I’d like to check out my experience of awareness, and my understanding of my personal tendencies with it. So, over the years and the different paths I’ve been on, there are people who have a more vibrant inner life –just by nature; they feel more, they experience more, internally– and I’m not one of those people. I have a very quiet inner life; much more engaged externally. So, when I go to awareness, this is kind of another version of the void experience we heard about a little bit earlier. My experience of awareness is infinite, certainly; without lack, certainly; but I wouldn’t give it attributes –and I know happiness is just a placeholder, right?– I wouldn’t give it attributes of peace. Because that implies a particular feeling. And it’s actually quite a “feeling less” state, when I go to awareness. I don’t have… That’s OK with me, as long as that’s OK. OK? [Man and audience laugh, Rupert nods] So, I’m OK being there, and it’s a good place to be, and it informs my world and it helps me engage in my life better.
Over the years, I’ve had a few handfuls of experience, with awareness, that have been rich. And profoundly peaceful. And profoundly unified. There was only one experience; and it was me; and there was nothing else. And so, the way that I’m kind of putting this together, is that the one experience that I have, is only one experience, but it’s kinda like the volume of a good set of speakers: sometimes the volume is down, and sometimes the volume is up. In my particular experience, it’s mostly quite quiet. It’s still there, I can access it any time I want, it’s consistent, it’s right there for me, but it’s usually not one that I would again apply these attributes of happiness or peace to. It’s just that: still, silent completeness. So I guess I would like your feedback on that.
Yes. Yeah. The reason we describe awareness as being innately peaceful and happy, is in reference to the previous agitation and sense of lack. So if you have previously been very agitated and you trace your way back to your self, and you find no agitation in your self, in contrast to the previous agitation, we call the nature of our self, peace. Likewise, previously there was the sense of lack –in other words, we were suffering and we were constantly trying to fulfill our sense of lack in the world– we trace our way back to our self, and when we, so to speak, “get to our self”, we find no sense of lack there. So the word we use to describe the absence of the sense of lack, is happiness. So the words peace and happiness are only used in reference to the previous agitation and lack.
Once you are accustomed to abiding in your true nature, and the agitation and the sense of lack is no longer experienced, or very rarely experienced, there are no longer there in your experience to contrast your current experience, and then it is no longer necessary to refer to your self as being inherently peaceful or happy.
Okay. And those handfuls of experiences where the volume is turned up, as… – not that they’re other than awareness, but do occasionally, rarely but occasionally, have a more intense experience of that place… How does that work?
That could be an example of Walter Kiers’ comment that I mentioned a few days ago, where “Happiness is peace in motion and peace is happiness at rest”. This would be –if you allow me to use the word peace to describe the normal experience of being aware– more neutral…
… this nice phrase that Walter Kiers used, “Happiness is peace in motion”. When that experience bubbles up, so to speak, or in your language, “when the volume goes up”, it is experienced as happiness. But in fact, even that is only said in reference to your objective experience, because the experience of being aware is always the same experience; the volume never really goes up or down. It’s never really more or less intense.
So, if awareness is infinite –using the metaphor of the river, it seems to me that we might have a surface-level touch, or a deeper-level touch with awareness– if it’s infinite, and expansive, then might we not have different experiences of the intensity, or volume, of the awareness itself?
The fact that being aware is always the same experience –there are no degrees of being aware, there are only degrees of what we are aware of– so the difference in intensity that you are referring to, I think is the difference in the intensity of the effect that your knowledge of yourself has on your body and your mind. And that gives rise to a varying degree of emotion; you may feel a heightened degree of emotion at some stage, compared to your normal, rather neutral stage. But this is not a heightened experience of being aware, it’s a heightened effect of the fact of being aware on your bodymind. So it is your emotion, your feeling, that is heightened; it’s not the fact of being aware that is heightened.
Hm. So it really is just this constant, most familiar…
… most normal…
Yeah. It never evolves, it has no degrees of intensity… It’s like the sun; it just always shines with the same brightness.
We could legitimately say, there are various degrees of the veiling of our true nature, depending on the opacity of our thoughts and feelings. And therefore, as we approach our true nature, as the opacity begins to fade, we may feel that our true nature is getting brighter and brighter and brighter. Just as when the clouds begin to disperse, we feel that the sun gets brighter; and the sun doesn’t really get brighter, although it seems to.
So it could be that this… –that’s another… I still think my first suggestion is probably the correct one in your case– but it could also be that you are actually seeing yourself more and more clearly; but I don’t think that’s the case, because I get the feeling that when you say you have the experience of being aware, that’s just the full experience of being aware. I think it’s the effect –particularly if you tend to be a rather quiet person on the inside, with not a lot of intensity of emotion– that sometimes the impact of being knowingly the presence of awareness reverberates in your body and your mind, and there is a heightened emotion of happiness or joy. It’s not a heightened experience of awareness.
The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not. Strive to find out what you are in reality. To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not: body, feelings, thoughts, time, space, this or that. Nothing, concrete or abstract, which you perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. The clearer you understand on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realise that you are the limitless being.
I had an experience this morning, actually before the morning meditation, as I was sitting quietly and I was thinking about the day and I suddenly realized I was thinking. And I realized that the thought I was having, the perspective, the person I thought myself to be, was… simply… the thought that I was having. I was mistaking myself for that thought. And then I realized that that applies to every thought. The person I think I am, the life I think I’ve had, this body, mind, and everything, boils down to just… a thought. And it blew me away. …
Did you have a question about it?
I suppose I don’t have a particular question… Just… as a realization…
… that all I think is merely a thought.
And a thought in consciousness; not “my” consciousness…
… but a thought in consciousness of which I am conscious.
Yes. So if you understand that what you previously considered yourself to be is just a thought about your self, but is not your self… Then, who are you? Because it’s not enough to discover what you are not – although that is a very good and necessary first step. It’s necessary to discover what you are. So having discovered I am not a thought… What are you?
I am the awareness that realized I was thinking.
Tell us about that.
It’s the presence that is always here…
Yes, but I meant… ahm… Tell us about its qualities; its nature. Don’t describe it; try to tell us about its nature. Which is another way of saying, tell us about the nature of your self. You have discovered, that this is who you essentially are. So the first step is to discover what I am not, the second step is to discover what I am, and the third step is to discover the nature of what I am. So, having discovered I am awareness, tell us about the nature of the awareness that you know yourself to be.
Accepting… Warm, compassionate…
Can it be disturbed?
Awareness cannot be disturbed. No.
Do you, Awareness, lack anything?
So, all that is necessary, having recognized this, is to stabilize this in your felt understanding, so that it is not a brief glimpse of yourself, but is your stable, felt understanding of your self. And to live the implications of this recognition in all aspects of your life. [Pauses looking smilingly at the man.] That’s a lifelong task for you.
I’m up for it! Thank you!
When the journey to God ends, the journey in God begins.
