Sunday, February 26, 2012

Part 1 - What you take yourself to be

More and more it seems that the traditional Vedanta method of slowing working through our identifications and illusions, slowing breaking them down and uprooting our default beliefs, is more helpful than just pointing out the ultimate which is that you are already whole, that reality is already whole.  Either that resonates and we're just nodding our heads in agreement, or we're left scratching our heads because from our perspective it just doesn't make any sense.  Unless we just make a leap of faith, these absolute pointers are somewhat limited.

So let's just have a conversation, over several weeks, about our ideas, our beliefs, our assumptions.  Let's start taking them apart - feel free to comment and we can have a discussion about it. 

The most important thing we can do in spirituality is to really be honest, really get to the bottom of our existing ideas.  We tend to overlook this and then try to plunge headfirst into the pointers or challenges - leaving these ideas in tact while trying to make sense of the teachings.  It's a recipe for frustration.  Therefore let's start by really getting to the bottom of what we now believe reality is, what we NOW believe that WE ARE, yes?  It is critical to really understand what we THINK we are.

We believe that the universe came about in a big bang, a infinitely small but infinitely powerful particle exploded and expanded in all directions - this became the universe - a collection of parts - each created individually - each existing individually - from nothing each part is created, then it runs it's course and eventually ceases, dies, dissolves.  This means the universe is an infinite collection of separate existences, THINGS, parts, pieces.  

Eventually bodies spring up one way or another.  A Body is a product of the mother and father, cells combine and that original "cell" fertilizes, grows, morphs into a fetus, the necessary organs form and eventually that fetus kicks it's way out of the womb - then we call it an infant.  After 9 months we say it's born. 

At this point we must stop and really take a good look at what our beliefs are about this "thing", this fetus, this infant, this mass of cells, this fertilized seed.  We believe the mother and father are "people" - what does that mean?  They are individuals, entities, which is a fancy way of saying - they are separate.  They were also born and grew to this point.  Once this seed is fertilized, it grows the proper way and eventually a "person" is formed, another "life".  Therefore this fetus is another person, another life, another entity, therefore another separate existence, yes?

From these two seeds, the mother and father, the new separate existence is born.  This existence was not there before.  It did not exist, then because of this process it began existing, yes?  From nowhere it came into existence - then it will exist a while and ultimately will cease to exist again.  Isn't this entity what you take yourself to be?  Isn't this root idea of beginning, this temporary nature of existence, isn't this the root idea you have about yourself?  Isn't it in fact the idea you have about reality?  This universe of things?  Isn't your root idea of reality that it is made up of separate, individual, temporary existences?

Now consider that you are entertaining spirituality, not just spirituality in general, not some New Age thing where we must all hug and get along, but serious spirituality where we are questioning your very existence as a separate being, inquiring "who am I"?  Are you running along in this search, trying to find Wholeness or Oneness or somesuch, while retaining this idea that YOU, in fact EXISTENCE itself, is separate?  

Can you see that continuing to have this default set of assumptions or beliefs in tact while pursuing and hoping after some generic idea of "Oneness" is fantasy?  We wonder why we "aren't there yet" or just have an "intellectual understanding".  We must really get to the root idea of what our ideas are, uncover them, really get a good understanding of this idea we have about ourselves and the universe.  We must be serious and earnest about it.

Consider what you take yourself to be, then consider what you are searching for, or consider what this teaching is telling you.  You were never born, you are not separate, you will never die.  How can you reconcile that with your beliefs about what you are?  You cannot do it, ever.  So something has to give.

The advice is to put all these pointers aside for a while, just do some serious soul-searching - pun definitely intended.  Don't stop until you have a crystal-clear picture of what it is you take yourself to be, of what it is you take reality to be.  For Vedanta says that reality is Advaita - Advaita means "not-two".  Reality is already nondual, not separate.  Reality is called "Brahman" - and ultimately there is no difference between Self and Brahman. 

So before we can really understand this we must truly understand where we think we are now.  Ponder that with earnest and we'll begin to dive into these ideas over the next several weeks.  


Roeland said...

That we experience the world to be made out of separate parts is an illusion generated by the senses.
In reality the world is made up of elementary particles (mostly just three particles: up quarks, down quarks and electrons) held together by forces (of which electromagnetism is the most important).
The particles have mass, but they are point particles which means they don't even have a size.
This is one field out which the temporary forms seem to appear.
This situation can be compared to an image on television. It looks like there are separate objects on the screen, but if you have digital television in reality it is a collection of 1's and 0's.
We see not the world as it is but as we experience it through the senses which are two totally different things.

