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The Primordial Ground: Part Two

   by Peter Holleran

'Relative polarities' mistaken for Reality; 'Emptiness'; purna non-dual enlightenment actualizing within relativity; direct and gradual paths and their relationship with the seven basic planes of existence

"Truth can be reached only through the knowledge of opposites."
                - Tenshin

   In The Primordial Ground: Part One we left our investigation with the possibility that various sages that spoke of consciousness-at-rest and conscious-energy as the two primary manifestations of the one ultimate, self-contained consciousness, versus those who spoke rather of a principle ‘beyond consciousness’ as being the ground of consciousness may have been speaking of the same thing - or perhaps not. Sri Nisargadatta spoke of an ‘absolute state ‘beyond consciousness’, while his disciple Ramesh Balsekar spoke of conciousness-at-rest and consciousness-in-expression, as have Colin Drake and many newer teachers. Adyashanti, however, definitely mentioned an ‘awareness beyond consciousness,’ and anadi spoke of several enlightenments beyond the non-dual state of presence-awareness. The possibility has been suggested that the teachers of consciousness only, both traditional and modern, may have come up shy in their descriptions of the ultimate realization.

   Granted, the language can get confusing, and terms must be explicitly defined within a common model or we can get into trouble. For example, Paul Brunton (PB) called the realization of the witness self, the ‘awareness of awareness,’ with nirvikalpa samadhi as bare or pure ‘awareness.’ He sometimes referred to this lofty trance realization as the first stage of realization of the soul. The second and harder stage was to bring that realization out into the world as sahaj samadhi, which he defined as ‘the awareness of awareness whether thoughts or a world appears or not.’ [He pointed or hinted at states beyond consciousness, in a sense, by indicating that there were three degrees of penetration of the Void-Mind, as also did Plotinus and other ancient sages]. While PB’s intentions were clear, in regards to the distinction between exclusive inverted nirvikalpa samadhi where, due to the intrinsic nature of consciousness it can be aware only of itself without the world of objects, and the superior inclusive state of sahaja, where one remains Overself-conscious, that is, knowing ‘awareness’ in itself while active in the everyday world, his choice of words does not help us sufficiently in comparing what he wrote of with what Sri Nisargadatta, Adyashanti, and anadi have said. The one common ground betwen PB, Adyashanti, and anadi, however, lies in their all using the metaphor of the truly liberated man as ‘like being in deep sleep while wide awake.’ This is a traditional advaitic or Upanishadic metaphor as well. My question had been, however, is ‘consciousness-at-rest’ the same as the state ‘beyond consciousness’? Anadi’s answer has been, “No,” while teachers like Colin Drake and even Ramesh Balsekar say, "yes." My second question was, then, is the so-called state ‘beyond consciousness’ the ultimate? To which anadi also says, “no,” while Sri Nisargadatta and Ed Muzika seem to say, "yes."    In this brief article we will first briefly review some exemplary quotes on this topic, and then speak of a 'purna' form of non-duality, where confusion is not made - as it commonly is - of misidentifying one side of what is in actuality a 'relative' polarity for the ultimate condition. Different forms of non-dual transmission and teachings, absolute and relative, and also important distinctions that the Dzogchen tradition makes on this matter will also be discussed. The new reader would do well to read Part One of this article mentioned above before this one, but we will try as best we can to make that not entirely essential.

   First, to re-cap, Adyashanti said:

   ”First, one awakens to personal freedom: the realization that you are formless consciousness itself. As consciousness, you are free of body-mind identity.”

   “Then, there is the awakening to non-personal freedom. This is the birth of a vast non-personal Love for the whole, for all beings and all things. It is the realization that you are the whole. Therefore, a freedom that is in any sense personal seems pale in comparison to a love, which is so much greater.This is a phase of surrendering any and all personal attachments to the greatest good, the Self. As self-centered concerns dissolve, a love that is all-inclusive sweeps you up into its arms and into a new life of service, celebration, and love.”

   “Beyond non-personal freedom lies Liberation. A liberated person has transcended any motivations, personal or non-personal. Everything happens spontaneously, free of any sense of being the doer of deeds.The liberated one has association with consciousness but does not dwell there. The liberated one has returned consciously to the ultimate principle, which resides before the consciousness. He or she is the awareness of consciousness. An evolution has taken place in that person...The truly liberated one has transcended even the oneness of consciousness, as if being in deep sleep but fully awake..The truth is ever new, existing only in the now. The highest truth is beyond knowledge and experience. It is beyond time and space, and beyond beingness, consciousness, and oneness....The truly liberated one has transcended even the oneness of consciousness, as if being in deep sleep but fully awake.”

   While such a state is practically inconceivable, the paradox of how consciousness can be aware of its own absence was described by anadi in this way:

   “To say that the absolute is unconscious is incorrect, for the absolute exists beyond the polarities of consciousness and unconsciousness. The term unconsciousness simply does not apply here. The unmanifested is below consciousness; it is a domain of pure isness which ‘no one’ is conscious of...Realisation of the absolute is quite fascinating, for it is a meeting of the time dimension with the timeless. Here, paradoxically, consciousness is conscious of non-consciousness; consciousness becomes conscious of its own absence. That which is beyond recognition, becomes recognised. Consciousness meets face to face that which originally gave birth to its existence.” (2)

   It must be clarified that this is but a partial stage in anadi’s total map of realization. This possible ‘samadhi of emptiness’ [PB's Void] is succeeded by the awakening of the Soul and realization of its 'eternal union with its Creator', the Univeral I AM, and an integral liberation he calls true ‘transcendence', in which all the parts of the personality and ego are included. This appears to be similar to what Adya meant when he said that “we go beyond that which we accept.”

   The Dzogchen tradition, as we shall see, may also hold an answer to this problem, as far as words are able. For that is our immediate problem, how to best describe or even point out with words that which transcends them. The best we can perhaps hope for is a more accurate, sensitive, subtle, and precise failure at achieving our goal! Yet even this has value in eliminating what is not true, leaving the truth as the only thing left standing, to which Christ stood silently. It is a mystery, after all.

   A few words must first be said on the topic of ‘emptiness,’ perhaps the most misunderstood concept in Buddhism, before we get into the heart of this essay. We will not attempt to give a complete esposition of emptiness in all its aspects - that would take a book, or at least an entire article in itself - but suffice it to say that it began with the Buddha and was clarified by the great Nagarjuna, who used it not as an ontological truth, but as an epistemological methodology to eliminate impermanent doctrines. "Believers in emptiness are hopelessly incurable," he made certain to say. Originally the 'enemies' in early Buddhism were eternalism and nihilism, or the teachings of some of the Theravadins that there either was an eternal fixed entity or there was nothing, both of which the Buddha rejected in favor of an indefinable absolutism which he called Nirvana. Not only Nagarjuna but the Mandukya Karika of Guadapada from the Vedantic tradition employed the same four-fold logic of negation to eliminate these and other false views. Unlike the Buddhists, according to some interpretations, the Vedantists started with a positive belief (Sraddha) in the Great Reality, and then negated all that was not of that one essence. They didn't negate for the sake of mere negation. They didn't believe in nothing, 'no-self', or anything conceptual. It was a practical discipline.

   While there is a relative experience or void of ‘emptiness’, even this is to be considered ‘empty’, as it is relative, i.e., in opposition to a world of objective appearance. So, according to no less than H.H. the Dalai Lama, even ‘emptiness’ is ‘empty’. The Mahayana teaching of emptiness is meant to take us beyond any conceivable polarity that we may project onto and color our perception of the Truth, of which there are many:

   Absolute/Relative (!), Nirguna-Saguna, Truth-Untruth, Consciousness-Unconsciousness, 'Beyond Consciousness'/Unconsciousness-Consciousness, Self-Not Self, Emptiness (not Buddhist emptiness)-Fullness, Unmanifest-Manifest, Brahman-Isvara, Silence-Sound, Stillness-Movement, Womb-Born, Unborn-Born, Being-Becoming, Good-Bad, Spirit-Matter, Universal-Particular, Male-Female, Oneness-Multiplicity/Separation, Nonduality-Duality, Infinite-Finite, Eternal-Temporal, Unconditioned-Conditioned, Disidentification (pos.)-Identification (neg.), Identification (pos.)-Disidentification (neg.), Desirelessness (pos.)-Desire (neg.), Desire (pos.)-Desirelessness (neg.), Non Attachment (pos.)-Attachment (neg.), Attachment (pos.)-Non Attachment (neg.), Subjective-Objective, Self-Five Skandhas, Buddha Nature-Christ Consciousness, Self-Soul, Absolute-Divine, Perfect-Imperfect, God/Creator-Creation, Ajatavada-Vivartavada/Parinamavada, Impersonal-Personal, Potential-Actual, Source-Projection, Truth-Illusion, Vidya-Avidya, Dharma-Non Dharma, Transcendence-Immanence, Timeless-Time, Understanding-Not Understanding, Nirvana-Samsara, Spaciousness-Contraction/Focus, Presence-Mindfulness, Essence-Human Nature, Now-Beginning/End, Source/Cause-Effect, Egolessness-Ego, Independent-dependent, Karma-Neh Karma, Reality-Maya, Turiya-the Three States, Ground-Foundation-Emergence/Expression, I Am-Witness, Witness Consciousness-Observer/Self Conscious Center of Personality, Space Element-Form Elements, Presence-Absence, Effortlessness-Effort, 'No Mind'-Mind, Determinism-Free Will, Enquiry-Meditation, Meditation-Not Meditating, Entering-Leaving, Sudden-Gradual, Realization-No Realization, Without Limits-Limits, Wisdom/Prajna-Method/Technique, and undoubtedly many more. Placing emphasis on one or the other of these polarities will condition how we intuitively envision and understand realization, and many spiritual traditions and teachings are guilty of doing so, either as an expedient, as in some sense it can't be helped, or simply because of a partial vision. Yet all polarities are 'empty' and 'not It'.

   This is a list of distinctions that are often made where the term on the left is used to describe or name the transcendent Reality (absolute, nondual) and the term on the right a term or characterization of relativity. [A few of them have alternative orderings, such as Desire (for God and understanding) being considered positive, while Desire (for self-aggrandizement) considered negative. Similarly, Identification (with reality) is on the positive side, while Identification (with ignorance) is negative. Also, Disidentification (with ignorance) is positive, while Disidentification (with reality) is negative. All polarities are within relativity. This list is basically meant to indicate distinctions of this sort that in a pure nondual view would be considered problematic. They are instances of projecting attributes onto the nondual that in a radical nondual view would be considered part of relativity. In many instances they would be considered part of a subtle, often enlightened part of relativity, but not truly representative of the nondual 'itself', as that would imply that the nondual lacked the complimentary characteristic. Nondualism, it is suggested, is best understood as that 'truer' or 'deeper' nature of reality that transcends these distinctions, and the list represents especially those views held by many that continue to project various dualistic notions and experiences on top of a more pristine nondual realization.

   As an exercise, it is suggested that we place 'Absolute', 'Nirguna', or 'Truth'', for example, at the top of a pyramid and the other polarities on the two bottom corners to symbolically represent a vision of reality for us. But aren't, for instance, Nirguna and Saguna ('without attributes" and "with attributes') just two more of the relative polarities, one might ask? That was how we listed them. So can we even place the Absolute at the top of the triangle? In a sense, we can. The final or fundamental polarity is the basic polarity between Absolute and Relative, Nirguna and Saguna, Truth and Untruth. But in this case it is different - it is a 'vertical' distinction, whereas, in a certain sense, the other polarities are 'horizontal', both sides making reference to some quality or attribute or principle within relativity, even while it appears that the left-hand quality is of the Absolute. Whereas the Nirguna/Saguna distinction, although clumsy from a pure nondual perspective, paradoxically seeks to indicate the difference between two modes of experience - one in which we make such distinctions and one in which we do not! Part of the crazy paradox of life is that we don't seem to be able to realize the significance of nondual realization, and to awaken to it, without making this distinction. Then, when we have transcended dualism and reintegrated this realization with relative experience, we can acknowledge the appearance and relative meaning of the distinction without buying back into it. This might be called a final 'purna' non-duality, the paradoxical actualization of enlightenment, the absolute, within relativity.

   A not uncommon example of this tendency to project onto reality one or the other of the relative polarities is found in Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine) where there is the notion that emptiness or Brahman is a kind of Womb of unmanifest potential, and that the relative universes, worlds and planes emerges or are 'born' out of the primordial womb. The nondual is the Source, Womb, First Cause, etc., out of which everything/being emerges, and back into which they return. This is sometimes the view of the nondual as the Great Mother, that gives birth to the Relative, a view similar to the vivartavada or parinamavada of Vedanta, or even Sankara's higher and lower Brahman. A very tempting image, but still a problem. All kinds of problems. Not for you and me, perhaps, but definitely for a sage. By it profound nondual realization, for instance, may be confused with deep absorptions on a mystic path where one enters 'realms' where the dualisms of time, cause and effect, birth and death, are transformed into higher perspectives where simple creation cosmologies like these are apparently transcended.

   In Dzogchen they cut right to the quick and say that to distinguish between the Self or the Reality and the 'Five Skandhas' as the sutra schools (Hinayana and Mahayana) do is a deviation or, at best, a provisional teaching, for in truth the Reality is the Five Skandhas - and even the 'five passions', and the 'three defilements' ! Nothing is excluded in the position of pure non-duality, in which all phenomena when seen correctly are 'self-liberating', therefore all methods to 'do something' about them are ultimately false - from the purely absolute 'view', which is not really a view but just the way things are. This is similar to Sankara's final position that the Self and the World are not two. [Of course, as we shall see, this position can easily be misconstrued or taken up prematurely with disastrous or unfruitful results. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu prefaces the 'non-practice' of ultimate abiding with the following words, "For fortunate practitioners of the supreme yoga who have appropriate karma, there are no view, no commitment, no level, no path, no sadhana" and so on. (3) Nevertheless, it is worth considering the highest vision at any stage of practice to grease the wheels for the eventual stabilization of clear seeing].

   Another such example is Buddha-nature versus Christ Consciousness. anadi explains:

   "The insight of the Buddha pointed to the Realization of the Source of all existence. He found that the essence of our being, prior to the manifestation of the individual personality, is one with the source of creation. This is what he called liberation. In the moment of his great Enlightenment, he recognized clearly that at the roots of our individual existence there is an absolute presence of the eternal Self, which in itself represents the unity of emptiness, silence, and peace. He becomes the master of "Pure Being." This condition refers to the experience in which the individual consciousness becomes one with the silence and absolute rest of the primordial timeless state."

   "The core of Christ's message is the Heart, which is the seat of the Soul. The experience of the Soul links us with the Divine. The Self represents the transcendental impersonal aspect of our being, and the Soul, which is the essence of sensitivity, represents the unique expression of the Creator as an individual Heart. Buddha discovered that liberation frees us from individuality. Christ discovered
[or revealed] that one is always a child of the Divine, a child of the Creator, and that which links us eternally to the Beloved, is our own Heart. These two seemingly contradictory conclusions reflect the whole of Reality. They complement each other, touching different spheres of our being. We need to see that the Self and the Soul, though belonging to different dimensions of existence, together constitute our wholeness...When these two are integrated, one experiences a beautiful paradox of being simultaneously separated, that is, relating as a child of the Creator, and in the state of complete oneness with the Universe...The original Self is like a pure, empty sky; the Creator, the Beloved is like the sun filling the emptiness with light and warmth. They cannot be separated." (4)

   While some may argue that the Buddhist view presented here is not the highest within that tradition, it is still quite representative, and the point is well taken.

   [For more on this example, please see Dual Non-Dualism: Part Three: I Am Not That on this website].

   And ultimately, if we stick to the principle of emptiness, we may be forced to hold that ajatavada (non-causality, non-creation) and vivartavada/parinamavada (apparent andmodified creation and causality) are similar polarities within Vedanta. Strictly holding one or the may be considered a form of linear thinking. Another way of saying this is that ajatavada, considered the ultimate non-dual doctrine, is not a radical enough example of non-dualism, precisely because it holds to one relative polarity only, that of non-causality! (5)

   Some might be clever and come up with combination words like 'Causeless-Cause,' or 'Groundless-Ground', but are these, then, really a 'Cause' or a 'Ground'? Or are they something more mysterious, or perhaps, more complete than that? What this little exercise is saying is that the reality is beyond both cause and causeless, ground and groundless, and any other of the listed polarities.

   Another common example of holding one polarity as the absolute is shown by this early interchange between Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi:

   "I said to Maharshi that a certain appointment I had was a waste of time. He smiled: "There is no time, How can you waste it?" (6)

   There is no time? Time and the Timeless, we have seen, are two polarities within relativity. These types of distinctions are not just hyper-philosophical nitpicking, but necessary to have a clearer picturing of true non-duality. If someone's intuitive and philosophical 'bodies' have these notions in them, even though their inner state of presence is liberated from these 'bodies' (in sahaja, jivanmukti), the ways in which the state of nondual presence is not yet fully integrated into the various bodies will put a spin on how their realization is actualized in relativity. In the case of Ramana, statements like 'time is all one to me' demonstrate this kind of lack of more complete integration, which then colored his ability to be more fully functional within the relative experiences of time. There is no reason that someone who is fully established in sahaja cannot be seamlessly integrated with the various aspects of relative experience as well, and there are countless examples of those who have. Ramana was great, but his philosophical understanding of the enlightened state may have been incomplete, which may also be why PB shifted in his overall view of him. A more mature PB years later wrote:

   "A silly error made by beginners, intermediates, and proficients alike is to declare that because they live in the eternal "Now" they need not concern themselves with the future. They live, and want to live, only one day at a time. Consequently they throw prudence to the winds and forethought to the dogs. Such a course invites trouble and may even end in disaster, although it is true that both may be mitigated if they have honestly surrendered the ego to some extent." (7)

   More confusion in this book is as follows:

   Q: How can we root out the sex idea?
: By rooting out the false idea of the body being the Self. There is no sex in the Self. Be the real Self, then there will be no trouble with sex.
   Q: I have committed a sexual sin.
   M: Even if you have, it does not matter, so long as you do not think afterwards that you have done so. The Self is not aware of any sin."

   Ramana may have been trying to make an ultimate point to the questioner in this instance, but, even so, may be assuming a capacity in his listener that just wasn't there yet (i.e., simply "Be the real Self"). It also seems to ignore the law of karma entirely (i.e., "it does not matter,so long as you do not think afterwards that you have done so") and the stage-specific appropriateness of discipline, intentionality, and so forth. Such advice can easily be misconstrued and needs to be balanced. As Vicki Woodyard said:

   "Living a spiritual life requires a lot of admitting that one is not living a spiritual life."

   So these are classic modern examples of the gap between relative wisdom and absolute wisdom. Sant Kirpal Singh and H.H. the Dalai Lama both have worn watches and read newspapers - are they less realized than Ramana because they were sticklers for punctuality and detail? Even Ramana read the newspaper, so he wasn't completely 'out of here'. His famous last words, in fact, were, "where can I go, I am here." Nevertheless, many of his students and spiritual descendants fell into these philosophical errors. His formless transmission of absolute wisdom was (and continues to be) very profound, but he fell into many of the pitfalls on the above list in equating the absolute with: consciousness, timelessness, silence, the Self, and the impersonal. In these ways perhaps Zen, Dzogchen and Hwa-yen philosophy (7a) tend to be more subtle than Vedanta in general, and Ramana in particular.

