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Commentary by Richard Lang

See video presentation of this experiment

Who are you really? Not who are you in other people’s eyes, or in the mirror, or according to your beliefs and unexamined assumptions, but in your own direct experience.

Great spiritual teachers say you are not your appearance – deep down, secretly, nearer to you than your breathing, you are capacity for the world. They say that to discover this wonderful truth about yourself you must look simply and innocently, as a child looks. Where do you look? Right where you are, at the Looker. When? Now.

To see Who you really are, carry out the following experiment.

When you point anywhere in the world you point at appearances. You are distant from what you are looking at and you see things, you see objects. Observe this – direct your attention at things by pointing at them. (The following images are a guide only -- it's imperative to actually DO the experiment.)

For example, I can see the shapes and colours of this room…

of my foot...

...of my knee

of my chest...

In all these instances attention is directed outwards, at objects.

Now point where others see your face.

What do you see? You are now looking inwards – turning the direction of your attention round 180˚ from the objects out there to you the Subject, to the place you are looking out of. Do you see your face? Do you see anything at all there - any colour or shape, any movement?

Looking in to the place where others see my face, I find no colour or shape here. I find boundless capacity or awareness this side of my pointing finger. This capacity is empty, clear, transparent. It is self-evidently awake, aware.

At the same time this capacity is full of everything happening in it: my finger, my view of the scene beyond, sounds, feelings…

I am now seeing Who I really am – seeing the boundless One at the very heart of myself, the One in whom the world is happening.

What do you find? Are you also looking out of this wide-open, crystal clear, awareness?

Continue with another experiment

See Douglas Harding's description of his first Seeing

Quotations (collected by Douglas Harding)

1. What To Look For
Like the empty sky It has no boundaries, yet It is right in this place, ever profound and clear. Yung-chia Hsuan-cheh

Into the soul's essence no speck can ever fall.  Eckhart

Seeing into one's self-nature is seeing into nothingness. Seeing into nothingness is true seeing and eternal seeing.  Shen-hui

It is as if, in the middle of one's being, there were a non-being. The Confucians call it the centre of emptiness; The Buddhists, the terrace of life; the Taoists, the ancestral land, or the yellow castle, or the dark pass, or the space of former heaven.  The Secret of the Golden Flower

Penetrate into the centre of nothingness. Creep as far as you can into the truth of your nothingness, and then nothing will disquiet you.  Molinos

When a man is awakened he melts and perishes.  Rumi

The loving contemplative, in his ground wherein he rests, sees and feels nothing but an incomprehensible Light; and through that simple Nudity which enfolds all things, he finds himself, and feels himself, to be that same Light by which he sees, and nothing else.  Ruysbroeck

There is no longer any need to believe, when one sees the truth.  Al-Alawi

He is the true Saint, who reveals the form of the formless to one's vision, who teaches the simple way of attaining Him.  Kabir

2. Where To Look
The first of the famous Three Gates, or Three Questions, of Zen Master Ts'ung-yueh was: "Where is your self-nature?"

People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst.  Hakuin

Hakuin's whole life was shining the light onto the place where he stood.  Abbot Amakuki Sessan

The Sage rejects That but takes This.  Lao-tzu

Man gets lost, settles abroad, goes so far out he cannot get back again.  Eckhart

Our being here is our eternal being. Many people imagine here to have creaturely being, and divine being to be yonder. It is a popular delusion.  Eckhart

Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand.  Hui Ming Ching

Drink of this Presence! Be not thou a jar
Laden with water, and its lip stone-dry;
Or as a horseman blindly borne afar,
Who never sees the horse beneath his thigh.  Rumi

What, then, is spirit? The Spirit of here and now. And the God? The God of here and now.  Plotinus

3. How To Look
The ignorant reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see.  Huang-po

Observe things as they are and don't pay attention to other people.  Huang-po

He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.  Blake

The Sage all the time sees and hears no more than an infant sees and hears.  Lao-tzu

Unless you turn round and become like little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus

The old man in his days will not hesitate to ask an infant of seven days about the place of life, and he will live.  Gospel of Thomas

Everyone under heaven says that our Way is greatly like folly. But it is just because it is great that it seems like folly. As for the things that do not seem like folly - well, there can be no question about their smallness!  Lao-tzu

God is not seen except by blindness, not known except by ignorance, nor understood except by fools.  Eckhart

To one who knows naught It is clearly revealed.  Eckhart

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity… We fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.  Wittgenstein

The average person, while he thinks he is awake, actually is half asleep. By 'half asleep' I mean that his contact with reality is a very partial one; most of what he believes to be reality (outside or inside of himself) is a set of fictions which his mind constructs. He is aware of reality only to the degree to which his social functioning makes it necessary.

