Where Should I Sit?

November Project: Question #19 This question comes from 'The Jake' through email

I don't want to ask about a 'best place' but do you think it's more beneficial to sit in certain places more than others? Does any kind of environment provide a setting more conducive to sitting?

Thanks for the question, The Jake.

Again, I don't want you to think of it as something you do, separate from your daily life. Sitting IS your daily life, whatever that might be. If you find yourself outside, at a supermarket, in bed, at a hospital, or wherever, there really is no difference.

You might say if you are at a hospital you would certainly feel differently than if you were at the supermarket, and I can understand what you mean. But it makes no difference. As a part of sitting, all of those feelings will become apparent to you, and one is not necessarily better than another.

However, if you feel uncomfortable at hospitals, and if you want to explore that feeling, maybe you should go to a hospital and face it directly. If you try to face it while sitting at home, you'll have to imagine, attempting to dredge up the feeling while sitting on your comfy sofa. And that will never compare to the real thing, if you know what I mean.

(In that example, perhaps it is better to go to a specific place, but that is not really what you are asking.)

As far as an ideal environment, it doesn't exist. Sitting is the complete movement of life, and not a cut and paste of what you prefer. After all, it's the bit of dirt that makes a pearl, not the preference of the oyster. ;-)

Buddha Feet and Little Guys

On Finding Out for Yourself

November Project: Question #18 This question comes from an old friend through Skype

I understand the importance of finding out for myself. And I hope to find the truth of my functioning, but I don't know how to do it. Where should I begin?

You begin with yourself. If you want to "Find the truth of my functioning," as you've said, that is what you must do.

Everything you say, think, believe, and feel all points back to something. Find out what that something is.

I hope you can do this, I really do. But I am not sure you will. You say you understand the importance of finding out for yourself, and yet your first instinct is to ask someone else how it's done...

Good luck, my friend.

On the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011

November Project: Question #17 Today's question actually came from several people, asked in many different ways. I'll try to condense it as best I can:

Were you in the earthquake of 3/11?

On March 11th, I was home writing. We had many pre-shocks leading up to it, and when it happened I thought it was nothing more than another small earthquake. But it kept growing in strength and did not stop.

I walked out to the front door of the apartment and stood looking at the building next to mine (I live on the 4th floor). The shaking was so violent, I was sure the two buildings would collide at any moment. They swayed toward each other with only inches of space between them.

This seemed to go on for some time.

When the shaking stopped, I went back into the apartment to find everything in disarray. Some of our appliances were destroyed, water spilled everywhere, and any items stored up high were on the floor. I checked the other rooms and found similar conditions.

I knew there would be a big aftershock coming, which is usually the case with large earthquakes, so I went out into the streets. And an aftershock did come. It was so strong that I had to brace myself while standing.

Some time passed, I'm not sure how much, and I saw a news report on a large screen television at a cell phone store. It was then I learned of the tsunami, and I watched as it happened (it was a live broadcast).

There was no cell phone service, including text messages. The internet did work, however. (I remember going to an electronics store a few days after, and there must have been close to 1000 people there trying to buy smart phones for that very reason.)

All the trains stopped. Akiko had to walk about 4 hours to get home. She and I could not contact each other at all, but we already had a plan in place in case this sort of thing ever happened and I knew how she would get home.

I didn't know this at the time, but Akiko and her co-workers had no idea of the severity of the tsunami. They knew it had happened, but had no other details until I met them that night. It wasn't a nice task having to tell them.

Has life in Japan returned to normal?

For most of us, yes. Most businesses are still conserving energy however they can. On the train today, for example, all the lights were off until we actually reached the final station (that particular train runs outdoors, so we weren't stumbling about in the dark or anything ;-) ).  And many stores have kept their outside signage turned off since the earthquake. In fact, one convenience store chain has actually replaced all of the flourescent lights in their stores with LEDs to save energy.

The city can look strange at night and somewhat deserted in certain places, what with the outer lights turned off. But I imagine, if everyone suddenly turned all the lights back on, it would shock the senses, haha.

There are still thousands upon thousands of homeless people living in shelters close to the effected areas. And there are so many orphaned children. In many cases, they are the sole remaining members of their families.

But the Japanese have used whatever resources they could find to help life return to some form of normalcy. They have taken dilapidated buildings and used them for schools for the children or as temporary hospitals. And people from all over the country go there regularly to help in whatever way they can. Sometimes musicians go to hold concerts for free. Or others might donate a few karaoke machines for the weekend so the people in the shelters might be able to have some fun.

Many things have been done, and still far more needs to be done. But the people have a good outlook on how things are unfolding, and it seems to be getting better, albeit slowly.

What sort of efforts are being done to help?

There are many things, of course. Some are obvious, and some might never cross your mind.

For example, today I went to Akihabara with Akiko to help clean up photographs found in one of the worst effected areas of the tsunami.

Apparently, during the process of clearing debris after the tsunami, rescue workers kept finding photo albums, small and large. They amassed thousands of photos in the ensuing weeks and months and eventually those photos were sent to be cleaned.

In a very small number of cases, the photos will be sent back to relatives after they have been cleaned and restored. But in most cases, the people in the photos are simply gone and have not been identified. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will be able to put a name to the faces.

It was a strange feeling. The photos I worked on came from a place hit hardest by the tsunami. There were infants, children, parents, vacations, weddings, parties, and so much more. I am fairly certain, all the faces I saw today are no more. Their stories are finished. But I hoped, in my own way, I could preserve a small part of their stories through the photos. It was a great victory when a clear image was saved.

I hope someone will be able to recognize them all, someday.

Thanks for the question, everyone...

On Dreaming

November Project: Question #16 This question comes from Brooks through email

How do you experience sleep and dreaming post-December 2006 accident?  Have you noticed a difference in dreams over the last five years?

Thanks for the question, Brooks.

I suppose in the past I was a fairly regular dreamer. I never really placed much significance in it, but I think I enjoyed it for the most part. I can remember having horrifying dreams and waking up thinking, "How awesome was that??" But in the last five years or so, I can scarcely remember having any dreams. It just doesn't seem to happen for me anymore.

I know people will cry foul and tell me Everyone dreams every night!!, or You do dream, you just don't remember!!, but I really don't think so. I won't say I have had no dreams in the past five years, but I could seriously count the amount of times on one hand. Probably. :-)

There are many theories of dreaming and dreams. I think the main line of thinking is our dreams are there as a subconscious playground where we can work out all the unresolved issues of the previous day or days. If that is true, what if there is nothing to resolve? If dreams are dependent upon us having to deal with our self-perpetuated nonsense later, then the question of dreaming is a simple one to answer.

And others say dreams are messages from elsewhere, or from the subconscious, giving us advice and whatnot. Still others think they are symbolic representations of past lives or even representations of answers to our deepest questions. Some of it might be true, none of it might be true...I don't really know.

But I do know when I lie down to sleep at night, I am always alone. It can be a deafening silence, and sometimes sleep does not come so easily. At times I like to fill the room with sound just to have something there. Solo piano music is good. I like the percussive nature of the instrument. But having music, or any sound for that matter, is not a necessity for me to sleep.

I don't know if that answers your question, Brooks, but thanks for asking.

Train

On Meditation

November Project: Question #15 This question arrived today from Nishanth through the Contact form

Most fully awake people that I have heard  of - like Adyashanti, Buddha, Sri Nisargadatta, became realized after a lot of meditation. Only very few people like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Eckhart, and probably yourself, had spontaneos awakenings (without any effort) which led to permanent realization.

So I was wondering how much importance do you give for meditation? For most of us the ego and conflict runs deep, so do you think that meditation and discipline is important for awakening to happen? Will the mind get attached to meditation and if so how to avoid this?

(I understand that awakening always happens by Grace and not by our-doing, and the process of meditation is to keep the mind silent so as to increase the probability of awakening to happen. Of course on rare occasions it can happen in chaotic minds too.)

Thanks for the question, Nishanth. I'll take bits of what you've asked, and try to answer the best I can.

I am sure my answer will differ from those people with backgrounds of spiritual study, spiritual searching, and spiritual seriousness.

...how much importance do you give for meditation?

For me, meditation had no significance (assuming we are talking about meditation in the way most people use the word). I was curious about life and living things, and I think I would search for what I call temporary truths, which are quantifiable, measurable, physical phenomena. Things that can be known. I imagine it was similar to how Sherlock Holmes solved his cases, although it was never quite as interesting or romantic as that, haha.

Temporary Truths can reveal wonderful things about the physical world. And that might have been a large part of my fascination, because I have always loved the Earth and the physical things it has provided. It was such a thrill for me to learn how something worked, or to solve a problem effectively using only the simplest information. But my fascination only went so far, as whenever I would figure something out, I quickly tossed it aside to move on to the next thing.

In many ways, how I lived is no different from someone on the so-called spiritual path. Or a person on any path, for that matter. I always wanted the next thing, and the next, and the next. But the main difference, I think, between how I lived and the spiritual seeker was I never once thought there was an end goal. I never thought, "If I keep doing this, I will be rewarded in the end." I just did it because it interested me.

Even now, meditation has no real importance in my life. But I don't want to confuse anyone, because I often talk about what I have called, sitting. When I use that word, I don't necessarily mean actually sitting. And I don't mean meditation, as in sitting on the cushion. I use the word sitting to mean a kind of seeing or observation, although observation is not quite the right word.

In sitting, there are the senses. But they are devoid of interpretation. No one is saying good or bad, right or wrong, hot or cold, or any of that. If one sits and there is no interference, it is like 'melding', if that is the right way to put it. There are no longer 'separate' senses; no sight apart from hearing, no hearing apart from touch, etc. There is only ONE sense, and that is life. Life is the purest sensation.

