Archive for March, 2011

What happens then when all the objects disappear?
March 20, 2011

Volume 12 No. 4

When you let something get really close to you, you don't seem to know.

When you let something get really close to you, you don’t seem to know.


The acceptance of the pleasant and of the unpleasant,

of enjoyment and of suffering, however great,

everything is as it is:

complete, perfect.

In that perfection without borders

everything happens, everything, as it happens:

without position, without duality,

of itself.


Text Satsang

From a talk with Douwe Tiemersma, November 24, 2010 Advaita Center, Gouda.

InZicht Magazine 13 No. 1 (February 2011), p. 30-31

Not knowing – What happens when the objects all fall away?

Douwe: If you say in the ordinary sense that you know something, then you’re talking about knowledge with the structure: I know this and that. Then there is a subject and object of knowledge. They are there for example in: I know that street. What do you mean by that statement? I can indicate the street on a street map, I can create an image of this street, and so on. Someone who is not familiar with the city says: I don’t know that street. Yes, that’s right, because he has no image of the street and so he can’t place it within the rest of his knowledge.

The highest reality is not an object. Thus it’s not about a knowledge with the standard structure of an ‘I’ who knows something as an object. You can’t fit the highest into the whole of your existing knowledge. So in that sense, the highest isn’t knowable. That must already be very clear. When you, in the ordinary sense of the word knowledge, say “I know that very well”, then immediately you know that the ‘I’ is nearby. That’s already found very clearly in the Kena Upanishad:

For he who does not know It, knows It.

He who thinks he knows It, knows It not.

It is not understood by the one who understands;

It is understood by those who don’t understand. (2.3)

In this situation of, “I don’t know It”, thus that of not-knowing, you will just have to stay longer with it. What happens then? You experience very clearly what it means: I don’t know the basic truth of existence and non-existence. The most fundamental is not an object. It is not this, it is not that. You can still create a beautiful image or have a certain awareness of the most beautiful, the most high, but no, you don’t know it. With all your knowledge, you’re wrong. What does it mean that you cannot know It? If you stay in that emptiness, a development will arise in your own sphere that allows something totally new to manifest.

In religious worship, there are people who say, “I know God”, for example the God who has revealed himself in the Bible or the Koran. An atheist says, “No, I do not know him. Therefore he does not exist.” But look, both (I know God and I don’t know God) are opposing viewpoints on the level of ordinary knowledge, namely the knowledge of what you can formulate, of that which is an object of knowledge. However, the highest is not an object of knowledge.

Besides the believer and the atheist there is also the agnostic who says, “I don’t know. God is not knowable. I leave it open.” Is that the highest wisdom? Now, that seems a modest and sympathetic position. But an agnostic surely remains standing on his own personal ground and from there posits that you can receive no knowledge of what lies beyond the ordinary human world. From the position of the human person, that’s right. But you are not stuck to that position. That is just a belief, a belief that functions in a limiting way.

If you remain with the not knowing … What happens then? In knowing you are focused on something else, on an object. With a totally intense spiritual quest, you are strongly focused on Something that you seek. What happens when that object suddenly disappears?

Visitor: It becomes more transparent.

Yes. And as that process continues?

That’s just not knowable.

But you certainly can say something.

The ‘I’ goes right through it, infinitely.

The targeting flies infinitely through, because there is no object that opposes it. You shoot infinitely along with it. What happens to the whole structure “I know this and I know that?” Passionately, you look for the truth. You have a very strong orientation for it. And suddenly: it’s not to be known! The object falls away, the focus that was so strong, shooting infinitely through, without finding a foothold anywhere. The ‘I’ that was focused disappears into infinity. You yourself fall away. Yes, when the known object disappears, the knowing subject (‘I’) also disappears. That is what you can still say.

So you are touched by a cloud of not knowing and the ‘I’ dissolves into it. The ‘I’ is a focused tension with a center. It must always hold and maintain a position in relation to something else. When the ‘I’ no longer has a fixed hold onto anything, the tension and the ‘I’ disappear. In the relaxation, there is nothing left for the ‘I’ to focus on or to oppose. When you enter into the cloud of unknowing, the ‘I’ cannot maintain itself. When the known object falls away, the ‘I’ no longer has a leg to stand on. In the infinity of not knowing the ‘I’ cannot survive. Thus, in that not knowing you lose your last foothold. And that means the end of the ego. It is a groundless not knowing. And even the reference towards knowing and not knowing disappears. Perhaps there is still something to say about this transition. This transition is a complete dissolution as the ‘I’, the limited self-being, loses its limitations; it becomes self-being without limits, infinite, without forms, without separation.

Nevertheless in that infinite I-am there is still a sure knowledge, a certain kind of knowledge, a different kind of knowing. That is no longer a knowing with a dualistic structure, a knowledge of something, because there is no separation. When you still speak of knowing, it a knowing in which the subject and the object of the knowledge have coincided. So that which you still know and recognize, you are. It is a being knowledge in which there is no duality. It is a non-dual form of knowing, an infinite being-awareness without an object of knowledge. That has always already been there, but now you can be this object-less self in an aware manner. Only as long as you are this aware self, does this ‘state’ finally stabilize, until it dissolves in the absolute. Is that clear?