Rupert Spira: Presence Volume I
Letter of Gratitude by Chris Hebard
Over the years, I have come to realize that the basic quest of life is to discover where happiness resides. The hunt begins with the assumption that there is something missing 'in here' and that something 'out there' will complete me, thus bringing me peace and happiness. It certainly was the case here.
I spent most of my life pursuing the objects of desire - money, family, sex, drugs, glamour, vanity, food, television, the internet, even enlightenment, in a subconscious desire to fulfill some deep sense of lack that followed me throughout life. I was cynical, arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic and extroverted. Always looking 'out there' because I was frightened for my safety or in full pursuit of the next object of my desire. My only mantra was 'More!'
The only relief from this endless cycle was the temporary enjoyment I seemed to obtain when the object of my desire was eventually acquired. These moments were short lived and were followed shortly thereafter by the pursuit of a new object which, presumably, would complete me. It never satisfied me for anything but a brief moment.
Late in life, a catastrophic series of events resulted in a sudden and complete collapse of my entire belief structure. This event cracked open something in me, and profoundly disoriented my former confidence as a person. In short, my concept of myself and the world vanished, leaving me deeply disoriented and needing to understand, 'Who or what am I?'
It set off in me a singular burning desire: to understand what had happened and to discover the answer to my profound sense of disorientation regarding who or what I am. This journey, and serving others on the same path, has become my great obsession. As I stumbled along, I have been blessed, truly blessed, by a growing group of humble, highly clear teachers, friends and mentors, who have patiently walked with me through self delusion, confusion and erroneous beliefs spun tightly together like a spider's web of identity, so that I might recognize the significance of - let me call a spade a spade - our divine heritage. Of these angels, Rupert Spira holds a very special place in my heart.
Over the years, I have met many who have deeply explored the timeless basic questions, 'What do I know to be really true?' and 'What and who am I?' Like me, they have read countless texts, enjoyed the company of teachers, attended endless satsangs and endured all sorts of practices.
Like me, they have had a fairly clear mental understanding of Truth, yet, there was something missing - the enduring signature of the miraculous yet ineffable Self, sat chit ananda, the deep abiding love, peace and happiness from which all perception is born, the unshakable perfume of silence.
Long before he was an author or teacher, Rupert and I became friends through the sangha of Francis Lucille, our teacher. Perhaps, it was the common ground of Francis' teaching that made his original manuscript so intriguing, yet accessible.
Later entitled The Transparency of Things, the book struck me forcefully - lightning igniting a wild fire. It seemed to build a bridge from the limits my mind could take me to into the experiential realm of direct perception. Suddenly, many of the finer points I had heard repeatedly through our teacher began to reveal their fruits to me.
This required a thorough, methodical inspection of the reality of my moment to moment experience. My inability to 'see' required deep reflection on my direct experience - uncovering the hidden assumptions that my imagination had added; this fictional 'web' of identity which Rupert refers to as the located, 'separate inside self'.
This 'sense of me' as an object is born from ignoring my true nature - ignorance - of the mind and also, just as importantly, of the body. I call this examination the Path of Perception or Tantra. As an artist, Rupert sometimes refers to it as the Path of Beauty.
Revealed in the ancient texts of Kashmiri Shaivism, the detailed work of Atmananda Krishna Menon, and the teachings of Jean Klein and Francis Lucille, its fruit is the direct and palpable sense of transparency, of freedom. It requires interest in closely inspecting sensory perception and bodily sensation in addition to belief constructs, imagination and thoughts.
Reading Rupert's manuscript, I wanted to explore first hand some of his conclusions. Although the exploration detailed in his book revealed the same conclusions as our teacher, the path was laid out in patient, loving detail, letting me walk through them, step by step, to their logical conclusion.
Rupert's proximity to the sangha was my great luck. We met many times before the book's publication offering me the unique opportunity to explore and experiment with him, in the privacy of my home here in the De Luz mountains above Temecula.
