There is nobody home
interview with Jan Kersschot
There is a little story told about two little apprentice-devils who land by a guru on a visit to the earth.
After listening to him they returned to hell in panic and warned Lucifer, the chief devil, that they had found a master speaking about liberation and self-realization and that something should be done about it.
Lucifer reacted to this news by asking if this 'wise one' had any disciples.
The devils answered in the affirmative, whereupon Lucifer reassured them:
' Then you don't have to worry about it.'
The house called 'Advaita' seems to have a lot of rooms with different 'masters' and 'disciples'.
This was the reason for a short visit with Jan Kersschot about: 'truth, honesty, reality, about doing and about the resident 'who has left the building'.
It appears that there is nobody home.
-Take a look-
Pol: if the seeker just reads the titles of a number of books about non-duality and self-realization, for example: 'Do Nothing' by Steven Harrison, or your last book 'It is as it is', or 'Nothing ever Happened' by Papaji then it seems to be a great paradox. What inspires people such as you to talk about it, or to write? And, is it the truth? Is it really honest to assert that nothing can be done, since asserting this seems to be an activity itself.
Jan: You are right, saying or writing 'do nothing' seems to be as if I am kicking myself a bit when I'm down. It is easy to say this while you yourself in your (apparent) life have done a number of things like practicing meditation or visiting a number of spiritual teachers. It is even a bit cheap to describe with hindsight all that spiritual seeking as unnecessary, superfluous or even a hindrance.
Nevertheless, the idea is found in many traditions is often described as 'leave home, and when you finally come back, you notice that you have never been away'. Or sometimes it is said as; 'You go through a door, and as soon as you are through it you notice that that there was no door, and even no seeker, and that there never has been a seeker'. This last comes especially close to what could be described as 'truth'.
But I don't like to use the word 'truth'. Concepts like 'truth, honesty and reality' can be misleading. They assume – or certain readers can get that impression – that there is a person who is not already honest, or that there could be a division between what is real and what is not real. Who makes this sub-division? What are the frames of reference?
I – in so far as I can speak about my 'I' – do see some differences but there are absolutely no gradations at the spiritual level. Seeing differences is indispensable in daily life, but if we are speaking about non-duality I find 'truth, honesty and reality' to be a bit confusing. But, OK, words always are a bit confusing, also the words in my books. What I am saying is also conceptual: when I say that someone has been led up the garden path, who could that be, if there is no 'I'? How can we come home to ourselves if there is no one home anyway? And as long as we are speaking about the absolute, what is wrong with being led up the garden path? Misleading, leading up the garden path, or preaching. It is after all just to look at the boundless for a moment? You understand that silence, but nevertheless, apparently questions arise and answers come. Maybe my words are also misleading, who knows.
P: If there is no one who can be misled, are then also no 'false masters?' It seems often as if there are differences in approach and even contradictions between different teachers that can be noticed. And, maybe a bit less important, I have also noticed that there are 'realized ones' who don't invite each other for coffee.
J: Ha ha, yes indeed, just think of that conversation between Andrew Cohen and Alexander Smit at that time. Or think of Tony Parson's criticism of Andrew Cohen to be found in his books and in his tapes. But we need not take all that too seriously. Tony laughs at himself regularly, and I like that. If I –as Jan- give voice to criticism, I also don't take myself so seriously. And, if someone criticizes my books, then that is also absolutely no problem. I find that Advaita is generally taken much too seriously.
Nevertheless, I think there is something sound and interesting in my critique, or better-said commentary, on pseudo-Advaita teachers. Indeed there are no 'false' masters, but nevertheless there are many masters who say that they are talking about Advaita and in the meantime lead their followers up the garden path. But all right, even that leading people astray is perfectly okay, even fooling someone is completely the expression of the only being. If everything is as it is then that includes misleading, false hope, dogmas and spiritual paths because, there are no seekers, no teachers, no time, and no separation. Even Advaita that isn't Advaita but pretends to be the real Advaita is included. The 'pseudo-Advaita' is not inferior to the 'pure' Advaita.
Back to your question about drinking coffee together, isn't it so that you can't put two roosters together? Indeed, there are many contradictions and paradoxes. The so-called realized – naturally there are no persons who are realized, that is a contradiction in terms – each tell their own story with all their consequences. The apparent underlying controversies commonly arise when one master dares to criticize another. Most gurus are surrounded by admirers and believers and are therefore not used to criticism. Being in conversation with another guru who may have dared to give outing to criticism is a totally different situation. However it doesn't ever become real rooster fights. Mostly they are intelligent enough to avoid direct confrontation.
