The importance of the Teacher

Last Interview with Douwe Tiemersma, Part 2

Conducted by Rogier de Blok

November 28, 2012, Gouda

Rogier: About that point of self-realization, when you have reached it, then is it also the end of a process after which you don’t learn anything anymore? Do you actually remain internally the same … or are you constantly learning, even after that … maybe on another level?

Douwe: Well yes, you can say that when that highest has truly been realized that then, the most important has already happened. Secondly, in practice, it’s actually the case that afterwards there’s a process of becoming stabilized there. And usually there’s still a considerable period of time in which that occurs. Because when all levels continue to function, then it is and remains completely clear on all those levels. What about the old character tendencies? … um .. yes, certain things, just continue.

In principle there is freedom. In practice of course there are all kinds of things…oh yes…oh yes…oh yes…and of course … life, or we would say, the world with its wealth of situations. Every situation has once again its own things, on these levels of experience … of course, which goes on endlessly, that’s just something which infinitely continues.

And so I’ve always enjoyed getting a deeper view of what’s going on, for example on the level of the physical energies, yoga and pranayama, taking a further look … oh yes, of course … and then you just learn every day. Because there are an infinite number of conditions, of situations, in which new things continue to arise. Oh yes…oh yes…hey; when you do this, this happens; when you do that, that happens. Now, of course, that’s a more practical knowledge which of course can always be expanded.

And you have that in daily life too, these are all situations which are always new, in which new things continue to pop up and that just continues.

But it’s very important to see clearly, hey, when it’s really broken through in yourself – then that’s the most important – and the rest is secondary and all that will just continue … but OK, the most important has already happened and in that respect it remains fundamentally free, even if there are still some ripples now and then … ultimately they’ll dissolve.

Rogier: Just to come back to this statement from Nisargadatta: you are your own self, so ultimately your own teacher. What I was curious about, maybe it’s a little personal … you are a teacher, so actually an external teacher. Can you speak about the use of an external teacher, for example what you learned from Nisargadatta ……. there’s a contradiction in that ……. actually it’s said: you are your own best teacher … so then, why would you need an external one?

Douwe: Well, of course that depends ….. when you really follow this path of the self very clearly and with a very rigorous inquiry, then you can go very far. But in practice ….. you’ve already said it, too ….. many people still have so much resistance against it, especially when you go a little deeper towards letting go on a more fundamental level, towards seeing if this path of inquiry, this development, is going in a right way.

Because yes, just take a look at what isn’t already offered in the world … of hey, come here, we have the best path and then you must do this and then you must do that….. And another who says, no, first you must do this and then you must do that …. So there are all kinds of side roads and winding roads…..And then you see that when a teacher is authentic, something important happens.

The student who is receptive to it first recognizes something of his own depth in the teacher. That makes it easier than when you would try to find it directly in yourself. You don’t know exactly where to look for it …. you have a certain intuitive sense …. No, in the relationship with the teacher the knowledge of the student, including that of their own self, grows. There is a recognition … oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah … And of course, there can be all the suggestions of the teacher: … take a look at this and take a look at that, these are the practical things of the path.

But there’s also that direct recognition of the manner of being of this teacher …. hey, that’s different, now I’m gradually getting to know something about what openness is and then…hey…. it’s also in myself, because I recognize it and it’s in me.

In practice, you find then that in an ongoing relationship between teacher and student, it’s a relationship which transcends the personal, that the separation between teacher and student, this separation, is going to disappear.

Of hey, I recognize this openness in myself, so again you see that this recognition comes from the non-duality, from that core of self-being in the student and that self-being of the teacher. Through it the recognition initially still is: yes, in this teacher, that’s where it is, and that comes right through, it strikes back, like a kind of detour, a kind of mirror, in order to gain clarity about your own self-being.

And of course, that self-being that’s always your greatest teacher, because that’s where you have to recognize it. But at a certain point, as it’s often said, the teacher increasingly coincides with your own self-being. And then you see: yes of course, there’s just one complete openness and this openness teaches me.

In the beginning it’s more about taking that detour, because I find the person of this teacher important, but when I go further, then I also notice, hey … what I’m learning there, it belongs entirely to my own self-being. And that’s this openness, this self-being teacher-student, which then is the teacher for me… yes, that’s how it works.

Rogier: Maybe this is a little specific, but what it is the most important lesson that you learned from your teacher, and yes, I assume that which relates to self-realization ……. can you speak perhaps of some specific moments …….

Douwe: Well sure, I’ve just sketched out the path of development as it usually happens, so that’s this dimension of the spirit with different levels and I certainly think it can be recognized everywhere by everyone.

But of course when you follow the path of a steadily increasing depth then you can see that there are two places where something very important is going to happen. And the first one, which I was talking about earlier, is this transition from the witness consciousness to the universal consciousness. Because there, you’ll release the last hold: “I see that“, the last duality, you’ll have to let go of that.

And that means that you’ll have to let go of yourself there as observer, as concentration, as center. And yes, that’s incredibly dramatic if it’s really going to happen in a conscious way … when it’s really going to break open .. that center of yourself… that doesn’t happen so easily. So then in this development too, that’s actually quite an important event.

And that’s something that, whatever else happens …. well, yes…. which also clearly persists in memory, of look at that, yes, that was it, actually….. because you think you’re dying! Because that’s your last identity in the world, of me, with a certain physicality, a sure grasp, and … that last hold… that disappears .. my last concentration disappears …..

So, of course, that’s the fundamental release and that’s something that’s going to happen in the relationship with the teacher. And it’s understandable that this teacher is important for that, because, you wouldn’t ever do it by yourself. So long as there’s still an ‘I’-chunk in the limited sense remaining somewhere, let’s call it ego, then the ego will use all its resistance to prevent that from happening, because that means its own death.

And still the surrender will need to take place, real surrender … to the Great.  How can that happen? Well, that can only happen unless you already have some being-experience of that Great. So the teacher is quite decisive there. This teacher, who’s already there.

So in the relationship with the teacher, it’s still the trust which proves decisive, in that great being of this teacher who is aware of That to which you then surrender. Because the universal without form, that is this teacher. You can have trust in that. In the trust, you can release yourself.

In this sense, I have experienced that the teacher is of crucial importance. And, of course, the trust in this teacher on that universal level.

Rogier: You also mentioned .. or you said … there are two moments …

Douwe: Yes, when you continue to remain aware on that level of the universal, then the last qualities of the “I am” is also allowed to disappear. Can that dissolve? Then there’s absolutely nothing left over, no consciousness, no being, no feeling-being………

But ok, so then there’s absolutely nothing left to say ……. but actually that just goes by itself when you just stay there … when you just stay there …

No, many teachers in the advaita tradition, get stuck somewhere. Frequently on that level of the witness consciousness: “That’s the highest, 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 and you’ll see that it dissolves in the absolute.

Rogier: Has that also been linked to a specific moment for you.. or has that been more of a gradual process?

Douwe: Well, actually letting go of the last ego-elements, that certainly was a definite moment, yes … And of course it’s like that, that there were more of those enlightening experiences occurring more frequently then, but that it persevered all the way through, indeed that was certainly a moment, yes ….  Then you know it, and you also know it so clearly, because then there is no doubt … And I think that makes it decisive … now there is no doubt .. this is it. This is the event that cuts to the heart of the matter and it’s definitive, so you know it directly within, without thinking about it. You affirm it directly.

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