Interview with Christian Salvesen

This interview with Christian Salveson took place in January 2010.

Christian: Richard, there are many very respected traditional methods designed to help people wake up from the illusion of separation. You have practised some of these yourself. How do you see them now? Are they all useless or even misguided? Could it be that all the great spiritual masters like Buddha, Bodhidharma etc. were wrong?

Richard: The core problem for people is that they feel separate, incomplete, inadequate. But when awakening occurs, it is seen that there never was a person to be inadequate, there was only ever Oneness. So there never was anyone who could do anything to bring about the end of their dilemma. You are not inadequate, you are Oneness expressing itself. How could Oneness be inadequate?

Within the dream of separation there are many methods which can make life more comfortable, although others, such as developing detachment and suppressing the shadow, are quite good at making the dream more uncomfortable! But no method will produce liberation. Nothing will do that except the spontaneous dropping away of the sense that there is anyone who needs to be liberated, and the person, being only an appearance, cannot bring that about. I know it may be frustrating to hear this – it used to frustrate me.

Nothing is either useless or useful. Everything is simply what it is. In any case, there is no one who makes any kind of choice. Meditation may happen or drinking beer may happen – or for the fortunate ones, both. There is nothing to find and no hope of finding it, so we might as well relax and enjoy the ride.

It is said that what the Buddha saw under the bodhi tree was nothing, or the No Thing from which everything arises. That’s as good a description of liberation as you’re ever likely to get. Many others have also attempted to describe Oneness but they have usually been misinterpreted, ignored or, in some traditions, executed.

Christian: What about Buddha’s ‘nirvana’, meaning a candlelight going out. Does that fit realization as you see it?

Richard: Because we feel separate, we find the everyday, ‘samsara’, dull and ordinary. So we search desperately for enlightenment, for ‘nirvana’. But, as the Buddhists say, “Samsara and nirvana are one.” In other words, this is already the promised land, the hoped for paradise, but that cannot be seen while there is a person looking for it.

When the everyday is seen without the grimy veil of the person covering it over, it is seen as the miraculous dance of Oneness and everything becomes fascinating. ‘A candlelight going out’ is a good metaphor for the dropping away of the person.

Christian: Is there such a thing as ‘permanent realization’? If so, what makes it permanent, as opposed to any other experience which fades away in time and in memory?

Richard: Realisation is neither permanent nor temporary and it is not an experience. It exists outside time and outside experience. Time is a concept, a part of the dream of separation. As realisation does not exist in time, it does not exist in memory and it cannot fade away.

Christian: Can you describe what happens in realization?

No, because nothing happens in realisation. However, a description can be given of what it is like when the sense of separation is no longer there. It is both very ordinary and absolutely stunning. Come along to one of my meetings. But be careful – if non-duality grabs you, “Your head will be in the tiger’s mouth” and then you will be lost.

Christian What are your meetings like?

Richard: I usually give a short talk and then we have questions and answers and discussion. Sometimes these can get quite psychological or philosophical, but really I am just trying to give a description of what is seen when the person drops away, and to cut through all the stories and misconceptions that the mind spins around concepts like ‘awakening’, ‘enlightenment’, ‘liberation’ and ‘realisation. The tea and biscuits are also important.