Thank you Judith for recommending this!
The Royal way to approach suffering….Rupert Spira
by Alan Neachell
I wanted to say something in general about suffering. suffering can be dealt within various ways in this approach. and each of those ways depends upon the circumstances. So there is no general way to approach suffering. But I’d like to start to begin with with the highest approach to suffering, the most radical approach to suffering, which is not very often spoken of because it is so unpalatable to the separate self.
And and that is the understanding that suffering is nonexistent. That it doesn’t really exist. Now, of course, in most circles, if someone said this, they would just be dismissed. So for good reasons, it’s not said very often. People say just look around you.
It’s so often so obvious. There’s so much suffering. All around, we see suffering. How can you how can the teaching possibly say: Suffering is not real.
But that’s what all the sages say. So just look at the experience of suffering. Look at your present experience, if you are suffering now, or remember it, if you’re not. Suffering always, by definition, involves a rejection of the current situation. In fact, all suffering is a variation on the rejection of the current situation or circumstance. The “I don’t like what is present”, thought and feeling.
The other side of the coin, which is “I want what is not present”, thought, and feeling. The first is resistance, the second seeking. They are two sides of the same thing. So there is the situation itself and the resistance to that situation. What is it that is resisting that situation?
What is saying, “I don’t like what is present”. In what form does that resistance take shape in our experience? The “I don’t like what is present”. It is always a thought accompanied by a sensation in the body. And just explore that.
Go either to your current suffering, if you’re unhappy now, or remember a time when you’ve been really unhappy and see that the unhappiness consisted of a thought: “I don’t like what is present”. That thought had a counterpart in the body as a sensation. So now we have the situation: The “I don’t like it” thought and a neutral sensation.
The situation itself is obviously not suffering. The sensation itself is obviously not suffering; a sensation in the chest, just a neutral sensation, cannot suffer. And nor can a thought suffer. A thought is just a thought.
“I don’t like it”. It lasts for a few moments. But a thought cannot suffer. It is I that doesn’t like the current situation.
What is that I in the situation. It is obviously not awareness because awareness is like empty space, it cannot resist; it knows no resistance, like the space of this room cannot resist.
So the situation is not itself suffering. The sensation in the body is a mild, neutral sensation, usually a contraction in the chest or belly. A thought is just a thought. A thought cannot be happy or unhappy. Awareness obviously cannot suffer.
It is pure openness. Where is the I that says “I don’t like what is present”? Look look for that one now. Because all our suffering belongs to that I; don’t just pay lip service to this idea and say, oh, yes, yes it’s not there.
Really look. Does the sensation… a thought appears in response to it, “I don’t like it”. A counterpart to that thought in the body appears as a neutral sensation.
And all this flows through awareness without leaving a trace. Where is the one that suffers? It’s just not there. Where is the experience of suffering without that one? The situation isn’t suffering, a sensation cannot suffer, a thought cannot suffer, awareness cannot suffer.
All our suffering is the suffering of a non existent self. Suffering is only as real is the self that thought imagines us to be. In the clear understanding, that that self is at all times absolutely non existent. Suffering simply cannot stand. However much we rail against the idea but suffering is unreal, we cannot escape the facts of the situation.
It requires some courage to face this fact. The separate self, the separate suffering self rails in indignation when it hears this. Because it feels that its precious suffering around which its existence revolves is not being given, due care and attention.
But if we look closely, we cannot escape the facts of this. People sometimes say: there cannot be a god, there cannot be a loving god. How could a loving god possibly allow such suffering in the world? This is the ultimate atheist argument.
How could a loving god allow suffering? Actually, a god that allowed suffering wouldn’t be a loving god. A god that knew suffering would be a god that knew separation. A God that knew resistance, a god that knew judgment, a god that knew you’re good and you’re bad, you’re right and you’re wrong.
How could such a god possibly be called a loving god? A loving god has to be a god that doesn’t judge the good people from the bad people, the right from the wrong. A loving God has to be unconditionally loving, and how could an unconditionally loving god know resistance in any form whatsoever.
The fact that god doesn’t know suffering or care about it is the proof of his existence, not the proof of his absence. His existence, of course, you understand I’m talking of eternal infinite awareness. So for those who see this clearly and have the courage to face this fact, that is the way to approach your suffering.
