What do I know?

What do I know, except that I exist. That one ‘I’ that cannot be denied. The proof of which is in the stating of: “I don’t exist”. Who is saying that? You that don’t exist? Are these not just words – superimposed upon our deeper sense of our known existence – about which we have no doubts. There is no belief required here.

I do know I am liable suffer every time I am drifting in thoughts. Thoughts are either memories evoked from the past, or hopes, desires and fears conjured up in relation to a perceived future time. Though these thoughts can only take shape as a result of past experience. Don’t we relate to objects / concepts based upon knowledge we have gained? I couldn’t identify the chair before me if I had not previously learned that such an object is referred to as a chair. This applies to everything we encounter – I include ideas, opinions, prejudices, likes, dislikes etc. It’s how we relate to the world around us.

But why do I say I suffer? When I am trapped in memories, hopes or fears I am in effect day dreaming. And dreams as we all know are imaginary. By indulging a desire or supposed fear I am wishing things to be different than they are and this can only mean a form of suffering even if it appears in a positive glow as in the lover we know is waiting for us around the next corner. We have to snap of of this and ask ourselves, what what is wrong with now? What else has any substance but now? That same substance as that sense of ‘I exist’ which we had previously identified.

Even the subtlest of desires – the desire not to desire to be anywhere but where I am. Still I am not, but have been spirited away.
Just as here is nowhere. It’s a concept – as is the idea of a ‘present’. For true freedom is ‘being’ – free of thought – of concept. When thinking (which will always go on) is no longer attached to thoughts (which will always come and go).

So how to cultivate a no-thought state. By withdrawing into an intuitive understanding of the inevitable suffering accompanying any attachment to imaginary notions. This way we touch on the possibility of no-mind, a place where the mind rests empty, pure and untainted. Though in truth it is nearer to a state.

By resting in the no-mind state, one is in a timeless place. No future or past, and without these how can there arise a present? A present in relation to what? A continual present if you wish – which is all ‘now’ is – no beginning, no end. Not flowing out of some imaginary past into an imaginary future.

It just is. Being.

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In Practice.

The irony here is I’m writing this social media blog and virtually the only person who is reading it is me. Yes – I am talking to myself. Or more accurately – it is my Self talking.

Then the decision not to publicise has been taken for now, even though there is always the chance some seeker will run across it.

Well, I’m going to talk to myself some more and look into reasons why I might be doing this. Especially given that what is being discussed over the course of these posts is notoriously difficult to talk about. Some would say impossible. Then I’m not talking about ‘it’ – only pointing to ‘it’. ‘It’ being Truth, One, Self or a raft of other names used to conceptualise what is effectively non-conceptual.

And from the simplicity of the non-conceptual Oneness arises the complexity of the conceptual universe of forms, or as Lao Tsu puts it: the arising of the 10,000 things (from that no thing which is Tao). For that in effect is the world as it is – as seen from out our living window – the eye. An endless collection of complex objects continuously changing, as if infused by a wondrous life force permeating the infinite space with a potential energy.

So why am I trying to talk about it? Acknowledging the hopelessness of the situation, there is at the same time a sense of having no choice in the matter. Like the play of opposites we as individuals are subjected to, it’s a case of damned if you don’t, damned if you do. So some of the time I write about it, some of the time I don’t.
But then again why does the non-conceptual seemingly need to conceptualise itself – void into from and vice-versa? Both being opposite sides of the same coin i.e. One.

Naturally there is a temptation to seek possible reasons. The most obvious being that it is part of the ‘realisation’ process. That is until we reflect that time and again we are told that there is no temporal process as such. This is ‘it’ now. What happens within the process is mere appearance – a fictitious individual stuck in a time warp where even time is an illusion. So why not just remain still and be content?

Indeed several non-duality commentators specifically say there is nothing to be done. (Even those that appear to be making a living spreading this very message). And from one place they are probably right. For if we are perfectly honest with ourselves, it does appear that anything of any worth seems to arrive in the form of a gift. Though often after we have spent a huge amount of effort only to give up in despair.

And here I believe is a clue. For if there is any practice at all, it is in the giving up. But not an active giving up – as in depriving oneself of some desire. Then we’re back in the illusion of opposites. This form of giving up is divesting oneself of an ignorance. The ignorance that one is in a position to give something up.

