The Paradox of Inherent Perfection

Monk protests: “But Master, yesterday you said that Mind is Buddha.”

Ma Tsu: “That was like offering yellow leaves to a child and telling him it is gold — just to stop his crying.”

Monk: “And what about when the child has stopped crying?”

Ma Tsu: “Then I say, Not Mind, Not Buddha, Not things!’

The Mind is the Buddha’ is like medicine. ‘No Mind, no Buddha’ is the cure for those who are sick because of the medicine.”


Ma Tsu’s teaching above is one effective method the Masters employ to tear away any lingering remnants of borrowed support, leaving the disciple with nothing to fall back on, no comforting religious consolation or conceptual crutch to cling to. The purpose is to fully plunge them into the Unknown, or “the Realm of the Real Dharma”, as Huang Po poetically calls it, beyond philosophies and partial realizations. It’s also why Ramana Maharshi said that the final truth consists of the fact that there is no path, nor any such thing as progress.

In other words, Reality is not some sort of attainment to be gained by a progression from state to state. There is no final, triumphant union to be attained, because there never was any separation from the no-beginning. There is simply the unfathomable expanse of spontaneous presence, pure unborn awareness, regardless of any intermittent mental content which might appear in that sphere of being. Recognizing the empty nature of both the dreaming as well as the dreamer is considered by the sages to be liberation, though paradoxically, there is nobody being freed or bound. There is simply awakening to that which has always been the case, even as we daydreamed.

This challenging realization forces the aspirant to let go of all gaining ideas, along with all the interpretive dualities of the intellect that represent fixation, reification, and solidification of perception, thus opening them to direct and immediate re-cognition of the prior freedom of the Real. And what is “the Real”? Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche pointed to its essential realization when he suggested:

“Leave alone whatever arise in the mind. Do not seek to change or alter anything. It is all perfect as it stands.”

Of course, such appealing notions as inherent perfection are easy for beginners and casual practitioners to misconstrue, especially when they hear that there is nothing that needs to be done, and no effort is necessary, because “enlightenment” is always already the case. However, if we do not want to fall into that trap, all we need do is take a good honest look in the mirror at our own character. Are we free, for example, from greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, and do we always live a life characterized by integrity and loving kindness? If not, then there is still work to do, even though, paradoxically, it is also true that there is nothing to be done.

If we rely on the verbal, conceptual mind to make sense of that seeming contradiction, we will just end up going this way one day, and that way the next, while getting nowhere in the process. That is why we practice, to go beyond conditional second-hand reason and logic programs, and recognize the truth that is always right here, staring us in the face. In that conscious process, we don’t need to point some accusatory finger at ourselves, or wring our hands in self-concern, but simply wise up to exactly who “that one” is that we have taken to be “me”. Who is this character believed to be either perfect, or in need of some serious adjustments?

Another good example of the paradox being considered here is the common phrase: “We must forgive ourselves first, and then forgive everyone else.” Of course, in this human drama, forgiveness is not only appropriate, but critically necessary for our relationships and personal happiness. If we carry around unresolved traumas, wounds, regrets, and resentments, we will always be fueling an internal conflict, and never achieve psychological healing and mature adaptation to the stage of balanced and un-contracted emotional adulthood.

On the other hand, from the point of view of the higher wisdoms, there is actually nothing and nobody that needs to be forgiven, since at the absolute level, all is indeed perfect just as it is, and without qualification. Moreover, even conceiving the existence of a self, some solid and enduring character that requires fixing or forgiving, can be an impediment to fully awakening to the truth of our prior nature, which has never required modification or remedial attention.

Echoing the previous comment from Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, another contemporary Dzogchen Master, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, puts it this way:

“From the very beginning everything, whatever appears and exits, has never been anything other than pure perfection. There has never been a single day, a single moment when everything was not complete purity, pure perfection. It’s not that everything has to be brought to a state of purity at some point, but rather that it always was and is.”

Indeed, the paradox of our prior freedom and inherent perfection is that we all may be perfect in the ultimate sense, and yet the eminent Zen Master Suzuki Roshi makes a pertinent comment in this regard: “You are all perfect the way you are, and you could use a little improvement.” Certainly, if we were to spend some time reviewing the day’s headlines in the news, we might recognize that Suzuki was being rather kind and generous in his assessment. Moreover, if we examine our own life and relations, including our thoughts and behaviors, most of us might readily acknowledge that “a little improvement” would probably be comparable to taking the first few steps up Mt. Everest.

How then to explain this paradox? A good start would be to understand that we are both human animals, with all the positive as well as negative attributes that the human incarnational circumstance implies, and yet we are also immortal spirit, forever free, awake, and unconditionally loving. As light being souls, we choose to inhabit human creatures in order to experience the kinds of adventures and challenges characteristic of the human species. By testing ourselves to see “what we are really made of”, we thereby enhance our levels of self-awareness in our soul evolution.

We enter into the virtual reality of this 3-D realm in the same way one might engage a video game. The trick, however, is that we generally assume a kind of amnesia about our true nature for the duration of the game, in order to get the full impact of the experience. In doing so, we take the human identity to represent who and what we really are, and this (mistaken) identity is rarely questioned in the midst of the adventure. By fusing with the human bio-vehicle, we thus become subject to its complications, which include less than perfect qualities.

If we apply our innate soul power to improve the host, we will likely see the development of soul-like qualities, such as compassion and expanded consciousness. However, if we choose instead to not interfere, and just remain a detached witness to the human’s life, then the human will follow its animal course, which is often filled with violence and selfishness. Again, all we need do is review current world events, characterized as they are by blood lust, interminable conflict, blatant self-interest, and outrageous inequality, to recognize what kinds of choices are being made these days, in terms of efforts to effectively train the animals with which we are identifying.

There is more to this story, however. Ultimately, we are not only not the human animal, but we are not even the soul being. In reality, we are dream characters in the Mind of Source, being lived by Source in a drama of unfathomable love. It is unfathomable, because it is beyond the human capacity to comprehend, and so is typically misunderstood and misrepresented by the religions that humans have created to provide explanations for the Mystery.

Source wants to explore Itself, in much the same way we want to explore our own breadth and depth by incarnating as humans, for example, among the countless possibilities we may and do choose. Thus, in our role as immortal souls, we afford Source the perfect vehicles for such exploration, and as such, we are in a sense co-creators of a movie entitled “Infinity”.

