ask dr-robert

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman

Dear Dr. Robert:

My question is simple. How Can I Awaken From Delusion Into Nonduality?

Thank you,


ask dr. robert saltzman

Great Sand Dunes, New Mexico
©1985, Robert Saltzman

Hello, Thomas--

I have written about this before, and I assume you have read what I had to say, so here is another take on it from an anonymous source. Perhaps reading this will help.

Be well.

When one begins The Quest for inner awareness, he (or she) is about to experience what to him is a search for "illumination or "awareness." He views this experience as a self-initiated search and feels that if he is successful, he will become a true "knower" -- a sage, as it were. This attitude is rooted in the notion maintained in the logical mind that all problems must be solved by the intellect. Behind this notion lies the effort to objectify everything, including oneself, and to carefully assemble these objectified bits into a whole and complete truth.

However, the objective world is merely a mind creation. And the logical mind is very illogical about its own constitution. It sees itself as an object, a conceptualization of itself as provided by the bits and pieces of its own conceptualization. So he is an illusion living the illusion of an objective reality. He is the "Great Pretender", the self-notion that feels that he can modify this life-dream according to his own designs. All of this is part of the fantasy. Therefore, he has to awaken from the notion of being him (his physical self).

The truth is that he is not a "thing". There is nothing (no thing) to be found nor anyone to find it. The unfindable is what he is because the unfindable is the found. So no matter how perseveringly he looks within, he can never see the seer. The truth is that he wants to live for his own pleasures and gain. His seeking only strengthens his conviction that he is a distinct and separate being moving toward goals objectified in his mind as being "out there". Yet, the burden and the binding that are constantly present when this objectified pseudo-self predominates can never produce freedom. So for him to seek inner consciousness through conceptualization is an exercise in futility. It is merely another form of objectification. Many have been entertained by the antics of puppets. If man could realize that he is being "lived", as are puppets, then perhaps he would stop trying to write the script for the great appearance, and his true nature would stand unimpeded.

The goal is not a goal, nor is it not a goal. Knowing is the key, and all logical or conceptual efforts are ego manifestations. The unattainable must be attained -- the unknowable must be known -- but not by anyone. Effort must be effortless -- a simple fulfilling of that which is. Not a description, just a fulfilling. Wherever anyone goes, awareness will be hidden. In simple terms, awareness indicates the absence of the illusion of self and other. When anyone is an object, this of course implies a subject. Subject and object is the illusion that obscures awareness. So wherever anyone goes, awareness will be hidden because there must be a wholeness and not the persistence of the distinction of object and subject.

Awareness is something that must be realized, it can not be taught per se. If one merely "believes" in awareness, one has missed it. One must understand that awareness is direct and meaningful and is attention to life right where it is, in the present. This is the very source of inner awareness (or actually the source of life). Awareness is not a "thing" that can be found -- one becomes aware by being aware. There are many philosophies yet the confusion continues, because explanations may be clever and convincing and still be lacking wisdom. One thinks of himself as an objective entity and completely functioning in an attitude of duality. The person who people thinks of as themselves is part of the collection of ideas and concepts that fill their ordinary minds. This is the pseudo-self. However, the true-self, the observing awareness that makes consciousness possible, is not an object. Yet all objects appear within it.

The mind of man is without sound and without odor and he who answers when called is nothing but a thief. One must remember that the seeker is what is to be sought -- when one seeks awareness, one seeks himself. One can not assume that there is a questioner and an answer. Consciousness indicates the force that causes all the images in life to appear. The seeker can no more find the seeker than the eye can see itself. To find reality, the mind must escape the imprisoning circle of conditioned thinking that it has built.

There is no goal, there is no practicing, there is nothing to get and no one to get it -- there is just life in its immediacy. The immediacy of life is ever present but seldom recognized for what it is. 'Now' is what we are and it can not be a goal or state to attain, but rather is the activity of the moment before the thoughts mislabel it. Try as it may, the logical mind can find no answer in awareness. The struggle goes on and on until the intellect freezes in its tracks and provides the intuitive aspect of mind a moment of quiet opportunity. Now a fuller knowing is present without the hampering limitations of the objectifying mind warping the results. Western minds generally have a preference for seeking the infinite with finite methods. This logical approach is one of dissection and assembling so that the pieces are arranged (in mind) in seemingly sensible sequences in order to provide an answer. The problem is that even the most brilliant minds have a distinct and limited supply of "mind material" from which to draw. Perfection can not be devised by rational and scientific methods and is not apart from the appearances (object/subject) arising in the conditioned mind.

One must take warning about the exploiters who prey on people who are earnestly seeking the truth. If one is to listen to wisdom then one must follow the wisdom, and not follow the exploiters. The logical mind can measure, but not perfectly. If one lives in the center of his concepts and convictions that surround him, he can not know inner perfection. One is whatever distortions ones mind-circle is, and it never really hangs perfectly in every direction. Awareness is not rising above worldly things, so it is not found by denying necessary worldly activities. One can not separate the inner world from the outer world, yet must be united in the activities of normal daily living. The way of awareness is self-nature -- which can not be seen or discerned by the thinking mind. It is not void of the body or mind or of the things known by them, but rather is the source of the appearances of all things including body and mind. It is direct experiences of events that are openings to the truth and is therefore a full experiential knowing of the infinite source, the "search" would be over.

The "one" can not be seen while a seer is present -- it is not one and it is not a duality, so it forever escapes definition. Though the world appears divided, it is the "one" --which is indeterminate and undifferentiated. But human thinking can not function in a condition of one-ness, it requires a duality in order to be present. Mind, or the absolute, should neither be considered as one or any other number because consciousness functions in duality while supported by the one-ness. Mankind is generally looking for a purpose in life, and this purpose is generally of a selfish or egotistic nature. In addition, the search for purpose implies that there is individual freedom of choice. Freedom of choice, however, is truly non- freedom because the choices are dependent on the movement of the logical mind so one is limited to one's conditioned thinking. There is freedom within the limitations when the limited is in harmony with the changes and motions of life -- when one is not struggling constantly to change what is. When the phenomenal world is seen as the only reality, one is held by the bondage of ignorance. To feel that one is illumined and has transcended the phenomenal world is equally a bondage of ignorance.

Meditation is a keystone in the search for the self-nature. The confusion inherent in conditioned thinking minds requires that the meditation practice first attends to constant conflict between our emotions and our intellect. By some method, one must bring about a complete and unchangeable harmony between the two. The beginning meditative practices must focus on taming the ceaseless thought processes of the mind. The intent, however, is not to create a bland or thoughtless mind. Rather, through meditation one begins to attend to the things at hand with full attention. It is that if the breath can be tamed then one's mind can be tamed. Therefore, there is a simple practice that is almost universally used called "counting the breath".

To begin, one may sit in any number of a variety of postures (full-lotus, half-lotus, kneeling, or seated in a chair). The back should be straight and the head erect. Breathe naturally and count either the inhalations or exhalations. Count from one to ten, and then start over. Continue this for thirty minutes. Each breath and count should receive full attention. Though this practice may seem simple, the mind often wanders and it is difficult to count to ten with full attention. However, if one truly wants to apply oneself to the practice, this constant effort must be made.

Of course after mastering the breath, there are many other useful practices that one can use. The practice of a mind exercise that poses an "illogical" situation and requires an "intuitive" rather than a logical response is very good. After all, whether realized at the time or not, one of the foundational ideas for unfolding one's inner nature is to attain a full and complete higher intuitive perception. This requires constant attention and effort because man lives in a world of constant changes, problems, and distractions which subject him to strong ongoing tension. Serene reflection is a practice where the mind is quieted and does not respond to arising thoughts and words. "Serene" implies more than just calmness or quietude, and "reflection" does not mean to contemplate on some subject. Rather, there is clear and mirror-like awareness which is bright, illuminating, and pure. This too is designed to create mind conditions that open the way to "intuitive knowing" or "seeking of reality". As long as one persists in searching for his "true self" OUT THERE, the truth remains hidden. As long as there is a conscious intention of attaining something, an obstacle is in the way of awakening. And even though sitting in meditation is very helpful, there is a limit to its uses.