Become critical yourself
Somewhere in my book 'This is it' to be published this summer by Watkins Publishing from London, I have commentary on Vijay Shankar. I do not do this to harm him because I find him to be a sympathetic man. I do not name him in my book, but the reader can guess it. When he was in Belgium a few years ago we ate and laughed together. But I do call my reader's attention to some things that struck me. I do not suggest that I know better, or that the others are wrong. Jan absolutely doesn't know it all better, and there is no one who 'could be wrong' as far as the one is concerned. There is nothing wrong in admiring Vijay, or in following or worshipping him. I only say that I find it strange that someone who claims to speak about Advaita has an ashram that he calls 'the temple of the absolute'. That is how it is described in the website, as if the absolute could be enclosed in a certain space. Isn't the absolute limitless by definition? Further, the website announces the building of a Shiva temple and a Shiva Linga: 'detailed plans are being laid out for the construction of a Shiva Temple. The auspicious Shiva Linga will be arriving from Somnath, Gujarat, India.
I do not refer to this text from his website to ridicule him, but is it so that the godly is more present in a holy statue? If everything is one, is there then a need to worship and adoration of 'all the Great Sages'?
I just ask the question and allow the readers to take a look themselves. I just want to invite my readers to be very critical and to draw their own conclusions. Naturally it's also all right if they want to swallow all that sentimental nonsense.
It is also written that the atmosphere in his ashram in Texas is a supportive environment for those who want to realize the infinite in them. 'Kalvalya Shivalay Ashram (Abode of the Absolute) is open to all who desire to awaken to eternal peace and bliss. Inspired by Dr. Vijay S. Shankar, the Ashram atmosphere (as perceived by many who visit) provides a supportive environment for those who wish to realize the infinite within themselves.
I know it, it all sounds so beautiful, and especially seductive for the seeking I, for the thirsty ego. Because, the seeker is encouraged to come inhale the sphere in order to collect a personal trophy – realizing the infinite! This is the classical trap. Just imagine, you take a plane to Texas, three weeks later 'It' happens to you while you are walking around in the ashram garden and maybe a week later you arrive at Schiphol as a one who is self-realized. Naturally it could have also been Bombay or Poona – I know I am making a caricature of it – but isn't this the classical story of 'I want to be enlightened too'? Isn't this an example of endorsement of the three most frequent belief systems? (See also my interview with Kees Schreuders in Amigo 5): the belief in the difference between myself and others (I am going to realize the infinite, not my neighbor) the belief in the difference between past and future (now I am still not enlightened, but in the future I probably will be) and the interest that we pay to good and evil, high and low, spiritual and unspiritual (spiritual liberation is a good thing for me). These three belief systems lead to hanging on to the spiritual path. For me that is not non-duality.
Little games with the reader
I give another example, the book by Roy Whenary: 'The texture of Being'.
It is a beautiful book, but an author who claims to speak about Advaita, cannot permit himself to play little games with the reader. In a book review that appeared in the magazine Insight I pointed this out, but apparently I am one of the few who think like that about his book. (… It soon becomes clear that the writer wants to make some compromises in his book. On page 98 he writes: ' To arrive at the non-dualistic state it is however necessary to lose all the negative that is still in us' This sentence by itself lets the whole story cave in alike a pudding. He directs himself here to a person who needs to reach a certain state…). I would say read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Also, my friend Francis Lucille who I have interviewed twice in Holland comes to Amsterdam on a Friday evening and tells a good Netherlander that he should have only positive thoughts ('you should only have positive thoughts'). If it weren't recorded on a tape I would not dare to repeat this. Only positive thoughts… is that still Advaita? Where is the boundary between positive and negative, and who says that one is better than the other? Who determines the difference, and with what purpose?
Champions and defenders will come with arguments like 'it wasn't meant that way', or 'the answer is adapted to the level of the questioner', or 'some people need symbols, ceremonies or heroes to come in contact with the real essence'. Ah well, if such answers can satisfy the reader then OK. But for me it has nothing to do with Advaita. And here, I must admit that I, Jan Kersschot, am definitely not an expert in Advaita. Other writers know much more about it than I do. I know much less about it than them.
But good, it is easy to criticize. If you analyze my books you can quickly find some passages where I contradict myself, or preach a certain form of dualism – without having intended to do that. I am in fact then a vegetarian who praises hamburgers, or exactly the other way around a meat eater who condemns meat. It is impossible not to make compromises as soon as you begin to talk or write. It will always be impossible capture non-duality in symbols or concepts. Let's not pretend that it can. Words will always fall short in describing the one.
