Huissen July 1995 | Saturday
Speech (in Dutch) [download]
Yesterday we paid attention to that peculiar phenomenon of not being able to live from within, that is to say, without ulterior motives. Ulterior motives are not bad in themselves, but you can observe that you act all day long, even when you’re inactive, out of a reaction to things you encountered, to things you have learned, to things others have told you, to rules you made up or to external rules.
You notice with regard to other people, especially concerning people you see a lot – members of your family, colleagues at work – that you develop an attitude towards them in which you persist. That makes it impossible for you, while the other person is undergoing a change, to change along.
I don’t know if you realise what that means. It means you don’t relate to the other person as he changes, but as you once saw him. In this way we hold each other tight and we all do it. We keep each other in the same spot because we are unable to change along.
It is clear that everything that belongs to time, which is transitory, changes. And we are transient, we go by and pass away at a certain moment. For some that is still quite a way off, for others it is closer by. This is a fact and we all know it. Yet we behave as if it isn’t true, we pretend as if we’ll always continue to live and in the same way.
Can you find out why that is? Can you get into contact with that peculiar fact that you don’t change, that you stay in the same spot? Not only that, by staying in the same spot you keep others in the same spot as well. That goes both ways of course.
There is no use thinking about it. The only thing that makes a difference is when you can detect this in yourself over and over again. Then a change can take place. Because it is not an easy thing to be variable, consciously variable. It starts within yourself, it starts when you notice something inside of you wants to change. It doesn’t change, but it wants to. To be able to notice that, you shouldn’t of course be occupied all the time with the ordinary daily things that ask your attention. As long as you occupy yourself with that, nothing can change, then you keep repeating the same thing over and over.
Naturally changes do take place. The world also changes constantly, techniques change, society changes. But if you are dependent on that we still need thousands of years to get to ourselves, to realise who we really are. That is the very slow development that happens naturally, already millions of years. This slow, sluggish development is subconscious. We are taken along by it, just as the plants, the animals, the minerals, and all living things. That is the incredibly powerful, huge evolution of the universe, of creation. We are part of that and we are flowing with it if we want to or not.
The human being however has gotten the opportunity to become conscious of himself. This is something unbelievable. We realise this very seldom, but it is incredible that we can become conscious of ourselves, that we can become aware of our place in this huge totality. As we become aware of ourselves in the endless totality, we drift apart from the definite part we slipped into when we were born, when we just appeared from the indefinite, from the totality, undefined – we couldn’t name it, we couldn’t say a word about it, the only thing we could do was to be it.
From the indefinite we found our way into the world, with a certain couple of parents, in a certain environment, in a certain society, in a certain culture, with a certain belief, with a certain religious persuasion. That is our history, of all of us, without exception.
What we are only conscious of is how we found a place in all of these definite aspects of life. The way we look at ourselves, even the way we experience ourselves originates already in the definite, conditioned part of our life, in various ways.
So the question is always over and over again: can we become aware of ourselves as part of the indefinite, undefined totality?
There have been a few in the history of mankind who said: “Yes, it is possible!” They have spoken about it and have also given instructions of how we should become aware of this. Those were written down and carried further as an inspiration which we now call the great religions, the big religious movements.
However, in this process of reproduction the definite human being sneaked in, which we already were 2000, 4000 and 10,000 years ago as well as now. The original words of the few people who had the experiences are lost because the words went on a journey through the translation mechanism of the consciousness of the people who heard them. You have to be well aware of that. You can hardly say: “Buddha has said…”or : “Christ has said….” What do you know about it? You only have the writings that were handed down through the ages. You don’t have the core of the tradition. You don’t have the word from the moment it left the mouth of the one who spoke it. Neither do you know the feeling, the reality that went with it. Letters, sentences, concepts is all you’ve got.
It is a very long way to arrive at yourself via these means, because they were all people who handed down this tradition. So what matters is that you have to get there on your own. That means you have to enter with the consciousness you have now, which means it is first of all necessary to realise who you are, how you have become this way. How you look at things, how you listen, how you think, how you feel. This is a very profound matter. It goes much deeper than the question if you’re feeling good or if things go well for you.
So knowing all this, be aware of the importance to get at yourself in a friendly, natural, relaxed way. Are you able, especially when it is about getting to know yourself, to approach yourself not with grim determination but with gentleness?
You can’t force it. You can only approach it very carefully, the way you would with someone you love a lot – not a passing romance, but someone you truly love. Has it ever happened in your life that you loved someone so much there wasn’t anything else you wished for? Well, how do you approach that person? How perceptive are you? How do you try to read what is happening inside that person? Not from the point of Christian duty, not from all that nonsense, but only because you have a real interest. That is the necessary approach when you want to get to know yourself. Can you have that longing to really get to know this person you love so much, aimed at yourself?
Then you can no longer refer to books, you can’t say anymore: “That one and that one have said this and that,” or “That one and that one have said: in this case you shall do such and such.” You realise you can’t fall back on that anymore. I don’t know if you understand what that means when you realise you’re on your own?
In our part of the world you were taught you are not very important, the other person is so important. This is really a crying shame, because of that we have the feeling the important thing is always over there and not here, the world is important, the other person, not you. That’s why you have forgotten how you relate to the world, how you behave. Even if you already realise how you behave, then immediately there are codes of conduct that say: “You shouldn’t be like this, you should be like that.”
What I’m talking about right now is the everyday reality of life. You can’t even get a clear look at yourself, because as soon as you see your own behavior, there is immediately a whole load of rules and codes as well. And you’re not aware of their existence. That is so ludicrous about it, you’re not conscious of all these codes while they do their job.
So you confuse yourself constantly with the rules and behaviors of the outside world – not from within yourself, but from the outside. You even try to become conscious of who you are in the same way.
Can you let go of all these obstructions? Can you drop them, let them slide out of your hands? Can you really see how artificial you are, and that you’re still unfamiliar with this being that is so alive deep inside of you, which you don’t really know yet? Can you realise that and yet not be sad or despondent about it? Can you be happy when you come to the conclusion that this is the way you have become through time? Can you be grateful or at least not angry to the people who shaped you with the best intentions? It is necessary. It is a very understandable reaction to be angry or resentful when you discover how you were remodelled, while they meant no harm.
Can you keep listening to that unknown part of you which is still alive, which is still there, still not broken, still not made into something else, still not fit into something, which is still free, still breathing, breathing freely? Can you give that part a chance in your life?
Can you then also keep realising that it is quite something, to give a chance to that human being who breathes freely, who is you?
In this profound process of awakening you will of course notice over and over again, that you slide back into that familiar human being who knows everything already – he thinks – who goes his own, same, old way.
Can you love that person who slides back or do you condemn him? If you condemn him the game is over, then nothing can happen anymore. When you understand why he slides back, because that is his normal position, that’s how he grew up – if you understand that, just as you do with a little child or the one you love very much, then you have forgiven it. You see before you why it is happening and also that it is happening to everyone around you and you have already forgiven it before the thought of disapproval came up.
This is very natural, but it is not the way we treat ourselves. We are incredible judges concerning ourselves: “We didn’t do that right and we didn’t do that right, next time I’ll do better!” Every time we contract ourselves like that and put a lot of energy into it, we are only confirming our invariability. Such is our life.
In order to give the life we live a chance to change from the bottom up, we have to be alert and loving.
People, this is not just a personal problem, this is the world problem, this is the problem of the whole world! If we can’t leave behind the prison we built ourselves, with the help of others, we stay being prisoners, we stay being slaves. We’re not meant to be slaves. We’re meant to be free!
You understand very well what I mean with ‘being free’. There are of course very many, very specific restrictions. We are of such and such an age, we live in this or that situation, and we live together with this one or that one or we live by ourselves. Those are the real facts. But that is not what I’m talking about. What I mean is how we experience ourselves, how we are in the middle of these actual facts and restrictions. Because that determines how we feel, that determines how our life is at the core of our being. That is not being determined by those restrictions.
This week I hope we can explore a little bit how to deal with these actual restrictions in order to get to that unknown part in ourselves. This is really what meditation is about. That is much more complicated than making rules, as was always the case, in all the religious movements, if it is Zen or any other. Always you notice: first rules are put up and you have to comply to them, and after you have done that everything can start. But that is something awful!
Why can’t you, just the way you are, become aware of all this in an infinitely more subtle way, to see what takes place inside of you, outside of you, in the other person? Why should you first learn all kinds of things – sometimes a huge amount, a kind of barrier you have to break through – to arrive at the most natural thing in the world, that is to say, a sense of self? It is of course very clear that all those rules that exist, can never accommodate perfectly that human being which you are. That is clear as daylight! Otherwise you stay on the outside, then you keep approaching yourself from the point of view of Mr. John Doe or Mrs. Jane Doe and that won’t work.
Can we examine, very carefully, very gently, all those things that define our life, and in which ourselves in the deepest sense are hardly ever present? Can we go into all that for the sake of that very small part of us, that self which breathes freely and is very much alive?
We can always try. Every time we try something in this way as I mean now, something will happen. That is really wonderful, something always happens, so no time goes to waste! Although what happens might not be what you hoped for, but that is a different matter. What you hope for is of the old human being who thinks he knows everything so well, and who is in a terrible mess.
Something always happens – if you actually try.