There isn't anything to do about being,
we are already doing it!
[...] Could you please explain what you mean by 'consciousness'?
I am using the word 'consciousness' to mean the field of awareness in which everything that we apprehend arises and passes away. Neither science nor philosophy has really come to grips with what consciousness is. We can see some of the effects of consciousness, much as we can 'see' the wind rippling the water of a lake. We can say, perhaps, what it is not, such as thought looking at thought, the watcher - a kind of facsimile of consciousness cooked up by thought. But the question of what consciousness is, is a profound question. We must hold it as a question and thereby outside of the known, if we hope to discover anything about it.
By holding the question as a perspective, do you mean exploring without reaching a conclusion? What is the difference between exploration and seeking?
The sense of seeking often has the quality of something missing and with that, a projection of what completion would look or feel like. Carrying this template with us as we seek, we look for the parts or states that we imagine we need.
The sense of exploration is not really about acquisition at all. It is naturally interested regardless of what it discovers or doesn't discover. This is possible only when the exploration comes from a perspective of wholeness, as the fragmented perspective will generally turn the whole thing into seeking.
Aren't we after an impersonal 'I' that is not 'I' at all, but is all that is, as it is, including all thoughts, feelings, and actions excluding nothing, controlling nothing, changing nothing?
We already have all that is, as it is. Part of that 'as it is' is that we are constantly struggling with our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and we love excluding things we don't like, control anything we can overpower, and change whatever we can manipulate. The 'as it is' is painfull. We want a better 'as it is', the kind described in the spiritual literature. In the mythology of spirituality, 'as it is' is a code word for the bliss of non-attachment. This spiritual fantasy would be more accurately described as 'as it isn't'. I don't think there is any school of spirituality that is about achieving life 'as it isn't', though. That probabely wouldn't market well.
* * * *
There appear to be two schools of thought. One is like Krishnamurti's, which implies free will for breaking through, and the other is like Balsekar's, which says there is no free will and that all is pre-determined even the desire to break through. Somehow my instinct tells me that life is like an improvisation rather than a fixed script. While I once had a powerful experience of being lived by life, it still felt like an improvisation, a potential, rather than a fixed plan. This is also accords with quantum physics. What do you think?
Thought always appears to have a choice. Thought's essential function is to measure and predict, to present the best possibilities for our survival. In this respect, we live in a world of choosing. But this choosing, this free will, has a mechanical quality to it, and while it may appear to be free, it is free only to roam the confines of its conceptual interpretation.
Consciousness appears unconcerned with the choices that thought is so caught up in. Consciousness attends to the choosing of the conceptual world. It simply is. It is choice less. Yet while this unmoving beingness may appear to be uninvolved, it has a tremendously dynamic, transformative quality to it. It changes everything it touches.
But this is not the end of the story, because there is no thought separate from consciousness, in actuality. There is only one, and this singularity, the collapse of the two in one, the merger of consciousness and thought, has the qualities of both aspects. Life itself, whole and undivided, is the doer, the action, and the result of the action, neither predestined nor possessing free will. The wholeness of life holds the potential of infinite possibilities in the timeless of each moment, and yet in the expression of each moment there is only one thing happening. Upon this one thing happening, there is only one thing that could have happened.
Since we tend to think in either/or terms, this both/and quality of life is most elegantly expressed by the poet, the quantum physicist, and the mystic. It is the great experiment of life the great improvisation as you put it to discover what occurs when consciousness and thought are not held as separate.
* * * *
Given this understanding of history and its interpretation, can you tell me anything about your spiritual search before you stopped?
First, let's understand that whatever my so-called search was, it was useless. The very premise of looking, the premise that something was wrong with me was mistaken, so the search was irrelevant. The story of my search is like any other story. It is fiction. I can tell you about the great teachers I met, the terrible austerities I underwent, the months and years of meditation I spent relentlessly looking for truth. That would be fiction.
I could tell you the story of a young man who was like many of the post-World War generation. He grew up in a country racked by political turmoil, social injustice, politics by assassination, and leadership by hypocrisy. This was the United States in the sixties and seventies. This young man was involved in politics like many of his generation, until he saw that politics could never solve the problem of the human condition.
The young man saw so many friends fall along the way, those who gave up, gave in, sold out, or succumbed to the world of mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction. In this chaos, the world of spirituality had a powerful appeal, with its teachers of surety, the workers of wonders and givers of grace. And that is what it turned out to be the appeal of power. In the face of confusion, so many of us chose authority, magical thinking, and belief. We were not searching for truth or for love; we were looking for power and control, for safety. We were infants looking for father and mother.
It is easy to see that the search of the young man in that world of teachers of spirit, of magicians and miracle workers, of yogis and lamas, is a fiction. The story collapsed under the weight of its own fantastic need for a happy ending in which the seeker merges with the universe, but is still there to tell all his friends about it.
There never was a search, only the attempt to acquire power and control over life. This idea, based on the notion of separation, is unrelated to any actuality. As such, there is no obvious beginning or end, no point of resolution. Accounts of sudden shifts are interesting in that they imply a before and after, a kind of dualism maintained as memory in the after phase. If there is no before or after, no time to sequence events, then when is the end of the search or the beginning of the search? For that matters, what is the search and who is searching?
So when you ask about my search, you are asking me to tell a story.
You say enlightenment is a myth, but how did you arrive at your understanding, if not through experience?
If I describe a series of experiences that came to a certain point, after which I was different, don't we really have a restatement of the enlightenment game? Then whatever I describe as what I did to get to that point will be what the listener will want to do. When I look at the question 'Have I transformed, have I changed from something before to something after?' I don't find any point of change. There has always been this ground of awareness, which has always been accessible. There have always been thoughts arising and passing away in that ground. The shift of perspective that moves the field of awareness to the foreground and thoughts to the background has always been there.
