A melting ice floe
An e-mail conversation with Jan Kersschot from Belgium, (author of the books 'Coming Home' and 'Nobody Home'), about being a teacher.
Amigo: What role have teachers played in your spiritual path, and what is the importance of a teacher for the seeker?
Jan Kersschot: I have had many teachers on the apparent path and each of them has taught me something. Most of them are mentioned in the book ‘Coming Home’ (you can read more about it in the interviews I had with some of them).
IN fact I have unlearned a number of things by meeting the 'real' spiritual teachers. Step by step you let go of a number of convictions till you notice that there is nothing left, including the seeker who hoped to become enlightened some day. Finally you see that the clear presence that you are has never been away.
Tony Parsons was my final teacher - if I can use such words - and I ask myself if it is really necessary to meet a teacher. I think it is different for each seeker. Anyway, meeting Tony was important to me - apparently. The very first time I met him in Hampstead (London) there was a direct resonance when he said: 'This is it'. Those three words dissolved all my questions instantaneously. The conversations we had, the time we spent together, all of that revealed and unmasked all sorts of ego games I used to have.
Nevertheless I want to add here that my testimony might give the reader the idea that there is indeed a process from 'not enlightened' to 'a little enlightened' to 'totally enlightened'. Such a belief in a progressive path is very popular, but according to me it is completely contradictory to what liberation really is all about. The belief in a spiritual path that leads to the top of the mountain is based on two basic misconceptions:
- the importance you give to the personal part of the story (how can I reach 'It'?)
- the belief that you still nurture in the phenomenon of time, your hope for a better future (when will I reach 'It'?)
As long as you have not understood that liberation is not personal and that it is timeless, you are like the donkey following a carrot. True liberation is impersonal, and therefore you can not claim 'It' for yourself. I -as Jan- can never possess 'It'. Moreover, 'It' is timeless (not 'here and now' but beyond time and space), and thus 'That' can never be projected in the future. If you nevertheless do so, you are just fooling yourself - although in the end there is nothing wrong with fooling yourself either...
Still I want to propose that 'It' is not some sort of state of perfection - now or in the future.In fact you can read all what I am saying in other books about this subject. But maybe you will only read what you want to read. And then you continue to hold on your misconceptions and belief systems. I notice that some readers of my books manage to succeed in not seeing what I am pointing at. A true spiritual teacher will point out all these misconceptions to the seeker, until all spiritual ambitions melt away. And I am sure that a direct confrontation with someone who is clear and direct about these things can be very inspiring.
You talk about 'real spiritual teachers'. That implies that there are also 'less real teachers'. What is the difference between these two?
Is that the difference between the so-called 'progressive' path ('step by step') and the 'direct' path?
Now we encounter a paradox. If you read my book carefully you will see that I often seem to contradict myself. That is inevitable because I have to use words which are dualistic by nature: words cut the unity into parts; words describe things and we take the words for real. But that doesn't work when we are talking about the One. 'Being one', 'liberation', 'coming home' or 'non-duality' are concepts after all. You better forget about all these words. Regarding your question: there are no 'real' versus 'unreal' or 'less real' teachers. Although some teachers I met were in fact misleading their followers, I don't want to criticize the so-called teachers of the progressive path any more. To me, the 'real' teacher is not present as a personality and is in this way a mirror for the seeker - who is in fact also empty. There is nobody there! And in this 'emptiness' they are both one. Then there is no longer any difference between seeker and teacher, between this and that, between 'liberated' and 'not liberated'. In other words, there is nobody home [remark: the English edition of 'Being One' is titled 'Nobody Home'].
In my book I describe the emptiness as 'Consciousness', but remember: that word is also just a label. The unlimited consciousness is indescribable. It can not be reached, and therefore 'It' can never be projected into a future state of perfection. And 'It' can not be projected into a teacher - no matter how special or inspiring the teacher may be. That is why I always deny that I have reached 'It'. I don't present myself as an enlightened teacher or a realized being, or as someone who tries to open other people's heart during satsang or so. I also do not suggest that I can pass 'It' on to others. How can the infinite possibly be passed on? And where are those others if there is only one Consciousness? The only thing that I can do is to unmask a number of misconceptions. That what is seems sufficient to me and I don't need to bring anyone anywhere. I do not see the need for saving anyone. Or bringing the Light to everyone. Or saving the world. For me 'It' is everywhere, so why worry? The Light is equally available in those who say they don't see 'It'. The Light is equally available in the good guys as in the bad guys.
