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

TAT Forum
April 2003

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


This month's contents:

Lecture of Questions (part 1) by Richard Rose | Truth is a Rabbit by Alfred Pulyan | The Predicament of Buddha by Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Attachment to Attachment by Gary Harmon | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Meditation on Creation by Shawn Nevins | Are You in Fact a Ghost? by Bob Cergol | Self-Observation by Bob Fergeson | Humor | Reader Commentary

Sign up for e-mail alerts that will let you know when new issues are published.

Want to meet some of the Forum authors in person? Interested in meeting other Forum readers? Watch for more information about TAT's meeting schedule and programs.

View video clips of the TAT spring conference DVDs or listen to free audio recordings.

Lecture of Questions (Part I)
Koan Section
by Richard Rose

This is the beginning of a lecture of questions that one listener, a college student at the time, said hit him like a wrecking ball demolishing a building. Richard Rose considered them to be modern-day koans (paradoxes employed to stimulate intuitive realizations). This lecture is included in Profound Writings, East and West (see the Richard Rose Books page).

What do you know for sure???

Does a man own a house, or does the house own him?

Does a man have power, or is he overpowered? A predator, or a victim? Or both?

Does a man enjoy, or is he consumed?

Does a man really reason—or is he so programmed?

Can a man learn—that which he really wishes to—by himself alone?

Can a man become?

How shall he know what he should become?

Why build ant hills before knowing what an ant is? (Houses.)

Why do we build conceptual Towers of Babel about human thinking before we know that which thought is?

How can we dare to define thought before knowing the source or cause of all thought? Or the essence of thought?

When we describe bouncing—do you describe the striking object or that which is struck?

Is thought the process of bouncing or the object struck? (Everything struck reacts with an opposite, equal force.)

Can you start thinking?

Can you stop thinking?

Is thought something received or something projected? (Meaning all thoughts.)

Is thought a sort of somatic emanation?

Do we think, or are we caused (forced) to think?

Is negative thinking (as commonly discussed) negative to man or negative to nature?

Does the brain generate thought like a radio generates the message coming from its speaker?

Is thought limited to the brain?

When a tree bends over, does it create wind by waving its branches (i.e., What are you doing for certain, and what is done to you)?

What is telepathy?

Does thought travel beyond the head? Does only the head think?

What is the vehicle for thought-travel?

Does the body manufacture thoughts, or does the body only serve as a conduit?

Where in the body are thoughts received during telepathy?

Where are they sent?

Do chemicals such as serotonin and other neurotransmitters create thought—or do they merely facilitate the penetration into our consciousness of strictly sensory data?

Where will the answer to this question lead us? (Multi-dimensional contacts?)

How many full hours do we spend analyzing our thought processes?

Is it important to observe our reactions?

Are we only a body?

In what part of that body is the seat of life?

We can cut off an arm, or a leg, or cut out and replace lungs, heart, kidneys and still live.

We can have our nervous system severed at the neck, with paralysis except in the head—and still live and think.

We can remain unconscious for years while the body continues to live, noting that a person who is brain dead according to medical instruments can continue to live, breath and at times recover and function consciously.

Do we think or imagine that we think?

Is our thinking automatic?

Do not our thoughts come before we have time to replace them?

When we decide to search for the source of thought—why do we become mentally weary or find our thoughts becoming able to find objective and describable distractions but unable to describe, name or systematize the progression, origins or duration of mental processes?

Is man only a blob of protoplasm which is programmed to react according to a schedule, or is he a free agent? (Conditioned reflexes.)

Are thoughts, likewise, only reflexes from programmed or calculated stimuli?

Who programmed? Who stimulated?

What is Thought?

Can we observe our thoughts?

If we can observe our thoughts, who is looking?

When we observe our thoughts, are we not thinking about thinking?

Is such a thinker someone who dreams of yesterday, thinking that he watches a dreamer—or is he a detached watcher of past and present thoughts who is awake and aware of the mechanical man?

Who are we? An animated body—and a suppressed, stagnated soul?

Do we have a mind, are we mind-stuff, or are we a programmed body and mind?

Do we actually know that which we are doing? If so, why do we repeatedly regret things that we do?

