As the witnessing presence of Awareness, we stand in the background of experience; as the light of pure Knowing, we stand at its heart. 

Experiential Understanding

In day to day living the I is still very much present and indeed mischievous.

Dear Rupert,

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. On one day I came across your name in two places: Joan Tollifson’s website and the Urban Guru Cafe. Having listened to the interviews I was most struck by your eloquent explanations of the Perennial Wisdom, and wondered if you might have a bit of advice.

Anyway, I’ve been interested in Advaita for some time now and find myself in what may be a common position. Intellectual understanding demonstrates very clearly that there cannot possibly be a separate individual entity. Day to day living, however, demonstrates that the I is still very much present and indeed mischievous. As much as possible I remind myself to stay in the moment, and to continually ask ‘Who am I?’ in times of suffering. This seems to help. But on a long-term basis, there’s this eternal frustration of being tormented by a ghost ‘I’ which I know cannot exist. So how to proceed from here? Do I simply wait around for this mysterious moment of ‘grace’ when some subtle shift makes everything clear. Obviously not, since there’s no one for whom it would be clear, nor who can wait around! What is clear to me, on a day to day basis, is a tremendous feeling on separation that’s been there for as long as I can remember. And yet there seems this terrible catch 22 of not being able to do anything about it.

Best and thanks in advance,

Piers


Dear Piers,

Piers: Intellectual understanding demonstrates very clearly that there cannot possibly be a separate individual entity. Day to day living, however, demonstrates that the I is still very much present and indeed mischievous. 

Rupert: Yes, ignorance (of our true nature) has two basic forms: at the level of the mind, it is a belief. At the level of the body, it is a feeling. Once it has become clear at an intellectual level that there is no experiential evidence for the existence of a separate entity within the body, we are open to explore the much deeper aspect of ignorance, which is the feeling of being limited and located.

 Piers: As much as possible I remind myself to stay in the moment, and to continually ask ‘Who am I?’ in times of suffering. This seems to help. But on a long term basis, there’s this eternal frustration of being tormented by a ghost ‘I’ which I know cannot exist. So how to proceed from here?

Rupert: Take the ‘Who am I?’ question deeply into the body. Sit with your sensations and see if Consciousness appears within it or whether it appears within Consciousness. Ask yourself if the tingling in your foot is further away from you than the tingling behind your eyes. If we explore the body inthis way we will find that we locate ourselves somewhere behind the eyes or in the chest.

See clearly that the tingling of say your feet is at the same distance from you, that is, Consciousness, as is the tingling in your face or hands, and that is no distance at all.

See equally clearly that the sound of the traffic appears in exactly the same space of Consciousness and is no further away from it than any other experience.

Everything is at the same distance from ‘experiencing’ as everything else, and that is no distance at all. Now go more deeply into every experience of the mind, body and world and see that there is no other substance present there other than ‘experiencing’ and if we look into this ‘experiencing,’ we find nothing but Consciousness.

In this way the ‘me-ness’ of the body and the ‘not me-ness’ of the world slowly dissolve. Or rather both are discovered to be made out of the same substance, Consciousness.

Piers: Do I simply wait around for this mysterious moment of ‘grace’ when some subtle shift makes everything clear. Obviously not, since there’s no one for whom it would be clear, nor who can wait around! What is clear to me, on a day to day basis, is a tremendous feeling of separation that’s been there for as long as I can remember. And yet there seems this terrible catch 22 of not being able to do anything about it.

Rupert: The mysterious moment of Grace is already present in you, acting as this desire to know your true nature and to turn your intellectual understanding into real experience. 

If there is ‘is a tremendous feeling on separation’ then there is, by definition, the feeling (if not the belief) of someone being present. And that ‘someone’ will be felt as the doer, thinker, feeler etc. If, as this apparent ‘someone’ that we feel ourselves to be, we superimpose a belief on ourselves that there is no one there, then we are fooling ourselves and we fall pray to the delusion of ‘not being able to do anything about it.’ After all, if you truly believed that there was nothing you could do about it, you would not have asked this question!

If it is our actual experience that ‘there is nobody present,’ then the question of doing or not doing doesn’t arise.

However if there is a feeling of an entity being present, then it is better to be simple and straight forward. As this apparent entity we already, by definition, feel that we are doing something. So what can we do as this apparent entity? We can explore the very entity we feel ourselves to be. If we believe we are an entity, explore the belief. If we feel it, explore the feeling.

Take your stand as this Consciousness that you intimately know yourself to be and explore all the beliefs and feelings that seem to make it limited or personal.

See what this belief and feeling is made of. As we explore our experience in this way, our experiential conviction that we are this impersonal Consciousness and that it is this Consciousness which is taking the shape of the mind, body and world, grows and stabilises.

*****

You could also try another approach: Having lived for so long as an apparent entity and having tasted the fruits of this belief you are now open to another possibility, that you and therefore everybody else, is not a separate entity.

Simply live your life as if you knew this to be the case. See what happens in your experience when you treat all beings and things as your very own self. This attitude will give this possibility the chance of revealing itself to be true, or otherwise, in your moment by moment experience. 

Suffering is the fruit of the ‘I am a person’ belief. Taste the fruit of this new possibility and see how it relates to your deep desire for happiness, peace and love.

With kind regards,

Rupert