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#73 Non-Duality, by Dr. Greg Goode

Posted: February 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Life | 6 Comments »

(These articles when read slowly can give you a much, much clearer understanding of their message than if you were to just skim through the words. I hope you’ll find them entertaining. Please enjoy.)

No Separation

Years ago, there was lots and lots of vigilance in my life. Before and during spiritual seeking, I wasn’t badly suffering or in pain or unhappy with circumstances in life or stuck in dysfunctional patterns. Instead, I felt a deep sense of loneliness, alienation, lack of fulfillment, and a strong yearning from the heart and mind to know “What is it all about? What is the purpose of life? What happens after? What are all these mystical truths that are spoken of? Where is fulfillment to be found?” I was very vigilant about it.

Going back 30+ years, I tried many, many different paths, from Ayn Rand’s icy “Rational Selfishness” to the strictness and ecstasy of Born-Again Pentacostal Christianity. Years later, this all settled down to an intense inquiry.

For about 5 years, one question kept itself rooted in front of me. “What is the core of me?” I couldn’t help it – I’d ponder this in every spare moment the mind wasn’t engaged in something else. It was a sweet and relentless yearning. I really wanted to burrow into the deepest secrets of this. After a few years, the question refined itself. “What or where is this choosing, willing entity that seems to be in evidence?” “Is that the me?” “But where is it?”

The answer came one day while I was reading a book about consciousness. I was standing on the Grand Central subway platform during the evening rush hour, and the answer came. It didn’t come as a conceptual statement like “It is ABC.” Rather, it came by way of the world and the body imploding into a brilliant light, and the willing, phenomenal self thinning out, disappearing in a blaze of the same light. No separation was experienced; no time or space was experienced, yet I knew myself as the seeing itself. All “willings,” “desirings,” “thoughts” and other mentations were deeply experienced as spontaneous arisings in awareness, happening around no fixed point or location. And it wasn’t personal. Not only the entity “Greg,” but all apparent personal entities dissolved.

Out of nowhere, lightness, sweetness, brightness, and a fluidity of the world became qualities of everything, and became one with all experiences. My long-standing question had vanished along with what I had believed was “me.” There arose resiliency, joy, and an untouchable happiness.

This experience uncovered the realization that without the conceptual structures that make things seem real, there is no presumption of a separate center. There is no suffering and no basis for suffering. There is no feeling that things should be different than they are. This is a sense of peace far beyond what happens when we get what we dream about.

-=-=-=–=-=-=–=-=-=-

Free Will and Freedom

The question of free will is from the perspective of the person. Does the person have free will? Many of the person’s actions are forced or determined by factors over which it has no control. Some of these actions are accompanied by the feeling of being lived, of being in the flow, in the “zone.” People often count these as the best times. But are at least some of the person’s decisions and actions freely chosen? To establish free will, as is discussed in Philosophy 101 classes everywhere, it is not necessary to show that every action is free. Even one free action would be sufficient.

Case 1:
“Will that be coffee or tea?”
“Hmmm, let me think…. I’ll have tea, thanks.”

Case 2:
(Thought bubble rising:) “I’d love to take a walk in the beautiful woods. I’d like to surround myself with peace and serenity and inquire into my true nature.” (Putting on hiking boots, opening the camper door and stepping out), “Here I go.”

From the perspective of the person, if the decision process is not analyzed, the actions and decisions in both cases above seem to be perfect examples of free will. Upon analysis however, a free action and a free chooser cannot be found. A thought comes, followed by a desire, followed by a decision, followed by an action. Tracing backwards, the action is controlled by the decision, the decision is controlled by the desire, the desire is prompted by the thought. The thought arises spontaneously, itself unbidden, un-asked-for, unchosen. First the thought is not there, then it is. Nowhere in this process can a free will be found. Nowhere can a freely-acting chooser be found.

It is even too much to say that the actions, decisions, desires and thoughts can control or prompt each other. These cause-and-effect dynamics are not even observed. Rather, they arise as inferences and conclusions about what happened, that is, they arise as thoughts that rise and fall.

In something like Case 1, the decision might even be accompanied by a small feeling of freedom, lightness, and spaciousness. And maybe also accompanied by a thought, “I’m choosing tea but I could freely choose coffee instead.” But the feeling of freedom and the thought “I could” also arise unbidden. That is, the feeling of freedom is not freely chosen.

The person is not the locus of freedom.

The person and the rest of the world cannot be found apart from the awareness in which all things appear. The person, the mind, body and world arise as thoughts, feelings, and sensations. These are nothing other than objects in awareness, and are nothing other than awareness itself. The person does not experience; the person is experienced. As awareness, we are That to which these objects appear. Thoughts, feelings, sensations – these objects arise from the background of silent awareness, they subsist in awareness, and they slip back into awareness. The awareness in which they appear is not itself an object but the background of all objects. It is our true nature. But the objects come and go unbidden, without autonomy. They are powerless and cannot do anything on their own. Objects cannot possess or contain freedom.

Is there freedom?

The silent awareness in which all objects appear is the true nature of all things. Awareness says YES to everything. Even if a NO arises, awareness says YES to the NO. Awareness is without resistance, without limits or edges, without refusal and without obstruction. Awareness is not free, it is freedom itself. What we truly are is not the person but this awareness, this freedom.

The person wants to co-opt this freedom, to own it, to behold it, to be present to use and enjoy it. But in spite of this desire from the perspective of the person, the person can never own That in which the person appears.

What about teachings that emphasize free will?

Entire religions and ethical systems are based on this idea. Ramana Maharshi told a questioner that all actions are determined except the ability to inquire into one’s true nature. Isn’t Case 2 above different from Case 1?

Sometimes teachings and exhortations about personal freedom are a beautiful, effective and necessary step for freedom from the idea of being a person. A person who prematurely adopts a “no-free-will” teaching can lapse into depression and antinomian behavior. “You have to be someone before you can be no one.” The teachings on free will borrow from the freedom that we are. Among the many objects that arise in the mirror of awareness, some objects arise as images of mirrors. These images are taken as representations of their source. Like a mirror appearing in a mirror, Ramana’s teaching serves as a pointer to freedom. Case 2 is not different in this respect from Case 1. As objects, all cases and their characters, and all teachings and all discourse (even this one!) are not themselves free or self-powered, but they arise from freedom and consist in freedom.

The person is never free.

As awareness, we are never bound.

-=-=-=-

Physical Objects Disappear!

George Berkeley’s THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS is a remarkable book. It is a short, well written set of dialogues, arguing in exemplary style that there can be no external physical objects which are somehow perceived by our sensory apparatus.

And over 20 years ago, it had the most amazing effect on the globality of my experience.

Who is Berkeley? You know that old philosophical question about the tree in the forest, would it make a sound if no one were there to hear it? He’s the guy in the 18th century who answered “No.” Berkeley argued tirelessly that there is no external physical substance. Our thoughts do not point to external objects like rocks and automobiles. Rocks and automobiles do not cause our thoughts.

When I was in grad school going for a philosophy doctorate, my teacher Colin Murray Turbayne was acknowledged as one of the world’s great Berkeley scholars. But to get a good grade in his class, you could never write anything against Berkeley. So we had to study Berkeley really carefully, because his ideas sounded so utterly unintuitive, crazy really. But after several months, they began to make sense.

One day after a lot of reading, Berkeley’s arguments crystalized, and it felt like a fog cleared from my mind. The feelings and convictions about supposed external objects vanished! The concepts of material substance and the attandant inside/outside distinction vanished. Nor were they necessary to explain our experiences. I was shaking with excitement, and not just because I thought I’d now get an “A” in Professor Turbayne’s class.

I went to Professor Turbayne’s office. He instantly saw that something was different. He looked questioningly at me, and I could only nod. He smiled and said, “Aha! Now go write about it!”

Since that time, over two decades years ago, the inside/outside disctinction has been useless to me. The notion of “material substance” has been just like the notion of “Santa Claus.” And amazingly enough, the dissolution of these notions has made it easier for me to interact in what is often called the physical world. Because I haven’t seen anything as physical for decades, there has been no fear factor. I learned to rollerblade and ride a bicycle with no brakes in the traffic-filled streets of New York City.

Perceptions that are usually called “physical” occur as a kind of language that has no inside or outside, where each concept refers to other concepts in a growing and consistent way. But there’s nothing Out There to which any of these ideas refer.

In my case, it was an excellent shake-up, like a mental Vege-matic blender, preparing me for non-dualist teachings.

-=-=-=-

To know more about Dr. Greg Goode and his work, please visit: http://www.heartofnow.com/files/links.html

Physical Objects Disappear!

George Berkeley’s THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS is a remarkable book. It is a short, well written set of dialogues, arguing in exemplary style that there can be no external physical objects which are somehow perceived by our sensory apparatus.

And over 20 years ago, it had the most amazing effect on the globality of my experience.

Who is Berkeley? You know that old philosophical question about the tree in the forest, would it make a sound if no one were there to hear it? He’s the guy in the 18th century who answered “No.” Berkeley argued tirelessly that there is no external physical substance. Our thoughts do not point to external objects like rocks and automobiles. Rocks and automobiles do not cause our thoughts.

When I was in grad school going for a philosophy doctorate, my teacher Colin Murray Turbayne was acknowledged as one of the world’s great Berkeley scholars. But to get a good grade in his class, you could never write anything against Berkeley. So we had to study Berkeley really carefully, because his ideas sounded so utterly unintuitive, crazy really. But after several months, they began to make sense.

One day after a lot of reading, Berkeley’s arguments crystalized, and it felt like a fog cleared from my mind. The feelings and convictions about supposed external objects vanished! The concepts of material substance and the attandant inside/outside distinction vanished. Nor were they necessary to explain our experiences. I was shaking with excitement, and not just because I thought I’d now get an “A” in Professor Turbayne’s class.

I went to Professor Turbayne’s office. He instantly saw that something was different. He looked questioningly at me, and I could only nod. He smiled and said, “Aha! Now go write about it!”

Since that time, over two decades years ago, the inside/outside disctinction has been useless to me. The notion of “material substance” has been just like the notion of “Santa Claus.” And amazingly enough, the dissolution of these notions has made it easier for me to interact in what is often called the physical world. Because I haven’t seen anything as physical for decades, there has been no fear factor. I learned to rollerblade and ride a bicycle with no brakes in the traffic-filled streets of New York City.

Perceptions that are usually called “physical” occur as a kind of language that has no inside or outside, where each concept refers to other concepts in a growing and consistent way. But there’s nothing Out There to which any of these ideas refer.

In my case, it was an excellent shake-up, like a mental Vege-matic blender, preparing me for non-dualist teachings.

-=-

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6 Comments on “#73 Non-Duality, by Dr. Greg Goode”

  1. 1 kirk crist said at 9:03 pm on February 23rd, 2010:

    for the life of me i cannot understqand why the thought ‘i would like to take a walk’ is not one of free choosing. i look at the woods think about them and then i decide to walk in them
    i am sorry but it seems to me that manny non-dual teachers [greg goode, rupert spira] reall y bend the laws of logic to fit their premise and therefore their conclusions for instance i freely chose to write and email this opinion now.

    Author’s reply:
    I agree. With the conventional way of thinking, I couldn’t agree more. The reason why I accepted nonduality is because I’ve eventually inquired far enough.

    More often than not, people accept what they have been told, without inquiring further into the truth of a situation. For example – we believe in the free will of choosing what to do. The question is: Where is this free will coming from?

    If you think it came from the brain, the brain is just matter. In science, it’s just referred to as a machine that interprets/works with electromagnetic waves. By itself, it’s like a chip in a computer – without electricity, it’s a static object that serves no purpose. If you’d research into the source of matter, you’d find out that everything is energy. Even atom – magnified down into its core, is just energy that appears from and disappears into nothingness constantly. In other words, despite seeing your body as a solid object, emptiness is actually its base. You may even have learned that your body when you’re 30 is a completely different body than when you’re 10. So where is this you who created thoughts?

    Then, we have people who believe in the existence of the soul as religions refer to the word. However, are you satisfied with the explanation that free will is generated from the soul? Is it a belief, or is it the truth?

    Given the choice, which of the previous two options would you prefer to know more about?

    Back to your view about free will. I had the same belief, until I realize how many things are not within my control. e.g. You’re rushing for work. Once you’re out of the home, you realize you forgot your keys. Now, did you, as the person with free will, planned to forget about taking your keys beforehand?

    If you believe that you came up with your thoughts, then where do your thoughts come from? Did they – appear out of nowhere? If this is the case, can you prove me wrong when I say that they may not come from the character named as [your name], but is served to you from somewhere?

    That they have arisen, but not created?

    When you try not to fear, but nervousness still arise, did you will the circumstance to happen?

    You mentioned that the few authors above have bended logic to their premise.

    What if because of classic conditioning, we have accepted a faulty premise and thus bended all logic?

    We can hold on tightly onto our age-old beliefs, which could be based nowhere close to truth. Or we can simply be present and observe, with clarity, what is nearer to it. We can believe a movie is real, or we can see it as it is, and work on what counts.

    All I did was ask questions that allow me to do more of that.

    Some people may not want to do ask these questions.

    And even that, by itself, is not wrong after all.

    Because at the end of the day, no one is ever wrong.

    It is all perfect.

  2. 2 Ted Snyder said at 2:22 pm on February 24th, 2010:

    Just stopped by, by accident, and could not help but feel sorry for you. Please do not continue this ridiculous line of thought. You are wasting your life away with constant thought about thought. I had no idea that there was a group of people wasting time and energy on such thinking. The politicians must love the idea that people would waste their time away in such a fashion. Please for the sake of your own sanity and your usefulness to others stop wasting time and do something. It is plain that you are well read, but you have read all the wrong books and sought for all the wrong answers.
    Read the Bible again and this time look for your self there. Then regardless of what you think do something for someone. Bake some cookies for the widow downstairs or volunteer in your local school or take a child to the park, just stop wasting time.

    Just food for thought.

    Author’s reply:

    I could almost imagine that if you bump into someone who suffers from anorexic disorders, this might be the comment that ensues:

    “Why won’t you just eat? Please do not continue this ridiculous line of thought that you’re fat. I can’t believe you’re wasting your life away with constant thought about being fat. Please for the sake of your own sanity and your usefulness to others stop wasting time and eat something. Regardless of what you think put food in your mouth and swallow it, just stop wasting time. Just food for thought.”

    If the speech healed the person on the spot just like that, great job.

    But chances are, the commenter would be ignored for being deemed shallow.

    I’m asking questions about thought because the answers may potentially solve much of the mental distresses that people are suffering from today.

    So that we can have greater understanding about life, to have peace, to have fulfillment in our hearts.

    That’s why we have doctors/psychologists/therapists who’re willing to investigate into the causes of physical/mental disorders.

    The purpose is to figure out ways to solve the problems that we face.

    Sorry, but I’d have to deny your advice for its depth.

    On the topic of the bible – my father’s a pastor. I’ve lived decades of years as a Christian, in a strict Christian environment. Surely, I have reasons why I eventually steered away from the book. If you’re interested to know why by any reason, check out my blog post titled “#70 Religions and the Theory of Oneness”. It’d explain more.

    In the end – reading your comment, I can only wonder what the book(s) you’ve read have taught you.

  3. 3 Him said at 3:12 am on February 27th, 2010:

    In the course of history, difference of opinions will always be present.

    My intention for these posts are meant to inform, and not push any opinions to others.

    If others feel the need to push their opinions onto another, I can only say:

    Prove yourself right. Convince me of your truth. Because otherwise, you’ll only establish evidence in your ignorance.

    Anyways, the way I see it – all opinions are part of the play.

    In the course of history, the difference of opinions will always be present.

    My intention for these posts are meant to inform, and not to push any opinions onto others.

    For people who feel the need to push their opinions onto me, I can only say:

    Prove yourself right.

    Convince me of your truth.

    Because otherwise, you’ll only establish evidence in your ignorance.

    Anyways, the way I see it –

    All opinions are part of the play.

    And it looks like I’ve been writing to entertain it.

  4. 4 Shack Toms said at 12:40 am on May 15th, 2010:

    I agree with you that awareness is the foundation. This realization happened to me in the late 70s, while I was in the shower. I won’t go into details, but the realization of this was somehow both completely life-changing and completely a non-event. After all, reality doesn’t change when we realize this, only our understanding changes. If I learn the truth about how my car works (either the intermediate truth of the mechanics of it or the ultimate truth that it is a manifestation in and of awareness), it does not change the way I drive–at least the change is subtle.

    I also agree with you that we have no control over our destinies, indeed the question of “our” destiny is a little funny–like watching a movie and thinking of the destiny of the protagonist as being “our” destiny. And it is our destiny, in a way, despite our lack of control.

    Until recently, however, I didn’t know that the understanding that awareness was fundamental is actually a fairly widespread realization. My background was in Physics, not Philosophy. I knew that my friends accused me of seeing the world completely the wrong way around, and they expressed some surprise that this didn’t interfere with my ability to function. “You know if you listen to Shack, he seems rational, but his conclusions are entirely absurd!” Of course, while they just knew one person (me) who lived “upside down”, to me it seemed that the whole world was living upside down–by absurdly treating awareness as arising out of the objective rather than seeing the objective as arising within awareness.

    Where others saw reality as an interaction of large numbers of parts, to me reality was necessarily grounded in a unity, without parts. Awareness was at least an attribute of this unity (and perhaps it was the foundational unity itself). Awareness was prior to any material manifestation.

    I was also fortunate in stumbling on to Berkeley at some point. I see no conflict between these ideas and Christianity. Berkeley was, after all, a bishop. But that is another side-track.

    In any case, last year my wife noticed a course description for a class on Advaita offered by Stanley Sobottka (whom I think you know), and she mentioned to me that it seemed very related to the views of reality that I had been talking about. I have been very happy to find that the “upside down” perspective is not unique, but is shared by a great many others, who have been very helpful to me in exploring and enjoying life lived from the perspective of transcendent awareness (i.e. transcendent of any object within awareness).

    Of course, there are some ideas that I have developed in my isolation that don’t jibe with that wider understanding–what Stanley refers to as my “sandcastles”–but until my understanding changes, I don’t think I have a choice but to believe that which I think is true. But at least these difficulties point to places where I might benefit from further investigation.

    A difficulty I have with what you wrote here is that it seems to disparage the manifestation as being some kind of flimsy illusion. I agree that it is not material or external, but to me it is not a “mere” arising in awareness, it is rather a fundamental property of awareness that this happens. At least it self-evidently does happen. When I kick a rock, my toe really does hurt! That is real. Even if the toe is, essentially, a dream toe and the rock is a dream rock, the perception of the toe, the rock, and the pain are all real and self-evident. Their immateriality does not take away from their reality (quite the contrary, in fact).

    This relates to a difficulty on the topic of free will. I think that my difficulty on the topic of free will has to do with its definition. It seems to me that you have taken free will to mean that an agent could have decided differently, and thus it seems you equate free will with indeterminacy.

    I agree that we are not free in that sense. However, I disagree with that definition of free will. My understanding of free will is more in line with the discussion here (See section 1, Rational Deliberation)…
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

    In this view, I think free will represents an accord between one’s choices and one’s desires. Since we do not have control over our preferences, we don’t necessarily have free will in the sense of indeterminacy, so you are correct in that sense. And we don’t have complete free will–my desiring to fly will not make it so. But there remains the question of the alignment of desire and destiny, which is related to such ideas as hope and the meaning in life.

    If I am offered my choice of ice cream, I will select the one I prefer, but I did not choose to have that preference. So I have free will to act in accord with my preference, but there is no indeterminacy because I can’t choose to have a different preference. I might toss a coin or use some other random process to select the ice cream, and that might give me indeterminacy, if the outcome of the random process is truly non-deterministic, but I don’t think that is what most people mean by free will since the outcome wouldn’t have anything to do with my desire. Or, on the other hand, indeterminacy may mean that my preference itself is decided by a random process, but so long as outcome corresponds to preference, I think that there is free will. So, by this definition, the question of “free will” is a different question from indeterminacy.

    I think this points to a different issue, however, which is more fundamental than a difference over the definition of a term. This is the issue of whether desires have reality. My suspicion is that, since desires actually arise in awareness, they are a fundamental reality in that it is the nature of awareness that desires arise in the way that they do. To me, this raises the possibility that life has meaning. The ultimate meaning is the the the satisfaction of the deepest desire, perhaps this is the attainment of bliss in awareness.

    I get the impression from what you wrote, that you see these arisings in awareness as “mere” arisings, an illusion, rather than an awesome expression of the fundamental nature of awareness. Thus, desire has no meaning and thus there is no meaningful judgment on which to base a choice. There is no meaning and there is no hope. To me, there is nothing “mere” about these arisings, they are reality (even if they don’t represent external objects), so life has real meaning and there is real hope.

    Even if we do not have free will (i.e. even if fate does not accord with desire), the mere reality of desire, of hope, is enough to give life meaning. I suspect that free will is not universal, in other words that the desire for bliss within awareness is universal but the condition is not. Thus the idea of “liberation” is also meaningful, perhaps such liberation is itself the meaning of life. Not that such liberation is a process or a journey, nevertheless it is something that happens.

    It is akin to the idea of bad faith. We may attempt bad faith, and feel that we are not free, that we are victims, but the fact of the matter is that we are free, even when we imagine that we are victims. We are free despite the fact that, in our roles as human beings, we have a fate and a history. On the other hand, there are those who seemingly truly are victims, so I have difficulty accepting that liberation is a universal condition.

    In any case, I enjoy exploring these ideas and am happy to have found your article, despite my experience of struggling with some of the ideas. It is a part of the joy.

  5. 5 Him said at 1:24 am on May 15th, 2010:

    Thank you Mr. Toms.

    I appreciate your writing this.

    Throughout the time I’ve written this article, and then until now, I have learned more things yet again.

    You will not have to accept everything I have written here, since sometimes, I realized that I wrote it out of ego, out of the chatter of the mind, out of animal insticts without knowing it.

    At the same time, I also found out that there is never an ending on this journey of knowledge here, because as time passes, I was always forced to see the world from another side.

    Indeed I agree, we post to each other to share.

    And I am grateful that you’ve shared something with me as well, without loading your opinions on anyone.

    Thank you.

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