It is the the royal way to approach suffering.
So for those of us that are not able to face so called suffering in this way two paths are provided: One is the path of investigation, the exploration of the self that suffers.
And the second is the path of surrender, where we, the separate self, that thought presumes us to be turns around and faces the suffering. Normally, when we suffer… we now stepped off the Royal Road and admitting suffering… these two paths, the path of investigation or the path of surrender.
Normally, when we experience suffering, the first impulse by definition is to avoid it. Suffering is by definition uncomfortable.
So the first impulse that arises is “I’m out of here”… the fridge, the bottle. All we all know the various ways that we avoid suffering, which is a resistance to suffering. The suffering is itself already made out of the resisting thought. Suffering itself is the, “I don’t like it”, thought.
The motivation to escape our suffering in attempt in an attempt to alleviate it is just another resistance. There’s the first resistance that we call suffering. The attempt to alleviate suffering is the second resistance. I have to see that clearly. Suffering is the first resistance. I don’t like it.
The second resistance is I don’t like it. That is I don’t like the situation. That’s the first resistance. The second resistance is, I don’t like suffering. I don’t like the experience of suffering.
That’s the 2nd resistance. So in anything we do, anything we do. Whether it’s the conventional means, the fridge to bottle the TV, etcetera, or the spiritual means, mantra meditation, going to satsang, reading Ramana Maharshi, whatever we do. If we do it with the intention of getting rid of our suffering, we are subtly adding a resistance to what is already a resistance. So the path of surrender is not to act on the impulse to avoid suffering. Suffering is the first resistance, the second resistance “I don’t like suffering”.
Instead of doing what that second thought tells us to do, we turn around and we face the first resistance, the frustration, the hurt, the sorrow, the fear, the longing. We turn around and face that first resistance. And we have to allow that resistance to come so completely into us.
We have to face it without the slightest trace of resistance. We have to welcome it into us completely so that we can honestly say, and this is the test: We can honestly say, this feeling, this suffering feeling can live in me forever. If we can say that to the suffering, we know we are truly welcoming it. If we can’t say that, the fact that we cannot say that betrays some resistance to our suffering.
So that is the test: We face the feeling, the fear, the sorrow, the lack, the hurt, the frustration. And we face it so fully that there is not the least resistance in us to that suffering. And then we ask ourselves the question: What is the experience of suffering when there is not the least resistance to it?
I’m not going to answer that question. We each have to answer that in our experience. Next time we feel this sorrow instead of being motivated to escape it through conventional means or even through spiritual means, to turn around and face it open ourselves to it totally and face it so completely that we can honestly say I’m welcoming it. You can stay forever.
Then look at the suffering and see what is left of it. So those are the 3 roads: the royal road in which we don’t admit suffering in the first place. We see that suffering is like a hallucination, which when clearly examined is not there. It’s only there because we haven’t clearly examined it.
It’s still in the shadows. That’s the Royal Road. And then the 2 b roads explore the suffering self through investigation or the second b road: surrender openness, facing the suffering so completely that we can truly say the suffering is welcome forever, and then see what remains of the suffering.
I think all of us who’ve been kicking around with this stuff a long time have had the experience which can be tremendously frustrating of as if there were a dimmer switch in terms of our direct apprehension or awareness. And it relates, of course, to what you were saying earlier about the apparent separate self is a veiling of the awareness that’s always there. But in terms of our actual experience, will come to an event like this, and the dimmer switch will be turned up high. Yes. Then we’ll go home and somebody will say something that presses an emotional button or would go to work and look at our bank balance or whatever it happens to be.
And the dimmer switch goes really low. Now, I understand what you’re saying that it is awareness, that is aware of the either dimming or the brightening. But nonetheless, in terms of the experiential level of it, there’s a huge difference. in terms of how it feels. And I think this points to something I thought over earlier that I wanted to challenged you a little bit on something you said to the lady sitting on the other side earlier this morning.
You said something to the effect that the i thought or the sense of i is created in the mind. And my sense is that’s actually not true. But if — If I did say that, I was just using language casually, there’s no mind in which an I thought is created. But I may have said it casually, but I have to trust your understanding — Okay. — to know that I don’t think there is a mind there in which the the mind is that very thought at that moment.
