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Nonduality Salon

The Why Method

Jerry Katz

Throughout my life I have asked myself, "Why?". Not so much in regard to the big questions of existence, suffering and death, but to lesser questions on the order of, "Why am I doing this or that?" or "Why am I thinking or feeling this or that?". My answers were never satisfactory, but I never had anyone to guide me through them. My sense, though, was that I could not take seriously any experience, feeling or thought unless I knew -- as deeply as possible -- why I was experiencing, feeling, thinking this or that.

As a young person hearing a caring adult talk of my life in terms of my graduation from here and there, my career, marriage, my children, their education, and so on, I was stuck at the point of asking, "Why am I standing here listening to you?".

Spiritual glazing-over I would call it, because I really wanted to know why I was standing there listening. Its not that I wanted to do something else, but I really wanted to understand to the ultimate depth what was going on here. I intuited early-on that all those things, education, career, marriage, children, were ways to avoid asking, very simply, "Why am I doing this or that? Why am I feeling this or that?".

The objective of the Why Method is to discover The Deepest Question, or the Why Question which cannot be answered.

For the one engaging in the Why Process, The Deepest Question becomes a kind of koan, a question to be meditated upon, a question to be allowed a presence within one's being.

Find a quiet place. Think about something very important: your health, family, friends, career, your spiritual life. Pick one.

Let's say you have chosen your health as a very important topic.

Ask yourself, "Why is my health important to me?"

Your answer may be something like, "So that I can effectively do what I have to do and what I want to do."

Then ask yourself, "Why do I have to effectively do things?"

Your answer may be, "So that I can keep my commitments, be productive and grow."

Then ask: "Why do I have to keep my commitments, be productive and grow?"

An answer: "Because there are others dependent on me and I am motivated to care for them and look after my own personal growth as well."

A question: "Why am I motivated to care for others and myself?"

An answer: "That's just an impulse as a result of being alive. I'm responding to that impulse. It is natural to want myself and people close to me, all people for that matter, to thrive in all ways, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I'm driven to do these things because I am alive. Maybe its survival."

Question: "Why am I driven?"

Answer: "Like I said, survival. To keep us all alive. To keep us going. To fulfil our destiny. To carry on the work of those who preceded us. To look after the planet. To do my very tiny share of work involved in keeping our civilization evolving so that future generations might partake in an enlightened human culture."

Question: "Why do future generations have to partake in an enlightened culture? Why do we have to keep going?"

Answer: "Because we're here, so we might as well work our hardest at staying here and trying to learn and understand as much as we can."

Question: "Why are we here?"

Answer: "Maybe that's what we'll learn if we stick around long enough and keep evolving."

"Why do we have to find out why we are here?"

"Just out of extreme curiosity."

"Why be extremely curious about that?"

"It is the ultimate question."

"Why is that the ultimate question?"

"Well, I suppose if it were answered there would be a heck of a lot of other question, so maybe its not the ultimate question."

"So why be extremely curious about why we are here?"

"Because it is a very challenging question, why we are here."

"Why is that a challenging question?"

"Because we have no final answer. Nobody really knows."

"Why does nobody know?"

"Its unknowable. Any answer would beg thousands more questions."

"Why ask the thousands more questions?"

"We'd just want to know."


"Its our nature, that's all."

"Why is that our nature?"

"Its probably just genetic."

"Why is it genetic?"

"That's how we're made."

"Why are we made that way?"

"Evolution. Chemistry. Physical laws."

"Why evolution, chemistry and physical laws?"

"That's our universe!"

"Why is that our universe?"

"It goes back to the ultimate mystery. I don't know why our universe has physical laws. Its just the way it is."


"I don't know."

"Why don't you know?"

"How could I know that? I don't have the brain power."

"Why not?"

"I don't know."

This type of questioning reveals that the deepest question relates to the existence of the universe and it may be posed as, "Why does the universe exist?" or "Why is the universe the way it is?"

The Why Method may be applied to other questions of life.

Ultimately, there will be no answer to the deepest question, other than existence itself.

The Why Method. Copyright 1998 by Jerry Katz. All rights reserved.

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