When you are open to it you recognize it: usually there is a fundamental break with that which you normally take to be reality.

Advaita Post, Volume 10 No 7

Spring (2) You affirm it: It is the one life that awakens

Presentation of the book Non-Duality – The groundless Openness
November 21, 2008 – Part 1: Kees Boukema and Douwe Tiemersma on their experience of non-duality and social involvement
(Heavily condensed – the full text can be found on the website, in Dutch)

Kees Boukema, Ott Duintjer, Douwe Tiemersma

Kees Boukema

The book ‘Non-duality’ made the impression of a mosaic on me, a mosaic of classical texts, short meditations, little poems, questions and answers. They all revolve around one theme, the theme Douwe Tiemersma hes, ever since his first publication in 1983 – now twenty-five years ago – has termed the ‘Openness’. […]

Douwe has always invited and encouraged us to examine ourselves and to reflect on our own experiences. Attention, self reflection and becoming aware are the key themes of this book. It is, so to say, an approachable examination of our own consciousness. Everyone can experience that there are no limits to our consciousness other than the ones we have imposed upon ourselves. Everyone can examine himself and see that this is so. Douwe writes: “If you go along with it, it is the end of yourself as a fixed stance. Very simple. If only you just let it happen.” (p. 143). […]

There are a number of pieces in this book that I have seen previously, a number of autobiographical fragments, for example. In re-reading them I was again impressed with the precision and frankness with which Douwe writes about his childhood and his encounter with his teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Additionally, there were pieces that I had not previously read. So I was pleasantly surprised by his Ode to the Snekermeer. And especially in the Frisian language!

The being-experience of non-duality

A question that remained with me while reading this book was this. Non-duality and openness, as I understand it, are not describable in positive terms; the words that are used remain inadequate. It is a state in which any separation between consciousness and non-consciousness disappears. (p. 42)

I understand very well, that it’s difficult if not impossible, to bring into words a being-experience which has no contents. But can’t there even be a question in advance? Namely: What does that which men attempt to bring into words have to do with that which men have actually experienced? When talking about the experience of the self-being, it is said that the ‘I’ dissolves (p. 153), is swept away or forgotten (p. 190). […]

Douwe says (p. 81): “It can be recognized as truth, but not formulated … there is feeling-awareness beyond language… It is not a perception, rather you merge into it. But you do have knowledge of it.” And further on (p. 201): “The “I” falls away. The observer falls away. A blank state. And still there is an internal knowledge of that original state.” […] However, when I wake up from a deep dreamless sleep, I can say: “I had a great sleep!”, but what I say is: “I feel refreshed and well rested, I’m ready to begin a new day!” I don’t have a real memory of the experience of that dreamless sleep, because my consciousness was not functioning, or perhaps it was not there at all.

Therefore my question is: Wouldn’t it be exactly the same with the ‘being-experience’ of non-duality?  That it’s not the inadequacy of language that is the main problem, but rather the unreliability of the impressions which remain in the mind after  the ‘being-experience’ of non-duality. Aren’t they the projections which my mind produces and which serve as the limitations on the level of my own existence? Perhaps we can only say: “There is something that has happened to me whereby I am totally changed. I am no longer the person that I was, but what exactly has happened, I don’t really know.”

Non-duality and social involvement

Another point that I encountered while reading is that sometimes there is a deliberate distance from everyday reality. A distance that is more than ‘detachment’, but seems to be a form of alienation from the world. I must explain.

On page 90 there is an account of a talk that took place in Gouda on January 8, 2005. Douwe refers at a given moment to a major natural disaster, that had taken place a few days earlier: the tsunami, a suddenly tidal wave which had washed away villages in South Asia and cost the lives of many people. […]

I quote: “It is wonderful to lie by the sea to enjoy a winter holiday in the tropics. It is a luxury that westerners can now afford to take for granted. But the taking for grantedness gets swept away by a sudden tidal wave. Then the assumption breaks wide open. Everything is so open that it’s no longer possible to close the gap. Therefore it’s inexpressible.”