If there is a breakthrough to the highest intuitive level, then every motion of life is a meditation. Serene reflection is like thinking of the unthinkable, a choiceless awareness -- the aware state of mind where the thoughts that arise are not pursued. This is ultimate concentrated receptivity and there is no listener or a thing listened to -- just pure listening. The mind is then like a mirror -- pure reflection with no retention. It must be remembered that meditation is neither self- important nor self-denying, as true humbleness is being unaware of humility. It must be remembered that all elements of kingdoms in manifested nature do possess an inner nature or self-nature -- but man, the most advanced creature in the particular stage of manifested nature, is the only one capable of recognizing it. But before man can truly recognize this, he must take the time to examine his mental junk-yard of conditioning, concepts, prejudices, and beliefs.

One must attain an attitude of "I hear - I see - I speak" without the persistent belief in a judge who places values on things and events. This judge seemingly makes choices in what decisions should be made and what actions should be taken. If the entity's actions are in keeping with the ideas present in mind, the entity feels it initiated a successful action. If the unfoldment of the moment is contrary to the impulses that were in mind, frustration ensues and there is a seeming failure. However, this judge is not the determinant. If the law of cause and effect is true, then this moment already determines the next moment. Perhaps there is no cause and effect per se, but a consciousness of continuity that is only visible in universal quantum flashes. When there is only hearing, seeing, and speaking, this is the "action of non-action" and is direct and intuitional. It is the fulfillment of each moment without the interference of the judge.

So life becomes a constant meditation whether standing, sitting, or lying down, one is living in the "now", and the way is smooth even though the way of the world is hilly. One must ask himself if he is really meditating or trying to escape the world. For some, meditation is like hiding in a barrel -- but what is not realized is that the truth hides there with him. Truth is indeed within ourselves, but we must not simply travel from one dream state to another. Mind refers to that which is beyond definition. This mind is not just thought and thinking processes as experienced in everyday thinking --it is pure consciousness. When one attempts to look within to find truth, one generally only succeeds in seeing all the conditioned limitations and imperfections as reflected by the logical conditioned mind and its limitations and imperfections. This mind is like a hall of funny mirrors in which the reflections are distorted according to the distortions in the mirrors. One must be concerned with direct knowing of mind, not philosophies or woven thinking patterns. For example, when one is in a garden filled with beautiful yellow roses -- the seeing is yellow, a knowing and not a matter of thought. Mind is always present -- like sunshine, it provides life. It can not be produced and yet it is always known.

When ordinary conditioned mind is set aside, there is a realization of "at-one-ment" with mind. The ordinary mind (unconditioned) then resides in a natural condition of absolute tranquillity. The functions of ordinary mind continue, but the source of activity is not based on learned conceptual ideas. It is a mode of intuitive knowing. Conceptually, ordinary mind and mind seem to be opposites, but they are not truly divided -- only in appearance. To illustrate, imagine that there is a very large box sitting in the sun and that there are a number of holes in the top of the box. If you had an inside view of the box, you would see little shafts of light coming through each one of the holes. Also imagine that each little light shaft is conscious and the rays look at each other, each feeling that it has its own consciousness separate from the consciousness of the other rays. Now suppose that the consciousness of one of the rays rises up the shaft and out through the hole in the box into the full sunlight. It realizes then that all of the rays are in truth the one source (the sun). Upon reentering the hole into the box, that ray no longer has the sense of separation still present in the other rays. It could not, however, communicate this knowing to the other rays and at best could only encourage other rays to peek out through the hole to discover their wholeness.

Many great seers and sages throughout history have said that man never sees "out there" -- that the vast world is all in his mind. This is due to man always seeking a reasonable explanation to most everything, though one must look beyond the world of objectivity. To conditioned man, there is no singularity unless it can be explained dualistically. Each motion of life is transmitted by the sensory system to a center of cognition that receives the input. This creates a feeling of a "me" that constantly grows and is reinforced by every activity. Soon it becomes so firmly entrenched that awakening is very difficult. We must shatter the process of this image-making. One must remember that the conditioned mind can only ask a conditioned question, and answers reflect the conditioning of the answerer. The answerer's answers are heard according to the conditioning of the mind hearing the answer.

