068. Richard Sylvester

Richard SylvesterRichard Sylvester is a humanistic psychologist, therapist and lecturer. For thirty years he engaged with a variety of spiritual practices while also training in psychotherapeutic techniques and teaching counselling. In 2002 Richard met Tony Parsons and as he writes in his first book “That was the end of what I thought had been my life.”

Richard writes “The most common misconception about liberation is that it is something an individual can gain. But actually it is a loss – the loss of the sense that there ever was a separate person who could choose to do something to bring about liberation. In liberation it is seen that thoughts, feelings and perceptions simply arise in Oneness – there is no one to whom they belong.

“The sense of separation makes us take the everyday for granted and clamour for something more exciting to happen. But when separation is seen through, the ordinary becomes transformed into this wonderful play of consciousness, and it is seen that this is already it and this is already sufficient.

“This is a recurring message. It overthrows all authority. It can’t be killed off. It requires nothing. It requires no churches, no philosophical tracts, no scriptures, no history. If everything that had ever been said or written about non-duality were to disappear in a moment, it would simply re-emerge. It would re-emerge because nothing has to be learnt, nothing has to be studied, nothing has to be done, no spiritual purification and no pleasing of God has to take place, for the seeing of liberation to occur. It arises spontaneously. One moment there’s somebody there, the next moment there isn’t. One moment there’s somebody crossing a field, the next moment there’s just crossing a field.”

Richard has written three books about non-duality, ‘I Hope You Die Soon’, ‘The Book Of No One’ and ‘Drink Tea, Eat Cake’.  He gives talks on non-duality in England and abroad. If you would like to know more, please visit www.richardsylvester.com or www.richardsylvester.co.uk.

Interview recorded 5/8/2011.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast. Due to technical problems, this video only contains still shots of Richard, while Rick’s video is normal.

Note from Rick: I may sound a bit argumentative in this interview, but that was not my sentiment. I do not doubt Richard’s realization and I appreciate the clarity of his expression, but I do doubt and question the tendency of some speakers to offer a description of the awakened state as a prescription, or to state that nothing can be prescribed, and that spiritual practices and realization are unrelated. I felt the interview would be more interesting and authentic if I honestly aired these doubts and questions, so I did, and a lively discussion ensued which we both enjoyed. In fact, Richard suggested that we do a follow-up interview, which we will eventually.

160 thoughts on “068. Richard Sylvester

  1. I love this site and appreciate the work Rick is doing. I have listened to 12 interviews so far, but this one was disappointing. I felt the Conscious TV interviews of Richard Sylvester were more helpful where the interviewer was not trying to force his fixed idea of “the progressive path is The TRUTH” into the mix for an hour and a half.

  2. Sorry about that. I’m still wrestling with this issue and probably came across too heavy-handed. As Francis Lucille is reported to have put it, “the problem with the progressive path is that people never feel they’re good enough to have reached enlightenment. The problem with the direct path is that people think they’re enlightened when they’re not.” Here’s a Tibetan proverb I came across recently that I like a lot: “Don’t mistake understanding for realization; don’t mistake realization for Liberation”. I’m going to invite Tony Parsons soon. He should be the acid test of whether I can be non-judgmental enough to conduct a fair interview without becoming argumentative. I’m learning (progressive that I am).

  3. Absolute Reality does not, of course, move, change, or progress. Where would it go? It’s already there. What would it become? It’s already that.

    Progression is an appearance in/of relative reality, which is seen as relative only by the relatively real. It’s an appearance in a relatively real separate individual, which is an appearance in a relatively real mind, which is an appearance in/of Absolute Reality, which sees only itself.

    Progression might be more aptly called regression – the relative “returning” to that which it never really left, the Absolute, always only itself.

    Progression/regression can look like Richard or like Rick.

    IMV (in my view)

  4. Wow, I was really blown away by the graciousness and open-mindedness of your response to my comment Rick. Made me feel less gracious about the fact that I loved all the other interviews but only commented when I had something negative to say. I really love the expression of Tony Parsons and other English people and the people in Australia around Sailor Bob. I also love Timothy Freke’s expression of the progressive path and others similar to him. You are right, Tony Parsons certainly will be the acid test! Can’t wait for that one.

    Thank you for this very beautiful site.

  5. i don’t know if this might help or not…

    briefly… like Steve says… Absolute Reality is never changing… while Relative Reality is ever changing…

    perhaps what is missing… is the understanding that… Absolute Reality is not the whole ball of wax…

    the Total Reality is both the Absolute and the Relative… learned this from MMY…

    Total Reality is also what we call Life… and it is both… the never-changing non-duality… and the ever-changing duality…

    this… i feel i adds the mystery and the paradox back into the equation… which we know Reality to be… and perhaps rescues us from getting stuck in absolutist views projected onto the dual part of progressive life…

    i appreciate Rick trying to get to the bottom of this… and feel it’s the “awakened” ones that need to help in resolving this dilemma which many are concerned about…

    thanks for listening…

  6. of course… if Rick can do it… more gently… more clearly…

    i feel he’s getting there… but the interviewees need to help… in this respect… i feel Jan Esmann’s interview is very interesting and informative… i encourage anyone interested in this point… to watch it… again… if the point was missed… thanks…

  7. Any attempt at a definitive, finite explanation of the infinite will be not only missing the vast majority of that which can be known, but even more significantly, will be missing all of that which can’t be known — aka what is yet to be.

