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Excerpts from the Electronic Letters of
(New selections are added to the end of this page)

Sandeep Chatterjee
(also see Sandeep's The Seed of Enlightenment)

I AM. What a simple statement yet potent with power.

It is the only truth that one can make . No matter what I can definitely say
I Am.
Otherwise who is that is crying, that is laughing, that is grieving, that is
smiling, that is angry, that is compassionate.

Yes I Am.Definitely.
Now the question is Who or what Am I? That's the quest, that's the thirst
which first needs to be given birth to.
Then all "answers" to be negated, to be dropped one by one through
understanding their origin. Knowing the origin of your answers will reveal
the hidden subtlety of one's ego, one's mind and like layers of an onion
peel one layer by one layer away till you reach the core.

One of the profoundest statements coming from the Upanshadic Rishis
contemplating exactly this question was " TAT TWAM ASI" which means THAT ART THOU.
A very good meditation is just to be in the quest WHO AM I. Go about your
worldly affairs, but behind is all ways the question in you WHO AM I.
An interesting tangent to this quest is WHERE AM I.
In this cage of the body, just exactly where am I located?

Within Zen, literally hundreds have "attained" the heights of consciousness
of a Jesus, a Budhha, a Mohammed during very simple acts like chopping
of the wood, making tea, carrying pail of water from the well, watching a
leaf leaving it's sanctuary of the tree in total trust in the Wind to carry
it wherever it is meant to be led.

The moment there is no self-only a witnessing, a silent watchfulness-
What is , IS.

"To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one's
self and others."

To be enlightened simply means: neither you exist nor I exist.What
exists is something transcendental to you and I.

"Then there is no trace of Enlightenment, though enlightenment itself
continues into one's daily life endlessly."
Look at beauty of this expression.
Once you have become enlightened, it is not that everyday you have to
remember that you are enlightened, that every morning before shaving,
you have to remember that you are enlightened, or going to the market you
have to careful to behave like an enlightened person.
Once you have "known", your every act is automatically of awareness, of
consciousness.Soon you forget all about enlightenment, because it has
become your body, your bones, your blood, your marrow, your being
There have been masters who have forgotten completely that they are
enlightened because there is no need to remember it.Their Masters have
hit them with the Zen stick and said "now pick up your rented bicycle and
go away.Get on".

Enlightenment does not happen twice-once is enough.

Everybody is a buddha either awake or asleep.Only this distinction exists.
Otherwise there is no lower or higher, No Original Sin, no damned to seek
Again there is nothing wrong with a sleeping buddha- it's your choice. A
little more sleep (couple of lifetimes) is not going to harm anybody-
just don't snore (which is what is the parroting of religious concepts,
scriptures is all about) because that will create a disturbance in other
buddha's sleep.

Some time back I was "walking" with few friends trying to arrive as to how
would an enlightened being, an awakened being operate in life if such a
being chooses to continue to be physically alive.
This seems to be also relevant those who have arrived at an conclusion
(from where one does not know) that after One is One, all that one does is gaze at
one's belly button.

Observing Life it appears to me that while all things in Life move
spontaneously on the course proper to them, only man has stunted and maimed
his spontaneity by the habit of distinguishing alternatives, the right and
the wrong, benefit and harm, self and the other and then
reasoning in order to judge between them.

It appears to me that what is needed to recover and educate his knack man
must be able to reflect his situation with the unclouded clarity of a mirror
and respond to it with an immediacy.

The immediacy of an echo to a sound
a shadow to a shape.

It appears to me that the fundamental error is to suppose that life presents
us with issues which must be formulated in words so that we can envisage
alternatives and find reasons for preferring one to the another.
People who really know a cook carving an ox, or a carpenter or an angler do
not precede each move by weighing the arguments for different alternatives.
They spread attention over the whole situation, let it's focus roam freely,
forget themselves in their total absorption in the object and then the
trained hand reacts spontaneously with a confidence and precision impossible
to anyone who is applying rules and thinking out moves.

