Between 1998 and 2002, Salim regularly brought together a few pupils to spur them on in their practice. Some teachings were recorded on video. Below are a few extracts.
(Salim would often say “I” instead of “you” when addressing his pupils, because he preferred to avoid, as much as possible, expressions that unconsciously created a barrier between the other and oneself)
December 1998: Leaving a trace in oneself. Leaving a trace in oneself, so that, whatever a future existence may be, the trace that I have left in myself will be able to help me to move more quickly towards what is dearest to me, that is to say a spiritual practice. Leaving a trace... memory signifies evolution, forgetting signifies involution. You have to be so serious that this becomes the sole motivation of your existence. You have to succeed, when you apply yourselves to a spiritual practice, in being so exact and, above all, so whole. If you do not taste a moment when you are whole, at least once in your life, you will never know what it means to give yourself to the Infinite that inhabits you.
(Salim is reading an extract from “S’éveiller un question de vie ou de mort” [Awakening: A Matter of Life or Death], chapter 13).
“The most ardent desire of a seeker must be never to find himself in a future existence as he is in the present, with his habitual thoughts going around without control in his mind, his changing desires gnawing at him, his sensuality and his interests in the ordinary things of existence, which weigh him down and bar the route leading to his emancipation.
If he wants to reach the end of his quest, the recurrence of the efforts he makes in the present – which can only leave a trace in him if they are sufficiently sustained and sincere – needs to become stronger than the recurrence of his not yet transmuted undesirable tendencies, otherwise the karmic predilection that he still feels regarding samsaric existence will continue to be wholly determining and will keep him shackled to it.”
And Salim comments: “Thus the prodigious pianist (Evgeny Kissin), when he was eleven months old, could sing what his sister was playing on the piano. At a few months more than one year old, he sat at the piano and, with one finger he began to play. Then, later, when he came in from school, he didn’t even take off his coat; only one thing counted for him: the piano.
A trace had been left in him of a previous life. He was seven years old when he gave his first concert.
I tell you all these things so that you might understand how important what I leave as a trace in me is.”
April 2001 – The last thought.
In a future existence, whatever form it takes, I want at all costs to remember only this spiritual quest and nothing else. It is truly necessary that, when we die, our sole and unique desire is our spiritual accomplishment.
I want to carry this desire with me so that, whatever my future, whatever form it takes and wherever it unfolds, I will already have something in me which will remind me of this desire: my spiritual accomplishment.
People who are subjugated to the pleasures of the senses, they will be reborn to find such pleasures again. That is not what one wants, even for an artistic goal. I don’t want that; I don’t want to be reborn for music, it has served its purpose, I don’t want it to recontinue. That is why I stopped writing music so long ago.
One single goal, I must have a single goal, my spiritual accomplishment and that before all. And for that, I need to understand my enslavement to my senses. Without me knowing it, my senses govern me, the habit of this, of that. One wants more, always more, I have to always want my spiritual accomplishment more, that before all else.
Extract from S’éveiller, une question de vie ou de mort, chapter 2:
“Every evening, after his meditation, the aspirant must sit on his bed and rest for a while preparing himself before sleeping, because of the importance of the last thought that he is going to carry with him into his sleep and which will inevitably determine what the next day will be for him spiritually.
At the hour of his death, before entering into his last and longest sleep, how much more determining will be the last thought that he carries with him at this fateful moment, a last thought that, not only will determine the state he finds himself in when he quits this world, but also what his future destiny and future existence will be, whatever form this existence takes and wherever it unfolds.
Every evening, he must ask himself what he really expects from life, what this spiritual work means for him and what importance he must accord it. He needs to renew the decision to give himself wholly to what calls to him within himself and to appreciate the opportunity that is offered him to be able to work on himself spiritually. He has to realize that the day will come when this possibility will no longer exist.” What I have written there, I do myself every night before sleeping.
Because one cannot work on oneself without this form of existence; it is only this form of existence that provides us with the conditions that cause the tendencies one has within oneself to arise, the undesirable desires or even sometimes desires that are good and that one does not know one carries within oneself.
One needs this existence to accomplish something that one ordinarily does not know, that is why existence must not be fled, but must be faced, always faced, and one must work on oneself to transform certain tendencies, to be truer in oneself.
“Because, when this monumental moment comes, there will be no more tomorrows for him.”
No, there will be no more tomorrows for him. Whatever the state in which one finds oneself or the conditions in which one is placed, it is essential to realize that, in any case, nothing is permanent. I must not stop this work...
I cannot make, on a spiritual path, the same sorts of efforts as those that suffice for external life. Why? Because these efforts in external life are extracted from me, whereas the efforts that I must make on a spiritual path must be made because I want to make them, because I understand the importance and the necessity of them.
I must continually stoke the fire that burns beneath a word called my interest. That is why all that I do in external life must now be in relation to my spiritual interest.
Always remember these words:
“I want never to forget these precious moments when my mind is turned towards something higher than ordinary existence. I want to carry within me the memory of these moments in my death.”
May 2001 – Sense of mystery.
What do I want? What am I trying to understand? All my life, I must continue to try to understand. One has never understood, never enough, there is always more to understand and yet more to understand. The moment that I stop trying to understand, by an ineluctable cosmic law, I will start to die psychically.
You are missing the sense of mystery. It is truly necessary to realize that there are mysteries everywhere. This is the first time that I have gone out in a car since the last meeting. The leaves on the trees are very fresh, green. It is a miracle, how does the tree know the time has come, after the winter, for the sap to rise in all the branches and make each leaf?
Within the boundaries of our building, there are wisteria; those are my favourite flowers, so beautiful. What a miracle! It is extraordinary how the vine knows what colour flowers to grow, at what moment, and what sort of perfume to emit, and I am intoxicated by all this beauty, but beauty that is fleeting, impermanent.
Life has to become a miracle, because it is true that we are surrounded by miracles, but that we do not see them.
Everything is mysterious to me. From my window, I see clouds moving, tree branches swaying in the wind, sometimes birds who fly past at such speed. The bird barely moves his wings, yet he flies so quickly; no human being could run so fast. T
he other day, I saw a bird landing on a tree opposite my window; how did this bird, who arrived with lightning speed, succeed in beating its wings to glide between the branches without doing itself harm? For me, it was a miracle because there are many branches and many leaves on the branches of the tree.
If we were blind and someone suddenly gave us eyes, then, to see the blue of the sky, with its enormous clouds that move, that transform themselves, what a miracle if one really saw them for the first time; that is how one must be all the time; one must achieve this, then one begins to really live, to understand the mystery of existence. If one really saw the blue of the sky as though for the first time in one’s life and, then, suddenly, a miracle, a bird flying so fast, seeing it as though for the first time in my life.
Do you really know how to really live? We have lost this faculty of really seeing, of really hearing.
If our practice is not approached with the sense of mystery at every moment, it becomes flat.
All my life, I must remain alert, I want to understand, I still want to understand, I have never understood enough, for all of my life.
March 2002 – The image one has of oneself.
Without ever being conscious of it, everyone has an image of him/herself, which he or she does not wish to renounce and which closes the door of his/her evolution on another plane of being. What do I mean by image?
(Salim points out two people in turn): If I had the power to transform you into so and so, would you accept? Vice versa, if I asked so and so, can I transform you into this person, would you accept?
Don’t answer, just think about it.
I have an image of myself, I am deeply in love with this image without knowing it. Everyone has this problem, without exception.
This image that one has of oneself is closely linked to self-esteem. One does not see it, that’s the tragedy of it. If ever one says of someone something that injures this self-esteem, then the person spends his time like a dog, licking his wound, in other words ruminating on the injury that his ego has received, you understand?
He or she cannot see, in his/her blindness, the self-consideration within him/herself and which is an obstacle to his/her spiritual practice.
How can this image one has of oneself be recognized? One takes oneself, unconsciously – all of this is unconscious – one takes oneself for someone special. “I am special”, it is enough to look at photos of celebrities in magazines. “I am someone special”.
Yes, one loves oneself, one has an image of oneself that one does not want to let go, one is special. There is no-one who does not have this problem. One takes oneself for someone unique and one must become simple, an absolutely simple being, to lose this image that one has of oneself.
I have suffered with this image of myself in the past. Someone attacked my music, I had an image of myself, self-esteem, how could my contribution go unseen? When there were meetings of composers, the ultra-modern composers would say with contempt: “This music is still tonal”. So, I also, like all of you, have suffered from that. When I saw how it blocked the path, then I began, with invisible scissors, every time I saw this manifestation of self-esteem: snip (Salim mimes cutting something with scissors).
When I was living in Rue Turgot, opposite the building, at street level, there was a hat shop. One day, a woman came past, dragging a little dog after her, when, suddenly, she saw a hat in the shop window. She doubled back on herself, pulling on the dog’s lead. She looked at the hat, then she went on, pulling the dog after her. Then, finally, she doubled back again, went into the shop, pulling the dog (who was not at all interested), and when she came out... the hat had bought the woman.
She was walking and admiring herself in the shop windows: I am a hat...
