From a Reader (R):
R: I also read with interest the postings by both of you at Randall’s blog site, particularly your light bubbly words (It’s Very Gentle). It is quite clear and I can easily see the fact of what you say. I address you this mail, however, out of some genuine concerns and NOT to pick an argument.
VF: I'm going to attempt to respond to your note. Thank you for writing. I hope what I say might be somewhat helpful. I understand your question and the struggle it produces and struggled with the same concerns and questions for years. I appreciate your sincerity.
R: “Just resting” and “SEEING” by the Awareness, as you can know happen, if and only if supporting organism (a life-form, a body or a body-mind entity) exists. The organism (body) needs food for its existence. ALL THE DAMNATION STARTS THERE!
VF: The Awareness is prior to the form and the form arises within Awareness, just as shapes take form in smoke - but the smoke is prior to, during, and after the dissolution of the form. The body does what it does and what it needs to do, no differently than a plant grows toward the light and moisture. This is only a problem when identification as a body is central.
R: After all, the body feels ‘hungry’. Dependency of mind-body on food implies the predator-prey pyramid. Violence and aggression to acquire the prey, the destruction of prey by the predator by devouring, the run for life by the prey to save itself, search for security, camouflage, deceit, exploitation, cheat will all ensue. Misery for the prey is guaranteed. The whole conundrum of grief and the rigmarole of ‘samasara’ begin there.
VF: Samasara is "continued" and "fed" with the mistaken belief in the individual, separate self - this belief is the source of suffering - do you see that what you are is prior to that? Prior to samsara? Do you see that even samsara arises within this simple presence that you are? Samsara, itself, arises only after the mistaken belief in/identification with the body. The cycle of birth and death ends each moment that we rest as the unborn beingness.
R: Surely, we cannot say all that non-dualistic philosophy is only for one whose belly is full and doesn’t have to look for feeding himself/herself.
VF: Of course not - Presence/Awareness is there registering hunger, illness, starvation and death.
R: The moment you look to feed yourself, somebody has to cook, somebody else has to fetch what is cooked, still some other has to grow what is fetched, growing food/crops involves killing, dependency on irrigation, externally imposing certain disciplines, etc., etc.; the cycle goes on! The non-existing zombie-like “I” neither understood the mechanisms of existence nor has "I" solved the misery of the body by dissociating itself from the body.
VF: There is no separation between what you call "the zombie-like I" and the activities of form. They are one and the same. Do you see that it is only believed concepts, arising now, that create this seeming difficulty? The body will experience pain and misery - there is no denying that - but will you?
R: So Sir, what I suggest is: Are we here talking merely about an escape technique, a “coping mechanism”, a survival tactic suitable for a few clothing the method in mystical and eulogized terms of advaita?
VF: Look, while I understand it can come across as mystical, there is really nothing mystical about this! The mystical approach is what has hidden this from so many - certainly Nisargadatta didn't approach this in a particularly mystical fashion! Please keep this very simple: You exist and you know that you exist, yes? Is thought necessary to know this or is there a knowingness that is not dependent upon thought acting here? After that knowingness, everything else is conceptual and open to argument. There are many who are very skilled at arguing about this - that is not my interest or my strength. See that this SEEING is here, right now (there is no other time) - within this seeing there are certain tensions, contractions, sensations, etc. that we have LEARNED to call "the body." However, notice that even now, these sensations, etc. coalesce and dissolve with no one there to "control" them. Notice that even the sense of "you" arises and dissolves. If you are trying to find a way to convince thought of this understanding, well, good luck. That certainly did not and has not happened for me!
Stay with this simple, direct, uncomplicated SEEING. Within that, the desire to feed others, change political systems, fight for justice, etc. may arise (that has certainly been true here - I work as a social worker) - the dream is certainly "real enough!" But, SEE that it is a dream and that all of us are dream characters within it. Within the dream - otherwise known as samsara - the drama will continue. Fair enough. Don't mistake what you REALLY ARE with this character. Investigate for yourself. This must become intensely personal or it is worthless. As long as it remains an interesting philosophy you would be much better off spending your time at the movies! I hope this helps in some small way. Please feel free to email me again if none of this makes sense or if you have further questions.