Sunday, 28 December 2014

Our aim should be to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else

A few months ago a friend wrote to me asking about the practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) and whether his description of his practice indicated that he was practising it correctly, and he ended his email saying:
I have tried the technique of diving into the heart exhaling your breath, explained in the small book The Technique of Maha Yoga published by Ramanashramam, [...] but this does not seem to work in my case.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Science and self-investigation

A friend recently asked me to comment on an article entitled The Universe as a Hologram by Michael Talbot, saying that ‘it brings the scientific viewpoint very close to the mystic vision of reality’, and after I replied to him he sent a second email in which he tried to explain why he believed that science is relevant to Sri Ramana’s teachings, saying:
Before physics delved deeply into the nature of matter, conviction about the unreality of the perceived world could only be based on complete faith in the teaching. In the modern world however, beliefs are founded upon rational and scientific grounds. Particle physics has provided us with scientific grounds for such faith i.e. belief in the unreality and illusoriness of the perceived world, since it has shown that what we regard as solid matter is actually non-substance.
The following is adapted from the replies I wrote to these two emails:

Friday, 19 December 2014

Does the world exist independent of our experience of it?

A friend wrote to me a few months ago quoting a passage from section 616 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, p. 598) in which Sri Ramana says: ‘ahankara (ego) shoots up like a rocket and instantaneously spreads out as the Universe’ (which paraphrases the teaching that he gave still more clearly and emphatically in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். […]’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence. If the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. The ego itself is everything. […]’). It seems my friend has difficulty accepting this teaching, because after quoting this passage from Talks he wrote:
What is he talking about??? ... Is all the hard won knowledge of physics and the evolution of the universe so much nonsense?

This is consistent, certainly, if you believe everything is a dream and you’ve just woken up from a good sleep and created the universe.

I am afraid such mysticism is beyond me...and I mean no disrespect to Bhagavan Ramana.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The need for manana and vivēka: reflection, critical thinking, discrimination and judgement

In many recent comments on this blog, particularly on articles such as Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep, Why should we believe that ‘the Self’ is as we believe it to be?, Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person? and Other than ourself, there are no signs or milestones on the path of self-discovery, various friends have shown a tendency and willingness to accept uncritically whatever certain other people have written or said. Believing uncritically whatever we may read or hear is dangerous, even if we believe that whoever wrote or said it is an authority, because if we do not use our powers of critical thinking and discrimination (vivēka) we are liable to be misled into believing many mistaken ideas and interpretations, which would cloud and confuse our understanding and could divert us away from the straight and narrow path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).