I believe I see - but I only see words; I believe I feel, but I only think feelings. The cerebrating person is the alienated person.  Erich Fromm

We should be as very strangers to the thoughts, customs, and opinions of men in the world, as if we were but little children. So those things would appear to us only which do to children when they are first born.  Traherne

4. Who To Look For
O Lord, to me you are wholly visible, and your substance is fused with my nature.  Simeon the New Theologian

I see God more real than I see you.  Ramakrishna

The pure in heart shall see God.  Jesus

God does not proclaim Himself, He is everybody's secret.

God made the senses turn outwards: man therefore looks outwards, not into himself. Now and again a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.

He is the imperishable among things that perish. Life of all life, He, though one, satisfies every man's desire. He that dare discover Him within, knows peace; what other dare know peace?  katha-upanishadKatha Upanishad



Something interesting happened last night. I was visited by a man that I didn't know very well and he noticed a calligraphic scroll I had hanging, with only the character for "mu" (nothingness) on it. He asked, "Toler san, have you ever entered the world of Mu?" I said "Yes. Many times." He then asked "How can you do it? At what times do you do it?" I said, "Oh, you can do it anytime". He asked, "How?" So I led him through the pointing exercise. When I came to the question, "Now, what do you see at the place where your finger is pointing?" He said, "Nothing." I said, "Well, that's Mu, isn't it?" He thought about that for about ten seconds, then suddenly laughed loudly and clapped his hands and said "I've been pondering that for years, and you showed me in a minute!" and thanked me profusely. J.T. (Zen abbot) Japan

The pointing finger did the trick and I was amazed and delighted to find that what had previously only happened accidentally or infrequently after extensive preparation, was so simple, obvious and readily available. A.M. Australia

When I point the index finger towards "me" and bring it closer to where my "head" should be I find that it disappears/dissolves into "nothing". It seems that there is a powerful "black" hole here or a "nothing" hole into which the whole perceived universe is dissolved and continuously created from simultaneously. Absolutely Mind-blowing! A. Israel.

I received a gracious reply to my fan letter from Mr. Harding. Let me share with you one of the things he said. I had told him that on performing the inpointing finger experiment, I could not describe what I saw, but that nevertheless it was quite clear and obvious. He replied:

"Yes, the pointing finger is a powerful indicator. And I know what you mean when you say that you can't describe what you are pointing (in) at. However, I'm sure you’ll agree that only! this interior Clarity can be adequately described - as, e.g., boundless, empty, full, imperishable (nothing to perish), the motionless mover, and wide awake. Whereas what one is pointing out at can't ever be adequately described: countless details are missed, plus all the internal and external facts that make it what it is. As they used to say "Only God can be perfectly known, because only God is perfectly simple." Things are largely out-to-lunch. E.g. : What is my body? I could survive the amputation of this right hand for decades: how long the amputation of my Sun?"

An elegant turnabout, a profound point, and a point that he actually enables me to experience. C.C. USA.

When you look at your hand
Can you begin to understand
Who you really are?
When you look at the sky
Where does this ‘I’ stop?
Does the penny drop?
When you turn your finger back on yourself and say
“Look at who’s doing this pointing”
It can be downright disappointing
To not see a king.
For all you can see is nothing.
“What is the point?” I ask myself
But the point is not got by asking what
The point is the edge of being
And it’s got when I start simply seeing
Now I look at myself and I’m not really here to see
It’s really strange that this ‘me’
Though such an insignificant bit of immensity
Has such a propensity
For feeling all things revolve
Round its intense sense of self importance
And yet it’s true
Where this universe begins
I AM !!!

Peter Scott

What happened to me when I found the Answer, pointing my finger at the Emptiness here, was at first a reaction like: “This cannot be it; it would be too simple, too basic. Because pointing here is pointing at what I have been all my life; the real H. How can Douglas say that H. is the Answer?” But then, only a few seconds later, I suddenly realized that this most intimate experiencing of H. IS the Answer, because it is not ‘H.’ at all. It is Consciousness Itself, that had mistakenly been underestimated by the thought ‘this is only H’. At that realization, the Answer itself exploded right into my Face as what it had really always been: the Void here giving rise to the world there. Immediately I understood that there are no other people really. All ‘persons’ out there (as they appear in This Void) are in reality living from exactly this same Void here, their most intimate Me-ness. However, most of them think this Me-ness is a vulnerable little one, which makes them feel lonely and small and protective. The ego can’t handle the Reality of which it is only part itself. In fact, all I ‘did’ was see that I have an ego but I am not that ego. Now, the ego helps H. through life, and I am only witnessing and enjoying the game. H.E. Holland

Other Quotations

When you encounter some problems, if you point your finger at yourself and not at others, this gives you control over yourself and calmness in a situation, where otherwise self-control becomes problematic. The Dalai Lama.

Continue with another experiment

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