Some might call that a kind of meditation, and that is fine. I can see that. But sitting as I have described it, is not something you DO. You don't begin at a certain time, or end at a certain time. One has no choice in the matter. It never begins and it never ends.

And I hope my descriptions of sitting have been clear in the past, because I never wanted anyone to think of it as something one can attain through practice or effort. It is not that kind of thing. Sitting is merely life living through Takuin, and it is nothing more than a word used to describe that life.

Face

For most of us the ego and conflict runs deep, so do you think that meditation and discipline is important for awakening to happen?

I can't really say. Many people say meditation is important for awakening, but those people also meditate and hope to be awakened, so what else should we expect them to say? ;-)

I think many people do meditate for the reasons you've said above; to be awakened, and so on. In those cases, they hope to have a better state in the future through meditation, and they are at odds with whatever their current circumstances happen to be and want to change them...otherwise why do it at all unless they can get something from it? In those situations, the need to meditate, and perhaps the meditation itself, is born of conflict. In other words, if not for the conflict in the first place, those people might have never meditated.

But, that is not the only reason people meditate. Some do it for others, and not for themselves. Most likely, the number of people doing that is smaller than the I WANT-type of meditators and meditations. But even so, we can't just throw it all out and assume it is nonsense.

And there are beneficial physical effects from certain kinds of meditations, for relaxation and other purposes. I know of some athletes that have used meditation to help in their recovery from training, and some of them swear by it. So it is not necessarily all hocus pocus.

But if someone is selling you meditation, and it all sounds too good to be true, use your head...otherwise you get what you deserve. A con is a con, and it doesn't matter how long the beard or how white the smile. :-)

Will the mind get attached to meditation and if so how to avoid this?

If the mind hopes to avoid attachment to meditation, is that not attachment?

Thanks very much for your question, Nishanth.

On Freedom

November Project: Question #14 This question comes from Liz through the Contact form

Do you think humanity will ever, truly, be free?

Thanks for the question, Liz!

Humanity has always been free.

I know it is sometimes difficult to see, with all the needless destruction that goes on in the name of this or that. But freedom can never really be lost...

...it can be covered over, but never lost.

Thanks for your question!

On Writing at Takuin.com

November Project: Question #13 This question comes from Matt through email

Do you find it difficult to write on the subject of enlightenment or liberation?

Thanks for the question, Matt.

As far as 'writing on the subject of enlightenment or liberation', I am not sure that is what I do. I know I usually hover in that area, and many people think that is what I do, but I don't quite see it in that way.

Much of what is written about enlightenment, online and in blogs or what have you, comes from that subject matter directly. In other words, there is a body of literature most people work from. It is in this or that tradition, or it sprouted from this or that teacher or lineage. That is all well and good, and I have nothing bad to say about it.

(I can't speak for everyone, of course, and I am probably the worst person to comment because I don't really read those blogs anyway, haha. I am working from the info given by all the people I have met with over the years.)

In my own case, I have no 'training' at all. I don't come from a teaching, teacher, lineage, religion or anything else. I am just some jackass that had this accident occur on December 1st, 2006. So, I'm the last person you should trust for information on the subject of enlightenment and liberation! ;-)

In the beginning, all I wanted to do was just try to find a way to talk about this thing that had happened to me. In those early days before this site, I didn't seem to have words for anything, and that in itself fascinated me. I would be in, what I thought was, an intense conversation with someone and I would never say a word. Other people thought it was strange, but it seemed so right to me. Those kind of experiences led me to write so I could learn how to speak, if that is the right way to put it.

All I have ever tried to do is see things as they happen within. So if someone asks me about the origin of thought, for example, I don't grab a book about Thought, look for the pertinent information, then re-word it and present it as the answer. I just look within. There is thought here, and I don't have to go somewhere else to find out how it works.

Faces

So, thinking of it in that way, I don't really write on the subject of enlightenment and liberation. I write based on whatever arises within. And many people are not interested in that, and it is fine. I get it. But that is all I can do, for better or worse. ;-)

As far as difficulty in execution, it is not really so bad. I imagine it was far worse in the beginning. But using the November Project as an example, I take a question and start writing. I just go until I think I have said all I need to say. Then I go back and remove a lot of nonsense (never enough, haha). At that point, it is good to go.

It is really an easy thing to do if you are willing to let go of the outcome.

There is one thing that I do find annoying...well, maybe more interesting than annoying. I don't know if it is the subject matter, the way I write, the words I use, or something else, but every once in awhile I get emails from some kind of Enlightenment Grammar Police. I get guys (it is always men) who will, quite literally, take each sentence word for word and explain why it is wrong, why I am wrong, and why they are right.

