Archive for May, 2012

How far does your realization go? How concrete is your realization?
May 31, 2012

Advaita Post, Volume 13 No 11


Trying to hold back the infinite sea just doesn’t work.


Prior to everything

Transcending everything

I am everything



Nisargadatta’s teaching

In: InZicht Magazine Volume 14, No. 2 (May 2012)

Many are familiar with the teaching of Nisargadatta Maharaj. Yet it seems a good idea to review its key elements. By doing so a sharper insight can arise into the essence of advaita and so too your own situation.

A first point is the distinction of the levels of realization that are frequently steps on the path towards the realization of the highest non-duality. Knowledge of this geography is necessary for becoming aware of where you currently are and also brings the possibility of recognizing further steps.

The witness

The first step is turning within to the position of the observer from which you keep looking out towards everything that reveals itself. This turning within means a withdrawal and so too, a distance taking. Through this, a larger viewing area arises in which more of yourself becomes visible. All kinds of impressions, feelings and images of your own body are now visible as phenomena in the field before you. Initially you saw the world from the standpoint of your body with your eyes. You were your eyes! They belonged to yourself as a the subject of perception. Now after withdrawing, you experience your eyes as a phenomenal object, there, in a particular place. Then it’s clear that you don’t fully coincide with those eyes, that you are not those eyes. So too, it’s also clear that you don’t fully coincide with the body that previously you have simply been, that you don’t coincide with your mental activity and your self-image, which you used to consider to be identical with yourself. Who are you then? The observer who effortlessly watches everything, the witness who sees everything without entanglement with the observed, an awareness which registers everything.


Then what about the non-duality? The observer is clearly separated from that which can be observed. Initially this is important in order to break through identification with the observed. That kind of identification leads to a worldly duality: “I am this body and not that”, “I am this person and that is someone else”. On the level of the detached observer there is, so to speak, a cosmic duality of observer and world. For a universal non-duality to arise the distance observer-observed will need to disappear in a universal way.

Through this shift it’s evident that you as observer still have a certain kind of body. Even though much of the body has already disappeared, there’s still the condition of a particular place with a particular perspective and an energetic concentration. This concentration of yourself as being-awareness can disappear. Take a look at the space all around you, turn yourself around and relax. Then an infinite expansion of your being-awareness arises whereby everything becomes absorbed in a universal non-duality without a center. This self sphere has not only the qualities of being and consciousness, but also of love. This universal expansion can only take place in love, because it means that emotionally you accept everything and everyone as yourself. So that infinite sphere of being-consciousness is also bliss, heavenly ananda. It is the sphere of universal self-being where this being-there requires no further predication, a cosmically present being without forms. There is the affirmation that ‘I am here’ as universal being-awareness. Within it there is no ‘I’-center, not a single structure. When any phenomena arise through a process of differentiation, you remain yourself in a universally aware manner and remain everything, including this universality. Therefore there is a non-duality of yourself with everything and everyone.

The absolute

Awareness of the qualities of the universal being-self-being can increase. Apparently, as being-awareness, you don’t fully merge within it. When that increase in awareness occurs and continues, the last qualities dissolve, including the ‘I-am’. Then there is the final and complete surrender. That, within which everything dissolves, and to which you finally surrender, is something about which nothing can be said because It has no properties. It is the absolute, a groundless openness in which the limitations of self-being disappear. That is the ultimate liberation (moksha) from the conditions in which the self was entangled. This liberation is a clear being-experience without an “I experience”, even though there is the affirmation that the truth of the ultimate openness has always already existed. Then also there’s the knowledge of the beginning of creation. This groundless openness is the foundation for the origin of the being-awareness, the ‘I am’ in a universal sense, from which the limited forms of self-being and the countless forms of the world appear. When you consciously remain on the edge of the absolute, without shooting into the quality ‘I-am’ and into a particular form, there is a non-duality of the absolute and the relative, the world. When there is no duality there is no conflict and no suffering.

How concrete is your realization?

