The teacher and the seeker are the instrument not the author!
We speak with Wayne Liquorman during his last visit in Amsterdam this year. The lineage of living teaching goes from Nisargadatta, Ramesh Balsekar to Ram Tzu; Wayne's alter-ego, or should I say his 'non-ego' (Ram Tzu is a contraction of Ramesh and Lao Tzu). Patiently he talks with us. He likes analogies to make things clear. Here follows a typical one:What is a True Sage?
If you go to a room full of people who all have a stone in their shoe, they will say, 'What, you don't have a stone in your shoe? What is it like to walk around without a stone in your shoe?! Hasn't your day been wonderful? Tell us about what it feels like to walk around without a stone in your shoe?!!'
But, you have not had an experience of the absence of the stone since you have walked around all day without a stone in your shoe. Of course, but there has been no experience of the absence. One does not experience the absence; you only experience the presence of something.
If the stone was present, the moment the stone is removed then you have the experience of the presence of the absence! But that again is the experience of the presence of something, in this case the absence of the stone. But that experience is very short-lived. In the experience of enlightenment, what is revealed is that there was never any stone there in the first place! So you don't have even the experience of the presence of the absence because there was never any presence to now be absent!
Amigo: Does it need to be expressed? ('It' referring to enlightenment, realization).
Wayne Liquorman: It needs to be to the extent that it is (expressed), if it is expressed then you can say 'it had to be', 'it needed to be'. There is no egoic need by the expressor if the expressor is a True Sage. There are certainly lots of teachers who have an ongoing need to express themselves, but that is something else.
You talked about 'true sage' – how would you define a true sage?
WL: I would define a 'true sage' conceptually as a human organism in which the sense of separation as the author of their actions is gone. It is a human being for whom the belief – and it is a false belief – that they are the centers of the universe, the authors of their thoughts and their feelings and their actions – that belief is absent in a True Sage. And this is not a belief on the part of the human organism that they are not the authors of their action, it is the absence of the belief that they are. So it is not the presence of the belief that they are not, but the absence of the belief that they are. There are a lot of people running around with the belief that they are not the authors of their action and that belief is simply another belief.
Is a true sage always a person or could you say that life in its totality can be a True Sage?
WL: Life can be a teacher. What we were talking about is 'what is a True Sage'. A sage is not necessarily a teacher! He may have no impact on anyone. And people who are not sages can have profound impact on people, both positive and negative. Even some of the very best teachers and people who reach vast audiences and have profound impact on people are not sages, they are just very good teachers, charismatic people who attract others, and others feel drawn to them. It has nothing to do with True Sages.
Are you a teacher?
WL: I am, certainly inasmuch as I talk and people come and ask questions and the teaching happens. That I would call being a teacher.
''All there is Consciousness, Consciousness is all there is.' Why does it seem like there is a difference between a Sage and a seeker if both are Consciousness? It feels as a contradiction.
WL: It is as much a contradiction as to say: this is a lamp and this is a table. They are both consciousness. Consciousness as a lamp, consciousness as a table. But you don't try to get light out of the table. If you try to get illumination out of the table you are going to be a very frustrated person. So, your ability to make the distinction in the various aspects of Consciousness is important in order for you to function.
The lamp and the table are different but not separate!
Is it the goal in life for a seeker to get enlightened?
WL: It may be..if it is the expressed goal of the seeker to achieve THAT, if that is what the seeker feels he is doing. However, the understanding is that THAT is a movement in Consciousness, THAT is something that happens as part of this expression of Consciousness as-the-entire-manifestation. The structure of 'me', desirer of achievement, of goal, all of those things are laid on top of What Is. The way that a human organism conceives and constructs their view of the world, is an adult human construct.
Young children don't have such a concept. They do not perceive their actions in terms of a goal. If you take children to the seashore, they will build a sandcastle. At the end of the day you say: 'Children, it's time to go', what do they do? They jump on it, they destroy it. And you ask, 'Why did you do that?' and they look at you like you are crazy because the construction and the destruction were not done for any purpose, were not done with any goal in mind. Which is to say that children do not act, do not perceive of their actions in that way.
