This from Annette Nibley;
"What now? Can I tell you how to find out that you are not real? At this moment, nothing like that is arising, but perhaps it will. I don't think it's possible to tell another person how to begin or conduct this inquiry. Yours is unique, it is intimate. It is your business. What you need will come to you when you need it. If I offer a pointer, it assumes that you are "ready" to hear it like I was when I met John Wheeler. Otherwise, you'll just continue the way you are going, and you'll distort my words into something that fits your existing mental view. But just in case you really are done with looking to your mind for solutions, this would be a solid pointer:
Ask, Am I real? Look for no other information. Ask no other questions. Find out if you are real - that's all. If you are not real, then the boundary between you and the source of all life is not really there, is it? If the boundary between you and the source of all life is not really there, then you would notice yourself as the source of all life, wouldn't you?"
UG Krishnamurti. The Mystique of Enlightenment - page 7;
Q: You think, Sir, that it is not the result of the search? I ask because I have heard
that you studied philosophy, that you were associated with religious people ...
UG: You see, the search takes you away from yourself -- it is in the opposite direction
-- it has absolutely no relation.
Q: In spite of it, it has happened, not because of it?
UG: In spite of it -- yes, that's the word. All that you do makes it impossible for what
already is there to express itself. That is why I call this 'your natural state'. You're
always in that state. What prevents what is there from expressing itself in its own
way is the search. The search is always in the wrong direction, so all that you consider
very profound, all that you consider sacred, is a contamination in that consciousness.
You may not (Laughs) like the word 'contamination', but all that you consider sacred,
holy and profound is a contamination.
So, there's nothing that you can do. It's not in your hands. I don't like to use the word
'grace', because if you use the word 'grace', the grace of whom? You are not a
specially chosen individual; you deserve this, I don't know why.
If it were possible for me, I would be able to help somebody. This is something which I
can't give, because you have it. Why should I give it to you? It is ridiculous to ask for a
thing which you already have.
A question was posed to me yesterday. The person wrote: “Joan, in your interview with Rick Archer, you said that sometimes you identify as a person when, for example, hurt or anger arise. You also said you've never met anyone for whom the identification with the person has dropped away ‘forever.’ Tony Parsons says that for ‘him,’ there is no longer any sense of a person, and that it's clear that in ‘his’ body-mind, no personal identification will arise again. He also says that ‘he’ experiences no localization of consciousness. Would you be interested in addressing these points of confusion?”
Here is my response:
However we try to express this, it never quite comes out right because no words can re-present the actuality of Here / Now. The truth is that there IS no separate, independent, persisting person who is angry or hurt or misidentified as a person or for whom the sense of being a person is not happening anymore. In reality, these are ALL impersonal experiences happening to no one. Unicity is all there is.
It is very hard to speak of nonduality and so-called enlightenment or awakening or liberation without inadvertently reinforcing the illusion of the separate self or the illusion that enlightenment is some kind of permanent experience or personal achievement extended over an infinite duration in time. I don’t remember what I said in that interview or what I was trying to express at that moment, and I can’t speak for Tony Parsons, but here’s what I can say now about the underlying issues.
I spent many years comparing one person’s account and description of enlightenment with anothers, and then comparing my experience to theirs, and thinking that there was some final breakthrough I still needed to have—some experiential state that needed to be constantly present, or some illusion that needed to fall away forever and never return. I imagined myself going back and forth between clarity (aka nirvana, expanded energy, pleasure, success, identification as boundless unicity) and confusion (aka samsara, contracted energy, suffering, failure, identification as Joan), trying to stabilize permanently in clarity and banish confusion once and for all.
Eventually, it became clear that this entire concern was all about the imaginary “me” and how “I” was doing in some mythical battle between what I viewed as irreconcilable polar opposites. It became clear that the whole problem I was trying to solve was imaginary, as was the “one” who was supposedly going back and forth. The polar opposites were recognized as inseparable aspects of one interrelated and interdependent whole that was inescapable and unavoidable. The concern with “my enlightenment” (or lack of it) fell away—in my case, not in some big, dramatic, explosive event, but gradually and imperceptibly (and always only Now).
