Not even God can explain God!
- Enlightenment For Beginners -
Jan Kersschot in conversation with Chuck Hillig (from: 'This is it' which will be published summer 2004 by Watkins Publishing)
JK: When people ask me why I like your book Enlightenment For Beginners so much, I tell them it is because of its simplicity and directness. But in some way, it is hard for me to sum up the message of your book. Could you do that for my readers? In other words: how would you summarize the essence of your message?
CH: This book is a 30-minute reminder that you already are 'who' [and what] you have been looking for. However, you've cleverly disguised this profound Truth behind an elaborately seductive game that you're playing called 'Life.' This book uses very simple words and cartoon drawings to demonstrate, in a playful manner, some of the cosmic [and comic] implications of playing this Game and just how [and why] your Self-deception continues to weave such a magic spell.
JK: What kind of Game are you referring to? How is it created?
CH: The momentum for this cosmic Game is created whenever you pretend that what isn't, somehow, is far superior to what is. Although this belief keeps you focused on a never-ending journey towards happiness, enlightenment, etc., it also guarantees that you will never reach a point of permanent satisfaction and peace. Why? Because this whole notion of being on a 'journey-to-fulfillment' is actually the secret method that the desperate ego uses in order to survive in the face of personal annihilation by Consciousness. In other words, as long as the ego stays more focused on making the ‘journey, 'it can continue to avoid disappearing entirely in the blinding realization of the true identity of the mystic ‘traveler.'
JK: Why do people want to change ‘what is' into something better? Why are spiritual seekers looking for enlightenment, while you say that everything is already here, right now? Why do we seem to run away from ourselves?
CH: This frenzied activity around pursuing enlightenment helps the ego to maintain a sense of personal doership . When what is not present is perceived as better than what is present, the precious reality contained in this very moment is inwardly resisted. However, Consciousness has no opposite, it's the only thing that's present, and it can never really change into ‘what isn't'. It just is what it is. However, by pretending that 'something else is better', the ego hopes to survive by enthusiastically pursuing the disowned 'other'. Of course, the cosmic joke, is that the ego is caught on a self-generated treadmill because it already 'is' what it is looking for. This valiant struggle to be enlightened secretly protects the ego from being exposed as the phantom it truly is. As long as the search continues unabated, the Searcher is validated as being separate from the very thing that he is searching for. But, in Truth, we can never really run away from ourselves because we already are who we are running from, and we already are where we are running to.
Is it true then, that there is really nothing we can do?
JK: Many seekers secretly hope to become enlightened ‘one day', that is why they stay around a so-called enlightened being, a master, and expect that they have a good chance of 'getting It' by copying his behavior or at least doing what he or she tells them to do. Many seekers believe that the state of enlightenment is something that may be passed through from the master to the devotee. And there are also a lot of expectations about enlightenment itself. People hope that being enlightened equals being without problems, without fears: a perfect state, if you like. But you say - and I agree with you Chuck - that this struggle to be enlightened secretly protects the ego from being exposed as the phantom it truly is. Does this mean that all the seeking is pointless, that all the spiritual traditions are useless, a waste of time? How can a phantom ever discover Reality? Is it true then, that there is really nothing we can do?
CH: Gaining enlightenment in the future is a persistent and time-based illusion. It pre-supposes the absolute reality of a future 'out there' that your personal story can, somehow, live into. However, you are Consciousness Itself, and so you can never separate yourself from the essential Reality of who you already are. That would be as impossible as trying to separate the wetness from the water. Such useless struggling is only further encouraged by the popular belief that, if only you follow the 'right' spiritual strategies, you will eventually become enlightened and your personal egoist story will be able to have a happy ending. But enlightenment is not really about seeking something out there. It is only about discovering the essential Truth about what actually is. Meanwhile, the illusory melodrama of the world will continue to unfold just exactly [and as convincingly] as it always has. [After all, a mirage of a lake in the desert still looks like a real lake even after you discover that it's only an illusion.] You won't be awakening from the dream; you'll only be awakening TO the dream. But in this awakening, the Dreamer has to eventually disappear entirely. If not, he'll just substitute one fascinating dream called 'Once-I-was-asleep' for another fascinating dream called 'But-now-I-am-awake!'. Yes, there is nothing that 'you' can do to speed up the so-called 'process' because you-as-your-story aren't even really here at all. Only Consciousness is truly present, and Its wondrous nature is to pretend that it's not pretending. And so you're seemingly compelled to dance out your part in this Divine play until you awaken to the discovery that there's never been any difference at all between you-as-the-Dancer and you-as-the-Dance.
JK: If Consciousness is all there is, isn't a state of identification with the personality not as valid as a state of bliss or non-doership?
CH: Both of these so-called 'states' are only theoretical concepts. There's absolutely no separate one present who is either in a 'state of identification' or, for that matter, in a 'state of bliss.' Therefore the question of validity is irrelevant since neither of these states are actually 'happening' to anyone or to anything. Consciousness doesn't need to stop 'misidentifying with the personality,' and it certainly doesn't need to wake up. It just is what it is.
