Friday, May 23, 2008

Nemo Means No One

I have been interested in interpretive play for a long time. I remember reading C.S. Lewis and Tolkien when I was young, and greatly delighting in these stories. I would spend a lot of time thinking about what they meant; what their deeper truths and symbols pointed towards. Of course, this was always limited to my own current sphere of understanding and construct of interpretation. I was not for a long time aware that interpretative thinking is just another mode of the mind, interpretation, and experiencing. In truth, we are always in a state of interpretation.

All of reality, thought, and experience is already an interpretation (that was too, by the way).

My exegesical leanings did offer great service: the piercing through layers of experience for deeper meaning. This leaning is still present today, and I take great pleasure in the interpretative understanding of others. I recently came across a teacher and author named Jed McKenna that, in his second book, Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, offered a gorgeous interpretation of Moby Dick in relationship to the path of Spiritual Enlightenment or Abiding Non-Dual Awareness, as he terms it. This re-awoke in me the passionate enjoyment of using literary, historical, and religious works to explain and present greater experiences within existence.

After my first Saktipat, I reexamined the Book of Genesis and interpreted it from a Tantric perspective, retelling this story as the arising of awakened non-dual consciousness. This work will probably never see the light of day, but perhaps.

Since my own experience of awakening, I am, at least for now, doing my best to express the reality that this represents without relying on the content of my own experience. There are a lot of so-called awake teachers out there that try and express the truth and freedom of awakening through the content of their experience. I doubt that most of these teachers are awake, at least as far as I experience it. I would never assume that the content of my experience is what defines awaking. Content is produced by structures and structures are very subjective and personal. The content of my awakening may not be the content of your awakening. To define awakening based on content, is to remain in the delusion of the individual. It might be an updated, freer delusion, but it's still a delusion. Maya is a tricky bitch - be careful.

A huge mistake is made: students compare the content of their experience to the content of their teacher’s experience and then always fail to measure up or wonder why they’re not experiencing things the way their teacher does. The mind then, doing what the mind does, assumes this to be a problem and the student goes spiraling back down to illusion land. Awakening is not a content thing, it’s a context thing, and it’s the great context of everything. The content is just the details.

When myth and story is used to express the nature of awakening, we can point more directly towards reality as it’s devoid of personal content. This of course is still a pointing towards and not a telling of, as we could never tell of the fullness of reality with the limitations of language. Even if language could capture it, there is too much to capture, and writing it or speaking it would be impossible.

By the way, you’re in a state of interpretation right now, assuming you’re reading and understanding (sort of) these words. This brings us to an important preamble truth, truth has nothing to with what is spoken, but is limited to what is heard, and what is heard is already an interpretation. Know that there is no truth in these words, and that there is no truth in your understanding them, as Truth rests effortlessly as the very thing that perceives you perceiving these words. Truth is already in your experience, as your experience. Nothing more and nothing less. Stop looking for truth, and truth is already right there.

I became curious about Captain Nemo a couple of months ago when it occurred to me that Nemo meant “no one” or “nobody.” The awake state of liberation is sometimes termed as the state when self dissolves, or the recognition that there was never an individual self there. This is just one way of pointing towards it, of course, and is not entirely the nature of the experience.

To all of my so-called Tantric Saivite friends that oppose (which, by the way, is a great way to turn non-dual/oneness teaching into dualistic sectarian bullshit permeated by delusion) the so-called Buddhist idea of “no-self”, consider this: if all things are Shiva, then what is it you think your individuality is? Bingo: Shiva. If there is only Shiva, then show me were your so-called individuality ends and Shiva begins. I dare you.

Before I left for this trip, I picked up a copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for a little reading and interpretative fun. Maybe something was there, and maybe there was nothing there. Though, I can say, before I interpret the hell out of it for the benefit of my own teaching, it was an enjoyable read.

In researching this project, I was interested to learn that 20,000 was novel for Verne in the sense that he had never created a character like Nemo. Most of his novels were formulaic, and follow very specific patterns of story and character. But 20,000 was different. Nemo was a character entirely unto himself. In certain terms, it seems that the “awakening” elements in 20,000 have more to do with Verne’s rebellion and distain towards his controlling publisher, and are symbols of him breaking free from this. However, there are certain unmistakable qualities in this work that point towards the state of awakening and the human relationship with it. I have over 100 pages of my copy of 20,000 ear marked and underlined. By way of symbolism, there’s a lot there.

I am not sure if Verne ever awakened, but in the least, it does seem that he went through a major transformation over the course of his life. Apparently, he became very depressed towards the end of his life, which may have actually been the stages of a bourgeoning awaking, or at least a huge shift and reordering of his ego structure. He willed a locked safe to his son. For whatever reason, his son didn’t open this safe until 1994. This safe contained Verne’s last novel, which was entirely different from his previous works, including 20,000. In his final work, Verne entirely rejected science, and penned a tale of a poet wondering the streets of Paris, penniless, looking for work. In the end, the poet dies in a snowy graveyard filled with deceased authors. Something happened in Verne’s consciousness, but sadly we’ll never know what it was.

In the authoring of 20,000, several very important markers are present before we look at the work itself. Victoria Blake said, “In his other books, Verne’s heroes are acted upon. The outside world intrudes on the voyage of discovery; it supplies the adventure and propels the books, and their narrators, onward. In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Verne turns the drama inward by making Nemo the central figure and the propelling force” (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Barnes and Noble Classics, p. xvi). If we take Nemo, “nobody” or “no one”, to be an expression of reality and consider this to be the driving force of story, then we happen upon a beautiful understanding. Consciousness, which is just another term pointing towards a reality that is one, is the driving force of the story of our experiences. We are not acted upon, be we are acted outward in a reality that is not separate or other from us. We are this reality, as this reality is always, already our own interpretation (both sensory and cognitively).

The state of awakening invites you to consider that there is only one actor, and that is consciousness itself. The story of your experience is being drive by this consciousness, by this totality that renders the futility of your already labored and porous ego meaningless.

In discussing Nemo in a letter to his publisher, Verne said, “It is important that this unknown character refrain from contact with other human beings, from whom he lives apart. He is no longer on earth, he manages without earth” (quoted in Lottman, Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography, p. 130). The experience of awakening is sometimes described as a departure from the tangles of the human self-perpetuating story. In Sanskrit, this is expressed with the word kaivalya: aloneness. It's not aloneness in the sense that the individual is alone, but the recognition that the universe is one thing, and you are that thing.

Upon awaking, there is a release from the belief in the dramatics that one experiences their self and reality to be into the freedom of the entire unfolding universe – a reality that is one. In a sense, this being stands apart from the immature and delusional ramblings of the bound, has departed from earth, and exists as entirety of the universe: everything (nemo non)/nothing (nemo).

This is made beautifully clear by the first exchange between Professor Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned Land, the harpooner, and Captain Nemo:

A half smile curled the lips of the commander: then, in a calmer tone:

“M. Aronnax,” he replied, “dare you affirm that your frigate would not as soon have pursued and cannonaded a submarine boat as a monster? You understand then, sir,” continued the stranger, “that I have the right to treat you as enemies? I have hesitated for some time,” continued the commander, “nothing obliged me to show you hospitality. If I chose to separate myself from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?”

“It might be the right of a savage,” I answered, “but not that of a civilized man.”

“Professor,” replied the captain quickly, “I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not therefore obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!” This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain kindled in the eyes of the Unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws, but he had made himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond their reach.

After a rather long silence, the commander resumed the conversation.

“I have hesitated,” said he, “but I have thought that my interest might be reconciled with pity to which every human being has cast you there. You will remain aboard my vessel since fate has cast you there. You will be free: and in exchange for this liberty, I shall only impose one single condition. Your word of honor to submit to it will suffice.”

“Speak, sir,” I answered. “I suppose this condition is one a man of honor may accept?”

“Yes, sir; it is this. It is possible that certain events, unforeseen, may oblige me to consign you to your cabins for some hours or some days, as the case may be.”

“We accept,” I answered; “only I will ask your permission, sir, to address one question to you – one only.”

“Speak, sir.”

“You said that we should be free on board.”


“I ask you, then, what you mean by this liberty?”

“Just the liberty to go, to come, to see, to observe even all that passes here – save under rare circumstances – the liberty, in short, which we enjoy ourselves, my companions and I.”

It was evident that we did not understand one another.

“Pardon me, sir,” I resumed, “but this liberty is only what every prisoner has of pacing his prison. It cannot suffice us.”

“It must suffice you, however.”

“What! We must renounce forever seeing our country, our friends, our relations again?”

