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

TAT Forum
May 2002

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

This month's contents:

Zen & Common Sense (part 6 of 6) by Richard Rose | The Dividing Mind by Bob Fergeson | Awakening into Awareness (part 2) by Metta Zetty | On Meditation by Gary Harmon | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Understanding by Shawn Nevins | Living in the Now? by Bob Cergol | Humor | Reader Commentary & Feedback from April Gathering

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Zen & Common Sense (conclusion)
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the April 2002 TAT Forum)

<img class= For instance, let us take the business of our origin, or our condition before birth, if there was any existence before birth. When we think about birth we cannot help thinking of time—past time—and this brings us immediately to think of future time, the time not yet experienced.

We immediately accept the time measurement systems handed us by our parents and ancestors, and we find that our birth was located in time according to the movements of the sun and the earth. The earth turns on its axis every twenty-four hours and that is a day; the earth floats around the sun, and that's our measurement for the year.

We get the idea that time is an endless ribbon or strand, beginning infinitely way back in previous ages and extending up until now, where it is being spontaneously manufactured. In other words, we really have the idea that the future does not exist, only the word "future" to define that which as yet does not exist.

This idea about the future enables us to feel important, capable of forming our own future—so we'd like to think. If we set to work out our own future and if it does not happen the way we planned it, we feel guilty. And this guilt is the result of an artificially implanted conviction of capability to change the future. Which then is followed by a feeling that we went about things wrong, or else we would have been able to effect the changes in our environment that we wanted to.

It may be important for us to determine whether the feeling of importance about our capabilities for changing the future is keeping us from possibly realizing that there may not be a future; or that our ability to change that future is more limited than we suspected.

All of this means that time may not be the ribbon whose near end is constantly being created. It may be that the whole ribbon is already formed, and the future is just that which we have not yet experienced.

The basic difference between Asian and European, or eastern and western, thinking lies in the different appraisals of the time strand. Oriental philosophy and conduct are more passive and more fatalistic; western thinking would be more willful.

To the eastern thinker we are like impulsive children, beating our heads against things that cannot be changed, at least to the degree that we think we are changing them. We look upon the oriental as a sort of phlegmatic fool, who has been defeated so completely that all initiative is lost.

We fail to take note that some of our most admired thinkers and spiritual leaders in the western world took a position that implied that they were only pawns in a game already determined as to the outcome. Both Einstein and Ouspensky had space-time concepts that had been accepted in other terminology by eastern philosophic minds. What Einstein was able to put down in mathematical form had already been stated by many Tibetan and Indian scholars.

Gravity Probe B orbiting the Earth to measure space-time The space-time continuum concept tells us that there is no time separate from space and no space separate from time. We do not know that a mile is a mile until we measure it, and it takes a given amount of time to measure it. This implies that unless you take time and apply it to a given space, you can't realize that space; a given space depends upon the amount of time it takes to reach it, to reach from one point to another.

We talk of light-years, but to find this we measure the distance that light travels in a second, and multiply that by the number of seconds in a year; the answer is a unit called a light-year. But to get that designation "light-year," we had to first get a spatial measurement, so that the word light-year is really a spatial measurement whose computation is arrived at only by relating it to time, a year. And a year is a configuration of a planet around another star in space; a complete circle in space is one year, a half-circle is six months.

(What I'm trying to say is that this is a synonymous way of understanding this business of space and time. That a year may be something of "duration" to us, but a year is actually a circle around the sun by the earth.)

Zen has its origins in eastern attitudes or philosophies that take into consideration at least the possibility that much of the game is already fixed—now I didn't say all of it—and that it is a good idea for us to look into the real state of things as they are before going through some absurd process of trying to change things that cannot be changed.

We hear much talk in Zen of phrases like "no-mind" and "non-action," but these terms are misleading. The person who has reached the state so ineptly described as no-mind is responsive yet, and is using the same type of mind that we have when he communicates with us about no-mind.

There is an implication of such a change of mental attitude or ability that makes our present mentality look like no mind at all, yet both mental realizations or states are aware of the other: We are aware of the man talking about no-mind, and the man in the state of no-mind is aware of talking to us, and he's aware of our state of mind.

The whole game is for the somatic mind, our present mind, to be aware by some means of an eternal mind or essence. The term non-action does not imply physical atrophy, but rather a detachment from action. The attitude becomes like, "In God I live and move and have my being; in myself I am nothing."

This latter is a Christian statement that involves postulating a God, if the speaker had not yet reached some point of illumination. The term non-action is not quite so authoritative. It implies: "What do you think you are able to do?" or, "Someone else may be pulling your strings."

