Experiencing non-duality

Advaita Post Volume 16, no. 9

Text Satsang

From an introduction and talk with Douwe Tiemersma, March 11, 2001 in Heerenveen

Experiencing non-duality

Stay lucid, while you sit so wonderfully still and everything is open.

Each time your thinking stops there is this silence. Internally you can be aware of it. You sit down, relaxation comes, silence comes.

It may be that it remains totally silent and that there is nothing. That’s wonderful.

But, as many say, after a period of time, thoughts begin to circulate again and everything continues on in the same old way. Certain experiences, memories and expectations begin to function and then you start thinking. How is that possible? Because you were not sufficiently internally aware of that emptiness. So, internally, stay so clear within yourself that you can experience: now there is absolutely nothing and it is good. Only then is everything good.

This sphere is present in the here and now. But, it is here and now, always and everywhere. You walk towards this building, you see the flowers and you hear the birds. In complete silence and emptiness it’s perfect just as it is. By yourself you can become aware of this and confirm it with increasing clarity internally. That ultimate which you have always sought is very clearly present again and again in your own sphere when you exercise clarity. Then you also are aware of complete emptiness when it suddenly arises. You notice that you are thinking, that there is just nothing for a while and that a little later thinking starts back up again. In the interim period, there was absolutely no form, no thought, no image.

Afterwards you are going to reconnect in your memory to the thought forms that were present before the emptiness and then thinking continues on in the old way. Then you haven’t learned anything from when it was really silent. When you remain clear, there arises an internal knowing of this silence. While you remain internally aware, you confirm that there is no thinking and that there is no one who is thinking. In the silence, you are no longer present there as a person. Internally, you can confirm this very clearly. When you are very lucid you can see the old forms slowly returning and still you can let them go. Emptiness, then, is not disturbed by forms.

Frequently there is a situation which is not so rosy, and in which there is a longing for wholeness. If you are not carried away by your thoughts and feelings, but instead begin making an inquiry into your situation then the problems increasingly disappear. The main point of that inquiry is that you remain clear, remain consciously present. That same awareness then also turns out to be the core of the wholeness that you sought. The method of inquiry into the problematic ‘I’ already has the solution to the problems within it: being-awareness. It is the most important thing that every human being possesses: consciousness, the capacity to think about oneself. It happens constantly in reference to your own situation. We say that it’s typically human that we can think about ourselves, can speak about ourselves. That’s true, but very quickly that capacity is abused by creating all sorts of problems: it’s difficult for me and I’d just like to have a better situation. But this thinking function regularly disappears. During the day whenever there is an empty moment and at night in dreamless sleep. When a piece of clarity remains internally, you confirm that in this situation, there is no longer an ‘I’. When there is no ego-mind any more, every care for that ‘I’ disappears. Again and again you see that this care, supporting that ‘I’, that I-centrism, disappears.

This ‘I’ tension must also be regularly absent, because otherwise you would become dead tired. People who are completely trapped in become overwrought. The I-tension functions continuously, even in ordinary work. In it you want to achieve something. Even if it is not for yourself, but still you want to achieve something, you do your best. That is the most common structure of Western thought and we find it to be the ordinary situation. Consistently you are told to do a good job and be responsible for it. You should do this and you should not do that. When there is just emptiness, it is said that there is absolutely nothing, and that no experience is possible. But the point is precisely that you can experience this emptiness internally, not as a person, but as an impersonal being-awareness. You confirm it: yes, that’s it. When you’re incredibly happy, every structure of the I-person is gone. And still, internally you note: this is it. When that all-encompassing wholeness, the non-duality, is present you don’t have to deal with a person any more, with the I-tension. That is gone, even while there is a non-duality which clearly persists, and that sphere is not different from yourself. So that’s why this sphere is traditionally called the Self. You experience that that is indeed your own sphere, free from all forms, free from all thoughts. You are your Self in the highest degree, much more than in the forms of yourself that you create. It is also ananda, the overwhelming, very intense happiness-feeling. That becomes so intense and so universal that it is abundantly clear: this is it, free from all conditions, not limited by any forms.

That’s not something you can achieve by certain methods. With methods, then, you have a mediation, a means which help on the way to the final goal. But when it is about the absolute, that can’t be. Every means as a path is an obstacle thereby. A path is a means for reaching a certain place. Then there is the structure: a starting point, path and goal. Everything is defined by the place it occupies in this structure. If the goal can’t be defined because it’s empty, then too, there is no path, and no means (for achieving it). The only thing you can do is to sit down and let everything relax. Then everything disappears. Still, something is left over. What? That is the one in which the forms arise and disappear once again. And still you confirm: I am that in the highest sense. They can take everything away from me, and what remains? This. So, it is always present, you don’t have to go looking for it anywhere, it is always the foundation of all that is, also the foundation of your own form. Forms arise in it and disappear once again as only just clarity remains. Then whatever is going to happen is allowed to happen. It really doesn’t matter anymore. Conditions have nothing to do with Self-being. Everyone has a certain knowledge of, an internal knowing of, it. Then also there is nothing to do other than to keep staying there with it. You don’t have to do anything. Also you can do nothing more than to leave this dimension open. Just let this dimension stay open. Then everything that threatens to harden back up again dissolves. So internally it is a very clear awareness of This.

