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

TAT Forum
February 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 3) by Richard Rose | The Sculptor by Gary Harmon | Progress by Shawn Nevins | Poems by Shawn Nevins | On Personality, Analysis & Going Within by Bob Cergol | Back of Beyond by Bob Fergeson | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Zen & Common Sense (part 3)
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the January 2002 TAT Forum)

Richard Rose photo Now is this anterior observer the soul? We might say well, this is the inner self then. Or—is there another awareness? Not necessarily thought, but the awareness of this observer, and the awareness of the whole pattern of an anterior ego or self watching other egos. Is this final awareness, which is not vocalizing what it sees, is that the true soul?

We get a better view of ourself as a viewer, by watching the view, the scene or the creation, until that leads us back into ourself. Now this is a little trick that happens in an esoteric digging such as Zen. As we watch that which is outside of us, it will eventually lead us to ourself; when you watch yourself long enough, it then becomes possible to understand the viewer.

The reason I'm harping on this point is because what we're doing all the time instead of looking for the soul of man is looking for outside effects. We're looking for a button to press, like in an automaton. One button says "soda pop" and another one says "immortality." So it's that one; put a nickel in, press the button, and out comes immortality. It becomes an objective thing.

How do you do it? You do it by eating certain macrobiotic foods, and you'll live forever. Or you do it by chanting a certain mantra, and you will become transformed or translated. Or you say certain prayers, and you get the deities on your side, and they pick up this cruddy little animal and make an immortal being out of him.

So, we're going to try to look at the thing. We're going to try to look at ourselves. And what makes a dependable looker, a dependable viewer?

And we define this: We say there are people who are smart, and there are people who are not so smart. The people who aren't so smart don't get the answer. And we equate this of course with answers such as how smart the guy is who can get four rabbits, as compared with the guy who comes home with a rat. One is smart and the other is stupid. So the person who can come home with a million bucks is much more intelligent than the person who is sitting in some shanty on the other side of the tracks.

But regardless, we realize that there is a mentality of accomplishment and a mentality of non-accomplishment. And we call it sanity. Now we're in the province of psychology again. There are different ways, as I said before, of finding out who we are. (The second question or step.) One of them is the religious way. That is, taking someone's word for it that either knows or pretends to know. It's generally a subjective path, in which you are largely required to believe.

Then we have another method of finding out who we are, and this is the psychological path, which tries to analyze the brain processes or the mind processes, doing it scientifically and methodically. This is a true self-knowledge process, and this is very similar to Zen.

And then there is a third method. And that is going directly into the head. And this is one of the four precepts or directions given by Bodhidharma. The fourth one is: "Direct pointing at the soul of man." That is, you can't do too much speculation or argumentation—just go. Just look inside. And don't even go to too much bother to read books on how to look inside. It's there—the inside is there—just look.

So this is the third system. (Now, it may be pretty hard to understand in just a few words.) And of course, we're concerned when we look inside, with what we look into—the mind. What is the mind?

Is it possible for the viewer to know himself by knowing the view—by knowing the actions of the body of the viewer—and then of going directly to the viewer, looking inside of the viewer himself? This is a meditational technique. And this is the whole trip.


We like to place a tremendous lot of attention on the senses. We like to play, "Let's experiment, let's get this down in a formula, let's try to chalk a blueprint for going inside, in the most efficient way." Of course—I say again that one person can help another—there are some formulas. But I don't think it's a good idea to write them down in a book, because they're not universally applicable.

After we look inside we start to see that things aren't what we previously thought they were. And we begin to get strongly the impression that a tremendous lot of that which we experience in life is illusory. What you discover is not what other people estimate life to be.