[Another man in the audience raises his hand, the microphone is given to him.] Hi there. My question is, how does transcendence, transcending a particular separate self, interact with desire; desires of the most superficial nature and all the way to the most universal desires. What is the relationship of walking above it and desiring good for the world?
[Stretches his hand to return the microphone, Rupert intervenes] Just keep the mike; just for a moment.
Ahm, your vision of transcendence is that awareness is somehow above and beyond experience. It is not. It is within and prior to, experience. You don’t have to escape from experience in order to access your true nature. You have to go deeply into the heart of experience; find out what is the source from which your experience rises. And so it’s not a movement of transcendence, it’s a movement of going deeply into your self. Inwards, or selfwards, or backwards. When I say backwards, I mean away from the objects that you are aware of, into the very essence of your self, the source of your experience which is aware of these objects. So it’s an inward movement, it’s not an escape from experience.
And then having touched that in yourself, investigated its qualities, its nature, just as we discussed in the previous conversation, and then you allowed that felt understanding to inform, first of all your thoughts and your feelings, and subsequently your activities and relationships –most people, when they go back, when they go to what they call themselves, they don’t go all the way back to their essential irreducible self; they just go to this self made out of thoughts and feelings, the apparently separate self, and having only gone that far, most people’s thoughts and feelings express that self, are informed by that self, and their subsequent activities and relationships are an expression of that sense of one’s self– so here we have to go further back, not just to this bundle of thoughts and feelings called “myself”. We go through the bundle of thoughts and feelings, to that which is prior to them: our essential irreducible being. And then we allow our thoughts and feelings to be informed by that felt understanding, and then subsequently our activities and relationships express those thoughts and feelings.
So it’s not that we cease having desires, it’s rather that our desires no longer express the fears, the neuroses, the frustrations, the sense of lack that is inherent in the separate self. But our desires come directly from the fullness of our essential irreducible being. And our desires as such are the means by which our essential being is brought out into the world of activities and relationships.
What I kind of… I’m curious about and I also feel like it would be useful for… at least myself, and perhaps many others… Just curious: What is your –if you could share, if you would mind sharing– what are you finding as a spiritual challenge for yourself, and…
What do I find…?
What do I find as a spiritual…
… challenge in your life, and if you don’t mind sharing the process you undergo, or anything you would like sharing, as I feel like that kind of helps put into concrete terms and… I don’t know, might provide some insights that we could utilize.
The challenge is to continually surrender one’s mind and one’s body to this presence of awareness, or, in religious language, to God’s presence, and allow one’s thoughts and feelings, and activities and relationships to be more and more deeply informed by this felt understanding. So, I am in the midst of that process, and I hope I always will be, just like everybody else is. And so it’s this… this… this understanding is tailored to every single situation. At the moment, this understanding is being tailored to your question. When I leave here, I make it a message for my son, on my voice mail. I will then tailor my felt understanding to whatever situation is presented. And it’s just a moment-by-moment response to whatever presents itself in my life, from the place of this felt understanding. And if there is… If something in my life triggers a residue of belief or –more importantly– feeling of the separate self, rather than responding in that moment from the separate self, the challenge then is to pause, trace my way back to my essential self, reassert my feeling understanding of myself as that, and then turn outwards again and respond to the situation.
Thanks. My question relates to the status of awareness in deep sleep. And, if you’d be so kind, could you try to describe the difference between your experience in waking state and your own experience in deep sleep.
Well the waking state is awareness in presence of objects, deep sleep is awareness in the absence of objects. As regards the status of awareness in deep sleep; the status of awareness is always the same; ever present, without limits, inherently peaceful, and unconditionally fulfilled. The status of awareness doesn’t change with the fluctuating states of mind.
And so because of the absence of objects in deep sleep, there is nothing to codify into memory to come back from deep sleep and say, “Aha, this was my experience in deep sleep”…
[Rupert inhales deeply, smilingly preparing to reply]
… so you’re saying it’s not an absence of awareness; it’s just an absence of something to bring back from that state?
Yes, deep sleep is not the absence of awareness, it is the awareness…
No, no. Absence of objects.
Deep sleep is not the absence of awareness; it is the awareness of absence.
[Man thinks about it for a while] Hehehe… It’s highly not descriptive… Hehe…
When your companion, or a friend, asks you in the morning, “Did you sleep well?” you either say yes or no. If you say no, it meant that you were not sleeping. But if you say yes, it means that you slept well. Do you ever answer the question “Did you sleep well?” with the answer “I don’t know”? Does anyone here ever answer “I don’t know” when they were asked “How did you sleep?”? No. You answer either yes or no.
So you must have some… It’s a non-objective memory… There is some residue of what you experienced during deep sleep, remains over in the waking state.
Now. You’re quite right; it’s not a memory of something that took place at a certain time which is now no longer taking place. Because all that was present in deep sleep, was the presence of awareness. And awareness having no objective qualities, cannot be remembered.
However, the awareness that is present in deep sleep –that awareness that is present all alone in deep sleep– is the same awareness that is present in the morning when your companion asks you the question. “Did you sleep well?” So although the mind thinks that it refers to a period of deep sleep when it answers yes, what the mind actually refers to, is the presence of awareness that is present now. So the mind that answers yes, is a mind that is still transparent to the presence of awareness; the activities of the day have not yet risen sufficiently to obscure the presence of awareness.
So that is why, when we wake in the morning, if we have slept deeply, we still feel bathed with the peace of deep sleep. That peace is not a memory of something that happened three hours ago; it is our current experience of the peace of awareness shining through our still transparent mind.
What I compare to, is –in my own practice; I have a long-term sitting practice– in my practice it has become sort of the eradication of all form of sensation, thought and so on, and wonderful things arise out of that, but, I know that when I’m in… And it’s not really an experience per se, because all you’re doing is resting in your essential awareness, resting in your essential being and that’s the best I can do to describe it. However, qualitatively, what the experience of that… you know, extreme stillness, and resting in that native awareness, is different from what I experience –or don’t experience– in deep sleep. And it’s just a curiosity to me, hahaha.
But any differences that you describe, are not differences in the state of awareness. They are differences in the fluctuations of your mind. So if you were to say that deep sleep is different from deep meditation, which is different from the waking state, what you are describing is the state of your mind, not the nature of awareness. Awareness is always in the same condition. It’s like… It’s like your… Imagine your computer screen. There’s the screen, there’s your blank screensaver, and then there’s your email programme, and your iphotos, and… If you look at the iphotos, your emails, your screensaver and the screen, you’ll say these are four different states. But if, whenever the iphoto or the email or the screensaver is present, you actually go up to them, come close to them, touch them, you always find the same reality there, relatively speaking; you always find the same screen. The screen doesn’t share the limited qualities of the email, the photos, the screensaver. So what you are describing, are the differences between the photos, the emails and the screensaver. There are differences between photos, emails and the screensaver. But there’s never a difference in the screen. And it is not necessary to shut down all the programmes on your computer in order to recognize the nature of the screen. Because the nature of the screen is equally present during the presence of photos and emails, as it is in their absence. Likewise, awareness is equally present during this experience, as it is during a deep depression, a moment of ecstasy, a dream of a Carribean beach, or deep sleep. So it is not necessary to annihilate your sensations to bring your thoughts to an end, to change your perceptions. All that is necessary is, at any moment of experience, to go closely up to your experience and touch the stuff it is made of. If you do that, if you go deeply enough into experience, whatever the experience –and for this purpose a deep depression is as good as a moment of ecstasy– you will always find at its heart its reality. Inherently peaceful, unconditionally fulfilled awareness.
[Pointing indecisively at different directions in the audience] Have you got a question? OK, sorry… [simultaneously the next questioner goes “Sorry” too, for some reason. Both Rupert and this woman laugh.]
Ahm… OK. Ahm… [sighs] It’s a very personal q… (not a “personal”; what is “personal”?…), but I’ve noticed over the past few years that the more I become aware of the dynamics of my mind, or, ahm… let’s put it like that: The more this awareness of becoming aware of the dynamics of the mind, the more there’s this experience of suffering. But I’ve also noticed that, you know, I initially started this path many many years ago, in order to become, you know, liberated from the experience of suffering. So now even though I know whenever suffering is arising, it’s a thought that is arising and then you have the emotions surround it, I’m wondering, there’s a deep sense of… of sadness, and all the identification that I’ve… that were so solid, are… are… are not solid… are fluid, and are not permanent, and are not substantial. So it is… I’m feeling I’m stuck, and I also feel like all, you know, what I’ve studied, ahm… it doesn’t take me further; or back; or somewhere. So I’m wondering if you have any advice…
You started your question with a statement, something like “The more I am aware of the dynamics of my mind, the more I suffer”. Something like that. Tell us about that which is aware of the dynamics of your mind. You referred to it as “I”, so it’s another way of saying: Tell us about yourself.
I mean… there is only… –oh God, I come from a very intellectual…– but there’s only the “I” when there is the thought… There is often, you know…
No. I… Sorry to interrupt. I don’t mean… I don’t mean the “I”… the separate “I”, the separate self, that as you’ve understood is made out of thoughts. You said, “The more I am aware of the dynamics of my mind”, and then you rephrased it, “The more there is awareness of the dynamics of my mind”. So let’s take… –do you have a Buddhist background?–
OK. Let’s take “I” out of the equation, because Buddhists don’t like the word “I”, understandably. I use the word “I” in a different way, but if you have a Buddhist background, let’s take this obstacle out of the equation. You said, “The more there is awareness of the dynamics of my mind, the more suffering there is”. So tell us about the awareness that is aware of the dynamics of your mind.
… It’s really hard for me to sink into it and not go into the… into the intellectual part of…
No. But… but that’s very good. I asked you the question not because I want the verbal answer, but because I want you to go there. If I were to ask you, “Tell us about the sensation at the soles of your feet”, before you tell us anything about it, you would have to go there, with your attention. So when I ask you, “Tell us about the awareness that is aware of the dynamics of your mind”, I want you to go there. I don’t really want you to describe it. So I like your silent answer.
Because that silent answer is the answer to your question.
… But there’s still a lot of suffering.
Tell us about whatever it is that is aware of it.
So even knowing that, and even maybe having a glimpse into that, and even having an inspired experience of that…
No. But you are not someone who can have a glimpse or experience of that. There is no “you” apart from awareness that can have a glimpse of awareness. You ARE awareness.
You mean, even understanding that…
When you… When you… It’s like… Visualize awareness as a self-aware screen; not like a TV screen that is being watched by somebody sitting on the sofa, but this is a magical TV screen that has the ability to watch the movie that is playing on it. So, experience is like a movie playing on the screen of awareness, made of the screen of awareness, and just as the movie could be said to be the activity of the screen, so all of experience –that’s all thinking, sensing and perceiving– is the activity of awareness.
Now. Awareness loses itself in its own activity, and thus seems to veil itself from itself with its own activity. The essence of meditation, or the essence of prayer, is this return of awareness to itself. Awareness cannot be known by anything other than itself. It is “I”, awareness, that knows that I am aware. And the screen of awareness does not share the limits of any of the objects that seem to appear upon it or within it.
So if you want relief from your suffering, if you look for relief from your suffering in the objects of experience –activities… states of mind… relationships… non-dual teachings… non-dual teachers…– however fine the objects of experience in which you seek relief may be, you will always be disappointed.
If you want relief from your suffering, you will have to go back, deeply into yourself, to find that place that is inherently free of suffering.
It’s true that through force of habit, the old activities of thinking and feeling may come back very swiftly and eclipse awareness’s knowledge of itself, and in that sense you may say, “I only get brief glimpses of it”; what you’re really saying is “I, awareness, only get brief glimpses of myself before I lose myself again in my own creativity”.
So that’s fine; if you lose yourself again –in thinking, feeling, acting, relating– just come back to yourself. Just touch yourself again and taste yourself; come back to yourself. Then, through force of habit, you lose yourself in experience again, you just come back to yourself. And every time you come back to yourself, you erase the old habit of losing yourself in experience. The old habit will continue to arise –for some time, because we have all been rehearsing it for decades– but every time we come back to ourselves, we erode that habit. And we find that it takes us less and less time to return to ourselves, and in time fewer and fewer experiences have the capacity to take us away from our self.
This is why when Atmananda Krishna Menon was asked, “What are the best circumstances for spiritual practice?”, he said, “The police force or the military”. [Low laughter in the audience] What he meant was: If you put yourself in extremely intense circumstances, and in those circumstances you are still able to trace your way back to your essential, inherently peaceful self, and stand there, rest there, be that, whilst still responding to your circumstances; if you can make it in those circumstances, you will be able to make it anywhere. So, that is obviously an intense sadhana, and most of us retreat; it’s not retreat, but a retreat setting, such as this, provided because they are, relatively speaking, benign and peaceful circumstances, so we are not having to struggle with our experience; it is relatively easy to go back to our self.
But then when we take this understanding out into the world again, into our activities, relationships et cetera, then the temptation to lose ourselves again in experience becomes higher and higher. But the more we go back to ourselves, the more we find that fewer and fewer experiences have this capacity to take us away from our self. In other words, we begin to become established in the peace of our true nature.
Hi Rupert. You said this morning, ahm… something about investigating the thoughts, and making sure they don’t arise on behalf of the separate self. And I would like to clarify that, because when I’m engaged in a relationship, it’s always, kind of, as this character. And there are a lot of thoughts that can arise in a relationship on behalf of the character. So how do I…?
Yes, but the character is not necessarily the separate self. So it’s the sense of separation in you, or let’s say the sense of separation in the character. So it’s nothing wrong for a thought to arise on behalf of the character, you know… What do we have for breakfast today? I’d like coffee, or… That’s not a thought that arises on behalf of the sense of separation; it’s a thought that arises on behalf of the character.
