This blog is only about awakening, nothing more, nothing less. Anything that will contribute to the possibility of complete liberation from the dream, or from the mass hallucination of humanity, or from the mental matrix, or from the false self, or from the lie, or any other label you want to call it, is welcome here. The key words are FREEDOM and JOY. Sometimes I think this just keeps the story going and only adds to the insanity, and there's too much of that already. But something is trying to pry the lid off still, something awaits to be seen. We are all in this boat together, so here we go......have fun!


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

What is "No Self"?

You will often hear the phrase “no self” in Buddhist, enlightenment and non-duality circles and teachings. What does that mean? There is an old Zen cliche, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” What is the difference? The difference is that, after enlightenment, there is no sense of a separate self doing anything. Before enlightenment, there is a story, “I am chopping wood and carrying water.” The story takes on many other variations, “I go to work each day and earn a living.” “I am a spiritual seeker seeking spiritual awakening.” The central illusion is the story of “me” and all other stories arise from that central dream.

After enlightenment, the same things happen. Chopping wood, carrying water, and going to work each day. But there is no sense of a “me” doing anything. But what does that really mean? From the perspective of consciousness within a body and mind that believes he is really a person trying to understand this thing called, “no self,” the whole notion of no “me” doing anything can sound nutty.

There are spiritual teachings of all kinds. There are ones that say, “There is nothing you can do to become enlightened because there is no separate you.” Although that can feel frustrating, it is ruthlessly compassionate, IF there is a readiness in you to hear that particular, very direct pointer. How can an idea or a path get you here, to this moment? Spiritual awakening can only happen now because the spirit is always, already, and only here in this moment. The whole idea of a separate person who could get here to this moment (to beingness) is an illusion. But if there is still a belief in you that you are a person seeking enlightenment, then such direct pointers will be utterly meaningless. A seeker once told me that if he hears one more teacher say, "No person can find enlightenment because there is no person," he was going to kill himself. For those still imprisoned in the idea of a separate self, a softer approach such as “be present” or “watch thoughts” might work to undo that story of “me." At some point along the illusory "spiritual path," reality must be faced however. No one can get here (to presence) because it is already here.

The particular pointer or teaching has literally nothing to do with the actual realization of “no self.” The pointers or teachings are merely describing a falling away of an illusion that you are a person separate from the rest of life. “No self” is a shift in the way consciousness lives within the body and mind. It is a change in energy. That is all. It has nothing to do with whatever particular ideas, teachings, methods, or perspectives happen to arise. The realization of “no self,” once it is seen fully, reveals that there is in fact not even a self to attach to one particular teaching or method over the other. Consciousness is seen to be so literally free that it can take any or all sorts of perspectives. There may be a clearer way of pointing, but ultimately liberation is not attached in any way to any expression. If you see a teaching that drums one particular way of pointing down your throat or trumpeting one particular method, you can bet that consciousness has created an unconscious little "self" through an attachment to a particular method or even an expression. This shift in energy called "no self" is a nonattachment to all ideas. Never trust a teacher who appears to believe his own shit. Don't get caught up in comparing one teaching to the next. Comparison energy is just seeking, disguised as a "search for clearer teachings." Allow all pointers to point you to this moment, then let go of them. They are of no use in the end. In fact, every pointer or teaching you memorize dies naturally when the true realization of "no self" happens. In the end, there is no self to give a crap about any of that. That is not apathy. That is love no longer attached to ideas.

The true “no self” is a simple way of being in this moment, free of identification with thought including all spiritual ideas. Yes, it is true that "thought" arises as 'This' as you will hear teachings say. But it arises without attachment (unless it is trying to trumpet its own path, belief system, religion, expression, teaching, method, or pointer in which case it arises with attachment). The self is essentially just attachment to thought, emotion, and other things. Once that is gone, although thought and emotion still arise, they arise to no one. This freedom includes freedom from attachment to spiritual insights and methods (including "no method" which is just another method). Remember that spiritual insights are thoughts too. No matter what you say about spirituality, it is just an idea, ultimately as empty as any other idea.
Krishnamurti used to so eloquently say, "methods are always quarreling with each other." Translated: selves are fighting with selves. Only a self attached to a particular method or way of pointing would quarrel in this way. Does the actual realization of "no self" have a method? Hardly. Only consciousness attached to form makes a big deal out of the way enlightenment is expressed, found, or realized. True liberation can express enlightenment from virtually any angle and can meet a seeker exactly where he is in his own dream of a separate self.

S e e . . . t h a t . . . e v e r y . . . i d e a . . . i s . . . e m p t y . . .
a n d . . . t h e n . . . p l a y . . .
w i t h . . . t h e m . . . a l l.

In that playing, you realize in a way that is impossible to truly describe that there is no separate entity playing with separate things called ideas. There is only the playing. Life is living itself. In the "no self" realization, there is a loving emptiness embracing, and yet ultimately untouched by, form. There is very little, if any, self-measuring, or self-referencing. The whole mechanism of looking back to “see how I’ve been doing” that is such a hallmark of the ego is gone. The mechanism of looking forward to future is gone (except for practical thinking). “No self” is a living realization. It can play with any and all expressions and philosophies but it is essentially free of all of them. It is utterly free even of any philosophy about whether there is a self or not.

This realization is totally alive now and only now. It is not stuck in past insights, philosophies, expressions, traditions, beliefs, religions, or words like “non-duality” or “enlightenment.” It is not stuck in thoughts about the self, work, others, turtles, pickles, Oneness or anything else. It is simply an emptiness naturally and effortlessly relating and embracing the world of form, the world of words, things, and people, in a way that sees no true divisions. This is where it gets hard to express. In “no self,” there is a fundamental seeing that life is just happening now. It is not happening to anyone. And yet there is a celebration of the apparent people, apparent things, and apparent objects. You will still tell your wife, “I love you.” You will still call your dog, “Buck.” You will still put your name on job applications. You will still use pronouns. You will see that whether you use the word "you" or not has nothing to do with the actual realization of "no self." The actual realization is an energy shift. It has nothing to do with whether you still call yourself and others by their names or use "me," "we," or "you." But you will see, fundamentally, the empty nature of all form. Therefore you will see the empty nature of all pronouns, names, people, objects, ideas, and even the earth, sun, and moon.

You will see the foolishness in ever believing that form and formlessness are separate in any way, and yet you will respect the apparent separateness between your body and the space around it, between the earth and the sky. This is why true non-duality or "no self" cannot be expressed. The expression of it is not, “It’s all One” or "there is no self." Those are ideas. There is no such thing as a statement of the truth. Everything on this page is an idea. "No self" is an energy shift. A shift in the way consciousness sees and moves through the world. It is more like a not knowing. In that not knowing, love just sees itself everywhere. It sees both the ideas of "self" and "no self" appearing as expressions of this one inexpressible present play of life. No separate person could ever see that. The person is always too busy measuring whether he has or has not seen it or too busy looking for it or claiming he has found it. In the pure seeing, the entity within who made a big deal about whether there is a separate self or Oneness or enlightenment is gone. That is when "no self" stops being a philosophical concept and starts being an inexpressible living reality in this moment, which ironically continues expressing itself anyway.

By Scott Kiloby

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