When I chisel a wheel says the carpenter if the stroke is too slow it slides
and does not grip, if too fast it jams and catches the wood.
Not too slow not too fast;
I feel it in the hand and respond from the heart, the tongue cannot put in
words, there is a knack in it somewhere which I cannot convey to my son, and
which my son cannot learn from me.
A GOD making all that Which IS would not be different to this cook.
A swimmer on how he stays afloat in a whirlpool answers: I enter with the
inflow and emerge with the outflow.I follow the Way of the water and do not
impose my selfishness on it.
Taoism is all about spontaneity and in fact the example of the cook with the
ox was extensively used by Chunag Tzu to explain about Tao.
In responding immediately and with unsullied clarity of vision one hits in
any particular situation on "that" single course which fits no rule but is
the inevitable one.
This inevitable course which meanders, shifting direction with varying
conditions like water finding it's own channel is the Tao, the Way.
It is what patterns the seeming disorder of change and multiplicity and all
things follow it unerringly where it tends except that inverate analyzer and
wordmonger man who misses by sticking rigidly to the verbally formulated
codes which philosophical schools present as THE WAY etc etc.
The spontaneous aptitude is called the 'te' in Taoism, the Power, the
inherent capacity of anything to perform it's specific nature successfully.
TAO and "te" forms the basis of Lao Tzu's "Tao te Ching"
How to live in spontaneity so that I act without the aid of reasons,
ends,morals and prudential principles?

For me living in spontaneity is a natural consequence of this very act of
looking at these very "masks" of "reasons", "ends", "morality" etc and
keeping them aside.

In emptiness is complete spontaneity.
In aloneness is complete spontaneity.
In spontaneity a swimmer adapts to the varying pulls and pressures of the
whirlpool, aware that it would actually harm his cause to pause and ask
himself "how shall I escape?"
With the abandonment of goals, the dissolution of rigid categories, the
focus of attention roams freely over endlessly changing panorama, and
responses spring directly from the inner core.
Living in spontaneity is an immense liberation, a launching out of the
confines of self to a realm without limits.
I suspect a sage or an enlightened being lives in spontaneity but then I
have been known to talk through my hat.

One of the misconceptions about detachment is that it necessarily means
Have you seen a Lotus Flower?
Your name suggests an Indian origin(though I could be wrong). If yes, you
may recall that for all religious ceremonies, it is the Lotus Flower that is
used, no other flower.
Ever wondered why?
A Lotus is a prime example in Life of "detachment", "witnessing self", a
"Watcher on the Hill".
A Lotus always exist in mud, in "dirt" and yet nothing of the dirt "stains"
it. It exists, breathes, lives, smells in "dirt" and yet all it presents to Life
is it's beauty. That is detachment. Action without acting.
Detachement is not concerned with things
but with thoughts
Detachment is not related to the outside
but to the within
Detachment is not to do with the world
but with oneself.

To be in the world is not attachment
The presence of the world in the mind is the attachment
and when the world disappears from the mind-
this is detachment.

Anything sought and obtained, is it of any real worth?

Rather a consequence of one's being, would that not be authentic?

A Love that is neither soughth nor shunned and is a consequence of one's

very "beingness". Now that's something for me.

Anything else are "cultured pearls".

Because for me there is no difference. No different 'realms" of being at

all. Body is "a" manifestation of that same "Isness" as relevant, as holy or as

unholy(take your pick) as any other manifestation of that "Isness".

While I am delighted that you are looking beyond immediacy, please watch out

for being caught up in this "Body and all that is associated with body as

the Original Sin" shitiness.

That is just another "game" blessed by "morality" and "spirituality".

Have you heard the phrase Zorba the Buddha?

Zorba epitomises the heighest epicurean delights of the body.

When Zorba is Zorba and at the same time is a Buddha, ie nothing shunned,

nothing sought, then..............................

Dissolving the ego is also an act.

Any action of a "diseased being" will cary the seeds of the disease.

Who is to dissolve what ?

What is to be dissolved by whom?

Ego is to dissolve itself?

No. My experience is that one needs to see the nature of this extremely

popular myth called ego and in that seeing is the separation, in that

separation is the dropping.

To see myth to be a myth, that's all.

To see a shadow to be a shadow that's all.

The moment you stop making sense, you start making sense. (grin)

May I suggest that an intellectual grasping is time specific.

After a belly full, when you make a killing in the stock market, when your

partner actually is listening to you, when the birds are chirping, when cool

breeze whispers sweet nothings over a sunset, I AM what I AM is a "gasp"

from the intellect's grasp.

When I AM what I AM, IS while you are getting your ass whipped and then there

is not even an iota of a ripple in your inner space, you "know" it.

You actually do not "know" it.

You are it.

Today I was asked this beautiful question and wished share the walk we took together

The question was:

"This silence.... this beautiful. To keep avoiding it and missing it seems so absurd.

Sandeep why?

What is so difficult about dropping this whole game and just being?"

If the whole game is dropped and you remain just being, soon you will be tired of it, bored with it. The game has also it's significance.It's whole significance is that it makes your being just silent.

