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Prolog: The Story
Rotterdam, an unusually warm evening at the end of March. The promise of spring softly fills the city and the hearts of her inhabitants. It sure fills mine. It makes me uncommonly relaxed and easygoing, mixed with an untamable expectation and a yearning for – yes, what exactly? Well, probably the desire to be free. Free from all the tangles that come with my personal me. To be free from myself. In the end, that’s what drives me, almost monomaniacally, and all my emotions revolve around reaching this goal.
I’m sitting in a cafe, it’s early in the evening and just barely the right time to be reading a while without attracting too much attention. The tall man with his stubbly beard, sitting beside me, seems to think the same. He’s reading, like me. The two of us are like an island of tranquility within the hectic social interaction bursting loose all around us at this very moment. Is it the feeling of springtime coming? Is it the undefined sense of loss, which seems to translate itself into a longing for contact and mingles with the feeling of informality? I don’t know the answer, but even though most of the time I clam up around other people, it suddenly makes me open up towards my reading companion. He’s reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I notice. I know the book. For me it was so overwhelming I read it straight through, twice. At over 800 pages, this was an all-encompassing and deliciously long immersion in a universe in which large and small, cosmic scale and triviality mingle to give rise to a liberating ecstasy of estrangement. Perhaps this is what I’m looking for. Will the man beside me be getting the same message from the book?
The man has a relaxed friendly look in his eyes. On impulse I decide to ask him the question. “Pardon,” I say in Dutch, “mag ik u wat vragen?”
“English please,” he replies with a northern European accent.
“Excuse me, may I ask you something?” I try again. He answers with a small nod. “Would you agree that this book is about freedom?”
The man looks me straight into the eyes. Friendly, I hear myself think in a flash, and at the same time I realize that his expression hasn’t changed at all from when he looked up from his book, nor has it now after hearing the question. The same kindness – no more, no less. Suddenly I hear myself add to my question:
“…about enlightenment?” Immediately I feel embarrassed. Why did I say that? How can he possibly know what I’m talking about? He must think I’m an idiot!
The same instant the redness of shame creeps onto my cheeks, the man himself comes to my rescue, saying, “That’s exactly what this book is about.”
My heart jumps with joy! I’m saved, and I seem to have found someone who could be on the same wavelength as me. Out of relief I show him the book I am reading, and translate the Dutch title: You are not what you think. The book is written by a Dutch guru I visited a couple of times recently, and who I am rather taken with. I understand exactly what he is talking about, which gives me a pleasant and quite hopeful feeling.
“This book is about enlightenment too, but in a direct way; through accounts of satsangs. Are you familiar with the term ‘satsang’?” I ask him.
The man smiles. “Yes,” he says. “That book, going by the title, might be about enlightenment. But it’s not about realization. Neither book is about realization.”
His answer takes me by surprise. “Excuse me, what did you say?” I ask a little bewildered. “Realization and enlightenment mean the same thing, I would think…”
“If your book was about realization, the title would be You are not what you are,” says the man, grinning and still looking at me with the same friendliness as before. Unmoved kindness, I find myself thinking, I didn’t know that was possible. But still his answer makes no sense to me. “I don’t understand,” I blurt, trying desperately to get a grip on his answers. You’re not what you are? How, what…?
“Of course you don’t understand,” he replies, “because if you could, it wouldn’t be about realization. But can you follow it?”
Now I am totally lost, and when I hear myself answer “Yes,” it feels like I have just lost my last ally – still being looked at by those unmoved friendly eyes. For an instant there is silence: while I can hear the murmuring sounds around me, this noise seems to be drawn into a bottomless pit and I’m sucked into it too. I’m here, but I’m also gone. What is happening?
~ ~ ~
“Dear guys and girls,
We are about to engage in a series of what this mule Zil calls ‘SlamSatS’. Although that which we are pursuing has no form and is older than the world, older than time in fact, the way we will be pursuing it does have a form, and it may strike some as ‘new’. It isn’t, it is just a variation on the ancient ‘neti-neti’ – not this, not that – approach, be it using a modern vocabulary and expanding itself to persons, enlightened beings and everything else you might hold holy.
Remember as we go on: if you take something personally, look at what it is in you that takes it personally, because it will be something that still thinks it’s a person. Mind you, even mules in full view can get insulted. But that would be on topics like their car or their wife. On matters concerning realization they cannot be insulted, because their certainty is not on that level. If, concerning realization, any feelings of hurt or insult might come up in them anyhow, both the insult and the insulter for them will be the source of deep gratitude, because it means something lit up that subsequently was destroyed by the mere fact it was in full view.
~ ~ ~
Separation and Oneness
1 (20) Sometimes I get a long period of oneness, but then it’s followed by a feeling of separation. How does this happen?
2 Separation is a thought, do you see that, 20?
3 No Zil, actually I don’t. I mean, it’s not something I invent, it’s something I perceive, like I perceive this room… and what you say…
4 That’s what you think, but it is not true. There’s this oneness, everything is fine and warm and whatever – and then all of a sudden: ‘separation’…
5 Yes, that’s what happens.
6 Or so it seems. What’s the crux of oneness?
7 Well, absence of separation – or is that just being silly?
8 No, it’s extremely well put in fact. There’s no separation in oneness. So can oneness recognize separation, does separation have any meaning to oneness?
9 No, that doesn’t seem possible…
10 It isn’t. So what can recognize separation, something that doesn’t know about it or something that already knows?
11 The second one, I guess.
12 Right you are again. In order to recognize separation, there first has to arise something in which the seed of
separation is already present. Which is you, small you, mule. There has to be the belief in an entity that is separated already and only when that has formed, the experience ‘separation’ can arise. Which means that ‘separation’ is a belief, a thought of this entity – which in its turn consists of a belief called ‘experience’. Thus, separation is a thought of an experience. A belief within a belief.