A thought that would arise on behalf of the sense of separation would be more like a thought, I was really upset because you said such and such… those kind of thoughts; or I felt that you didn’t… I felt that you don’t love me. These are the kind of thoughts that arise on behalf of a separate self. They are not necessarily the thoughts that represent your character.
So would it be the kind of thoughts that are about resisting the situation, or… Not even necessarily resisting, because it’s perfectly legitimate to resist some circumstances out of love and intelligence. So it’s not the resistance itself that is problematic; it’s on whose behalf does the resistance arise.
If you see something that’s going on in your environment or with another person, and your resistance comes from intelligence or from love –you see someone treating a child unkindly or unfairly– you resist that action. Your resistance doesn’t arise on behalf of the separate self; it arises on behalf of love and intelligence. It’s perfectly legitimate. So resistance by itself is not problematic. It’s a resistance that comes from, and supports the notion of, being a temporary finite self.
Yes. That’s exactly what I was thinking. If I am in a conflict with somebody, then I might have to say no.
Yes! Not all conflicts arise on behalf of the separate self. If you are… If you are doing… If you’re in business, for instance, and there is a business transaction and the company that you’re dealing with cheat you, then you draw their attention to it and they deny it, or they refuse to correspond with you, or… You’re going to get into a conflict with them. And again, your conflict comes from… Your conflict does not arise on behalf of a separate self; your conflict represents truth! What is truth here? What is fair? What is just? So the conflict that arises will be a conflict that is necessary to redress the balance…
… and to bring back truth and justice into the situation. So, again, not all conflicts necessarily arise on behalf of the separate self.
You notice, particularly in intimate relationships, if your conflict comes from the sense of being hurt, for instance, that would be an indication that what is it in you that has been hurt… It is always the sense of being a separate self. It is not awareness that has been hurt. Your hurt does not arise on behalf of truth or love or justice. It’s your wounded ego that is feeling hurt.
You know, I’m trying to get a taste of the difference, so would it be like not taking things personally, or taking them personally? This kind of difference? Or in something else?
Yes; if by “personal” you mean the separate self. But something can still relate to you, as a character… ahm… Let’s say that you’re… Let’s say that you’re sick. And as a result of that you need to organize various appointments in order to take care of your health. The thoughts and the actions that arise from that situation are not in service of a separate self. You’re looking after your body; the character, as you said earlier, you’re looking after the character. That would be perfectly legitimate. You’re not tending to the needs of an illusory self.
If you find yourself defending a position –again, not always; sometimes you may need to defend something that you consider true; so not always, but very often, particularly in intimate relationship– if you find yourself taking a defensive stance, or indeed an aggressive stance, then you can be almost certain, that your defence or aggression is rising on behalf of the separate self in you.
Thank you. This “defensive position” is helpful to clarify it. And there is one more…
Or –sorry, just to interrupt– another example: a judgement. [Woman nods head emphatically] You find yourself judging someone, as opposed to making a simple observation. That would be another case where usually the judgement would be arising on behalf of the separate self. And sorry, I interrupted you.
Yes, there is one more thing if I may… There was a discussion on the –I think yesterday morning– in a few cases about feelings; that they don’t hurt what I really am, like fear, for instance, and I have a question about physical pain. Because it doesn’t hurt what I really am. And at the same time, I can take steps to prevent it from happening, or to address it when it does happen, and that is legitimate.
And at the same I notice that sometimes… this preoccupation with preventing physical pain or discomfort, can also be something that takes me away from living the understanding. And its seems to be such a fine balance…
Well, it depends. Is your preoccupation with preventing or healing physical pain, is it a response to an actual situation, or is it a neurotic fear about a situation that might arise in the future.
[Woman smiles brightly] Yeah, that is exactly the question!
[Rupert laughs kindly] Well; the answer is: If it’s a response to an actual situation, in other words, if you are in pain or you’re sick, if that is your experience, then it’s perfectly legitimate to do whatever you need to do to attend to it. However, if you’re healthy, and not in pain, but you have a neurotic fear that has no basis in your current experience, that you are going to become sick in future, then that would be a fear or an anxiety that was a symptom of the separate self. The sense of… the sense of… In this case, the sense of being limited.
Yeah, on that scale it’s very clear.
But sometimes, when you make certain choices… [woman sighs, uncertain as of how to phrase it] then… [she laughs]
Well, ninety per cent of the time, it’s clear, it will be clear to you…
… whether your thoughts and actions are motivated by the sense of separation or not. In the ten per cent that it’s not clear to you, just do your best.
Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
From St. Augustin’s Seventh Homily on the First Epistle of John (1 John IV. 4–12)
Well, first of all, your observation that the teaching seems to be directed towards the ego or separate self… In a way, you’re right, because awareness is not in need of any teaching. [Low, knowing laughter in the audience]
So… the teaching is… is… If there were no separate self, if in other words there were no suffering, there would be no teaching. The teaching arises in response to… basically in response to our suffering. That is, in response to the one who suffers.
So yes, the teaching is directed towards the one who suffers, so what is important, is not whether the teaching is directed to awareness, or to the separate self; it’s “Does the teaching take the apparently separate self directly to its source? Or does it perpetuate the separate self by giving it various activities and practices to do?”
And then your real question, which was about “What is the place of ethics?” … ahm… and, “Does it matter, the way we live our life, or our lifestyle choices?” … or –is that right– “What relation do they have to the non-dual teaching?” …
What is traditionally called “enlightenment” is the recognition of our essential nature, the recognition of our being as it is. But that is not the ultimate goal of the path. It is a step on the path. The ultimate goal –if we can call it a “goal”– is (first to recognize the nature of our essential self, and then) to live the implications of that recognition, in all realms of our life. And our enlightenment, our self-realization, cannot be considered complete, until this recognition is at least stable to a relatively high degree, in all realms of our life.
Now. None of us are perfect, so none of us can say that every aspect of our life has been one hundred percent colonized by this understanding. But a person who claims enlightenment, or claims to have recognized the nature of their own being, but acts unkindly towards others –other people, or animals– I think in that case, the recognition of their own being is… it may have taken place, but it hasn’t yet begun to really permeate their entire bodymind.
So, the answer is, ethics, the way we lead our lives, our lifestyle choices, are important. Kindness… I consider kindness one of the highest virtues. Just kindness; is an inevitable and natural outcome, or consequence, of this understanding. Why? Because we feel, we don’t just understand and know, but we feel, that we share our being. So what we do to another, we literally do to ourselves. Now, who would willingly do something unkind, or unjust, or unloving to themselves?
So… This is why many of you have heard me quote Saint Augustine before. This is why, when somebody asked Saint Augustine exactly the same question that you have me asked me about ethics and morality, he said,
“Love, and do whatever you want”.
By “Love”, of course, as we said earlier, he meant,
Feel that you share your being, with all people, all animals, and all things.
