dialogue: Drywater problem

If the personality is a fiction, who or what becomes enlightened and who or what can do something about it? In the following interview Jan van Delden tries to give an answer to this confusing koan. Realization seems a more applicable word than enlightenment.

K: Who or what can see to it that you become enlightened? Who or what must it do?

JvD: Only the first cause, (the absolute, god or whatever name you give it) can do something or not. The only difficulty is that this does nothing. Namely, only the first cause exists. What we take to be duality is thus an invention. The first cause does not allow any duality. Therefore, discussing problems within duality is a 'dry water' problem. How can you see to it that you become the first cause, how can you do that in god's name? And who could do that? Keep it simple, realize that you have always been that, finish with every fixed idea and realize that is not within your control.

K: That's a pithy one. There is thus nothing and no one who directs it? Does the creation then have no goal?

JvD: The why-question makes seekers out of us and without an answer that settles it we remain wandering and seeking. The absence of purpose makes you quiet for a moment… and that is followed by thoughts such as: what impotence, what randomness and so on. So, I can only be myself (including all the thoughts) and realize that, as peace or grace, because there is really nothing more to do.

K: Skeptics will say that this is a license for irresponsible behavior.

JvD: Who is there to choose to suddenly start acting irresponsibly.? That is impossible. We can want to stop smoking but still not do it. That has to happen spontaneously, and the real stopping can present itself suddenly, but not that there is an 'I' who thinks: 'I am going to stop.' All the things that we think we do are in fact spontaneous happenings. It is just like hair growing or the heart beating. You don't do that, it happens. The same is true for buying a house, or saying yes or no to your partner. The responsibility that we think we have is a thought that appears spontaneously- and only afterwards — . There can never be an 'I do it', in any action. Moreover, no thought can inhabit an action and vice versa. Naturally the thought that I am doing or am going to do something good/wrong is a reality. But does it then actually say anything about the action? Does it have anything to say about it?

If you can't stop with smoking, or eating too much or whatever, stop claiming in your thoughts that you can do that. Live in the moment and see that things are happening now the way they are happening. In this way you take away the limitations that appears to be there when you keep following your thoughts.

Seeing and experiencing duality is nonsense. You do not see or experience duality, you 'think' duality. So concentrate on the seeing and not on the content of your thinking. This is how the actual problem arose ; we are of the opinion that we cannot be without thoughts. We are addicted to thinking, and we have lost and traded ordinary life for 'how it must be or should be', and thus our life is plunged into unhappiness and separation.

K: It is said: 'You have never been not enlightened. You only think that it should be different. Could you say something about that?

JvD: There is a self image in the first cause that seems to house a 'chicken or egg' argument. Seeing that both the chicken and the egg are made of the first cause makes the question; 'what was first' disappear. The difference in standpoint is imaginary. There is only first cause and that contains everything. Period.

K: But is the first cause something that can be experienced or felt, known or seen? Is it a way of life or a different point of view? Is it the absence of thoughts?

JvD: What could freedom and happiness be other than freedom from thinking and feeling? Realize that you are the first cause then duality will cease to exist. We only experience duality in our thoughts. Stop believing and paying attention to the thoughts; that is the source of your suffering. Just once really examine the reality of the false hopes that subject-object thinking offers.

Where do you begin such an examination? If you try it from the object — from the known- do you not immediately see that this is not possible? An object can never objectify its subject and so reach it. On the other hand if you think you are a subject, then that can have no form because then it would be an object. If the subject is thought of as being formless then it appears to be impossible to make contact with an object. How could that happen and by which means? The movie screen that becomes one with the film is an imaginary unity, a lie, the source of 'maya' and of all illusion.

So the thinking itself is the swindler. You can never escape with it, because you keep thinking of solutions and thus remain captive of your own thoughts. The first cause can never be or have ever been split. If the so-called subject can never become one with the thought-object then see the conclusion that knowing objects does not mean that objects exist. If you experience a world around you, then that is not the experiencing of a world, of a form, but of the knowing, the first cause itself. Your question, 'but is the first cause something that can be experienced, felt, known or seen?' is answered. These are not known but are in fact the knowing itself. And so, the all inclusiveness of the first cause is returning from never having been away.

K: In hesitation we stand before 'the empty chair', and again and again we recoil from it, because the chair doesn't take any position or deliver anything.

Why then should we want it or not want it?

JvD: If you have learned to accept the chicken-egg point of view as true, the cure is to ask yourself again 'where do the chicken and the egg appear?' 'I' don't know' answers the personality that wants to know what happened in the past. 'Silence', says the silence that arises spontaneously when it is seen that thinking is useless for solving this problem. The answer is that silence. Who would not want to have that silence that is the bottom ground for everything. It is up to the first cause to stop the game of 'hide and seek', but if it stops you will see that it never existed. Everything is grace, there is no other being than the one Being itself. Put the thinking out of bounds and neutralize your stubborn compulsion to want to understand, to want to do, so you alone remain, 'naked' and empty.

K: Does it take time to get used to the idea that you are not a person?

JvD: Yes and no. Yes if you look at it from the point of view of the hero of the story and thinking in time and space. No, if you inspect it from consciousness. That implies that from the point of view of consciousness it is all nonsense. The water was always water, also when the wave had not realized that yet. This implies that the water does not have to kick the habit of wave thinking.

It is the wave that thinks that it has lived x number of years, that itself realizes that it has always been water, and thought that it needed time to go beyond the automatic 'I am a wave' thought. The attention that once was thought to be the property of the I-thinking, must be directed to the water itself for a while. Just as long as it takes before the attention and the water are experienced as being one. On first sight that seems to be an activity of the wave, but in practice this confusion only really ends when the attention is recognized to be one with the water, with the knowing.

[interview: Kees Schreuders]