Posts Tagged nonduality

Questioning Advaita a Brilliant Facebook Dialogue


This is a long post, but I think it’s worth reading it through. I would love to know your thoughts on this subject.

I begin this post with a question I sent to the Advaita teacher Francis Lucille – I then attach the dialogue that follows on a very similar theme.

Dialogue about Consciousness – Francis, Nathan, Eric, and Bryan

Initial question posed to Francis:
This question concerns the objects and situations perceived by the body/mind.
I see my daughter. She is an object of consciousness. As a human being she is known as a continuous entity. This the toddler becomes a girl who becomes a woman. I know her. She knows me. We have a relationship.
From the perspective of nonduality, am I experiencing “my” consciousness appearing as her? Or does she possess distinct attributes that are, by necessity, separate from my own consciousness? Like all intimate and long term relationships, this one seems to possess unique and predictable qualities. I am asking you about the nature of perceived “reality”.

Thank you so much for your time.
Eric

Dear Eric,

Who is your daughter? Is she the human body that underwent changes from toddler to girl, from girl to woman? Or is she rather the consciousness that perceives and acts through that changing body? And is that consciousness that perceives the ever changing perceptions itself subject to change? Look within yourself at your own consciousness to answer these questions. By “consciousness” I mean that which is perceiving these words right now. What is true of your own consciousness is likely to be true of her’s. Does your own consciousness have attributes that you can perceive such as color, shape, limits, beginning, end, etc? Does it change? Does it go on and off? Where does your consciousness end and hers begin?

When you say “I know her” you mean in fact two different modes of knowing, two values attached to the pronoun “her”:
1. Her=her body, her habits, memories, her past history, etc -all perceived objects, attributes. In that case you and she are different. But even “you” are different from yourself from moment to moment, since this “you” is ever changing.
2. Her= the consciousness, that which perceives, knows, understands, loves, lives. In that case, is there a difference you can perceive between her consciousness and yours? And if there is no difference you can perceive, what leads you to believe they are different?

To answer your question in a nutshell: the attributes in each of you are different and not real, the consciousness, beingness, reality, love and eternity is the same in both of you. Your daughter and you are one in this Love, as this Love.

Below is the Facebook dialogue

Bryan: Penetrate this insight untill there is no doubt at all. This will pull any lingering belief out of the contrary notions that surface out of past momentum. The radical point is that you are already free. You are only awareness and othing else. Everything else is a concept appearing in this that you are.-John Wheeler (an eminent Advaita/nonduality teacher)

Me: no, I don’t agree. Awareness is void without objects and I’m just not convinced that voidness is the purpose of existence. Although, It’s a powerful pointer to the starting point of freedom. Yet, awareness without a brain is something that I, for one, cannot conceive – with all due respect to John Wheeler.

Bryan: Eric, keep clinging to your search of what this is then. Good luck at finding it. You will never be convinced of this as there is no convincing needed. You see Advaita or non-duality as a concept and I’m not sure or not if you are aware of this. Trying to “understand” advaita is like using a hammer on a screw. It will not work and if it is used then it will cause a lot of damage. Follow your intuition and hunch and try not to looked to be convinced. “Convincing” is the a tool of the mind. I am witnessing a lifetime of suffering effortlessly drop away and a stable and unshakable confidence in what I am take its place. That is all the evidence I need to know that the mind is not real.
Love, Bryan

Nathan: Yep Siree!

Eric: Bryan: I’m not trying to convince myself of anything. I know that reality is never “caught” by the mind, thus nothing can be defined or independently described. Even if I were to say I “understand” this, I would just be fooling myself. This is both seen and known. I appreciate your comments, but our dialogue is weakened by the nature of this medium.

Nathan: “Yet, awareness without a brain is something that I, for one, cannot conceive” – who is the I that you speak of Eric? Who is the I that cannot conceive of this?
Can it be conceived? More importantly who is the I?

Me: Great question Nathan – you stumped me, which is wonderful. Blowhards are not stumped all that often. The answer is consciousness itself – BUT – I know you would never agree with this … BUT – since we have brains – we cannot conceive of anything without them. This is a statement that cannot be disproven, since the condition that it is pointing to cannot be explored. We assume that consciousness is entirely separate from a brain, but how can we know that unless we were to test the proposition with “something” that does not have a brain?

