometimes a little. Every snowflake is unique and so is every unfolding of realization.

 

GARY:

“Story” is a rather wide term. The “story” of primary importance for the spiritual seeker is the fairytale that what they are is an individual entity with separate volition outside of the unwinding chain of cause and effect (the chain of cause and effect that everything in the universe is bound within). That “story,” that fairytale, is the lynchpin of human suffering.

To answer your question, “Yes,” it is that “story” that drops away in the sense of primary identification.

But your unique experiencing of this-here-now remains, which is “what” you have ultimately always been. When the illusion of the false self is seen through, its grip is released, but the ebb and flow of human experiencing remains.

 

RANDALL:

To speak of the story is to have already split reality down the middle, first into experience and an experiencer, then eventually into one who has a story. The first split is a story. There is no experience apart from experiencing, which is really to say there is not two things.

 

GREG:

The “story” in this case would be the conception of the independent existence of the self. There are layers in the realization of emptiness, from a hope, to an imagination, to inferential realization, to direct realization. Any layer and any degree of realization helps. With any kind of realization, the solid conception of the inherent self becomes lighter and freer. With direct, non-conceptual realization, it is all the way gone.

What is left? Not nothing, but rather a joyful, everyday conventional self, the mere I.

 

 

II. What happens when the story arises, is there less or no identification with it?


RUPERT:

I don’t like to say ‘never!’ Identification arises less frequently and lasts for less time. At some point, as soon as it arises, it is seen through and dropped instantaneously.

 

SCOTT:

Little to no identification. The future or past may arise, but very little emotional charge behind it. No sense that something about the past feels unfinished or bad. And no sense that something in the future has to happen in order to feel complete. Just present contentment, even in the midst of challenging situations, which do occur now and then.

 

NIRMALA:

There is not one kind of realization, and there is no wrong or right kind of realization. And my observation is that the extremes of total identification or no identification are quite rare, and that most people fluctuate a lot in their level of identification, including people who have had profound realizations of their true nature. I am always a little leery when someone makes a blanket statement of always or never about their experience.

How do we identify? What happens when I feel identified that is different than when I am not? It seems identification is just a very particular kind of thought. In the absence of any thought there is no identification. And yet do all thoughts have the same amount of identification in them, or are there simple functional thoughts that only have a functional amount of identification in them?

Perhaps the best question is, What is my experience of identification right now? What is my sense of self right now? Does my current thinking give me an open spacious sense of self, or a contracted narrow sense of self? And what is this sense of self anyways? What if our sense of self is not actually telling us anything about our real self? What if it is just a measure of how much truth there is in our current thought and experience? A truthful perspective gives us a more expanded sense of self, and a less truthful perspective gives us a more contracted sense of self.

What if our sense of identification has never had anything to do with us, and has always been an indicator of how true our perspective is?

 

GARY:

Yes. In my experiencing there is far less identification with it when it does arise as the ebb and flow of the experiencing of living continues (at least in my experiencing of living). Honestly, it’s rather interesting when it does, almost fun (even when it’s not!), like briefly bumping into a long-lost friend that you no longer have anything in common with. It’s still usually intriguing.

As my own unique experiencing of this-here-now, which is all any of us always already are, identification with fairytale-self is severely reduced. And thereby, attachment to the story, when it does arise, is substantially minimized.

 

RANDALL:

The story is seen for what it is – duality itself is the root story. In fully seeing this, the story is free to come and go, even identification is free to come and go – there is ultimately no attachment to any of it, as even the coming and going is a story.

 

GREG:

This is a pretty good way to say what the emptiness teachings say above. The I-story is a tale of someone who goes to the store, takes walks, pays taxes, peruses the internet, and studies or delights in the sport of emptiness. It can be seriously or playfully told, but it is always like Alex Haley’s Roots: not Truth, not Fiction, but faction.

 

Pic E. Resendes

Is nonduality the addition of something to our experience or the subtraction of something or is it just the realization of life as it really is?

 

 

RUPERT:

It is neither an addition nor a subtraction but rather the dissolution of the resistance and seeking that project an imaginary entity into an imaginary past or future and, as a result, the revelation of the utter intimacy and innocence of life in the now.

It is the collapse of the structure of the inside self and its corollary, the outside world or other, and with it the dissolution of the straight jacket in which thought has imprisoned experience. Liberated from the conceptual superimposition of dualistic thinking, experience returns again to its native simplicity, innocence, intimacy and freedom.

 

SCOTT:

It’s the absence of a belief in separation or a belief that things exist inherently or separately, on their own side. But with that absence comes a fullness. Life is experienced as a seamless flow, full of dynamic change, all sorts of emotions, thoughts, etc, but none of them pointing to separately existing things.

