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
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....
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
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,
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
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
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,
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
By embracing them, you realize
your True Self.
(Which means "praise the Cosmic Womb")
"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
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