Freedom is freedom from defensiveness and therefore fundamental acceptance of what is.

Advaita Post, Volume 10 No 12

What’s going to happen?


From the book presentation of “Non-duality – the groundless openness”, November 21, 2008 in Donner Bookstore

Douwe Tiemersma’s response to Otto Duintjer’s criticism (see the previous Advaita Post # 11)

Douwe: Yes, the points that Otto Duintjer has raised are so important to the advaita approach that it’s more than worth the trouble to try to clarify.  This has been obvious again and again in our conversations throughout the years.  Of course, the basic experience of different people is different. Then also there is a difference in the further development. When you begin speaking with another person and pointing things out then the mutual understanding appears to grow, not only on the mental level, but also in being-understanding.  Of course the emphasis can always be accented differently.  When the conversation continues, it’s precisely those differences which offer an opportunity to recognize specific things more clearly. I hope to contribute to that clarity now.

The preference for the undifferentiated

The first point of Otto concerned the preference that I have for letting go and for the Nothing.  When I speak about this, it’s always on the grounds of quite practical problems that human beings have.  From practical problems and suffering, such as frustration, pain and blockages, people can review and rethink.  In that investigation into the nature of the problems you come to the recognition that problems are caused by separation from and identification with something limited. There are conflicts because there is separation. Of course you can say that some conflicts are very healthy, but most of them aren’t and also aren’t necessary. People would rather be rid of the sufferings of existence. Those sufferings dissolve in a greater whole in which the separations are no longer present. So, on the basis of quite practical problems that human beings have, I point towards a sphere that is much greater than that of the problems. If you want to go further into the solution of all problems, then all separations in your own being experience must disappear.  The core of all separations and also of the problems resides in your own ego, which you are as long as you make a separation “I am here and the other is over there”, “I am here and what I desire is there”, et cetera.  This limiting structure and separation-making must break open into a greater sphere of being; self-being, being-together, if the problems of one-sidedness, disharmony, conflicts, sorrow, pain et cetera are to disappear.  So, in a very practical context, I have a preference for the expansion and release of limitations, because this directly leads to the dissolution of that which limits.

There was a question from Otto, if this process goes in the direction of a higher truth and reality.  My experience is that that indeed becomes recognized and that this recognition is direct.  There is a direct confirmation that, as the releasing and expansion occurs, a higher reality is also revealed.  The recognition of that higher truth then is also a criterion that I use to indicate that the development is going in a good direction.

A very classical example to illustrate is the following.  When you awaken from sleep after an unpleasant dream, you are relieved to affirm in the wakeful state that the content of the dream was only a dream.  For instance, in the dream you were chased but knew nothing of the waking state.  You became awake and said:  “Luckily, that was only a dream.  Now I am awake, there is a clearer and wider consciousness, so that from this viewpoint I can determine that it was only a dream.  Therefore I can let go of it.”

You have a similar situation in the sciences whereby one theory is rejected in favor of a new one, namely that the new one includes the old within a larger whole, and when that is the case, can also show why the previous one is limited. The point is that much more understanding emerges, that more phenomena can become explained than previously. Then it is clear that this new theory is more valuable.  It has a higher truth than the previous one. So by becoming more clear, more conscious within a greater whole, you see that the conflicts which existed under the old circumstances were caused by the limitations of the viewpoint and the knowledge.  When you release that limited viewpoint, it becomes absorbed into a greater whole.  This is not to say that the conflicts will immediately disappear, but you can certainly see their relativity along with more possibilities for their resolution within a much greater space and with much greater clarity.  So in this sense I find it’s important to go towards the recognition of the undifferentiated. If you don’t want to remain tightly fixed within a limited identity, sooner or later you will experience complete freedom from everything.

This is not to say that you will have realized the highest non-duality when you approach the ultimate in this way. It’s not only about the non-duality of the totally blank state, in which subject and object completely merge, towards the nothing, the emptiness, so long as there still is a creation.  If that were so, a fundamental duality would remain.  Otto already referred to the title of Chapter 6 in my book:  The non-duality of the absolute and the relative.  For as long as there are forms in space and in time, they are not fundamentally different from that emptiness.

It’s certainly important to get to know that emptiness and to let that dimension remain open.  When that dimension doesn’t stay open, then you zoom back in on a limited situation and you get stuck there again, in the separateness, in the conflicts and problems.  For most people, in order to get to know that undifferentiated emptiness, a practice of a certain period of time is necessary.  Therefore there’s the encouragement: proceed on the pathway of letting go; get to know that freedom, otherwise you’ll stay stuck on a particular level of limitation, ignorance and problems.  So, I find that it’s quite important that that process continues all the way into infinity.