I just don't get why it is so important to them. I mean, these are LONG, VERY DETAILED emails. Had they used the energy it took to craft such a thing and directed it toward cancer research, we'd probably have more healthy people in the world. ;-)

Hope that answers your question, Matt! Thanks...

Belief

November Project: Question #12 This question comes from Steven through email

I have read all the posts in this project and I find it interesting so far. But my question comes more from the comments. My questions is, if you don't believe in an afterlife, don't believe an enlightened age is coming, don't believe in spiritual stages or whatever, what do you believe in?

Thanks for your question, Steven.

First, lets consider the phrase Don't Believe. Don't Believe is not the thing at all. There is a great deal of activity in Don't Believe, and it is really not so very different from believing.

Don't Believe also needs a contrary position, as in, "I don't believe because of this or that." You might also say Don't Believe needs the "I", but what is the "I" other than a contrary position?

Not that any of this is good or bad...we're just exploring the words a bit. It might seem like mere semantics, and you may not have meant to use Don't Believe in that way, so, sorry if this is a bit off the subject.

Your real question is, What do you believe?

In the Clouds

What do you mean with the word Believe? Is it a bit of knowledge or something imagined? A little of both? Or are you using it the same as when someone talks about belief in god, and that sort of thing? Is it accepting something to be true? Is it from opinion? Faith? What do you mean when using that word?

In the way people normally use that word, belief has something behind it, yes? The belief needs you in some way, to expend your energy. If you have a belief, you carry it with you. You need to keep it close to you. Otherwise, it will come and go like any other thought.

Belief in this way, is different from a fact. You can say that a guitar neck is made of wood, and that is a fact, but you don't have to believe it. The guitar neck doesn't need you for it to go on, and if you stop believing in the thing, it is not going to turn into some other substance. It is what it is, with or without you.

We can go on and on with the words, but it is not so necessary. You asked, What do you believe? A better question might be, Where is belief? Where is it, and how am I to find it?

There is no sense of belief in this body. But I dont want to assume there is nothing here, because I do take this seriously. But all I am left with is the question, Where is belief?

In Sickness

November Project: Question #11 This question comes from Jay through email

I read in one of your comments on a previous post that you've been sick [On the post Life After Death ~ TM]. Hope you get better soon! My question is, how does one handle sickness in an enlightened state? Do you find it easier to deal with than it was before?

Thanks for the question, Jay. And thanks for the get well wishes!

First, let's do away with the enlightened state nonsense. ;-)

Second, I don't handle it. If there is sickness for whatever reason, it has nothing to do with me (At least not in the way we usually think of sickness). The body will handle it, or the body will perish. Most likely, at my age, the body will handle it. :-)

Now don't get me wrong. It could totally be my fault. Maybe I ran around in the rain too much, ate too poorly, or neglected rest for too long. It could absolutely by my actions, or lack of actions, that has made this body throw everything out, causing a short, forced recovery period. But beyond that possibility, it really has nothing to do with 'me'.

In sickness, there is nothing really to deal with, apart from the inconvenience of the thing. We can't do what we might like to do during an illness, but that is not so bad. We can catch up on reading, or Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes (A sneak peek into the life of Takuin? Haha).

You might say it has everything to do with you when you're sick, or that it affects every aspect of yourself when you fall ill. That is all well and good, but I am just telling you how it appears here. I have no feeling about it, apart from physical feelings and sensations, but those are not 'mine' anyway.

Thanks for your question, Jay.

Confused About Enlightenment

November Project: Question #10 This question comes from Brooks through email

After about five years of communication with people in person and over your website, what would you say is the number one confusion that people seem to have about what awakening and enlightenment is and/or about your accident?

Thanks for the question, Brooks.

I suppose there are a number of things. But probably, the number one confusion comes from what they already know about enlightenment. In other words, the knowledge they hold regarding enlightenment is what gets in the way. It is not always the case, but as I sit here thinking about all of the stories I've heard over the years, that is one of the most common occurances.

That is, of course, only through my eyes. If others were present during those conversations, they might see it differently.

Most of the people I have talked to seem to hold enlightenment at arm's reach in order to inspect and compare it to an idea they already have of what it should be. It is used as a point of reference, like a checklist to see if they have the right 'symptoms' indicating they are headed in the right direction.

If I were to tell them to let it all go, I imagine 'let it all go' would be added to the checklist, haha. "Am I letting it go? I think I am. That is good!" UGH...

As far as confusion regarding my 'accident', it really is not brought up very much. Certainly people have asked about it, and that is fine. My tendency is to steer them away from those subjects, though. I'd rather they save their energies for understanding themselves, and not waste it on trying to figure out what may or may not have happened to me. ;-)

Thanks for your question, Brooks.

Bridge

What Are You Reading?

November Project: Question #9 This question comes from Dave through email

I've read in other posts you say you don't read spiritual books. But I assume you do read books of some kind. Given the subject matter on this website, I am just curious about what you do read.

Thanks for the question, Dave.

