My response is a very simple one. The mind
is made up of problems. The problem-free mind
is a contradiction in terms.
The mind is a problem.
That's a problem. I mean, here I have mind-body,
here my universe and my mind are together-they
really are together and they run on problems.
This is a very good diagram. I have a negative,
sinister hand and a positive one, and see where
they are coming from here [pointing inwards] which
is problem-free. But out there are all problems.
I dreamt last night-Catherine had to wake me up-I
had this vivid dream, it wasn't a nightmare, but
it was a vivid dream and Catherine had to wake
me up because I disturbed her-and I really had
quite a dream last night. A very complicated one
and I'm not a bit surprised. I mean there's the
mind having problems. And this fallacy of misplaced
perfection to think you can clear up the mind,
is absolutely ridiculous. The mind is like that.
I would say that this seeing who I really, really
am-I haven't been the most wonderful practitioner-but
this has been my aim through the last half century-a
really long time-and I would say that there's
no effort to be clear here-it's with me and sometimes
vividly and sometimes not. But the idea that Douglas'
mind has got to be cleared out and made to function
perfectly is ridiculous. But made to function
better is not ridiculous, and I think it is obvious
that when I live my life on the basis of a pack
of lies it is not worthwhile. When I live my life
on the basis of what is so-and this has been my
aim for the last half century-it's going to work
better, and indeed I'm sure it does work better.
And I can give you lots of instances of that,
but that may make it sound like a kind of self
congratulation, but I am quite sure-this again
is not reasoned out, it's a hunch, I guess; I
think it's more than a guess, my faith-that anyone
who sees who she or he is, however briefly-and
you can't do it wrong, either you do it or you
don't, it's a 100 % or nothing-the effect is going
to be there in one's life. It doesn't mean that
one's humanity is perfected, but it's somehow
article is reprinted from The Noumenon
here for more information about it.
are almost 87 years old. Is there the human side
to what death might be like for you? Is there a
human thinking about it, about dying?"
Douglas, what would your response be to a
situation where someone says-'I've been to one
of the workshops and I've participated in the
experience and I really do see who I am, but I
still need to go to a therapist'? Do you feel
there's a contradiction?
No, I don't. It depends on the nature of the
problem, on why you're going to the therapist.
I mean I break my leg, I go to an orthopaedic
surgeon, and if I have a phobia-well there it
is, this problem-hopefully the therapist might
be able to do something right there. But I'd say,
have a go first-really, really dedicate yourself
to the truth of who you are-and I think the chances
of your needing psychotherapy are very, very small.
I'd just like to share this with you, Douglas.
When Shamala passed away, well the first few weeks
there wasn't too much grieving, but you know,
into the second and third month, the force of
it all really hit home. But not once did I ever
think that I should go to a counsellor, or a grief
counsellor. In fact there was just a simple watching
of what was arising-and to find that eventually
it dissolved into this seeing. And now there is
no sense of separation-a sense I would call love,
but yet it's not a feeling-a sense that there
was never a separation in the first place. So
what you said earlier on is: first give this a
chance. I do think there are therapies and therapies
out there, and a lot of therapists themselves
are involved in the misidentification.
Some of them are in a terrible mess-and some
of them need to be in a mess to understand others,
Yes, but what I'm trying to get at is that
therapy could still leave you seeing only one
I think so. Let me put it this way. Let's
agree that something is for improving, things
not perfect, things not well with me entirely.
Now what shall I do about it? There are two basic
answers. One is to improve my functioning as a
human being, and the other is to look and see
whether I am in fact a human being. They are two
antithetical proposals, and I go for the second,
and this is a radical addressing of our problems
in life. Who has the problem? Certainly a great
inspiration is Ramana. For me, Ramana's teaching
can be summed up. He never said it quite like
this, but I think that it's a fair summary of
his teaching: I don't care what your problem is,
the answer is to see who has it.
