We Haven't Met

Dear Salvatore,


We haven’t met.  But we are connected in more and deeper ways than we can imagine.  And I fervently wish you well.


In your article on www.cnn.com you said: “When you are declared “diseased,” you become a set of medical records, therapy, dosages, exam dates. It’s as if you disappear, replaced by your disease.”  But I respectfully submit that you are not your disease and cannot be.  It is impossible.  Something completely different is happening.


The Buddhists speak of ‘anicca,’ which is a Pali word for ‘impermanence.’  They teach that ‘everything that arises passes away.’  We are all indisputably subject to old age, sickness and death.  And in the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha says:  ‘Thus should one view all of the fleeting world—a drop of dew, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a star at dawn, a phantom and a dream.’


The Buddha’s message may sound nihilistic on its face.  But from that simple principle, a profound question arises:  ‘Is there anything that doesn’t arise?  That doesn’t pass away?’  And I respectfully suggest that the answer is ‘yes.’


The British writer Douglas E. Harding challenges us to turn the arrow of our attention around 180 degrees  and look back to see who — or what — is looking out from wherever it is we’re looking out from.  And what do we see when we do?  I call it a ‘clear, awake space—in which everything is happening.’


I respectfully suggest that upon looking back into where we’re looking out from we see, to paraphrase the words of a friend of mine:  ‘Absolute Awareness.  Silent.  Changeless.  And prior to all worlds, persons, states and energies.’


A Buddhist sutra expresses this idea thusly:


The Buddha continued: “I will now show you the self-nature which is beyond birth and death.”


“Great King, how old were you when you first saw the Ganges?” The King replied: “When I was three my mother took me to worship the deva Jiva. As we crossed the river, I knew it was the Ganges.”

The Buddha asked: “Great King, as you just said, you were older at twenty than at ten; and until you were sixty, as days, months and years succeeded one another, your body changed in every moment of thought. When you saw the Ganges at three, was its water the same as it was when you were thirteen?” The King replied: “It was the same when I was three and thirteen, and still is now that I am sixty-two.”

The Buddha said: “As you now notice your white hair and wrinkled face, there must be many more wrinkles than when you were a child. Today when you see the Ganges, do you notice that your seeing is ‘old’ now while it was ‘young’ then?” The King replied: “It has always been the same, World Honored One.”

The Buddha said: “Great King, though your face is wrinkled, the nature of this essence of your seeing is not. Therefore, that which is wrinkled changes and that which is free from wrinkles is unchanging.”

–Excerpt from The Surangama Sutra (translated by Lu K’an Yu, BI Publications 1978, p. 26).


Of this Awareness, Franklin Merrell Wolfe wrote:

THAT am I, and so art Thou

ABOVE, BELOW, to right, to left, all encompassing,

Before and after and all between,

Within and without, at once everywhere,

Transforming and stable, ceaselessly;

Uncaused, while fathering all causes,

The Reason behind all reasons,

Needing nought, yet ever supplying,

The One and Only, sustaining all variety,

The Source of all qualities, possessing no attributes,

Ever continuous, appearing discrete,

Inexpressible, the base of all expression,

Without number, making possible all number,

Containing the lover and the beloved as one,

Doing nought, remaining the Field of all action—

The actor and the action not different—

Indifferent in utter completion;

Diffused through all space, yet in the Point concentrated,

Beyond time, containing all time,

Without bounds, making bounds possible,

Knowing no change;

Inconceivable, yet through It all conceiving becoming;

Nameless ever and unmastered;

THAT am I, and so art Thou.


A comment from the great Indian teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj, excerpted from his book I Am That:

As it is my presence, which is always here and now, that gives the quality of actual to any event, I must be beyond time and space. I was never born, nor will ever die.

Take the idea ‘I was born’. You may take it to be true. It is not. You were not born, nor will you ever die. It is the idea that was born and shall die, not you. By identifying yourself with it you became mortal.

Your mistake lies in your belief that you were born. You were never born nor will you ever die.

This life of ours is the ever-changing content of Awareness—nothing more.


The ‘real you’ is a clear, awake space in which the entire Universe is arising and passing away.  This Awareness is not extended in time or space. It is not touched by any manner of disease.  It is indestructible.  And it isn’t going anywhere.


With every good wish,


/Ron Ortman/