Byron Katie: Philosophy is so slippery

Philosophy is so slippery. Realization is everything.

– Byron Katie

Philosophy is slippery. Although philosophy can reflect direct realization, it’s often an expression of trying to figure out something within thoughts or be clever with thoughts. As we know, there is almost no limit to what thought can come up with, and it doesn’t need to be useful. If it’s not grounded in direct noticing or realization, it becomes an endless maze with no exit.

Realization is different. It’s about direct noticing. It’s about being familiar with a certain terrain. For instance, we may find our true nature as what all our experiences happen within and as. We may have experience with living from it and the challenges that come with it. Or, through direct noticing and a lot of experience with inquiry, we may recognize that a thought is not what it apparently refers to. It’s an image, a fantasy. It’s a question about the world. It may be more or less practically useful. And it cannot contain any final or absolute truth.

There is something interesting here: When realization and direct noticing is expressed through words, it’s typically and immediately recognized by others familiar with the terrain. While those who are not familiar with the terrain tend to perceive it as philosophy, as something that comes from thought, and they may respond to it with, to them, more philosophizing.

I have to admit, that’s why I rarely if ever talk about these things with others unless I know they are familiar with the terrain or they are genuinely interested in the terrain and not philosophizing.

There is also a grey zone here, an inevitable overlap between realization and philosophy. We may be familiar with the terrain, and when we go to express it in words, we dip our toes in philosophy. Some of it is unavoidable. We will interpret and express it in a certain way, based on our culture and how we have heard others talk about it. We may also get carried away and elaborate using favorite ways of thinking about it. To the extent we are aware of this and intellectually honest and sincere, we can name the philosophy aspect, minimize further philosophizing, or enjoy philosophizing and name it.

This is probably why many love a simple and direct expression of realization, as we see in some Sufi and Zen poets. The simplicity of it minimizes philosophizing.

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