Meeting the radiant Mr Rupert Spira

This month I had the rare privilege of meeting author and teacher, Rupert Spira. He is a public figure now, with thousands of students across the globe, and the reason for his following is that he expresses and embodies the truth of non-dual teaching in the most beautiful way.

I went to a meeting in London’s Colet House, where people had gathered to hear Rupert talk. Mostly he answered questions by his students and friends. I asked questions and while Rupert was talking, his presence of peace and tranquillity could easily be felt. Here was a teacher actually living the understanding that he taught, walking his talk so to speak.

The urgency of my question to him lost its importance. I was basically taken over by the peace which made my questions trivial.

I have been reading the Bhagavad Gita since I was a child, having sleep paralysis in my teens which turned into Out of Body Experiences in my twenties. I felt uncertain about discussing these things, but in Rupert’s gathering, such experiences were not unusual at all: many people spoke of them. But the emphasis as always was on a very thorough and scientific approach of testing everything with our experience. Rupert always draws us back into the primary experience we have of ourselves as Awareness alone. He references the work of Ramana Maharshi and others but simplifies it for a modern, western audience. The truth, after all, should be accessible to everyone.

I am very grateful for Rupert’s work and I look forward to reading his new book, The Nature of Consciousness.

 

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When you give up…

Giving up is not a “positive” idea in the world; it lacks personal will to impact reality. But personal will is a very limited thing which depends largely on the beliefs we have about ourselves. We can empower ourselves with our beliefs, but only if we have a way to really see ourselves beyond our beliefs and accept them for the reasons they are there. Getting to this place beyond is so absorbing that the need to change personal experience from that level often feels like a false effort, and whilst the ‘person’ who has started to see themselves as spiritual might work on the mind, once their spirituality has consumed them entirely then they will leave the mind behind. Thoughts may still be there, but the identifying faculty which gives them their emotional charge will start to loosen its grip.

So it is not about a person giving up, it becomes the giving up of personhood itself. Ages of dissatisfaction and suffering lead to the point where a person surrenders themselves so totally. Maybe by the force of a situation, or maybe through the pointings of a guru. When we give up on personhood, it means giving up desires that we know are not taking us to the fulfilment we seek. Usually by this point, a person will have fulfilled many of their outward desires through personal will and motivation, and seen that it does not bring them total freedom. Everyone’s inner purpose is to find that place of freedom, whatever their chosen outward roles. The fact that each desire was propelled by its contrast (the fears of not having that desire), will bring those fears to the forefront for our experience, as the shadows that exist in our unconscious thoughts (the thoughts we are not aware of). So we have to face all the fears of our personhood. And ironically, it is the complete acceptance and surrender to this play of opposites that leads us past opposites into wholeness, where both fear and desire are two sides of the same coin, as are pleasure and pain, suffering and liberation.

By now it’s getting quite complicated, but it appears as such for the mind that can only understand things through ideas. The consciousness in us, which has a self-conscious mind, begins to see its own nature as consciousness itself rather than as a limited person playing a role. A child does not have a strong sense of self-consciousness but neither does he or she have strong ego-consciousness: such a mind experiences both pleasure and pain, letting them go. The developing mind that can create low states of false identification or advanced states of peaceful beingness is the mind that begins eventually to search for its source.

As more and more ‘people’ awaken to their nature as consciousness, they realise there is no dimension to their true being, it has no limits, and therefore it must be shared. If it is shared then we and our world are an appearance in the same one being. That shared beingness has the fragrance of love. The egoic development may be a natural part of transitioning from childhood to the use of an adult mind, but in an awakened world, the mind need not go through as much search and polarity of desires and fears in order to know itself. I hope a more easily awakened world comes forth, which makes experiencing much more joyful instead of tainted with separation. Then humanity will begin to evolve to another dimension of being.

The Dissolving

In one of his question-answer sessions, Mooji explains that the reason consciousness chooses to come into the play of form is because it loves experiencing: it loves the variety, the contrast, the tastes. It is totally in love with it. But it forgets itself to do this, and eventually this forgetting turns into suffering.

What he speaks is clearly demonstrated in the the way children, animals and nature seem to dwell. They lack a ‘developed’ mind, but they are infinitely more advanced in their ability to absorb and enjoy life. This is because of the absence of thoughts, which we adults value so highly as a means of success and survival. Yes, maybe the mind is a helpful tool that allows us to do more than animals and children, but has it really made us happier? I think you’ll say no. Why does it have to develop then? Well, the short answer is, it is a necessary but painful stepping stone in the growth of consciousness. It is the mind that enables us to question Who We Are and the Meaning of Life, in order to search for Truth. It does this through a process of what the ancient Indian texts call ‘neti neti’ (I am not this, nor that). I say Indian, not Hindu, because Hindu now has religious implications, and the Yogis that wrote the old texts would probably not have wanted to brand themselves has having a religious identity. Their truth, after all, is the deconstruction of identity.