For them there is no beginning, there is no end? They are just doing it?
WL: That's right. If you press them, they will say: the reason that we're doing this, is fun. They learned enough from adults to say that. That is an acceptable answer. This way they get the adults off their backs. If they say, 'we are just having fun', you can understand that. An adult can understand that absence of goal temporarily. But even that is the supplying of reason, or rationale, to the action.
It is just what happened.
WL: It IS what happened. Not 'just' what happened, it IS what happened. The curious thing is that as humans, we say if it happened: 'It just happened'. And that diminishes the happening. If the ego isn't present to give it significance and meaning, then it 'JUST happened'. That diminishes the occurrence because it is no longer so important as when 'I' am doing it for a 'reason'.
The reason is the rationale that people give to their actions and is a reflection of the personality. But it is always added afterwards.
Claiming to be a non-seeker
The theme of Amigo 4 was about the ideas we have about realization. They are sky-high. So it is bound to lead to disappointment. These ideas put the seeker 'on the road'. He gets bliss experiences and gets hooked on them, but at the same time his ideas and all those experiences are standing in the way.
WL: Yes, but you don't have to get away from it. You can't get away from it. And that is what we see all the time. As people become more sophisticated seekers, they say, 'Okay, I am no longer a seeker'. They conceptually come to the point of understanding that it is the seeking that is the obstruction. Other teachers say, 'The fact that you consider yourself a seeker means that you are stuck there.' And then you have a room full of people who say: 'Right, no seeking, no seeker' and all of a sudden they are saying they are not a seeker anymore. But saying it and wishing it so and wanting it to be so does not make it so. Claiming it is so does not make it so.
So the seeking leaves in the same way that it comes: as part of the functioning of Consciousness. Not as the egoic action of the seeker! The seeker may claim at some level the action as his own, but if we go into it deeply , if we deconstruct the action, it is revealed that there were all kinds of influences on the action that were beyond the individual's control!
So it cannot possibly be said to be his action except as the instrument; clearly the action happens through the organism; it is the organism's action or thought or feeling inasmuch as it happens through him, but we are the instrument, not the author – that is the distinction.
Sometimes 'being here' is seen. It is so ordinary, and so perfect. But the first reaction of the body-mind is: 'Is this all there is'? It's so ordinary. It seems as if it takes a while, before the wonder of this everydayness can sink in.
WL: That may be ... It is certainly the hallmark of the Sage. The Sage is the most ordinary of all people. 'Ordinary' is in fact the world in which the True Sage operates, directly, in the moment with What Is. The organism of the Sage is in direct contact with That. The so-called 'ordinary' is in fact quite extraordinary!
We know the classical setting; people listening, a stage, the guru, flowers etc. Nowadays it seems that teachers and sages are much more down to earth. There is less distance, it seems teachers are more approachable; we can talk to them, they are wearing blue jeans, we can phone them or send e-mails, etc. There seems to be a change.
WL: In the bhakti tradition all those things still remain. There is Ammaji and others who travel around and there are the big road shows, thousands of people and an idealized figure; you can have a momentary contact but still it is a very idealized structure – all of that does in fact exist. There is a lot more to do on the Bhakti Path [laughter] For doers. It has its own energy. It is much more social. It appeals to people who like to gather in groups and socialize a lot.
What you say may be the case but I don't think it applies to the advaita tradition. The Advaita tradition has never been one that has drawn large groups of people. Even Ramana Maharshi had a very small ashram and was quite available for people. But it is not a teaching that is attractive to the majority of spiritual people who are looking for something concrete. And the kind of groups such as with Osho and with Ammaji and with Sai Baba – these kinds of large mass movements have a very different kind of appeal and very different sorts of quality. Very simple, very basic Advaita I don't see having changed a lot over time.
Are the path of jnana and of bhakti two aspects of the same? The jnani is seeing it and ultimately surrendering and giving up the personality; the bhakta has to surrender and ends up with seeing.
WL: That is one way of viewing it, certainly. Another way to look at it is that on the bhakti path the separate individual goes through this continuing process of personal surrender which he considers is surrendering to the Guru, and that may have the effect of weakening the ego such that this final understanding happens.
