pointers can be perilous

Perilous?  Why?  Because it’s so easy to forget that so-called ‘pointers’ are made-up stories that never tell the whole story; they can never open up the whole view.  Why?  Because, like all thoughts, they are limited.  They may be briefly effective as an antidote to another outworn concept; they may shift our focus to a new story that seems to expand our understanding.
But mostly they just fizz around in their own isolated and fragmented way like mental bullies, ostracising other idea-bubbles that dare question their superior understanding.  What’s more, pointers can easily become addictive.  How?  Unless they are seen for what they are, they play right into thought’s conviction that there must be One Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
(Thought wasn’t satisfied with ’42’ for long. LOL)

Pointers should come with a warning: Beware, extended habitual usage may cause blinkered vision.

Hanabusa Itcho: Blind Monks Examining an Elephant
With her characteristic penetrating insight, Joan Tollifson reminds us that no matter where we find ourselves right now in our exploration of existence, we can only be aware of a nano-portion of the immensity of aliveness:  “Nothing is just one way.”

Joan writes:

Very often, people read or hear something—and this pointer triggers a profound insight or shift for them.  Something opens and clarifies.  They see the truth of what is being pointed out.  But then, very often, they fixate on the pointer and make it into a dogma.  I see people do this all the time with a number of popular pointers: the idea that there is no choice, the idea that there is no self, the idea that there is nothing to do and no one to do it and therefore any practice or exploration (such as meditation or inquiry) automatically reinforces the false self, the idea that there is no such thing as awareness, the idea that awareness is the ultimate reality, the idea that there is no way to describe the living reality and therefore anything anyone says (other than that) is false and should be dismissed, and probably a few others I’m not remembering at the moment. Each of these ideas points to a truth (or an aspect) about the nature of reality that can be directly realized. The mistake comes when people fixate on the pointer and land on one side of a false, dualistic, conceptual divide (choice or no choice, self or no self, practice or no practice, effort or effortlessness, something to do or nothing to do, something that survives death or nothing that survives death, the world is real or the world is unreal, and so on). 

Pointers are useful, but they become a hindrance when we fixate on them and turn them into fundamentalist dogmas.  It’s easy to see this tendency when it shows up “out there” in fundamentalist Christianity or fundamentalist Islam, but it’s harder to see it in ourselves.  We think we’re beyond all that.  But I see this dogmatic fixation and fundamentalism happening all the time in the nondual subculture.  We fixate, for example, on the notion that there is no choice, that everything is a choiceless happening, that there is no individual chooser.  This is a very liberating discovery, a profound insight. But it’s only a partial truth—reality itself can’t be boxed up that way.  And if we fixate on that as the whole truth, then if anyone dares to speak of “choosing” in any way whatsoever, we instantly pounce.  Wrong!  We tell them. We don’t listen anymore to what the person is actually saying.  Our mind has already been made up.  We’ve landed. We’re stuck on one side of an imaginary divide, identified with a particular formulation, ready to defend it to the death.  I’ve certainly seen this tendency in myself at times—it’s quite human.  It’s how the mind habitually works.

Some people look at the list of recommended books that I include on my website and wonder how on earth I can reconcile such seemingly opposite viewpoints.  As I say at the top of that page, “This list includes books from a variety of different perspectives, and in many cases, they may seem to contradict each other. Some of them say that life (including you and your whole spiritual journey) is nothing but a dream-like illusion, while others say this present happening is all there is.  Some insist that there is nothing to do other than exactly what is happening, while others offer some kind of apparent process, practice or method for waking up.  Some seem to suggest that “you” have the power of choice, while others say that everything is the result of infinite causes and conditions and that there is no one apart from this whole happening to direct or control it.  Some say liberation is found in the realization of complete impermanence while others insist it comes with the recognition of that which never changes.  Who has it right?  What should you believe?  No words or concepts can capture reality.  Maps are useful, but they can only describe and point to the territory itself.  Eating the meal is what nourishes you, not reading the menu.  Take what resonates and leave the rest behind.  Don’t believe anything you read, but instead, question, look, listen, feel into it, and see for yourself.  The book that wakes you up one day may lull you to sleep the next. Always be ready to see something new and unexpected.” 