   Further examples of preconceived conclusions in various spiritual traditions by adhering to one 'absolute' yet actually relative polarity is that of mind and no-mind, or thought and no-thought. According to Norbu, Dzogchen handles that in this way:

   "In Dzogchen [non-dual] contemplation, free from the defects of sleepiness, agitation and distraction, both the moments of calm that occur between one thought and another, and the movements of thoughts themselves are integrated in the non-dual presence of Enlightened awareness. The term rigpa (the opposite of marigpa - the fundamental delusion of dualistic mind) indicates the pure presence of this inherently self-liberating awareness, in which thought is neither rejected nor followed....So whereas thought is considered to be an obstacle to meditation in the..Sutra system [Hinayana and Mahayana], wherein one seeks shelter from the storm of thought (as it were) in the state of calm, it is said that for a Dzogchen practitioner 'the more thoughts there are, the more wisdom', because (in this case at this stage of development..) one is able to integrate one's thoughts in contemplation, and the arising of thought then actually strengthens the clarity of the state of rigpa rather than distracting the practitioner." (8)

   anadi also speaks of the conundrum over mind and 'no-mind'. This is a major hurdle for many seekers:

   "When the terms "mind" and "no-mind" are used, we tend to believe that they are separated. This creates difficulties in understanding the whole process of reaching the no-mind from the perspective of the mind. One wants to eliminate the mind in order to attain the no-mind. It is a big misunderstanding. First of all, it is through mind that we reach the no-mind in a conscious way. Second, after we reach it, we see clearly that the mind is a natural expression of our own Presence."

   "We are part of the evolution of consciousness - an evolution that is conscious. It is no longer purely biological and instinctive. Our ego-mind is inquiring into itself using its will, intelligence, sensitivity and intention. In meditation, the mind learns how to rest in its nature which is stillness, and through inquiry we awaken the conscious link between our manifested mind and its essential core nature."

   "In our spiritual inquiry we use ideas and concepts in a very skillful way - as if applying them and letting go of them at the same time. While inquiring we are being with our state and looking at it simultaneously. In this looking, there is nobody who is looking, neither is it just a "choiceless awareness" - there is a profound desire to understand. In inquiry, the understanding can be reached - it must be revealed! We allow the understanding to manifest itself. Even so, we are not merely passive; in a very subtle and empathetic way, our intellectual sensitivity triggers the knowing to present itself. This very significant, for it shows us how the mind-ego, from its layers of deep sensitivity, participates in the process of shifting to the dimension of the no-mind."

   And hidden within this quote the discerning reader will notice another commonly misunderstood polarity, that of desirelessness and desire. We have been conditioned to believe and consider that desire is wrong, but this is only a half-truth within relativity, and can be looked at in at least two ways. Practical, functional desires are positive, because without them we would be dead! Further, what is wrong with desiring to understand, to know truth, to find God? These are ultimate positive desires without which we would stagnate and stay ignorant:

   "The purpose of the quest for desirelessness is to reach the dimension that is empty of personal self...The personal self always must more or less face a lack of fulfillment in the realm of desire...For this reason, disidentification with the ego and the identification with the empty Self bring a certain solution to this problem. But when we close the door against the thief, the beautiful guest cannot visit us either. Desirelessness is a solution to the problem of suffering, but when taken as absolute, it will block any possibility of expansion [of the Soul]."

   "Without differentiation between the Soul and the Self we will never be able to grasp the paradox of right desire in the realm of desirelessness. Expansion can occur only because of desire. But ego desires do not bring expansion, for the ego acts outside the field of universal Oneness. The desire which brings evolution always comes from the Soul...The Soul has got to evolve. It cannot stop, for to stop is to negate life, to negate Creation.The concept of desirelessness negates life. It's aim is only to escape from life. The Soul, because she is directly linked with the Beloved is one with the purpose of evolution and is aiming toward completion and positive fulfillment."

   Disidentification and desirelessness as 'relative positives' are traditionally necessary, but at most as a first step, to break the 'relative negatives' of worldly identification and desire. But since they only achieve the absence of a negative state, and not the presence of the positive, they do not represent true freedom.

   "But how do we know if our desire is coming from the Soul or from ego-subconscious? [and we have already seen how even these are often necessary] Is our desire arising from our past conditionings or is it a right response to the necessity of the Now? The only way we can know is by looking within our heart, becoming one with our Soul, and feeling deeply whether or not this particular desire is what we really want. If the heart feels nourished and deeply responds "yes" to what we desire, that is what we call the Soul's desire. As we mature in our spiritual journey and enter the inner realms of silence of being, awakening the heart and evolve in our creative intelligence, a clarity is born that translates itself as sensitivity. It sense and discerns what is coming from the personality and what is coming from our Soul. It nows our Soul's desires. To be in touch with our Soul's desires means to flow in harmony with the wide river of personal and universal evolution." (10)

   One way of conciliating the absolute with the creation is through the Heart.

   The same goes for the general idea of disidentification. Because the ancients first saw their bondage as being identification with phenomenal existence, they conceived of a solution out of that by disidentification with it, either by ascending to some higher state, or disappearing in the empty absolute state, 'nirvana' as popularly conceived. But beyond 'ignorant identification' and 'Enlightened disidentification' is their resolution in the purely positive 'Divine identification', the true Nirvana:

   "It is always the positive which transforms. We don't strive to become disidentified for the sake of disidentification. The disidentification points to something beyond. The "beyond" is not simply an absence of the negativity and illusion. The "beyond" is a dimension of its own, and it represents the quality of absolute positivity. The Awakened One is not only free from suffering - he/she is in the state of inner fulfillment and bliss."

   "This fulfillment is not merely satisfaction from leaving this world behind, it is a transcendental state. A state exalted within itself. It is very difficult in the context of the "no-self" theory to describe the positive quality of the essence of the Buddha Mind.
Thus, it is very interesting how a concept can, in a dogmatic way, control our means of expression. Whatever one says, one will be accused of the false belief in the self. Liberation exists not because the false is seen as the false but because and only because the Truth is seen as the Truth. It is the positive that liberates." (11)

   We must always be discerning, for at a very high stage, for instance, as Sri Nisargadatta pointed out, even the desire for God must be held in abeyance while awaiting the Positive emergence of the Divine in the neutral ground of inner silence (i.e., paraphrasing, 'the Supreme will come to you unannounced if you do not ask for what you do not need'). Even here, however, such a patient disposition is evidence of a subtle yet determined form of the higher desire. Moreover, it is often considered an organically developed higher stage that comes after the extreme longing or desire for God has fulfilled itself, and which cannot be bypassed. Similarly, those who hold that Enlightenment has nothing to do with eradicating 'negative' desires or feelings, recognizing the inherent double-bind in self-effort, and also understanding that in a complete view of reality they all have their place, and that we can not always tell what is negative or positive (are boredom, restlessness, fear, and anger, for example, always negative?), need to balance that view with advice given by Sathya Sai Baba and other saints - which goes under the category of self-improvement, inspired by the Soul but guided by the ego - such as:

   "Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?"

   And what of karma? The Bhagavad Gita says: ‘One cannot transcend Karma, without performing Karma’ (3.4). So, in this case, the absolute actualizing itself as enlightenment within relativity does so through karma, not by negating it or assuming it is 'unreal'.

   Yet another polarity: Non attachment-attachment, which has been expressed by another in words we cannot improve on:

   “You do not learn non-attachment by disengaging and avoiding the intensity of relationships, their joy and their pain. It is easy to disguise as non-attachment what is not non-attachment at all, but your fear of attachment. When you really care about someone and you are willing to commit to that friendship, then you have fertile ground to learn about both attachment and non-attachment.” - Judy Lief

   The concept of 'Consciousness' must also be considered under this discipline (realizing of course that 'consciousness' itself is not a concept), for it is not self-evident that Consciousness is all there is. That is to say, it has been argued otherwise. anadi, for example, holds that Consciousness or the state of presence is grounded on Absolute Isness or Being, what he calls 'Emptiness', and is also, as the light of cognition, the mirror in which the Soul can know her true eternal identity in oneness with God or the Universal I AM, the Ultimate, the 'substance' or essence of THAT being indefinable. (12)

   A problem lies, of course, with how we define our terms, especially 'consciousness' and 'emptiness'. For example, the following is an example of a recent exchange between Ed Muzika and a questioner for whom emptiness seemed to imply some kind of formless nothingness:

   “No, not emptiness. Emptiness is still an experience. One abides in emptiness, it interpenetrates one's own existence and sense of presence. I am talking of that which lies beyond Consciousness altogether. Beyond form and emptiness, emptiness and form. This is of what Nisargadatta speaks, and Robert Adams at times. For Consciousness is temporary, impermanent, not the final rest state of the unborn.” (from his website)

   This type of statement was the heart of the discussion in Part one of this article. But what is meant by consciousness and what is meant by emptiness are different for different teachers. For the Mahayana Buddhists, 'emptiness' or the 'unborn' is the same as reality. That is true emptiness or Sunyata. It itself is 'empty' - as a concept' - but not as the truth; it is not a void state or an experience as Muzika's answer implies or addresses. Emptiness is not the same as 'formlessness' in Buddhism. There are formless realms, but they are not equivalent to emptiness. For anadi, on the other hand, emptiness and the unborn are not ultimate reality, but an important aspect of it.

   Emptiness has at least three implied meanings, requiring our consideration and discrimination: (1) for anadi, it is the very Absolute state spoken of by Nisargadatta and which Muzika refers to, a deep state of being where conscious consciously meets its own absence. But even that is not Reality, says anadi, only the 'resting place' of consciousness. One needs to go beyond even that and find the Soul and its own resting place, which is, for lack of a 'better' word (!), God. (2) In Dzogchen, the Base or the Primordial State is said to be Consciousness, but with three aspects: its 'essence' is 'empty' (void of fixed quality), its 'nature', due to its emptiness, is the inherent ability to reflect or manifest, and its 'nature' is the constant manifestation of images or phenomena. These three cannot be separated in reality, they are the non-conceptual one. And (3) emptiness may be conceptualized as an experience of formlessness in distinction from form, in which case both are relative polarities and also not reality. To speak of 'beyond consciousness' means that one first knows what consciousness is, but do we? Most teachers of consciousness say that 'consciousness' itself is 'empty'. However, the saying 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form' can also be considered to be a description of the paradoxical nature of consciousness.