But what could it mean: giving up ignorance? Is ignorance a tangible quality? Or is it just smoke and mirrors? If it is the latter, which I suspect it is, there is nothing to give up. Just a seeing through the haze and many reflections. In other words it’s knowing the Truth. A Truth that will set you free (from the illusion).

Wei Wu Wei* has this to say on practice.

“And the only practice is seeing this, which is Awareness, which is this which an eye cannot see when it looks at itself.”

He continues, “Practice is deepening understanding, for understanding is at first an intuitional glimpse of the truth of this, then the obtaining of this intuitional glimpse at will, and finally, the permanent installation of this inseeing when walking, standing, sitting and lying, in public and in private, asleep and awake.”

Finally, I have often been struck reading the lives of past sages, Ramana Maharshi and Nisagadatta Maharaj being two prime examples. How, following this initial glimpse of the truth, they spent years in apparent isolation. Which was obviously aimed at focussing this glimpse into a more permanent inseeing alluded to by Wei Wu Wei, whose own journey produced eight books recording his though processes.

This is in contrast to the many Advaita ‘teachers’ who pop up with a message addressed to no one. I am in no position to comment whether this acceptable practice, whether this people are in the right place to inform others of the truth. I can only say that there are occasions when I feel an urge to divulge this knowing. Yet another part pulls me back. Perhaps a possible reason is also revealed in the lives of the two great sages mentioned above. They never actively sought an audience. Somehow seekers managed to find them, even though they were both hidden from view. One on the side of a mountain, the other in the midst of a teeming city.

There is well known expression, “Silence is louder than words”. For often with that silence comes a powerful energy.

* Wei Wu Wei- from his book “All Else Is Bondage” (Sentient Publications)

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Not THIS, not THAT.

A new understanding of what is often referred to as neti neti (neither this nor that).

Until recently I’ve mostly associated the ‘this’ and ‘that’ with objects. As in: I am neither ‘this’ nor ‘that’ – referring to any attempt at Self definition. The question naturally followed: “So what am I?” Good question and still a valid course of reasoning – but that is all it amounts to.

And haven’t we told ourselves, ‘What or who am I’ is the one great question that requires solving? The root of all other questions possibly.

At the same time it is the question that can never be answered. At least not using our customary approach of mind dependent reasoning. For all attempts to reach that ‘I’ using an intellectual approach are doomed to fail and can only lead to frustration and confusion. (Though it is this eventual hopelessness which can reveal an underlying truth, glimpsed by the giving up of the trying to find the answer).

Why is it so problematic? Well put simply – one needs to ask who it is who is asking the question? Are not both questioner and question joined by the process of questioning? Are the questioner and question not opposite ends of the one questioning stick? Can either exist independently of the questioning?

A scientific analogy might help to illustrate. Twentieth Century scientists who had begun studying the minuscule particles that were supposed to make up life forms ran in to a fundamental problem. They reached a point where they were unable to study the objects objectively i.e. independent of any subjective influence. For the mere observer’s act of observing now had a direct effect on that which was being observed. (If scientists followed this through, they might touch upon the true meaning of String Theory i.e. at ONE level nothing is not connected, we just imagine it to be).

As perviously alluded to, both observer and observed can only be joined by the process of observing. Observer, observed are an artificially separated part of the one process of observing – which is happening now i.e. is timeless. Just as is hearing, touching, knowing etc.

So to return to not THIS, not THAT. Are not THIS and THAT referring to the same space – for want of a better word? A timeless space. For there is no THIS or THAT as such – only apparently.

Wei Wu Wei* put it very succinctly when he proposed:

THIS which is seeking is THAT which is being sought and THAT which is being sought is THIS which is seeking.

He goes on to say:

Every time you try to name THIS-HERE-NOW you are an eye trying to see itself.

As with all paradoxes which seem to make sense intuitively, the moment you try to apply reasoning you start tying yourself up into knots.

* Wei Wu Wei- from his book “All Else Is Bondage” (Sentient Publications)

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Subject without object.

You are the One Subject in which the many objects appear.

You can witness this now by looking out of your eyes and witnessing your bodies – hands, legs, feet – as objects. Just as the chair, table, computer or whatever is before you are also mere objects.

But what is the source of this seeing, this knowing? What is looking through these eyes and is the source of this witnessing?

Is there a witness? Isn’t it rather the witness one supposes is witnessing this scene is not the Subject with a big ‘S’ but just another object masquerading as a pseudo-subject; its source being the One Subject without object.

That Single Subject – referred to by a variety of names which are never it – only pointing to it. The Subject which is in truth no Subject, for without a genuine object how can it be defined?

