Corona Virus, the World and Non-Duality

Many of us are feeling profoundly lost in face of the current Corona virus pandemic, with a deep sense of instability and insecurity emerging from the great challenges that present events pose.

In hope of reassurance, we look to our governments and world leaders, for a global consensus and unanimous strategy in the combat of the crisis – yet what we find is more division, controversy and contradictory positions.

But maybe ultimately, this is an outward reflection of how most of us feel deep inside.

Because in truth, even within ourselves we often feel rather torn between numerous ‘solutions’ for the complex issues that present themselves – adopting opinions, only to immediately revise them, when faced with a new fact or argument. Thus we end up oscillating between opinions and positions that often seem hard to reconcile with each other. And the sheer amount of information available can be so overwhelming, that we simply close down and withdraw in mental exhaustion. This does not only apply to the current pandemic, but to pretty much any complex issue in today’s world. Most of us live with a sense of being somewhat ‘bipolar’ in a world that just doesn’t add up anymore.

Global crisis bring home how desperately fragile the world – on which we base our sense of stability, inner security and the hopes for our wellbeing – really is.

We crave stability, wholeness and eternity (because somewhere intuitively we must know that this is our birthright), yet all ‘being a person in the world’ offers us, is constant change, separation, disease and death…

Sooner or later, it may dawn on us, that we are simply looking in the wrong place!

Traditionally, in times of widespread crisis, many people gravitate towards religion or faith for comfort and reassurance. While I wouldn’t advocate doctrines, or adopting religious beliefs (or any other belief, for that matter) – the movement towards the ‘inner world’, as hinted at by this, does point roughly in the right direction.

Esoteric traditions and mystics of the ages have been very clear about where to look for lasting peace, harmony and wisdom – namely ‘within’(granted that the ‘inside – outside’ dualism has it’s own inherent flaws). More importantly, it has been suggested that authentic liberation and true peace, comes from the realization (or better: recognition) of our real self or true nature (within). The (outer) world and it’s ever-changing phenomena – including our ‘personal address and name tag’ in that realm (meaning our assumed limited identity as a separate person) – in contrast, have been described as a somewhat less ‘real’ or even ‘illusory’.

On closer reflection, we may come to notice that the ‘dynamic duo’ – me (in here), and the ‘other’ (= the world ‘out there’) – has really never really delivered on the promise to give us an inner sense of security or harmony.

The reason being: it simply cannot. The only way we experience the world and a ‘me’ is through our mental faculty. In fact, the world is so intimately related to mind, that we cannot separate one from the other. In other words: The World IS MIND.

The mind is a ‘conceptual reality generator’, and its nature is a constant vibrating on a spectrum between opposites. It never stands still. Ceaseless change and instability is its modus operandi. And mind is dualism. Where there is one (thing), there must also be another (thing) – the counter part, or ‘other side of the coin’. You cannot have one, without inevitably bringing the other into existence as well! And the more ‘things’ there are, the more divided the mind becomes.

So, just as the world (and the separate, little ‘me’ in that world) is not the right ‘place’ to look for stability and harmony, mental activity is not the right toolfor the job either – it can only operate within the realm of mind / the world, but not in that which is PRIOR TO THE MIND!

That is why the non-dual message seems so complicated – when in truth, it is so incredibly simple. Too simple for mental abstraction; too simple to get the mind around it! Yet no mind is needed to simply recognize what IS. What could be simpler than that? What could be more simple than ONE?


The Message

The mystic branches all religious traditions – in their core teachings – point towards the same universal theme: the affirmation that the true nature of Reality – of all Existence – is characterized by Onenessor Non-Duality, and that this All-One-Ness is in fact who (or what) we really are; our very own Nature and Essence.

This assertion has become known as the ‘perennial philosophy’.

But what does this actually mean – in practical terms? And how can we make it relevant to our life and current situation – here and now?

Well, we can have a proper look, and follow a few clear and direct POINTERS – all the way through to the direct recognition and actual experience of that, which is being pointed at.

