The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, poems and humor.

TAT Forum
January 2002

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions

This month's contents:

Zen and Common Sense (part 2) by Richard Rose | Recipe for Getting REAL by Linda Harmon | Looking Away by Bob Cergol | Three Lines of Work by Bob Fergeson | Energy Accounting by Shawn Nevins | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Buddha's Turning Point by Art Ticknor | Humor

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Zen & Common Sense (part 2)
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the December 2001 TAT Forum)

Watanabe: Three Birds on a Branch And what is love? Is it the compassion for lessers? Or is it the rapport of equals? Now if you stop and think about that a minute—do you pick somebody that you can manipulate, or are you looking for rapport with an equal?

Can you love the unknown or a superior creature? Most people talk, you hear it in theology, about wanting to love God. How can you love a superior creature, especially one you can't see? Can you love God when you find it impossible to love anything out of your range of rapport?

Do people have rapport with or love only equals, or are they just harmonizing with particular similarities, or experiencing chemical familiarities? In other words, is chemical familiarity translatable as love? (If you find two people who harmonize chemically, having physical things in common.)

Can you love a dog? You hear a lot of this talk: "I love my dog." What type of person would claim to love a dog more than his neighbors? We find this all the time—these people are great lovers of dogs, but hate their neighbor, especially when the neighbor doesn't like the dog. Sometimes they love the dog more than their mate.

How could such a person ever find love for a superior one? Much less a God possessing all the superlatives with which God is endowed by man?

In other words, people who manifest this tremendous emphasis on loving humanity—I think if you run into them individually, you find out they don't love much but themselves, and they don't really truly know how to love themselves.

Is not our feeling for lesser beings one of pretended compassion, for those inferior that we can use or wish to use? This thing of loving—your children even—we like to pretend a compassion, we ennoble ourselves by announcing a compassion. And this gives us an ego trap; this is what it amounts to. We can work a little harder, try a little harder, if we think we're tall.

Is not our pretended love for our superiors one of inhibited envy? Loving really that which they have, which we do not have but we want—while trying all the time to pull the envied ones down?

(Now you get into an analysis of this. You get a superior and you pretend that you love them—you'll see this a lot in politics—we only love them long enough to pull them down and use their head to climb on.)

To dispossess them, to rape, seduce, use, and even dominate in turn, if you can get away with it? To get but not to give? Where do all these great love affairs go six months after marriage?

What is this pretence of nobility? Is not this in every case a desire to force a projection—a projected fictitious person which we'd like to claim to be ourself—upon those we need to use or we need to dispossess?

It comes very easy for a person to say they love. But watch these people who say they love so much, when it comes to really laying down a bit of work for the other fellow. Or still having that same emotion, ten minutes after they're satisfied. Do we love the truth? We hear that too. Really love the truth? For instance, could we love Jesus, who many accept as the truth, who said he was the truth?

Or would we try to pervert him, tempt him, be healed by him, use him, corrupt him, drain him? Tell him that we love him—while posing in the nude—hoping to seduce him? Make him carnal, make him want us? Not be satisfied with love or rapport, but endlessly and relentlessly play games with Christ—in the hopes that he would develop a lust for us, for our erogenous bodies—so that we could be better than Christ by spitting in his eye in contempt later on?

What would we do if we really knew Christ? Would we love him?

Why is it that love has to be digestible? Why does the love of children involve ownership and smothering? Why does the love of the mate require dominance, and hate for dominance by the dominated party, and contempt for the party who is being dominated?

What strange type of person would it be that could be dominated and love the dominator, be content with it? What strange type of person is it who could be totally committed to a person and yet dominate them? Seeing in that person a great stature, in view of the fact that they can be dominated?

Are you capable of love—or glandular sickness?


What is equality? Is anyone equal to anyone else? Is a child equal to a dying old man? Is an idiot equal to a genius? Is bestial man equal to the saint?

Are we all equal because of an indwelling essence, or is the statement a form of political euphemism?

In other words, our democratic system is based upon the equality of man—a political euphemism. It has nothing to define that with, except for the fact that we all have a soul, and you'll never be able to prove you have a soul. But yet the whole political system is based upon the fact that we are equal, in that we all have a soul, I presume, because physically we aren't equal.

Do we really have an essence?

