Francis Lucille, a spiritual teacher of Advaita (non-duality)

Francis Lucille is a spiritual teacher of the tradition of Advaita Vedanta (non-duality). He became a disciple of Jean Klein, a French Advaita teacher whom he met in 1975. This was the beginning of a close association that lasted until the death of his friend and spiritual master in 1998. Jean Klein's own guru, "Panditji" Rao, whom he met in India in the nineteen-fifties, was a Sanskrit professor in Bengalore who belonged to a lineage of traditional Advaita Vedanta teachers.  Click here for info on retreats and webcasts





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A Spiritual Awakening

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How did you discover your real nature?

You are asking about the specifics in my case. Before I give you the details, I have to forewarn you that this is not a one-size-fits-all path to the truth. The way to the discovery of our true nature varies from one seeker to another. It may be a sudden and dramatic experience or a subtle, seemingly gradual path. The touchstone, in all cases, is the peace and understanding that prevails at the end of the road.

Although a first glimpse of reality is an event of cosmic proportions, it may remain unnoticed at first and work its way in the background of the mind until the egoistic structure collapses, just as a building severely damaged by an earthquake remains stand- ing for some time and collapses a few months later, gradually or suddenly. This effect is due to the fact that the glimpse does not belong to the mind. The mind, which until now was the slave of the ego, becomes the servant and lover of the eternal splendor that illuminates thoughts and perceptions. As a slave of the ego, the mind was the warden of the jail of time, space and causation; as a servant of the highest intelligence and a lover of the supreme beauty, it becomes the instrument of our liberation.

The glimpse that ignited my interest for the truth occurred while I was reading a book by J. Krishnamurti. It was the point of departure of an intense quest that became the central and exclusive focus in my life. I read Krishnamurti’s books again and again, along with the main texts of Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism. I made important changes in my life in order to live in accordance with my spiritual understanding. I renounced what many people would call an excellent career, because it implied my involvement as a scientist with the design and development of sophisticated weapons for the French military.

Two years after the first glimpse, I had achieved a good intellectual understanding of the nondual perspective, although a few questions still remained unanswered. I knew from experience that any attempt to fulfill my desires was doomed to failure. It had become clear to me that I was consciousness, rather than my body or my mind. This knowledge was not a purely intellectual one, a mere concept, but seemed to somehow originate from experience, a particular kind of experience devoid of any objectivity. I had experienced, on several occasions, states in which perceptions were surrounded and permeated by bliss, light and silence. Physical objects seemed more remote from me, more unreal, as if reality had moved away from them and shifted toward that light and that silence which was at the center of the stage. Along with it came the feeling that everything was all right, just as it should be, and, as a matter of fact, just as it had always been. However, I still believed that awareness was subject to the same limitations as the mind, that it was of a personal, rather than universal, nature.

Sometimes, I had a foretaste of its limitlessness, usually while reading Ch’an or Advaita texts or while thinking deeply about the nondual perspective. Due to my upbringing by materialistic and antireligious parents and to my training in Mathematics and Physics, I was both reluctant to adopt any religious belief and suspicious of any nonlogically or nonscientifically validated hypothesis. An unlimited, universal awareness seemed to me to be such a belief or hypothesis, but I was open to explore this possibility. The perfume of this limitlessness had, in fact, been the determining factor that sustained my search for the truth. Two years after the first glimpse, this possibility had taken a center stage position.

That is when the radical change, the “Copernican shift,” happened. This event, or, more precisely, this nonevent, stands alone, uncaused. The certainty that flows from it has an absolute strength, a strength independent from any event, object or person. It can only be compared to our immediate certainty to be conscious.

I was sitting in silence, meditating in my living room with two friends. It was too early to fix dinner, our next activity. Having nothing to do, expecting nothing, I was available. My mind was free of dynamism, my body relaxed and sensitive, although I could feel some discomfort in my back and in my neck.

After some time, one of my friends unexpectedly began to chant a traditional incantation in Sanskrit, the Gayatri Mantra. The sacred syllables entered mysteriously in resonance with my silent presence which seemed to become intensely alive. I felt a deep longing in me, but at the same time a resistance was preventing me from living the current situation to the fullest, from responding with all my being to this invitation from the now, and from merging with it. As the attraction toward the beauty heralded by the chant increased, so did the resistance, revealing itself as a growing fear that transformed into an intense terror.

At this point, I felt that my death was imminent, and that this horrendous event would surely be triggered by any further letting go on my behalf, by any further welcoming of that beauty. I had reached a crucial point in my life. As a result of my spiritual search, the world and its objects had lost their attraction. I didn’t really expect anything substantial from them. I was exclusively in love with the Absolute, and this love gave me the boldness to jump into the great void of death, to die for the sake of that beauty, now so close, that beauty which was calling me beyond the Sanskrit words.

As a result of this abandon, the intense terror which had been holding me instantaneously released its grip and changed into a flow of bodily sensations and thoughts which rapidly converged toward a single thought, the I-thought, just as the roots and the branches of a tree converge toward its single trunk. In an almost simultaneous apperception, the personal entity with which I was identifying revealed itself in its totality. I saw its superstructure, the thoughts originating from the I-concept and its infrastructure, the traces of my fears and desires at the physical level. Now the entire tree was contemplated by an impersonal eye, and both the superstructure of thoughts and the infrastructure of bodily sensations rapidly vanished, leaving the I-thought alone in the field of consciousness. For a few moments, the pure I-thought seemed to vacillate, just as the flame of an oil lamp running out of fuel, then vanished.

At that precise moment, the immortal background of Presence revealed itself in all its splendor.

Excerpt from Eternity Now, by Francis Lucille




Dialogue With Francis Lucille

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What can we expect from our meetings?

To learn not to expect. Not expecting is a great art. When you no longer live in expectation, you live in a new dimension. You are free. Your mind is free. Your body is free. To understand intellectually that we are not a psycho-physical entity in the process of becoming is a necessary first step, but this understanding is not sufficient. The fact that we are not the body must become an actual experience that penetrates and liberates our muscles, our internal organs and even our cells. An intellectual understanding that corresponds to a sudden, fleeting recognition of our true nature brings us a flash of pure joy, but when we have full knowledge that we are not the body, we are that joy.

How can I perceive in a sensorial fashion that I am not the body?

We all experience moments of happiness which are accompanied by a perception of expansion and relaxation. Before this body perception, we were in a state of timelessness, an unadulterated, causeless joy of which the physical sensation is simply the ultimate consequence. This joy perceives itself. At that moment, we were not a limited body in space, not a person. We knew ourselves in the immediacy of the moment. We all know this felicity without cause. When we explore deeply what we call our body, we discover that its very substance is this joy. So we no longer have the need or the taste or even the possibility of finding happiness in external objects.

How is this deep exploration accomplished?

Do not reject the body sensations and emotions that present themselves to you. Let them blossom fully in your awareness without any goal or any interference from the will. Progressively, the potential energy imprisoned in muscular tensions liberates itself, the dynamism of the psychosomatic structure exhausts itself, and the return toward fundamental stability takes place. This purification of body sensation is a great art. It requires patience, determination and courage. It finds its expression at the level of sensation through a gradual expansion of the body into the surrounding space and a simultaneous penetration of the somatic structure by that space. That space is not experienced as a simple absence of objects. When the attention frees itself from perceptions that hold it in thrall, it discovers itself as that self-luminous space which is the true substance of the body. At this moment, the duality between body and space is abolished. The body is expanded to the size of the universe and contains all things tangible and intangible in its heart. Nothing is external to it. We all have this body of joy, this awakened body, this body of universal welcoming. We are all complete, with no missing parts. Only explore your kingdom and take possession of it knowingly. Do not live any longer in that wretched shack of a limited body.

I have brief glimpses of this realm in moments of stillness, then I go to work and find myself in an environment which is neither royal nor peaceful and my serenity immediately disappears. How can I keep my equanimity permanently?

Everything that appears in awareness is nothing other than awareness, your co-workers, clients, superiors, absolutely everything, including the premises, the furniture and the equipment. First understand this intellectually, then verify that this is so. There comes a moment where this feeling of intimacy, this benevolent space around you no longer goes away; you find yourself at home everywhere, even in the packed waiting room of a train station. You only go out of it when you go into the past or the future. Do not stay in that hovel. This immensity awaits you right here, at this very moment. Already being acquainted with its presence and once having tasted the harmony underlying appearances, let the perceptions of the external world and your body sensations unfold freely in your welcoming awareness until the moment that the background of plenitude reveals itself spontaneously.

This reversal of perspective is analogous to that which allows the sudden recognition of an angelic face in a tree in one of those early twentieth century prints that so delight children. At first we only see the tree, then informed by a caption under the picture that an angel is hiding there, we begin a meticulous examination of the foliage until we finally see the angel which had always been right there before our eyes. What is important is to know that there is an angel, where it is hiding and to have once experienced the process by which the tree progressively loses its form to the point where the lines of which appearance is composed begin to appear as such and then recompose to confide the secret of the image to us. Once the way is paved, subsequent reversals of perspective are easier and easier until we see the angel and the tree simultaneously, so to speak. In the same way, once our true nature has been recognized, the remaining distinctions between ignorance and awakening become progressively blurred and yield to the fundamental suchness of being.

I am beginning to realize that I am all gummed up in my body, my sensations and my impression of being a separate individual.

How does this gummed up feeling manifest?

I feel as if I were hypnotized, both by my pride, my emotions, especially my anger, and by the agitation in my body.

Right. As soon as you become aware that you are hypnotized, the hypnosis ceases.

How is that? This point is unclear to me.

Ask yourself who is hypnotized. Inquire deeply. Who is it? Where is it? You will find that it is not possible to find such an entity. If you explore your mind and your body, you will find a few concepts that you identify with like "I am a woman", "I am a human being", "I am a lawyer", etc.. You can also find certain sensations in your body, certain areas that are more opaque, more solid, that you identify with as well. But when you look more closely, it becomes obvious that you are not this sensation in your chest, nor this thought of being a woman, since feelings and thoughts come and go and what you really are is permanent. At this very moment, the hypnosis ends. The occurrence of these thoughts and feelings is less of a problem than your identification with them. As soon as you become aware of them, you distance yourself. You are free. In this freedom, you do not locate yourself anywhere. It is important to stay in this non-localization, as we have the tendency to hasten to take hold of a new identification as soon as we have let go of the previous one, like a monkey who doesn't let go of a branch before latching onto another.

You will see how wonderful it is to live in the air in this way, without hanging on, unattached. In the beginning, it seems a bit strange, although your new attitude doesn't constitute an obstacle to anything. You can always fulfill your functions as a mother or as a lawyer, feel your body and so forth. In fact, to be nothing, in the air, no where, is very practical. It simplifies life a great deal. Do not be content merely to understand. Put your understanding into practice. Try being nobody. Let go of the branches.

Isn't it hard after that to come back into your body and live daily life?

You were never in your body, so the question of coming back into it doesn't come up. Your body is in you. You are not in it. Your body appears to you as a series of sensory perceptions and concepts. It is in this way that you know you have a body, when you feel it or when you think of it. These perceptions and these thoughts appear in you, pure conscious attention. You do not appear in them, contrary to what your parents, your teachers and nearly the whole of the society you live in has taught you. In flagrant contradiction to your actual experience, they have taught you that you are in your body as consciousness, that consciousness is a function emerging from the brain, an organ of your body. I suggest that you do not give undue credence to this second-hand knowledge and that you inquire into the raw data of your own experience. Remember the recipes for happiness that were given to you by these same people when you were a child, study hard, get a good job, marry the right man, etc.? These recipes don't work, otherwise you wouldn't be here asking these questions. They don't work because they are based on a false perspective of reality, a perspective that I am suggesting that you put into question.

See for yourself, then, whether you appear in your body or your mind, or whether, on the contrary, they appear in you. It's a reversal of perspective analogous to the discovery of the angel in the tree. Even though this change seems minimal at first, it is a revolution with unimaginable and infinite consequences. If you honestly accept the possibility that the tree might in fact be an angel, the angel will reveal itself to you and your life will become magic.

Can you speak to us about the practice of living intuitively from the heart?

Do not be a person, do not be anything. Having understood that you are no one, you live the truth according to this knowledge. When the idea or sensation of being a person no longer bothers you, whether you are thinking or not, whether you are acting or not, you live the truth from the fullness of the heart.

At this point, am I in right relationship with myself and with the world?

Oh, yes. You are in right relationship which is that of inclusion. The world as well as your body and you mind are included in your true self. Love is inclusion. Understanding is an intermediate step, but the final destination, the true center, is the heart.

Is the heart the place between this branch and the next, to use the analogy of the monkey?

If you agree to let go of the branch you are clinging to without catching hold of another, you fall into the heart. You have to accept dying, letting everything you know slip away, everything you have been taught, everything you possess, including your life or at least everything that you think at this stage is your life. This requires daring. It's a kind of suicide.

Is it really like that? For example, do you remember the moments that preceded your recognition?

Yes.

Was it like that?

Yes.

Thank you. Before that did you have any idea what was going to happen?

Yes and no. Yes, because I felt the invitation. No, because up until that point, I had only known relative happiness, relative truth, relative knowledge, and I could not have imagined the absolute, the ineffable. The self is beyond all concept, all projection. It is why we cannot steer ourselves to it under our own steam and must wait for it to solicit us. But when it invites us, we must say yes joyfully, without hesitation. The decision belongs to us, the only decision in which we truly have a free choice.

One of the reasons I postpone and do not make myself available to the invitation is my fear that my life will be radically changed.

Oh, yes. It will be.

My family, as well?

Your family, too. Everything will be changed.

I am afraid that some people will leave me and be replaced by others.

I can assure you that you will regret nothing.

Is it possible to have received the invitation and to have refused it?

Yes, you are free.

Will I be invited again?

Yes. Be ready. Be available. You are available when you understand that there is nothing that you can do on your own to get to the King. When you acknowledge your total powerlessness, you become an empty room. As soon as you become an empty room, you are a sanctuary. So the King can enter, take the throne and grace you with immortal presence.