People think that they know in which way they want to go or which "path" they wish their "seeking" to travel. But climbing the mountain, one finds that the view is unobstructed at the top. This intuitional knowing, because all directions are now "one direction". The "one direction" springs forth from pure consciousness (or unconditioned mind). That which one thinks of as the mind is more or less a collection of habits and conditioned notions. But the little intellect is a limited appearance in the infinite, whereas true mind is infinite and actually indescribable and unrecognizable or something that can be objectified. One's mind is a sequence of conditioning -- an accumulation of conditioning, and throughout a life-time it becomes an accumulation of accumulations. This is old conditioned thinking and habits acting to produce new conditioned thinking and new habits. Man is a habit machine and is in the habit of creating a collection of more habits.

The more that this collection grows, the more firmly the conviction that these concepts have a true objective reality. So obviously, we must get the dust out of our minds -- the dust as the collection of conditioned concepts in the mind and the persistent clinging to them. Pure consciousness remains hidden by this dust, and the true self is obscured by the pseudo-self created by the dust itself. Man is a constellation of habits and at times he wants to enter some practice to get rid of his habits. But in essence all he is doing is acquiring a habit to get rid of another habit because the "practice" itself becomes a habit. The belief sets in that there is a practicer, someone who is on his way -- a traveler who is going where he actually is already. A habit pattern can not overcome a habit pattern without creating another habit pattern. A collection of problems can not expect to solve a collection of problems. One habit can not replace another so that one can be habit-free.

Time is the very core of this phenomenal existence. Without this function of duration, ordinary thinking could not be. Just as ordinary mind is truly a manifestation in pure mind, time is a manifestation of the "timeless". Time is the durational aspect of the timeless that produces the phenomenal world or ordinary mind. The "now" is "now" but never "now" because "now" can not be "now". By the time that all sensory reports are sent to the brain and the images evoked, that portion of the event has passed. Ordinary mind is a record of the past and it is never here "now", because the future is really "now" but not yet known. Only the body is temporal -- we are actually truly intemporal. So the "now" is the true observer -- the "I" which has no object oriented existence. When there is a knowing of pure mind, the durational aspect no longer predominates and we arrive in our natural abode -- the timeless. Yet, we should know that the timeless and time are only two aspects of the indivisible because when the timeless and the time negate each other, then the truth IS.

This can only be known and not explained because all explanations require concepts and are durational in nature. They evade the negation that provides the indivisible truth. Yet, so many are concerned with time that many spend a lot of time looking for philosophies or religions that in some way give more time. They seek immortality through a belief in reincarnation or in the belief that existence will continue in a heaven (or even a hell). They seek this immortality for the physical entity (which they misterm the soul) and for the collection of vices and virtues. When they think of immortality, it is the notion that in some way this earthly conditioned personality will endure endlessly. But these will all cease when true unity IS.

All images and theories are products of a divided mind which depends on duration and constant change in order to manifest its presence. So it is impossible for ordinary mind (time) to answer a question on eternity. We must reach out to KNOW the NOW, and we must disengage ourselves from the illusions of ordinary mind. So we must know reality (the timeless) because there is no concern with immortality. Reality is infinite and eternal and is not dependent on a sequence of events. If one aspires to live forever, then one is denying eternity. Instead of constantly reaching for the next moment, we should KNOW the present -- the "now". Then all the illusory aspirations to find immortality will give way to a knowing of the timeless. Man should become aware that there is not objective past, present, or future -- there is only an ongoing consciousness of change constantly occurring in mind. So it is through time, is produced only that which time produces. If the complications of the discriminating consciousness are cut off and the truth of the self-nature is present, there is no longer the appearance of someone restricted by time.

