Thursday, July 22, 2010

Non-Dualist Jerry Katz, The Man With A Mission

Non-Dualist Jerry Katz, The Man With A Mission

[Jerry Katz, author and broadcaster, is an unassuming, simple and clear minded person with a Yogi-like attitude. Understanding of “I am” happened to him when he was still a boy. He was self-driven in the realization of the final Truth that he is none other than what Awareness is. But he wears his laurels loosely as if they do not belong to him. He takes all shades of Advaita in his stride with a remarkable ability to see “That” in an apparently meaningless poem to highly informed application of Quantum Physics to Vedanta via Direct path or so called Neoadvaita or a whole variety of methods and approaches. He is an active promoter of bringing about a convergence in Science and Advaita. His writings and reviews sparkle with crystal clarity and subtle observation. He abhors artificial grading and discriminatory rating. (Link: ) Jerry‘s mission is simple; but the task is overwhelming: Take Advaita to the ‘streets.’ However, he is cut to the job with unswerving devotion to the cause.
John of Non-duality Magazine (NDM) recently interviewed Jerry on a wide range of topics. The full Interview is available at:
John has been kind to let me present here a few excerpts from the interview -- ramesam]

Interview with Non-duality Magazine

NDM: Can you please tell me about your awakening, how and when this happened?
Jerry Katz: In anyone's spiritual biography you can identify turning points, moments when truth is stumbled into. Those moments could take the form of a sudden awakening, or a question, or a realization of some kind. You stumble into those moments. You can't plan for them to happen and, you know, stop off for a sandwich on the way to experiencing the stumbling. There's nothing linear about stumbling into truth. If it was linear you would see the stumbling block and walk around or over it and never stumble. It is said in the Kaballah that the stumbling block is in your hand. It's not separate from you. You stumble upon yourself.

For most people there is more than one stumbling. I call them initiations. I had several initiations into my true nature as "I Am." They occurred between the ages of 7 and 10. I knew they were important and meaningful but I never knew how to live life with them. So I forgot about them until around age 25, when I revisited them. What got me to revisit them was dissatisfaction with life and the sense that there was something more meaningful I needed to find out about. It was clear that I needed to investigate my early initiations into "I Am."

I spend a couple of years writing about my early experiences, feeling them, investigating them from different angles, and wanting to be stabilized as this "I Am." After about two years, in 1977, that stabilization happened and was marked with the spontaneous utterance, "There is only one day." Everything was seen as one day, or perhaps you could say one moment; in today's language you could say I was living in the now. However, in my words it was as though there was only one day.

The one day feeling lasted for about ten years and then it gave way to an immediacy of awareness as the "I Am" itself apparently dissolved.

Another way of talking about this progression is to say that I started out aware of awareness, then there was the sense that I was awareness, which was aware of me, and finally there is only awareness.

So that's a story of awakening. There is still everyday life, problems, limitations in expression and ability; or is there?


NDM: Then when you finally realized that you are "only awareness". At this point what kind of a vasana load did you have?

Jerry Katz: There's no realizing that you are only awareness, even though to talk about it one might say, "I am only awareness," or "There is only awareness." It is enough -- it is too much -- to say there is only awareness. To say anything beyond a variation of, "There is only awareness," "There is only this," further diminishes the statement or confession of what is.

Having said that, there was and still are habits and negative psychological states. They are not so extreme. Most importantly it is realized that are not me. Still, one must live responsibly in the world. To exercise a bad habit and to dismiss it by declaring, "Well, yeah, it's bad but it's not me," is an abuse and neglect of discipline.

I am sure that having experienced the "I Am" conditioned me early on toward a life of simplicity. Even though it was not until the age of 25 that I began to investigate my sense of "I Am," prior to that the initiation into "I Am" exerted an influence upon my life. That's what initiation is all about: it is a deep penetration of truth at a cellular level. Compare initiation to a so-called aha experience. The latter is more superficial and activates an energy which tends to burn itself out quickly or which gets channeled toward seeking and self-improvement rather than resting in knowing. However, aha moments are useful in living effectively; it's important to have realizations about the nuts and bolts of day to day living.


NDM: What are your thoughts on neo advaita. Saying that there is No morality. No right or wrong. No meaning? Please See interview with Suzanne Foxton.

Jerry Katz: I like the neo-advaita movement. It doesn't replace traditional advaita or anything else. It is another offering, that's all. Neo-advaita is nothing new. It simply focuses on the portion of advaita that confesses the reality of what is. Neo-advaita is a partial teaching, but for a given individual it could be a whole teaching, depending on what one is ready to receive.

Suzanne said, "There is no right or wrong." That's true. That's the pure confession of neo-advaita. The Avadhuta Gita makes such statements over and over again: "How can I speak of good and evil? I am free from disease -- my form has been extinguished."

The Avadhuta Gita and a few other texts are more "neo" than neo-advaita. Neo-advaita writings or discussions probably always have contained within them some instruction, some suggestion of what to do in order to realize what the neo-advaitin confesses. The Avadhuta Gita has no such instruction. The Avadhuta Gita doesn't tell you to investigate anything. It doesn't tell you to follow the I Am, as Nisargadatta has urged. It doesn't tell you to Full Stop, as 'Sailor' Bob Adamson advises. It doesn't suggest you inquire into who you are, what you're doing, why you're here, what the truth is, or anything at all. It just confesses. Period.

Neo-advaita is not as extreme as some very old writings. Neo-advaita is an evolution, a morphing of those writings and at the same time a morphing of traditional advaita. The morphing, the evolution continues, and watching that evolution is the delight of being involved in the world of nonduality.

NDM: Yes, but Avadhuta Gita is also reading material meant for the use of advanced students.

