Excerpt for Who Lives? Who Dies? What We Need to Know Before We Go by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Who Lives? Who Dies?

What We Need To Know Before We Go

Lyse Mai Lauren

Ever Here Now Publishing





(Taken from Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Website: Ever Here Now






Who Lives? Who Dies?

The Paradox of Life and Death

We are Awareness

Voice of the Silence

A Matter of Life and Death

Why Should We Care?

Beyond Mind

The Ultimate Challenge

Waking Up to Reality

Beyond Religion

Who Will Hear the Call?

Who Knows?

Mind the Gap


When Life Shakes Things Up

Know Thyself

Some Pieces of My Dream

When Awareness Comes Knocking

Face to Face

Where Did She Go?


Years of Grace

Those Who Have Gone Before

When Our Time Comes

A Leap of Faith

A Glimpse of One Journey

Taking Refuge with the Lama

Living the Truth

When the World Stops

The Passing of the Lama


Facing the Fear


Bringing on the Revolution

Overview of the Final Journey

In Perspective



Fall From Grace

Death of the Little Self

Final Partings

Into the Furnace

Chadral Sangye Dorje

Yogis in the Mountains

Shattering the Ego

Free Fall

After the Fall



Mustard Seeds


The Mystery of Sleep

Turning Loss into Wisdom

Turning Grief into Compassion

When the Time Comes

A Few Words on Sudden Departures

The Untimely Death of my Father

The Passing of a Practitioner

The Passing of a Realised Being


What We Need To Know Before We Go

The Truest of Friends

An Open Secret

The Final Frontier

Not This, Not That

The Certainty Behind all that is Uncertain

Looking Within

The Lives of the Wise

The Fact of our Existence?

Good to Go

A Life Well Lived


About the Writer

Books by Lyse Lauren

Shades of Awareness

Connect Online

Who Lives? Who Dies?

What We Need to Know Before We Go


To those rare few

who are ready to give up everything,

in order to gain the one true thing.



The Great Master Padmasambhava prophesied that the teachings of Dzogchen would spread throughout the world ‘like a wildfire’ in the coming centuries. Sri Ramana Maharshi said something similar when he bestowed upon the world the essential teachings of Self-Enquiry. Both systems have a lot in common in that they endeavour to turn us towards the most urgent and obvious question, namely; Who Am I?

In previous eras when conditions were very different to what we know now, a practitioner could take things more slowly and follow a more circuitous route to the summit of liberation. However, in these current times that is no longer the case.

These days, people are distracted much of the time. The modern digital age is adept at harnessing our ‘attention’ on a massive scale and freedoms that we once took for granted have quietly, stealthily been snatched away right under our very noses.

Life has become complex and way too busy. Therefore, direct teachings such as Dzogchen and Advaita, which fundamentally point us towards discovering who and what we really are, NOW, are well placed to fulfil the current need. They are ‘simple’ and direct.

There was never a time when the path of Self-Enquiry, tempered with Compassion and Wisdom, was more desperately needed than in this current age in which we live, move and have our being.


I never made one of my discoveries

through the process of

rational thinking.

Albert Einstein

Diverging somewhat, I must confess that this book has not been written in order to edify and extend ‘knowledge’ or intellectual learning and it may be helpful to the reader to know this in advance.

Some kinds of ‘knowledge’ have very little to do with learning at all and everything to do with ‘listening’ and opening the heart in silence.

Much of what is pointed to, in these pages, will not be so accessible if approached purely from an intellectual stance. If you already have experience in the Dzogchen ‘view’ or have delved into the teachings and practice of Atma Vichara, (Self-Enquiry) you will comprehend immediately, the true and profound inner meaning.

If that is not the case, then I would encourage you to just dive in regardless and let the words sink into your heart. Don’t be too concerned about trying to understand them intellectually. If the mind endeavours to grasp at these words it will miss the true meaning which can only emerge when mind and heart are quiet, open and receptive.

The higher teachings artfully elude comprehension via the written word. Western languages and particularly English, lack many words which can convey subtle and at times, seemingly antagonistic views, particularly those concerned with ‘spiritual’ topics. Sanskrit is brilliant at filling in this deficiency, but how many are familiar with this amazing language?

However, we should keep in mind that even with the best of language tools it would not be possible to put into words what is so absolutely beyond them. That which exists beyond the ‘mind’ cannot be encapsulated by the mind or its tools, ‘words.’