As I said earlier, the progressive path can only exist if we believe in the personal and the temporary. That is why I have described the progressive path as 'less real' because I don't believe in the temporary and the personal any more - except for strictly practical reasons of course. My usual day to day life goes on as before, but my spiritual ambition has disappeared. The spiritual materialism I used to have, has dissolved. And saying that may be misleading because there is no 'me' who can speak about 'mine'. This 'I' is also just an image appearing in the Light.
And let me remind you that the progressive path is also just another appearance, another image in consciousness. And I am not pointing at the quality or the meaning of the images, but at the Light in the images. I am not interested in all the differences between the spiritual paths, I am not interested in all the differences between the spiritual teachers.On the progressive path there is hope for the seeker, there is the belief that 'progress and evolution' exist. However, on the direct path there is no seeker and no teaching. Is it true that nothing can be transmitted?
Still I can't say there is really something wrong with the progressive path, just as there is nothing wrong with all other things that appear on the screen. And why is that? The one who judges, the one who criticizes that progressive path, is himself an image that appears. Also the one who - as I just did - dares to suggest that the so-called direct path is superior to the progressive paths, this person is also an image on the screen, and is in fact totally unimportant.
There is nothing that can be transmitted, because what I point to in my books and lectures has no boundaries. No limits in time and space. Therefore 'It' is always and everywhere. Nothing or nobody can ever be excluded from 'It'. I will say it again: 'Nothing or nobody can be excluded!' So how could it be possible to transfer 'It' from here to there? From one person to another? Whoever suggests such a transmission or process is talking about something else than the Liberation I am referring to. They are talking about transcendental experiences, the energy of group meditations, spiritual insight, peak experiences, personal growth, a feeling of peace or a sensation of love. These may all be very exciting or interesting, but it is not what my books and talks are all about. As I said repeatedly, there is absolutely nobody home: there is nobody living in the teacher, and there is nobody living in the seeker, so what are we talking about?
Can you tell me what you remember about Jan Kersschot as a seeker? What was his 'apparent' path?
Your questions are becoming more and more difficult because you assume that there was a person who experienced the following story, but it only seems like that. And the funny thing is that it appears real to me, too. I do indeed remember Jan as a seeker, but all those memories are happening right here right now, not 10 or 20 years ago. But okay, I will play the game of time in order to answer your question. But remember that my personal experiences basically are not important- they are only experiences. I don't want the reader to compare their own experiences with mine. That is exactly what the book 'Nobody Home' is not about! There are so many books with personalized stories. There are so many seekers who have become confused or frustrated because they compare their own spiritual experiences with the experiences described by some spiritual hero. It is sometimes quite misleading.
So, Jan was a very serious seeker, passionate but nevertheless very critical. Although I would leave no stone unturned until I had found 'It', I was convinced that I should not abandon my western life. I felt no need to leave everything behind me in order to go and live in a monastery or ashram. Looking for the One has nothing to do with changing your clothes or accepting a new name. I found that my search had to be compatible with family life, with wine, sex, meat, BMW's, luxurious vacations and all the other things that are usually labeled as unspiritual. Maybe that is one of the characteristics of my search: if I am searching for the One, for the universal, 'It' must be available to everyone at all times, irrespective of behavior or spiritual practice. That was my point of view and there were not many who shared this vision with me.
If I was really searching for the One, I thought I could not exclude anything. It became clear to me that I didn't give a damn about any spiritual codes of behavior. Who could impose any rules if my search is all about the universal? As a result, I had to unmask and put in perspective many rules and belief systems. Especially the rules of New Age, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
My transcendental experiences go back to my early youth. One particular that I remember is when I was 15. While kissing, there was suddenly a moment of total openness. You could call it a spiritual experience but that sounds a little too serious, too religious. It was very simple, very childlike but nevertheless very physical. It is hard to talk about it, but I could describe it as pure presence. It was unexpected but so crystal-clear, and at the same time 'I' was not involved in it. Nowadays I wonder if this particular experience may have been the drive for my further so-called spiritual seeking, who knows?
Later on, I started reading about yoga, and I started practicing transcendental meditation when I was about 18. During my first meditation I transcended a kind of boundary. I recognized that 'something' waited for me, an indescribable emptiness, that also seemed very familiar. It was as if I recognized an old 'feeling of oneness'. It was like meeting an old friend who was more 'me' than my own personality. It was like coming home to the indescribable. It was so familiar at the same time. As I wanted to know more about it, I started reading more. I became a spiritual seeker. On my (apparent) path I came across all sorts of teachers, some in the form of books (for example Yogananda, J. Krishnamurti, Osho, Da Free John, Sai Baba, Deepak Chopra, Wolter Keers, Margo Anand, Jean Klein, Lao Tze, Alan Watts, Sri Nisargadata, Ramana Maharshi), others in the form of living teachers or gurus (Armando Acosta, Jacques Lewensztain, Alexander Smit, Andrew Cohen, Ranjit Maharaj, Francis Lucille, Douglas Harding).
