Praying Mantis • © Eric Platt 2022
Praying Mantis • © Eric Platt 2022

Non-Duality and Suffering

Q: What's your real value, at the end of the day, after years of seeking and suffering and finding, and all you've inquired into and seen and practiced over the decades? Is it worth anything, or just empty at the end of the day?

Seems to me all this non-dual talk by so-called Neo-Advaita, and sometimes regular Advaita, or the Zen-like teachers, is a bit suspicious. Seems to invite solipsism, or narcissism, or escapism or nihilism or all kinds of -isms bad, neutral, and otherwise. Sort of like mental masturbation in the end.

And seriously, you can't on the one hand say there is suffering, or be suffering, or talk to or encounter suffering in someone or some animal, and say there is nothing to do, because there is no one here, or no one there who is real that is suffering! That's cruel, compassion-less, cold.

A: There is no real suffering.

Q: There is an experience of suffering!

A: Yes, an experience, but that's all it is, an experience of what's happening, and it's completely illusory, has no meaning or significance. It's the end of suffering because it never began. There was never and is not anyone that suffered or suffered.

Q: But isn't that denial and spiritual bypassing?

A: No, it's simply saying there is no separate entity that suffers in the first place. One may encounter the appearance of suffering, like an animal whining, and in that moment you find yourself doing what's called for, giving some comfort or solving a physical problem for the animal, taking out a thorn from it's paw, giving it some water, some affection, some love; or a friend or relative calls with a problem and you, from the heart, do what occurs to do out of love, but it's not a pre-planned project for a me to save the world of suffering, or go into my own suffering and make it real, if it stems from a sense of separation that in itself is nothing but a contraction of potential energy, with no real meaning other than a charge that makes it seem more real or significant or meaningful – again to a "me" that seems all-important. Who cares!

Q: Saying "who cares" seems awfully cold, or distant, or lacking in compassion!

A: "Who cares" is not a cold or mean or judgemental thing, it's neutral: it's saying there is a carefree sense of reality that is free, absolutely free. It's sees all as passing and not real. Phenomena that seem heavy and weighty are really only such temporarily or in relation to something else, to dualism and multiplicity and the sense of realness and solidity granted them by us, and not inherent in anything.

Q: So you are detached.

A: No. Well, there can be an experience of detachment, and you could see that as a stage, but ultimately it's also illusory, part of the story, the movie, the appearance. It's more like there's an experience of engagement, of no one, where there was never a separate world or thing to be disengaged from in the first place. You just find yourself acting, or not. It's all spontaneous, but not for a someone. It happens. You might say there is a witness, but even that is saying too much, too many things.

Acting could include helping an animal, a friend, nurturing a plant, a garden, or even getting angry where appropriate, or even inappropriate, then see the stupidity later and apologizing. Or not. There is no pre-set plan or meaning, or path. Acting could be sitting on the couch contemplating, or there being a sense of emptiness, aliveness, clarity, no one home. It could be anything. You never know. Or it could appear as making a painting, taking a photo, writing an essay... it doesn't matter, and there is no matter. In the first place. Never was. All made up.

Q: Buddhism seems to have quite a bit to say about suffering, as does psychology, and even Advaita vedanta are quite thorough in it's analysis, or in their paths, and do not just dismiss it, but make concessions, or compassionately treat the individual and the suffering of the world as real, as far as giving it respect, deep consideration, and paths, practices and philosophies of living. They want to get at the root of it, transform and transcend, whatever... have a very deep tradition, lineage, not to mention transmission of the "glimpse of reality"...

" you are going to help someone, if you are feeling heavy, with the weight of the world on your shoulders?"

A: Sure, this is all part of the story, the experience, or the journey, the seeming journey you could say – this dream life – and all the significance and weight given to things like human suffering, or my suffering, or the suffering of others. But tell me how you are going to help someone, if you are feeling heavy, with the weight of the world on your shoulders? If this is all so serious and meaning-full and deep and has dark corners, and there is fear and judgement hiding behind it, because one is feeling separate, contracted, heavy... and coming from a position, where you have an answer, are right, they are poor suffering lost souls... how much so-called good is that going to do, anyone or anything? You are only going to spread more of the same division, inner conflict, sense of lack, and therefore more seeking. At best you might catalyze a change in view to a slightly better view, if they started with a lower or more miserable view than yours. Nothing wrong with that, and more power to you, as a psychologist or life coach — but you were asking about suffering, ignorance, the world, nonduality, reality — that kind of thing. Ultimate matters. And at some point that is going to be faced, as it were, after one is done going around and around in circles. Death of the self, basically. Transparency of the illusion.

Q: Well, death of the self and transparency are all great and fine, but in the meantime, I'm dealing with memories of how assholes treated me, and the repercussions in my life as far as feelings, having relations, and material circumstances. What do I do, just ignore it, pretend like nothing happened, and they didn't or don't exist? That I don't exist? "There's no me, and no them," and all that?