And as long as you act in accordance with that understanding, you can do anything you want. Because anything you do will simply bring that understanding out into the community. You will share that understanding and express it.
So, I would… Whenever you find yourself at a crossroads in your life –either a major crossroads or just a small junction, where you have two options: “Shall I do this? Or shall I do that?”– Pause, and first go to your deepest understanding; go to your deepest… love. Stand there, and then make the decision that best expresses that understanding.
Now. Even if, down the road, you look back and you think, I made the wrong decision, nevertheless your intention to make the decision that is an expression of love and understanding, will be sufficient. Your intention will keep you safe.
And sometimes, it requires courage. Because the decision that we make on behalf of love or understanding, is not always the comfortable decision. Sometimes it may place us in a situation that is difficult, or uncomfortable. And the tendency is always to go for the more comfortable option; and that’s where you have to be really… really established in love and understanding, and to really let that guide your behaviour. Irrespective of the consequences.
I’m going to do this because I feel it is right. It is an expression of truth, and love. And I’m going to do it irrespective of the consequences.
My name’s Andrew. My question is, if you could please retrace the situation of pure Awareness in the face of injustice, or someone being obnoxious, or a workplace bullying situation, assuming that John Smith is playing King Lear, but with full awareness that he is still John Smith.
If we find our self in a situation such as you describe, where we’re witnessing obnoxious behaviour, unjust behaviour, unkind behaviour, bullying in the workplace, dishonesty…
The outrage that we feel, doesn’t arise on behalf of a separate self.
The outrage that we feel arises on behalf of the love and intelligence that is inherent in pure Awareness.
So, sometimes people –I’m not suggesting this of you– sometimes people misunderstand the Non-dual teaching, and presume that, imagine that if one were fully established in one’s true nature, one would witness a circumstance such as this, and just smile peacefully, and blandly, and not have any response.
Well, that is one possibility. It’s true, that we may simply not get involved.
But it is by no means the only conclusion that would express the Non-dual understanding. We are just as likely to feel a sense of outrage –to a greater or lesser extent– because we feel that something that is absolutely true, is being violated.
For instance, someone being bullied would be an example of that; the understanding that we share our being, that we are the same as the other, is being violated in this act of violence from one person to another. And the outrage that we feel in the face of this behaviour, doesn’t arise on behalf of a personal self who is being diminished or undermined by the situation. On the contrary, the separate self is not present in our reaction; our reaction comes from love, and intelligence, and the sense of shared being. So, our outrage in that situation would be a practical response that comes from our Non-dual understanding. But it is a practical response tailored to a very particular situation.
How we express that outrage, varies both from person to person and from situation to situation. Some people… Ahm… You may try, to begin with, to reason with the person concerned… If reason doesn’t work, you may increase the volume (if plain reason is not sufficient to make them see the error in their behaviour); you may have to increase the volume or the intensity of your response, to such an extent (going to the other end of the spectrum now), very occasionally, force may be necessary. That would be an extreme situation, obviously. It’s unlikely to require physical force, though it may do, but it’s more likely to require verbal force, to begin with, and depending on the response you get… So you tailor your response to the situation.
So what is important is not our actual response,
but where our response comes from; on whose behalf does our outrage arise.
Is it arising from the sense of a personal self who feels
diminished, or insulted, or disrespected, or ignored…
These would be personal emotions; emotions that arise on behalf of a
personal self who feels that they are not being valued as they should be.
Those are personal feelings.
And if those personal feelings arise,
instead of addressing the one that seems to trigger those feelings, we should immediately turn around and address the self who feels diminished by them.
But in the case that you give…
outrage is not arising on behalf of a self that has been disrespected or ignored,
your outrage is arising on behalf of love and intelligence, and it should be fully expressed, however you as an individual bodymind feel is appropriate in the situation.
So, it may include… supporting someone to address the workplace issues…
… or, if necessary, seeking legal support…
Absolutely; all of the above; yes.
Yes. So at a very practical level…
Yes. And very practical, and… although the…
your feelingof outrage comes from the same place always,
you feel that something that is absolutely true, universally true,
has been violated, or is being violated, by this person in this situation,
nevertheless the way you express that outrage, could vary enormously,
depending on the situation.
And that is where your sensitivity and your knowledge of the situation
is required to enable you to respond
And which, as you say, may include legal advice; it may involve an intervention with the person; you may decide not to intervene with the person, but go to their superior, or their employer… All sorts of… all sorts of… ahm…
There are many, many possibilities, but they would all be an expression of this same feeling that something fundamentally true, universally true, for all people, at all times, is being violated.
And it is your… your intervention in the situation as a bodymind…
You stand, at that moment,
or for love;
or for justice.
And you don’t take…
Your action is not based on a personal sense of a self.
Your personal self just…
You’re not aware of your personal self.
You are just acting as required; in the situation.
With no sense of the consequences for you as a person.
I don’t mean by that, that you would
put yourself in physical danger,
but you’re not thinking of yourself.
You’re thinking of bringing love and justice and intelligence
to bear in this situation.
The other day in the meditation you said something like, “This is as good as it gets”, and there was a really subtle… like a recoil in me, you know, like a… Oh, but I want more… kind of a feeling; even after all these years and all these retreats. So. Just wondered if there was anything you could say on that.
Even if you were to acquire the experience, the ultimate experience, for which you long, you wouldn’t want it for long. You’d get bored of it and want to replace it. How many people have found the partner that they longed for, all their life, only to separate two years later, or twenty years later. Sooner or later, even the best object we can imagine, fails to satisfy us. Now we blame the object or the person, but it’s not the object’s or the person’s fault. No object can satisfy us.
We project our longing for happiness onto objects, and for as long as that object seems to fulfill us, we say, “I love that object”, or “that person”. But as soon as the object or the person ceases fulfilling us, we say, “I dislike them” and we leave.
No objective experience can give us the lasting peace and happiness for which we long. We have to, at some point, we have to see that, to look that fact in the face, clearly. No objective experience… no marvellous relationship… no wonderful teacher… no particular state of mind… no condition of the body… no state of health… no state of wealth…
None of these…
We have to see, clearly, sooner or later, that none of these will give us happiness.
As long as our desire for happiness is invested in objective experience, we will always be trying to replace this experience, with that experience.
But when it is really clear to us, no experience will bring us the happiness for which we long, then our motive to replace the current experience with a new experience, begins to diminish.
[Sweetly] I don’t mean that we no longer have desires…
that we don’t think, I’d like to go to the movies or see a friend.
But our desires are no longer motivated by the search for happiness.
They come from the sense of fulfillment; they come from our peace.
Now that’s what I meant when I said, “This is as good as it gets”:
this current situation… there is nothing that is not present
in our current situation that would prevent us
from being fully happy in this moment.
And that is true of every moment.
In every… situation…
In every situation.
Just see that what you essentially are, this naked being, is inherently fulfilled.
No thought, feeling, sensation, perception, activity, or relationship
that any of us have ever had, has ever added anything to our essential being.
