Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:


Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page

Nondual Highlights Issue #1575 Saturday, October 4, 2003 Editor: Mark

"You see, Pooh," I said, "a lot of people don't seem to know what Taoism is..."

"Yes?" said Pooh, blinking his eyes."

So that's what this chapter is for - to explain things a bit."

"Oh, I see," said Pooh.

"And the easiest way to do that would be for us to go to China for a moment."

"What?" said Pooh, his eyes wide open in amazement. "Right now?"

"Of course. All we need to do is, lean back, relax, and there we are."

"Oh, I see," said Pooh.

Let's imagine that we have walked down a narrow street in a large Chinese city and have found a small shop that sells scrolls painted in the classic manner. We go inside and ask to be shown something allegorical - something humorous, perhaps, but with some sort of Timeless Meaning. The shopkeeper smiles. "I have just the thing,", he tells us. "A copy of The Vinegar Tasters!" He leads us to a large table and unrolls the scroll, placing it down for us to examine. "Excuse me - I must attend to something for a moment," he says, and goes into the back of the shop, leaving us alone with the painting.

Although we can see that this is a fairly recent version, we know that the original was painted long ago; just when is uncertain. But by now, the theme of the painting is well known.

We see three men standing around a vat of vinegar. Each has dipped his finger into the vinegar and has tasted it. The expression on each man's face shows his individual reaction. Since the painting is allegorical, we are to understand that these are no ordinary vinegar tasters, but are instead representatives of the "Three Teachings" of China, and that the vinegar they are sampling represents the Essence of Life. The three masters are K'ung Fu-tse (Confucius), Buddha, and Lao-tse, author of the oldest existing book of Taoism. The first has a sour look on his face, the second wears a bitter expression, but the third man is smiling.

To Kung Fu-tse (kung FOOdsuh), life seemed rather sour. He believed that the present was out step with the past, and that the government of man on earth was out of harmony with the Way of Heaven, the government of, the universe. Therefore, he emphasized reverence for the Ancestors, as well as for the ancient rituals and ceremonies in which the emperor, as the Son of Heaven, acted as intermediary between limitless heaven and limited earth. Under Confucianism, the use of precisely measured court music, prescribed steps, actions, and phrases all added up to an extremely complex system of rituals, each used for a particular purpose at a particular time. A saying was recorded about K'ung Fu-tse: "If the mat was not straight, the Master would not sit." This ought to give an indication of the extent to which things were carried out under Confucianism.

To Buddha, the second figure in the painting, life on earth was bitter, filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. The world was seen as a setter of traps, a generator of illusions, a revolving wheel of pain for all creatures. In order to find peace, the Buddhist considered it necessary to transcend "the world of dust" and reach Nirvana, literally a state of "no wind." Although the essentially optimistic attitude of the Chinese altered Buddhism considerably after it was brought in from its native India, the devout Buddhist often saw the way to Nirvana interrupted all the same by the bitter wind of everyday existence.

To Lao-tse (LAOdsuh), the harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth from the very beginning could be found by anyone at any time, but not by following the rules of the Confucianists. As he stated in his Tao To Ching (DAO DEH JEENG), the "Tao Virtue Book," earth was in essence a reflection of heaven, run by the same laws - not by the laws of men. These laws affected not only the spinning of distant planets, but the activities of the birds in the forest and the fish in the sea. According to Lao-tse, the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance. The more forcing, the more trouble. Whether heavy or light, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life become sour.

To Lao-tse, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well. Rather than turn away from "the world of dust," Lao-tse advised others to "join the dust of the world." What he saw operating behind everything in heaven and earth he called Tao (DAO), "the Way."

A basic principle of Lao-tse's teaching was that this Way of the Universe could not be adequately described in words, and that it would be insulting both to its unlimited power and to the intelligent human mind to attempt to do so. Still, its nature could be understood, and those who cared the most about it, and the life from which it was inseparable, understood it best.

Over the centuries Lao-tse's classic teachings were developed and divided into philosophical, monastic, and folk religious forms. All of these could be included under the general heading of Taoism. But the basic Taoism that we are concerned with here is simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness. You might say that happy serenity is the most noticeable characteristic of the Taoist personality, and a subtle sense of humor is apparent even in the most profound Taoist writings, such as the twenty-five-hundred-year-old Tao Te Ching. In the writings of Taoism's second major writer, Chuang-tse (JUANGdsuh), quiet laughter seems to bubble up like water from a fountain.

"But what does that have to do with vinegar?' asked Pooh.

"I thought I had explained that," I said.

"I don't think so," said Pooh.

"Well, then, I'll explain it now."

"That's good." said Pooh.

In the painting, why is Lao-tse smiling? After all, that vinegar that represents life must certainly have an unpleasant taste, as the expressions on the faces of the other two men indicate. But, through working in harmony with life's circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive. From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind. Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet. That is the message of The Vinegar Tasters.

"Sweet? You mean like honey?" asked Pooh.

"Well, maybe not that sweet," I said. "That would be overdoing it a bit."

"Are we still supposed to be in China?" Pooh asked cautiously.

"No, we're through explaining and now we're back at the writing table."


"Well, we're just in time for something to eat," he added, wandering over to the kitchen cupboard.

- from
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

That we are at all is the great mystery. The unknown force animating us, present in all that is blooming and fading, is our deepest felt sense, and, strangely, the feeling we most often overlook. Like breathing, this aliveness-this passionate presence-is taken for granted, and we pay attention instead to an endless stream of thoughts.

Yet, as our attention comes to rest more in pure presence, a natural intelligence emerges. This intelligence bypasses our genetic gifts, IQ, age, cultural conditioning, and education. We might call it an intelligence of the heart.

Free of dogma, ideology, and religious beliefs, Dharma Dialogues point to and celebrate that silent luminous presence which awakens natural intelligence and suffuses our lives with love.

- Catherine Ingram from:

Arjuna Ardagh's new novel is now available and being shipped from this website. "I give you ten days, starting today. I will show you all you need to see. It is up to you."

Matt Thomson's life has become a bad joke. With Christmas just around the corner, he's lost his job, his car, his house, his wife and kids, and even the front door key to his buddy's attic room where he now sleeps. Matt is a hair's breadth from a leap off a high bridge into the welcome oblivion of icy waters. But a seemingly random encounter with a coffee shop Goddess instead dumps Matt into the lap of a very unlikely guru.

Meet Joey Murphy: ex-Merchant Marine, entrepreneur, teacher, wild man. His idea of a good time is playing Blind Man's baseball on the edge of a cliff. Joey takes Matt on the roller-coaster ride of his life, a ten day adventure dodging cop cars, debunking Mother Divine, visiting paradise artfully disguised as Taco Bell, and trading intimate secrets with total strangers.

Matt is reluctantly forced to shed old ideas like so many layers of skin, and he comes to love and trust his nemesis in the process. Joey does succeed in showing Matt most of what he needs to see, but in the end it is up to Matt to discover the ultimate punch-line for himself.

- Ajuna Ardagh from:

Gosh, folks, if you haven't seen this yet, please check it out...

- cee at:

"Before God Was God"

In my complete nature
there is neither I nor God.
Here, I am what I have always been
before I was I, or God was God.

Here, I remain as the uncreated and uncaused.
All things emanate from
and have their cause in
this causeless ground
in this fertile emptiness
in this which is neither dark nor light.
No eye has ever gazed upon this--
only from it.

- Adyashanti

... The ‘I’ that you seem to be is both the creator and perceiver (there’s only wholeness). A creator that has not been created but just IS! When you can ‘arrive’ at such a total moment of knowing, where are you then? One is at once here and now, and yet nowhere at all! - thus completely divorced from time and space.

All this had become clear to me when I experienced the Supersentience Light. ‘My existence’ that seems so real to me is also extremely nebulous, ethereal, whereas what is ‘solid’ is spirit itself. Clarity brings the reverse of what you had formerly believed. On the deepest level, existence and non-existence are seen to be the same. I see clearly there is no space and time as such because that would imply separation. Time and space have to be an illusion because of one simple fact - I am aware of time and space! This awareness of time and space is not only a fact but also the recognition that the awareness of it is not bound in time and space. My awareness of time and space is proof to me that ‘I AM’ is not bound by time and space. After all, how can ‘awareness’ be locked in time? Isn’t it the only changeless thing then? Awareness is timeless and I am that!