13 But it doesn’t feel like a thought, and on the face of it it doesn’t feel like ego either!
14 You can see that it must be there first, can’t you?
15 I would have to admit that’s the only answer.
16 So mule is there already, only it has not been recognized as such yet. A moment later it takes the shape of separation and then your good mood is ruined. Do you know how it is possible for mule to already exist in that oneness you talk about?
17 I think I’m scared to find out.
18 You’d better, because it will hurt. It is possible for mule, because the oneness you experience is mule too. It’s an experience, an experience of oneness. That should have made your alarm go off. Every experience is mule, baby.
19 Damn. So there is no oneness?
20 Yes there is, but never as an experience. Realization does not belong to a level, experience does. Experienced oneness may be a side effect of the realization of oneness, but that does not mean experienced oneness is the same as realization. It’s a common mistake of enlightened mules to forget that. And as a result getting attached to this great oneness-experience. Like you are. Separation is a thought, oneness an experience. Both come up. Accept that they do, accept that their appearance does not matter at all. Then you won’t be fooled by them.
21 But… if the experience of oneness isn’t the oneness itself, what’s the point of being realized?
22 None at all for mule. None at all for oneness either, because oneness cannot become more one by realization. The realization that you want, the goodies that you expect – they are all part of muleworld. And muleworld will never become one, because it only exists by the grace of separation. Seeming separation, because all is one and will remain so no matter if you realize that or not. That’s why I say nothing changes with realization. There’s only experience, and experience does not exist…
23 So why should I…
24 …try, want, strife? You shouldn’t, it won’t help you a bit. You don’t have to either, let me show you. Get out. (points at the door)
~ ~ ~
1 (32) Lately I feel like I’m getting more and more attached to silence. And I’m starting to get the idea that you use a lot of words. Why do you do that? Isn’t realization all about silence?
2 Realization is silence, 32. Nothing more silent than nothing. But that silence has nothing to do with the ‘little silence’ you are describing. Your silence has an opposite called ‘noise’. In this case the noise of my words. That silence is disturbed by the words – and by the thoughts they provoke on your side. The silence that can be realized is not only the silence that noise comes in and disappears into again, but also the silence that your little silence comes up in and disappears into again when it’s replaced by noise.
3 The real silence is a roaring, thunderous silence, a silence that is as much present in a meditation cave in the Himalayas as right in front of the Rolling Stones performing. Every noise in this seeming world, and every silence, consists only of this. Once your mule is in full view, it is aware of this silence all the time. Not as silence as such, but translated into some quality of ‘shhhhh’ that cannot be otherwise described. Within this ‘shhhhh’ everything happens, while the ‘shhhhh’ makes this happening somewhat translucent, somewhat not happening at the same time. Which is the actual situation, or non-situation in fact. Your question and the world of images and judgments behind it, get slaughtered the same way by this ‘shhhhh’. When that happens, it turns out that these words, however agitated they may seem, reflect the roaring silence in a very, very clear and tranquil way.
4 (19) So you mean that the sense that I find your blustering annoying is the sense that I am deaf for the real silence?
5 My dear mule, these words you just uttered were utterly worthwhile to utter, because they present your aggravation as a barrier. So they are useful. But they’re not true of course. That what can hear is not you. You consist of deafness. There’s no way you may hear the silence, you’ll never experience you being dead either. You are the barrier itself. You’ll have to die first and who will hear the silence then?
6 But you said that the silence can be heard.
7 I did not. I said its effect can be perceived. This effect is described as ‘shhhhh’, but it is not a sound, it’s a translation into a quality. But not a quality that can be perceived as such. The only sign of its existence is what it causes in its turn: a translucence of everything that formerly was solidly existing within space and time.
8 But isn’t music a much more effective way to point at that?
9 You’re all undoubtedly familiar with the ‘finger pointing at the moon’ phrase. And you all know that looking at the finger instead of the moon is a mistake, don’t you?
10 Well, there are two problems with music. First, it’s designed to enchant you, which is looking at the finger. However, you might be able to get past that first trap, look at what the finger is pointing at and suppose that is the moon: some higher principle of beauty and tranquility. Suppose you indeed are able to experience truth in some shape or another. Then you might say that the music does help to make you become aware of this moon, doesn’t it? Maybe even gets you there, which at least must be awfully close to that?
11 Yes, that’s what I experience and why it seems such a good way…
12 …to point at the moon. Well, maybe it is. But what moon is the finger pointing at? Clearly something you can imagine, feel, suspect… and ultimately even experience. Which means it must be something that’s part of muleworld too. Only when it is part of your world or part of your imagination, what I just described can happen, can’t it? Now, lots of spoken word is positive, imaginative, describing the indescribable – and as such pointing at a moon. And I agree, lots of times music can do that kind of pointing better.
13 But how about a sentence like “That whole pointing at the moon business is pure muleshit because the moon consists of finger”? What music can give you that precise notion? What music can break itself to pieces like the words in these SlamSatS do? Words that describe the moon in a way that says “These words point at the moon. But don’t be mistaken: the moon that you can perceive, imagine or even suspect as being pointed at by these words is not the moon they point at”… Only words can be wielded with the precision needed to kill themselves on the spot. Bang! It’s a bloody self-sacrificing bloodbath! And as such leaving behind nothing alive or in one piece, which is as close as you can get to describing the moon.
~ ~ ~
176 pages. $8.00
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