Nathan: To me awareness and consciousness are quite different. Consciousness is the manifest. Awareness is ground out of which all things spring. Consciousness exists within awareness…perception relies on the body/brain/mind continuum yes….but that which watches…the mind – that is of a wholly different order…it is completely impersonal…it is not of time…it is not of the physical. It reads the mind. When the mind is quiet – it is active. When the mind takes on the role of an identity ie ego – then it is missed…this that does not change is what the “I” is. It is beyond all conception. It is the ground of all being. It is all that is substantial and it encompasses all that is insubstantial. read “that which watches…the mind” as “that which watches the mind/body/world is of a wholly different order” – I can see that the “….” could confuse!

Me: Yes Nathan – it could be, but it is something we can never know, because it cannot be tested, it is, therefore a belief. A person could ask, “why can’t the nervous system be self aware?” That same person could say that based on the principles of biology and evolution that self awareness is essential to a species survival. Thus this quality of seeingness without thought is just a function of the mind. I’m not taking a position on this. I just don’t know – but the state of being without thought, does not, necessarily, cancel out its source as the nervous system – in fact, it might affirm it.

Nathan: “Thus this quality of … seeingness without thought is just a function of the mind. “

I am sorry but I disagree with you -that which watches is not the mind…it is something entirely different.

When the idea that you are a body-mind is dropped…then that which you are IS – ie awareness witnessing the manifest but not bound up in it as an identity. This is seen or not seen. It cannot be debated – it has nothing to do with the nervous system – it is of a wholly different order.

Me: OK – that is the official line and I would like to believe it as well, but as someone heavily trained in research, I know that it is a contention that cannot best tested. It’s, literally!, no different from the statement, “God is real.” It also cannot be tested – similarly with the statement that “God is unreal.” The principle of Occam’s razor posits that this awareness is a function of the nervous system. For me: I just don’t know.
But Nathan people who believe in God make EXACTLY the same statements – that their experience of God is utterly real and when questioned with the tone of implying that it is only a belief, will respond defensively that the person asking the question hasn’t experienced God, so is in no position to question H”is”/”er” veracity. So it is with nonduality, as well.

Bryan: Eric- To me, and I could be wrong, but the brain question to me is evidence that you still are finding the “you” in the brain. Such questions keep us lingering in the world of the separate self however subtle.

Your direct experience will tell you where this is at. If there is a notion of a self it will lead to conceptual suffering and a further look is required.

Nathan: well I can’t see how belief comes into this…it’s the dropping of all belief as I see it…but yes there is no way to prove or disprove what is being said…when ideation ends this IS…it is “always” (always in the sense – free of time) there…but until realized – it is but an idea or an ideal to be reached – and hence further mind miasma

Bryan: As far as I see it this not a religious doctrine. Whenever I see nonduality as a doctrine in itself it loses all what it is about. Again, beliefs are creeping back. This is not about argument or belief. It is a direct investigation of your true nature.

Me: No Bryan – did you read my last comment to Nathan? What I am saying cannot be shown to be wrong. It’s as simple as that. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with seeking, belief, spirituality, love, experience, or anything we can imagine. It’s simple, incontrovertible fact. A belief in an awareness that is separate from the nervous system is a contention that cannot be evaluated. No different from the belief in God or heaven or Coke is Life. You may experience it as separate, I would never begrudge you of that, but it is something taken of faith. The fervency of your tone underscores that contention.
Bryan and Nathan – I am not disagreeing with you. I am merely applying principles of science to a subject that is not open to scientific inquiry. Perhaps the mind is a consequence of consciousness. Perhaps consciousness is a consequence of the mind. I don’t know and I will never know. BUT!!!!! I experience what you experience!
How do I KNOW that?
Because the self-awarenessness of our individual body/minds is one – identical and mirror-like.
Nathan – Note how I am extracting the quality of belief from my own experience of nonduality.

Nathan: well science is based on the I don’t know mind – which is wonderful…but it is limited to the phenomenal…and is a reality tunnel of it’s own – ie one of enquiry into the content – not of enquiry into that which perceives the content

Bryan: What does contention mean?

