You Are This Nakedness – Jean Klein

I have been searching for a long time for truth or God. When I began I was crippled by anxiety and fear. Now I feel I have an innate understanding of what truth is not, but I do not feel I have glimpsed what truth is.

You are looking for an experience, for God, for beauty. This means you see what you are looking for as an object. I would say: Simply inquire who is looking. When you really inquire, you will see that the looker is what you are really looking for. That is the shortest way if one can still speak of a way.

Be clear in your mind that what you are looking for can never be an object. Because you are what you are looking for, so you can never see it, never comprehend it. You can only be it. Being it means you have no representation, no idea of it. You are free from all concepts. When the mind sees this it comes to a stop. Then you find yourself in a kind of nakedness. You are this nakedness free from all qualification. So, be it really. Be completely attuned to it.

-Jean Klein

From Living Truth, page 213

Never Really Here – Jean Klein

klein2Here is something which strikes me as being rather significant, and it happens every day, one does one thing while thinking about another. For instance I often happen to put my keys down somewhere, and the next moment I can’t remember where they are, because I was thinking of something else and I was not really present. Is this not a very ordinary example showing that most of the time we are not present to ourselves?

 Yes it is. We are always somewhere else, living ahead or behind in time, we long for the future or we regret the past. We are never really here. This flight in time is of great significance. If we turn away from the present, or rather if the present is so often unable to hold our attention, it is because we conceive of it as being a known and registered reality, therefore devoid of interest, or as a disappointing one. Just so long as we have not understood that true bliss is not in objects, but in us, we continue to place our hope in the future and keep racing ahead. We thus live in a state of imbalance, bent upon, and striving endlessly towards, the future.

What we must come to understand is that awareness in the present is the only true starting point and that this starting point is at the same time the point of arrival.

-Jean Klein

From Be Who You Are, Chapter One

The Ultimate Subject – Jean Klein

You are looking for an experience, for God, for beauty. This means you see what you are looking for as an object. I would say: Simply inquire who is looking. When you really inquire, you will see that the looker is what you are really looking for. That is the shortest way, if one can still speak of a way.

Be clear in your mind that what you are looking for can never be an object. Because you are what you are looking for, so you can never see it, never comprehend it. You can only be it. Being it means you have no representation, no idea of it. You are free from all concepts. When the mind sees this it comes to a stop. Then you find yourself in a kind of nakedness. You are this nakedness free from all qualification. So, be it really. Be completely attuned to it.

-Jean Klein

Living Truth, page 213


When the seen points to the seeing, live the seeing. That is your homeground. When the seen points to the seeing, there is no one who sees and nothing is seen. There is only seeing. This seeing can never be objectified because you are it. It is your homeground. So every object can bring you back to your real nature. So when we ask for the reason for the existence of an object, it is only to reveal this homeground, the ultimate subject.

-Jean Klein

From Living Truth, page 220

Living Truth

Jean Klein: Master of Listening

klein2The last time I saw Jean Klein was in 1996 in Santa Barbara, California. Amido and I had gone with him and his wife, Emma, to see the parade downtown. We had spent the weekend helping to care for Jean and giving Emma a break. Jean had had a stroke and was also suffering from dementia, although suffering is not the right word; I couldn’t find another. He really didn’t seem to suffer though it was clear that the conditions were affecting his body/mind.

Enlightenment with dementia, not two words you expect to experience together. Jean said he was not the mind. I found myself thinking, although unreasonably, that it would not be possible to have dementia with enlightenment. But if we are not the body and not the mind why should that be so? We know that Ramana Maharshi suffered from cancer. J. Krishnamurti’s bodily sufferings are well known. But the mind suffering, somehow that seemed different. So it was a good experience to see, from the outside anyway, enlightenment with dementia. The body, the mind were both suffering from the stroke and the dementia and yet sitting with Jean or just being around him was as before. The lightness of being that was Jean was always present.

In fact I received the strongest teaching, the sharpest Zen stick from Jean during that weekend.