    Progression is another one of those loaded words that will always be open to interpretation. From this current experience, what ‘progresses’ is one’s ever deeper, loving appreciation for the infinite, unknowable, unfolding mystery of it all. and perhaps that was what was ‘missing’ from Richard … at least IMV (thanks Steve) :]]

  8. Gracie… if i may… this progressive point was handled somewhat differently … and perhaps “adequately”… in interviews of Burt Harding, Joi Sharp & Jan Esmann… perhaps others…

  9. Thank you Gracie. Hey, if a baseball player could get a hit 11 out of every 12 times at bat, he’d be considered super-human. So I felt encouraged rather than discouraged by your comment. I knew while I was interviewing Richard that there was too much “Rick” in the process. Debate is a part of traditional Indian spirituality. Sages would get together and one would argue for the dual perspective while the other would argue for the non-dual. As they debated, the audience would swing back and forth between the two perspectives, and this would culture in them the capacity to hold both paradoxical perspectives in their awareness.

    I too like the English and Australian folks. I’ve listened to all the Urban Guru Café episodes. But liking them doesn’t mean I completely agree with them. I brought up the idea of progress with Wayne Liquorman when I interviewed him his afternoon. After a bit of prodding, he acknowledged that there’s one dimension of life which can’t possibly be enhanced or changed, but that there’s infinite room for refinement and improvement in the manifest expression – ones emotions, perception, etc.

  10. When you know you know. That’s all there is to it. Until then it’s confusion itself. After, it’s a non issue.
    I don’t mean this in some snooty way. It’s the truth.

    Below is part of a conversation with Nisargadatta from
    “I Am That” All we can maybe do is be wide open to any possibility. That’s what Francis says. ‘Be open to the possibility there is no personal awareness, and investigate your own experience.’

    “M:  You cannot quarrel with facts.
    Q:  Whose facts? Yours or mine?
    M:  Yours. You cannot deny my facts, for you do not know them. Could you know them, you would not deny them. Here lies the trouble. You take your imagining for facts and my facts for imagination. I know for certain that all is one. Differences do not separate. Either you are responsible for nothing, or for everything. To imagine that you are in control and responsible for one body only is the aberration of the body-mind.”

  11. “When you know you know …” ~ Chuckee

    Sounds a lot like that age-old answer to the question: How do you know when you’ve fallen in love?

    And ultimately this ‘knowing’ of Love becomes the only answer that matters, to the only spiritual question that one need ask … IMV

    But of course this is nothing new under the sun …

    From the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

    A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

    The husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

    Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

    Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

    This Self has to be realized. Hear about this Self.

    As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves
    and cannot be taken out again,

    though wherever we taste, the water it is salty,
    even so, beloved,

    the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness,

    infinite and immortal.

    Separateness arises from identifying the Self with the body,

    which is made up of the elements;

    when this physical identification dissolves,

    there can be no more separate self.

    ~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

  12. “After a bit of prodding, he acknowledged that there’s one dimension of life which can’t possibly be enhanced or changed, but that there’s infinite room for refinement and improvement in the manifest expression – ones emotions, perception, etc.” – Rick

    I was looking forward to Wayne coming here, but now I’m doubly looking forward to it.

    I’m familiar with most of his writings and I am dying to see how he said the above.

    *checks to see if his popcorn popper will be ready for that time*

  13. As usual, I kicked myself a bit afterwards as I thought of things I should have asked or asked differently, but on the whole I think it was a pretty good one. Bentinho Massaro was a lot of fun too.

  14. Can I have a sneak peek by asking you if he surfaced one of his favorite (mine too) metaphors, or the waves/Ocean one?

    If he did, I’d be interested to see how he interpreted refinement and improvement within wavedom.

  15. all i was saying is when you know. it all makes sense to no one in particular. when you don’t know, you find yourself as an object, as someone, trying to make sense out of parts that don’t fit. and it can’t be done.

  16. I loved the interview. Richard reminds me of some Zen masters that taught without ever giving the mind of the students whatsoever to grab a hold of, no assurances, no hope, no path, no nothing that could prolong the students seeking. Of course there’s always the danger of misinterpretation. I think this method is much more suited for “advanced” (long-term and already kind of exhausted) seekers that need a good final blow to ultimately call of the search for “enlightenment”.
    A psychologist asked a Zen Master how exactly he helped people. The Zen Master replied: “I get them to the point where they cannot ask anymore questions”…

Leave a Reply