That’s all the mind is at that moment, just that thought. There’s no such thing as a mind. Well, the mind mind is a is a function. I I understand that it’s not really an entity.
It’s a function. But point being that this the sense itself, it’s a bit like one of those sort of knock down dolls know, these stress relieving dolls. You punch the thing and the damn thing comes right back up again. It kinda seems like that or a ghost that won’t stop haunting you, it kinda keeps coming back.
I I don’t if it was just something that creates itself in the mind and the moment, I don’t think it would be quite so persnickety. I think anybody with a simple, you know, good sense of intelligence who hears these arguments, that would be the end of the arising of that sense itself. I think it’s precisely because it’s deeper in the structure of the psychophysical being for want of a better term and is reflected or be a chronically and compulsively in the mind. that it keeps, quote, unquote, coming back and dimming that sense of awareness. Yes.
To to use a different model I would say that we made reference to this earlier that the the sense of separation is 10% belief, 90% feeling. So the original I thought rises as a belief. but it is later validated and substantiated at the level of our feelings. So instead of just being a vulnerable vacillating thought, it grows depth and substance by taking its home in the body; so that we don’t just think I am a separate self, more importantly, we feel I am a separate self.
And long after our beliefs in separation have been cleared up. As you quite rightly say, the feelings of separation continue, and and this is a very It’s a very common condition in our era where the non deal perspective is available. And many, many people have a clear understanding at an intellectual level that there is no separate self, that the separate self is an illusion.
And yet, as you rightly say, that’s not enough to put an end to suffering. In other words, that’s not enough to put an end to our rejection of the now and are seeking in the future or in the past for happiness, because by far the larger part of this imaginary self lives on in the body as layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of feeling. And as the layers go down, the they they get subtler more nameless to begin with. We can say what our feelings I’m angry because of this.
I’m jealous of this. But, actually, these layers, as as they go down, they become nameless, fullness, existential sense of lack, the fear of disappearance, this
So it’s true that that’s if this if what we’re discussing here is going to really impact our lives if it’s going to be more than just an entertaining wonderful idea, a wonderful new possibility if it’s really gonna cut the ice in our experience. This deeper level the felt sense of separation has to be explored. We explore, 1st of all, the beliefs in separation. And for instance, today, most of our conversation has been exploring the belief in separation.
And it’s why very often it takes more time than just one or 2 meetings to clear up all the levels of belief because that’s where we first go. The the the mind rises up and says no awareness is limited. It’s finite. So for most of us, we have to explore these ideas. maybe not fully, but sufficiently to loosen up the belief systems.
And that’s the loosening up of these belief systems open us at a deeper level to exploring the sense of separation in the body; but there is terrific resistance in many of us to explore separation in the body. Many of us will Explore our beliefs in separation 24/7 for decades, read books about it, talk about it, discuss it, but explore the feelings. The sense of separation is so well defended there. It’s resistance.
It lives in a fortress in here; down here. And so much of our thoughts and our feelings and our activities and relationships as an apparently separate self are designed precisely to keep these deep dark difficult feelings at bay. So as soon as we feel them rising, which we do in between the gaps in the middle of the night, in odd moments when there’s nothing to do, they surface because they want to come up to the light of awareness. As soon as we feel this impulse, what do we do? It’s the fridge, the bottle, the cigarette, the sexual encounter, … whatever it is for each of us.
Anything to “I don’t want to feel this”. And much of the imaginary self’s activity is involved, in fact all of it is involved in not having to fully feel these feelings. And for this reason, long after we have a beautiful, clear intellectual understanding of nonduality, the separate self is safe and happy down here or in here. Even when we begin to entertain the possibility that the deeper roots of separation don’t just live in our thoughts and beliefs, they live in our bodies. Even then, there is a terrific defense system in place.
In many of us to be willing to go into the body, to be willing to come out of the head, to stop reading books, to stop endlessly talking and questioning. And as you’ve gathered, I value talking and questioning. Unlike many, teachers I value seeking and questioning. I encourage it. So I’m not knocking reading, writing, exploring.