   In Dzogchen, to repeat, somewhat differently expressed than anadi, the 'Base' is the primordial state or ground of existence, both of the individual and of the universe, with three inseparable aspects: 'Essence' is its 'empty' or 'void' nature (everything changes, nothing is permanent, all is without an inherent self-nature); 'Nature' is its constant reflecting nature (as in a mirror), and 'Energy' is the constant manifestation or arising of phenomena in that mirror. These three aspects are inseparable, says Norbu, because:

   "If it were not empty, the mirror would not reflect; if it did not have a clear capacity to reflect, how could it manifest reflections? And if it could not manifest reflections, how could we say it was a mirror?" (13)

   'Essence', says Norbu, is the Undifferentiated Primordial (Consciousness) from which the (relative) possibilities of Samsara and Nirvana are said to actively arise.

   Looked at another way, however, Nirvana (the Ultimate positive for the Buddha) may be said to be that from which the Undifferentiated (the 'Absolute', 'emptiness'), Consciousness, and creation (the 'reflection' of consciousness (or Samsara when dualistically conceived) all arise). Here, as with anadi and Norbu (the more traditional of the two) it is a question of 'relative' models: which one more accurately, and practically, approximates reality for us?

   Dr. N.K. Brahma, in Causality and Science, says that:

   "There is no illustration in this world of relativity which can adequately explain or describe all the aspects of the relation between the transcendant, unrelated Absolute and the world...and the exact nature of the relation can hardly be expressed at all...Hence, instead of saying that the world is an illusion, or a magical appearance [vivartavada], we should perhaps be nearer the truth if we hold that it is in some respects like an illusion, in some respects like a magical appearance, and that the relation between the Absolute and the world is a unique relation." (14)

   Sankara simply chooses to call Brahman, or Reality, 'the causeless Cause and the groundless Ground of all phenomenal beings and things'.

   [If this separate consideration of 'consciousness' and 'beyond consciousness' is too frustrating or perplexing, too conceptual and unnecessarily heating up one's brain, simply leave it for now as we return to the exercise in polarities, the chief merit of which is to get us as quickly as possible beyond concepts!]

   'No-Realization' as a relative polarity reflects the radical non-dual perspective such as voiced by Ramana, the Avadhuta Gita, etc., that, in ultimate truth, there is no bondage and no liberation. Yet since practically speaking, within relativity, there are both, Realization and No-Realization, we polarize the terms. The supreme Dzogchen tantra, the Kunjed Gyalpo, states:

   "Listen! As the nature of mind is self-perfected, I do not teach the dualism of realizing and not-realizing. I do not judge in the dualistic terms of happiness and suffering. I am free of hope for nirvana and fear of samsara..As the nature of self-perfected mind manifested everywhere, I do not try to communicate that all is empty and that all has never arisen. As the fundamental essence transcends judgement and analysis I do not get attached to the idea of realizing and establishing...The very word "realize" is not part of my language but of the language of those who base themselves on cause and effect...In reality "enlightenment" itself is only a name. Using the definition of 'enlightenment" is a characteristic of the provisional teachings and not of the definitive ones."

   The ancient author of this text makes similar ultimate statements about 'relative' terms such as the 'unborn, 'without limits', 'understanding', and 'meditating':

   "Listen! The teachers of the three dimensions that emanate from me all speak of the "unborn nature of mind," but even if they discuss at length the meaning of "without self-nature," [sunyata], they no not understand the true "unborn"..Once my children have understood that all is the unborn state, they no longer think in terms of samsara and nirvana: the fundamental nature is totally beyond judgement and analysis!"

   "Abiding in the true nature of phenomena, they will transcend the dualism of understanding and not understanding."

   "How can a practitioner who remains attached to the limit of "without limits" ever attain the essence of self-perfection?"

   "As it transcends all limits and the very concept of "beyond limits," it cannot be confined within the limited definition of "meditating" or "not-meditating"...When one transcends the duality of meditating and not-meditating, there is no longer either the wish to enter the state of meditation nor worry about leaving it..The path to the happiness of the unborn is not something that can be "entered...When one understands that there is no view on which to meditate, alternating between meditation and non-meditation becomes a deviation."

   He summarizes his argument thus:

   "When the unmistaken, final and total teaching is not taught and they learn the principle of the absolute truth and relative truth based on the provisional teachings of cause and effect, their minds are appeased by the dualism of truth and falsehood and they nurture this dualism for several kalpas."


   "Sattvavajra, understand well! The teaching of the supreme source, teacher of teachers, whereby there is no need to train oneself in order to progress through the various levels, is not appropriate to all and is difficult to grasp." (15)

   'Vidya-Avidya' can be similarly explained. As the elimination of avidya, or ignorance, is not the cause of vidya or moksha - which, being eternal, cannot be the effect of a cause - then avidya is not different than vidya. As moksha is our true nature, and wholly positive, the arisal of true knowledge is itself the so-called removal of avidya. Thus the paradoxical statement in the Kena Upanishad:

   "it is not known by those who think that they know it, but that it is known by those who say that they do not know it." (Kena, 2,3)

   Another example that has received a lot of attention. The first Noble Truth given by the Buddha was the fact of suffering. It has become quite common these days in spiritual circles to say that 'pain is real, but suffering is optional'. Ramana said that the sage, even while rolling on the ground screaming in agony - as he practically did at night in his last days when dying of cancer - did not suffer. Personally, this has never seemed a real picture for me. "Even the sage suffers," said Anthony Damiani. So what if we say that, yes, there is 'suffering' - one relative polarity, which enlightenment does not eliminate - and what enlightenment does is to bring in the complementary (relative) polarity of 'no-suffering', the conciliating truth itself including yet being beyond both. This is not conceptual splitting hairs, but an attempt at seeing more clearly. And, as anadi suggests, the "Fifth Noble Truth" is the purpose of suffering. (16) Liberation is more than just its elimination. Liberation, in fact, seen only as dissolution of the personal into the impersonal is not the purpose of evolution (that would be the end of evolution), but, rather, our Soul's 'infinite expansion into the Heart of the Mystery.' (17)

   Essentially, all of the polarities are conciliated in a higher principle, or we fall for a limited view and cannot see reality. We must be discerning before buying into any such one-sided teachings just because they are old and venerable or appear internally consistent (based on preconceived assumptions), lest we risk denying our Soul's realization and expression.

   It is really an unanswerable question, isn't it, who we are? What can be said is that those who probe deeper into this question generally seem to come to levels of realization that bring freedom from suffering, bringing the heart to peace and the questions to rest, and then they may feel inclined to offer some answer as to what they think 'one' is. Yet it might be better to call it a transcendental mystery that can be experienced but not adequately expressed, and that those that do formulate ideas about it (anatman, illusion, nondualism (qualified or unqualified), are all inadequate. It is more sublime and transcendental and beautiful and mysterious than that.

   Still, there have been those who have tried. The reconciliation of the polarities, say of a samadhi of emptiness, or nirvikalpa, and the world, would bring one to the full realization of the Overself, according to PB, which is a simultaneous non-dual enlightenment to the Void or Consciousness and the World-Idea being irradiated through it or from it. There is a seamless interpenetration of the two, which, in fact, are not two in reality. This is more than just the pure awareness of consciousness (one polarity), however high a realization that may be. One is a singular being endowed with the mysterious faculty of direct ‘insight’. And it is from this position, according to PB's student, Anthony Damiani, that a sage can catch glimpses or emanations beyond Soul of what Plotinus called Absolute Soul, Intellectual Principle/Nous, and the One (which are relative terms, once again, unfortunately), signifying three degrees of penetration beyond the Atman or non-dual consciousness represented by the Soul. But, we might well ask, 'penetration' by who, or what? No one knows! Just mystery upon mystery upon mystery.

   A few more polarities present themselves, which might be considered under the category of 'practical' polarities, or 'relative' relative polarities, but useful ones to explore nevertheless. We have 'Non Sinner-Sinner', 'Virtue-Defilements', 'Better than others-Worse than others', 'Same as others-Different than others', 'Worthy-Worthless', 'Non-Judgemental-Judgemental', 'Friend-Enemy', 'Victim-Victimizer', 'Hope-Hopeless', 'Epistrophe'-Catastrophe, and 'Success-Failure'. So we will look at a few of these. Abbot Zenkei Shibayama writes :

   “To be saved,” “to be enlightened,” or “to get the mind pacified” is not of primary importance. Shinran Shonin, who is respected as one of the greatest religious geniuses in Japan, once deplored, “I am unworthy of any consideration and am surely destined for hell!”...When one goes through this experience, for the first time the words of the great religious teachers are directly accepted with one’s whole heart and soul.” (18)

   While Ramana Maharshi said the following:

   “Why do you say that you are a sinner? Your trust in God is sufficient to save you from rebirths. Cast all burden onto Him. In the Tiruvachakam it is said: “Though I am worse than a dog, you have graciously undertaken to protect me. This delusion of birth and death is maintained by you. Moreover, am I the person to sift and judge? Am I the Lord here? Oh Maheswara! It is for you to roll me through bodies (by births and deaths) or keep me fixed at your own feet.” Therefore have faith and that will save you.” (19)

   Hope is one of the three great Christian virtues. H.H. Almaas refers to it as 'trust in the creative flow of the functioning of the presence of Being', and it is no doubt an essential quality to have. Yet in the Shrimad Bhagavad Purana, 11.8.44, we read:

   "Hope indeed is misery greatest, Hopelessness a bliss above the rest."

