Nondual Zen Article:

Unborn Again

nondual title

Unborn Again
by Kathleen Sutherland

In the Gospel of John, 3:3-5, Jesus explains the concept of spiritual rebirth to Nicodemus, a Jewish pharisee:

"Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." "How can someone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit."

For the nondual seeker, to see the world from the perspective of the absolute is to be born again. This vision includes the relative world, of course, but is so much broader and deeper—infinitely so. We do feel born again, looking at the world as if through the eyes of a child. Everything appears fresh, new, shimmering, and we look on with innocent wonder. A great deal of energy formerly expended shoring up illusion breaks free, and we feel invigorated and revitalized.

But as renewed as we may feel, the truth is that we have disappeared. Awakening is a process of subtraction, not addition. We don’t need to learn anything new, but rather to unlearn so much of what we think we know, un-see what we think we see. As we let our lifelong collection of beliefs and opinions drop away, reality unveils itself in its full magnificence. And we, as finite beings, merge with the infinite.

We thus shift our identity from the separate three-dimensional mind/body avatar to the endless multidimensional universe. The solid person we thought we were is revealed to be just a hologram, a figment of our imagination. Rather than being reborn, we realize that we were never born. We are the eternal. We are the unborn!

The perception of an individual and other people and a world with objects and events continues, but it appears as the dreamy, ethereal play of light and color that it is. It is beautiful, and sometimes not, but it is always fluid, ever changing. We learn to regard and hold it lightly. And it returns the favor, guiding and teaching us gently, no matter how challenging the lesson.

We rest in the secure knowing that we are immortal, eternal. And that which cannot die, cannot be born. How can one who was born become unborn? That is what you always were. You were never born. Now this is seen. A body was born, and identities gradually piled upon it. Around three years of age, these identities were internalized by the body/mind unit, and a sense of “I” emerged, defined by its various roles: I am my parents’ child, a sister, a brother, a girl or boy.

But you were always there, watching this unfold. You were there long before the birth of this child, you were there at the birth, and you have been there ever since, caring for and loving this child. At some point, the child becomes aware of you, with the feeling that it is being watched. When very young, it may perceive you as an “imaginary” friend, a presence always by its side. As a teen, it perceives you through heightened self-consciousness. Eventually there may develop the deeper sense of a separate, calm entity watching this life as it moves through the turbulence of time and space. Then it may dawn that this witness is not separate but is a part of the self, a “higher self.” Ultimately, if this is explored, the person discovers that she and this deep, still presence are one and the same. This merging is experienced as blissful, sublime. The person feels completely changed, renewed—born again.

But it is only the character who feels this renewal, this rebirth. Oneness breathes a sigh of relief and declares, “Behold, I am unborn again. I had forgotten who I was!” The person can enjoy the renewed sense of vitality and energy flow, but if wise enough, she recognizes that this is simply the character’s experience. What is really happening is an undoing, an unraveling, an un-birthing.

Whenever clarity is lost and we feel immersed again in relative reality, with the absolute dropping out of sight, that is when we are born again. And again begins our tale of woe. Then we regain clarity, un-seeing the illusion, and are gratefully unborn again.

Or perhaps we feel quite peaceful and clear, but then move into a deeper level of awareness. It is piercingly beautiful or sublimely subtle, and again we feel that innocent wonder, the rebirth and renewal of vision. But we are wise enough to know that we have simply settled more deeply into our true being.

Awakening, regaining clarity, or moving deeper into awareness are not new beginnings. They are simply a relaxing into our un-birthright as that of the eternal, the unborn.

I am the unborn, unbound and untouched. I was never born, and now I am wondrously, gratefully unborn again.