But it’s a prelude, just a prelude in most cases, to the deeper exploration at the level of the body. And you’re absolutely right. If we don’t go to the bottom of that well of feelings, then no matter how clear the mind is, no matter how apparently free of the separate self: “oh there’s nobody there, there’s nothing to do” kind of mantra. These feelings will from behind the scenes, unconsciously, they will dictate our thoughts. We’ll continue to act and think and feel on behalf of a separate self because this is where it’s all being controlled from.
Thought will in order… and then we have a problem… Thought says there’s nobody there. There’s no separate self, and yet we feel ourselves thinking and behaving and acting on behalf of a separate self. So what does thought then do?
Through some convoluted act of reasoning, it appropriates the advaita teaching and says: “oh, my obnoxious behavior, my suffering, my unhappiness is just an expression of awareness. There’s nothing to do about it. There’s nobody there”. Bullshit. We’re just fooling ourselves.
The separate self has just dressed up as some pseudo enlightened self and is appropriating the advaita teachings in order, again, to successfully keep these deep dark difficult feelings at bay, and this is a classic thing on the contemporary advaita scene. Mhmm. Agree. My my suffering is just an expression of awareness. Of course, ultimately speaking, it is.
But until the whole system is free of contraction and suffering, we’re not entitled to say that. It will be better to be more honest — Mhmm. — and say, in spite of my clear intellectual understanding, these residues of suffering are still compelling my thoughts and more importantly, my activities and my relationships. Why are there still conflicts in my relationships? when I know there is no separate self.
It’s because I still feel that I am a separate self and you are a separate self. So here, there’s a crisis. Are we just going to carry on the non dual mantra: “There’s nobody there. There’s nothing to do. All my suffering is just what’s happening now”?
Or are we going to have the courage and the love to face these feelings to allow them to come up? and and to stay in place not to reject them, not to express them, but to let them fully show their face, show what they’re made of. When we first hear this teaching, we think: oh, everything should be peace and light and happiness. If that’s what my true nature is, unperturbable peace, then actually, life’s got rougher since I started doing this.
And it’s precisely doing this, exploring this, and it’s precisely because we are truly taking our stand as awareness. There’s no longer any impulse. There’s no longer an entity present, rejecting these feelings. The lid is taken off.
They come up. It feels worse. We thought I thought meditation was supposed to be peaceful. This is just torturous. There’s there’s this wave after wave.
One layer of feelings comes up, and then sure enough, soon as it’s passed through, There’s the next one, even deeper, even darker. And it’s you’re right. It takes some courage. It’s courage and love. Not to contract and say no, but to allow this because there is a bottom to this well.
That the fear of death that you describe is one of the essential forms of the separate self. The sense of lack is another. But this fear of disappearance that I am going to die is one of the one of the essential forms. So as that begins to show itself, it’s very good, and we may notice an impulse to avoid this fear of death. It’s just too much.
I’m going to die when I go for the whatever it is. But if we say no, if we totally say yes, And awareness is already saying yes to everything. Awareness only knows yes. So it’s not something we have to do this surrender.
Surrender is the nature of awareness. Awareness is totally surrendered and open 24/7. Thank you for bringing that on.
Moths gathered in a fluttering throng one night. To learn the truth, about the candlelight. And they decided one of them should go, to gather news of the elusive glow.
One flew, till in the distance, he discerned a palace window where a candle burned and went no nearer, back again he flew to tell the others what he thought he knew. The mentor of the moths dismissed his claim, remarking he knows nothing of the flame. A moth, more eager than the one before, set out and passed beyond the palace door; he hovered in the aura of the fire, a trembling blur of timorous desire.
Then headed back to say how far he’d been and how much he had undergone and seen. The mentor said, you do not bear the signs of one who’s fathomed how the candle shines. Another moth flew out. His dizzy flight turned to an ardent wooing of the light. He dipped and soared, and in his frenzied trance, both self and fire were mingled by his dance.
The flame engulfed his wingtips, body and head, his being glowed in a fierce, translucent red. And when the mentor saw that sudden blaze, the moths form lost within the glowing rays. He said, He knows, he knows the truth we seek, the hidden truth of which we cannot speak. To go beyond our knowledge is to find that comprehension which eludes the mind. And you can never gain the longed for goal until you first outsaw both flesh and soul.
But should one part remain a single hair, we’ll drag you back and plunge you in despair. No creature’s self can be admitted here where all identity must disappear.