The Original Great Mother Tradition
Mother Worship

MatriTalks 38

NON-DUALITY

Questions & Answers
with
Han Marie Stiekema Sermes

Q. Dear friend, what is Non-Duality?

A. It means, that the entire existence is an integrated Whole, nothing excluded.

Q. As I have understood, certain traditions define it as the Oneness of Self. With other words: everything is part of One Undivided Consciousness. This Consciousness is your real "I". Hence, "I Am That" as the Ultimate Realization.  

A. That's correct.

Q. If this is so, what more is there to discuss?

A.  That depends on your questions. Do you feel comfortable with your own conclusion?

Q. Well, eh, it sounds, like there is no flaw in that argument. However....

A. However....?

Q. Sometimes it seems too perfect to me. Its self-confirmative character sometimes gives the impression, that every chance of "imperfection" has to be avoided.

A. You mean, it looks like a self-contained system?

Q. They are constantly referring to Oneness and that's it. Oneness as a panacea for everything. It is simply too easy.

A. Well, the non-dualist will immediately tell you, that Oneness is the easiest thing on earth - because this is What You Are YourSelf - and what is bothering you for sure is your resistance, which is obviously coming from your ego.

Q. That is exactly where it all about. Should I value their interpretations more than my own intuition? Their "insight" is degrading mine. Is that the way of coming to the Truth?

A. Well, you have to ask them, not me.

Q. Rather than sharing the Truth Itself, I strongly feel, that they represent a certain interpretation of the Truth. Philosophy is not serving the Truth, but the Truth has to support their philosophy.

A. That is indeed a subtle difference, something that can remain hidden for a long time. However, this phenomenon is not confined to one tradition only. For instance, Augustine was Enlightened. In his interpretation of his Experience, he fell back on his fixed ideas about God etc., which he cherished before the Light struck him. This was the reason, why his message became so distorted. It reveals the importance of "purification" of the personality as the vehicle, before it starts communicating Eternal Truths. Not only Oneness, but also your small self should be taken seriously.

Q. But, isn't so, that after having attained, your ego automatically has disappeared?

A. "Ego" means unconscious identification with your self-image, with the one you think you are. The thing is, that you don't have to be Enlightened first, in order to unmask the ego. Simply stepping back within a little, while starting observing what is "in front of you", also will do. In that case, watching proves to be your True Self, your Center, while the "ego" has become your periphery, having disintegrated in a bundle of functions.  Becoming aware and "ego" are excluding each other, right from the beginning of your "spiritual Path".

Q. If this is so easy, why - according to the same traditions - it is necessary to reject one thing - the ego or the "world" - in order to become the other, the Real Self? Why rejecting a rose in order to become a sunflower?

A. Well, not all traditions advocate this. But some do. The latter having a long past, in which they try to "reach the goal" through denial of what - according to them - is not essential. "Neti, neti" means I am not this, I am not this. I am not the body, I am not my thinking, not my emotions etc. It is a kind a peeling off process. In the end they hope, that the Real Thing will be left.

Q. Quite an effective method, it seems to me.

A.  Yes, certainly. However, it will not work for everyone, as is true for all approaches, of course. The danger is manifold. First of all, quite a few people become so conditioned by the technique, that they become addicted to it. Which means, that the former, instead of being a method only, becomes a philosophy. Self-realization turns into an obsession.

Q. Why is that a problem?

A. A technique doesn't reflect Reality, it is only a tool. Once having identified with it, Reality becomes subordinate though. The danger is a closed system, in which "us serves us". In the end tool and Reality cannot be distinguished anymore. In that case beware of getting involved. Once you are in, there will be no way out. Every part of the system is confirming each other. You will become like a fly caught by a spider's net.        

Q. You mean: However clever a system, it can never be equal to the Truth itself.

A. Truth is bigger than its interpretation. Therefore the impact of Truth is, that everything is again and again unsettled, rather than confirming the latter.

Q. Could you come to the Truth, please (laughter)?

A. Okay. In order to obtain more transparency, I will try to compare two different systems of Non-Duality. At the end you may judge for yourself. First of all there is ND1. It says,that "contrary to the world (which is fragmented), Being is Non-Dual". What do they say here? They say: Non-Duality is the characteristic of Being, after "the world" has been split off. What is "left" is pure and undivided "Oneness". The result, as you will understand, is the separation of Being and the world. Important is to realize, that in this case Non-Duality is applied to one aspect of Reality only: Being. The fragmented world has become excluded. It is the result of the "neti, neti" practice: the methodology has become philosophy. In the West this is a very familiar theme. For 2000 years Christianity has been teaching: "In order to finding God, you have to reject the world".

Q.  If Non-Duality is applied to one aspect of Reality only, can it still be called "Non-Dual?"

A. Before we come to a conclusion, let me elaborate on the second system: ND2. The departure is the daily practice of meditation. By "stepping back within", an inner distance is created between awareness and everything that comes up in your mind: thoughts, emotions and desires. The latter being "in front" of you. The paradox is this. Because of the inner distance, thoughts etc. are allowed to be there. Deep inside you are not touched by them, so why bother? You may even simply enjoy them. By expanding your awareness further, thoughts etc. will spontaneously subside, though. They become like shadows in your inner space e.g. your alive silence. Your awareness may then exceed your body, the inner and the outer Space merging. You discover to be the Space (f.i. while being in the forest), containing the grass, the shrubs and the trees. The visible world proves to be the content of Consciousness. Touching the trees is tremendously dear to you: you love the tree "like you love yourself".

Q. ND1 excluding the world, while ND2 is including it.

A.  That's right. The consequences are grave. While both claim to be Non-Dual, the differences are striking. The former applying Non-Duality to one aspect of Reality only, hence being not Non-Dual at all....It manifests itself through a highly individualistic, self-centered approach to spirituality. One's own learning process e.g "spiritual growth" is the only thing that matters. That's why in meetings of this kind, everybody is sitting there for him or herself only. Contact is limited to what the other could contribute to your success. True compassion is rare. And the world is looked at with disdain.

Q. Are there examples of this?

A. If the emphasis is too much laid on "peeling off", then almost automatically "the things that have to be peeled off" - thoughts, emotions and desires - are denounced, they are considered "hindrances on the Path". Now, again, if this would be explicitly restricted to the methodology only, one could have peace with it. Unfortunately, this often becomes an attitude though. Then people start talking about "I have to get rid of my shit, my trash, my mess, my junk or my rubbish". Some even treat themselves high-handedly, talking about "my little Paul". My suspicion is, that this conclusion fits too well in a pre-existing attitude of non-acceptance, even of self-hatred.

Q. Creating exactly the opposite of what they say they want to attain: namely "Non-Duality".

A. The methodology is distorting Reality by too much emphasizing one side of it. They are obsessed with "emptiness" (Being), forgetting that Oneness is Emptiness and fullness at the same time. They are two sides of the same coin. The Dutch have one word for this: "Vol-Ledigheid".

Q. Neglecting one side in favor of the other?

A. Yes, with such a approach, compared to the Real Thing, the "world" becomes irrelevant, non-existing or illusionary. Which is true at the Moment of Realization. The intensity of this Moment, sooner or later becomes weaker though. Together with it, the phenomena tend to come into prominence once again. Reality proves to be dynamic, rather than static. This changing reality is subsequently denied, pretending, that the the Original Oneness remains unchanging for ever. Thus, rather than looking at things "in their own right", cherishing the Moment, you compulsively compare them to an absolute "Ultimate Truth". You become terrorized by an ideal, something that you can never comply with. You always fall short of expectations. The sad thing is, that through this, things don't become upgraded, but degraded. You continuously feel insufficient, discontent, never good enough, manipulated, yes even despised at times. Again, the conditioning to "peeling off" is responsible, here. Every Moment is perfect in itself, though. The art of (spiritual) life, is to say yes to every moment, however "incomplete". A step by step process is by far preferable, culminating in"it is like it is" - no comparison, no change, no growth, no expectations, no ambitions - liberating you from the tyranny of perfection.

Q. To you the criterion for true spirituality is, that "the vertical has to translate itself into the horizontal". Could you explain?