Some modern psychological schools claim that all we are is what you see, the reactions you get from the protoplasmic body. Are we not then little more than a pile of protoplasm, ingesting and excreting, not acting but reacting, swelling up and reproducing, chemically moved and chemically burning out, having a personality that is nothing more than a posing and positioning for body wants, and having a mentality capable of all sorts of dreams, including the dream of a soul?

Are we a soul?


Do we think, or are we forced to think? That's another ego that we have—that we are great thinking creatures, powerful mentalities. Can we stop thinking? Try it. Try right now to stop thinking.

Do we think that we think? How can we think, if we only think that we think? Meaning that we suppose that we only imagine that we are the thinkers. Are we the thinker, or do we just imagine that we're doing it?

Or is all this caused? Is it forced upon us? If you examine your thoughts, you'll find that people have a tremendous impressionability. Television for instance, if you're not thinking of anything else, may subliminally produce results in you. Literature, drama may produce action in you.

When I was younger I'd go to a show and come out and I'd have a whole burst of determination—that I was going to go out and do something. And half an hour later it would leave, of course. But for about thirty minutes I'd have a tremendous revolutionary burst of energy—that I was going to change the world. Now I don't know why, but these thoughts were imposed upon me by the drama.

So—how much of out thinking is imposed upon us? By our family, parental state of mind? Or the scholastic, teacher state of mind, or school state of mind? Companionship state of mind? And the necessity of it—you have to think a certain way if you want to get by. So we try to twist our head, and by adjusting our personality we eventually get our thoughts inhibited or encouraged along certain lines.


sleeper by Goethe Is sleep the absence of thought? Then consciousness is an endless concatenation of unavoidable thoughts, one inspiring or creating the other. One of the definitions of sleep is that it is the absence of thought or the absence of consciousness. And of course consciousness is defined by thinking; that if we're not thinking, we're unconscious. And what we seem to be are consciousness experiences—one of an endless concatenation of thoughts, and termination in an unconsciousness of sleep.

Now is this type of consciousness the highest form of awareness possible for man? Being able to be alive and think, in which thought is physical, somatic, or molecular? Does it survive death, or even disease? We find that some people can't think just before their death; they seem to be unconscious or crazy, if you want to use that word.

Are we our thoughts? If we are not our body then are we are thoughts? Or are we the observer of our thoughts? Now everyone can realize now that we're talking about thoughts, but we are also observing them.

The question at hand here is, "What are we? Who are we?" We say well, we're not the body alone because we think. Now these thoughts may be just reactions, as some psychologists may claim. Or they may be a definite plan of our conscious being, our total consciousness, maybe our total thought plan.

Are we the observer of these thoughts? In other words—is our body the only self? The first premise is that the body is all that we have, and that thoughts are something like little electrical impulses—that can be recorded on a machine that will pick them up, such as an EEG machine.

Well, we're not content somehow, very few of us are content, to believe that this body with its reactions is the only self. And yet it is a definite self; it is marked by a personality. Each one of them seems to have a different little mental pose. And for awhile we may decide that this is a self that we don't want to lose.

When personality functions largely in behalf of the body, is that not the self, then? But is it the only self? As we're looking at this thing, we're looking at ourself thinking; then—there's an observer of the thought process. Who is doing that observing?

Now it sounds sort of frightening to say, "Who is thinking about thinking?" Or, "Are we thinking or are we just thinking we're thinking; are we just watching a certain action going on?" And if so, who is this person? Who is being watched and who is watching?

A man can have an argument with himself, and this happens often. You know what I'm talking about; a man argues with himself a lot of times, especially if he has a hangover from being drunk. He may say, "You're crazy. What did you ever get yourself into that for?" Again—there are two people there. There are two sides in combat; one of them is criticizing the other.

So we talk then about an observer. (There may be Freudian terms for these, but I don't pay too much attention to them, because they seem to include things that I don't understand, or that don't answer the question.) And this anterior observer is still a thinking creature. Now, Gurdjieff calls it the Steward, if I'm not mistaken. The steward of the mind. But this has to be a mental self, then.

So we begin to see immediately that there is more than one of us. And the observer is like an umpire over the many externalized selves, or appetites. For instance, you might get a vocal argument from your gonads, or from your stomach if you're hungry. You might get voices saying you'd better get up and get something to eat, or grab that as it goes by, because of your body. You'll get some pretty plain messages, if these egos are under pressure.