I first came to know about Jean Klein when a friend dropped by my new age music shop, Mysterium, in Boulder, Colorado. He handed me a copy of I Am and offered to leave it with me. After reading the back cover I immediately accepted.

What you are looking for is what you already are, not what you will become. What you already are is the answer and the source of the question. In this lies its power of transformation. It is a present actual fact. Looking to become something is completely conceptual, merely an idea. The seeker will discover that he is what he seeks and that what he seeks is the source of the inquiry.

Even before Osho left his body I had become deeply interested in self-inquiry, in advaita. I was reading Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi. Some shift had happened. Up to that point meditation consisted of awareness focused on phenomena, sensations, thoughts or feelings, but now awareness was turning on itself. This felt to be the beginning of “inquiry,” and inquiry seemed to be the entire teaching of Jean. Also, it was compelling for me that here was a Westerner who was a living master.

Discovering that Jean lived part of the year in Santa Barbara I immediately made contact with the organization and was informed that a weekend workshop would be taking place in Joshua Tree, California, in a couple of months. Amido and I participated in the workshop. Later we also attended one of his weekend gatherings in Santa Barbara. Soon we were making arrangements for Jean to come to Boulder.

During the question period in the Boulder workshop I asked Jean, “So is it this, more and more subtle?” He responded, “I would say less and less conditioned.” Through the years I have found that statement to be extremely significant.

For me the most important word in Jean’s teaching is “listening.”  He uses it in much the same way that Osho uses “witnessing.” Do you notice how similar the two words are?

We cannot precisely say what this listening is, because it is not a function. It is without intention. Being free from intention also means being free from concentration. In both we are looking for a target, looking for a result, but in listening we are simply open, directionless.

In listening there is no grasping, no taking. All that is listened to comes to us. The relaxed brain is in a state of natural non-function, simply attentive without any specific direction. We can never objectify listening, because that would mean to put it in the frame of space and time. It is listening to oneself.

In listening to oneself there is no outside and no inside. It is silence, presence. In this silence-presence there is a total absence of oneself as being somebody.

In listening we are not isolated. We are only isolated when we live in objects, but free from objects we live our essence where there is no separation. In listening there is not a you and not another. Call it love.

Jean Klein – From The Book of Listening, page 130

One night during his stay, Amido made a beautiful pasta dinner which we took to where Jean and Emma were staying. Over dinner we had some time for gossip. Jean said that he had once looked into one of Osho’s books, I Am the Gate, and read where he was talking about Hitler. Osho says that “Hitler was a vehicle for other forces. . . . He was just a means: he was used.” Jean strongly objected to Osho speaking of Hitler in those terms. Jean had helped Jews escape from Germany during the war.

In those days Poonja was very well known in the advaita circles. Jean didn’t seem to have a very high regard for Poonja, but he didn’t say why. He told us that Poonja had once stayed with him for some time in Europe. A couple of years ago I ran across the following account of one meeting between Jean and Poonja in David Godman’s book Nothing Ever Happened.

Meera [Papaji’s second wife]: It was a sort of dinner party that was attended by Papaji, Jean Klein and a small group of students from each teacher.

David [Godman]: What happened?

Meera: The disciples of the two teachers got into a debate about the teachings of their respective Masters, but the two teachers themselves kept mostly quiet. Though Jean Klein taught self- inquiry there was a lot of difference between
his and Papaji’s approach to liberation. Afterwards Jean Klein advised all his students to stay away from Papaji, telling them he was a dangerous man with a dangerous teaching. He came up to me (Meera, Papaji’s defacto wife)
afterwards and told me directly that I should leave Papaji because I would be in great danger if I stayed with him any longer.

Jean Klein’s character seemed to undergo a strange change that evening. There was a hostility and a rudeness in him that I had never seen on any of our previous meetings. He seemed to see something in Papaji that made him afraid. He wouldn’t say what it was, but he did go out of his way to tell all the people there that for their own safety they should have nothing more to do with Papaji. It was a very strange response because he had previously seemed so calm and self-assured. I was very disappointed by his behaviour and by the meeting in general. It was not a success. 