“Yes, sir. But to renounce that unendurable worldly yoke which men believe to be liberty is not perhaps so painful as you think.”

“By what name ought I to address you?”

“Sir,” replied the commander, “I am nothing to you but Captain Nemo; and you and your companions are nothing to me but the passengers of the Nautilus.”

As you can see, the professor and the captain are two entirely different beings. When I first read this, it very much echoed to me conversations I often have in satsang. In explaining the nature and experience of freedom, those listening question how, what I am explaining, could be free.

Captain Nemo has shed all bounds to human reality. He has removed the shackles of delusional reality and entered an entirely new reality, the ocean, which is a symbol for oneness, realization, and the fullness of consciousness in Indian traditions. In this reality, this liberated reality, Captain Nemo can still interact with those from the human world, but as you can see, these interactions are strained. It is almost like they are both speaking a different language, and this is because they both are. They’re obviously using the same grammar, vocabulary, and structure, but their experiences stand in such drastic opposition that they cannot really understand each other.

For the bound individual living in delusion, the state of awakening, when it is pointed towards skillful, sounds like a liberty one would never want. In liberation one loses all ability to believe in thought, value, preference, experience, feeling, or intuition, as it has all been released into the vast and gorgeous freedom of ever present unfolding. All personal ambition, perspective, memory, desire, and consideration dissolve and the entirety of universe moves through you as you.

To the bound - being that they are bound to their perspectives, thoughts, feelings, intentions, memories, plans, desires, feelings - the loss of their experience runs entirely against their experience, as their experience is entirely based on being an individual. Like Aronnax expresses, “this liberty is only what every prisoner has of pacing his prison. It cannot suffice us.”

People want to make enlightenment what they want. People want to be enlightened people. You don’t get you be an enlightened person. Upon awakening, there is the recognition that you are nothing/everything. You see that anything you believed your individuality to be was simply a self-constructed perpetuating illusion. Illusions are not bad, by the way; they are simply illusions. This particular wanting of the ego is not exclusive to perspectives on enlightenment, but pretty much everything. Most people want other people to be how they would like them to be. Most people want reality to be how they would like it to be. It’s nature of the ego: I want you to be the way I want you to be. This is suffering.

Freedom is to forever live in the mystery of the nothing and the ecstasy of the everything. With this, like Captain Nemo, the conventional world has to be left behind. It’s not leaving the conventional world for an unconventional world, it’s leaving the world all together for an entirely different reality. Like Nemo says, “But to renounce that unendurable worldly yoke which men believe to be liberty is not perhaps so painful as you think.”

Christ said, "Any person that loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not good enough to follow me. Any person who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not good enough to follow me. If a person will not accept the cross that will be given to him when he follows me, then that person is not good enough for me (Matthew 10:37-38, ERV).”

To step into awakening is to die. The illusion of individuality, and of unity, dissolves into the freedom of ever-present reality. But for this to happen, all bonds to the world of separation have to fall away. These bonds are strong. These bonds are deep. Most of these bonds are entirely unconscious. These bonds are relationships, memories, spiritual practices and traditions, beliefs, morals, values, and perspectives. Everything that you think defines you, must fall away.

Most people that come to me want my help in releasing the stuff they don’t like, the stuff that causes them suffering or problems. This is fine. I don’t mind this. But most have no interest in going all the way. Everyone wants to get rid of the stuff they don’t like, but no one wants to get rid of everything, and this is why almost everyone will remain bound.

Everything must go, for on the other side, truly, everything returns. And by everything, I mean everything. Be Nemo.

* * *
I am still considering if I will continue with this voyage of symbolism and meaning via 20,000. I am not sure. We both will soon see.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Surrender All

You must understand, surrender everything. Even enlightenment must be surrendered, for you are all things.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You're Fucking Gay

Another: I don't fucking get you, dude. You say in one post that nothing matters and then you put up another post that is that gay fucking starfish story. I hate that fucking story.

Me: Yeah.

Another: Well, it's sort of annoying. Your shit is starting to piss me off. I liked it at first because you were all tearing apart spiritual traditions, teachers, and students. You know, fun shit. But now there's stories about throwing fucking starfish in the ocean? You're fucking gay.

Me: Yeah.

Another: Well, what is this shit? Are you trying to create some enigmatic, enlightened guy sharing parables persona, where you are entirely lost in the contradictions? Some bullshit, Krishnamurti, Avril Levine, "I won't be defined," persona? You piss me off.