As I said before, some were inspiring, others rather misleading. Especially Douglas Harding's experiments were a revelation to me. The first time I did the pointing exercise, it was as if the curtains of my 'window' were suddenly cleansed. I think it was in 95 or 96. Everything that I had read before in all those books now became crystal-clear. It was 'seeing' instead of 'hearsay'. From understanding to BEING. Later on, I had more and more periods of openness, pureness and total emptiness. And although I had the impression of being on the right track, the spiritual hunger was still not satisfied. I read even more books: for example by Justus Kramer Schippers, Eckhart Tolle, Ramesh Balsekar, Wayne Liquorman, Suzanne Segal and Chuck Hillig. Gradually all kinds of belief systems were unmasked. Nevertheless I still had a spiritual path in my head, a future goal, even if I didn't realize it as such. Ego games were still going on somewhere at a very subtle level: comparison, longing, expectations, idealizations, and so on.
On the other hand I felt that I was sitting on a melting iceberg and that the sea I was floating on was getting warmer and warmer. What I did not yet understand was that I was made of ice myself and that I would finally also melt away. As I still thought that I (as Jan) was on a path to somewhere, I believed I had to make progress on the spiritual path. I was still waiting for an event. Until I met Tony Parsons. During the very first meeting all my expectations evaporated just by hearing these three words: 'This is it'. The idea of there being a path was unmasked, right at the spot. It was like a gentle 'wham'. But this was not some spectacular revelation. No mystical event or anything like that. In a timeless moment, everything became completely clear in a very simple and natural way. The whole house of cards tumbled down, in all simplicity and ordinariness. All questions had disappeared.
And even when (afterwards) the habits of the thinking mind tried to rebuild a house of cards, the illusionary aspect of the whole house became absolutely clear. In the beginning it looked as if Tony took away all my hope, until I saw that there never was anyone searching - or for that matter, hoping. So the fan kept turning for a while, even though the plug had already been pulled out. My thinking mind still tried to get things straight, but finally it gave up. Then everything that I still hoped for (in the spiritual field) dropped away. I saw that the seeker I identified myself with had never existed - except as an idea. Sometimes it looked like Tony had me in a hold, but it was actually my own questions I asked him that came back to me like a boomerang. Until it was clear that there is only this. At that time, I also had inspiring conversations with Nathan Gill regarding this subject. He said 'we are all the very same one'. He made it clear that we are all Consciousness, and that it does not matter at all what state you are in. Once that is clear, there is no turning back. When I look at it now, it was as if I found myself in quicksand. But that image is also just an appearance. The death of the ego was actually only the death of an illusion, and therefore not as special as I had always thought it would be. In fact, nothing happened. Everyday life went on. Only the timeless 'This is It' remained.
After 'This is It' - after realizing that you are an expression of consciousness - has that affected you as a person or as a doctor?
In contrast to what one would expect, Jan and his function in society hasn't changed much. I still have my (apparent) talents and my (apparent) shortcomings. The fact that you have recognized your true nature changes nothing in particular. I could say that I am even less special than before all this happened. Remember: even the one who would have recognized 'It' is an illusion. What I am is Consciousness itself (and so is the reader) and the person 'Jan' appears in this same Consciousness. But I have absolutely no spiritual task or anything like that. I don't see anything that should be changed. I can't see any border between right and wrong. Everything is just as it is. The person known as 'Jan' (and as I said before: that is also an image) may still appear for practical reasons, and that is completely ok.
Nevertheless, there is something that has changed. The need for judging and criticizing is over. There is no fight any more on the spiritual level. The seeking has stopped because the so called seeker is now recognized as being no more than a concept. Consciousness was there all the time - even when it was not recognized as such. As a result of this insight I cannot claim anything for myself, not even the so called spiritual experiences that I just described. The 'I' who thought he experienced 'It' was illusory from the very beginning. Even though the experiences were very important for my spiritual ego, now it seems as if they have not happened. It all means absolutely nothing, and that is not some sort of false modesty. They are only images that appear now, that appear in the timeless. They are like memories of experiences in which 'me' was not present. So, how do I dare to talk about it? Anyway, the unity (the One) was there even before the transcendental experiences, during the experiences and afterwards. The One is also present for one hundred percent during those moments that we label as banal, or as unspiritual. When you see that, where should you go?
For more information about Jan's books: www.kersschot.com
[Kees Schreuders & Jan Kersschot]