From an Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma, Gouda May 28, 2008
Breaking through the endless circles
If the release and opening don’t occur automatically then it’s very important to see precisely what processes are at work in your own self-sphere. This looking will continue on subtler and subtler levels if that release and opening is to become radical. When you look closely, you’ll always see the same thing: the tendency to hold on to things and alternatively to release them. That holding-on is an identification process: you create an image, a self-image with various elements and you throw yourself into that limited image. Then you enter into a self-being that’s limited. We call that the ‘I’-position: “I experience this”, “I want that”, and “I don’t want that”. Seeing this ego mechanism is an increase in awareness. You can distinguish this mechanism on increasingly subtle levels: there is the continual return again and again to an ‘I’-position in a world with which you are more or less familiar and which you want to maintain. That’s how it works. In silence and relaxation this dissolves.
How is it with you, G?
I was completely quiet. That was very clear. Yes, but that’s also the case when I return to daily life from Schiermonnikoog [an island off the coast of the Netherlands where weeklong Advaita retreats were held], and then it goes wrong…
Notice your formulation, because that’s precisely where the restriction is we just spoke about: “I was totally still”, “I came back from Schiermonnikoog”. It is, in any case, “I” that experiences these things. Do you see how the ego mechanism works? Sink away through the ‘I’-silence.
But is that something which you can decide for yourself?
In the silence there can be lucidity with the knowledge: this is it. In that silence there is no ‘I’-person. That is to be affirmed. The ego process doesn’t need to return. After the retreat week you get onto the boat and then you step into the train … at every moment and with each step, you can realize: how is it again? Oh yes: silence. When the clarity remains, there is no concentration of energy or identification through which an ’I’ contraction exists.
Yes, but it does happen…
The only thing that helps is: always return to the clarity, until it remains stable and no limitation occurs anymore. You know it: it will have to proceed further in that direction. But most people are totally ignorant. That seems to be the normal situation which most people take for granted. At a given moment you can be sick and tired of always spinning in the same old circles, and of the thought that in your nineties you will have to say: “I need to go on a weeklong silent retreat again”.
But if it doesn’t break through, then you’ll have to.
That’s exactly what this is about; to investigate the cause of ignorance and what creates the chance to break through the endless cycles. These ego tendencies to return to the old patterns can appear most easily within the clarity. When you are really clear in the open silence without a person, then that’s the basis on which these tendencies, these forces that still function somewhere can totally dissolve. Apparently that happened during the retreat, because otherwise you wouldn’t have sunk into the silence. You should sink so deeply into the silence that there aren’t any forces left bent on restoring the old situation. Staying in ‘the now’ is insufficient. You should sink through and beyond the now, so that the now, with its reference to the past and future is gone. That self-image of yours, it’s a psychological representation of yourself. You create it, and that form also determines your behavior, your manner of thinking. It’s much more than just an image. You identify yourself with it, you embody that image. And then you say: I am that, this bodily person. And by doing so, you forget who you really are.
It’s about that pattern cracking open at some point. And that can only come from an incredibly deep pre-personal motivation, so that it really goes by itself. The only thing you can do is to look there, to be aware of it. I just refer to certain things and say: “Take a look. Still deeper, still deeper.” Do you see the deep desire to not remain stuck, a very deep knowledge that it’s not necessary? What does that mean, when you absolutely can’t hold on to anything anymore?
Everyone knows that you can’t hold on to anything.
That is a pitfall. How many people believe that and still sit there, shaking their heads ‘yes’, but without anything happening? You need to be very sharp so that you see through every illusion. Every image is a virtual image. When it arises, you give it a stamp of reality and so it receives a resistance. Only when you see through it, then the images are neutral and their effect disappears. See in what way these images aren’t neutral. You give them your own living energy. You offer yourself to them. You make an idol of your self-image: I am the center of the universe, I am the most important, I think only of myself, I’m always busy with caring only for myself and well, a little for the people I see that are a little like myself.
Yes, that’s the selfishness of the ego.
That’s the structure. Only through insight can you see through it. With understanding and surrender that structure disappears and then there is freedom. That sinking away, right through everything, that is the surrender.