Without this game, this crowd, this noise, this marketplace your temple will not have the beauty that it has. Life is a dialectic process.

In the night you see the whole sky full of stars.Do you think that in the day they hide anywhere?

They are still there but one needs the darkness of the night to see them.

The beauty of the stars is as much dependent on the beauty of the night as is vice-versa.

When I say Life is a dilaectic process I mean it exists between two polarities and both polarities need each other.

The silence that you have experienced is beautiful but a greater truth is reached when you also experience the beauty of the noise of the market place.

Day and night, summer and winter, childhood and old age the beauty of each depends on the other.

The moment when you have seen the beauty of both, one has transcended both.

This transcendence is....... call it enlightenment, Truth, Nirvan whatever, names do not matter much.

But we constantly wish to grasp one and avoid the other. In this divison your "world" is created which you then assume to be real.

The very moment division is made, that very moment is the birth of a "world".

Existence is as it is, playful, dramatic.

It is not for questioning, it is for living intensely, joyfully without bothering at all about what the meaning is or why we are here.

All these questions appear significant but really are stupid.

For there is nobody you can enquire to, no complaint office, no enquiry office.

We simply are.


Why do you Sandeep speak since you go on and on about silence?

I speak so that you can be silent

I do your chattering (can't you see my name)

you do my silence.

A simple bargain!

The whole day

I am sitting in silence

I also get tired

So sometimes I take revenge

You are chattering the whole day

Some time take revenge

be silent.

I wish you well and a peace beyond all understanding.

When the answer comes "Nothing" to "What can I do in a traffic jam" are you

saying Jan that this is not frustrating for you?

I would suppose ordinarily it would be quite on the contrary.

Because if you are all ready at peace with the answer "nothing" not just to

a traffic jam but to Life as such then the question as to what can I do

would not arise in the first place.

The question what can I do, what should I do, arise because I believe I can

do something about the events in Life

Frustration is not getting your way for what you believe is your way.

This traffic jam example is very interesting for me as living in city with a

population of 18 Million, all "satoris" has to perforce be in the midst of


All my frustrations at not being able to do anything with a traffic jam

vanished the moment I realised that I do not have to reach anywhere, I do

not have to "really go" anywhere, I do not have to "really " reach anywhere.

Then sitting still in the traffic jam or darting here and there to get ahead

in a break in the traffic jam , both are OK with me

Yes, as Buddha said, Live in Awareness. A fly sits on your nose and you riase

your hand to wave it away, don't do unconsciously, raise your hand, wave it,

all with awareness.

Start with the smaller actions in our day to day lives and the bigger

actions follow in awareness.

A good start is also to be in "attention' to our body and the changing

sensations throughout the day.

If one is totally attuned to the body, moving awareness to thoughts is not


And if one is aware of one's thoughts to move to emotions behind the

thoughts is easy.

From emotions, one needs to be aware of one's conditinings which give birth

to the emotions.

To maintain this awareness moment to moment to moment, that's the difficult

part till you realise that when you stumble and fall out of awareness,

noticing this very fact, you are back into awareness.

Some meditative techniques in Tantra Like the ones with Light are very

effective for this development of awareness moment to moment.

My guess is we only offer up as
an explanation what will give us the most comfort in our

Why not
If comfort IS, fine.
If discomfort IS, fine.

Why try to explain and seek either?

At this point, going down the road saying, "neti, neti"
seems to be the way for this sceptic to continue
her walk. If human (personality) consciousness is incapable of beholding
the answer >(which I believe to
be the case), at least I'll be able to recognize what
ISN'T the answer I'm seeking ( by discovering what
I am not), until that veil is pierced.

There appears or seems to be a dissatisfation in you when you say "Neti,
Neti" is the way forward for this sceptic.
It is like, I hope this Neti-Neti business gets over quickly and the veil
gets lifted quickly so I am bathed in white Light or whatever.
Have a look.

Once I shared with you this:

Do not confuse impatience with thirst
With thirst there is yearning but no struggle.
With impatience there is struggle but no yearning
With longing there is waiting but no demanding
With impatience there is demanding but no waiting.
With thirst there is silent tears
With impatience there is a restless struggle
Truth cannot be attacked ; it is attained through surrender.

Eons ago..................................................

The sun had gone down and the trees were dark and shapely against the
darkening sky.
The wide strong river was peaceful and still. The moon was just visible on
the horizon; she was coming up between two great tress but she was not yet
casting shadows.

