Awakening Rupert Spira
The awakening of Rupert Spira
PM. Could you give a short factual biography of your life up to the age of 16?
I come from a large, close family. Both my parents are kind and loving and gave everything they could, in their very different ways, to their children. My childhood was essentially happy and free.
My parents separated when I was six and we lived with my mother in Hampshire. However, I also saw a lot of my father. My mother is eccentric, artistic and has a deep interest in spiritual matters; my father more measured and conventional. I learned a lot from both of them.
PM. At 16, you say you started to meditate. Was there something specific – an event perhaps – that precipitated such a thing?
At the age of 15 I became disenchanted with the life towards which my scientific education was preparing me. At the same time I saw an exhibition of the work of Michael Cardew, which stirred my imagination beyond anything it had previously encountered. I also started to read Rumi and Shankaracharya which awakened the sense of a completely new possibility within me.
PM. You say you started to read Rumi, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Shankaracharya, amongst others.
Somehow, I had the deep intuition that was I was reading was true. Their words resonated deeply within me and kindled an intense desire to know for myself what they were speaking of.
PM. You say you wanted to make a career in science but felt it wasn’t the right way to go. Why was that? What was it about science that you felt didn’t appeal to you?
It wasn’t so much a rejection of science as an attraction towards art. Art seemed to engage my whole being, not just my intellect. I felt that art provided the means to explore and then express the deepest realms of experience in a way that science could not.
PM. You went to art school. Was there any particular discipline that inspired you – pottery and ceramics presumably – and why?
I first saw Michael Cardew’s work and, later on, pieces from the early ceramic traditions of China, Korea, Japan and Persia. At the time my response was instinctive and inarticulate, just an unmistakable ‘Yes’ from the depths of my being.
These objects were like condensations of intelligence, love and beauty. I would spend hours in museums looking at them. At times I would feel my body dissolving in front of them. It was exactly the same experience that I had many years later with my teacher in satsang.
PM. You spent a number of years at the Study Society, which was set up by Dr Francis Roles, under the guidance of HH Shantanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of the North. What philosophy/teaching did you learn there and how was that helpful?
When I arrived at The Study Society the last remnants of Ouspenky’s teaching was being ushered out in favour of the Shankaracharya’s Advaita Vedanta, which was considered to have been the source of Ouspensky’s teaching.
I immersed myself in the teaching and also learnt Gurdjieff ‘s Movements and the Mevlevi Turning - beautiful, contemplative movement practices. These teachings were my home – I lived in them and they lived in me.
PM. During this period of your life, you say that you had a model of the truth and then there was living a life (relationships, having a family, earning an income, etc.). Effectively, there was a split between them. Can you expand?
My models were the great sages of previous eras and foreign cultures such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Rumi and for a while I mistook the cultural expressions of their understanding for the truth itself.
I felt that I had to turn away from the world in order to access this truth. This attitude is enshrined in some traditional teachings. For many of us, the belief and feeling that it is ‘I,’ the body/mind that knows the world, is initially replaced by the experiential understanding that ‘I’ is the witnessing Awareness that is aware of the body/mind/world.
In order to see this clearly, it may be necessary to temporarily place the body/mind/world at a seeming distance, as it were, in order to establish experientially that we are the witness and not the witnessed. For many people, and I was one, this position of the witness is an important step and establishes the presence and the primacy of Awareness.
This position is enshrined in some monastic traditions where the world and even the body are denied in order to focus on the presence of Awareness.
However, in this position there is still a subtle presumption of duality between the perceiving ‘I’ of Awareness and the perceived object, other or world. This distinction is sometimes naturally dissolved over time or may dissolve as a result of further exploration of experience. Either way, the result is the utter saturation of the body/mind/world with Awareness (in fact, it was always thus but is now known and felt to be so) in which the body, mind and world are no longer believed and felt to be dangerous or threatening and can again be fully embraced.
PM. And then you met Francis Lucille. How did he help you?
Something about our encounter made it clear that what I am is ever-present and without limits or location. As a side effect of this discovery, the ‘me’ that was looking for help was found to be non-existent.
PM. Would you say that you are Self-realized/enlightened, for want of a better expression?
Both the answer, ‘Yes,’ and the answer, ‘No,’ would presume the presence of one that may or may not be enlightened. In the absence of such a one, only the Light that enlightens all seeming things remains. In fact, it does not ‘remain’ in time. It is realised to be the ever-present reality of all experience. It is experience.
PM. What does it mean to be Self-realized/enlightened?
These words can be used with different meanings. The meanings with which I use them are as follows:
To be enlightened means to know oneself as Awareness and to know that this Awareness is ever-present and without limit or location.
To be Self-realized means to think, feel and act in line with that experiential understanding.
Enlightenment is instantaneous although it may not be immediate. Self-realization takes apparent time and involves the gradual dissolution of all the olds habits of thinking, feeling, acting and relating on behalf of a separate entity and, as a result, the realignment of the mind, body and world with the experiential understanding of our self, Awareness, as the sole witness and substance of all seeming things.
PM. Why aren’t I Self-realized/enlightened?
Because of that very question. With that question you presume yourself to be an entity that is other than and separate from the light of Awareness. This presumption is known as the ‘person’ or the ‘separate entity’ and seems to veil the Love and Happiness that are inherent in Awareness’ knowing of its own Being.
This apparent veiling of Happiness is synonymous with the search for enlightenment or the feeling of being unenlightened. That search is what the separate entity is, not what it does.
Once we have imagined ourselves to be such an entity, the search for Happiness in the objects of the mind, the body and the world is inevitable. If we believe and feel ourselves to be such an entity and believe at the same time that we are not in search, we are simply deluding ourselves. We have simply buried the subtle rejection of the now, which is another name for the search, under a new belief in non-duality.
However, sooner or later this search comes to an end, in most cases, as a result of suffering and enquiry. At this point, we may, as it were, turn round and question the very one who is in search only to find it to be utterly non-existent. In its place, where we are expecting to find the ‘I’ of the separate self, find only the ‘I’ of Awareness
Original interview here