So, in order to get around this difficulty, I have simply launched into ‘descriptive passages,’ when and where ever possible. All of them are true experiences and hold the intention of creating a mood and impression in which the reader may glide towards understanding on the wings of intuition, rather than grappling with dry intellectual ideas. Some may not find this helpful, others will.

When a text endeavours to bypass the mind it may at times have something in common with poetic verse. The mood and the meaning thereby can be conveyed in a more direct manner. The beauty in this later method is that it can facilitate a more profound ‘impression’ whether the mind understands or not.

This is the sole purpose of sharing these words with you. May they bypass your mind and enter directly into the secret cave of your heart.

In essence, our origin and source are ‘mysterious’ and who and what we really are; unfathomable and grander than the mind would have us believe.

In fact, when dealing with higher truths, mind can be our outright enemy.

It is not good at resolving seeming contradictions or conveying a meaning which, in essence, would cause it to dissolve altogether.

So, let us trust ourselves to the alchemy of the ‘heart’ and intuition will begin to flow naturally. If this has not been tried before a pleasant surprise may well await you.

We can begin our journey right here and now if we know how to unlock our intuition and listen with the heart.

May this be your experience as you proceed.


Back to the Top


It might be as well to say a few words about my background before proceeding further. Hopefully this will give some sense of history and origins, such as they are.

My father was a Polish Catholic, my mother, loosely affiliated with the Anglican Church. Neither faith made a very strong impression on me in younger days, although I felt a deep love and respect for the Christ figure and for the simplicity and integrity with which he had lived his life. That feeling was something that just welled up spontaneously. Church services and Catholic schools could just have easily snuffed out that natural empathy but it somehow survived, regardless.

In my twenties, I met a Tibetan Lama of high standing and was profoundly impressed. I had never encountered such a powerful human being before. This was not a worldly type of power, it was something far more mysterious. This person, who was already nearing his eighties by the time I came along, had the sort of presence that just automatically, ‘stopped the mind.’

I could not understand what was happening when I was near him in those early days, but at the time that seemed unimportant. When I came within his orbit, I felt as though I was merging into something so much larger, something which was beyond my small self-centred world. It took a long while to even begin to comprehend, intellectually, what I felt immediately and instinctively in my heart.

In the presence of such a being, the opportunity for a radical shift in one’s focus becomes entirely possible. In the years that followed, I met a number of other highly realized Tibetan Lamas in the Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. All had been trained in the old school way in Tibet prior to the Chinese occupation of 1959 and all had undergone long periods of retreat in various remote caves and sacred locations in and around Tibet.

Each of these teachers had given up comfort, ease, family and friends in order to find ‘truth.’ They had given up ‘everything’ in order to attain the highest goal. These days it is rare for such things to happen.

Although my teachers have been primarily Buddhist, I consider each one as having gone, entirely beyond the confines of their particular religious creed.

Their power sprang from the source of their own pure and deep experience and that is something commonly shared by all who have recognised their true nature and achieved a measure of stability in that, no matter what tradition, religion or creed they may be affiliated with in a worldly sense.

Truth, which is vast and eternally relevant yet changeless, is beyond any mind-made creed or religion.

Let us meet in the eternal truth of what is here and now!


Back to the Top


Who Lives? Who Dies?

The Paradox of Life and Death


He who exists as the real light of truth,

And shines in the false world of appearances,

And He who teaches disciples the great saying;

Thou art That”

After realizing its import,

Gets away from this cycle of life and death.

Salutation to the God facing the south,

Who is the greatest teacher.

Adi Shankara

If you have ever given any thought to the fact that you are alive right now and living in a body that will die one day, then you have touched upon something utterly fundamental.

Unless we know who and what we really are, the drama of life and death will always rule our days on this earth as a paradox, and the most vital and obvious truth as to our existence will remain a mystery to us.

Yet, we hold a golden key in our hands and that key has the potential to enable the puzzle of relative existence to finally be resolved.

That key is ‘Silence’ and it leads us to the recognition of our inmost true nature.

Life and death are unfathomable as long as we cling to the appearances that rule us in our relative world. If we go beyond these appearances, then life and death are superseded by ‘Being’ itself. It is from this changeless, all pervasive ‘silence’ that the whole display of our world arises.

Dakshinamurthy is a symbolic aspect of the Hindu God Shiva. This aspect personifies Ultimate Awareness, Rigpa, the Natural State, or the Supreme Self. He has so many names…

He is the one who teaches through silence.

In the Advaita Vedantic traditions, Dakshinamurthy is praised as the ‘greatest of Teachers.’ The ‘young one’ surrounded by old Sages. He is the ‘eternal youth’ encircled by aged disciples and He reveals the path which unravels all seeming contradictions, by pointing out;

One Real Fact which appears as many truths.