So once again we are compelled to drop our conceptions, understanding that any such paradoxes exist only at the level of (imaginary) subject and object. Whereas upon recognition of our one, true Subject Self all else is mere appearance (form) happening within a boundless spaciousness (no form).

“A single understanding, ‘I am the One Awareness’, consumes all suffering in the fire of an instant. Be happy.” (Ashtavarkra Gita)

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A thought cannot think

A thought cannot think. I read this somewhere. It got me thinking.

Our lives are made up of thoughts. Most of our waking day and our sleep too when we are dreaming.

But who is it who is thinking these thoughts? These seemingly random, mental appearances that pop up uninvited.

Naturally we would reply, “I am”. Until we ask the question – “who is that ‘I'”?

Then we might come to realise that that ‘I’ we assume is thinking these thoughts is itself only a thought. A supposed object of a supposed subject (which is neither subject nor object per se).

So the thoughts ‘we’ are thinking are secondary thoughts – or the thoughts of a thought which is itself the thought of ‘I’. In fact it’s all just thoughts – I, we, every thing.

Yes – it all sounds rather confusing. But only because we are trying to think about it. And that is rather like standing at the bottom of a mountain and trying to describe the magnificent views from the summit. We might be able to recreate an enticing and convincing picture depending on our ability to mould words.

However on top of the mountain all words fail – thoughts temporarily cease. Mind is returned to its rightful place. We become transported in wordless awe. Awe at the simplicity – the pure naturalness – at the very heart – the very essence.

It’s as simple as stating – “a thought cannot think”. Then it doesn’t have to. Just as You don’t have to think a thought – which you think to be You.

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A matter of perspective.

For so long we have been conditioned to believe that to get something we need to make the effort. It’s a rule of life!

And suppose we decide to rebel and decide we want nothing. Do we still not have to make effort?

Then both these instances assume some thing or state pertaining to a future date. We don’t have it now, so we must strive to attain it.

But what if someone were to tell you that ‘knowing’ or ‘realisation’ or whatever you wish to name ‘it’ is effortless and only available right now?

To illustrate using an analogy. What is more taxing: peering through a very dirty window or seeing clearly through a transparent pane of glass?

One could claim it’s merely a matter of getting our seeing right.

The accepted way is for us to appear as individual objects in a world full of complexity – rife with conflict and strife. This is the effort equating to peering through the dirty window.

With the clear seeing comes a world of changing energy forms appearing within us as subject. We are one (subject) the world is many (objects). How can conflict arise if there is only one? And without conflict what effort is required? One effortless seeing.

We must continue to ask ourselves, “What is our reference point?” and “To whom or what does it pertain?”

Windows

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A continual fascination for what we are not.

It’s quite a revelation to realise that what ‘one is not’ is the source of our continual fascination. I am speaking of the world of phenomena, that is everything we are looking out at, hearing, touching etc.

Eventually one is forced to pose the question: “Who is is who is perceiving all this?” For surely there must be someone or something at centre. But when one seriously looks for what it might be, one cannot find any ‘one’ or ‘thing’ or ‘centre’. It’s as if this show of forms, constantly appearing and disappearing before us happens against a back drop of emptiness.

But can it be any other way? Surely for some thing to appear there must be no thing for it to appear on. To paint a picture one needs a blank canvass. If a pattern was already present on the canvass, it would interfere with the new picture. Or supposing the surface of the canvas was orange, the artist could no longer use that particular colour. In other words anything present here will interfere with what is there.

But is there a ‘here’ or ‘there’? If so, where is the line of demarcation? Are we not unlimited emptiness for all that which is appearing? A boundless, still, blank canvass for this busy picture which is constantly metamorphosing before us. Aspects seemingly so opposite, yet sharing the same source. For how could one exist without the other?

But then it’s not two – nor is it one. It just ‘is’.

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We know the truth when we hear it.

It is no coincidence that some of the most quoted words, phrases, poems strike a chord within us simply because they are conveying an eternal truth.

While many will be happy sit back and listen to the flow of the words or find solace in the message they appear to promise, I believe a more responsible course of action is to investigate what it is beneath the surface that makes such a phrase or poem so rich in meaning.

By way of example, let us take Jesus’ timeless words, where he gives us the following advice:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

(Matthew 6:34 – 1611 King James Version)

I am sure many of us have heard these words at one time or another. Immediately there is something about this verse which challenges our automatic beliefs, for most of us have been conditioned to think continually about our future as we go about our everyday lives.

