The Flame of Being – Jean Klein


A Dialog with Jean Klein and Michael Toms, 1989

MT: Jean, what is your idea of life? What is life to you?

JK: Life is consciousness and consciousness is life. But one must make a distinction between consciousness, life, and its expressions. Its expressions appear in space and time, are objects. But these objects refer to consciousness, to life. As long as you have not understood life, consciousness these expressions are still recognized as objects. But once you understand life. That you ARE the life then these objects are no more considered as objects. They are simply consciousness. They refer to consciousness and they have their home ground in consciousness.

This is a very important moment. Otherwise there is only relationship from object to object which means conflict. But when the object refers to its home ground consciousness there is no more conflict. Life, consciousness – we can never objectify it. Consciousness is the ultimate subject, the ultimate subject of all objects. As we said, it can never be an object. And we ARE consciousness. We are really when we are absent. We are the absence of ourselves. In the absence of ourselves there is life, there is consciousness, there is happiness. I love life and life is love.

Mt: We usually see something out there and what I hear you saying is that you are suggesting there is nothing or no-thing out there. That rather we are a part of it.

JK: There is nothing outside of consciousness. Objects, what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, refer; I would say have their home ground in consciousness, in life and refer to life. So there is nothing outside. All is inside. All that is outside is perceived in space and time but consciousness or life is a continuum, IS. So the expressions of life point to life. They are more or less pointers, but they are not life. They are really life when you are knowingly established in life, in consciousness. Then these objects refer to consciousness. Then they are something different. They are still in a certain way objects but not anymore objects in the ordinary sense.

MT: This is a larger definition of consciousness than we in the West are usually used to – what I hear you saying. Because I think we usually refer to consciousness as either waking or sleeping consciousness. We don’t think of consciousness as residing outside ourselves.

JK: Yes. When we speak of these three states, waking, dreaming, sleeping, the underlying reality is consciousness. Mainly we are awake in the objects. But we aren’t awake in consciousness. Consciousness, our real nature, is when there is an absence of ourselves. We are really our absence. Our absence is presence.

MT: Jean when you say that our absence is our presence. Who is absent?

JK: What we are, we can never objectify. So, all kinds of becoming, achieving, attaining is going away from what we are. What we are, is our nearest. In achieving and becoming, it can be only an object. But what we are can never be an object. We are the ultimate subject. Becoming, achieving, any technique is very good to learn a language, to learn a science, but to know what we are fundamentally – we are it. It is our nearest.

I think it is most important to see that there is nothing to attain, nothing to achieve. When you see it really, when you understand it really, all energy that you have spent to achieve, to become comes to a stop, comes to a standstill. And I would say in this standstill, there is no direction anymore where to go. All energy comes back to its home ground. And this moment refers to itself. It is its own knowing, free from any agent. So the term, we very often speak of, illumination, enlightenment, is only when you see the moment that there is nobody. The moment that you see that there is nobody, there is no entity, personal entity, that is enlightenment. So you can never go to it. You can only see what it is not, what you are not, body, senses and mind.

MT: I recall the words of Lao Tzu, “The Tao that can be named is not the Tao.”

JK: Exactly. Every step that you make, even if it is like a hair, you have only gone out of the way.

MT: We think of ourselves as rational, logical, thinking creatures. What happens to the thinking process in the midst of this living insight?

JK: Thinking, if you see it from a very high level is different thinking. Real thinking never starts with thinking. In real thinking we must look away from thinking. Like we must look away from the target (Jean makes the action of pulling a bow). So thinking must be free from all intention. Of course, rational thinking, practical thinking, scientific thinking starts with a thought. But creative thinking starts from silence. All thinking has its home ground in silence even rational thinking, practical thinking, calculative thinking.

MT: So the source of creativity may be in silence as well?

JK: Yes. In silence is our potentiality, our creativity. But this silence is not the silence of the mind. The mind from time to time can be silent. But the silence of which we are speaking is beyond the mind. When the mind understands its limits, then the mind gives freedom. And I think when the mind becomes still we are open to the real stillness, timeless moments which are no more moments, which are the eternity.

MT: Jean there is a particular desire, I think a tendency for those of us in the West to want to fill up our time, to want to be occupied, to want to have something to do and this stillness is sometimes difficult. It is difficult for us to slow down, to get off the pace that we have created for ourselves. Do you have some suggestions for how to get into the stillness when one is leading a busy life?