So this observer or umpire or steward is necessary to keep order among the many factors that make up our opportunity in our life.

~ Continued in the February 2002 TAT Forum

© 1974 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Recipe for Getting REAL
by Linda Harmon

cooked up with much help from the ingredients of tenacity & the work of Richard Rose and Douglas Harding, with lots of turmoil to stir things up

Apothecary's recipe book 1. Turn the imaginary character that you think you are around 180 degrees and look away from the 'imaginary' picture show that you call your life.

2. Follow the usually invisible ray coming from the imaginary projector that seems to be showing this picture show.

3. Keep retreating away from this picture, the body that you identify with, the mind, and anything that you see or hear. Pay no attention to any thoughts, worries, or fears that may try to get in your way. Nothing can hurt you without the 'imaginary' body.

4. Know that nothing can harm you as you've left that frail body back in the show. Just continue reversing away from all that you have come to know as your life, your earth, your universe.

ingredients 5. Stop and admire the strange new scenery if you must; but continue retreating till there is nothing except darkness. If you feel intense electrical sensations, don't stop either, it cannot harm you. It is your friend; be glad if it accompanies you on your retreat.

6. If you are in the darkness be not afraid, you've found the place to stop. Now, just let go of everything, even yourself. When you lose yourself totally you will BE everyone and everything at once. The only way to describe this is that you are like the sun, fullness, Allness, shining in joyfulness. You and all others are the same ONE, totally without form or boundaries. You and all unmanifested are real, maybe colorless and tasteless, but free and joyful at home with all that has manifested in the past, present, and future. You are your brother, sister, friends, even your enemies. You are the real of all of us together forever. Only through the desire for separation are we fragmented into these visible pieces to play these illusory, but visible, games. I don't know why we leave our wonderful home to play, but we do.

This recipe may seem strange but if followed precisely you will never be hungry again. Because once you've even tasted REAL, then even the games taste better and are easier to swallow. You can enjoy these games more and not take them as seriously. This world is not the tragedy that it appears to be. It is the grand play of the manifested, where the parts of the whole can enjoy their selves and play their games of sorrow and happiness. You now know that you and yours are all the players. You can go home whenever you want to be free of these games. Go home and just BE, all together, unmanifested.

IF THE RECIPE DOES NOT WORK THE FIRST TIME—CONTINUE TRYING PERIODICALLY. CONSIDER ADDING SOME EXTRA TURMOIL IF NEEDED. Turmoil can include, but not be confined to: stopping thought, celibacy, fasting, meditations, anything that can take you away from the routine that you have identified with. And if nothing gets you Real, don't despair because you really are home already.

Looking Away
by Bob Cergol

Big Bend Nat'l Park - Yinan Chen I can't convey just how intensely I see this, but I see the process I went through over the years of leaving Rose's house and returning and leaving his farm and returning, leaving the valley and returning, as quite literally identical to the process that a person who is staring impending death in the face goes through during that heart-wrenching process of reconciling themselves with the unremitting reality staring them in the face. A dying person desperately needs some comforting and we must comfort ourselves because quite simply no one else can. No one else can quite make us turn all the way and look full face into that view. We must somehow allow ourselves the space and give ourselves the time to reconcile ourselves with what we already know. From hindsight, I know that for me Rose's being represented that eternally patient, unconditionally loving, gently compassionate—but uncompromisingly immobile—Presence always beckoning "I am here. I can wait for you to come to me. Whenever you are ready I will be here for you."

Our personalities clashed on some level and I always had the conviction that I couldn't work with him in the worldly realm as he seemed to envision things unfolding. He would drive me away. But HE would draw me back sooner or later like a moth to the flame. It was never him. It was ME all along. I was always trying to return to the vicinity of home to see if I was strong enough, or weak enough—depending on your point of view—to actually accept that it was time to go—finally—home. But I never could. I always found a way out. Some way to externalize ME back on to him.

Rose's role as guru was to let us put that on him. As long as we could dismiss these experiences and apprehensions as his doing, i.e. as external to ourselves, then we were safe one more day. That's the real depth of the Mirror he was. He reflected our shortcomings with the willful force of his personality and he reflected back to us our very own BEING. All that we ever perceived in him in truth we were perceiving from our very own essence. We had to look away to save ourselves.

