Notes from a conversation held on Nonduality
Salon in 2001
"Spiritual apathy is called the monk's vice by
Aquinas, as it was first recognized in monastic
situations and continues to be prevalent in them.
It is a failure to pursue the goals that you
really want to pursue, a kind of lassitude about
seeking the most important things you want. This
vice's character is, I believe, very hard to
understand, but I see it in myself and others all
the time. That is, you love something good but you
just cannot bring yourself to do what it is
necessary to obtain it -for instance, to practice
meditation consistently or to write the book you
want to write. Spiritual apathy is also a very
good example of the way some vices (as well as
virtues) can lie so deep within a person that they
are never manifested clearly. That is, people who
suffer from spiritual apathy may be very active,
but their frantic activity covers up the fact that
they cannot pursue the goals they most want to
obtain." Quote from Healing Emotions,
Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness,
Emotions and Health, a Lee Yearly article on
Virtues in Christian and Buddhist Traditions.
I have had some experience with this in my own
spiritual practice. An example - after I teach a
meditation class is a great time for me to sit. My
meditation at that time is usually deep and
effortless as the vrittis are relatively settled
and my awareness is already focused internally.
I've observed that I often come home and eat
something instead. Then I go to bed without
I think it's root is fear. Of what? Taking
responsibility maybe. Of success? As we learn to
observe the thoughts, it's relatively easy to
observe the ego working on an obvious level. Is
this a subtle way to undermine our spiritual
search? To keep us stuck? Why when we yearn for
something do we sometimes get in our own way?
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What is interpreted as apathy could be the result of
de-conditioning: If so, it will just continue and
nothing has to be undermined.
What is a "search" or "practice" without
expectation? Pastime? Even from a pastime there is
expectation... Undermining the practice, different
First, welcome. Who cares? (couldn't resist) But
seriously, where are you going? Perhaps the apathy
is a relaxation of seeking... and being as the
present. The vrittis are relatively settled,
awareness is internally focused, is there a need at
that point for formal meditation? The physical
entity responds to its own requirement for
sustenance and rest. I question the reality of any
goal that is forever just around the corner. But at
the same time there is always the rushing towards.
So there it is, the real rushing towards the unreal
and the unreal towards the real. A matter of points
of view, one real, one projected. Which is happening
now, and forever. 'Now' being real. 'Forever' being
unreal. You write of fear, of success or of taking
responsibility. But you are already perfect. There
is no choice. Failure is impossible so is success.
Tick tock is the clock responsible or not or neither
or both. Now there is no such thing. If it is truly
seen that there is no choice fear has no place to
take hold. What is the root of fear?
ps... there is a feeling of being on an edge, on the
brink, in your post. Of what?
"To keep us stuck? Why when we yearn for something
do we sometimes get in our own way?"
Maybe you have to step even further back in your
analysis. Why do you yearn for "something"? If there
was no yearning, there would be no getting in the
One could remark that a stone doesn't yearn
either... Yearning could be interpreted as a sign of
feeling separated, that separation disappearing when
the object of yearning has been attained. And it is
obvious that intellectual knowledge like "there is
nothing to attain" won't evaporate that yearning...
When yearner, yearning and the object of yearning
become one, who is left to yearn?
Lynn is suggesting that the root of spiritual apathy
is fear and that we may undermine our own spiritual
I think this is correct, and ask, Why is it not
desirable to undermine the spiritual search?
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Seems to me like you are asking a real question.
Spirituality is about the human condition and the
problem of existence. It is ALL ABOUT VOLITION. The
ONE that does not have volition, that does not
yearn, etc. is not the one who turns to NDS for
direction, comfort, maybe a little light and hope in
their dark night.
Is anyone trying to say that the Love which abides
in the absolute ALL of its own beingness (or
whatever jargon you want to use) is somehow not
"adaptable" enough, not actually loving enough to
simultaneously meet the human need--to comfort,
heal, guide? Of course divine Love never leaves
heaven for earth (metaphorically speaking) of course
divine Love doesn't yearn and have need or
experience self-division, but human consciousness
does. And the miracle of grace is that this the
dispersing of that darkened consciousness perceives
this infinite Love (in St. Paul's words) "through a
dark mirror"---as love meeting the human need.