When then you look back again you recognize that This was always already present in your longing, your desire. The longing expressed itself in all kinds of forms, in all kinds of constructions. Many were put forward by the people around you, by the group to which you belonged. But you see the relativity of all these forms and the cause of the non-fulfillment of your deep desire: remaining attached to the forms, which by definition are limited, while your desire itself was unlimited. Every limited desire has within itself an infinite desire for unity with everything and everyone, for the disappearance of all separations.

The only thing that matters, then, is for you to relax so fully that the separations disappear. Stay internally clear with it, so you see more precisely what’s going on. On the one hand there is the seeing of the points where you’re still stuck and the limitations that threaten to pop back up gain. By seeing them as phenomena that come and go, you can let them go. On the other hand, returning to your Self, there is the intuitive knowing that That will completely manifest itself, if you allow yourself to relax in that source, allow yourself to sink into it. That ultimate Unity is already there and precedes all forms. Now, relaxation isn’t hard, is it?

Visitor: It can be very difficult.

Where does the difficulty come from then?

That I allow myself to be seduced by the circumstances in which I am at that moment.

Now go all the way back. The problem arises already in a slightly earlier phase. Just take a look. There is a problematic issue that precedes your reactions and allows you to become swayed. It is very important to see that, because otherwise you’ll be enticed again and again.

I think I am missing the boat here.

You said, “I allow myself to be seduced by circumstances.” Who is that ‘I’ then? Apparently there is an ‘I’ previous to that seduction, a certain identification with a particular ‘I’ that positions itself as separate from the other things. That perceives something else as separate from you. Only then does temptation arise and the going along with it. Then you are lost. So the problem lies in the formation of that ‘I’. From the Openness an internal tension arises towards a particular point, towards a center-focused tension which we call ‘I’. Through this a separation is created with that which lies outside that ‘I’ and a tension arises between the two. The shape of this tension between yourself and the other has the property of temptation. It is important to see the root of the problem: how there arises a certain concentration toward your ‘I’. Then you have the whole kit and caboodle back again. You allow yourself be seduced by something else because you withdraw to an ‘I’ and from that ‘I’ you react because you think that there is something to win thereby. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it. These are the I-processes. See how everything functions in that initial phase of the first concentration, because that’s what counts.

I don’t think I really get it.

When you experience that you are total bliss…


When you know just a little bit of that from your own experience, how is it possible that just a little bit later there can be an unhappy person?

That’s because the realization was not complete.

Yes, that’s a great observation, but we were speaking about the cause. How does it work from the one to the other? We are speaking about this mechanism now. When you see through it, you know how the restriction threatens to arise. Only then can you leave it alone and stay with the bliss. It’s very simple.

That is what we are doing.

I speak about it now only in this sense: see what happens in that first phase, when you are in danger of ending up again as a petty ‘me’ in a limited way. That’s where the problem is. When you are not clear about that, you’re in trouble already before you know it. So you’ll have to be much clearer. You do not make this clearer confirmation as a person; that clearer knowing is simply there: there is absolutely no ‘I’, no concentration of an ‘I’. But also you see when a concentration threatens to arise somewhere. You see through this forming of the I-illusion and thereby that form loses all its energy. The tendency towards concentration continues to be a phenomenon, but that does not turn out to be an actual restriction of yourself.

But this is going to be something like a mind game. Or not?

It can certainly be constructed that way, because we try to talk about it. Using words I refer to your own free being-awareness. When you experience that, you find out: there is no ‘I’, there is just a universal present-being without borders and without structure. Great, just let it continue that way. But, stay clear, because when that clarity is not there, then you know: then you’re stuck again and you’re busy with a mind game.

Then that is something like a process of practices.

Partly it’s a matter of habit. Up to the highest psychological levels you have to deal with old habits and new habits. You know for yourself how stubborn the habit of forming a particular image of yourself again and again is, a habit in which you say: that’s me. The breaking through of habits on the psychological and personal level is an exercise. But the most important thing that can happen is the disappearance of that whole personal level. Practice has nothing to do with that. If you want to do something about that, you can’t do it. The only thing (you can do) is to stay very still and very open. Then the importance of all forms disappears. Stay very still, very open, then it remains like this, then it remains like this.

Well yes, but at some point you will have to act. You’ll need to catch the train in the morning.

When it is open and there is awareness of body and world, you can quietly allow the forms to continue, while still the openness remains. That’s advaita. When you look at your hand, you are not completely trapped in that hand. No, you look at it and you are also aware of the space. Does the hand restrict the space? No. Does the body restrict the space? No. Very simple. During vacation you walk outside and there is nothing but open space. So it’s not the forms that are problematic. It’s the way you think that is the problem. That happens when you are going to present yourself as separated from the other: I am here, the train is there and I have to catch that train. Again and again, the problem lies in the creation of the ego. When this doesn’t happen, there is just openness. If then there are forms, it is fine; life goes on, the forms are wonderful, the energies flow. The more wealth, the more joy. It’s all great and when everything’s gone, it’s still wonderful.


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