The non-duality of experience

July 31, 2015 - Leave a Response

Advaita Post, Volume 16, no. 8

Text Satsang

From an introduction and talk with Douwe Tiemersma, in Gouda, May 14, 2008

The non-duality of experience

Yes, we are always talking here about the recognition of non-duality. It’s clear: in practice you will need to recognize very clearly that non-duality is the reality if duality and its associated suffering is to dissolve. You should determine this very clearly within your own experience.

This is easiest in the feeling sense. You can become aware of your tactile sensibility. Imagine that the wind blows and that you experience the wind on your skin. Which reality is that? Now, what do you really experience? There is one sensation in which you no longer experience the skin and the wind separately. In your experience it is one phenomenon. You can think about it further, that it has two sides, your skin and the wind, but what you experience is one phenomenon. You don’t experience your skin and the wind separately. They have come totally together. Intuitively, instinctively* it is just one phenomenon. Just call it skin-wind. Do you experience that skin-wind feeling in space? Do you see that your bodily self and what is said to come from outside come totally together? The wind, it blows. As skin-wind you go along with it completely into the infinite distance. You must forcibly intervene in order to pull these two apart from one another. In the intuitive experience it’s only about that one: that feeling skin-wind. The wind is nothing without skin; the skin is nothing without wind. It is one phenomenon.

That’s also true with the sense of taste, when, in this wonderful weather, you eat an ice cream. What is it like then? “Oh, what a delicious taste – strawberries, bananas…” What is that like? How is it with yourself in relation to the taste experience and that which you are tasting? Isn’t that also only one? I recently read a Buddhist text on the idea of “one taste”. The interpretation then was that you experience everything in the same way. There is no preference and no denial. In the advaita approach we intend an even deeper meaning. In that one taste not only have the separations you make between the different experienced objects disappeared, but also between yourself, your experience, and the objects. Then there is not a separate “I taste” and “that which I taste”. Both have come together. There is one phenomenon of taste. Therefore this situation in which you confirm that one taste or that one feeling has the tendency to become universal. Why? Because there are no divisions any longer. You taste something, a strawberry ice cream. When you fully enjoy the taste, you easily enter into it. Then there is only one taste and that is universal. There is nothing else. You pick up the ice cream and there is still a distance; you bring it towards you, enjoy it and there is a merging of yourself and the ice cream. You taste a strawberry ice cream and you’re gone, the ice cream, too, is gone: one taste. What is the reality? You can’t say anything else about it, except that you and the ice cream are one. In this way you recognize non-duality on the sensory level: that’s how it is.

With hearing, separation also disappears. You hear beautiful music and you go right into it: the separation is gone. In going along, the “I hear/am the music” develops itself spatially and there arises a literally-infinite enjoyment. (There is the sudden sound of a fire engine). You hear the sound of the siren and you can’t say if it is somewhere outside, or if it is present within your own sphere. There is a non-duality.

Seeing is strongly dualistic, because seeing sets up something at a distance. Through this we in the West are very visually oriented, such that in that in our mentation everything exists at a distance. Duality reigns. But there is also another kind of seeing, an intuitively available feeling-seeing, in which distance is not present. When you see from your heart you notice that you are in and with the things that you see. You see the light of the sun and you let the light enter into you. Every distance is gone. Sun and self are no longer apart. From out of your heart then, you see that self-light everywhere. You see someone else from your heart. The distance disappears and you can immediately confirm: there is no duality with the other but rather a non-duality. You would need to act quite forcefully in order to keep the other at a distance. You’d have to strain yourself, by keeping your eye on the distance and perpetuating it: “I am here and the other is there”. When a little relaxation comes then you automatically sink down. You return to intuitively seeing from your heart and you see that separation disappears. In relaxation this happens automatically.

Keeping distance, that is tension. Take a look at what happens when you maintain such distance. Then there is a notion of yourself, separate from what you see, separate from the others that you see. The world, the others, are kept at a distance. What appears there, what you see, is not allowed to come too close to you, to enter into your territory. In this sense you create a wall. In this sense you make yourself hard. In the energy of this distancing-seeing sits the energy which keeps the other at bay. ‘I’ see ‘you’ there. Can you see the tension of this distance keeping with each objectification? This also applies to all kinds of possible events in the future that people tend to fear: they must be kept at a distance, all those less attractive possibilities. Take a look on the energetic level. Then you see that you, through your seeing, are immediately in the power of everything, especially the things which are less attractive, that you wish to avoid. So relaxation means acceptance, such a complete acceptance that everything near by is allowed to come so close that it is going to coincide with yourself. That applies also to the suffering that you see. Then there is more than just pity, even more than compassion, which still knows a distance. No, the other things and the other people are allowed to come so close that you are going to coincide with them. That is the point of non-duality. There is no separation anymore between self-being and other-being, that other being.

Intuitively seeing from your heart, the feeling-sense experience, is a very sensual being-awareness. Within it there are no boundaries. You can directly affirm: it is universal being-awareness. That’s why immediately there is also universal joy-being. Through allowing yourself to open up, the universal aware-joy-being is directly there. When you don’t hold anything back and there is a deep relaxation, there is an immediate and very aware recognition of non-duality as the reality. So it is not just a feeling. And it is not just psychological, because you see that it’s about that one being-consciousness. So within that, these two sides come together: the consciousness and that direct being without distance. That is something that many people have difficulty with, because in seeing and hearing, in becoming aware, a distance is almost always constructed. Within that, how is non-duality ever possible? So that is very simple: internally there is an instinctively available sensual consciousness, apparent not only within sensing, but also within feeling-seeing. In that consciousness, phenomena appear and disappear without distance. They can come; they can stay away. Thus with that internal consciousness there is no dependence upon phenomena. When they come, there is a non-duality with the internal experience, or the complete coinciding and disappearance of everything. When they don’t come, there is the pure consciousness or the disappearance of everything in the Origin. Is that clear?

  • Translator’s note: This post dwells rather extensively on “gevoeslmatig” consciousness. The Dutch word gevoelsmatig does not translate easily into English. It refers to an inborn, innate kind of expansive consciousness that is sensual in nature. It is not something we create, rather it is something which can be recognized and through recognition, intensified.

The universal opening of your own sphere

July 7, 2015 - One Response

Advaita Post Volume 16, no. 7

Text Satsang

From an Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma, Gouda, September 19th, 2007

The universal opening of your own sphere

It’s always about the opening of yourself on all levels, your opening on the level of consciousness, but also your opening on the level of feeling. When your consciousness is low this process of opening is dependent on conditions. You can experience this dependency for example, during a vacation in a beautiful landscape. Then everything can open, you truly become one with the landscape. But it’s important to gain knowledge of these processes of opening and closing within their context, because only then does it become clear that the openness [itself] is independent of conditions and is always present.

Up to a certain point these processes are mainly mental. If you find, for example, that there is a concentration or a restriction in your attention, that there are blinders, then try looking further to see precisely what’s going on with this barrier-creating concentration. From there the attention can open up. In a very literal way you can orient yourself more spaciously, so you get a more spacious horizon. Then your orientation is no longer focused on something that consciousness bumped into, but it becomes more spacious. Just try it out: focus yourself in a concentrated way on the wall, the lamp or on something you hear. From there the whole attention can suddenly open up. This literally happens. You will need to experience it very concretely, otherwise it doesn’t work. Find out what it means to look at things and what it means when consciousness suddenly opens up infinitely in all directions. Through knowledge and practice the opening up of yourself becomes less dependent on conditions.

The advaita path can be very direct. This immediacy presupposes that you have a basis in which this openness is already present. When this sphere is clearly there, you don’t have to do anything other than relax in it. But as long as [the recognition of] this openness is not there, apparently something needs to happen. Up to a certain point a practice is needed in order to clearly reveal it. When the mind is slow and limited, something will need to happen from consciousness in order to promote this opening. When it concerns the radical openness, this openness will have to be present so strongly that it no longer disappears. This means that there will need to be a total commitment to this openness. But be careful: it is not an orientation on something. It’s just an orientation on openness. It’s a kind of meditation without an object. At first just hold on to awareness of ‘space’, but truly, space in its purest form, total space.