A. The Reality is, that the Mother is All-Embracing, while Being ( Her Light Body) is uninterruptedly penetrating the visible world. To apply Non-Duality on one aspect only, is therefore based on ignorance. The sad thing about it is, that if you separate Being and the world, the latter can never be healed by the former. In fact, you become a schizophrenic, your mind divided in two parts that don't touch each other. Hence, no any transformation coming out of ND1. To them the world is a strange place, a place of transition only. Being forced to live in the body, is "highly unfortunate". By withdrawing into "Non-Duality", at least you may avoid as many inconveniences as possible. The opposite is also possible, though....Exactly because of having declared the world irrelevant, you may just do with it what you want e.g. use it for your own purposes. You simply don't care. The result: benefiting from both sides: being "spiritual" on the one hand and (ruthlessly) making money on the other....

Q. How this ignorance originated in the first place?

A. That One Moment, in which you (your ego) disappears into Nothingness, has made people blind. They simply start applying their Realization to all other planes of existence. To them "against the Light of the Ultimate", everything else is nothing. There is a very subtle contempt in this attitude. How can you respect something, that actually means nothing to you? Like the other, who is only a spot on your retina. Should a mother accept the "fact", that her baby is an illusion? Just because ultimately, the personality is dissolving into Oneness? Why measuring everyday life to such rare Experiences? Those (denouncing) theories have their effect in reality. It shapes characters. And indeed, how many ND1 teachers actually do express their love for the grass, the flowers, the trees, the clouds or the mountains? I have hardly met any. In the context of our global crisis - which ironically is the result of exactly the same dualistic attitude - the above mentioned is really the last thing we need.  

Q. They do talk about love though.

A. Reality proves to be very different. Rather than being illusionary, from the first moment of becoming aware, the "world" is upgraded with it. A plant appearing before you in a moment of unveiled clarity, immediately gets the flavor of eternity. That's is why "direct perception" of things is equal to awe, joy, gratefulness and even ecstasy. Through expanding your awareness, this only becomes more intense. For instance, feeling your body the energy goes up; receiving undivided attention from somebody is a special gift. Then, while further exceeding your body you discover, that things that previously were "without", now have become the content of your inner Space: the body, the chair, the carpet, the table and the vase with flowers. By being part of your Space, you love them like yourself.

Q. Inclusiveness.

A. The Essence of Consciousness is, that it is inclusive. True Non-Duality means Oneness of Being and the world. Your inner Space is loving its content e.g. the common world (instead of "just tolerating, ignoring etc. it"). There is a permanent feedback between the two. Note: very often leaps in awareness are the result of the impact from something "outside": a bird singing, the sunset, a smile, something you read or an emotional shock. Separating "Oneness" and "the world" thus depriving you of a main incentive toward growth. Without objects, no feedback to e.g. "imprint" on Consciousness and without Consciousness no Love. Hence, the phenomenal world is one big invitation to developing your Love.

Q. Thus, this cup in my hand is not not-me?

A. Because the cup is initially not-Me, it "has to become embraced", in order to "make it" part of Oneness. It is the function of Love. That's why Consciousness is upgrading everything without exception, as part of its "incorporation" activity. This is particularly true, with regard to parts of the self, that once were denied, excluded or rejected. As a child you often cannot digest emotions, that are too strong, like pain, fear and anger. So you start excluding them from your system. The pain/pleasure principle is taking care of the fact, that they remain your shadow part. Later, however, when you start opening up, you sooner or later will be once again confronted with them. The practice shows, that without "active acceptance" it won't work. The miracle is this: by consciously accepting - loving - your "inner stepchildren", Consciousness becomes wider. It has to open up in order to overcome your natural resistance. Especially the "negative" emotions, prove to have this positive effect on expanding your inner Space, while the emotions themselves are becoming part of the greater Self, once again, their energy benefiting the Whole. Once you discover, how Consciousness is benefiting from accepting its "negative" content, you will become immensely grateful. It is thanks to the Divine Space - You - That loves its own content, that this healing process can occur. The former being grateful to its content, for with what should It otherwise play? It has created the latter for Its Own pleasure, after all.

Q. Maybe, this is not so important. But I got irritated by the fact, that in certain sessions, there is often a teacher, "who knows it" on the one hand, and an audience of "ignorant" on the other. This is not what non-duality is all about, isn't it?

A. You have to investigate, where your irritation is coming from.

Q. I feel, that this inequality is deliberately created.

A. It is the consequence of the underlying philosophy, dividing reality in "Oneness" on the one hand and "the world" on the other. This is reflected by the teaching: "Oneness" being represented by the teacher (realization) and "the world" (ignorance) by the students.  Hence, the gap.

Q. Is it my refusal to acknowledge my ignorance, that is playing tricks on me?

A. In your case, it could very well be (laughter). However, there could be ignorance on both sides (laughter), as well. The point of departure has to be scrutinized. Is it really true, that reality is divided, like the above mentioned philosophy tries to believe us?

Q. If not, then the whole construction collapses.

A. Reality is including several stages of Consciousness, to start with awakening (to be the inner observer), to be extended to Conscious Presence, Satori etc. Usually, leaping from "ignorance" to "Full Realization" is not only rare, but also contains many dangers. Therefore teaching should be much more modest. The emphasis should be on being unconsciously identified with your self-image to becoming aware. Hence, the distance between the two being much and much smaller.

Q. With corresponding consequences for the teaching situation.

A. If the most fundamental step consists of the transition from ignorance to becoming your inner observer - and not from scratch to the Big Attainment -  then obviously the relationship between teacher and student will be accordingly. Moreover, by doing so "spiritual greed" will be avoided.

Q. Which means?

A. Everything depends on the motivation, ambition e.g. dynamics behind. This goes for teachers and pupils alike. Wouldn't it make a difference, if either true longing (to becoming part of the Whole) or ambition, greed or escapism is the underlying driving force? Of course it does. In fact, it is amazing, that in practice very little emphasis is put on this crucial factor. The question, if somebody is suitable, is a very important one though. Hence, Sri Ramakrishna saying, that "Vedanta is not for householders". What he means is, that the Road toward Self-realization is such a serious one, that you have to conform your whole life to it. If not, then the chance is much too big, that you may not "overcome" your ego. The latter f.i. identifying itself with your "spiritual achievements", taking possession of it.

Q. Strengthening your personal identity, rather than getting rid of it?

A. The joke is this. Ultimately, Realization proves to be so clear, that It "has no substance of Its Own" anymore. You are simply Utter Transparency. Nothing is left of the shining, radiating Oneness you may once have been. The outcome of the Path is being Nothingness. Thus, the Ultimate Realization isn't something, that you can identify with. You are unable to derive any status, position or authority through it. The result is an outburst of laughter. It was all about Nothing, nothing special, nothing holy. Because - and this is crucial - there is nothing within anymore, no Consciousness, no Non-Duality, you are free from freedom. The only reality left is the world. Unhindered by any "spiritual achievement" whatsoever, you will come back to the marketplace.  In the beginning Enlightenment is liberating you from the world (e.g. your unconscious identification with it); in the end however, it is the world that liberates you from Enlightenment (big laughter).

Q. In this discourse, you didn't mention the Mother. I suspect She is behind all this, though.

A. It is good to realize the Source, from Which everything is originating: that She is the Womb of everything, without exception, from the Divine, Non-Duality, Consciousness and awakening to the universe, the world, us, our bodies, the grass and the trees.  

Be thankful to your body, your unwelcome emotions, your neighbor, yes to the whole world for their contribution to your Wholeness.

By embracing them, you realize your True Self.

OM
(Which means "praise the Cosmic Womb")

PRAYER

"Let me meditate on the Great Mother Who is existence itself, whose Womb contains time and space, Who embodies cosmic energy, Who holds in Her hands the implements of life and the instruments of death, Who spins the cycle of existence as She creates and destroys all that is, was and will be and Who empowers and enriches her devotee with the ability to accept and appreciate the unfathomable universe".

Adi-Maya-Shakti

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Last revising: 02/07/10