God hidden in people...

Originality has as basis the new, original. Nevertheless, originality is still not the same as the origin, that precedes originality or creates the conditions for it. The origin, or the source, lies in the imperishable and it is possible for a person to see this. 'Seeing' and 'being' then coincide. You realize that you are the source, and this makes you responsible for everything: there is actually nothing outside you. You are then in a position to respond to everything that presents itself. Seen in this way, not only does Advaita lead to the source intellectually, but it also lives, especially in practical everyday situations according to Jan Koehoorn in conversation with Dick de Boom.

Dick: To begin at the beginning, I looked up the word originality in the dictionary.
There I found:

  • Forming the beginning ... first, in the first place.
  • (Of things) not obtained or taken over from another.
  • (Of people) not following another ... original

If you look at it that way, originality is about what is original, real. One is tempted to think that originality is the source. Sometimes we can find the origin of things by applying carbon dating methods, or by grabbing a microscope. To find the origin of a river you look for the source. In short, the source is sometimes far away and demands a lot of study and trouble. 
We often try to find our own source by practicing a certain religion or going in search of a guru.
How do you look at it?

Jan: If we are talking about originality, then it is in fact about not imitating. Thus, anything that can be copied is not the source. I think everybody imitates someone in his or her life sometimes. I am busy with pop music, and there it is a very commonly occurring phenomenon. Still, it happens often enough in music that somebody appears who has something so much their own that it can enthrall people.
In your example, being in search of the source means that you go in the hope of finding something 'tangible'. Carbon dating places the source in time. But time is something observed so it cannot be the source. Microscopic methods place the origins in space. Again space (length-width-height) is something observed and thus cannot be a source.

Why can something observed not be the source?  Because the criteria lie in that which makes observing possible, thus not even in the observing itself, but in that which make observation possible.
What needs to happen is a sort of quantum leap in Consciousness. It doesn't occur to many people to search for the origin of things in themselves. One way or another originality is always sought somewhere outside the here and now.

I remember a story I once read in a book about Jnana Yoga. It is about god who has made the world and asks himself where he should go. He thinks about it for a long time until one day he has a brain wave.
He says: 'You know what? I'm going to hide inside people themselves. They will never look for me there!!'

original versus origin

Dick: I understand that self-examination finally leads 'you' to the origin, the source. Is it not the case that you find the expression of the source in the known, the manifest? A new composition, a new book, a new painting can after all be original, never seen before, very unique? Seen from my own point of view it is true, but original from its own source?

Jan: I think we have to make a subtle distinction between ' original' and 'origin'. Works of art can be very original, but as a phenomenon they are not the origin. For example, we can't propose that Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', is the basis of all things. What we can say is that the origin (Consciousness) is the basis for that masterpiece. 
If you say that you find the expression of the source in the manifest, the known, then I agree with you completely. Water, makes itself known as (for example) waves, droplets, snowflakes, hail stones, ice and so on. All these forms are various expressions of water.

Dick: I once heard you say: It's not about you finding all the changing things in the unchanging, but about finding the unchanging in all the changing things. Can you explain that to me? Do we not see the changing in the unchanging that we are, (the origin)?  How can you turn that around?

Jan: In this respect, 'seeing' is the same as 'being'. We are the unchanging. That can't be made into an object, thus in that sense you can't see 'the unchanging in the changing'. You can discover that you ARE THAT. So don't be anything except that. Know that you are the source of all things. That is what I mean by: 'see the unchanging in the changing.'

risk everything

Dick: The question that comes 'to me' is: How do you arrive at that discovery? Is that a question of meditating, visiting a guru, going deeper?

Jan: The way you choose doesn't really make much difference. It is more about an honest interest and the intensity of your search. The most important thing is that the entire 'how' disappears. Seekers after truth always long deep inside for a method, a 'how'. The whole 'how' is nonsense. It is completely impossible not to be in the Immeasurable.

Dick: Is honest interest then something that just is there, or something that 'you' can influence in some way or another?

Jan: If you were one hundred percent certain about your honest interest then you already be realized. As long as you are not certain that it just is, or that you can influence it, then there is only one thing to do: risk everything. Examine if it is so. I could give you a cut and dried solution, but answers are not enough by themselves. Everyone who is interested in self-investigation has to search it for himself. I say this because I want to guard against your understudying it only intellectually.

Dick: Risking everything, does that have to do with what your spiritual master Alexander Smit described as 'playing the last trump'? Can you explain that to me and can you tell me how that went in your case?

Jan: I'll tell you how that went. I had already read everything I could get my hands on about self-investigation in general and about Advaita in particular. Nisargadatta, Krishnamurti, Jean Klein, Wolter Keers, John Levi, Ramana, just name it. On a good day I came across the book 'Consciousness' by Alexander Smit. Even though I thought that I 'understood' Advaita quite well, I understood only about ten percent of what he was talking about. I read the book a number of times and decided to try to contact the writer.