I suspect that in that interview, I was trying to make the point that there is no enlightened person, and that there is no such thing as a perpetual EXPERIENCE of expansion and pleasure and clarity. All apparent form is nothing but continuous change, so it is only as a concept (a mental abstraction) that any form (such as a person or an experience) seems to exist and persist as a separate and enduring “thing.” Consciousness is not encapsulated inside some imaginary form; Consciousness IS form, and form is actually empty of form (impermanence is so thorough-going that nothing forms to BE impermanent). NOW is the only eternity there is, so “forever after” is always a story.
So-called enlightenment points to the falling away (or seeing through) of the illusion of separation and encapsulation, and the recognition of the all-inclusive and seamless Totality from which nothing stands apart. This recognition isn’t an experience that someone has. It isn’t something that happens TO the imaginary fragment. What seemingly falls away was never really there to begin with—it was an imaginary problem. Instead, we often imagine that liberation means that “I” will abide “forever” in some experiential state of consciousness called “nirvana,” from which “I” will never return. But liberation is actually the dissolution of that whole picture.
Liberation is the realization that Totality INCLUDES the mirage-like experience of apparent separation and encapsulation; nothing is excluded from the wholeness of being. Liberation is the total embrace of samsara and the willingness to be in hell forever. It is the discovery that Nirvana is Here / Now, and that samsara IS nirvana. It is the recognition that NO experience is actually personal, whether it is an experience of separation and contraction or an experience of expansion and unity. And by not being personal, I mean that no one brings it about and no one possesses it. There is no owner, no author, no experiencer apart from the experiencing. There is simply THIS – the undivided totality of being.
When there is anger or hurt appearing Here / Now (and I’m speaking here of psychological anger or hurt, attached to a story of some kind), when that is happening here, the story in question always seems predicated upon and tangled up with the mirage-like illusion of being a separate somebody who feels hurt or threatened. I’m guessing that’s what I meant if I said that sometimes I identify as a person when hurt or anger arise. But there isn’t really “somebody” who identifies as a person—and not because Joan Tollifson’s “somebody” has been successfully eliminated in some Enlightenment Triumph, but because there never IS a separate, independent, persisting self to begin with—it is ALWAYS only a mirage.
The appearance of contraction and separation NEVER means that there really IS a separate self to whom ANY of this is happening. And although the structure of language is always suggesting otherwise, it is never the case that a separate self called Joan is identifying as Joan, or that a separate self called Tony has permanently lost his false self. And whether some kind of passing emotional upset (or inner stormy weather) seems to happen more frequently for Joan Tollifson than it does for Tony Parsons is of no concern here. It’s not personal either way. ALL of the weather (inner and outer) is an appearance in and of the wholeness of being (Presence, Awareness, Consciousness, Here / Now, the Tao, the One Self, this undivided present happening, just as it is).
Enlightenment is not a special experience that happens “to somebody,” but rather, it is the discovery that the nondual absolute is equally present as EVERY experience, even the passing sense of being somebody. The nondual absolute, the wholeness of being, the One Self has no boundaries, no seams, no limits, and no other. It is all there is, and all there is, is this.
Tony still answers if you call his name, and I assume that he can still discern the difference between his finger and the carrot he is chopping up for lunch, so obviously he continues to have a functional sense of identity as a particular bodymind. Does he ever get irritated or defensive or miffed or anxious (as Joan does)—in other words, is there ever any kind of momentary entrancement in the mirage of separation, or is that entirely absent? What difference does it make either way?
For Consciousness Itself, there is no end to being tricked and mesmerized and fooled, again and again. Only from the vantage point of the character (the illusory self-image), does it seem to matter whether “I” still get fooled sometimes, or whether “I” get fooled more or less often than somebody else. ALL experiences come and go—experiences of expansion and experiences of contraction. Unicity (the nondual absolute) is not a particular experience (this but not that); it is EVERY experience. Even the APPARENT misunderstanding is nothing other than unicity appearing as misunderstanding.
To speak about this at all, we have to use words, and whatever we say, it ends up being easily misunderstood. Language is used casually, spoken off the cuff, maybe carelessly at times, and then it winds up being scrutinized—sentences are taken out of the larger context, taken literally, put under the microscope, compared to other sentences, sometimes misheard or misquoted—and soon, confusion abounds. Plus, this whole subject of enlightenment has been so greatly mystified, idealized and misunderstood over so many centuries that it is hard not to be confused.
What is actually being pointed to (I would say by both Tony Parsons and myself) is not some special achievement, but rather, the all-inclusive, ever-present, unavoidable and thus unattainable natural state Here / Now (the stateless state, the groundless ground, the One Reality) that is appearing as you and me and tables and chairs and Facebook posts and the whole movie of waking life. Unicity is never not here. It is never not attained. It is all there is. It is a never-ending Self-realization.
But don’t take on any of this as a new belief. Instead, look and see. In your actual direct experience right now, can you locate an actual boundary where “inside of you” turns into “outside of you” – where “subject” ends and “object” begins? Can you actually FIND any such boundary in direct perception? Is Here / Now (Consciousness Itself, this present experiencing) localized anywhere? Doesn’t it take thought to conjure up some IDEA like “it’s happening in my brain” or to form an image of some boundary line such as “my skin” between “in here” and “out there”? If we cut open your brain, will we find this presently appearing Facebook page or this room you are sitting in? Where IS all of this happening?
“No localization of consciousness” is not some strange mystical experience that “you” have never had and that Tony Parsons is having “all the time” and that Joan Tollifson is only having “some of the time.” That is how thought interprets what has been said by Tony and by Joan (and by many others trying to express the inexpressible). But you might notice right now that in your own direct present moment experiencing, this awaring presence Here / Now is unlocatable, ungraspable, and yet utterly unavoidable. This present happening is magnificently diverse and varied but also seamless and boundless. It is without division and empty of self. (And that doesn’t mean I forget my name or lose all sense of being Joan, or that defensiveness or feeling hurt might not arise here).
Here’s another bit from my book, Painting the Sidewalk with Water: Talks and Dialogs about Nonduality (p 57):
“We try to zero in on ‘unicity’ as an experience. And we feel very frustrated because we keep seeing chairs and tables and different people, and so we wonder, where’s the unicity, where’s the boundless emptiness? All we’re seeing is chairs and tables. Unicity shouldn’t look like this! Or maybe we think we’ve got it, but as you may have noticed, that thought leads almost instantly to the opposite thought, ‘Oh, no! I’ve lost it.’ Any EXPERIENCE that we identify as unicity will go. If it came, it will go. It may stay for a minute, for an hour, or for a decade. But it WILL go. And then suddenly there's a different experience, that pesky dualistic ‘me’ experience again. And then the thought, ‘I’ve lost unicity. I’ve fallen out of the Now. My spiritual ship has sunk!’ Very disappointing, very humiliating.
“The mind can get very confused trying to THINK its way through all this and figure it out, but what's here right now is utterly simple.”
And this is Tony Parsons, from his book All There Is (p 231):
“There is no such thing as an awakened person; that’s a contradiction in terms…So let’s say there is just being and ‘me’-ing…If those so-called enlightened people were honest, they would probably say to you that…there can still be a contraction into ‘me’-ing, but the final liberation is that anything is accepted and everything is accepted; nothing is denied. So both are now seen as one…There is being, but contraction can happen. It happens within the perception of the whole. Anything can happen because this is liberation…Liberation includes the total acceptance of all that is.”
Sounds to me like Tony and I are saying the same thing! For the record, I’ve always loved Tony, and as far as I know, the only significant difference in our expression is that he more consistently holds the line on uncompromising, absolute, radical nonduality, while I might be talking about meditation or quoting Thich Nhat Hanh in my next breath. I also find that some of the ways Tony describes awakening CAN dangle a carrot in front of his listeners—e.g. when he seems to be talking about permanent "energetic shifts" and final "pops" or making statements like the ones attributed to him in the question that began this post. But I’m sure that’s not his intention, to dangle a carrot. Somewhere or other, he puts it like this: "There's nowhere to go. There's no goal. There's no carrot. There's no prize. All there is is this. But the difference between there just being what's happening and the sense that it's happening to you is immeasurable."