In any case, as dream characters, there is nothing in need of forgiveness or improvement. Just as we are, with all our seeming faults and foibles, we are perfectly fulfilling Source’s desire to know Itself, in all the possible permutations of Itself which It can manifest. Source does not need to improve or forgive us, any more than we need to enter back into last night’s dream to improve or forgive our own dream characters, once we have awoken. It was, after all, a dream. There is no judgment, no blame or punishment — only a thirst for experience, in whatever way it might happen to present itself, or in whatever form it might happen to manifest, as we enter into the compelling illusion of time and space as shards of Source’s own divine light, playing our parts perfectly.




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The Mechanics of Unhappiness

“Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hordes, harms. Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals. Fear wraps our bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear, Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes, Fear attacks, love amends.”
~Neale Donald Walsch

The condition which we commonly call “unhappiness” is a psycho-physical state of negative reactivity originating from a complex contraction in the being itself. Moreover, this contractive activity spawns an ongoing internal conflict which we are habitually reinforcing, based on uninspected programs that we have incorporated in the course of our human experience. Although these afflictive programs are as diverse as there are humans, they all derive from a fear-based reaction to life and relations.

For that chronic fear reaction to maintain its prominent position in our mental and emotional life dramas, a level of identification with a solid and enduring self-sense is necessary. In other words, a “me-story” must be created and preserved, in the form of an ongoing narrative in which the survival and validation of the central character is always the prime concern. There’s an old Buddhist saying: “If you want to be unhappy, think only of yourself”. Is there any emotion more associated with such self-interest than fear?

Of course, there are many who claim that the fear-response is hard-wired into our very molecular structure — our DNA — for a very important and even critical purpose, directly related to the ancient challenge for physical survival. Although most of us do not currently live in an environment in which we need to be on the lookout for predatory animals, nevertheless there are still plenty of threats all around us. Because of that, a certain degree of prudent concern and attention is certainly necessary.

For one example, on a societal level, we employ a criminal justice system in order to protect the populace from those who would do us harm in one form or another. For another example, on a personal level, we have learned to avoid participating in unprotected sex, considering the looming dangers of sexually transmitted diseases that are potentially deadly, such as the virus associated with AIDS.

Therefore, given that some degree of fear may still be a necessary component of living in this human world, at what point does that energy become the basis for the persistent mood and assumption of unhappiness that seems endemic to our present civilization? When does appropriate caution transform into a neurotic prison, in which the future is dreaded and we are eaten alive by worries and cares? And perhaps most to the point: does the appearance of fear energy and the accompanying sensations confirm the reality of the solid, independent, and enduring person most of us imagine ourselves to be?

Upon investigation, we can notice that there is a specific mode of perceiving that makes it seem as if there is an actual person implicated by the arising of sensations such as fear. This same mode of perception creates the appearance of self and other, and when an “other” appears (a not-me), so too does the seed of fear take root. This mode of perception is called “dualism”, and it is the usual way we humans apprehend the world, based on a division between what we identify with as our “self”, and all that we take to be “not-self”.

By carefully observing the actual nature of perception itself, we can eventually (or even immediately) come to realize that that there is no actual subject or object in direct experience. Such a breakthrough recognition reveals that the subject-object model of experience consists of an essentially arbitrary and non-binding modification of consciousness, a mental fabrication strictly dependent on the reality and belief we grant it. On one hand, it may seem to be a convenient and even useful way of seeing things in the objective realm, but on the other hand, why are we so unhappy?

Indeed, for most humans, life is one long experience of stress, dissatisfaction, and suffering, only rarely punctuated by pleasure, relief, and fleeting happiness. Hanging over our very heads, there seems to be an ever-present sword waiting to drop, and this sense of apprehension infects all of our relations. Poets may rage against the fact of impermanence, and yet is there anything in life that is not subject to change? Even so, the fear of change most of us share is one of the main obstacles to accepting life as it is, and that fear itself is rooted in a distrust of the unknown.

However, it is only in fully relaxing and coming to rest in the unknown that we are able to find the space for our natural happiness to emerge from the shadow of fear. In reality, we don’t know. In fact, by incarnating in the human realm, we have purposely set aside our universal knowledge in order to fully appreciate living in the unknown, with all the uncertainty that such an adventure implies. Not knowing is a fundamental human condition, but accepting that fact need not provoke some sense of dread and insecurity. Rather, we can shift from our typical fear-driven dualistic perception to one wherein experiencing the unknown is no longer fraught with inherent divisions in consciousness between a “me” that needs to be protected from whatever appears as “not-me”.

In order to make such a shift, however, we need to see through and discard all limiting conceptual and emotional overlays, as well as all dualistic superimpositions, that obscure reality as it is. Rather than fixating attention in some conflicted view of self and other, based on a felt contraction in the being, we can directly recognize ourselves as one indivisible flow of phenomenal reality itself. As the Buddha noted in the Bahiya Sutra, “In the seen, there is only the seen, in the heard, there is only the heard, in the sensed, there is only the sensed, in the cognized, there is only the cognized.”

In practice terms, even when primal-type fear arises, we need not add our usual conditioned interpretations to it, and in turn confirm some distinctly separate and concrete self-sense as a result. Rather, we can simply allow it to arise in the light of naked awareness, and also let it dissolve accordingly, without trying to change, name, or claim it. In this way, the fear is not given a chance to gain a foothold – it has no place to land. Moreover, if we continue in this shifted mode of free-flowing non-dwelling perception (rather than falling back on the dualistic default of a subject-object illusion), we can notice that our prior nature of aware spaciousness moves correspondingly to the forefront, like the sun melting away the clouds of unhappiness.

In other words, what is not used becomes obsolete. Consequently, by not indulging the mechanics of unhappiness (which is after all a foreign installation), we have opened the space for our true happiness to shine through. Such genuine and heart-felt happiness naturally illuminates all that it comes in contact with, thus raising the frequency of vibration for the whole collective in the process.

Both happiness and unhappiness are infectious, just as are fear and love. Regardless of how things may appear in any situation, we always have a choice about which mode of perception we will feed, and therefore what kind of influence we will manifest in this realm. Since we live in a world of interdependence, the choice we make is for all. In choosing love over fear, we are also choosing freedom over bondage, and by remembering and embodying that liberating truth, we support the grounds for an increasingly sublime evolutionary advancement as a species.

To love or fear –
that’s the test.

At the core
the heart knows best.

Open your eyes and
you will see,

fear is
the malignancy.

The fearful mind is a
conflicted thing, obscuring
the songs that love would sing.

Let the healing begin within —
don’t prolong a war that
no one can win.

