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.


 

for as long as wanting wants

for as long
as wanting wants
anything – anything
[even
not-wanting]
stillness is abandoned
great silence is silenced
peace is merely a story

 

for as long
as wanting wants
there will be a wanter
an insatiable grasper
an inexhaustible seeker
deaf
to the savage wisdom
that whispers
you are that
which you seek!

 

for as long
as wanting wants
and the wanter
believes
it has more substance
than a thought;
believes
it’s real, with an agenda
[noble, naturally]

Heart
is divorced from its
Beloved

 

– miriam louisa


I am the life of life

I am not a Christian, I am not a Jew, I am not a Zoroastrian

and I am not even a Muslim.

I do not belong to the land, or to any known or unknown sea.

Nature cannot own or claim me, nor can heaven;

nor can India, China, Bulgaria.

My birthplace is placeless, my sign to have and to give no sign.

You say you see my mouth, ears, eyes, nose – they are not mine.

.

I am the life of life.

I am that cat, this stone, no one.

I have thrown duality away like an old dishrag,

I see and know all times and worlds as one,

one, always one.

.

So what do I have to do to get you to admit who is speaking?

Admit it and change everything!

This is your own voice echoing off the walls of God.

~ Rumi

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you might wonder why you ever hungered for Truth

Do you really want this?  Or do you just want your fluffy ideas about IT to ice your life with sweet pink sugar?  It’s oft been said that the reality of this eyelid-ripping calamity called awakening turns out to be the last thing imagined by the erstwhile seeker.  I cannot argue with this.

When the Beloved gets you by the short curlies dear seeker IT surely will turn you inside out and shake you all about.  IT will sweep through you like a triple-dose laxative.  You will find yourself doing all sorts of unexpected things – things you’d never have been party to in the days when you knew so well what it would be like when . . .

When this savage wisdom enters the lifestream you call “me” IT will re-align anything that’s out of order – dysfunctional, dis-eased – without you having to visit your therapist.  IT will have you performing rituals of cleansing and forgiveness on your knees – yes, you who loved to hide behind the nondual façade and ask but who could err and who could be hurt?  IT will, as my Aussie mates like to say “Rip you in three and plait you.”  To plait is to braid, and Truth has a different twist to your Life skein than you could ever have imagined.

You might wonder why you ever hungered for Truth.  You might even furtively look for a way out.  But Truth’s flow is a one way surge and there are no exits.

Be very sure you really want this.  If you do, be ready to lose everything you think you are and IT is.  If that sounds extreme, you aren’t ready for Truth’s embrace and for the sweet peace that truly “passeth all understanding.”  Which is no problem at all, because whatever you are ready for is the play of Creation, creating.  To Truth, you see, it makes no difference at all.  The dance goes on regardless.

~ miriam louisa

Note – Truth/IT/Beloved/Creation all refer to the same ineffability in this post.

.