The Journey to No Self

Bernadette Roberts, who passed away in 2017, describes the no self experience very lucidly in her books, especially “The Experience of No Self”, and it is profoundly related to the ‘teaching’ of Krishnamurti, so I thought I’d share a brief excerpt or two here on a new thread. I hope this is allowed. For me it clarifies somewhat K’s teaching, not muddying the waters at all like many traditional religious teachings do. Well let me know what you think. Here’s Bernadette on crossing over beyond the self:

"After making this journey, I have no choice but to believe this transition can not only be made, but that it is inherent in everyone to do so whether they realize it or not. Though I do not understand how it can be made on a purely intellectual or technical level, I am nevertheless familiar with the experiential aspects of such a crossing; so if the following explanation appears clumsy, it is because the particular level or view from which I speak does not always allow for logical fulfilment…

"Before this event…I had never noticed how automatically and unconsciously the mind was aware of itself, or how continually conscious I had been of my own awareness in all mental processes, or in all my thoughts, words, and deeds. But when this…came to an end, I suddenly realised the profound roots of self-consciousness, roots that unknowingly had infiltrated every aspect of my existence. To have this entire system uprooted, made for so many amazing discoveries as I moved through the ordinary affairs of life that I could never hope to recount them all…

“By the time the journey is over, the only possible way of living is in the now-moment, wherein the mind moves neither backward nor forward but remains fixed and fully concentrated in the present. Because of this, the mind is so open and clear than no preconceived notions can get a foothold; no idea can be carried over from one moment to another; much less, could any notion demand conformity from others. There are no more head-trips – no clinging to a frame of reference, even if it is only the reference of tomorrow’s expectations. In a word, what is to be done or thought is always underfoot, with no need to step aside in order to find out what is to be thought, believed, or enacted…”

“As I hope I have shown, empirical reality is not itself an obstacle to seeing; rather, it is what we think about this reality that creates an obstacle to a transition that otherwise might not have been necessary in the first place. As it stands now, I still have a number of problems due to the continual need to compromise. I am surrounded by people with whom I need to relate; I live amid values, ideas, and opinions on which I must express myself; and because of this environment, I am continually impressed with the difficulty of sharing a journey with others who do not see as I now see. Yet this very inability, this abiding difficulty, only brings home to me the more how incomplete life is and ever will be until everyone can see.” (10)

She sums up her realisation under the heading, “How it Works:” “There is no multiplicity of existences; only what Is has existence, an existence that can expand itself into an infinite variety of forms that constitute the movement and manifested aspect of itself. Though what Is, is the act, movement, and changing of all forms - and is form itself - it is, at the same time, the unchanging, unknowable aspect of all form. Thus, that which Is, continually observes the coming and going - the changing and movement - of its own form or acts, without participating in any essential change itself. Since the nature or essence of Itself is act, there can be no separation between its knowing, acting, existing, or between any aspect of itself, because that which acts, that which it acts upon, and the act itself are one without division. It never goes outside itself to know itself because the unmanifested, the manifesting, and the manifested are One.” (11)

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Just read her wiki : she loved going on Camaldoli retreats. Here’s the beginning of St. Romuald’s rules (for what you’re supposed to do when you’re in your cell).

Sit in your cell as in paradise.

Put the whole world behind you and forget it.

Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.

While Bernadette recommended spending some time in a monastic setting…and also some time living alone in the woods…she was totally against watching one’s thoughts. I’ll look for the quote if I have time. she said that watching thought was the self.

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A few interesting quotes from Bernadette: Quotes

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She’s quite right - admiring one’s thoughts is a form of narcissism - I realise this is confusing but its the difference between the silence of choiceless awareness and egocentric observation. Thoughts dissipate under the light of awareness.

Or focusing on thought. It’s the self according to Ms Roberts

Correct, no picking or choosing (which is movement of self) what to focus on - No focussing (which is categorisation etc) - no goal - which in christian terms might correlate to faith in what is

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This does not of course mean that we must avoid meditation
meditation has no goal - this is why it is essential