Another day, we were walking, a long time ago now, and there was a young man walking towards us, he had very long hair, he was proud of himself: I am hair... The image that one has of oneself, he was forgetting that he was going to age one day, his hair would become white, he would lack energy, like I do today... If one could see the life of a human being speeded up, from birth to death, the crying baby, he gets married, he has children, that’s it, it’s over.
On another level, for the Infinite, our lives from our birth until our death, are nothing but a click of the fingers, a flash. At the level of the Universe, we are not even a virus.
This image one has of oneself, this self-esteem, it is the cause of all the misfortune that afflicts humanity. When one is absent to oneself, there is only reaction and self-esteem.
It is said, in Hinduism that the aspirant must become selfless for his emancipation, otherwise there can be no emancipation. What is liberation? One does not understand from what I must liberate myself, I must liberate myself from myself, from my mechanical reactions, then I attain the Absolute; what a paradox it is, to liberate myself from myself...
September 2002 – Final teaching.
Salim stopped teaching completely in September 2002 because of his state of health which had deteriorated too much. Nevertheless, he continued to work on his books until his last day. Below are some extracts from his final teaching:
“Let each of you here ask himself: What have I been busy with since our last meeting... but ask yourself this with all your sincerity. What sort of thoughts have been turning in my head and monopolizing my attention since our last meeting. Were these thoughts really worthwhile spiritually?
What sort of desires have I had? Can these desires help me spiritually? Have they been able to help me spiritually?
Death awaits me, it is necessary to say this to oneself, death awaits me, inexorably. What provision have I made for this monumental hour? What am I going to take with me when this fateful hour arrives for me?
One sees the branches of trees sway, but one does not see the cause. What is the cause that makes the branches of a tree sway? Has anyone ever seen the wind? One sees the effect and one gives credit to the effect, but the invisible cause? It is the same thing for my life and the whole of this Creation, the Universe, this incredible cosmic manifestation with billions and billions of galaxies, which contain billions and billions of stars and planets. And our planet too, with all the various animals it contains, the trees the flowers, the animals, the human beings, you, me, one sees the effect and one does not think of the cause, the enigmatic cause that is the creator of this effect.
One gives credit to what is visible, to what one feels, to what one perceives with one’s senses, what monopolizes all one’s attention; the exterior fascinates our psyche and one forgets the cause. One must succeed, at least intellectually to begin with, in transferring this credit that one gives to what one perceives with one’s senses, to the invisible. I need absolutely to know the Source whence I issued and into which I am going to be reabsorbed after my death, now, in this life; after death, it will be too late.
And, even if I come to recognize this Source, I will see how difficult it is to remain within this Source, how much the fascination of the exterior continues to have power over my psyche.
I am going to read you a quotation from St Thomas:
The disciples said to Jesus: "Tell us how our end will be."
Jesus said: "Have you already discovered the beginning (that is to say, the Source from which you arose) that you are now asking about the end?
For where the beginning is ( the Source from which you arose)
there the end will be too. (it is into this that you will be reabsorbed)
Blessed is he who will stand at the beginning. (will stand, that is to say, will stay, on condition of having found it)
And he will know the end, (he will know what he is to be reabsorbed into when death takes him), and he says at the end:
and he will not taste death. ”
Christ attached such importance to this discovery of what he called the beginning, the Source, and after that, he said: blessed is he who will stand, that is to say, will stay, at the beginning and he will not taste death.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, I quote:
“O nobly-born, the time hath now come for thee to seek the Path [in reality]. Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience it in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself; and abide in that state.”
At this moment, know thou thyself; and abide in that state,
The last sentence of Christ… Blessed is he who will stand at the beginning.
When it is said: “All things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre.”
This vacuity is not nothing and that is what you have to discover; it is the Source whence you issued; this vacuity is made up of an immense, immense Beingness-Consciousness, without beginning, without end, without shores, imbued with the breath of the Infinite...
One calls it a vacuity in comparison with the tangible which you know, but it is not nothing.
However, if one has not known this Beingness-Consciousness during one’s life, one will fear it after death. As the Tibetan Book of the Dead says, one will wish to flee this state and seek the tangible that one has known.
Remember that your principal goal is to fight, to fight with the whole of yourself, with all your sincerity, when you meditate, when you undertake a spiritual exercise, whether in the street or at home, with all your being, in order to succeed in sufficiently tearing away from this secondary identity which is grafted onto you, onto all of us, and covers this essence, this Beingness-Consciousness imbued with the breath of the Infinite, call it what you will, one can call it Nirvana, one can call it my Buddha-nature, one can call it the Dharmakaya, but it is the same thing, this Enigmatic Source from which I arose and into which I will be reabsorbed after my death.
Remember that it is before all the quality of the efforts made that counts and not only their quantity.
One other thing that I want to say to you, which is so important, is on the devotional question. One needs Grace. We do our part, but one needs Grace, one cannot do it all alone. Something in me must be turned towards That which is higher, which one cannot name, with a deeply devotional feeling.
You must always keep in your mind that everything is mysterious, take nothing for granted, everything is mysterious. We are mysterious. The Cosmos is so vertiginous, we cannot even imagine it with our small and extremely limited minds; although it is visible, it is mysterious because of the Invisible which is the cause of this fantastic Creation. It makes one dizzy if one really begins to try to understand; one feels dizzy and one needs to feel this dizziness before the Incommensurable, to encourage us.
When you begin a spiritual exercise or meditation, you must set a timer, of course, and you say to yourself – as this Salim who is before you said to himself in the past – even if a hundred thousand scorpions walk over me, I will not move before the timer goes off and stops my meditation or, in the case of a spiritual exercise, in the street or at home, while I am cooking, washing myself, or whatever it may be, I will not interrupt the exercise before the time I have determined upon has passed; even if a hundred thousand scorpions walk over me, I told myself that in the past. You too, say what you want, but say something that moves you.
All that I have said to you today comes down to this: I want to know the Source whence I issued and into which I will be reabsorbed, I want to know it during my life so that I shall be tranquil when death comes, so that I shall not resist. In meditation, one can come to a point where one feels: I am going to be plunged into an incomprehensible emptiness, I must accept this plunge. One will discover at that moment that the emptiness is not nothing. There is no more tangible, there is no more movement as one knows it, there is another sort of movement, so fine, it is said that the Divine Spirit never sleeps, so fine, so full of life, Beingness-Consciousness, without beginning, without end, incommensurable, without shores, dizzying, imbued with the breath of the Infinite.
There is a reason for Creation; the Infinite wants its Holy Presence to be recognized, but the human being, such as he is ordinarily, with his limited intelligence and his limited level of being cannot recognize it.
It could be said that if beings provided with an out of the ordinary form of intelligence and a level of consciousness that one does not habitually experience do not arise from its Creation, to recognize its Holy Presence, then it is as though the Infinite did not exist.
Since our birth, so many things have happened around us, so many people that one has known, sad or pleasant events, people who have hurt us, those that we love and those that we do not; without realizing it, we carry all that in us and that takes up space in our being and leaves no space for other things. I must begin at certain moments to awaken myself sufficiently, to tear myself away from what I am habitually to see this immense crowd that I carry within me – I am talking for you now, aren’t I? – each of you must begin to awaken himself to see the immense crowd that he carries within himself, a crowd that squeals, that shouts, that laughs, that protests.
I want to see them all, I want to begin to liberate myself from that, and I cannot if, during the day, I do not tear myself away from what I am and if I do not say to myself, in words: “Recollect yourself,” because thinking “Recollect yourself,” is not enough, one can think “Recollect yourself,” and one does it superficially or even not at all.
It has to be said in words, I speak from personal experience in the past, I was obliged to say it to myself, I have seen that thinking of “recollecting myself” when I was lost in futile thoughts, in futile images, thinking “Recollect yourself, come back to yourself” was superficially done, or not at all, it is as though one believes that thought is enough, it is not enough. It is necessary to say to oneself: “Recollect yourself,” gently, say it to oneself, within oneself of course. “Recollect yourself,” then one will see that something becomes possible and when I repeat, “Recollect yourself,” it begins to work...
When someone says something, thinks something, or does something, once it is said, thought, or done, he can no longer help wanting to re-say it, to rethink it, or to re-do it, so one will begin to say again “Recollect yourself, Recollect yourself,” and you will see that, when you are lost in thoughts that turn in your mind, when you are far from yourself, suddenly there will be a rapid movement of return towards yourself.
What I am saying to you, it is vital, it is a question of life or death. I have to wake in the morning from my nocturnal sleep so that I may realize I have slept and have – I believe – awakened. Yes, I am awake in comparison with my nocturnal sleep, but I sleep in another way and I know not in what other way I sleep, and my life passes, uselessly, futilely, without having made provision for the hour of my death.
When you succeed in staying with yourself for long enough in a state of inner silence, you will one day discover that this return towards myself is nothing less than the return towards the Infinite that I carry in myself, the return towards my Buddha Nature, towards Nirvana that I did not know I was already carrying in myself, this Enigmatic Source that is made up of Beingness-Consciousness imbued with the Breath of the Absolute. And Salim concludes with this Bodhisattva vow that he formulated in the following way:
“Yes, I want to be a Buddha, I want to be a Christ, I want to be like him, he agreed to anything to help humanity.”