Location: Forest Hills, NY
Hi Francis, I’m a recently retired pharmacologist with more than ample time to indulge my decades-long interest in non-duality. The result has been a blur of books, websites, videos, and CDs running the gamut from Shankara to Wei Wu Wei to Douglas Harding, etc. My ultimate question remains, lo these many years “How do I bridge the (apparent) gap between a deep intellectual understanding of Oneness and my inability to realize the truth experientially. I’ve just finished”Eternity Now“, and I’d like to pose a more specific, less grandiose question. My wife and I recently attended a meeting held by a teacher in London. Assuming you’re familiar with his work, you understand that he is a non-dual”purist“, as it were: No path, no traveler, nothing”for sale“, and the vague possibility of self-realization by an act of grace. However, he made one statement that, upon refection, seems progressively more unclear. My wife, who has no real interest in non-duality, asked him if he was suggesting that no one in the room was sitting in a chair. His response was,”there is sitting occurring, but to no one." He then went on to say that the same explanation applies to all perceived phenomena, including, let’s say, anger. I think at this point my wife wanted a refund! : -) But seriously. how can an emotion like anger, which is entirely subjective in the sense that it’s “felt” or perceived by an individual, arise in the absence of that person, i,e. “anger arises, but there is no one who is angry.” Of course, I’d appreciate any suggestion for stepping outside my scientifically-conditioned mind, but, for now, I’d be interested in your thoughts on phenomena arising, but to no one. Warmly, Don
You asked two questions:
Find your teacher. If you have the desire for it, life will find him or her for you, and it will be a perfect match. He or she will be a sage whose presence reveals your own presence and makes your heart sing.
How can an emotion like anger, which is entirely subjective in the sense that it’s “felt” or perceived by an individual, arise in the absence of that person?
There are two aspects to your question:
There is no individual, separate consciousness, to whom sitting or anger could occur. Whatever is perceived, anger or anything else, is always really perceived by the only real consciousness there is, which is universal and divine. It wouldn’t be true either to claim that anger occurs to universal consciousness, just as it wouldn’t be true to claim that the fire that occurs in the movie occurs to the screen onto which it is projected. Since there is no real entity, personal or universal to whom anger could occur, the teacher you met in London rightfully claims that in reality it occurs to no one. It simply seems to occur to a body-mind projected onto the screen of consciousness.
Anger is the result of frustration, a revolt against the flow of things. This type of reaction is a by-product of ignorance, which is the belief to be a separate individual, a victim. In that sense, anger cannot arise in the absence of ignorance, which could be expressed, somehow loosely, by the formula “If there is anger, there is still (the belief in) someone angry”.
Things get more complicated when some pseudo sages try to justify their fits of anger (a behavioral pattern which show their blatant ignorance) by saying “there is no one to whom anger occurs”. How convenient! Along the same lines they could also say “there is no one who borrowed your money, therefore there is no one who must give it back”, or “there is no one who slept with your wife, why are you angry at me?” The truth is that sages don’t get angry. Their equanimity reveals their realization. On rare occasions, they may exhibit outrage, an impersonal form of anger, or irritability, as a symptom of exhaustion or illness, but never do they manifest the most common form, ignorance based anger.
If a teacher attempts to justify his anger using the “there is no one defense”, run away.