When I have time, I love to respond to my reader’s questions. I want to share a few recent emails I’ve exchanged with someone:
Can I ask you a question? In your recent posting of your tweets, you said:
No matter what I write down, it isn’t true. No matter what I think, it isn’t true.
Adya also said the same thing in his book. This sentence basically contradicts itself. But I think maybe you are saying it is not “completely” true. Or you have a better elaboration?
Yes, the sentence does contradict itself. Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat as Adya or any other spiritual teacher, it’s just that I’m way too honest about this stuff (and so is Adya). EVERYTHING that is said with words is inherently untrue. It is a derived thing. The most obvious example, one that Adya uses a lot, is this: if you are thirsty, which do you want to drink? Real water, H20, or the word “water”? The word water refers to the real stuff. So, the word water is not real, it has no substance. It always refers to something else.
In this awakening business, you are always endeavoring to get to the truth of what you are. What we have all done for most of our lives is believe that the THOUGHTS we have about ourselves are what we are. And that is not true. We endeavor to always get to the heart of what we are looking at, the “truth” of it.
So, the word “I” is not what I am. Even if I observe this body and the sensations I “feel” from it, I can go further and see that this is not me. What am I? Ah, that cannot be answered in words. It can only be known.
The best that any spiritual teacher can do is use words to point you in the direction of truth. Period. We are using falsehoods, or derived things, thoughts and words, to point at truth. Or, as Ramana used to say, we have fallen into a thorn bush and are now covered in thorns. We then take one of the thorns and use it to pick out all the other thorns. Then we throw the last thorn away! His particular thorn is what he called “the I thought.” Discover that the “I” thought is not you was Ramana’s entire teaching.
I hope the above helps! Namaste…. Tom
My reader responds:
Your explanation is very helpful! But I still have some questions, so please bear with me. Basically nothing is describable by words. Words are just labels. Water can not be adequately described by words. For those who never know water, reading the wiki page about its attributes doesn’t help any. If there is a cup of water in front of me and I say “this is water” to those who know what real water is and agree to use the word “water” as its label, then the statement “This is water” must be a true statement. If this is correct, then what you said about thoughts and words is not completely correct. Spiritual teachers run into the same dilemma when trying to use words describe ultimate reality to people who don’t have direct experience. Oneness, Emptiness, Everythingness and etc after all only add more confusion and make them go nowhere. So I think what you said only can be confined to when talking about ultimate reality.
And my last reply:
I want to focus on two things you said. First:
If there is a cup of water in front of me and I say ‘this is water’ to those who know what real water is and agree to use the word ‘water’ as its label, then the statement ‘This is water’ must be a true statement.
What I would say is that “this is water” is as close to truth as a STATEMENT can get. The key is that statements are never correct. They are always an approximation to truth. Always. They are still never the truth. When you point at the water and say “this is water” it is still THE WATER ITSELF that has the truth in it. Not the words. Make sense?
Because, as you pointed out, we AGREE to use the word WATER as a LABEL for the stuff in the cup. Notice the chain of events: we create a word, water, and agree to use it to describe something.
Why so picky about this? Because human beings walk around believing that the words they hear in their head are real things. And worst of all, they believe that the word “I” means something real, meaningful, important. They think they ARE the word “I” and the thousands upon thousands of associations they have attached to that word: I am a man, I am good, I am miserable, I am happy, I am a great lover, I have an ugly body, etc. I, I, I.
And what is the truth? There is no I. Period. You are not a word, a thought, a belief, an idea. You aren’t anything. Hence, we say, you are nothingness. There is no “I” no matter how many words you attach to it.
FYI, Eckhart Tolle does a pretty nice job of dissecting “I” in A New Earth. He calls it ego, but same thing.
The second thing you mentioned that I want to focus upon:
Spiritual teachers run into the same dilemma when trying to use words to describe ultimate reality to people who don’t have direct experience. Oneness, Emptiness, Everythingness and etc after all only add more confusion and make them go nowhere. So I think what you said only can be confined to when talking about ultimate reality.
Ah, but here’s the bigger problem: even the water you see in the cup isn’t water in the cup. It is, to use your words, Ultimate Reality. Right there in the cup. So is the cup. Water is not only a label for the real thing, water, the actual physical water, H2O, can be seen as a “label” for what it really is….. NOTHINGNESS appearing as form.
It’s a bitch describing this stuff, but there you go. You do the best you can, and that’s what you get.
Let’s keep it simple: stick with something like paying attention to awareness. Just pay attention to it. Focus on it. Look at it. Ponder it. Inquire about it. If you go to Adyashanti’s website, he’s done a lot of satsangs in the past year where he discusses this a bunch. Get a few of them and listen. If I remember correctly, there was one entitled “Rest as Awareness” that was quite good.
Nisargadatta sat for 3 years with “the feeling of being” and simply sat and looked at it every which way until he was done. Whatever arose, he would look at it and inquire about it and see how it fit into the “feeling of being” and keep going and going. Honestly, it’s a process of exhaustion more than anything. That’s why the Buddha called it Nirvana. The word simply means cessation. You simply exhaust the tendency to go unconscious by sitting with what arises. It really is that simply. Hard to do, I admit, but really is that simply.
I hope all the above helps. Namaste.