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

TAT Forum
June 2003

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

Peonies, by N. Nadzo

This month's contents:

Lecture of Questions (part 3) by Richard Rose | Friendship by Richard Rose | Joy as Initiator? by Bob Cergol | As Above, So Below by Bob Fergeson | The Silent Mind by Bernadette Roberts | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Do What You Say by Shawn Nevins | Humor

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Lecture of Questions (Part III)
Theological Section
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the May 2003 TAT Forum)

Should self-definition have priority over concerns for health?

Is the idea of personal immortality, before such an idea has been proven by experiencing immortality, any more than an egotistical idea?

What are the mechanics of divine healing?

Should the search for God have precedence over using an unidentified divinity as a healing utility?

Is God a gigantic gestalt?

Why are we here? Are we accidents of evolution—animals that accidentally evolved upon a planet that accidentally evolved?

Pashupatinath temple - Nepal The chances of accidental evolution seem unlikely in view of the complexities of protoplasm, such as the ability of the cell to produce millivoltage-components and to possess memory. Can we say all this came about by an immediate and instantaneous teleological prompting which had to take thousands of years to develop after the million years needed to evolve less specialized cells similar to plant cells?

How did neurotransmitters evolve? Were we created by very skillful biochemists? What is the process that would result in the evolution of synaptic voltage?

Is life a dream—or an illusion?

If so, is it not a very detailed and consistent dream—showing few variations—seeming to strictly adhere to a blueprint?

Is man manufacturing this blueprint by setting up a rough paradigm and creating details such as brain chemistry as he goes along?

If so, has man lost control of his creation if he cannot find an alternative for disease and death?

What are the odds for an accidental synthesis of a ketone enzyme?

What is the significance of common denominators? Are they valid for evaluating religions and behavior?

Is there a body-manufactured force, an Odyle, Vril, Élan vital, or Quantum energy capable of powerful and magical power—transferrable, and projectable?

There are two windows, states of mind, which are not consistent with each other: They are the daytime view and the nighttime view. The latter, with its dreams and horizontal speculations, upon awakening forms a strange field of thought and threatens convictions of the daytime. How do we balance this force?

Is there any value in speculating on the genesis of biological or human life, weighing the value and importance of slow evolvement against a possible perfect instantaneous creation, and weighing the suffering and dying against perfect or unchanging immortality?

Are ecologists possibly trying to thwart the ordained directions of the engineer who designed the evolution of life?

Sanity and syphilis—are they both decided by approval via democratic voting?

If man did not cause himself, then that which caused him is invisible, meaning not apparent in this dimension. What reason would a superior engineer have for creating life as seen on earth—meaning all flora and fauna?

How rational are some of the reasons given for the acceptance of the creator concept and a set of morals presumed to gain tolerance from that creator?

~ Continued in the July 2003 TAT Forum

© 1988 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

by Richard Rose

I passed through a deep crevice at twilight,
And I saw a narrow vista of trees,
Magical in the mists—
Vocal to the hush of meaning,
Whispering to the wisdom of shades—
Of degrees—
Before the backdrop of eternity . . . .
And I had a friend . . .
Whose dust with mine was not the bond,
Whose love with mine was not the bond,
Whose teaching with me was not the bond.
Both of us had been to this same place,
To the twilight in the narrow crevice,
And because of this place, we are eternal.

© 1982 Richard Rose. All rights reserved.

Joy as Initiator?
by Bob Cergol

In his book The Eye of the I, David Hawkins writes the following concerning joy:

iris Unless one has fallen unbidden and without previous effort into an enlightened state of consciousness as happened to such saints as Ramana Maharshi during adolescence, the more common route is to begin to desire to reach an enlightened state. The Buddha said that those who hear and learn of enlightenment will never be satisfied with anything else and, therefore, the end is certain.

Sometimes the seeker puts forth great effort and patience and discouragement follows. At this stage, the ego assumes there is an "I" that is seeking an "it" (the state of enlightenment), and it therefore seeks to redouble its efforts.

Traditionally, the pathways to God have been through the heart (love, devotion, selfless service, surrender, worship, and adoration) or through the mind (advaita, or the pathway of nonduality). Each way may seem more comfortable at one stage or another or they may alternate in emphasis. Either way, it is a hindrance to consider that there is a personal self or "I" or an ego that is doing the striving of seeking or which will become enlightened. It is much easier to realize there is no such thing as the ego of an "I" identity that is doing any seeking, but instead, it is an impersonal aspect of consciousness that is doing the exploring and seeking.