I want to encourage all of us to stay open to new possibilities, to seeing things in a new way, to questioning our assumptions and conclusions.  It’s easy, especially if you’ve written Facebook posts or books or been teaching something one way for twenty or thirty years, to feel uneasy about seeing things differently or changing your mind!  How will that look?  What will people think of you?  But who cares?  In fact, this living reality is no way in particular.  It is ever-changing, evolving, dancing, vibrating, unfolding—while at the same time never leaving Here-Now.  It never resolves into some final package, some ultimate formulation. There is no finish-line on this pathless path from Here to Here, no definitive model or map that captures reality. What all true pointers are pointing to is the living reality, and the living reality is ALIVE—fluid, spacious, open, ungraspable.  It’s not frozen or solid or one way only.  It can’t be pinned down.  To take but one example, unlike the picture of it in an anatomy book, the living breathing human body is porous, ever-changing, moving, pulsating, oozing, circulating, being born and dying moment to moment at every level, and utterly inseparable from its so-called environment.  It is more like a verb than a noun.  No map is the same as the territory it describes.  Whatever we say (choice or no choice), it can never capture the ungraspable, unresolvable, indeterminate, living totality that it attempts to describe.

Sometimes everything opens up when we hear a teacher say that there is nothing to do.  And at another time (or for someone else), everything opens up when we meditate or engage in meditative inquiry of various kinds.  Sometimes formal meditation is helpful.  Sometimes it becomes a hindrance.  Sometimes we need to hear there is no choice, and sometimes we need to hear that there is a choice.  Nothing is just one way.  A good teacher pulls the rug out from under wherever we try to land.  If we assert there is no choice, they push us to see how there is.  If we insist there is a choice, they point out that there isn’t.  We can’t pin them down.  They don’t fixate.  They don’t offer rugs to stand on—they pull all the rugs out from under us.

There’s a great Zen story in which the teacher and student have been talking late into the night, and finally the teacher tells the student it’s time for the student to leave and go back to his sleeping quarters.  The student opens the door and says, “It’s very dark outside.”  The teacher offers the student a lighted candle to find his way home.  Just as the student receives the light, the teacher blows it out.

www.joantollifson.com
This piece was originally posted on Joan’s Facebook page; it is shared with her kind permission.


I can’t help but think of the parable of the blind men and an elephant, which, according to Wikipedia, “originated in the ancient Indian subcontinent, from where it has been widely diffused.”  It tells the story of six blind sojourners that come across different parts of an elephant in their life journeys.  In turn, each blind man creates his own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective.

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) penned a poetic version called Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL,

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!


Poem source

Image: Hanabusa Itchō (英 一蝶, 1652 – 1724), Blind Monks Examining an Elephant, Ukiyo-e print.
Source


2016 : what I wish for you

Kirlian Photograph of a Coleus Leaf

 

In reality there is only the source,

dark in itself,

making everything shine.

Unperceived, it causes perception.

Unfelt, it causes feeling.

Unthinkable, it causes thought.

Non-being, it gives birth to being.

 

It is the immovable background of motion.

 

Once you are there,

you are at home everywhere.

 

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

 

Beloveds, may you never, ever, leave home
no matter how far and wide you travel.

– miriam louisa

imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

words from my treasured teacher 4

 

J Krishnamurti

 

On July 20, 1961, Krishnamurti wrote an extraordinary account in his journal of the ineffable and unknowable as It was experienced through his body-mind. He struggles to find the appropriate words … the outpouring is, to my mind, pure poetry:

The room became full with that benediction. Now what followed is almost impossible to put down into words; words are such dead things, with definite set meaning and what took place was beyond all words and description. It was the centre of all creation; it was a purifying seriousness that cleansed the brain of every thought and feeling; its seriousness was as lightning which destroys and burns up; the profundity of it was not measurable, it was there immovable, impenetrable, a solidity that was light as the heavens. It was in the eyes, in the breath. It was in the eyes and the eyes could see. The eyes that saw, that looked were wholly different from the eyes of the organ and yet they were the same eyes. There was only seeing, the eyes that saw beyond time-space. There was impenetrable dignity and a peace that was the essence of all movement, action. No virtue touched it for it was beyond all virtue and the sanctions of man. There was love that was utterly perishable and so it had the delicacy of all new things, vulnerable, destructible and yet it was beyond all this. It was there imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing. No thought could ever penetrate it; no action could touch it. It was “pure”, untouched and so ever dyingly beautiful.