The path of jnana – inquiry, using the mind to look at itself and inquire into the nature of itself is a process that can also serve to weaken the ego such that this final understanding can happen.
The karma path of selfless action – to act without regarding the self, can also lead to a weakening of the ego such that this final stage can happen.
So traditionally, those paths, although different, end up in the same place. The traditional image is that these are paths that lead to the same point. The image I prefer is that the different paths are like streams that flow down the mountain and all disappear into the desert sands below. So, it is a process of dissolution that all the paths lead to rather than a point of achievement where they all meet.
love and Love
I was touched by the love you express for Ramesh, in your poem 'bespectacled banker from Bombay'*. How does love with a small l and Love with a capital L relate to each other? Is the one the expression of the other? Do they relate in any way?
* Who would have thought
That I'd fall in love
With a bespectacled banker
I must be out of my mind
I'm married - A father -
An international businessman - A cynic
Yet here I find myself
Flitting about You
With all the volition
Of a moth at a flame
That this 'me' will get too close
WL: They can relate, they do not necessarily relate. What we call 'love' (with a small l) can have many different qualities and aspects. I think that the more love with a small l is infused with Love with big L, which is the love of acceptance, the more powerful and lasting that love is; the less acceptance is involved in the love the more likely it is to swing to its counterpart.
Look at some very passionate love relationships, three years later they are stalking each other or they are fighting in Court. Ram Tzu calls it a business deal. We are making a transaction here: you give me this; I'll give you that. And as long as we're each fulfilling our part of the contract, then the business deal works. The minute that somebody breaks the contract, real or imagined, then you have a fight.
It's like trying to project Love (with capital L) into the concept of the love (with small l) and that doesn't fit at all.
WL: No. But it can infuse (the small) love and make the small love much bigger. The Love (with a big L) is not dependent; it is the Love of complete giving. In the Love (with a big L) if your mate falls in love with someone else and wants to live with someone else – you let them go.What you want is for their highest good not for what you get. True Love is wanting for the other, not seeking to get for yourself. If romantic love is the expression of a deep wanting to give, you can call it true love.
The 'river' of life
''Chopping wood before enlightenment and chopping wood after enlightenment.' In other words: coming back to the point were one was before... Everything is the same but now it can be embraced, without resistance.
Mmmm... It is truly not an embracing. Embracing is what the seeker does. The seeker says, 'Okay, life is glorious, I will not resist it, I will embrace it.' For the sage, there is no one left to either resist or embrace. There is simply the 'river' of life.
You mean 'being here, seeing that there is nobody there'.
WL: Right. The reaction of the seeker upon having a spiritual experience is the reaction 'I am embracing life. This is all Me. I Am It. We are all One...' but that is still that separation of I am going to embody or take all of this into myself. For the sage there is no self to bring all of this into. That separation is completely absent.
So after understanding or after seeing, there is still a process going on to see that it is not 'done' by anybody?
No. There is no process of seeing that. My saying that is simply a pointer or a teaching tool, but it is not the awareness of the organism that things are that way. There is no separate awareness about the nature of things. That whole question of one's relation to It, one's union with It, ... that is gone. There is no One to relate to. For the sage after enlightenment there is no longer a process.
But one day you discovered something, or you saw, or you had an Insight. Suddenly you 'knew': It is not me seeing it.
WL: Yes, that point, that moment when the ME completely dissolved is a historical moment in the history of the organism. What happened in that moment we can point to and allegorically say, 'There was then the realization, there was then seen that there is no separation'. But that is not really accurate! In that moment the whole paradigm, the whole question, is dissolved! A false idea disappears, and nothing literally changes. And so the most precise thing you can say is that nothing happened! ...
Advaita as a tool?
A practical question. Is there anything that can be applied?
WL: All I can say is that I don't apply it. If you go on the Web and type in 'advaita' you'll find 'the advaita of parenting', 'the advaita of business' etc. in the same way as 10 years ago about 'Zen': 'the Zen of power', 'the Zen of relationships' etc. and before that we got 'Tao', 'the Tao of power', 'the Tao of Pooh', 'the Tao of relationship' etc. So now 'advaita' is the latest label to play with. Parenting, relating, marketing, business or whatever ... in order to give it some marketing punch. But advaita is not a tool! Advaita, as all esoteric teachings like Zen and Tao are not tools, they are descriptors; they describe the nature of what is; they don't prescribe what you should do!!
