The ability to change your perspective is needed for understanding. (Roger Antonsen TED).
We take for granted that the way we see the world is the way the world is. We have a fixed viewpoint. One way to look upon awakening is to see it as releasing us from the tyranny of a fixed viewpoint. (Albert)
teisho 632 1998
We feel the world is always present, and that we come and go in the world. It is the same with death, we feel we will come to an end and the world will go on. And yet, when we do not take things for granted, it becomes evident it is the other way around. I am never absent, but the world comes and goes. What we are faced with here is something imponderable. We cannot grasp the truth of this situation with thought – so we break it down into either or: either I am and the world is a dream, or the world is and I am a phantom. Either this or that. Either life or death, one or the other.
Ramana Maharshi said, “before anything can come into being, there must be somebody to whom it comes.” All appearance and disappearance presupposes change against a changeless background. We must understand ‘somebody’ very loosely – there is not something that is aware, it is all awareness. Awareness is the background, as it is right now. And yet you seek it in the foreground. You drive towards it instead of allowing it to overtake you. We are always driving forward, wanting to attain something – either more money, another relationship, another job, another house.
It is not ‘My will be done’, but ‘Thy will’, and Thy will comes from behind, not in front. In front is Shangri-La, the crock at the end of the rainbow. Because it is the background it is overlooked, and yet it is everything. It isn’t that you come and go in the world, but that the world crystallizes and then dissolves, crystallizes and dissolves. This crystallization is what we call waking up and the dissolution is what we call going to sleep.
Can you exist without knowing? Can you talk about your own non existence? The probability is you hear these questions and for a moment you focus on them, but then you brush them aside because you want to get down to the real thing, which is going on to Shangri-La. The inertia of going forward is so strong that it sometimes takes punishment to stop us. Which is why we say the moments of difficulty in life can be so valuable. They stop us in our tracks. We don’t trundle on regardless. We are held up for a moment, and in that moment something is possible. Wake up to this going forward, this longing, this searching, – see it not as a factor in life but as life itself. All life is going forward, driving towards unity. This same force drives you forward. It is the force that speaks, walks, hears, writes symphonies, builds cathedrals. No wonder we are unconscious of what is so fundamental. But what is it that drives forward? Everything flows down the river; what is it that doesn’t flow down the river?
Can there ever be the sense ‘I am’ without being something or other?
The world is individual. It is only in abstraction that we can imagine something without individuality. Reality is always individual. The world is not abstract, it is individual. Not an individual, an individual is one among many. It is individual, undivided, one whole. You are that one whole.
We think we are our habits. What is it that knows the habits?
I know you have heard this before, heard it many times before, and are probably tired of hearing it. But if you really heard it you would never be tired, it would come to you like a joyful song. Words become stale, but truth is never stale, it is always fresh. It is not enough to say, ‘Oh this is too deep for me.’ It doesn’t matter if it is a cliff a thousand feet high, you have got to climb it. It is a matter of life and death. It is your self.
Is it not important to you to know whether you are a mere body or something else? Don’t you see that all your problems are your body’s problems? Food, clothing, shelter, survival – all loose their importance the moment you realize you may not be a mere body. The whole burden of existence is shifted. It is shifted in a way that makes it impossible for you to ever take it seriously again.
Everything as it is at the moment is suspended in awareness that calls itself ‘I am’. Nothing lies outside I am. There is a death poem:
The moon is the same old moon,
the flowers are not different,
but now I see that I am
the thingness of things.
Everything is suspended in you. Form is emptiness. As the master said, ‘the fields, the trees, the hills, these are my face.’
This knowing you are not the body is not the substitution of one set of words for another. It is not the substitution of one set of beliefs or ideas for another. It is breaking the link that is holding you to the rock of existence. It is cutting the Gordian knot. It is coming home.
Nisargadatta says that to say you are not the body is not quite true. In a way, you are all the bodies, hearts and minds, and much more. When we say you are not the body, that you are not something, there is a tendency to think that the mind floats free, that there is an abstraction which is other than things. But it is not like that. Everything is the same, the moon is the same old moon. The body is still the body, everyday mind is the way. Everything is the same, but everything is fundamentally different. Before there was fifty percent missing and that fifty percent just cannot be talked about. But it must not be ignored because it cannot be talked about. It is because we ignore it, look through it, that we suffer; because we see, in what we call the world, simply a succession of events, and ask ourselves ‘is that all there is?’ The other half is knowing itself.
When we ask ‘who am I?’ – it is not that there is a ‘who’ and an‘I am’ which is going to satisfy the who. The who is the driving forward, it is the search for Shangri-La, but with that drive forward is ‘I am’. See deeply into I am and you will see the answer to the question: what does not flow down the river?
When you really give the mind a problem it will come up with the answer. You are trying to remember a name, perhaps the name of an author, and you just cannot get it; you keep pushing at it, but it will not come. And then later, when perhaps you have even forgotten that you were looking for that name, it will come to you, perhaps even three or four days later; it will come from nowhere for no reason. So what about if you really ask this question ‘who am I?’ You know, just as you knew the name of the author. The ‘I am’ is not the problem, it is the ‘I am something’ that is the problem. Just let go of everything you think it is. I am is preciousness itself, but it becomes a thief when it becomes something.
Nisargadatta says: ‘When the mind stays with I am without moving, you enter a state which cannot be verbalized, but can be experienced. All you need to do is to keep coming back to this.’
The whole of our practice is a practice of discernment. Gurdjieff used to say it is separating the course from the fine. It is not something on the other side of the moon that you are looking for, it is not something that only geniuses or holy people can find. Everyone who realizes themselves, realizes themselves as an ordinary person. It is seeing that there is nothing special that turns everything into something special. The sense I am is always with you, but you have attached all kinds of things to it: body, feelings, thoughts, possessions. Because of this you take yourself to be what you are not. We have so immersed ourselves in habits of thought, habits of being, that we cannot veer away from them, we are dominated by them. The truth is not hard to realize, it is always offering itself. You do not need to be a saint to come to awakening, because all beings are Buddha. All you need to do is wake up.