A useful approach is to let the love for God replace the willfulness that is driving the seeking. One can release all desire to seek and realize that the thought that there is anything else but God is baseless vanity. This is the same vanity that claims authorship for one's experiences, thoughts and actions. With reflection, it can be seen that both the body and the mind are the result of the innumerable conditions of the universe and that one is at best the witness of this concordance. Out of an unrestricted love for God arises the willingness to surrender all motives except to serve God completely. To be the servant of God becomes one's goal rather than enlightenment. To be a perfect channel for God's love is to surrender completely and to eliminate the goal seeking of the spiritual ego. Joy itself becomes the initiator of further spiritual work.

Bridge by van Gogh, after Hiroshige Bridge by van Gogh, after Hiroshige

The above quote was used as a discussion topic, and following is Bob's response:

When I was in search of self-definition, I was not seeking joy. (I loved my melancholy too much.)

I did not pretend that in Hawkins' words: "... there is no such thing as the ego of an "I" identity that is doing any seeking, but instead, it is an impersonal aspect of consciousness that is doing the exploring and seeking." I didn't pretend that such a concept was so, because my perspective at that time was just the opposite.

When I was in search of my self, I felt that I was an individual, regardless of how much conditioning I may have been the victim of, and I took responsibility for my actions, or lack thereof, regarding self-inquiry and my individual spiritual path. To do otherwise would have been postulating something I had not realized. Even if I had grasped intellectually such a concept—and I didn't—I did not then think that realization was an intellectual conclusion. (Now I KNOW that it is not an intellectual conclusion.)

While I did have a conviction in a transcendent higher power that I could not justify intellectually, and even prayed to this transcendence to permeate my life, to guide, bless and strengthen me to see clearly, to understand and to live my understanding, when I was a seeker I did not turn responsibility for my seeking over to a God that I could not be 100% sure existed and indeed doubted. It could not be otherwise since I doubted my self.

When I was a seeker the only thing I was 100% sure of was that I had the capacity to delude myself. I experienced my lack of complete power over my own thoughts and actions. I made efforts to see through the delusion and become less of a victim of deluded thinking. I prayed to a higher power out of a sense of hopelessness (and some intuition), since if one was capable of delusion then it was impossible to know the true extent to which one was deluding oneself. My only hope was that something beyond my self could somehow help free me, or at least assist me in freeing myself.

In this sense my search was filled with doubt, and I held the doubt sensation in front of me for over 25 years—or more truthfully I couldn't shake the doubt sensation. But I didn't run from it. And I didn't postulate that I didn't exist so it wouldn't matter how I felt. And I didn't surrender to an undiscovered God, abdicating responsibility that in my own experience and consciousness I could not in honesty attribute to any being besides the only one that I knew at the time—and that was my self—personal, limited, mundane, mortal self.

The closest I came to Hawkins "surrender" to God was when I took a major, first step in self-honesty and recognized the lie I had been living. It was the lie about my spiritual path. That path was the vehicle for looking away from the truth of myself. Such a path only permitted the most trivial, mundane realizations about that self, and only the mundane personality at that. To the extent that my path involved postulation, it was dishonest and doomed to failure. The postulation had to do with looking forward to the results that would be added to me. The truth is that honest self-inquiry can only subtract things from you until the very self you take yourself to be is subtracted in the momentum. And you cannot imagine what that means, so it is pointless to speculate. Honesty dictates that you don't. Honesty dictates that you simply look with no regard to concepts about paths and where they may or may not lead. Look incessantly with utter self-doubt—except no doubt that you can look—and with an egotistical hope that there is some transcendent being that cares anything about the spec of dust that is you.

At the end of my search I came to a different definition of the words "joy" and "happiness." Those words used to have a personal connotation for me. The connotation was that these words described states that would be added to my being or would be experiences that enveloped my life. Now these words have a different meaning to me. They describe merely relative experience that requires a personal context. They cannot envelop my life because my real being envelopes the relative, and the relative is superficial and unreal. Joy and happiness no longer affirm my existence. Pain and suffering no longer diminish my existence. Basically the same conditions that led to these experiences before still lead to them now. But those experiences are of little importance next to the state of awareness of that which I am when everything personal is stripped away. This awareness has no boundaries, spatial or temporal. To the personal consciousness this awareness is experienced as being, simultaneously, absolutely intimate yet absolutely impersonal. The absolute impersonal-ness and utter loss of self is acceptable to the relative consciousness because simultaneous with the awareness of one's nothingness is the awareness that what one is at one's core is also the totality.

The personal consciousness can get lost in experiences of happiness or sorrow but these no longer alter my fundamental awareness of what I am. I am not the body. I am not the mind. Since personal consciousness and identity require these, I am also not that personal consciousness, which in turn is itself merely an experience of individuality.

I doubt that joy becomes the initiator of spiritual work as Hawkins is quoted as saying. I doubt you will discover your true nature by merely learning about others' experiences and then repeating to yourself the conclusions you presume must follow, as though you can work backwards from such learning and reverse-engineer those postulated conclusions into realization for your self.

All you can do is look. And so Buddha is supposed to have said, "See to your own salvation with diligence."

As Above, So Below
by Bob Fergeson

A common mistake we often make, when first learning to interpret our dreams, is to take every dream character as the actual person in waking life; that Uncle Joe in the dream is the Uncle Joe in day-to-day life. We overlook the possibility that it could be a facet of our personality simply taking a familiar form as part of the inner self's attempt to get its point across. As we come to be able to take things in our dreams on a more personal level, we may begin to see how our ego identification moves from one character to another in the dream, and how at times we seem to be a disembodied observer watching the play. This is a big step into understanding the tricks of the mind. A much bigger step, a true leap, is to see how the same game is being played out in waking life, how we move from one character to another while going about our day, and never notice it. We prefer to think we are one, and that this 'person' is a continuous consciousness from moment to moment. To come upon this realization of our reactive mechanical nature, while awake and in dreams, brings us to the pressing need of finding the true observer, rather than taking it for granted.

The world of dreams and that of waking life are similar in make up, being created by the same mind. In each world, we are not permitted to doubt that world's validity until some shock casts doubt on the whole scene. This shock, or ego-death, can take many forms in dreams and waking life, but its main purpose is to show us the nature of our mind and our identification with its creations, if we are so inclined. The loss of a job or loved one, coming face to face with our inability to control our lives, the shock of realizing our lack of understanding or honesty in even simple matters: any of these can cause the mind to stop and, perhaps for the first time, seriously doubt its previous infallibility. We may realize that any personality facet we place our 'self' in, is liable to be lost, whether in dreamland or without. If we happen to put serious thought into what this implies, we may see that the Law of Progression would indicate that no matter how many or how tall we build our castles in the sands of the mind, they are all liable to vanish and die. Even the stars and heavens will pass. What then, do we do?

The answer is much simpler than we think, and closer than the hat on our head. In all the above process of identification and subsequent loss, something was aware of the whole game. Behind the created patterns of mind and dream, something was watching, unidentified and silent, for how else could there be continuity? If we can remember our dreams while awake, and perhaps vice-versa, then something universal, rather than individual, must be present. To learn to observe our own mind, rather than identify with it, can bring us closer to this Universal Something behind all thought and dream. Study your dreams and study your life, each from its own perspective, and the other. Find That which sees them both. Look within the background for what holds the games in place, the screen behind the moving ghosts of mind and dream.

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

The Silent Mind
by Bernadette Roberts

I wish I understood the mechanism of self-consciousness, or how it is possible for the mind to bend back on itself, for if I did, I could more easily convey a better understanding of no-self and its most noticeable effect—the silent mind. But whatever this mechanism is, the state of no-self is the breaking up of a self-conscious system whereby the mind can no longer see itself as an object; and at the same time it loses the ability to find any other object to take its place, because when there is no self there is also no other.

I might add that the mind has never had the ability to see itself as a subject—this would be as impossible as the eye seeing itself; yet I think this very impossibility may be the clue to the type of consciousness that remains when consciousness without a knowable subject or object becomes the whole of it. This type of consciousness is not available to our ordinary way of knowing, and because it cannot be experienced or understood by the relative mind, it falls squarely into the realm of the unknown and the unknowable.

I used to believe that in order to know of the self's existence, it was not necessary for the mind to reflect back on itself—to make itself an object or to be self-conscious, that is; instead, I believed that the basic awareness of thoughts and feelings went right on, and was present whether I reflected on them or not. Now, however, I see this is not the way it works. I see this is an error, but an error it is only possible to realize once self-consciousness had come to an end. It seems that on an unconscious level this reflexive mechanism goes on so continuously, it makes no difference if we are aware of this mechanism on a conscious level or not. In turn, this means that when the mechanism is cut off, we not only lose awareness of the self—or the agent of consciousness on a conscious level—but we lose awareness of the self on an unconscious level as well. Stated more simply: when we can no longer verify or check back (reflect) on the subject of awareness, we lose consciousness of there being any subject of awareness at all. To one who remains self-conscious, of course, this seems impossible. To such a one, the subject of consciousness is so self-evident and logical, it needs no proof. But to the unself-conscious mind, no proof is possible.

The first question to be asked is whether or not self-consciousness is necessary for thinking, or if thinking goes right on without a thinker. My answer is that thinking can only arise in a self-conscious mind, which is obviously why the infant mentality cannot survive in an adult world. But once the mind is patterned and conditioned or brought to its full potential as a functioning mechanism, thinking goes right on without any need for a self-conscious mechanism. At the same time, however, it will be a different kind of thinking. Where before, thought had been a product of a reflecting introspective, objectifying mechanism—ever colored with personal feelings and biases—now thought arises spontaneously off the top of the head, and what is more, it arises in the now-moment which is concerned with the immediate present, making it invariably practical. This is undoubtedly a restrictive state of mind, but it is a blessed restrictiveness since the continual movement inward and outward, backward and forward in time, and in the service of feelings, personal projections, and all the rest, is an exhausting state that consumes an untold amount of energy that is otherwise left free.

What this means is that thinking goes right on even when there is no self, no thinker, and no self-consciousness; thus, there is no such thing as a totally silent mind—unless, of course, the mind or brain (which I view as synonymous) is physically dead. Certainly something remains when the mind dies, but this "something" has nothing to do with our notions or experiences of a mind, or of thought, or of ordinary awareness.

What I call a "silent mind," therefore, is a purely relative experience belonging to a self-conscious state wherein silence is relative to its absence, its opposite, or to some degree of mental quietude. But in a fully established non-relative state—which is non-experiential by ordinary standards—there are no longer the variations, degrees, or fluctuations that could be known as the silent mind. This does not mean we cannot pass beyond the mind to "that" which remains when the self-consciousness falls away, but it does mean that whatever lies beyond the mind has no such tool for its description.

~ From The Experience of No-Self: A Contemplative Journey. © 1993 Bernadette Roberts. All Rights Reserved.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

The usual part of me is missing,
but that causes no confusion.
Instead, I am free
to roam possibilities—
care-less moments of Love.


Now, I hear
two voices—
the voice of life and of death.

Once, life was my whole
and its sound, my joy and sorrow.
Now, all my action is balanced with no action—
the board is continually erased.
Such a relief to be unconcerned with chalk dust.

I am written and erased—
the holy sound and silence.
I became honest, tired, and determined
in order to hear.


What secrets does sleep hold?
What would you see if you could remember?
There are those who dream while awake,
but all they do is watch make-believe.
What is within the pool of dreamless sleep?
What is it to become this forgetting,
to become this secret?
The price of admission is an admission
of the endless sleep within our hearts.
I am half-buried in night;
for some reason still speaking.


My hand of emptiness reaches without moving;
becomes your heart.
Differences in words
melt to feelings
that melt to knowing.
I am ever pushing aside noise
allowing you to rise.


A cricket voice pierces my form
and echoes off the unknown.
I'll have to finish this poem
without my self
because it gets in the way—
opposing every sound with listening.
only lonely sound.


All worn out
chasing rabbits.
Cool evening
grants a moment to think.
But wait!
What was that smell?


Endless space of your heart
longing for the answer from you.
Your every motion is mine.
Don't try to walk away.
We are vast, empty, and complete.

Do What You Say
by Shawn Nevins

You should not underestimate the importance of a simple step. Here is an easily overlooked practice that will set you on the road to spiritual discovery: Do what you say you will do.

An example: you agree to meet someone at 9:00 AM. You either will or will not. If you do not, you have either an unavoidable or an avoidable excuse. You may have a flat tire from a nail, or a flat tire because you neglected to get a leak repaired. One is avoidable and one is not. An avoidable excuse is used to soften the blow to your self-image that would occur if you admitted your lie.

You lied because a new desire-self arose later in the day, and overruled your well-intentioned commitment which required making sure your transportation was reliable). Or you lied to your self in order to please another—part of you knowing all along you couldn't meet them. Either way, you have not observed or understood what you are. Especially if you believe such mundane commitments are not part of the spiritual path.

You are what you do, not what you believe—until you discover otherwise.

You will not discover otherwise unless you are truthful in both word and deed.

Of course, you can sit on your hands and make no commitments, thus avoiding the whole messy issue. Thus becoming a powerless creature of no-action.

Or you can discover the power of commitment and the action it necessitates. By funneling this action into a continual pursuit of truth through the observation of egoistic poses and facades, you eventually unveil the source of all power, action, and life.


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." ~ Albert Einstein

"It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never got the chance to thank her." ~ W.C. Fields

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication. ~ Dzogchenpas

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