I do not believe it is possible for any being to lie to itself. All that it can do is look away. We give ourselves many devices and strategies to make this possible.

Bamboo & Sparrows - Shokado Shojo My dad went through stages in his dying. He focused on his environment, getting it all set up for the long ordeal ahead. After all he was going to have to occupy himself for a long time lying on that couch in the living room. He bought a new stereo, music, books, magazines. He lost interest in all that pretty quick. He didn't decide or choose to lose interest. It just happened. I think it was because he was too aware of the shortness of time and it all seemed so rather irrelevant. Subsequently I imagine that while he stared silently out the picture window, he became quite introspective—but with no motivation for fixing himself—only for understanding all that he beheld in his mind of himself and for piecing the fragments into a whole. In a way, even this was just a substitute preoccupation for the external environment. Eventually even all that must have seemed rather irrelevant. Certainly in intensive care, in his last days, he would have been more focused on the impending end—though now he could distract himself with thoughts about what the physical experience of that might be like (as my uncle Joe seemed obsessed with)—and wondering just when the actual moment would come and how. It was still distant enough, after all; they were treating him. When the life supporting and treatment delivering machines were finally disconnected, his body also told him the time was imminent. Now, in his last hours he was able to distract himself with waiting for my mother to arrive. He couldn't leave without seeing her. (It was the day of their 25th anniversary.) She came. He saw her. He then knew it was time and his attention could no longer be occupied with any more irrelevancies. And I believe before the final moment, he did indeed face that immobile Presence full square. Death did not come to him. He went willingly and knowingly to death. So you see, he died while still living which is what is required.

Perhaps it was his death, that all these years later allowed me to see that this is exactly the process of living we are all engaged in. The ONLY difference is the time frame which affords much longer intervals of looking away. The only "Still Point" there is, is the one which my father entered before his death. That still point is never not present and it is certainly not a point, for it is infinitely boundless and boundary-less. Every person is racing so fast to build their identities, which is the most basic mechanism for "looking away." But the process of not looking away is, for most, a gradual experience that exactly parallels my father's. You can't be in the still point if you look away from it. You can't escape it—for it IS you—you can only look away.

The Three Lines of Work
by Bob Fergeson

Borromean rings In time, our efforts at self-discovery can seem fruitless. We may feel stuck, unable to move. This can often be due to focusing our energy in a tight circular pattern, ignoring other aspects of ourselves and our relations to others. In other words, we could be desperately trying to maintain our individuality-sense, rather than truly observing ourselves. To check on how effective our effort may be, we can keep in mind these three areas of work:

1. Work on Oneself: How do you work on yourself in day-to-day life? Have you begun looking for ways and means? Have you stated your intent and commitment to find the Truth about yourself? How do you try to see yourself, go within, meditate, etc., while going about the business of everyday life? Can you find ways to remember the reason you got started in self-discovery in the first place?

2. Working with Others: What are your thoughts about ladder work? Do you have a teacher, and are you helping someone? Can you remember and perhaps relate to the seeker you were, say five or ten years ago? How would you help that person if you met them today? What will be your legacy to them? Are you using your fellow seekers as a means to find your courage and discrimination, and to help you face facts and your faults?

3. Working for the Sake of the Work: How do think you could be useful to the Work, in your present situation? Does this interest you, and what do you feel about it? Do you think the Work needs to be preserved and passed on, and how could you help with this? Could this be a means to fulfill your commitment?

We all have an avenue of spiritual work which comes naturally to us, with little true effort. To move, we must put effort into the areas we feel uncomfortable with. Perhaps then we will come to see ourselves more clearly.

Energy Accounting
by Shawn Nevins

cellular energy It is the minutes between the hours that doom our endeavors. If you claim to be a seeker of self-realization, then examine where you spend your time. Where your minutes go is where you will see results. A simple exercise is to keep a daily log of how you spend your time during a week.

In preparation for this exercise, predict your time expenditures. Brainstorm a number of categories such as: travel, entertainment, food, socializing, work, housekeeping, daydreaming, sleep, etc. Write down your weekly time estimate for each category. Comparing this with the actual numbers will indicate how observant and/or honest you are regarding your self.