Now I started all of this a little while ago by trying to show that the three seemingly simple questions that any person wants to answer about his nature, origin, and destiny, can lead to deep thinking if we really want to contemplate answers.

Another point immediately comes up: To do all this deep thinking, a person would have to have a specific special life-style. He could not worry twelve hours a day about getting food for his family or worry about getting killed in the urban jungle life, or worry about his health or about a disease killing him on the way to the truth. He has to take care of the body, or the mind will never know what it missed if the body is cut down.

A way of life becomes necessary. And I maintain that we do not have to join a monastery, but we either have to join forces with people equally interested in protecting themselves and each other, or we have to design a lifestyle or curriculum of our own, figuring in every possible factor—which means figuring in hundreds of factors that a close-knit group would not have to worry about.

This way of life is a factor that is both necessary and something that appeals to the common sense of anyone trying to accomplish anything worthwhile. We know we have to work with our colleagues; the corporate form is more successful than the individual business or even the partnership.

You may set out to get rich, to make a million. You will find that you are not getting very far alone, and decide to form a partnership. But the partnership form is limited, and you find yourself liable for the partner's debts and inhibited by the limited talents, capital, and energy of your partner. You finally become incorporated, and you find that you can write a lot more expenses off and avoid taxation by expansion. You seem to have a lot more capital available if you wish to sell stock, and your business can grow by leaps and bounds.

You may get rich or you may lose everything, regardless of the corporate form. But you will never regret forming the corporation, saying and knowing that that was the only way to go.

The same common sense applies to a spiritual adventure. You find that you cannot get too far alone; you have to read books that someone else wrote—so why not talk to the guy that wrote the book? You know that you have a limited perspective, so you want to talk over your evaluations with someone who has read similar books, or talk to worthwhile teachers.

So you form a partnership of sorts. The partnership may soon involve a half dozen serious people, but you soon find that the partners do not put in as much energy as you do, or they become leaners who drain your energy.

The next step is to form a group, or to join a group, that is large enough that most of the personality frictions, periodic energy lows, and diversification of spiritual directions will be diffused or dispersed within the large membership. The membership will also afford to spend much of its surplus energy together, and many things can be accomplished that would never be accomplished by an individual or several individuals working alone.

Talents of many types will appear within the group, and make possible the investigation of many directions. Teachers may even appear in the ranks. But a significant thing must be remembered: This spiritual corporation can fail. The whole thing can go down the drain. Or the corporation may survive, but a particular individual may not get the goal that prompted him to join.

But—can that individual really say that the system was a mistake? That he wasted his time? Like the man who incorporated, he must realize that regardless of success or failure it was the only way to go.


newel post monk The truth of the matter is that there are things to gain along the way, even if complete or absolute success is not achieved. This point is something I want to emphasize, in talking about Zen. There are fringe benefits. Win or lose the jackpot, you really cannot lose, because Zen is a psychological system, and you can become a better psychologist as more time is spent in Zen.

You get to know your head better, and you get to know other people's heads better. You know a lot more about human capability and motivation. And you learn not to get excited if you lose a few marbles in a marble game.

You also get to relax more with the seeming traumas of life. Because once you understand that this is perhaps a drama of sorts that you're not going to change—once you realize that you can't change it—you realize that something else that is more let's say capable, has set up the rules for the game and the rules for the drama, and you just sort of relax and don't try to change them.

When you come to this particular point of conviction, or let's say point of surrender or point of acceptance, it's then that life becomes considerably easier. Instead of becoming wrapped up and being capable of having tremendous anxieties about things going wrong with us, we're able to sort of step back and observe the whole process, as a person would a picture.

Some of it might be—I don't say it isn't unpleasant—but at the same time, a tremendous lot of things that we consider unpleasant will be avoided. And I'd say that ninety percent of the things we consider unpleasant aren't really worth the worry, two weeks later when we look back upon them; they weren't worth the temper or the anger or the frustration that we go through, making crises out of every little encounter with other human beings, or crises out of every sickness or little cough that our children get.

And we're able to ride out this tide of adversity, that is caused by our association with other human beings, much more easily.

It's not that I'm trying to endorse a utilitarian value for Zen; I'm just saying that you don't become a recluse. It's not necessary to become a person who rejects society, you become a person in the final analysis who understands society, a little better.

© 1974 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

The Dividing Mind
by Bob Fergeson

Apollonius problem radical center Our mind has an amazing ability to split itself. The effect of this on the seeker of self-knowledge is to lead him about in endless circles of egos, never getting a true look at himself. "The world is divided into people who think they are right" also applies to the world inside our heads. The ego has to maintain this position of being right, or the center of the universe, in order to keep its position as the unquestioned 'I.' It accomplishes this by splitting into different roles. This is the Ego1-Ego 2 game, in which the main ego, or Ego 1, creates a scapegoat, Ego 2, on which to place all negative aspects about itself. It cannot be wrong and maintain its absolute rule, so when the facts speak otherwise, Ego 2 becomes the culprit. The variations of this are legion. Thus, a ceaseless internal conflict is perpetuated and any attempt to go within is effectively blocked. And we wonder why the unexamined life is misery.

This process is started long before memory, when the parents use this same escape mechanism on their children. The parent keeps its attention away from its own negative aspects by using the child as Ego 2. The child is then taught the trick, growing up using this mind-splitting to remain 'right' regardless of the facts of its own behavior or thoughts. The voice of the parent will remain in them, goading them to create their own endless versions of Ego 2 as facets of their personality, and to be eventually planted in children of their own.

This process can be seen most clearly in extreme cases where either trauma or frustration reach such a level as to cause the mind to escape by creating another 'person' complete with its own world. In cases of trauma so intense as to be completely unacceptable, the mind may create a new, safe personality and forget the former one which was subject to the traumatic event. All conscious connection with the traumatic event is thus lost. In cases of frustration or extreme boredom, the mind may compensate by creating a grandiose paradigm in which to reside, where it lives in inner fantasy to escape the 'average' existence of the fact state. The ego cannot tolerate 'average.' "Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else." In either case, the mind has succeeded in creating a refuge where it can remain 'right.' This is all simply a mechanism of nature to insure that the individuals of the species do not self-terminate prematurely. The sad part is our ignorance of it all, and our continuing identification with the mind's creations. We are not very good at observing ourselves, but most excellent at creating new 'selves' and their worlds.

If we come to the point where no fantasy, however grandiose or safe, will do the trick, and where we begin to see we are not 'right' or 'wrong' but simply ignorant, we may begin to yearn for something more than the ego can provide. The Inner Self is continually trying to draw our attention to how we fool ourselves, and relentlessly showing us how to get back in touch with the facts. This is an inner process to which we have a right and need, and with which we can reconnect. It lies beyond the ego-centric position, and comes about when we start to observe ourselves rather than create or visualize 'selves' we then identify with. The adage "know thyself" now has new meaning. It does not say "if you don't like what's happening, but wish to stay identified with the manifest, create a new 'you.'" Learning to observe, or listen, takes courage and patience but leads to an amazing situation. You become every thing when you are not any thing. There are many techniques that can help us learn to listen. In the quiet of a mind at peace, the tools of dream interpretation, intense self-analysis, group confrontation, and life itself can teach the earnest seeker what he is not and how to re-establish contact with the Inner Self. Listen with attentiveness: the Inner Self may be heard above and beyond the mind-splitting clamor and dis-ease of the ego and its creations.

~ From the Mystic Missal

Awakening into Awareness (part 2)
by Metta Zetty

(~ Continued from the April 2002 TAT Forum)

Following is a continuing excerpt from Metta Zetty's Insight Mentoring Letter #48, dated March 12, 2002, on the topic of "Deep Sleep, Awareness and the Great Mystery." This letter is a compilation based on correspondence and a chat session with Ku Ye, a Chan Buddhist teacher in Spain. Metta Zetty's web site is Awakening into Awareness.

The Four Sleepers: Bukan, Kanzan, Jittoku, and the Tiger Ku Ye: (3) Why is awakening no longer of interest to me? Because awakening is so simple, so ordinary. It's wonderful, but there is nothing you can say about it. You live it all the time, so why talk about it?

Metta: (smiling) I understand, and I suspected this is what you meant.

Talking about it certainly is not necessary. However, for me there can be value in the conversation for two simple reasons:

Ku Ye: I fully agree. :-)

Ku Ye: In my humble opinion, the fact with deep sleep and awakening is that we are always talking from an inference. I mean that when we talk about deep sleep, we are not talking from a direct experience. We always talk from reasoning.

For an experience to be an experience, awareness needs to be present. In deep sleep awareness is not [present], so we can't speak from direct experience.

Metta: It may be true that Awareness does not *appear* to be present when you and I are in deep sleep.

However, there are sages who claim they *are* speaking from *direct* experience when they refer to continuity of Awareness during deep sleep. In light of this, I feel it is best to accept what they say at face value.

When we do this, their comments can then become pointers toward a recognition of Awareness as the background for *all* experiences—including deep sleep.

Ku Ye: To be honest, I can only talk from my own experience, so I talk from it.

Metta: Ultimately, you are absolutely right: this is all that any of us can do.

Ku Ye: I can appreciate others' words, but I can't take them as truths.

Metta: Very wise.

Ku Ye: This is an old epistemological problem. I suppose all this is a problem of terminology.

Metta: Perhaps...or maybe this line of inquiry is actually pointing to a very important distinction about the nature of Awareness during deep sleep...?

Ku Ye: For me, in deep sleep there is no consciousness, so no one can have a direct experience of deep sleep.

Metta: Here's the nuance for me, Ku Ye: just because my conscious mind may not (now) recognize Awareness within deep sleep (notice I said Awareness, not consciousness), this does not mean that it might not be possible for this recognition to occur.

Consider lucid dreaming as an example, for instance: it was not that long ago that Western psychologists claimed it was impossible to know you are dreaming while you are dreaming. However, Tibetan (and perhaps Chan?) Buddhists have known this for centuries.

I just want to be cautious now and not assert that something is not possible (or true) simply because the conscious mind has no memory or recognition of it.

Ku Ye: There is a meditative state that in Chan we call "internal no-mind." This is very much like deep sleep+consciousness. In that state, there is nothing but consciousness, but I can't call it an experience of deep sleep.

So for me, if someone wants to call "Awareness" the background for all, there is no problem, but that "Awareness" is only a metaphysical concept.

Metta: The only reason I use Awareness and Background interchangeably is that, in my experience, perceptual Awareness *is* the Background and basis for *everything* else—including consciousness.

From my point of view, Awareness not conceptual at all; it is utterly and thoroughly experiential.

Ku Ye: Well, I would like to share with you how I understand deep sleep. Sometimes I enter into the dream world. When I say now that "I enter" I mean that I'm pure awareness where dreams take shape. Sometimes I enter into deep sleep, but I don't like to call it "deep sleep" because then I'm presence for the Great Mystery, the source of "I am," the source of Presence and all the other phenomena.

When I am, I am always presence for something.

Metta: Exactly!! Your reference to being "Presence for something" is beautiful language, Ku Ye, and it reminds me of Douglas Harding's description of being "headless empty space for the other" [see The Headless Way web site].

~ Continued in the June 2002 TAT Forum

~ Metta's reflections on Reality and the experience of Realization are available in the reflections archives or regularly through AIA's "In This Moment" mailing list.

On Meditation
by Gary Harmon

marble and coil graphic Any product of thought is not proper meditation, as that is of the mind's memory. Meditation is a total denial, a total negation of everything that mankind has created. To meditate is to refuse all postures, breathing exercises, all things set in motion by thought. Meditation is the total comprehension of the whole of existence, the place from which correct action flows. Meditation is absolute silence of mind—not relative silence (lack of noise), but absolute silence (lack of self). Order, projection, structure, all silenced. Such is true freedom. Only in that total and complete silence do we abide in Truth. A position where time no longer exists—an everlasting beginning and end.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

As I turn within
everything around me
becomes the image of God.
The particular loses its meaning
and gains Significance.
Every motion attests to silence,
as a single leaf's fall
slices open the picture—
without and within dissolves.


Tonight, I saw the phantoms of old men—
dusty memories brought to life.
All we really know are living memories;
All we really are is a haze of reactions.
Happiness and sadness are so close.
Acceptance is the key;
earnestness, the turning force.


What is this silence
that blows through my vision?
What waits for my every love?
This wind carries laughter and tears
to the same place.

Over the hill and down the valley,
in a crevice by a stream,
a little boy plays with magic
and creates a life from a dream.

Can I smile at my undoing,
relax into a quiet scene,
while my heart aches for madness,
and my mind loves the theme?

What is this silence
that drowns my hope?
That stops the child who would but dream?


It is fall
and the browning leaves sound like
pages turning in the wind.
A year's history is written there,
and I am settling down into the pages,
looking at the players and plot,
but, above all, the theme.
With Shakespearean grace, this writer paints
such lovely words as only the heart can read—
an eternal theme written with the bodies
of all that ever lived or was....

It is fall,
and another year has passed—
writer and reader still slumbering in a dream.


I walk in perfection,
for I opened up
and everything let me in.

by Shawn Nevins

To accelerate your spiritual progress, it is wise to reach out to others in an attempt to understand and be understood. Such attempts help you discover the truth of your assumptions and find friends you can help and be helped by.

