"Both Christianity and Buddhism agree that the root of man's problems is that his consciousness is all fouled up and he does not apprehend reality as it fully and really is; that the moment he looks at something, he begins to interpret it in ways that are prejudiced and predetermined to fit a certain wrong picture of the world, in which he exists as an individual ego in the center of things. This is called by Buddhism avidya,or ignorance. From this basic ignorance, which is an experience of ourselves as absolutely autonomous individual egos--from this basic wrong experience of ourselves comes all the rest. This is the source of all our problems."

Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1968)

"The story of the Fall tells us in mythical language that 'original sin' is not simply a stigma arbitrarily making good pleasures seem guilty, but a basic inauthenticity, a kind of predisposition to bad faith in our understanding of ourselves and of the world. It implies a determined willfulness in trying to make things be other than they are in order that we may be able to make them subserve, at any moment, to our individual desire for pleasure or for power. But since things do not obey our arbitrary impulsions, and since we cannot make the world correspond to and confirm the image of it dictated by our needs and illusions, our willfulness is inseparable from error and from suffering."

Zen and the Birds of Appetite


"It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters, if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, and had no idea who his father or his mother was, or from what country he came? Though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls. As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells in them, or how precious they are -- those are things we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul's beauty. All our interest is centered in the rough setting of the diamond, and in the outer wall of the castle -- that is to say, in these bodies of ours."

St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle (trans. & ed., E. Allison Peers)


"A human being is a part of the whole called by us 'universe'...a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Albert Einstein


"We have no idea of this force, except in our fear. For it is so utterly inconceivable, so totally opposed to us, that our brain disintegrates at the point where we strain ourselves to think it. And yet, for some time now I have believed that it is our own force, all our own force that is still too great for us. It is true we do not know it; but is it not just that which is most our own of which we know the least? Sometimes I reflect on how heaven came to be and death: through our having distanced what is most precious to us, because there was still so much else to do beforehand and because it was not secure with us busy people. Now times have elapsed over this, and we have become accustomed to lesser things. We no longer recognize that which is our own and are terrified by its extreme greatness. May that not be?"

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge


"The "I am," self, or self-consciousness--whatever we care to call it--can only know and experience God as object (or center). We know God subjectively in ourselves as part and parcel of our being. He is our greatest subjective experience; thus we know God as well as we know ourselves, and in a nondualistic way. Yet the truth remains: we only know ourselves as objects to an unknown subject -- unknown because as subjects of consciousness we cannot see the "I" (or observer) directly; we cannot look into our own eyes. So too, we do not know God as subject as long as the subjective and objective poles of self-consciousness remain. But what would it be like to know God as subject, outside and totally apart from the self? Who can imagine what this is like? In truth, we cannot imagine it. Thus, if we know God on the inside as subjective experience, He is still the objective pole of self-consciousness, and matters remain this way so long as any self remains. To know God purely in Himself, and with no self, takes a new type of "seeing" and a radical change of consciousness. Until we come upon this change, we cannot understand what it means: God loving Himself in Himself and not in "ourself."

Bernadette Roberts, Path to No-Self (1985)


"We seek to solve problems and are taught to do so without realizing that there are no problems apart from the mind. What are problems? They are always related to fear and self-centeredness. And what is self but an abstraction manufactured by thought? Where is the clarity that dissolves all problems and the duality of thought itself?"  

Tara Singh, The Future of Mankind 2nd ed. (1992), p.178f


"Further, I say that if the soul is to know God, it must forget itself and lose itself, for as long as it is self-aware and self-conscious, it will not see or be conscious of God. But when, for God's sake, it becomes unself-conscious and lets go of everything, it finds itself again in God, for knowing God, it therefore knows itself and everything else from which it has been cut asunder, in the divine perfection.

"No one ought to think that it is hard to attain this, however hard it sounds and however hard it may be at first to cut one's self asunder and be dead to everything. But once you have come in, no life is easier, nor pleasanter, nor lovelier, for God is very anxious at all times to be near to people, and to teach them how to come to him, if they are only willing to follow him. Nobody ever wanted anything as much as God wants to bring people to know him. God is always ready but we are not ready. God is near to us but we are far from him. God is within; we are without. God is at home; we are abroad."

Meister Eckhart, "The Kingdom of God is at Hand" (trans., Blakney)


"Therefore I say, any pretence to God, whatever name it may be given, by which man might pretend to approach God, is a fruitless, useless thing outside of a regenerated mind."

Jakob Böhme, The Way to Christ (1624)


"Just as God, being outside the universe, is at the same time the center, so each man imagines he is situated in the center of the world. The illusion of perspective places him at the center of space; an illusion of the same kind falsifies his idea of time, and yet another kindred illusion arranges a whole hierarchy of values around him....."