All this seemed to affect the brain; it was not as it was before. (Thought is such a trivial thing, necessary but trivial.) Because of it, relationship seems to have changed. As a terrific storm, a destructive earthquake gives a new course to the rivers, changes the landscape, digs deep into the earth, so it has levelled the contours of thought, changed the shape of the heart.

– J Krishnamurti,  Krishnamurti’s Notebook

It was coming upon such clearly authentic writings about the inescapable presence of the Unknowable that led me to Brockwood Park, the school Krishnamurti founded in Hampshire, England. I was a teacher and I found my perfect niche in this unbelievably rich and stimulating environment, where students are guided towards both academic excellence in their studies and deep inquiry into the workings of their thinking.

I revisit these words decades later with delight, and with inexpressible gratitude I can say, “Yes. It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”


Other posts featuring Krishnamurti’s writing:

try it, do it

keep far away

words from my treasured teacher 1


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


 

try it, do it

This is another extract from my mother’s file of inspirational clippings and notes, which I first wrote about in the post keep far away.  She has taken some time to copy the last three paragraphs from a book called The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti by Stuart Holroyd.  In these final lines, the author is summing up Krishnamurti’s take on meditation.

Earlier parts of the chapter make it clear that K held a very emphatic position on what meditation isn’t – not “the repetition of a word, nor the experience of a vision, nor the cultivation of silence … not wrapping yourself in a pattern of thought, in the enchantment of pleasures.” He would have added that it is not prayer – which is rooted in the illusion of separateness, and it is not a way or a path to anything – certainly not to freedom, for freedom is the precondition of meditation.

– – –

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flame_from_a_Burning_Candle.JPG

The basis of meditation, then, is watchfulness, both of the objective and the subjective worlds. It is ‘seeing, watching, listening, without word, without comment, without opinion – attentive to the movement of life in all its relationships throughout the day.’ It is the continual emptying of the mind of thought and experience, allowing the stream of consciousness to flow freely without thought seizing on any of its elements; it is living and dying from moment to moment.

Another paradox about it is that although it is not a thing you can deliberately set out to do, it nevertheless demands hard work and ‘the highest form of discipline – not conformity, not imitation, not obedience, but a discipline which comes through constant awareness, not only of the things about you outwardly, but also inwardly.  Just watch and be aware of all your thoughts, feelings and reactions, without judging, comparing, approving, condemning or evaluating them in any way, Krishnamurti says. Try it, do it, he urges, and you will find that there is a tremendous release of energy, there is the opening of the door into spaciousness, there is the awakening of bliss.

In a telling image he likens the bliss of meditation to a pure flame, and thought to the smoke from a fire which brings tears to the eyes and blurs perception.  In meditation the mind penetrates and understands the entire structure of the self and the world that thought has put together, and the very act of seeing and understanding the structure confers freedom from it, for mediation ‘destroys everything, nothing whatsoever is left, and in this vast, unfathomable emptiness there is creation and love.’

– Stuart Holroyd, The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


Image source


keep far away
words from my treasured teacher


words from my treasured teacher 1

I wanted to write, “words from my perfect master” – recalling the film by that title.  But Krishnamurti would have balked at the “master” moniker, and thrown out the notion of perfection as well.  Still, there’s no arguing that K was a hugely significant mindshifter for me, and that the years spent working at the schools he founded around the world were the highlight of my career as an educator in art and design.  They are also remembered as incomparably rich, in terms of inquiry into the mechanism of thought and the construct of the “self”, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds on the planet.

We have, if we are lucky, more than one great teacher as we dance along the days of our lives.  Krishnamurti was what Buddhists would call my “root” teacher; he meticulously prepared the ground for the understanding that would come later – the eye-popping brain-bending Knowing that would revisit his words, and smile.  Yes.  Just so.

J Krishnamurti at his desk

August 4, 1961

Woke up very early in the morning; it was still dark but dawn would soon come; towards the east there was in the distance a pale light.  The sky was very clear and the shape of the mountains and hills were just visible.  It was very quiet.

