Friday, April 30, 2010

Wolter Keers: The Witness

Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I continue to try to see more clearly into what I’ve been calling “the witness.”
This morning during breakfast, I promised myself that tonight I will take the time to truly allow myself to settle back into It. I can’t recall how I exactly came to this resolve.
It may well have been after a glimpse at the trees once more produced the sensation of falling back into Nothingness and intuiting how such a falling back would snuff out all of Creation.
This sensation/perception has come up several times of late: while driving the car (not an opportune time to give into the urge), while at work (again, not real good timing). Once it came in the midst of doing the dishes. The form was somewhat different. I had the thought, completely out of the blue, “I must go pray.” I knew I didn’t mean prayer but rather complete transcendence. And I knew I meant “right now.” Even then, I hesitated a couple moments before giving in and drying off my hands. Oddly, I can’t recall just how all that played out.

Meanwhile, there’s one more day of work and a bit more time for perusing the internet for a teaching that speaks to me a bit. I found Wolter Keers:

After the finish of an action or a thought, a feeling or a sensory perception, an 'I' projects itself at the end, as a sort of tail. During listening there was no I. But, at the end of the story an I who heard the story, is manufactured.
How can an I, that isn't there at all, hear a story?
The 'I' is nothing but an invention. There is no such I and you have never done anything in your life. Things do themselves.
You are the witness of the movements of the body, also of the movement of what you call ‘your will' and that possibly precedes an action.
You are, whether you want to or not, and without any effort, the witness of fleeting thoughts and feelings. And you are - and that is the most important thing to see - also always witness of such an I-thought that you tack on like a tail behind a thought, a feeling, a perception or an action.
The I-thought is just a thought, similar to the thought about a nephew or niece, or about the Eiffel tower. It is one pan in the row of pans on a kitchen shelf. You are no more the one 'I-pan' than you are the other big and small pans…
The only thing that needs to be done is to see exactly that…

Oh! So any resistance I have to letting go is also not my doing?
Apparently I’m kidding myself to think I choose not to transcend while driving, or at work, or while sitting in the backyard. The Ocean is simply bidding it times and will take me when it wants…
I think I can feel this, at least partly. I certainly feel that something is pulling me along.
Even when I feel into “my” resistance it seems so rooted in my body that I sense it’s “not my doing.” I cannot choose to simply let go. Or so it seems.
Still, it feels like the situation is most delicate and brings to mind another teaching:

If you believe that there is something lacking, it is not quite so.
But if you think there is nothing to do, nothing needed, that is not quite so.

Elihu Genmyo Smith

It seems to me that there are two sides to the coin of language: one side speaks from the perspective of the One. The other side speaks from the perspective of the individual. As a seeker approaches the precipice it seems like you can get listen to both sides, as if the coin is stood up and balanced on its side. Yes, Grace is carrying me along. And still, it feels that “I”, this little me, has some responsibility. It’s not quite as if there’s nothing to do.

I was watching Wayne Liquorman this morning. He gave the best expression of this position: that even after enlightenment, there will be an expression of “individuality” as it runs about in a singular body. Maybe he is not into as thorough a Unity as other teachers of non-duality. Who knows? But, I liked how he put his teaching and he also wonderfully illustrated how we have to give up even our most cherished beliefs.
And I know I have my beliefs.
So, let’s get back to Wolter Keers:

Question: … I still think it is hard to achieve…. that getting the apparent-I out of the way is difficult to achieve.

W.K.: These sorts of remarks are an escape. Self-realization has nothing to do with easy or difficult. You don't need to do anything to look. Even if you close your eyes images come up. In this room there are at least four people who have completely seen what they are and what they are not.
Why them but not you?
Because they have opened themselves up to anything that wanted to come up for witnessing, sometimes slowly, and in some cases quickly. They never bothered with the question of whether it is easy or difficult. They consciously held their 'eyes' open and looked in clarity, surveyed.
That is the only possibility.
People who find this all too difficult are only lazy, nothing else. They are not destined for self-realization. The only qualification one needs to have is complete seriousness; that one is ready to jump into the abyss. But, whoever continues to listen to their fears, their cozy comfort, their laziness, remains where they are…

Question: Nevertheless it remains difficult to see that it isn't difficult.

