Belief

Interesting to speculate about why Douglas [Harding]'s teachings don't have wider appeal. I've always been resistant to belief systems - as far back as I can remember. This has been reinforced by having grown up in England, living in Canada, the United States and Turkey for many years and seeing how different belief systems operate in each of those countries. Each of the different belief systems (religions if you like) are apparently believed in by their followers as being the Truth. This reinforced my natural tendency towards not believing in "belief", so I think I came predisposed to a way of seeing that is completely self reliant. There's also a force that keeps peeling back the layers to get to the center. It is somehow comforting to see that there is no center - just pure awareness. It is totally liberating – fresh air blowing away all the fusty old belief systems. M.C. USA.

Let me clarify one thing right up front: I was not trying to quote Douglas [Harding] as an authority. He said something that rang true, and he said what he said very well so I used his words (approximately). But I repeated them to you basically because they rang true when I heard them, not because it was Douglas who said them. Whether or not Douglas is an 'enlightened master' is not an interesting question for me. It's the same when I hear on the radio a song that I like. If I like the song, if it resonates somewhere in me, then I just like the song. I feel no need to read a fan magazine to find out what the political beliefs of the singer/composer are so that I can copy them, what the singer/composer likes to eat for breakfast so that I can copy that, etc.

You brought up what modern physics seems to be telling us, that it is similar to what mystics say. I think the history of how physics developed tells us something interesting and perhaps important. Quantum physics (which says basically that the observing system is intimately linked to the observed system) was not discovered first. Instead Newtonian physics, (which basically says that the universe is a bunch of separate particles interacting in time through various forces, against a background of space), was discovered first.

Why did it happen that way? I can think of a couple of reasons. One eminently practical reason is that Newtonian physics is very successful in accurately describing the great majority of the phenomena around us. Newtonian physics, though hundreds of years old, is still constantly used today (mostly now by engineers perhaps) simply because Newtonian physics, which says that the observing system is separate from the observed system, describes most phenonema around us very well indeed. Assuming normal conditions, you need very precise instruments that were far beyond the ability of 18th or even 19th century scientists and technicians to make, and you must make very careful observations with those precision instruments in order to find phenonema that Newtonian physics can't explain.

The second reason is perhaps related to the wombs that Douglas talks about. Using the metaphor of a succession of wombs, he talks about a natural progression of understanding for a person. It is apparently natural and perhaps even necessary for a child to learn how to objectify himself and think of the world as a bunch of other objects that he can interact with and to some extent control. What is true for a person might also be true for a group of people. So in some social sense it might have been necessary for Newtonian physics to be developed by scientists before they could develop quantum physics.

Another phrase you used that caught my attention was "now I don't believe anything nor anybody". There is a dignity and a purity in this phrase that shines through the words. But still, it cannot really be true that you have no beliefs. We all have countless beliefs. If I phone up a store and ask what their hours are, I am willing to walk to that store based on the belief that it will be open when I get there because of what I was told.

It seems to me that the point is not to give up all beliefs, because you can't. Instead it seems to be quite necessary to be reasonably willing to give up any belief when it does not fit the experience of that moment. But also, and just as important really, it seems to be quite necessary to let a belief operate freely when that seems appropriate. In particular, it seems to me that the belief in an individual self interacting with other separate selves is a perfectly reasonable belief some of the time, because it fits the fact of some moments. Of course one could say that the problem with our society is that this belief fits the fact of the moment all too often! But even assuming an ideal
society of fully enlightened persons, I don't see why such a belief could never be appropriate. If you phone up a store and ask what their hours are, if you to walk to that store based on the belief that it will be open when you get there because of what you were told, but you find that the store is in fact closed, that you were given wrong information by the clerk, is it so awful to be a little annoyed at that? Would it prove that you are not really a fully enlightened person? I don't think so.

Another sentence that caught my attention was "The marvellous sky, the rising sun, the song of a bird at dawn, I am space for them too, or rather I am ..WHATEVER APPEARS, ugly or beautiful, not because I know it or believe it, but because I live it, am it." It is beautiful to be able to say that and I am quite willing to believe that this is a true description of the way you live your life. (Another of my beliefs!)

The way it seems to me is that the life of a typical person is an expression of the fixed world view that he is a separate objective self interacting with other separate objective selves as well as other separate sentient and non-sentient objects. The life of this typical person is pretty ugly and unhappy as a rule.

On the other hand, I see that there are a few exceptional people like yourself whose life expresses a fixed world view that there is no real self, that there is "only the functioning of this incredible marvellous, majestic joke in which the me is totally dissolved in whatever is, in a wonderful play of mirrors". Such people tend to live lives of great beauty and happiness, truly admirable lives that may be of great value to the society they live in.

But what I seek is a way of life that does not express any particular fixed world view. Is there a truth so true that it does not require the validation of beauty or happiness or social value?

Isn't the subject of this discussion at the heart of the atman-anatman debate between Vedantists and Buddhists? My sense of the Buddhist critique is that the "concept" of Self tends to become a rarefied vehicle for the idea of personal identity to re-establish itself at a "higher" level, with a claim to all-inclusiveness. On the other hand, without taking the "I"-feeling as a guide, by enquiring into it and following its inward direction, as Ramana Maharshi taught, there really does seem to be danger of creating a belief in, and consequent perception of, an arid voidness where there is not only no self but no love, no meaning, no compassion. (I have sensed something of this atmosphere in U.G. Krishnamurti.) I find Chris's formulation of an "infinite point" of identity helpful, because it supports something in my own experience, a kind of deep sense of direction; but I have had the same -- "squeamishness", I'm inclined to call it -- Jan feels in suggesting to myself or others that there's a greater Who at this end of the tunnel. It's almost a little silly, like saying: "Why be your self with a lower-case s when you can have it capitalized?"

But I find that these questions, important though they seem to me now and often, dissolve in the moments of opening... Even right now, as I return to it, I am aware of neither self nor no-self, but of a mysterious endlessness which is full of feeling, color, the chirping of a bird, patterns of light, and stillness. At this point words, and the limits they set, become obstacles, because they narrow the attention. J.A. USA

You don't seem to hold much hope for headless seeing lasting 100 years. [This was a response to someone....] I think it will do better if it's divorced from religion. I mean from all religion, including Advaita when it talks about ultimate reality. For me, headless seeing is about the design of my awareness. It's not a religion or an adjunct to a religion. It's something in itself, something new. Douglas said that God is a nickname. If we point at our face and see Nothing and call it God, we are merely giving this Nothing a nickname. We aren't saying that everything that religion says about God can be found here. Seeing comes first. The attributes of God follow from what we see, not from the fantasies of religions. When we see Nothing when we look at our face, we are seeing a Fact. The Fact is enough in itself. We don't need to speculate beyond the certainty of the Fact, beyond Present Experience. When we look out and see things and thoughts, we see Fact as well. Yet Advaita calls it dream and illusion. That's speculation pure and simple. That's religion and belief. It's not Seeing. And that's what will keep Headless Seeing from taking hold, because people will never agree on such things. People will agree on facts though. Many people find benefit in meditation, whether attached to religion or not. Meditation doesn't have to be aligned with religious ideas for it to produce its effects. Neither does Headless Seeing. When Headless Seeing can stand alone like that, it will endure. I believe it's possible that it will. Jim


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