the ten thousand things

To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
– Eihei Dogen

If one is very fortunate indeed, one comes upon – or is found by – the teachings that match one’s disposition and the teachers or mentors whose expression strikes to the heart while teasing the knots from the mind. The Miriam Louisa character came with a tendency towards contrariness and scepticism, which is probably why she gravitated to teachers who displayed like qualities.  It was always evident to me that the ‘blink’ required in order to meet life in its naked suchness was not something to be gained in time.  Rather, it was clear that it was something to do with understanding what sabotages this direct engagement.  So my teachers were those who deconstructed the spiritual search – and with it the seeker – inviting one to “see for oneself.”  I realised early on that I wouldn’t find any help within traditional spiritual institutions since their version of awakening is usually a project in time.  Anyway, I’m not a joiner by nature.

I set out on my via negativa at an early age, trying on all kinds of philosophies and practices with enthusiasm and casting them aside –neti neti – equally enthusiastically.  Chögyam Trungpa wised me up to “spiritual materialism” in the 70s;  Alan Watts followed on, pointing out that whatever is being experienced is none other than ‘IT’ – the unarguable aliveness that one IS.  By then I was perfectly primed for the questions put by Jiddu Krishnamurti – “Is there a thinker separate from thought?” “Is there an observer separate from the observed?” “Can consciousness be separated from its content?”  It was while teaching at Brockwood Park that I also had the good fortune to engage with David Bohm in formal dialogues as well as private conversations.  (About which I have written elsewhere.)

Krishnamurti and Bohm were seminal teachers for me;  I also loved the unique style of deconstruction offered by Nisargadatta Maharaj.  As it happened though, it took just one tiny paragraph from Wei Wu Wei to land in my brain at exactly the right time for the irreversible ‘blink’ to occur.

I mention this rather august lineage because it explains why the writing of Robert Saltzman strikes not just a chord but an entire symphonic movement for me.  He is a mindshifter in the same tradition, a Manjushri for the moment.

We are peers;  we were probably reading the same books by Watts and Krishnamurti at the same time during the 70s and 80s.  Reading his book, The Ten Thousand Things, is, for me, like feeling my way across a tapestry exquisitely woven from the threads of my own life. I’m not sure that I can adequately express my wonderment and appreciation…

The candor, lucidity and lack of jargon in Robert’s writing are deeply refreshing. I also relish his way with words. He knows how to write. He also knows how to take astonishingly fine photographs, and these are featured throughout the book.

It’s been said that this book will become a classic, which is a pretty good achievement for someone who isn’t claiming to be a teacher and has nothing to gain by its sale. (The book sells for the production price.) He is not peddling enlightenment. He is simply sharing how it feels to be free from all the spiritual fantasies that obscure our seamless engagement with this miraculous thing called life, right now.

[I chose the excerpt below because it addresses the ubiquitous myth that freedom/awakening will deliver some imagined state of eternal happiness… ]


 

Photograph by Robert Saltzman

 

The only relief I know is the freedom one feels when finally the need for certainty comes to an end, replaced by a willingness to allow life to unfold as it does without knowing a damn thing about “cosmic” anything, either pro or con.

When I say “freedom,” I do not mean happiness.  Nor do I mean immunity from ordinary human suffering.  I mean the equanimity and peace of mind that emerge in the light of the comprehension that in this moment things are as they are and cannot be any different, including what I feel, and how I see and understand myself and the world.

Each of us sees a different world, and what each of us sees is oneself.  This does not signify as some people believe that the world is not real.  It means that what I see is not the same as what you see.  What you see is you, and what I see is me.  When this identity of seeing and seer is understood, freedom is obvious, for then there is no stand-in, no alternative, or substitute for the seeing what I see and being what I am in this moment.  All I can be is myself, and all I can see is myself.

From my perspective, following a spiritual path, a religion, or a guru serves primarily as a means of avoidance – a way of replacing what one actually is right now with a vision of what one could be.   This is the fallacy of becoming.  Those who purport to teach methods of “self-realization” or paths to “salvation” are not awake, I say, but hypnotized by fancy ideas they learned from previous epigones.  Then, having convinced themselves of their “attainment,” they regurgitate the nonsense they learned to imitate, hypnotizing their followers in the same fashion.

You are what you are here and now.  There is no “later,” and there is, I say, no path apart from one’s own suffering, one’s own confusion, and eventually, with luck, one’s own understanding.

– Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things pp266-267

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Robert Saltzman - The Ten Thousand Things, cover

Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things


Thank you, Robert, for giving the remaining dead leaves on this gnarled old tree a fatal shake.