But what Jesus appears to be saying quite adamantly is that we should instead consider what is happening ‘now’, for there is plenty to attend to this very moment. Surely this contradictory advice warrants some further investigation.

Firstly I wish to discount the slightly absurd notion that this is in some way an affirmation of Horace’s famous “Carpe Diem”, and usual frivolously hedonistic meaning attached to it, which runs along the lines, “enjoy today with no heed of tomorrow.” Basically an excuse to indulge one’s selfish whims with little consideration for others or one’s surroundings. We only need to turn on the news or open a magazine to see this behaviour being enacted out on a daily basis.

In order to have an understanding of its depth of meaning, we literally have draw a halt to the momentum of our lives. Stop Now! Observe the never ending flow of thoughts which race before us like clouds across the sky on a gusty day. Thoughts which are continually pulling us this way and that – either into the future or the past and so rarely into now. To be here and now requires the effort to arrest thoughts – such as the moments we are able to give our attention to viewing a painting or work of art. But how often does this happen?

Surely a better course would be to try to understand the concept of time as we are accustomed to view it i.e. how it has been taught to us. For this is essentially what Jesus is alluding to. Few would dispute that time as we know it consists of a past and future, divided by a thin line known as the present. That we are usually in the former two, and only occasionally between them – in the present.

But what if we start at Now i.e. what we call the present? Stop focussing on thoughts – the clouds streaming before us. What can be added to this now? Where is past and future right now? Surely any past you conjure up can now longer be past because you are dragging it into the now. And where is the future?

Try this experiment. Focus fully on now and raise your finger when the future arrives. Of course it never will, providing you honest with yourself and are fully attentive to now.

Seeing this might lead you to the uncomfortable realisation that we in effect never live. If living is occurring now – which it is – with continual thoughts for tomorrow, when we reach tomorrow we shall be thinking of the following tomorrow and so on – until that final tomorrow of our lives. At which point we might take a glance back and think to ourselves… hang on! Maybe I missed something.

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”

The truth of this will become apparent when one is able to dispel the myth of time. There is no past, no future – and without them there can be no present either. All there is is Now. No use thinking about it. We will never comprehend this from the point of view of mind, just as we will never understand what we term life. Then do we need to know? Isn’t ‘living’ it enough?

Or as Jesus says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

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Nothing to look forward to any more

If I were to say to someone, “I don’t look forward to anything any more.” I’m sure most people would look at me and think to themselves, “Poor fellow, he’s lost all enjoyment in life – he might as well be dead.” Or words to that effect.

But let’s not miss the irony lurking behind such a response. For to look forward is to be somewhere else but ‘here’. The future is a concept after all – as is the past. But then so is the present, for without a notion of future or past, there wouldn’t be that thin dividing line we call the ‘present’. All is ‘now’ – a continuum without beginning or end. So no time either – then many stories do begin with those four magical words, “Once upon a time.”

As long as we are ignoring this truth, we are dead. Dead to the possibilities or real living in contrast to the imaginative kind where, for the most part, we dwell.

Enjoyment is only possible while it is appearing before us through the medium of this remarkable collection of sensory structures we call the body – which is happening continually and animated by a living energy. Why look to the future – that will never ever arrive? Just as the past will never ever be retrieved – except in the moment and then it is no longer ‘past’, but something that is appearing now.

All rather confusing? Remember, there is more that one perception possible. Just as a small movement to the right or left can cause something at a distance, previously unidentifiable, to become instantly obvious.

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The best gift to those you love.

Surely the best gift you could leave your family and friends – far better than a sum of money left in one’s will – is to be able to tell them with certainty that ‘dying’ holds no fear. Rather it is an illusion, the mere passing of a form, completely natural and in many ways a wonderful thing. Besides it is not ‘I’ that is dying, but the appearance of ‘I’.

Yet in order to pass on this ‘knowing’, it is necessary to experience it for oneself. Otherwise it remains in the realm of ‘hope’ or ‘faith’, both of which are very meagre substitutes – in fact no substitute at all.

Bankei Yotaku, the 17th Japanese Zen master cited his motivation for discovering ‘Truth’ was to be able to reveal it to his mother before she parted this life, which he was able to realise.

How much happier we would all be if we saw our loved one’s smiling when we or they bid those farewells we all must at some point; knowing that what was doing the bidding was not who we or they truly are.

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