Here is a very clear, direct and descriptive pointer form the Dzogchen tradition:

‘Non-conceptual, ever-fresh, self-shining Presence-Awareness – just this and nothing else’

And another one from the Chhandogya Upanishad (= Sama Veda):

‘Tat Tvam Asi’ – THOU ART THAT

Could it be any clearer and more obvious?

What else can, or needs to be said about this?

And what better moment, than the challenging times we find ourselves in – to really take this to heart, and recognize our true nature as THAT?

On investigation, it might become clear that time actually doesn’t even come into it. The only moment this recognition can ever occur is in the present moment. If it is supposed to happen at any other time – well that simply won’t be the actual recognition itself, but merely a story about it. Time is mind. Presence-Awareness is neither in time, nor in space. It is beyond dimensions.

Granted, that there might be a strong pull to be ‘in the world’ (= in the mind / time), rather than to rest at the still centre, or hub of the spinning wheel. But even in the appearance of time (something along the lines of: small moments of recognizing yourself as Presence-Awareness, repeated many times) – the positive recognition of MYSELF as THAT, does instil a solid sense of stability, peace and harmony in our heart (and even our mind!) – one that does not depend on the world and its ephemeral phenomena in any way.

Be present, be aware. You cannot not be! It’s just that you might be focused on content – telling yourself a story about ‘me’ and ‘the world’.

Let being – meditating – seeing – recognizing be the focus!




Sticking Points

Both personal and impersonal Points Of View are just that: points of view. Sticking excessively to either one of them is ‘becoming stuck’.
Within a given context – and depending if we are stuck in the personal perspective or in the impersonal one – highlighting the opposite perspective might provide viable pointers towards ‘unstuck’ – neutral. Neutral is good!
It appears that (generally speaking) most people are stuck in the personal – most of the time. That’s why most ‘pointers’ emphasize the impersonal.
The Non-duality scene seems to have a different distribution of ‘stuckness’ than other populations: there is a larger than normal proportion of those who are stuck in the impersonal, as well as an increasing number of those who appear to be unstuck.
But then stickiness really is more organic than that. Most of us seem to get stuck once in a while. In fact, our personal stories appear to be nothing but a succession of being stuck and getting unstuck in our unique ways. And freedom is a slippery affair!
In reality nothing ever sticks. To the extent that they appear to exist – association and dissociation, personal and impersonal, relative and absolute, evolution and involution – all pairs of opposites just naturally flow as ONE, whilst appearing as the many.
Out of context there isn’t really much point to any point of view. But then, we love to make a point anyway… And pretend it is THE point. Get my point?

Is the suffering still going on?

Q.: What comes after the realization that there is no separate self? There still seem to be all the traumas and unresolved issues pulling the strings behind the scenes. It seems that whilst I haven’t got right to the heart of my wounds and get these healed, the suffering still goes on!
After seeing ‘no self’, life will continue to present us with the opportunities to recognize the reality of ‘being-ness and ‘no self’ IN ACTION – that is in the midth of all types of data (experiences, states, thoughts, perceptions, sensations, emotions, people, places, etc.) – including those perceived as ‘afflictive’. We don’t have to go looking for them to deal with them; they will find us – or, more accurately, they will simply arise. If we want to give meaning to this ‘process’, we could say ‘so that they can get seen through’…
MOMENT BY MOMENT there is this opportunity for the clear recognition that all data streams are essentially equal in nature – they all arise and disappear spontaneously (without anybody here or there to manage them) – and that they do not in any shape or form affect the presence or awareness (or however we want to put it) that is – inseparably and undeniably – ALSO present.
So life (‘the only guru you will ever need’) simply keeps providing opportunities for clear seeing. In fact everything that arrises IS this opportunity. Our suffering is, first and foremost, the residual tendency of resisting what IS. This resisting has been our very trying to manage our experiences – avoiding some, clinging to others – which is exactly the energy that keeps them ‘alive and looping’: Nothing can exist without energy.
What is being recognized is that there is another way: we can settle into the flow of life and allow everything to be as it is; as it comes and goes. Concepts that have been suggested in relation to this, such as ‘acceptance’, ‘non-resistance’, ‘surrender’ or ‘equanimity’ aren’t states to be cultivated – they arise naturally out of Clear Seeing. In the end, isn’t clear seeing all there really is?
We are likely to perceive that ‘afflictive states’ start to loose their grip, and that they appear to not hang around for so long. Life will continue to present these opportunities, self-releasing and resolving all energies. There is no getting out of it – we may as well enjoy the ride. There comes a point in this where we can’t really talk about ‘there being suffering’ anymore (to do so would be just an outdated way of looking), because everything just IS what it IS. And even if the idea of suffering should ever come up, it is simply seen for what it is. The label ‘suffering’ is seen as empty. And life is just happening.
“There’s just a mysterious, tacid understanding, and no more.” – Huang Po

