#5034 - Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz
- #5034 - Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz
The Nonduality Highlights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/
oops! Mark sent a private email to the Nonduality Highlights. It was intended only for the editors of Nonduality Highlights. Apologies to Seth whose privacy was compromised. It was unintentional.
We were complimenting Dustin on how he makes his issues of the Highlights personal in a way that makes them personal for the reader. And Mark has, albeit unintentionally (oh really?), shown his personal, funny side. Hey, Mark, that was the best Highlights issue you've ever sent out!
Thanks to our readers for your understanding.
Now on with a "real" Highlights issue...
Listen to the latest episode of Nonduality Network Talk Radio at
Following some chat, we field a phone call from poet/artist with a nondual flare, Joanne Light, who tells about her work called "Dissolving Duality."
We extract some definitions of nonduality from the little known works of Greg? Goode and Nirmala?
Then we take a call from Greg Allen Morgoglione? and Alice the Canine Messiah. Greg talks about some magic he's working in the music industry that any singer slash songwriter can hook up with and make money. Greg talked about his book which is available here:
We played a song by Greg called Breakfast with You.
Then you'll hear a nondual clip from comedian Louis C.K. and some discussion around it. Finally we play a clip from Thich Nhat Hahn.
Jeff Warren on Nonduality: Time for the World's Most Boring Genre to Grow Up
A talk presented at the Science and Nonduality Conference Europe 2013
Jeff is the unofficial official journalist to nonduality. He is bridging nonduality and the rest of the world. Yeah, them and us. How nondual is That??
This is a classic talk in this "bridging" work that's going to be important in the next couple years, in my opinion.
I like how he talks about sticking to your own experience, because no one can argue about that. That's exactly where I was coming from and what I felt in writing my recent article for One The Magazine: http://onethemagazine.com
Is a Guru Necessary?
by Colin Drake
Recently an appreciative reader printed one of my articles in the India Post of which he is a senior editor. Then in response to one of my later ‘offerings’ he replied that:
I am told that "The discovery that beneath the body/mind, there is a conscious subjective presence," cannot be made without the help of a Guru!
Whereas, I assert that this discovery is child’s play as soon as one knows where to look, and so I sent him my article ‘Investigation of Experience’ (see appendix) which points to this.
All of which made me ponder the question; ‘Is a guru necessary for those on the path of self-inquiry, or direct-investigation?’ The answer to which hinges on the definition of the word guru which is given in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a Hindu spiritual teacher’. Now it is apparent that one who points the way need not be a Hindu so we need to modify this definition to ‘a spiritual teacher’. So is a teacher necessary, and is one who points the way a teacher?
The other consideration to be made is does this person need to be alive and do we need to be in the presence of this person, or can the pointings be gleaned from the written word? Furthermore, if they can does this make the author your guru?
To give a bit of cultural background to this: guru is a Sanskrit word and the guru tradition is endemic to the Indian sub-continent, alive and well in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.
In most of these traditions the seeker is initiated by a guru ,often at a young age, and that person becomes your life-long spiritual preceptor, to whom you turn for instruction and advice in both spiritual and worldly matters; rather like a life-coach in western parlance.
This has not generally been the case in the Western spiritual tradition, the nearest to it being the master/apprenticeship relationship between an artist (or artisan) and his/her students, or that of novice/spiritual-director. The main difference being that these are generally only temporary ties whereas the guru/initiate relationship is more permanent.
The other consideration is the nature of this relationship, which is normally one of devotion (or surrender) in the case of guru/disciple. This is shown in the literal meaning of the word Upanishad: sitting near (i.e. at the feet of) a master (OED), or: sitting near devotedly1. Now in the Upanishadic era all instruction was oral, so you had to get close to a master to hear what he was saying … whereas these days this is not so vital. Obviously, however, to develop devotion the master’s presence is helpful.
In my own case I became completely devoted to Sri Ramakrishna through reading the amazing hagiography by Mahendranath Gupta (M) ‘The Gospel of Ramakrishna’. I re-read this many times and read every piece of literature about this amazing being that I could lay my hands on. I spent ten years as his ardent devotee, meditating on him twice daily for 45-60 minutes, thinking of him, repeating the mantra (on him) given by my official ‘guru’ and studying The Gospel. In this case my official initiation, whilst useful, did not change my allegiance from him to my guru and did not greatly alter my practice or enhance my understanding of Ramakrishna’s message. So this was a case where the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) was dead and almost all of my instruction came by the written word.
However, this concentrated practice and devotion did not lead to complete freedom as I always felt that there was more to achieve. (I have now found that there is always more to be discovered but that this occurs through relaxed investigation, from freedom itself, rather than strenuous effort.) I then encountered a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, called Gangaji, who said “Stop! Be still, you are already That!” The message being that the effort and search were masking that which is always present, all that was required was to ‘stop’ and see what is always here … After many years of struggle and effort this news came like a breath of fresh air and I glimpsed the essence, that undeniable ever-present reality (pure awareness, total peace, absolute emptiness, utter silence and stillness).
This was followed by a seven day silent retreat with Gangaji devoted entirely to self-inquiry during which this glimpse was followed by my first ‘awakening’, resulting in an ecstasy that slowly faded over the following year. During this time I had the realization that life is just a series of moment-to-moment experiences and that by investigating the nature of experience itself one could discover the same ‘constant conscious subjective presence’ (pure awareness) that is revealed by self-inquiry.
So I am now convinced that the discovery of Truth, Freedom, Reality, Awakening, call it what you will, is very simple only requiring that one look (with an open mind) in the right ‘place’. This discovery then needs to be nurtured by repeated inquiry to reawaken when one ‘nods off’ again. This is where devotion, or surrender, to what has been discovered is necessary. In this case no guru or teacher is required just someone who points to where to look, although it may be useful if this person can offer assistance ‘along the way’ in which case you could call them a guru, although ‘fellow explorer’ is the term I would prefer.
About this Ramana Maharshi, who himself had no guru, said:
A Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him onward. That Guru comes only to tell him, `That God is within yourself. Dive within and realize'. God, Guru and the Self are the same.2
And Ramakrishna, who had many teachers but mentions no particular guru (in terms of being a life-coach), commented:
Satchidananda [Brahman, Consciousness, Awareness] alone is the Guru. If a man in the form of a guru awakens spiritual consciousness in you, then know for certain that it is God the Absolute who has assumed that human form for your sake. The guru is like a companion who leads you by the hand. After the realization of God, one loses the distinction between the guru and the disciple. 'That creates a very difficult situation; there the guru and the disciple do not see each other.3
So based on this I think, on balance, those on the path of self-inquiry, or direct-investigation, are better off following Buddha’s final teaching which was that one is to become ‘a light unto yourself’, by investigating for oneself after having been pointed in the right direction. Sankara agreed with this when he wrote, in the Vivekachudamani (verse 54):
The true form of Reality should be known through one’s own bodhacaksu, clear eye of understanding, and not through a scholar; the true form of the moon should be known by means of one’s own eyes only; how can it be known by proxy?4
Appendix: Investigation of experience reveals Reality
Here is a straightforward procedure to investigate the nature of reality starting from one’s day to day experience. Each step should be considered until one experiences, or ‘sees’, its validity until moving on to the following step. If you reach a step where you do not find this possible continue on regardless, in the same way, and hopefully the ‘flow’ of the investigation will make the unclear step clear. By all means examine each step critically, but with an open mind, for if you only look for ‘holes’ that’s all you will find!
1/ Consider the following statement: ‘life, for each of us, is just a series of moment-to-moment experiences’. These experiences start when we are born and continue until we die, rushing headlong after each other, so that they seem to merge into a whole that we call ‘my life’. However, if we stop to look we can readily see that, for each of us, every moment is just an experience…
2/ Any moment of experience has only three elements: Thoughts (including all mind activity), sensations (everything sensed by the body and its sense organs), and awareness of these thoughts and sensations. Emotions and ‘feelings’ are a combination of thought and sensation.
3/ Thoughts and sensations are ephemeral objects, that is they come and go, and are objects, i.e. ‘things’ that are perceived.
4/ Awareness is the constant subject, in that it is the ‘perceiver’ (of thoughts and sensations) and is always present. Even during sleep there is awareness of dreams and of the quality of that sleep; and there is also awareness of sensations in that if a sensation becomes strong enough (such as a sound or uncomfortable sensation) one will wake up. So this awareness is the constant, conscious, subjective presence.
5/ All thoughts and sensations appear in awareness, exist in (and are known by) awareness, and subsist back into awareness. Before any particular thought or sensation there is effortless awareness of 'what is' (the sum of all thoughts and sensations occurring at any given instant), during the thought or sensation in question there is effortless awareness of it within ‘what is’, and then when it has gone there is still effortless awareness of 'what is'.
6/ So the body/mind is experienced as a ‘flow’ of ephemeral objects appearing in this awareness, the ever present subject. For each of us any external object (or thing) is experienced as a combination of thought and sensation, i.e. you ‘see’ it, touch (feel) ‘it’, ‘know’ what it is called etc…
7/ Therefore this awareness is the constant sub-stratum in which all things appear to arise, exist, and subside. Thus deeper than this body/mind one is this awareness, the constant, conscious, subjective presence.
8/ This does not mean that at a surface level we are not the mind and body for they arise in, are perceived by, and subside back into awareness, which is the deepest and most fundamental level of our being. However if we choose to identify with this deepest level, awareness (the perceiver) rather than the surface level, mind/body (the perceived), then thoughts and sensations are seen for what they truly are, just ephemeral objects which come and go, leaving awareness itself totally unaffected.
9/ Next investigate this awareness itself to see whether its properties can be determined...
The first thing that is apparent is that this awareness is effortlessly present and effortlessly aware... It requires no effort by the mind/body and they cannot make it vanish however much effort they apply.
10/The next thing is that this awareness is choicelessly present and choicelessly aware. Once again it requires no choice of the body/mind and they cannot block it however they try. i.e. If you have a toothache there is effortless awareness of it and the mind/body cannot choose for this not to be the case. You may think that this is bad news but that is not the case, can you imagine if you had to make a choice whether you would like to be aware for every sensation that the body experiences! In fact be grateful that there is no effort or choice involved for awareness just to be...such ease and simplicity...which is not surprising for you are this awareness!
11/Next it can be seen that, for each of us, this awareness is omnipresent, in that one never experiences a time or place when it was not present. Even during sleep there is awareness of dreams, the quality of the sleep, and bodily sensations, in that if a noise is loud enough or a feeling (of pain or discomfort for instance) is strong enough it will bring the mind back to the conscious state, i.e. One will wake up... Once again be grateful that the mind/body is never required to search for this awareness, it is just always there, which of course is not surprising for one is this awareness.
12/ Next notice that this awareness is absolutely still for it is aware of the slightest movement of body or mind. For example we all know that to be completely ‘aware’ of what is going on around us in a busy environment we have to be completely still, just witnessing the activity.
13/ In the same vein this awareness is totally silent as it is aware of the slightest sound, the smallest thought..
14/ In fact this awareness is totally without attributes for all attributes occur in, and are noticed by, their lack. i.e. Sounds occur in silence, exist in silence, are noticed by their contrast to silence, and disappear back into silence; forms occur in space, exist in space, are noticed by their contrast to space, and disappear back into space, etc. etc.,
15/ Next it can be easily seen that this awareness is totally pure in that it is absolutely unaffected by whatever occurs in it, in the same way that a cinema screen is totally unaffected by any movie shown on it, however gross or violent. In fact no ‘thing’ can taint awareness; for by definition awareness cannot be affected by any ‘thing’, as all ‘things’ are just ephemeral objects which appear in, exist in and finally disappear back into awareness, the constant subject.
16/ This awareness is omniscient, in that everything appears in it, exists in it, is known by it, and disappears back into it.
17/ Finally it seems that this awareness is forever radiant in that it illuminates whatever occurs in it, thus the mind can see it i.e. become conscious of it.
18/ When one identifies with this awareness there is nothing (in terms of enlightenment, or awakening) to achieve, or struggle towards, for how can one achieve what one already is?
All that is required is for the mind to recognize that one is this awareness…
19/ When one identifies with this awareness there is nothing to find, for how can one find what cannot be lost?
All that is required is for the mind to stop overlooking what is always present, that which perceives the mind (and body)…
20/ When one identifies with this awareness there is nothing to desire, long for, or get, for how can one get what already is?
All that is required is for the mind to realize that which one already is, pure awareness…
So now we have reached the 'Pure, radiant, still, silent, omnipresent, omniscient, ocean of effortless, choiceless, attributeless awareness’ (the Absolute without form or attributes) which, at the deepest level, we all are! Give up all striving, seeking and desiring, and just identify with This which you already are… Identification with This, rather than with body/mind (thought/sensations), gives instant peace for awareness is always ‘still and silent’ totally unaffected by whatever appears in it.
Although we, in essence, are 'The Pure, radiant, still, silent, omnipresent, omniscient, ocean of effortless, choiceless, attributeless awareness' it is impossible to experience this, we can know it, or realize it but it is beyond the realm of experience. This is because all experience appears in This, exists in This and dissolves back into This. In much the same way that you do not see the cinema screen whilst the movie is playing on it, but you cannot see the movie without the screen, this 'pure screen of awareness' cannot be seen by the mind (i.e. experienced) whilst the movie of mind/body is playing on it, but the mind could not see the movie without the screen... The only way it is possible to see the screen is when no movie is playing, but as experience is the movie this 'pure screen of awareness' is always outside of the realm of experience. However recognition of oneself as this 'Pure, radiant, still, silent, omnipresent, omniscient, ocean of effortless, choiceless, attributeless, awareness' may evoke many experiences such as bliss, joy, relief (my God what a relief that there's no individual 'me me me'), a lifting of a great burden i.e. enlightenment in the literal sense of the word, universal love etc etc. These experiences vary greatly from person to person and are ultimately irrelevant as the recognition and realization, of one’s own essential nature, is the crucial factor for attaining freedom.
Note that although we cannot experience our essence we can absolutely know it* just as we know, without a doubt, that the screen is there (when we watch a movie). Then however terrifying, gripping or moving the movie is we are not shaken because we know it is a movie. We still enjoy it, in fact we enjoy it even more, because it is just pure entertainment and we are not identified with it. In the same way, once we know our essential nature, life can be seen as a movie and enjoyed as such without identifying ourselves as being trapped in it. Thus, although we cannot experience our essence, once we recognise it all of our experiences are transformed by no longer identifying with them but just enjoying them. Our mind/bodies are just instruments with which awareness interacts, senses and experiences its manifestation, the world.
This awareness is ‘consciousness at rest’, absolutely still; and is the ‘stillness’ in which all motion arises, exists, is known (by its comparison to the stillness), and finally subsides. For example if you walk across a room, before you start there is stillness, as you walk the room is still and you know you are moving by comparison with this stillness, and when you stop once again there is stillness. Every ‘thing’ that is occurring in consciousness is a manifestation of cosmic energy (the ‘string theory’, and the earlier ‘theory of relativity’, show that matter is in fact energy), which is consciousness in motion; and therefore arises in this awareness, exists in this awareness and subsides back into this awareness.
*Just as you could not see a movie without the screen, you could not experience anything without awareness, for without that what would there be to experience? For without That we would see nothing (in that there would be no awareness of what was seen), hear nothing, feel nothing, taste nothing, smell nothing and not know our own thoughts! In fact experience, on any level, would not be possible…
Colin Drake's books may be researched and purchased for download at http://nonduality.com/colindrake.htm