Monthly Archives: January 2010

Nondual Inspiration from J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger died on January 27, 2010.

Andrew Pyper writes in the Globe and Mail:

“It’s funny,” Holden observes at the end of The Catcher in the Rye. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

I have returned to these lines almost as often as those of Joyce’s The Dead, and though the former isn’t nearly as poetic as the latter, it offers the value of practical advice. Because it’s true, isn’t it? You tell yourself the story of yourself and no matter how alive you might feel, it’s like you’re looking back from outside of time, already a ghost.

Read the entire article.

The Nonduality Definer

Silence, non-definitions, anti-definitions, koan-like responses, or a whack with a Zen stick, may be the best responses to the question, “What is nonduality?”, but allow me to be more language-bound. Responding the following points will guide you in constructing a commonplace definition of nonduality:

A statement that nonduality means non-separation

A confession from your knowing

A statement that defining nonduality requires experiencing it

A method for experiencing nonduality

A metaphor

A reference to an authority

A disclaimer based on the paradox exposed by trying to define nonduality

Add another element, such as etymology, quotations from different periods of time, or different short definitions such as would appear in a dictionary.

For more information and examples of definitions containing these points, please visit

Submit your definitions as a comment to this entry.

Also, if you are a lexicographer or have an serious interest in the history of the use of the words nonduality, nondual, or nondualism, and would like to work on a project defining those words for the Oxford English Dictionary, leave a comment or contact me at jerry at

What is the Utility of Nonduality? Scott Kiloby Responds.

The following exchange is from the Open Awareness Study Group

From Jim:

One thing I keep wondering – is there any utility in non-dual awareness? I don’t mean you only seek this in hopes of suddenly getting checks in the mail, a la The Secret ;’) I realize that awareness is the primary goal, but are there any other fruits from that tree?

It’s a tough world and there are many harsh things to deal with. Indigenes are still being slaughtered for their resources. Haitians starve. And here, more and more are going homeless due to the economy.

In your experience, does nonduality provide any emotional or ideational advantage in dealing with the world? That is, can you deal better with emotions that naturally arise during harsh events? Do you get better ideas or see opportunities, or perhaps, chance on to better coincidences than before?

One reason for asking this, is that I feel the public needs this, but as it is often presented, it appears valueless and nihilistic – Advaita Apathy. It will never catch on the way it is now perceived. Perhaps there needs to be Some icing on the cake.

I feel nonduality has great value and does not need to be presented in a rigid and bloodless way. I was listening to recordings of Alan Watts, for instance, and although he has much the same message, he puts it in terms of a dance, rather than “emptiness.” He speaks with great humor and charm, not just declaiming inscrutabilities.

From Scott

Hi Jim. Good question. Teachers are often reluctant to make it seem as if there IS something to gain in terms of a personal benefit. Presenting non-duality as having benefits can have the tendency of putting a carrot out beyond the reach of the ego, as something to go chasing. From that view, enlightenment looks much like a fantasy where the “me” will feel total bliss, or will live without problems, and the world will be at peace or whatever. When the mind gets a hold of ideas like that, it tends to treat enlightenment as some future state to look for. And that’s a trap. The ego just goes on chasing carrots. That’s its job.

But I don’t take the view that we cannot talk about some of the possible benefits of realization. There is great compassion, freedom, and love available in the seeing of non-separation. There is the capacity to no longer absolutize viewpoints. So being right takes a backseat. That has profound implications in terms of worldly conflict and basic relationship issues.

But these benefits are not really personal benefits. This is not something we get to add to our personal stories and say, “I feel so free” or “I am so compassionate” or “I have gained such peace.” There is an impersonal aspect to this. T o the “person,” impersonal sounds cold and bloodless, as you say. But this comes from not seeing where the words are actually pointing. This is why experiential investigation is so important. It is not enough to leave non-duality on the level of the intellect.

In experientially looking to where the words are pointing, we see that “impersonal” is not cold and bloodless. It is the capacity to see each and every viewpoint as an appearance of awareness. It is knowing that what I am is what you are. This is emptiness dancing as Watts says. Life isn’t personal anymore. It’s no longer just about “me and my life” here and “you and your separate life” over there. So when you see an other, when looking as impersonal awareness, you are seeing another appearance of what you are. You aren’t seeing individual people, individual nations, with rigid boundaries. You aren’t seeing Haitians starving. YOU are starving.

For those who believe that non-duality is about acting as if the world doesn’t exist, that is only a phase. The “world” just means thought. Thought is the world. The world of separate things appears as thought appears. If the goal is to deny thought, then the goal is to deny the world. The pointer “recognize non-conceptual awareness” is not an invitation to deny appearances (deny thoughts). It is an invitation to see that the world is conceptual. Non-duality can seem nihilistic from the viewpoint that nothing exists. But nihilism is a viewpoint of the separate self that has disconnected itself (or so it thinks) from the world. IT’s just a story. It takes a person to be detached from something else–from the world.

But the greatest thing you can do for the world is see that your entire suffering, on a personal level, is illusory. It isn’t real. Take that investigation seriously and you find the peace within. And you find that when this conflict within you is resolved, it is resolved out in the world also. This has to be experienced to be known. The mind won’t grasp it. A certain element of trust is involved in taking the first steps towards looking into this.

