Posted by: Soh
Here's a very interesting interview with Bernadette Roberts, a modern Christian contemplative who spoke about her experience of moving from the 'I AM' stage to the insight of the Nondual nature which she calls "No-Self", which is different from the egoless state of I AM . It is the Thusness's Stage 4 experience.

However she has tendency to speak about the experience of No-Self as a stage rather than as the everpresent nature of reality, a dharma seal... even though she knows experientially that nondual is pathless without entry and exit.

Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center - the coin, or "true self" - suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine."

Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist's insistence on no eternal Self - be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman.
Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the "no-self experience"; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.
Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, "All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed." And there it was - the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, "Again a house thou shall not build," clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a "true center," a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.

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http://www.spiritualteachers.org/b_roberts_interview.htm
Interview with Bernadette Roberts Reprinted from the book Timeless Visions, Healing Voices, copyright 1991 by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org). In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.
Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the "unitive state", the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others. In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls "the experience of no-self" - an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.
Now 55, and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a "bag lady" whose sister and brother in law are "keeping her off the streets." "I came into this world with nothing," she writes, "and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully - had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances." When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face - but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.
Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them - in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?
Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms "purgative", "illuminative", and "unitive" (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where "letting go", "insight", and "union", define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St. Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or "mansions". But I don't think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else's retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.
My view of what some authors call the "unitive stage"is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit, or the onset of the transformational process - when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of "transforming union" or "mystical marriage", considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative. In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time.
So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost "point" in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being - the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all - no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.

Stephan: How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?
Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center - the coin, or "true self" - suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over - the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening. Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self.
One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms "self" and "consciousness" express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of "experience". Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.
Stephan: How does one move from "transforming union" to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?
Bernadette: We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost "point", beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward - the center is expanding outward. To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call "will" or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man's final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.
To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center, and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper - acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.
The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archtype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness - savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the "ground" that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a "stillpoint", not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them. So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a "path", yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.
Stephan: In The Experience of No-Self you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it? I was particularly struck by your statement "I realized I no longer had a 'within' at all." For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an "inner life" - yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.
Bernadette: Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a "center". Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of "life"and "being". Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of "life" and "being" as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of "being" originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.
If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no "within" any more. And without a "within", there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining - no experience of life at all. Our subjecive life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine? To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, "in" itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible - the divine as both immanent and transcendent - is obviously the balloon, i.e. consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of. But what if we pop the balloon - or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, "This or that is divine". So the divine is all - all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place. As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead. Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble - self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.
Stephan: You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self?
Bernadette: Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on any thing or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, "personal God" is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, non-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective - and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away. Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine.
Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness.
Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it - and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more. So it doesn't matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage - the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.
Stephan: How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?
Bernadette: I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the "unconditioned and unbegotten" than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.
Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see if it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the "cave of the heart", and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness - that seemingly bottomless experience of "being", "consciousness", and "bliss" that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.
Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist's insistence on no eternal Self - be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman. Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the "no-self experience"; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.
Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, "All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed." And there it was - the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, "Again a house thou shall not build," clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a "true center," a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.
As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ's death, the movement beyond even is oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth - that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.
Stephan: You mention in The Path to No-Self that the unitive state is the "true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years." Yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?
Bernadette: First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment - we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey.
Paradoxical though it may seem, the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way - and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a "stillpoint" - comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as "emptiness" or "void", a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the "Kingdom of God" or the "Spirit within", a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self.
For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye. So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years - years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment. Because self is everyone's experience underlying all culture. I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person's passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.
11 Responses
  1. refractor Says:

    sir, moksha or oneness with the supreme, is actually a state of permenent state of ignorance about truth and is perfectly delusory.


  2. Hello refractor,

    First of all Bernadette Roberts here is not talking about merely a state of oneness with the divine atman, but rather she is describing her experience of transcending even this experience of the divine center into the insights of No Center/Self/Agent/Atman.

    Second of all... I am not sure why do you say that it is 'actually a state of permanent state of ignorance about truth and is perfectly delusory'. Please explain what you mean and why.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Having attended many retreats given by Bernadette Roberts over a period of nearly twenty-five years, I know for certain that her paradigm is completely different from "nondualism"-- Advaita or otherwise.

    Indeed, she calls the nondualist misconception of her paradigm "forcing the fit," which she defines in a recent book as "redefining, clipping, pasting, twisting-- to make the original fit a dissonant paradigm" (Roberts, "Forcing the Fit," Foreword, 2008).