Satprem33 said...

Thank you, Randall~
One of the main pointers which seemed to begin to crack things open in the search, was "Neti Neti", not this, not that. It was however, easy to see that I wasn't the tree, the rock, the world and those "other people"... lol. Yet I was still referencing the body/mind as the I who wasn't the tree etc. It was obvious from that perspective that I wasn't the form called tree. After hours upon hours, days upon days which flowed into months, years and decades of the "Who am I" inquiry, it dawned upon me that I was asking, essentially, who this body/mind was. The personal "I" could and never would figure this out. It wasn't until I heard you say (and began inquiring)What IS "I", that the perspective/view seemed to broaden or widen. Another helpful pointer was when you mentioned the science of perception and asking, "How am I seeing"~ A quick study of the eye/brain connection seemed to smash this and along with it, the illusion of both distance and duration. When you spoke about how we hold or perceive enlightenment or how we placed "conditions" upon this seemingly future state, which was being sought after, such as... I will feel peace and bliss, I will have no fear was based solely upon a "me" which was not real. The seeker, body/mind organism called Satprem was still the reference point and was still the one who was going to Get something out of the search. Then you proceeded to suggest the inquiry about our very existence itself... Did I begin? Will I end? Was I ever even born? These inquiries brought up the sensations of great fear and loss of control, like the bottom was falling completely out. Somehow, though, it was recognized that the "I" never began and could never end and the saying that I had heard over and over again "What you are looking for, IS what is looking", made complete sense. No finish line... How utterly beautiful, simple, yet profound in its implications~ The inquiry into one's true nature, when looked for through the filters, perceptions or conditioning of the seemingly separate body mind organism is always a futile endeavor. BeWell, my friend~

concernedcitizen said...

Well said Roeland! When elementary particles become entangled on the quantum level, they mimic each other and function as a single unit, even when separated over vast distances. However, in our daily experience, the senses only take the imprint of external stimuli and send signals to the brain. It is the brain that reconstructs the signals into the 3-D world we experience daily. Even the Big Bang Theory is subject to reassessment. It is being challenged by several interpretations of the String Theory - all of which imply that the big bang did not take place and that the universe has no beginning or end. Today’s science seems to dovetail into Advaita.

Steve said...

Dear Randall,

Most of your pointers make perfect sense to me and there seems to have arisen a powerful momentum to discover my true nature. I can’t let this rest, even if I wanted to.

I’m aware that what I am seeking is already the reality and this makes the whole matter very difficult as my mind simply can’t get to grips with it all.
I look at objects around the room and drop all labels and I can feel that there is no separation and that these labels are just constructs of mind that are useful only to help us communicate and make sense of the world.

One thing that I have discovered is that I am still looking at the objects in the world from the standpoint of the “me”. “I” can feel that there is no separation. “I” have a life etc etc. There seems to be no way for the mind to understand this. The illusion that I am something organic and separate moving through a world, is very enduring.

In my investigation of trying to find this “me” I ask myself questions about what I really am. Most of the answers seem to be just memories or thoughts and are therefore not “me”. But the greatest stumbling block seems to be that I am separate and that I was born into this world. I can feel my body. I can feel the space between myself and the rest of the objects in the world. If I don’t “think” none of these things arise, but moments later the idea of “me” is still intact.

I’m sorry if all this is a little garbled, but I think putting my thoughts down in writing may somehow help. What do you suggest?

Caji316 said...

Thanks for your talks Randall. Help me here. I see the "I" for a lack of words as, awareness.O.K. Now, This awareness is aware that this body of mine is in pain. Why doesn't this same awareness let me know that someone else's body is in pain ? Seems as though this awareness is a personal awareness tied to each body mind.. Why does it seem awareness isn't able to let itself know all things?Thanks..

Randall Friend said...

Hi Roeland - good to hear from you, as always.

Randall Friend said...

Satprem - hello again my friend - love to you.

Yes, if we would just dive into these pointers, examine and challenge our existing assumptions, but we sometimes prefer to just appreciate from afar - nod our heads in agreement and then claim only an intellectual understanding.

We might take these assumptions apart like a surgeon - dissect - see if they make sense - examine with an open mind.

Thanks for the note.


Randall Friend said...