Our essential being is in exactly the same pristine condition now,
as it was when we were five-year-old children.
Nor has any experience,
any awful or painful experience,
diminished or harmed or hurt our self.
But all that is necessary is
to see clearly that our self is self-fulfilled;
it is not fulfilled by an object, or an other;
to know that that is the place of peace;
that is the place of resolution;
that is the place of fulfillment;
and to stand as that;
not to move towards that, in your life;
but to stand as that, to move from that.
You can still desire activities and relationships,
and enjoy activities and relationships; thoughts and feelings.
But not as a source of happiness.
As a means of expressing and sharing and celebrating your happiness.
And when I say “happiness”, I don’t mean that you have to be singing
and dancing; I just mean the sense of being at ease.
What John Cline called “the ease of being”.
Simply I Am. There’s nothing missing, in this moment.
That’s what I mean by “happiness”. I feel complete. Full.
I don’t need anything to fulfill me, or fill me up.
To move through the world, from that point of view.
To meet people,
not as potential sources of love, or happiness.
But just to meet people, just for the sharing of our being.
And people will feel it immediately.
When you meet someone, and
you don’t want anything from them;
you don’t want to be fulfilled by them;
you don’t need to receive love from them.
Just having that attitude –you obviously don’t verbalize it, but–
just having that attitude, the other will feel it. Immediately.
They will feel so safe. They will like to be with you.
Because they don’t feel that you are projecting onto them
the impossible demand of producing happiness or love, for you.
And as a result,
this friendship will be a true friendship;
it will be a true sharing of being,
whatever form that sharing of being takes.
And if there is this true sharing of being,
then it is an intimate relationship.
Intimate relationship has nothing to do
with whether you’re sexually intimate or not.
You can have very intimate relationships
with people that you have no physical contact with.
And likewise, you can have sexual relationships
with people with whom there is no real intimacy.
What we long for
is not sexual relationships.
It is intimate relationships.
And it is intimate relationships,
just the sharing of our being,
without any projection or expectation.
And that is the quality of friendship that we share on these retreats. It’s why friendship is such an important part of these retreats; it’s why we have so much free time to go for walks, and sit around the fire chatting, and to have meals, and… It’s because this… this friendship is the… It is the magnification and the sharing of our being.
In winter’s house there’s a room
that’s pale and still as mist in a field
while outside in the street every gate’s shut firm,
every face as cold as steel.
In winter’s house there’s a bed
that is spread with frost and feathers, that gleams
in the half-light like rain in a disused yard
or a pearl in a choked-up stream.
In winter’s house there’s a child
asleep in a dream of light that grows out
of the dark, a flame you can hold in your hand
like a flower or a torch on the street.
In winter’s house there’s a tale
that’s told of a great chandelier in a garden,
of fire that catches and travels for miles,
of all gates and windows wide open.
In winter’s house there’s a flame
being dreamt by a child in the night,
in the small quiet house at the turn in the lane
where the darkness gives way to light.
Ahm… I am in New York City, in lockdown, and I am comfortable in my awareness with my… my self, my soul, my… Infinite… whatever we want to describe it as. But when you mentioned the tantric thing… ahm… it made me wonder if… I was sort of feeling this energy, like a kind of pull. I wouldn’t say it was like an anxiety or stress energy, I would say it felt more empathic… like an empath… ahm… where… and obviously right now in this current environment that we are in, you sort of feel this –or I feel this– powerful energy that… like… that… maybe like the madness of what’s going on in… just the energy of everywhere right now… Ahm… And it made me think, you know, if you’re like a monk sitting in a cave, meditating, but there’s all the craziness of the world outside… How do you… You… I think you would say, “Well, don’t worry about that, just focus on your own… inner… you know, awareness / happiness / peace”. But, how can you do that? Because also the lady from England with the pictures behind her, she was talking about unity, and, even though it’s about finding your awareness in yourself, don’t you feel the collective energy right now, that is so… such a shift…
Well, of course…
… massive shift right now; I mean, the world is going through such an amazing moment, that I sort of virtually feel selfish, just sitting with my own awareness! Is that… Does that make sense, what I’m saying?
Yes, it makes sense, what you’re saying.
But why do you feel that this is selfish?
What is the one thing…
I agree that the anxiety, the fear, the distress that people are feeling, are palpable on the streets, if you go out now.
And if you read the news, or… It’s palpable. I agree with you.
What is the one thing that everybody wants at this time?
Relief from anxiety, fear, uncertainty.
And so, to discover this peace,
where it lies, and the means to it,
is not selfish. It is the least selfish
of all activities. It’s not a personal activity!
It is discovering that, which everybody longs for,
and not only discovering it, but discovering the pathway
by which or through which it may be accessed,
which will enable you then to share it with others
with whom you come in contact,
in whatever form you share it.
And I do share it, I mean as well as I can…
Everyone here shares in their own way.
Nor do I mean to imply that… You said… earlier on you said,
“I’m sure you would just say, ‘Turn away from all of this, and go to…’”
Well, actually no, I wouldn’t just say that.
I would say that the most important thing in life,
either in this crisis situation, or indeed in any situation,
is to find access to peace and happiness.
Why? Because it is the one thing that we want, above all else.
But I would not suggest that we do this to the exclusion of paying attention to our… not only looking after our own body, but looking after those with whom we come in contact, whether they are family members, friends, neighbours, community…
And particularly in this time of crisis,
I would recommend, that each of us
does whatever we feel we can do
to attend to the situation,
and to help people,
not just in the ultimate way,
not just to find peace and happiness,
but in alternative ways, as well.
But in a way, Rupert, it appears as an inside job, though, because… I mean, random example: Just walking outside in Manhattan, to the bank, to line up to, you know, go into the bank, five people at a time, you could feel like –palpable was the perfect description– you can feel just this… sort of energy that is very different to the usual streets of Manhattan, and… you virtually feel… you know, it just feels like all these lone people, walking along the street, lining up… There’s sort of a d… there’s a… it feels like such a… everyone’s kinda in it on their own, in a way… It… You know, when you see them – you can chat to someone, say hello, obviously, all of that, but… but it just feels like… ahm, this shift that is so… internal, for every one. Does that make sense?
It makes sense. I went, first thing this morning… I got on my bicycle and just bicycled down to our local deli, and –just as you described, on a slightly smaller scale in Oxford– there was a queue of people… Only two people, the shop is tiny, and they sell organic produce, and… and… only two people allowed in the shop, and everyone… there was a queue down the road, and everyone was six feet apart, so I joined the queue… [sweetly smiling] And we were all… chatting with each other… In fact, I chatted… In the time when I waited –normally I would have gone into the shop with three of four other people and all my groceries and left– I found myself in a queue for twenty minutes talking to people that I had never seen in my life, whom I may well… – some of them I might have seen because we’re local, but other I hadn’t…
And it was such a feeling of community and friendliness… We were no longer strangers to each other; we were joined together in our common humanity.
What was… Not only was… is there fear palpable on the streets, but also our common humanity is palpable on the streets, and I experience people’s openness, people’s friendliness… Ehm… I tend to be a rather quiet… I don’t often get… if I… in a situation like that, I might just go into the shop and get my groceries and leave. I found myself chatting, with all the people in the queue, and it was so… There was so much love, and warmth, and community, and… irrespective of… of who the people were, or where we came from… There was a… All we were feeling was our shared humanity, and… it was very lovely.
So, even in times like… I’m sure there are many people on this meeting this evening, who have experienced this, and… So, it doesn’t take much. You find yourself standing in a queue, or be at six feet away from your next… but just to start up a conversation with them and, irrespective of the content of the conversation, to just communicate this warmth, and love, and affection, and peace to them.
And they will come away from the conversation feeling that they have been blessed by you. When I say “blessed by you”, I don’t mean anything extraordinary, or religious, or… I just mean that they have been blessed by your peace; they felt that you were not afraid; you were just one with the moment; no problem. They will have felt that their being, which they may not have previously had access to –because of their fear, and their anxiety– will have been magnified, by your presence, and they will feel the peace of their own being. And they will feel that you have blessed them. They will not formulate it like that, probably, but you have blessed them. You blessed them with your peace… That’s beautiful…
Aw… Thank you. I’ll try… Haha.
You don’t even need to try, Joanna.
If you’re in touch with your peace…
Peace is contagious…
If you’re in touch with it,
it just communicates itself,
through a smile…
You don’t even need to try, Joanna.
Just be in touch with your innate peace
and it will just share itself naturally,
in your own unique way,
with whoever you come in contact with.
That is the greatest thing you could offer your fellow New Yorkers at this time.
Just smiling at a stranger as you walk down the street is a communication of this peace.
There could never have been a time, at least in our generation, when this was more needed than now.
Rupert Spira recorded this on March 12 while he was still in California, and wanted to share it with us all, in response to the growing coronavirus situation.
I wanted to share something with you on the evening of my sixtieth birthday.
One of my favourite poems by W. B. Yeats was written on his fiftieth birthday, and he said this:
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
I felt that I was blessed and could bless.
Well… I too, sit, a solitary man, on a rock, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on this March evening, above Muir Beach, in California. And I too, feel, like W. B. Yeats, that I am blessed, and can bless.
I do not mean any pretension, by that statement. Many of you also feel blessed and can bless.
These are changing and uncertain times, but the rapid change, and uncertainty, and insecurity of our times brings into… brings into sharp focus that which is certain; that which is unchanging; and that which is secure.
Namely, our own being.
Our own being is the one constant factor in all changing, uncertain experience.
And if we seek security and peace, we should look for it where it resides; namely, in our own being.
Everybody knows their own being. But not everybody knows their own being clearly. And it is for this reason that not everyone is in touch with, or not everyone feels, the peace and the quiet joy that is the nature of our self, or our being. For many of us, our being is so thoroughly mixed up with the content of our experience, that whilst we sense, whilst we know our being or sense our self, we do not know our self clearly. And it is for this reason that for many of us, the innate peace and the quiet, unconditional joy of our being is not fully felt in the midst of our experience.
So, if in these uncertain and insecure times we seek peace and joy, we should turn simply to our own being. Our own being that lies behind, and indeed pervades, all experience. However, for many of us, our own being is first found in the background of experience, where it lies like a constant friend, unchanging, impartial, bestowing its peace on everything that we experience.
All that is necessary, is to turn towards our self, or our being. And, if we do so, it will –occasionally suddenly, but for most of us, gradually– take us into itself.
So, if we seek peace at this time, all that is necessary to do, is to take refuge in our self. All the peace and all the joy that we have ever truly longed for, lives there.
And one who is in touch with their own being, is truly blessed, for they are in possession of that which is most precious in life, and that for which all people long, above all else.
And such a one has the capacity to bless.
By that, I simply mean as the capacity to share their innate peace, and their quiet unconditional joy, with whoever they come in contact.
With or without words.
So, in these uncertain times, I wish you all, the peace and the quiet joy that is the very nature of your self.
[Smiles ever so sweetly, and slowly turns the camera to share with us a bit of the gorgeous, expansive view of the Pacific Ocean from the Muir Beach Overlook. Thank You, dearest Rupert. We truly are so unconditionally blessed. Thank you for always reminding us, our fellow gem of Heaven.]
My question is, how does one get past a blank state…
“… one get past…”?
A blank; a blank state that we seem to come across. So, it has no content, and it has no qualities. The background to the question is like… Sometimes you talk about namarupa, that is “name and form”… So the object… either in terms of a craving or an aversion… But once you see that, very clearly, that’s it’s actually just an energy pattern; so it’s nothing but a sensation. So if you see that clearly, the power that object has, it just disappears; that sensation diffuses.
[Rupert nods affirmatively]
And then what is left is, that object no longer has power over you. But it results in a blank state. So, where… That object does not have any power, but you’re not able to correspond to that object from a place of Consciousness, that is from peace, and happiness; or beauty. But it basically results in a blank state, where you are indifferent to that object, where that object is essentially dead to you. So my question is, how do we get past that blank state?
In relation to the object…
Yes. And I know, the answer is like, “So who or what is aware of the blank state? That is the doorway.” But, ah… But basically the object doesn’t mean anything to you…
… because it no longer has any attachment.
It’s just like, ahm… [turns to his left, searching in the audience; quietly:] Where are you? [Pointing joyfully with his finger] There! What is your name again?
Kay. It’s just like the conversation I had with Kay about… about our ex. You first of all have to withdraw from your ex; from the object in your case that used to have power over you. Yes? So now, from this… –you’ve put some space in between you and the powerful object or the powerful person– and from this new perspective, the person or the object has now lost their power over you, so you are looking at them from this neutral perspective, which seems a little cool, a little unloving from your point of view [looking at Kay]. From your point of view [looking at the man] you call it “a blank state”; it’s like neutral, blank; the object that once had power over you, either positive or negative, is now just neutral. For this neutrality is necessary, to begin with, in order to establish the distance. Now, when the neutrality has been established, and you know what you essentially are is no longer affected by the object, you can then come close to the object (this is when Kay contacts her ex in six months time and asks him out), you can then approach the object again. The original affection will come back, but it will no longer have power over you.
So this neutral stance in relation to the object that previously had power over you, is an intermittent stage, between the object having power over you, and you being able to have a positive relationship with it, without it overcoming you.
Okay. But… But is this the same as what traditionally has been talked about in terms of like… detachment? So basically you’re not so much concerned with the world?
Yes, but… but this… Again, going back to what we said about these traditions…
Detachment is… ahm…
Although this detached approach: I am the witnessing presence of Consciousness
that is independent from, and unaffected by,
the objects of the world;
although this understanding was enshrined in some traditions,
and in fact became the central tenet of some traditions,
it is only a relatively early stage of the investigation.
