Tribute to Douwe at SAND Europe 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.”



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