W.K.: Whoever is in love, which literally means 'in the state of love', is a good lover, and if the partner is also in love, they are a beautiful couple. But whoever is neurotic thinks that they should love more than they do. In other words, whoever lays the accent more on himself instead of the beloved, and thinks that he, the personality, has to produce love, for him even love is an impossible task.
If you, you, you just don't do anything; if you just allow yourself to dissolve in the love that you are in the deepest part of your being, all other problems are solved.
The Rabbit In the Hat, Wolter Keers

Thursday, April 29, 2010

John Wren–Lewis: Part 2

Red Cube
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

I suspect gnosis comes as 'grace' because there are as many different forms of it as there are people. Yet because we're all in this together, sharing experience is integral to its fullness. Whatever experiments you make, share your 'failures', your hints and guesses, and your awakening too if it happens, with warts-and-all honesty, because 'everything that lives is holy'.
John Wren-Lewis

Last time I wrote about finding the writings of John Wren-Lewis. Two quotes stick with me.
The one above went home because I struggle with writing this blog. On one hand, I’m beginning to realize I’m here and have the time, so why not babble? But too, it often seems sheer foolishness. However, I’ve had this half baked notion that perhaps my ramblings might be of some small help, and here Wren-Lewis spoke to that.

The second quote is from an essay about G.K. Chesterton. I like it as it touches upon, so exactly, the simplicity of seeing that amazes me – as something as simple as “squareness” that can stop me in my tracks, completely stunned by the light pouring through.

Everything his eye fell on it feasted on, not aesthetically, but with a plain, jolly appetite as of a boy eating buns. He relished the squareness of the houses; he liked their clean angles as if he had just cut them with a knife.
G.K. Chesterton, in Joy Without a Cause, by John Wren-Lewis

I appreciate these words as they come as something of an encouragement in this process I’ve undertaken of … what… “being with the witness?” I have the habit of dismissing the strangeness of a very awake witness as the consequence of aberrant physiology – hypoglycemia, some unspecified toxicity, or low grade migraine. I have come up with many excuses. But, to have my attention pointed towards a less controversial experience, the innocent delight in squareness for example, encourages me to interpret the witness in terms of a legitimate refinement in consciousness. Or, in other words to stop “un-enlightening myself.”

Actually, I want to get back to more a direct discussion of working with witnessing. But for now, let me end with more words of John Wren-Lewis:

…while there are mystical traditions the world over which offer 'paths to higher consciousness', it doesn't seem to me that any of them has a very encouraging success rate…

My experience… suggests that liberation isn't at all a matter of taking 'the long voyage Home'.
It simply means waking up to the consciousness which is already the basis of our very existence…

What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive [mind] from immediately explaining the perception away. ..

Against this background, the main positive advice I would give to spiritual seekers is to experiment with any practice or idea that seems interesting - which is what the Buddha urged a long time ago, though not too many of his followers have ever taken that part of his teaching seriously…
John Wren-Lewis

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

John Wren-Lewis: Prose and Poetry

Feather in water
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Even so, there have been plenty of problems in adjusting to awakened life, because the rest of the world is still taking the separation state for granted, and my own “resurrected” mind still contains programs based on the assumptions of that state. So in the early days I made every effort to assume the role of spiritual seeker in the hope of finding help…
Fortunately the mystical state seems to have a growth pattern of its own which is gradually enabling me to deal with the adjustment problems—and a fascinating process it is.
John Wren-Lewis

I was reading about (and the words of) John Wren-Lewis yesterday. That brought me to T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets. Now, the good thing about receiving a solid education in the sciences is that the rest of your life can be spent discovering the wonderful poetry no one thought to tell you about.
Perhaps the poems will be new to you too:

To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
Burnt Norton, #1 of Four Quartets

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away…

Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
East Coker, #2 of Four Quartets

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable…
The river is within us, the sea is all about us
The Dry Salvages, #3 of Four Quartets

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Little Gidding, #4 of Four Quartets

To read the entire poem, go here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Genjokoan

Zen master Baoche of Mt. Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?"

"Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Baoche replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."

"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again. The master just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.

The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind.
From “The Issue at Hand,” the Genjokoan, by Dogen.

The complete koan and other translations are here: CLICK

I’m thinking this is just another way of saying:
If you believe that there is something lacking, it is not quite so. But if you think there is nothing to do, nothing needed, that is not quite so.
Elihu Genmyo Smith

Which is to say, even though the Self unfolds Itself, by Itself, to Itself – it can feel like you’re working your butt off.

But, hey, I may be wrong… it’s a KOAN.

And it doesn’t seem to tally all that well with Nisargadatta:

There are no steps to self-realization. There is nothing gradual about it. It happens suddenly and is irreversible....Just like on sunrise you see things as they are, so on self-realization you see everything as it is. The world of illusions is left behind.

But then, dawn is not at all like high noon.

As I waited for the bus to approach, something in consciousness was loosening somehow. And when it got there--I am sure it had nothing to do with the bus driving up--this reference point of an "I," a someone that everything was about and that everything that occurred in life was structured around, was gone. It was like a switch had been turned off. And it was never to turn on again. The first response that the mind had to this completely ungraspable experience was absolute terror; but that terror never changed the experience for a moment… Towards the end of the ten years, there was a clear awareness that this was not something that was going to go away…

[So] I found a Zen teacher up in Northern California who told me that I was seeing with the eyes of the ancients; his assurances that the fear reaction was just a season and that spring would come were very helpful. …I saw that the presence of fear meant only one thing - it meant that fear was present. …

Shortly after realizing this, I had the experience while driving that I was driving through myself to get to someplace that I already was, because in fact I was everywhere. I wasn't going any place because I was already everywhere. There was a shift from no personal self, no "me," to seeing that this experience of no personal self was actually the substance of everything.
That is when the springtime began…
Suzanne Segal

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not Knowing No Longer an Option

Tipping Block tumble
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
There seem to be two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish . . . and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and playacting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to dis-identify themselves with the ego, by realizing its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure Being.
Wei Wu Wei Fingers Pointing Towards the Moon: Reflections of a Pilgrim on the Way

…if you're enquiring merely to get rid of the pain, if you're using the enquiry as a pain-killer, it might work, [but] maybe not... It's not the purpose of the enquiry. The enquiry is to find out who suffers, to come to see that it's not what you are, but that it's the idea of yourself that is suffering. A concept is suffering from a concept.

How silly is that? A concept suffering from a concept!

Several weeks ago a friend asked me to please excuse the distastefulness of the term “enlightened” and to simply tell her where I was evolutionarily.

I do indeed dislike the question (see Joan Tollifson for an explanation) but, having been asked, I gave an honest answer my best shot: “I don’t know. I cannot decide.”

Perhaps this sounds a bit ridiculous, but it was the closest I could see into my situation. Well, my friend is marvelously direct, and her short reply cut through all the crap: “What if you never decide?”

Again, I considered simply and directly.
I was totally surprised by the answer.
I hadn’t seen it coming and suddenly there it was so starkly obvious that I broke out laughing:
“I would probably be enlightened and continually un-enlightening myself.”

This struck me as the silliest behavior imaginable and because my reaction was so guilt free and filled with loving amusement – I knew it to be true.
This was not philosophical gymnastics on my part – this was seeing deeply into the matter.

And because of that truth, it wasn’t long before the silliness wore off.
I had received my wake-up call.
“Not knowing [was] no longer an option” and since that day, Life has been roaring through, unfolding on its own.

I found these words in a story told by Adyashanti’s wife, Mukti. She too had received a wake-up call:

…we attended a satsang with a teacher named Gangaji. Right away Adya got up and spoke with her from his perspective. I could see that the dialogue that ensued was from a shared, awakened perspective of knowing Oneness, and that it was a dialogue in which I was not able to participate. As I witnessed their exchange, something came fiercely alive inside me, saying, “In order to have a true spiritual marriage, a true meeting of Adya, I must know this perspective.” And my seeing this didn’t come from a place of jealousy. It just came from a knowing that this must be—it was as though within myself, without literal words, my Being was saying, “This must come to pass. So that I too can meet my husband from this perspective.”
…“this must be.” There was just something inside me that made not knowing no longer an option, and in that sense it was as though time had run out.

