Archive for May, 2013

Is there still a chunk of anxiety in yourself somewhere?
May 31, 2013

Advaita Post, Volume 14 No. 11


Text satsang

An Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma, Gouda, October 3, 2007

Is there still a chunk of anxiety in yourself somewhere? What would it mean if all cares were to disappear?

We have often looked at what happens when you sit down and relaxation arises. The focus on all sorts of things that should still happen disappears. But even closer to yourself, on a deeper level, something else can disappear which has to do with worry and concern. That can disappear in this stillness or at least you can ask the question: what would it mean if all concerns were to disappear? Many deep seated motivations and desires arise from a deep anxiety. You may be aware of their source. Of course it has to do with that center of yourself, which we call the first-person. The worry emanates from that ‘me’. If this anxiety were to disappear that ego would also disappear on that deep level. The first impulses, the first orientations, the first tendencies, the first motivations come from this source. When this concern, which is a kind of anchor, drops, there is absolutely no orientation any longer. The ‘I want that’, ‘I wish’, has disappeared. This is freedom from that central anchor. As long as it’s there, there is concern about itself. The ‘I’ wants to continue to live, it wants to do everything. This is rarely recognized consciously. Traditionally these are called Vasanas: the first focused energies, the first tendencies, first inclinations. This anchoring can disappear. Then life goes on in the great whole in a spontaneous manner. It’s important that you get a better look at that first centering with that concern for itself. Most people live on a different level, but they certainly are driven by these basic tendencies. This concern then frequently expresses itself as a vague nagging feeling, something indefinable. That nagging feeling can manifest itself, for example, in depression or various fears.

Of course, these are certain concentrated energies. How does their dissolution occur? It can only happen in a greater space. It is a space of feeling consciousness. You see and experience these energies. You experience everything. Of course you are not different from anything else, but certainly you are the whole space. Within it everything can dissolve. Whatever applies to the more superficial lumps of feeling energies also applies to this very subtle basis-centering of energy, the Vasanas. So it’s good to always ask yourself again: is there still a piece of anxiety in myself somewhere? What would it mean if the last care were to disappear? So that is this basis-anchorage. Recently someone said when speaking about this same subject: “Yes, so then where are you?” So then, nowhere.

With the processes of expansion and letting go you always see two things. On the one hand: it is beautiful, everyone is looking for it. On the other hand: at a given moment it can certainly be dangerous, especially when it concerns these basic things. You really lose something which was always there. You are very hesitant to do that. That basic structure is going to disappear. This week someone said: “I need to remodel my house first.” Apparently all that needed to happen first. Apparently there are still focused energies that still need to find  expression. When these basic concerns completely disappear, then life lives itself. There doesn’t need to be a knot anywhere that holds everything together and from which all things must be regulated and controlled. When that basis-knot of energies, in which the self is fully invested just disappears, then what happens to the self-being? Then it comes totally free! When you have a little feeling for it, then you can also see when a tendency arises to reconstruct it. There only needs to be a little worry for it to re-emerge and you have it once again.



Tribute to Douwe at SAND Europe 2013
May 28, 2013

Zonheuvel Conference Center

Zonheuvel Conference Center

On Sunday morning, June 2nd, 2013 at the Zonheuvel Hotel and Conference Center in Doorn, the Netherlands there was a tribute to Douwe. It was part of the program at the Science and Non-Duality 2013 European Conference and was an opportunity for those who have been touched by his insight to share their appreciation of him with other English speakers not yet aware of his work. Here below is the text delivered by Ellen Trezevant, which was followed by two videos.

Video #1 was a collection of dialog questions and responses selected from his 2012 SAND interview with Zaya and Maurizio.

Video #2 was an English language voice over production of part 4 of his last video interview with Rogier de Blok on November 28, 2012.


Douwe Tiemersma

7 January 1945 – 3 January 2013


I’d like to offer a small tribute today to Douwe Tiemersma, who was one of the most important teachers and promoters of non-duality in the Netherlands during the last thirty years. He passed away earlier this year on 3 January after a two year illness from esophageal cancer. And even though the visibility of his insight was readily apparent here in the Netherlands and despite his connection to his well-known teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, he was not very visible to the English language spiritual seeking world.

So, it’s appropriate for us to commemorate him here. Besides being a scientist and philosopher with a perspective on non-duality, he participated in the pre-conference SAND talks last year and had a fine interview with Maurizio which we’ll be viewing some selections of in just a few minutes. But perhaps even more importantly, I think it’s fair to credit him with being at least one of the many reasons why this conference is taking place here in the Netherlands and not somewhere else in Europe.

From 1972 onwards Douwe taught pranayama, hatha yoga and meditation from an advaita perspective and, following his encounter with Nisargadatta, he held satsangs and retreats on non-duality. For more than twenty years until his retirement in 2004 he was senior lecturer in philosophical anthropology, intercultural philosophy and Eastern studies at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. In 1999 Douwe was a co-founder of InZicht magazine and remained one of its principal contributors and editors for many years. He founded both the Openness Foundation and the Advaita Centrum as loci for his non-dual spiritual teaching activities and authored or co-authored over twenty books on the subject. Now for English speakers, his source book, Non-Duality, the groundless openness, has been published and is currently available online and here in the conference center bookstore.

Who was he?

Douwe was born in Sneek, in the Friesian section of this country on the 7th of January 1945. The land there is filled with wide open perspectives: fields, dunes, clouds, sky and water, all stretching far into the horizon. It was in this expansive landscape that he began his first experimentations with yoga and meditation at the age of 15. Thus, in a Friesian landscape sense, it seems appropriate that he used the term Openness as a fresh way to refer to a recognition of non-duality.