 

NIRMALA:

A realization of more of the totality of life and existence does not in itself add or subtract anything from the totality. However, on the relative level any realization can and does have an effect on our lives. So sometimes there are lots of things added to or subtracted from our lives after a big realization, but those are just side effects of the realization. And sometimes, there is little or no apparent effect on someone’s outer life, just like some people have side effects and some people have no side effects with drugs.

 

GARY:

Yes. In my experiencing there is far less identification with it when it does arise as the ebb and flow of the experiencing of living continues (at least in my experiencing of living). Honestly, it’s rather interesting when it does, almost fun (even when it’s not!), like briefly bumping into a long-lost friend that you no longer have anything in common with. It’s still usually intriguing.

As my own unique experiencing of this-here-now, which is all any of us always already are, identification with fairytale-self is severely reduced. And thereby, attachment to the story, when it does arise, is substantially minimized.

 

RANDALL:

It is neither the addition nor subtraction, but merely the recognition of the wholeness of reality. Nothing can be added nor subtracted from the whole. Even the recognition is a story.

 

GREG:

It subtracts the veneer of objectivity and adds an appreciation of the world at your fingertips. It subtracts cosmic otherness and reveals suchness.

 

 

I. Do you live with a quiet mind? II. Has the frequency or the identification with thought been reduced? III. Is this something that a seeker should expect?

 

 

 

 

 

RUPERT:

I. A quiet mind is a non-existent mind. In fact, there is no mind as such, there is only the current thought and thought by definition is always moving, that is, it is never quiet. I live (as do you and everyone else) as Awareness and this Awareness that I am, ‘from time to time’ appears to take the shape of thinking.

II. Yes

III. The seeker is not an entity that expects; it is the very activity of expecting. There is no seeker, as such; there is only seeking, hoping, expecting, longing.

When expecting ceases, the apparent seeker ceases with it. In other words, all expectation, however noble, perpetuates seeking and therefore suffering.

 

SCOTT:

I. There is quietness always, even when thinking is happening.

II. As I look back in my story, it’s not so much that the frequency of thought has reduced (although it surely has), it’s that thought no longer tortures me. Thought is quite beautiful actually.

III. To seekers: Don’t expect anything, just look into your present experience and see why you are suffering. It’s usually because you believe that something exists separately (usually the “self”) or are running from negative feelings or thoughts, chasing some future moment where life will be better or the mind will be quieter. It’s such a trap.

 

NIRMALA:

I. My observation is that there is no formula for how much thought occurs after or even before a spiritual realization. I have observed every possible permutation in the people I have explored this with.

II. And my own experience is that thought comes and goes. Sometimes there is a lot and sometimes little or none. One difference is that I hold all thoughts very lightly and so I am able to enjoy them when they do come. I will sometimes get a good laugh out of a fearful or judgmental thought that arises.

 

GARY:

I. I would describe it as a more “calm” than “quiet” because it is a very full experiencing of living. Thoughts still come and go as they will, but excessive thought seems to be reduced.

II. It’s really the identification with trying to control thoughts that is eliminated, which in turn, reduces excessive thought.

III. While I don’t want to tell the seeker to “expect” anything (since this is most of the problem, or perhaps the entirety of it), they may be pleasantly surprised that identification with thoughts is reduced. But let’s be clear that this is a result of the shift and not the cause of the shift.

 

RANDALL:

The mind (thoughts) come as they come – there is no clinging to them – 99% of thoughts are self-reference – in realizing that individual self is false, the thoughts about that reference point fall away naturally, leaving the practical thoughts to arise as needed.

 

GREG:

I./II. Myself – in emptiness terms, my mind is very quiet. It pitches in when needed, and till then, it’s out of the way. The fruits of emptiness are uncanny. The mind is sharper, clearer, more brilliant, more open, kinder and more peaceful and quiescent all at the same time. And as I mentioned above, anything along these lines of emptiness helps at least a little. Nothing goes to waste. Even partial, fragmentary, speculative, faith-based or intellectual explorations of emptiness yield some results.

III. And any movement towards compassion helps expand the heart and quiet the mind.

 

 

Practical, functional aspects of mind (i.e. how to drive a car, study medicine, raise a family) seem to continue perfectly for most even when there has been a nondual seeing. Yet something has changed. How is it possible to function “normally” in one’s everyday life while having such a change in perception about the notion of objects, people, and identity?

RUPERT:

It would be more relevant to ask how is it possible to function normally in life without such a change in perception. Just look around…

 

SCOTT:

Conventional existence continues. Driving a car, studying medicine, raising a family involves conventional existence. What changes, is the belief that things exist separately or ultimately. In seeing through separation, the emotional charge behind thought tends to fall away, leaving only the practical aspect of thought. So the thought of a past lover that once hurt me can arise, and instead of resentment, there is nothing at all or perhaps a smile. The sense that thought contains a separate identity is just not there. And even if the thought arises that says, “I am Scott” or “This is a separate toaster,” or “That was really a lover that hurt me,”…it can’t hang around. It flows through as part of the seamless symphony of life. It’s temporary, leaving no sense that the thought is pointing to a real, separate, permanent thing. It’s just movement.