That's very clear. But then.. what about teachers who say you do this, you can do that, practice this, and practice that?
WL: ... and people do! And some have very beneficial results. Other people practice it and have horrible, tragic results.
So, it has nothing to do with any method at all?
It is not (deep sigh) as simple as that because methods exist. Methods happen. People follow methods. Methods, we can say, are also the instruments of Consciousness so that things happen through people trying various methods. The point of the Teaching is that it is not the individual doing the method, it is Consciousness doing the method through that individual. And so these methods are different avenues through which the doing happens.
About raising kids. I feel a need sometimes to tell my kids about this Teaching, about what interests me, but on the other hand...
WL: Okay, I as a parent have told my kids what I am interested in. This is what I believe. This is what interests me without saying 'this is what you should learn.'
And if they have an interest, then they follow it up. So, you can expose them to it in the same way you expose them to music. You say, 'Listen to this music; this is so beautiful.' Chances are they are not going to be interested, but at least you can say that you exposed them to it, you gave them an opportunity. My own personal parents' view is not to force my children into doing the things that I think are important for them. Some people do.
I have always wondered why Alexander Smit and Ramesh Balsekar spoke differently about 'free will' or 'choice'. Even though both had the same Master (Nisargadatta Maharaj) at the same time, Ramesh says, 'There is no free will'. 'All is Consciousness'. 'Consciousness is all there is'. I've heard Alexander say, 'You always have the choice to identify or not identify with what happens'... Could you comment on that?
WL: My comment is that neither what Ramesh is saying nor what Alexander Smit was saying, was the Truth. Neither were speaking The Truth. Both were using concepts to point to an underlying Truth and they both pointing to the same underlying Truth through different concepts and different terminology. So it is not a matter of determining which of them was right and which of them was wrong but rather understanding that both of them were, in terms of the Ultimate Truth, wrong because the Ultimate Truth can never, ever be stated.
One more question. I would like to know 'why creation' happened in the first place? It may be unanswerable, but even so. Why does the noumenon, the potentiality explode into expression?
WL: It isn't that it is unanswerable, it is answerable in a thousand ways, literally, and all the answers are based on the notion that Consciousness is an object that did something. And then we give that object adult human characteristics.
And then we apply the same principles that we use in understanding human behavior in wanting to know the rationale or the reason in the same way that we want to know why the children created the sandcastle and then kicked it down.
You say: Give me a construction that I as an adult human can relate to my view of how the world operates, which is in terms of rationales and reasons. And so: What is the reason for creation?, People have been asking this question for ages. There are in fact information booths set up all around every city in which you can go in and you can ask these kinds of questions! And they are well marked: they have crosses on them or six pointed stars and you can go in; some of them are manned 24 hours a day. You can go in and say: 'I have a burning question, I woke up in the night, I need to know why is there suffering in the world?'
'You, Son, have come to the right place! Good thing you didn't go to the information booth across the street, you would get the wrong answer over there.' [laughter, laughter] 'Here we have, on page 83 from this book, the answer to your question. And this Book is not just from anyone; what we are telling you is given to us from God, this is the answer that God gave us to answer your question.'
So, those questions have been answered by all the major religions. So, it isn't that there is no answer, there are thousands of answers. Just pick one you like.
So, it is there for no reason at all? The Dance. Leela. God playing with Himself?
WL: That is one answer. The rational answer. Someone, like yourself, could be satisfied with that answer. 'Okay it is God playing. I can understand that.' It could be a satisfying answer for some people but not for other people. What we're pointing to is that it's an arbitrary answer and like all such answers it gives human properties to God!
'God' is not an object and is without any inherent properties! If you truly want to see God, then take a look around. Everything you see, touch, taste, think, hear, feel, know or imagine is God!!
[June 2002, interview & Belle Bruins & Kees Schreuders]