A: There's no pretending, and no escape. The only pretending is to be a person, and therfore pretend the world is real, separate. There's no prescription. I could say: examine one's feelings, maybe say something with the person that connects, even if they don't like it, even if difficult; as that would be the most loving thing, or I could say forgive, or I could say smoke a joint and have a class of wine and listen to some music, or go for a run, or take a class, or meditation on this and that, or read a book on nondual philosophy. Or go talk to your guru or therapist.
But is this ever going to end? The same things cropping up again and again, like recycled garbage, fermented cheese. Moods, or friction, or stress, or worry... all about a me, a self. See how personal this all that stuff sounds? The self-concern? The importance give to it. The deepest depression is the biggest ego trip, so to speak. And so is the highest spiritual state, an ecstasy of absolute consciousness, or being a spiritual master, guide to millions. There's nothing to it. Absolutely empty.

Q: It doesn't seem empty. It seems very real. Regardless of all the wise words, or how true they may be, I have a life to live. I mean, what about...

A: What about it? No matter what "it" is, the answer is the same: there is no answer, since the question is assuming an answer already. It's not a real question.

Q: What do you mean?

A: A real question, a true enquiry, is when one does not know the answer. But you are assuming the answer in your question, and the answer is, there is a "me", a separate, real me, and therefore a them, a world, and ten thousand things, and causality, and time, and death, and fear, and morbidity, and therefore suffering, consequences, implication, meaning, significance, weight, solidity... and a need for answers, or something to alleviate the suffering of a sense of me, this separate thing, this weight, this pain, psychological weight and pain. Neurosis, problems. ... Even if everything is going well, or seems to be, for the moment, it can't last, as long as the so-called happiness is personal. And the more "high" that happiness is, the more it's going to crash. The guru and the devotee are going to clash or have a falling out, or town folk turn against the religion, or your ecstasy from having found it, the Answer, or the drug, or the meditation, are going to come down.

Q: But you're giving an answer. An answer with a capital A.

“Everything is just as it is – happening spontaneously, without will or ego. Do you dare even consider that that applies to you too?”

A: As long as there's an answer, there's a question, and as long as there's a question, there's a potential answer. It's all part of the fun. But it's not going anywhere. There is no destination, goal or purpose. Despite the complaints, lack of interest, lack of freedom. Despite the projection of the divine, or worshipful attitude, or putting a person or an idea or an experience on a pedestal. It's just part of the movie. Have at it, let them have their fun. Who cares! Who is judging, making divisions, complications, hierarchies, who who who, or what. You constantly want to bring people into it, banter, strife, religion, gossip, politics, sports, war, news, noise ... will it ever stop? Does it need to stop, to be what it is? Is ignorance really a problem? Everything is just as it is – happening spontaneously, without will or ego. Do you dare even consider that that applies to you too?

So, given that, is suffering really a problem?

Q: It is for me.

A: Exactly.
So enjoy your suffering and complaints, the joy and love in them.

Q: That's crazy.

A: The me is always crazy. Neurotic, psychological, in need of answers, having doubts, and a momentum towards … something. Always seeking.

Q:When will it end.

A: It never ends, because it never began. And, you just believe you were born, because you were told that.

Q: That's the answer? I can never live up to that message.

A: There is no answer: that is the answer. The answerless answer. It's freedom, pure potential, playing itself, loving itself, doing everything and nothing at the same time, the timeless Infinity. Endless and beginning-less.
A screen with light playing on it, but with no backing. No screen. Nothing and everything, Neverything dancing. And nothing really happening.

Q: But there are teachers, gurus, enlightened beings out there who have answers. Or seem to. And there seems to be a divine purpose, a goal, a meaning and a direction to it all.

A: "Seem to". Key words right there! And, you forgot that Ramana Maharshi said, in his "final answer" that there was nothing to achieve, spiritually speaking. You could have skipped right to the end of the book! But no one listens, of course.

"There is neither creation nor destruction, neither destiny nor free will, neither path nor achievement. This is the final truth."
— Ramana Maharshi, from The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

And isn't it interested that he wrapped it up about free will and determinism — they are two sides of the same coin — namely the assumption of a me, a separate entity: because obviously to talk of the Totality having free will or being determined is meaningless – free in relation to what?! Determined in relation to what? Do you see what a joke it is?
So, as far as "divine purpose, a goal, a meaning and a direction to it all"... It's meaningless to talk that way.

In any case, is any guru or teacher, ever perfect, if you stay with them long enough?

No one — no body, the appearance thereof, the action figure, nor any teaching — will live up to the model, the message, the teaching, the anything: neither the appearance of me, of them, or the appearance of you, on the endless bottomless screen. The very effort to, is that contraction called "me". The holding on, the ownership. So the answer is freedom from all answers. The answer created the question. Isn't it beautiful, this creation? Everything that appears – the tire lever on my desk, glowing blue plastic in the morning light through the window, and the broken knife next to it, are beautiful. If you see it.

No teaching or teacher or teaching, or a new view of life, has any finality to it.

“The Final Answer”
Wow, doesn't that sound grand. You can wear a big turban and a colorful garment, and sit up on a pedestal, and dispense divine energies.

Q: That seems pretty cynical.

A: No, just saying: you are the answer, the question, the guru, and everything else, wrapped up into one! This is It, my friend. It takes no time to be what you are. The Source. Non-objective and Unknowable. Silence. Freedom.



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