 

NIRMALA:

In some perspectives, the ultimate would be a kind of permanent dissolving into an empty featureless place of pure stillness. To me the ultimate is a complete flexibility of awareness including a complete flexibility of thought and functioning. This includes the complete capacity to dissolve and disappear into pure empty Presence, and it also includes every other capacity of my being. Any perception of the deeper oneness of Being does not need to contradict our ability to perceive the apparent differences and different functions of objects, people, and our own thoughts. Two different perspectives can both be true at the same time, and again I point to a flexibility of perspective that embraces all possibilities.

 

GARY:

The lens on your experiencing of living is still your neurology. It still has memories and conditioning, and it will still respond to new conditioning. Before an awakening to enlightenment, when you reached across the table and picked up a pencil you did not consciously think about every single muscle group in your shoulder, arm and hand that needed to flex and release in order to pick up a pencil. The thought just arose for your body to pick up the pencil and your neurology took care of all these details. Now the exact same thing occurs except there is no longer the false presumption that you are consciously willing any of it. You’re the experiencing of it. And our world is still one of actions and consequences, so your neurology doesn’t stick its hand into a fire or steer into oncoming traffic.

It’s the same with your friends and loved ones. Nothing changes other than the fact that you’re probably more compassionate toward them. If you liked their sense of humor, their gentle way of being, their optimistic attitude, their homemade brownies, or anything else, then all of that remains mostly the same. Or like all things, it may change over time as we live and learn and grow and change.

 

RANDALL:

There is no longer a false translation going on. There is no continual propping up of the idea of individual self, no actual belief or juice going into that idea. Life goes on but there is no longer a struggling, no longer a strain or resistance to what IS, no longer an assertion of individual self as the central character in the play. It is simply realized to be only a false belief.

 

GREG:

Life is so much easier when you realize that you and worldly phenomena don’t have a fixed, permanent, self-sufficient nature. You become more facile and flexible, and the world becomes more negotiable.

When I was a teenager, I remember thinking that it was somehow impossible for me to learn to drive a car. And indeed I didn’t learn how until I was 22 years old. This perceived inability was a very deeply rooted thought. It took a very long time with an extremely patient driving instructor. Braving my insults and anxieties, he slowly taught me how to drive. At the same time, he revealed that particular image of myself to be false.

Let’s say you think of yourself as essentially a failure. This can be so deep that you think that it is actually your very nature. It can seem impossible to study medicine and succeed. With the false conception of inherent existence of self and things, the activities of life can seem heavy and impenetrable. Happiness and progress can seem impossible.

Realizing the emptiness of things, even in a beginning way, starts to free things up and show how movement, change, and progress are possible.

 

Link-Love

Rupert Spira

Scott Kiloby

Nirmala

Gary Crowley

Randall Friend

Greg Goode

If you enjoyed this special feature [and are still reading this post] then please share it with your friends/collegues and by all means, feel free to post your comments or questions and or jump into the “discussion” below.

*Special thanks to all who participated and to Sarah Pollak for the photo frame and Ernie Resendes for the NDA thumb + art.

Stay tuned for Round Three, where we will be talking about EXISTENCE…coming soon!

3 responses

  1. Welcome to the Comment-Starter section for Round Two.

    Please add your questions for the participants or comments here.

    Thank you for your continued support!

    Matthew King

    June 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm

  2. There really is only one concern for a spiritual seeker – did you begin? What is the idea you have about yourself? This idea is likely that you are an existence which began, an existence which did not exist prior to a certain day and time, then began to exist, and at some day and time will cease to exist. As such you take yourself to be an independent existence, a finite existence, a separate existence.

    Leaving that intact, we then pursue wholeness or Oneness or “nonduality” or the absence of separation, as if through hard work and determination somehow the universe of separate existences will be superglued together. We want to maintain this independent identity while simultaneously seeking wholeness. In this case your very existence as you take it to be denies Oneness as a possibility. It cannot be done. Realization and the seeker cannot co-exist.

    The only other possibility is that you are not separate, that existence did not begin on such and such day and time, that existence does not end on a particular date although the body ceases to function. The only other possibility is that this idea you have about finite and independent existence is incorrect. This means that you are not now nor never have been separate. That means nothing needs to change – no manipulation is necessary – we don’t have to control thoughts or make things better or wait for a better experience. No conditions are needed. It means there is nothing to get nor lose – the idea of yourself as a finite, independent existence is seen as false. Appearance is no longer taken as absolute. Existence is not given to that which comes and goes. You know what you are by knowing with certainty what you are not.

    But we must first start with the most basic and vital question – were you born?

    June 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm

  3. Pingback: Top Quotes from the NDA Roundtable Series « Non-Duality America

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