Archive for October, 2009

It’s your own internal confirmation, while the silent openness is present, which makes the recognition stable.
October 26, 2009

Advaita Post, Volume 10 No 17

Don’t think that you can enlighten yourself

Text Satsang

From a talk in Gouda May 27, 2009 – “Feeling energies as help with liberation”

Douwe: You keep a border in place and through that a structure with a focus on other things. There is a longing and a warding off. You know that for yourself. With that desire and warding off there is no wholeness. So long as you retain the structure of desire, your experience of self-being is never complete. Isn’t that right?

The structure of the desire for something is dualistic: here I have my own being-sphere and I want to add something else to it, expand my territory. That’s not so crazy, because you rightly have a notion of whole-being. As long as separation remains, the lack of the remainder is a given fact and so a desire remains. This goes on forever. When you get a little something, your world becomes a little bit bigger; you have more possessions, more power; you can be more yourself. But if you remain in the sphere of duality, the process continues and you always desire the next thing. When you get what you desire, it often happens at the expense of others. And frequently it doesn’t work anyway and so you’re frustrated. The whole process of lacking and longing, thus duality, means suffering.

There is one way in which desire can function in a good way. When you let your desire become infinite. Infinity is already in the desire, desire is infinite. “I want everything.” Then you’re honest. You have a notion to be everything and that is the foundation of all desires. If that becomes clear and you really go along with it, focus on the infinity of desire – “I want everything, everything; I won’t stop, no: infinity, everything” … Just look at what happens. That is the only way in which desire can be useful.

Visitor: You don’t get stuck in the desire?
You can get stuck in your desire anywhere.  It’s about lifting the entire dual structure in which the desire exists. This occurs when the desire becomes one hundred percent. When it becomes infinite, what does that mean? Then doesn’t the desire dissolve in infinity?

How can you control that?
You don’t need to control that. You focus yourself on your desire to the extent that it has infinity within it. Then you go beyond the objects of your desire, you let your desire naturally break open in all directions, infinitely. In the Tantra that proceeds step by step, via different gods and worlds and such, with help from all sorts of tools. When you really go along into the infinite, they usually disappear as temporarily useful resources. When the energy of the desire can develop by itself infinitely all sorts of restrictions dissolve by themselves. If the energy of the desire – but the same goes for that of disgust – is allowed to develop in all directions, is there anything left of that energy? So go along with what you find to be really important. Do it totally, one hundred percent, infinitely. Then every duality dissolves.

How is it then with yourself and action?
When you enter totally into it, don’t all your individual structures dissolve? Then there’s no ego any longer as the source of desire. Everything is open. If you love a specific person … you have to look at what kinds of wars have arisen through this. But if you let that loving become totally open, infinite, then only love is left over.

I get it.
Just let it happen.

If there is an emotion that just won’t disappear and which you just can’t release, then the emotion offers you a good chance. If the infinite is going to break open, then going along with the emotional energy that you are identified with is a good opportunity.  The emotion can easily become infinite and precisely because you’re identified with it, you experience that you yourself are endless. So you and the energy dissolve.

Everyone has certainly done this. When you are really mad at someone, and go along with the emotion so that it fully develops … when you are authentic in your grief… one hundred percent sorrow… how does it continue? Your whole state becomes universal. At a given moment the energies dissolve and there is a great silence, a blank state.

The point is that when you don’t consciously recognize it, then you easily return once again to the duality by creating a bodily person anew and diving back into it. Then everything starts back up again, the cycle continues. If you just recognize it once, then through that, the cycle is broken.

Take sleep. You go to sleep and you do that in a complete way. You throw yourself in, one hundred percent. If you don’t, then you don’t sleep. As long as you do sleep, it means that you’re involved in it one hundred percent. And when that is so, then soon there is the blank sphere, because the relaxation lets you continue infinitely.

The important point then is that you become aware of it. If something in your situation becomes one hundred percent, there easily arises a narrowing of consciousness. Just see that with anger, love, or anything else. “I wasn’t myself”, you say afterwards. “I have to collect myself again.” What do you mean by that?  That the individual personality with his limitations and controls has to be restored. “I was out of my mind.” But that is exactly the point: if you are internally very aware in that “out of your mind” moment, you can confirm that the structures that were there originally, aren’t there any longer, that everything has broken open, that there is silence. You have that also in the dreamless state and in meditation. You are meditating. If you start dreaming on the mental level or you are fighting to stop thinking, the limitation remains. If the meditation can continue, you get a release of boundaries.

But you must be aware of yourself, confirm internally, because otherwise you won’t know what’s going on. “I was gone”, “I had a black-out”, you say afterwards, and you want to knit the loose ends back together. The old structures come back, because they are the patterns that unconsciously prevail in ordinary life. Early in the morning when you awaken, most of the reconstruction work is already done. There is a person formed before you are aware of it. But if you can remain aware of the blank sphere, it’s clear that you no longer have to go into those patterns. No, when awareness is, there is one hundred percent open-self-being. While it is present, it is the internal confirmation that makes it stable.

Is there anything difficult about that?

No single form can provide a solid ground.
October 11, 2009

Advaita Post, Volume 10 No 16

Everywhere: the ordinary, extraordinary

Text: East and West – tradition, modernity and openness (Part 2)  

In: InZicht – Paths of radical self-inquiry 11 No 3 (September 2009), pg. 4-9

No single form can provide a solid ground

Douwe: In the West a long term process of secularization, de-churchification, removal of traditional boundaries and demythologization has occurred. In the minds of many, the great stories of the Christian religion, socialism, capitalism and other isms have been pierced and are no longer valid. Even the belief in science as a provider of absolute truth (scientism) and in philosophy as a provider of the same has virtually disappeared. This has led many to nihilism, cynicism and flat pragmatism, but also to openness for what remains when all beliefs disappear. If some of that openness is actually experienced, the truth of  non-duality which the Upanishadic (Vedanta) teachers learned and taught, can be recognized. That is happening now in the Netherlands, although a complete and full recognition remains a rarity.