Dakshinamurthy is the personification of the very heart of Silence itself.

The symbolism of this ‘Silent One,’ who teaches through ‘silence,’ is a skilful means for turning our attention inwards to see beyond the contradictions which the dualistic mind creates constantly.

Truth cannot be divided, it is ever complete and whole and yet in our relative world, it can appear in many forms and guises. This is the work of the ‘mind’ which divides and separates continuously.

Only when we can begin to turn our awareness in upon itself, in order to go beyond the mind, are we able to BE’ the awareness that we already are.

Be Still and Know that I AM God.

Psalm 46:10


Back to the Top

We are Awareness

Here and now,

through all your bodies and souls shines awareness;

the pure light.

Hold onto it unswervingly.

Without awareness, the body would not last a second.

There is in the body a current of energy, affection and intelligence,

which guides, maintains and energizes the body.

Discover that current and stay with it.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

The age-old question, Who Am I? assists us in turning the flash-light of the mind’s attention towards the ‘source’ at the heart of our existence.

On this cyclic wheel of birth, life and death we might ask; Who is it that is born? Who then lives? And, in due course of time, Who dies? We all have a vested interest in knowing the answer to these questions.

Nothing is more fundamental to our aliveness than the fact of our commonly shared experience of awareness.

Who am I, is a doorway for that which sees, to pass beyond the dividing mind and its endless thoughts and recognize, directly, the truth underlying our existence. It is as easy and as difficult as that.

Does a fish need to know that its entire existence is due to the presence of the water in which it lives, moves and has its being? It will live out its life whether it knows or not.

Does sentient life, in whatever form it may take, in this limitless universe, need to know that it exists because it is aware? ‘Human’ existence in this vast tapestry of life is somewhat unique in that it is precisely poised to know itself.

Herein lies our purpose. For human kind, recognition of our essential state is crucial.

We need to know that consciousness does not arise because of form. Form and the whole vast, magical display, arises because of consciousness.

This is the entire basis for the inherent divinity and interconnectedness of all sentient life. Even if we prefer to attribute our existence to some imagined anthropomorphic ‘god,’ we cannot deny the fact that we exist because we are aware.

The beauty of this is that it is indisputable and every single one of us can attest to this fact in our immediate experience of our existence, NOW!


Voice of the Silence

This book began to take shape and form while I was staying in an unstable location. It was an excellent place in which to bring together some words concerning the mystery of our existence, of impermanence and the seemingly inescapable fact of ‘death.’

By focussing our attention on these topics, it is possible to question what it is that actually powers the whole display that we call life.

Is it not true that we tend to be more amenable to re-evaluating the integrity of our lives when we are pushed out of our comfort zones?

As I sat in a small hermitage perched barely fifteen meters from the edge of a precipitous cliff, seven thousand feet up in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, the earth beneath was heaving, shifting and convulsing with a rather sickening regularity. At that time, that rather tenuous location, gave matters concerning ‘life and death’ a more urgent appeal.

(At the time of writing, I was staying in a retreat centre in the Darjeeling Hills. April through till August 2015 recorded many major and minor seismic events.)

In such a place it seemed entirely appropriate to ponder the fragility of life, the approach of death and the certainty that absolutely everything in this world is uncertain. In short, all the uncomfortable topics that we might normally push aside, just popped up quite spontaneously the moment my outer circumstances became unstable.

Under such conditions, we can more easily sweep away what is superfluous and focus on what is essential. Self-Enquiry cuts to the core of everything with a single and direct stroke. The sharper the blade, the more swiftly will we be able to severe the delusion of our apparent Self Identity.

The mirror of Self Enquiry is an unforgiving one. We start off with the optimistic belief that we are a person and end up realizing that nothing is quite as it had seemed. Our belief in our identity gets blown apart and our sense of doer-ship no longer holds up. Who, in their right mind, would embrace such an undertaking?

We tend to assume that when we make an effort to achieve something there should be some result to show for it, we feel we should ‘get something’ in return. But the path of self-enquiry takes it all away. We are told that to ‘gain everything we must first be prepared to lose everything,’ and that is by no means an understatement!

This might all seem thoroughly depressing on the surface of things, but if one is prepared to pause for a while and look more closely at our largely superficial, intensely distracted day to day life; something unspeakably grand, joyful and filled with hope begins to emerge.

Normally we peer out into our lives through the mist of our mind-made assumptions about what is and what is not. From this viewpoint, we get a very narrow and often unhopeful sense of our existence. Yet in actuality, exactly the opposite is true. If the mists of confusion can be bypassed, something unimaginably beautiful begins to emerge. That we should know and understand that we are so much more than we appear to be, is incredibly important. This is our hope; this is our way out of an endless cycle of misery and delusion.

In the end, we are confronted with a choice. Do we struggle on in samsara believing that everything that we think and do is real and true? Or do we give ourselves a pause which can bring into focus, a completely new way of living in this world? We know the ‘old’ way and few of us are satisfied with that. Is it not time to at least consider that there might be another way?

Self-Enquiry demands a sincere probing into the mystery that surrounds us and that is within us, each and every moment of the day and night and yet of which we remain, for the most part, incognizant.

This crucial investigation has engaged minds since time immemorial yet all that ‘contemplation’ has not changed a single thing. It has not stayed the uncompromising hand of life or death. It has not made the least bit of difference to the inexorable law of impermanence.

Yet, neither are we the helpless victims of these universal laws. It is very important for us to know this; that each of us has within our grasp the ‘key’ to unlocking the secret of our choice-less awareness. In doing so, we are given the opportunity to rise above what we know and experience as our seeming impermanence and mortality and quite literally, to jump off the ever-spinning wheel of samsara.

No matter what our tradition, culture, racial group, or religious affiliation; as unique as each may appear to be, there is, nevertheless, a common thread that binds all together down through the misty annals of human history, into the most isolated corners of this planetary life and out into the teeming city streets of our modern world.

The common thread of our existence awaits our inner recognition.

What is it in you and I that ‘exists?’

No amount of learning or discussion, no amount of erudition or cleverness will enable us to unlock the secret that is within us. In fact, it may push us even further away from discovering the truth.

Only in simplicity and complete humility can we ever hope to come near to recognising what is nearest of all.

Voices may rise up in opposition or in agreement, but the fact remains just as it is. The final word is that of the ‘Voiceless Voice,’ of the ‘Soundless Sound’ the ‘Voice of Silence.’

Unchanging and infinite ‘Self/Being’ is at the heart of all existence.

The Voice of the Silence is the Inner Voice at the core of each and every sentient being...


Back to the Top

A Matter of Life and Death

Early one morning I woke to the sound of thunder. It was a humid pre -monsoon dawn in Boudhanath, Kathmandu. The year was 1991.

I bathed, dressed and had a light breakfast, then made my way along the lanes and pathways from the room where I was staying to the Monastery of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, which was nearby.

I knew that something ‘special’ would be happening that morning in Rinpoche’s room and I was determined not to miss it.

I reached the temple and quickly skirted the Mani wheels as I headed clockwise around the main building to the back entrance.

Once inside I was able to dart swiftly up the stairway to the third level where Khyentse Rinpoche had been staying the last several weeks and was just in time to slip inside the door before it was carefully and resolutely bolted from the inside.

I was one of the very last arrivals, all others were already inside and seated quietly on the floor. The room was full but not overcrowded. Only a selection of Tulkus, Lamas and a handful of western students were there.

The atmosphere was charged, not only with the gathering of focused and largely influential attendees, but also by the approaching storm which filled the air with flashes of lightning and claps of thunder.

Storms were a common afternoon occurrence at this time of the year in Nepal, but only rarely did they take place in the early morning hours.

I had heard the day before that Tulku Orgyen (a great Dzogchen Master) would be offering a special Long Life Empowerment to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (a contemporary and also a great Dzogchen practitioner in his own right) who had not been well for some time.

Although I had received this particular blessing already numerous times before, to be present when two such illustrious masters were coming together and under such deliciously secretive circumstances, was not something to be missed.

I quickly found a place to sit at the back of the gathering so that I could take in all the proceedings while leaning comfortably against the outer wall. The supplication chanting had begun.

Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche had already completed all of the preliminary preparations for the empowerment and a number of ministering attendant Lamas were officiating near the mandala and ritual objects which had been carefully laid out and arranged.

As soon as these prayers had been offered in unison by all those present, Tulku Orgyen launched into the main part of the ceremony.

Few people knew that this empowerment was taking place and the whole thing had been kept very hush, hush with only certain close students in the ‘know.’ If it had not been kept secret there would have been throngs of devotees hoping to attend and the sheer numbers would have made the event untenable.

All proceeded smoothly until I suddenly noticed that Tulku Orgyen had stopped reciting the prayers and was doubled over on the cushion just in front of Khyentse Rinpoche.