And this is what I was referring to when I first started talking. That when people get this far into Zen, or into the approach to nirvikalpa samadhi, they become frightened—because they realize that this world is going to change. Reality is not that which we hope we see now.

rainbow hologram It's like you're looking at a hologram. I saw one in a university someplace. This is a tubular thing, and you get the impression that there is a real thing in the middle—but all it is is a picture. So if this is possible—that we can look right at something two feet away from us and be subject to an illusion—how much of the universe is a hologram? How much of it is, as Einstein says, that which curves in space? That it isn't really infinitely out there, it's just curved into space.

And this thing about space: What is space, and what is time? These are questions that everyone takes for granted. They take it for granted, yet they believe. Everyone has moments when the idea gets into their head, "How can I know of heaven and how can I know of everything that is to come?" or, "How can I know the nature of everything that is?"

We get the idea of this tremendous unending universe, in which we are microscopic, even our planet is microscopic, and we are much more microscopic and much more insignificant. And how insignificant are we? We're able to think about the insignificance—or think about the relation. Now inside of this tremendous gigantic cosmos—now this is a seeming tendency of people, to say, "Now this is too vast for me to encompass, so I'm not going to pursue this study any longer."

But still—if you do not give up—you say, "Well, I realize I can't get into geology and analyze the substance of the earth and I can't become an astronomer and spend thirty years studying stars just to find out what my relation is to the cosmos." Because of the simple fact that it's even greater than that. It's manifest that there are dimensions that we don't see, interpenetrating this dimension. So that even if we were able to understand this dimension, to pick up these others would require work, time, a century perhaps, of individual effort.

So what is behind this? Should we surrender and say, "Well, it's too big a job"? Or can we stubbornly pursue our curiosity and come up with a result?


I used to say: "What is time? Is it the number of thoughts in a step?" How can you measure thought? How can you measure the duration of a thought? And, if you can measure a thought, if you can relate back to the mind—it's very difficult if not impossible to measure a thought and then give a clock figure of that thought. Because very much of our thoughts are split-second states of awareness—some psychologists claim that a long dream will occur in just a few seconds, which we may think lasts two or three days in the dream.


Another thought I want to leave with you: "Can we be saved, or has everything already happened?" Is it too late? Is the world a big block of solid ice in which we're running around here in a trance—or is there hope of change? If there is no hope of change—then why worry? Why do anything?

Can we afford that answer? To pretend that everything's already happened? I mean—it might be a nice thought, or it might be a painful thought, at the same time you might be able to permit yourself to live with it. But can you live with it? Nobody does. The existentialist, the fatalist—he goes out and works for a living. He doesn't stay home because he's fated to be fed. He doesn't really believe.

Nobody totally believes in fatalism or existentialism. They ultimately get out, when their energy runs down, and they do something to build it up.


Now, is there a method of finding the real self—using this inadequate vehicle that we've been describing, or this lower self? This is the big question.

Plato's Cave Now—again I say manifestly there are ways. We have evidence down through the ages—strangely enough even in what we like to consider today barbaric times. There is evidence of men who have reached an understanding of what it was all about. And I quote Plato's Republic, the story of the man in the cave, and sacred writings—if you want to call them that, they're just old books—from India. Some of them are reflected in Ramana Maharshi's works: the descriptions of sahaja samadhi. The descriptions of the final enlightenment in some Zen writings. (And, some Zen writings are confusing on what the real enlightenment is.)

The logical mind and the scientific processes will not take you there. I majored in chemistry when I went to college—I thought I was going to use this chemical education to analyze matter, analyze the brain tissue if necessary and find out about thought, for instance. And after awhile I realized that chemistry was something that was becoming infinitely complex—the more I studied the more there was to know. The more that was discovered the more fields there were to study in. And I realized that I would never approach the answer with the logical computing mind. Regardless of having computers to help.

I sensed that there had to be a direct method. This is all I knew at first—you had to have some direct short-cut. Whether that was to press a button, or some profound drug experience that would do it—whatever it would take, I decided I was going to try. If somebody proposed one—I tried to find a guru or a wise man, somebody that had a few hints even. I looked for people with little bits of knowledge.