One last question, Douglas. You are almost
87 years old. Is there the human side to what
death might be like for you? Is there a human
thinking about it, about dying?
About dying? Yes, I'd like to have a peaceful
exit, but not a painful one. I'd rather have a
heart failure than cancer. I don't think of it
very much, but occasionally I do. But as for death
itself -I think that the answer for the problem
of death is to get used to it.
Just one final point about awareness being
aware of itself. Sometimes the mind says that
in deep sleep there was a sense of awareness being
aware of itself. But sometimes it's not there.
It is going back to what you said earlier, the
analogy about the treble and the bass. Do you
think that death is just that, awareness being
aware of itself? You obviously see that Douglas
is going to cease.
it's not the wonderful, spiritual, conceptual stuff-the
lovely words and the transcendental language-but
the ordinary things which teach us something.
Yes, I mean enough is enough. I'm going to
be let off being Douglas. 80 or 90 years is quite
enough-thank you very much. But fortunately that's
not what I am. What I am is timeless. Timelessness
is enormously important. I mean, we ask what happens
after death? That is a non-question. This which
I really, really, really am is not a past or future
thing, it is now, it is present and it is really
essential to get the feel of this-not as a separate
exercise-but coming back to who one really is.
One is in the timeless. There's no change there
or no registration of time, and no time to wait
and see. But it is awake for all the time things
I think for many of us the problem arises when
the mind, which is of time, wants to somehow continue
in some after-death state and says I want to be
aware of my timelessness.
The time and the timeless cannot be separated.
The timeless needs the time world as much as the
time world needs the timeless. These are the two
sides of the coin and this is where Zen is so
good. Nirvana [state of non-identity] and samsara
[state of identity], though utterly to be distinguished,
are not to be separated. They are one.
What you are saying is that it is nonsense
for me to want to experience timelessness.
Well, I don't think it is very helpful. Stay
here and be who you are, and that simple regard
embraces all the functions.
We could say that when you really see that,
then there is obviously no need to say I am it.
No, it's simple.
Yes, it is, but I think we've got it all wrong
when we start saying: well I am capacity, I am
this, I'm that.
Well, I think one has to talk in those terms,
especially when sharing. I don't go around saying
I'm this. It's simpler than that. But we have
to distinguish in our everyday life whether we
see this, which is so simple. When I do a workshop
I simply have to use that kind of language; I
am timeless, I am capacity, I am the void, and
so forth. And this is because we are in the sharing
of this, and in the explanation of the experiments
we do have to use language which is largely in
the interests of communication.
On the matter of death, would you not say
-and I think you alluded to this in your book
The Little Book of Life and Death-that
where there is still a strong identification with
the face in the mirror, the personality, there
might be some kind of continuity of that for a
I think empirically this is well documented.
I mean these stories of ghosts hanging around
at the scene of the crime-I think these things
do occur. I don't see why, I mean I don't understand
it, or I don't see why old Douglas if he wished-if
he had some terrible un-resolved problems or committed
murder or was himself murdered and something needed
to be cleared up-should be around this place being
a nuisance to people. I suppose the miracle of
Being is so astonishing that I don't rule out
anything; anything is possible. Also, the ideas
that I understand. I don't understand a word of
it really. I'm full of wonder. I would say a few
things-very simple things and very ordinary, everyday
things-seem to me the deepest things I know. And
it's not the wonderful, spiritual, conceptual
stuff-the lovely words and the transcendental
language-but the ordinary things which teach us
something. All these things I enjoy so much because
it's so ordinary, common and sharable, and the
highfalutin, conceptual, spiritual world seems
to miss this. It goes off the point. It's cuckoo
You could say that the so-called spiritual
journey is to understand that there is no journey.
Really! Or come home and discover the fact
you were there all the time!
Douglas, thank you.
28 March 1996
Pillay, D.Phil., is editor of The
and an honorary researcher at the University of
Durban-Westville in South Africa. For contact information,
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page was published on October 21, 2001.