Give up the fight with yourself
before it begins, why struggle
in vain with your own
best friend?

Our nature is to be at peace,
to know ourselves,
to let fear cease.

Only love can liberate
entanglements that we create.

If you want to be happy
let go of yourself, and
offer your best to
somebody else.

There’s no heart math
more plain than this –

the more selfless the love,
the more lasting the bliss.

Relax your fears
and enjoy life’s play.

Above all, love,
and you won’t go astray.




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Just Be

“The mind is not other than Buddha.
Buddha is not other than sentient being.

When mind assumes the form
of a sentient being, it has
suffered no decrease;

when it becomes a Buddha
it adds nothing to itself.”

~Huang Po


Back in the Diamond Sutra days, the Bodhisattva Manjushri once asked the Buddha, “What do you mean when you say not a single being is liberated?” The Buddha replied, “Our nature is ultimately pure and subject to neither rebirth nor nirvana. Thus, there are no beings to be liberated, and there is no nirvana to be attained. It is simply that all beings revert to their own nature.”

If it is really true, that our nature is ultimately pure and transcendentally illumined, that we are not inherently different from the Buddhas and the so-called enlightened ones, that the concepts of liberation and bondage are only imaginary fantasies of interpretation on perception, and that there is no nirvana to be obtained beyond what is present right here right now, then why is it that we seem to encounter so much suffering in the midst of our lives?

After pondering this conundrum for many years, I came to recognize that the challenges and obstacles which we encounter in life are actually our own creations. They simply represent the way we set it up for ourselves, prior to assuming these virtual reality forms that we now take to be who and what we are. In short, we needed the theatrics of life’s seeming dualities in order to remember the non-dual.

We had to forget who and what we truly are in order to enjoy the eventual recognition of our supreme nature, as in a game of “hide & seek”. Indeed, without this amnesia concerning our true identity with which we arrived here, we would not be able to experience the full impact of being human, and it is precisely that experience which we came here for in the first place. Furthermore, it is the experience of being human (in whatever way that happens to play out) which creates the fascinating tales we can then share with our soul group upon returning to our natural state of awake awareness, thus advancing the evolutionary data base of the whole family. As the Buddha said above, “All beings revert to their natural state.”

Just so, we need not beat ourselves up for not realizing our true identity while fused with the bio-vehicle (although to do so — also called “awakening — certainly can make a big difference in the level of stress we put ourselves through). In any case, while identified with the human character we take ourselves to be, we tend by habit and conditioning to cling to the belief that there is some sort of special state that is other than that which we are currently experiencing. We persist in this assumption because we look at our current condition and find it somehow lacking. Perhaps it would be a useful inquiry to examine exactly what is lacking about it.

Certainly, if we investigate the traditional literature about spiritual enlightenment, we encounter all sorts of claims about the raptures of bliss and ecstasy to be found in advanced meditative states, but what we rarely hear about is the fact that no state is permanent, even satori and Samadhi. Eventually, one must return to normal consciousness and deal with traffic, weather, the body’s quirks and foibles, and especially other people (most of whom stubbornly refuse to accept how advanced and wisdom-imbued we now have become, at least in our own minds).

Rather, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we might notice how we still habitually tend to crave pleasure and avoid pain, and in fact still have within us a whole menu of software programs based on confirming the solid and enduring existence of our favorite self-image, regardless of the effect that such activity might have on our fellow ignoramuses. Indeed, the ego-mind loves special experiences, because it provides the perfect opportunity to feel special, to feel enlightened, and to feel real. The more such experiences the better. What it especially loves is the experience that it doesn’t even exist, because that comes with very high points on the scale of human spiritual accomplishment. Indeed, it is particularly proud of its new and exalted status as an advanced entity that is liberated from itself. That’s a real feather in its cap!

Conversely, what the spiritual ego-mind can never abide by is the suggestion that the most ordinary experiences of life — getting out of bed, brushing one’s teeth, going to work, coming home and having dinner, washing the dishes, playing with one’s children and watching TV, kissing one’s spouse and going to sleep — are all perfect manifestations of complete and unexcelled enlightenment. No, it thrives on the glamor of the extraordinary, just like an addict craves the next high. In that regard (and to dispel such illusions), the contemporary western Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson makes a good point when he notes:

“Everything that is happening is exactly It. Thoughts, images, sensations, emotions, feelings, stillness, movement, emptiness, awareness, actions and perceptions are 100% It. There is no other option because there is zero distance between experience and the knowing of it. That being so, how can you say your “practice” is not going well? That being so, how can you say you sometimes “lose” It? That being so, how can you say that you are sometimes distracted, when the object of your distraction is also it? Is the Absolute or Buddha Nature ever being something other than This? If not, why keep looking elsewhere?”

Of course, to the aspirant hooked on the spiritual merry-go-round of increasingly subtler realizations and deeper, more dramatic spiritual insights and so forth, the usual life is scorned as some sort of delusion which needs to be transcended and then discarded. This type of seeker tends to idolize the legendary characters in the spiritual literature, seeking to emulate their lives. Little do they realize that these personalities are typically the product of devoted hagiographers who attribute extraordinary feats to their heroes and heroines, often at the expense of the real truth about these exalted individuals. And what is that truth? Essentially, they were no more special than any of us. It’s just that they (might have) realized that, and we don’t.

We are all dream characters in the heart-mind of Source, and Source makes no distinction in terms of superior or inferior, so why should we? Each one of us is a unique vehicle for Source to explore its own nature, which is de facto also our own nature. We are, each of us in our own way, the universe in the process of becoming increasingly self-aware, and whether we climb the highest mountain or just look after our pets at home, makes no difference. It is all perfect fuel for self-awareness, and one dream adventure or virtual reality game is no better or more enlightened than the next.

As mentioned above, the only value in truly “awakening” is to let go of the stress of trying to make things be other than they are, trying to figure the magnificent mystery of life out, trying to make it conform to the way we imagine it should be, based on second-hand opinions and idealistic speculation. What is, is. Just letting that sink in, just letting that be the case, can be eminently relaxing. Letting go, surrendering the need to have it all end in some triumphant march through the streets of heaven, is not really so difficult, except to the one who takes their fictional self-image seriously.

Moreover, there is nothing wrong with that position either. It is all good, all food for the God who is exploring itself through every appearance, every effort, every creature it dreams up to love and recognize itself through and as, from the most humble to the most ineffable. In truth, we have never lacked anything. As the great Chan (Zen) Master Lin Chi said to his monastic disciples:

“I tell you, there’s no Buddha, no Dharma, no practice, no enlightenment. Yet you go off like this on side roads, trying to find something. Blind fools! Will you put another head on top of the one you have? What is it you lack?”