JK: Even when living a busy life there are moments in daily life that you are free from all occupation, free from all activities. These moments which we call an absence of activity, we are looking at simply as an absence. But in this absence, in reality, there is a presence of the timeless. So in these moments when we are free from all activity, which is not a state, we don’t go in. It is created by the circumstances that there are moments in daily life when there is nothing to do, nothing to think, nothing to undertake. In these moments when we come attuned to it, I would say we are living the eternity. When we are completely attuned to these moments, there is nobody and there is no cause. It is a causeless moment. So we should in these moments as we said completely be attuned with it. We feel the same moments very often before the body-mind wakes up, the interval between deep sleep and waking in the object. Also in the evening before going to sleep when we put all our clothes on the chair, all our qualifications on the chair. We are free from all qualifications. We feel ourself in this nakedness, and we find also in the morning before the body-mind wakes up. So these are moments when we are the timeless, when the mind is open to it.

MT: It sounds like in some ways you are describing the consciousness of little babies. There is this openness and non-self-identification.

JK: Yes, free from all purpose.

MT: They have not built up the trappings of a personal identity.

JK: Yes.

MT: Why is it you think we build up that personal identity? And then we have to, in some ways, deconstruct it.

JK: It is the fabrication of our education and father and mother, experience, society. In a certain way we have to free ourselves from what society has done with us. When we are free from the person, from the ‘I’ image, we are living knowingly in our totality. All our environments find its meaning in our totality. With our totality we are facing facts. The action comes out of the facts itself. We are coming really to this absolutely non-volitional living, free from all reaction. Every situation in our life brings its own solution and its own action. This action is creative. It is not a reaction.

MT: I think of something like how we pursue happiness. We have an experience and we enjoy it. We are fulfilled by it. We experience a sense of happiness and then the mind records that, the brain records that experience as a happy one and then we continue to pursue that experience again. We try to recreate it and it’s like something coming from the mind. It’s not the experience. And it’s like this seems to be a pattern we have in ourselves and you’re suggesting that pattern can be broken?

JK: Absolutely. It is memory. In the moment you live this happiness nobody is happy and nothing is the cause of this happiness. So in reality happiness is causeless. As the mind and the person has been affected, struck by this happiness, the mind takes it for its own and said that the cause of this happiness is this or that. Then the mind creates a state with it. Happiness is really non-dual living.

MT: Jean, in that moment of happiness that experience that we have, there really is no self- consciousness, is there?

JK: In this happiness, nobody is happy and there is not a cause for this happiness. So in other words when you say “I am happy” you are not happy. You have created a state of it.

MT: It’s almost like when we identify it, we come out of it. It’s when the mind injects itself in to the experience then suddenly we are not in the experience anymore. Is that what is happening?

JK: Exactly.

MT: So why do you think we developed this mind, why did we evolve this brain that is so wonderful and has so many possibilities? Why do you think we evolved that in the midst of this insight that you are presenting, that real happiness is outside of that mind?

JK: The brain can understand, the mind can understand what we are not, body, senses and mind. But the mind can never understand what is beyond the mind. The mind can never change the mind. It is only when you have the standpoint, the stand in consciousness.

So, seek it from another way. What seems to me very important is to accept the expressions of life. It is not a fatalistic accepting. It is really a scientific accepting. In this accepting, you will find yourself in accepting. So you don’t emphasize what you accept. What you emphasize is the accepting, the welcoming. In welcoming there is openness. So when we speak of establishing in consciousness, establishing in our real nature, I would say it is an establishing in our welcoming, when we are constantly open. In this openness there is no assertion. We welcome all that life offers to us.

So coming back to our conversation concerning thinking – I would say thinking, when you live in this welcoming, thinking becomes an offering. Thinking becomes thanking. There is nobody to thank, but nature, life has allowed us to be. That is thanking.

What we are really fundamentally is in our welcoming. The seeker Is the sought. The looker Is what it is looking for.

MT: We’ve arrived at the goal and the goal is us.

JK: Yes.

In this welcoming we are completely free from the personality. The personality acts when we need it. It is a useful tool, but we don’t identify ourself with this personality. And in this welcoming we are knowingly in our totality in our completeness. All things, all events, all situations refer to our totality. So we are completely free from choice, from selection. The moment we still are in the choice we have gone out of the way. In this welcoming there is right seeing. There is global seeing and there we’re seeing facts. It is a kind of surrender. But it is not passive. We are passive not to interfere but completely alert in the same moment.

MT: One can imagine this welcoming in the experience of positive things or seeing nature or being with a good friend, enjoying ones children. What about problems? What about welcoming pain? What about the kinds of challenges that life is filled with? How does one practice this welcoming in the midst of life’s turmoil that comes?

JK: The moment we are welcoming our life, in this welcoming there is being free from choice, being free from selection. In this choiceless state the problems of our life presents itself completely different. Problems come when you have established a personal relationship with the situation. When you see the situation from your wholeness, globality there is no problem. I would not say there is no problem but there is nothing problematic. The moment there is reactions, the moment there is resistance you have established a personal relationship. That means a choice: positive-negative, pleasure-pain and so on. In this acceptance, in this welcoming we are present. There is nothing more for end-gaining, achievement, expectation. We are really in the now, in the present. We are free from psychological memory, past-future. In this welcoming there is direct perceiving. Interpretation, estimation, evaluation, comparison belongs to the mind.

But coming back, the mind to a certain extent must understand the perspective. By the perspective I mean the limits of the mind so that the mind is open for something which is beyond the mind. In this absence of what we are not our relationship changes completely. There is no more relationship from object to object, personality to personality, man and woman. It is important. So there in this state when there is a non-relation, a relation in non-relation, that is love. There is no more demanding, asking. Otherwise relationship is more or less a kind of business asking for security, being loved, and so on, considered. It is important there is the right relation with our surroundings. Of course first one must have a right relation with oneself. One must first love oneself. One must love love. Then you can also love the surroundings.

MT: Jean, you were speaking about relationship and what I heard you suggesting is really the relationship we have with another really begins with the relationship we have with ourselves. Is that true?

JK: Exactly. As long as there is somebody, as long as there is a me there is also another. In the absence of ourself there is oneness with our surroundings. Otherwise there is only looking for security. In the absence of ourself every moment is new. Our surroundings appear from moment to moment in a new way. Otherwise we have only to do with furniture, with clichés. Generally we say I see the world, I see my surroundings. I know my wife, my husband, my neighbor. But that is only memory. We superimposed on them certain qualifications and you repeat it. You, in a certain way, you put them in a prison.

MT: So in some sense rather than relating to our wife or our mother sometimes we are relating to the memory of who we think they were then. Instead of being with them.

JK: Exactly.

MT: How do we get beyond that relationship so that we can be in the moment with whoever it is we are relating to or with?

JK: I think, the moment we become aware of it, that we see it and that we take note of how this seeing reacts on us, the impact. That is the transformation. Because generally we are living in a kind of universe of beliefs, second hand information, heresay. And we are feeling ourself not very comfortable and we are trying to go out of this universe by all means, techniques, seminars, and so on and so on. But in seeing it very clearly, the entity which desires to go out of this universe belongs to the universe. When you see it there is a stop. You find yourself automatically out of the process.

MT: Where is love in midst of relationship?

JK: There is only love in the absence of yourself. In the absence of yourself when you live in this unfurnished way there is love.

MT: So there Is no ego or self or identity in love?

JK: No, there is no identity at all in the cosmos. There is only function.

MT: Would that also be like energy?

JK: Energy which we have given some names. But there is only energy. There is only function. There is not a seer there is only seeing. There is not a hearer there is only hearing. There is not a thinker there is only thinking. There is not a doer there is only doing. The doer comes only after the done but during the doing where is the doer?

MT: So when you are in the midst of some activity you are just in the activity?

JK: Exactly. You are functioning. You are doing. But there is no doer.

MT: It is memory that creates the doer.

JK: Exactly, and it becomes a problem.

MT:  Because we start to identify with the doer and the thinker and the lover and that takes us away from who we really are?

JK: Absolutely.

MT: In some ways the necessity for that creative tension needs to be there to allow us to continue to exist as human beings. If that creative tension wasn’t there we would just sort of float away, wouldn’t we?

JK: Jean chuckles. In listening, as we said, there is not a listener. There is only listening. I think pedagogically speaking every listened should bring us back to the listening. Every heard should bring us back to the hearing.

What do you think, is there something to teach? In this optic, is there something to teach?

MT: My question would be is there something to learn?

JK: Ah. You can learn a new language. You can learn a new way of playing the piano. That is true. But what you are, there is nothing to learn. There is nothing to teach. Huh?

MT: But there may be a need for guides, for someone who has been there to show the way, someone who is there to hold up the light and say “Hear look.” Is there such a need? Do we need a teacher? Do we need a guide or can we discover this on our own?

JK: Strictly speaking, as there is nothing to teach, what is the role of a teacher? In principle, the so-called teacher is free from the teacher, is free from the teaching. And when the teacher is free from the teaching there is no pupil, there is no ignorance. So in reality, in the relationship between the teacher and the disciple the teacher is free from the teacher. He is only the flame of beingness and doesn’t superimpose ignorance on the so-called disciple. Then there is a non-relation. And in this non-relation there is really relation. There is only a current of love, a flame of awareness. So in this moment there can be what we call “teaching.” Otherwise the teacher’s role is really to tell the disciple what he is not. What he is, he can never tell him because he IS it. It is unknowable. One cannot name it, one cannot think it. One can only insist what he is not. And to tell him what he is not, in certain way, he must tell him also what it is that he is not. So the real teaching, if we still accept the word teaching, is, in a most pedagogical way, to point to the ultimate itself. So in this way there is only a value in the ‘direct approach’. All progression keeps us in a subject-object relationship.