Out of this vast silence suddenly, as one sat up in bed, when thought was quiet and far away, when there wasn’t even a whisper of feeling, there came that which was now the solid inexhaustible being.  It was solid, without weight, without measure; it was there and besides it, there existed nothing.  It was there without another.  The words solid, immovable, imperishable do not in any way convey that quality of timeless stability.  None of these or any other word could communicate that which was there.  It was totally itself and nothing else; it was the totality of all things, the essence.

The purity remained, leaving one without thought, without action.  It’s not possible to be one with it; it is not possible to be one with a swiftly flowing river.  You can never be one with that which has no form, no measure, no quality.  It is; that is all.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti’s Notebook


love is what’s left . . .

Apologies, dear friends, for my absence these past weeks. I’ve been beavering away very one-pointedly at another of my online passions – the awakened eye website and blog. The project saw a couple of hundred pages transferred from the original self-hosted website to the WordPress blog associated with it – literally weeks of (joyful) work. The reason? Simplification – downsizing – economics. Please zoom over and have a look at the new site. Feedback appreciated!

I’ve also been putting together a little essay for an online publisher about the “journey home” as it has unfolded for the emelle character – a project that turned up some surprises for her as she joined the dots of the decades. (More about this later.)

One thing I noticed as I examined my own experience over those decades, was a reluctance to use words like “love” when attempting to express the freefall into thusness. Maybe it was my education, which alerted me to recognition of terms that are merely conceptual referents. Maybe it was an awareness of how this word has lost its true meaning as a result of being mouthed ad nauseum by new age adherents and god-botherers in general.

Rupert Spira’s take on love is big enough for me, though. The following is part of a reply he wrote to someone who was courageous enough to ask for clarity about the real implications of this belief-burdened four-letter word.

Whatever is not present right now is not worthy of the name love and is likewise not worthy of our desire. Forget it. Whatever is not present now, even if it is one day found, will by definition one day disappear.

Why go for something temporary? It can never fulfill you. Let go of everything that can be let go of, everything – and anything that appears can be let go of – including all your, my and everyone else’s ideas about love.

In fact, as soon as we look for what is present, it is gone. We cannot focus on or even think about what is truly present. We can only think about an object, about the past, about the future. In other words, we can only think of a thought.

Thought can never know or find the one thing that it almost constantly seeks. It can only dissolve in it.

The mind dies as it turns towards love like a moth in a flame.

Let the mind dissolve in the understanding that it simply cannot go to the place of love and yet, like a fish in the ocean searching for water, it is already swimming in it.

Let everything pass by.

Remember William Blake:  “He who binds himself to a joy does the winged life destroy.”

The ‘winged life’ is love itself.  It is apparently destroyed by our looking for it as an object, by ‘binding’ our self to an object, which means to the past or the future.

Let go, let go, let go.

Let your tears be the river into which everything you know is offered up, all your longing, everything.

Someone once asked Mother Meera if it was okay to offer everything to God or whether only ‘positive things’ should be offered, and she replied: “A child offers its mother a snail, a stick or a stone; the mother doesn’t care what is offered; she is just happy to have been remembered.”

Offer everything. The love you seek is all that will remain behind.

Rupert Spira

Yes. Love is all that’s left, but it’s not like any kind of love you imagined. It has no object. It has no opposite. It is a simple, open acceptance without condition, of all that appears. It is no other than your natural self – whatever you are called.

coming out : ‘fessing up

sitting, this early autumn dawn…
already the tropical heat steams:
low clouds are resting on the mango tops
and on my head, thick after an airless night

sitting, greeting, bowing to
each whining thought’s futility
in the presence of this
impartial
immensity

this me-matrix,
this emelle-character,
has been tossed too far
off the mainstream GPS
by whatever brought her here
to expect acceptance
by the old herd

sometimes, though, there’s a glance
back, over the shoulder
and a sigh sighs – it wants
the best of both worlds:
understanding and encouragement from the old
friends, the frayed remnant of family
as well as this wild unchoreographed dance
with the unknown

but it’s a no-brainer and anyway
back-tracking isn’t an option

a great sentient silence wraps itself
around this spaciousness
and there’s just this
total fulfillment
smiling, smiling

emelle loves this fail-safe Lover
with her life

 

there:

it’s outed

 


emelle = ml = miriam louisa