And I came to the conclusion that man has to become. He cannot learn. He can learn a tremendous lot—but after he becomes, he finds out his learning was useless.

The whole process then is one of becoming. And this is a change of being, because the present being is incompetent. The present senses are inadequate. So we look for a system in which the being or the vehicle changes, the radio set is adjusted so that a new wavelength can be picked up, if you want to call it that.


And then of course there's the next one: "How do we find this? How do we find this system?"

Now, how you find it—you have to go through the existing systems. The Hindu system as founded by Ramana Maharshi—you look it over, and if it's found good and if there's a method there, you may try it. Or you may get into Zen, and you may get into Christian mysticism.

But you have to have some intuition, or you'll be led blindly by emotion. You may have a charismatic guru, or books that are filled with sciences about how you're going to get there, and you may take that instead of the more direct or difficult way.

So consequently, you've got another step immediately: How do we find the intuition? How do we develop it?

Everybody has it as a child. Everyone has it at the peak in their childhood. And you have to develop or regain the basic intuition of your childhood. Children have good computers, they've got clear heads, they haven't been burnt or loused up too badly, and they have a good appraisal.

Now of course, they are emotionally led, out of their childhood. This is one of the things that destroys children—the love of the parents. I maintain that children have very clear heads, and they have a very clear perspective, possibly even of both sides of their existence, that is, their eternal existence and their knowledge existence.

But they are called out of this. Completely called out. Forced to learn a language, forced to go through certain things in order to function in this stageplay. And as they're called out, they get away from their innocence and their clearheadedness, and they lose their intuition. They become specialized, and they become verbal, and that sort of thing. So consequently they learn confusion. They accept the language.

Incidentally, I think the Tower of Babel is symbolic of the deterioration of man into specialized knowledge and consequently confusion. He loses his way to heaven—heaven being that which is within. The true state is within.

Now you don't find what I'm talking about in Zen; Zen doesn't talk about finding your intuition. Although it does enjoin you to continually keep your attention on the problem until it's solved.

Now if you keep your attention on any phase of searching, you'll eventually find a way of searching. If you keep your attention on ways of searching, you'll eventually find one you can put to use, and you'll find some results in it.

I maintain that it's possible for every human of average intelligence to find the answer.

~ Continued in the March 2002 TAT Forum

© 1974 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

The Sculptor
by Gary Harmon

As the sculptor
To the delight of his heart
Molds the clay,
So you can create
To the splendor of your nature
Your own future.

As the logger
Cuts a path
Through the thick forest,
So can you slice your passageway
Though this turmoil of suffering,
An obvious corridor
To your freedom from sorrows,
To everlasting contentment.

As for a moment
The mysterious mountains
Are concealed by the passing mists,
So are you also anonymous,
In the darkness
Of your own origin.
The fruit of the seed that was planted
Shall saddle you.

Heaven and Hell
Are words
To frighten you into correct action;
But heaven and hell, neither one does exist.
Only the seeds of your own actions
Shall bring into being
The blossoming that is longed for.

As the author of images
Carves the human shape
Out of granite,
So out of the rock
Of your own occurrence,
Find eternal happiness.

Your life is death;
Death is a rebirth.
Contented is the one
Who is beyond the grasp
Of these imposed limitations.

by Shawn Nevins

Spirit of the Frontier Oftentimes one is frustrated by a lack of progress on the spiritual path. Coupled with this are claims by possible authorities that spiritual progress is a myth. These people protest that we are already enlightened and the very idea of progress keeps us from realizing it. There is a kernel of truth in this, but only for those who transcend the realm of manifestation. Until you Know (in a way that is beyond experience) your true nature, you must utilize a mind and body that operate under the laws of the realm of manifestation. The task before you is to use this mind and body to discover the essence of the mind and body, and not to dream of what you may Be. Within the realm of manifestation there is progress, and this progress will open you to greater possibilities.