Isn’t non-separation love? And isn’t love the basic sword that cuts through all suffering? If so, is there not a great capacity for transformation there? In this seeing, you don’t go around saying, “I have no mother.” “There is no self.” “There is no world.” Those are insights along the way. They lose their importance. They fall away. And then the thought arises, “Hi Mother.” And there is your mother dying on her deathbed. And you look at her as your own true Self. You look at her without your stories. You look at her without imposing your own fear of death upon her (which is just your own personal stuff anyway, having nothing to do with her). You sit with her as presence, as love itself. And that has all the transformative power in the universe in it.


Read more dialogues with Scott Kiloby at

Nondualism Sneaks Into Everyday Life

I like to see how the words nonduality or nondualism are becoming part of our everyday language alongside meatballs, crotcheting, cigarettes, and coffee. This blog entry is a perfect example:


Friday, January 1, 2010

Year in Review, pt7
22 February (Denton)

I woke up, the morning after the party, at Matt’s house with Ryan. Ryan and I made our beds, gathered our things, put on our shoes and socks (our clothes were still on from the night before) and we left for coffee. We sat for two hours or so and listened to music and wrote and conversed lightly, then we took his truck to the shop to be fixed. His dad picked us up and drove us down to Corinth where Ryan lives with his parents.

We walked in and his mom was in the kitchen making dinner – still. It’s a two day process for her Italian cuisine. She made lasagna, meatballs, Italian sausage, manicotti, salad, foccaccia, and canoli. I showered, got ready, and helped her prepare for the family. Ryan showered after me and helped once he was out also. The food went in the oven and Ryan, his dad, and I left to get his grandmother. We left his other grandmother croche-ing in a chair in the living room. Ryan’s dad dropped us off at the store to get wine, went and got Grandma, picked us up and we got back to the house. Ryan’s nephews arrived. The oldest is only nine years younger than Ryan. Ryan’s the youngest of four boys in the family – by fourteen years. Family slowly arrived car-load by car-load of husband/brother/son-wife-children, a car of children-son/brother’s girlfriend, and finally, after we sat down to eat, brother/son/husband with wife and kids. It’s a baseball family – boys still in cleets – sister wore her cheerleading outfit. The family is big, Italian, loud. They love each other and show it through hugs, handshakes, trash talk. I ate three plates full of manicotti, lasagna, meatballs and sausage, and bread. The first plate had salad on it. Ryan’s mom re-filled my plate before I could comprehend what I had just shoveled frantically into my mouth – too delicious to pause. I gorged on food, drank my wine, finished with water. The family sat around and talked, shouted, played cards, and Ryan, his dad, and I stood outside with cigarettes and talked about philosophy – non-dualism, time, language, so on. We stepped back inside and hung out with the family a while longer, then they all left and Ryan’s mom gave me a blanket and pillow on the couch. Ryan layed on one couch, I on the other, we watched TV, he went to bed, I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning, went to the toilet, Ryan was up, and we got coffee, sat at the table and talked.

Avatar, reviewed by Jerry Katz


A review by Jerry Katz

I’m reading a book on conducting interviews and one suggestion for a print magazine interview is to hold the interview at the home of the subject. It’s an older book and an example is given of Fred Astaire. An interviewer noted that in Astaire’s home there were no photographs, mementos, keepsakes, or other reminders of Astaire’s past. Except for two Oscar statues quietly on display, Astaire lived in an ordinary home. You would never know it was the home of one of Hollywood’s most revered and appreciated stars.

The point was that one should note the surroundings of the interviewee, as they often say more than words. Clearly, Astaire lived in the present and must have felt burdened by tokens from the past. Anyone seeing him dance sees at once that Astaire was all about lightness and ease. Check him out here:

The advice of observing the surroundings I carry to this review. Maybe that makes this no review at all, but this is Avatar I’m reviewing so I think it’s okay to stretch and reach and see if I can pull everything together. Let’s look at certain surroundings of this film, surroundings I happen to encounter and notice.

I saw this film in IMAX 3D. IMAX is a Canadian invention begun in 1967. The first IMAX film was shown in 1970 and first IMAX 3D film was shown at the Expo in Japan in 1985. It was We Are Born of Stars:

“Using computer graphics, the film traces the development of life from the formation of atomic nuclei in stars to the molecular structure of water and DNA, zooming the audience through the five-billion-year evolution of our solar system.” []

The history of IMAX 3D, therefore, is rooted in a film which connects the audience to their cosmic self, their biological self, their molecular self and which would, I imagine (I haven’t seen the film), give the viewer a sense of interconnectedness with literally everything. That interconnectedness and the intelligence associated with it, is what Avatar is about.

But let’s look at more of the surroundings of this film. I’m really indulging myself here as this review should have been finished by now. So on we go. Interconnections. Surroundings.

I had heard so much about Avatar, especially within nonduality circles, and had talked to several friends who had seen it, that I figured I better see it. I went on the Internet to find out the times it was playing. Then I bought my ticket online and printed it out at home. Surroundings. Interconnections.