Me: contention: to contend – question
This has been a fantastic dialogue – it shows the power of FB.

Bryan: Awareness includes science and the nervous system.

These are not separate.

However, awareness does not need a nervous system or a science to exist. It is self verified.

This cannot be understood by any amount of reasearch as it is often the researchers the most often have such trouble with this.
If you see awareness as separate from something then you have turned awareness into a concept. Therefore you are missing what is being pointed too.
If you see awareness as separate from something then you have turned awareness into a concept. Therefore you are missing what is being pointed too.

Me: No Bryan, I am not missing it. You are so invested in what you have read and heard from well respected Advaita teachers that you are just repeating the company line and I’m not saying it’s wrong (although I’m getting a little annoyed having to repeat myself so often).
Like ALL true believers, you have shown a somewhat smug quality to anyone who might raise legitimate questions and that is, exactly, the problem with all rock-solid beliefs. They will always present intolerance to the external questioner. This discussion is fast becoming the most compelling argument against “official” Advaita I have ever experienced. And EVERYTHING I say will play into the “inner” circle that Nathan and you are expressing.
For one second forget EVERYTHING you have read from teachers and ask yourself this question:
How do I KNOW that self awareness is separate from the mind/body? Not what you believe!!! How do I know that?
All religious belief is frightened by knowing. Whether its orthodox Judaism, or Vedanta. This is exactly where the split occurs. Because if you’re rigorously honest with yourself, you must say only this: “I don’t know”. End of story.
You might add, that it feels separate, but now you have edged over into the realm of belief.
It is no different from saying, “I know there is a God.” It MIGHT be true, but it cannot be proven. It might make you feel better about yourself and your life, but it is still a belief. And here’s where the problem creeps in. Vedanta is the self-proclaimed, voider of all belief, yet it is seen as just another belief. It might be more refined than other beliefs, but it’s still a belief.
Here is my final word on this:
It’s a mystery. It cannot be known. It is what it is. I need no beliefs to exist. Life needs no beliefs to exist. It is. This is my last word on this subject in this dialogue.
I am so very grateful to you and Nathan. This has been truly wonderful.

Bryan: You are still storying about it. Let’s call it “hot dog” then. I honestly hate vedenta and awareness too. Your peristant with mind games is astonishing to me and very sophisticated. Its trickery is only debunked by direct experience as I have no words against it. You win.

Me: no no no no no no no no – I didn’t win. I just raised a simple question. Once we can transcend winning and losing – we are FREE.
What I’m doing Nathan and Bryan is Vedanta. I am observing without the slightest quality of ego. I am utterly unconcerned with right or wrong. I am devoid of belief. I don’t need or want belief. And I love this but not for the “intellectual” stimulation. That’s nice, but it’s just a passing state. It’s for the truth that I love this. I am very grateful to you.


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The Fatal Flaw: The Problem with Eastern Spiritual Philosophy – Part 1 of 3


It’s time to move on from what is simply false in Eastern philosophy (Buddhism, Advaita/nonduality, and some Taoism). Jesus said the truth will set you free and the whole purpose of this blog is to identify the false, so that the ineffable truth of being and life can shine forth.

1. The basic tenant of Eastern spiritual philosophy is that we are not our thoughts and feelings. We are, therefore, not who we “think” we are. So far, so good.

2. Our thoughts and feelings change, but, as these philosophies point out, there is a part of us that doesn’t change. This part is that presence that observes our passing thoughts and feelings. We are, they say, this changeless entity. Now we’re getting on some shaky ground, but let’s continue.

3. This presence, which is our true self is separate from the body/mind. It is neither born nor will it ever die. It is eternal consciousness. Here the philosophies collapse. I will try to show this below.

My experience shows that Point 1 is partly correct. Clearly, we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts, do, indeed, change. One day we “think” we love our wife/husband, then something happens and then we discover to our shame and disbelief that we now are not the one who loves this wife/husband. Life has changed completely. But we can also observe that some of our thoughts change constantly, other thoughts change only occasionally, and still others are nearly constant in our life. Within this array of change, we can detect patterns of thought and feeling. These patterns suggest an individuality that is, in fact, real. For example, I know that I love to explore issues, that with all my heart and soul I stand up for those who have been victims of unjustice, I love the music of Brahms and Mozart, etc.