Absolutely nothing will ever wake up your mind!
JK: But still ever new books on the subject appear saying the same thing, saying that we cannot talk about it. In other words, there is a lot of talking and writing going on about non-dualism. What is the use of all these satsangs and of all these books, if Truth is impossible to put into words?
CH: Yes, it's a great paradox, isn't it? The short answer is that there is no real use to any of it. Consciousness, after all, is only seeking Itself. This mysterious conundrum totally boggles the logical mind however, since Consciousness is already the very same thing that it is pointing to. But even after acknowledging that we can't really talk about 'It,' we still seemed compelled to go ahead and talk about it, anyway. But what's more 'real:' a poetic description of Niagara Falls or experiencing the awesome force of the falling water, itself?
The problem is, of course, that all words are fundamentally dualistic. When used at this level, the best that they can do is to invite you to look within for yourself. No matter how cleverly they might be put, though, they can never logically solve the Great Paradox for you. You just can't get there from here. In fact, there is nothing in your mind that will ever become enlightened. Not going to satsangs, not reading books, not meditating every day and not chanting mantras. Absolutely nothing will ever wake up your mind! Why not? Because realization is who you already are.
The Self is only pretending that It's not the Self
JK: If liberation is timeless and impersonal, how could there ever be someone who 'sees it' and someone who doesn't'? If there is only One Perceiver … one Consciousness … how could one sage or avatar claim to have the best part of it and say that they have come to 'save' the ignorant ones?'
CH: There is no separate 'one' who either sees or who doesn't see. The play of Consciousness is inclusive enough to seemingly create a universe filled with villains, heroes, sages and avatars. How can one sage claim to have the best part of it and to have come to 'save' the ignorant? Well, beyond this being a classic example of Self-deception, who can really say? After all, not even God can explain God!
JK: Those people who are familiar with Advaita Vedanta say that there is no such thing as time, space and separate persons. And they are right: it is all in our minds. Still, the majority of the human population disagrees with that vision. As a result, people say that all of this sounds very nice in theory [that we are not the doer, that everything is just happening, that we are not the body, that there is no free will], but when it comes to putting all this into practice, that is a different story. How do you feel about such comments on Advaita Vedanta, Chuck?
CH: Time, space and the idea of separate persons are not actually in 'our' mind at all. They're only in your mind. Like it is with everything else in the manifested universe, the concept of a separate 'human population' also finds its true origin within your own Self-deception. But remember, the Self is only pretending that It's not the Self … and then It pretends that It's NOT pretending. Consciousness, it seems, is a kind of 'experience junkie,' and It revels joyously in lila … the Dance-of-the-Divine. In fact, It appears to only remember Its glorious Self-deception with some degree of reluctance. [Nobody, it seems, wants a good story to end.] So if you stand up in the middle of an exciting movie, turn on the lights and start reminding the audience that it's only an illusion, most of the 'others' will tell you to sit down and be quiet! But, as Ramana Maharshi would often say, 'What others? There is only the Self.' So, how can we ever truly practice at being 'who' we already are? Since the Self is the only Reality, It is beyond all efforts. Yes, what you say is correct: there is no actual doer; everything just appears to 'happen'; you are not the body; and there is no free will. That's all very true, but so what? To fully dance with [and as] the Cosmic Dancer you are, it still seems important that you honor and acknowledge the appearance of the Great Illusion. After all, It's all just for you!
JK: When you say that we are already It, that we are only pretending to be somebody, why do we keep on believing this illusion? You see, people complain that they do not feel like they are being Consciousness. They complain they are still guided by their personal fears and hopes. They say that life is not that easy.
CH: Well, in Truth, there really is no 'we' or 'they' out there at all. There is only 'It' … the Pure Consciousness of Self. Asking this seemingly innocent question ['Why do we keep on believing this illusion?'] distracts you from seeing the Truth.
JK: How do you mean?
CH: Well, it makes two basic assumptions: 1] that there really is a collective 'we/they' out there and that 2] these 'others' are all believing in some illusion. The question, however, invites you to focus on the 'why-are-they-believing-this' before it's ever been proven that there really are any actual 'others' out there to be believing anything at all. You see, if there are no separate 'others' to begin with, then addressing the 'why' part of this question becomes completely irrelevant. Things are just as they are.'
It is simplicity, Itself
JK: Several seekers will also ask you if you aren't simplifying the whole enlightenment issue a little too much.
CH: Consciousness cannot be over-simplified. In fact, It is simplicity, Itself. The indivisible Consciousness can only manifest the illusory world of polarities by pretending to be divisible. Amazingly, Its nature is to be what It is … by pretending to 'become' … what It's pretending to not be.
JK: So, the whole thing is just a joke?
CH: That's what it is. A comic [and cosmic] game called 'Life.' The Dance-of-the-Divine.
[published with permission by Watkins Publishing]