The fact that we often confuse our human wants for
our human need, or that our idea of "need" the
divine reality of it are often miles apart, does not
annul the existence of need.
Or are we going to get stuck at the abstract level
of "Whose to say what that need is?"
Intelligence tells us what the need is. Love tells
us what that need is.
Theory is great but it doesn't help us change the
flat tire beautifully, get up and feed the baby at
2:00 a.m. I gotta go with William Blake: "Eternity
is in love with the productions of time." That's the
truly non-dual and the mysterious.
The problem of being is existential. Anyone who is
oblivious of the problem or has somehow managed to
encase themselves in a surrealistic bubble that they
mistake for "clarity" is confused. The question
first posed re: spiritual apathy and self-division
is a real question and a real problem.
There is the other possibility of course---that the
person who hasn't or doesn't face the issue of what
I call the "divided will / divided love" in their
own life, the person who no longer struggles with
the problem articulated by St. Paul as "The good
that I do I would not and that which I would not do,
I do."--this person has somehow and joyfully managed
to surpass Jesus himself, who on the Cross cried out
from this same place of anguish---"Why hast thou
forsaken me O Lord?" In that case, all I can do is
congratulate them, or bow at their feet.
Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep yearning. Keep
loving. Sincerity will invite much more clarity for
all of us than does doctrine, no matter how ND that
doctrinal "correctness" might articulate itself.
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Your inquiry, Lynn, seems to have called forth the
usual replies from this space.. from those (guys
mostly) who speak from the One dimension.. eschewing
any credibility of the multidimensionality of our
I often wonder.. should I go elsewhere to speak of
the human face? Elsewhere to know the fellowship of
others who are living in the Venn overlap of both
the human face, and the Heart of Being, which
embraces and dissolves it? Elsewhere to speak and
learn from the ways we are being taught to mature in
the stream, through releasing of ideas which no
longer fit. To be asked "who speaks?; who learns?
and how can perfection mature?" are useful as
examining levers of the focal point of bound
identity; but also can elicit contraction as well as
It seems to me, there is a certain imbalance in the
righteousness of only speaking from the monotone
voice of the 'Self realized'. Though I have no doubt
that there are, amongst this list, those who have
realized Self, the tenor of the absolute is not
always absolution (eg reconciliation) for those of
us seeking nothing, knowing nothing, just simply
living the vagaries of a life of attention...
flowing, more or less encumbered, with what shows
up. The reconciliation which leads to dissolution
seems always, for me, through bringing all to the
altar of the living heart.
So.. I'll risk being wrong here and speak with you
as a friend.. as one who might sit with you over a
cup of tea and look (by your side) at what is
presenting as inquiry for you.
"I think it's root is fear. Of what? Taking
responsibility maybe. Of success? As we learn to
observe the thoughts, it's relatively easy to
observe the ego working on an obvious level. Is this
a subtle way to undermine our spiritual search? To
keep us stuck? Why when we yearn for something do we
sometimes get in our own way?"
You ask about apathy. I can't speak to "spiritual
apathy", as I no longer know what that might mean.
But I do know apathy and stuckness and the host of
other ways the tricksters mind and emotions can
obfuscate an essential current of clarity. I ask
myself, what is it that I Am response-able for?
"Success" as a Being benchmark no longer applies
here. How could we presume to know what success
would look like? As do you, I observe the thought
patterns, and the measurements of success are always
ones socially given, based on learned values. They
have value in the world we buy our groceries, but
hold no resonance in the expanse of living stream.
Your question "is this a subtle way to undermine our
spiritual search?" reads here as essentially the
opposite of what this list is about. If I am reading
you incorrectly, please let me know. I hear this
question as spoken from a lens position of a self,
intent upon a spiritual practice towards a goal of
moving closer to whatever "spirit" means to you. And
your inquiry is whether ego is undermining the
essential intent, as laid out. The direction of
those on this list, is to examine the very self
which thinks it has anywhere to go to know 'spirit'.
And furthermore.. to gradually or suddenly recognize
the, rather radical, possibility that there is no
self here at all.. merely an infrastructure of
ideas/thoughts/emotions woven with such exquisitely
subtle intricacy that it never occurs to pause and
examine it's own realism. Once this turn, this
pause, this (as Jan says) de-conditioning begins,
infrastructures begin collapsing. As Tim says to
"I 'hear you'... suffering is real enough to the
sufferer. The sufferer may begin to question its own
reality. The presence of the *sufferer* is the
problem, not the suffering.
Until the sufferer realizes its own fundamental
nonexistence (not doctrinally, not conceptually, but
directly and experientially), there are only
band-aids to slap over wounds that never heal."
While I recognize the truth spoken in this
statement, I'd also like to suggest that there is a
way of being with each other, through the transition
(of de-construction) which can be compassionate The
band-aids can also mature and need not be toxic to
the process. We can be present in the fullness of
heart, or space; as aid to the bands still
contracting. We can meet the contraction of our
selves or each other and listen to it's atonality in
such a way that we surrender and allow it to be
ingested into the spaciousness of the living heart.
The foreground is subsumed by the Background of
love, present Now. Gradually "the presence of the
*sufferer*" is seen, not as "problem" to be
obliterated, but merely as inanimate flotsam, no
longer magnetically drawing forth animation.
The ebbing of need for animation is what I am
learning here. What is spoken rarer here is
expression of the heart of containment. Tim says:
"'Divine love' is what we *are*, not what we need."
And while I wholeheartedly agree.. there is still
here a human who is graced when this is met in
living presence of another.
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Excerpt from Zen In the Art of Archery by Eugene
Herrigel, tr. R.F.C. Hull
Master- "You must hold the drawn bowstring, like a
little child holding the proffered finger. It grips
it so firmly that one marvels at the strength of the
tiny fist. And when it lets the finger go, there is
not the slightest jerk. Do you know why? Because a
child doesn't think: 'I will now let go of the
finger in order to grasp this other thing'.
Completely unself-consciously, without purpose, it
turns from one to the other, and we would say that
it was playing with the things, were it not equally
true that the things are playing with the child?"
"Do you know why you can not wait for the shot and
why you get out of breath before it has come? The
right shot at the right moment does not come because
you do not let go of yourself. You do not wait for
fulfillment, but brace yourself for failure. So long
as that is so, you have no choice but to call forth
something yourself that ought to happen
independently of you, and so long as you call it
forth your hand will not open in the right way -
like the hand of a child."
Herrigel- "For ultimately, I draw the bow and loose
the shot in order to hit the target. The drawing is
thus a means to an end, and I cannot lose sight of
this connection. The child knows nothing of this,
but for me the two things cannot be disconnected"
Master- "The right art, is purposeless, aimless! The
more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the
arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you
will succeed in the one and the further the other
will recede. What stands in your way is that you
have a much too willful will. You think that what
you do not do yourself does not happen."
Herrigel- "So I must become purposeless...on
I have found this book to be helpful re: goals and
undermining them...etc... At the same time I am
aware that there is some controversy around
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apathetically spiritual: been there, done that -
It's a trick. Yup! A trick!
whatever name has tricked itself into being. Being
what? Just being. Why? Just because.
Pardon the silly language. But, the other day god
itself came knocking on my front door. I let it in
and offered it coffee. It said thanks but no thanks.
What it wanted me to do was to stop telling people
that everybody is already god.
Well! I just told it to kiss my lily white ass! Now
as you may well imagine, it started to get more that
a little huffy!
When I reminded it of the .0001% solution. It said,
"Damn! The escape clause. Oh very well, go ahead."
There you have it folks. We are already god.
Have a good eternity!
HAHAHAH and HOHOHO!
Apathy comes from being caught between two fears:
One, that you will never reach the self-realization
you long for.
The other, that you will.
The fear that your conditioned identity is
dissolving in the truth of you is very strong. It
seems as if there is an entity called *I* which
fights for its life.
In actuality though, it is just the tendency of
forms to maintain themselves and to resist change...
including the form made up of ideas and memories
Looking into the fear directly... more closely...
leads to seeing through to what is beyond all fear.