Our Eastern Philosopher will say that my seemingly consistent thoughts/feelings are merely an outcome of my conditioning. They are “mere” appearances on the utterly changeless and characterless ground of being. They will further assert that this is not a theory, but the the outcome of direct experience, it is therefore not an issue of philosophy, but of direct experience. I can respond that the same is true for me. I am able to employ the power of presence, that power that is central to Eastern spiritual tradition (EST), to detect and identify these patterns. I can, therefore, make the same experiential claim. It is something I can directly observe.

But more importantly, I can also experience what is pointed to in EST and assert that the ESTer is drawing a decisive line of separation between “presence” and thought/feeling/experience, in which it is posited that one’s true identity is exclusively on one side of the experiential dimension. Our ESTer posits that Reality is the ground of experience and sensed experience (thoughts/feelings/observations) itself is mere appearance. All objects (thoughts/feelings/sensed objects) are passing and insubstantial. It is highly ironic that a philosophy that eschews separation so depends on this division, that this Maginot Line of separation is posited between one’s true identity and what is mere passing appearance. I can see the mere passing appearance of that tree just outside my window. I can look away and the tree is no longer in view (the tree ceases to exist!), but when I look back – what do I see??? – it’s remarkable, but it appears to be that same tree. Yes, the direction of sunlight might have changed a bit, but I am very sure that it’s the same true – perhaps five seconds older.

Now before moving on, let’s take a deep breath. What is the EST person really doing? Is it not possible that by labeling all sensed objects (thoughts/feelings) as mere passing appearance, he is negating his own role in this sensed life? Consider that possibility. Is this any different from the substance abuser who is also seeking to avoid the challenges of life through booze and drugs? Is this any different from the depressed person who lifts himself out of the anguish of his psychological being by adopting a zealous faith-based attitude on this life? Is this any different from the religious fanatic who believes that this life is just a preparation for the real life that begins at death and he can avoid all of the messiness and unpredictability of everyday life and dream of living an eternity in heaven?

I do not seek to judge the ESTer, but it is possible to detect a pattern in human history that revolves around the negation of everyday life – because life can be challenging, it can be complex, it calls on us to make tough decisions, it brings to light all of the empty faith-based beliefs we might cling to out of fear of the unknown. This is what life is. Wake up to its fantastic messiness. Life calls on us to be challenged. Anyone who has parented a little baby into adulthood knows this is true. Anyone in touch with their heart senses the vapid emptiness of EST.

Welcome to the challenge of your life. Make the best of it, for time is passing.

This is just part one of a three part series. Tomorrow I will comment on Point 2.

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The Catalyst of Violence: Rape Example


This post is an expansion of a conversation I had on Facebook. It happened in response to a person’s comment that what I had to say on Advaita 0r nonduality was examples of “intellectualism” as a mere appearance on the screen of awareness; our true Self. This is how I responded. I wrote this because I’ve heard exactly the same comment with the exactly the same words from another prominent advaitist.

You are on your way home from a movie. You hear the sound of scuffling. You peer around a corner and are able to observe a woman pinned against a wall. Her assailant is a man who appears to be in the process of raping her. You also notice the glint of knife.

What do you do? The pure advaitist could say, this is a mere appearance on the screen of reality. I’ll continue on my way home and relax. I may experience fear, a desire to come to the person’s aid, but I don’t need to respond to these mere thoughts.

Another person might call 911, hope for the best, and continue home.

Another person might rush the attacker with the intent of rescuing the woman.

All three responses are in the range of advaita (nonduality) because each of the responses to the rape are also “mere” appearances on the ground of awareness and are conditional on the observers socialization and genes.

Advaita allows for anything, it is thus an extremely lose and ultimately trivial way of understanding life. It is the ultimate invalidator of the urgency, poignancy, seriousness, and absurdity of life itself.

No one is obligated to respond in anyway to what is observed, but we can say this: when we are motivated by fear – we are a lot more likely to be unengaged in the immediacy of our own perceived life. Fear motivation will always occur when our primary identification is with inadequacy – a subject I have addressed in several other posts on this site, as well as my book (in great detail). A fear motivation will also elevate the primacy of our own well-being over the immediate demands of life. A fear response will tend to organize itself around ides around what I “should” do, as opposed to responding with immediacy. Thus, the observer who calls 911 can feel good about himself that he has performed his civic duty and has not placed his life at risk. But the person fully engaged in the now has done the brave and probably essential act without reference to a conceptual life with its conceptually inspired drives. He places life in the driver’s seat rather than his own conceptual analysis.

This is not a perfect analogy and I have simplified the situation, but the essential idea ought to be clear.

This is the ongoing challenge of life. When our identification with inadequacy fades our fear-based self becomes a much less pronounced part of our lives. The measure of our liberation from fear is the extent to which we are free to act in the moment. That is aliveness – in contrast to life as a concept. And, for you nondualists out there – this may also be the ultimate message of advaita itself.

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The Failure of “Spiritualism”


I am not an Advaitist. I am not a Buddhist. I am not anything, but myself, committed to what is true and freeing myself of what I can SEE as false. That is the challenge of our lives.

This is what you must know; people are addicted to feeling good. In comes in every form and flavor. That is the work of ego, working in service to our primal Wound. “If we fail to strive for safety – happiness – feeling good – then how will I ever be secure, happy, and feel good?” This is the perennial question of the ego. This is its obsession.

See that security – happiness – feeling good are all concepts. They are not real. They are projections of the mind. They are the false. As long as you insist on pursuing them, you will waste your life on goals that are unreal. You will live as Don Quixote, living a life that is filled with madness chasing after windmills.

The grave danger in Buddhist and nonduality teachings is how the mind bends them to achieve the goals of the deficient self. How does it do this? It does this by negating the authentic self! In this role, spiritualism is no different from any other authority in our lives that seek to mold us in ITS vision and kill our own.

Awareness shows us what is true and what is false. Usually, what is false are the beliefs we cling to that make us feel safe. But any belief that we cling to, that is not based in the truth of actual seeing can and often will undermine our well being. Beliefs are limits. They are ideas that we have absorbed from authorities in our lives. Coming alive to who we truly our asks us to question and explore our most deeply held beliefs.

Life is not designed to be easy. Only an ego loves the easy – the easy money, the easy sex, the easy this, the easy that. Life is designed to be active – alive. When we “rest in awareness” as the only goal of life, we have sacrificed our individuality. We have zoned out in the life of total “acceptance”. The only problem with that “belief” is the one thing we fail to accept becomes ourselves! Can you see that? Zoning out in belief is the same thing as zoning out with drugs – only more challenging and thus a bigger accomplishment of the ego. That’s why doctrine based spiritualism is thought to be better than drug abuse. Is it?

Zoning out is not a problem. Often the body/mind needs to zone out. We live in an exhausting time and zoning out is a pleasure we would be foolish to deny ourselves, but it is not our ultimate identity. When that happens, as it often does in meditative philosophies, we fail in the challenge of living.

Wake up to your aliveness. Wake up to your senses. Wake up to your mind – the mind that is embedded in what is real and is motivated to drop what it discovers is false. For example, I know that cars are contributing to the environmental deterioration of the planet, so I’ve decided to do all of my local errands by bike or foot. That’s what I do. If I think that makes me better than others, then I have converted what I have seen as true within awareness to be an action of ego. I see all of that and act accordingly. I see that income inequality breeds racism and classism, so I support political agendas that encourage people to live as sisters and brothers economically and socially. I know that my body depends on nature, so I can SEE that we are all connected and that when one part of our world suffers, we all suffer. I see that this as true. I see that when we pursue security through weapons, walled communities, unfair laws, racism, sexism, that we inspire division and this is life out of balance. So when I observe those tendencies in myself, I can see where I am contributing to the division and hardship of the world. Seeing it is the first and most decisive step we can make in our own liberation.

We Are All Related

We Are All Related

This is the challenge of living.

And before I conclude this post, let’s talk a minute about humor. Ultimately, this is the most liberating emotion of all. Grave seriousness is a very dependable red flag of the ego. Take yourself lightly in nearly all matters and you will truly see what is false in you. When you become overly serious (one of my “issues”) check out the status of your ego and get a good laugh out of your grandiosity. I can assure you probably look pretty funny to others – or even worse an authority for others to follow.