This is when I discovered Rupert's great gift for teaching. It is one thing to be awake, it is quite another to be a good teacher. One is the gift of grace, the other more like an acquired skill. I have not met many who were blessed with both.
For me, there are three teaching qualities that are unique to Rupert: first, he is an artist of the first degree. His keen sense of observation and expression of the wonderous beauty of being can be seen in his ceramic work; luckily for me, his expression of Truth exudes this same love of perception itself. His teaching is, thus, prosaic and poetic. It sings to me.
Later, I would be honored to interview Rupert on the subject of Art and Consciousness. Out of these exchanges grew my fascination with the expression of Presence through the Arts: painting, film, ceramic, poetry, fiction, dance. To me, art can be an expression of our divinity which has direct access to the heart.
Second, Rupert's expression has a thoroughness that honors exactitude. In other words, he dissects and approaches everything he discusses with great care not to overlook any detail. The result of this patient thoroughness for me was the discovery of many hidden assumptions still parading around as facts. It was the purposeful pace of our mutual exploration that revealed these hidden biases. Although I felt that I had previously examined thought, perception and sensation in depth, it became clear with Rupert that I had been sloppy. There was much more to examine than first met the eye.
As Rupert is fond of quoting Paul Cezanne, the great French Impressionist painter, put it this way: 'The day is coming, when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.' A revolution, indeed.
Third, in my experience with teachers, there appears to be two different ways to approach the subject of truth: one from the absolute and one from the relative. The former approach is necessarily unmoving. It 'stands as awareness' and transmits the unshakeable nature of peace. For instance, the comment that 'there is nothing to do' is true in the absolute sense - there is no doer. But, this truth may not be helpful to the student who still experiences himself as the 'separate inside self' set apart from the world.
As Rupert once said to me, 'It may be true that there is nothing to do, but, if you believe yourself to be a human being on a journey through time and space, there is, in fact, something to do. It is to examine carefully whether this is true.'
And here is Rupert's greatest gift, something I simply had to experience first hand to understand. Without judgment, Rupert listened to my questions, and, then, allowed himself to 'stand in my shoes' and look around.
Once he was familiar with the underlying territory that the question arose from, he invited me to explore this perspective and walk with him as we examined the truth hidden in my questions. From here, we inevitably returned to the only place one can: Presence.
This is a magnificent process of meeting the student where he believes he is, rather than where he forgetfully stands at every moment. It is truly liberating. In a sense, Rupert is actually 'doing the work' with us: 'All that is experienced is the experience of experiencing. What is it that experiences experience? Only experience. It experiences or knows itself. This pure experiencing is what we are. It is pervaded by the intimacy of our being.' (Rupert Spira)
The great gift of this inquiry is the sudden realization of the 'substance' of experiencing itself: Love. My powerful subconscious attachment and determination to hold onto my separate 'inside self' blocked Love itself, which was always present. Francis lucille once said, 'Truth without Love is not Truth at all.' As I said, I am blessed.
Today, I call Rupert one of my dearest friends. In every moment, he 'holds space' when we are together, never judging the occasional residual conditioning that may crop up. Without judgment, the absence of which is the signature of Love, he quietly and patiently 'stands as awareness', the greatest gift any friend could ask for.
'The Intimacy and Immediacy of the Now'
Book extract from Presence Volume I:
The Art of Peace and Happiness
by Rupert Spira
See clearly that all we know is experiencing. However, experiencing is not known by someone or something other than itself. It is experiencing that experiences experiencing.
Where is the inside self and the outside world in our actual experience? Stay intimately with pure experiencing and see if you find such a self or world there.
Where is the line in pure experiencing that separates an inside from an outside? Search experience and try to find this line.
This absolute intimacy of pure experiencing is what we call love. It is the absence of distance, separation or otherness. There is no room for two there. Love is the experience of pure non-duality.
See clearly how artificial are the ‘me’ and ‘not me’ labels. We have never experienced anything that was not our self, nor would it be possible to do so.
