Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

The Reality of the Illusory World

--by Rupert Spira (Feb 09, 2015)

Well over a hundred years ago the painter Paul Cézanne said, “A time is coming when a carrot, freshly observed, will trigger a revolution.” Cézanne meant that if we could see even a simple everyday object such as a carrot, as it truly is, our experience would be revolutionized. But what does it mean to see an object as it truly is? The key is in the phrase ‘freshly observed,’ which means to see clearly, unobstructed by the concepts that thought superimposes on our experience. In fact, most of us are completely unaware that our experience is filtered through a fine mesh of conceptual thinking that makes it appear very different from how it actually is.

As the Chinese sage Huang Po said, some 1200 years ago, “People neglect the reality of the illusory world.” The illusory world? Now that’s even more radical than Cezanne! It’s one thing to look freshly at a carrot, spade, house or world, but quite another to consider it an illusion. What did he mean?

We often hear phrases in the non-dual teaching such as, ‘The world is an illusion.’ But such phrases may create a rebellion in us, for we know that our experience is very real. So how to reconcile these two positions – one, ‘the illusory world’ and two, the undeniable reality of our experience?

Anything that appears must appear in or on something. For instance, an image appears on a screen; a chair appears in the space of a room; the words of a novel appear on a page; a cloud appears in the sky. What about the mind, body and world? Our only experience of them is what currently appears to us as thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells. In other words, all we know of a mind, body or world are appearances, and all these are continually appearing and disappearing. We may have a concept of a continuously existing mind, body or world, but we never actually experience such an object.

All experience arises within our self, this transparent emptiness. And the only ‘stuff’ present in our self, out of which all experience can be made, is our self itself. It is our direct, intimate experience that all we know of a mind, body or world is made out of and is identical to the transparency of our own Being.

Just as the screen on which an image appears is usually overlooked due to our exclusive focus on the image itself, so this open, empty, transparent presence of our own Being is usually overlooked due to our exclusive focus on the objects of the mind, body and world – that is, on thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions. However, just as it is not possible to see an image without seeing the screen so, although this Presence is usually overlooked, it is never truly unknown.

Love is the common name we give to experience when the ‘other’ is no longer experienced as ‘other;’ when the subject/object relationship collapses. It is to see the appearance of an image but to know it only as screen. It is to attribute the reality of the image to the screen. It is to know everyone and everything as one’s own self.

From an early age Rupert Spira was deeply interested in the nature of Reality. For twenty years he studied the teachings of Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Rumi, Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Robert Adams, until he met his teacher, Francis Lucille, twelve years ago. Francis introduced Rupert to the teaching of Jean Klein, Parmenides, Wei Wu Wei and Atmananda Krishnamenon and, more importantly, directly indicated to him the true nature of experience.  Full article here.

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On Feb 9, 2015 david doane wrote:

Regarding "the reality of the illusory world," I think of the reality of a mirage.  A mirage is a real mirage, a real unreal, a real illusion, like any illusion.  We live in the reality of the illusory world, and for me it's important to remind myself that it's a real illusion.  It's real and it's not.  I think that's what the Zen saying -- "Not one, not two; not both, not neither" -- is communicating.  For me it relates to Scripture saying we are in the world but not of it.  We are to know that there is Ground/Consciousness/Being/God out of which all these real illusions including our selves in physical form manifest.  What's real is the Ground, and the rest is real illusion.  The subject/object relationship has collapsed for me in orgastic experiences, in some experiences of feeling one with nature, and in my thinking where it has become clearer to me that at Ground Level all that is is one.  Being aware that I am in the world and not of it helps me to not disengage from the world, not be totally captured or controlled by it, and to have a sense of freedom and choice which seems to make it all more livable for me.

On Feb 10, 2015 Syd wrote:

Wow, David I always appreciate your thoughts and your words. You appear to have this ability to penetrate life profoundly and at the same time comprehending it broadly. I experience you with a knowing-ness and aware-ness that offers you direct apprehension of the Essence of life. You make this Essence clear because you make the nature of my mind clear. Your clarity is your underlying depths and then you bring everything into Oneness. This is brilliant clarity and speaks of you being closer to a contemplative than just a thinker. Your contemplative mind is experienced where you appear to allow nothing to stick in your consciousness and you penetrate complexity with simplicity. This is to say David, your faith speaks for you and your open mind, a contemplative mind which offers us the key to understand the whole. I appreciate your faith where you teach absolute certitude cannot be achieved and itself is an illusion.

This is to say, you tickle my faith and you help me to observe life with an open mind. And it seems silly faith can be playful and winsome, yet it is rewarding as you offer this trust.

On Nov 13, 2017 Mohamed Ouassou Ibrahim wrote: