Q & A

 Q: Can you explain what you meant when  you said that the only difference between a realized person and an  unrealized one is that the unrealized one believes there is a  difference?

James: If you  understand when I say that there is no such thing as liberation - - because bondage is a fiction -  you couldn’t possibly ask that question.  Bondage isn’t something real and  independent. Bondage is a bunch of thoughts in the mind that tell you  you’re an individual. Bondage is a bunch of thoughts that tell you that  when some great experience happens  you’ll be whole and complete. In fact  you’re already whole and complete. It’s the thoughts and feelings and  moods that have you believe something is missing.

The first important  thing Sailor Bob told me was this: What you are seeking you already  are. Now, if that’s true, then how could there really be a  difference between a so called liberated person and an unliberated one. There could be an apparent difference of course, but we’re talking about what is real and true.  And truly there is no difference between a Buddha and an ordinary  person. Do you want to live appearance or live reality?

Notice, by the way, that you’ve heard the statement What you are seeking you already  are” many times but you never actually got it. Or you  didn’t believe it. Or the statement  simply had no meaning for you. That’s how it is for almost everyone.  People hear non duality teachings but so often don’t comprehend them.

Q: Why is that?

James: Because the  conditioning of the appearance is so strong. The world and all our moods and feelings and experiences appear real, even though they’re  not. They’re transient. They come and go and therefore they can’t possibly be real. The definition of reality is that which is permanent. The definition of phenomenon is that which  appears to be. We all say  we want liberation, but what we really  want is to bring the world of appearances especially our  individuality with us and be liberated. Well, belief in illusion  doesn™t fit with liberation or freedom. Liberation is the realization  that there is no individual present. Do you want to live appearance or  live reality?

Q: I want  liberation, but I want my life to be better. I want my dream to be  happier.

James: Non duality  is nothing if not paradoxical. When you finally stop believing in  appearance and illusion, life does generally get a lot better and  happier. But it’s still a dream.  Happiness and ease and grace are just as much a dream as struggle and  strife and sadness. Life will never be controllable. Everyone has moods  and ups and downs. Everyone dies.  Everyone watches others die. It’s just  that for the gnani (realized soul) nothing in the appearance is  taken very seriously. And because of that, the moods and ups and downs  pass extremely fast. So, there’s  less suffering.

One reason people  sometimes don’t grasp non duality is because they have lots of  misconceptions. I certainly did. I thought it was some awesome,  miraculous state of consciousness.  That’s what I always thought I heard. I thought it was all about  miracles and psychic ability and powers, and so on.

Q: That’s false?

James: Maybe some  people have them. Who knows? But if they do, I would characterize them  as occult or mystical abilities, not as enlightenment or  liberation or whatever label you want to use. I’ve been around lots of people in spiritual movements talking  about their wonderful spiritual and mystical experiences who still feel  incomplete who are still seeking.  A person can have none of those  wonderful, dramatic experiences and yet completely grasp non duality. I  had some incredible experiences during my years of long meditation. In  the end, they were all meaningless.  That’s why one of my all time favorite  Nisargadatta quotes is: The yogi comes to know many wonders, but of  the self he remains ignorant. The gnani may look and feel quite  ordinary, but the self he knows very well.

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Q: You said that you don’t fear death anymore. Does that mean that if some great danger was  upon you it wouldn’t be a problem.

James: It sure would be a problem. I would try to get away from the danger as fast as  possible. No one wants to die. The nature of life is enjoyment. It’s  an instinct to want to continue living.  What I meant about death was that I used to think about it and worry  about it all the time. I used to ponder the idea that I would cease to  exist. Aside from the fact that the  only reality is presence awareness, or  the present moment, it’s now absolutely clear that I was never born. Who I really am has always been and will always be. The only things that  were apparently born were a  transient body, and a transient mind  that gave rise to a bunch of transient thoughts and descriptions about  an illusory personality. Why should I care that a bunch of thoughts  cease existing? The thoughts are not  me. The body is not me. Those are  appearances. They come and they go.

Who we are is space that has no beginning and has no end. Who we are is non conceptual, but quite real. Who we are is actually permanent and  independent. Everything depends on the  consciousness or space that we are, not the other way around. We’re not  bodies having consciousness, we’re consciousness having bodies. When the body and mind die, it means the  movie is over. It doesn’t mean we are  over.

 Sailor Bob tells a  story about a friend and student of his who had cancer, or some  incurable illness, and stayed on Bob’s farm until he died. Bob  said the doctors were amazed at the  man’s lack of fear. If you grasp non duality, it’s understandable. I can see being concerned about loved ones who (apparently) have to go on  after I die. But, as for the mind and  body dying, it’s not huge anymore. If  you really grasp that neither your thoughts nor your body are who you  are, how can death be much of a problem?

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Q: I keep reading  that the world is an illusion or a dream. How am I supposed to grasp  that when everything looks and feels real and solid?

James: Non duality  isn’t blind acceptance or belief. It’s the result of an investigation  into your true nature. An easy way to see the falseness of the  world is to examine time. If all  experience happens in the present now, which means that past and future  are mental concepts, then everything that happened in the so called past is a dream. It never happened. Or I  should say it happened just like a  dream. It appeared to happen, just like a dream at night seems to happen. But when you wake up, you realize it didn’t happen, it was a  dream.

In science we see  some illusory features of life. The walls of our house are made up of  tiny microscopic molecules that are moving so fast they  appear solid. They’re not solid, but  they appear that way. They actually feel solid, even though they  absolutely positively aren’t. Another strange fact is that the earth is  spinning very fast, but we feel like the  earth is stationary. How did scientists  find all this out? By investigating what is true and what is false.  Likewise, non duality is an investigation into what is real. That’s why  we’re always using the analogies  like mirages and rainbows and blue  water.

Q: I hear those  analogies and understand them, but they don’t have any effect.

James: Probably  because you believe the explanation of reality but you also believe the appearance is real. Even though you know creation is  transient and therefore an illusion, you want to still believe you’re an individual. If you’re seeking to  understand oneness, you can’t have it both ways. That’ like saying you  know rainbows are illusory and then  living as if rainbows are solid. You  need to decide what you want appearance or reality?

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Q: I get non  duality, but I get it intellectually.

James: Some of the  problem is just semantics. Sailor Bob Adamson has a good way of  addressing that issue, which by the way, is extremely common. He asks  the person Do you know that two plus two is four?

How would you  answer?

Q: Of course I know  that.

James: Do you know  it intellectually, or do you know it? Could anybody convince you that  two plus two equals five?

Q: No.

James: Well, it’s  the same with non duality. If you know that who you truly are is space  or no thing, then you know it. If you know that consciousness is  all there is, then you know it. A man  once objected, saying Just knowing that you are consciousness is not the same as being consciousness. He thought he made a good  point, but what he said was nonsense. If you can tell me how not to be consciousness, then I™m willing to  listen. There is no way to stop being consciousness because  consciousness is all there is. It’s possible for a person not to know he or she is consciousness, but there’s no way  to stop being what you are.

Q: I think I know  what that person meant. Sometimes I feel really clear and conscious and  sometimes I feel completely lost. There are times I am more aware  of the fact that who I am is  consciousness.

James: I understand  that there are apparent experiences of feeling clear and feeling  unclear. But your feelings and experiences and perceptions are  irrelevant. You are, positively,  consciousness or space or no thing, whether or not you know that every  moment of every day. Do you want to live appearance or live reality? In  reality, you are consciousness, not a  physical body or a bunch of thoughts.

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Q: I sometimes  think that non duality is just another belief system. Am I supposed to  believe non duality statements without really grasping them?

James: I used to  wonder the same thing, until I spent time with Sailor Bob. When you  grasp non duality, when you see the truth of it, there will be  discernable effects in your life.  Psychological suffering is greatly lessened. And seeking falls off  completely and leaves you feeling whole and complete. It doesn’t mean  problems won’t arise or that you won’t have  moods and feelings like anyone else. But you see them for what they are passing energy patterns. You won’t get  stuck in them.

Q: How do I make  that happen?

James: Fortunately  or unfortunately there’s no you” to do anything. Within the world of  appearance, however, just keep investigating what is real and what  is unreal until the unreal falls away.

For me, seeing  clearly seemed to have something to do with surrender or faith in my  teacher or something. But that’s just appearance, it’s a conceptual  explanation for what, in fact, simply  happened. To advise you to surrender or have faith wouldn’t actually be  helpful. It would leave you thinking that there is an independent you  who could do the surrendering. And  if you look within, you won’t be able to locate an independent you. Once you really get that there is no  independent you inside. I mean really grasp that truth your search will  be over anyway. Remember, there’s  nothing to get. All that really appears  to happen is that concepts and beliefs are seen through and you’re left  with the reality of your permanent self.

Q: So, there’s  nothing I can do to get non duality?

James: That’s the  paradoxical nature of it. When I say to keep investigating (or keep  reading and hearing non duality teachings as), it’s kind of an absurd  statement. In reality, you never decided to take this path in the first place. This is simply how you’re being  lived in the dream. Of course, apparently, you are reading and  studying non duality, and as far  as appearance goes just keep on doing  that. In reality, you’ll either grasp it or you won’t. That might sound  discouraging, but if you could actually understand the reasoning for the statement, your search would be  over. You would grasp the fact that  you’re not an individual. You would grasp that who you are is no thing  or space or consciousness.          

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Q: I think I get non duality pretty well. But I still get angry, I still get depressed, I  still get sad. Shouldn’t that stop?

James: Consciousness takes all forms and shapes. It expresses in every possible way. There’s a wonderful analogy that Joan Tollifson uses. She points out  that weather can be different in  different places and we never blame the weather on the place. For  example, Chicago is very often windy, Seattle is very often rainy,  Florida has hurricanes. But we don’t go around  blaming Florida for being angry, or  blaming Seattle for crying, or Chicago for being irritated. We accept  the fact that nature is different in different places. There’s no  judgment. The weather is just what is. And  if you wait a while, the weather  inevitably changes.

Anything is  possible. Depression can arise, happiness can arise, anger can arise.  The idea is to be aware that whatever arises is not you. Witness  the moods, don’t judge them.

 Nisargadatta’s  nature was intense and fiery. He would throw people out if he got  exasperated with them. Bob is more patient and soft hearted.  Anything is possible. Non duality is  about Self knowledge, Self realization. It’s not about feeling this way  or that way. I know that people chase realization so they’ll feel  better, but they’re actually missing the  point.