Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:
Nonduality Salon

Highlights #5

Click here to go to the next issue.

There are some who maintain there is nothing to learn, but to unlearn.
Many of the practices are tools to remove conditioning. Conditioning is
evidenced by trivialities like reading. Who is able to see just scribble
instead of the meaning? The most effective tools for unlearning are:

1. going through the process of dying
2. coming at an absolute dead end in one's life
3. the loss of loved ones and everything one cares about.

These three categories are the so called eye-openers that often lead to
spontaneous (K.) awakening or sudden enlightenment. Another tool is
extreme frustration, to the point of "nothing goes anymore". There are
some funny Zen-stories about this.

What happens to the "average" child? It becomes drilled in order to
perform and obey rules, whether these are understood or not. Creativity,
inventivity, spontaneity, boundless energy, to name a few properties,
are buried by education and upbringing. Not to mention cases where
things are worsened by authoritative or abusive behavior of adults.
Aren't these "buried qualities of the child" the ones that become
apparent in realized ones?

The classical way of unlearning is by more and different drilling. This
works, it takes a lot of effort so one might wonder if it is effective.
According to (old) motivation theory, there are some who will be easily
motivated by mere authority. For them, drilling comes natural. Then
there are some who are intellectually motivated and they will pick up
study. The third category is result-motivated. They work to arrive at
results irrespective of what it takes. One might ask, would one's
"motivational class" be reflected in one's way to express the
inexpressible and the description of "the road thereto" ?:)



>If Yogi Berra were asked, "Can you apply neti-neti to the game of
>baseball?", how might he respond? Any suggestions?

The game is not the bat, nor is it the ball, nor the crowd, nor the
bases, nor the field, nor the word "baseball" or the concept of
baseball. There is no perceivable game being played. Rather, something
else underlying the nature of reality is projecting all these things.
That something else is and is not baseball. The ball does not fly
through the air; rather, it is the mind that flies. Thus, baseball is

---Tim Gerchmez


There is no winner nor a looser
Just a perceiving happy boozer
Comments the Zen-dog in disguise
And he's a dog that's very wise.
By looking at that funny game
He sees what really makes the fame
There's neither fame nor a disgrace
All players have a dollar face.
Zen-dog says "love children's play
Their mind is fluid, doesn't stay.
It moves like water, like a flow
And where their mind is, there they go"



Pretty soon, as with the question Who Am I? the words fall away and
there is only This everywhere.




...many teachers liken the experience of awakening to literal "death."
In primitive cultures, people can literally sicken and die if cut off
from social contact with their tribe or clan. It seems that ego-death
and physical death can be closely linked. For us, awakening more often
means ego-death (i.e. mask-death or role-death) while remaining within
society. Not always a pleasant experience.



'Spiritual emergence' or realisation triggers the survival reflex in
chromosome 38 and the 'reptilian fight/flight' reflex in the neuro
cortex. The moving 'kundalini' transforms the function of these as well
as the adrenal glands, as well as stimulating and changing other
reflexes in the body. It brings up the remembering that for many in the
past of our ancestors, full enlightenment comes only with the death of
the physical. This is the experience of life/death choice during a
spiritual awakening. These things I remember from understanding of my
own experience.

---Christopher Wynter

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ start to see that inclusion and neti-neti are not mutually
exclusive opposites, not even different ways to the same end, not even
ways to any end...just a part of "whatever works".. huh??



Here's a game for you:

Take some emptiness

Now try to divide it into two parts
One real, one unreal
One good, one bad
One you, one not you

Did you succeed?
Where could we view your success?
Where could we celebrate your failure?



You did it! The dance of lila, the dream of Shiva, the Cosmic
Game--emptiness reigns and the pairs of opposites melt in the Void (as
The Fugs used to say--remember them?). This is non-duality. This is
the Cosmic Joke. I salute you! I thank you.