One of his long-time western students from Germany, a qualified doctor, who had been attending Orgyen Rinpoche for some years, was present and swiftly flew to his side. A ripple of surprise and alarm passed through and around the room, all eyes were glued to the drama unfolding at the front.

It so happened that at the moment of recitation of a certain part of the empowerment Tulku Orgyen had suffered a heart attack. Khyentse Rinpoche who was sitting right in front of him had been reading a small text while all this was going on and quietly looked up. He made some comment and then continued on with his reading.

Before long, Tulku Orgyen, with the help of one of his several sons, sat up again and continued on with the empowerment to its conclusion. It was all carried forward in such a manner that anyone not alert might have completely missed what had just taken place.

However, the irony of that morning was not lost on many of those who were present.

In the dynamically charged atmosphere, it was a moment few of us were likely to easily forget. Death had come knocking at the door of the Lama who was bestowing the ‘long life’ empowerment. Khyentse Rinpoche had acknowledged what was happening and then continued on with his reading as though it were the most ordinary of day-to-day occurrences.

The ceremony was completed without further mishap. All were given the blessing and sent on their way.

Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche lived on for many more years and Khyentse Rinpoche passed away within three months.

Both of these masters were fully accomplished in the Dzogchen ‘view’ and all of us present that eventful morning were in awe of their realization. Neither Lama feared death or life, having gone courageously beyond both, and reached stability in the ‘natural state.’

We cannot easily predict or interpret the dance and play of the forces that rule our lives.

We may forget to acknowledge the extraordinary mystery of That which powers this whole display of being born, living out the allotment of our days and then undergoing all the stages of physical dissolution during the process that we call ‘death,’ but whether it is acknowledged consciously or not, the drama of life and death is played out over and over again, relentlessly.

From the standpoint of ‘realised beings’ such as our two distinguished Lamas at the centre of this event; nothing happened because their reality was based on something so much larger; something un-shifting, unchanging and unfathomable.

We all witnessed the manner in which neither master took this incident personally, or was even particularly concerned by it. They simply noted what was happening and continued on, in the same unconcerned way in which they greeted everything that came along in the course of their day.

Having a ‘view’ as wide as the sky, what is there to fear in the passing events which occur throughout life? That which is unshakeable, unchanging and eternal is our basic, inmost nature. In abiding in this state a realised being is able to pass through all the fluctuations of transitory events while remaining completely unaffected by them and in so doing, point clearly, un-mistakenly and powerfully towards that which is our natural inheritance.


What is the moral of this story, you might ask?

Once one crosses, for good,

beyond the threshold of recognition of one’s inmost,

true nature,

one transcends forever,

the limitations of the mind,

which is chained to the relative world

and its conception of ‘life and death.’


Back to the Top

Why Should We Care?

The essential meaning, the very heart of the Dharma,

is the non-existence of a SELF in anything.

H.H.Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Despite the impression that the title of this book might give at first glance, it is not primarily about life or death but rather about that which experiences them both. Hence, the crucial word here is; WHO.

When Khyentse Rinpoche spoke of the ‘non-existence of a self in anything,’ he was pointing directly to the ‘Who.’

We have an overwhelming tendency to confuse and complicate our lives by believing in the reality of our perceptions, thoughts and emotions. We utterly believe in the existence of a ‘separate self’ and our whole life revolves around attending to the needs, desires, longings, and illusions of this assumed ‘identity.’

Of course, this is entirely natural, given the basis upon which our lives develop and evolve. Are we not trained by our parents and those close to us, from the very moment of our birth, to believe in this or that? We might ask ourselves all manner of questions as to why and how this notion of a ‘separate identity’ can and does appear, but somehow we seem to consistently fail to ask ourselves the one question which lies at the heart of everything.

Why do we exist at all and what is the basis of our existence?

This pointing question is incredibly obvious and perhaps because of this, it is also routinely ignored and overlooked.

If there is one thing that every single one of us has in common, it is that we all share the experience of our existence; of our being alive and aware.

Given the basis of this shared experience it would seem natural for us to eventually come round to asking ourselves the question; then Who Am I?

We exist because we are aware. This is not a privilege given only to a few. Every sentient life on the planet and beyond has this one fact in common, all are aware and therefore, alive.

This is the universal and unifying thread that binds all sentient life into a whole. Yet we live with this notion of an individual, separate identity and from our standpoint it seems perfectly tenable and believable and we spend our entire lives and all our energy in trying to maintain it.

Our sentience or awareness is the very basis and cause of our experience of existence.

Everything that we know, sense and see arises from the fact of our awareness.

Could the world exist for us if we had no awareness of it?

Who lives? Who dies? These are not clever or trick questions. They simply point our mind towards something so fundamental that we are seldom ever cognizant of it, as is the case with our breathing. We take it completely fore-granted that we will draw our next breath, yet if we were to examine the breathing process and all the components that come together to make it possible at all, we would have to acknowledge that breathing is really quite miraculous. How much more so, the fact of our existence!

‘Who am I, REALLY?’

This is the whole crux of the matter. However we may look upon the world and this life, it always, eventually comes back down to the question; ‘who is looking?’

This book is primarily an invitation for us to not only look inwards and question ‘who’ is really there but to give ourselves the supreme chance of actually becoming aware of who and what we really are.


Beyond Mind

We might seek out intellectual solutions to try to find an answer to this one question (who am i?) but the mind alone is not capable of answering it. It can lead us to a threshold but beyond this threshold it cannot go.

Who and what we really are is utterly beyond the scope of the mind to comprehend or understand. If we drag our ‘mind’ into searching for the answer, we eventually lead it to its own demise.

In essence, ‘nobody’ lives or dies. We are all No Bodies.

This again is not a play on words; this is actually how it is.

We can point out the mystery of our existence in a thousand different ways, using a thousand different words but in every instance we will end up in exactly the same place!

That place squarely confronts each of us with the moment to moment mystery of NOW.


The Ultimate Challenge

Getting to the very heart of this matter, which is of such vital concern to us all, is the ultimate challenge. Are we ready to strip away all of the chatter; the superfluous noise, the distracting preoccupation with endless unimportant stuff? Are we willing to look beyond the usual distinctions of ‘separateness,’ which are so favoured by the dualistic mind?

Can anything be more confronting, more terrifying or more demanding than this?

If we sincerely hope to come near to unravelling the mystery of our being and the impermanence and change that rules it, from the moment of our birth until the moment of our death, then we have already taken an important and irreversible step.

Like a snake in a pipe, we cannot withdraw the way we came, we can only gain our freedom by moving forward and forward, in this instance, leads to eventual and absolute dissolution of the personal sense of doer-ship and separateness.

We live our lives with the expectation of getting something for ‘me.’ However, the big question throws that whole perspective, upside down and onto its head.

Some might not be ready to tackle this and many might wonder why one would try at all? It is certainly scary, it is certainly unknown. Yet, in the end, is there any other choice? We live to find happiness and yet it consistently eludes us at every turn.

We may feel that getting to the heart of this question is a task utterly beyond our capacity to fulfil and yet the opposite is actually true.

We know nothing better than we know ourselves.


Back to the Top

Waking Up to Reality

We may not recognize what is actually staring us in the face but in the end, we must and will acknowledge it completely.

Until that moment of supreme ‘grace,’ we will continue to enter this world with nothing, spend our entire lives accumulating friends, family, things, position, power, influence; whatever it is that we are predisposed to want.

We will continue to long for happiness and think that we are doing all we can to obtain it and yet it will persistently elude us.

Then death will come along, just as it always does and sweep all of that away. Everything that we thought was important, everything that we worked for, hoped and dreamed for and everything we toiled to achieve.

When we die, all we can take with us is the accumulated energy of whatever has filled our minds and hearts; not our pockets. Only the sum total of our thoughts and feelings and the motivation which has powered all of them; only this much will accompany us.

Should we not, at least, give ourselves the chance of knowing the truth of our existence? To know this is to know the only happiness which is complete, changeless and inexhaustible.

Empty handed did we come into this world and empty handed we shall leave it. We have heard these words before and probably often, yet somehow the reality of them has not been fully comprehended. We still long for happiness while searching for it in all the wrong places.

Whether we agree or disagree is ultimately of no importance. Nothing, at the level of ‘mind’ or ‘body’, is going to be of use to us when the great transition comes, just as nothing can really bring us lasting happiness during this lifetime, aside from the direct recognition of our true nature.

There is no compromising the truth of our existence. We can linger on in the relentless cycle of birth and death but the mystery will patiently await our eventual recognition.

Rather than delay and continue to muddle along with all of our miserable thoughts and preconceptions, which we sincerely believe to be true and real and cling to with great tenacity, we can instead begin to understand how they usurp and deceive us. All those beliefs and preoccupations gobble up most of our day to day attention preventing us from discovering the truth of who and what we really are.

We have built up solid walls between what we perceive to be true and real and what is actually there.

It requires tremendous determination and focus in order to break the walls of our preconceptions apart and yet, in the end, this is the only way open to us.

As Annamalai Swami, one of the foremost devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi said in his graphic and very clear way;

It takes a tremendous amount of effort and fuel to get a rocket out into space, but once it has managed to cross the earth’s magnetic boundary, it will float effortlessly.

Recognizing our true nature is effortless but to reach the stage where we can constantly abide within the effortless recognition of That requires considerable and sustained focus.

Essentially, we are offered two stark choices in life. Either we live in ignorance of our true nature and continue to grasp at an unattainable happiness, or we turn our attention inward and allow ourselves to rediscover what really is and has always been present.

Without a trace of doubt, this single ‘recognition’ is the true purpose and meaning of life.


Beyond Religion

The truth is never far away from us, if it were, we could not possibly exist, not even at this moment while our eyes are scanning the words on this page.

Yet, this needs to be pointed out again and again so that in our willingness to look and to open to the spaciousness inherent within each moment, there will come a time, sooner or later, when our true nature is seen and fully embraced so that all doubt and confusion is swept away forever.

Only by recognizing what it is that powers the life within us can we comprehend the true meaning of both life and death.

We understand the practical implications when it comes to the death of a physical body, but how many know who and what empowers that body? Take the awareness away and it becomes a lifeless corpse; a composite of atoms dissolving into their former state. Can that really be all that there is? Upon sincere investigation, such an attitude makes no sense, unless we simply deny what is right in front of us. Is it not, therefore, far more pressing and urgent to discover the truth of our being now while we live?

In a state of ignorance we can spin on through the cycles of samsara endlessly, but in ‘recognition’ comes freedom from this cycle and ultimately freedom from life and death.

This truth is beyond religions, creeds and doctrines, whichever they may be; it is about seeing what is; right here in this very moment. It is about acknowledging the experience of our aliveness here and now!

Only we can discover the indisputable truth for ourselves. No other way is open to us. We could try to shun or ignore the opportunity that life presents us with, but in the end, it will only be ourselves who will suffer by this.

Mass self-deception is the current norm and yet the tide is beginning to change. More and more people are starting to question the things that were at one time purely in the realm of religion and deemed, ‘sacrosanct’ and beyond all questioning.

We do ourselves the greatest possible kindness when we begin to inquire into the nature of self. This inquiry can bring about the beginning of the dissolution of ignorance and all the suffering, hope and fear that accompanies it.

...And we need not fear death if we have used this life

to recognize who we really are,

as we live, from moment to moment.

For in doing so we begin to understand what life and death really are. When we know the ‘truth’, beyond reason and beyond religion,

then we can see that we are already free…


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Who Will Hear the Call?

We are actually living out the greatest mystery of all. We are partaking in an infinite display which manifests as the drama of birth, life and death. If we are ever to make sense of any of it there are some questions that will help us to focus our attention. For instance, we can ask ourselves, Who is Born? Who Lives? And Who Dies?

By asking ourselves these fundamental questions we focus the mind on our most basic experience. Each of us is born, each of us is alive now and each of us will one day die. All these questions can be condensed into just one.

Who am I?

Rather than becoming fully engrossed in the drama of life and death, we would do well to examine what it is that makes that drama possible in the first place.


We cannot know the place or the time, but we can be sure that our ‘awareness will come knocking.’

We may or may not heed its call,

but it will call us even so.

The drama of our lives provides us with a vast stage upon which we can be brought,

at last, to heed the unrelenting call, and yet,

we must permit ourselves it to do so,

we must actively and willingly co-operate.

Again and again, the drum of awareness is resounding.

The call of awareness echoes from the very heart of silence itself

and the lone drummer untiringly,

sounds the soundless summons.

Who will heed this summons? Who will hear this call?


Who Knows?

The great illusion of self-identity holds us in its thrall. From moment to moment we breathe our life-force into perpetuating its empty dance. The drama seems so real, so fascinating, so all encompassing, but when the current of awareness is snapped, the puppet falls to earth as a lifeless tangle of decaying flesh and bones.

Who was it that cared? Who was it that animated the puppet that danced that dance of life with so much urgency that it could no longer see or know its own true nature?

Unravelling this ‘mystery’ is at the heart of the question; Who Am I?

To find out, we need to dive deeply into the space between our thoughts.

That space which is thought free, uncontrived and thoroughly relaxed is an open doorway leading to the direct recognition of our own true nature.


