Before the student begins to learn Zen, a mountain is a mountain and the waters are waters.
After the student has gained an understanding of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains, and waters no longer waters.
When the student has fully absorbed Zen, mountains are once again mountains, and waters once again waters.
– Zen Saying
Essentially, this site is concerned with switching our basic mind-set from a dualistic mindset to a non-dualistic mindset. This process is also known as enlightenment and awakening. While the dualistic mindset (also referred to as the Standard Dualistic Model) contributes to a general state of conflict within ourselves and the world, the non-dualistic mindset contributes to perfect peace within ourselves and the world.
The imagery used below will help you understand just what each mindset is, and will follow the usual progression toward ‘achieving’ the non-dualistic mindset.
I must, however, include a caveat. While the dualistic mindset can be easily and clearly described (since our language is designed to describe it), the non-dualistic mindset (as outlined in Mountain Two and Three below) cannot be described in words (because our language, which divides the world into symbols with each spoken word, cannot capture the essence of something which contains no symbols).
Let’s have a look at the three mountains.
The First Mountain
Life Basics articles correspond to the First Mountain. They are meant for people who feel they best fit into this mode of thought. The articles are designed to help you examine your world so that you naturally flow into the Second Mountain.
This mode of thought is our ‘everyday mind’, our usual way of seeing the world. From this vantage, everything is normal and follows the rules of common sense. Because everyone in our culture lives according to this Standard Dualistic Model of reality, we can all communicate pretty well with each other – we know exactly what we mean when we say ‘I like chocolate’.
Although it’s fabulously practical, this model suffers from some serious downfalls. It functions by dividing the world into symbolic bits, and then forgets that it did that. As a consequence, most of us live our whole lives thinking that the symbols created by this model are actually realities. This gets us into no end of trouble, and is the cause of all our stress, frustration, anger, and conflict, both on the individual and world-wide levels. We live our lives trying to fit the bits (which we created) back together into workable relationships.
The Second Mountain
Deeper Understanding articles correspond to the Second Mountain. They are meant to move us through the Second Mountain (which is full of pitfalls) and into the Third Mountain.
Here we examine all the symbols presented by the Standard Dualistic Model, and come to see that they don’t do a very good job of representing reality. Our usual breakdown of the world falls apart, and we may feel ‘enlightened’, since we begin to see the world as a single ‘oneness’. We might also struggle, at this point, to create new models of reality that correspond to the observations we’ve made.
If we’ve really examined things carefully, we’ll be unable to experience stress, frustration, or conflict, and will be infused with a blissful sense of our integral unity with all creation.
Everything we took seriously before – money, identity, career – these are seen to be nothing more than manifestations of a particular insanity – an insanity that seems ‘normal’ because it’s sanctioned by our culture as a whole.
We come to understand how the whole mess began.
When we say something like ‘I like chocolate’, it will mean something like ‘The non-being that others call ‘me’ actually has no preference between apparent chocolate and apparent gravel.’
This is an easy place to get stuck. We can feel like we’ll never re-integrate or be able to understand ‘regular people’ again. This is also an easy place to delude ourselves into thinking we’re ‘enlightened’ or awakened. If we’re having trouble understanding why people continue to live the way they do, it’s a good sign that we’re fooling ourselves in some way. There is a vast difference between ‘knowing the principles’ of the non-dualistic viewpoint, and actually experiencing them.
If you can conceive of an opposite to what you’re feeling, you’re not experiencing non-dualism. You can also check out the Pitfalls page to learn about more signs that you’re still operating under a dualistic mindset.
The Third Mountain
Here we take the wisdom gained in the Second Mountain, combine it with compassion (by remembering what life was like in the First Mountain), and come to find that we’re free to play with all the symbols we took so seriously before. Things like money, identity, career . . . these just become part of the playfulness of living in the world as it actually is. When we say ‘I like chocolate’, it will mean something like ‘The ‘me’ I’m playing at really enjoys chocolate, but with my perfect state of true enlightenment, really nothing will do but Amedei.’
From this perspective we not only can enjoy any situation in life, from winning the lottery to dying of cancer, but we gain an eerie ability to manifest whatever we dream of. See How the World Really Works to understand a little about the ‘why’ of this situation.
It’s quite impossible not to want to help others from this vantage – remembering how exhausting and painful it was to be stuck in the First Mountain, you naturally want to reach out and help others to ‘unload the baggage’. At the same time, you experience a profound appreciation for people just-as-they-are. Being in seemingly paradoxical states such as this are normal in the Third Mountain, and are part of the reason that words cannot adequately describe the sensation of ‘being there’.
Elsewhere on this site I speak about the difference between most methods of self-development, which are progressive in nature, and non-dualism, which is not. Looking over the Three Mountains, this sure looks progressive in nature (meaning that it’s a step-by-step process, ascending to higher levels each time). But some of the writings in Deeper Understandings should make it clear why this doesn’t qualify as a ‘progressive path’. A good thing to remember is that the Three Mountains outline the usual route followed by people moving toward non-dualistic thought. It’s also important to realize, however, that no route is necessary, and the key to the whole affair is profoundly simple – it’s simply experiencing the Now. Thus, the Three Mountains don’t detail the pathway you must take — they detail the pathway which, by default, most people use.