Vasistha: The self ignorantly imagines an egotistic existence, even as if gold, forgetting its goldness, might think it is a ring and weep and wail “Alas, I have lost my goldness”.
Rama: Holy sir, how can this ignorance and egotism arise in the self?
Vasistha: Rama, one should ask questions concerning the reality only, not concerning the unreal. Neither goldless ringness nor limited egotism exists in truth. When the goldsmith sells the ring, he weighs out the gold, for it is gold. If one were to discuss the existence of the ringness in the ring, and the finite form in the infinite consciousness, then one has to compare it with the barren woman’s son.
The existence of the unreal is unreal: it arises in ignorance and vanishes when inquired into. In ignorance one sees silver in the mother-of-pearl, but it cannot serve as silver even for a moment! As long as the truth that it is mother-of-pearl is not seen, the ignorance lasts. Even as one cannot extract oil from sand and even as one can obtain only gold from the ring, there are no two things here in this universe: the one infinite consciousness alone shines in all names and forms.
Such indeed is the nature of this utter ignorance, this delusion and this world-process: without real existence there is this illusory notion of egotism. This egotism does not exist in the infinite self. In the infinite self there is no creator, no creation, no worlds, no heaven, no humans, no demons, no bodies, no elements, no time, no existence and no destruction, no ‘you’, no ‘I’, no self, no that, no truth, no falsehood (none of these), no notion of diversity, no contemplation and no enjoyment. Whatever is, and is known as the universe, is that supreme peace.
There is no beginning, no middle and no end: all is all at all times, beyond the comprehension of the mind and speech. There is no creation. The infinite has never abandoned its infinity. That has never become this. It is like the ocean, but without ocean’s movement. It is self-luminous like the sun, but without activity.
In ignorance, the supreme being is viewed as the object, as the world. Even as space exists in space, one with space, even so what appears to be the creation is Brahman existing in Brahman, as Brahman. The notions of far and near, of diversity, of here and there are as valid as the distance between two objects in a mirror in which a whole city is reflected.
Question: The human mind has been conditioned and brainwashed for thousands of years. Is it possible to free the mind of all psychological fear, and what is the brain’s primary function besides keeping the body alive?
Tom: We could say that there is always an aspect of the mind/ consciousness/ awareness/ ourselves that is untouched by conditioning. This awareness can at times see this conditioning you speak of in action, and then immediately it is already beyond it, and action from ‘this place’ is no longer egoically conditioned, although other types of conditioning such as biological conditioning and language skills remain.
This awareness-wisdom can grow and eventually efface the egoic conditioning completely, which is when we enter into the depths of Silence that is Timeless and Non-dual.
Even though all of this is already ‘That’, it is not fully ‘realised’ and suffering continues until the egoic conditioning is no longer active.
We had a wonderful satsang on Thursday here in the UK. Thank you for those who attended. The teachings I share are not scripted, and I do not really have any fixed teachings of my own, so it is always interesting to me what teachings arise from ‘Tom’s mouth’ through the interaction of seeking energy with non-seeking energy.
Here are some points we discussed and some reflections that I hope you don’t mind if I share with you:
1. Most of the popular spirituality that is on the scene is that which benefits the ‘me’ – ie. it makes the ‘me’ happier and makes the me’s life easier. This is also known as self-improvement, self here referring to the limited identity as body-mind. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this – in fact it is actually quite good – this type of spirituality is limited in that it does not ultimately liberate.
Most of us in the group noted that we all spent a period of time in self-help type activities and we indeed found them helpful, and sometimes still do, but there was a point beyond which self-help was no longer helpful in easing our suffering. So, we left that paradigm behind and eventually stumbled onto non-duality and non-dual teachings/presentations which tackle the cause of suffering at its very root.
2. Teachings that are formulaic are for the ego, at least initially, and these are the ones that are easiest to comprehend and spread ‘en mass’, eg. we can create workshops and write books and teach others easily using formulaic methods. Again, without a genuine insight, these teachings alone do not ultimately liberate.
3. All teachings are eventually to be cast aside, otherwise we are bound to the teaching we carry around with us, and this itself becomes a subtle burden and perpetuates the ‘me’ or ignorance and the resultant suffering continues.
4. Are we not all seeking a deep sense of peace? Or a deep sense of fulfilment in which we are no longer burdened with the travails of life?
5. Do we not, each and every night, find this deep lasting peace in deep dreamless sleep, albeit unconsciously?
6. What does this teach us about the nature of peace and suffering?
7. When the egoic mind is no longer active, peace is all there is.
8. Teachings about awareness and consciousness can be very useful and liberating – but only to a point – these too are dualistic concepts that must be cast aside for liberation to be complete.
9. The mind, which is egoic thought, convinces us that the mind is required for our survival. But is this true?
10. It can be seen directly at some point that this ‘me’ which feels and thinks it is needed to survive is actually an addition that is not required at all. It is fear-based and causes suffering.
11. When the ‘me’ is no longer here, then all division and duality ceases. There is only Oneness. Even this concept of Oneness can be a hurdle – even the concept of Oneness is too complex – it also needs to be let go of when the time is right.
12. Trying to get this is more ‘me’, a subtle form of greed and fear which is trying to make life better for the ‘me’, just like point (1)
13. What is there to say? Can this and need this be put into words at all?
This is simply about the energy of the ‘me’ totally disappearing or collapsing.
And of course it doesn’t matter if that happens or not!
Liberation simply and always already IS as EVERYTHING and NO-THING
We could say that the ego or ‘me’ is an energetic movement. When the movement stops, the ‘me’ disappears. Just like a wave or whirlpool are both a movement of water, so when the water stops moving, the wave or whirlpool disappear.
Questioner: Tom, what are you most proud of in life? ‘Being proud of’ suggests a possessive quality which pertains to a ‘me’ like ‘being sad because’ and hence, we both know that only a ‘me’ can be sad, but nonetheless, are you still proud of something?
Tom: There are probably some things I am glad I have done or achieved, but, as you state above, there is no me who can claim ownership, so no real pride in that sense.
Duality, in the context of the spiritual search, implies the existence of a separate ‘me-entity’, which we could call the seeker. And the seeker, is seeking something, a goal of some kind, which we could call Enlightenment or Liberation. So here are the two principle elements of the dualistic paradigm, a seeker and a goal to be reached.
The seeker can go by various names, such as the separate self, false self, ego, egotism, the ‘me’, being a ‘person’, the doer, the body-mind entity, being a mortal, and so on, but all these terms refer to the same essential seemingly separate seeker-entity.
Similarly the goal being sought goes by various names such as Enlightenment, Liberation, Nirvana, God, Spirit, Brahman, Self, Awakening, and so on. Now of course the the specifics of the imagined/projected goal differs depending on one’s conditioning and experiences, but for the purposes of outlining the principles of duality in the spiritual search, we can leave it at this rather than explore all the various notions of Enlightenment.
These two basic elements of duality, the seeker and the sought, imply a third entity, namely a path to be traversed, a method or system of spiritual enlightenment. So we now have three basic elements of the dualistic paradigm: the seeker, the method/path of seeking, and the sought.
In vedanta, the two basic elements of duality are sometimes known as dyads (ie. subject-object duality), and the three elements are called triads (ie. subject-process-object eg. knower, knowing, known). Sri Ramana Maharshi in his short text ‘Reality in Forty Verses’ (Ulladu Narpadu in Tamil) wrote in verse 9 ‘Dyads and triads depend upon one thing: the ego…’)
What about non-duality? Well non-dual expressions or teachings point out that these dyads and triads are all in fact fictions. There is no seeker or sought, or you could say there is only the seeker (eg. ‘all this is Self’, Self essentially meaning ‘me’, or ‘You are That’), or there is only the sought (eg. there is only Liberation, Liberation being the goal being sought), or you could equate the seeker with the sought (eg. I am Brahman, My nature is the Buddha nature). In all the above cases, the idea is that the dualistic paradigm, as outlined above, is a total fiction.
Now, if you look at the above paragraph, you can see several related methodologies emerging, all of which work slightly differently to produce the same end results of deconstructing the (false) dualistic conceptual paradigm:
1) Denial of the seeker/sought or subject/object duality
2) Resolving/merging all into the seeker/subject
3) Resolving/merging all into that which is sought/the goal. This is another way of stating that the goal one is seeking is already fully here and already one with everything.
4) Equating the seeker/subject with the sought/goal
In the methodological path of Vedanta, we can see all these methods in operation. Here are some examples:
1) ‘There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.’ We find this verse repeated in the Upanishads (Amritabindu Upanishad 10 and Atma Upanishad 2.31) and it is also repeated by Gaudapada (Mandukya Karika 2.32) and Shankara (Vivekachudamani verse 574) in their writings.
2) In Vivekachudamani, verse 356, Shankara writes: Those alone are free from the bondage of transmigration who, attaining Samadhi, have merged the objective world, the sense-organs, the mind, nay, the very ego, in the Atman [the self, ie. merged everything into the subject], the Knowledge Absolute – and none else, who but dabble in second-hand talks.
3) ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ is a vedic mahavakya (great saying) taken from the Chandogya Upanishad (verse 3.14.1) which means ‘All of this is Brahman’, Brahman being the goal being sought.
4) ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ is another mahavakya, this time from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (verse 1.14.10) which means ‘I (the subject) am Brahman (the goal sought)’.
In other teachings, we see one or more of these methods of deconstruction of the dualistic paradigm, but we can also see that some teachings focus in on only one of the 4 above methods. eg. some teachings focus on stating there is no limited entity (1) or all this is already perfectly liberated and nothing needs to be done (3). You see, any single method, taken all the way to its logical end, reaches the same goal, and the teachings themselves self-deconstruct. Only the words used differ.
Why do and must the teachings eventually self-deconstruct? Because they too are part of the dualistic paradigm, the paradigm that presupposes a seeker-seeking-sought triad or seeker-sought dyad.
However, if the teachings are not taken to their final end, in which they eventually self-deconstruct, then the seeker may be left with a belief such as ‘there is no seeker’. We can term these beliefs dogma or doctrines. They are concepts mimicking a genuine ‘direct realisation of non-duality’. One person may believe ‘I am everything’ while another person believes ‘there is nobody here’. One person may believe there is no path, no seeker, no enlightenment, while another may state the only way is to merge all phenomenal objects into the Self-Subject. Now, armed with merely superficial concepts, we can argue about which of these doctrines or dogmas is true. Now we have a group of various false selves, all caught up within the (fictional) dualistic paradigm.
Such are the various traps of conceptual teachings when the teaching itself is not realised to be within the dualistic paradigm. Clinging to the words without the genuine realisation they point to means that the menu becomes more important than the meal.
So we can see that ALL teachings are dualistic, even the so-called non-teachings, and ALL teachings utilize fictions, at least initially, and your favourite non-dual teaching is no exception!
It’s just a matter of degree: some teachings are far less dualistic than others and point the way out directly and efficiently, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are better teachings, whereas others take a different route, which actually may be more helpful than the more direct teachings at certain points on the journey.
-Pointing out teachings or descriptions of what-is and teaching of any kind all imply duality. What is being pointed out (subject), and to whom (object)? Non-duality doesn’t need a teaching.
-To compare different teachings to each other is dualistic.
-To call one teaching truly non-dual and another dualistic is itself dualistic and relativistic, obviously.
Not that there is anything wrong with apparent duality!
So either ALL teachings/expressions/non-teachings are dualistic….or alternatively one could say that ALL teachings are essentially non-dualistic, as non-duality is all there ‘is’!
To have it any other way would be dualistic, and duality is a fiction!
Another way of putting is that there are not really lots of different teachers and teachings at all – although that is how it may appear from within the fictional dualistic paradigm – there is only Oneness Being ❤
Many claim that to advise any kind of practice is to reinforce the ego and duality, and is therefore a dualistic expression. Now there is much truth in this. However to use the same logic against itself, isn’t this in itself a duality, distinguishing between dualistic and nondualistic expressions?
Ask yourself, what is more important to you: concepts of duality/nonduality or the cessation of suffering?
Ultimately the ‘truth’, so to speak, is not to be found in concepts of any kind, and is not really truth at all but simply the end of suffering.
Many expressions can help towards this end, both so-called dualistic and nondualistic expressions. To think otherwise is to artificially restrict yourself and close yourself to the endless variety of ways life teaches and guides us home – the home we never really left – you could even say the home we always already ARE.
While there is nothing wrong with discussing teachings (it can appear to be very helpful depending on where the seeker is – although a duality is also implied in the very discussion) – to argue endlessly about conceptual teachings often implies an egotism that is attached to certain expressions (ie. teachings), and this too can be an unhealthy source of egotism and suffering.
So if you find yourself tangled up in teachings and seeking, a suggestion is to simply relax and be as you are, free from worry, free to worry.