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#1888 - Thursday, August 12, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

This is Part 3 of the review/summary of The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, edited by John J. Prendergast, Peter Fenner, and Sheila Krystal. Information about this book is available at  

My research notes on non-referential compassion are in this issue.  

Also in this issue I'll continue the In Nonduality Salon series, which covers the highlights from emails posted during the first nine months of Nonduality Salon, a span of time during which there were no Highlights.      

The Sacred Mirror  

Chapter 3: Love Returning for Itself. An interview with Adyashanti

Interview by John Prendergast and Sheila Krystal  

Adyashanti on right  

Adyashanti is a significant character in this book since he is an outsider to the profession of psychotherapy yet works one on one with people who are awakening. His perspectives on nondual therapy would seem to be important. The interviewers ask over two dozen excellent questions, not including follow-up questions and comments. This chapter/interview is about 30 pages long. I'll select a few questions and extract what I believe to be the kernel of Adyashanti's response to each question:  

"Is the avoidance of this emptiness the root of human suffering?"  

"I like to call it the dirty little secret of humanity. It's the emptiness, the abyss, that's right in the middle of every human being ... just waiting for some recognition of it. We tend to do everything in our power to dance around it."  

"Do you have any advice for therapists?"  

"Endeavor to be as honest yourself and with yourself as you would ask whoever you're with to be. To me, this is the true field of transformation."  

"A woman recently asked you at a public meeting whether you thought therapy would help her awaken, and you answered, 'No." Why is that?"  

"In a traditional sense, therapy is trying to put a nicer looking tutu or lipstick on the pig, which is great. It makes the story better and enables one to dream better, which means to function as an ego better."  

"What can we do as therapists, if anything, to help people awaken?"  

"Well, be awakened yourself. If one isn't to some extent awake, there's nothing you can do, and you're better off leaving the whole subject alone, because you'll probably do more damage than good."  

"What is our role as spiritual therapists in bringing people to the threshold (of awakening) and maybe even facilitating that arrival? "  

"That's a hard one for me, to be quite honest. My only job is to be myself. That's what I do. My job isn't to wake people up. I don't even feel that people need to be awake. It's none of my damn business whether they're awake or whether they want to be awake. ... I don't think there is a spiritual psychotherapy, because as soon as it becomes that, it's not spiritual anymore, it's just more models. I think there can be a spiritual psychotherapist, which is a transformed, awakened psychotherapist."  


Not all questons in this chapter bear directly on therapy. Most are of the nature of spiritual psychology and nondual existence. Topics discussed include Ground of Being, grace, embodiment, "watching-experiencing," "love returning for itself," dreaming well, authentic feeling, ego and awakening, thought and Reality, the core story, readiness to awaken, awakening and the subtle body.  

~ ~ ~  

The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, edited by John J. Prendergast, Peter Fenner, and Sheila Krystal.   Information about this book is available at      

Jerry Katz  

Research notes:  

Non-referential Compassion    

~ ~ ~    


Nonreferential compassion is compassion that goes beyond the distinction between self and other, where you no longer hold the other person as separate from you, or their suffering (or joy) as different from your own. Beyond the limited realm of the 'three spheres', which are:

  ~ ~ ~    


The kind of compassion we have described so far is called "compassion with reference to sentient beings." A dualism lingers here, however, because we are still caught by the threefold idea of (1) ourselves experiencing the compassion, (2) other beings as the objects of compassion, and (3) the actual act of feeling compassion through understanding or perceiving the suffering of others.

This framework prepares our path in the Mahayana. Once this kind of compassion has been established, we arrive at a second understanding: The realization begins to grow that the self which is feeling the compassion, the objects of the compassion, and the compassion itself are all in a certain sense illusory. We see that these three aspects belong to a conventional, not ultimate, reality. They are nothing in themselves, but simply illusions that create the appearance of a dualistic framework. Perceiving these illusions and thereby understanding the true emptiness of all phenomena and experience is what we call "compassion with reference to all phenomena." This is the main path of Mahayana practice.

From this second kind of compassion a third develops, "non-referential compassion." Here we entirely transcend any concern with subject/object reference. It is the ultimate experience that results in Buddhahood. All these three levels of compassion are connected, so if we begin with the basic level by developing loving-kindness and compassion towards all 1iving beings, we lay a foundation which guarantees that our path will lead directly to Enlightenment.

    ~ ~ ~     from   Preliminaries to a Period of Meditation
First, at the beginning of every period of meditation, imagine your root guru sitting on a lotus-and-moon seat above your head. His body is radiant and his face happy and smiling as he regards all beings with nonreferential compassion. In him, all the root and lineage gurus are present.   With intense respect and devotion, repeat the lineage prayer if you wish and, in particular, the following prayer a hundred or a thousand times.   I pray for your blessing, my guru, great and completely worthy spiritual friend. I pray that you will cause love, compassion and bodhicitta to arise in my mind.

Then, imagine that your guru descends through the aperture of Brahma and sits in your heart in a pavilion of light, like an open shell. This exercise in intense respect and devotion is known as guru yoga. It is important to begin every period of meditation this way.


~ ~ ~



Altuism with reference to individuals, or even groups of beings, is
laudable, and certainly is associated with compassion in its normal

But the compassion we should all be trying to generate, and the only
real "compassion" which serves our purposes (liberating all beings
from Samsara), is nonreferential compassion, the compassion without
reference point. The best approximation to this compassion, for
those of us not passed beyond dualistic distinctions between self
and other, is the compassion which arises when we realize that all
beings, including ourselves, suffer entirely due to their mistaken
clinging to such dualistic view. Due to our ignorance, we continue
to think in terms of self vs. other, USA vs. China, Tibet Vs. China,
or what-have-you. We should certainly do what we can to allay our
own and other's temporary suffering, but I would suggest that our
focus should be on developing our accumulations of merit and wisdom,
through our practice of meditation and the other paramitas. It may
take a bit longer (!), but only through perfecting our accumulations
can we experience the truly liberating compassion, the compassion
beyond words, beyond reference point, and beyond dualism.

Compassionate action which focuses on a dualistic reference point
may be part of perfecting our accumulations, but it is hard to say
for certain whether the results of such actions are meritorious in
the first place. Boycotts and political action are temporary, and
their effects are uncertain, as others have already discussed. On
the other hand, practice according to one's teacher's instructions
has "permanent" benefit, and the effects of such practice are

Use your time and energy wisely.


~ ~ ~


There is reference to non-referential compassion in the Buddhist talks at this site:


~ ~ ~



Sentient beings are like water moons not only from the perspective of their impermanence, but also from the perspective that even the moon that appears to be moving there is not really a moon at all. It is a mere appearance that is empty of inherent nature. Similarly, not only are sentient beings impermanent, they aren't real. They are just like the sentient beings that appear in dreams.

This is an expression of the third type of compassion: non-referential compassion. It is called this because its focus is the emptiness of sentient beings. The nature of sentient beings is that they have no nature. They have no inherent essence but they don't know that, and as a result of believing in their own true existence they suffer. And for this reason we feel compassion for them.


~ ~ ~



 Compassion without representations, non-referential compassion


~ ~ ~



Act from emptiness knowing the effects of your actions.
When you understand not doing, observe the three vows.
With non-referential compassion work to help beings
Keep the two ways of growing inseparable - that's my sincere advice.


~ ~ ~


from A teaching by Lama Karma Rinchen
On Placing The Body, Speech, And Mind In Seclusion

Q:  Could you talk a little bit about the ultimate nature of compassion?

A:  The ultimate kind of compassion that the Buddha taught is called non-referential compassionNon-referential compassion is non-dual.  It realizes that the object of compassion has no nature of its own, that the one who is meditating on compassion has no nature of their own, and that compassion itself has no nature either.  That is the type of compassion that the Buddha has: compassion that is without reference.  

            Along these lines, the Buddha taught three kinds of compassion, or three stages.  Compassion, in general, means that when you look at some one, that you want them to be free of suffering.  The first type of compassion is called compassion that focuses on sentient beings.  This identifies that the cause of suffering that you want sentient beings to be free from is the clinging to the true existence of self.  When someone believes in the true existence of self, they will just suffer.  The only reason that sentient beings suffer is because they think there is a “me” that has difficulties and problems.  We look at sentient beings that cling to a true existence of self, where there is no self, and we feel compassion for them as a result because they suffer due to this mistaken belief that there is a truly existent self.  

            The second kind of compassion is called compassion that focuses on the quality of sentient beings.  That quality is impermanence.  For sentient beings, every aspect of their experience is impermanent.  The experience of sentient beings changes from moment to moment, and the same is true of their suffering.  But most sentient beings do not know that, and they cling to things as being permanent, and as a result they suffer.  So, we feel compassion for them because they suffer from this type of ignorance of the nature of genuine reality.

            The third type of compassion is non-referential compassion that is based on the understanding that the true and genuine nature of reality is emptiness beyond conceptual fabrication.  Sentient beings suffer because they do not realize that.  They take things to be truly existent.  The ultimate perfection of this third type of compassion is total non-referential compassion.

Q:  Are the only ones that practice this true compassion, the non-referential compassion, the enlightened Bodhisattvas that are Lamas, or great masters?

A:  No, it is not like that, because in the Mahayana there are teachings that describe lots of different Bodhisattvas.  There are Bodhisattvas that are rulers, Bodhisattvas who are ministers, Bodhisattvas who are wealthy business people, and there are Bodhisattvas who are children. There can be a Bodhisattva in any activity of life.  The main characteristic of a Bodhisattva is their motivation.  The motivation of a Bodhisattva is compassion and love for all, not biased toward one group, and anger or displeasure toward another group, but compassion for everybody, equally.

            With this great motivation of all-encompassing love and compassion, people of power can accomplish great things.  For example, if a military general is a Bodhisattva, and has great compassion, their outward conduct could appear to be combative, but what they are actually accomplishing, if they are skilful, and what they can do, is to prevent harm.  There are lots of stories told in the Mahayana teachings about people who did things like that, but we do not have much time to go into that tonight.


~ ~ ~



  FollowerofBuddism, In the general teachings of the Mahayana there are three types of Compassion each more profound then the previous type.  

1. Outer Compassion: This kind of compassion is the kind we feel when we see someone suffering. When we look at the world and see the many negative, destructive acts human do to each other. We can't help but feel Compassion for the victims and of course some indignation particularly if we think some group of humans are quite purposely creating suffering for others groups. 

Also fear that we might be the next victim or that someone is going to become so negative and powerful that the whole situation will get beyond any control. The correct thing to do is to seperate our compassion from our reaction of anger and fear, anger and fear are the reasons for this kind of thing in the first place only Compassion will lead us out of the valley of the shadow.  

2. Inner Compassion: This kind of Compassion takes into account the situation of Samsara as a whole. It results from looking at the world and seeing the interconnectedness of suffering and confusion, desire, and hatred. The interconnectedness of all confused beings with each other. We gain a little perspective on those negative actions we can see them in the context of all the suffering that has ever occurred and we see the suffering that is Karmically in store for all of us as Samsaric beings. This should ingender in us the desire to end this cycle of confusion-- suffering , suffering-- confusion. If we think we can do some outward thing that will fundamentaly change this situation we are being naive, most of the negative actions are attempts to change things based on, perceived injustice, self righteous indignation, and self cherishing paranoia. Instead we should use our ability to have the first kind of Compassion to soften our self-clinging which is the inner form of confusion. We can combine these two Compassions to inspire us to strive toward the cessation of confusion in all beings. We see the fruition suffering and the cause of suffering and the whole situation of suffering. Enlightenment is the solution to suffering but for suffering to really cease all beings must become Enlightened, by our own Enlightenment we will be able to use the Wisdom of Enlightenment to help others to become Enlightened. So by our striving to become Enlightened we are doing one of the best things we can possibly do to heal the situation. It is a matter of focusing on method.  

3. Non-referential Compassion: This highest type of Compassion is the Compassion of Enlightened beings. Their Compassion is totally integrated into their experience it doesn't require a view of anything to occur it needs no reference points it is spontaneous. So it is said "Avalokiteshvara doesn't have Compassion he is Compassion." The Compassion of Enlightened beings uses the Wisdom of Enlightenment to do whatever can be done just spontaneously. So the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas appear in this world when we are at a point that they can benefit us. And of course we in turn resolve to become Enlightened beings and so on..... only thus will suffering really cease.  