   This, too, is necessary to keep tucked away in the back of our minds.

   Similarly, we all want to succeed in reaching our goals, yet more often than not find failure staring us in the face. Yet, without our striving, we wouldn't have reached such a place of extremity, staying unborn in the certainties of our ego. The great ones, however, have resoundingly proclaimed:

   "By their failures lovers are made aware of their Lord. Lack of success is the guide to Paradise." - Maulana Rumi

   "Failure is the foundation of success, and the means to achieve it." - Lao tzu

   "The game of love is God's game. if you win, you get Him; if you lose, he gets you." - Kirpal Singh

   'Epistrophe' is the Greek word for turning towards the source, the equivalent of the Buddhist term 'revulsion'. But is it really so different than 'Catastrophe' - 'the final action of a drama', 'utter failure', or 'calamity' (the very word U.G. Krishnamurti used to describe his awakening) ?

   How about 'Virtue-Defilements'? Do we always know what is for the good and for the bad? Are anger, sadness, boredom, and so on, always negative or 'defilements'? Can we truly live without them at one time or other? Ponder this deeply. To discrimination in this way is in essence a practice in dropping views, or seeing things as they are.

   The gist of all this might be summed up as: appearances can be deceiving. Keep the faith, but don't expect to know.

   Psychologist Carl Jung, on the last page of his autobiographical memoir, wrote:

   "I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgement about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about...When Lao-tzu says, "All are clear, I alone am clouded," he is expressing what I feel in advanced old age." (20)

   He was, in spite of himself, entering a world beyond concepts - the real world.

   Then, there was a favorite 'koan' of Kirpal SIngh who used to say, "God helps those who help themselves," and "God helps those who do not help themselves." These might be considered to be 'stage-specific' exclamations. In any case, does ones actually think he has a choice in the matter? Neither of the alternatives is absolutely right or wrong. We are where we are in the 'actualizing of our ever-present enlightenment from within relativity'. Nothing is wrong, nor can we do it wrong!

   In addition, although these 'practical' polarities were introduced as such, separate from the more abstract philosophical polarities first outlined, the pondering of the true import behind any of these apparently more mundane polarities is itself a fruitful aspect of basic sadhana that in this relative universe can itself catapult one right into non-conceptual nondual realization. It is really a potent form of vichara itself, so why differentiate it? As the very big is in the very small, and nothing is insignificant, truth may be found anytime, everywhere, and in everything.

   This important subject of 'actualizing ever-present enlightenment' is discussed in some detail below; it is an area of much confusion among both so-called 'seeking seekers' and 'non-seeking seekers' alike.

   Lastly, before we move on, while 'Truth' was one of those words denoting that which has no other, and therefore could be placed at the top of our triangle, it was also placed among the polarities, and therefore it is useful to remember the words of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, who said:

   "The only truth is that there is no truth; beware even of this truth." (!)

   To sum up, ‘Maya is Maya’, and ‘Emptiness is Empty’ ! Not only myself but the Dalai Lama said so; "Emptiness is Empty." In short, there is no way for the mind to get a firm grasp on this, the non-conceptual reality. But some expressions are better than others to point us in the right direction. Pondering deeply the truth of the relative nature of these polarities can aid in bringing us to a true non-dualism, 'beyond duality and non-duality', as the sage Dattatreya said. Do you see why Dogen exclaimed that he did not know if he was enlightened or not? It may have been metaphor, or maybe he was so far gone that he didn’t know!


   Another way to phrase the issue is, since the absolute is 'the mystery' or the 'transcendental', it defies any attempt to comprehend the relationship between it and relativity. We cannot 'Know' the Mystery in relative terms. We can enter into profound contemplation of the Mystery from within Relativity, and here is a very important point - such contemplation will have infinitely unfolding implications throughout our relative nature. It brings liberation, bliss, expansive love, freedom from the endless limiting conditions and beliefs that make up relativity, integrating polarities, revealing endless solutions to problems and philosophical issues. Much of this happens in non-ordinary levels of consciousness from which we cannot often easily formulate what we have realized.

   Let's say that there is a level of  'selfhood' (a dangerous term because of its dualistic connotations), that is the same as what some are calling atman, ripga, original mind, and so on. This is a type of 'selfhood' that is a focus of realization, beingness, individuality, and dynamic expressiveness, that at the same time realizes its identity in the light of direct and continuous realization that is the Mystery, yet, paradoxically, actualizing/individualizing this realization within relativity. One might argue that this 'selfhood' is how we realize nonduality, a type of 'identity' wihin relativity, because if we have no part of us within relativity that can realize our nondual nature, then we cannot liberate our relative self. We must have a level of our relative nature that can directly contemplate/realize nonduality. But nonduality itself does not need liberating/realizing. It transcends these ideas. It transcends, transcends, transcends.

   There is a kind of selfhood in relativity that might be considered a 'nondual contemplating selfhood' that has a kind of dual nature where in one aspect of its nature it not only is the nondual, as everything is, but it directly rests in the realization of this. At the same time, it partakes of relativity, in that is stands on the border, as it were, between the Mystery and the Relative and contemplates their interrelationship. Plotinus might call this the Soul, the 'Double-Knower.' If it concentrates only on the Mystery, it will enter complete absorption and forget about relativity. But if it remains in contemplation of the relationship between the two, it stabilizes in a endless state of transforming relative experience, ideas, polarities, energies, etc. in the light of the Mystery, the nondual. So the primordial Fire of its realization is fuel by the endless supply of relative experience, held in the light of Nondual realization. Indeed, the nondual realization is this interaction. For without the context of relativity as a part of this selfhood/realization, there is no context for realizing the implications of the nondual. In this context, anadi asks, "what is it that recognizes the 'I AM": the 'no-self', or the 'Self'? There is a personal element that is always there; perhaps we can call it Soul. But that is not of primary importance right now.

   What is purely within the dimension of the nondual is not the realization of it, at least not in any way we can realize that within relativity. But what we might call liberating nondual realization is something that must transpire within relativity in order to impact it! And it happens to individuals, one at a time, so it must actualize within relativity through the agency of 'selves' that individualize it.

   In this context, what is jivanmukti? It is the stage when one has reached the turning point where one is neither leaning towards levels of identity 'below' or 'before' this atman (some of which are close enough to be catching the glow of atman, but not fully in it yet), nor a state where one is 'attached to emptiness', rather than sustain nondual presence. Very paradoxically, it is actually a more profound level of nondual realization to understand the significance of sustaining nondual presence rather than cessation of relative experience, because one of the realizations of nondual implication is that one transcends trying to extinguish relative experience in favor of absorption in the mystery. Again, paradoxically, it is a greater realization of nondualism to rest in nondual contemplation and surrender to the infinite unfoldment of maturing this realization within relativity, than it is to wish to end that 'selfhood'. Does this mean that relativity is good so that one should not want to abandon it in favor of the Absolute, because it serves some purpose? Not exactly. What we are saying is that at a certain level of nondual realization, one enters a state of so subtly realizing the nondual nature of relativity, while still 'being within relativity', that one no longer believes one has to 'leave relativity' in order to be liberated, for one is in a state of continuous contemplation of the truth that all experience of relativity as it is arising is not apart from the Mystery, and so there is not need to get away from it to 'have' nondual liberation, and that, in fact, if one thinks that is so, one is in a lesser stage of nondual understanding, and paradoxically is actually farther way from realizing the Mystery of the Nondual than those who seek negation of Relativity and pursue or attain alleged absorption in the nondual. Such seeking of absorption is more dualistic than resting in nondual contemplation 'within' relativity.

   Once attaining and stabilizing the state of nondual contemplation, on a relative plane, some karmas may remain, imperfections of understanding, especially in the so-called lower bodies, may remain, but the state of presence is liberated as a state of consciousness/beingness, and so from an internal point of view, one has arrived. One is in a continous state of realizing one is the nondual reality. Since, from another angle, there is infinite potential for the state of nondual realization to be enriched as it transforms relative experience into 'richer' nondual awakening, then in that aspect of nondual presence there is infinite potential for expansion or maturing of this realization. So we have arhats, but we also have greater masters like Dogen, and we have even greater realizers like the Buddha or Padmasambhava or Shankara, on up to greater 'logoi', culminating in the Adi Buddha or Cosmic Christ. But all, from the first stage realizer to the Adi Buddha, rest in direct nondual realization. The nondual aspect of their realization is the same, while the relative aspect, which also influences the intensity of the nondual clarity, varies through endless stages.

   So, to come full circle, creation is a dualistic experience within relativity. The Mystery transcends these categories. They can arise within relativity precisely because they are contained by a reality that is bigger, more transcendental, to them. Although it is a relative experience, it is a profound relativity that exists even at very illumined levels of relativity. How it is experienced by beings who are in nondual contemplation is definitely different from how it is experienced at other levels of consciousness, but it does not 'go away' once one has entered nondual contemplation, for all the qualities and capacities inherent in relativity are transformed, illumined and expressed within the state of nondual contemplation, with this relative aspect of nondual presence varying dependening on the level of maturing of the state of presence.

   Always remembering - all of this is fully accessible directly from our ordinary state. And also, it is inevitable. That is, all souls, sooner or later, will come to this realization. The Buddha called the first stage of the path or awakening (of the basic four that lead to arhatship or nondual presence) 'stream-entry'. Apparently he called it this because it meant that, in his view, once you have gone through the change in your inner being that this first satori implies, that you are not irreversibly in the 'stream' home. He believed that upon stream-entry, it would take at the very most several lives to reach nirvana or sahaja, and, in rarer cases, as little as 'in this very life'.