As children and animals enjoy the experiences of ‘No-Mind’, they do so unconsciously, not knowing that what they are enjoying is the truth of themselves reflected in many forms. Once their minds and hence, egoic ideas, develop, they think of themselves through their analytical faculties and can no longer enjoy pure experiencing. This is a push from consciousness to create misidenfication and unrest in order to investigate Reality (through the faculty of mind), and make the mind a servant to self-knowledge.

The mind begins its seeking and and goes through many identities before it eventually realises that ultimate truth is not ‘out there’. Once it turns inward, its conceptual identities fall away and it eventually is able to come back to pure experiencing, like the child or the animal. Suffering may also start losing its mental sting, as pain is no longer burdened with the concepts that make it unbearable. Pain and pleasure become passing phenomena. The deeply embedded fear of annihilation may begin to erode. We may feel like kids again. But there is an added seeing because this experiencing is now coming from knowledge rather than ignorance. We know God’s grace rather than innocently sleeping in it.

The being that enquires within through the thinking mind is able to dissolve into Ultimate Reality. The thinking mind is a useful tool but once it has done its job, it is not needed for consciousness to know itself. The mind and its patterns (karma, genetics, whatever you want to call them), eventually dissolve into all-pervading Reality. A step into this dissolving is to become the witness of experience, rather than the one identified with a role (ego). The witnessing consciousness is a step inwards. But there is further to go. Everything has to be given up from the mind. Even the desire to use thoughts to get certain outcomes (which can work depending on the patterns of the ‘person’). In the ultimate reality, the feeling of personhood is gone.

The Judge Inside

Within the mind, there lives an entity called The Judge.

The Judge is a construct of thoughts: thousands of years of human conditioning passed along generations, helping us to define ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This little character sits within the human psyche as a very personal persona, judging not only our own but everyone else’s words and actions. It calculates rewards, punishments, deserving, and so on. It values and evaluates. Of course, its ideas could be a total fabrication. It could be missing vital facts and judging on misinformation. But still it assesses everything it comes into contact with. The worst part is that it separates life into many others ‘out there’ who are behaving in certain ways. It responds to ego because it is an egoic construct. We learn this so acutely as children, being told what is good and bad behaviour.

I am not saying children should not learn appropriate conduct. It is vital and inevitable that they learn to identify different objects and forms of behaviour. But it takes us down the road of confusion as adults when we haven’t balanced this ‘logical’ understanding with the understanding of interconnectedness – the ability to suspend mental noise and judgement and feel as One Totality that whatever is going on around, we can’t possibly know it all mentally.

The Judge that operates primarily against one’s own personality is turned inwards and creates guilt or arrogance. The one that comments on others creates blame, anger, pity, jealousy, vengeance, and so on. But it is the same construct of mental judgement of life, breaking life into tiny pieces of experience we feel we can analyse and label.

From the point of view of consciousness, everything is occurring simultaneously as part of one expression. There are no distinct separations and there is no piece of the puzzle that can be taken out and evaluated. The Judge cannot see its own ignorance until it admits it knows nothing. Once it is witnessed from the viewpoint of awareness itself, realising life is one everywhere, it loses its certainty of labels and gives in to the Unknown.

The Judge that never rests is like a poison in the mind. But eventually it creates so much confusion and sorrow that it poisons itself. The end of the Judge is the end of the subject-object relationship. It is the end of duality.

The Value of Desire

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Desire is a tricky thing when it comes to the human psyche. It is usually seen as the beginning of man’s downfall. The Bible depicts Eve’s desire for the apple as the beginning of sinful temptation; the Bhagavad Gita wtinesses Lord Krishna urging Arjun to ‘act without desire’.

In the New Age, however, desire is seen as the motivator of success. Having goals, aspirations and desires to better ourselves is encouraged. Looking back on religious texts, we in the West generally see the rejection of desire as an attempt to control the masses – take away people’s aspirations and rule over them more easily so that they will be subjugated by guilt and fear. Maybe there is some truth in this, because fear of punishment is something that keeps society in check after all. But on a much deeper level, on the level of heart and soul, what is the relevance of desire? Can it be truly useful for our betterment, and if not, can it be so easily rejected?

In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, a wonderfully concise book by Deepak Chopra, the author discusses the value of desire as the primary motivating force of humanity’s progress. At the same time, he advises ‘detachment from desire.’ I found this very hard to grasp, for the desire is in itself a form of attachment to something, so how can you have a desire that you are detached from? For instance, if I want to be rich (desire), I obviously have some longing. If I became detached from wanting to be rich, would it still be called a desire?

Then I started to see this idea of desire in Chopra’s book more in terms of preference. I might prefer being rich to being poor, but I don’t have a strong longing or need for it, so I can be emotionally detached. This puts the idea of the old religious desire into perspective. What the texts were really warning about was not aspirations in themselves, but the attachment and neediness that comes with those aspirations. Hence, Krishna urged Arjun to act (towards a goal), but let go of the need to win (the battle). Why was it so important to let go of the attachment that came with having ‘desires’? Because the attachment feeds the ego, the belief that we are separate entities that need something ‘out there’. Why is the ego described as such a bad thing? Because it makes us believe we are something we are not; it separates ‘us’ from ‘the world’ and starts within us all kinds of misconceptions that lead to suffering. The ego is a psychological construct we hold so dear that we are willing to hurt ourselves and others to protect it. And the ego is closely linked to desire: it is those desires we have become attached to for our own sense of worthiness to stay intact. So along with the attachment to a desire is the FEAR that our world will collapse if we don’t get our desires. This fear is a intuitive knowing that we are chasing after something which will ultimately cause us pain, as a mirage in a desert. Knowing all this theoretically makes little difference, though!

