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Observing the observer



Question: I have meditated most of my adult life... that's like 30 years... and have come to the conclusion that meditation brings you nowhere. I have realized that it is just the mind grinding some mantra over and over and this will never take you to Self. You just sit there with closed eyes and the mind grinds on, just as it would with open eyes, so what's the point?

Jan: Sitting with closed eyes can do tremendous good and sitting with closed eyes can be nothing but sitting with closed eyes. It depends on what is caused to take place while the eyes are closed. Some things can easier take place when eyes are closed than when they are open.

Q: What do you mean with this "caused to take place"? Isn't it a matter of letting go and not expecting anything to happen? I just want to observe innocently.

J: OK, one thing at a time... Both issues are very important to understand. ... If you just want to observe innocently, you are stuck in the duality of observer, observing and observed. It does not matter if you observe innocently or aggressively, you are in either case stuck in a subject observing an object. Now, you can either observe a more or less known object, or you can observe an imaginary object. What most people do, when they practice observing the observer, is to make a virtue out of spending hundreds of hours observing an imaginary object.

Q: So, are you saying that "observing the observer" is just another mind game? Ramana Maharshi taught that this Self-observation was the essential path.

J: I am saying there are basically two forms of meditation: One is meditating on a well known object. The other is meditating on an unknown object. But the point is that if you meditate on something you know absolutely nothing about, you will be meditating on an imaginary object and this meditation is still within duality. Any meditation that has observation as its foundation will be within duality, and it makes no difference if you are meditating on something known or unknown. In addition to this, which is actually the other side of the coin, as long as there is a meditator meditating, or an observer observing, there is a relationship in consciousness. But the mind can not engage in a relationship with an object it knows nothing about. So when you meditate on "nothingness" or engage in "innocent observation of the observer" you enter a situation where you are actually meditating on vague intuitions about what this "nothingness" or this mysterious "observer" actually is.

Q: But I am not meditating on anything at all. I am practicing merging with the observer. The ultimate observer is the Self. So this is the direct means to Self realization.

J: Well, yes and no! What do you know about the observer? Only what you imagine! The only thing you know something about is "the observation" and "the observing subject" and since this is your reality you are creating an imaginary "observed Self" in the back of your mind which you are trying to merge with.

Q: But we meditate to gain knowledge about IT! To progress in deeper and deeper understanding and Self-realization. And the more we progress, the more true this so called imaginary understanding will be.

J: That is what most people believe, but it is the crux of the problem. First of all, you do not "progress in deeper and deeper understanding and Self-realization". Either you are IT or you are not.

Q: So, are you rejecting this age old and honored meditation?

J: No, not at all. I am merely explaining to you that most of those who engage in it have no clue what this meditation is about. And in particular I am trying to explain to you where they go wrong. Is it not true that the meditation you describe is intended to acquire knowledge about IT so that IT will change status in your awareness from being an imaginary object to being an experienced object. Yes?

Q: Yes, I want to experience The Self, of course.

J: Making an imaginary object less imaginary through experience means it gets data attached to it. These meditators earnestly seek data about The Self, or IT. They want insights, understanding. But since those who practice observing-meditation desire insight and a knowledge that can progress in depth, they progress along the wrong track of trying to make the object of their meditation less and less imaginary. This is the same as making the object of their meditation more and more concrete. When you rephrase it like this, most people can see it is a side track. IT, which is UNMANIFEST, is of course not concrete in any way. IT can never become more and more concrete and one can never acquire more and more information about IT. ... Realizing IT can at best be described as a total blow-out.

Q: Yes, that is just my point when I speak of observing innocently. In this innocent observing you are not trying to attain any insights or deeper understandings, you are merely observing the observer.

J: Again we have several issues. One thing is that this observing the observer can go on for ever, right? Once you have realized one observer, that observer can be observed by another observer, and so on. The other thing, which is the important thing, is the whole notion of "observing". What does it mean to observe? If there is observation, there is bound to be an observer, the observation and an observed. You can believe you are observing without any intention to gain any understanding of the observed, but that still leaves you with the observer, the observation and the observed. Nothing changes just because you insist you don't care the least about the observed. A1 observing A2 still makes A2 and object for A1. If only the two A's could merge, that would be fine, but as long as there is observation, there will remain duality. And as long as A is not Self realized, A2 will never be identical with A1 because there will projected a lot of imaginary notions about what A is that make up the actual object of meditation. These projections are mostly unconscious of course, which only makes matters more difficult.

Q: Is it not so that if you can just observe, the observation will somehow subside and Self realization will take place?

J: If there is observation, there is bound to be an observer and an observed. You may put what ever you imagine nothingness to be in the place of the observed, and you may train the observer to be indifferent to the meaninglessness of observing imaginary nothingness, but it is essentially still the same. There is observation, and as long as there is observation, there is duality.

Q: But won't it short-circuit at some point? I mean, I am already the Self, right? So it's like peeling an onion: eventually you reach the core which is nothing.

J: I know the onion theory, of course, but I think it is part of the illusion it is intended to remove. The first fallacy is that Self should be covered by layers you have to remove in order to reach Self realization. That is not the ultimate truth. Ultimate truth is that there is nothing that hides the Self and there never has been and there never will be. There is only wrong notions about the Self. Do you understand this? There is nothing but wrong notions about The Self. Nothing! You can work on your wrong notions about the Self for lifetimes and you will not get the least closer to Self realization. If you want to stick to the onion model, understand that for every layer you peel off a new layer manifests.

Q: What you are saying is that it is essentially hopeless to reach Self, because no matter what we do to reach Self, we are just dreaming on in our projections.

J: Not at all, I am in fact confirming that the only path to Self realization is Pure Being, but I am spending most of my time explaining what are wrong notions in order to clear them up. This does not mean I adhere to the onion model, because it's my point you can go on clearing up wrong notions for ever. That is also why therapy and self-work will never bring you the least bit closer to Self.

Q: OK, so what about this this "caused to take place"?

J. Let's go into that in the next session.

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