Thus, my intention is not to criticize – I understand it sounds that way – but only to indicate some things that I have noticed. I myself am not a preacher of 'truth-honesty-reality.' Jan Kersschot is just one of the many comic book characters, a ghost appearing between the six billion other ghosts. My books 'Being One' and 'It is as it is' are also misleading. Personally I myself have nothing to do with 'being one' or 'the absolute', not to speak of my preaching them or passing them on. Jan has nothing to do with it! I can't offer the reader anything. So you get nothing from me. No path. No value judgment, no task, no hope, no homework.
P: And after this beautiful answer there you are as a seeker. You visited various teachers, you have read books to exhaustion, meditated until you saw yellow and have paid yourself blue on all kinds of workshops.
Doesn't there come a time of frustration until 'the insight', the 'grace' comes? And then you will ask yourself that if you have never been away from home what was the whole search for? Could you not have avoided that? Is it not possible, for example to bring children in contact with that when they are young?
J: Yes Pol, I think that every seeker gets to see all the colors of the rainbow on his or her imaginary spiritual path. Yellow from meditating too much, sometimes white from a peak experience, paid blue in the face for all the retreats, until they become red with shame that they haven't got 'It' yet, and in spite of all the attempts and efforts they are still not enlightened. They will never become like Ramana, Papaji, or Nisargadatta. They don't have the right looks, or the right roots, but there are (apparently) some Dutch people about whom it is said that they have found 'it'. And maybe that is indeed true. Some of them could tell it so well. Others have so much charisma. Maybe you have yourself had some special experiences (or other new insights) in the presence of such master. Especially if they have died since then, we can attribute all kinds of qualities to them with which they become our spiritual heroes. If they could realize it – even if they had to go to India – we shouldn't we also be able to? Is there is still hope after all? Apparently there are more western seekers who have stopped seeking and now give satsang themselves. Is it then something that is passed on from guru to disciple? Can I get it too by staying in their presence? Maybe lightning will strike me… You want to pay less to sit in the front row. It is all about me – me – me.
Sometimes there are longer or shorter moments of insight, of ecstasy, of inner rest. Aren't these signs of the great happening that is still to happen? Will this little seeker who I stare at in the mirror every morning when I brush my teeth, for all that become a member of this exclusive club of enlightened masters? Will all my problems disappear then? Will the other notice the change in me?
This is an old story for most Amigo readers. You notice that this story is indeed again based on the three belief systems that I talked about earlier the personal, the temporary and the higher. As long as we believe that there is an 'I', the illusory I will strive for something better (read: more spiritual) in the future. And then you read books, or visit satsangs, in order to get a 'spiritual improvement ' for that I. Naturally there is nothing wrong with that, but there is also nothing wrong in pointing out that all these stories could be based on a number of belief systems. The belief systems are like pink balloons that we can't burst.
Is it possible to prevent this search, or restrain our children from entering into it? Actually this question does not arise in me. There is nothing wrong with the search, even if you see that it doesn't lead to anything. It is again the person who wants to make something useful out of the search, to give it purpose. There never has been a search, and if you nevertheless have the impression of being on a path, then that is just whatever turns up. That's OK too. And the children, the little comic book characters, can only play along in the game in the apparent world if they first pretend to be a person, otherwise they might wind up as psychiatric patients. And who are we to decide what is good or bad for other people? Water flows towards the ocean anyway, things happen (apparently) like they happen. And once again, if the person is an illusion, then that is not only true for 'me', but also for the 'others'. The separation between 'I' and the 'others' has never been there. Nevertheless, our belief systems and our senses will time and again present to us that there is a separation between 'I' and the 'others', between good and bad, between past and future and so on. And most people continue to play this game as full grown comic book characters until they die. Some die before they are dead which is nothing more than the falling away of belief in an illusion. But it doesn't make any difference to a blank page.
Maybe you would rather that I give hope in something, or that I make it complicated and mysterious. But it is very common Pol, it is as clear as soda water. Being knows no boundaries, no hierarchies. You don't need to go anywhere. Pol doesn't form a part of it, and neither does Jan, nothing matters. The Indivisible being is already there. What is, is. The separation has never existed, so there is absolutely no need to finish it. So it is also not so special that Jan or Pol has seen through it. There is no person who sees through it, thus….
I don't see a single reason to improve anybody. I have no need to bring Pol or the readers of Amigo anywhere, they are already there, or even better, they are not there at all. They are there as Light, and they are not there because there are no persons. You can't get anywhere because there is nobody who needs to or can go anywhere. There is nobody home, so where would you go? What you are – the Light in the images, or the Consciousness that knows no boundaries – doesn't worry about the benefit of our longings, the effect of our spiritual paths, or the uselessness of our illusions. Everything that then remains is 'that which is'.
[interview: Pol Sturtewagen]
Website Jan Kersschot: www.kersschot.com