You Must Find Your Own Mind
Q: My question relates to Non-duality-type teachers who state, unequivocally, that there is nothing anyone can do. ie. That no practice or technique can be of any benefit towards spiritual awakening. (And I don't think I've heard any Non-duality teacher say the opposite.)
However, this idea or perspective is totally contrary to my own experience.
I could understand if someone was to say, 'I personally did not follow a path or technique, but I cannot say that there isn't one'. But this total, almost stubborn attitude that there cannot be one, confuses me slightly. And it is the origin of this that I am seeking...
With it being so commonplace in Non-duality teaching, I wonder whether it is now simply traditional? The established philosophy states there is no method, and thus many believe there is nothing that can be done, so nothing is done; and when some still 'wake up' it seems the belief is legitimised and a self-fulfilling prophecy is born.
If it was only one or two people, then I may wonder whether it's a matter of those who did not follow a path or technique taking their lack of a method as proof that there isn't one. But as it is so widespread, I feel the reason may be wider too.
The other half of this is that the belief so deep seated that even when a person demonstrates a technique, it tends to be dismissed as nonsense out of hand (by both the teachers I've spoken with as well as any seekers). People don't seem to even want to hear of a technique or teaching that may help.
What do you think about this Robert? You seem more open-minded than most, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
A: Well, I am not a teacher of nonduality, nor a believer in that either, but just an awake human being who has no commitment at all to any spiritual ideas, so-called “nondual” or otherwise. From my perspective, "spirituality," including nonduality, is mostly frightened human beings making a big deal out of life and death, as if talking about it endlessly would take the sting out of it.
Honestly, I see no division at all between what is “spiritual” and what isn’t. When people ask me about spirituality, I feel like the 9th century Zen teacher who, when asked, “What is Buddha?,” replied, “The shit stick in the latrine.”
Any “teaching” that I might appear to be offering comes down to one simple point: No one can define for you who or what you are. No one. Not Buddha, not Jesus, not Ramana Maharshi, not Tony Parsons, not Adyashanti, not yours truly. No one. It does not matter in the least what those people believed. All of them were–some of them still are–human beings just like you. You must find your OWN mind, not theirs.
If you are interested in that question – “Who or what am I?” – it is necessary, I say, to begin by discarding ALL beliefs that you may have acquired, no matter what their source. Just wipe the slate clean, and then make your own inquiry, starting from scratch without depending on anyone or anything at all. I go into this in detail in my book, The Ten Thousand Things, and I encourage you to read it.
My awakening took place over a ten year stretch more or less, from the time of an initial kensho or satori, through a time of severe illness, and then a period after recovering from that illness during which I was able to integrate my ordinary personality with the understanding that “I” was not really doing anything and never had except in fantasy. But I cannot teach that, and no one can imitate it either.
As for technique, I had a mentor who urged me to make the same kind of inquiry I mentioned above: “Who am I? What is this apparent ‘person’ who seems to suffer and feels that he is constantly making choices and doing things?” And I followed his urging. So that is a technique. I used it for a time, and now never even think about it.
But even inquiry will not be helpful, and could even be counter-productive, if one imagines that “inquiry” is a “path.” It is NOT a path. There IS no path, and even if there were one, no one would have the power to choose to follow it or to avoid following it. The so-called "path" is only what you find yourself thinking, feeling, perceiving, etc. right now. When you see that—no chooser, no choice--that is what I call “awake.”
But those are words, and words are not enough any more than you can eat the menu for dinner. And that is the problem with the nonduality industry, and make no mistake, it IS an industry. In that industry, words are the merchandise—clever words, slogans really—but words are not enough, and quickly become an impediment to those who fixate on them.
So if awakening is really what you desire, forget about so-called “nonduality.” Just fuhgeddaboutit. Put it out of your mind entirely. Make an honest inquiry. You must find your OWN mind. It won’t sell retreats and satsangs, but that is the only real “technique” I know.
Thirty years and more
I worked to nullify myself
Now I leap the leap of death.
The ground churns up
The skies spin round.
The death poem of Rankei Doryu.
Died, 1278, at the age of 66.
I replied to that question about techniques yesterday. Today, in thinking about finding your own mind, I recalled the story of the sculptor who was exhibiting a work of his carved from stone--the image of an elephant, perfect in every detail. “How do you manage to do that?” he was asked.
“Very simple,” he replied. “I take a block of stone, and just chisel away everything that does not look like an elephant.”
Well, that seems a useful approach to finding your own mind. Just chisel away all the beliefs imposed upon you as a child, religious and otherwise, and chisel away all the beliefs you have acquired subsequently from authorities such as spiritual teachers, supposedly sacred texts, etc. Keep chiseling until there is no acquired knowledge left. Keep chiseling until all that remains is what you actually observe right now in this very moment. That is what I mean by your own mind.
By Robert Saltzman