I seem to run hot or cold when it comes to reading books. Now I am cold. This wasn't always the case, though, and seems to be rather recent. Before, if I were on the train or waiting in a long line or whatever, I would always have something to read on me. But now, I rarely pull out a book in those situations.

These days I prefer to just sit and watch people. I have always taken time to do that, but that is how I spend nearly all of my potential reading time now.

Besides, for whatever reason, I am averse to distracting myself anyway. I don't feel like having my brain laden with things to do just so I can fill up space, so to speak. I just don't want to dilute the energy used in observation, if that is the right way to say it.

But I still read at home from time to time, and I imagine before too long I may be running hot again. ;-)

I have mostly been reading reference books on music theory as it is applied to various musical traditions. I have been re-acquainting myself with that world, and it is good to be a student again.

I've also really been drawn to books on photography. Not so much the theory or techniques, but books of photos. It is very easy for me to be drawn into the world of each photo, and it teaches me something of what it means to be that kind of artist. As most of you probably know, all of the photos on this site were taken by me (with just a handful of exceptions), and it is something I quite like to do. I really enjoy experimenting with photos and it is probably something I will continue doing for a very long time.

I don't know if that answers your question, but there you have it! ;-) Thanks, Dave.

Between the Trees

Life After Death

November Project: Question #8 This question comes from Lee through email

Is there life after death?

Thanks for the question, Lee.

No.

Life After Death

OK, OK, put down the torches....we'll go into this a bit. ;-)

The better answer - well, not better, but perhaps the only answer - is, I don't know. I never will. Neither will you. We know what we've been taught, and that is all.

Reincarnation, life after death, and all of the other things we have been told of the after life have been given to us, and adopted by us, for two main reasons: control and comfort. If we can be made to believe the stories we have been given, we are easier to control. And since we can't fathom, or won't fathom, the notion that this life may very well be all there is, we take comfort in knowing we'll be taken care of later.

It is, "Be good now, or suffer later," or "If you don't get it right this time, you will have another chance," and so on.

What we have been taught are the products of thinking. We give a description of something through thought, that is beyond thought. Death is the ending of thought. Not necessarily the ending of life, but of thought.

Thought is scared of the end, and thus, makes tales of another life or another something in an attempt to maintain its own continuity.

Try and see this within yourselves...if you can put aside the things you've been taught, and just see the functioning of thinking and how it moves, with its hopes for the future and a life without end. Somewhere, somehow, it must know that eventually its number will be up, but it does its damnedest to keep going.

Take a moment and look within yourself. Why do you want to go on after this life? Not because you believe you will, it is more than that. Why do you want to? I am not saying you should or should not. Just ask why. It seems no one bothers to ask.

I know what people say about this, and I know what they believe. But just because an idea is popular, or because you believe it, doesn't make it true. And I am not trying to say "Believe me!! Believe me!!" because all I can really say is, "I DON'T KNOW." And I am more than fine with that. It just gives one a reason to never waste one's time. Ever.

You might ask, "Isn't there a possibility that what we've been taught will turn out to be true?" The same possibility exists of there being an alternate universe where Takuin has super powers and is leader of the X-Men.

;-)

Quick Reply on Living

November Project: Question #7 This question comes from A in the comments on a previous post Quick Thoughts on Living:

What is the the most significant or the most major difference you feel between a ‘separate feeling of being alive’ and no ‘separate feeling of being alive’? You have known the former before the accident, I guess. Would love to know.

Thanks for the question, A

Honestly, I don't remember much of what life was about back then. Certainly it moved along some path or another, with many different jobs, locations, attitudes, and so on.

There was most likely a person, thinking itself to have a life, with struggles, conflicts, hesitations, and worries for the future. But what any of those things may have been about, I cannot really remember. And as far as the former and the latter is concerned, I can only imagine a comparison between the two....

...so let's imagine for a moment.

Before, there must have been a person and events. And the event's apparent importance arose only as backdrop for said person's particular sphere of drama.

Or perhaps there were no events, and only personal interpretation?

Or maybe it was the person, merely interfering and interacting with the physical world?

It could have been all or none of those things. Perhaps more. Perhaps less. Whatever it was, is not so important now.

These days, the past has little importance, apart from its usefulness regarding memory. Well, it is a great resource for navigating the physical world, and essential in that way. So we could say the past works as it is needed (or we could also use the word memory in place of past). That is also the only place where time, and the past, exist; in memory.

The person is dependent upon the past that sustains it (the person IS that past). And that same person hopes to remove the past to have a better life in the future. That is essentially what the seeker is doing; looking for a way to end its 'non-essential part' in order to have a more complete 'essential part' and then sustain a new and better life with it.

The Self in Agony

None of this really interests me anymore. I don't want to say it has never interested me, although I am sure I have said that, haha. Life is attracted to life, and even saying that much could be considered gratuitous, as the words cannot hold the thing as tightly as we would want them to.

There is life here, and it is different from the life behind the eyes that will read this. Different and the same. These eyes take in sights no one else will ever see, and it is the same for yours. If there is an interpreter behind your eyes, there is nothing wrong with that. Rather than struggle with it, if you do, just embrace the thing and get on with living.

There is no feeling of life here...no feeling of a life being lived. And while Takuin is definitely alive according to the definition of living, he doesn't really know he is alive, and he never will. Only his thinking would tell him yes or no, and that in itself will never be a problem unless he starts believing it.

Someday, A, you may be free of your need for freedom. That may be the only freedom...

************

Thanks for your question, A. I don't know that I have answered you, and I may have gone off into other areas, but I did my best! ;-)

On Increased Awakenings

November Project: Question #6 This question was asked by Bill through the Contact Form

Now that there are more awakened people than ever before, how do you think this will effect the world that we live in?

We hear a lot of this talk these days, of there being more awakened people throughout the world, or that awakening is happening at a faster pace than ever before, and so on. There certainly are more people talking about it now, which I suppose is not a bad thing. But I just don't see it as an actuality. At least, not yet.

I think there is one reason for the rise in these ideas, and that is the Internet. Now, more than ever before, we do not have an increase in awakened people, but an increase in our ability to see them all over the world. It is not the same thing. We have no idea if the number of awakened people is actually higher, or if we are just looking at what we have had all along.

The Internet makes it possible for us to see people all over the world, after all, and I find it suspicious that 'more' people are supposed to be awakened, when that number has 'increased' right along with our increased ability to access the rest of the world easily. Does that make sense?

And also, due to the Internet, we now have access to vast amounts of spiritual teachings and teachers. More of that knowledge is available than ever before, which does not mean an increase in awakening, but an increase in people's ability to speak as if they are awakened. Again, not the same thing.

Yellow Flowers

I'm not saying that every teacher is out there trying to fool you, but it is true that the common lingo of awakening is so seductive, one can easily fool oneself without really noticing. Of course, there are only so many words we can use to describe awakening, and we shouldn't necessarily throw things out just because of words commonly used. But, have you ever asked yourself why so many teachers sound so much alike? Does any part of you find that suspicious, or at least, the tiniest bit odd? Question it.

I am not sure what people are expecting. If there are so many more awakened people now, what does that mean? What makes that such a wonderful thing? Is it because we'll be better as a species? We'll take care of this world better than if we're not awakened? Bullshit, I say. If people really want to help the world, they will do it now, and not wait for some magical date in the future when it will be better.

When humanity dies off, it will not be due to a lack of awakened people. It will be due to lack of right action. And anyone can make things right, right now. There is no need to wait. And we all know what right actions are, even if we claim we do not.

In order for us to survive as a species, we do not necessarily need more awakened people. We just need to take our collective heads out of our collective asses. ;-)

Thanks so much for your Question, Bill.

Questions Answered - Again!

November Project: Question #5 I knew this would happen at some point during the November Project. It happened last year, in fact...

So far, 5 days into the project, I have received around 45 to 50 questions. I will probably end up using 15 out of those 50. And not because the questions are 'bad'. It is just that many of the 50 are repeatedly asked. Not only that, they have already been addressed in a post from last year's November Project called Questions Answered. To handle the deluge of familiar questions, we'll do the same again.

So, does that mean I am going to just take the cheap way out and link to that article? Yes, but with a few additions. ;-)

Here are a couple reasons why:

1.) Since the November Project last year, the number of subscribers has about doubled. So there is a whole new group of readers that may have missed those explorations the first time.

2.) The repeat questions this year are almost IDENTICAL to the questions asked last year. The only real difference is those questions are in greater numbers this year, haha.

The questions in last year's post, Questions Answered, are grouped into 5 categories consisting of the most frequently asked questions. I have received some variation of the same questions this year (apart from #4, for whatever reason), so it is still a good fit.

There are some posts written after last year's project that may fit nicely as well. I will append those below.

In Shinagawa Station

But first I want to say, even though I have used the word answer in relation to these questions, please never think of what is written as an answer. They are merely explorations, and nothing more. Don't think of it in terms of right or wrong. Just open yourself to the exploration and take it from there.

Last Year's Post, Questions Answered

Related articles posted since last year's project:

From the Journal

Sitting #5

Be Good

Just Look

Cook Your Own Meal

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Also, I should say I am still taking in questions for this project. Even though I have received more than enough to fill up the entire month, I will not stop taking questions until November 30th, so keep them coming!

Be Good!!

Quick Thoughts On Living

November Project: Question #4 This question comes from B.C. through Skype chat:

I was thinking about life and living the other day, and it struck me as strange that we are alive. Not in any morbid sense, but just as a fact. We are living beings on this planet, running around, doing whatever it is that we do. Have you ever thought about how odd it is to actually be alive? How do you feel about this?

[NOTE: I paraphrased this question, as I neglected to write it down at the time. Oops! ~ TM]

Thanks for the question, BC.

I just realized I have never actually thought about this before. It is amazing...

...I have no feeling whatsoever of being alive.

I know, factually, it must be true. If I look up the word in the dictionary, compare it to my state, I am sure I would qualify as life. But I feel nothing. Not that I feel 'un-life', or 'not living', or anything like that. There is just no feeling of being alive.

Or maybe I should say, there is no separate feeling of being alive. I can feel the heart beating. My senses all seem to be operational. I can talk. I eat. I excrete. This is a living creature, to be sure. But I don't feel these as separate events, happening to a person. It is all simultaneous.

Fishing

I suppose most people feel this differently. Perhaps it is the separatness of experiences stacked on top of one another than gives the illusion of a person having a unique life? A feeling or an idea of being alive; a feeling of having a life, of living a life, of being a person experiencing a life. But I feel none of that. I can't really even sense it.

Perhaps it is this...Life does not know it is alive. It just lives.

How does living appear to all of you? I am curious to find out...I'm not sure we've ever discussed this before.

Burning the Notebooks

November Project: Question #3 This question comes from Thom.

A few posts ago [In Recent Doings - TM] you mentioned you were going to burn the notebooks you've written in over the last 5 years. What would possess you to do such a thing?

I have heard a few variations of this question through email, Facebook, and Twitter. I don't know if I can give a more satisfactory answer than I have already, but let's see what comes up.

I suppose this is related, in part, to the recent comment changes on this site. Not 'because of' or anything like that. But it is related.

Whenever I finish a piece for Takuin.com, it is not meant to suddenly die. Through the comments, it will take on another short life of its own and grow into something different from its origin. Hopefully. Then we can explore a bit, as it is no longer the words of one person. But even this has its limitations, as I find it best to move on quickly after the various participants have 'walked' together a bit.

So, as far as a blog post is concerned, it is born, grows up a bit, maybe has a mid-life crisis, settles down, then dies, sometimes with a whimper and sometimes with a bang. And I attribute the life it has not solely to me, but to whomever participates in its journey.

If we look at just the writing; forget the participation and all of that, just the writing; after it leaves Takuin, it is really a dead thing.

On its own, once a piece is written, it dies off very quickly in my mind. Nothing holds or connects me to it, almost as if it never happened. It could be burned at that point and I would never know.

For me, keeping the writings in the old notebooks is like trying to get your breath back once it has left your body. It is gone forever, so you might as well forget about it enjoy the next breath. It could be the last one, you know. ;-)

Image

It is not a matter of being a temperamental or eccentric writer. It is not a decision made to heighten a sense of artistic integrity, nor is it due to some stylistic ideal. It is not even personal. Writing may be a purging of some sort for me. (I do not know, as I have not really explored this, which means I should. :-)) Or perhaps even a removal of wastes, so to speak.

Looking at it that way, I would not hang on to my writing anymore than I would hang on to yesterday's stool sample. ;-)

Thanks for your question, Thom!

The State of Non-Duality

November Project: Question #2 This question comes from K through Skype chat:

What do you think of the current state of non-duality? Do you find certain teachers to be missing the point, or have they mostly stayed true to core teachings?

I am glad you asked this question, K, because it will give me the chance to clear a few things up.

I am not a non-dual teacher. As far as I know, I have never used those words to describe myself. Not that you have said that...this is just something I want to say.

I don't know what it means to be non-dual. I know what the term is meant to mean, but that is as far as it goes. I am sure there must be certain 'criteria' to be met in order to call oneself non-dual, similar to meeting the requirements to call a food product organic, haha. But I really have no interest in any of that.

I don't read non-dual teachings, or any teachings for that matter. Not that you should or shouldn't, I don't mean it in that way. It is just that the subject doesn't interest me. I am not sure what else I can say about it.

I don't really know anything about the state of the teachings of non-duality. I am sure there are several fragments making up the whole. One group probably thinks a particular teacher or teaching is the true voice of non-duality, while others will disagree. There is probably even something like 'neo' non-duality, with young people championing a 'new' way of expressing the message, whatever that might be, and the old fogeys raging against it. I don't know. This is just my best guess based on experience with groups in general. Maybe it is something entirely different? I really don't know.

I only know what I know on the subject because of the wonderful people leaving comments here, and also through the talks I have had on Skype. Sometimes people bring up concepts or names or foreign words I do not know, all related to non-duality, and I have to ask what it means, what is that, who is that, and so on. Beyond that, I know nothing.

Takuin in the Snow

If there are 'core teachings', I have no idea what they might be. You're better off asking someone with real knowledge on the subject. Or at least someone who cares about it. ;-)

But it is a good opportunity for me to learn more. Even if I have no interest, I should at least learn enough about it so I can understand others better...

If any of you have a good understanding of that world, or if there are core teachings and you know them, please leave a comment below. I think I have a decent understanding just from speaking with others, but some of you may be able to better answer K's question. I don't want to leave him hanging, haha.

Thanks in advance!

On Dropping Thought

November Project: Question #1 The first question this year comes from Cat:

My question is about thoughts. My current strategy for dealing with the minutiae of mental chatter is to remember Nisargadatta's admonition to see thought as illusion and just drop it.

I have heard many statements and phrases on dropping thought over the years. I find it fascinating people are so interested in this, as it is such a superficial thing. Not superficial in the sense of it being unimportant, because it must be seen for what it is. But many think of the dropping of thought as the end of all ends without looking into it, or even questioning if it is, in fact, a possibility.

Many questions arise from this, which is good. We'll take a look at a few of those...

Why does one hope to drop thought? Forget about whether or not it is possible for the moment. Why does one want to be free from the movement of thought? Is it to free oneself from a discomfort of some kind? Or perhaps because a respected teacher says to drop thought is of the highest importance?

You mentioned chatter, Cat. But what is wrong with chatter, or with thinking? Is there something wrong with chatter, or is there a thought thinking something is wrong with chatter?

This leads into another line of questioning...

What hopes to free itself of thought and thinking, and who is the one wanting to drop it? You might say, "It is me!" but what is 'me'? What is the 'me' that hopes to drop thought?

I am not trying to point out that the 'me' is an illusion. (If one hopes to free oneself of thought, the 'me' is clearly there, illusory or not.) I just want to know what it is. What is this thing that wants to free itself of chatter, that wants to drop thought?

Most likely, you only feel the 'me' through conflict. In other words, you only really know it is there when it rises to resist something. I am not saying this is true, but look within yourself and try to find this thing called 'I'. If the 'I' rises in reaction, rises in conflict, is the problem really with thinking or chatter? Or is it a problem of resistance to thinking and chatter?

Is there ever a problem with thinking? Or is it merely a problem of resistance and interference?

You'll have to go into this on your own, but you may find that the 'me' is no different from what it hopes to be free from. If that happens to be true, just relax into the loving arms of those beautiful sisters and brothers you've resisted for so long!

Akiko in Shadows

Do you have any other advice? Does it get quieter "in there" when one continues to just drop thought? Your thoughts (!) on the matter are deeply appreciated.

Nice last sentence, Cat. ;-)

As long as one hopes to drop thinking and thought, it will never be quiet. The noise comes from the interference, from the resistance.

Look within and tell me, tell us, what you see. Is there really a problem of thinking, or a problem of the chatter? I am not trying to lead you in one direction or another. Where do YOU see the problem. Where is the issue?

I hope this is not frustrating for you. I know it would be great if someone were to say, "Do this, this, and this, and your thoughts will drop!" (If you look online for a bit, I'm sure you'll find plenty of people telling you how, haha.) But why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. To grab someone's answer to thought and thinking and try to put it on like an ill-fitting hat...I just don't get it. (I'm not saying you have, or will do, any of that, by the way.)

But you've asked me, so I will tell you how thought and thinking appears to Takuin. As far as knowledge and memory is concerned, thought arises as it is needed. It works, I imagine, as it should. If I need particular information, and if those grooves have been dug deeply enough, the answer is readily at hand.

However, in the last five years, as far as I know, I have never hoped for there to be any more or less of thinking or thought. I cannot see that as an actual possibility anyway, but what I think about it is really irrelevant. There is thinking, and there is no thinking, and it is all a part of the same movement much like living and dying. I can't really imagine what it is to resist, or to hope for a better thought.

Thought is a necessary function of the organism. Belief in, or resistance to thought, is not.

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I don't know that I have answered your question satisfactorily, but I at least hope is begins a dialogue...if not with me or the commentors here, with yourself. If you have any other questions, or if I should clarify something, please let me know in the comments below.

I look forward to hearing from you again, Cat! :-)

November Project 2011: 30 Questions with Takuin

Time for another month-long project! I received many wonderful questions last year, and I am looking forward to doing it again. Here's the project:

For the entire month of November, I will be answering one question per day, every day, from a reader. And I will be taking submissions every single day, right up to November 30th.

You can submit your questions by commenting on this post, through the Contact Page on this site, on Twitter, or on the Life Beyond the Image Facebook Page.

For those of you submitting questions, I’ll be happy to link to you if you have a website, Twitter account, etc. But if you want to remain anonymous, or if you do not tell me one way or the other, I will just use your first name, or your initials.

I will most likely answer your questions in a written post, but I may decide to record audio or video for the answer instead. I’ll just go with whatever feels right at the time.

The questions themselves should be on the topic of this website, but we can still have some fun. Use your imagination, and feel free to ask anything you like. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer every question, but I will keep them all as I might use them in future posts. So let’s get to it!

November 1st is rapidly approaching...What would you like to ask?

Big Tree