InZicht: Are there any dangers in the uncritical adoption of doctrines or practices from the East?

Of course, there are opportunities and dangers everywhere. The “uncritical adoption” means that there isn’t an understanding of what it’s all about. When you take things in this way and make them your own, then you become stuck to the things. Particularly in the absence of a grasp of the basics, people can easily take things on in order to have a ground to stand upon, a life to live, a meaningfulness to overcome the futility. So people connect themselves to Eastern groups. So too, people repeat phrases from the advaita tradition. When it remains just that, then it’s essentially not any different from a traditional religious situation, even if there is an awareness that it’s pleasant or blissful.

Sooner or later the critical consciousness will come into play, through experiencing the boundaries of the belief and behavior system. This means that then questions are posed about the absoluteness of the limits and about what lies on the other side of the borders. This process continues until it’s clear that no single form can provide stability. When it continues in a good way, the notion arises that there is a unity in the groundless openness without content and that everything is that.

Is the terminology of the fundamental unity of things independent of the distinction between East and West?

Words have a meaning in the extensive region of other words and meanings. This verbal region is historically, socially and culturally conditioned. The words that are used to indicate something about the highest reality are taken from that space. Therefore, part of the terminology about the highest is different in different cultures. Atman and Brahman are Sanskrit words whose meaning has been consistently developed further throughout the history of India. The concept of God is constantly developed in the Jewish and Christian culture. Nevertheless, there is a level at which the culturally specific meanings are of less importance than the general human ones. When it concerns being-there, consciousness, bliss, about suffering and liberation from suffering, about limitations and the unlimited, about duality and non-duality, the expressible and the inexpressible, the stuck and the groundless, the closed and the open, there are no differences in the beliefs of people in any culture whatsoever. The lives of most people stay limited to the level of their own culture. Nevertheless the universal notions play a role within that. Consider the archetypes of Carl Gustav Jung. This also applies to the notion of the unconditioned, inexpressible, all encompassing.

How are philosophy and religion in the East and the West interwoven? Are East and West different there? Can philosophy also be a path of liberation? Or is Western philosophy too focused upon pure thought, free of individual practice or personal application?

Philosophy in the West is primarily an intellectual and rational activity. Philosophy is, to a large extent, about reflecting on life and society, whereby the philosopher is a thinker at a distance. Clarifications of familiar phenomena are given. All kinds of notions, such as those of the individual, remain intact thereby. The truth that is sought in much of Western philosophy is a cognitive or theoretical truth.  This truth is partially connected back to a living practice, in the sense that that practice is changed by it. So the change then lies on the level of human behavior.

Bringing it to the limit

In religion there is an existential relationship with something or someone greater than the human situation through which the possibility of the changes  which people are directed to can be more radical. It’s about a “good” relationship between man and God which reflects the human condition within a larger space. In mysticism, there is the notion and the desire for union with God. There can also be an openness for the groundless non-duality (advaita) that goes beyond every form and absorbs everything within it, and a realization that you and the groundless openness are essentially not different from one another. Here, and in religion, to the extent that the transcendent is present within experience in a vital way, philosophy and rational thinking can only have a limited function. That which is transcendent to the human situation, cannot be thought. However, philosophy can bring the mind to its limit, so that it can become aware of the limit, and therefore also of the space on the other side of that border. That is the intention of theological philosophy, but it mostly fills the transcendent back in again with what has been dogmatically taught (Thomas Aquinas, among others). This bringing-to-the-border is also the intention of a large amount of the ‘deconstructivist’ and ‘postmodern’ Western philosophy. But the movement continues for the most part within the specified limits of the human being. Then what remains is only an unsatisfactory agnosticism, nihilism or pragmatism.

It’s different in the East. There philosophy is traditionally one of the paths (jñânayoga) of liberation from the conditioned (samsara) human situation. In various texts of Advaita Vedanta something is said about this starting point. That is the situation of the person who no longer takes everyday life for granted and hears the highest truth from a teacher (hearing, shravana). Then he must think about it: the second phase. Ambiguities must be discussed with his teacher. This is the phase of manana: the mental thinking, considering, reasoning (deriving true statements from true premises) and the resultant understanding, philosophy. This phase will have to continue, until the maximum intellectual understanding is reached. Which is to say, until the thinking structure of the advaita approach is clear, and the logic is well constructed and can be refuted. Much of what can be found in the classic Vedanta texts concerns this phase of questions and answers on the mental plane. Then it quickly becomes clear that the intellectual understanding is not a complete  understanding and must be continued further with the help of a higher insight (the higher mind or Buddhi).  Then it’s no longer a path of indirect knowledge, but the direct understanding, “this is it”.  This witnessing activity that is focused on then, can still be called philosophy (see Plato, for example), but it is clear that this is not thinking any longer. This third phase is a more of a constant meditation (nididhyâsana) in which the nature of existence and its origin and basis become clear and in which the truth of the statements of the Vedanta teacher (teachers) becomes recognized. In that sphere a merging with the truth can arise.

So the core of Advaita Vedanta as an eastern current is not bound by the Indian culture. It’s about the universal truth of a non exclusive non-duality.  In any case, you should be able to recognize that in yourself, because you are at home in it. That ‘home’ both includes and is free from any regional conditions: East – West, home’s best.