Koan I“A koan shows us that the mind is empty, that its content is attached to nothing beyond itself.” James Carse, Breakfast at the Victory

“Appearances, sounds, and objects are one’s own mind; There’s nothing except mind.” Niguma, Mahamudra

“The pure mind sees things as they are – bubbles in consciousness. These bubbles are appearing, disappearing and reappearing – without having real being. Each bubble is a body and all these bodies are mine.” Nisargadatta, Consciousness and the Absolute

My comment: It is said that first there is the Absolute, which has no qualities, no attributes, and thus cannot be known as I know an object of perception. It is the non-experiential state. 

It is said that second there is the “I Am”, which is the very subtle sense of beingness, but it also has no further attributes, such as “I am this” or “I am that”. It is also known as consciousness and is the most subtle state that can be experienced. 

It is said that third there is space, which allows for further manifestation and thus for infinite attributes to be experienced.

From here it is pointed out that the so-called five elements arise, and on that foundation of manifestation, the three gunas; a dynamic that brings about the world as I know it.

When I direct my attention toward the source of my beingness, I find it useful to progress from one of the above concepts to the next, like steps up to a summit or to the spring of the flow of existence, where my world has its source. I begin wherever my present attention is held, which is generally in the field of object consciousness. This is the field of the interaction of the five elements and the three gunas.

Koan IV

The Inner Body exercise which Eckhart Tolle suggests is very good for this purpose. My version of it goes something like this: First, I turn my attention inward toward the inside of my body, feeling the space within my body. I feel down into my feet, my legs, up to my waist and then I feel my hands and my arms up to my shoulders. I always feel my body and the space inside of my body. I continue, moving from my waist up into my torso, feeling my spinal column up my back and  into my neck. I sense the inside of the back of my neck, the back of my head, the top of my head up to the crown of my head. I do all of this with closed eyes. Then I sense my forehead – the space between my eyebrows, I relax my face muscles with a slight smile and then feel my throat and down into the area of my heart. Then I feel my lungs and down into the area around my navel. Finally I breathe into my navel for a couple of breaths, feeling the entire space inside my body: my Inner Body.

Following my intention of moving upstream toward the source of my beingness, I then bring my attention to the field of space consciousness. I do this simply by sensing space itself which is all around me. It is that very subtle experience of that quality of space within which the objects move and have their existence.

Putting my attention on space consciousness balances the object consciousness. In this state, the attachment to various objects, including my own body-mind, shows up much more clearly. I find space consciousness to be a more tranquil state, relatively free of the pull and repulsion of the object-world. This is not a state that I can remain in for unlimited time as the main object in my field of perception –my body– makes its needs known. I then answer that call because I am presently committed to staying in my body. Shifting my awareness to space consciousness has the advantage of loosening any tension that attachment may have built up in my system. I then continue toward the Truth of who or what I am, which is what I am when nothing extraneous clouds my vision of my Self.  The next phase is as follows:

koan III

When I am able to deepen my awareness of space I am then able to feel myself AS space. I then perceive all objects as moving within me, rather than me, as an object, moving within space. This space-like identity then allows me to sense the pure quality of “I Am”. This feels very, very subtle, like pure awareness of BEING, but free of any attributes, such as being “this” or “that”. At this point I have shifted my awareness phase by phase from object, to space, to the sense of “I Am”. This “I Am” identity is a space-like identity, much subtler than space consciousness. It is a sense of being just this side of “no-beingness” and is the borderline between manifestation and the source of all manifestation.

There is the creator principle from which all creation flows that is distinct from the source of the creator principle itself (which is also known as first principle or Prime Creator). When I ask: “Where do all creations come from?” my inquiry is referencing, or focusing on, the Creator. When I ask: “Where does the Creator come from?” I am referencing that which cannot be experienced, but which is the ground of all manifestation including the creator principle. That is termed the Absolute, or in Sanskrit: Parabrahman. The Absolute is said to be my actual True Nature. 

What relevance does all of this have for me? When asked if I want to retreat from the world and live in a cave in solitude to contemplate the Absolute, my answer at present is: I don’t know. That is an option that I don’t rule out, but I also don’t rule out any other option. What drives me to continue pursuing this exploration of consciousness and the Ultimate? I am obsessed (from the Latin root: to beset, occupy) with the need to ground myself in my True Nature beyond all conditioning of this psycho-somatic organism. Wherever that leads me is where I choose to be. I like the analogy that is often used: There is no path to truth – you must go for it like a dog following the scent of its master. The dog doesn’t care where the scent goes, whether through mud or through thorns – it just goes for it.

little buddha statue

My personal process of grounding myself more deeply in my True Nature involves continually placing my attention on that which grounds me more deeply in my True Nature. What is it that grounds me more deeply in my True Nature? I have no simple answer to that. I can say, however, that it is something different every day, every minute. Sometimes it is letting go of all focus and “just being”. At other times contemplating statements such as I have chosen for this article leads me along that mysterious scent toward my own True Nature, which is of course not ‘somewhere else’ – but always the “closest of the close” within me.