Rupert Spira’s talks focus a lot on the desire for happiness as the primary motivator within all humans. It is the search for happiness that keeps us going until we realise we actually never find happiness out there. It is the despair at knowing this that makes us give up. It is the giving up (relinquishing of desire) that leads us to turn inward. After much pain, like the prodigal son, we turn towards what can never be found in the ‘world’. It happens to us through repeated struggle and suffering, it cannot be forced by following the dictates of texts and applying superficial knowledge. As Rumi said, “the heart must be broken several times until it opens.”

Awakening

When I started thinking spiritually around 15 years ago, going to meditation centres and reading spiritual texts, the word ‘awakening’ did not come up much. Now it seems to be everywhere in spiritual circles. Anyone who has entered the realm of spirituality will have come across the idea of spiritual awakening. There are two layers of meaning here, and the second layer goes pretty deep into a place that’s hard to even explain, a non-place, if you will.

The first aspect of spiritual awakening has been popularised by the work of Eckhart Tolle, which has reached millions of us across the planet. The Power of Now emphasises again and again the immense importance of living in the present moment, mentally. This means not dwelling in the psychological aspects of past and future, but being in the moment without mental commentary. Another writer that drew attention to this in the West is Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now. The awakening spoken of here is mainly to wake up from mental ‘unreality’ into the reality of the present moment. The whole art of Buddhist mindfulness meditations focus on this.

But there is a second layer to awakening. This one takes us down the rabbit hole, and it is the waking up from our perceived identities. This act of questioning or knowing who we are starts in the present moment but takes us beyond into the realm of timelessness. Time is understood as an illusion by those who can live in the present moment (neither past nor future can be experienced except in the present moment as memory or imagination). But those who take awakening to the next level of questioning their own identity (the process which Sri Ramana Maharishi called atma-vichara), enter a level of awareness in which even the manifestation of the present moment loses its objective qualities: they no longer experience a world outside of themselves, but rather experience themselves as the consciousness in which the world is appearing. This is why the world, in Vedanta and Buddhism, is referred to as illusion. It is not a magic trick but rather that our concepts, superimposed onto it, have made it unreal to us. The fact that we hear the word ‘awakening’ so much now is evidence of the fact that our shared consciousness is waking up from the illusion, albeit in faltering steps…

Unperturbable Byron Katie

I have been reading some of the works of Byron Katie. Her main process is simply called “The Work”, or “inquiry”, which, by name, is reminiscent of Ramana Maharishi’s “self-enquiry”, but has a different approach and format. In her books, A Thousand Names for Joy (a discussion of The Tao Te Ching) and Loving What Is, Katie explains her main process which involves questioning thoughts we hold to be true, and effectively deconstructing our beliefs so we realise nothing is inherently true.

I admit that I was slightly blown away by reading A Thousand Names for Joy. Katie’s way of describing the world is so unconventional that I could only read a bit at a time. But I always wanted to come back. Katie confesses she had been depressed and suicidal for many years. She describes a moment of transformation in which a cockroach crawled across her foot, and she realised she no longer needed to suffer by believing these things that went through her mind, called thoughts. She doesn’t believe in mind-control; she speaks of accepting whatever comes up, be it anger, remorse, loss, death, birth, or whatever, and advises questioning our beliefs around these occurrences.

Poetically written with sensual turns of language, her ideas resonate deeply with the philosophies of Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism. But she had never been exposed to any eastern teaching: she didn’t even know what “namaste” meant and thought that when people greeted her with the Sanskrit word (meaning “the god in me sees the god in you”), they were actually saying “no mistake”, because according to her awakened way of living, reality makes “no mistake”.

The book has excerpts from her work with different people suffering with different issues. One man she writes about was a prisoner who held a great deal of anger. He wrote down the reason for his rage, which was that he could not forgive his wife for burning their house down, which resulted in his daughter losing her life. Deeply traumatic to read about, Byron Katie described how this man was able to do The Work or inquiry in order to see that he didn’t need his daughter to be alive, and he could not know for sure that she was truly gone. There are many other excerpts relating to people’s issues with jealousy, fear and possessiveness.

Katie also describes a moment when her bag was stolen. She says she felt a great joy at wondering about the treasures the thief would find in her bag, that were no longer meant for herself. Another incident she describes is being held at gun point by someone who wanted to kill her. She felt little fear, knowing that the attacker could not have done anything other than believe his thoughts.

I found it wondrous to read Katie’s book, and I think she is a great example of someone who is living the truth of spiritual oneness. In Ramaji’s book, 1000, he lists the levels of consciousness of current spiritual teachers, and he has ranked Byron Katie as enlightened. I agree that only someone with an enlightened awareness could have written such a book.