You only know what you are not
an interview with Rob Ek

Rob Ek frequently writes short pieces about non-duality on his (Dutch) weblog and if you want, you can post all your comments on that website immediately. The fact that this is possible shows how easy this site is to read and thus distinguishes itself a little from the usual broad reactions to questions about searching, although you are free to ask those there, too.
Maybe that's the thing about Advaita. The extreme effort needed to try and explain the way it is keeps the searching mind captured in its own thinking too much. Is one summary really any clearer than an other? And to top it all: the places which searchers take off from (their thinking, their mindset) can vary a lot. So what's obvious to one person is abracadabra! to another. You can find further explanation on this at Rob's other (Dutch) website Chakraplein.
Rob is a sociologist and chakra therapist and has a very clear vision of the relationship between therapy and non-duality. All these concepts are to be found on his website, as well as lots of other things. Rob doesn’t have any plans to give satsangs for groups, but is more focused on the direct recognition that occurs when working one-on-one with a client/searcher in the areas of consciousness, energy and reactions of the body.
In the free time before our conversation, where the words 'please don’t go hard on me now' slip out of my mouth, Rob reacted that this might just be the right way to start this interview.

So to start off right away: the daily Being (together)… Actually no questions arise from there. Questions maintain themselves, they keep reproducing themselves.

The daily Being.. Well.. You can only speak for yourself. You are the only one experiencing this daily Being directly. The only thing you can do with other people is assume they have the same daily experiences and the same kind of consciousness. But you’re never a hundred per cent sure. Right here, all you can do is take account of yourself and your own space of consciousness.

What we wonder about is if it’s not this daily Being that makes the questions pop up. Life has the unpleasant habit of handing out a stream of dilemmas and disasters. Life is very unpredictable, proverbially so. It makes you want to question it. You experience hindrances, times when everything’s against you and you can’t seem to get where you want to get. Why? Why me? All you really want is a solution, fun things to do, to be happy and find that inner peace. And that’s where the searching begins.

Are they even still out there, these fanatical searchers?

Yes, absolutely. Years after years they keep searching, like their life’s hanging by a thread. But searchers are not finders, unless they realize searching stands in the way of finding what they’re actually looking for. Searching is the movement in time, and whatever you seek lies in the Timelessness. The source of all movement. In that Source, no judgement fits. No good and no bad. Everything is what it is and you can’t change it. Fanatic searchers don’t want to hear that. They want to find results, that one definitive answer, a sentence that solves it all. Like some sort of penalty in the last minute of extra time in the soccer World Cup Final. But questions move, ironically, away from the Source.

Because who even asks the question? The unknowing thinking! Who or what gives the opportunity to be able to ask those questions? That is the only question that matters. That gives you the immediate direction to who you really are. And that’s not a word, but a fact. Life itself. The space of knowing, where the questions and the answers as well as the whole world appears. That Knowing Space has always been there. That’s what you are. You don’t have to change that or do anything about it. And that’s what makes searching such a complete nonsense. Try this. Tell yourself ten times in a row: I exist and then stop completely. Now there’s silence. There is no thinking for a little bit. Do you disappear? Do you fall apart? Are you gone all of a sudden? No, of course not! You’re still there. You’re not your mind. You are consciousness. And in this consciousness there’s a wide variety of things that can appear.

But, problem is, a lot of those fanatics only want the Big Experiences they’ve read about. But then you’re not talking about Being, but about (temporary) experiences.

An old theme of Zen is, how we get to a wordless communication from out of the wordless… The one thing that everybody owns long before we were even born.

Yes, I was just reading about it in the book of Thomas Hoover: ‘The Zen Experience’. A lot of zen practitioners struggled with that question. That’s actually really strange. When you’ve seen that there isn’t an independent person and that everything and everyone is One, or in other words, has the same Self, then it must be clear that we are all that same ‘Ocean’. We don’t really need transmission. You’re all ‘That’ so there’s nothing to search for or to transfer, just the recognition that this is how it is. And even the time of recognition is not under your control as a person. Neither is it under the control of the Zen master. It can sometimes look like it when it’s your time and it comes to you because of something your Zen master did or said. But it’s nothing more than a recognition because what you were looking for was already there, before you even started searching.

