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Mystics near where you live

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I was reading the Boeddhistisch Dagblad and came across a couple of short articles about a man called Hein Thijssen. He appeared to be an authentic Dutch mystic. I’ve translated a section of the article...

Hein Thijssen (1922-2008), was a former pastor, who said goodbye to church and Christianity at a later age and started a painful inner awakening process. The result of this process was a healed human, empty of all cerebral ballast and completely liberated. At the age of eighty he wrote the book "Empty and liberated, report of a lifetime" (2003).

Hein Thijssen went public in old age with his awakening and his insights. The last six years of his life he started writing about this (seven books in total) and giving interviews. Although he himself realized that the cake had almost run out (his own words) - and was at peace with it - he might have been able to inspire even more people. He was such an engaging, warm personality, with a penetrating, redeeming and universal "message". And let's not forget his wonderful, dry humor; "What I write is not a message to others, because I don't believe in messages, except what I have to do in the supermarket" ("Empty and Free", p. 12)[a pun, groceries and message are the same word in Dutch]. And this: "Life is a shitty blackbird. It flies and poops effortlessly and without thinking" (Article in Boeddhistisch Dagblad, April 6, 2015).

That philosophy covers the area between psychology / pedagogy and true, authentic spirituality (not to be confused with religion or new-age spirituality). Thijssen has that in common with, for example, Jan Geurtz. Both focus on the natural state of man and both point to the misconceptions and erroneous assumptions that obscure it; both also pay close attention to self-rejection as a result of painful and repressed childhood experiences that have blocked the experience of that natural state. Where Jan Geurtz approaches true spirituality from the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition, Hein is imbued with "naturalness" (in accordance with the Tao). Both can be placed against the background of Nonduality and Advaita. In one of his later books, Hein himself wrote a kind of declaration of love to the Advaita, which he only really got to know after his liberation.

I find it interesting that such an archetypal Dutch man, with a Christian background, in his old age turns out to be a mystic. He applied Arthur Janov’s primal therapy on himself in order to find out more about himself, and make progress in his process.

Do you know of any typical local mystics in your area?

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Do you know of any typical local mystics in your area?

    Yes.
    One is a Catholic, one a Lama, one a retired shop keeper ... and that is just my street.

    They really do just appear when you are still enough to notice ...

    BunksFosdickKerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:

    Do you know of any typical local mystics in your area?

    Yes.
    One is a Catholic, one a Lama, one a retired shop keeper ... and that is just my street.

    They really do just appear when you are still enough to notice ...

    I’m glad you are so well served in this area @lobster... there are a few here as well, there is an excellent tv series here called “Everyone Enlightened” where the presenter Narsingh goes travelling through the countryside, and he visits all kinds of people who say they are enlightened in some way and will help you to become enlightened! I found a fragment for you:

    Unfortunately what you quickly realise is that there is a bit of a difference between making the claim and actually being the real deal. There’s one guy who gives sweat lodge sessions and is a bit of a shaman, is he an enlightened mystic? I suspect not.

    So perhaps we should try to do is identify those few people who actually have a genuine message to pass on? After all there probably are some, maybe people who don’t very much seek the spotlight, but a visit to whom could be genuinely illuminating.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I understand your reticence over the word @Bunks

    Some Therevadins and atheist Buddhists are not comfortable with the term. It might be better to use another description:

    -Truth finder and keeper
    - Advanced ordinary person
    - Poetically licensed alternative
    - Goodly
    - Nicer
    - Sealing

    and so on

    or maybe just Knower ...

    Bunks
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    All of @lobster’s suggested alternatives have some validity. For me, mystics are those people who have seriously gone exploring within, I’m comfortable with the term from long useage. But please use whatever term makes you feel comfortable.

    The difficulty with these people is to distinguish the genuine and worthwhile from those who are just there looking for a comfortable gig. As an example of a genuine one you could look at Douglas Harding who came up with the headless way.

    Bunksrocalalobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Anyway in Hein’s case, he had some interesting thoughts... I came across this:

    Hein concluded that the practice of virtue does not lead to anything. The virtues that we pursue through meditation, affirmations and exercises remain learned tricks, as long as nothing has been converted in the "(ego) system". Hein had valued these virtues - compassion, empathy, charity, inner peace, and harmony - in his lifelong priesthood, but after 50 years of asceticism and practice he came to the disconcerting conclusion that it had not really taken him any further.

    He came to the conclusion that a lot of the trouble came from this “ego system”. I’ve bought the book about his awakening, so we will see what it is like.

    Bunkslobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’m finding I am more interested in these people at the moment. They often have quite eclectic backgrounds, for example Jan Geurtz, who is mentioned above, started with his own experiences of addiction and then became a therapist and started to give addiction groups. He also started to write about how to cope with various forms of addiction, and later became a Buddhist teacher. A famous book of his was ‘Addicted to Love’.

    But I am especially interested in how these kinds of teachers are approaching working with the ego. A few different teachers I have come across recently have mentioned that observing the way the mind works, and especially the way the ego works, is a key process in which a lot of things are let go off. My intuition tells me it is a good direction for me to go in.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve bought the book about his awakening, so we will see what it is like.

    I’m about halfway through the book, and the first half has been about Hein’s detaching himself from the Catholic Church where he had been a monk and a priest. You can see that he is starting to question deeper and deeper, first God, then his relationship with Jesus, then the whole credo.

    Its clearly written and a short book.

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Mystics near where you live

    No but as Bob once said.... there's a Natural Mystic blowing through the air...

    Sadly... the lyrics say it all ....

    Alex
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    Sounds interesting @Kerome. What language is the book in? Can I find it online?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It’s in Dutch, and it isn’t online anywhere I am afraid. But I was pleased to find it, people who are really practical in the area of gnosis or knowing are relatively few, I try to seek them out whenever I can.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited March 31

    He talks about how after he left the church behind he spent time looking at reincarnation, and how he felt it was a very comforting thought to think that he might come back to do all the things he might have missed out on. He cites the literature of Edward Cayce. But then he goes on to say that looking back on things he was surprised that he didn’t notice sooner that the concept of reincarnation made no actual difference to his life. He found it was a postponement of the problem posed by the ego-system, that it was an attempt by egoic thinking to push the problem into the far future and especially not make any changes now.

    He also discusses Buddhism, and he says he finds it strange that the noble eightfold path is something that should be practiced in order to bring you to your Buddha nature, your natural state. He finds the practice of virtues unnecessary, as someone in their natural state would avoid doing certain things anyway.

    adamcrossleylobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 1

    He writes: “Among the greatest blessings of my life have been my encounters with the wisdom of the East, in the way that it is brought forward in the observations of Gautama the Buddha and Lao Tsu. Neither has been my path, because that lies in myself and nowhere else, but they were the ones who with great wisdom showed me the way.”

    “I speak about observations, and not as everyone else about teachings. Buddha and Lao Tzu have no teachings. They merely did a series of very sharp observations. If you can use those, you can put the thousands of writings and commentaries by sages of the East to one side.”

    “The Buddha proclaimed four observations to his yogi friends. The first observation is that we experience life as bitter and hard. The second observation is that bitterness and frustrations are caused by chasing after and thirsting for things that are temporary in nature and are addictive, causing attachment and consequently the fear of loss, which then cause bitterness, frustration sadness and stress. The third observation was that this unnatural chasing after addiction and attachment should be let go of. The fourth observation is that once that unnatural grasping, the slavery to the system, has ceased, then the inner nature of man is freed and can develop in harmony and in totally natural fashion.”

    “This is the end of all bitterness and hardness. This natural state of man manifests in thinking and acting that will be entirely natural and bring no difficulty or strife. The natural man can do no other than think and act in this way.”

    I thought it was an interesting interpretation of the four noble truths and nirvana.

    adamcrossleylobsterWalker
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Some further writing: “Now someone can ask himself, what does natural thinking and acting look like? How should I imagine that to be? Gautama answers this question by giving four examples of natural thinking and four of natural acting. These are actually also observations. For example the human being returned to his natural state, empty and free, will have a right insight into the nature of things and into his own natural actions.”

    “What concerns me is the following: that these observations together are called the eightfold path. I find this an unfortunate, confusing, even faulty expression that can easily cause people to draw incorrect conclusions. This has happened almost everywhere. People think that if you spend enough time and effort practicing the virtues that you can then reach nirvana. By using the word path the impression is created that it leads somewhere, that it has a destination and a finish. And that is not the case. It is simply the path that the freed, awakened, natural person walks, not to reach anywhere, but in the sense that there is a way of natural living, after you have reached the state of freedom and emptiness, or nirvana.”

    “I am convinced that there are thousands and thousands more, especially among the elderly, who live in this natural state and are awake and also display this effortless and natural behaviour. Except with this difference that they cannot put into words or will have no need to, but they will recognise what I am saying. There is nothing so normal as natural behaviour, it is totally un-newsworthy.”

    “The risen, awakened, freed man is his natural state. To that state there is no path, and certainly no supernatural one. It is all already there. It only has to be freed. One only has to let go, and that happens naturally when the time is there. And at the same time as this letting go, one is released, and one is empty. Wonderful.”

    “For years I have immersed myself in Buddhism, in Hinayana and Mahayana and many of their writings. I was fascinated by Zen. However the only thing, the core of everything were the simple observations of Gautama the Buddha, as I have described them. These observations have since been my guide. The question that remained was, how do I come to this letting go, where you would be free? The lore was very logical, but how? Zen kept me interested for a long time, yet it did not really give me what I needed.”

    Very interesting, and I’ll write a little next about his actual process of finding freedom.

    adamcrossleylobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    This is great @Kerome, are you translating yourself?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 1

    Yes I am @adamcrossley I am fluent in both languages and familiar with Buddhist terminology in both so have no problem translating idiom, sayings and subtleties of language. I will admit to paraphrasing some things and skipping some paragraphs, think of it as somewhat abridged. It’s fun, I think I will do one or two more sections and then I’ll find a good place to stop.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 1

    The writing continues: “From the preceding it will be clear that the ‘system’ has always been the main problem in my life, which muddled my thinking and kept me in its stranglehold. My suspicion is that this is the case with most people, but I do not wish to speak a judgement about this. I only report my experience. I should strongly emphasise that that the ‘system’ is not an independent thing, against which I should fight. It was nothing but a colouration, a quality, a sickness of my being, my thinking, my feeling and even my body. It was a tear in myself. It was a way of unnatural living that had formed in the years of my existence, without me wanting it to, without me being conscious of it, and without me even having any control over it. Now I know it was an unconscious fear that without a system I wouldn’t survive, or at least be dreadfully unhappy. Totally ungrounded, I now know.”

    “When I started waking up, I discovered how unnatural it all was, how unconsciously tense and unfree I was living. When I discovered this, a process began and started unfolding by itself, although it’s completion would take a long time. I felt very strongly that we were not meant to live unnaturally, tense and unfree. If that was the case then there must somewhere be a solution, a healing. What did I need to do to end that which blokkaded me, and take all the parts of me back to a unity? What did I need to do to become an integral whole? How should I bring about a natural religion within myself?”

    “One day a thought from the Tao te Ching arose in me: what if the only way to complete this process was just to do nothing? Let everything take its natural course and see what happened? I thought it would be worth putting this into practice. Lao Tzu had observed that everything, even the unnatural, had its own Tao which would take it on to its passing away. The only way to stop the unnatural from passing away was to fight it, or push it away. The only activity which was left to me was to witness, looking, not avoiding, or closing the eyes.”

    “Would the system bleed dry by no longer fighting against it? I did not know. It took a long time before I tried it, surrendering blindly to the attempt. Later on I discovered this was the moment of my ‘leap of faith’. Not one jump, but a continuous jumping, a way of living. But that only happened once I discovered something very strange was happening with this witnessing, that when I lay flat on the ground I would experience this catastrophic basis pain, a primordial pain. In those periods I would sink into the depths, to the root of all the tensions and reactions that carried on inside me.”

    More to follow...

    lobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    One day a thought from the Tao te Ching arose in me: what if the only way to complete this process was just to do nothing? Let everything take its natural course and see what happened? I thought it would be worth putting this into practice.

    Very interesting. It sounds a little like Shikantaza. I’ve wondered recently what it would be like to surrender completely to meditation, to resolve, like the Buddha did, not to get up until one was enlightened. The mind would come up with all sorts of great reasons to get up and do something else. What would it be like to politely refuse them all and just go on witnessing?

    To be honest, I just haven’t been brave enough to try.

    @Kerome, have you ever tried meditating for many hours at a time?

    Alexlobster
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    The issue often found in Buddhism is the translation into different languages. It causes a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

    The word "Dukkha" being interpreted into English simply as "Suffering" is a classic example.

    And when it comes to Nibbana, how does one describe the indescribable?

    Shoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited April 2

    And when it comes to Nibbana, how does one describe the indescribable?

    Suggestions in a post to the usual place, preferably not empty ... some form ...
    Thank you o:)

    BunksKerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    Very interesting. It sounds a little like Shikantaza.

    You could say that. You could argue that what happened to Hein was not only something he did, but something that happened naturally once he let it unfold in a series of meditative trance states where he experienced his ‘primordial pain’ and witnessed it.

    @Kerome, have you ever tried meditating for many hours at a time?

    I have never gone beyond a few hours, although I have carried a meditative attitude into the rest of my life in recent years.

    Bunksadamcrossleylobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    The writing continues: “So what was this primordial pain? The description I came to as a result of everything I had gone through was this, the primordial pain is what I call the result of all unresolved feelings and pains from my earlier history, which I had never felt or integrated before, which I had pushed away and which had remained smouldering within. As soon as these became inflamed and activated, I immediately felt tension, my muscles and other bodily functions would respond, like heart rate, blood pressure and all manner of reactions in thought and emotion. Everything was unconsciously summoned in defense, because this was the catastrophic something that should not at any cost be allowed to become conscious.”

    “Around this I had built the system. The system took action, and it made me flee for all manner of things. That flight had as purpose to reduce the tension within. Such it was for me: immediately light a cigarette, or start to work on something I liked and could lose myself in. All kinds of things I took to hand, as long as I was away from myself. It could have been alcohol or drugs, but they were not in my path. These discoveries I made later, after I had surrendered myself many times and had been flooded with these basic pains.”

