“… Awareness or Consciousness is the open Unknowingness on which every experience is written …” ~ Rupert Spira
Recently we finished a 5-part series, where Nirmala “dug into” aspects of our True Nature: from this moment’s treasure … to subjective/objective reality … to navigating feelings of emptiness within … to oneness & how to experience it deeply … and finally considering the question can awakening be ignited? …
To continue this exploration of our True Nature, we now turn to Rupert Spira who has written about the fundamental nature of experience …
Rupert Spira’s book The Transparency of Things: Contemplating the Nature of Experience, is a “… A collection of contemplative essays and conversations. The purpose of Rupert’s book is to look clearly and simply at the nature of experience, without any attempt to change it. A series of contemplations lead us gently but directly to see that our essential nature is neither a body nor a mind. It is the conscious Presence that is aware of this current experience. As such it is nothing that can be experienced as an object and yet it is undeniably present.
However, these contemplations go much further than this. As we take our stand knowingly as this conscious Presence that we always already are, and reconsider the objects of the body, mind and world, we find that they do not simply appear to this Presence, they appear within it. And further exploration reveals that they do not simply appear within this Presence but as this Presence. Finally we are led to see that it is in fact this very Presence itself that takes the shape of our experience from moment to moment whilst always remaining only itself. We see that our experience is and has only ever been one seamless totality with no separate entities or objects anywhere to be found.”
This Rupert series’ 1st post (this one) opens with Rupert’s Foreword from the book … which provides an excellent framework for digging into the nature of experience …
This post is an edited migration from the old Stillness Speaks (pre June 2016 “REDO”) archives. All text below (except for the blockquote) is from Rupert’s book and is published here with his permission.
This book is a collection of contemplations and conversations about the nature of experience. Its only purpose, if it can be said to have any purpose at all, is to look clearly and simply at experience itself.
The conventional formulations of our experience are, in most cases, considered to be so absolutely true as to need no further investigation. Here, the opposite is the case. Absolutely nothing is taken for granted, save the conventions of language that enable us to communicate.
From an early age we are encouraged to formulate our experience in ways that seem to express and validate it, and these expressions subsequently condition the way the world appears.
‘David loves Jane,’ ‘Tim saw the bus.’ Our earliest formulations divide experience into ‘I’ and ‘other,’ ‘me’ and ‘the world,’ a subject experiencing an object. From that time on, our experience seems to validate these formulations.
However, at a certain stage it begins to dawn on us that these formulations do not express our experience, but rather they condition it.
This book does not address the particular qualities of experience itself. It explores only its fundamental nature. What is this ‘I’? What is this ‘other,’ this ‘world’? And what is this ‘experiencing’ that seems to join the two together?
The essential discovery of all the great spiritual traditions is the identity of Consciousness and Reality, the discovery that the fundamental nature of each one of us is identical with the fundamental nature of the universe.
This has been expressed in many different ways. ‘Atman equals Brahman.’ ‘I and my Father are one.’ ‘Nirvana equals Samsara.’ ‘Emptiness is Form.’ ‘I am That.’ ‘Consciousness is All.’ ‘There are not two things.’ ‘Sat Chit Ananda.’
Every spiritual tradition has its own means of coming to this understanding, which is not just an intellectual understanding, but rather a Knowingness that is beyond the mind. And within each tradition itself there are as many variations on each approach as there are students.
This book explores what it is that is truly experienced. “What is the nature of our experience in this moment?” is the question that is returned to again and again.
However, this is not a philosophical treatise. It is a collection of contemplations and conversations in which a few core ideas are explored over and over again, each time from a slightly different angle, and for this reason there is an inevitable element of repetition.
In some ways this book is written like a piece of music in which a single theme is explored, questioned, modulated and restated. However, each time the central theme is returned to, it will, hopefully, have gathered depth and resonance due to the preceding contemplation.
The meaning of the words is not in the words themselves. Their meaning is in the contemplation from which they arise and to which they point. The text, therefore, is laid out with lots of space in order to encourage a contemplative approach.
Having said that, the conclusions drawn are only meant to uproot the old, conventional and dualistic formulations that have become so deeply embedded in the way we seem to experience ourselves and the world.
Once these old formulations have been uprooted, they do not need to be abandoned. They can still be used as provisional ideas that have a function to play in certain aspects of life.
The new formulations are perhaps closer or more accurate expressions of our experience than the old ones, but their purpose is not to replace the old certainties with new ones.
They simply lead to an open Unknowingness, which can be formulated from moment to moment in response to a given situation, including a question about the nature of experience.
There are many ways to come to this open Unknowingness, and the dismantling of our false certainties through investigation is just one of them that is offered here.
If our attention were now to be drawn to the white paper on which these words are written, we would experience the uncanny sensation of suddenly becoming aware of something that we simultaneously realise is so obvious as to require no mention. And yet at the moment when the paper is indicated, we seem to experience something new.
We have the strangely familiar experience of becoming aware of something which we were in fact already aware of. We become aware of being aware of the paper.
The paper is not a new experience that is created by this indication. However, our awareness of the paper seems to be a new experience.
Now what about the awareness itself, which is aware of the paper? Is it not always present behind and within every experience, just as the paper is present behind and within the words on this page?
And when our attention is drawn to it, do we not have the same strange feeling of having been made aware of something that we were in fact always aware of, but had not noticed?
Is this awareness not the most intimate and obvious fact of our experience, essential to and yet independent of the particular qualities of each experience itself, in the same way that the paper is the most obvious fact of this page, essential to and yet independent of each word?
Is this awareness itself not the support and the substance of every experience in the same way that the paper is the support and the substance of every word?
Does anything new need to be added to this page in order to see the paper? Does anything new need to be added to this current experience in order to become aware of the awareness that is its support and substance?
When we return to the words, having noticed the paper, do we lose sight of the paper? Do we not now see the two, the apparent two, simultaneously as one? And did we not always already experience them as one, without realising it?
Likewise, having noticed the awareness behind and within each experience, do we lose sight of that awareness when we return the focus of our attention to the objective aspect of experience? Do we not now see the two, the apparent two, Awareness and its object, simultaneously as one? And has it not always been so?
Do the words themselves affect the paper? Does it matter to the paper what is said in the words? Does the content of each experience affect the awareness in which it appears?
Every word on this page is in fact only made of paper. It only expresses the nature of the paper, although it may describe the moon.
Every experience only expresses Awareness or Consciousness, although experience itself is infinitely varied.
Awareness or Consciousness is the open Unknowingness on which every experience is written.
It is so obvious that it is not noticed.
It is so close that it cannot be known as an object and yet is always known.
It is so intimate that every experience, however tiny or vast, is utterly saturated and permeated with its presence.
It is so loving that all things possible of being imagined are contained unconditionally within it.
It is so open that it receives all things into itself.
It is so spacious and unlimited that everything is contained within it.
It is so present that every single experience is vibrating with its substance.
It is only this open Unknowingness, the source, the substance and the destiny of all experience, that is indicated here, over and over and over again.
~ Rupert Spira
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The Foreword whets the appetite, especially re Unknowingness … so stay tuned for subsequent posts where Rupert delves deeper into Unknowingness and the nature of experience …