In any case, the more I am able to embody that sense of the Absolute, the more I find my actions in the world are defined by the heart qualities and I move as “love in action”. Moving with this quality of consciousness I contribute to a more harmonious, loving and peaceful world and at the same time, I delve more and more deeply into the inner knowingness of my True Nature.

The following are further supportive statements by the modern sage Nisargadatta:

“There are no conditions to fulfill. There is nothing to be done, nothing to be given up. Just look and remember, whatever you perceive is not you, nor yours. It is there in the field of consciousness, but you are not the field and its content, not even the knower of the field.” Nisargadattaidem 

Buddha girlIt is your idea that you have to do things that entangle you in the results of your efforts – the motive, the desire, the failure to achieve, the sense of frustration – all this holds you back. Simply look at whatever happens and know that you are beyond it.” Nisargadatta, idem

“When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the supreme state will come to you uninvited and unexpected. Nisargadatta, idem

“This is to be realized by one’s self; it is not to be passed on by word of mouth. Who is obtaining the Self-knowledge directly? When did I happen to be? I must know about myself first-hand, not from others.

You are, you know you are – this is the great Lord, the sudden, explosive effulgence. Surrender to it , and you will know all. It is without form or name. It is to be abided in by firm conviction.

You could not see and judge the quality of light if you were not light yourself. You are that subtle knowledge, and if that is there, then only everything else is possible.” Nisargadatta, idem

20 thoughts on “KOAN

  1. Pingback: Nisargadatta: YOU ARE NOT THE BODY | New Earth Heartbeat

  2. Pingback: Nisargadatta: YOU ARE NOT THE BODY | heartflow2013

  3. Nice post Tomas, resonates!…and rather amusing since “I” am staying at a Zen Center where many people work with koans. The analogy of a dog following his master’s scent, it can’t be helped ay? – the pull toward silence, Self, whatever just IS. shanti….kai

  4. Koans are truly wonderful tools for exposing the mind for what it is: just a vehicle to help us navigate this illusive realm. These ephemeral devices serve it’s purpose well and disappear along with the objective/ subjective mind. When we can finally witness that which is not, then “stillness, silence, emptiness” – is. Hahahaha – WORDS! IDEAS! CONCEPTS! Lol … .. .

    • Yes, wonderful entertainment – It’s time we started having a good time and let go of the downer “entertainment”. It’s great to be able to free ourselves in the blink of the eye from all dross and heaviness 🙂

  5. Beautifully expressed Tomas! I especially like the step by step nature of this post. The inner body process is clear and usable. You have a wonderful gift for making the indescribable, accessible. Many blessings on your path toward your True Nature. Much love, alia

  6. Thank you for saying this.
    I think it is vitally important to detect where essence is…
    Thanks God I seem to have a good eye for that.

    For the record, I once read a novel by a Swedish writer. His writing style was ok, but for the greater parts the book was rather tedious. At some point in the book, I BUMPED INTO THREE LINES.
    I realized with awe, that the whole book was in fact these very lines, the rest of it was nonsensical “literature”.


    Some weeks later I saw an interview with this writer, and guess what: He said that he built up the whole novel from those very lines…

    • Dear Julien,
      I believe that quality of discernment is becoming more and more essential as we move more deeply into changes of our world and ourselves. Each of us has to find our own truth and our own validation. My first teacher introduced us into the Yoga Sutras saying that if we could truly contemplate the sutra “citta vrtti nirodha” we would have the entire view of reality, all truth we would ever need to see. He said the same about K’s statement: “We move in the space we create as we move”.
      Here is another blog of mine:

  7. Wow Tomas, that was excellent! I don’t give much thought or intent to my meditation, but I do it every day. I don’t think I considered the idea of “conscious” meditation, but after reading your article, it’s something I intend to explore. Thank you for that. Much Love, Sandy

  8. I really was able to enter this space as I read. Though I could not close my eyes and experience it with my pure light as I needed to read it, I was very much able to follow it and know it. I would like to share that the expression to follow as a dog follows the scent of his master through mud or bush is a beautiful way to express allowing ones energy to follow the flow of the universes current of which we are all a part. Thank you Tomas. When I arrive home I will read this again and put it in my heart so as to be able to truly meditate upon it. Love, Sheri

    • It makes me happy to see that it is useful for you, Dear Sheri! The dog allegory strengthens our resolve to be our own masters, free of any ‘teaching’ or recipe. ☼ tomas ♥

  9. Tomas,
    Thank you for this eye/body/mind-opening post on meditation. I was just researching a post and came across Nisargadatta Maharaj in a book I was reading. Then I came to your blog and saw all these wonderful quotations. Have never heard the name before or read any quotations by him. Love the synchronicity. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

    • Great, Kozo! I am glad it is useful to you. I have a lot of Nisargadatta on my blog. Just put in his name in the search on the right sidebar and you will get beaucoup. There are also usually related articles on my posts with sites on him as well. He is one of my main guides. tomas ♥

  10. The easiest and mist difficult thing:

    “When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the supreme state will come to you uninvited and unexpected.”

    And also:

    “This is to be realized by one’s self; it is not to be passed on by word of mouth. Who is obtaining the Self-knowledge directly? When did I happen to be? I must know about myself first-hand, not from others.

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