I am the dream of the Universe and, simultaneously, I am the subject of the dream. I am at once the creator of everything and I am everything created. I am the beginning and the end and yet beginningless and endless - I am my origin and the result of everything created and uncreated - I am the Self!

- Burt Harding at:

What can we expect from our meetings?

To learn not to expect. Not expecting is a great art. When you no longer live in expectation, you live in a new dimension. You are free. Your mind is free. Your body is free. To understand intellectually that we are not a psycho-physical entity in the process of becoming is a necessary first step, but this understanding is not sufficient. The fact that we are not the body must become an actual experience that penetrates and liberates our muscles, our internal organs and even our cells. An intellectual understanding that corresponds to a sudden, fleeting recognition of our true nature brings us a flash of pure joy, but when we have full knowledge that we are not the body, we are that joy.

How can I perceive in a sensorial fashion that I am not the body?

We all experience moments of happiness which are accompanied by a perception of expansion and relaxation. Before this body perception, we were in a state of timelessness, an unadulterated, causeless joy of which the physical sensation is simply the ultimate consequence. This joy perceives itself. At that moment, we were not a limited body in space, not a person. We knew ourselves in the immediacy of the moment. We all know this felicity without cause. When we explore deeply what we call our body, we discover that its very substance is this joy. So we no longer have the need or the taste or even the possibility of finding happiness in external objects.

How is this deep exploration accomplished?

Do not reject the body sensations and emotions that present themselves to you. Let them blossom fully in your awareness without any goal or any interference from the will. Progressively, the potential energy imprisoned in muscular tensions liberates itself, the dynamism of the psychosomatic structure exhausts itself, and the return toward fundamental stability takes place. This purification of body sensation is a great art. It requires patience, determination and courage. It finds its expression at the level of sensation through a gradual expansion of the body into the surrounding space and a simultaneous penetration of the somatic structure by that space. That space is not experienced as a simple absence of objects. When the attention frees itself from perceptions that hold it in thrall, it discovers itself as that self-luminous space which is the true substance of the body. At this moment, the duality between body and space is abolished. The body is expanded to the size of the universe and contains all things tangible and intangible in its heart. Nothing is external to it. We all have this body of joy, this awakened body, this body of universal welcoming. We are all complete, with no missing parts. Only explore your kingdom and take possession of it knowingly. Do not live any longer in that wretched shack of a limited body.

- An excerpt from
Eternity Now by Francis Lucille.

I went to a festival, and at it they had a bonfire. They invited us to write down what we wished for our lives, and throw it into the fire. I put in that I wanted to be guided by my intuition. When I go deep into meditation, I really enjoy it, but when I come out, I have a sense of losing it. Can you give me some insights on this?

We have the experience of feeling separate from God, from our intuition. There is confusion. We have a feeling that we want to step out of the confusion and be at peace, to know Truth for ourselves and to be happy. We think that if we can work, purify, and change ourselves, maybe someday we will be happy.

The only moment that you can ever be happy is this instant. That’s it. You cannot know Truth in the past or in the future.

How can we know Truth now? It is easy. All that we can give to anybody or anything is our attention. Check for yourself and see if this is true. Where your attention is, is what you experience. Correct?

If you put your attention on your toe, you experience your toe, if you put your attention on what you want, you experience longing, and if you put your attention on what is wrong, you experience wrongness or negativity. Where your attention is, is where you are giving all your energy to, in other words, what you are worshipping.

Your attention has been running here and there, after this attraction, that perception, thought after thought, always looking for something to make you happy. Nobody was able to tell you how to be happy, therefore you tried to listen to your intuition, because you felt that you could listen to some wisdom inside yourself, and as a result, your life would be better, more in harmony.

Is it possible to say, "Well, I can do it myself?"

Normally, our attention is focused on our thinking, our perceptions, on evaluating and labelling. You meet somebody and evaluating happens. Can I trust him or her? Am I attracted? Etc, etc. The mind is playing.

Nobody gets the idea to bring their attention to who they are. This instant you are Here. The mind has been running, thought after thought, and we have never had the idea to bring our attention to its source from where thoughts arise.