   Becoming initiated by a satguru may be seen as the bhakti equivalent of the satori experience in Buddhism that makes one a 'stream-enterer'. As everything in relativity manifests to our dualistic mind as polarities, nondual realization can awaken to the individual in its impersonal aspect or its personal aspect (as the nondual transcends this distinction). To a vipassana yogi the nondual will manifest more in its impersonal aspect as a satori at the moment of stream entry (if they are following the classic vipassana path in intensive retreat format). But on certain bhakti-style paths such as Sant Mat, surrendering to the guru and being accepted/initiated is seeing the 'word made flesh'; it is a bhakti equivalent of the 'Direct Introduction to the View' spoken of in Dzogchen. It is Darshan of Atman or Sach Khand made manifest in this world. Even though it makes many people uncomfortable to hear this - it is, in reality, a relative manifestation of God, or perhaps better said, of God-consciousness. In truly encountering the master, the satguru, one is experiencing a relative manifestation of God-consciousness. If one accepts this, such initiation has the same underlying spiritual significance as stream-entry in Buddhism, though the process is different in how it came about. One emphasizes personal effort, the other adds considerable grace.


   Another way of speaking about the unity of direct and indirect/gradual paths and practices is as follows. First, a great example of the perfect vision of the 'essence' from Stephen Bodian:

   "Our true nature--mysterious, ungraspable, ever present, and eternally awake--has no preferences for anything or anyone to be different from the way it is. It doesn't, resist, judge, pick and choose, but rather welcomes each moment just as it is. It is the light behind all perceptions, the energy that drives all manifestation; it's empty, yet ever aware, and it's one and inseparable from what is--another facet of the precious jewel of the undivided! No matter what you do or don't do, seek or don't seek, believe or don't believe, you can never get closer or farther away; it's who you already are, nearer and more intimate than breath itself." (internet post)

   My spiritual friend Mark responds:

   "That's it! - a perfect example of an 'essence teaching', sometimes also called a 'pith instruction' or 'direct pointing' in Dzogchen. In a very important sense, there is really no point on the path that it is not useful to include this kind of teaching, for it constantly reminds one of a fundamental part of awakening. Of course, there are other beautiful ways that one can point at or express deep transcendental truth. On the way of devotion, other mysterious and transcendent sensibilities are revealed, that are not against, or instead of, this type or realization, but express other facets or flavors. Love them all!"

   "A great truth, however, is that one does not usually surrender to the most refined type of practice until one has fulfilled earlier stages, whether on this life or before. This is a truth that so many folks, East and West, are having a hard time assimilating. There are many reasons we resist this truth, not the least of which is that we are in pain, and so are tempted to hope that liberation is not far away. In a spacial sense, the goal or liberation is not far away at all. There is no space between us and the goal, because liberation is not separated from us by space, as in some other plane, or as if we are making a pilgrimage somewhere. It is who we are. Liberation is a state of understanding, in its essence. A change of view. We do not need to go anywhere to change our view. But...it does not seem to be so simple to have this thing called awakening. So there seems to be a process in time, an apparent distance in time to travel. So we call it a path, a process, a practice. Why? Why can't we just realize it, here and now?!"

   "This was Dogen's basic koan. After years of practice and some awakenings and maturation, Dogen, still young, became obsessed with wha tmight be called a 'natural' koan. That is a spiritual puzzle that has not been assigned or found in a book, but arises naturally within oneself. For Dogen it was 'if, as all the Patriarchs have taught, we are all inherently Buddha-nature from the beginning, why do we have to work to realize this?' He became so obsessed with this question that it was all he could thing about, day and night, for years, until he had a great satori that set it to rest. What was his answer? Well, there would be two levels to that - an absolute and a relative - of course! At the absolute level there is no expressing the answer - in a sense all questions arise because of our involvement in dualistic perception, and so when we have a deep awakening, especially in the context of a particular inquiry, then that question is answered by being illuminated by a higher context that resolves the delusion that gives rise to the question in the first place. On a relative level, Dogen tried to formulate his 'answer' philophically as well. He expressed it as the famous phrase 'practice/enlightenment', which for him meant that we misunderstand what practice is. From one point of view we approach practice as a means to a goal, but deeper still we practice because practice is the way enlightenment actualizes within relativity. Practice is enlightenment, enlightenment is practice."

   "From another point of view then, we do not work to become enlightened, we simply work/practice to actualize or express our current enlightenment. And the quality and enlightenment that we have now is manifest in our understanding or what we are 'doing' when we practice. There is, in fact, no separation. If we believe there is a distance between us and the goal, however, and we practice to bridge that gap, then that is our current level of enlightenment, and our practice is the actualization of that understanding. There is nothing wrong with that. This is also the context from which the next stage will naturally ripen, and then that is our practice/enlightenment. Still no separation. All practice has some measure of enlightenment actualized within it. Even our first glimmer of wanting to be a better person, wanting freedom from suffering, believing something beyond might be possible, longing for God, or Love, or Awakening, is enlightenment actualizing."

   "So a legitimate 'relative' perspective on the path would include the experience that we go through stages, ripen, mature, and evolve. From another point of view it is the same enlightenment actualizing from the beginning as our path, taking the form of struggles and practices and learnings, all just being the enlightenment actualizing. Beingness and becoming are not separate."

   "On a relative level, we cannot negate our human experience of working for enlightenment. It is just how enlightenment actualizing in us moment to moment feels at this stage of unfoldment. Eventually an inner core of realization will emerge in our awareness that we are It. We are there now. There is nothing to achieve except the realization of what is already present. Then an aspect of our practice can begin to include learning to rest in this condition. This is what is meant in Zen by the name of the practice shikan-taza, which translates as "nothing but (shikan) precisely (da) sitting (za)'. This means, to just sit with great presence but without the experience of trying to accomplish, fix, heal, transform, escape, liberate or manipulate anything. Now, the average practitioner, sitting in this way, will not experience the full maturation of the enlightenment of the Buddha. But in shikan-taza, the practice is to 'seek' to slip into, as close as one can come, moment to moment, to just being with everything as it is, resting in awareness and presence, recognizing that this is the enlightened state here and now, as much as one is able to actualize it, and trusting that by doing so, it will continue to actualize more and more, and not to concern oneself with that, because even this 'just precisely sitting' in this way, is enlightenment actualizing, and will infinitely unfold, and so, in the innermost sense, there is nothing else to do!"

   "Many people cannot get into the spirit of shikan-taza from the start. The foundation of the practice is elusive, and there may be too much sense of pain, confusion, struggle, doubt, or distraction to maintain this state. Shikan-taza is like saying, "try to rest in the nondual view as much as you possibly can (including trying hard not to try!), and trust the rest will take care of itself." Some zen teachers try to teach everyone to access this from the beginning, while many Zen teachers, recognizing that, even though shikan-taza is as not advanced as, say, Dzogchen practice, in that it does not require an even greater access to the state of presence, it does, still, require a certain level of understanding and purity to do and not just pretend one is doing it. So they give koans and other forms of zazen like following the breath (like vipassana) to bridge to it."

   "So again, the unavoidable paradox of the spiritual path: the practices and perspectives that most essentially point to or actualize the enlightened state are not directly accessible to most people, and so other practices are used to 'get there'. A common mistake that many 'nondual teachers' make is that, arriving at the stage where the insight comes that a deeper realization is to enter the view that we are not separate from our natural state, they then come to the false conclusion that this means that all their previous practice wherein they pursued enlightenment as if it were in the future, or outside of themselves, or to be attained by a practice that was a means to this end, as if separate from enlightenment itself, was all wrong, misguided, problematic, and part of what needed to be overcome in order to 'get' the truth. This is a very understandable mistake, but, ironically, is a fairly dualistic view of other practices that lead to awakening at other stages (where the vast majority are!) because it lacks the insight that enlightenment is actualizing in all of these stages, and, lacking that realization, believes that these stages are actually an obstacle to realization. Such people seek to cultivate a great oak by holding an acorn in their hands and yelling at it to simply be a great tree right now! And if you can't, the implication is that you are doing it wrong. The next inevitable step is for discord among different schools, paths, teachers, and students - the very antithesis of harmony, oneness, and non-duality."

   "Such teachings are doing a great disservice to the spiritual community, yet, on the other hand, is all part of how we are all developing wisdom. The truth is, to put in it overly linear terms, is that awakening is like climbing a ladder, and we must practice according to the rungs we have access to. If we have a little ability to appreciate nondual direct essence teachings, then incorporate them into our practice. That is great. Should we exclusively emphasize them? For most people, that would not only not be the most efficient approach, and it is likely to cause problems, because it is easy to believe we are accessing a more nondual view, when in fact we are slipping into merely intellectual views, or blank states, exclusively 'formless' realizations, and so on. There is a lack of discrimination due to various factors: absence of a teacher capable of verifying our state and practice, lack of preparedness in terms of character, as well as, importantly, a lack of relative wisdom gained from comparative study of the traditions and different schools."

   "Teachings like the quote from Stephen above are clear expressions of the 'essence'. For most of us, various other expressions of truth are also needed to support a balanced, complete path that honors the different stages that someone may be at, and the various styles of every unique being on the path, so that people can truly practice according to what is most powerful for them as an individual. [That, in fact, is what is considered in Dzogchen to be the 'highest' practice]. Right now, in the west, these direct types of teachings are very much in vogue. Some of the teachers who are sharing them seem to have some real degree of realization of these truths. But many of them lack the richness of maturing this view more profoundly, which includes a compassion and relative wisdom that recognizes the truth of where their students are really at, and what actually will work best for them."

   [Note: There is another issue. Nondual paths in the domain of relativity can take the form of both shiva (wisdom)-types and shakti (energy)-types, or a combination of both. In schools like Tibetan Buddhism, especially at higher levels, the latter is the most common. The kundalini practice of Naropa, for instance, while preparatory for Mahamudra practice, is also engaged on a non-dual level 'post-enlightenment' to reach even more advanced stages - for those with the talent and inclination].