    In her essay, "Nondualism," she writes: "It is unfortunate that those who aspire to a nondual state will never reach it-- because it doesn't exist. In truth it is just another illusion to be dispelled. With or without self, there is no state in the journey truly 'nondual,' neither in our earthly journey nor in heaven" (Roberts, "Essays on the Christian Contemplative Journey," 2007, p. 71.)

    In addition, she clearly distinguishes her paradigm from that of nondualism in another work, "What Is Self? The Spiritual Journey In Terms of Consciousness." All books cited above are available at http://www.bernadettesfriends.blogspot.com/


  4. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for the comments.

    But I have to say, we have different understandings what 'Nondualism' means.

    It is better that you read through my friend Thusness's personal journey of his 'Six Stages of Experience',

    http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html

    , to have a better understanding of the Buddhist realisation No-Self.

    As I can see, the path/experiences that Bernadette Roberts had gone through and had described are very similar to the 6 stages of experiences which are described by my friend "Thusness"/"PasserBy". Bernadette Roberts wrote hundreds of pages on her experiences, my friend condensed his experiences into a short article. (From I AM to Nothingness/Oblivion to No-Self to Emptiness, please note that ‘Emptiness’ here has a very different meaning from the context of other religions as it is based on the principle of dependent origination, and does not mean anything like “the Void”.)

    Because this is a summary, he has failed to elaborate some "stages" (for example he said to me some time back that the I AM experience can be separated into 4 stages of experience), but nevertheless the essence is there.

    If you meet Bernadette Roberts, could you please show her my friend's Six Stages of Experience article.

    I'm very interested to hear her comments about it. :) Do send us an update if you receive any reply from her.

    Now to explain Nondualism in Buddhism.

    First of all the definition of Non-Dual, in the Buddhist context, is very different from the context of Advaita. I am a Buddhist and I am speaking in terms of the Buddhist context.

    For example usually for the Advaitins or Hindus, non-dual is often spoken as a state of the union or identity of atman (self) with Brahman (divine/whole). It is the realisation of one's true Self/I AM as the divine center, the pure formless consciousness as the background reality. The experience is the state of resting in the pure sense of existence, the pure beingness. It is as if I AM the non-judging/unaffected Eternal Witness/Knower of everything.

    However, Anatta (No-Self) or Non-Duality (of Subject/Object) in Buddhism does not mean that. In the realisation of No-Self, the illusion of the divine as the I AM or a Divine Center/Eternal Witness/Knower is gone. There is simply knowing without knower, without dichotomy of subject or object. There is simply pure sensory knowing, as Bernadette Roberts puts it. (see Consciousness and the Senses, page 5, What is Self?)

    This is also beautifully described by Bernadette Roberts, who said, "The truth of the body, then, is the revelation that Christ is all that is manifest of God or all that is manifest of the unmanifest Father. Self or consciousness does not reveal this and cannot know it. In the "smile" there was no knower or one who smiles, nor was there anyone or anything to smile at or to know; there was simply the smile, the "knowing" that is beyond knower and known. The wrong interpretation of the absence of knower and known is that in that in the Godhead knower and known are identical. But the identity of knower and known is only true of consciousness, which is self knowing itself. But the Godhead transcends this identity -- it is void of knower or known. The "knowing" that remains beyond self or consciousness cannot be accounted for in any terms of knower and known. The truest thing that could be said is that the "body knows."" (see Resurrection, page 185, What Is Self?)

    Here, she talks about the experience of No-Self and also explains the wrong interpretation of the absence of knower and known or No-Self what I call ‘non-duality’ as a state of pure being (I AM). The Nonduality that I am talking about is different from this. It is not a state of pure being or “self knowing itself”. It is No-Self, no Divine Center either. Also the “body knows” is again referring to the pure sensory knowing which I have mentioned above.

    As I wrote in the comments section in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html ,

    ------------------

    "First I do not see Anatta as merely a freeing from personality sort of experience as you mentioned; I see it as that a self/agent, a doer, a thinker, a watcher, etc, cannot be found apart from the moment to moment flow of manifestation or as its commonly expressed as ‘the observer is the observed’; there is no self apart from arising and passing. A very important point here is that Anatta/No-Self is a Dharma Seal, it is the nature of Reality all the time -- and not merely as a state free from personality, ego or the ‘small self’ or a stage to attain. (related article: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/07/bernadette-roberts-interview.html) This means that it does not depend on the level of achievement of a practitioner to experience anatta but Reality has always been Anatta and what is important here is the intuitive insight into it as the nature, characteristic, of phenomenon (dharma seal).

    To put further emphasis on the importance of this point, I would like to borrow from the Bahiya Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.1.10.irel.html) that ‘in the seeing, there is just the seen, no seer’, ‘in the hearing, there is just the heard, no hearer’ as an illustration. When a person says that I have gone beyond the experiences from ‘I hear sound’ to a stage of ‘becoming sound’, he is mistaken. When it is taken to be a stage, it is illusory. For in actual case, there is and always is only sound when hearing; never was there a hearer to begin with. Nothing attained for it is always so. This is the seal of no-self. Therefore to a non dualist, the practice is in understanding the illusionary views of the sense of self and the split. Before the awakening of prajna wisdom, there will always be an unknowing attempt to maintain a purest state of 'presence'. This purest presence is the 'how' of a dualistic mind -- its dualistic attempt to provide a solution due to its lack of clarity of the spontaneous nature of the unconditioned. It is critical to note here that both the doubts/confusions/searches and the solutions that are created for these doubts/confusions/searches actually derive from the same cause -- our karmic propensities of ever seeing things dualistically (also see my other friend Longchen’s article http://www.dreamdatum.com/meditation-spontaneous.html where I posted two of his articles including ‘How is nonduality like?’ in this forum)"


    ------------------

    As you can see, there are people who experience non-personality, the formlessness of I AM, but it is not the non-duality or rather NO-duality of subject/object or the No-Self that I'm speaking of.

    It is also not a state to reach because it is referring to the ever-present characteristic of reality, that which Buddhism calls a Dharma Seal. Once realised, there can be no entering or leaving No-Self/no-duality, any ideas of entering or exiting is merely an illusion. It is the insight that matters.

    There may be experiences of the temporary falling away of the subject/object dichotomy in which there is pure knowing without the knower. But if it appears as a stage that has entering and leaving, that is not the realisation spoken. It is hence definitely not a temporary experience or even an 'experience'. This has already been explained above.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    For those interested in Bernadette Roberts' work, a new essay by her (not found in any of her books) has just been posted online, which, on the one hand, distinguishes her work from paradigms of nonduality, and on the other, demonstrates the coherence of her views with Christian Trinitarianism. It is titled, "Reply to James Arraj' Comments on Bernadette Roberts," and can be found at:
    http://bernadettesfriends.blogspot.com/2006/02/reply-to-james-arrajs-comments-on.html


  6. Thanks for the sharing, it is an interesting article.

    However, it is absolutely clear that in Buddhism, No-Self is the falling away and seeing through of even the Empty Divine Center (a.k.a the great I AM).

    There is no denying however, that many teachers, whether Zen or other Buddhist traditions' practitioners/teachers, will mistake this Empty Divine Center as the Ultimate.

    If they do, they will fail to understand what Buddha meant by No-Self.


  7. I must honestly add though, that I find the aspect of Emptiness/Dependent Origination (Stage 6) lacking in Bernadette Roberts' writings.

    Many authors simply stop at nondual. The center is seen through (Stage 5), but not the Emptiness nature/conditionality of all appearances.

    Which is already pretty rare and advanced -- most spiritual authors are still at the Atman-Brahman/I AM/Formless Witness level of experience.

    It is exceedingly rare to find someone write about Stage 6, because it is rare to find someone with such experiences, and also hard to put the experience in words.

    Not at all trying to biased here, but if Bernadette Roberts were to be familiar with the Buddhist teachings of Emptiness and Dependent Origination, she might have a further insight.


  8. David Says:

    You have articulated the essential. Emptiness is far from a negative state as suggested by Bernadette Roberts.

    She says...
    "One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back."

    I would say ...

    One glimpse of Emptiness and no-one would want Christ or Buddha OR God back.

    A flower has appeared and here words fail me.


  9. geis Says:

    nicely said David :)


  10. elyisus Says:

    It seems rather clear to me that Bernardette Roberts has failed to really understand Buddhism and Advaita, but that is something that doesn't mean something is lacking on her ultimate state, even less that somethings is not contemplated in Buddhism or the Upanishads. She just misconceive both, as many misconceive the Christ. There is nobody to blame since she already states that she came late to eastern views.
    Jesus.


  11. Searle88 Says:

    There is a need to have a study undertaken of "visionary ascents". My evolving project could assist with this, and many other related topics. Here, I refer to Multi-Dimensional Science found at the p2pfoundation.

    http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Multi-Dimensional_Science