Well, why not? Next month, I turn sixty.
Perhaps, I have finally become that second kind of seeker.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

You Are Not the Body

Akbar & Jeff? No!
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

At present you wrongly identify yourself as the body.
Body is given a certain name; that is ‘you’; you consider it to be like that…
I have been very open, very explicit. I’ve been telling you that
you are not the body…


Part One:
There seems (broadly speaking) to be two kinds of people in life when a camera is pulled out: those that eagerly jump before the lens and those who flee in terror.

I am a self confessed jumper. I love to have my picture taken. And I am always eager to see the results.
Do I look good? Do I look weird? I am fascinated to find out.
Well, of course it’s great to have a flattering photo.
But, I’ve come to realize there’s something subtler going on here: I can’t believe I look like that.
“Like that!”

Last year in something of an epiphany I was suddenly struck by, “The camera doesn’t lie.”
Be it good or bad photo – that is how my body looks from that angle, in that light, after that much sleep, and in that wind and those clothes.
Good or weird doesn’t matter.
I look like… That!

What a wonderful discovery. The world is trying to get me to swallow the line that I can actually look like that.
And somewhere deep inside I know so clearly: “I” do not look like “That.”

What do you really look like? Compare the image to how you really feel.
You can try this as a bit of self inquiry:

Surely, I don’t have those squinty eyes? Not like that.
Geeze, I don’t have a head that long and strangely oblong.
I am not like that.
I am more like … what… ?
Nothing at all like That.

Part Two:

This is over nine minutes long, but worth it, I think.
Dean Radin describes experiments testing the relationship between mind and matter. He begins with “intention” experiments and then goes on to “attention” experiments. In these experiments, random number generators are used to test whether collective human attention corresponds to a change in the physical environment. …. It does. Checkout the GlobalOness Project here. It is inspiring.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


“The trinity of experience becomes the unity of experience.”

So went the definition of transcending that one of the shankaracharyas shared with Maharishi. It is short and concise.

I came across this more lengthy description that I share here as something of a background for the following post on Witness-Consciousness. It’s an excerpt from Maharishi’s commentary on a verse from the Bhagavad Gita.

As long as mind is associated with the object, so long is it the experiencing mind; but when the object of experience has diminished to the point where it has disappeared, the mind ceases to be the experiencing mind. Conscious mind becomes consciousness. But during this process of transformation, it first gains the pure state of its own individuality…

The verse does not speak of the mind but of “thought” as being steady. The Sanskrit word used is chitta, which signifies that aspect of mind which is a quiet and silent collection of impressions, or seeds of desires. Chitta is like water without ripples. It is called “manas” or mind when ripples arise.

When the mind gains this state of chitta, or thought, then it stands steady, like “a lamp that does not flicker in a windless place”. It holds its individuality in the void- the abstract fullness around it – because there is nothing for it to experience. It remains undisturbed, awake in itself. Imagine a silent wave on a silent ocean, ready to expand and merge into the silence of the deep.

And I have to wonder: is chitta the repository of what the Buddhist calls conditionings?
Is this individuality in the void the “silent witness”?
How is this individuality different from ego?
I am not sure. So, read on:

…This verse describes a further step in the practice… [having taken] the mind to the state where thought – the resolute intellect – stands by itself, steady and unmoved….[then] with continued practice, this steady intellect gains a clear experience of its individuality, it begins to retire. The process of retiring begins with the expansion of individuality, and when this happens the intellect, begins to gain the unbounded status of Being.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, v 19 & 20.

And there you go. The trinity of experience has become the unity of experience.


Documenting self image
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
First we must know ourselves as witnesses only, dimensionless and timeless centers of observation, and then realize that immense ocean of pure awareness which is both mind and matter and beyond both.

I have been thinking about witnessing.
I have been wrestling with the experience for so long, I think it worth the effort to untangle.

Nisargadatta says:
First, we must know ourselves as witnesses only…

And only then is there a next step or
[Ultimately] there is no subject and object, whereas in the witness there is still subject and object, but the subject no longer identifies himself with the object as the ordinary man does.
Paul Brunton

Right there, so much gets explained. So much gets established.
The trinity of experience is introduced:
experiencer, process of experiencing, object of experience…

In the witnessing consciousness there is both subject and object, but the subject is no longer identified with object. This is a good definition for what Maharishi Maheshi Yogi termed Cosmic Consciousness:

The identity of self has been disentangled from objective relative. And it this sense it can be called self-realization.
The self is recognized and experienced as separate from activity, thus establishing a true duality from which one can awake.
Prior to this there has been what Maharishi would call “the unity of ignorance” as self is all bound up with identification.
Curiously, the ego (be that defined as “individuality” or the sum total of our conditionings) remains fairly well intact.

Maharishi taught that in Cosmic Consciousness a person had become enlightened, but that was not the end to evolution. Unity was possible. But the process of evolution took time and there were no specific techniques to speed the transformation along.

What Maharishi encouraged was meditation that allowed the mind to become more and more familiar with subtle levels of experience. In essence, the senses become refined – purified. This helped Cosmic Consciousness to transform into God Consciousness – still a dual awareness because both you and God exist. Purification occurs in the body, through refined digestion and the production of soma. As the senses become refined, the heart opens. Through Love the heart unites that which the intellect had separated.

In some respects, this differs from the position taken by many of today’s teachers of the Direct Path. Adyashanti teaches anyone can awaken at anytime: no need to become a good person, no need for purification. One awakens from the mind through techniques of inquiry: “Who am I?” and “I am….”
But, Adya also teaches that for “emptiness to dance” this realization must settle deeper as if into the heart and belly. He calls this embodying awakening – and it too is a process that takes time and can be miss managed.

I so appreciate Adya for teaching about the subtleties of this process and the stumbling blocks:

… the position of the witness can become a fixation… this means of course, that there hasn’t been a true and thorough realization. It is more like a half realization; it’s like being half awake…

and then he sites this famous saying:

The world is illusion. Brahman alone is real. The world is Brahman
Ramana Maharishi

This saying speaks to certain insights that come with awakening. The first insight, that “the world is illusion,” is not a philosophical statement. Seeing that the world is illusion is part of the awakening experience. It is something that is known; we discover that there is no such thing as an objective world out there…This first statement, then, is pointing to this insight, which comes with realization.

The next statement, “Brahman alone is real,” points us toward the recognition of the eternal witness. The witness to the world is where all the reality is. From this perspective of awakening, the witness is experienced to be much more real that what is witnessed. What is witnessed is seen to be like a dream, like a movie or a novel, unfolding in front of us. There is a great amount of freedom in this, but also a great tendency to become stuck in the idea that, “I am the witness to what is.”…

[“Brahman alone is real”]…could also be understood as “The witness alone is real.” But without the third statement, “The world is Brahman,” we would not have true non-duality. In the statement, “The world is Brahman, “we have the realization of true oneness. “The world is Brahman” collapses the position of the external witness. The witness position collapses into the totality, and suddenly we’re not witnessing from

the outside anymore. Instead, witnessing is taking place from everywhere simultaneously – inside, outside, around, up, down. Everything everywhere is being witnessed from inside and outside simultaneously, because what is being witnessed is what is witnessing. The seer and what is seen are the same. Unless that is realized, we can get stuck in the place of the witness. We can become stuck in a transcendent void, in emptiness…

the next phase of the journey of awakening [is] the collapsing of the witnessing position. It starts to collapse when we see that if witnessing is different from the witness, then there is inherent division. Letting yourself see this division is the beginning of the collapse… you can start to see the elements of ego that are using the witnessing position as a way to hide, to not be touched by life, to not feel certain feelings… Make no mistake – to see a fixation within ourselves because someone explains it to us is not enough… It must be discovered in oneself, for oneself.
Adyashanti, The End of Your World.