What is Nonduality
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Nondual Highlights Issue #1806 Sunday, May 23, 2004 Editor: Mark
was opened to me ... in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew
more than if I had been many years together at a University ... I
saw it as in a great deep in the internal; for I had a thorough
view of the Universe, as a complex moving fullness wherein all
things are couched and wrapped up.
- Jacob Boehme
To be awake is to be unconditionally open to all that is. It is to be completely without prior opinion or assumption about anything. To stay awake is to surrender, totally, to unedited and unrestricted awareness, to abandon the pretense of both past and future.
~~Scott Morrison. from DailyDharma
There's an old story about a sailing vessel off the coast of Brazil. The crew had run out of fresh water and when they spotted another vessel they signaled to them to please come and meet them, that they were out of fresh water, which is a very dangerous thing on the ocean. They were out of sight of land. And so they signaled, "We need water. We'll send some boats over." And they got back the signal, "Put down your buckets where you are." Although they were out of sight of land, they were where the Amazon River empties into the ocean. It's such a massive river that even out of sight of land, there is still fresh water. So, "put down your buckets where you are." Our practice and our realization is right where we are. There is nothing missing right here. In one of the enlightenment stories in the Dentoroku (Transmission of Light), the stories that Keizan Zenji compiled of the enlightenment experiences or koans related to each of the ancestors of the Soto lineage, there is one I want to share with you from Lex Hixon's translation in Living Buddha Zen (Transmission #40), Tao Ying to Tao P'i:
The living Buddha Tao Ying enters the Dharma Hall and remarks to the assembled practitioners: "If you wish to attain a limitless result, you must become a limitless being. Since you already are such a being, why become anxious to bring about any such result?"
This is like Suzuki Roshi's teaching, "You're perfect just as you are" or Matsu's "This very mind is Buddha." So, "since you already are such a limitless being, why be anxious about such a result?" So are we practicing just to express this limitless being, or because we think we're not a limitless being? And once we discover we are a limitless being, will we continue practicing? Well, of course. That's what limitless beings do. This is Dogen Zenji's practice-enlightenment, practice-realization. This practice itself expresses the limitlessness which is our essential being. Another one of the stories in this collection is (Transmission #37) Yao-shan to Yun-yen:
The living Buddha asks a wandering monk who appears at the monastery one day, "Where have you practiced?" The successor says, "Twenty years under Pai-chang." "What does he teach?"
"He usually says, My expression contains all hundred flavors."
"What is the total expression neither salty nor bland?" The monk hesitates to make any statement.
During this moment, the Awakened One breaks through. "If you remain even slightly hesitant, what are you going to do about the realm of birth and death that stands right here before your eyes?"
Becoming more bold, the destined successor replies, "There is no birth and there is no death."
The Master says, "Twenty years with the wonderful Pai-chang has still not freed you from habitual affirmation and habitual negation. I ask you again plainly, what does Pai-chang teach?"
Successor: "He often remarks, Look beyond the three modes of looking. Understand beyond the six modes of understanding."
Master: "That kind of instruction has no connection whatever to actual awakening. What does Pai-chang really teach?"
The successor says, "Once Master Pai-chang entered the Dharma Hall to deliver a discourse. The monks were standing expectantly in straight rows. Suddenly the sage lunged at us fiercely, swinging his large wooden staff. We scattered in every direction. In full voice he then called out, Oh monks! Heads turned and eyes looked and Pai-chang asked gently, What is it? What is it?."
The Master says, "Thanks to your kindness today, I have finally been able to come face to face with my marvelous brother Pai-chang."
In his commentary, Lex Hixon says,
Yun-yen is not merely repeating his master's words. He has realized the spirit of Pai-chang's teachings which he reports carefully to the Awakened One. Hesitating at first to make any statement at all that would limit the richness of what he has received, only the non-teaching "What is it? What is it?" has Yun-yen overlooked. Why? Because it is more subtle than the subtle, more essential than the essential. Under the relentless probing of Buddha Yao-shan, the submerged memory of this non-teaching arises from early in his discipleship.
Remembering the fierce swinging of the wooden staff, Yun-yen has suddenly become sensitive again to the dangerous realm of birth and death, which from an absolute point of view, he has mistakenly dismissed. "What is it? What is it?" Spoken twice, almost in a whisper, clears away both absolute and relative. This is what our ancient Japanese guide calls "releasing the handhold on the rockface and leaping from the precipice."
This question comes up again and again throughout Zen history. This is what Seppo (Hsueh-Feng) asked the monks who came to his gate, "What is it?" And what Yun-men said, "What's the matter with you?" What is the business that brings us here? Please investigate this: "What is it?" "What is it you're doing here?" I don't ask you to look for the words for it. Words are secondary. I want you to find the feel of it. I want you to find the fire of it. I want you to touch the source of your life force, to feel the joy and the love that can come from living from the source of your being. This is taking refuge: to throw yourself completely into the aliveness of your life. It's pretty risky. You could lose yourself. There's nothing to hold onto.
In the onrushing, kaleidoscopic chaos of our life there is nothing substantial to hold onto. Arising moment after moment after moment, we can't identify with any of it. It arises and passes away. In the midst of the openness of this question, "What?...What?...What?..." When you touch that really open place, let it enlarge, let it expand, let it explode your limited view of a substantial separate self and allow you to experience the boundlessness of your being. Seeing yourself in everything. This is Tung-shan's "It's like facing the jewel mirror...form and image behold each other. You are not it. It actually is you." This doesn't mean that when he saw his reflection in the stream, that he saw that his reflection was him. It meant that the water was him, the rocks were him, everything...the onrushing stream was not separate from himself. Wherever he looked was a jeweled mirror. Whatever he saw was not separate. This is awakening to the totality of who you are and what you are. It's not that you disappear. You are you and you are everything, simultaneously. The relative and absolute intermingle and interpenetrate, as we chanted this morning in "Merging of Difference and Unity." You are you and you are not separate from anything. It begins with breath. Just breathing in and breathing out. What is inside, what is outside? Following your breath in your hara, deep at the bottom of your belly, let it out all the way...let it go completely. Just exhale and don't worry about the inhale. The exhale will become an inhale, of its own. Trust it. There, at the bottom of your breath, between exhale and inhale, is a very quiet moment. Stay right there. Be with whatever arises, right there.
- excerpt from Right There Where You're Standing - A Dharma Talk by Zenkei Blanche Hartman
More here: http://www.intrex.net/chzg/Hartman2.htm
In 1999, I was
working in New Jersey, directing the natural & organic foods
division of a prominent nationwide wholesale distributor. After
several decades in this business, I had achieved a level of
success within my field that had brought me all the material and
social blessings that I could have hoped for. Moreover, I was
relatively free from illusions about any of it -- almost 3
decades of zen practice had disabused me of the notion that any
of it amounted to anything. It was simply service, and I also
recognized intuitively that none of it was my doing, that I was
simply being used. This had always been my "prayer" --
that I might be an unobstructed instrument -- "not my will,
Nevertheless, even after many "kensho", which repeatedly had granted the confirming gift of "clear seeing", a certain dryness had crept into my soul, something I could never quite "put my finger on", but there regardless, patiently gnawing at my heart. Perhaps those who have delved deeply into Advaita might relate.
At any rate, our office had just been wired for the internet, and I was naturally curious about this new capacity. I began by browsing into "spiritual" topics, and was amazed by what was available for perusal. One late morning, in between spreadsheets and store designs, I happened upon a site that featured a picture of Mother Meera. I had recently come across an article in a magazine about her, but I was unprepared for what followed.
As her murti photo slowly opened on my screen, I fell into a stunned silence, and over an hour passed by before I was even able to inhale. I then rose, shaken, from my desk, informed my secretary that I was going out for lunch, and drove to a near-by pond to walk along the banks and let what had just "happened" sort itself out.
Within moments, I found my gaze lifted towards the sky, and as I glimpsed the brilliant sun above my head, it felt as if Meera reached in and squeezed my heart till it simply burst from the pressure. A waterfalling cascade of deep sobbing tears erupted from my core, searing me like volcanic lava. I fell down on my knees, utterly overwhelmed and engulfed in Mercy. This was like nothing I could have ever imagined! I was devastated by the experience, as if a totally new organ had spontaneously developed in my chest, and I could not cease from weeping constantly over the coming months. All my previous experiences could not touch this -- it was a totally vulnerable openess to the slightest appearance of anything, coupled with a tender rawness that found me broken open and flooded by a love I had no name for.
Although I had toyed with poetry back in college, I hadn't written a word for 30 years, but now I suddenly could not stop -- it was as if something urgently wanted to communicate itself, and I was merely the vehicle for this lovingness that wanted to express itself through me.
After several months of this "communion", I received an interior guidance from Meera, turning me over to an odd character I had never heard of -- Nisargadatta Maharaj. I had never been attracted to Hinduism, especially with my zen background, but a woman friend who was undergoing cancer surgery told me during a hospital visit with her that she had no idea why, but she felt compelled to offer me a book that had come into her possession. It was a book of dialogues with Sri Niz. Every day at lunch I read several paragraphs, and then spent the rest of the time allowing Niz's words to penetrate.
When Niz took over the steering wheel, I was of course a "goner", and it was "Mr. Natural" who also referred me to Ramana. Ramana then kindly led me to Mazie. How could I have ever suspected that Beloved likes to play this way -- revealing Itself in the person of a ragamuffin smile that would crush my arrogance with a slight turn of the lips, a wink, a touch, a true and natural kindness to all sentience, a poetry of all-encompassing embrace, a shattering desire?
All that had transpired up to this point was, as it turned out, merely preparation. All the "getting it", all the tears, all the turmoil, the realizations, the service - all had been simply the sheaths wrapped around this beating heart, this innocence waking up to itself, burning a path to this door of disrobing. Of course, it couldn't have happened in any other way, nor could I have possibly strategized my way to this threshold, manipulated myself into this heartspace, this availability to have the whole house of cards go up in flames. No cross-legged sitting, no intellectual resonance, no bahkti heart throb, no wisdom chatter, no valiant striving, no perpetual service - none of it was of any value whatsoever, since it was never any of my doing from the start, and was in fact nothing but a kind of dreaming, a trick of the imagination, although if I had been told such anywhere or at any time along the way, I might have nodded in agreement, but I would not have had any real understanding, just the experience of the concept.
When Beloved took the actual form of myself as Mazie, every motion of "my being" re-capitulated itself in a way I never could have expected, hoped for, longed for, but in the "spaciousness" of relationship, of "two-not-two".
Grace. Yes. I could finally be honest. I could finally relinquish being a knower. I could see my reluctance, my resistance, my chronic defensiveness, "my story", within the light of unconditional loving, and I could finally come to rest in that nakedness, knowing it would not harm me. Only then, and ONLY then, could compassion's seeds begin to sprout, filling this soul garden with the wonder of surrender, the bliss of surrender, the annihilation of the separate and separative self-sense that would have things be other than they are, have life be other than it is, and so I sing praise to the perfection of this path, which is not a path, but indeed life itself, becoming aware of itself in the ordinary forms of this human-ness, this Grace of our startling appearance here, these precious forms that move and change like water, ever nourishing, blessing itself in a symphony of awe and heart-broken gratitude.
I love you, Mazie!
- Robert O'Hearn on AdyashantiSatsang
Highest Height, Deepest Depth
I am reminded of a beautiful truth or insight often indicated metaphorically. The top of the mountain, the highest height, symbolically can refer to the spiritual/psychic height of Sahasarara Chakra. When Kundalini Shakti moves up, its last resting place is the "top of the mountain." From there, if one is totally and utterly indifferent to the highest height, there can be a "jump off the cliff" so to speak. Grace allows for this jump into the arms of Divine Beloved. It requires total faith and trust in the Guru/God/Self/Heart/ or call it what you will for the ultimate surrender of the mind itself. It is with that "fall" into the deepest abyss of emptiness that One Knows the Highest Height and the Deepest Depth are not different. The Fullest Fullness and the Emptiest Emptiness are Totally Identical. It is easy to see why mystics become mad, break with traditions, and are willing to sing their songs even when they are despised. With the cup always to the lips brimming with divine intoxication, it is easy to see why mystics become poets. The Same Sameness Everywhere.
- Harsha, submitted to NDS
The Wind Isn't Depressed: Robert Bly Talks With Michael Ventura About Art, Madness, And The Joy Of Loss http://www.thesunmagazine.org/341_Bly.pdf
also check out sunbeams at: http://www.thesunmagazine.org/may2004.html
Recommended by Mary Bianco on NDS
The Sage Ribhu
taught his disciple the supreme Truth of the One Brahman (Pure
Consciousness) without a second. However, Nidagha, in spite of
his erudition and understanding, did not get sufficient
conviction to adopt and follow the path of Self-Knowledge (Jnana
Yoga), but settled down in his native town to lead a life devoted
to the observance of ceremonial religion (Bhakti Yoga). But the
Sage loved his disciple as deeply as the latter venerated his
Master. In spite of his age, Ribhu would himself go to his
disciple in the town, just to see how far the latter had outgrown
his ritualism. At times the Sage went in disguise, so that he
might observe how Nidagha would act when he, did not know that he
was being observed by his Master. On one such occasion Ribhu, who
had put on the disguise of a village rustic, found Nidagha
intently watching a royal procession. Unrecognized by the
town-dweller Nidagha, the village rustic enquired what the bustle
was all about, and was told that the king was going in the
"Oh! it is the king. He goes in the procession! But where is he?" asked the rustic. "There, on the elephant," said Nidagha. "You say the king is on the elephant. Yes, I see the two," said the rustic, "but which is the king and which is the elephant?" "What!" exclaimed Nidagha. "You see the two, but do not know that the man above is the king and the animal below is the elephant? What is the use of talking to a man like you?" "Pray, be not impatient with an ignorant man like me," begged the rustic. "But you said above and below" what do they mean?"
Nidagha could stand it no more. "You see the king and the elephant, the one above and the other below. Yet you want to know what is meant by 'above' and 'below'" burst out Nidagha. "If things seen and words spoken can convey so little to you, action alone can teach you. Bend forward, and you will know it all too well." The rustic did as he was told. Nidagha got on his shoulders and said: "Know it now. I am above as the king, you are below as the elephant. Is that clear enough?" "No, not yet," was the rustic's gentle reply. "You say you are above like the king, and I am below like the elephant. The 'king', the 'elephant', 'above' and 'below'" so far it is clear. But pray, tell me what you mean by 'I' and 'you'?"
When Nidagha was thus confronted all of a sudden with. the mighty problem of defining a 'you' apart from an 'I', light dawned on his mind. At once he jumped down and fell at his Master's feet saying: "Who else but my venerable Master, Ribhu, could have thus drawn my mind from the superficialities of physical existence to the true Being of the Self? Oh! Gracious Master, I crave thy blessings"
- A Story of Sage Ribhu & his Disciple Nidagha (Chapter 26 of the Ribhu Gita) as told by Ramana Maharshi
Though thin and weak
Inevitably will bud
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