The "now" is NOW -- like an acorn, it is the infinite past AND the infinite future all present in the infinite now. One can not spend his time looking for time -- because it would take a very long time. Time moves on and on and is everywhere, and nowhere, and in every space and in no space. Time can not exist without space, and space can not exist without time. Just as an object can not appear without a subject, time can not appear without space. It has been said that man is the dimension that provides consciousness -- so he is time. But he can not objectify time as if it was something outside of himself because time is not a thing. Therefore, time is looking for time, or phenomenal mind is looking for phenomenal mind. Yet, it is impossible for phenomenal mind to stand aside and watch itself pass by. Even though the mind is full of memories and projections, it only has the "now" to function in. Granted, we must remember where we have been AND have a good idea of where we are going BUT we must know where we are right now and what we are doing right now. Yesterday was a reality THEN and tomorrow is not a reality YET, so the only true reality is this very instant.

No matter how moving the revelations of the moment, we must not steadfastly hold onto past convictions. The only real moment one has is the present moment because actually there is no past moment nor a future moment -- time is just a changing present that never moves. Most sense that there is a power from which all things spring but from which can not be seen. It is called many names -- God, Spirit, Absolute Reality, and so on. However, man lives his life according to his narrow perceptions of this phenomenal reality -- the world of form. When he tries to analyze his perceptions of absolute reality, it becomes apparent that the logical mind is incapable of knowing what it truly is. This is because the logical mind can not ask a question without imparting its own ignorance and its clinging to illusion. He says that "I" feel that "I" am a center of a world of multiplicity, and somehow "I" maintain a distinction from that multiplicity. When he asks questions concerning absolute reality, he forgets that he is trapped by the illusion inherent in his relative viewpoint. The questions are faulty as they originate in mind which objectifies all things. But he can not provide absolute answers to faulty questions by intellectual methods which are based on the same illusions that prompted the questioner.

Add to this illusion of separateness his deep conviction of the reality of time and space, and reality is ordinary mind and is built on these things. It is this conviction that provides his world-image with the illusions of a past- present-future unfoldment in time. He perhaps has never been aware of the fact that this past-present-future succession is just his way of interpreting his seeming reality. Furthermore, there is no space in the world of the "real" (no world either) except as it appears in ordinary mind. It is difficult for man to comprehend in a logical fashion that all these things that appear as spatially separated are not in the absolute sense separate. In this world of multiple images, even the absolute is seen as a unity that appears as separate from the externalized world-image.

So, all of man's questions on the subjects of absolute reality, time, and space can not be answered because they originate in illusion in the consciousness of an illusory person. However, just as the intellect is an instrument in the world of relativity, the bindings of the intellect can be transcended when an intuitive awakening to reality occurs. One can not judge reality because individual seeing is a form of limitation and the whole is not seen. So to make real is to objectify or to limit and so it is a so-called illusion. People think that they would know a real illusion from an unreal illusion. But there can be no unreal illusion, so it would be a reality or an illusion of an illusion. One must first know reality before one can see anything as unreal. And one must know what an illusion is, in order to know reality. So in knowing reality all things become real, and if it is real or unreal it could not be absolute in nature.

The absolute is beyond the divisions of the dualistic Mind. So consider then, not real and not unreal but rather the absence of the absence of both. Everything seen as something is the illusion of one seeing the illusion of the illusion that one creates. "Believing" in not "knowing". Even the greatest of sages can not impart their knowing to anyone else. If one accepts their words about knowing, one will only have a belief in their knowing. The answer is knowing, and knowing that the knower IS the knowing. It is said that when phenomenal reality and the absolute reality negate each other, then the truth of reality is present. Since the absolute is unknowable, there can be no knowing of the negation. If reality and absolute reality negate each other nothing can be real and the negation can not be verified. The phenomenal reality is not fully cognized by ordinary mind and the absolute is beyond cognition. Absolute reality can not BE if there persists the separation of reality and absolute reality. Man is in a maddening pursuit of endeavoring to do the impossible -- he wants the world to be other than it is. He wants to change it to suit his desires. He always considers things as being either good or bad or unworthy of attention because he can not see the perfection in the natural unfoldment of life nor his inability to change the course of events. He always seeks a means of escape in his search for the reality of life "out there" in his efforts to avoid life in order to find it.