I congratulate you on your honesty and directness it is often very difficult to take a position you know will "draw fire" from others. This means your quite sincere and genuine in your Compassion and desire to help others. You will do well at this stuff with that kind of  inner fearlessness. That is the stuff Bodhisattvas are made of.  


Jerry Katz  

The Shusher  

Every orthodox Synagogue has a man -- always an older man very devoted to prayer, never mean, and somewhat affable in nature -- whose job it is to restore absolute silence in the midst of the religious service by half-turning in his seat in the direction of the noisy congregants, putting his index finger vertically in front of his lips, and aspirating a firm and clearly audible, "Shhhhhhhhh."  

The purpose of the shusher is to remind people they are in the presence of great teachings and to show respect.  

But if people come together and there is no focus upon a great teaching, why bother? Then it's called a par-ty. Why then even the shusher gets shickered.      

In Nonduality Salon

Selected posts from the early days of Nonduality Salon  

Gene Poole  

Dear all NonDualisters...

Once again my "unique perspecive" is offered...

The 'NonDual' reality is infintely inclusive.

This means that all questions and experiences are 'subsumed' or consumed
into it.

This 'nondual' perspective is also _exclusive_...of that which would
distort the nondual.

Of course, that which would distort the nondual, does not have a chance,
because the nondual _includes_ and subsumes that which would distort the

In this way, the nondual continually 'purifies' itself of what is not
nondual, yet as 'everything', the nondual is the arena in which all
questioning and seeking takes place.

Seeing this, understanding that consciousness may be said to be like a
'stage' upon which many dramas are enacted, a stage whose settings may
change unpredictably, but which stage itself _never_ changes, is possible.
It can be arranged by deliberate teachings, it can be intuited, it is

The questions of suffering and pain are all occuring within the nondual,
which itself (the nnodual) is usually unseen. The stage-settings include
this list, and the times of our lives which are dedicated to reading,
contemplating, and responding. The nondual is easily forgotten, due to the
intensity of the dramas which are enacted within it.

The perspective that all of life, the universe, and everything, are one
'gigantic' integrated whole, available to consciousness, is the perspective
which opens the door to the realization of the nondual. The realization
itself, as has been said, is unspeakable (although I try).

It is not enough to refer to or to rearrange the various many 'teachings'
and 'beliefs' available to us. Instead, one may see their (the teachings)
insufficiency and inadequacies, and move beyond them, into a acceptance of
one's actual nature, which is both 'dual' and nondual.

The acceptance of both the dual and the nondual is a necessary step, in my
educated opinion. Perhaps you have seen the futility of attempting to
disqualify pieces of reality on the basis that they are not 'real'...pain
is an excellent axample, and that may be exactly what pain is for...

I ask your indulgence; bear with me as I say the above many times.

I have not found any magical cures, drugs, or incantations. I have never
found a sure-fire formula to end suffering. And I have never experienced
any but the demented, charlatans, or utter fools, to advocate or believe
that such things exist.

The offering of the nondual perspective is not designed to end suffering,
to answer all duality-originated questions, or for any other 'practical'
purpose. There is no prescription offered, no cure held forth, no relief in
sight. There is NO REMEDY.

One may have ideas about the nondual, and the nondual consumes all such
ideas. One may live in the utmost of dire distress and drama, in pain and
distraction, and still have the nondual perspective, or not. There are
those who 'have' the nondual perspective and there are those who do not,
but all are contained in the gigantic set of ONE which is all that is; it
is all interlinked in such a way that nothing is meaningless, and also so
that nothing has any meaning in and by itself. That is nonduality. And that
is the core of the Buddhist doctrine of interdependent originations, which
is the very core of Buddhist teachings (Dharma).

Buddha did NOT say that 'All is suffering'; instead, he said that "The
cause of suffering is _dukka_", or loss of integrity/wholeness. Integrity,
or lack of it, is what determines our status as sufferers. The
Pali-language word 'dukka' means exactly "loss of or lack of integrity".
(Split 'ka' or 'dual-'ka')

To regain integrity is to end suffering.

To regain integrity, one may adopt the nondual perspective, which is to
invite reality to replace opinion.

If one chants opinions continually, if one is not open to raw, unprocessed
reality, if one has an axe to grind, a grudge to bear, blame to place, an
agenda to enact, unfulfilled desires, supressed fears, shame, or 'karmic
momentum' , one may have a difficult time seeing the value of regaining
integrity by simply being unbiased and open for say, five minutes every
day, as an experiment.

If one grasps and clings to 'reasons' and 'causes', one will not feel and
really know the interlinked interdependent nature of the whole of what is.
If one feels that one must alter what is before it can be accepted, one is
indeed attempting the impossible. And if one stakes anything upon making
reality over into what is desired, one is seriously deluded. Yet, that is
the state of humanity, is it not?

Root out and let go of resentment. Break the chain of pain. Open the link
which you are, to expand and contain all of what is, chainless.

Resentment (the re: sending of pain) is the root of pain. Think about it.

Disabusement is my amusement...

==Gene Poole==

"If one doth relish the role of fool, good sir, one need only transmit
wisdom via the common network of news; for one may be a clown wearing the
mask of genius, or genius masked as clown, and none is the wiser for the
effort." [act 17.01, _A Midsummer Night's Fungi_/Wm Shakespore]

"Borne of the effort of comprehension, inspiration cavorts in lands unseen
by the blind." A. Textfile    

~ ~ ~    

Jan Barendrecht  

All "personal" dealings ended some 29 years ago and before that there was
quite some action "for a better world". Surrender is a state that, once
adopted, leads to a swift annihilation of the "I" and surrender works
without a subject to surrender to - I was left to no choice but total
(inner) passivity. Unfamiliar with spiritual life here, I considered living
in a nondual state natural. As there was perfect peace of mind there was no
reason to undertake anything (lifestyle: "hermit with a job"). When the job
ended 20 years too early there was a kind of early retirement - on an
archipelago nicknamed "islas afortunadas (happy islands)". With bad
eyesight, there is hardly watching TV so only "happy" locals and tourists
are observed. Before subscription to the K. list there was no notion that
spiritual life could pose difficulties.  


Jan. Have been reading your posts with a feeling of great warmth. Hard
to add anything. Very grateful for your company. Your emphasis on Ahimsa
reminds me very much of Chitrabhanu Ji whom I met in late 1970s and had the
opportunity to be with him for several years. As a young disciple, I often used
to walk him home after his lectures. My questions on the way were typically
about meditation, pranayama, upa yoga (yoga of awareness) and various samadhis.
He was always delighted to answer and enjoyed the discussions as much as I
did. He ended virtually every conversation with the reminder that the highest
state is a state of perfect nonviolence. Now he is about 76. Our less frequent
conversations still end the same way. Fortunate are those who seek peace and
perfect balance. Fortunate are those that find the path of non-violence and
love. Fortunate are those who find the company of such seekers and teachers.
May the light of love lead everyone to their fulfillment. Again thanks Jan. God
bless everyone with everything that is best in life.

  ~ ~ ~    

Jerry Katz  

What do Ma Pater Willow, An Toron Joseph Howe, Gi Vilke Tobin, He Halif
Livingstone, Du Calga Tower, St. Montre Quinpool have in common?

Are they great spiritual Masters? Welll.... They are people that wanted
a name suitable for a Spiritual Master and found one thusly:

They took the first two letters of their middle name, the first five
letters of the city they were born in, and the name of the street they
live on. There you have it. What famous Masters have we on this List?

Ma Pater Willow    

~ ~ ~    

David Hodges  

As I was performing my running sadhana this morning, which involves
meditation while running by the ocean, I passed a woman who was out for a
walk and who was holding and fiddling with a Walkman, and who had
headphones over her ears. While the waves rolled on the shore, while the
clouds scudded in the sky, while the sounds of the wind blowing and the
surf pounding and the crickets in the bushes chirping were there for the
taking, she was preoccupied with the entertainment she had brought for

Is this not what we all do? We ignore What Is because we think the drama we
brought for ourselves is more interesting? How much better to turn off the
Walkman, and tune into the sounds and sights of Everything. How much better
to let our consciousness widen to the width of the vast ocean sky and
encompass everything that moves or makes a sound or has a color or a smell
or a texture?

Then our own personal drama becomes a part of something much larger and
becomes much less urgent. It just happens along with everything else, along
with crickets and waves and joggers and clouds.

Food for thought!

De Plymo Knollwood (will think for food)

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