Being in Unity ìs already here simply when two people are in Attention together. Like Jesus said: Where two or three come together in my name (he meant Consciousness), that’s where I am. And that’s how it is. At least, that was often the case with Satsang, but it also happens in my therapy sessions a good deal. It’s just very subtle, far away from the noise a lot of Zen masters make. You feel the subtle changes in your energy field, and you come to a very subtle feeling – a lot of times, far away from the body. Then, already, you can recognize what Consciousness is, namely pure Presence.

You will recognize the scent of it, the silence, the Knowing Silence. Sometimes it goes very, very deep. You will notice that all the symptoms you came into therapy with – are not your Self. And that is enough, that recognition. Much more, being a simple human being, you can’t do. Everything will be done, including the healing process or a movement to a permanent state of living in that condition, or becoming a teacher, or keeping what you’ve found silently to yourself. It doesn’t matter. In our Being, we are all One and the same.

Most clients hardly understand what happens or have no interest in it whatsoever. They see it as a pleasant experience. I do tell them that this is what they truly are, but I’m not going to force it upon them. Everything goes the way it goes. The one that has 'found' it, doesn’t stand above the people that haven’t found it or have no interest in it. We don’t live ourselves as a person, life does it for us and our thinking just runs and runs behind it.

I find the rash comment 'this is about Nothing' that somebody makes after reading Advaita Lines on your weblog, very intriguing. What do you do with that?

Ha! That’s what the woman I’ve been married to for 25 years said. We still have a great connection. She has seen me searching, reading and writing a lot of times. I would come down the stairs happily amazed by a new insight and she would stare at me, unaffected, like ‘Yeah, so what? I already know this.’ Because of her I understood that being Enlightened was a misunderstanding. It was simplicity speaking for itself. It should be the most natural thing there is. And that’s how it was with her. She never spoke about it. And still she doesn’t.

The Nothing was about the Nothing, the Not-Something. In the core, we’re not a thing, not an object. Everything we see, we aren’t. We are the Seeing, which can never be seen. What we are in the crux can’t be found, outside of time and space, and can’t be manipulated.

Eventually I came to the recognition that it’s not in the experience, but that it is experiencing itself. Well, that’s what you do all day long.

I still experience a lot of reluctance to get into this subject with anybody. Unless people are really interested. And then sometimes, in a simple conversation, I can just turn to it.

Yes, after landing on my nose a few times I keep myself to the rule of only talking about this with people who are really interested. Otherwise, it’s of no use.

People mostly want to know right away what difference it makes when you’ve come to your real nature: how does it change your life..?

First, there is euphoria. And you have to laugh about it a lot. Thirty years of searching for the glasses you were wearing right there on your nose! Finally you understand. And then you realize the search has ended. The urge is gone. Though what changes for me, after the Insight, is that you’re less tied to the events of the day and the longer lasting reactions to them. You’ve seen that you don’t live your life as a person. You are being lived, so the pressure is gone. Life just goes on. Also the negative side of things and the periods that feel less comfortable. The thinking tries, a lot of times, to get it’s own rights back. And then you just have to be attentive. And see through that.

You know now that Death doesn’t exist, because the Self is outside Time and Space. But the world is definitely not something you don’t care about. And it will be in your own hands how you react to that.

Sometimes I suppose that speaking in ‘advaita grammar’ isn’t always beneficial to clear understanding. Avoiding personal pronouns for example or, what I call ‘speaking from great heights’ – over people's heads. For example: ‘Nobody sits there’, ‘Being awake and sleeping are one and the same’ and ‘You can do Nothing’. I can understand that with this kind of stuff you can attract a lot of fascinated people to you.

Yes, and for a lot of teachers it turns into business. They try to hold you tight. They get angry when you go up to another teacher! That costs them their money! Or they’re hurt because they get rejected. That’s why, just like Gilbert Schultz and John Wheeler, I am so crazy about the Australian teacher Bob Adamson. This teacher has stripped Nisargadatta’s Advaita of all the unnecessary things, and speaks pure language. He denies being a guru. He propagates self-investigation, where the ego gets dismantled totally. There is nothing he keeps alive. He constantly tells you that you have to look at where your ‘ego-centre’ hides. Where is that important person that you put your trust in so badly? Because when you look, you see that only thoughts pass in consciousness. You can’t grab them, you can’t influence them and you can’t stop them. You’re not in control. And – more important – if thoughts weren’t there, when there wouldn’t be a conscious. Thoughts have no individual, independent being. So what’s the fuss about? You’re not those thoughts. Same goes for your emotions.

You aren’t your body either. You can see, feel or perceive anything you like of your body. But what you see you never are. Never! You can never be the object of seeing. Which means that you are Consciousness. We know we exist, because we knòw we exist. That’s the first Instance. And that is what we truly are.

Well, you can really try to explain this clearly to someone and let them experience it. That journey isn’t very mystic. But most teachers turn it into abracadabra! because they know they have no influence on the Moment of Realisation. That’s why they turn it into a mess. They keep promising you something for the future or they blame you because you still don’t see it! They seduce you into attaining Bliss to prove you are Enlightened. Well, Bliss is only an experience. And an experience is always temporary. You can’t keep up being in Bliss all the time. And who experiences the object Bliss? That’s what it’s about. You as Experiencing, as Knowing, as Conscious. You can also experience trouble, that’s not as nice, but it doesn’t hurt you as Consciousness. To the sun it doesn’t matter whether there are clouds above the earth or not. So all the running about for beautiful experiences, is only entertainment. A lot of times it’s only getting in the way of the final insight. Finding, actually, is very simple.

But obviously both temptation and/or ignorance are too big. As an example of this, I have seen a Dutchman teaching Advaita at a satsang with a few ladies at his feet sitting in deep admiration. It looks so foolish! That’s the moment I get out of there. Anyone who allows this kind of thing immediately looks like a charlatan to me. He can say beautiful things, but at the same time he's fooling everyone. Nobody is more or less conscious. In the essence we are not-something, or Nothing. How can one Nothing be more or less Nothing than another Nothing? So please, stop this humbug.

You’re active as a therapist and inter alia work with chakras. In doing this kind of work, you judge in duality, because it’s about your experience of the other person.

A while ago, I ground to a halt as far as therapy is concerned. I knew that everything is One, but also that I was the only one I could directly perceive as alive. After all, I can't experience your experience of life directly. Just mine. You are simple an image in my consciousness. Is there anybody but me? Who was I treating? A non-existent image in my conscious, or someone who just like me in the end is One, but wears a lifejacket in another color? And that’s what I could start to work on again!

And to cut a long story short, was I the only one experiencing images, or just one amongst billions of people experiencing images and that at the core all are one with all of nature all at the same time? But, when I have a grandchild in my arms, I also do experience this as reality…

What do you think of Wolter Keers’ saying that every fear leads back to a fear of losing love. I quote: 'I am afraid to show myself, ‘cause then you will think I’m crazy or bad or something else." And then, there is this wall. ‘I’m here and the other one is there’. See, when I think Love is something that I can own, I am afraid I might lose it. But as soon as my whole being sees that I am Love, what else is there?

All the restlessness, all the unhappiness, all the fear is there because you feel separation. The Fall. 'Me' against the World. Then you have to explain yourself, protect yourself, do your best. And you, as a humble being, have to do all this in an incomprehensibly limitless world. And you don’t even understand yourself! That’s why we run to therapists, psychics, clairvoyants and spiritual teachers with questions like: 'Who am I?', 'Why is All this?', and 'Where am I going?'. We are all insecure and afraid.

When the lonely doer is seen through as non-existent, and you recognize yourself as Endless (untraceable) Consciousness, then the whole Fall is seen through. You are, at the core, not separated but at one with Everything. You have lost Everything (all that is temporary) and you have found Everything (all that’s Timeless). You still experience life, but you aren’t life itself anymore. Then a great sense of relaxation occurs. An enormous space or love can be experienced, but still realize: whatever you experience is not you. What you truly are is always hidden. You will always stay a riddle. You are a riddle to yourself forever. Because you only know what you are not.

It’s all very subtle. The only thing that’s always true for you is the Knowledge of Existence. More is not necessary to know. Stop right there, because if you don’t you are immediately back in the thinking, in searching, in words, in time. Then you are outside again, always longing for whatever used to be.

[by JZ]