Hi Steve,

The advice would be to stay with the inquiry into what you think you are. What exactly is that idea you have? Discover the fine details of your belief about yourself and about reality. When you truly realize the full scope of this belief that by itself is quite a discovery. It's actually quite silly and mythical - just digging it up and getting a good look at it is extremely insightful.

Once you've got a serious and complete look at this idea you have about what you are, then seriously question it - find space for doubt. You don't have to discard any beliefs you want to keep - just be honest with yourself and only keep them if you can honestly come to a conviction and not just leave them undiscovered.

For once discovered, once we pull back the covering and get a good look at what lives under there, we might be shocked to find that we've been operating under a false assumption, a mistaken identity.

Write back anytime with questions.


Randall Friend said...

Hi Caji316,

This question is as old as the hills, so to speak. If I'm not in the body then why can't I know what it's like to be in other bodies, yes?

If you aren't in a body to begin with, then how would "correct seeing" make you be able to know what it's like within other bodies? This is a false question however it's very common.

Once we get past these speed bumps, we might really begin to dig deep into our existing set of assumptions about what we are, about reality itself. Instead of trying to place a new identity, Awareness, upon yourself, try to discover what your existing beliefs are now. For the most part they are obscured with inattention. What does that mean? It means we don't pay any attention to them but just allow them to fester, allow them to dictate our beliefs about the world, about reality, about our Self.

The advice is to pull back the covers, poke it with a stick, see what happens. Really dig into these ideas you have about what you are, about what IS reality. Seriously question the most basic and given ideas like perception, as SatPrem was pointing out above. Listen to some of the podcasts where we get sort of deep into some of these pointers and challenges.

And write back if you have questions.


Harald said...

Dear Randall,
thanks for your truthfull words.
What is the reason, that we seekers diving very rare in the truth? Is my seeking truthful, or is it only the wish to end my suffering? Do I go always away from this moment and wish,it should be other? Is there love or more hating myself?
This is, what I am thinking the last weeks. In some moments, when there is no wanting, seeking, when I am only here, there is a feeling of truth, a deep peace. Then its sound so easy, but then the devil is riding me again. Okay, come.

Randall Friend said...


What is the idea you have about yourself? Who is doing any of this - who is that entity? Get a good grasp on that idea - find out what it is. Isn't the idea of one who was born, one who was created, one who came into existence? Isn't your idea of yourself that you are temporary and separate?

Get a good handle on this idea - examine it without judging. Don't worry about trying to change it, just get a look at it, examine it until nothing escapes your inquiry.

Unless this is done, trying to make spirituality into something is always going to be futile.


Rudolf said...

Hi Randall,

how to identify the idea about what I am? When I look I do not see any thought saying that I am the body or something else. I think that it is possible that my reactions,emotions may indicate that it is what I believe, but there is no actual belief which I see. When I focus on the sence of being and the experiencing I do not see any belief about what I am.

Is it about thoughts within the meaning of sound appearing in "my head" or is it about beliefs which actually are not verbalized but nonetheless somehow operate and drive my behaviour? But where or what exactly are they?

How can I know what I believe? How can I question it, if I really do not know what it is?

Randall Friend said...


Investigate the idea of what you are - what does that mean? It means - we normally just go on with the idea about what we are unquestioned. In this case we want to question it - so what do we do?

What do you think you are? Where do you think you came from? What do you think you are made of? From WHAT did you appear? What is your substance? What ARE you?

These are questions we can ask that try to get to the root of that idea we have about what we are. So dig into these - ask the questions and then get a real good picture of what that IS you take yourself to be. That's the only exercise - just get a real good picture of what it is you believe you ARE, yes?

Once we have this firmly considered, we can then begin to take issue with it, to poke holes in it, find occasion for doubt - we don't have to replace any beliefs -just get a handle on our existing beliefs and then evaluate them, see if they stand up to scrutiny, yes?


Ali said...

Okey, I am a seasoned seeker that got interested in "non duality" concept/parroting several years back. I find me talking about duality as being the Truth with such conviction that sounds very impressive and convincing!? By talking to others about it I want to convert the 'parroting' to 'Reality' which so far wasn't successful!!After reading your article and comments made on it. I took a good look on what are my beliefs around "What am i?" and "what reality is?". here are in a nutshell:
I am a separate individual made up of flesh and bone, came into existence from nothing and stays on for a while and will go into nothing or no-thing, it gets blurry when I think about the origin and destination. While being alive I constantly engaged in a better future and pain avoidance at all cost.The only juice is when the mind pictures a better future by gaining something or some experience including non duality END RESULT.Believing I am IT, No Doer, Awareness, stop thinking, and zillion more ... doesn't help any longer.Father sperm and mother ovum made me. I am my name, my ideas, my beliefs and my achievements. I already listened to all your podcasts and many more on this subject. Intellectually I know the ANSWERS that I red in numerous books and podcast and they make sense most of the time but it doesn't LAST and it just seems to be a "TEMPORARY RELIEF". One obvious thing is, I am obsessed with non duality and there seems to be a STRONG pull towards it. Please help...
Thank you, Ali

Randall Friend said...