The above description may become mentally quite clear at a given point. Then it’s information which can be reproduced. It can even be replicated in the form of a diagram. That is important in a particular phase. In the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, three stages of Jnana Yoga are described. The first phase is hearing the instruction from a teacher (shravana). It’s about becoming acquainted with the important points of the advaita vision, including “you are That.” The student meditates on that material in the second phase (manana) and strives to put everything in order mentally, so that he or she can see the logic in the instruction. Then the philosophy can be reproduced and debated.

This is done quite frequently in advaita circles. But to what extent is there is an actual realization of the non-duality to which it all refers? That’s especially what it was about in the talks with Nisargadatta. He immediately poked through the mental shell and showed how futile it is. The word realization means that you realize the truth, that you are aware of the truth of the teachings. But it also means that the truth is a reality for you, that it is your own reality. This means that you release your limited identity and its corresponding world, and you are aware of your new reality. It already begins with the first step, the transition toward the position and the world of the observer. To what extent have you truly made that step? To what extent has there been a shift away from your daily functioning self to the witness? To what extent has the witness-situation stabilized? You can certainly talk about yourself as the effortless observer of all, as the witness who is not involved in events. But is that a concrete realization? This means that you’re actually present on that level, in the insight body to which it corresponds. Reality only arises through that body. Here too, only when this occurs very concretely is there a realization. This shifting of your own identity and reality can take place quite quickly and spontaneously, but usually there is a development, a third stage on the path of liberation after hearing and contemplating: that of constant meditation (nididhyâsana), where the truth that the student has heard and thought about becomes their own. For this there is an unremitting and complete dedication, a continual sharpening of the focus, a release of old feelings, images and concepts and an acceptance of the new situation.

The same applies to the realization of the universal ‘I-am’. Visitors who didn’t have this realization urged Nisargadatta to devote himself entirely to the universal being-consciousness. To the limited human being this appears as the divine reality which can only be realized as your own through devotional dedication and surrender. Nisargadatta would say: “Dedicate yourself completely to the ‘I-am’ as your supreme god”. Which means that you commit yourself completely, without distraction. Otherwise, nothing happens. Here too, the full realization will need to be complete, so that all aspects of yourself enter into it. You will have to recognize the characteristics of your situation very concretely. Many elements of the daily ‘I-person’ have already dissolved therein, but on this level of ‘I-am’ there is still a substance with qualities that have to do with the physical existence. The cosmic realm of ‘I-am’ is physical. Physically you are the cosmos: the causal or bliss-body. Can you very realistically experience the cosmos as your body without a single structure? A mental knowing and a psychological recognition is not enough. Only when the ‘I’-center and the entire dualistic reality has very concretely dissolved in the actual experience is it clear that there is a realization of the infinite, divine, ‘I am’. To what extent is this the case? To what extent is the realization of your cosmic identity stable? To what extent can life continue without returning to a particular form of it? Only through the complete realization of the stable ‘I-am’ can the still higher realization of the source of  the ‘I-am’, the absolute, arise. Nisargadatta said: “… becoming stabilized in the awareness ‘I Am’ is all that is important. Later on, you will also transcend that ‘I Amness’. “

How far does your realization go?

Realization can take place on different levels. In his last years Nisargadatta Maharaj spoke almost exclusively about the universal self-being and its merging in the absolute. He drove his visitors towards it. He had no time to explain all the preceding phases. The shift of the everyday standpoint towards that of the witness is a first step. But however important it is to observe the worldly and mental events in a free manner, it’s still a first phase. The realization will need to go further, first to the level of the universal ‘I-am’, then to the edge of the absolute.

Why did Nisargadatta send away so many people who came to him? It wasn’t only because he didn’t have time any more to explain everything from the beginning. It was also because he saw how stuck many visitors were in their own personal experiences, feelings and ideas. That was precisely the case with the high-spiritual seekers, the yoga teachers, the people touring the sacred places and teachers in India, those who had studied a great deal about Indian philosophy and culture, students from other teachers. What do you do with people who are stuck in their ideas, feelings and spiritual experiences, in their enjoyment of the flow of life, in the distraction of their spiritual attention? Many of them quickly left the cramped attic all by themselves where they just saw a toothless old man. Others were sent away. Some didn’t want to leave and found Nisargadatta hard because their own world had been attacked. An ‘I’-person also can’t accept being cut off. And that was precisely what it was about. The ultimate reality can only be realized through your own involvement in letting go of certain forms and qualities, however spiritual, in your own ‘I-center’, by releasing the quality ‘I-am’.

