Photo by Tomáš Mrkvička
Perfection unseen is still perfect.
Ken Wilber is a polymath who knows and respects numerous non-dual traditions, western philosophies and therapeutic approaches, but he enjoys a special affinity with Dzogchen. My own simplification of this Buddhist tradition is that all is eternally perfect, with no need or opening for intervention or improvement of any kind.
All the good and all the evil, the very best and the very worst, the upright and the degenerate-each and all are radically perfect manifestations of Spirit precisely as they are.
At first glance, this seems absurd. Our world has breath-taking beauty and heart-warming kindness, but we also have loneliness, war, famine and disease. These must invite, even demand, change?
Wilber introduces Spirit, which you can take as is or substitute God, Consciousness, Source, Being, the Universe, as you wish. In non-dual traditions, this Spirit is all there is. Nothing is outside it. Nowhere is without it. Spirit is not more of itself in some places, beings or situations than in others. It is immanent in all experience yet unaffected by any happening.
We who contemplate this deeply may think to ourselves, “Okay, I understand.” Yet the one ‘thing’ we forget to include in this sweeping wholeness, is ourselves! We can’t help feeling and believing we are separate, independent.
The separate-self is, at bottom, simply a sensation of seeking.
This forgetfulness or illusion is one of two defining elements of the typical human state. The other is our seeking, or suffering. We want warmer weather, a bigger house, less troublesome neighbours, better health. What we want shifts continually, but our seeking is constant. And a subset of us embark on a special (to us) sort of seeking, looking to awaken, to find Spirit, to realise our unity with the Whole.
These two conditions — our sense of separateness and our seeking — are the same thing. We seek what we already have; we seek it because we don’t realise we have it — Wholeness. We seek because we don’t realise we are it. ‘It’ is Spirit.
This is why Zen calls it the Gateless Gate: on this side of that realization, it looks like you have to do something to enter that state — it looks like you need to pass through a gate. But when you do so, and you turn around and look back, there is no gate whatsoever, and never has been.
From the standpoint of a person operating in the world, reaching Spirit requires a passage from one state to another. But from the standpoint of Spirit, in which the world and all beings move and of which they are composed, there is no necessary migration. There is and never has been a threshold to cross. All is eternal Spirit.
Yet here we are, feeling like separate persons, navigating individual lives. So we work, strive, shift and move. We get a better job. We try a new hair colour. Some of us meditate and otherwise practice on our path to spiritual awakening. This is fine. We put great effort into achieving desired states. Eventually, some of us exhaust ourselves, and in a moment of depleted surrender, the sense of separateness fades. In its absence, we ‘see’ what has always been true, that we are changeless Spirit in which every state occurs, in which all change happens.
Change of state is not the ultimate point; recognizing the Changeless is the point…
A person prefers a happy state to a sad one. Spiritual seekers yearn for states of peace and clarity. But all persons and all seemingly personal experiences are fragments of Spirit, of pure, subjectless, objectless Experiencing. This has always been so. It was true while the experience included seeking and a sense of independence, and it remains so once those two human traits dissolve.
When I rest in simple, clear, ever-present awareness, every object is its own subject. Every event “sees itself,” as it were, because I am now that event seeing itself…. The entire manifest world continues to arise, just as it is, except that all subjects and all objects have disappeared.
In pure Experiencing, without actors or objects, perfection radiates. There is suffering but no sufferer. Seeking has no seeker. Experiencing is without cause. Strenuous exertion experiences itself effortlessly. Experiencing of confusion happens with perfect clarity. Good and evil experience themselves without judgement.
All of this is true, always already, on both sides of the Gateless Gate.
* From Always Already: The Brilliant Clarity of Ever-Present Awareness, an excerpt from The Eye of Spirit