Me: No. I am expressing an enigmatic reality that is impossible to define. Wake-up.

Another: Wake-up?

Me: Yes, wake-up. I'd take your head through a wall if I thought the density of it could pierce the density of your self-constructed delusion.

Another: An enigmatic reality that is impossible to define?

Me: Entirely impossible. Do you actually read the blog? How many posts are about the impossibility of what I am talking about?

Another: You'd take my head through a wall to wake me up? That' s sweet.

Me: The Avril Levine comment was pretty funny.

Another: Thanks.

Holding On

Them: What does this expression 'holding on' even mean??

Me: How ever you interpret it, I suppose. I could tell you what I thought it meant, my interpretation, but then you would just be interpreting that, so what's the point? What does holding on mean? What does letting go mean?

Them: I'd still be interested to hear your interpretation.

Me: Fixing something, in a forced way. Keeping something in your experience - at times, this thing may want to stay, and at other times, this thing may want to leave. I suspect that holding on when something wants to stay is pleasurable. I suspect that holding on when something wants to or has left is painful.

Them: You are a wise, wise dude...

Me: I am just a dude.

Them: I am entitled to my own interpretation of you.

Me: That you are, my dear. Oh, another thought. Often when something wants to leave our experience, and we hold on, and because of this we suffer, there is the belief that we are suffering because the thing is going away. We project our suffering onto the object that is leaving or has left. I suspect that most of this suffering arises because we are still holding on, not because the thing left.

Suffering is different than the bitter sweet sadness that arises at loss; suffering is resistance and attachment. In circumstances of holding on to an illusion (the idea that something that has left should still, somehow, be in your experience) and not letting go, the sadness rests in our own holding on and not in the other's leaving.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


the starfish from

Once upon a time there was a philosopher who would walk along the beach every morning thinking about how to help the world.

One day as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a figure moving back and forth, rhythmically dancing to the day.

This gave him great pleasure, so he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young woman and the young woman wasn't dancing, but instead she was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

When he got closer he called out, 'Good morning! What are you doing?'

The young woman looked up and replied with simple joy, 'Throwing starfish in the ocean.'

The man looked puzzled and said: 'I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?'

'The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die.'

'But, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!' said the man.

The young woman listened politely. She then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea past the breaking waves and said with a smile...

'... but I made a difference to that one'.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rice Fields

After being in Bangkok and Jakarta for two weeks, I'm appreciating the country. Central Java is beautiful, simple, and relax. I do enjoy the wild, natural insanity of the urban experience (what isn't of nature?), and I appreciate this too. Both different; both the same.

I take long bike rides through the country. I twist, wind, meander and frolic through the Javanese countryside. Villages, rice fields, dirt paths and highways, I roam. I sometimes get lost, but this makes things better. When I ride through the country, villagers and farmers stand from their living work, smile, wave, and yell, "Halo!"

"Halo," back as I ride on.

Those that know me pause and say, "Welcome home, Bapak Kris Nelson."

And I say, "Home, indeed, Ibu (or) Bapak."

"Pagus, pagus, goooood, gooood," they say.

I am, indeed, home. Where does home not exist?

* * *
"I warn the reader not to mock me and my mental daze. It is easy for him and me to decipher now a past destiny; but a destiny in the making is, believe me, not one of those honest mystery stories where all you have to do is keep an eye on the clues. In my youth I once read a French detective tale where the clues were actually in italics; but that is not McFate's way - even if one does learn to recognize certain obscure indications."

Vladimir Nabakov, Lolita

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reality & Truth

Imagine this. You’re sitting in a room that’s completely dark. There’s just enough light to illumine about a ten foot radial area. The light becomes grey and then fades away into infinite blackness. The room could be 20 feet by 20 feet by 20 feet, or it could be infinite forever. There’s no way to know. But because the blackness seems so huge, infinite somehow feels right.

Inside the illumined space sits two things: you and a machine that looks like a projector. You sit here for a while wondering.

Suddenly, a little person wearing a white and orange jump suit, painted in clown make-up, walks into the circle. He hands you a disc and says, “Please put this into the truth machine.” You do.

From the truth machine a beautiful, insane, chaotic, complex, horrible, simple, yet entirely pleasing 3D image appears. The image is complex. The image includes with it feelings and sensations in your body. “Neat,” you think.