When life can be lived as it unfolds, the foolish dance of avoidance is dropped and life expresses life without the fantasy of an interfering self. People's search for the "one reality" is likened to them looking for it through a spy-glass. If they look through the other end things look further away -- they can not make up their minds as to which version of the "one reality" is correct. When in essence, they can not use a spy-glass to find themselves. Their reality is that absolute reality seems absent, but they can not really know that it is absent when it is unknowable. Whether one reads the words or tries to read between the lines, the truth will still escape him. If he clings to the words, he will be bound by words. If he clings to what is between the lines, he is still bound by his very activity of avoidance (of words), and by the "deeper" concepts of truth that he tries to read "between the lines".

The phenomenal world is a world of constant change. As such, there is no phenomenal activity or conditioning that can provide anything of an enduring nature. If one seeks happiness or security in the world of change, only change will be found. Knowing reality makes it less real -- but no less real than we are for knowing it. One must remember that the shadow can not describe the sun.

True wisdom must reside in the heart as well as the mind. Most are not so concerned with discovering reality as they are in trying to find ways to avoid it. One's egotistical attitude is his pride in some ability. But he forgets he is laden with neurotic protective armor which protects ego but is an overwhelming obstacle in his so-called search for truth.

One must remember that though he is the key that unlocks truth, he is also the lock that keeps truth imprisoned. The true inner self is the real observer. But imitation brings the bitterest results of all and when one pretense fails and another put in its place. The truth is neither here nor there nor is it ever absent, because to find it is to miss it. The truth is all pervading because it is as it is -- even ignorance is the truth, because for the truth to know truth, ignorance would have to know ignorance.

The mind of phenomena, the mind of appearances, is the mind that wants to speak of enlightenment. The pseudo-self wants to speak of paths and goals in an effort to maintain itself and to perpetuate the appearance of a personality. This ever-changing shadow, the pseudo-self , wishes to achieve and proclaim its enlightenment by claiming the sun as its own. It must be remembered that this little self can not be enlightened since a full sensing of enlightenment removes the appearance of separation. To point to something described as a goal and to name it "enlightenment" simply creates profound obstacles to the truth. If we look more carefully we will discover that the phenomenal and the noumenal are inseparable. This being so, then all phenomena are enlightenment and all beings are in this sense enlightened. In truth, enlightenment can claim ordinary mind as its own but ordinary mind can not claim enlightenment. Unfortunately there are many people running around claiming enlightenment as if it were something that elevated them above other people. True, we are all enlightened, but in a non- separative sense. There can only be enlightenment when the pseudo-self assumes its proper place and when phenomena and noumena function knowingly as one.

Awakening is sudden -- after which deliverance is gradual. Even after awakening, the accumulated old thinking and habit patterns (conditioned) have a tendency to respond to circumstances in the old familiar ways. It is as if a pendulum has been disconnected yet continues to swing for a while before coming to rest. This slowing down is the gradual practice which is deliverance from conditioned thinking and habitual behavior, so it is after this that the way to true practice is open.

Enlightenment produces a balance between phenomenal understanding and the universal principle. The pseudo-self is still present but only as an appearance in the world. When the logical mind is at a dead-end, now perhaps intuition will be present. Many "believe" that there must be an "ultimate truth", and so go looking for IT. But they can not find anything in their concepts and their conditioning, and their true inner intuitive voice never gets a chance to speak. They must learn to search and express themselves from the very depths of their being.

Facing the truth can be frightening for many, but the seeming loss of one's sense of personal self (conditioned) is the ultimate sacrifice. This can be very scary, but we can not flee from the truth if we want to be open to it. Conditioned thinking would be put out of business when one finds truth, because to awaken is to reject conditioned thinking and conditioned ways. In essence, man is theoretically open to unlimited truth.

First, one must wake up from the delusion of conditioned perception by giving up trying to begin at the finish. In this effort to find "something", one projects in his mind an idea of what that "something" is. And it is this projection that closes his receptivity. We must face the tasks of ordinary living but we must also strive for awakening. When we awake from the conditioned dreamland of physical existence we can clearly see things as they are -- not a reflection as in conditioned thinking, but rather AS THEY ARE right now with no projected notions onto them. Then one will function harmoniously with life's flow and will no longer struggle to impose on the whole the whims of a fragment.


visit the dr. robert forum.

Check out a full listing of "ask dr. robert" in the archives.

Share this page with friends: