The Way of No Path

From time to time someone will say that there are no doctrines or methods or paths by or through which awakening happens. There is just this perfect awareness presently manifesting as multiplicity. There are countless variations on this concept; it’s a staple of the contemporary nondual movement.

The fly in the ointment is that saying “there are no doctrines or methods or paths” is itself a path. It is – as virtually everything is once we resort to language – dualistic. No-path is only possible when there is a path. When we declare that we’ve got it, and that it can’t be found by any method, then we’ve implicitly declare a method – the method of renouncing all methods. We are on the way of no path, which is a path.

It’s better to simply accept that as soon as we start talking about awakening, no matter how efficient or eloquent or well-intentioned our speech is, we’re merely babbling. Language is fun and interesting, and it can be helpful in its way, but when we take it literally it becomes distracting blather. The difference is one of investment – specifically, who is investing in what.

The thing is, people want to hear this stuff and so there are people who are going to say it. The one begets the other. You and I – right here in the text – are proof of that. But this mutual arising is not inherently problematic. We don’t have to fix it so much as just let it be. We might compare it to viewing a garden – we have a preference for yellow chrysanthemums, say, and yet the garden is full of yellow, red, orange, purple and white chrysanthemums, and other kinds of flowers to boot. So we just focus on the yellow ‘mums. We get off on what we get off on, and let the other flower watchers tend to their preferences. No big thing.

But we can make it a big thing! We do this by insisting that yellow is the best color and then striving to not see all the other colors save to disparage them. We might start coming up with internal justifications for this effort – write books and blog posts. We might start trying to persuade others to only see yellow, to join us in advocating yellow. If we can make it a movement then we can start giving purveyors of non-yellow flowers a hard time. We can get rid of everything that isn’t yellow! And won’t life be dandy then.

All this can happen very subtly. It shows up for most of us from time to time, in varying degrees. I’m hardly immune and trust you aren’t either. And the thing is – again – there is nothing wrong that we’ve discovered that the way to oneness is to see there is no way. I wrote something similar in my notes the other day – “the only sight required is that no insight is required.” There’s nothing wrong with saying it or even believing it.

But when it rises to the level of attacking others – under the guise of helping them or otherwise – than it does behoove us to give attention in a gentle sustained way as to what is really going on. We’re not bad or evil, but we are maybe indulging distraction.

A Course in Miracles puts it this way.

Salvation is the recognition that the truth is true, and nothing else is true . . . Truth cannot have an opposite . . . Nothing but the truth is true, and what is false is false (W-pI.3:1, 5, 9).

Thus, we can say the truth is true without effort. No amount of doing, non-doing or undoing can change this simple fact. You can share it, not share it, sell it, twist it, ignore it and it won’t change. It is unaffected altogether by you and me because we are just appearances within it. Just as a reflection in a pool can’t cause a ripple, you and I can’t disturb the clear stillness of Truth.

So within the context of believing that we are separate actors with volition and all that, what is to be done?

If you’re awake, then let your waking be. If you’re asleep, let your sleeping be. Whatever you are calling this experience – this beingness, this humanness, this whateverness – just let it be and see what happens. Just give attention to what is happening – the people on paths, the people arguing in favor of paths, the people wondering if there’s any such thing as paths, and the welter of your response to it all.

Make contact if you can with the self who cares about these things, and wants to be right and sure about them, and who believes there are other selves who, like us, have a choice in such matters. You might make a discovery that will lead you to an inner peace that surpasses understanding. Or maybe you’ll just fritter a few hours away in quasi-meditation. And that’s okay, too.

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