You are internally present in all objects as subject-consciousness.

Advaita Post, Volume 10 No 4

Yield to force:
non-duality

‘Non-duality is the infinite depth of unity’
Douwe Tiemersma on the borders between ‘you’ and ‘I’.

Non-duality, what is that? Once again, Douwe Tiemersma has written an accessible book about it.  Non-duality is not-twoness, in Sanskrit a-dvaita. This means the absence of separations. A way of living and a consciousness in which the world – and yourself – can function quite differently. An interview.

By Ewald Wagenaar

In: Koorddanser  26 No 261 (March 2009), pp. 4-5

In different spiritual traditions there is a highest consciousness which is posited as the origin of everything that exists. For many spiritual seekers the heart of their quest is to connect and experience it, to be inspired, and from that inspiration to act in their own circumstances. The spiritual current which focuses on the non-dual awareness arises from the Indian Advaita Vedanta, a tradition that goes back to the ancient Upanishads of the 8th-6th century. Douwe Tiemersma  is active in this area (Capricorn, 1945). A modest man. Friendly, quiet, wise and very approachable. His name appears on many agendas in the Netherlands and Belgium. You might call him the advocate of  non-dual consciousness.

Kororddanser: What is non-duality?
Douwe:  It refers to a being-experience in which nothing is separated from yourself. This experience arises naturally with relaxation. Then the separations between yourself and other things and other people disappear. Everyone seems to know these experiences. It can be a vague understanding, or also a clear vision of the truth without duality.

Is non-dual consciousness a trick?
No, primarily it’s a way of looking, of seeing. Learning to distinguish the different situations in your life. Work, home, elsewhere, you are always in a different reality. The first step on the path of non-dual awareness is that you learn to look at your own situation without filling it in with previous ideas about reality. You can look at your material possessions this way, but also at your own body. Then you notice that you’re looking at yourself and that you as observer (partially) merge with the object of your observation. After a while you find that as observer or perceiver you exist as a more spacious awareness than that which you see and experience.

An example?
Look at your hand and become aware of your situation. Then there is a separation between myself and the hand. The hand is an object, a thing that I see. “I see my hand”.  In this statement ‘I’ is the subject and ‘my hand’ the object. With this approach I can, for example, take a splinter from my hand. There is a separation between myself and the hand and the different parts of the hand.  But now go within and experience your hand.  Try feeling your hand, while you keep your eyes shut.  See how your hand feels from the inside-out. Search for internal divisions.  Are there separations?  Is there a separation in your hand?  You can distinguish among different locations, but you don’t experience a gap. So you experience your entire body as a whole. In your bodily self-being there is no separation. This is a step towards discovering that life itself is an sphere of self-being and within it there is no separation.

How far does this realm of self-being go?
Try it out for yourself. Start with the inner experience of your body. Let your attention go to the right (or left). Beyond your skin. How far beyond the skin can you go with your attention without losing your sense of self? Don’t include any cognitive picture of yourself, but stay in your feeling self-being. Forward or backwards, up or down. You can confirm that your bodily sphere is infinite, as big as the entire cosmos. That’s how it is when you remain clear from the inside-out.

How does that work in dealing with others?
I have described the V-model in my book. On the one hand there is the object, which is what you see or experience. The subject is the one that experiences the object at a distance. Like with the ‘hand’ there is an object on one side and the ‘I’ that sees the hand on the other. Or like an ‘I’ as subject that someone else could see or experience as an object. Now create a diagram, drawing two descending lines, one from the object and one from the subject to where they meet in a point. Then you see a V-shape. In that one point subject and object come together. Halfway down the lines towards that point there is a moment when you, as subject, come to know in yourself what’s happening internally in the object. You, as subject-awareness, are internally present in all objects. Many objects such as your house and your friends belong to your subject-sphere. When you’re aware of yourself, the distance between yourself and objects, such as others, decreases. The difference between ‘I’ and ‘you’ blurs and increasingly becomes ‘we’. The result is that a greater understanding arises between people. More space for each other also provides more joy and enthusiasm. Because unity is experienced.

There is no duality?
No, there is no real separation. There is only a ‘we’ without division, unity. Try to experience what the other experiences. Because the more separation there is, the more suffering. The paradox is that all people want to avoid precisely that suffering. We want unity, but we experience duality.

Are we able to understand each other from the inside-out?
But of course! People aren’t so very different from one another and the more open you are the more you understand the other. Conflicts resolve by letting separations disappear. You can only begin with yourself. By soberly seeing that we are dependent upon one another. That can only happen when we actually live the experience of unity, not just embracing it as a paradigm or thought-concept. Awareness of unity is there also even when the other doesn’t want to see it.

Everything revolves around the ‘observer’ in yourself?
Yes. You have a point of view and a perspective. The awareness of yourself as an observer can grow. Then you become more aware of an Infinity which is greater than yourself. A kind of ‘openness’ in which all your viewpoints dissolve. You coincide with the whole. That reality is not to be contained in words; it is Groundless Openness. In addition to the non-duality of situations within the great whole of being, the merging of your highest self (Atman) and the Great (Brahman) exists as a second meaning to non-duality.

Have you ever had such an experience?
In the seventies I read Wolter Keers and attended meetings with Jean Klein, who was the first to bring Advaita to the Netherlands. In the late seventies I went to see Nisargadatta Maharaj in Bombay. I was in meditation. What happened there is difficult to express in words. As observer, I saw and experienced that ‘I’ died. Then I recognized myself as part of the Inexpressible. Subject ‘I’ came together with the object of the Inexpressible. There was no experience-situation any longer, I was part of the Infinite, the Absolute.  The mind cannot create something like that, it was beyond-mental. The ‘I’ dissolves, ‘I’ no longer experienced it. The ‘I-exist’ has been dropped. Trust is necessary for that; all ‘I’-projections disappear. Afterwards, this realm of true openness remains, and therefore every situation remains open. While diversity and differences remain this doesn’t mean that boundaries are drawn. Then there is no separate ‘I’ or ‘I’-action. A doing without doing arises; things happen by themselves because it must happen. But no longer from the ‘I’.

That is the third meaning of non-duality?
That is the merging of the inexpressible and the world. In all areas, including the practical, things are done as if automatically in this great openness. It is the flowing of living energy; things are done without anyone behind it.  Everything is in motion; most controlled actions stem from an illusion of ‘I want’ and ‘I think’. That non-dual flow can also be present in companies where they are very open to accept that whatever comes is what must be.

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