What Meditation Really Is (Rupert Spira)

Nonduality teacher Rupert Spira talks about the difference between meditation as an activity of the mind and meditation as the abiding in the true nature of the self as pure awareness.


We normally consider that meditation is some kind of activity of the mind. It’s a focusing of the mind, usually on a mantra or a flame, or on the breath. Or just on the current situation.  In other words meditation is normally conceived as an activity.

What we understand here by meditation is something very different from that.  Meditation is not an activity that is undertaken by the mind. Meditation here we understand as simply being the presence of awareness. Do you understand what i mean by awareness? Yes, yes, so to be awareness is not something that needs to be done by the mind. To know ourselves as awareness, it doesn’t depend on what the mind is doing or what it is not doing.

For instance, right now, are you the one that is aware of your experience? It’s obvious.  You are aware of these words. You’re aware of these sights. You’re aware of your thoughts. You’re aware of whatever bodily sensations are present. All these are changing and moving and flowing and you are there ever-present knowing them, aware of them.

Are you making an effort to be that one? Or are you just naturally that one. Could you be anything other than that one?  Have you ever been anything other than that one?

So in order to imagine, in order to really feel that you were something else–for instance, a cluster of thoughts and feelings–what would you have to do? You have to forget, or overlook what you truly are. And you’d have to imagine instead that you were a cluster of thoughts and feelings. That’s what we do.  When I say “we do,” that’s what thought does. Thought, because thought cannot see awareness, thought is like the screen for the character in the movie. Wherever it looks it cannot see the screen. Although it’s made out of it, it cannot see it.

So thought can’t find awareness, because it’s transparent. It’s empty. It’s objectless.  So thought imagines instead that we are a cluster of thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions–in other words, a bodymind.  And with that imagination, an illusory self, an imaginary self made out of thoughts and feelings, comes into an apparent existence. Thought imagines the separate self.

We then feel “I am” this separate self. i am this body and this mind, which is aware. And then we notice that we are unhappy, and we are seeking, we seek happiness in all the conventional objects. And then when all the conventional objects have failed us sufficiently, we start looking in less conventional objects, and we hear about something called meditation.

And we approach meditation in exactly the same way that we approached the objects that we used to go for–the substances, the activities, the relationships, whatever it was. We think, okay, I’m going to do this new kind of seeking now, something called meditation, and achieve subtle states of mind which will finally give me the happiness that I was previously seeking in objects.

So then, I, the separate self, starts on this activity of the mind called meditation, and it starts basically manipulating the mind–usually quietening it or focusing it. And this brings about some temporary relief, because as long as there is a tremendous effort to still the mind, the mind to a certain extent becomes still and a measure of peace is derived from that. But it doesn’t bring about what we truly want, which is lasting peace, undisturbable peace, peace that is not dependent on the condition of the mind or the body or the world.

So what we consider meditation here is quite different from that, from the focusing or disciplining of the mind. Meditation here is, it’s what we are. Meditation is just to be, knowingly, the presence of awareness. In other words, just to be. That is the highest meditation, just to be as you are.

And it’s, ironically, it is the easiest thing in the world. It’s easier than breathing. It doesn’t require the mind to be in a particular condition. You could be highly intelligent, very unintelligent. You could be agitated, you could be peaceful, you could be in difficult circumstances, you could be in easy circumstances. It wouldn’t make a jot of difference, because in all those situations, you, awareness, remain just as you always are. To meditate means just to be that, knowingly.

Now if we’ve been used to meditating, to doing an activity of the mind called meditation, then maybe there’s a rebellion in the mind when we sit here without giving it something to do. The mind may feel redundant, and with good reason. So there may be a rebellion in the mind because it’s used to being employed. So it’ll get agitated, it will try to grab your attention again. “You should be doing this” or “this is not enough” or “this is not the real thing.” It’ll provide all kinds of excuses why you should get involved with it again, and over and over again you might find yourself lost in the mind.

Whenever you find yourself lost in the mind, just notice. Consider the mind like a train that enters the station. Just say, “oh, I boarded that train. I didn’t even mean to. I just boarded it mechanically.” Just step off the train. Don’t get involved with the train. Let the train go wherever it’s going. Let your thoughts do whatever they’ve been conditioned to do. They’d do that anyway. Don’t interfere with them.

If you start interfering with your thoughts, if you take on your thoughts, you have to take on the whole universe, because the whole universe is involved in the production of any thought or action. Don’t take on your thoughts, let them do their thing. Just let them do whatever they’ve been conditioned to do. But don’t board the train. Don’t get on, just step off.  You don’t even have to step off. You’re more like  the platform than the passenger. You are that through which the train is flowing. It doesn’t matter where it’s going. Doesn’t matter where your thoughts are going, what they’re doing. They’re always doing one of two things: they are either going into the past or the future. Just let them go, let them make the journey, but you never take the journey with them.

That is meditation, just to know your self as this ever-present, impeturbable light of awareness. That’s it. Just abide as that.

About Rupert Spira

Rupert SpiraRupert Spira a teacher of Advaita and a renowned ceramic artist who examines the relationship between consciousness and form.  Rupert’s great gift is the gentleness and precision of his pointing while escorting the student  on a leisurely walk through the maze of our sense perceptions, bodily senations and thoughts. The exploration is designed to demonstrate the fallacy of our inherited beliefs about reality and to replace them with the facts of our direct experience, our True Nature.

It is the simplicity and accuracy of Rupert’s direct experiential pointing in live satsang and in book, that make his work such a joy. His clarity is a gift, gently allowing a sudden and complete seeing to occur. He asks: Do these perceptions we are now experiencing, really occur in different spaces, or do they all arise from exactly the same ‘space”?

Rupert’s historical influences: Atmananda Krishna Menon, the great Indian Sage, taught Jean Klein before he returned to the West to teach to a western audience the Truth. Jean Klein subsequently wrote more than 7 books, each more complete than the last, all available through www.non-dualitypress.com. Rupert was heavily influenced by Jean Klein, in the late 90’s. Rupert also studied under Francis Lucille, a renowned nonduality teacher, who began to form retreats, intensives and stasangs, most recently at his residence in Temecula, California.

Rupert has recently published a book entitled.”The Transparemcy of Things”, which is considered by some a masterpiece in 20th century contemporary advaitic literature. (source: stillnessspeaks.com)


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