Laughing all the way to oblivion,


Awhile back a friend asked me a question. I am now prepared to answer
it. The question was had I ever observed myself working on myself. At
the time he asked me this question I was very perplexed as to what that
could possibly mean.

Last night I was discussing self observation with a number of people. We
had been discussing it for awhile. Perhaps it was the subject matter but
somehow my awareness rose above a certain threshold and I became aware
of myself discussing very intently the subject of self observation. I
became aware that I was discussing very intently the subject of self
observation as if I actually knew what I was talking about and this
awareness was the first observation I had made that evening.

I have come to realize that self observation is a much rarer occurrence
than I ever realized. I have been reading work books and talking the
work for over twenty-five years and work talk has become habitual.

Another thing I have come to realize is that it is very difficult for me
to self observe directly. By this I mean if I say I am going to self
observe without giving myself any other task to do then I almost always
fall immediately back asleep. If I give myself some task to do then
observations result as a byproduct. For example if I give myself the
task of observing myself from one stop sign to the next I invariably
fail but if I give myself the task of counting from one to fifty and
back down again from one stop sign to the next even though I may not
successfully complete the task I am left with observations.



>From the Advaitin List, June 5, 1999, in which Jan Barendrecht responds
to Kathi's invitation for a response:

> I received a mail from a friend regarding the arguments of Sri
> Ramanujacharya against the fundamental tenets of Advaita. I've quoted the
> summary from the mail below. I am very interested to know Advaita's
> position regarding the views stated. Could the learned members
> state their
> views to make this 7 impossible tenets possible, please? :-) Regards.
> Om Shanti
> Kathi

> Ramanuja picks out what he sees as seven fundamental flaws in the
> Advaita philosophy for special attack: he sees them as so fundamental
> to the Advaita position that if he is right in identifying them as
> involving doctrinal contradictions, then Shankara's entire system
> collapses. He argues:
> I. The nature of Avidya. Avidya must be either real or unreal; there
> is no other possibility. But neither of these is possible. If Avidya
> is real, non-dualism collapses into dualism. If it is unreal, we are
> driven to self-contradiction or infinite regress.

Avidya has no nature. Avidya is a conclusion that only exists in the
thinking mind, so it is neither real nor unreal.

> II. The incomprehensibility of Avidya. Advaitins claim that Avidya is
> neither real nor unreal but incomprehensible, {anirvacaniya.} All
> cognition is either of the real or the unreal: the Advaitin claim
> flies in the face of experience, and accepting it would call into
> question all cognition and render it unsafe.

According to the dictionary: cog·ni·tion
1.The mental process or faculty of knowing, including aspects such as
awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
2.That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or
intuition; knowledge.

This means cognition is a process consisting of different parts.
Knowing, awareness and perception are possible without interpreting (no
reasoning or judging). +Knowing+ Brahman, perceiving a blue sky are the
parts of cognition that are unquestionable. The parts called reasoning
and judgment are questionable as they require manipulating the content
of mind and no two minds are the same in this respect.

> III. The grounds of knowledge of Avidya. No pramana can establish
> Avidya in the sense the Advaitin requires. Advaita philosophy presents
> Avidya not as a mere lack of knowledge, as something purely negative,
> but as an obscuring layer which covers Brahman and is removed by true
> Brahma-vidya. Avidya is positive nescience not mere ignorance.
> Ramanuja argues that positive nescience is established neither by
> perception, nor by inference, nor by scriptural testimony. On the
> contrary, Ramanuja argues, all cognition is of the real.

I would argue that cognition is conditioned, because of the content of
the mind of the cognizer.
> IV. The locus of Avidya. Where is the Avidya that gives rise to the
> (false) impression of the reality of the perceived world? There are
> two possibilities; it could be Brahman's Avidya or the individual
> soul's {jiva.} Neither is possible. Brahman is knowledge; Avidya
> cannot co-exist as an attribute with a nature utterly incompatible
> with it. Nor can the individual soul be the locus of Avidya: the
> existence of the individual soul is due to Avidya; this would lead to
> a vicious circle.