As REAL as it gets

So, what is reality anyway?

You might of course say, ‘well, that is a relative affair – what’s real for you, isn’t necessarily real for me’, and so on… And you would be right – relatively speaking. The appearance of reality varies greatly. Yet this is not really what we are talking about here…

We are talking about REALITY as such, that which is REAL in the absolute sense. For something to be absolutely REAL, it has to hold truth for anybody and at any time, all of the time, now and forever, always; irrespective of circumstances, ideas, perceptions, experiences – it is unconditional, absolute; REALTY as such. So this would by definition exclude the whole realm of all that which comes and goes – appearances; phenomena – which in the spiritual traditions have been categorized as ‘Maya’ – illusion; that which is not real in an absolute sense.

The sages of the ages and teachers of the esoteric traditions have always been very clear about where to look for this absolute REALITY: namely ‘within ourselves’ (although of course bringing in concepts such as ‘within’ and ‘self’ can cause considerable confusion by themselves) – meaning something along the lines of: ‘not within the realm of appearances’, ‘not out there’, not in learned ideas or concepts, etc., but in our own direct experience. So, in other words, the question ‘what is reality?’, and the question ‘what is my (true) Self, nature or reality?’, are actually not separate issues – it is one and the same thing.

Another jigsaw in the puzzle is that whatever REALITY or ‘my true nature’ is, it must already be fully present here and now – Reality already IS, and I already AM what I am. So the question itself – the actual ‘search’ for REALITY or ‘My SELF’ – becomes problematic here. It might dawn on us, that the whole issue is not actually someTHING that is to be worked out or understood in the conventional way. This has in fact very little to do with mental abstraction and conceptualizing.

So if we put it all together: real all of the time, everywhere and for everyone; unconditional, non-circumstancial, non-conceptual, not in the realm of appearances, already and forever present for all, totally available here and now, and in fact absolutely necessary for anyThing (else) to exist: doesn´t that really make it very clear and obvious?

Could this possibly be anything other than the simple fact of our PRESENCE – that lucid and wide-open Space-like Intelligence that is undoubtedly here, reading these words (irrespective of what secondary ideas might arise – to that very same lucid intelligence – with respect to the content of this text)?

We cannot really know this Presence, because it os not a thing / object to be known. Yet it is intimately familiar to us – it is Reality itself after all – and we cannot help but BE it. Test this for yourself: Have you ever noticed that your innermost sense of being has never changed? This is why we feel – deep inside – still the same way we felt as a little child. It was always ‘I’. The attributes and ideas about ourselves constantly change, but the felt sense of Being never has, has it? Can you recall a moment or any time in your lived experience, when this core sense of Being-ness, this Presence wasn’t with you? It is impossible, because ‘something’ still would have been present to notice it’s own absence! Presence-Awareness simply cannot be denied – it is the base of EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING is contained within THIS, and everything arises, to, from and as this Space-like Awareness. This is the only REALITY that is, and the only REALITY that I AM.

THIS has always been here, but simply got left unnoticed. Once it is recognized as REALITY and as MY Real Nature, our attitude towards ephemeral phenomena – all that is merely coming and going within this Awareness – changes in a profound way: we are getting real with what is real, and with who we are. Old habits and identifications may temporarily arise, but we can’t ever again ignore REALITY for too long.


Is the Complete Understanding a ‘Once-and-for-all Event’ or is there a progressive unfolding taking place?

From the perspective of reality as such, nothing ever happens. Both of the above points of view are just that: points of view, mental concepts that arise and set with space-like awareness, which is the only reality. From the perspective of the individual body-mind-organism (itself an appearance within space-like awareness) the recognition of space-like awareness as the natural state and true nature of self, might be perceived as either absent, intermittent or permanent and consistent.

Stories and reports about ‘enlightenment’ and other spiritual events or states (and related concepts) vary greatly, and of course there is massive awe shovelling and endless projections (of adopted ideas about perfection and saintly-hood) going on with regards to the stories of enlightenment of the great sages, self-proclaimed masters, or even those who shun and avoid talking about the issue.

In the end, I am afraid, the whole issue is the ultimate anti-climax (or just another great disappointment). Who cares, really? What is all this need to work it all out mentally; to measure and define ‘spiritual progress’ and put ourselves (or others) on a scale of spiritual achievement. So we can delineate e ourselves, again? To compare our (assumed) ‘self’ – enlightened, deficient, defiant, or what not – to (perceived) others?

One thing is for sure: as long as we strive to know where we are on this scale, and care about where others are, we are still living a self-centred life revolving around an ongoing self-improvement project. And this is certainly not what the great sages have been pointing to in their (permanent or intermittent) wisdom.


Thou Art THAT!

This is actually not particularly difficult. There is no time or practice needed at all – to be what we already are. It is simply about recognizing your positive nature as that which is already present, before any concept or appearance arises. You are not an appearance  – you are the ONE to whom the appearances appear and disappear!

See through ‘your’ conceptual notions – above all the core concept of there being an independent and separate ‘me’. Can you find any evidence of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ – other than in form of a thought? Have a look!

Verify this against your own present evidence: Go only by what is present and evident here and now. Undeniably, you exist. And undeniably, this existence/ presence/ being is aware. Within this awareness, all appearances arise and disappear (including the habitual ‘I-thought’). Without the AWARENESS that YOU are, nothing can appear or disappear.

So where does the separation come into this? Where does the separate ‘me in here – the world out there’ come in? Well, it doesn’t ! It is a complete myth; a conceptual fabrication. You ARE – but not as a separate ‘person’ or an ‘I’. You ARE – full stop! This is it! And that´s all. Nothing fancy; nothing new; nothing that wasn’t here all along…

Now at this point – out of sheer habit – the mind might kick in with a whole barrage of ideas: expectations of a certain type of experience, feeling, sensation, understanding or what not. Experiences, insights and other phenomena may or may not arise: it makes no difference at all – all of these are again just appearances arising to – and within – the PRESENCE that is aware of them.

“This cannot be it! There must be more! I am not getting it! I am not awakened yet!” – more of the same: doubtful thoughts and questions (nothing but concepts!) arising to AWARENESS. Discard the content of these thoughts and see them for what there are: unsubstantial appearances arising and fading away.

In truth, there really isn’t anything to said about this PRESENCE; there isn’t really anything to be understood or known about THIS. It is pure KNOWINGNESS. It simply IS. And thou art that.

The universe, the world, the ‘person’ (‘me’) – all these are appearances. Ever-changing phenomena; life ever-becoming. Arising within you and from you. And in that, these aren’t separate from you, either. YOU, the ONE. The ONE that IS. Is there a beginning or an end to THIS? Or isn’t THIS indeed the ETERNAL ONE – beyond time and space; beyond form and shape; beyond substance and energy (all of which are mental concepts!)? At this point all dualisms fall back into themselves.

But let us not forget: we are simply talking about OUR Nature here. Naked, non-conceptual Presence – Awareness. Just this and nothing else.

तत् त्वम् असि  Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art THAT

Going Beyond Mind

Do we have to go beyond the mind?