Richard Rose used to speak of signposts whenever I asked if I was making progress. He spoke of powers coming to a person, such as the ability to heal or hypnotize others. Such powers were signposts indicating one was on the right path. Unfortunately, such powers never came to me and I grew frustrated never knowing if I was closer to finding answers to my spiritual questions.

In retrospect, however, I see two signposts of a different sort. I will share them with you, just don't worry if they are unfamiliar. If your desire for an answer is strong enough, everything happens as it should.

Over a ten-year period, the questions that drove me to search changed. I began my search through the misery of relationship and simply wanted to be happier. From this most basic of questions, I began wondering why I was on this planet. Happiness seemed pointless if there were no purpose to life. A progression of questions ensued, that led me to look for the origins of thoughts and feeling, to wonder if anything about me was eternal, and finally left me in a state of simply wanting to know something, anything, for certain. Was there an end to the paradox of duality? I see in these changing questions a lessening of self-centeredness, and an increasing desire to know for the sake of knowing and not because it would please me. I believe this purification of questions was a signpost indicating a lessening of ego and concomitant increasing truthfulness.

Perhaps other signposts pointed to this increasing truthfulness and lessening of ego. In those ten years, I also became a smoother functioning human being—a psychological lessening of internal and external friction occurred. Some of this improved functioning could be attributed to the passage of time, but I feel my path accelerated this process.

Those are my two signposts: a purification of questions and improved psychological functioning. To pursue either of the signposts is to miss the mark. Just as pursuing powers such as healing is a distraction. The only point in describing signposts is to inspire hope in others who recognize them. With this hope comes increasing determination to see the path through to its end.

Poems by Shawn Nevins


Listen to the wind,
Listen to the space between thoughts.
After the culmination of passion,
After defeat.
Do not turn from the quickening silence;
Do not fear the gathering dark.
Echoes, shadows, reflections.


My words are your words—
Our words are God's words.
Words written on a screen of empty space.
Words of a night so still
That all of our self is lost in silence.
A silence you carry with you,
In the heat of action,
And in the depth of sleep.

I will clasp your hand
Which is not your hand, nor mine.
For we are alone.
The eye looks upon itself, looks upon emptiness,
And freezes in a view without a viewer.

Alone.... Taste the word.
Speak it on the empty plain that is your life.
The fields of drama are yours alone—
Even you shall not remember them.
I will haunt you to your last days.
I who am you.
That which is Real.


God sees the fall of every sparrow.
God is every sparrow.

Every night there are books of poetry
Waiting in the sky.

The sparrow's place is to fall,
God's—to fall and rise again.
Such motion is all that occurs
And is of no consequence.

The books tell stories
All of which, ultimately, are lies.
The sky, with its quiet weight of silence,
Waits between the bones
And the letters which are bones in the making.
I can finish this tale only by stopping.


An eye, filled with the stars it sees,
Expands to encompass a universe.
The eye becomes the thing it sees
And fades into a mystery.
The one who sees becomes the sky,
Forgets his "I" and seems to die.
The eye becomes the sky,
The sky becomes the eye,
And neither remembers why it cried
For that which seemed to live and die.


"What I Was and What I Am"

I was all I dreamed and feared.
I was longing and confusion—
a puppy left by its master.

I am gale force winds that rip flesh from bone.
The space between all things
and the Fount.

Every word is corrupted by wordiness.
I am left behind and what is—Is.