Just so, when we become more interested in the Dreamer than the dream of seeking, something interesting can be revealed. When we turn our attention back to its Source, and abide there without trying to modify consciousness in the slightest, then something will happen, and we will know without a trace of a doubt that the Source of all the universes and ourselves are not two. We will no longer be moved to seek outside of ourselves for some special something to compensate for our chronic sense of lack, because that feeling of lack will have dissolved in the process of recognition. The joy of just being will trump all craving for things to be other than they are, as well as all fears that they will never be.

The good news is, we don’t have to wait for that to be the case sometime in the indefinite future. The truth that will become obvious then is the same truth that applies here and now. It’s just that we expect it to be elsewhere, and never right where we are. This is the main obstacle – to imagine that this that we have here now (in whatever form it may seem to be appearing) is not the supreme perfection, just as it is. Instead, we call it “delusion”, “sin”, “ignorance”, when in fact, there is no other reality, no greater reality, than that which is present and obvious, right before our eyes. All we need do is let it be This. After all, it is never other than This anyway. It is exactly why we all came here — to experience ourselves as This, so why knock ourselves out trying to make it be otherwise, now that we’re here in the midst of it? When you stop to really think about it, that’s kind of foolish, isn’t it? Still, playing the fool is also “It”, so there’s really nothing to complain about after all, is there.

“There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself.
To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that.
Just be. Let your true nature emerge.
Don’t disturb your mind with seeking.”

~ Sri Nisargadatta

just be

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The End of the Seeker

“Letting everything end means to stand in the moment completely naked of attachment to any and all ideas, concepts, hopes, preferences, and experiences. Simply put, it means to stop strategizing, controlling, manipulating, and running away from yourself — and to simply be. Finally you must let everything end and be still. In letting everything end, all seeking and striving stops. All effort to be someone or to find some extraordinary state of being ceases. This ceasing is essential. It is true spiritual maturity. By ceasing to follow the mind’s tendency to always want ‘more’, ‘different’, or ‘better’, one encounters the opportunity to be still. In being still, a perspective is revealed which is free from all ignorance and bondage to suffering.”

For as many people as are appearing in this psycho-physical realm we call “the world”, there are at least as many reasons for incarnating in these particular forms to play the human game. What just about all of these players have in common, regardless of make and model, is that they are here seeking for something – some “thing” that they believe will increase their happiness, peace, and contentment once it’s found. This “something” will obviously be specific to each individual seeker, but commonly will revolve around some desired modification of consciousness, necessitating an effort to acquire greater material, social, or so-called “spiritual” benefits, enhancements, or attainments in the process.

Moreover, with very little variation, these efforts are prompted and thus characterized by the belief in oneself as a separate and substantial person, an individual somebody appearing in the midst of many others, others with whom one must invariably compete for the desired goals. In any case, the belief that we are somehow separate from Happiness, in need of Salvation, and at odds with Existence itself are the common assumptions that in turn motivate the search for things to be other than they are.

These types of beliefs are inculcated by the conditioning of a culture which is firmly committed to convincing us that what we need is outside of ourselves, that we were cast out of Eden via some kind of original sin or delusion, and consequently that we must initiate and commit to some kind of special life strategy in order to return “home”. For each person, this strategy will take its own unique form, but all such schemes are generally founded on the same premise: a simple case of mistaken identity, derived from amnesia about who and what we truly are.

Just so, how do we wake up from the dreamy trance of false identification and realize that we already are what we seek? How do we come to understand that any effort to manipulate causes and circumstances in order to grasp happiness, salvation, and existence is the very thing that obstructs the recognition of the truth of our original nature, which is Happiness itself, beyond any need for salvation, and never threatened by the alternations of existence and non-existence?

Well, we can start by dedicating ourselves to the conscious process of investigating the nature of the seeker we have taken ourselves to be. Are we really that one, or is this whole narrative that we have been telling ourselves actually more in the nature of a fictional creation? Perhaps we have relied so much on others to define who we are, and what we need to be doing while we are here, that we never were moved to question otherwise. After all, our parents and school teachers provided us with our identity cards right from the beginning. These cards came encoded with all sorts of information which we were supposed to accept without challenge – information about our name, our gender, our age, our nationality, our religious affiliation, and our body’s various characteristics. Our whole story was detailed right there on the card of personhood we carried around with us everywhere. Of course, as children, we naively believed that all of the statistics were true, and that they totally accounted for who and what we were.

Our personal identity was thus firmly established, and as we gained some experience, we learned that we needed to polish that identity in order to make it loveable and employable. Consequently, we followed the advice of helpful advertisers and marketing specialists, refining our costumes and hair styles, employing the preferred personal hygiene products, customizing our presentation before the mirror, and attending the right indoctrination facilities where we discovered how to best present a convincing and effective persona in a world populated by other actors such as ourselves.

All along, the goal was to survive and prosper, even if that meant jumping through hoops at others’ commands. These commands were not always verbal, moreover, but instead consisted of the peer pressure that comes from being a herd animal, the pressure to conform to a consensus description of reality. Primary within this description was the tacit and sometimes not so tacit encouragement to improve oneself, in order to be a better player and accumulate more points in the game. Such improvements take many forms, but all rely on us buying into the story of “me and mine”, and all require that we take our given identities seriously.

Furthermore, this me-story demands constant work, in response to the vagaries of existence. For example, we must make career adjustments here and fine tune our relationships there, all of which implies a perpetual search for satisfaction. Such a search is indeed never-ending, because any accomplishment or acquisition that we can claim as “mine” is always impermanent, and so we become like a hamster on a wheel. We are always moving, but not really getting to where we really want to be, and never really arriving at a state of rest. Nevertheless, we persist, because, after all, that is what is expected of us, and we are unable to imagine any viable alternative that is not merely another variation of treading along on the same spinning wheel.

At a certain point in life, the search itself might begin to lose both its fascination and inherent imperative. Some might say that this is a moment of Grace. The seeker just can’t seem to generate the same old “juice”, or enthusiasm, for the game, whether it be the pursuit of money, food, sex, power, bliss, knowledge, God, or whatever object of acquisition that once promised happiness and peace. Here the former seeker may fall into a kind of dark night, where the primal afflictions of boredom, doubt, discomfort may come to dominate one’s attention, now that the search is winding down.

