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The Results of Seeing Who You Really Are

Douglas Harding

(The following article is an excerpt from 'The Toolkit for Testing the Incredible Hypothesis' by D.E. Harding, published in 1972, now out of print.)

The results of seeing What and Who one really is will depend, very largely, on one's faithful practice of that seeing. An occasional glimpse into one's True Nature, if it isn't taken seriously enough to be followed up and cultivated, isn't likely to make much difference. Meditation is needed, to break one's old habit of thinging oneself and to establish a new habit of No-thingness here, a habit of conscious 1st-personhood. First, then, before looking at possible results, let us look at the means, at the kind of practice which is likely to produce worth-while benefits. Conscious 1st-personhood is a kind of meditation (in an exact sense, the most radical sort) and the pragmatic or field test of our hypothesis is the sustained practice of this meditation. Its watchword is SEE WHO'S HERE, and its distinctive marks (again, all are for you to try out) are that it is:

It works at least as well in the marketplace as in the meditation hall, when you are active as when you are resting, when your eyes are open as when they are shut.

So far from requiring or inducing a some-what trancelike state and temporary retirement from the world and from people, it sharpens your appreciation of what's going on. You are more alive and with it: indeed you are the view, without being lost in it. It's not when you look at, but when you overlook, the Seer that the seen grows dim and distorted. Not only the 'outer' world, but also your 'inner' world of psychological states, is obscured when you ignore the Inmost which covers and underlies them all.

The initial seeing gives the ability to renew it. Since the Absence of things here is as plainly visible and as coolly factual as their presence there, the seeing of this Absence is available immediately, anytime, at will. Unlike ideas and feelings, you can have this simple seeing when you need it most, as when you are agitated or worried. It's ready to hand for dealing with troubles as they arise, on the spot.

This meditation requires no special postures or physical skills. On the other hand, the physical effects can become very noticeable. Typically, they include an alert stillness, a muscular relaxation felt as energising and not depleting, a marked slowing of the breath, a straightening and raising of the neck and spine. The complexion tends to clear, the eyes to shine, the general bodily tone to improve. Of course, you may find it easier to start at the physical end, and, when you are sitting, to sit up: this can indeed help you to see Who is sitting up.

There are no occasions when this meditation is inappropriate, no times when you may safely wander from the 1st-person position. In the end you stay at Home where it goes on unbroken, though at times unobtrusively, as the bass accompaniment in music.

This way, your life isn't split into two compartments - a Self- aware (interior, meditative, religious) and a Self-unaware (exterior, discursive, secular) - worlds apart, not easily brought together and reconciled.

While it lasts, this is an all-or-nothing (actually, an All-and- Nothing) meditation which can't be done badly. You can't see half your Absence, nor can you half-see it. Either you are looking at What s central to you, or you are overlooking It.

This meditation is certainly not in itself a mystical or religious experience, not euphoric, not a sudden expansion into universal love or cosmic consciousness, not any kind of feeling or thought or intuition whatever. Quite the contrary, it is absolutely featureless, colourless, neutral. It is gazing into the pure, still, cool, transparent Fountainhead, and simultaneously out from it at the streaming, turbulent world - without being carried away into that world. You can ensure your full share of mystical or spiritual experiences, not by going downstream after them, but only by noticing that you are forever upstream of them all, and they can only be enjoyed there from their Source in you.

It's true that the initial sight of your Source may come as a blazing, world-shaking revelation: and what event in your life, for sure, could better deserve such celebration? But these fireworks aren't necessary, and the display fizzles out soon enough anyhow. Many (if not most) serious practitioners of this meditation have come to it quietly, with some such remark as "Why yes of course, that's exactly how it is here." All depends on your individual temperament, upon your cultural-religious background and expectations, and above all upon how much tension, how much psychological stress has been built up - whether undeliberately in the course of ordinary life or deliberately by special religious disciplines and meditational practices.

It is true, also, that the days or weeks or months following your initial seeing (whether it came explosively or not) are liable to prove joy-filled and light-some. You feel new-born into a new world. But sooner rather than later, alas, all this fades - much to your surprise and disappointment. "It does nothing for me!" The temptation is then to give up the meditation, under the mistaken impression that you have lost the art of it. In fact, if you persist nevertheless, it comes to be valued less for its appetising but incidental fruits than for itself - for the plain and savourless truth of it, for the nothing which it does indeed do for you, instead of the something it used to do - and this is a great advance. Beginning to lose interest in the fruits, you ensure they grow all the more healthily, unobserved and undisturbed, and ripen in season. Meantime, and always, your sole business is their nourishing Root.

Only in this Root, only as this Root, are we all One and the Same for ever. This meditation infallibly unites you with all creatures at the one Spot where all converge, where we are at last wholly relieved of those manifest peculiarities and hidden feelings and thoughts which distinguish and part us from one another. The Void, just because It really is void, is identical in all beings everywhere and at all times. If It could be experienced as loving in me, bright in you, and specially empty in him, It would only serve to thrust us still further apart. But in fact you are him and me, without the slightest doubt or anxiety, directly you find the Spot where there's Nothing to come between us.

One welcome consequence is that among those who faithfully practise this meditation there can be no hierarchy or pecking-order, no gurus or chelas, no spiritual one-upmanship and intimidation. Indeed what other sure basis of human equality (not to say democracy) could there be but this - our common Identity?

Nothing is achieved, but only discovered. And What s discovered is totally humbling: your Nothingness when actually seen (and not merely entertained or believed in) can't be doubted. This alone carries conviction. Here is the one Spot, the Spot where you are real and no appearance, which is plainly free from egotism and everything else - in a word, free.

This meditation is safe, not only because it can't be bungled, not only because it avoids dependence upon others on the one hand and self-pride on the other, but also because it is uncontrived. There's nothing arbitrary or fanciful about it, nothing to strain your credulity, nothing to go wrong, nothing to set you apart from ordinary people, nothing special. It is safe because it is finding out how matters stand, not trying to manipulate them. What could be less dangerous than ceasing to deceive yourself about your Self, or more dangerous than not doing so?

Though notably natural from the start, this meditation gets more so, and in the end entirely so. At first you probably need little reminders to bring you to your senses - such as counting your eyes (what eyes?) and getting face-to- no-face with a friend. but in time (not necessarily reckoned in years) these devices are dispensed with: 1st-personhood becomes second nature (or first Nature regained) and the last thing you do is go around preoccupied with your facelessness. It's much simpler than that - more like resting at Home in Home's superbly clear air, without any thoughts about it at all. Just as no man loiters in the hall studying the front door he's just come in by, but goes on to enjoy the comforts indoors, so you come to enjoy the Immensity within, and these little gates to It are recognised to be the paltry and temporary contrivances - indeed gimmicks - which they are. (Many traditional religious devices are so complicated or mysterious or beautiful or impressive that they divert attention from their underlying purpose, and the means have come to replace the end. Hopefully the blatant triviality of our gadgets will render them less likely, in the course of centuries, to evolve into sacred objects credited with value in themselves.)

This meditation doesn't preclude, and need not interfere with, any other kind of meditation - such as 'sitting meditation' or za-zen - which you may find helpful. What it does rule out is meditation which assumes the meditator isn't already at Home.

Because this meditation is quite ordinary - secular, simple, obvious, commonplace - and because there's precisely Nothing to be learned, no expert guidance is needed, no meditation manuals or masters, no agonising choice between their often conflicting systems, no hunting for the infallible Teacher - seeing He's located right where you already are. On the other hand, the company of friends who are engaged in this meditation is both helpful and delightful.

And in the beginning a friend is practically indispensable. It is very rare for the initial seeing to occur spontaneously: nearly everyone is initiated into this meditation by someone who is already doing it, for the condition is highly infectious, a direct person-to-person transmission: Books have proved almost - if not quite - incapable of this transmission: their job is to awaken the desire to discover Who is reading the book, and to confirm the discovery once it has been made. [But this] is for you to say.

The principle of this meditation is: never lose sight of your Self in any circumstances, and your problems are taken care of - including, strange to say, the problem of self-consciousness. For finding the Self is losing the self. Our meditation cures bashfulness, not by enabling you to lose yourself in the objective world, but by enabling you to find yourself - as its Container.

Inconsistent and hard to please, you demand a meditation which detaches you from all creatures yet unites you with them, which reduces you absolutely yet exalts you absolutely, which makes you wholly present and self- aware yet wholly absent and self-forgetful, which gives you rest yet inspires action, which is aimless yet purposeful, which leaves you nothing to do because you are already at the goal yet everything to do because you are still at the beginning. What's wanted, in short, is a meditation which reconciles all your built-in contradictions. As impossibly tall order! Nevertheless - wonder of wonders - this is just the meditation which our hypothesis ["Closer is He than breathing, nearer than hands and feet."] put into everyday practice, has to offer!

And you can go on tirelessly with this meditation because it is so interesting, and it is so interesting because it is the ever-renewed discovery of What, after all, concerns you most. If this Subject isn't your business, what is? It wouldn't be surprising if every other subject of meditation were in the end to fail to hold your attention. But how could this Inside Story, this very Core of you, always the same yet always fascinatingly new, ever be rivalled or ever fail you? How could you ever get to the end of Its indescribable, breath-taking mystery?

Above all, this meditation, Janus-like, faces both ways. Simultaneously looking in at the Seer and out at the seen, it takes in and makes sense of the seen because it puts No-thing in its way - and gives priority to this No-thing. Seek the 1st person and the 3rd shall be added. Seek the 3rd, and even that shall be taken away.

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