The problem with ‘going beyond the mind’ (‘having to’ or not) is that this gives credence to the conceptual notions of there being something to be done, and (maybe more to the point) that there is somebody (a separate ‘me’) to be doing it. A third and implicit concept here is that of ‘becoming’ – i.e. a future time when this ‘going beyond’ might be happening and thus give rise to the exalted ‘awakening’ (another concept).

In my experience it works better to be clear about our positive, real and NON-conceptual nature as Presence-Awareness – as that which is the necessary and undeniable principle for any appearance (incl. a ‘me’, the mind, time, etc.) to arise. Before the next thought arises, we are already present as THAT (to which the appearance arises). We ARE beyond the mind! As THAT, no ‘going beyond’ or awakening is needed – and in THAT, the mind and the ‘me’ are taken care of by themselves. It is concepts such as ‘going beyond the mind’ that keep us from recognizing our BEING beyond the mind.

Tat Tvam Asi. Thou art that!

Dreaming and Awakening

‘So in order for one to gain this ‘understanding’ – what do you have to do? Isn’t there a process, a practice, a purifying, a learning to be done? Don’t you have to go through awakening experiences, have exposure to the masters, the teachings, and so on, in order to wake up?’

‘Waking up’ and the dream analogy is actually a very good one: Let’s say you are dreaming a dream. And within the dream, the principal character – ‘you’ – has this niggling feeling that something isn’t quite right, not quite complete, not quite the way it could be or should be. So the dream character starts seeking for the truth; seeking to know his / her Self. And within the dream you meet many other dream characters, and some of those might actually tell you that ‘yes, there is a higher truth’ and in fact they have woken up to this, and they can help you, the dream character to wake up, too – just by following their instructions, by following the path outlined by them, their teachings, their practices. Join the club, the sanga, the satsang trail! Indeed, isn’t this exactly what all those ‘gurus’ tell you?

Just look at the folly of that! Can the dream character ever wake up, at all? And is there anything at all, another dream character can do in order to help wake up your dream character? These are all just dream characters! How relevant are they, really?

Hang on. Go back! Aren’t we forgetting something? Who are you again?

So what is actually happening here? It seems like there is this dream character here – me – talking to another dream character – you. But… listen to the message: YOU ARE THE DREAMER! And YOU ARE AWAKE – despite the dream that is seemingly going on! So what is really going on, is that the DREAMER is talking to the DREAMER. And the DREAMER is not asleep at all.

All there is, is ‘I am’ talking to my Self. Because the ‘I am’ that I am, is the same ‘I am’ that you are. And that ‘I am’ never was asleep. It is that presence that is always here. Can you ever deny that sense of presence, that sense of existence, that sense of ‘I am’?

So here ‘we’ are – WIDE AWAKE. What is there to say? Is there anything ‘your’ dream character had to do, or could do, for that matter, for YOU, the DREAMER to wake up? And how helpful were all those gurus and all that advise, the practices and what not – so that your dream character could become just like their dream character? To stick to our analogy – I assure you – any dream character referring to YOU as a dream character, whilst insisting that they can give you (the dream character) anything at all to help you wake up – that ‘guru’ is himself fast asleep!

But the world keeps turning. As long as we express through these body-mind-organisms, the dream will go on. No problem with that. Simply know your-Self as THAT.

In the words of Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Just realize you are dreaming a dream you call the world and stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your problem is that you like one part of your dream and not another. Love all or none of it, and stop complaining. When you have seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs to be done.”

Stepping out of the analogy: You already are that Consciousness, that Presence-Awareness, however you want to call it. No becoming that, no getting there, no waking up to that. The person that you think you are, is just a story. The person, the ‘character’, the ‘me-story’ can never get there, can never understand THAT. It simply cannot happen, because the ‘person’ is nothing but an appearance within THAT – a dream character within a dream. There is nothing that ‘the me’ can do. Just let it be and know that you are THAT – that which is here prior to any-thing that arises within YOU. All that is needed is a shift of perspective; a change of attitude.

You will find that life goes on quite effortlessly – untroubled by the identification with an imaginary character. The personal story – the dream -continues, but without the sting, without that charge which has caused all the suffering.