Along with you weekly time estimate, create a diagram of you energy directions. Where your energy and time goes is where your life goes. Diagram your self as a circle with straight arrows (vectors) of energy radiating in different directions (toward different goals). For example:

Now begins the work of creating your daily log. Essentially, you are creating a time expense sheet instead of a financial expense sheet. Hopefully, this will inspire you to create a time budget, as well. At the end of each day, review your time expenses and place them in the appropriate category. Create new categories for unpredicted expenses.

self as a circle, with energy radiating toward various goals

Difficulty completing this project uncovers a major stumbling block to achievement in your personality. To overcome this block, try the exercise again. Determine to keep trying until you record a week of numbers. Do not berate yourself if you fail repeatedly. Muster a dogged, humble determination.

At week's end, tally up the hours for each category. Now the painful part begins. Compare the numbers with your claims for a life direction. You may uncover goals of which you were not aware. If you are clever and dishonest, you may rationalize multiple goals into one—such as getting a good-paying job so you can afford to travel and look for spiritual teachers.

If you find too many irons in the fire, then it is time for change. Remember, change is accomplished in little steps or in leaps of inspiration. Do not ignore inspirations, but do not wait for them either. Little steps are always waiting to be taken. Little steps may be shaky, but the cumulative effect is strong. Even inspirations will need steps for reinforcement.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

A small child's voice
Travels through the empty spaces of my mind.
His world abandons him to Silence.
Responses cease,
Arisings falter.
I watch impassively.



A flicker in the corner of my eye,
And there she is, feasting on a blood meal.
My blood!
I am startled by this tiny invader
Who assaults my sovereignty
And looks at my life as merely food.
Teachers are everywhere.


Today, the word is light—
For those afraid of the dark.
Light shines everywhere,
So bright that all is transparent.
All the while, we labor to create
Shadows of drama and joy.


If only sound did not occur
In such empty space,
I might believe there is something here.
Instead, every thought of self is cloud-like,
And wind moves me to speak
Words that don't really matter.


"It Is This Way"

Black fountain of life which made me—
Unmake me! Unravel me!
I believed I was a man,
Now I am no man.
I do not control the slightest thing.
All happens through me
Like light travels through air.


Approximation is a chancy game,
but the only one we know.
What we are is a different story.

Look through a lens that is not yours,
but there for all.
Behold there is no one to behold.
The lens falls from the eye
and the world reels in dismay.
No person will look upon the All.
Life is a spasm, and death its relief.

Buddha's Turning Point
by Art Ticknor

Some of us question whether our desire for ultimate self-definition—the satori or enlightenment of Zen—may be a delusional fantasy, and yet we can't cure ourselves of recurring attempts to make such a discovery. Others of us have faith in the abiding existence of that liberation but have lost confidence in our ability to find the way. This latter situation was the circumstance that Siddhartha Gautama found himself in, according to the biography "Buddha" by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and current professor at Leo Baeck College, a seminary for reform Judaism in London.

Bojjana Konda Buddha Among the items that contradicted my previous impressions of Buddha's life:

I won't spoil the suspense by telling you about the new solution, in case you're interested in reading the book. What struck me about the unfolding events was what appeared to be the watershed divide: the decision to follow only his own insight. This reminds me of Richard Rose's admonition that the railroad tracks a teacher can lay out for a student eventually run out and that the seeker comes to the pathless land where he has only his intuition, held in check by reason, to guide him.


Lin Chi with hoe The earliest record of ch'an Buddhist illumination experiences, The Transmission of the Lamp, contains the following story:

Lin-chi, after his awakening, remained for a time with Huang-po. One day Lin-chi went with Huang-po to do some work, in which all the monks participated. Lin-chi followed his master, who, turning his head, noticed that Lin-chi was carrying nothing in his hand.

"Where is your hoe?"

"Somebody took it away."

"Come here, let's talk," Huang-po commanded, and as Lin-chi drew nearer, Huang-po thrust his hoe into the ground and said, "There is no one in the world who can pick up my hoe."

Lin-chi seized the tool, lifted it and exclaimed, "How then could it be in my hands?"

"Today we have another hand with us. It is not necessary for me to join in."

And Huang-po returned to the temple.

~ From Theosophy Library Online—Great Teacher Series.

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