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Nonduality Highlights: Issue #3786, Sunday, January 24, 2010, Editor: Mark
Editor's note: Dennis Waite has rewritten his book The Book of One: the Spiritual Path of Advaitai, improving and adding new material. The new edition is due out in April. Here's the new version of the bit that I quoted yesterday:
ahaMkAra means the making - kAra - of the utterance `I' - aham - but, in practical terms, it describes the process by which the real Self is identified with something in creation. In order to communicate meaningfully with others, we have to use the word `I' but most of us do not think that we use it merely as a convenience. We believe that it refers to something unique about us as an individual; something concrete that could be pointed to or picked up, except that, if asked exactly where or what this `thing' is, we begin to find it difficult to define. Moreover, we believe that we are separate, autonomous entities that do and think things in our own right. Effectively, we mis-take ourselves for something limited. It is this single act that is the root of all of our problems. As soon as we attach the basic feeling of `I am' to anything at all, we create duality because if `I am something' (e.g. a woman), I have simultaneously defined something that I am not - a man.
It is as though an actor becomes so identified with the role that he is acting in a play that he goes around in his day to day life thinking the thoughts and feeling the emotions that might be felt by that role and entirely forgetting that he is an actor, merely pretending to be the role in the play. There is no reason why he should not play the part of a murderer in the matinee performance and a lover in the evening; who-he-really-is has nothing to do with either.
In an analogous manner, Advaita says that the Self actually has `nothing to do with' the world - is totally unaffected by it. What happens is that the process of ahaMkAra identifies the Self with something in creation and that `something' is bound by the laws of creation. Thus, whilst it seems as if our real Self is bound, subject to misery and death, it is not really so. It is only the body that dies.
Don't worry if these ideas appear to be rather far-fetched. Just let them rest for the time being, rather than throwing the book out of the window. We'll return to them in more convincing detail later... and the window will still be there
If the body-mind is an object, a personal and limited collection of mentations, there must be a witness to which it appears. This witness is usually referred to as consciousness or awareness. If we investigate what we are, it becomes clear that it is this awareness that is precisely what we call "I." Most people identify this witnessing consciousness with the witnessed mind, and in doing so they superimpose the personal limitations of that mind onto consciousness, conceptualizing it as a personal entity. When we make a deliberate attempt to observe this witness, we find an unusual situation: Our attempt seems to fail, due to the subjective nature of consciousness, and the inability of the mind to recognize something that is not objective; but mental activity, made up of the current train of thoughts and sensations, seems to stop for a moment. Although this "stop" doesn't leave any memories at the level of the mind, this non-experience generates a strong feeling of identity and an ineffable certitude of being that we describe using the words, "I" or "I am." After a while, the ego resurfaces with the thought, "I am this body-mind," projecting once again the space-time limitations of the personal entity onto the limitless "I am." The limitlessness of the "I am" can't be asserted from the level of the mind, but remains with us as an "aftertaste" when the objective world reappears.
Having been informed of the presence of this witnessing background, and having had a first glimpse of our real self, a powerful attraction, which brings us back again and again to this non-experience, is born. Every new glimpse reinforces the "perfume" of freedom and happiness that emanates from this new dimension. As our timeless presence becomes more and more tangible, our daily life takes a new turn. People, distractions, and activities that used to exert a strong appeal to us are now met with indifference. Our former ideological attachments become weaker for no apparent reason. Our focus on investigating our true nature intensifies without any effort on our part. Higher intelligence sets in, deepening our intellectual understanding of the truth and clarifying our ontological questioning. Many personal conflicts and antagonisms are reduced or resolved.
Then, at some point, the ego is reabsorbed into our witnessing presence, which reveals itself as the eternal beauty, absolute truth, and supreme bliss we were seeking. Instantaneously, we are established in the certitude of our primordial immortality. This sudden revelation of our non-dual nature can't be properly described through words to someone who is still under the illusion of the duality of subject and object. Such a person will understand those words in relative terms, as an objective experience. It is the only kind of experience he can conceive.
How is it possible to convey the feeling of absolute happiness to someone who only knows relative experiences? Given any relative experience, no matter its intensity, there is always the possibility of an even more intense experience. But this is not the case when we are referring to the bliss of our true nature. How is it possible for someone who knows happiness only in relation to objects to comprehend the autonomy, the causelessness, of this bliss? How is it possible to convey the non-localization and the timelessness of this unveiling to one who only knows events in space-time; its absolute certitude to one entangled in relative truths; its divine splendor to one for whom beauty is a relative concept?
If we say that our universe, with all its richness and diversity - the apples in the basket, the loved ones around us, the Beethoven quartet on the stereo, the stars in the nocturnal sky - at every instant emanates from, rests in, and is reabsorbed into our selfrevealing presence, our words still fail to adequately describe the immediacy of this unveiling.
They fail to do so because they still convey the notion of a transcendental presence from which this universe emanates as a distinct entity, whereas such a distinction is nowhere to be found in this unveiling. Our self-luminous background, which is the common thread of the dialogues in this book, constitutes the sole reality of all that is.
- Francis Lucille, from Eternity Now, from the StillnessSpeaks.com site
I must repeat how much I apreciate your intent in driving one back to the source!
There is such a strong drive to conceptualize, to try to "understand".
Hi Geo. Glad the pointers are helping. Yes, it can be very helpful to just allow thoughts to rest more and more and be only with present, non-conceptual space. This is a radical, direct approach.
As this unchanging, unmoving empty space is seen to be what you are, it becomes obvious that the intellect and all the conceptualizing has no separate existence from the space.
But unless and until this radical empty awareness is introduced, this inseparability very often remains elusive. For many (of course not everyone) until this basic ground of presence or awareness is recognized as the stable unchanging source, the mind just continues to put different pieces of the puzzle together, sort of running on a treadmill, not really going anywhere, but rather just getting different configurations of thought. Some of the configurations are clearer than others, relatively speaking. For example, a post-modernist philosophy or an integral framework or a particular teaching may be a clearer configuation or conceptual framework. But to see that even those things are coming and going within a boundary-less space is real freedom. It's not about denying mind or any mindstuff but rather seeing first what is here, prior to thought, emotion, experience, sensation, and other appearances. As this basic formless space reveals itself, everything is seen to be inseparable from it.
I don't want to give the impression that this is true for everyone or that this is the only path. It certainly is not. It's just been my own personal experience. And I have seen it help many others.
For me, the value of a pointer is not in how clear it sounds conceptually, but in the extent to which it provides or reveals actual freedom, unconditional love, acceptance, compassion and to what extent it reveals one's actual identity beyond the limited sense of "me and my story."
- Scott Kiloby, from AOStudyGroup
Q. Is this source that you turn to see, the ultimate subject, your real nature?
A. Be very careful. The subject that can be seen is not your home-ground. What is sometimes called the ultimate subject is nothing other than silence, sunyata, emptiness of images. This is consciousness, the light behind all perception. The subject that is talked about is still in duality, the subject-object relationship.
- Jean Klein, from: Who Am I? The Sacred Quest
The world is full of remedies,
but you have no remedies until God
opens a window for you.
Though you are unaware of that remedy now,
God will make it clear
in the hour of need.
- Rumi, Mathnawi II: 682-683, version by Camille and Kabir Helminski, from Rumi: Daylight, posted to Sunlight
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