After the weekend Amido and I drove with Jean and Emma to Rocky Mountain National Park which he enjoyed immensely and commented several times on how young the mountains were.

The next year we again invited Jean to Boulder. This time he came with Leif a longtime friend. We were having a difficult time finding the right space to put Jean up and Maitri who was working with the American teacher Gangaji came forward and said he could stay in Gangaji’s mountain house. Gangaji would make other arrangements for herself.

On the day after the workshop I received a call from Maitri asking if it would be possible for Gangaji to have a meeting with Jean and so it was arranged. At the end of the meeting Maitri phoned to tell me how much Gangaji had enjoyed the meeting. Leif said Jean too had enjoyed meeting Gangaji.

By this time Amido and I were already planning to sell our house in Boulder and move to Crestone, Colorado. Because Crestone is such an alternative spiritual community, we thought it would be wonderful to arrange a workshop there with Jean.

By the summer of 1995 we had sold our Boulder house, bought a house in Crestone and began scouting out venues for Jean’s workshop. Baker Roshi had started a Zen center and that was one possibility.   A suitable building that was part of the Aspen Institute was another possibility. Before we settled on a site Jean had a stroke and it was clear that he was not going to be coming to Crestone, probably not taking any trips and certainly not to 7,500-foot elevation Crestone.

We received a call from our friend Sundro, who had been with Osho as well as Jean, telling us that he had returned from spending some time in Santa Barbara helping out after Jean’s stroke. He told us Emma could use any relief that could be offered. Amido and I made arrangements to go for a weekend and off we went.

Despite the circumstances it was a remarkably intimate time with Jean. We were a small group,  a friend of Jean’s who was his caregiver, Amido a nurse, Emma, myself and of course Jean.

One afternoon I had taken Jean out on the patio to sit and enjoy the sunshine.  I was sitting with my eyes closed when Jean said to me in a very loud voice, “What do you want from me?” It was startling because Jean was always so soft spoken, often described as having the demeanor of a European gentleman. So to hear him speak so loudly and sharply was a shock.

I had been in some subtle way begging for his bliss. There was a part of me that was reaching out to receive, rather than diving into myself. I was going to him with a begging bowl and in that moment, with that Zen stick, I could see very clearly and returned home in myself.

Emma and the aid reassured me that it was just the dementia speaking, but for me it was not. It was just what the doctor ordered and I was grateful.

Saying goodbye to Jean after the parade, with my hands held in his, gratitude overflowing and the light of awareness shining bright I bid him farewell.

– purushottama

This post is from a collection of essays, stories, insights and poems that have occurred to me along the Way titled Here to Now and Behind.

For more posts on Jean Klein look here.

A State of Extreme Abundance – Jean Klein

During these meetings we shall discuss the knowledge of our true nature. But the word knowledge will here be used in its strict meaning of metaphysical realization, in other words, the actual establishing of ourselves in that which we truly are. It is therefore a total achievement.

This activity implies the absence of any preconceived idea. We do not strive to reach an imaginable goal, because the unknown can be neither imagined nor conceived. In matters of ordinary understanding, one makes use of analogy and reasoning. But here we shall be concerned with a formless absolute, an Ultimate Subject which can never be an object to be apprehended by the mind. Such research obviously implies that it be undertaken empty-handed, by a mind which has rejected the strategy of functioning with the already known. The projection of a “God”, a “Self”, a “where”, a “when”, are part of such a strategy and must be entirely laid aside. The only technique – if I may say so – which we can use, is based on an art of listening which is the supreme teaching of the traditional method.

Consequently, our meetings will provide neither information nor documentation in the usual sense of these words. We therefore suggest that no notes be taken. What is important is for you to take up a passively-active attitude. This will enable you to convert into your own substance what such an attitude has allowed you to absorb. You should therefore listen with intense awareness and moreover strive to listen to yourself at the same time.