Mind the Gap

The following description is included to help create a mood of introspection and inner calm. Meditation is not about focusing the mind so much as moving beyond the mind altogether. There is a space between every thought which is inherently filled with our uncontrived and natural awareness. In discovering this ‘gap,’ we allow ourselves to reconnect with our inmost true nature.


In the early 1990,s I spent several months in a retreat centre which was located near a place called Asura Cave in Parping, a small village on the southern fringes of the Kathmandu Valley. This cave was said to be the place where the great Master Padmasambhava, realized the state of ‘Mahamudra’ (one taste).

Day after day I would climb the hill behind the cave. In the still, early afternoon air, which throbbed with heat and sleepiness, one seldom met anyone on the way. Indeed, many were taking a nap during those very hours.

Each day I would walk past the cave and take a small dirt track up the hill behind. This path wound its way steeply between rocks and shrubbery. The smell of ash from countless sticks of incense filled the air with a peculiar, sweet pungency which could almost be intoxicating at this time of the day. It was this smell that I associated with the place, the time and with the atmosphere. Like a struti note countless insects sang in a ceaseless chorus and bird calls echoed on the breeze.

At a certain point after climbing up the path, the way opened out to a magnificent view which swept down the valley, across undulating fields of rice paddy and on into the descending, dusty distance. Occasionally one could spot the glistening spires of Himalayan peaks far, far away to the north.

Even though I knew they were always there, it was only very infrequently that I could gaze upon those snowy summits from this vantage point and be thrilled by the spectacle of distant peaks. More often than not they were shrouded by the clouds, haze, dust or pollution that rose in the intervening space between.

A few more steps and I would arrive at a small terrace-like plot of earth which rested directly above the ancient cave. There were a few scrubby trees here and there. These had somehow escaped being felled by the kukri knives of the village women who came each day to gather fodder for their cattle and goats. Even so, the limbs of all these trees had been hacked and chopped at so relentlessly over the years that they could never grow beyond a certain stunted height. Between these small trees were hung line upon line and row upon row of colourful prayer flags which fluttered and waved in the breezes.

I would invariably turn my back on the grand view that swept down into the valley of Kathmandu in favour of a less spectacular vista which opened out onto a small group of hills which were dotted with tiny hamlets, nestled here and there between the folds of bare earth, greenery and layered rice terraces. One friendly branch offered some welcome shade from the heat and glare of the westering sun and there I would sit, motionless.

At that time of the day, the sunlight would appear to glitter on the leaves of a distant Bodhi tree at the base of a nearby hill. This shimmering would invariably and very quickly engross my attention and still the wandering, restless mind.

I cannot say why a few glistening leaves could hold the attention enthralled hour after hour, day after day, but come noon, the irresistible pull of that one spot on the hill would draw me from the dusky interior of my room and out into the light of day.

In the stillness of those hours, there was a silence so full and so overpowering that ‘thought’ was not even possible. In the absence of thought came a spaciousness that would give wings to the current of life within.

The happiness and peace of those silent hours could assuage even the sharpest anguish, restlessness or pain that might appear at other times. If on certain days, I happened to climb the hill with a heavy heart, burdened by the transient, but nevertheless, sharp worries of the world, within minutes of arriving there, all would be swept away in the blessed ‘shine’ of those distant, dancing leaves of light.

The eyes were open and yet unseeing, the breath came and went less and less. There was a sense of merging towards the hub of a gigantic turning wheel. While the world spun on its way, all that had been previously scattered, now drew in and focussed itself to a potent point which had no circumference.

Grace flowed like an intoxicating balm into the weary waters of the mind.

In stillness, wisdom arises spontaneously.

The one who sees and knows and thinks ceases to be and there is only the ‘being’ itself, only the ‘seeing’ itself…


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When Life Shakes Things Up

Know Thyself

Life can be a double-edged sword. On the one side, we can get lulled to sleep by our beliefs, routines and distractions and all can appear to be well and yet at any time challenging events can suddenly arise and help us to wake up. We usually see these shake up moments in our lives as something unwanted and disruptive, but what if we took them to be the ‘Omens of our Awareness?’

These events can potentially become our greatest motivators, pushing us to investigate our notions of ‘self’ more closely. It is so easy to fall into a routine of habits and doings and tick off the years and decades without so much as a backward glance, but sometimes we get lucky.

Sometimes our awareness comes along and gives everything a good shakeup and then our cosy world suddenly no longer appears quite so cosy or dependable. It is unfortunate that we generally need to go through rough stuff before we get motivated enough to look more closely at the nuts and bolts of our lives, but this is generally the way things are.

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