I remember, many years ago, learning about nirvana, the ending of the suffering self by the ending of the self. I wondered what the point of that was: nobody can be free from suffering. This was a question that kept popping into my awareness over the years, and I found it strange that nobody seemed to be discussing it nor seemed to be bothered by this apparent paradox.
A few weeks ago, I was wondering if some of the things that had happened to me during meditation had happened to other people. I searched on YouTube for descriptions of spiritual experiences, especially of non-duality: the one, indivisible whole that is everything and nothing. I found the usual accounts of experiences of awakening by many well-known gurus and spiritual teachers, but I also found something else: I discovered what seemed like normal people expressing an unusually direct and radical message.
One of those people was Jim Newman. Jim lives in Vienna, Austria, where he holds monthly meetings. He also travels to various places around the world for meetings. What he talks about at those meetings is so obvious and ordinary that he would never have thought to share it. He holds meetings because other people asked him to.
Over the past few weeks, I have been listening to all of his meetings on his YouTube channel. This weekend, he came to Marin County, California, and I have come to ask questions. I attended a four-hour meeting yesterday, and I will attend another four-hour meeting today.
I have been on a spiritual quest for the past seventeen years, a quest to awaken and to end my suffering. I have been seeking to know myself as the non-dual everything that I have glimpsed in the past. In those moments, there was no me, no time, no space; there was only one thing and everything was that; everything was alive and everything was perfect. I have met many supposed spiritual masters but I never believed that I met anyone who was truly awake. I am convinced that Jim is awake, or at least his body is able to answer questions about awakeness.
Jim would not say that he is awake. He would say that there is nobody here. It’s not just that there is nobody in his body; there is nobody here at all. There is not even anyone reading these words, nor writing them.
“This is the last thing the individual wants,” He says.
Once we misunderstand what is happening as happening here, we then develop what he calls a “psychosomatic misunderstanding” in which there is a subtle contraction in the body; that contraction is the self. Once there is a “me,” a self-induced and self-perpetuated imaginary prison from which reality is perceived, everything is misperceived as containing a “me.” Now there seems to be two: here and there, me and you, mine and yours, this and that. This “fruit of the tree of the knowledge good and evil” appears to eject us from the paradise which is ever present, into a hell of apparent separation. From there, the only function of the self is to seek to regain the completeness that it senses is its true nature. Yet the self is a goal that thwarts itself by its very existence.
You could say that the true nature of everything is nonduality, but that would express too much space between all that is and nonduality. You could say that everything is nonduality, but it’s even closer than that. Nonduality is all there is. All there is is this. This that is arising right now is all there is. Every object is nothing appearing as everything. Every thought, every feeling, the imagined past, and the imagined future. This is nothing appearing as everything, like a massive explosion that keeps on silently exploding as stillness. Time and the flow of time is this appearing as those things.
When we misunderstand everything as being imbued with self, we misunderstand people as others selfs and we misunderstand everything in the world as dead. This thin veil of misunderstanding makes everything seem dead. The aliveness of this seems to be hidden.
We have no free-will and choice. The self is only a reaction to what appears to be happening. We continually create stories to explain why things appear to be the way they are: “I achieved this,” “she did that,” “I screwed up,” “I am going to do this.” All of this is nothing appearing as those thoughts, and we have no control over that. It’s like the self is on a rollercoaster that we have no understanding of, and we’re continually freaking out. Buddha said that life is suffering. The self is suffering. In reality, all that is is freedom. It is pure freedom because it has no need to be anything other than it is. There is nothing else it could be since there is nothing else.
There is nothing wrong with therapy and meditation and self-development. There’s nothing wrong or right with anything. But all of that is just re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic, hoping that somehow it will accelerate the ship’s inevitable sinking. If you could stop freaking out about the rollercoaster ride, which you can’t, you would cease to exist, and so would the rollercoaster. All that would be left would be everything.
This message is the last thing you want to hear because it means the end of you. The end of the seeking is the end of the seeker. Nobody wakes up from the dream. Nobody becomes enlightened. Nobody ever understands all of this. It is the end of understanding. It is the end of knowing. It is the end of all experience because it is the end of that which experiences. It is the total annihilation of self, of everything you know. It’s absolutely not what you seek because its exactly what you seek. It’s the blissful and permanent extinguishment of the illusion of separation, the extinguishment of what you are.
It’s amazing to finally sit in a room, with a few other people, with a person who I honestly believe to be awake. It’s amazing that so few people seem to know about him or to be willing to subject themselves to this onslaught of truth.
“It’s a miracle that this message is being expressed out of that body,” I say to him.
“It’s being expressed as those words too,” he responds.
“Oh, I see. Every thing is expressing this message because every thing is all there is and isn’t.” I say.
I feel like my original concern about nirvana has been validated, but, for now, I still seem to be here.