I walked up the steep bank of the river , the sand was cold and took a path
that skirted the green wheat-fields.
This path was a very ancient way; many thousands had trodden it and it was
rich in tradition and silence.
It wandered among the fields and the mangoe, tamarind trees and deserted
There were large patches of garden, sweet peas deliciously scenting teh air.
The birds were settling down for the night and a large pond was beginning to
reflect the stars.

Nature was not very communicative that evening.
The trees were aloof; they had withdrawn into their silence and darkness.

A few villagers passed by chatting and once again there was deep silence and
that peace which comes when all things are alone.

This aloneness was not the aching, fearsome loneliness.
It was the aloneness of being.
It was uncorrupted, ricn and complete

That tamarind tree had no existence other than being itself.
One is all ways alone like the fireplace in the distance, like the tamarind
tree but is one aware of its purity, its immensity.

For one can only communicate when there is aloneness.

Being alone it seemed to me in that evening was not the outcome of denial,
of self-enclosure.
Aloneness that evening seemed to me was the purgation of all motives, of all
pursuits, of all puposes, of all goals, of all ends.

It was also clear to me that aloneness was not an end-product of the mind,
for you cannot wish to be alone.
Such a wish is only a wish to escape.

It appeared to me that loneliness with it's fear and ache is isolation, the
inevitable action of the self.
This process of isolation, whether expansive or narrow is a product of
confusion, conflict and sorrow.
Isolation can never give birth to aloneness.
The one has to cease for the other to be.

That evening it occured to me that aloneness was indivisible while isolation
was separation.

It occured to me that loneliness is being alone but hankering for the
Not being satisfied with one's state of aloneness.

And if hankering is, dissatisfaction is, aloneness is not.

That which is alone is pliable and hence enduring.
It occured to me that only the alone can commune with that which is
causeless, the immeasurable.
To the alone that evening, life was eternal
It was clear to me that evening that the alone can never cease to be.

The moon was just coming over the trees tops and the shadows were thich and
A dog started to bark as I passed a village and walked back to the river.
The river was so still that it had caught the stars and the lights of the
bridge among it's waters.
High up on the bank of the river, fishermen were cleaning and coiling the
nets. A night bird flew silently.

Again the all-prevading aloneness of life.

Neti, Neti amplified:

Learning about ourselves, if it is according or through anybody else, a
philosopher, a Guru, all that happens is that we learn about them, not what
we actually are.

It is fairly easy to realize that we can depend on no outside authority in
bringing about a total revolution of our psyche.
The immensely bigger difficulty is to reject our inner authority, the
authority crystalised from our own little experiences and accumulated
opinions, knowledge, ideals, ideas, values.

One had an experience yesterday which taught one something. What it taught
to oneself becomes a new authority and that authority of yesterday is as
destructive as the authority of a thousand years.

To understand ourselves needs no authority either of yesterday or of a
thousand years.

Because we are living things, always moving, flowing, never resting.
When we look at ourselves with the dead authority of yesterday (even of the
moment just passed) we will fail to understand the living movement of the
now and the quality of that movement.

To be free of all authority of your own and that of another, is to die to
everything of yesterday, of the moment just passed.

Neti, Neti (Not this, Not this) is that act of dying moment to moment so
paradoxically you are actually living moment to moment,

It is only in such state of openness that learning happens.
When there is space in your flute for a whisper to turn into a song.

For this the key is awareness.
Awareness of what is going on inside you, without correcting, because the
moment you correct you have established another authority, a censor.

To investigate ourselves, a journey into the most secret corners of
ourselves, to make this journey, we have to travel light.

Some American tourists visiting Ben Moshe in Jerusalem, arrive at his
quarters and are chatting with him. Noticing the stark emptiness of the room
where Ben Moshe was residing one of them joking asks "Ben where is all your
Replies Ben Moshe " Where is yours?"
Answers the American tourist "Oh I am only visiting"
Replies Ben Moshe "So am I".

Life is a bridge. Don't build your home on it.
The home of opinions, prejudices, conclusions-- all the furtniture we have

It seems to me that one has to forget all we know about ourself, indeed
forget all that one has ever thought about oneself.

And wait for the whisper to be heard.


