Jerry Katz
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Highlights #614

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Wednesday, February 7

These Highlights feature one conversation: the one on spiritual apathy.
--Jerry Katz


Hi everyone. I'm new to the NondualitySalon. I was referred by
my son Dustin. Would love to hear some discussion on this topic.

"Spiritual apathy is called the monk's vice by Aquinas, as it
was first recognized in monastic situations and continues to be
prevalent in them. It is a failure to pursue the goals that you
really want to pursue, a kind of lassitude about seeking the
most important things you want. This vice's character is, I
believe, very hard to understand, but I see it in myself and
others all the time. That is, you love something good but you
just cannot bring yourself to do what it is necessary to obtain
it -for instance, to practice meditation consistently or to
write the book you want to write. Spiritual apathy is also a
very good example of the way some vices (as well as virtues) can
lie so deep within a person that they are never manifested
clearly. That is, people who suffer from spiritual apathy may be
very active, but their frantic activity covers up the fact that
they cannot pursue the goals they most want to obtain." Quote
from Healing Emotions, Conversations with the Dalai Lama on
Mindfulness, Emotions and Health, a Lee Yearly article on
Virtues in Christian and Buddhist Traditions.

I have had some experience with this in my own spiritual
practice. An example - after I teach a meditation class is a
great time for me to sit. My meditation at that time is usually
deep and effortless as the vrittis are relatively settled and my
awareness is already focused internally. I've observed that I
often come home and eat something instead. Then I go to bed
without meditating.

I think it's root is fear. Of what? Taking responsibility maybe.
Of success? As we learn to observe the thoughts, it's relatively
easy to observe the ego working on an obvious level. Is this a
subtle way to undermine our spiritual search? To keep us stuck?
Why when we yearn for something do we sometimes get in our own


What is interpreted as apathy could be the result of
de-conditioning: If so, it will just continue and nothing has to
be undermined.

What is a "search" or "practice" without expectation? Pastime?
Even from a pastime there is expectation... Undermining the
practice, different expectation?


First, welcome. Who cares? (couldn't resist) But seriously,
where are you going? Perhaps the apathy is a relaxation of
seeking... and being as the present. The vrittis are relatively
settled, awareness is internally focused, is there a need at
that point for formal meditation? The physical entity responds
to its own requirement for sustenance and rest. I question the
reality of any goal that is forever just around the corner. But
at the same time there is always the rushing towards. So there
it is, the real rushing towards the unreal and the unreal
towards the real. A matter of points of view, one real, one
projected. Which is happening now, and forever. 'Now' being
real. 'Forever' being unreal. You write of fear, of success or
of taking responsibility. But you are already perfect. There is
no choice. Failure is impossible so is success. Tick tock is the
clock responsible or not or neither or both. Now there is no
such thing. If it is truly seen that there is no choice fear has
no place to take hold. What is the root of fear?

ps... there is a feeling of being on an edge, on the brink, in
your post. Of what?


Not much to say here, but I'll drop a couple clues...

(1) What's normally considered a 'vice', may actually be a
'virtue' in disguise....

(2) The 'vice' described below depends entirely on the
assumption that there is a goal to pursue...

(3) It also depends entirely on the assumption that there is
someone to pursue a goal, and that volition is possible...


"To keep us stuck? Why when we yearn for something do we
sometimes get in our own way?"

Maybe you have to step even further back in your analysis. Why
do you yearn for "something"? If there was no yearning, there
would be no getting in the way?


One could remark that a stone doesn't yearn either... Yearning
could be interpreted as a sign of feeling separated, that
separation disappearing when the object of yearning has been
attained. And it is obvious that intellectual knowledge like
"there is nothing to attain" won't evaporate that yearning...
When yearner, yearning and the object of yearning become one,
who is left to yearn?


I hear Lynn asking about spiritual apathy in the context of her
practice. I hear Lynn asking for discussion on a specific topic,
spiritual apathy. Lynn is suggesting that its root is fear and
that we may undermine our own spiritual search.

I think this is correct, and ask, Why is it not desirable to
undermine the spiritual search?


Dear Lynn, Mark, Matthew, Omkara and anyone else sharing in this

Seems to me like you are asking a real question. Spirituality is
about the human condition and the problem of existence. It is
ALL ABOUT VOLITION. The ONE that does not have volition, that
does not yearn, etc. is not the one who turns to NDS for
direction, comfort, maybe a little light and hope in their dark

Is anyone trying to say that the Love which abides in the
absolute ALL of its own beingness (or whatever jargon you want
to use) is somehow not "adaptable" enough, not actually loving
enough to simultaneously meet the human need--to comfort, heal,
guide? Of course divine Love never leaves heaven for earth
(metaphorically speaking) of course divine Love doesn't yearn
and have need or experience self-division, but human
consciousness does. And the miracle of grace is that this the
dispersing of that darkened consciousness perceives this
infinite Love (in St. Paul's words) "through a dark mirror"---as
love meeting the human need.

The fact that we often confuse our human wants for our human
need, or that our idea of "need" the divine reality of it are
often miles apart, does not annul the existence of need.

Or are we going to get stuck at the abstract level of "Whose to
say what that need is?"

Intelligence tells us what the need is. Love tells us what that
need is.

Theory is great but it doesn't help us change the flat tire
beautifully, get up and feed the baby at 2:00 a.m. I gotta go
with William Blake: "Eternity is in love with the productions of
time." That's the truly non-dual and the mysterious.

The problem of being is existential. Anyone who is oblivious of
the problem or has somehow managed to encase themselves in a
surrealistic bubble that they mistake for "clarity" is confused.
The question first posed re: spiritual apathy and self-division
is a real question and a real problem.

There is the other possibility of course---that the person who
hasn't or doesn't face the issue of what I call the "divided
will / divided love" in their own life, the person who no longer
struggles with the problem articulated by St. Paul as "The good
that I do I would not and that which I would not do, I
do."--this person has somehow and joyfully managed to surpass
Jesus himself, who on the Cross cried out from this same place
of anguish---"Why hast thou forsaken me O Lord?" In that case,
all I can do is congratulate them, or bow at their feet.

Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep yearning. Keep loving. Sincerity
will invite much more clarity for all of us than does doctrine,
no matter how ND that doctrinal "correctness" might articulate


Hello Lynn and Susan.. nice to hear from both of you.

Your inquiry, Lynn, seems to have called forth the usual replies
from this space.. from those (guys mostly) who speak from the
One dimension.. eschewing any credibility of the
multidimensionality of our human existence.

I often wonder.. should I go elsewhere to speak of the human
face? Elsewhere to know the fellowship of others who are living
in the Venn overlap of both the human face, and the Heart of
Being, which embraces and dissolves it? Elsewhere to speak and
learn from the ways we are being taught to mature in the stream,
through releasing of ideas which no longer fit. To be asked "who
speaks?; who learns? and how can perfection mature?" are useful
as examining levers of the focal point of bound identity; but
also can elicit contraction as well as expansion.

It seems to me, there is a certain imbalance in the
righteousness of only speaking from the monotone voice of the
'Self realized'. Though I have no doubt that there are, amongst
this list, those who have realized Self, the tenor of the
absolute is not always absolution (eg reconciliation) for those
of us seeking nothing, knowing nothing, just simply living the
vagaries of a life of attention... flowing, more or less
encumbered, with what shows up. The reconciliation which leads
to dissolution seems always, for me, through bringing all to the
altar of the living heart.

So.. I'll risk being wrong here and speak with you as a friend..
as one who might sit with you over a cup of tea and look (by
your side) at what is presenting as inquiry for you.

Lynn said,

"I think it's root is fear. Of what? Taking responsibility
maybe. Of success? As we learn to observe the thoughts, it's
relatively easy to observe the ego working on an obvious level.
Is this a subtle way to undermine our spiritual search? To keep
us stuck? Why when we yearn for something do we sometimes get in
our own way?"

You ask about apathy. I can't speak to "spiritual apathy", as I
no longer know what that might mean. But I do know apathy and
stuckness and the host of other ways the tricksters mind and
emotions can obfuscate an essential current of clarity. I ask
myself, what is it that I Am response-able for? "Success" as a
Being benchmark no longer applies here. How could we presume to
know what success would look like? As do you, I observe the
thought patterns, and the measurements of success are always
ones socially given, based on learned values. They have value in
the world we buy our groceries, but hold no resonance in the
expanse of living stream.

Your question "is this a subtle way to undermine our spiritual
search?" reads here as essentially the opposite of what this
list is about. If I am reading you incorrectly, please let me
know. I hear this question as spoken from a lens position of a
self, intent upon a spiritual practice towards a goal of moving
closer to whatever "spirit" means to you. And your inquiry is
whether ego is undermining the essential intent, as laid out.
The direction of those on this list, is to examine the very self
which thinks it has anywhere to go to know 'spirit'. And
furthermore.. to gradually or suddenly recognize the, rather
radical, possibility that there is no self here at all.. merely
an infrastructure of ideas/thoughts/emotions woven with such
exquisitely subtle intricacy that it never occurs to pause and
examine it's own realism. Once this turn, this pause, this (as
Jan says) de-conditioning begins, infrastructures begin
collapsing. As Tim says to Susan:

"I 'hear you'... suffering is real enough to the sufferer. The
sufferer may begin to question its own reality. The presence of
the *sufferer* is the problem, not the suffering.

Until the sufferer realizes its own fundamental nonexistence
(not doctrinally, not conceptually, but directly and
experientially), there are only band-aids to slap over wounds
that never heal."

While I recognize the truth spoken in this statement, I'd also
like to suggest that there is a way of being with each other,
through the transition (of de-construction) which can be
compassionate The band-aids can also mature and need not be
toxic to the process. We can be present in the fullness of
heart, or space; as aid to the bands still contracting. We can
meet the contraction of our selves or each other and listen to
it's atonality in such a way that we surrender and allow it to
be ingested into the spaciousness of the living heart. The
foreground is subsumed by the Background of love, present Now.
Gradually "the presence of the *sufferer*" is seen, not as
"problem" to be obliterated, but merely as inanimate flotsam, no
longer magnetically drawing forth animation.

The ebbing of need for animation is what I am learning here.
What is spoken rarer here is expression of the heart of
containment. Tim says:

"'Divine love' is what we *are*, not what we need."

And while I wholeheartedly agree.. there is still here a human
who is graced when this is met in living presence of another.


Excerpt from Zen In the Art of Archery by Eugene Herrigel, tr.
R.F.C. Hull

Master- "You must hold the drawn bowstring, like a little child
holding the proffered finger. It grips it so firmly that one
marvels at the strength of the tiny fist. And when it lets the
finger go, there is not the slightest jerk. Do you know why?
Because a child doesn't think: 'I will now let go of the finger
in order to grasp this other thing'. Completely
unself-consciously, without purpose, it turns from one to the
other, and we would say that it was playing with the things,
were it not equally true that the things are playing with the

"Do you know why you can not wait for the shot and why you get
out of breath before it has come? The right shot at the right
moment does not come because you do not let go of yourself. You
do not wait for fulfillment, but brace yourself for failure. So
long as that is so, you have no choice but to call forth
something yourself that ought to happen independently of you,
and so long as you call it forth your hand will not open in the
right way - like the hand of a child."

Herrigel- "For ultimately, I draw the bow and loose the shot in
order to hit the target. The drawing is thus a means to an end,
and I cannot lose sight of this connection. The child knows
nothing of this, but for me the two things cannot be

Master- "The right art, is purposeless, aimless! The more
obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake
of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and
the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is
that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you
do not do yourself does not happen."

Herrigel- "So I must become purposeless...on purpose?"


I have found this book to be helpful re: goals and undermining
them...etc... At the same time I am aware that there is some
controversy around Herrigel.


apathetically spiritual: been there, done that - hooie!

It's a trick. Yup! A trick!

god/universe/conciousness/brahma/totality by whatever name has
tricked itself into being. Being what? Just being. Why? Just

Pardon the silly language. But, the other day god itself came
knocking on my front door. I let it in and offered it coffee. It
said thanks but no thanks. What it wanted me to do was to stop
telling people that everybody is already god.

Well! I just told it to kiss my lily white ass! Now as you may
well imagine, it started to get more that a little huffy!

When I reminded it of the .0001% solution. It said, "Damn! The
escape clause. Oh very well, go ahead."

There you have it folks. We are already god.

Have a good eternity!


Peace - Michael

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