 

an extraordinarily elegant way of realising God

What would it be like to be fully, continually aware of all of our senses – and what’s more, to be aware of that very awareness?  What might that full sensory awakening have to do with the irreversible realisation of Reality? Drawing from his personal experiences with Parmenides and Empedocles – foundational figures of Western civilization whose mystical dimensions have been forgotten or ignored – pre-Socratic philosopher Peter Kingsley maintains that to approach the changeless authentically, Western civilization must rediscover its own sacred origins and purpose. He asks, how can Western culture participate in the harmony of oneness if it has forgotten its own note?

In this post, which is a transcript of part of an interview made in connection with the Global Oneness Project, Kingsley outlines the sensory awakening at the root of Empedocles’ writings.

 

Persephone - Greek Goddess of the Underworld; Museum of Ancient Sculpture, Cyrene, Libya

 

You have to find reality, ultimate reality, here, where you are, in this apparent body, surrounded by these apparent colors and movements, and shapes and forms and sounds and noises. And they (the ancient Greek mystics) gave the techniques. They gave the methods for using our senses to find oneness all around us.

Empedocles and Parmenides were very, very up front, as most great mystics are, and at the beginning of their teachings they say, “Everybody is living a totally wasted life.” Everybody’s life is a sham, everybody is living in a dream. We can think we are driving down the road, we can think we’re shopping, we can think we’re in a business meeting. We are asleep. We are never actually using our senses.

Sometimes there can be the brief moment when we look out at a tree, or we’re driving down the road, and just for a brief moment we can say, “Good Lord, I’m holding a steering wheel. I have my foot on the gas pedal!” Or, “Good Lord, I’m looking at a tree!”

Usually we’re just looking at a tree and thinking about something else. Or we’re driving down the road and thinking about the argument we just had with our partner. It’s very, very rare that we simply look and are aware that we are looking.

And that involves being aware of what we’re looking at, and being aware of ourselves looking at the same time. So right now, I can be aware that I’m moving my hand, and that I’m talking, and that you there are in front of me. But it’s actually not a very, very common state at all, to be aware like that.

Empedocles gave very, very specific directions for how to start to become conscious through your senses. How to look and be aware that you’re looking. How to feel your tongue inside your mouth, and be aware of it. Not just rub your tongue on the top of your mouth, but actually be aware that it’s happening. And how to do this with all of the senses at the same time.

And this last stage, about how to do it with all the senses at the same time, this is very, very powerful, it’s very, very esoteric, it is an extraordinarily elegant way of realizing God.

Not by leaving the senses behind, but by consciously using all of your senses at the same time. If you do that, if you actually do that, you start to become aware… there is your sense of sight, there is your sense of hearing, there is the sense of feeling what you feel, your backside on the chair, or you feel your shoes on the floor. The hearing, the seeing, the feeling, the tasting, the touching. And it’s difficult enough even to do one of those consciously, but if you do them all consciously, you become aware of this infinite blackness between them.

There is a void that connects the seeing to the hearing, to the tasting, to the touching.

And that’s ETERNITY.

And that eternity is totally unchanging, but that eternity is also what gives rise to the physical world. And it’s out of that experience of eternity that people like Empedocles or Parmenides, these ancient Greeks, were actually able to bring the germs of a new civilization.

Because that eternity – it never changes, but it contains the seeds of all change.

 


The complete interview – 19:02


A prominent mystic of our time and student of sufi path, Peter Kingsley’s groundbreaking work on the origin of Western spirituality, philosophy, and culture is recognized throughout the world. Through his writings as well as lectures he speaks straight to the heart, and has helped to transform many people’s understanding not only of the past but of who they are. The author of three books, including Reality and In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and recipient of numerous academic awards, he holds honorary positions at universities in England, Canada, the United States.

peterkingsley.org

Peter Kingsley on Wikipedia

About the image:
Persephone, Greek Goddess of the Underworld; Museum of Ancient Sculpture, Cyrene, Libya.
In Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of the fertility goddess Demeter, was abducted to the underworld by Hades but was allowed to return for part of the year, when the earth became fruitful. She is often depicted, as here, drawing a veil across her face, indicating her time on earth is ending and she is returning to the underworld, when the earth once again becomes barren.
Source

If, however, you read Peter Kingsley’s Reality, you will learn the true role Persephone played in guiding those who journeyed to the underworld – her domain – towards true reality.
And you’ll learn the real significance of the veil…

“… two and a half thousand years ago we were given a gift
– and in our childishness we threw away the instructions for how to use it.
We felt we knew what we were playing with.
And, as a result, western civilisation may soon be nothing but
an experiment that failed.”
– Peter Kingsley

Reality, by Peter Kingsley

Eckhart Tolle says, “This book is a journey back to the source
– not only of western civilisation but, more importantly, to the source within you.
Read it! To understand it is to be transformed.”
I couldn’t agree more.


 

no one gets this

A notice from Kalyani Lawry for those in the Melbourne area who are seriously interested in ending the search or radically reassessing their understanding.