Ashtavakra's dialogue with the emperor Janak are known as the Ashtavakra's
Gita which for me goes much deeper than Krishna's Gita (and with that I give
enough reason for Hindu fundamentalists to wish to cut my throat) :-)

Not much is known about Ashtavakra and very little historical records exist.
Only few incidents are known which signify the man.
One such is when Ashtavakra was born.
His father who was a well know Vedic scholar would recite the Vedas everyday
while Ashtavakra was still in the womb.
One day came a voice from the womb "This is all nonsense.Mere collection of
words, no wisdom. Is wisdom found in scriptures?Is truth found in words?
Wisdom and Truth are only in oneself."
Enraged at being challenged, he being the great erudite scholar, the father
that the boy will be born deformed in eight places.
Ashtavakra was born deformed, body bent in 8 places (hence the name

The second incident was as a 12 year old boy, Ashtavakra goes to call his
father from a debate which was going on for very long at the court of the
emperor Janak.
His father being a profound Vedic scholar was debating with other scholars
on the meaning of Truth in the presence of emperor Janak.
Entering the court to look for his father, the scholars looking at the
hunchback, bent in 8 directions, many burst out laughing.
Looking at them Ashtavakra in turn burst out laughing.
Such was the force of Ashtavakra's laugh that the court is rendered silent.
Emperor Janak asks why is he Ashtavakra laughing?
Answers Ashtavakra "I am laughing because Truth is being decided in this
conference of "chamars" (cobblers).
Now "chamars" are the lowest caste in the India caste system and to call
Vedic scholars and Pundits "chamars" is to invite the death penalty, those
In that shocked silence in the court, Emperor Janak asks Ashtavakra to
explain what he means.
Says Ashtavakra " Like cobblers who only know the skin, this gathering only
sees my deformed body, not me.
Your majesty in the curve of the temple is the sky curved?
When a pot is smashed, is the sky smashed?
My body is twisted, not me but these cobblers cannot see that.
What Truth can they see."

Emperor Janak profound shaken then starts the dialogue with a 12 year old
Ashtavakra and himself "attains" at the end of the dialogue.

Just these two incidents are known about this mystic Ashtavakra.

I would like to just take this statement from Ashtavakra which for me is the
essence of his Gita.

Answering Janak's question on bondage Ashtavakra replies

"You are alone, void, self illuminated and innocent.
Your real bondage is this: that you practice Samadhi (Enlightenment,
The Truth is that you permeate this whole cosmos
and you lay claim on trivialities?"

Each word, each statement can reach you, if you are sufficiently open to
receive it's totality.

Samadhi (Enlightenment) cannot be practiced, cannot be prepared for, because
samadhi is your very nature.
You can practice what is not your nature but to know your nature you have to
drop all practices.

All religions lays down spiritual practices.
They have nothing to do with knowing one's nature.

"You are innocent"
This is for me one of the most revolutionary statements ever made.
All priests of all religions whether it be Christianity, Hinduism preach
that you are a sinner, to cleanse yourself of all sin,repent for your bad
karmas, become released from them and then and only then you can attain.

If karmas of your millions of lifetimes , each had to be accounted for, then
forget it Liberation will be impossible because it would take another
million lifetimes to account and secondly as you account for your past
karmas, you pile up fresh ones.

Ashtavakra says you are innocent.

Elsewhere Ashtavakra talks to Janak of the six life waves.
-Hunger and thirst
-Sadness and Happiness
-Birth and Death

Hunger and Thirst are the waves of the body, needs of the body.
If there is no body, there is no hunger or thirst.
Sadness and Happiness are of the mind, these are plays, games of the mind,
the play of affection and disgust, attraction and repulsion.
Inside one in whom the mind has ceased there is no sadness, no happiness.
These are but waves of the mind.
Birth and Death are waves of the Life-Energy associated with the breath.
And Birth and Death are not events separated by 60-70 years. It is
happening every second.
Every incoming breath is Life.
Every outgoing breath is Death.
Life and Death happening every moment are just waves of Life-Energy.

These are the six waves and Ashtavakra says you are beyond these six waves,
You are the observer of these six waves.

You are alone.
You are not your body
You are not your thoughts
You are not your breath.
You are alone , void of action

Out of hunger the body may have done something, not You
Out of it's needs, the mind may have done something, not You
Out of it's necessities Life-Energy births or dies, not You.

You are innocent of all doings, just the observer of all these doings.
Know this in totality and You discover that you are free this moment and all
karmas are games you played in a dream while asleep.
Know this in totality and You discover that you were never "not-free" ever
and all your experiences, profound ones and mundane ones were acts in a
dream drama With the awakening is the disappearance of the entire dream

And then You can laugh the Primal Laugh at all the guilt you assumed on
yourself and carried.

"You permeate this whole cosmos and you lay claim on trivialities?"

Look at your claims.
When you can claim the whole, you are bent on chasing crumbs, a vision of
God, an experience.
Know the whole and find that you and the whole are not two.
Because in knowing is the disappearing of the "you".

Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: