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.
I consider kindness one of the highest virtues.
Just kindness; is an inevitable and natural outcome, or consequence, of this understanding.
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.
Rupert Spira transcribed by Leon Hieros