"We live in a world of unreality and dreams. To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light and hear the true silence. A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions. It is a transformation analogous to that which takes place in the dusk of evening on a road, where we suddenly discern as a tree what we had at first seen as a stooping man; or where we suddenly recognize as a rustling of leaves what we thought at first was whispering voices. We see the same colors; we hear the same sounds, but not in the same way.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God (1942)


"The words of David, 'I was reduced to nothingness and unknowing.' (Ps. 72:22), point to the mystery of the small gate and narrow way, so that the truly spiritual man may learn to understand the way of Christ, the way of union with God. He will learn from these words that the more he becomes as nothing, the more intimately he is united with God and the greater is the work that he accomplishes. This union, then, consists not in delights, consolations, and sweet spiritual feelings, but in a living, sensual and spiritual, internal and external, death of the cross."

St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul


"Do we know what we mean by the self? By that, I mean the idea, the memory, the conclusion, the experience, the various forms of nameable and unnameable intentions, the conscious endeavor to be or not to be, the accumulated memory of the unconscious, the racial, the group, the individual, the clan, and the whole of it all, whether it is projected outwardly in action or projected spiritually as virtue; the striving after all this is the self. In it is included the competition, the desire to be. The whole process of that is the self; and we know actually when we are faced with it that it is an evil thing. I am using the word 'evil' intentionally, because the self is dividing: the self is self-enclosing: its activities, however noble, are separative and isolating. We know all this. We also know those extrordinary moments when the self is not there, in which there is no sense of endeavor, of effort, and which happens when there is love." [76]

"Reality, truth, is not to be recognized. For truth to come, belief, knowledge, experiencing, the pursuit of virtue--all this must go. The virtuous person who is conscious of pursuing virtue can never find reality. He may be a very decent person; but that is entirely different from being a man of truth, a man who understands. To the man of truth, truth has come into being. A virtuous man is a righteous man, and a righteous man can never understand what is truth because virtue to him is the covering of the self, the strengthening of the self, because he is pursuing virtue. When he says 'I must be without greed', the state of non-greed which he experiences only strengthens the self. That is why it is so important to be poor, not only in the things of the world but also in belief and in knowledge. A man with worldly riches or a man rich in knowledge and belief will never know anything but darkness, and will be the centre of all mischief and misery. But, if you and I, as individuals, can see this whole working of the self, then we shall know what love is. I assure you that this is the only reformation which can possibly change the world. Love is not of the self. Self cannot recognize love. You say 'I love'; but then, in the very saying of it, in the very experiencing of it, love is not. But, when you know love, self is not. When there is love, self is not." [82]

J. Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom (1954)


"The state of our whole life is estrangement from others and ourselves, because we are estranged from the Ground of our being, because we are estranged from the origin and aim of our life. And we do not know where we have come from, or where we are going. We are separated from the mystery, the depth and the greatness of our existence. We hear the voice of that depth; but our ears are closed. We feel that something radical, total and unconditioned is demanded of us; but we rebel against it, try to escape its urgency, and will not accept its premise."

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (1946)


"Don't try to solve individual single problems--there are none: mind itself is the problem. But mind is hidden underground; that's why I call it the root, it is not apparent. Whenever you come across a problem, the problem is above ground, you can see it--that's why you are deceived by it.

"Always remember, the visible is never the root; the root always remains invisible, the root is always hidden. Never fight with the visible, otherwise you will fight with shadows. You may waste yourself, but there cannot be any transformation in your life; the same problems will crop up again and again and again.

"Mind is never peaceful--'no-mind' is peace. Mind itself can never be peaceful, silent. The very nature of the mind is to be tense, to be in confusion. Mind can never be clear, it cannot have clarity, because mind is by nature confusion, cloudiness. Clarity is possible without mind, peace is possible without mind, silence is possible without mind--so never try to attain a silent mind. If you do, from the very beginning you are moving in an impossible dimension.

"If you watch, you will never come across any entity like mind. It is not a thing, it is just a process; it is not a thing, it is like a crowd. Individual thoughts exist,....millions of thoughts, giv[ing] you the illusion as if mind exists. It is just like a crowd, millions of people standing in a crowd; is there anything like a crowd? Can you find the crowd other than the individuals standing there? But they are standing together, their togetherness gives you the feeling as if something like a crowd exists--only individuals exist.

"[Only] You abide: not as you, because that too is a thought--as pure consciousness; not your name, because that too is a thought; not your body, because one day you will realize that too is a thought. Just pure consciousness, with no name, no form; just the purity, just the formlessness and namelessness, just the very phenomenon of being aware--only that abides.

"If you get identified, you become the mind. If you get identified, you become the body. If you get identified you become the name and the form--what the Hindus call nama, rupa, name and form--then the host is lost. Then you forget the eternal and the momentary becomes significant. The momentary is the world; the eternal is divine."

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, TANTRA The Supreme Understanding (1975)

(edited and adapted from pp.32-36)

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