In this instant everything that exists is changing. However, these changes appear in Awareness, which is not changing. For example, there is space in this room. When we build walls, we have a room and the creation of inside and outside space. If we knock the walls down, the space is still here. It is unchanged whether the walls are here or not. Walls do not alter it. Space is space, but we don’t notice the space, correct?

We define it by something else.

We define it by what we sense. Different experiences appear - happiness, sadness, hot, cold, enjoying, suffering. These experiences come and go. Usually there is thinking; occasionally, not thinking. Every object is changing. Your experience is changing, your body is changing, and your thoughts are changing. Now, look in your own experience. Do you change? You were a young boy, and now you have the body of a man. Inside, do you sense yourself as different?


You don’t feel different, and if you ask somebody who is eighty, they will tell you the same. Beliefs might have changed, the body is changing, yet the essence of you does not feel different at all. You are the same. Speak in this moment of your own experience of this which is unchanging, You.

I want to hear how you speak because up to now you have never spoken about this. Nobody ever invited you to speak about this, not your teachers nor your parents. Nobody invited you to speak about This that is unchanging. What is your experience?


Yes, and you have been thinking that someone else is the source of love.


This is what they sing about in country western songs; "looking for love in all the wrong places." Most of us believe that love is outside of ourselves, and someone else is necessary for us to feel love. We do not know where to find love.

Now, This that is unchanging, what do you have to do for it?

To connect with it.

Who is connecting with it?

There is nothing in-between. Only getting rid of the hurdles.

What hurdles? What hurdles are there at this moment?

Nothing really. But when I go outside it might start.

Outside of where?

Outside of this space. Outside of love.

How can you go outside of love? Where does love end?

No, it does not end.

Okay. How are you going to go outside of love?

I’m getting distracted.

If I give you a diamond worth five billion dollars, will you forget where you keep it? If you have never had five billion dollars, will you go now and party and leave it on the beach somewhere?

No, no, no.

You won’t be distracted from this diamond.

I would run out of money very quickly. I’d give it to too many people.

This love you can give to as many people as you like; it can never run out. You cannot buy it for five billion dollars. Now, how can you get distracted from love?

Before you were distracted because you did not know love. You thought love came from women, and you were running after them, thinking that one of them is the source of love. Then when that did not work out, another one. Then trying to get the intuition which one was the correct one, right? Where was love hiding?

Now it is not hiding. I love connecting with it.

There are no hurdles. There never were any. At this moment, you don’t recognize the value of what you have just now discovered. Once you know the secret, nothing can distract you from it. Old thoughts can come up, but they push you back to love, because every time you pick up a thought that hasn’t been seen through yet, it is so painful compared to this love. Once you have found love, you don’t want to kiss anything else.

Is it a matter of love neutralizing the effects of old thoughts? Not trying to shove anything away or leaving them, but neutralizing them?

By simply staying with love every old pattern, based on this idea of non-love, will come up and be seen to be love itself.

The love affair at this moment does not seem overwhelming. I imagined it as a huge experience. Also, it does not seem like it is not existing. It is sort of constant, like a hum.

What you are saying is beautiful. Some people experience themselves as peace, silence, nothing, or everything. The truth is, It cannot be named, and the danger is that people think the experience should be a particular way. You are speaking from your own experience. Once you listen to this hum, really listen to it, really be it, it fills everything. This is the beauty. If you only pay a little attention to it, then you only experience it a little. The more you kiss it, the more you love it, the more it loves you.

Like during meditation in the morning?

This is permanent meditation. The experience you are speaking of now is about knowing who you are. What you are speaking about is Yourself, right? That which is unchanging, Here, always present. To be with Yourself is to be love, peace, and silence. Not as an idea, but actually, Now! This is the ultimate truth. There is none higher than this. This is the end of the search. Once you know this, you know everything. So simple.

I will take that in.

Yes, beautiful. Simply be. When attention wants to move from This that is unchanging, the moment you notice, simply return attention to yourself. Instant by instant, that’s all. Because through the senses, the entire universe is appearing in you. In This that you are, all time, all space, everything is appearing. Everything that is changing is appearing in That. All of eternity, every known universe, every known reality, every known galaxy is appearing in you. All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, everything is appearing in you. To know You is to know the source of everything.