You see that it’s possible for all different kinds of people: suddenly everything breaks open and all at once there is a totally new situation.  What kind of new situation?  Precisely when you go so deeply within yourself and experience the openness in an increasingly pure form, the real openness suddenly breaks through, because you have released your limitations. Everything immediately becomes so open, that everything is allowed to be.  You go within, but at a given moment – precisely the deeper you go – it turns inside-out. That means that there is no separation any more between inner and outer.  Only when you fully release your limitations and experience yourself as infinite, is there a reversal and then can you accept everything.  So you can certainly say that the way within goes towards the undifferentiated, and that that creates a distance, but it is especially about a release of your own attachments, your own limitations, your own ignorance, and the identification with your body, self-image, and so on.  When you turn towards the undifferentiated origin, then you take distance from it and you enter into an even greater whole.  Then you see the whole creation very well, because there is no fundamental resistance any longer, also no resistance to pain, cowardice, meanness, to everything we find ugly.  The acceptance of which is impossible on the level of the ego, because defensive mechanisms are always present. Only in freedom is there complete acceptance.  Freedom is freedom from defensiveness and a fundamental acceptance of what is.  How things continue then when there is no self-interest any longer automatically reveals itself.

‘Inclination’ towards the positive

It’s not by accident that I speak more about the positive: freedom, peace, joy, than about the negative.  It’s a description of the realm that always arises by itself when more space comes. When I speak about it, it’s much more descriptive than of a value merely to posit: “You have to go get it”.  Sometimes I do that too, but then I simultaneously say that it’s a sausage which at least gets you motivated. It’s beautiful, but it’s not the highest value. It’s something that appears when there is an expansion of your own limited sphere, for instance with an embrace. That gives joy. If you speak with someone and all at once a mutual understanding arises, that brings joy.  Why?  Because the mutual borders disappear and a greater sphere arises. Some seek it by racing with a fast car and yes, a greater experience-space arises and the joyful feeling that it’s great to be alive. Everyone finds that great life beautiful. Why? It’s not about the specific things, no, it’s about the experiencing of a greater being-sphere and that has joy in it.  There is another example that you see sometimes at the end of someone’s life, and with some, even earlier. Apparently some people, who have gone through all kinds of pain and difficulty, can still say: “It’s good.”  How is that possible? It’s possible because there is a greater space which emerges in which everything that was so painful and sorrowful has come to rest. From out of that space it can be said:  “It is good.”  That goodness has nothing to do any more with the contrasts between good and bad, between having pain and feeling joy.  It is something that goes beyond those contrasts.

Otto knows enough of Plato; also that Plato meant something in that direction when he referred to the highest ideas. Then they are not ideas that you place far off in an ideal realm. No, for the philo-soph, it concerns his own realm of being, when it’s good, bypassing all contrasts.  Furthermore, Plato set the Good as the most important idea and that’s not a random act. No, if that idea is to really show its value, you experience it. Therefore men can say at a given moment: “All sorrow and pain have been absorbed into something that I still call Good.”  So long as it is combined with a mood, an emotion or universal being-sphere, there is joy, bliss.

So once again, I defend the positive not as the highest value, but rather describe it as something that arises by itself on the spiritual path as the contrasts and oppositions become transparent.


Finally there remains the point of physicality in spiritual development.  I offer physical exercises, because they appear to work with many people.  When you return to the feeling sphere in your own body, you can make all kinds of important affirmations very clearly. When you really dive into your physical sphere, you can, for instance, examine where it stops.  Take a look.  You literally turn within and experience your own being sphere.  That experience is always a direct confirmation.  How large is this physical sphere?  Then you can go to the left and to the right, forwards and backwards, but do you find an end somewhere?  That space doesn’t ever stop. I haven’t yet heard someone say: he stops with the skin, or somewhere 5 meters beyond.  Your own being sphere appears to be infinite. Otto then said that it is nothing more than a medieval proof of god.  No, that’s not really so, because here it’s not about an argumentation, but rather a concrete experience.

As Otto observes that he cannot feel if the neighbors are at home, that can be true. That’s not what this is about. You experience your own being sphere in actuality. If particular phenomena arise there, they arise therein. And if they don’t come up there, they don’t come up there.  If the neighbors don’t come up in there, they’re not at home, even though they may be there if you follow another type of approach. Reality is dependent on your way of approaching it.

What you determine, as you dive into your own physical sphere of being, is in any case, that that sphere is infinite, without borders, without cracks, without separations.  You can experience that very clearly, if for example, you extend your arms outward and feel the space, and if someone embraces you.  What happens then?  All borders fall away, don’t they?  No duality is to be found, right?  So the reference to physicality offers a chance to experience non-duality quite concretely. It’s that simple. You embrace someone and immediately you confirm it: there is no twoness.  There is no defense of territory. Your physical feeling sphere becomes open and within it there are no borders!  You become infinitely open and in that everything and everyone is absorbed.

When you establish yourself as a person and observe that you can’t hear what the neighbors say, then that’s a whole different situation, a completely different viewpoint. That viewpoint can be relevant under certain but not all circumstances. When reality becomes fully open, all viewpoints appear to be present as possibilities. Just as Otto says, the openness is not sterile. It is the space in which all viewpoints and situations are possible. But precisely because you keep everything open, the great whole remains completely intact. That remains the encompassing context.  Then it’s clear: this encompassing whole is my aware sphere of presence-being.  Then there is no preference for the one over the other.  That open context insures that the non-duality remains.


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