MT: Going back to what you were speaking of earlier of becoming-is the progressive approach?

JK: So you remain in the subject-object relationship. And even after a long purification you are stuck to the subject-object relationship.

MT: I think in the United States we have the spiritual movement, and the human potential movement.  the consciousness movement. All of these movements, as it were, are always talking about becoming something other than who you are.

JK: The becoming process. Yes.

MT: It’s always the becoming process. Somehow you are not something. You need to become something else.

JK: Yes, you go away from you.

MT: So you are suggesting that this is not necessarily a good thing or a positive thing?

JK: No, no.

MT: Because it does something to our mind?

JK: Absolutely. It gives certain sweetness to the mind, sweetness to the ego. It keeps him alive.

MT: So that we miss the real?

JK: Absolutely. We become in the end a kind of ‘blank state’, which is still a subject-object relationship. Because what we are fundamentally is not a state. A state you go in and you come out. It is the underlying reality.

MT: I think of how much credence we give to the word progress. Progress is the underlying theme of our culture, of our society, that we must have progress. We must progress.

JK: Yes. There may be some apparent progress in our social structure. That I agree.

MT: But personal progress may be something totally different?

JK: Completely different, yes.

MT: Well one of the things it seems we are progressing to in life is death. In a sense, we are all dying. What is death? Who dies?

JK: It is the ego who dies. And the ego dies from moment to moment, every evening going to sleep.

MT: That’s a death?

JK: Yes. In this becoming we create constantly space and time. We create the time.

MT: It’s our conceptual mind that does that?

JK: Yes. The becoming process is completely a psychological structure.

MT: So the fear of death comes from the fear of losing identity?

JK: Exactly. The becoming is constantly for psychological survival. So memory is mainly psychological survival. It relects, to be somebody, which when (inaudible) reflects you. There is no more a role to play. Then also psychological memory goes away. Then there is still astronomical time. But this time is from Monday to Tuesday, from Tuesday to Wednesday, from six o’clock, seven, eight, nine. That’s no problem. But psychological time is constantly past-future, past-future. We are never in the now.

So in a certain way, coming back, the teacher points first in his teaching what we are not. And it is presence when he does not give any hold for the pupil to be this or that. Then really there is a teaching. There is a transmission of the flame.

MT: Jean, earlier when you were talking about relationship, we were speaking of relationship and the importance of knowing ourselves and relating to ourselves and relating. I am thinking of combining that with death and dying. What is the relationship that we should have with someone who is facing a life threatening illness?

JK: Shortly speaking, we should die with him. We should in presence with him put all our qualifications aside, being only really awareness, stillness. This stillness will stimulate the dying person. One should help him, in a certain way, in this giving up.

Have you already assisted somebody dying?

MT: Yes, I have been with someone who was dying, yes. And my experience was that it felt like words were too heavy, too much.

JK: Too heavy, as you said. It is our relaxed presence, completely relaxed, completely giving up.

MT: The same kind of letting go you were talking about in life. Letting go.

JK: Yes. But it is not a process through will, because not giving up and giving up is still something of will.

MT: Like there is something to give up?

JK: Exactly. Really letting go, giving up. Not giving up it but let it giving up itself. In this moment we feel completely dissolved in space. We are space. And the dying person needs space. His own space will be stimulated through our space. And in this space we are oneness.

MT: Do you have any insights as to what happens after death? What happens to consciousness?

JK: For consciousness there is no change. Consciousness remains consciousness. All the expressions of consciousness which means energy remain energy. And in the absence of a personal entity there is no reincarnation. Who reincarnates? Who reincarnates? For somebody who believes to be somebody there is reincarnation.

What is important, coming back to the dying person, that there must not be interference of the family. Because the family will still keep him for psychological survival. They keep the person.

MT: Very challenging to keep the family not involved. Because everybody their personality that is connected to the dying person.

JK: They are looking for security. I have several times assisted people dying. It is beautiful. When you really free yourself from all qualifications, this oneness, this nakedness is so stimulating for the dying person.

In the end there is only love and love can never die, can never be born, can never die.

Our coming here together was beautiful.

MT: Yes, I feel that way too.

JK: So there was only understanding.

MT: Yes, thank you.

Copyright© Jean Klein Foundation 1989, 2011

Copyright© Non-Duality Press 2011

You can read more from Jean Klein here.

Here is an excerpt that I found on Youtube.

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