Does the metazoan, insect, animal or man know why it reproduces?

Do the trees create wind by moving their branches, or are they always moved by an external force?

Japanese Black Pine bonsai Does a person seduce another, or are both seduced?

What does man do besides fertilize?

Are you a hero or a victim?

Are you loved, or are you consumed?

Do you have possessions—or are you possessed by them?

Which is more evidential and apparent to you, your divinity or your animal appearance?

If we wish to plan our lives, do we not need to consider while planning that it may be all planned and that we have no choice? How do we plan around that possibility?

Must we not define our limitations?

When we define our limitations, do we automatically need to define our self?

Do we discover, more accurately, the nature of our self?

How much of human action is fated, predestined? Is the knowledge of factors of any value in the face of possible predestination?

What do you know for sure? Do you believe more than you really know?

Is all of our Reality merely a collective belief? A paradigm? (Joseph Chilton Pearce.)

Is science a mental feat created by mankind, or is it only a human discovery of a mental set?

Or is science really only a progression of events planned and expedited by a mentality of cosmic or spiritual proportions, which utilize the mentality, egos and energy of humans?

What is life? What is death?

Are these items ever properly defined except in terms of each other?

Can theological facts be established by voting?

Is Mary the mother of God, or is humanity the mother of God? Or neither?

Is God determined by victorious armies?

Is virtue established by psychological edict?

By ecclesiastical vote?

Or by the requisites of our ultimate nature?

What is sin?

An offense against yourself...?

An offense against your fellow man...?

An offense against God...?

Is an offense against God recognized by divine outcry—earthquake or cosmic catastrophe?

Is it is sin to eat meat?

Are the animals our brothers?

Are they possessed of intelligence and soul?

Do animals sin when they eat other animals?

Or are such sinning animals pardoned for keeping ecology in balance?

Is it wrong to kill except for food?

If so, do we do wrong by not eating the people we kill?

~ Continued in the May 2003 TAT Forum

© 1988 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Truth is a Rabbit
by Alfred Pulyan

The truth does not permeate all religions except in such fantastic disguise that its own father wouldn't know it. Suppose truth is a rabbit. This rabbit is in a field—a large field. Round the field are very high walls—creeds and dogma! So—find your damn rabbit!! And remember the rabbit knows your thoughts & so as you resolve to go one way to catch it, it knows & evades you!

~ Alfred Pulyan was an American Zen master who worked almost exclusively through the mail. This excerpt is from correspondence he had with Richard Rose.

The Predicament of Buddha
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff

I turn to the Gospel of Buddha and find these words: "he—the worldling—will call resignation what to the Enlightened One is purest Joy. He will see annihilation where the Perfected One finds Immortality. He will regard as death what the Conqueror of Self knows to be Life Everlasting."

According to the record, this was said soon after Gautama had attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. At first the Tathagata was tempted to keep silence, for it seemed useless to preach a Message of Liberation which certainly could not be understood by most men. In the end, Buddha decided to give the Message for the benefit of those who could understand. But the problem He faced is a very fundamental one, since it is very difficult for the man who is bound to subject-object consciousness to conceive of another kind of Life where egoism ceases. The average man can imagine a heaven or a hell built upon the subject-object pattern where life is more intense, whether in a pleasurable or painful sense, but the truly Emancipated Life is beyond his comprehension. The Christian world has interpreted the Kingdom of Heaven as simply a sublimated subject-object domain, and thus quite missed the real meaning of Jesus. Christ brought a Message of Emancipation, just as Buddha did, and Its meaning was exactly the same, though stated in a form to fit the consciousness of a different people. Few, indeed, of the Christian world have ever truly understood His meaning. A subject-object world experienced after physical death as a highly blissful state is not Liberation. Essentially it is not different from this present world right here. Consequently such a world could be represented in terms of conceptual language just as this is. But such is not the case with respect to Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven.