Paradoxically, there can be a unique opportunity at this juncture, a kind of open space that presents itself, in which true inquiry finally becomes possible. While the search was on, this was not the case. All the bets were placed, and the payoff was just around the corner. That is, there was the assumption that, if I only do this, then I will get what I really want. If I only work hard and pay my taxes, if I only take these vitamin supplements and eat vegan foods, have this career, marry this lover, find the right guru, chant to the Lord and do no harm, then I will find peace and freedom.

In other words, happiness is envisioned as some future reward for following the arbitrary rules borrowed from somebody else’s experience. As such, it can never be a present event. Consequently, when that whole artificial game and its accompanying stressful effort is eventually recognized for the futility that it is, there arises in that conscious process the possibility for true realization to replace the chronic amnesia with which we arrived here. In other words, we become available to a transformative grace. When the seeker really sees how the dog has been chasing the tail, a shift can occur, and in this shift the seeds of awakening can really take root. As they do, the potential for free attention to the ever-deepening inquiry finally comes alive.

And what does such an inquiry reveal? When we begin to intuit that the seeker we have taken ourselves to be is nothing but a bundle of thoughts and impulses, memories and emotions, sensations and perceptions, all packaged together like a customized software program and conditioned by arbitrary factors which have no ultimate reality, then the façade of our carefully constructed identity begins to wobble and crumble. Now what?

Fortunately, when we begin to see through the illusion we once took to be “me”, there is a simultaneous emergence of our true nature from the background, where it has been waiting patiently for us to sober up from the intoxication of seeking. What was never lost need not be sought. When we realize directly that we have been like a wave searching for the ocean, the momentum of the search is undermined, and we can finally exhale.

In that blossoming ripeness we can welcome life’s embrace, and also see what it is that we are still unwilling to allow in. In doing so, we begin to feel the Mystery at the heart, rather than relying solely on the thought energy which constitutes the mind. Moreover, in seeing through and discarding any lingering struggle and recoil, it at last becomes obvious that this Mystery, this Life, is who we are, have always been, and will always be. Indeed, there is no longer any motive or movement to have it be anything other than what it is. The war with ourselves is over, the seeker has disappeared, and all the relatives rejoice!

Q: The search will come to an end. The seeker will remain.

Nisargadatta: No, the seeker will dissolve, the search will remain. The search is the ultimate and timeless reality.

Q: Search means lacking, wanting, incompleteness and imperfection.

Nisargadatta: No, it means refusal and rejection of the incomplete and the imperfect. The search for reality is itself the movement of reality. In a way, all search is for the real bliss, or the bliss of the real. By search we mean the search for oneself as the root of being conscious, as the light beyond the mind. This search will never end, as long as there remains a restless craving for anything else, and only then can real progress take place.
~I Am That, Nisargadatta Maharaj



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Nobody There

Based mostly on rumor and hearsay, spiritual seekers tend to imagine that there is a long, arduous path winding up some metaphorical spirit mountain, at the summit of which a rare lucky few might finally attain an exalted state of Cosmic Illumination. A similar prevalent myth circulating in spiritual-type venues consists of the notion that those who, despite intimidating odds, do manage to scale the sacred peak are subsequently rewarded with all sorts of wonderful perks that are traditionally claimed to accompany such a magnificent feat. These include inscrutable wisdom, exotic powers, and a generally luminous vibration that spontaneously transmits the sense of deep peace and happiness to all who come in contact with such a recently-minted transcendental character.

Aspirants are continuously encouraged by all sorts of hopeful literature and “enlightenment porn” – extraordinary tales in which legendary individuals endure imposing challenges and daunting hardships in pursuit of the sacred goal, travelling to remote places and undergoing all sorts of remarkable experiences before finally being rewarded with the grand prize of perfection and grace. What’s rarely mentioned in these fables, however, is the truth that, rather than representing the pinnacle of one’s personal story, real liberation instead marks the end of that fanciful narrative – its utter collapse.

If there is a “person” still hanging around after some sort of profound experience, then it is not true liberation. It is merely a profound experience. All experiences are modifications of consciousness, but liberation entails recognizing the emptiness inherent in both experience and the experiencer, and indeed of consciousness itself. Rather than being the crowning jewel that many seekers expect, it is actually a beheading! Far from representing the triumphant event projected in its idealism, the revelation of the utter nothingness of the self-image renders a crushing blow to the ambitions of the ego mind – the ruin of its plans.

Moreover, rather than being the result of some ferocious, long-term struggle with our inner demons that the traditional mystical literature depicts, the emptiness of the self-idea can be recognized immediately. Reality is not far off, but present and obvious. All that is required is paying attention. We need to simply turn the light around, turn our attention back on its source, to notice that there is nobody there, there is no self that can be found, no solid and enduring entity. All along, we have been going on the assumption that there is some inner person, a matrix of perception, an organizing principle that is running the show – a “me” that must be asserted and even defended – but when we try to find that one, we cannot. It has all been a fantasy of interpretation on perception, and nothing more. How amazing!

Of course, when most of us encounter the absence of any center of consciousness, it can be quite disorienting, and so we quickly fall back to the default position composed of the safety and security of the known. It is after all very threatening for the seeker to find at the core, “vast emptiness, with nothing holy in it”, as the Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma once pointed out. It wreaks havoc with our personal narrative, the carefully constructed story of “me and mine” which we have been telling ourselves and others since we first learned how to talk.

Nevertheless, there are those of us who may become intrigued by the discovery of that space between our thoughts, and so return to that recognition again and again, until that space gradually becomes more of the dominant home for attention, rather than the fleeting parade of thought energy that normally occupies it. In the process, a silent, sky-like, selfless awareness emerges from the background, unbound by previous patterns of habitual and obsessive thinking and self-referencing, of identity games and masquerades.

Moreover, we recognize that this state is not something new which we had to acquire, some reward for passing through fire, but on the contrary has been our natural and native condition all along. Before the first movement of effort, we have already been free. The only problem has ever been the fixation of identity on the unreal, the impermanent, the masks and costumes which we were told and gradually came to believe amounted to a self.

Of course, merely seeing through the charade is a fine first step, but upon reflection, we can notice that we have picked up and indulged in some questionable patterns of behavior along the way, conflicts that have infected our lives and relationships. Consequently, we are now called by the power of that clear seeing to root out the chronic fixations of selfishness, such as greed, envy, hatred, and arrogance which have contributed to the lack of authentic integrity and compassion that has previously characterized our life.