As a young adult in the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s he continued to pursue his yoga practices during his academic study years, receiving his PhD and becoming a university professor as well as a certified yoga instructor. In the late 70’s, his friend Wouter Keers introduced him to the book, I Am That, dialogues with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. The effect of that book on him was so overwhelming that by the fall of 1980 he found himself on an airplane traveling to Bombay to meet its author. The encounter there proceeded in a brief yet radical way. Returning to the Netherlands he continued with his life there in an enlightened yet integrated manner: as professor, author, teacher, jani, spouse, father, and then, grandfather.

What did he teach?

Now his legacy survives. It’s a precise and insightful guide for all who seek a clear explanation of what can be – even within the world of non-duality – an imprecisely charted terrain.  Because for those who wish to deeply grasp it there are always two aspects: the path – which is grounded in duality, and its realization – which is truly beyond all paths, all concepts and all conditions. Douwe exemplified the latter and yet included the former.

As a scientist he understood the physics of energetic expansion and dissolution. As a spiritual teacher grounded in the Vedas, he avoided expounding doctrine for doctrine’s sake and instead encouraged his students to explore their own bodily experience freed from limiting concepts.  He offered tools for the recognition, intensification, expansion and dissolution of its subtle levels of energy. In particular, he emphasized what he called self-meditation, a continuous yet relaxed focus on one’s deepest and purest sense of Self.

What’s his significance?

In the contemporary world of western spirituality, selfish interests can so easily muddy the message, distorting the lens ever so slightly. In Douwe’s case, the purity of his self-being allowed for the radicality of his realization; so also the radicality of his realization informed the remarkable accuracy of his teaching. When the 21st century dust settles his words will remain, sparkling like diamonds.

In his final interview with Rogier de Blok which we’ll be viewing a section of in just a few minutes he said:

“Many teachers in the Advaita tradition get stuck somewhere, frequently on the level of the witness consciousness: “That’s the highest they say, you are the effortless observer, aware.”

Others remain at the level of the universal being-consciousness and so then they say: “Yes, it’s a life without a center … yes, so that’s it”.  

No, it’s really something particular to Nisargadatta Maharaj, specifically from him, actually … you’ll find it hardly anywhere else … that it is said, again and again: “Stay there, stay there, stay there, and you’ll see that it dissolves in the absolute.”


Now I know what it means to let go of everything
May 18, 2013

Advaita Post, Volume 14 No. 10


Text satsang

An Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma Gouda, August 28, 2011

Now I know what it means to let go of everything

When can you speak from the greatest clarity? That’s when you recognize – all at once – the original truth concerning your self-being, containing the whole of your life. That happens quite easily when you are at the end of your life, when that life is ending. A lot has been written about this by many people. Then they experience their entire life as one great whole in a very clear manner. How can that be? It’s a very different way of experiencing than when you see events as images each set alongside one another. It’s the entirety of your whole life and that life is going to end. You stand just a little bit on the edge of this cosmos of that life and internally you have knowledge of what kind of life form it was, with all the many aspects that were present there in that life. Everyone certainly has a certain notion of this. Therefore, I bring it up now. You can take up a position from which you overlook the whole space of that life with those forms that have been present in it, viewing it as one whole. That whole will disappear. Where to? Into something about which nothing more can be said.

When it concerns a total liberation then the whole life with all these aspects will need to become totally free. Nisargadatta has said that this totally liberating realization is always accompanied by dying. When you are very attached to life then of course a lot of resistance arises because you have your identity in this life and you don’t want to give that up. But when nevertheless it proceeds, there may still be a liberation at the end when there is a consciousness of: now I know what it means to let everything go. It can also be that everything isn’t so heavy anymore and then it all becomes much lighter. Then there’s much more movement in a positive sense. Then the last quality is just Ananda. But even when that sense of dying isn’t so evident, still the totality of that whole life will need to be released.

In the advaita approach this can proceed very gradually and that can occur in different ways. One important way is that of being aware of yourself while you’re engaged in activity, while you’re listening, while you’re looking, while you are engaged in everyday life. What does that mean, to be aware of your whole situation? You can position yourself as it were, a little bit above or a little bit behind and from there see how life proceeds. For example, with perceiving, with seeing. You can see yourself sitting and looking at this lamp. I, as bodily perceiver, behold an object there – the lamp. But simultaneously, I see myself looking at the lamp. Can you do the same thing again? I see myself as an observer of the situation, in which I bodily observe that lamp. Then philosophers say: “nonsense, of course you can repeat that ad infinitum, it’s absurd.” No, if you actually do it two or three times it is enough, but you must do it very concretely. Philosophers just think about it, but when you actually do it, you should just see what happens. Then all personal properties with all kinds of ego-elements disappear. Then what’s the situation of the self-being? There is a quality of consciousness but actually nothing more. You can confirm that for yourself.

On that first level of awareness – I see myself looking at the lamp – you frequently have all kinds of personal elements there that you have brought with you to that level so you are still going to judge. For example: “I have to improve my vision.” That’s the everyday awareness, which is the same for everyone. There, you can criticize yourself. But renew your awareness, also of the critic. Then you see that these elements of comment making are already minimized or no longer present. So in this sense, more and more of those personal characteristics and conditionings continue to disappear. This awareness will need to go further. Can you see that it’s going in the direction with which I began – of the end of life – and that you then can be aware of the entirety of life just as it happened? It’s an expansion of consciousness. There remains an ever wider realm of self-being and you can renew your awareness there. At a certain point that awareness has proceeded so far that there’s actually nothing more to be said about it. The final is only an ‘I am’ without interpretation. Maybe too, an ‘I am consciousness, bliss-being’, but in a universal sense without forms, without any further qualities. So the whole cosmos of life and of these last qualities of life dissolve in the original source. You can’t say anything more about it, but you certainly do experience that this origin is there. That is your origin.