Sarrita King, Lightening Dreaming 2012

 

Seeking begins with the individual and
ends with the annihilation of the individual.
– Ramesh Balsekar

We are talking about annihilation, death, the end: nothing.
Not death of the body; nothing dies when the body dies.

We are talking about real death.
The death of the self/the personality package.
That existentially terrifying death of the me.
Facing that dread, that anxiety, the very fear that got us seeking.

While it’s easy to construct a conceptual bypass
“There is no me so I know there is nothing to do and no where to go”
It simply doesn’t cut it.
Repeating non-duality pointers like mantras may reduce and manage the anxiety,
Yet nothing changes.

There is no bypass.
There is no conceptual shortcut.
In the end it’s about facing that fear
Going to the place we don’t want to
Entering into the heart of darkness.

In 1991 in a conversation I had with U.G. Krishnamurti he said,
“If people realised what enlightenment is, no one would want it.”

NO ONE GETS THIS:

there is no awakening,
no attainment,
no getting it,
no seeing through,
no hope,
nothing,
No Thing.

After reading this, if you still would like to join us this Sunday 5th February at 39 Bradleys Lane, Warrandyte North 3113 VIC – 3 pm to 5 pm, you are welcome as we gently and respectfully deconstruct the search, turning the questions back on the questioner.

It’s not that you get answers.
When the questioner ends, there are no questions.
No thing.

Please let us know if you are planning to join us: kalyani@nonduality.com.au


Following the direct lineage of the ancient Navnath masters, and awakened through a direct and simple recognition 
of their actuality, Kalyani and Peter are able to express this to those who are open to it.
Sailor Bob Adamson


Worth revisiting:

why you don’t really want to awaken


Painting by Australian Aboriginal artist Sarrita King, Lightening Dreaming, 2012. I chose Sarrita’s painting to accompany this post because when the actuality of Truth dawns, it can feel as though one has been simultaneously struck and illuminated by lightening.

memento mori

On ageing, awakening and extinction. The title, memento mori, (see note below) prompts us to “remember that we will die” – but not to bring fear of dying to our attention in some morbid manner. Our physical end is inevitable. The prompt is for us to learn how to live while we still have time. When we understand how it is to truly live, we can find no reason to fear death. It’s all about learning to live.

A lifetime is so little time
that we die before we
get ready to live.
– John Muir

Since this blog is dedicated to my mother, Miriam, who would have been 104 years old today, I rally myself to write a post in her honour. She had a longer lifetime than most, and spent a great deal of it coming to the understanding that in order to fully live there needs to be a kind of death in every moment – a dying to the past, the future, and their construct of a solid, separate self.

What does it mean to truly live? These wise words from Joan Tollifson look life and death in the eye and are worth sharing. Being fairly advanced in years myself, I can vouch for their accuracy; the similarities between awakening and ageing are apt. Yet everything is here to remind us of what never awakens or ages, because it’s never been asleep or subject to time.

Some writers point to the likely extinction of our species as we plunder the planet that creates and sustains our life. Perhaps so. Where did we get the idea that anything could ever be permanent in a universe of ceaseless motion? Permanence is an impossibility; but that’s not all. Impermanence is an equally fanciful notion. As Joan points out, “a deep understanding of impermanence reveals that there is no impermanence, because no-thing ever forms or persists to BE impermanent.” Bodies will appear and disappear but never leave – where would they go? Death is a gracious messenger; it comes to alert us to its own illusion.


Fiona Hall: Out of my Tree

I see aging as a spiritual adventure not unlike awakening – you realize in a very visceral way that there is no future. You are beginning to dissolve. Everything is falling away. Growing old involves loss of control, loss of abilities, loss of independence, loss of self-image, loss of loved ones, loss of everything that has defined you. In the end, it is a total letting go. And at the same time, death is actually moment-to-moment. The bodymind is like a wave on the ocean – inseparable from the ocean, and in that sense, eternal, but never eternal as a single consistent form, which never existed to begin with in this ever-changing movement. The same can be said about the human species, planet earth, and the entire universe.

Whether through climate change or a nuclear war, it seems quite possible that the human race may wipe itself out. Many species are disappearing at a rapid rate in what has been called the sixth mass extinction to occur on planet earth, this one largely human-caused. Perhaps humans throughout history have felt “the end was near,” and certainly many people have lived through periods of war, famine and plague where everyone they knew was wiped out – but in some very unique way, we seem to live in a time when the vulnerability and potential death of the human species is in our face. Would this death be a tragedy or simply another change in the endlessly shifting kaleidoscope of infinite (timeless) unicity? How do we meet these threats of extinction?

When loved ones die, alongside the grief and sorrow of loss, there can also be the immense freedom and discovery of what cannot be lost. A loved one is gone forever, and yet they are right here. Everything is right here! No-thing actually begins or ends. As they say in Buddhism, a deep understanding of impermanence reveals that there is no impermanence, because no-thing ever forms or persists to BE impermanent. There is only the ever-changing, ever-present Here / Now from which nothing stands apart. Our fear of death may be very much like the fear people once had about sailing out to sea and falling off the edge of the earth – a fear based on a misconception about how things actually are.

Joan Tollifson


I began this post with a quote from John Muir. It comes from this stunning video, which is both an an ode to wilderness and an invitation to “get ready to live.” It was filmed in the Scottish Highlands.

Wilderness from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

More information about John Muir at johnmuirtrust.org


In January 1944 Miriam spent her 31st birthday in a New Zealand maternity ward recovering from the delivery of yours truly – just 48 hours earlier. We always celebrated our birthdays in tandem; my birthday poem for this year is posted on echoes from emptiness blog: on turning seventy three


Memento mori is a Latin phrase translated as “Remember your mortality”, “Remember you must die”, or “Remember you will die”; taken literally it means [In the future] remember to die, since “memento” is a future imperative of the 2nd person, and “mori” is a deponent infinitive. It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose: to remind people of their own mortality. The phrase has a tradition in art that dates back to antiquity.
– Wikipedia

Fiona Hall’s sculpture Out of my Tree, is part of that tradition. Crafted – with her usual meticulousness – from sardine tins, this piece was part of her installation for the 2014 Adelaide Biennial and the 2015 Venice Biennial.

the ordinary way will do

Enlightenment Right Now

 

Where shall I look for Enlightenment?

Here.

 
When will it happen?

It is happening right now.

 
Then why don’t I experience it?

Because you do not look.

 
What should I look for?

Nothing, just look.

 
At what?

Anything your eyes alight upon.

 
Must I look in a special kind of way?

No. The ordinary way will do.

 
But don’t I always look the ordinary way?

No.

 
Why ever not?

Because to look you must be here. You’re mostly somewhere else.

 
– Anthony de Mello

De Mello Spirituality Center


Image and text originally posted on the Science & Nonduality Conference Facebook page.
Too splendidly spot-on not to be shared…


 

trust the vast nobody lying behind you

This Unlit Light - Poetry by Kieran Patrick Riordan

 

The Teacher was asked repeatedly,
‘What is it to live in Awareness?’

Finally, reluctantly she spoke,
For she observed,
Few were willing
To relinquish their cherishing
Of the conditions for suffering.

With a sigh she began.

“Project not Outwardly

Contract not Inwardly

Hold onto nothing

In between.”

How will we speak to others? One asked.

“Back not your opinions,

Let silence move your heart to speak.”

What will I do with my life? Enquired another.

“Rely not on this character,

Trust the vast nobody lying behind you.”

Must my uniqueness die? Asked the cook.

“Be entertained by your ideas,

Let stillness light your way.”
 

She asked for tea and remained silent for another whole year.
 

(Excerpt from Bhutan, 2216….)

– Kieran Patrick Riordan

 


Posted by Kieran on Facebook


 

 

the primary fact

Sometimes a stunning image calls for an equally knock-out quote. I’m moved to post this one from Nisargadatta, because there’s so much misunderstanding around the ‘primary fact’. It shows up as stories that equate Reality with divine or sublime objects, or posit that it’s an experience one should strive to attain (via a smorgasbord of profit-earning materials and activities). It’s touted to ‘bring’ peace, happiness, awakening, enlightenment, and of course the obliteration of all our messy emotions as well as the problems we have with ‘others’.

Bring? The primary fact is that these supposed attributes are immanent in every case.

The primary fact is not metaphorical, mythical, magical or mystical. It’s not able to be experienced yet all experiences depend upon it for their existence. It is prior to anything conceivable and depends upon nothing for its absolute and ever-available presence.

And yet: It can only be apperceived as its display. How sweet is that?

 

Tree of Life: photograph by Kenneth Mucke

 

Beyond the mind there is no such thing as experience.

Experience is a dual state.

You cannot talk of reality as an experience. Once this is understood, you will no longer look for being and becoming as separate and opposite. In reality they are one and inseparable like roots and branches of the same tree.

Both can exist only in the light of consciousness, which again, arises in the wake of the sense ‘I am’.

This is the primary fact.

If you miss it, you miss all.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

 


What are the implications of this view?

There is only The Dance. Today you are as twinkle-toed as a prima ballerina. Yesterday you dragged those feet as though they were cast in lead. Tomorrow? Who knows what will arise and choreograph your steps with exquisite fidelity to your patterned preferences and aversions?

It’s all the same, beloveds: Reality r-e-a-l-s on regardless; it only has one pair of shoes.

One-size-fits-all.


the great perfection


Photograph: Tree of Life, copyright Kenneth Mucke: more information here.