|Dr. Robert Puff|
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Issue #2787 -
One: Essential Writings on Nonduality http://nonduality.com/one.htm
The Nondual Highlights - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights
In this issue is a book review of Grandpa's Notebooks: The Evolution of an Amish Soul by Orva Schrock that I wrote for Amazon.com. Some of the points within the review bear on nonduality, nondual literature, and the writing of books.
All I want to say about nonduality or nondualism is that, whatever people say about it, it is not a recognized tradition, like Advaita is. There's not the sense of organization, tradition, or history within nondualism that there is within Advaita. Nondualism, as it is commonly recognized today, is the study of nonduality wherever it is found, whether it is identified in the tradition of Vedanta, Buddhism, quantum theory, surfing, music, Western philosophy, or whatever.
I do think that Nonduality or Nondualism is becoming organized. That's bound to happen when you have so many people freely talking about it. At least I think so. I don't know quite how that organization is going to look. I think it currently looks something like Nonduality Salon and The Nondual Highlights, and my book, One: Essential Writings on Nonduality. My website, nonduality.com, has always carried the spirit of a tradition and organization of nonduality. But it's all still unstructured.
Wikipedia has an article on nondualism that reflects the partly and vaguely developed architecture of the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nondualism
Compare the Nondualism article to the one on Advaita: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita
The Advaita article is tight and unified. The page has gravity.
I'm not saying the Nondualism article should be as tight as the Advaita one. At this point it shouldn't be. Maybe it never should be.
The Wiki articles are paralleled by two major email lists: Advaitin, which is about Advaita and is breathtakingly moderated in scholarly tones and deep bows; and Nonduality Salon, which is about general Nondualism and is moderated more for the purpose of eliminating extreme behaviour than for the purpose of controlling and managing ongoing content. Nonduality Salon welcomes anything related to nonduality, as the list owner broadly defines the topic.
The book reviewed in this issue easily falls under nonduality. I don't think it would be considered an Advaitic text. It's a nondual text. It's not an extreme or radical nondual text. It's nondual according to how I define it. I can do that. I can define nonduality and nondualism and by doing that allow a tradition to form and an organization of the material and the approaches toward it to occur. (Or to be more spiritually, or whatever, correct, "This form is open to allowing definition of nonduality to apparently happen." Yeah, that's what I meant to say.)
And so can anyone else define nonduality if that's what they find themselves doing. And maybe that points to the next wave of evolution for nondualism, the next turning of the wheel of nonduality: creating traditions. We've created the email lists and online communities, websites, written a few books. Now the tradition-creation begins. It's the kind of thing we can never know for sure we're doing, but we can sense we're doing it.
Happy Friday the 13th!
--Jerry "Black" Katz
A review of
Grandpa's Notebooks: The Evolution of an Amish Soul
by Orva Schrock (Author)
A Gift for
Reviewer: Jerry Katz -
See all my reviews (
Orva Schrock lives on
"5 mostly wooded acres in
grandkids, friends, peace, solitude, Gaia; the earth and mother nature,
good books, Jnana yoga, Advaita Vedanta, nondualism, Bhagavan Sri Ramana
Maharshi..."What better life than this? Sitting quietly by my window, i
watch the leaves fall and the flowers bloom as the seasons come and
A Gift; self-pleasing:
Grandpa's Notebooks: The
Evolution of an Amish Soul, is dedicated to the
author's grandchildren. The book is a gift to them. The book is also
written in a way that is clearly pleasing to the author: you can tell by
the way it is freely but logically constructed. There is no sense of
imitation. Orva is writing and building a book in the way that pleases
These are two important
qualities for a book or creative work to possess:
that it be a gift and that it be pleasing to the author or artist.
Grandpa's Notebooks contains these two elements. Of course there are other
qualities necessary for a successful work. In the case of a book, it has to
be well written. This book is written plainly, consistently, coherently,
literary by virtue of not trying to be literary.
Thus the book
"breathes," vibrates with life, feels real and
allows the inner light of the author to shine through. These elements of
gifting and self-pleasing -- and you need to have both happening -- exist
in the book as a whole and within each chapter. Some chapters may be gifts
to God, to an unknown reader, to a specific email recipient, to people
interested in nondual spirituality. Orva probably has his own inner sense
of what this gifting is.
Also, this book is
beautifully designed and printed on high quality paper
and in hardback. The book is a pleasure to hold, read, and page through. It
is a very high quality publication, which goes along with good gift giving.
The purpose of this book,
then, is to present a gift. What is being given?
The author is giving himself fully, fully enough to offer confessions of
Truth. Truth can't be given; it can be confessed:
"I did survive and
get away from my oppressive home of origin. I did have
wonderful children to love. I did find an interesting and successful career
in business. A great light did finally dawn on me. Every worry was for
naught, because there was always a greater hand guiding mine. A greater
purpose seemed to surge ahead of my own feeble reasoning and efforts."
"The Self doesn't
know the truth. It IS the truth. And 'life' goes on as it
should, in spite of our efforts and not because of them."
This book ends with the
wordless knowing of love, being, acceptance,
gratitude. It begins and carries through with themes of questioning, doubt,
insight, loss of insight, pain, suffering, struggle, pleading to God. This
is a human story, autobiographical, told in short chapters of no more than
a page or so. The chapters are poems, short stories, short essays about his
life and family, book reviews, emails, some quotation of other authors.
Point of view:
Schrock takes the point
of view of ongoing inquiry into life itself at
every point of his life. In a 1973 journal entry, he wrote: "We need to
search within for truth, and follow the path wherever it leads. If the
search is sincere, honest, and a work of love, we can only ascend." The
book proceeds chronologically. Schrock reveals a hard life built on the
fractured foundation of physical and mental abuse by his Bible thumping
preacher father. The book ends in 2004. We see that the statement above
holds up throughout the book. Ultimately, Schrock can say, "Not only am 'I'
not a damned sinner destined for hell but instead I am God in disguise
playing out a dream in maya."
The Nature and Hallmark of Nondual Literature
At its core, nondual
literature consists of confessions of the nature of
reality as nondual. These take the forms of scripture from major
traditions, scriptural-like writings by legendary and great writers,
transcribed talks of recognized saints, Masters, gurus, teachers; popular
writings by people such as Alan Watts, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and
several others; and semi-popular or little known writings by so-called
ordinary people who take advantage of available publication and marketing
opportunities. Of course these "ordinary" people are no less enlightened or
self-realized than anyone who composed scriptural texts. However, they may
not have the extremely rare gift to write stuff that will last a thousand
years. Then again, maybe some do. Who knows?
While the confession of
the nature of nondual reality is the core of the
genre, there are other kinds of writings that serve to define the genre. At
some point these other forms of nondual literature will often include
writings which are confessional: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, novels,
autobiography, how to, book reviews, emails, journals and notebooks and
blogs, essays, articles, question and answer books, anthologies. That is,
every form of the written word finds its way into the genre of nondual
literature. However, the hallmark of nondual literature is the confession
of the nature of reality as nondual.
We can also describe
nondual literature in terms of how extreme it is.
Neo-Advaita is perhaps the most extreme teaching, which says you don't
exist and there is nothing you can do. It is a zero-point teaching. What I
have said about Neo-Advaita is not and cannot be what it is, because it is
nothing. Less extreme teachings within nondual literature speak of directly
experiencing reality. They may say there is nothing you can do to directly
experience reality other than see it. Other teachings expressed in nondual
literature advise practice, surrender to God, meditation, awareness of
various levels of consciousness. I have tried to give a broad sense of the
genre of nondual literature.
Grandpa's Notebooks as a Contribution to Nondual Literature:
Where does Orva Schrock's
book fit in? As demonstrated above, the book
contains the hallmark of nondual literature: confession of the nature of
reality as nondual. The book as a whole is autobiographical, showing the
evolution of the author's awareness of truth. Most interestingly, the
author uses a variety of literary forms, noted above, to achieve wholeness.
Because of the overall quality of the book and the mix of literary forms,
this book is unique in the genre of nondual literature. That makes this
book important and a must to own.
During my ten year online
involvement in nonduality, I have tried to make
the teaching of nonduality accessible and encourage people to be active
participants within that process. I would like to encourage people to write
books. Anyone who has written some poetry, emails, book reviews, a story
here and there, an article, an essay, can construct a book. It is not easy!
It's a very hard thing to do. You have to compile your works and make sense
of them, as Orva has done. You have to put some money into the endeavor.
You have to sell the book knowing you may never break even.
Orva's book is important
because it serves as a model for what others can
do. The elements of a book like Orva's get written in the course of living
and spending time online, writing about spiritual life, living life,
figuring things out, seeing the truth and confessing it over and over again
in a unique way.
Orva Schrock has made a
significant contribution to the culture of
nonduality. This book is powerful and inspiring reading. If you have a lot
of writings and don't know what to do with them but you feel they could be
made into a book, get this book to inspire and guide you.
There are two essential
teachings within this book that are not separate
from the spiritual or nondual: (1) make your writing a gift -- a gift to
God, perhaps -- and (2) write your book so that you are pleased.
A couple of things to mention:
I think my favorite
writings in this book are the chapters where Orva talks
about his job and the workplace. I wish there was more. I hope Orva writes
This book has two
excellent appendices. One is a 4-page reprint from the
book, Seven Words That Can Change the World, A New Understanding of
Sacredness, by Joseph R. Simonetta. It is a stunning cosmological statement
which finishes off the book nicely. The second appendix is a solid list of
25 recommended books for further reading. There is also a helpful index,
which most books in the genre lack. As well, the Table of Contents is over
5 pages long and serves as its own readable chapter.
I like Orva's voice. He's
a regular guy talking about a rare knowledge, a
rare process of development. Reading the book, it sounds like he's
barbequeing while talking to you. He has the easy,
everything's-under-control voice, even at times when the coals are too hot,
too cold, the kids are teasing the dog, the mosquitos are thick, or -- God
forbid -- your veggie burger has fallen through the grating. There's a
sense of calm and real-ness throughout this book.
Notebooks: The Evolution of an Amish Soul is a
Orva Schrock accomplished what he intended: to create a gift for his
grandchildren. On many levels, it is a gift for the world.
~ ~ ~
Grandpa's Notebooks: The Evolution of an Amish Soul, by Orva Schrock
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