“What’s this?” you ask to your little Umpaloompa friend.

“This is what’s happening outside of the room,” replies the little messenger.

“How do I know it’s real?” you ask.

“What else do you have? Would you prefer the blackness again?”

“No. Thank you. I’ll stay with this.” And you do. You stay with it. Soon there is a huge host of Umpaloompas. They bring you more and more discs. The more discs they bring you, the more complex the 3D image, your sensations, and your feelings become.

One day, after you’ve enjoyed the hologram for quiet awhile, you simply begin to assume that what you’re being shown is true. What they’re giving you is actually what’s happening outside the room. What else do you have to go on? Because you accept what you’re experiencing as true, you begin to think about it. You make theories about it. You create all sorts of ideas about what it means, why you’re experiencing it, your place in it, and the relationship you have with the others that appear in it. You assume that, like the reality you’re experiencing, these thoughts, theories, and beliefs are true too. What else do you have?

You rely on this reality and these thoughts, as it’s more entertaining and interesting than the empty space that was present before. You fool yourself into forgetting about the empty space that is right there, all along, behind the holographic image around you. As you deepen your relationship with what you think is real, you even begin forget about the Umpaloompas. The exchange of the discs is now so automatic, you become completely unconscious of it.

You believe that the hologram is real. You believe that your thoughts about the hologram are real too. You like this reality and your truths about it and become angry and frustrated whenever these beliefs are challenged. And your beliefs are constantly challenged, so you now suffer. What was once entertaining is now insanely painful, even though you pretend it is not. But you can’t go back. You’re stuck. You’ve forgot about the emptiness, and the Umpaloompas, and the projector, and you choice to participate in the process in the first place. You’re stuck.

* * *
Reality is not the truth. Your perceptions are not the truth. Your beliefs are not the truth. Nothing you think or experience is true.

What is?

* * *
I am not denying that there is an objective reality in the so-called outer world. I am simply saying you’ll never have a direct experience of it. By the time you’ve experienced it, it’s already an illusion.

What, then, is real?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bali Ma!

The swell size had doubled in the hour that I had been out. I was sitting on the outside corner of Uluwatu, one of Bali’s fiercest and most beautiful breaks. The sets were now between six and ten waves – relentless.

The waves that didn’t close out on a section of reef called Race Tracks were curling into beautiful tubes the size of my living room. Each set was breaking further and further out, as the size continued to increase. The gorgeous thing about Uluwatu and the outside corner is that if you can make Race Tracks, there’s another 200 yards of wave, sometimes reaching all the way down around the cliff to Padang Padang, Bali’s Pipeline.

I was in position and another huge roaring set was coming in. The thing about waves this size is that there is the urge to paddle out, as it looks like they’re going to break sooner than they do. Stay, I thought, so I sat in position. The first wave was a giant close out. A surfer a hundred feet up the wave from me went over the falls and I lost sight of him in the white water. It’s a bad day to break a board or leash.

The second wave came screaming towards me – dark and mysterious, she roared. I drop onto my board and pushed off. The thing about waves this size at Ulu is that they’re going fast. Really fast. I pushed hard pulling myself through the water. I could feel the wave fall in behind me and I started kicking. The wave doubled up and I pulled hard and paddled faster.

I was about to drop in. Everything in my body was screaming – no! With one more kick my hands slammed down onto my board, my feet sprang up into the air and planted hard. I dropped in. I tucked my left shoulder back and grabbed the rail with my right hand. I went screaming down the face of the wave. Insanity. I built so much speed in the drop the board began shaking violently. My toes pushed and gripped hoping the board wouldn’t fly out from under me.

The roar was so loud. I couldn’t hear anything else.

I reached the bottom of the wave and gave it a hard backside turn. One mistake and I would be slammed against the reef with twenty tons of water on top of me.

I made the turn. I zig-zagged up and down the wave building speed – I had to make race tracks. The wave started to come down over me. I pushed hard with my front foot as the wave peeled. I leaned forward, and the wave completely arched over me. Perfect barrel. For a moment, the roar silenced and there was nothing. Perfect floating bliss, suspended in space. Freedom and God.

The mouth of the monster opened back up and I saw daylight. I pushed harder on my front foot and charged for the exit. I made it out with a splash of spray in my face, and gently, calmly, rode over the crest and dropped onto my board. I paddled back up the line to sit and wait for the next one, to do it all over again.

Bali Ma!