When much is released, a feeling of space arises and creates a sense of joy and happiness. Life flows in a spontaneous and creative way. There is enthusiasm, because this is something big. The sphere of life, of being-there, becomes infinitely large as the ‘I-center’ truly disappears. Then it is difficult, but even more important, to see how much this self-being is still stuck in conditions. Nisargadatta Maharaj showed that this ‘I-am’ is a condition which is entirely dependent on the material food body. When this falls apart, nothing even of the greatest spiritual being remains. To clarify his point Nisargadatta referred to the incense stick, as the fire and the fragrance as essence depend upon the material surrounding that stick. When the combustible material is gone, everything is gone. He flicked his cigarette lighter on and then closed it. So too, there is life, even in a higher essence, then it stops. Only the jnani, the knower, knows himself as independent, free of the food body and of the mental  life that is a condition of that body.

The realization begins in the situation in which you currently find yourself, wherever and whatever. You must accept this situation, because apparently it is your manner of being. The realization can continue within it. It can continue radically. It will need to continue radically, because otherwise you will keep digging in a sphere that isn’t free and contains suffering. That radicality goes beyond the witness, also in its awareness, and beyond the sphere of the free life, of sat-chit-ananda, of the ‘I-am’ without a center. True realization is of That which is beyond all conditions, but which can be referred to as the Inexpressible, the groundless openness, the origin prior to life, time and space.

That the truth was independent of conditions was clear in the slums of Khetwadi Lane. There, the sound of the deafening traffic, the dirt and stench didn’t matter, nor did the frail, dying body of Nisargadatta Maharaj. There was, for the few who were there for it, only the light of the truth that swept away every condition. In that light there was an infinite gratitude and a further radiation of that light.


SAND Europe 2012: the Nature of the Self
May 21, 2012

29th May – 3rd June, 2012

Zonheuvel Conference Centre

Doorn, The Netherlands

SAND Europe 2012

The very vibrant and dynamic Science and Non-Duality conference will come to Europe for the first time.

Douwe will not be able to participate at the weekend due to a previous commitment, but he will be giving a pre-conference presentation on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:00. The abstract is here below. Hope to see you there.


Non-duality: beyond the reach of science and self

What is the nature of science, self and non-duality?

Different kinds of non-duality can be discerned. “Unity” (1) receives the greatest recognition: the unity of external reality as a basic energy or system (1a), the unity of an internal reality as primordial consciousness (1b), and the unity of both in non-duality (1c). Of these, non-duality (1c) and that which is its origin (2) is the most important. We’ll investigate science and self in order to understand non-duality.

Science concerns itself with a particular area of knowledge and action: the natural world. Due to its methodology this specific area is revealed – and not another. Central to its methodology is observation, the experience of objects at a distance. These objects and their interactions are conceptualized in theories and models which themselves become mental objects. The scientist as the observing subject tries to maintain a distance from the natural world he investigates. It’s not possible for science to say anything about a real subject, because its epistemology only allows for perception of objects and object processes. The highest achievement of science is its demonstration of perceived reality as a unity (1a). Science remains fundamentally dualistic.

The self, in science and in daily life, partially belongs to the natural world. It’s a mixture of both subject and object phenomena. In returning to its origin, the self can be aware of losing more and more properties which had previously been objectified. The self attains the level of the witness consciousness (1b). Through surrendering this level, a non-dual unity (1c) arises which is characterized by an internal sense ‘I am’ without predicates. The realization of the highest non-duality (2), concerns the surrender of this ‘I am’ to, and merging with, the absolute as groundless openness.

Duality is nonsense, because relationships and interconnectedness simply are; from non-duality this is obvious.
May 12, 2012

Advaita Post, Volume 13 No. 10


Lookout: anything can be an ‘I’-catcher

(This photo is of a public garbage catcher for ‘bliks’ or cans, where the first two letters are missing, turning ‘blik’ or can into ‘ik’ or I.)


See how all that is determined arises from the indeterminable.

See how your finite self arises from infinity.

The indeterminate is in every thing,

infinitude is everywhere.


After the operation

This is another follow-up to the pieces I wrote about the situation surrounding the operation. Perhaps the description here will allow the reader to recognize something of existential importance.

The body schema

What do you do when the creation including your sensory structure returns after anesthesia? All the things of body and world come back. Some distance still remains between yourself and the world with its body because the body no longer functions in an obvious way. This functioning doesn’t correspond with the normal expectation of being able to do everything physically. With health, the body and the ‘I can’ go together. The body is an ‘I can’ apparatus (Merleau-Ponty). Now it can’t do many things. Life is confined to the bed, food comes through a drip, movement is barely possible. Of course, life would have ended very quickly without the surgery. That life continues is a miracle, an additional gift, an encore. Yet the unnatural quality remains clear. The old schemas of body and movement continue to indicate what normal experience should be and they don’t easily adapt to the new situation.

These schemas are not situated on the mental level. If that were the case you would be able to directly change your entire physical situation by simply thinking about something else. They are deeply anchored in the body-life. The schemas also aren’t located on the still deeper level of the creation of the world and the physical body. That’s why there can still be a discrepancy between the schemas and the physical condition. So patience is needed for their necessary adjustment.

The interconnectedness of body and myself, my own self-being, is stronger on the level of the schemas than on the physical level. Therefore when there is a bodily disturbance, there can easily be a discrepancy and alienation of the physical body from the ‘I’ of the ‘I can’-schemas. “Why doesn’t the body cooperate with my intentions, with what I want to do?” Yes, an adjustment has to take place, but what is the role of the individual self-being thereby?

Thus, the limitations of the body/movement schemas apply to yourself to the extent that you’re identified with them. They no longer connect to the current physical reality; their relativity is clear. In their relativity you can accept them, and also release them. By letting go of these deeper layers of your own body you can be aware of the infinite freedom of your self-being.

Equanimity and nonduality

Additionally, as the recuperation proceeds, there is the inconvenience of not being able to do everything that previously went quite smoothly. Eating and lying can only proceed in a modified manner. There are still pains whose cause is not clear. What is clear is that I don’t need to pay attention to them, even though that’s almost an automatic reaction. If I were to do that, they would become stronger. Then, too, many thoughts would certainly arise about what might not happen. Then I’d get stuck. So also, I mustn’t pay attention to time, to the sequencing of first this and then that. This sequencing is incredibly difficult, already in just the attempt to change my physical position or the operation jacket and later with teeth brushing.

The discomfort and pain can’t be imagined away, so you have to let everything happen. This allowance is possible from an attitude of equanimity (Eckhart, Heidegger). I can release the individual situation in the greater whole and let it go its own way. This brings a relaxation from the ‘I’ who at first wanted to control everything in time from an ‘I will’ and ‘I do’ point of view. But it is clear that this is not total relaxation. With equanimity there is still a self-being who allows and who is allowed; who allows things to happen because they can’t be otherwise. Equanimity is an attitude and an adjustment of an ‘I’ with a center in time.

I just let my attention and feeling open up and I go along with this expansion. My being and being-experience become infinite and this infinity is an ineffable non-duality.


Text Satsang

An Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma, Gouda, retreat August 30, 2009, afternoon

You are everything and yet there is freedom, because everything is released

Stay aware of what happens with yourself when you sit down and it becomes quiet. See what happens when you let this continue. When you stay in your consciousness space the extension of your own self-being fully proceeds. Even though there is just a tiny piece of consciousness, the opening continues infinitely. Consciousness is always greater than the given: the form, the phenomenon, the field. When the field increases, your experience of your consciousness increases. When your consciousness becomes infinitely large, the forms will naturally dissolve in that  great space. This process of opening and dissolving continues infinitely.

When you have experienced the infinity of your own consciousness you realize that it’s obvious that this process continues, because the consciousness is simply infinite. So let it continue. Only then do you come to your natural self. That self reveals that which precedes all the possible forms of-and-in time and space.

When the clarity of consciousness disappears, the old patterns arise once again all too easily in the foreground. Therefore it is necessary that the clarity remains, the space of consciousness. Then it’s clear what you are and what you are not. You’ll have to constantly confirm this. You’ll need to dedicate yourself to it. Sometimes the development goes slowly, sometimes very quickly. But always there is the sense: my self-being as being-awareness is infinite and not dependent on time and space. Letting go there, that’s surrender. In fact, you already are that openness. It is only the ignorance that disappears.

The mists withdraw. But even when the mists and clouds don’t directly disappear, you always have the option of returning to the space above the clouds. Anyone who has made a transcontinental flight, knows that then you are above the weather. There may still be a thunder cloud below, but it doesn’t matter. Recognize that what you perceive depends upon your position. When you have a ‘lower’ stance, you know that you are ”in the weather” and that you have to deal with the alteration of rain and sunshine, with the change of your weather, with your moods. But when you ascend just a little bit, you notice that your space is clear and remains so. Below you can still have high and low pressure zones. All that is impossible to predict, even by the weather station. You see it and you can release it. Then there is a natural situation. That’s how it goes with life: there is rain and sun. But you let it go.

As being-awareness you are the clear space in which phenomena come and go. This indicates that these phenomena are not different from yourself and that you are not absorbed by them. Life is a great whole of energies and forces. You are that life, but you’re not absorbed by  blindly staring and you don’t totally dive in, either. You do that when you occupy a particular position within it. That means an identification with yourself at that particular place. Then the free space disappears.

Once you’ve experienced something of freedom then you see the relativity of the world and life, you see the danger of illusion with it. The world and life are not an illusion. The belief that this world and this life are absolute, that everything within it is so serious and that everything depends on it, that’s an illusion. The world is not absolute, if only because it is a temporal world.

In clarity there is non-duality. You, as first person, are everything that you perceive (third person) and yet there is freedom, because everything is released. Then it no longer matters if there are phenomena or not. As long as there is a creation, there is the immense wealth and splendor of creation. Then there is the clear experience that everything is one. Understand well what that means. When the world exists and you realize that everything is one, then it means that you, too, are completely one with it.

In your being-awareness that insight is very clear: that’s how it is. On the mental level there is a clear logic. On the level of feeling there is a feeling of unity, a feeling of love. Then you can  accept everything in love as yourSelf. But just see it clearly, then every doubt disappears, then every resistance disappears. The mist withdraws. You confirm: that’s how it is.

When you remain positioned on the mental level questions and problems continue to arise. When you assign names to all different kinds of things, bringing separation, making separate concepts and then absolutizing them then, yes, you’ll not understand anything about it. Then, for example, the relationship between the body and the spirit is an unthinkable issue. When it comes to humans and the environment and you make a separation first between nature and the people who can dominate and manipulate it then, yes, you get trouble. Internally there is no separation. There is one whole of being, of life. When you first make a concept of God and then a conception of man, all kinds of theological problems arise that have kept people busy for millennia. Because then, what about the ‘divine man’, someone like Jesus? Then Islam is very consistent. Scripture states: “There is an absolute separation between man and God. Jesus was just a prophet.” When you simply lay that whole conceptualization aside and experience for yourself, you must confirm that there are no borders to everything that had been separated. You can see in all the great religions that there is always a certain sense of that original. But the different forms of conceptualization and their absolutization are always creating problems. Duality is nonsense, since relationships and interconnectedness simply are; from non-duality this is obvious.

In Christianity it is regarded as a great sin when someone imagines that he is God. Of course, this is appropriate because dualistic levels have become confused with one another. Be honest. Only when you see that there really is no separation is there the complete love that mystical unity refers to.

Stay clearly conscious, that’s the only thing you can do. As soon as the sleepiness hits, you pick back up on the old patterns. When you remain clear, the original nonduality manifests by itself.