And what is it that experiences our self? Only our self! There is only one substance in experience and it is pervaded by and made out of knowing or awareness. In the classical language of non-duality this is sometimes expressed in phrases such as, ‘Awareness only knows itself,’ but this may seem abstract.
It is simply an attempt to describe the seamless intimacy of experience in which there is no room for a self, object, other or world; no room to step back from experience and find it happy or unhappy, right or wrong, good or bad; no time in which to step out of the now into an imaginary past or into a future in which we may become, evolve or progress; no possibility of stepping out of the intimacy of love into relationship with an other; no possibility of knowing anything other than knowing, of being anything other than being, of loving anything other than loving; no possibility of a thought arising which would attempt to frame the intimacy of experience in the abstract forms of the mind; no possibility for our self to become a self, a fragment, a part; no possibility for the world to jump outside and for the self to contract inside; no possibility for time, distance or space to appear.
* * *
And what can we call this raw intimacy of experience? What is its nature? If we say it is ‘one’ we subtly imply the possibility of either more than one or less than one. That is why the ancients, in their wisdom and humility, called this understanding ‘non-duality’ rather than ‘oneness.’ They knew that to say ‘one’ was to say one thing too much.
Only thought tries to name experience or find its ultimate nature. Our self, aware presence, does no such thing. It is only thought that says experience consists of a body, mind and world, that the body, mind and world consist of sensations, thoughts and perceptions, that sensations, thoughts and perceptions consist of sensing, thinking and perceiving and that sensing, thinking and perceiving consist of our self. In other words, all these more or less subtle objects are only for thought. Indeed it is only thought that says that all these are thoughts. Experience itself knows no such thing.
Experience itself doesn’t even know sensing, thinking or perceiving let alone sensations, thoughts, perceptions. Experience itself is too intimately itself to be able to step back from itself and know, let alone conceptualize itself as ‘something.’ It doesn’t even know itself as ‘experience.’
In order to do so it would have to divide itself into two parts, one part that knows, experiences and describes and the other part that is known, experienced and described.
How would it do this? Only by taking the shape of thought. Once it has done so, pure, indescribable, seamless intimacy can be divided in two imaginary parts, one that knows, loves or perceives and the other that is known, loved or perceived.
In order to do this, pure, indescribable, seamless intimacy would have to collapse into a separate inside self and a separate outside object or world. It would have to forgo the intimacy of love and become a separate self, moving around in an imaginary world of objects, time and space.
However, no such thing ever happens. All that is only for thought and even a thought is only a thought for thought.
Sooner or later it becomes clear that thinking can never go to the heart of experience; it can only seem to go away from it. When this is clearly seen, thought comes to its own natural ending. We find ourselves plunged into the intimacy and immediacy of the now.
The intimacy and immediacy of the now is the only place that thinking cannot enter. The now is our only security. It is utterly vulnerable and completely secure. No harm can come to us in the now, no sorrow and no death. All our longing longs only for this.
Like the fish in the ocean looking for water, all resistance and seeking – that is, the separate, inside self – is already made out of the very thing it is looking for. But it can never find it.
The thought that tries to enter the now is like the moth that tries to touch the flame. It cannot touch the flame; it can only die in it.
For some time the residues that thinking has left in the body will continue to rise up and initiate the old search for peace, happiness and love – the search of a non-existent self in a non-existent world for the one thing that is ever-present in experience. But sooner or later these residues vanish like a fading echo.
We seem to have been on a long journey only to discover that experience is experience again. It is now what it always was. But something has been removed. We may not know how or why or when this happened or it may seem to have happened in response to the intensity of our search. Either way all experience is now pervaded by the intimacy of our own being.
We may find ourselves again moving out into the so-called world but this time without motive. The inclinations of our particular body and mind are undertaken spontaneously, without calculation, and they leave no trace of a separate self. We may find our self still having desires but they are no longer motivated to find peace, happiness and love; they seek only to express, share and celebrate it.
[Extract from Presence Volume I: The Art of Peace and Happiness.
Copyright © 2011 by Rupert Spira. All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Non-Duality Press, Salisbury, U.K.]
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