I succeeded in that fairly quickly and I went to Baarn for a satsang. The impact of these satsangs was enormous. It seemed I still had many ideas about how an 'enlightened one' should look, behave, and so on. All these concepts disappeared through the living contact with Alexander. I no longer wanted to become a 'better person'. I no longer even wanted to become more 'enlightened'. I only wanted to know: who am I?
I had often read that enlightenment is a sort of flash, like being struck by lightning. Something completely different happened in my case; nowadays I call it 'the lifting of the fog'. There were no more questions; there were also no more answers, only a totally penetrating clarity completely without any doubts. I found other seeker's questions to be nonsensical. I thanked Alexander and have never seen him again.

My last trump was thus that it I still fostered an 'enlightenment concept' in a very subtle way. That dissolved during my contact with Alexander. What is nice about satsang is that you think you are stepping into a sort of teacher-student situation, and that along the way the difference between student and teacher falls away. That is very difficult to extract from of a book.

spiritual autism

Dick: What about things such as ' taking responsibility' in your daily activities. Has something changed for 'you' since your realization? Or is 'accepting responsibility' more like something that just happens?

Jan: Oh, certainly. By the way, responsibility can be explained in different ways. Since my enlightenment in my thirtieth year I know that I am responsible for everything. Prior to that, I could still fool myself into thinking that there were things that had 'nothing to do with me'.  Nowadays that is impossible, completely impossible.

My teacher Alexander had still another explanation for the word responsibility: 'being in state to respond'. In English, 'responsibility', the ability to respond.  That amounts to the same thing, namely that you no longer exclude anything. Anything that comes up is OK.

A lot of people ask themselves why it is that they understand the whole Advaita story but are still not enlightened. Sometimes I ask them: 'are you prepared to be totally responsible for everything that happens? After all, that is not just nothing. I often see in practice that exactly the opposite happens. Under the cloak of Advaita one is so-called not responsible for anything because after all, 'everything is consciousness'. That is called the Advaita-shuffle, a term thought up by Andrew Cohen. My teacher always called it 'spiritual autism'.

An enlightened one also remains accountable for his or her behavior. He can even apologize. They look just like people sometimes.

Dick: Seems very clear. For me, there is still some tension between 'having to do something, a doer' and 'letting things happen.' Or is 'taking responsibility' more like something that just happens.

Jan: Yes. It is clear in advance that taking responsibility is unavoidable. So, it is not even that it 'is going to be taken'. It is just as if you are looking at a film in which an actor apologizes to another.

Dick: If one can speak about 'spiritual autism', is that also something that happens?

Jan: Yes, and it is good to see that these things can be recognized as such in self-investigation. It is not at all about whether it should happen or not. The only thing that needs to happen is that the faculty of discrimination does its work.

Dick: I don't understand that last remark so well, could you expand on that for me.

Jan: The faculty of discrimination is a sort of higher knowing in us, a compass, an intuitive knowing. Whenever I say something in satsang, or in answering an e-mail, that reaches the target for the listener, that is the faculty of discrimination doing its work. You hear something that you 'actually' already know but that you can't explain. It is beyond thought. For example, try sometimes to explain why you love someone. How do you know it then? You know it without a doubt, period. That knowing without thinking is what self-investigation is about. Because, knowing with your thought has to do with memory, with second-hand knowledge. It seems at first (especially in Advaita) that it is about grasping it intellectually, but that is just temporary. Finally, all concepts: including enlightenment, teacher, student, improvement, are thrown overboard, overboard in the sense that they are seen to be what they are: concepts. And that cannot happen with borrowed knowledge; you have to see that, know that directly.

I am the light...

Dick: Something else that I still want to ask you. It occurs to me that you hardly ever, unless I am mistaken, talk about God. Other teachers talk about that often. Everything that passes through us is God's work. Also, past teachers do speak about leela (or the Greek Gods as for example in Homer).

Jan: I myself have no associations with the word God. If I had to give another word it would be 'being', 'to be'. Existence itself is God. But, I do not see God as a power outside myself that regulates everything. Sometimes you hear: 'God is Love'. I also find that beautiful. My teacher Alexander quoted Jesus once: 'I am the Light, the Truth, and the Life'.

Thus, Jesus didn't say 'I represent...', and so forth. No, 'I Am it!'

I didn't have a religious upbringing, but I did attend a catholic elementary school. At the age of ten I already found it to be like a big puppet show. I don't mean the essence, but all that carrying on around it. And then we are back to the faculty of discrimination. I don't need anyone to tell me that it was just an outward show.

Dick: In the last (jubilee) edition of 'Inzicht' (a Dutch magazine) you write the following about emotions:
'Imagine that you discover who or what you are. Then that has certain consequences, but that does not always mean that at the level of feelings highs and lows will no longer occur. The only thing that happens is that the misunderstanding that 'you can be dragged along' by the feelings is seen through. You know that you are always the time and space-less witness of every feeling and every thought, that there is nothing or no one to have a grip on what is happening. That means that there is complete synchronicity with the now. Every idea such as 'it should be different', or 'why is that happening to me' is seen through and has lost its power. Emotions are no longer good or bad, emotions are emotions, and they can still be quite intense, but there is no conflict.'

Jan: We began with originality and finish with emotions. I think the connection is in the time and space-less witness that we are.

[interview: Dick de Boom]