Of course it’s all about yourself as instinctive feeling-awareness. Awareness and feeling will need to go together. It’s your instinctive feeling-awareness that opens itself infinitely in all directions: left, right, behind, before, above, below. Take a precise look. It’s an ongoing investigation. What happens when this meditation continues? Then that universal infinite-dimension remains present in all directions. It is your own sphere, your own instinctive feeling-awareness. It’s a universal opening of your self-being. This will need to be experienced very concretely. It’s like a tactile sense that extends itself. Instinctively then, you’ll experience everything with concrete sensitivity into infinity.

When you actually go along into the infinite, there is no separation any more between inner and outer. Then what happens to your center? Do you see that it is going to dissolve? The center of ego is no longer there, because that limited self-being is now unlimited self-being. This infinity is no longer infinitely far away; it’s incredibly close. Everything that is not infinite will dissolve.

When this infinity is everywhere, even where that center initially was, there is nothing more to do. But that only applies to this sphere. In the initial situation of limited consciousness and limited feeling of course something will certainly need to be done. Wakefulness needs to arise, so that an opening can come there. If, at that stage, you say, “I still can’t do anything for enlightenment, I’ll just sit here”, then what is your situation? Then there is closed-ness, narrowness, dullness. In this situation it’s necessary that you wake up, otherwise nothing happens. Only when this openness presents itself in such a way so that it never disappears, then there’s a release into it. That is no longer an action [of a person], it’s just a letting go of everything.

Thus the meditation on openness will have to develop so that everything is at stake, your whole existence. And then you’ll no longer say “I am meditating on something”. That would mean there is still someone who is meditating. This someone is the starting point and all kinds of things are contained in it. When it really opens up to infinity, then doesn’t everything fly away? The whole center of yourself disappears. Does it happen that way [for you]? Take a look for yourself. Does it absolutely go or does it stop somewhere?

So, when you continue, you lose yourself?

You’ll see that. It’s about yourself as instinctive feeling-awareness, who expands universally. Because it’s universal, it’s not stuck to any particular pattern. It’s a little like the Big Bang. First there is a tense energy and then suddenly: the universe expanding to infinity. You can also experience it like an expanding balloon. At a certain point the balloon bursts. What happens then?

In the beginning meditation is just a little psychological trick, a technique. When you start to get serious about it, that alone already yields a lot on the psychological level. When you start with it from the situation of the I-person, then you’ll notice it’s joyful when more space comes. That’s the basis on which it continues. Still more space arises, more joy; infinite space arises, infinite joy. That [joyful space] is no longer psychological because then it’s about your own complete being. Then there is a state that is total. The psychology of the person has nothing to do with it.

(A cell phone rings)

Do you see how quickly the attention closes up again? It’s about that. About these very practical things. The processes of closing and opening in it must be clear. There should be no restriction of the conscious sphere, no matter what happens. But of course, the knowledge that is required for that must prove itself in practice.

About knowing

June 1, 2015 - Leave a Response


Advaita Post Volume 15 No. 6

Text Satsang

From an introduction and talk with Douwe Tiemersma, Gouda, May 22, 2002

About knowing

(Visitor) You say to steadily turn your attention back to its source within. When I look at that flower there, then the impulse is only directed out towards it.

(Douwe) That’s the normal way of knowing.

And everything else that takes place internally distracts me from what’s out there.