The ordinary man’s activity is made up of reactions which are the expression of his egotistic make-up. He is a self surrounded by pleasant or unpleasant, friendly or hostile objects, and everything which impinges on him incites him to react according to his desires and his fears. Consequently, all his reactions are false, fragmentary, inadequate, because they are rooted in his egotistic outlook which is born of his delusion that he is a separate self. All the traditional doctrines teach us methods by which we may come to discard this state of reaction and reach an ego-less state where all reactions cease to be, giving place to impersonal actions which are true, impartial and adequate.

It may happen that even the egotistic man, under certain circumstances, responds to the challenge of outside objects in such a spontaneous and adequate manner. It does happen at times, when he comes face-to-face with something absolutely new, with something which it is impossible for him to integrate into his egotistical mental framework. It may also happen in the course of a poetical or aesthetic experience, because a thing of beauty, being an expression of harmony, possesses of its own nature a harmonizing power which, placing us temporarily in a state of perfect balance, allows us to be in tune with Reality. But they are few and evanescent, these states of grace, which allow us to catch sight of the lost Paradise, and they remain unnoticed and unpursued because the ego rejects and shuns them, sensing in them a herald of its death.

All this must be thoroughly understood if one wishes to listen to a traditional teaching with any profit. In the presence of a master, the listening should be modelled on the above mentioned “state of grace”, during which, for an instant, we may have emerged from the egotistic condition. An effort should be made to remember such states of nakedness, austerity, openness and clarity.

This state of listening is the first true step on the path.

Next we must undertake the observation of our desires so as to understand what it is that we are really seeking in all the objects which seem to please our appetites. We shall then realize that when the desired object is stripped of all its peculiarities, its distinctive characteristics, there remains a constant residue which is the true object of our search and which may be called fullness, bliss and peace. Now it so happens that nothing in the world of objects possesses perfect fullness, nor unconditional bliss. After the conquest of a desired object, we experience a few short moments of non-desire, but very soon desire reappears, and we embark on a new search.

This clearly indicates that what we really desire is not the object, because if it were, its possession would eliminate all desire. What is desired is bliss, Ananda, which exists at all times in myself and in everything. The realization of the presence of this bliss was lost to me when I became a separate ego, thereby losing sight of my essential identity with it. From that moment on, the world of objects and duality was born. This duality makes it impossible for us to perceive the presence of this bliss which abides in ourselves as in all things. We can only perceive it in those objects which are more or less in accordance with our egotistic make-up. We are thus compelled to strive in a world where the pleasant and the unpleasant, where good and evil, oppose each other. Most of the time we are content to waver between pleasant-pleasure and unpleasant-pain, having no inkling of that true joy of which pleasure is only a shadow. But it may happen in certain cases that we find ourselves face to face with an object which is in exceptional harmony with us. We may then transcend pleasure and experience joy; and discover that perfect joy lies beyond the pleasure-pain duality and is of another nature. Indeed pleasure is of its own nature fickle and transitory, hence its fleeting and disappointing character. When it reaches a very high degree of intensity and purity, it may do more than allay desire, it may completely satisfy it . . . for one moment. . . then it gives place to joy. This joy only arises with the suppression of desire, that is, of the ego. This is why true joy is impersonal, is beyond the ego. When we are immersed in perfect joy, we cease to be ourselves, only joy remains, and the object has disappeared with the subject.

I would like to look closely at certain points with you, points which I have only outlined, but please bear in mind that our study shall be chiefly made up of suggestions, since over-clear and over-precise formulae might be an impediment to any inclination you might have of seeing a question through to its end.


There are two questions I wish to put. The first concerns me personally; the second is of a more general nature. You said we should not take notes and nevertheless I have done so. As time goes by, the more I listen to you and almost unknown to myself, the more do I take up a position of standing aloof. But to obtain a direct contact, to plunge into ultimate reality, it seems to me that one must necessarily make use of the intellect. It is the intellect that views the path, or at least, he thinks he views it. He knows that intellect must be finally eliminated, or at least he thinks he knows it, and that is why it seems to me that by taking notes of a few essential ideas, on reading them over and being, so to speak, impregnated by them, I get a better result than a direct dive into the unknown. 

That is my first question. The second is this: you said at the outset that the search is carried out without searching. What then are we to think of those disciplines intended to condition us in some particular view of an approach to reality?

Jean Klein:

To understand this search, we must first rid ourselves of one foregone conclusion, that is, the idea that objects exist independently of he who perceives them. Next, it must be understood that a simultaneous perception of several objects is impossible.

When we observe something attentively, consciousness penetrates vision and we are nothing else but vision. When we really listen to something, we are nothing else but hearing. We can never be both hearing and seeing simultaneously. We can pass very rapidly from one activity to another, from one thought to another, but absolute simultaneousness is impossible. Thus you can see for yourself that it is impossible to be thoroughly aware of any inner upsurge and take notes at the same time. This cannot but impair the quality of your listening. The word of the master must be seized with its import of the moment, intended to reach the hearer of that moment. The words read over in a page of notes have lost all their initial impact.

As to intellectual preparation, it should be unconditionally discarded, in order that the hearing lose nothing of its authenticity and spontaneity.

Disciplines also should be deliberately set aside, since they necessarily imply compulsion: there is always someone who wants to discipline and something which resists, so that there is always a state of effort and conflict. Before undertaking any profound search, one must be able to look into oneself. One must not however analyse oneself, compare or judge, but one must observe oneself as one would any object. If one attentively observes the inner welling-up, one is thereby absolutely and adequately situated and there is no conflict. Discipline is of no use whatsoever, since things are naturally eliminated by discernment without it being necessary for us to treat them brutally. Even in the course of the technique known as “letting-go”, a faint shadow of discipline is implied, for letting-go of an object implies a certain discipline. Only an effortless and choiceless, I repeat choiceless reaction, is the hallmark of liberation. 

If I understand you rightly, choosing always means remaining in oneself by a voluntary fixation. So that choosing an object is finally choosing oneself whereas by not choosing one is inserted in the totality of life, that totality where all objects merge into one.

Yes, it is by not choosing that the object chooses itself within us. 

It seems comparatively easy to observe my thoughts for only a few seconds, but how can one maintain such a state of observation without making an effort, since it is so easy to identify oneself with one’s thoughts?

While you are thinking, you cannot be a witness, since at that moment thought and its object are one. Only afterwards can you know that you have thought. This, you must thoroughly understand. In order to listen to yourself, a certain state of relaxation must settle within you progressively. Hitherto you have tried to reach the mastery of your body by yoga. But when such a technique, such practices are not carried out under the direction of a master who has an authentic tradition behind him, mastering one’s body inevitably means bullying it. Whereas to work on one’s body should mean that we rid ourselves of it by elimination. After all, the body is nothing but a notion which has been built up and put together by the mind and therefore the mind should be able to free itself of it. The practice of relaxation which you have undertaken is carried out, not only with the idea of freeing yourself from its bondage, but even more so to achieve a transfiguration of the body itself. Our physical body can be glorified if we cease to think about it in our usual way, and when we are able to feel it, not as a resisting and solid mass, but as something subtle and radiant. This result can be obtained by the frequent repetition of an inner attitude. This standpoint of deep relaxation accompanied by a visualization of the body as being more and more fluid and transparent may finally lead us to a real experience of dematerialization. We then understand that the physical opacity of our body is nothing but the consequence of our former and habitual state of fixation and tenseness.

As long as you hold on to the idea of a solid body, whatever the degree of relaxation you may attain, your body nevertheless remains something heavy and stale. But when you become able to recreate your body, when it has become something as light as air, pure and fluid, when its nature is of the very nature of ether, you will see that you have obtained such a result because your attention has been stripped of any strain. At the present moment your attention is all strain and tension. And this state of strain has been strengthened by all the disciplines which you have been subjected to, mainly by concentration.

All disciplines are fixations: discipline excludes everything, except the one thing that one wishes to concentrate upon. Thus one establishes a dictatorship over oneself and all understanding is jeopardized. What is absolutely necessary is attention without strain.

. . . and choiceless.


. . . and without an end result.

What end result could you possibly arrive at, since the object of your search is unknown? All you can say is this: “When I observe myself, I am really forced to admit that every day I am the prisoner of a thousand unsatisfied desires, or desires whose satisfaction brings me no permanent bliss.”

So it seems to me that instead of endlessly running from one desire to another, it would be better to stop and examine the true nature of desire.

If this investigation is successful you will penetrate the nature of the true aim of all desire. What any desire really aims at, is a state of non-desire. This non-desire is a state in which we demand absolutely nothing.

Thus it is a state of extreme abundance, of fullness.

This fullness is revealed as being bliss and peace. You now know that you are really seeking nothing else but fullness and absolute peace. Now that you have understood the inner nature of your ultimate goal, you perceive that the ultimate goal is, in fact, not a goal, that is to say an end towards which you strive, but that the ultimate state can only be the consequence of relaxing and letting go. Liberation is not to be obtained by collecting and accumulating, but by being rooted in a state of being which is truly ours and in which we live constantly without knowing it. Even if we wished to, we could not live for a single moment outside of this state. 

Might inspiration not be an approach to the path of which you speak? Everyone has problems to solve and everyone has inspirations. Some are helped by spiritual practices, and some by art. In such a state, when one is helped, when one is inspired and things come to meet you, there is a complete letting go of strict attention and reasoning (after lengthy striving of course). In other words, one does not live, but something lives within us. There is a contact with something else. A certain state of duality does subsist, but is not this the kind of approach which could help us towards the path?

I said a few minutes ago that objects have no other significance than to point towards consciousness, but there are of course, certain privileged objects which direct us towards the non-dual experience; works of art are foremost amongst them. When a work of art (whose very nature is to allow itself to be forgotten) causes an inner resonance, the personality disappears, the ego vanishes, and one becomes, for one moment, the very expression of Unity. 

I thank you for your answer, but I was thinking of something more definite, that is of artistic creation. At the moment of creation, there is a state. . . I don’t like to use this word . . . a mediumistic state, that is to say a state when one is simply a channel between “something else” and that which is going to appear or that which one intends to do. . .

Interrupter. Yes, one isn’t there anymore.

(Questioner) Yes one is present! . . . and yet one isn’t! . . . There is a giving of oneself, a something which comes to you and urges you to action. Beforehand, of course, one must have worked hard, but at the moment of this gift, this communication between something else which is far away, and that which you are doing, you vanish. The channel is only a channel. May this not be an approach because after all it is an objective phenomenon, not exactly to be in communication with what one is creating, but with one’s self? The approach to knowledge is very difficult could this not make it easier for some of us? Because, after all, what is knowable is an essence, even if this essence is temporary. If, for instance, we look at a rose, we observe its shape, colour, etc. A quantity of information can be given about the rose, but its very essence nobody knows. We know no more than others, we know that it exists, we . . . I mean people who go into things. So perhaps there is in us an essence which may be known in the same way.

Referring to your first remark, you must understand what happens at the moment of the creation of a work of art. By this act, the artist projects himself outwardly.

Temporarily the body and mind become perfect instruments of the background and are, as you say, a kind of channel. By means of shape, colour and proportions, they manage to express what is inexpressible.

When you look at a work of architecture whose vertical and horizontal components are in perfect balance, the drive towards the heights and the impression of weight compensate each other to the extent of stripping the building of all its objective mass so that one is carried back, upstream towards the background which is bliss.

Now let us consider your second problem. This we have often analysed. When you think of a rose, you refer to your perception of it and also to your personal way of conceiving it. As you say, you know that such and such a rose has such and such a scent, and its petals are soft to the touch, that it belongs to such and such a botanical species, that it can be made use of in such and such a way; all this is part of the knowledge accumulated by yourself and by men in general, and you superimpose all this on the impression of the rose when you say: “I see a rose”. But the real being of the rose, you never see. If you wish to know the rose, it is enough to be yourself. Because our essence and the essence of the rose are the same, since in reality only one essence exists. When you are established in your essence, you communicate with the essence of every separate thing. 

Could you speak to us of this inner springing forth which one may observe when truly listening to oneself?

We habitually stop this springing forth by our impatience. What we should do, is be open to it, without striving to handle it, to treat it as the first step of a deductive line of thought, because by doing so we destroy any possibility of real understanding. The quality, the taste, the fullness of this springing forth depend on the purity of our attitude. It may happen that it arises and that it directs us towards something which our ego refuses. In this case we immediately erase it. Sometimes it comes to us later on, and we must show great patience to give it time to ripen.

If we thus get into the habit of observing our daily upsurges, we will become more and more ready to receive the final one. Once we fully realize that nondual realization cannot be dealt with by the mind because it is beyond the mind, there arises a supreme springing forth which is different from the others. It is simply caused by the elimination of all false identifications, which directs us to the essential part of our being and leaves us in a state which no analysis can reach, because we then no longer exist in a subject-object relationship. It does happen that we know such moments, but our inclination is to by-pass them, since the ego tries to grasp them and turn them into an object of enjoyment, thus warping the experience, transforming it into a caricature. The very desire to prolong this experience causes it to vanish. 

Could you speak to us about intuition?

The meaning of the word intuition is direct vision, an immediate grasping of an object known by the subject. Intuition therefore belongs to the realm of duality. Sadhana develops intuition, deepening it more and more. All indications given on the attitude of listening are also true of intuition. 

When thought comes to an end and one finds oneself in the very midst of oneself, can one and should one remain in such a state?

Are you able to put this question to yourself when you are the state? When you are there, you are there and that is all there is to it.

One thing however is important. That is, to recognize in this experience, that we are open to the Self and not on a mental plane. 

Here is something which strikes me as being rather significant, and it happens every day, one does one thing while thinking about another. For instance I often happen to put my keys down somewhere, and the next moment I can’t remember where they are, because I was thinking of something else and I was not really present. Is this not a very ordinary example showing that most of the time we are not present to ourselves?

Yes it is. We are always somewhere else, living ahead or behind in time, we long for the future or we regret the past. We are never really here. This flight in time is of great significance. If we turn away from the present, or rather if the present is so often unable to hold our attention, it is because we conceive of it as being a known and registered reality, therefore devoid of interest, or as a disappointing one. Just so long as we have not understood that true bliss is not in objects, but in us, we continue to place our hope in the future and keep racing ahead. We thus live in a state of imbalance, bent upon, and striving endlessly towards, the future.

What we must come to understand is that awareness in the present is the only true starting point and that this starting point is at the same time the point of arrival.

-Jean Klein

From Be Who You Are, Chapter One

Be Who You Are

This book can be purchased from Non-Duality Press.

Living Stillness – Jean Klein

It is only through silent awareness that our physical and mental nature can change. This change is completely spontaneous. If we make an effort to change we do no more than shift our attention from one level, from one thing, to another. We remain in a vicious circle. This only transfers energy from one point to another. It still leaves us oscillating between suffering and pleasure, each leading inevitably back to the other.

Only living stillness, stillness without someone trying to be still, is capable of undoing the conditioning our biological, emotional and psychological nature has undergone. There is no controller, no selector, no personality making choices. In choiceless living the situation is given the freedom to unfold. You do not grasp one aspect over another for there is nobody to grasp. When you understand something and live it without being stuck to the formulation, what you have understood dissolves in your openness. In this silence change takes place of its own accord, the problem is resolved and duality ends. You are left in your glory where no one has understood and nothing has been understood.

– Jean Klein

From I Am

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

Here is an excerpt that I found on Youtube.