Understanding is not equivalent to today's politically correct notion of tolerance. Tolerance began with a quest for understanding, but grew into a creature of regulation. To tolerate implies to endure. We do not have to endure that which impedes our progress. It is possible to understand and disagree, and to agree to go separate ways.

What is it to understand another person? Most people compare their words to the words of another and decide whether or not the words agree. This is argument over symbols—equivalent in importance to argument over pronunciation. This simple logic leads to agreement or disagreement. Neither is understanding. In fact, in spiritual matters, the worst approach is to respond only to the logic of a person's words. It is better to ignore the words.

You must use intuition. You must reach out to the other and feel the place from which they speak. You must temporarily abandon your defensive position and give your self to the other. Feel their attitude, look with their eyes and see their world.

Understanding is knowing the heart from which words emanate. Understanding is holding the hand of another, but never actually touching them. Understanding is walking in step while not speaking the same words. Understanding is recognition of unity with a simple nod. It is also a friendly, parting wave as people take different paths.

Look for the spirit behind the words. People without a common language find ways to communicate and work together. They recognize a common goal. A hundred languages may speak the same phrase. We need the wisdom to allow them to speak and to hear what the eyes of the speaker are saying.

Living in the Now?
by Bob Cergol

Waters Bldg - grandfather clock face Some say in order to hear the silence or to abide in stillness you simply need to focus your attention on the present, "be" in the "now." Various techniques are offered for achieving this. But is this really possible? Can you actually do this? Have you ever actually done this? Does this mean focusing your attention so keenly on sensory perceptions that the 'you' having those perceptions is momentarily forgotten? Does it mean that you visualize the way you imagine that you should feel if you were "living in the now"? If so, then all you are doing is holding on to one thought for whatever the duration of your experience of "now" was—merely forgetting that the identity-based, body/mind 'you' still surrounds that experience. (Identity still spins identity.) This isn't living in the now, it's living in the past—waiting for the future to fulfill that past thought. It is spinning, after the fact, the stream of consciousness into an experience that belonged to you. You did not observe the observer. You only invented or witnessed an experience. You did not transcend the ego-self. Forgetfulness of self is not the same as self-transcendence and it is possible that for a lot of people, these meditation techniques merely induce a state of self-forgetfulness, which is then interpreted as some profound experience. It is just that, a pleasant experience. The "you" you take yourself to be cannot exist in the present moment. Recognition of one's true nature is beyond time—and one's attempts to hold one's attention in a particular point in time, conceived as "now," is an exercise in self-hypnosis. It is by witnessing experience—not participating in it—that one discovers what one is not. Focusing the attention in such a way as to create an experience is exactly the opposite of what is required. The real "you" is the timeless, present presence—and the recognition of such places both time and self "out there" as phenomena witnessed.

~ See What is meditation? for more on meditation.


zen comedy club cartoon: the sound of one hand clapping

Reader Commentary:

I greatly enjoyed your latest issue. Please send your next issue to me via email. Many Thanks, Jan Sultan (Nairobi, East Africa; see Yahoo's SufiMystic group)

& Feedback from the April TAT Gathering:

I decided to attend the Gathering knowing little more about TAT than what was offered on their website. It appeared, however, that the organizers were not looking to get anything but rather to give. And that was exactly what I found. The people I met were very warm and open without being intrusive. The speakers all had unique views to share while communicating essentially the same fundamental truths. Their anecdotes about Richard Rose were interesting as were their own personal experiences and insights. Conspicuously absent was any sense of "one-up-manship" or spiritual pride or "preachiness."

It is rare to meet one person in your lifetime who has awakened, let alone 5 or 6 in the same room. It's just incredible. These people have had profound realizations, lasting hours or days, that have left them transformed. Yet they were humble, unpretentious, caring people with a genuine desire to help their fellow travelers on the path. And they were all available, in the sense of being willing to chat informally between talks. They demonstrated the true spirit of the bodhisattva. I have been a "seeker" for several decades, so I was familiar with both the literature they referred to and the actual underlying truths they tried to reveal. I came away from the event feeling a sense of confirmation. I actually had fewer questions after the meeting. My friend, who is new to the way of the seeker, had predictably more questions afterward. That's probably good for him. But he was inspired rather than skeptical, as he could recognize intuitively that there was something valuable in the speakers' words.

If you have been thinking about attending a TAT meeting but were at all hesitant, go. You will not regret it.

~ Rob Chatburn
Cleveland, Ohio

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