Jerry Katz: It is appropriate for today's mainstream nondual spirituality audience, I feel. Even James Swartz, a current and strong proponent of the stepwise teaching of traditional Advaita Vedanta, includes Avadhuta Gita style of confessions in his book How to Attain Enlightenment. For example, he says, "I am neither a person nor a non-person ... I am not male, female, or neuter ... I have never lived or died ... I am pure knowing, even though there is nothing to know." The entire book explains details about life, practice, experience, and those confessions occur at the end of the book in a section called Beyond Enlightenment. With the proper preparation, such as delivered by Swartz in his book, or with a strong intuition of truth, these confessions and the Avadhuta Gita itself become understandable. I wrote a series of verses based on the Avadhuta Gita, called The Wild Song of Standing Free, which is available online here:
I wrote that in 1997, before I went on the Internet, and it served to prepare me for the adventure of introducing nonduality to a mainstream audience and to deal with all the people I would be encountering.

NDM: The Ashtavakra Gita is also from the absolute level.

Jerry Katz: Yes, The Ashtavakra Gita is more popular than the Avadhuta Gita, too.


NDM: Yes, ok. When you said earlier. "Such a questioning is an inquiry. If you inquire from time to time, "Is this the relative level?" "Is this the absolute level?" at what level do you find yourself upon making these inquiries?

Would not that depend on the level you are at. For example, how could a non realized person even know the difference with out "knowing" the absolute level? If you are not the absolute, all you know is the relative? You can understand it to a degree, but cannot "know" it. The knowing only comes with realization.

Jerry Katz: The inquiry is sufficient if a person has had only an intuition of the absolute. However, I don't recommend doing inquiry just for the heck of it. Behind all efforts there must be the hunger to know who you are. Inquiry is a powerful tool. One must find an inquiry that truly draws their attention.

NDM: What are your thoughts on Sri Aurobindos intermediate zone? Do you think this could be an explanation for Adi Da and Osho? Please see here.

Jerry Katz: You'll see in my work on nonduality that I have never been into rating gurus. I like some and don't like some, but I don't rate. One of the qualities of my work has been to create a list of gurus/teachers/realizers/confessors which included just about anyone who spoke with some real knowing of the realized state. I don't see that some people are more enlightened than others. It doesn't interest me too much -- except in a gossipy way.

Seekers and students need to connect with their own inner knowing, their own inner hunger for truth, and to allow the inner force to be one's teacher and guide. That, in fact, is the Guru. One may then be led to this or that teacher. If so, from a practical point of view one should learn as much as possible about a prospective teacher.

NDM: When you say" There's no realizing that you are only awareness, even though to talk about it one might say, "I am only awareness," or "There is only awareness." It is enough -- it is too much -- to say there is only awareness. To say anything beyond a variation of, "There is only awareness," "There is only this,", further diminishes the statement or confession of what is."

So what is it that "knows" that it is awareness? What is this knower that knows this and how does this knower get to know this?

Jerry Katz: There is no knower and no knowing of it. There is only it. As far as getting to know this, it is said that Direct Path teachings can facilitate that. These days Greg Goode might have the best handle on the "There is only awareness" realization.

NDM: It obviously isn't "seen" as neo advaita people say because a seer cannot see itself no more than an eye can see its own pupil?

Jerry Katz: Yes, it isn't seen. It is. To say "It is," is, again, too much, which is why silence is a teaching.
NDM: What do you teach by the way. Do you have a method of teaching. Do you do satsangs or anything like that?

Jerry Katz: I don't teach or give satsang. My work is to bring nonduality to mass consciousness in a variety of ways: Through websites, email forums, a blog, twitter, radio appearances, conference development, public speaking, organizing local gatherings, interviews, publishing e-books, individual correspondences, encouraging and supporting various people in the field of nonduality, writing book reviews. Of course a lot of teachers do those activities, and more, too. If I did teach there wouldn't be any method. I would look at what each person requires and offer direction and guidance that is right for that person.

NDM: How long have you been doing this work of bringing non duality awareness to mass consciousness?  Can you please elaborate a little more on your work and the impact this has had?

Jerry Katz: I first went onto the Internet in November, 1997. My intent was to bring nonduality "to the streets," to the spirituality mainstream. At the time, nonduality was a topic and a word largely reserved for discussion within ashrams, the circles of certain teachers, and university departments of philosophy and religious studies, and as well as part of the lesser known teachings of the world's religions.

The best known nonduality teaching is Zen, which belongs to Buddhist tradition. I wanted to introduce nonduality as a broader Zen. To do that, I introduced the word "nonduality" itself and colored it according to a vision. Just as the word "Zen" has a certain magic and power to it, it is my opinion that the word "nonduality" has its own significant meaning or "color." I have tried to keep nonduality wide open and all-embracing.

Many people are involved in bringing nonduality to the mainstream. I have provided online spaces for people to gather and talk about nonduality in whatever way they wished and have welcomed and encouraged a number of people. Over the years the broad teaching of nonduality and the word "nonduality" itself have entered the spirituality mainstream and even the general mainstream.
Lives are impacted in different ways. There's a peaceful, holistic, harmonious, Yogic side to nonduality which benefits a person's life. It is more about coherence and oneness. Then there is the jarring and harsh side of nonduality -- the bottom line nonduality -- in which our ego strategies are seen through or split wide open. Knowing who you are requires a cutting away of who you think you are. Practically no one is exempt from that harshness since layers of ego strategy are constantly re-constituting. For living life effectively, I highly recommend the holistic, Yogic type of path. Seeing who your really are, which is the atmosphere in which this effective life is lived (and which it actually is) requires that one question the effective life even while living it. It's tricky business and only those who have no other choice will engage in it.

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