Before we jump ahead with all of that, however, let’s be clear on the initial glimpse that precedes the collapse of the house of cards which we have mistaken as our actual address. Although there may have been a lot of preparatory practices, the glimpse of recognition is sudden and unmistakable. Paradoxically, it is nothing special, because the inherent selflessness of consciousness has never been hidden. Rather, our true nature has always been obvious – right before our eyes. Indeed, a good part of the hindrance in its realization entails the stubborn belief that it can only be obtained as the result of some tremendous spiritual effort.

Again, the key is in paying attention. Do we need to jump through hoops to simply pay attention? Perhaps in these days of mental, emotional, and sensory overload, it does take a bit of effort to just sit down and shut up. However, it doesn’t have to constitute some big deal to stop and turn attention around on itself in order to discover who’s who and what’s what.

The great contemporary Dzogchen master Namkhai Norbu simplifies the matter when he asks: “If we look at an object to our right and then shift our gaze to an object on the left, in the moment in which our first thought vanishes and before the second one arises, don’t you sense a fresh awareness of the instant, untarnished by the mind, clear, limpid, naked, free?”

The whole process of recognition need not be any more complicated than that. It is just such noticing that becomes the basis for our ongoing liberating practice – that clear realization of the absence of any limiting self-idea in the first moment attention is revolved back on itself. Paradoxically, that recognition of the absence of the conditional self occurs simultaneously with the intuition of what he calls the “authentic condition of instantaneous presence”.

In other words, it is our own true nature of aware space which emerges from the background and radiates in all directions. Because of our shift in attention, all thoughts can now be recognized as soon as they arise as simply the uninterrupted energy of emptiness. They need not be accepted or rejected, manipulated, blocked, or invited. We need only persist in non-dwelling on any object of consciousness, clinging to none of them. That is all. In this way, all thought is left to dissolve on its own, and is thus self-liberated. Remaining relaxed as that pure, instantaneous presence, free from grasping or aversion, analysis or conceptuality, is what is known as “the fundamental union of view and meditation”, and begins with the recognition that there is “nobody there”.

Moreover, what applies to thinking can also be applied to emotions, memories, and perceptions of any kind. In the midst of all of our ordinary activities, we can embody this instantaneous, spacious presence. In fact, to do otherwise is an artifice and superimposition, and serves as the main cause of our stress and dissatisfaction in life and relations. We have driven ourselves crazy by investing our energy and attention in the unreal, maintaining the story of a fictional character we mistook ourselves to be. Really, the only sane thing now is to stop doing that. That is the gift of true, unconditional love – a refusal to be anything other than what we really are: nothing and everything.


nobody there but shadow

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Time Is On My Side

“It is the instinct of exploration, the love of the unknown, that brings me into existence. It is in the nature of being to see adventure in becoming, as it is in the very nature of becoming to seek peace in being.”

~Sri Nisargadatta

I was recently visiting at a large online Buddhist forum, and as usual the participants were enthusiastically debating about which of their chosen sects has the upper hand on getting “enlightened”. A lot of the arguments boiled down to a matter of speed. For example, it was claimed by followers of one Tibetan tradition that the Vajrayana path was the superior vehicle, since it could get one “there” faster, whereas other vehicles were somehow inferior, since they took a lot more time (several immeasurable kalpas to be precise). Of course, even within the Vajrayana tribe, there were those who claimed that the Dzogchen version of Vajrayana was superior to the Madhyamika version, because the Dzogchen could garner the aspirant complete enlightenment in one lifetime (or 16 in the worst case scenario).

What is both ironic and humorous about this type of spiritual trap is that, in reality, there is no such thing as time. Time is a purely human contrivance, a convenient mental fabrication, but we are not human. Although no human has ever been enlightened, we have never been unenlightened. Enlightenment is our natural condition, which we occasionally set aside to occupy various beings such as humans, in order to partake of their experiences and gather information in the process. We like to do this because we are emanations or expressions of Source. As the great mystic Meister Eckhart proclaimed: “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.” In other words, there is no division or separation.

Employing a very simplistic human perspective to that which far transcends human comprehension, we might say that Source is extremely curious about itself, and so uses a multitude of creative manifestations of itself (us, for example) to experience the infinitely varied aspects of itself, just as we utilize beings such as humans and non-humans in the process of self-discovery. Omniscience is one thing, but the visceral experience is quite another, and hence, we have all that is, was, or ever will be. Creation in this sense is self-exploration (experienced within the embrace of unconditional love).

Nevertheless, in reality, nothing actually happens, because all phenomena are essentially transitory dream images appearing and disappearing in the Mind of Source. When we dream, our thought energy is busy constructing a whole realm of people, places, and various events – all of which seem utterly real, and which in turn generate various emotional reactions. Just so, the dream of Source is the whole universe, created out of Source’s own thought energy. Depending on our angle of vision, it is either real, unreal, both real and unreal, or neither real nor unreal.

In any case, there is no fast or slow path to enlightenment, nor are there any existing beings that require its attainment. As Ramana Maharshi once humorously noted: “When you wake up from a dream, do you go about searching for the characters in that dream, to awaken them?” Of course, in the dream there appears to be the passage of time, there appear to be unenlightened beings doing time, there appear to be dream teachers who would help enlighten these suffering dream characters, and even gatherings where the dream characters congregate and argue about the relative merits or defects of various dream teachers and the timeliness of their dreamy paths. Indeed, Earth is one of those places, and humans are those very characters!

From the point of view of the expanded consciousness that is natural to us in our immortal state as spiritual beings, there is only now — no past, no future, no present. All of our human and non-human experiences are actually happening simultaneously in the mind of Source, although the human intellect cannot really process such a possibility. Instead, it requires the illusion of linear time in order to function in the objective world, and there is nothing wrong with that — it’s just part of the package that comes with incarnating into this particular kind of circumstance, frequency, vibrational level, plane, or dimension.

Furthermore, since we literally share in Source’s own self-awareness, we have complete access to the universal data base, and so not only do we experience our own mind stream, but the mind stream of all the beings who ever were, are, or will be (since again, there is no time). However, when we focus our intention and attention on the human density, we must necessarily comply with the game rules that apply in this realm, including the time illusion, as well as the illusion of an independent and concrete self. This full immersion necessitates a kind of amnesia, in which we forget our timeless status in order to fully experience the impact of being human, along with its perception of time passing. We slow our vibration down enough to fuse with the human for the duration of its lifespan, and then resume our native luminous awareness (which vibrates at a much higher frequency).

We repeat the same process throughout the universe, inhabiting all manner of beings, until we have satisfied that aspect of Source’s curiosity which assumes the form of us. In actuality, we have never been other than Source, since there is only Source, dreaming up the whole show. The end is the same as the beginning. The full realization of that fact might be called enlightenment, but who or what is enlightened? When Source remembers itself, does that mean that it has gained something of which it was lacking? Indeed, if there is only enlightenment, what use are such terms as liberation and bondage? Why talk of paths or progress over time? Truly, the only ultimate requirement is that we be what we are, and that is not so difficult, since ultimately, it is impossible to be otherwise.

As Janaka said in the Ashtavakra Gita:

              “In my unblemished nature there are no elements, no

              body, no faculties, no mind. There is no void and no



              For me, free from the sense of dualism, there are no

              scriptures, no self-knowledge, no mind free from an

              object, no satisfaction and no freedom from desire.


              There is no knowledge or ignorance, no “me,” “this,” or

              “mine,” no bondage, no liberation, and no property of



              For him who is always free from individual

              characteristics there is no antecedent causal action, no

              liberation during life, and no fulfillment at death.


              For me, free from individuality, there is no doer and no

              reaper of the consequences, no cessation of action, no

              arising of thought, no immediate object, and no idea of



              There is no world, no seeker for liberation, no yogi, no

              seer, no one bound and no one liberated. I remain in my

              own nondual nature.


              There is no emanation or return, no goal, means, seeker

              or achievement. I remain in my own nondual nature.


              For me who am forever unblemished, there is no

              assessor, no standard, nothing to assess, and no



              For me who am forever actionless, there is no

              distraction or one-pointedness of mind, no lack of

              understanding, no stupidity, no joy and no sorrow.


              For me who am always free from deliberations there is

              neither conventional truth nor absolute truth, no

              happiness and no suffering.


              For me who am forever pure there is no illusion, no

              samsara, no attachment or detachment, no living

              organism, and no God.


              For me who am forever unmovable and indivisible,

              established in myself, there is no activity or inactivity, no

              liberation and no bondage.


              For me who am blessed and without limitation, there is

              no initiation or scripture, no disciple or teacher, and no

              goal of human life.


              There is no being or non-being, no unity or dualism.

              What more is there to say? There is nothing outside of



time space


 See also:


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View and Conduct

“Padmasambhava said: ‘Though the view should be as vast as the sky, keep your conduct as fine as barley flour.’ Don’t confuse one with the other. When training in the view, you can be as unbiased, as impartial, as vast, immense, and unlimited as the sky. Your behaviour, on the other hand, should be as careful as possible in discriminating what is beneficial or harmful, what is good or evil. One can combine the view and conduct, but don’t mix them or lose one in the other. That is very important.

‘View like the sky’ means that nothing is held onto in any way whatsoever. You are not stuck anywhere at all. In other words, there is no discrimination as to what to accept and what to reject; no line is drawn separating one thing from another. ‘Conduct as fine as barley flour’ means that there is good and evil, and one needs to differentiate between the two. Give up negative deeds; practice the Dharma. In your behaviour, in your conduct, it is necessary to accept and reject.”

~Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche


Padmasambhava, also known as the Second Buddha, was a sage who travelled from Pakistan to Tibet in the 8th century CE, where he is said to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism, a collection of esoteric methods aimed at liberating the aspirant from ignorance and its associated afflictions. What today is commonly considered to be Tibetan Buddhism is, for the most part, Vajrayana Buddhism (although elements of Vajrayana are also practiced in China and Japan under different names). Among many of the legendary accomplishments of Padmasambhava, he is regarded as the author of the famous Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is actually translated as “The Great Book of Natural Liberation through Understanding in the Between”.

In any event, his transmitted teachings were very clear in pointing out the two salient and complementary aspects of spiritual practice that necessarily must go hand in hand if one’s efforts are to bear fruit – right view and right conduct. The successful integration of these two qualities is essential for the realization of a true spiritual maturity in which the aspirant is liberated from the poisons of ignorance, envy, greed, hatred, arrogance, and emotional contraction.

Essentially, right view develops from the direct and stable realization of one’s own true nature (and thus the true nature of all phenomena), whereas right conduct entails the embodiment of such a transformative realization in all of one’s life and relations. Certainly, that sounds forthright enough, but problems arise for practitioners when one is lost in or conflated with the other.

When the view is lost in the conduct, for example, one is prone to go about accepting and rejecting, affirming and denying, grasping and avoiding — always conceptualizing the path in terms of good and evil, virtue and sin, desirable and undesirable, rather than appreciating the fundamental substratum or background of all phenomena – the essential emptiness that transcends all dualistic notions.

The Dzogchen master Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche described the view succinctly when he said:

“Leave alone whatever arise in the mind. Do not seek to change or alter anything. It is all perfect as it stands.”

Rather than resting in the summary recognizing that everything is perfect just as it is, losing the view in the conduct renders one perpetually invested in efforts to change and manipulate phenomena and relations in order to attain some idealized condition or result. However, relying on right conduct alone, though admirable from a certain perspective, will never yield true liberation.

If uninformed by right view, we will instead be motivated by a presumed internal division, a conflict at the core of our psyche necessitating a relentless struggle between dark and light elements. As it so happens, neither aspect can be victorious, since they both depend on each other to exist in the first place. With the benefit of right view, however, both positions are seen through and transcended. After all, when we try to find this self that is believed to be in need of improvement and salvation, what we discover instead is merely a bundle of thoughts and memories, sensations and conditioning, all strung together on an imaginary clothesline called “I”.

Nevertheless, losing the conduct in the view is even more troublesome. The problem with that error crops up far too often in spiritual communities these days (and perhaps it always has, it’s just that today news travels faster). The all-too-common scandals involving sexual improprieties, financial shenanigans, and oppressive power trips on the part of teachers, swamis, lamas, roshis, priests, and pastors are prominent though unfortunate examples of losing the conduct in the view. Even though some of these persons in positions of responsibility and authority may have experienced a profound insight regarding the true nature of things, that insight has not yet been integrated to the extent that their character has been freed from the afflictive passions, and so harm can be and often is perpetrated on their disciples, students, and parishioners.

On a personal level, losing the conduct in the view means that one fails to discriminate in the objective world. Even though it is ultimately empty of any inherent solidity and duration, as long as we are in it, it is real enough, and our behavior matters. Every choice we make has consequences, felt not only in our emotional lives while involved in this current life adventure, but also in all future lives until all possible lessons have been learned and traumas resolved and healed.

By losing the conduct in the view, we might imagine that there is nothing to accept or reject – that whatever we do doesn’t really matter, and that there is no good and evil — it is all illusion, so who cares. As it so happens, that attitude is an even greater error in judgment and appreciation, primarily because of its effect on relations. Indeed, the great Tibetan adept Patrul Rinpoche remarked that, if one claims to have the view but doesn’t show loving kindness in their conduct, they should have their mouths stuffed with the excrement of a hundred villages.

The eminent sage Ramana Maharshi once asked:

“When we awaken from the dream, do we go searching for the characters in that dream, to awaken them?”

Such a comment, when taken out of the context of Ramana’s total teaching, could be presumed to indicate that awakening frees one from any further behavioral concerns. However, for those of us with less than complete transcendental knowledge of the way things really are, it’s easy to fall into a logical fallacy called “Category Error”. That is, we conflate the world of the absolute with the world of the relative, and because we fail to properly distinguish between these two, we often end up confusing ourselves and others.  This is why the great Buddhist sage Nagarjuna remarked:

Those who do not understand the division of these two realities (Absolute and Relative) do not understand the profound true reality of the Buddha’s teaching. Without reliance on conventions, the ultimate cannot be taught. Without realization of the ultimate, Nirvana will not be attained.”

Certainly, there is an ultimate truth indicated by the simile “like a dream,” wherein there is nothing whatsoever which is real, or independently existent, and yet we believe that there is something which is real, based on our conditioned and conditional interpretation. Upon awakening, we realize that there was nothing at all, just dependently arising phenomena that temporarily create the appearance of stable objectivity.

It is on account of the power of this sleepy ignorance that, in the midst of all manner of phenomena which do not ultimately exist, we nonetheless perceive them to exist: the so-called “self”, “persons”, “ice cream”, “countries”, and so forth.

Mysteriously, the unchanging Absolute appears to manifest in the midst of the relative, as the quicksilver play of consciousness, as energies and forms and functions to infinity. In the midst of it all, what we can re-cognize is the self-evident fact that we ARE. We don’t really know what we are, but it is undeniable that we are.

This awareness of our beingness is the only thing that doesn’t change, though worlds after worlds arise, thrive, and pass away. Our bodies change, our self-concepts change, our beliefs change, and our relations change, but we do not change, or rather, awareness does not change. That unchanging awareness is just another name for what we fundamentally are, and it as this awareness itself that Source plays in the fields of creation.

The relative is recognized as the relative because it is impermanent. It consists of everything that changes, and that includes everything perceivable or conceivable. Just so, if the absolute did not want to express itself in this dreamy density of transience, then we would not be incarnating as these bodies, in the midst of the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves appearing. Indeed, we are the absolute, expressing itself as the relative. As Shitou Xiqian noted in his famous Chan poem “Sandokai”:

“Each thing has its own intrinsic value and is related to everything else in function and position. Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid. The absolute works together with the relative like two arrows meeting in mid-air.”

By reflecting on our original identity to the point of gnosis, or re-cognition, we can realize that we are indivisible from Source, the Absolute. Moreover, we have never been separated, despite the transient illusionary flow of relative phenomenal existence. However, awakening to the totality of who and what we are does not mean that we somehow disappear. Rather, we discover that we are both ourselves and everything, simultaneously. The relative and absolute intermingle and interpenetrate — you are you and you are not separate from anything.

A critical by-product of such gnosis is the realization that the function of the absolute in manifestation is unconditional loving. Why is there anything, rather than nothing? Love. Since love must love, all beings must be served and even saved, despite the fact that there has never been a single independently existing being in need of saving, including ourselves. This is a great and marvelous mystery, and a humorous one too, though confounding to the discursive mind that would like to have everything filed and figured out.

Buddha’s concept of saving beings was to cause them all to enter into Nirvana. If one was to become a Bodhisattva, dedicated to saving all beings, the aim was just this, to cross all sentient beings over to Nirvana. However, in the Diamond Sutra, Buddha demonstrated his sense of humor by paradoxically noting:

“All types of beings, whether egg-born, womb-born, moisture-born, or transformationally-born, whether possessed of form or formless, whether possessed of thought or free of thought, whether neither possessed of thought nor free of thought — I cause them all to enter the nirvana without residue and thus cross them over to extinction. As I cross over to extinction in this manner an incalculable, innumerable and unbounded number of beings, in truth there are no beings whatsoever who succeed in being crossed over into extinction. Why is this so? Subhuti, If a bodhisattva retains the mark of a self, the mark of a person, the mark of a being or the mark of one with a life span, he is just a non-bodhisattva.”

The point of all this is: when we see someone in need of being served, we must serve them, even though it is a dream, a mirage, a hallucination of the mind. After all, we are love, and love must love. Because Love is all that really matters, our behavior really matters, regardless of any brilliant insight we may have experienced in terms of emptiness and dependent origination. Thus the wise do all sorts of foolish things, like lecturing on nothingness to nobody, teaching emptiness to empty chairs, and performing countless compassionate good deeds, even though there is no such thing as good or bad, absolutely speaking.

There is only Source, without a second, and so who is there to benefit from good deeds? Still, love must love. As long as there is the illusion of separation, the function of love comes into play, even though it may not even look like love to the mind that still clings to the divisive notions of “me and mine”. Nisargadatta Maharaj summed it up perfectly when he said,

“When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. Between these two my life moves.”

This is no enigma to the Realized, but only to those of us who still see some difference between saved and unsaved, lost and found, plus and minus, sacred and profane. Paradoxically, that’s apparently the way the absolute would have it played, just so that It, Source, can discover Itself over and over again in the relative — in and through these humble and transparent forms of you and me and everyone.


“Without love, and will inspired by love, nothing can be done. Merely talking about Reality without doing anything about it is self-defeating. There must be love in the relation between the person who says “I am” and the observer of that “I am.” As long as the observer, the inner self, the ‘higher’ self, considers himself apart from the observed, the ‘lower’ self, despises it and condemns it, the situation is hopeless. It is only when the observer accepts the person as a projection or manifestation of himself, and, so to say, takes the self into the Self, the duality of ‘I’ and ‘this’ goes and in the identity of the outer and the inner the Supreme Reality manifests itself.

This union of the seer and the seen happens when the seer becomes conscious of himself as the seer; he is not merely interested in the seen, which he is anyhow, but also interested in being interested, giving attention to attention, aware of being aware. Affectionate awareness is the crucial factor that brings Reality into focus.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj


 eye universe




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