   "As far as kundalini goes, it has two major expressions. One is the standard process we hear about that more or less takes the form of rising to the crown. This process, when real and full, not some temporary phenomena but the complete kundalini transformation, is a deep process, usually takes years, decades, even more than one life to complete sometimes, and results in a great transformation and purification of the person. It will also release a certain amount of wisdom, exactly how much depends in part on the individual. [It is pretty much out of the reach of most westerners - and also most modern, non-renunciate easterners!] Moreover, it does not generally, as a shakti-leaning experience, emphasize wisdom, nor does it lead to sahaja samadhi as normally experienced. So many people on that path will recognize the need for further enlightenment beyond the standard kundalini model. Advanced tantric masters do not believe that this (kundalini reaching the crown) is the end of the path, but do see it can be a powerful part of a process of arriving at a certain stage. In order to move into stages beyond this, the path typically includes more emphasis on the wisdom aspect. But many 'beginners' who do not have the benefit of being part of a profound tradition/system will believe that either the conventional kundalini process is worthless, because it doesn't lead to fuller enlightenment, or at least that it is best to abandon kundalini phenomena in favor of what they imagine are 'more pure' or true nondual teachings, which, of course, they believe means to ignore such aspects as inferior."

   "There is, I believe, however, a higher octave of 'kundalini' work that can be actualized beyond this point, that will lead to more rich actualizations of enlightenment than ordinary sahaja. These can include a practice that could be called 'integrating kundalini with nondual presence'. In this practice, one learns to experience kundalini as not different from one's own natural state, and that all energies arising in consciousness are manifestations of kundalini - whether sensations, pranas, desires, emotions, thoughts, visions, shabd - it is all realized as the energy (kundalini shakti) manifestation of the state of presence, our own nature. Worked with in this way, the kundlini will continue to unfold new levels of manifestation that are not separate from our state of realization, and are simply the shakti aspect of this realization, which when realized nondually, is known to be not just an energy like electricity, but the vibration/feeling of realization itself.. On our planet, in this type of human form, it is possible to attain several major stages of realization beyond sahaja. These stages are very little known in the world, and are achieved mostly by masters who live unknown to the world.. But no matter what the path, as masters progress in their respective paths, they all will converge, so that advanced jnanis, bhaktas, or tantrists, all realize increasing states that reveal that all these are interdependent aspects of a state of total realization/actualization, and so in these advanced  stages, practitioners do not demonstrate clear leanings anymore. Their nondual enlightenment is actualizing as the growing realization and demonstration of the inseparability of all facets of spiritual life and practice/expression. This is clearly seen in great adepts such as Padmasambhava or Shankara. So, the majority of adepts who work behind the scenes, like the ones Qi-gong master Yan Xin talked about [living in the Kunlun mountains of China], or the ones Blavatsky knew, or Babaji, or Bengali Baba, or Changchub Dorje, all do/did practices that recognize all of this. Part of an area of interest for me is that, in addition to having an interest in the existence of this senior, mostly hidden community of world bodhisattvas and buddhas, I am also interested in what is their approach to spiritual practice. They are, too, the masters that I have inner contact with." [Note: 'Mark' (whose privacy I am maintaining at present) has also had human teachers and masters, including Namkhai Norbu and Sant Darshan Singh, after first experiencing the presence of his inner guides many years ago].

   "But in spite of all the vast potential for spiritual unfoldment in all of us, and how infinite the path can sound, the immediate inspiration that we should not let be obscured by all this is that the basic state of sahaja is not that far away for any of us. The Buddha said, do not make stream entry (stage one), or the once-returner (stage two), your goal. Seek at least stage three (the non-returner) or the arhat (stage four - sahaja) 'in this very life'. Even though this is not that accessible for many, there are also many for whom it is accessible quite soon. If one fully gives ones life over to the masters, and is willing to suffer due to the 'compression', then it is near at hand. Then the rest can be figured out as we go, and naturally arises according to the realization we have attained. like veils progressively lifting as more and more nondual realization is integrated into relativity, revealing deeper mysteries and richness".

   [Note: It is being suggested here that there are other stages beyond simply 'awakening'. As Zen Master Ummon said: ”The first step along the path of Zen is to see into our void nature, getting rid of the bad karma comes afterwards.” (The Sants are particularly good at working on that). Of course, the process can come in the reverse order, too, or both ways, opening the door for further deepening to sahaja - and beyond, perhaps?].


   When it comes to non-dual transmission and teaching, practically speaking, there is a nondual level of transmission of enlightenment, and a relative level. At the nondual level, there is no reliance on words or concepts.This is direct transmission of realization, usually accomplished in a blaze of wonder by an accomplished master, who may not know what he is doing. In fact, that may be a very advanced pre-requisite!

   Within the relative level, there are also two levels of teaching. The first of these uses gestures, objects, and riddles, or the oral presentation of teachings to point at the nondual, while another transmits secondary realization and practice to cultivate wisdom and virtue to prepare for direct nondual transmission and practice. Most teachings, due to the spiritual depths of the teacher, are not an attempt at direct nondual transmission, they are relative teachings, with the hope that the audience somehow ‘gets it.’ This first type of relative teaching, then, is an attempt to point directly at the nondual, but it is not a most direct transmission. There maybe an unintentional direct transmission present in satsang, but then again there may not. Here we must be both tolerant and discriminating. Tolerant because all relative attempts at 'pointing out' the Absolute are imperfect by nature. But discriminating because, even though they are all limited and imperfect, some are more sattvic, pure, elegant, refined, skillful, 'true', than others.

   But there is another perspective. Let’s accept as a given that the primordial nature is nondual (unfortunately, a relative word). If we are to begin to talk about pointing at it, it seems better to try to capture the subtle dualism of how enlightened beingness actualizes itself within its own relativity. In other words, a basic dimension of how dualism arises within relativity is, as mentioned, in polarities, a very core one being the observer/observed distinction: self and other, or Shiva and Shakti. At a certain level of experience we may be able to disidentify from body, feelings, thoughts and come to the pure consciousness. It is the path of observing, mindfulness, concentration, and /or witnessing. This is basically the jnana approach. But there are other ways that emphasize energy/phenomena and their essence, which is kundalini/shakti. So we can speak in terms of the basic aspects of pure awareness or the essence of mind or consciousness, and also the contents of consciousness such as thoughts, emotions, desires, sensations and their underlying energy. These latter are a changing flow of phenomena, a sea of energy/forms that arise and pass away. Many have called them Shakti, manifestations of consciousness-energy, the primal life energy/activity/movement of relativity. And then there is the prior consciousness, Shiva, that witnesses all that.

   Many teachings would have us believe that the Shakti is the relative, and Shiva, pure consciousness, is the Absolute, or, at least, the senior principle. But in a pure nondual view, are they not part of a mutually interdependent pair of relative experiences that have their meaning in relationship to each other? There is not much meaning to awareness unless there is something to be aware of. Yes, it is true that we can, in samadhi, invert awareness until it is only aware of itself, or, simply, is itself. But that is not to say that it can arise in such refined relativity alone. The witness or even nirvikalpa do not exist in a vacuum or by themselves. They are not permanent states. Therefore they would be considered ‘empty’. They are part of the cosmic duality pair of Shiva/Shakti, Purusha/Prakriti, Spirit/Matter, Awareness/Energy, etc.. And by energy here is meant all dynamic phenomena that moves through consciousness, both physical and psychological (thoughts, desires, memories, feelings). Just as a physicist would say all phenomena is energy, so do the nondual/tantric philosophies and others. So both awareness (pure awareness, not its phenomenal contraction) and energy are part of the relative manifestation of the absolute nondual reality - if we now wish to continue calling it that. Of this condition PB wrote:

   "He is neither in the Void, the One, or the Many yet nor is he not in them. Truth thus becomes a triple paradox!"

   "In the highest level there are utterly unalterable truths. They are not got by logic, worked out by intellect, or discovered by observation. They are announced. No one can know their mysterious source in the sense that we know anything else. It is unique, indescribable, and hence unnameable, unimaginable...It is more honest to let the Mystery of Mysteries remain as it is than to repeat ancient portrayals or create new ones..."

   Therefore, it is suggested that it may not as accurate as it could be to direct attention to noticing pure awareness as the nature of the Absolute because, firstly, it is not the Absolute, and secondly, if we are going to try to create a relative notion of something close to a nondual model, that still has relative elements to it, so we can have something to get a handle on, it would be closer to say that there is a pure dimension to awareness, and a pure dimension to energy, and finding ways to enter deeper into these both, and realize their interplay, and ultimately realize the nondual emptiness that is their common ground.

   This is closer to the truth, it seems: Brahman actualizing within relativity as the eternal interplay of Shiva and Shakti. Emptiness actualizing as Awareness and Energy. In Dzogchen this would be described as the three aspects of rigpa - Essence, Nature and Energy. These might also be translated as Voidness or Emptiness, Pure Mind, and Energy Manifestation. These three components are the three-in-one rigpa, the state of presence, within which one realizes the unity of these three aspects - the ground, primordial awareness and dynamic phenomena. [I would only add beyond this what may be something that Buddhism considers a conceptual distinction, but which nevertheless might be considered, and that is the nature of the Soul. For even when talking about 'Total Realization' in Dzogchen and Vajrayana Buddhism, they use words like, 'such individuals' can manifest the three bodies at will, etc., seeming to imply the existence of an 'individual'. What exactly is that? Because this question will eventually lead to one of the 'inessential' or 'not leading to edification' questions in Buddhism, such as how did samsara or ignorance really start, and such that now we must realize our 'primordial nature', that has always been the case, the notion of a Soul has been dismissed. But if we have not known our individual true nature before, what is the purpose of saying that such is always our true nature? What is being suggested is that we consider whether something has been added through evolution by 'recognition' of this 'nature'. If this is unclear, I apologize. it is a complicated topic].