Hi Ali,

All this is good information - you are delving into the ideas you have about what you are. The question then beccomes - is it true? Is this idea you have true? Does it make any sense? If what you claim about what you are is true, then you are a separate existence. How can you then go on to seek nonduality or oneness or whatever you want to call it? Also if you are an independent existence which comes and goes, how can existence come and go? What is the nature of existence? It's not difficult to really get down into the nature of things. What is it? What is a tree? What is a rock? What is a body? Dive into these things - see if they are absolutely real of themselves or if they are patterns of something else? What IS that something?

Just look in this direction.


Roeland said...

Dear Ali,

Please let me share my opinion about this which may be a bit different then what you will hear from most.
The feeling of being a separate me is something that nature has created in human organisms. We have had no free will about that. It just happened, like everything.
Unless something changes in the brain we will experience that feeling. Even when you know a mirage is a mirage the mirage remains.
You can do nothing to push a change. It happens or it does not happen (it does not happen in the case of most seekers). The only way out is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that you will probably experience the illusion for as long as you live and ending fighting it.
The feeling of being a separate me is a natural phenomenon. It is your nature. It is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with it. It is better not to fight your nature, but to accept it. That may give peace.

Satprem33 said...

The feeling of being a separate me is a natural phenomenon. It is your nature~?? Really~?

The "feeling" of being separate seems to arise due to language and conditioning, parental, environmental, societal~ How does a small child, say prior to 2 years old actually experience an "outside" world, that is, before the "me" concept becomes imbued?

I honestly do not think that it is our "nature", Roeland, but I certainly do not know for sure~

As Randall stated "So as we've been seeing, our nature is dubious according to our own ideas. We aren't sure what we are - we have never really looked into it.

I would recommend and earnest inquiry into the "me" that we think we Are~ And Yes, a feeling of peace may arise but it will also pass away~ As Randall puts it, "feelings and sensations arise in or on who we truly Are~ (paraphrased)

Food for thought, I suppose~
BeWell~ :)

Randall Friend said...

We must inquire from where we stand, so to speak. Absolutes rarely shake the perspective. So first of all I must truly, truly realize what is my idea of myself - what do I THINK I AM? Because it is that belief which is the absolute filter through which everything is known. And no one can replace that belief - some guru can tell you that you are a 3-headed bull but if that doesn't jive with your experience it's not helpful.

We must go to the root of it - were you born? Did you begin? Did you start? Are you a new existence? An existence apart from other existences? As your existence goes on do other existences end?

Can you begin to see the hypocrisy of the search? You're looking for reality to be whole, or something similar, all the while your root belief or idea of yourself is that you are, by your very nature, separate, that existence IS actually split up, coming in individual servings.

What you're seeking and what you believe you ARE, are polar opposites.

So either give up the search because it's a fantasy, or really dig into this idea of independent existence, of yourself as something which comes and goes. You can't have it both ways - well most seekers try to have it that way for years and it's just a frustrating undertaking.

Look with earnest and the answer is already there.


Roeland said...

Sorry for my late comment to Satprem. However I do believe a baby does experience at least some duality. For example try to separate a baby from the mother. You will notice that he has an experience of 'mother' and 'no mother'.
In addition if a shouting man with a knife comes in his room the baby feels threatened.
This is an instinctive reaction that can be compared to the reaction of an animal that meets a lion.
There is an instinctive 'me feeling' that is deeply buried in the brain of humans and animals.
It is very difficult to override this instinctive me feeling. That is also the reason that people like Ali despite listening to all the podcasts still experience this me feeling.
If it were only a matter of indoctrination by society it would be much easier to loose the feeling of being a separate entity.
Some people experience 'a holy accident' which means something happens in the brain so that the me feeling gets weakened. Other people may experience some lessening of the me feeling through investigating the nature of reality and the inquiries that Randall suggest.
All I say is rather then fighting this we should better accept that this me feeling also belong to oneness. It is not a problem, it is perfect.

Love to all,