The impossibility of genuinely formulating and conveying to others what the Liberated State is is not simply the difficulty afforded in trying to give expression to an unfamiliar experience. The problem in the latter case may be great, but it is not, in principle, beyond solution. It is simply a question of inventing the appropriate concepts and word-signs, and this can be done by men who are sufficiently skillful. But the kind of consciousness that falls outside the subject-object field is more than difficult to express in relative terms. It is absolutely impossible to do so. It is not simply a question of our not yet having developed sufficient skill. The impossibility inheres in the fact that the subject-object form, essential to language as such, can only distort the Transcendent. The "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Nirvana" are simply names pointing to a deathless Reality. But that Reality is ever something other than anything that can be conceived in relative terms. Hence it is the negation of everything we know in the subject-object sense. Thus, It is not-evil and not-good, not-large and not-small, not-colored and not-colorless, and so on through all pairs of opposites. More than this, It is not-good and not not-good, not-large and not not-large, not-colored and not not-colored, and so on, also, through all pairs of contradictories. This means that It is not to be found anywhere in the "universe of discourse," as understood in logic. Naturally, this must appear as annihilation to the subject-object consciousness.

Yet, in point of fact, It is Infinite Life. It is pure Joy, the utterly satisfying Richness. It is the absolutely certain Knowledge. But It can be Known only through Identity. Once it is known, even though it be for but a moment, then It is realized as the one and only adequate solution of human misery. More than that, It supplies the basis which, alone, affords an adequate solution of the final problems of philosophy and science. The combined testimony of Those who have attained Realization builds well the case for the Reality of this Transcendent World, and something deep in the heart of every man whispers: "Yes, it is so." If only men would listen to this still, small Voice!

But man must be born again before he can Know. And He who is born again is There, whether or not He remains correlated with embodiment in the relative world. In being born again, he has died to subject-object consciousness, in the essential sense, even though he continues to function in this field. He has died in a far more fundamental sense than is true of the worldly man who merely departs from the physical body. The latter type of transition does not lead out of the subject-object domain. But the Great Transition leads beyond the ordinary heaven and hell, just as much as it does beyond this world.

That which man overcomes finally in the Great Transition is the vehicle of egoism. This is an entirely different matter from that of merely losing the instruments of action and of relative knowledge in a particular one of consciousness.

~ Reprinted by permission, from Experience and Philosophy by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. See the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship site for more information on Merrell-Wolff's teaching.

Attachment to Attachment
by Gary Harmon

In this business of "letting go for the sake of clarity," there is an often overlooked shortcut that is more productive and enduring than letting go of concepts one at a time. The principle problem with attachments is their relationship to similar attachments. If contemplation is aimed at, looking at the root cause of attachments rather than individual habits can give a deeper insight into what these attachments are. In so doing, the similarity is noticed when a new attachment arises to replace the one that we are attempting to break free from. That is the way it always happens—a pill to replace another pill, as Richard Rose would say. Only we don't see that as the same attachment, so it is allowed, and then a different hang-up is permitted that we identify with. For instance, if one is an alcoholic, it is considered that replacing beer with pot or a prescribed drug, for example, is a way of quitting drinking that might work for a while but does not address the actual predicament.

Dr. David Hawkins mentioned at a recent lecture that it is attachment itself that we are attached to. This struck me as a profound truth. Rather than trying to let go of individual attachments, it would provide us better clarity to work at the level of letting go of attachment to attachments.

A good example of attachment is the habit of cigarettes. It has powerful connections that are multi-inflicting as it concerns the drug itself, holding something in the hand, as well an oral fixation. But these all miss the point. It is the actual attachment to attachment that is much more powerful and addictive than the cigarettes are.

To see this simply for what it is becomes a potent way of fighting any attachment. Perhaps we don't have this aforementioned tendency, but it can be observed in others. Most people have dealt with habits concerning health issues, but what about more vitally important spiritual advancement barriers. If we are attached to "saving the world," that is where we may spend the rest of our life. The quest to save the world may make for good karma in a next life, but there is no guarantee. Similar to this are teachers who circumvent their own identity-definition to teach others what they have "learned" thus far from their guru. Although well-intended, without making the whole trip themselves their own understanding is unfinished and ultimately ambiguous, so they might end up allowing their personality to perform a kamikaze attack on piety. No, it is better to define yourself, to wake up and avoid being attached to worldly distraction, to see attachments for what they are—ego inflators, feel-good, righteous distracters. But first we need to identify who it is that is being distracted, and admittedly this can be very difficult, but effort is commonly rewarded.

If there is a motivation within you to know who or what you are, then allow that to be your attachment. Truth for the sake of truth is the best attachment possible, and then the ego will essentially resign.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Nisargadatta, and David Hawkins—smokers all, politically incorrect as that currently is—had realizations that proved that their body was not that essential. I maintain that they all discovered their own essence. These people transcended attachment to attachments. Not the political ideals that the majority of the flock agrees to, but attachment on a higher plateau, which identifies attachment as just another illusion that can be dismissed for the sake of truth.

~ See Gary's Spiritual Books Worth Reading web site.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

The answer tries to crawl into you
like the sun crawls into the night.
What do you see
on the other side of a hill?
What links "over there" and "under here"?
Think about your love and the feeling of absence—
such emptiness is opportunity.


The mood—
as of the tip of a dream remembered—
a hazy recollection of possibilities.
Let us remember the ending of our lives,
and the silent beauty of passing.


Time and life are rolled out before me
and every hope of acting is lost.
My dreams are both fulfilled and dead
because they never were and already are.
I am only unfolding, unraveling,
am at the beginning and end already.
"Me" and "mine" are lost amidst all time.
All ended at once, all stopped.


Vision is reflection
distorted into shapes and sounds.
What you see with no eyes
is the weight of Presence,
the force of burning fact.
Become the impenetrable wall
within your searching mind.


I am nothing but thankfulness
unwound by the wind.
Feel the glorious possibility of today.
Don't be the seed that missed its season.


We are a curtain,
sheer and pale,
over an open window.
Wind and Light pour through
even as we believe
we hold back the night.


This black wall within my mind,
ancient river of Styx reborn,
waters of mystery, unknowing,
silently challenging my life for its meaning.
Again and again I join ranks
turning within upon the limits of my self
asking "what?" "who?" "is?"

Now, looking within,
the waters rush through my bones
and the darkness looks upon itself
knowing that it is
and all else is not.

Meditation on Creation
by Shawn Nevins

Even the simplest action is cause for amazement. Have you ever caught your self speaking without knowing what you were saying, writing without knowing what word would come next, or walking without being conscious of where you were headed? These simple activities occur as if by magic. Looking closely at our actions, the hint arises that we may be bystanders to much of our life. Yet, there is a lifelong habit of believing we are in control.

Trying a new task, it is easier to see the process of acting. With a new task the habit of belief is weaker, so we are often surprised by our ability and attribute it to beginner's luck. We are amazed and do not feel we deserve all the credit for what happened.

This is where I see the value of artistic expression or creative endeavor as a door to self-inquiry. Art, in its purest form, is an attempt to discover the fount of creation. It is allowing the force of life/creation to manifest through your hand, or voice, or in whatever medium you work. Art allows you to observe that thought manifests through you. It allows you to admit to your powerlessness. In a sense, your only power is to shade the light of life with your ego. Because of this, moments of creation carry the sense of freedom from the ego.

Artistic technique is not necessary to experience this. The process of watching your hand move over the piano, letting the hand be moved by a feeling, letting the feeling move out of darkness and into life without hindering it—this is what matters. This is meditation on creation.

The artistic spirit is one of play, of improvisation, of willingness to let go and watch what happens. Artists and some spiritual seekers are sometimes denigrated for letting go into hedonism. This is the line that separates grace and the fall from grace. Perhaps we must allow our hand to follow the impulse into the fire, yet once we have done that we needn't do it again and again. We are interested in the process, moment, and observation of letting go and not the results. The Mona Lisa is not important, but how it, and you, came to be is.

So pick up a brush or pen or other instrument, and play. Do not become enamored of the results. In fact, you could destroy them each day. As you observe creation, you also observe the process by which your self came into being. "You" watch your birth. In the stunned silence of "you" watching "you," a revelation may occur regarding your true nature. This is for you to discover, rather than believe any words I might leave.

Are You in Fact a Ghost?