I think that we westerners certainly can’t afford our ‘luxury winter vacations in the tropics’. If we fail to change our way of life and continue to persevere in a cultural pattern of waste of energy, raw materials and pollution of the environment then we are accomplices to the crime of “biocide”, eradication of life here on earth. […]

With the practice of advaita it is always encouraged that people “stay open towards everything and everyone is to be accepted positively” (see p. 114 and 115). Douwe, I would like to ask: Aren’t there situations besides those which one can open up to and positively accept, but also those where one must reject and fight?  Doesn’t that belong to, as you write “a condition in which one clearly sees what’s going on” (blz.129)? Is there, in other words, only surrender, or is resistance sometimes required? […]

Douwe Tiemersma

Yes, first of all: it is a festive gathering and it’s wonderful to be together here. It is a party, because the book ‘Non-duality’ has been published. It’s a miracle that suddenly appears, just like all creation. Yes, it’s a party when that happens, especially when we celebrate with one another. That’s really nice.

I am glad that Kees and Otto have said that they have prepared themselves to bring up a few things from the book. So, it is a festive gathering, but we said right away: please, let’s give a bit of substance to it. Then we can discuss certain points of the book in order to clarify them further.

Kees asked if I wanted to respond immediately to what he said about responsibility. I can indeed be short with it. Kees, you are mistaken. Non-duality and social responsibility go together for sure.  I will say more about that, but to start I’ll go to your first point.

The being-experience of  non-duality

When Kees asks about the nature of the being-experience of non-duality, it should first be clear that non-duality shows itself in different ways. In the book, I have differentiated three types of non-duality. […]

Kees asks about the being-experience of the deep blank realm of self-being. The actual experience exists. You can focus on it, for example, as you let yourself relax. When you remain somewhat aware internally when you go off to sleep, you sink delightfully away and the borders that were there at first, disappear. You can easily find that nothing remains, nothing other than the blank atmosphere of self-being where you happily go to sleep. As soon as a contrast is created by thinking, then you can’t sleep. So the blank sphere is best recognized by people for when they have rested well. Separations disappear and everything that still is, is present within your own sphere. That can continue to develop further until there is a dreamless sleep. Usually it is not recognized, because in the morning you get up and say: “I slept wonderfully.” Can you say anything more about that wonderful sleep? No, only that: it was delightful. There is knowledge of it, but you can also have a clearer being-experience of it.

That experience of a blank sphere may also exist in other situations. In meditation you stop thinking and find that nothing is. When you go within and relax there, you might notice that in this realm of self-being no forms need to arise. As you become a little more familiar with it, you recognize it in more and more places. At a given moment you also recognize it consciously in the dreamless sleep. It is an actual knowledge of your own sphere of being. The one being-knowing, but you can’t say anything more than that it’s blank. […]

As you have already frequently recognized there is the notion, this is the foundation of everything, which is always already there; from out of that everything arises. When you slowly awaken, you experience the construction of reality and of the new day: “How is it already here once again? What day is it and what should be done? ”  Slowly, the construction appears which reconnects that with what has happened previously. Then you usually say: there is a time frame in which there’s no break between yesterday and today. So that’s your reality. But what actually happened – and if you are open to it, then you recognize it – is indeed a fundamental break with that which you normally take to be reality. In all gaps, you can recognize something of the openness, about which you can’t say anything, but out of which everything arises. That’s the idea which you can find all the different traditions, for example in the Upanishads which are very clear about it. There is a basis from out of which everything comes and that it is not different from yourself. […]

Social responsibility

At the beginning of my response to Kees’ comments I said that non-duality and social responsibility do go together. That combination is there in a very special way and I can say something about it.

Of course I fully agree with Kees, that if western people took it for granted to go to Thailand to lie in the sun in the wintertime, it should be questioned for many reasons. But of course, that was not the point. It was an example to demonstrate that the reality of what people take for granted can suddenly breakthrough in many places. […]

The issue of responsibility in the approach of non-duality doesn’t lie on the personal level. Just as when more openness is possible in your own sphere of being in your personal life, a genuine openness to others develops. There’s an expansion of your own self-being, a non-duality with others. You are the others in their self-being. Such openness also means an internal sensitivity for what is happening, also for the suffering. Then there is an acceptance such that the distance and the boundaries disappear. There is an acceptance of everything and everyone, also the suffering. There is no resistance and you don’t hold anything back. No, in the openness everything is allowed to be just as it is. And as everything is allowed to come, there also is an internal sensitivity to what is there. When there are wrongs, they become clear.

How does it continue then? In the openness you see that everything falls into place as if by itself. If everything becomes open, there is no longer an ‘I want’ and ‘I do’ anymore. There is a universal presence of feeling being-awareness. Within which everything happens by itself in what is best for the situation, in a natural way, exactly because the “I” and “I”-interests no longer have a role to play. […]


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