How do we construct our life around love in our daily activities?

Very clear question. Now I have to ask you from your own experience. This instant now, breathing is happening. Who is breathing?

My body.

Okay. Who is seeing?

Somehow seeing is happening.

What are you doing to see? What are you doing to breathe?

It is happening automatically.

Now, how is life happening?

I am initiating things.

Who is this I that is initiating? Let’s find this I now. At this moment, your head is shaking. Who is doing that?

The automatic.

But then we say, "I am doing everything." This is arrogance, isn’t it? It is a lie.

Yes, I am not doing anything.

But we think that we are initiating, yes?


Okay. Find out who is initiating.

In this moment, I am not initiating. Everything is happening, and love and support surround me.

Even this I that is surrounded by love, look at what this is. Up to now you have been imagining that you are somebody. When you simply keep your attention on the truth of yourself, on this "unchanging," then all the habits to think a certain way will reveal themselves and show themselves to be mirages that give the appearance of suffering. You will find that daily life has always taken care of itself and will always take care.

As funny as that sounds, there is nothing you have to do, because you cannot control anything. There is not a you to do it! If you earnestly look for the you that is supposed to be doing everything, you will find there is nobody. This becomes your own experience that is absolutely unshakeable. Who is it that you think you are? Really check this out. You will make a fantastic discovery.

It is beautiful.

This is your first time in Satsang,and immediately you wanted to know. Beautiful! Somehow there has to be a ripeness to hear. If you have beliefs and are attached to them, then you cannot know this. When you are really willing to look for yourself, or if it happens by grace, then you realize! Once you know and you notice that different thoughts come up by themselves, you either keep returning to This that is unchanging, your own Self which is always present, or you investigate the thought/feeling and see if it is true and what you get for believing it.

You will find that something interesting starts to happen. We have a stream of thoughts which gives the feeling there is something wrong and that you need to get or do something to be happy. For example, that you have to meditate and search, work on yourself, or some strategy to try to become happy.

The moment you keep quiet with who you are, what is needed? You bathe in the ocean of love. This is too simple for most people.

But we still do physical things.

Even when physical things are happening, there is awareness of no doer. Attention can stay with You. You can check this now. We can talk together, and by simply staying with You, the talking is happening in space. Somehow the whole perception of everything is different.

Yes, it is growing.

In one instant. Just like that.

There is a constant pressure from society. If you are talking to somebody, they always want to know who you are. They want to know what you identify with. This could be a distraction.

Of course, it could be a distraction, but have you ever fallen in love with a woman?

Yeah, all the time.

When you fall in love with a woman, not much will distract you. Even eating and sleeping don’t distract you. You can only think of this person.

Not quite that much. But yeah. I did feel like cutting my whole day short.

This is a love affair with Truth.

Oh yeah, okay. (laughter)


So falling in love with Love.

Falling in love with Love itself.

And then it is always there.

Of course.

Yes, in abundance.

You know the Secret.

Okay, ways to fall in love with yourself?
Just this instant. Any way is a distraction, because a way is a postponement. A way means not now but later, in other words, a postponement. To be in love with Love means to be it, walking down the street, eating, making love, playing music. Everything, everything! You are simply Love Itself.

You can be in prison or in any circumstance, it does not stop you from This. Nothing can stop you from being with yourself. This is not dependent on time, place, circumstance, or anything else.

You may still be active, but you are with yourself. Then everything you say comes from That, and That shines through. Others may feel that and be attracted or not.

Thank you, that was good.

One correction, not "was" good, "is" good!

Oh, "is" good! Fine. That solves that. (laughter) Next.

- Isaac Shapiro at:

top of page

The Texture of Being
by Roy Whenary
"We do not need to search in order to find our true Being. We already are it, and the mind which searches for it is the very reason why we cannot find it."
Reviews, excerpts and ordering info.
Monkfish Publishing presents:
ENLIGHTENMENT BLUES. My Years with an American Guru, By Andre van der Braak.
THE LANKAVATARA SUTRA. An Epitomized Version, Translated by D.T. Suzuki. Compiled/Edited by Dwight Goddard.