If you choose to follow, as many spiritual traditions urge us to do, then know yourself as a follower. If you choose to be yourself, that you become a light unto yourself.  That light can free others of their own darkness.

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The Failure of "Spiritualism"


I am not an Advaitist. I am not a Buddhist. I am not anything, but myself, committed to what is true and freeing myself of what I can SEE as false. That is the challenge of our lives.

This is what you must know; people are addicted to feeling good. In comes in every form and flavor. That is the work of ego, working in service to our primal Wound. “If we fail to strive for safety – happiness – feeling good – then how will I ever be secure, happy, and feel good?” This is the perennial question of the ego. This is its obsession.

See that security – happiness – feeling good are all concepts. They are not real. They are projections of the mind. They are the false. As long as you insist on pursuing them, you will waste your life on goals that are unreal. You will live as Don Quixote, living a life that is filled with madness chasing after windmills.

The grave danger in Buddhist and nonduality teachings is how the mind bends them to achieve the goals of the deficient self. How does it do this? It does this by negating the authentic self! In this role, spiritualism is no different from any other authority in our lives that seek to mold us in ITS vision and kill our own.

Awareness shows us what is true and what is false. Usually, what is false are the beliefs we cling to that make us feel safe. But any belief that we cling to, that is not based in the truth of actual seeing can and often will undermine our well being. Beliefs are limits. They are ideas that we have absorbed from authorities in our lives. Coming alive to who we truly our asks us to question and explore our most deeply held beliefs.

Life is not designed to be easy. Only an ego loves the easy – the easy money, the easy sex, the easy this, the easy that. Life is designed to be active – alive. When we “rest in awareness” as the only goal of life, we have sacrificed our individuality. We have zoned out in the life of total “acceptance”. The only problem with that “belief” is the one thing we fail to accept becomes ourselves! Can you see that? Zoning out in belief is the same thing as zoning out with drugs – only more challenging and thus a bigger accomplishment of the ego. That’s why doctrine based spiritualism is thought to be better than drug abuse. Is it?

Zoning out is not a problem. Often the body/mind needs to zone out. We live in an exhausting time and zoning out is a pleasure we would be foolish to deny ourselves, but it is not our ultimate identity. When that happens, as it often does in meditative philosophies, we fail in the challenge of living.

Wake up to your aliveness. Wake up to your senses. Wake up to your mind – the mind that is embedded in what is real and is motivated to drop what it discovers is false. For example, I know that cars are contributing to the environmental deterioration of the planet, so I’ve decided to do all of my local errands by bike or foot. That’s what I do. If I think that makes me better than others, then I have converted what I have seen as true within awareness to be an action of ego. I see all of that and act accordingly. I see that income inequality breeds racism and classism, so I support political agendas that encourage people to live as sisters and brothers economically and socially. I know that my body depends on nature, so I can SEE that we are all connected and that when one part of our world suffers, we all suffer. I see that this as true. I see that when we pursue security through weapons, walled communities, unfair laws, racism, sexism, that we inspire division and this is life out of balance. So when I observe those tendencies in myself, I can see where I am contributing to the division and hardship of the world. Seeing it is the first and most decisive step we can make in our own liberation.

We Are All Related

We Are All Related

This is the challenge of living.

And before I conclude this post, let’s talk a minute about humor. Ultimately, this is the most liberating emotion of all. Grave seriousness is a very dependable red flag of the ego. Take yourself lightly in nearly all matters and you will truly see what is false in you. When you become overly serious (one of my “issues”) check out the status of your ego and get a good laugh out of your grandiosity. I can assure you probably look pretty funny to others – or even worse an authority for others to follow.

If you choose to follow, as many spiritual traditions urge us to do, then know yourself as a follower. If you choose to be yourself, that you become a light unto yourself.  That light can free others of their own darkness.

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This is Fantastic – enterthenew.com


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Finding Balance in a Universe of Change


Finding Balance in a World of Change

There are two sources of identification. When we are identified with lack, which the vast majority of us are, we are identified with the changes in our life; changes in thought, feeling, emotion, circumstances, and experience. The alternative identification is with that which is aware of all change; that part of us that has never changed and never will. The luminous screen of identification is the source of everything and it is always and must be balanced in all circumstance without exception.

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