4. Prologue, Part IPerfect Brilliant Stillness
There's no such thing as creation,
and there's no such thing as the universe.
So there's no such thing as the world,
and there's no such thing as you.
There's no such thing As 'I.'
What is left? Silence!"
- Robert Adams
ONE COULD SAY THAT reality is not at all what it seems or how it appears to be, and that nearly the whole human race is operating under a mass hallucination. One could say this, but it would be greatly inaccurate because the idea that there is a human race, and the idea that there is ‘one’ to say so, are both actually part of the hallucination. These things we call ‘persons’ or ‘human beings’, along with everything else we can either think of or perceive with our senses, are actually only illusory appearances in one infinite Consciousness, which is all there is.
How are we doing so far? Sounds almost like the ultimate paranoid conspiracy theory, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds so far-fetched and so at odds with everyday perception and common sense that most people if they were to hear it would be inclined to call it crazy raving; laugh, or shrug, and go back to their daily lives.
And yet our histories as well as our religious and philosophical traditions tell us that as far back as they go, there are accounts of the occasional ‘human being’ becoming convinced that this fantastic-sounding scenario is in fact the truth; and accounts also of them trying to communicate this conviction to others. In fact, such visionaries and such ‘raving’ are at the foundation of most of the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions. Few of these traditions still explicitly claim such ideas as part of their overt teachings or practices, but a little research reveals that they were there at the beginning, in the ideas or experience or vision of the person around whom the tradition formed or in its foundational writings.
Which again is an inaccurate statement, since again the idea that there was a ‘person’ as an individual entity whose individual ideas or experience were the beginning of a tradition is itself part of the illusion. So you can see that there is something of a communication problem here.
Look at it this way: if you were to grant for the moment, for the sake of argument, that it might be possible for someone to see, come to know, become convinced beyond doubt, that everything that we think of as ‘reality’ is in fact a mindgenerated fantasy, and that this illusion includes all ideas and words and experiences and perceptions as well as the things we think are the ‘human beings’ having such ideas or perceptions; and granting also for the moment that such a person is not simply insane but may somehow, just possibly, be seeing something others do not see; then in such a case how could such a person communicate to others what he or she sees, when she knows that she herself, all others, and any ideas or words that might be used to communicate are all themselves part of the illusion and therefore quite ineffective?
What analogies, what metaphors or word-tricks might then be used to try to convey what is beyond what can be conveyed? Such things as, “it’s like light but it’s not light, so completely beyond light it can’t be seen,” or “it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” or “it is the fullness of what everything is, which is complete emptiness; it is what you already are though you can’t see it,” or simply, “I-Am-That.”
And of course if you’ve delved at all into the mystical or esoteric traditions of the world’s religions you will recognize that this is exactly the kind of thing that Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Rabbi Bal Shem Tov, Jalaluddin Rumi, Adi Shankara, Meister Eckhart, Seng-Ts’an, Ramana Maharshi and various other Zen, Christian, Hasidic, Sufi., Taoist, Advaitin and other ‘spiritual teachers’are recorded as saying.
Please listen carefully; this next bit is important. It is the opposite of what you have always been told, and what you have been told is not true. What is at issue here is extremely simple. It is not complexity or difficulty which makes this so hard to communicate or to understand. It is very simple and very easy. It is just that it is so completely at odds with what is believed, and with how experience is commonly interpreted, that the mind cannot comprehend it.
There is an agreed upon, consensus reality which almost the entire human race shares. The world has been around a long time; it is ancient. Into this world, you are born as an individual; you grow, learn, experience life, and die. There is some disagreement concerning what happens after that, except that for everyone else, life will go on - until they also die. Everybody thinks they know this - or some local variation of this. But in fact when you were ‘born’ you did not know this. You learned this. Everyone else learned it too and so it is an almost universally shared idea. But everybody believing something doesn’t make it true.
From eternity, without time, I Am, the unborn. Just as a dream begins at some point during sleep, so ‘at some point’ That which I Am appears as Consciousness here, and this world comes into being. I open my eyes: there is experiencing of life in this apparent body/mind. After a certain span of experiencing, I close my eyes: the world ceases to be, and from eternity I Am, the unborn.
What could be simpler, or more obvious?
Every once in a while someone will come along and try to tell folks this, but a consensus reality is tough to crack. It is self-reinforcing and has built-in ways to deal with cognitive dissonance. One way is to call the offenders ‘crazy.’ Another, just as effective, is to call them ‘mystics.’ Either way the illusion of separation, the consensus reality, is maintained.
So the teacher works in strange stories, parables, metaphors, actions; statements pronounced one day and directly contradicted the next. Trying to work around the defenses. If you take any one of the teacher’s statements literally, you’ll be off looking where that statement seems to point, at something within the consensus reality, which is not what was intended. Which is why the time-honored way of learning from these characters, if one is so inclined, is to sit with them for some time: months, years, enduring their contradictions and reversals and non sequiturs and apparent craziness until enough ofthese divergent vectors have been absorbed that one can make something of an average of them, to look out beyond them as it were, to a point where they might converge, beyond anything that can be comprehended or imagined.
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