There is a third possibility; that on realization of Brahman, Avidya
vanishes from perception in the same way as a dream vanishes on waking
up. So one can no longer say anything about it as the dream only remains
as content of memory.

> V. Avidya's obscuration of the nature of Brahman. Shankara would have
> us believe that the true nature of Brahman is somehow covered-over or
> obscured by Avidya. Ramanuja regards this as an absurdity: given that
> Advaita claims that Brahman is pure self-luminous consciousness,
> obscuration must mean either preventing the origination of this
> (impossible since Brahman is eternal) or the destruction of it -
> equally absurd.

The basis of perception is difference. That without a difference cannot
be perceived - it can only be known as the subject of subject. Coming
from a perspective where the differences were interpreted as real, That
without a difference seems to be covered but coming from That without a
difference, self-luminousness is apparent and the differences appear
never to have existed.

> VI. The removal of Avidya by Brahma-vidya. Advaita claims that Avidya
> has no beginning, but it is terminated and removed by Brahma-vidya,
> the intuition of the reality of Brahman as pure, undifferentiated
> consciousness. But Ramanuja denies the existence of undifferentiated
> {nirguna} Brahman, arguing that whatever exists has attributes:
> Brahman has infinite auspicious attributes. Liberation is a matter of
> Divine Grace: no amount of learning or wisdom will deliver us.

Pure, undifferentiated consciousness is what remains in nirvikalpa
samadhi. In moksha / nirvana, all differences erode and pure,
undifferentiated consciousness is seen as the basis of everything.
Brahman with attributes is one way of saying that. Liberation cannot be
the result of anything; if so it would be conditioned. Stating it to be
a matter of Divine Grace results from the insight that Liberation is
"attained" despite one's (wrong?) views, opinions and limitations.

> VII. The removal of Avidya. For the Advaitin, the bondage in which we
> dwell before the attainment of Moksa is caused by Maya and Avidya;
> knowledge of reality (Brahma-vidya) releases us. Ramanuja, however,
> asserts that bondage is real. No kind of knowledge can remove what is
> real. On the contrary, knowledge discloses the real; it does not
> destroy it. And what exactly is the saving knowledge that delivers us
> from bondage to Maya? If it is real then non-duality collapses into
> duality; if it is unreal, then we face an utter absurdity.

In reality, nothing releases us as both bondage and liberation only
exist in the mind of the believer. Both gentlemen forget the power of
the mind, interpreting one thing as bondage and another thing as real.
Recognition of what remains when the mind (temporarily) halts
interpretation could be called enlightenment or "seeing what IS",
recognition of what remains when the mind (temporarily) halts
interpretation, thinking and perceiving could be called nirvikalpa
samadhi and in moksha / nirvana, the "what remains" has become
self-absorbed consciousness without content so one is no longer
affected by the functioning of mind. Then, the absence of both bondage
and liberation is "real".



>From HarshaSatsangh, June 5, 1999:

If my therapy practice has been any indicator, lots of people, maybe
even the majority, have had glimpses of truth. The transformation
seems to be about recognizing what one has seen and learning how to see
all the time. I happen to believe the transformation is propelled by
grace as well. The effort, at least for me, has been in surrender.
Those who fit well and excel in the pedestrian world don't tend to come
into therapy until midlife when the whisper of mortality throws them
into panic.
I don't believe Grace is stingy with opportunities to wake up, we just
disbelieve our experience. Your good point about spiritually mature
non-mystics reminds me of the Jewish midrash of the 36 righteous people
who are on earth at any give time to keep the universe intact -- any one
of us could be one and not know it.

---Holly N. Barrett, Ph.D.


I think we all too often glamorize mystical experience....
There are those who never have experienced so-called mystical states yet
with their kindness & humility have teach what spiritual maturity is
truly about.

---David Bozzi

top of page