To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
- Eihei Dogen
If one is very fortunate indeed, one comes upon - or is found by - the teachings that match one's disposition and the teachers or mentors whose expression strikes to the heart while teasing the knots from the mind. The Miriam Louisa character came with a tendency towards contrariness and skepticism, which is probably why she gravitated to teachers who displayed like qualities. It was always evident to me that the 'blink' required in order to meet life in its naked suchness was not something to be gained in time. Rather, it was clear that it was something to do with understanding what sabotages this direct engagement. So my teachers were those who deconstructed the spiritual search - and with it the seeker - inviting one to "see for oneself." I realised early on that I wouldn't find any help within traditional spiritual institutions since their version of awakening is usually a project in time. Anyway, I'm not a joiner by nature.
I set out on my via negativa at an early age, trying on all kinds of philosophies and practices with enthusiasm and casting them aside -neti neti - equally enthusiastically. Chögyam Trungpawised me up to "spiritual materialism" in the 70s; Alan Watts followed on, pointing out that whatever is being experienced is none other than 'IT' - the unarguable aliveness that one IS. By then I was perfectly primed for the questions put by Jiddu Krishnamurti - "Is there a thinker separate from thought?" "Is there an observer separate from the observed?" "Can consciousness be separated from its content?" It was while teaching at Brockwood Park that I also had the good fortune to engage with David Bohm in formal dialogues as well as private conversations. (About which I have written elsewhere.)
Krishnamurti and Bohm were seminal teachers for me; I also loved the unique style of deconstruction offered by Nisargadatta Maharaj. As it happened though, it took just one tiny paragraph from Wei Wu Wei to land in my brain at exactly the right time for the irreversible 'blink' to occur.
I mention this rather august lineage because it explains why the writing of Robert Saltzman strikes not just a chord but an entire symphonic movement for me. We are peers; we were probably reading the same books by Watts and Krishnamurti at the same time during the 70s and 80s. Reading his book, The Ten Thousand Things, is, for me, like feeling my way across a tapestry exquisitely woven from the threads of my own life. I'm not sure that I can adequately express my wonderment and appreciation.
The candor, lucidity and lack of jargon in Robert's writing are deeply refreshing. I also relish his way with words. He knows how to write. He also knows how to take astonishingly fine photographs, and these are featured throughout the book.
It's been said that this book will become a classic, which is a pretty good achievement for someone who isn't claiming to be a teacher and has nothing to gain by its sale. (The book sells for the production price.) He is not peddling enlightenment. He is simply sharing how it feels to be free from all the spiritual fantasies that obscure our seamless engagement with this miraculous thing called life, right now.
From the Author
Inasmuch as Ineither make the world nor, despite the dogmas of religionandspirituality, know anything at all about its source, I do not knowand cannot knowwhat "I"--a feature of that world--am either.
Sofor me, awakening means the end of "spirituality" in the face of theundeniableunderstanding that all conjecture on the subject of "myself"falls short--mustfall short--of actually explaining anything. In eachmoment, I find myself here asan apparent focus of awareness without ever having chosen to be here, withoutknowing what I "really" am, andwithout needing to know.
I am well aware that what I see andfeel is a concoction of some sort or another, but this world is theworld I have, and so I, an apparent constituent of this world of mine,live in it andwith it--not in a world of conjecture, supposition, andmysticism about ultimatematters, but here and now. That is what I meanby "awake."