Whatever story I tell is fiction. I pursued whatever approaches to understanding I could find, including long periods of meditation, particularly in Asia. I had contact with some very obscure but powerful teachers. And I found that the discovery I sought was not in all those pursuits. At the end of all that, I discovered that I was still there. All the qualities that I started with were still there. Now that's a very interesting thing. What I discovered was that I'm a human being. That was the point of connection my humanness, not some state I created to get away from it.
What would you say a human being is?
That's what we all are; it's inescapable. We can try to escape by creating perfection or some alternative quality that is not conflicted or painful, but in the end that's an attempt to run away from something. Not an attempt to make contact with something.
What took place in your searching that allowed you to realize that there was no longer anything to search for?
You are still asking about a point of transformation. You are positing a period of life before this point, which is in one state of mind. There is the point of transformation, and then there is the rest of the life, which is lived in a fundamentally different way. This is the enlightenment myth. For me to indicate a point at which I realized enlightenment was a myth, and that there was no need for a spiritual search, would just be another version of the enlightenment fiction. This would just reinforce the lunacy we seem to be caught up in.
* * *
Do you have any full-time students who are engaged with you in an ongoing and intimate way? Do you even offer this?
I don't offer anything and I don't teach anyone. There isn't anything to do about being; we are already doing it. The recognition of that, the acceptance of the full responsibility of our lives and the relationship to everything, is the very nature of this being. That is not the end point of spiritual search. That is the beginning of the inquiry into the nature of life.
* * *
Do you think then that there is an enlightened state?
What would that be?
Perhaps an understanding of the thought process and the ego.
And what would that person have that you don't have?
Perhaps a life free of psychological pain and conflict. Perhaps the ability to go into ecstatic states of divine bliss.
You can do that by taking Thorazine. Then would you be enlightened? If you have a frontal lobotomy, are you enlightened? You are now in an ecstatic state, and you have no problems. People even come and feed you. Are you enlightened? What is enlightenment? Take the enlightened person out of his or her context and see what happens.
Out of their environment with their followers, their teaching?
Yes. Put them in a convenience store in New York City on the night shift for twelve hours and then see what happens. I don't think that enlightenment exists for these teachers outside the context of the group, the theology, and the belief system. If you're inside that, it is enlightened state, but that enlightened state exists only with the agreement of the two thousand followers.
And do you equate this scenario with the historically enlightened people?
We know a little about the historic figures, but then there's not sufficient information to say anything, really. Scholars get together and talk about fragments of parchments containing stories by disciples of somebody who may or may not have existed. That's usefull if you're very interested in that particular religion and the particular individual who was supposed to have started it. It doesn't really tell us much about the state of mind of that individual.
Does the fact that their words have lasted all these years speak to anything?
If you come back ten thousand years from now, there will still be Styrofoam containers with the McDonald's logo printed on them. Does that give the McDonald's logo substance? I think religion tells us something about the human psyche.
That it held on to such teachings for so long?
Yes, that the human mind wants a belief system. It wants to have mythic figures. It wants to divide itself from its own potential by projecting a God figure. That potential exists in each of us in this moment. We decide not to accept that because we want our cars, our houses, our stereos, our computers, and the rest of it. That's what we're drawn to.
* * *
Why do all these enlightened beings, supposedly beyond any sense of personal doer-ship, still find it necessary to talk about themselves as separate entities? Would a truly non-dual consciousness speak or write, and what would it have to say, and to whom?
Enlightenment is a myth. Non-duality is a story. Aren't these so-called enlightened beings defined as such by those of us who choose to define ourselves as unenlightened? Isn't this a social construction and a mutual delusion?
Language seems to be based on a subject-object relationship, a technological strategy that allows the concrete world to be manipulated. This is useful for biological survival. Thought and languages have expanded this subject-object relationship into a psychological world where a created 'me' strives to avoid the actuality of its non-existence. This psychological reality is the basis of great conflict, but the conflict is concept, just as the 'me' is.
You seem to me to be a teacher in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi. Do you see yourself that way?
Ramana Maharshi had no lineage. He had ample time to create one and did not. He did not even want an ashram. He barely agreed to speak or teach. How then can anyone claim to be in his lineage, and further, what is the motivation to claim this? I have the highest regard for Ramana, and I honor him each day by having nothing to do with him.
* * *
But don't I need a teacher to help me wake up?
We're already awake. We don't have to become awake. Thought attempts to maintain its hold on us through any means possible. One of the great ways of doing that is the regression into a childlike state in which we think, 'I'm not awake. I'm asleep and I need you to wake me up.' You don't need another person to wake you up. Our relationship to each other can happen only when I don't want anything from you and you don't want anything from me, including enlightenment. It's an autonomous, adult, responsible relationship. That's worth exploring.
Are you suggesting that people simply stop all spiritual seeking immediately?
You can continue seeking if you so desire, but it's recreational spirituality. Perhaps there's no good movie or concert tonight, so I'm going to go hear some spiritual speaker. That's fine, but let's call it what it is. It's recreation, entertainment, a form of social interaction, but it has nothing to do with a movement from an enlightened state to an enlightened state. It's just a response to our boredom, an attempt to entertain ourselves. [...]
[Steven Harrison - from: 'The question to life's answers' -,
published by Sentient Publications, ISBN 0-9710786-0-2
published with permission of Sentient Publications]
For more information about the author: www.doingnothing.com