Then I checked my bus schedule and walked to the bus stop and got on the bus which picked me up on time. Interconnections, interconnections.

The bus delivered me early, so I stopped into Chapters (aka Borders Books in the U.S.) and strolled amongst tens of thousands of books and accessories associated with books, the scent of Starbucks permeating one end of the store. Books are interconnections of themes and stories within interconnections of stores interconnected by computers, and all of it pulsing within an interconnection of interconnected supporting businesses and industries.

I haven’t stepped into the theatre yet but I feel I’m living the movie at some level. Avatar is about seeing interconnections and also the failure to see interconnections. The theme of Avatar is told in three words: “I see you.” Someone once sent me a book and inscribed it, “I see you.” The question is, who is this you? It’s the interconnectedness, the vast and deep interconnectedness, and the unknowable knowing that one is That.

It’s not hard to see interconnectedness. Anyone can see it in the Internet or a bus schedule or a military takeover. Avatar requires you to look at another person and to see interconnectedness as it was depicted in the first IMAX 3D movie. It requires the seeing of intelligence immeasurable and incomparable. I see you: I see nonseparateness; I see the immeasurable, the incomparable, the unknowable. That’s what the guy was saying when he inscribed that book to me. He’s a sage. What else is he going to see?

That’s the theme and message of Avatar. How was it delivered? Pretty well. Fact is, it was IMAX 3D. You could show an old sneaker in IMAX 3D and it would hold your attention for about 8 minutes. The movie was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but not a great film.

There is one more layer to Avatar. After the story was over I watched the credits and listened to Leona Lewis sing I See You:

There were about 3000 names listed in the credits. For me that was a back story worth seeing on the screen, a story in names. Here was yet another layer of interconnectedness, another sheath of intelligence.

And so I left the theatre and walked to the bus stop, my awareness filled with certain surroundings of the day. The most impressive and notable layer of interconnectedness wasn’t the movie itself. It wasn’t the rolling credits or the bookstore or the Internet. What was it? The running of the buses, the meetings of passengers, buses, and destinations. The coming, the going, the waiting, the sitting, the departing and arriving, that meant interconnectedness to me more than anything else.

However, seeing interconnectedness doesn’t require a display of buses or anything else. It requires seeing something, which in this movie is called “you.” This “you” is the other — whatever the other is — and you, at once. Our surroundings are deeply interconnected and saturated with intelligence and wonder. Those themes are what Avatar is about and they are delivered in a very entertaining way. The same could be said for the day, any day.

-Jerry Katz

hmm … yeah … wow … ok … A nondual fly on the wall

I love how nondualism sneaks into the middle of this post, this life. This is a peek at a nondual perspective, a small bubbling up, a seed of nondualism planted in the legal profession. Reading this, I feel like a nondual fly on a wall.


Monday, January 4, 2010

And so it begins…

Day One:

BarBri: Temple Mason’s Lodge #6 at 8:30am. Check in. Give hugs to familiar faces. Pick up my stack of outlines. These outlines are to facilitate note-taking while listening to lectures – very cool. These outlines and notes will supplement the ten, very dense, books stacked in my house. All of that will supplement Barry’s Bar cards, purchased and installed last night. Today, I was made more familiar with the various parts of the bar exam. 2/23, day one will comprise of three hours allotted for six essay questions (30 min per question) from twelve state-specific subject areas, plus the six MBE subject areas (18 total subjects for the exam writers to choose from), then the final three hours are given to two Multistate Performance questions, 90 minutes each. 2/24, day two will comprise of two three hour sessions to complete 100 questions per session. That’s 1:48 per question. Connect with my fellow Bar exam-takers and establish community. Community is vital and a group of us decide to have lunch once a week. Calendar all classes, subjects, proctored practice exams, and various must-haves in my life. I just happen to be at one of two dropping off places in working a program and I won’t allow myself to fall apart now, not after ALL the work I’ve done and continue to do. i.e., I Skype weekly with a helpful person and that time slot is definitely calendared. It has to be or I die. Oh! I shared with her my thoughts on non-dualism and how I thought she would have been upset with me for dedicating time and neurons to a more spiritually advanced topic when I should be sitting with my written work, but she just laughed and remembered that tomorrow is my 90 days in another program. Okay, bar exam, then accepted help where it was offered, from a member of the Inn of Court who is also on the Board. She is sending their recommended study outline, but you have to ask for it because it’s not online and no one ever alludes to it. I just happened to jokingly ask her at the last Inn if she would give me a hint about where to focus and she said, ‘I’ve actually just picked all the questions for February.’ Oh my God. I was looking at a woman who knows the questions for 1/3 of my exam grade. Anyway, she told me about the outline. Then, drop a hundred at Trader Joe’s to stock up in the hopes that I won’t have to fret so much about healthy food & vitamins. Burn some CDs for happiness, cook up a shrimp lo mein (straight out of a bag!), and tape up the few simple rules I need to always remember throughout: Let Go, Let God; Easy Does It; First Things First; Stick to the course outline; Read less/ Practice more; Use the tools you’ve been given; Move & groove your body; You matter and You are doing it!