On Personality, Analysis & Going Within
by Bob Cergol

Do you know anyone who is free of their personality? I keep thinking that the personality, in which we are trapped, will never, voluntarily, surrender its existence, or rather, acknowledge that it is a fiction, because that would change everything.... The conundrum is that we formulate all our strategies from within the mind-set of this personality. (6/23/99)

behind the view Seeing direct—from a point of reference that is not ego-based—is giving up the egocentric position and quitting the argument. Analysis is ego-based—it sucks us into the argument. I'm convinced that self-observation, when done correctly (without getting sucked into analysis), is a technique which "maneuvers" the awareness away from identification with the ego, so that in an instant ALL of ego becomes the view—the dreary details just aren't important then.... You could reject the argument you know so well and instead of giving it form in words, look at how you FEEL, and give expression to that. I wonder what thoughts would then arise is you, and what verbal form they would take.... Before you observe clearly, or perhaps just at the moment when you do, reaction immediately sets in: defense, rejection, yes, no, good, bad, aversion, attraction. Analysis results. The ego-based arguments get verbalized and you are sucked right back into identification with the fictional you. (1/13/00)

vista of Salesopolis Most seekers with any experience would agree that the path is to go within—to find the true self.

But what is the technique for going within?

Everything without exception which YOU DO is focused OUTWARD. It can't be any other way. All valid techniques for going within boil down to nothing more than variations of the fundamental technique Maharshi summarizes as "Who am I?"

Yet all practices, when practiced, result in focusing outward.

When you think you are looking within, in fact you are still looking outward! But at least you are peeling away some of the illusions within the illusion. I think the ego would love to remain working on that level forever. If it ever truly looked in the mirror—the absence of any reflection would be unbearable so it NEVER really looks within.

Successful looking within is an ACCIDENT which is an expedited RESULT of these efforts. (Paradox.)

We have to make this effort long enough to gain a little insight and a little wisdom, and at least until we realize there is no hope for us. That's what happened to me from reading Pulyan. He knocked out the hope that I was ultimately transcendent and would, therefore, at least at death, have my spiritual experience. Since we believe we are the mind at least, and I had to acknowledge when reading his words that the mind WAS one with the body at all times, etc., etc.

Of course you can't decide there is no hope. And hopelessness can't be about the hopelessness of gratifying or serving the ego. It has to be hopelessness of surviving.

That's the half-way point, and God is willing—apparently—to meet us half way....

So if that process has anything to do with the shifting of points of observation and the polarity at each layer—it's only as an after-the-fact analytical description. I don't know what the practical value of that is before the fact.

So this is both an instantaneous event and a process which occurs over years of effort. (4/7/00)

Back of Beyond
by Bob Fergeson

There is a place of Quiet
back beyond your hopes, fears, your dreams.
Don't listen any longer
           to those thieves.
                               They lie,
as they keep you gazing stupidly at the patterns
                bouncing about your fevered mind.

           Listen instead for Silence,
quieter than a tiny bug crawling through dry leaves somewhere behind your fear.
           Listen to your Self,
answering your own prayers back beyond thought,
in the silence behind your head,
before your memory, after your death,
beyond your dreams and desires,
                     and your anger at their coyness.
Be still, there's no need to hurry.
We will all meet again,
in the quiet peace before our names were born ...
                                                back of beyond.


cartoon of finding the self in the mountains

Our thanks to Chris Madden.

Reader Commentary:

"The artwork in the January Forum struck me as particularly pretty this month. Rose's comments on love were appreciated, as I've been contemplating the many dimensions of love vis-à-vis rapport a great deal. In the moment, it seems the word "love" has a thousand faces, but rapport has only one.

"Linda's *Recipe for Getting Real* was fun ... and YES! a dash of turmoil can be mighty handy for defeating stagnation. I enjoy staying centered on the thought that "You and all others are the same ONE" when I'm out browsing through the city and meeting "strangers" for the first time. It's a fruitful exercise, and particularly delightful when those quick, sometimes startling moments of "I know you" happen. It can get pretty zany sometimes!" ~ Tony K.

"Richard Rose in those TAT Forums really has struck a chord deep inside me. What he said about our inability to love people superior to ourselves seems to be a spiritual leaping point [i.e., a rational idea with which the reader cannot emotionally reconcile himself —Ed.]" ~ JCP, a student at Carnegie Mellon University

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