It is… it is… For most of us, who are totally
immersed in the content of our experience
(thoughts, images, activities, relationships),
for most of us,
this stepping back from experience,
I’m not my thoughts and feelings,
I am that which is aware of my thoughts and feelings.
I’m not my activities and relationships,
I am that which is aware of my activities and relationships.
In other words, we take a step back:
I am the witnessof experience.
This is… For many of us, it is the first stage,
and a necessary stage to establish: There is more to experience than simply
an amalgamation of thoughts, images, feelings, sensations and perceptions.
There is the presence of Awareness, and that is what I essentially am.
So that’s the first step.
Then we abide,
not in the presence of Awareness,
but as the presence of Awareness,
and its qualities, its innate peace
–if we can call them “qualities”–
its innate peace, its wholeness, or fulfillment,
become obvious; reveal themselves to us.
And… but then it is necessary, at some stage,
to return to the objects of experience,
from which we previously separated ourselves.
So, this… the first step,
it’s what I sometimes call
“the inward-facing path”, or
“the selfward-facing path”,
it is the path of exclusion I’m not this,
I’m not this,
I’m not this…
the Neti-Neti approach.
And this is the hallmark of the Vedantic tradition; I am not my thoughts,
I am not my feelings,
I am not…
I am the presence of Awareness to which,
or with which they are known,
and in which they appear.
But the next step is,
I sometimes refer to it as
“the outward-facing path”,
or “the path of inclusion”,
as opposed to “the path of exclusion”
–it is the Tantric approach, not the Vedantic approach–
in which we return again to the objects of experience,
but now the distinction between our self-awareness and the object, has collapsed.
And it is understood, that all there is to the object, is the knowing of it, or the Consciousness of it.
So. And that is necessary for the full…
Unless we want this peace only to be
accessible to us in the privacy of our own bedroom,
where we’re bothered by no demands, no e-mails, no…
But if we want this…
that the peace of our true nature and its innate joy
to be fully felt under all circumstances,
then at some point we need to go back
into the world.
In other words,
the presence of Awareness
is not just a transcendent presence;
it is… it both transcends experience,
but it is immanent within experience as well.
So, although you may have started on the inward-facing path,
you may be well-versed on the inward-facing path,
you may be accustomed to knowing yourself,
(I am the witness of experience),
begin to explore the outward-facing path,
the dissolution of the subject and the object.
It’s a question that’s about intimate relationships…
How to… [sigh]
How to live these relationships from this pure love, and not like…
In my personal experience, it’s always coming back to the identification
as soon as I… It doesn’t come from pure love. And in the end, of course,
I’m disappointed, because I have projections… and… I have… ah… yeah;
I need something from the person; and it seems like…
Since I’m disappointed, I go back to this Advaita;
I say to myself, “OK, I withdraw”; and that’s
where I really feel the peace of my true being.
It seems like there is something…
Like, as if I’m caught in some part of life…
I think the Church of England should rewrite their wedding vows.
[Audience]Yes. Yes. Yes. [Laughter]
And instead of…
vowing to obey…
and… and all that…
We should take a vow to…
to love each other unconditionally;
which is simply another way of stating
the prior nature of our shared being.
We don’t actually have to vow;
it’s an acknowledgment of what is already the case;
an acknowledgment of the fact that behind our differing thoughts and feelings and our sometimes conflictual activities and ways of relating are being shared.
That would be the first thing to acknowledge when getting married.
And then the second statement I would have couples make to each other
as they get married, is to look each other in the eye and to say to one another:
“I don’t need you”.
[Audience very sweetly agreeing]Mmm…
Those two recognitions.
The recognition that we share our being, irrespective of
the content of our thoughts and feelings and our behaviour.
That is the essence of a loving relationship.
And then at a more relative level…
If we had to have a single idea
that would give the relationship
the best possible chance of being
an expression of that shared being
in all realms of our experience,
it would be this understanding
that “I don’t need you”;
“I don’t need you for my happiness; my happiness is prior to this relationship and independent of it; I’m entering into this relationship because I want to celebrate this happiness and this love, intellectually, physically, emotionally, but I don’t enter into this relationship in order to get happiness or love.”
In other words, “I don’t need you.”
So many relationships, so much conflict in relationships would be cleared up, if just these two principles were remembered.
I see that the understanding is there, but you know, this whole pattern of behaviour is still present. So how to… That’s why, I think, that’s why it always brings me back to this Advaita path that you… kind of… you observe everything, you don’t touch the world, but…
But that’s only half the path, Anastasia.
It’s half the path.
Because, you see, if the peace of your true nature is only accessible to you when you are not interacting with others and the world, then your peace is… is fragile. It is susceptible to being disturbed by the slightest unkind word from a friend, or gesture, or action, or… That’s a fragile peace. It’s not… unshakable… peace.
So, you’re right, that the… this…
what you call “the Advaita path”,
the Vedantic path, the inward-facing path,
is the direct path to the truth of our own being.
You’re absolutely right about that.
But it is necessary at some stage to turn around again,
and to take that understanding out into the world,
and to… not only express it in the world,
but to have it tested, by the world;
and in particular test it by relationship;
and in particular, for almost all of us,
test it in intimate relationship, because
these are the most testing relationships.
So, I would encourage you…
This… this pathway to yourself is very well established in you.
You have this pathway; you know where to go to find peace, and fulfillment.
I would encourage you to… to turn around again, and face the world, and go out.
You don’t have to… I’m not suggesting
you have to go right out into the world
and lose yourself in activities and relationships.
You may still choose to lead a quiet life
that is not fully deployed in the world.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
But I would encourage you
to allow activity and relationship to come to you.
Both to express your love and understanding,
but also to test it;
both to express your love, your peace and your understanding,
but also to test it.
you will find
that by testing it,
it will strengthen it.
But see what it’s like. Experiment, in relationship. See what it’s like…
–and I’m not just talking about intimate relationship, but friendship in general–
… entering into friendship, where you keep this feeling “I don’t need you; I don’t need anything from you.”
It’s so beautiful, to…
I’m sure you’ve felt it, when somebody approaches you in friendship, without wanting anything from you.
You know what it’s like to be approached when someone does want something from you.
But I’m sure you also know what it’s like when someone approaches you genuinely, with genuine friendship, but not wanting anything from you.
It’s such a relief.
And immediately the friendship…
There can be so much closeness…
So much intimacy… between you.
But it’s… it’s not sticky.
So I would encourage you to…
You can’t dictate how other people relate to you.
But if you relate to them in this way,
you will send them a very powerful message.
And they will pick the message up.
So you can come close to people,
in whatever form that takes,
but just hold in your heart
“I don’t need you for my bliss;
I don’t need you for my happiness;
I don’t need you for love.”
That will give the relationship, in whatever form it evolves,
the best possible chance of being a truly intimate relationship.
And it will send a powerful message to the other person.
It will, in a way, demand a certain integrity from them.