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Nonduality Highlights: Issue #4155, Saturday, February 5, 2011, Editor: Mark

Ed note: The following is a conversation recently held on NondualitySalon. I've changed the names to protect ME...(as if there was one...)

I gotta' tell you, at this point, the overriding characteristic of my "quest" is fatigue. Having run the gamut from Nisargadatta to Wei Wu Wei to Douglas Harding (and countless others) and back literally dozens of times, any and all suggestions are welcome. As my dad used to say, "Jonathan, if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" Good one, Pop!



Hi Jon -

Fatigue may lead to letting go your hold.

The body-mind's sense of reality is based around its set of reactive responses and associated memory-chains - which are projected as past/present/future and the sense of a subjective being confronting an external world of objects and experiences.

This sense of reality is held in place by a kind of self-reflexive tensioning that maintains loops of perception/response.

Thus, energy is involved.

To let go, to have nothing to base the sense of reality upon - is a deep psychological fear.

This fear of disorientation and loss is likely to maintain the sense of reality until the repeating loop engenders enough frustration/futility/fatigue to be released.

The other side of fear is trust.

So, there is trust in letting go - even if there is fatigue as well.

Best wishes,



Hi Jan,

Your comments reflect my dilemma very succinctly. When I became sober in AA almost three decades ago, the general guideline was to "Let go and let God". Many people who diligently followed the AA program failed to achieve sobriety whereas I, despite lacking due diligence was, to paraphrase Wayne Liquorman, "struck sober". I don't truly recall any sense of relinquishment or loss; it was almost as if sobriety "happened" to me with little focussed effort or striving. Perhaps I'm hoping for a similar outcome with regard to self-realization. As they say, "the readiness is all", soooooo------

With Thanks,



Yes, Jon -it's a matter of readiness - whatever that is supposed to mean.

I suppose that it's open to your interpretation - whenever you're ready to interpret it.


Readiness can involve fatigue - and/or having exhausted all other options ...

-- J --

Enlightenment, Realization, or Gnosis is nothing that can be attained through any of our conventional ways of knowing. This is because conventional knowledge is based on imaginary distinctions, which we take to represent reality. The Reality that Gnosis reveals, however, is non-dual, and without distinctions. To the extent that we reify the distinctions of conventional knowledge as inherently existing entities and objects, they act as veils to our Realization of this Non-dual Reality. Thus, to attain Gnosis we must surrender our belief that conventional knowledge gives us knowledge of Reality. This is why the Taoist sage, Lao Tzu, asks:

When your discernment penetrates to the four quarters Are you capable of not knowing anything?

And why the great Sufi poet, Rumi, writes:

Where should I seek knowledge? In the abandonment of knowledge.

Because as Zen Master, Suzuki Roshi, explains:

If you want to understand it, you cannot understand it. When you give up trying to understand it, true understanding is always there.

Now many seekers take such teachings to mean that, in order to attain Gnosis, we must stop trying to grasp reality through formal philosophical modes of thinking. This is certainly true, as far as it goes. The trouble is, it does not go far enough. What Gnosis demands is something much more radical. The Christian mystic, St. John of the Cross, explains:

Those are decidedly hindered, then, from attainment of this high state of union with God who are attached to any understanding, feeling, imagining, opinion, desire, or way of their own, or to any other of their works or affairs, and know not how to detach and denude themselves of these impediments. Their goal transcends all of this, even the loftiest object that can be known or experienced. Consequently, they must pass beyond everything to unknowing.

In other words, it is not just our philosophical knowledge that must be surrendered. We must surrender belief in any of our conventional ways of knowing - including those everyday, `common sense' ways of knowing we take so much for granted.

This is easier said than done for two reasons. The first is that our most primitive forms of knowledge are based on elementary distinctions which, under normal circumstances, we are not even aware we are making. Consequently, before we can surrender our belief in all forms of knowledge, we must first become mindful of those subliminal mental processes on which knowledge itself is founded.

The second reason is that even the creation and acquisition of our most sophisticated forms of knowledge is by no means a dispassionate affair. Except in the rarest of cases, it is motivated by a desire to in some way enhance and protect ourselves. The more we think we know about the world, the more we feel we can control and manipulate it to our own ends. By the same token, the less we think we know, the more we feel lost and vulnerable. Consequently, the prospect of surrendering our belief in all forms of knowledge is quite frightening, for it means we must be willing to enter a state of such profound unknowing that we literally no longer have the slightest idea of who we are, or where!

- Joel Morwood

But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

- Jesus Christ, quoted in Mark 13:32

But even a seeker who gets a genuine glimpse into his or her own selflessness is still not necessarily out of the woods. So attached are we to conventional ways of knowing, that our minds are apt to seize on this very insight with the thought, "Aha! Now I know that I am nothing!" But knowing that you are nothing is not at all the same as not knowing anything. Only if you can allow all thoughts - even the thought "I am nothing" to dissolve away without a trace will you be able to enter the gate of true unknowing. This is the state of emptiness or kenosis in which all conventional knowledge is wiped out, for as the Hindu saint, Lalleshwari, says:

Neither silence nor yogic postures
enable you to enter there.
In that state there is no knowledge,
no meditation, no Shiva or Shakti.
All that remains is That.
O Lalli, you are That.
Attain That.

Kenosis, however, is not the same as Gnosis. There remains one last barrier to full Enlightenment. We might call this the First Distinction, and compare it to the sensation of our bare skin. Even though we have shed all our clothes, we still feel a nameless, primordial sense of separation. This is how the anonymous Christian author of the Cloud of Unknowing expresses it:

Long after you have successfully forgotten every creature and its works, you will find that a naked knowing and feeling of your own being still remains between you and your God. And believe me, you will not be perfect in love until this, too, is destroyed.

The trouble with this First Distinction is that it is prior to thought, language, and all other forms of distinction. As such, it is not something that you create. In fact, it creates you - or rather, the First Distinction is that very experience of being a `you.' Consequently, there is no way `you' can surrender it. In fact, any effort `you' make to do so simply serves to keep this distinction in place. This is why Enlightenment always comes spontaneously as an act of grace. And this grace acts only in a state in which, not only has all your knowledge been erased, but even your attempts to attain knowledge have fallen away. Thus, Zen master, Hakuin, writes:

When all the effort you can muster has been exhausted and you have reached a total will suddenly come and you will break free. The phoenix will get through the golden net. The crane will fly free of the cage.

Here is how the Christian mystic, Dionysius the Areopagite, describes the seeker who suddenly finds that the Primal Distinction has been shattered:

He breaks free...away from what sees and is seen, and he plunges into the truly mysterious darkness of unknowing. Here, renouncing all that the mind may conceive, wrapped entirely in the intangible and the invisible, he belongs completely to him who is beyond everything. Here, being neither oneself nor someone else, one is supremely united by a completely unknowing inactivity of all knowledge, and knows beyond the mind by knowing nothing.

This is also why the Sufis insist that the spiritual path leads, not to greater and greater knowledge, but to greater and greater bewilderment.

- Joel Morwood

The gift we have been given is the one called possibility, whose intent offers to tie all together, creating strands of a whole life rather than a disintegrated one. The gift we have been granted is what throws light into dark places. The gift held out to us has always been present. But accepting the gift has a price - courage. It is an undying courage that allows any of us to whip the dream horse and startle awakening.

- Carla Woody, from Standing Stark: The Willingness to Engage

It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize? The real is as it is always. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras [innate tendencies] which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.

- Sri Ramana Maharshi, posted to AlongTheWay

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