Huissen July 1995 | Monday
Speech (in Dutch) [download]
The cornerstone of Zen is the statement that the only thing that is real is what you experience. Despite of this libraries have been filled with writings about enlightenment, emptiness and silence. That shows how that statement ‘only that is real what you experience’, needs a footnote.
The footnote is that your experience is determined by the quality of your consciousness. And the quality of your consciousness is determined by what you have experienced, what you have learned, what you consider as an ideal to strive for.
All your opinions about something or someone or about a situation, is thus not a reproduction of the reality of that situation or that person or that event. What you see, what you hear, what you say, what you believe in, it is all determined by the way your consciousness is shaped during this life.
I don’t know if you realise that you’re standing before a blank wall. I think that you have to realise that, else you’ll continue forever trying to improve the way you experience the world. That way you never reach consciousness itself, that which formulates, that which projects images, that which suggests something to you. You don’t get to that when you occupy yourself all the time with the outcome. You’re continually occupied with that which consciousness tells you – not however with consciousness itself.
The question is: can you pay attention to your consciousness itself? That implies you brush aside fully and wholeheartedly everything you know. At least, everything you think you know, because – I spoke about it very briefly – that depends on the quality of your consciousness. And the quality of your consciousness is for the most part determined by all your past experiences.
Can you step out of all that – that is the question. That is much more important than talking about enlightenment and about emptiness and all those sort of things. That is what it is all about: Can you step out of all that is already defined?
Maybe you don’t considerate it important, but it is very important. It is much more important than getting rid of your fears or a frustration or whatever. This is the point: can you step out of it?
Can you see that this is important? That is the beginning. Can you see that it is important to step out of that? That means : can you realise how important it is to know nothing?
All your arguments originate in your knowledge. You enlarge that endlessly, your whole life long. This, what appears to be knowledge, can expand indefinitely, but that doesn’t mean anything: one person knows a lot, another a little less, but those are all just gradations of an illusion.
Can you realise what I’m talking about? Can you dwell on that, this one point: can I step out of it?
Can you carry this question around? Of course you never get an answer. Of all the answers that come up you know right away that that’s not it, it comes from what you already know. I could also say: can you stand it to keep this question with you and not complain, not say: “O, how difficult this is, how does it work?”
If you give all this attention for a long time and you let this question be present in your life under all circumstances: you’re happy, you’re unhappy, you’re afraid, you’re sad, you have a feeling of victory, you have a feeling of satisfaction, you are ill – is that question under all those circumstances still important to you? Or do you think: o, no way!
That is a lot: to take this question with you in all circumstances. Most of the time life overwhelms you a little. I know of lives of people who hardly have a chance to get to this question because they have to go on and on to make a living, else they just don’t have to eat.
So, in a certain way it is a luxury situation when you can dwell on this question. But if you have this luxury, if you can, then do it.
Can you let that sink in? Can you take that question along? Because else nothing essential can happen, then you just repeat the same thing over and over in different versions. Without this conscious question in you, every new experience only confirms the previous experiences. That’s the way it goes. And what it was all about was to get out of that whole area.
Then the question arises: are there situations in my life in which I actually don’t think? Look for those situations, situations without some kind of tremendous explosion of feelings, anger or something like that, because in that case you just get swept along, that’s the way it is.
You end up at very simple things. In fact you end up staying in your center, just feeling you’re there, that’s all.
So, my advice is: during the day try to ease down into your center as often as possible, nothing else. Don’t think: where shall I get to, and: is that alright, and: what did that person say and what did the other one say. Simply forget all instructions, forget it all. Just ease yourself down into your center.
The longer you can stay there, the better. That very simple fact can change your life for a big part, and it can give you an increasing feeling of the unreality of your normal life. That means, it can keep clarifying to you that you live in an illusion and that everything you experience reinforces that illusion.
That is quite something, because when you get that feeling, then a lot of what you’re bothered about is not that important anymore, it gets a different value. You don’t have to do anything special, you don’t have to read books for that, nothing. By returning to your center you get that odd feeling that you live in an illusion – and of course you will have to live partly in this illusion, because everyone around you lives in exactly the same way. For you however it is not a reality anymore. You start to notice that it shifts, all the values in your life are shifting.
It happened to me as a very young boy. In the evening , I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, the storytelling ‘baboe’ told me beautiful stories from the Hindu mythical epic of the Mahabharata. Often those were very gruesome stories. Of course she noticed – she was already an old lady – that I got frightened, sometimes I cried. Then she said: “Yes, that story is like that, but there is also a different story and it belongs to it as well.” Then she told the same story , but in a totally different way.
When you experience that every night, four years in a row, you realise that the way you experience it is of importance. So, there is not one original, true story, what matters is the way it is told, the way in which it becomes ‘real ‘ to you.
We all are in the position of that little boy who hears all those stories about gods and demons. Only, the stories we hear are much more subdued, more bare. But in essence it is exactly the same.
The idea of God, all those things, are a way to make something clear that you really can’t make clear, that you can only realise. We all know that in lots of religions abominable heavy subjects come up: that you are born in sin and not able to do anything right – who doesn’t know it. Where do they get it from?
The only reality is the reality you experience. That reality experience is determined by everything you already experienced, you realise that as well.
So, it is essential to reach zero. That is maybe a possibility to experience reality, that which is not translated in our consciousness. Then only very simple matters remain, as returning to your center again and again.
The ability that lets you do that each time anew is insight.
If it is an ideal for you, you better not even bother starting. You really have to perceive what it is all about. And then become aware as well of the fact that we are incredibly privileged people. I really mean that; we can occupy ourselves with these matters!
Especially because we occupy ourselves with this, we create so much nonsense, we actually want our illusion to be more ideal. We want to be happy, we want to be liberated, you name it. That is all part of the illusion.
We do have the opportunity to give attention to these matters. As we are sitting here, all of us, we have the chance. Of course it is obvious that you can make a start in a week like this, but you’ll have to do it daily. Don’t think about it, just do it! Whenever possible, ease into your center. You know that when you sink into it deeply, there is nothing anymore. And if something does come up, a thought for instance, you’re not tied to it any longer, you can return again to your center.
I guarantee you that when you do this, your life changes, your reality experience changes.
You can come up with all kinds of similar activities, where you only act in a very calm and tranquil way. You feel the sequence of the acts, you feel how one activity flows into the next one, and in the meantime you’re silent. You didn’t need any practice for that. It is just usual life – with insight.
Then a new journey begins, a second journey.
To use a word that is popular nowadays in politics: your world vision is being recalibrated. And that benchmark shifts, that is so interesting. In politics that benchmark is fixed once and for all, and then the game begins. However, the benchmark in yourself shifts, it shifts according to the degree of carrying along this one question: can I step out of it? That way you put into action a process that feeds itself. The only necessity being that you pay attention.
You’ll notice that attention is disturbed repeatedly . The stories I hear from you are really all about that disturbance. And I’m very patient and sweet and I answer all of it, but I should say: nonsense, if you’re being disturbed, it means something is off, that this question is not yet very important to you, if it was then you can be disturbed.
There are difficulties of course, that is clear, but they are not problems, not something you get trapped in. A difficulty can even be so great that you see for yourself: now I can’t solve it. When you are in such a position, ahead of you there is a problem you can’t solve, what do you do? Most of the time you harp about it. But when you really see it, you let go of it, then you say: “Now it can’t be done.” Just like you don’t say to the rain: ”Stop, I want to go out”, do you ? There are circumstances which make something impossible. When you realise something is really impossible – it is gone.
This is connected to that question. Because you know it is a matter of consciousness – it is not only a matter of the events in the world, of your present position, but as well and in the last resort only a matter of your consciousness.
Actually it is the other way around: all the difficulties you meet are possibilities to penetrate deeper into this matter, and not to be busy more than necessary. That is the foundation of getting to know yourself. Then you no longer childishly condemn yourself, then you no longer say: “Yes, but I have to do this like this, and that in that way…” – that goes without saying, because it is not important anymore.
A while ago I heard somebody say: “I practice meditation nowadays, but I think it is very hard.”
I asked: “What is so hard about it?” “Yes,” he answered, “nothing is right anymore.”
Then I was truly amazed. Isn’t that fantastic that nothing is right anymore? That shows how stuck you are , the moment you discover something you say: “It is so hard because it isn’t right, it doesn’t correspond.” Yes, what doesn’t it correspond with? With your illusion!
So the feeling of living in an illusion is very important. Of course right alongside there is an enormous pitfall, you might think I want to get rid of this illusion. And that is jolly well impossible. It is only possible to see it, to be aware of it. Then something can change. But you cannot change the illusion from the ego point of view. Yes, you can change the shape of that illusion, but the illusion will keep existing.
We know it, there are x possibilities to work yourself into a coma and to discipline yourself, and to say: “I have to sit so many hours and I have to do this and I have to do that.” All illusion.
When you come to see that, you won’t start that fight against windmills, then you realise that you can only try to be nothing – nothing, surely not something important; and then there might be a possibility for something to happen. However, you can’t force it, you can’t want it, you can’t make it happen. It has to come about, and that happens only on account of you working with that insight and embracing everything that brings that insight. And it calmly continues, you don’t have to wait for anybody, that is so wonderful, all you have to do is go on, carrying that question in you. That is the motor.
That is an incredible force, an unbelievable force, greater than everything you intend to do or everything you want. It is unparalleled. It just lifts you out of that old life you made such a big fuss about. And – you flop back into it again. Of course, that’s because you’re an imperfect mortal.
It is very amusing that it is seldom mentioned that seers fall back. However, I assure you they do, else they wouldn’t be people.
When you start to live with this, your life changes by itself, you don’t have to do anything for it. It is not at all dramatic and it is surely not spectacular, but it changes continuously, every day anew, on and on.
You notice that a lot doesn’t correspond, but it can’t frighten you any longer, it is part of it.
What is described most of the time in novels and other books – millions, maybe billions of books – is the situation of the limited mind, the mind which is imprisoned in his own experiences. This is about something totally different, so you can’t take them as an example anymore.
The nice thing is that, being here, we can support each other in this. It is clear of course that when you get released from the illusion a little bit, you are standing alone. Then it can be pleasant now and then to meet people who also realise they live in that illusion. Without talking a lot about it, but you can sense that. That is the meaning of coming together.
Then you start to discover as well that everything is very different concerning the seemingly unfathomable division of birth and death. It is not true that a child is born – and before that time there was nothing. Then every seed falling on the earth and sprouting would be the same: first there was nothing, then there is a seed. Do you believe that? So it is the same with a child. And so it is with dying as well.
When you become a little familiar with the feeling of living in an illusion, your world expands. You also start to have more compassion for yourself. Compassion in the way of seeing that you’re made the way you are and that you are in a certain situation and in that situation impossibilities occur. You don’t resist them, but you say: “Hey, what could that be, what does that actually mean?“
From your illusion, from your ego, you say: “That’s not right, I have to change that right now, there we go.”
But when you get this clear, you’ll ask even more questions. Then you realise as well that for some questions you can’t ask advice to anybody, you face it on your own; apparently you have reached a point that you have to solve it alone.
That is a very privileged position; isn’t that wonderful, you have come that far that you have to solve it on your own! Then our deep rooted inclination for asking questions, like ‘couldn’t it be done differently?’, has disappeared. You didn’t put any effort into it, it happens by itself. Then you realise: I have to come to understand myself.
Because there is of course a time when a human being faces the very last moment. Without us wanting it, it happens when we die, but then it is most of the time already quite a bit late. It is of course much more pleasant to occupy yourself with this before that last moment.
If you do want to speak about a reward: the reward of being nothing is immense.
– Question: This is the way life is as well: you live in a certain illusion, and the liberation of that illusion is that you notice that all those factors can all get different interpretations, so you don’t get stuck in a certain piece of illusion. Then you still stay in the illusion but it feels as if there is movement. For me that continual shifting is something that gives some air all along.
– Answer: Yes, that is true. However, it also enlarges the feeling for the illusion. And that tempts you more and more to be nothing, if only for five minutes. We’re talking about the feeling you have, that while you represent the illusion and are in the illusion, nothing essential can happen. That’s why you would like to be nothing. You can’t force that, you can’t plan that, you can only create certain situations in your life that come close to this possibility. Amongst others that is the case while you’re in your center and nowhere else.
– Question: But that goes against your nature.
– Answer: It goes against your ego, it is too simple. And yet it is that simple. And after a while, living with this question “can I step out of the illusion?”, you’ll start to like it. Then it is no longer a task to just sit, or to stand, or to lie down, thus being in your center only. That is the next step. The funny thing is that the more you realise you live in an illusion and everyone around you too, the more compassion you have for the people around you. So you become very gentle. It is quite something to realise that you’re living in an illusion, that is something tremendous. For a big part it makes life also lighter. There are no longer so terribly many heavy things, compared to this. Also you’ll start to realise that you have a luxury position to be able to give attention to these matters, that you don’t have to work from dawn till dusk to save your skin.
– Question: How do you know that returning to your center is not an illusion as well?
– Answer: There are certain experiences of which you know for sure they’re not an illusion. When you put your finger in a glass with boiling water, then it is not an illusion that you burn your finger. That is a fact. As long as you think it is an illusion, you are in a preliminary stage. This is the resistance of the ego. Because arriving at your center is the end of the ego. Ego doesn’t want that, so it whispers in your ear: “Isn’t that an illusion?” That happens to all of us, without exception.
It is such a real experience, it is more real than anything you have experienced so far. And when you ask for guarantees, then I can only say this about it: as long as it is an image… It has no image, it is a presence.
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