     Continuing in reference to the three-fold nature of rigpa given in Dzogchen, many nondual descriptions emphasize the second of these (mind, awareness, or consciousness), while implying that it is the same as emptiness or reality itself. These ways of talking are common in many nondual teachings, but subtler teachings seem to point beyond that to a finer understanding. Pointing at pure awareness alone can take us very deep, but, it appears to reach a limit. A good book on this is from Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, in which he goes into the Dzogchen view of the threefold nature, practice, and fruit of the state of true or full nondual presence. It is also somewhat biographical, and talks some about his root guru and two uncles who were Dzogchen masters. He is the Dalai Lama’s primary Dzogchen teacher.

   This way of looking at non-duality might allow us to imaginatively visualize how someone like Maharshi could speak of there being no such thing as birth, death, and reincarnation, and at the same time say that he would keep coming back for the sake of us all. For what better preparation and basis for reincarnation than coming from the position of non-dual realization? The Buddha, in fact, said he did had previously done it countless times. This would, of course, tend to give credence to the view of the Soul as an eternal existant, as Plotinus described. Otherwise, what would it be that ‘comes back’? If one says ‘emptiness’, not only will they get a whack on the head, but we are reaching the tortuous limits of language in speaking of such things!

   These distinctions would also make sense out of the second level of nondual teaching described above, where one transmits a secondary realization and practice to cultivate wisdom and virtue to prepare for the direct nondual transmission and its subsequent practice, such as is given in Dzogchen. And even in Dzogchen, it is recognized that when one's non-dual contemplation wavers, one must resort to placing one's awareness on causes and effects, and the needs of others, until one is capable of direct non-dual contemplation once again. [The practice chosen for a time to restore one to rigpa is left up to the wisdom of the student; in Dzogchen, there are no rules other than awareness; the disciple is encouraged to become independent, although, of course, even here an element of guru-devotion is also inevitable]. Certain preliminaries are expected in all Tibetan traditions. Once equanimity and other qualities are in place, easing into the nondual realization would be, relatively speaking, easier, as there are fewer impediments and buddhi is sharper. As St. John of the Cross put, “I escaped secretly, my house being now at rest.”


   This piece of writing would not be complete without a short discussion of the matter of the planes of existence and their relationship with non-duality. Many schemas have been devised, but for simplicity’s sake a septenary reckoning as given ages ago in the Vedas and Puranas will be accepted for our purposes. There are, relatively speaking, three lower worlds corresponding to the physical, emotional, and mental bodies, followed by an intermediate realm where intuition and archtypal ideas and ‘formless-forms’ prevail, and which is a dividing line between the lower worlds and three higher universal, formless, divine realms.

   'Beyond' (a relative word) all seven planes of the relative universe is Brahman or the Tao, the nondual or primordial reality. The nondual is 'beyond' all these levels and yet is the 'essential' nature of all levels. No level is ‘closer’ to nondual than another, although some levels, particularly the highest three, tend to be more conducive to direct realization of the nondual or Absolute. We can subsequently group these three planes together as formless planes that give easier access to increasingly liberated nondual realization. In these planes or levels one’s awareness and being are not only infused with direct perception of the Absolute, but there is also an awareness of one’s relative Self or Atman (rigpa in Dzogchen) as liberated and luminous, and being of the same substance as the Absolute. But even the realization on these planes grows, and so we must not equate these worlds with a particular level of developed enlightenment. That is another issue in itself. One may have easier access to nondual realization here, as well as a sense of liberation and freedom from karmas, but still have to or choose to return to lower levels for final eradication of all karmas (neh karma-karma being another polarity!) by holding them in the light of the non-dual presence, thereby also achieving greater integration. For one may still run the risk of becoming attached to the emptiness, the samadhi, the bliss of these higher levels, the last fetter to full enlightenment.

   The densest three planes are the most veiled. These are often called the realms of separation or maya, not because they are intrinsically less divine, but because these realms are characterized by a perception that everyone and everything is separate, limited and imperfect. Each of these worlds are really states of consciousness or understanding, even though the greater maya or ‘veiledness’ of the densest realms gives rise to the illusion or appearance of concrete forms, beings and an objective universe.

   Even though the higher worlds, being less veiled, can make access to nondual realization easier to develop, this direct perception of the nondual can be had from any plane or world, because each level can be purified and transformed so that it can reflect the Absolute in one's understanding. But a glimpse of non-duality on one plane does not automatically grant one non-dual awareness forever. Each level gives a new richness to nondual realization, so that until nondual realization is developed in all levels, one has not yet developed the fullest, most balanced awakening. This is why a true teaching has such great depth, and why, to a great extent, we will always be students..

1. Adyashanti, The Impact of Awakening, p.
2. Aziz Kristof (anadi), The Human Buddha (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000, p 189
3. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde, Kunjed Gyalpo (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1999). p. 152
4. Aziz Kristof (anadi), Enlightenment Beyond Traditions (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidas, 1999), p. 141-143)
5. My colleague on this article had this to say about his previous adherence to the view of ajatavada, or 'non-causality, non-creation', and subsequent change to another perspective:

   "I had my own 'trans-causality' realization back in the eighties during a samadhi experience during which I was drawn up out of my body into full identification with my deeper self. As I was gradually leaving my body, a vision of time 'flowed through me' of seeing the past, present and future, in the way we ordinarily experience it, transforming. At first, as I was beginning to enter samadhi but was only partly out of my body, I was entering a superconscious state, and as this was unfolding, I felt a strong sensation as if my consciousness was 'leaning to one side'. As I became aware of this imbalance, I realized in a flood of intuition that this was caused by the usual, human perception that the past was real in a sense because it happened, and the present was real because here it is, but the future was imaginary as it does not exist yet, and so has no true 'reality status'. The realization that was awakening in me as I entered some type of samadhi was that this linear experience of time, in which the future was not yet real, was a form of maya, and as I realized all of this, I moved out of personal time, as if in another direction perpendicular to the linear flow of time, in which all moments of time, past, present and future, were accessible to me all at once. In this superconscious state, there was still a higher form of time, which was the sequence of insights one could have about things, including realizing the interrelationship between events in linear time, which now appear like objects in a museum, which, in this higher state, one was now free to 'roam around' and explore, examining so-called past, present and future moments, and exploring their interrelationships. Next my awareness turned away from personal time and this multi-dimensional view of form and linear time, and moved in a more formless direction."

   "My samadhi deepened, and I 'looked upwards' intuitively, rising up into a level of realization in which I could look into the vastness of the cosmos and the Transcendental Reality beyond, the 'fullness of the Void', out of which I saw the entire cosmos being born. From the Void was pouring forth in vast magnitude pure Sat-Chit-Ananda, and from this essence the planes and worlds and ultimately the entire physical universe was emerging. And like a great circle this outpouring would reach a point at the bottom of its cycle in the physical universe, and then arc back inwards, evolving and dissolving, plane by plane, back into the universal, in a continuous process of creation and dissolution. This was blissful to behold, and the power of this vast creative vision was awesome. But suddenly, my consciousness shifted from watching this vision from a formless consciousness/presence within the circle of creation and dissolution, a spiritual being in the middle of it all, looking up into the void from which it all was being breathed out of and back into - from this position my consciousness shifted to the perspective of the transcendental Reality that was the foundation of all that I had been seeing - the vision of the unfoldment of cosmic time. Now, just as at the personal level I had moved out of linear time so that I was not seeing a flow of cause leading to future effects (a relative but not absolute truth), now on a cosmic scale I realized the primordial suchness of things,  transcending ideas of creation or destruction. All dimensions and times simply were all present in the Totality."

   "This experience, and others later, changed my understanding of time, causation, awakening, and the relationship between the relative and the absolute fundamentally, contributing to my conversion to nondualism. Ever since, I have also been deeply involved in contemplating the relationship between this level of linear time, and the transcendental levels, including intermediate, nondual illumined states of consciousness in which one is aware of time in various ways, including the experience of having access to future just as much as the 'present' and the past."

   "When I first encountered ajatavada, it sounded much like what I experienced, so I adopted the term. By looking more closely at the theory, I find that it still tends to be a way of talking and conceiving of relativity and time that dwells on the use of negatives (non-causality) which give a spin to it that is not exactly what I experienced. So I will stop using that term in favor of something more like the trans-causal theory of creation, which also does not seem to be either the same as some of the other Vedantic theories, nor really a combination of them, as in a synthesis of ajatavada and vivartavada/parinamavada. A 'relative' aspect of my view seems closer to drishti--srishti vada, or the view of simultaneous-creation
['the world is there because I see it', which for Ramana, for whom the 'I'-thought was an illusion, was just a warm-up for ajata] - but only partly."

   This 'investigation' is yet unfinished, but what we can take from it is that our current experiential and philosophic data-banks may not be sufficient enough to whole-heartedly adopt either one or the other of the ancient theories.

6. Paul Brunton, Conscious Immortality: Conversations with Ramana Maharshi, Chapter 8
7. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 13, Part 1, 4.190
7a. A school of Buddhism based on the Avatamsaka Sutra and the principles of 'Emptiness, Totality, and Mind-Only', in which all phenomena arise simultaneously from the Universal Principle of the Dharmata-realm. The Ultimate Principle and manifested things mutually interpenetrate without obstruction, while at the same time all phenomena both embody the Absolute and reflect and are identified with each other.
8. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2000), p. 113, 178
9. Kristof, op. cit., p. 9-10
10. Ibid, p. 121-123
11. Ibid, p. 31
12. The 'mirror' metaphor is common, used in several quite different ways in the traditions; it will be the subject of a future essay/
13. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, op. cit., p. 99
14. Dr. N.K. Brahma, Causality and Science, p. 104-108
15. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde, Kunjed Gyalpo, op. cit., p.195, 197, 219, 223-229, 210
16. Chogyal Namkai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, op. cit., p. 81-84
17. Ibid, p. 122
18. Abbot Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk (Rutland, Vermont: The Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1970), p. 172-173
19. Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Ramana Maharshi
20. C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections (London: Collins & Routledge, 1963), p. 330
21. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part Four, 2.155-156