    “It always started with not fighting, not rejecting, just being a witness. Witness of my irritations, my anger, my desperation, the fact that I felt worried, rejected or humiliated. But this witnessing repeatedly led to feeling what was beneath these emotions. If I then had the courage to feel what was really going on, and with an extreme effort forced myself not to look away or close myself off, then every time it became a submerging, a baptism. Then I came to stand face to face with the origins of these painful tensions in me, and I had to surrender to feeling them.”

    “The real origin of all these hidden feelings was a deep loneliness, a feeling of being cast out, of being rejected, that ‘nobody would love me as I was’. The conviction lived in me that people only liked me for what I could do for them, not for who I was. And that when push came to shove I would always have to stand alone. That was the real pain that at some point in my life had assaulted me, which had generated such a fear in me that I could not bring myself to feel it and integrate it.”

    I’ll see if I can do one more.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Once more: “This witnessing which, when it was bad, resulted in repeatedly feeling pain, ultimately became a way of completely relaxed living. After every witnessing I had less to defend. After all I had faced this never before felt and experienced primordial fear, the process which once more made me one single whole. There was nothing left smouldering. What was left to defend?”

    “As long as this carried on piecemeal in measures I could handle, there was also the disappearance of all neurotic defenses. In other words: the system disappeared, the ‘I’, the delusions about myself, the lie. Tensions started to disappear, thus defense, avoidance and addiction were no longer necessary.”

    “The amazing thing was that every witnessing was followed by clear insight and understanding. This was no surface phenomenon or cerebral seeing. This was an understanding for which there were no words. Every time it was a freeing. When things went well, the healing process of nature thus did its job gradually, without being hindered. At a certain moment, after such an event, I stopped smoking over the course of two days, after years of having smoked regularly.”

    “It became a real cleansing process that was accompanied by countless insights into myself and others. That was the time during which I began to lose all my mental baggage. One thing has become very clear to me and that is that mental insights will never be the cause of a healing, a catharsis, a liberation. It can look that way, but it will only be an appearance.”

    I think I will stop there. The chapter continues, but I think I’ve given a fair flavour of the man and his process. It seems clear to me he went through something real, a process of healing the inner human being. In a later chapter in the book he talks about emptiness, which is the other part of his experience, besides his liberation.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran
    edited April 2

    You don’t read such clear descriptions of awakening very often. It’s super valuable. Perhaps you should do the official translation 😄

    After every witnessing I had less to defend.

    This really stuck out for me. I remember Robert Wright talking about all of the defence mechanisms that are trying to protect us but only end up causing us suffering.

    Kerome
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    This is cool. I wish there was an English translation available. Thanks for giving us some of the highlights.

    Keromelobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 2

    Thanks guys, it’s nice to know it is appreciated.

    @adamcrossley said:
    You don’t read such clear descriptions of awakening very often. It’s super valuable.

    I agree, that’s why I took the time to translate some passages. But I think it is also a good demonstration of why I seek out such mystic writings. Not every person who writes up their experiences in this field produces a gem, but once in a while you come across something exceptional.

    In a way this also touches on something we were discussing on the other thread, the fact that Buddhist monks don’t produce enlightenment accounts, or rather, are forbidden to do so by the vinaya. I think it’s a great shame, because for the genuine seeker these descriptions provide very clear guideposts about possible avenues in practice.

    Of course, you can see why the vinaya forbids such literature. If a monk’s description would turn out to be anything like Hein Thijssen’s account, you might well get things that were in conflict with what the Buddha had said. Perhaps it is a good thing for such accounts to be written entirely from a perspective of freedom, and not from being part of a monastic order.

    adamcrossleylobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited April 3

    Yeah, it makes sense to not want a bunch of monks to be able to go around and regale lay-followers of their powers and attainments. Obviously it would allow those with the best stories to get the most patronage, and some experiences may conflict leaving one in doubt of who is right and whose teachings to follow. At the same time, I enjoy reading about people's experiences and what they did that led them there. Few accounts exist of Theravadin monks, but a few were willing to share their accounts. Ajahn Maha Bua was one, though.

    adamcrossleylobsterFrogpondKerome
  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    the ultimate mystic is the dharmakaya,imo.in dao she is the mother of infinite meaning.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 5

    @Jason said:
    At the same time, I enjoy reading about people's experiences and what they did that led them there. Few accounts exist of Theravadin monks, but a few were willing to share their accounts. Ajahn Maha Bua was one, though.

    Thanks for this, I’ll read the Ajahn’s dhamma talks and see what he has to say, it looks very interesting. I find these books inspiring and good pointers along the way, sometimes you come across a passage which dramatically changes your understanding and gives insight.

    adamcrossleylobster
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