~ Comments on Richard Rose's teaching,
including honesty and the true inner teacher

Part 3 of a correspondence between Bob Cergol and "J," who was making a general inquiry about Richard Rose. The excerpts from J's correspondence are shown in italic font.

I have about determined that what all this spirituality is all about is HONESTY, plain and simple. Just being honest to myself about what the hell is going on inside me (motives maybe). Just honestly seeing or admitting the reason I said what I said, for instance, was to get something held valuable by some part of me, or to avoid some imagined disturbance. Or is this just generalizing, like we do as children? I sense that going into my disturbances is going to be key somehow. Looking at something that disturbs me and trying to see why and where it takes me to inside myself. I know this sounds strange but I want to get to know my ego, what it is all about. I feel this is key also or maybe its an ego trap? My search thus far has been to kill the ego or just transcend it and forget about it. But that's not what I really want, I want to get to know it for the first time in my life.

I couldn't agree with you more that fundamentally spirituality is all about HONESTY. Honesty is that the "ghost" knows it's not a ghost—but a corporeal body which will completely dissipate along with the body—never mind about "mind" and "soul" and other imaginations. Still, something must be animating this form. It is honesty for the animated form to not pretend it is responsible for the animation. The difficulty is that such acceptance is tantamount to the individual accepting death. If you are like I was, then you have this conviction that you will somehow survive death—YOU especially!

Don't take this the wrong way, but has this Realization, Awakening, Transformation, Enlightenment or what ever you want to call it happened in your life yet? And if so how are you any different or how is life any better than before it happened. And if not what is driving you then?

I did have a realization (which is already to misstate what is impossible to state). If it could be stated accurately and understandably, wouldn't anyone who realized simply tell anyone who would listen—such that the other person would just realize the same thing? There's the catch! No one will listen! In a way, that is what has been going on for centuries. Individuals can't hear because they close their ears to that which they do not wish to hear. (Why? Back to "First know thy self!") Also back to this issue of help, which by your comments you have some problem with.

You have to remove the barriers to hearing and seeing—clearly. That is what all this business about self-introspection is. For those less analytically inclined, the devotional path follows the same process. Devotion without honest self-appraisal of the quality of that devotion is suspect and probably short-lived. Therefore both paths (and probably all real paths) are merely variations in "style," both being paths of self-inquiry—shedding of what is not self, not true, until nothing unreal or false remains.

So you can through diligent, consistent, persistent and honest efforts clarify seeing and hearing. And those efforts amount to a living manifestation of the question "Who am I?" or better, "What am I?" But this is still all egocentric. Humans are robots, and spiritual seekers are no different. They are trying to find the switch and flip it. But the problem is the switch that can be accessed by the self only has two positions—and they are both the same—ON & ON. You had better hope and pray that your karma generates outside help that can reach the main switch—the OFF button!—and while you are still alive. Gautama most certainly had this "outside" help.

A teacher doesn't have to be another human, but I should think one would have to manifest an exceptionally strong path for that path itself to manifest through external circumstances alone the Sat Guru—the true inner teacher. By the way, part of such a path must of necessity be focused on helping others or having a commitment and dedication to other than self. Rose called it the "Law of the Ladder." Christ called it "the life," and Buddha called it "the Sangha" (brotherhood).

The second half of your letter seems to answer the first half. You're just working at this alone and are looking for encouragement. Be encouraged then. You sound serious. That very seriousness is itself an echo of that which animates you. You can't "kill the ego" or "just transcend it and forget about it." All you can do is make your life a manifestation of the desire to "go home." This means action—not merely physically observable action, but action with your whole being. Your default mode of thinking must become one of resting on this question of self-definition.

The question you pose about the effect of realization is from the egocentric viewpoint. Realization will not bring you happiness or "fix" you or make you whole. "Bliss" is a mistranslation or at least misconstrued. The notion of ecstasy, etc. as intense happiness is the flip side of the relative experience of pain and unhappiness. All of this is in the realm of experience. My realization was that personal individuality itself is also an experience—out there—along with all experience. "Seeing" this was not a happy, blissful process. My life is largely the same as before—yet utterly and totally different. But this difference is not easily observed from the outside. My life is not "better" than before, but now I accept my life for what it really is. Here is the best answer I have articulated so far to this question, which was posed by a friend as "Where is Bob?"

"Bob is lost in his personality and its idiosyncrasies and lost in life. I can see him but he can't see Me. I am trying to take over his life but he is hanging on to patterns that have become precious and beautiful to him because he witnessed them as "things apart," with no permanent substance, but only as themes that echo Me. I showed him that he was not, for I alone AM. And in that seeing he was perfectly content and accepted everything as it is. But he cannot exist in life as he exists in death, and he has still to learn how to live while abiding in Me."

Since writing that I have "learned" a bit more about how to live "in the Self" while dreaming this dream. My realization answered my deepest questions. I no longer have the old angst about life. I know who and what I am. Though I don't know how many hairs are on my head, or yours, I do know that which Rose called the realization of "Everything-ness and Nothing-ness." I have faced death and know the difference between what is dead and what is alive.

I tell you any of this for no other reason than you should be encouraged that an answer is possible and you don't have to be some sort of epic character. You only need to "see to your own salvation with earnestness and honesty."

by Bob Fergeson

~ An excerpt from a response to the following question: "Deceitful things we are. Am I jousting with my mind or my ego, or does it matter?"

It's probably more like your ego jousting with itself, leaving you out of the picture. Being identified with the ego, even as it splits in two, is our problem, and through learning to observe, rather than create or visualize, we come to the 'I'—the answer.

Mountain flower. Photo: Bob Fergeson Mountain flower. Photo: Bob Fergeson

Learning to observe, or watch oneself without attachment, is so easy that most of us overlook it, thinking that we must need to be doing something more complicated. Try a little experiment. Take your watch or a clock with a sweep second hand, and see how long you can watch the hand as it moves. Without thinking, just concentrate on observing the hand, without thoughts. Not very easy, eh, but so simple. If the thought comes "I'm watching the hand," or if you find you're trying to help it move by willing it, i.e. being the doer, or think, "What an idiot, I'm watching my watch!" then you've lost the observer and are now creating a scene through visualization. Now, find some task you perform as a habit, something simple you do everyday. Watch yourself and the scene as this task unfolds. If the thought comes "I'm watching myself do this," or "I'm watching myself watching myself do this," or "I don't have time for this," etc., then you've lost the thread and created another observer or self with which you become identified: the subject-object visualization trap. Just realize this, and go back to observing the scene, without a sense of involvement, even as the watcher. After you've had a bit of success with this, move on to something more complicated, and see if you can again observe the scene without the sense of the doer, or self.

Also, begin to remember what thoughts brought you out of the observer and back into identification, and find what the hidden motivation was behind them. This free association, following the thoughts back to the desire or fear that caused the loss of the listening attention and brought back the sense of attachment, will show you your pattern. Then, go back to observing until the circle of distraction and loss of the listening attention spins around again.

Practice the above meditation for a while, and try to put what you've found in clear, concise language. How are you built?

~ See Bob's web sites, The Mystic Missal, NostalgiaWest, and The Listening Attention.


  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • If God dropped acid, would he see people?
  • If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?
  • I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
  • If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

~ George Carlin

Reader Commentary:

Congratulations on the forum. As nearly as I can express there is something that is absolutely ever constant that emerges from the quality that is written in it—'what we are', is impossible to describe, yet a number of qualities are present that can be felt and comprehended.
~ Best wishes, Susan 0'Toole (Cork, Ireland)

Sign up for our e-mail alert that will let you know when new issues are published. Contact the Forum for questions, comments or submissions.

Want to help? Your donation of $5 or more will support the continuation of the Forum and other services that the TAT Foundation provides. TAT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization and qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions. Or, download this .pdf TAT Forum flyer and post it at coffee shops, bookstores, and other meeting places in your town, to let others know about the Forum.


Keep informed of TAT events and receive our free monthly Forum filled with inspiring essays, poems and images.

Email & Social Media Marketing by VerticalResponse

© 2000-2021 TAT Foundation. All rights reserved.

View Full Site Back to Top
TAT Foundation logo