Yes, that’s possible. Initially the withdrawal is necessary in order to become detached from what’s out there. When the attention really turns back to its source first, then it creates what I’ve often referred to as an inside-out inversion. Then everything returns in a wonderful way. That occurs in a very different way than with the internal-external separation. Namely, there’s no longer the old structure, “Me, here, the other things, there, and in between, the relation.” This latter means a concentration of the attention, a fixation, a limiting and frequently also an obsession. It’s important for all that to be thoroughly broken through. You see that the old form of knowing is so terribly limited, because it always begins from a particular ‘I’. And that whole ‘I’ structure can become inflated. But what kind of knowing arises when this flower here actually enters completely within? The knowing then becomes more intimate than it ever could have been with the distancing kind of knowing. With it there’s no separation any more between inside and outside, so that you, in a certain sense, are that flower. Everything is present in the realm of Self-being. That’s a very different, intuitive kind of knowing. Traditionally, it is said of the liberated that they see themselves in everything that’s visible. That’s impossible when you continue to maintain this distance in your knowing. With this distance, you can observe the other, you can also analyze the other, you can pick it apart. So then the other is an object, in contrast to yourself as subject, as the source of the perceiving. But if just once, all that objectivity were to actually revert to the source of light in yourself, then suddenly everything would show itself to turn inside-out. Then there’s no limitation in the self-being or its objects any more. Both completely merge into one another. Indeed, there certainly is a knowledge of this and that, but fundamentally, there is no separation any longer. That’s advaita, non-separateness. It’s not a positive unity, but non-separateness, about which you can’t really say anything else. There is a direct knowing in your own sphere. And that knowing is unlimited.

When you start out from an ‘objective’ world and an ‘objective’ knowledge, you go around looking at and labeling everything, actually you want to rule out your subjectivity thereby. This is especially evident in the traditional sciences: if knowledge is to be objective, the subjectivity must be turned off through use of the scientific method. That this could be possible is a delusion. The subject always has a role to play. Why? Because there is no aloof perceiving and no perceived external world without a subject with its own starting point and method of perceiving. Consequently, knowledge is always conditioned. Truth remains a conditional truth.

But now, what is that subject? Traditionally, this is frequently asked in the texts of the ancient Upanishads: who is the actual perceiver? Now, just consider, not this, not that. When you truly realize something of the ultimate perceiver, then this whole structure of perceiver, perceived and perceiving turns out to not exist any more. Then it turns out that perceiving is a direct confirmation. Precisely because the phenomena are directly perceived phenomena, the perceiving of something is a given. The phenomena are there or they are not. When they are there, it turns out that they are there, as such. That is truth: the appearance of something.

When you start thinking and introduce all kinds of intermediate processes of perceiving, you say that perception is indirect. It makes use of different sense organs and all kinds of cognitive schemas. But if you start looking at perception just as it is present in yourself, then it is direct. Then it has nothing to do with eyes, brains and forms of knowing. There is a direct confirmation. Only when thinking jumps in, then you return to the disassembly, the indirectness. But, thinking is not perceiving.

Does your identifying with a person or a thing also belong to that direct knowing?

Yes of course. You don’t have this direct experience only when you’re involved in the advaita approach, rather, it’s constantly there. You experience your identity directly with all kinds of people, especially the ones that are closer to you. If something happens to that other it also happens, more or less, to yourself. In communication, you often need only a word or two from the other in order to understand them. Yes, that is a direct knowing. Recognize that everywhere, even in the ordinary seeing of things.

Where does the perceiving take place? Not, like the neurobiologists say, in the brain. That’s pure nonsense. When there is perception of a landscape, it has nothing to do with your brains and everything to do with the landscape. In the perception itself there is no brain, and if it is there, it’s a brain, perceived as an object. Perception is direct: bam. Something appears here and now, in the light, and it’s there. Even when a little later you look from the other side and you see something different. Even then, there is a direct perception in the here and now. Again and again there is a direct confirmation or there is not.

Yes, then in principle all is one. You can take any object …

Yes, every object in perception comes intrinsically linked together with the subject, because otherwise there is no perception. In every instance of perceiving, there’s actually a timeless moment, pang, and something is there. And that is a process in which the subject and object coincide. As subject you perceive something, and you perceive it as true, even though you may later establish that it was an inaccurate perception. Then there is namely, a new direct confirmation in your own sphere.

In the immediacy, the confirmation and the appearance coincide; consciousness and being, subject and object. Prior to their actual coincidence, there is an intuitive, internal perception, a being-knowing, in which you are no longer different from that which you perceive. When both poles completely coincide there is nothing more. Of this an empty being-knowing is still possible.