Thursday, 10 December 2015

Thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts

In a comment on my previous article, Is there more than one way in which we can investigate and know ourself?, a friend called Venkat wrote:
Given that the ego/mind is non-existent, and just a thought that pass across the screen of consciousness, what is it that choose to be attentively self-aware? Pure consciousness just is, and the body/mind/world are just thoughts/perceptions that flow across that screen. So the thought to be attentively self-aware is just another thought on that screen. I am struggling what is it that then directs attention. Apologies if I’m not being very clear.
When I read this comment, I noted it as one that I should reply to, but it soon led to a thread of more than thirty comments in which other friends responded to and discussed what he had written, so in this article (which has eventually grown into an extremely long one) I will reply both to this comment and to a few of the ideas expressed in other comments in that thread, and also to many later comments on that article that were not directly connected to what Venkat had written but that are nevertheless relevant to this crucial subject of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).
  1. Only our ego can be and need be attentively self-aware
  2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 17: Avoiding self-negligence (pramāda) is the only means to destroy our ego
  3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 6: what does Bhagavan mean by ‘the thought who am I’, which will destroy all thoughts, including itself?
  4. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, including their root, our primal thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’
  5. Why is self-attentiveness or ‘thought of oneself’ necessary, and why is mere self-awareness insufficient?
  6. How can we choose to attend to one thing rather than another?
  7. Our ego and its dream creation do not exist in the clear view of our actual self
  8. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 7: the world seems to exist only because it is perceived by our ego
  9. Mere belief in ajāta or anything else is not an adequate means to free ourself from this ego illusion
  10. What is actually real?
  11. Why is it so important to distinguish what is actually real from what merely seems to be real?
  12. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: why does Bhagavan say that if our ego does not exist, nothing else exists?
  13. A thought is anything fabricated by our ego or mind, so everything other than ourself is a thought
  14. Birth and death are both mere thoughts, as is any kind of body that we may experience as ourself
  15. Is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) a ‘method’ or just a simple and direct means?
  16. Since Bhagavan says ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’, we would be wise to follow it from the outset
  17. Is there any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’?
  18. Is analysis of any use or relevance to self-investigation?
  19. Bhagavan’s teachings and ātma-vicāra are the sharpest of all razors, comparable to Ockham’s razor in their aim and effect
  20. Is ātma-vicāra an exclusive or inclusive practice?
  21. Does explaining the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra imply that we are ‘putting down’ all other kind of spiritual practice?
  22. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: why is ēkāgratā (one-pointedness) considered so necessary?
  23. What skill is required to practise ātma-vicāra?
  24. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 40: annihilating our ego by means of ātma-vicāra is fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma
1. Only our ego can be and need be attentively self-aware

Though our ego is actually non-existent, it does seem to exist, and it is only because it seems to exist that everything else seems to exist, and that effort to be self-attentive is therefore necessary. Paradoxically, however, this ego and everything else that it experiences seem to exist only in its own view, so it is a non-existent thing that seems to exist only in its own view. This is why it is called māyā (that which is not), which is rightly said to be anirvacanīya (inexplicable).

When it is said that this ego seems to exist, what is it that seems to be this ego? It is only ourself. Therefore, because we seem to be this ego, we seem to suffer all its limitations, so in order to be free from all suffering and limitation, we need to experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego.

Bhagavan has taught us that the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy this ego is by trying to be attentively self-aware. Attention is our ability to choose what to be aware of, or what to focus our awareness upon, so since only this ego is aware of more than one thing that it could choose to focus upon, attention is a function only of this ego and not of ourself as we really are, because as we really are we are not and cannot be aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore what must choose to be attentively self-aware, and what must therefore direct its attention back towards itself alone, away from all other things, is only ourself as this ego.

As we actually are, we are always aware only of ourself and of nothing else whatsoever, because we alone are what actually exists, and in the view of what actually exists nothing else even seems to exist. Therefore as our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) we can never be aware of anything other than ourself, so our actual self cannot be and need not be attentively self-aware. Only what is now negligently or inattentively self-aware needs to be attentively self-aware, and that is only our ego.

2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 17: Avoiding self-negligence (pramāda) is the only means to destroy our ego

Whenever we as this ego attend to or are aware of anything other than ourself, we are thereby neglecting to attend to ourself, and this negligence is what is called pramāda, which is said to be the only real death (because due to our pramāda we now seem to be dead to or unaware of the immortal reality that we actually are), and which is the root cause of all our problems. Since our ego comes into seeming existence and endures only by being aware of other things, its very nature is pramāda, so pramāda and our ego are not two separate things but only two ways of describing the same single illusion. Therefore, since pramāda is the root of all our other problems, including death, the solution to all our problems can only be apramāda or non-negligence, and since negligence means non-attentiveness, apramāda means attentiveness.

Of course as this ego we are always attending to something, because attention means having something in the foreground of one’s awareness, so to speak, and something or other is always in the foreground, at least to a greater or lesser extent, while other things are relatively speaking in the background. Therefore our ego is always being attentive, but it is usually attentive only to something other than itself — that is, to something other than its own essential self-awareness. However, though pramāda literally means ‘negligence’ or ‘inattentiveness’, in the context of advaita philosophy it is used as a technical term that specifically means self-negligence or not being self-attentive, so apramāda specifically means self-attentiveness.

These two terms, pramāda and apramāda, are used most famously in a verse of an ancient text called Sanatsujātīyam, which is part of the Mahābhārata, in which it is said, ‘[…] pramādaṃ vai mṛtyum […] sadāpramādam amṛtatvaṃ […]’ (Sanatsujātīyam 1.4; Mahābhārata 5.42.4), which means ‘[…] pramāda indeed is death […] perpetual apramāda is deathlessness [or immortality] […]’, and which is a statement that is also quoted or referred to in many other texts, such as in verse 321 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi. Birth and death seem to exist only in the view of our ego, which comes into existence and endures only because of its pramāda (self-negligence), so the only means by which we can regain our natural state of immortality is by persistently trying to cling firmly to apramāda (being attentively self-aware), as Bhagavan implies in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
மனத்தி னுருவை மறவா துசாவ
மனமென வொன்றிலை யுந்தீபற
      மார்க்கநே ரார்க்குமி துந்தீபற.

maṉatti ṉuruvai maṟavā dusāva
maṉameṉa voṉḏṟilai yundīpaṟa
      mārgganē rārkkumi dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. mārggam nēr ārkkum idu.

அன்வயம்: மறவாது மனத்தின் உருவை உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. இது ஆர்க்கும் நேர் மார்க்கம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṟavādu maṉattiṉ uruvai usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. idu ārkkum nēr mārggam.

English translation: When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting], anything called ‘mind’ will not exist. This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone.
Being a negative participle of the verb மற (maṟa), which means to forget, neglect, ignore or disregard, மறவாது (maṟavādu) means ‘not forgetting’ or ‘not neglecting’, so in this context it implies not succumbing to self-negligence (pramāda). Thus in this verse Bhagavan implies that we will succeed in our self-investigation and thereby discover that this ego or mind does not exist at all only if we cling firmly and vigilantly to apramāda, the state of being attentively self-aware.

However, since investigating ourself, who are the real nature or ‘form’ of this ego or mind, entails nothing other than being attentively self-aware, by including this participle மறவாது (maṟavādu) along with the conditional verb உசாவ (usāva), which means ‘when one investigates [examines or scrutinises]’, Bhagavan is in effect using a tautology in order to emphasise with greater force the imperative need for us to be attentively self-aware. Therefore what he implies by saying in the first line of this verse, ‘மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ’ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva), which means ‘when one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting]’, is that we need to be so attentively or vigilantly self-aware that we never succumb to even the slightest pramāda or self-negligence.

Our choice and effort to be attentively self-aware are as real as this ego, which makes this choice and effort. Therefore when by making this effort we manage to experience ourself as we really are, we will discover not only that this ego was non-existent, but so too were its choice and effort to be attentively self-aware. However, though they are all ultimately non-existent, so long as we experience ourself as this ego, we do need to make this choice and effort. Indeed, the very nature of our ego is to choose and make effort, so rather than choosing or making effort in any other direction, we should choose and make effort only to be attentively self-aware.

3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 6: what does Bhagavan mean by ‘the thought who am I’, which will destroy all thoughts, including itself?

Venkat says that this ego, mind, body and world are just thoughts or perceptions that flow or pass across the screen of consciousness, but in whose view do they flow or pass by? Only in the view of this ego, which is itself the first thought that appears on the screen. This screen of consciousness is our own pure self-awareness, which is what we really are, so it is unaware of and unaffected by any thoughts or perceptions that may appear on it in the view of this ego, because in its view this ego and its progeny do not exist or even seem to exist at all.

Venkat also says, ‘So the thought to be attentively self-aware is just another thought on that screen’, which is true, because according to Bhagavan everything other than our actual self is just a thought. However, as he often used to say, destroying all thoughts by thinking only of ourself (which is another way of saying by being attentively self-aware) is like using one thorn to remove another thorn that is embedded in one’s foot.

Not only will thinking of or attending to our essential and ever-present self-awareness root out all other thoughts, including our primal thought, this ego, but in doing so it will also destroy itself, as Bhagavan said in the second sentence of the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
நானார் என்னும் நினைவு மற்ற நினைவுகளை யெல்லா மழித்துப் பிணஞ்சுடு தடிபோல் முடிவில் தானு மழியும்.

nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu maṯṟa niṉaivugaḷai y-ellām aṙittu-p piṇañ-cuḍu taḍi-pōl muḍivil tāṉ-um aṙiyum.

The thought who am I [that is, the attentiveness used to investigate what one is], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself also in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt completely].
The attentiveness that we use in order to be attentively self-aware is what Bhagavan refers to here as ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu), which means ‘the thought who am I’ or ‘the thought called who am I’.

That is, it is the nature of our ego to attend to one thing or another, and generally it attends only to things other than itself. This attention that it directs towards anything other than itself is what is called ‘thought’, and by thinking thus of other things it nourishes and sustains itself. Therefore if, instead of thinking or directing its attention towards any other thing, it directs it towards itself, it will be depriving itself of nourishment, and hence it will subside and disappear, and along with it all its thoughts will also cease.

4. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, including their root, our primal thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’

Directing our attention towards ourself is not literally a thought in the usual sense of this word, but it is sometimes referred to as a ‘thought’ metaphorically, as Bhagavan did for example when he described self-attentiveness as ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu) or ‘the thought who am I’ in the above-cited sentence of Nāṉ Yār? or as ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனை’ (āṉma-cintaṉai), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit term ātma-cintana, which literally means self-thought or thought of oneself, in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām.

Being completely absorbed in self-abidance (ātma-niṣṭhā), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.
What he means here by the term ‘giving oneself to God’ is giving up one’s own ego, which is our primal thought called ‘I’, so thought of oneself will destroy not only all thoughts about other things but also this primal thought called ‘I’, which is the root of all our other thoughts. Therefore, since ātma-cintana or ‘thought of oneself’ means self-attentiveness, and since attention is a function of ourself as this ego and not of ourself as we really are, when this ego is destroyed by its own self-attentiveness, its self-attentiveness will be destroyed along with it, and all that will then remain is pure self-awareness, which is what we always actually are. This is why he compared self-attentiveness to the stick used to stir a funeral pyre, because like that stick it will be burnt completely along with everything else in the intense fire of pure self-awareness.

5. Why is self-attentiveness or ‘thought of oneself’ necessary, and why is mere self-awareness insufficient?

However, though the intense fire of pure self-awareness will eventually burn everything, in order to do so it needs to be constantly stirred by the stick of self-attentiveness. Why? Because since we are always self-aware, and continue to be self-aware even when our attention is preoccupied with thinking thoughts about other things, self-awareness as such is not sufficient to destroy other thoughts, let alone our first thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’. Since our first thought, which is the root of all other thoughts, feeds and nourishes itself only by attending to its other thoughts (which include all phenomena of any kind whatsoever, or in other words, everything other than ourself), it can deprive itself of its required nourishment and thereby undermine the illusion of its own existence only by directing all its attention only back towards itself. Therefore, though being self-aware is not by itself sufficient to destroy any thoughts, being attentively self-aware is sufficient to destroy all thoughts, including their root, our original thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’.

Stirring the fire of pure self-awareness with the stick of self-attentiveness is a metaphorical way of saying that we must constantly remember or keep our attention fixed firmly upon our own essential self-awareness. This is what Bhagavan implied when he said in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, ‘சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும்’ (sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum), which means ‘it is necessary to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna)’, and in the eleventh paragraph, ‘ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும்’ (oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum), which means ‘If one clings fast to uninterrupted self-remembrance (svarūpa-smaraṇa) until one attains svarūpa [one’s own actual self], that alone will be sufficient’.

As he clearly indicates in these two sentences, constantly remembering, thinking of or meditating upon ourself is both necessary and sufficient to destroy our ego, which implies that there is no other way to do so, because so long as we allow ourself to attend to anything other than ourself (even to the slightest extent) we are thereby feeding and nourishing our ego, and hence can never destroy it until we train ourself to attend only to ourself.

As I mentioned earlier, attention or attentiveness is a function only of our ego, because it is our ability to choose what to focus or centre our awareness upon at each moment, and only our ego has this ability, since in the clear view of our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) there is nothing other than ourself that we could be aware of. Therefore as a function of our ego, attentiveness to anything, including ourself, can be called a ‘thought’ in the broadest sense of this term. This is why Bhagavan sometimes referred to or described self-attentiveness as ‘thought of oneself’, ‘meditation upon oneself’, ‘remembrance of oneself’ or ‘the thought who am I’, using terms such as ஆன்மசிந்தனை (āṉma-cintaṉai or ātma-cintana), சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāṉam or svarūpa-dhyāna), சொரூபஸ்மரணை (sorūpa-smaraṇai or svarūpa-smaraṇa) or நானார் என்னும் நினைவு (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu), and also why in some older texts it is described as ātma-vṛtti (which means ‘thought of oneself’) or ātmākāra-vṛtti (which means ‘thought in the form of oneself’), in which the term vṛtti means a thought or mental function, which in this case implies the basic mental function of attention or attentiveness.

As I mentioned in Our ego can be destroyed only by vṛtti-jñāna (self-attentiveness) and in Being attentively self-aware is what is called vṛtti-jñāna, Bhagavan sometimes used to explain that the term vṛtti-jñāna, which is used in many older texts and commentaries, means ātma-vṛtti or ātmākāra-vṛtti, and that the reason why it is said in such texts that jñāna by itself is insufficient to destroy our ego along with its ajñāna (self-ignorance) and that vṛtti-jñāna is therefore necessary is that jñāna in this context means pure self-awareness, which alone actually exists and which is therefore always present, so it is the fundamental reality without which our ego and its ajñāna could not even seem to exist, and hence something more than mere self-awareness (jñāna) is needed to destroy our illusion that we are this ego. The required extra ingredient is what is called vṛtti-jñāna or ātmākāra-vṛtti, which simply means self-attentiveness or being attentively self-aware.

6. How can we choose to attend to one thing rather than another?

In his second comment, which he wrote in reply to some friends who had responded to his first one, Venkat asked: ‘As you say, “only our ego can choose to be attentive”. But our ego is non-existent, illusory; it is just a thought. How can a thought CHOOSE to be attentive? The choice to be attentive implies some entity that can control attention. But we all know and accept that there is no entity in the first place. Or are we saying that the I-thought can in some way control the flow of other thoughts?’

As I explained earlier, though our ego does not actually exist, it does seem to exist, so we need a means to free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego. Who experiences this illusion and therefore needs to be free of it? What we really are never experiences anything other than itself, so in its view there is no illusion and hence no need to free itself from it. Therefore what experiences this illusion is only ourself as this ego, so as this ego we need to free ourself from the illusory condition in which we now find ourself, because what we now seem to be is not what we actually are.

Since it is not what we actually are, this ego is just a thought, but it is also the thinker and experiencer of all other thoughts, so it does have control over them. However, it seems to us that our control over our thoughts is limited, because though we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts, we cannot control all of them. Other than our essential self-awareness, everything that we experience is just a thought, because even the physical world that we seem to perceive as if it exists outside ourself is just a series of mental impressions, and all kinds of mental impressions or phenomena are what Bhagavan calls ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideas’: நினைவுகள் (niṉaivugaḷ) or எண்ணங்கள் (eṇṇaṅgaḷ). Therefore though we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts, we do not seem to be able to control all of them, because we cannot, for example, decide to stop all the wars, terrorism and other sufferings that we see happening in the world around us.

Why is this? The reason is that though these phenomena are all merely our own thoughts, just like everything that we experience in a dream, when we create all these phenomena we also create ourself as if we were a person in this world, so since we seem to be part of this creation, it does not seem to us to be something that we have created and can therefore control. After we wake up from a dream, we realise that everything we experienced in that dream was our own creation or mental fabrication, but so long as we were dreaming we seemed to be just a person in that dream world, and as such we had no control over the way that world seemed to us to be. Likewise, because we now seem to be just a small and insignificant person in this vast world, we seem to be powerless to change it at will, even though it is actually just our own creation or mental fabrication. In other words, because the creator seems to have become a creature in its own creation, as a creature it can no longer control what it created.

However, though we cannot control many of the thoughts we have created, we can to a very great extent control our attention, which is the instrument by which we have created everything. So long as we direct our attention away from ourself, we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts but not others, but if we direct our attention back towards ourself alone, we will be able to stop the very act of creation.

Now we experience ourself as if we were this ego, and being attentive to something or other is the very nature of this ego. Why is this? The reason is that we seem to become this ego only by creating a body, which we then experience as if it were ourself, and through the senses of that body we project a seemingly vast world, so by becoming this ego we have created the illusion of many other things, and we obviously cannot be fully aware of each and every thing that we have created. In order to operate in this ego-created world of multiple phenomena, we need at each given moment to be more aware of some things than we are of others, so we have this ability to focus our awareness on one or more selected things at a time, and this ability is what we call attention.

Since as this ego we need to operate in the rapidly changing environment of our own mind and of the world that we have created for ourself, we need to be able to move our attention rapidly from one thing to another, and we often need to give a certain degree of attention to more than one thing at a time. Therefore the extent to which we are giving attention to any particular thing is variable, so our attention is somewhat like our eyesight: just as we can be seeing many things at the same time, but some of those things are in the centre or foreground of our vision while others are to a greater or lesser extent off to one side or in the periphery of our vision, so we can be aware of many things at the same time, but some of those things are in the centre or foreground of our attention while other things are to a greater or lesser extent off to one side or in the background of our attention. Much of the time our attention or awareness is not focused sharply only any one particular thing, because it is rapidly moving from one thing to another, but we can and often do choose to focus it keenly on something, and to the extent that we focus it on one thing we exclude other things from our awareness.

As we each know from our own experience, we are to a large extent free and able to choose what we attend to at each moment, and also the extent to which we focus our attention on any one thing, but Venkat asks, ‘How can a thought CHOOSE to be attentive?’ Obviously no thought other than our ego can choose to attend to anything, because no other thought is aware either of itself or of any other thing. Since our ego is the only thought that is aware of anything, and since it is aware both of itself and of other things, it can choose to be attentive to whatever particular thing or things it wants to be predominantly aware at each moment. Sometimes its attention may seem to be forcibly drawn away to some other thing, such as the sound of an unexpected explosion, but our attention is drawn away to such things only because at that moment we choose to turn our attention towards them.

Venkat also says, ‘The choice to be attentive implies some entity that can control attention. But we all know and accept that there is no entity in the first place’, which is a point that I have already answered earlier in this article. Now we experience ourself as an ego, and because we experience ourself thus we also experience many other things, so even though Bhagavan teaches us that this ego does not actually exist, to us it does seem to exist and to be ourself.

He sometimes said that there is actually no ignorance (ajñāna), because there is no one who is ignorant, and that no teachings are therefore necessary, but he also explained that though this is the ajāta viewpoint, which is the ultimate truth (pāramārthika satya), it is not a suitable basis for any teachings, because teachings seem to be necessary only so long as we seem to be a self-ignorant ego. Therefore, though he said that his experience is ajāta, for the purposes of teaching us he adopted the vivarta viewpoint, according to which this ego and everything that it experiences other than its own self-awareness are just an illusory appearance (vivarta).

That is, for our benefit he conceded that in our view this ego does seem to exist, albeit just as an illusory appearance, and therefore he taught us that the means by which we can free ourself from our illusion that we are this ego is by trying to be attentively self-aware. He also taught us that so long as we seem to be this ego, we do have the freedom and ability to choose and to try to be attentively self-aware, so since this freedom and ability are the only means by which we can free ourself from this ego and all the encumbrances that it entails, if we are wise we will make proper use of them by persistently trying to be attentively self-aware.

7. Our ego and its dream creation do not exist in the clear view of our actual self

In his third comment, which he also wrote in reply to another friend, Venkat asked: ‘So under eka jiva vada, what is it that has the thought of turning attention on itself, given the ego is part of the dream? Or is the thought of turning attention on itself, also just part of the play which consciousness is watching — and there is in fact nothing to be done and no one doing this turning?’

The ego is the ēka jīva, the ‘one soul’ or sole experiencer, and it is part of the dream because it experiences it not as an uninvolved spectator but as a participant, since it experiences it only by experiencing itself as a person in its own dream world. It is also that which alone thinks and which alone possesses the function and capability of attention, so it alone is what ‘has the thought of turning attention on itself’. It generally uses its attention to focus on things other than itself, but since it can attend to anything that is within the range or scope of its awareness, it is able to (and should) attend to itself instead of to anything else.

There could be no turning of the attention if there were ‘no one doing this turning’, because there obviously could not be any action without something that is doing it, nor any experience without something that is experiencing it. Our ego, which is the sole actor and experiencer in this dream, is ‘no one’ in the sense that it does not actually exist, but so long as it seems to exist it seems to be someone, so it is this seeming someone who must try to turn its attention back towards itself to see whether it is actually what it seems to be. If it does so, its seeming existence as an ego will dissolve, and what will then remain is what it actually is, which is the one infinite and indivisible space of pure self-awareness, which alone actually exists and which therefore is never aware of anything other than itself.

When Venkat asks whether the thought of turning attention on itself is ‘just part of the play which consciousness is watching’, I assume that what he means by ‘consciousness’ in this context is not our ego but what we actually are. However, what we actually are is only pure self-awareness, which is a consciousness that is not aware of anything other than itself, because in its clear view nothing other than itself exists, so there is nothing other than itself for it to watch. What is aware of our ego and each one of its dreams is not our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) but only our ego itself, so other than this ego there is no consciousness that is watching it and its play.

Our ego and its dream creation do not exist or even seem to exist in the view of anything other than itself, because in the clear view of our actual self nothing other than our own pure self-awareness exists, has ever existed or ever could exist. Therefore though Bhagavan sometimes said that this ego and all the phenomena it experiences are just like pictures appearing on the screen of pure consciousness or self-awareness, he did not mean that these pictures appear in the view of our pure consciousness but only that they appear in the view of ourself as this ego.

Being aware of otherness or multiplicity is not real knowledge but only ignorance, as Bhagavan says in verse 11 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘அறிவு உறும் தன்னை அறியாது அயலை அறிவது அறியாமை’ (aṟivu-uṟum taṉṉai aṟiyādu ayalai aṟivadu aṟiyāmai), which means ‘not knowing oneself, who knows, knowing other things is ignorance’, and also in verse 13, ‘நானாவாம் ஞானம் அஞ்ஞானம் ஆம்’ (nāṉā-v-ām ñāṉam aññāṉam ām), which means ‘knowledge that is many [or knowledge of multiplicity] is ignorance (ajñāna)’. Therefore, since ignorance can be an attribute only of our ego and not of our actual self, what we actually are can never be aware of anything other than itself, nor can it ever be aware of itself as many different things.

8. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 7: the world seems to exist only because it is perceived by our ego

In his fourth comment Venkat referred to what another friend had written and asked, ‘You say “we limit our consciousness . . . we can choose to cling” but WHO is this “we”?’ What we actually are never undergoes any kind of change, so it never limits itself or clings to anything. Therefore the ‘we’ who have limited our consciousness and therefore choose to cling is only our ego and not our actual self.

We rise and endure as this ego only by grasping or clinging to things other than ourself, as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, so as long as we choose to continue clinging to anything other than ourself we will thereby be perpetuating the illusion that we are this ego. Therefore, if we wish to free ourself (the one who now seems to be this ego) from this illusion, we must choose to cling only to ourself.

In the same comment Venkat also wrote: ‘When Bhagavan talks about chit-jada-granthi, I understand it to mean that in our dream we see a set of perceptions that are closely and continuously linked with a particular point in space-time (“my body”), as distinct from the rest of the world. As a result an I-thought arises which identifies with this particular set of perceptions and seeks to protect and enhance itself relative to the rest of the perceptions (“the world”) that is seen. Hence begins the false idea of separation’.

As Bhagavan indicated in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the term cit-jaḍa-granthi (the knot that binds the conscious and the non-conscious together as if they were one) is another name for our ego, which is what he also called ‘the thought called I’ (or ‘I-thought’, as Venkat referred to it), so it is wrong to consider it to be the result of any perception, because we can only perceive anything other than ourself when we rise as this ego. Perceptions appear as soon as this ego appears, so they are an inseparable pair, but though they appear and disappear together, the ego is the cause and its perceptions are its effects, as Bhagavan implied in verse 7 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உலகறிவு மொன்றா யுதித்தொடுங்கு மேனு
முலகறிவு தன்னா லொளிரும் […]

ulahaṟivu moṉḏṟā yudittoḍuṅgu mēṉu
mulahaṟivu taṉṉā loḷirum
[…]

பதச்சேதம்: உலகு அறிவும் ஒன்றாய் உதித்து ஒடுங்கும் ஏனும், உலகு அறிவு தன்னால் ஒளிரும். […]

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ulahu aṟivum oṉḏṟāy udittu oḍuṅgum ēṉum, ulahu aṟivu-taṉṉāl oḷirum. […]

English translation: Though the world and mind arise and subside simultaneously, the world shines by the mind. […]
உலகு (ulahu) is a Tamil word derived from the Sanskrit word लोक (lōka), or rather from its older Vedic form, उलोक (ulōka), which means ‘world’ or ‘universe’, but which etymologically means ‘what is seen’, so in this context the world means the sum total of all perceptions (since there is no world other than our perceptions). அறிவு (aṟivu) is a Tamil word that means knowledge or awareness, but since the only awareness that rises and subsides is our ego or mind, in this context it means our ego or mind. The Tamil verb ஒளிரும் (oḷirum) literally means ‘shines’, but in this context it is used metaphorically to mean ‘seems to exist’, ‘is known’ or ‘is cognised’, so when Bhagavan says, ‘உலகு அறிவு தன்னால் ஒளிரும்’ (ulahu aṟivu-taṉṉāl oḷirum), which means ‘the world shines by the mind’, what he implies is that it seems to exist only because it is known or cognised by our ego or mind.

When Venkat writes, ‘in our dream we see a set of perceptions […] As a result an I-thought arises which identifies with this particular set of perceptions’, he implies that perceptions arise first and the ego or ‘I-thought’ arises as a result of those perceptions, but that cannot be the case, because perceptions arise only when we experience them, and we who experience them are what is called the ego, ‘I-thought’ or cit-jaḍa-granthi. Therefore what arises first is our ego, and as it arises it simultaneously brings perceptions into seeming existence, because just as perceptions cannot exist without our ego, who is their perceiver, our ego cannot exist without perceiving or being aware of something other than itself.

This ego rises by projecting and attaching itself to a body, through the five senses of which it projects and perceives a world. Therefore, since we are fundamentally just pure self-awareness, which is consciousness (cit), and since we seem to rise as this ego only by projecting and experiencing ourself as a body, which is non-conscious (jaḍa), as this ego we are a confused and conflated mixture of cit and jaḍa, so we are called cit-jaḍa-granthi.

9. Mere belief in ajāta or anything else is not an adequate means to free ourself from this ego illusion

In his seventh comment Venkat wrote: ‘I have to say that the logic of advaita, and ajata vada, inevitably has to mean that there can be no method, no cause, no effect, no one bound, no one to be liberated. We hear it, we say we believe it … but then we want to realise it — which is clearly contradictory’.

We may believe ajāta vāda, but it is contrary to our experience (as I explain in We can believe vivarta vāda directly but not ajāta vāda), because we now experience ourself as a finite ego and hence we perceive a world in which cause and effect operate, and as this ego we are bound by limitations from which we wish to be liberated. Therefore believing ajāta vāda is of little use to us unless we strive to experience it, and Bhagavan has taught us that the only means by which we can experience it is by investigating ourself to see whether we are really this ego that we seem to be.

Belief is a function of our mind, so we can believe ajāta vāda or anything else only so long as we experience ourself as this mind. In sleep we do not believe anything, because we are then free of the illusion that we are this ego or mind. Therefore mere belief in anything cannot be an adequate means to free ourself permanently from the limitations we impose on ourself by experiencing ourself as this mind. Ajāta is not merely a vāda (an argument or philosophical contention), but is a description of what we will experience if we investigate ourself thoroughly, so if we claim to believe ajāta we should try to investigate or scrutinise ourself in order to find out what we actually are.

As I explained earlier (in the sixth section above), though Bhagavan’s experience was ajāta, he based his teachings primarily on the vivarta viewpoint, because the ajāta viewpoint denies that there is any ego, or that an ego even seems to exist, so by itself it cannot provide us with a solution to the problem we now face, which is that we now seem to be this ego. According to the vivarta viewpoint, on the other hand, this ego does seem to exist, but is just an illusory appearance (vivarta), like a seeming snake that is actually just a rope, so we can get rid of it by investigating ourself and thereby discovering that we are not actually this finite entity called ego but are only infinite self-awareness, other than which nothing exists.

In the same comment Venkat also wrote: ‘Bhagavan’s is the simplest and most elegant ‘method’, fulfilling Occam’s razor, without adding any frills or further concepts: look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched. In a way, it doesn’t matter if you ‘realise’ or not (except perhaps to reduce suffering in the present) — since in any event the dream will end with ‘physical’ death’.

There are two points of confusion in this statement. Firstly, Bhagavan’s teaching was not ‘look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched’, because the watcher is nothing other than our ego (since what is aware of anything other than itself is only this ego and not our actual self), so the aim of self-investigation is not to see that we are the watcher but is only to see that we have never watched or been aware of anything other than ourself.

Moreover, is it actually possible for us to watch this ego? We can try to do so, and should try to do so, but we will never succeed in actually seeing this ego, because it does not actually exist. Though it may seem to us that when we try to be self-attentive we are watching the watching ego, we can never actually watch it, because as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, thereby implying that if we try to see it, it disappears, because it does not actually exist.

That is, we seem to be this ego only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, but if we turn our attention back to see the ego that we seem to be, it will disappear, because it has no real existence. It is just an ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy) or ‘formless phantom’ — something that seems to exist so long as one does not look at it directly, but that vanishes as soon as one does look at it directly. Therefore watching this ego is like trying to look carefully at an illusory snake: just as we seem to be looking at a snake only so long as we are not looking at it carefully enough, but find that what we were actually looking at was only a rope when we look at it with sufficient care, we seem to be watching a finite ego or ‘I-thought’ only so long as we are not watching it carefully enough, but find that what we were actually watching was only pure and infinite self-awareness (which is what we always actually are) when we watch it sufficiently keenly and vigilantly.

Secondly, though it is obviously true that our present dream will end with the death of our present body, the benefit we gain thereby will be no more lasting than the benefit we gain by falling asleep. Just as sleep provides us with only a temporary respite from our ego, physical death is also only a temporary respite, because until we destroy the basic illusion that we are this ego by trying to be attentively self-aware, this ego will continue rising and projecting one dream after another.

The dreamer of every dream is our ego, so as long as this ego endures, whenever one of its dreams comes to an end it will sooner or later begin to dream another dream, so the ending of any dream, including this dream of our present bodily life, is not a real solution to all the problems that we as this ego face or are liable to face. Our present dream may now seem to be a relatively pleasant and comfortable one, but there is no guarantee either that it will continue to be so pleasant or that our next dream will be so pleasant, so contrary to what Venkat wrote, it does matter if we ‘realise’ or not.

In this context ‘realise’ obviously means ‘experience what we actually are’, so in this sense ‘realising’ is the only thing that really matters. Of course it does not matter to our actual self, because as our actually self we always experience ourself as we actually are, but it does matter to us as this ego, because as this ego we are always liable to suffer in numerous ways, and even when we are experiencing a relatively pleasant dream, we are still suffering the limitation of being a seemingly finite entity, so even the most pleasant dream is a state of suffering in comparison to the infinite peace and joy of experiencing ourself as we actually are.

10. What is actually real?

In two comments that he wrote in reply to Venkat’s second comment (to which I replied in the sixth section above), another friend called Sivanarul wrote two comments about what can be considered real. In the first of these comments he wrote: ‘Just like the dream is real as long as one is dreaming, the ego is real as long as the dream of life is happening’.

If Sivanarul intended the words ‘is real’ to be understood literally, what he wrote in that sentence in not correct, because neither the ego nor any of its dreams is ever real. However, though they are not real, they seem to be real so long as we are experiencing them, so if what he meant by ‘is real’ is ‘seems to be real’, then it is correct to say: ‘Just as a dream seems real as long as one seems to be dreaming, the ego seems real as long as the dream of life seems to be happening’.

When something is said to be real, that means that it actually exists and is actually what it seems to be, because whatever does not actually exist cannot be real, even if it seems to exist, and whatever is not what it seems to be is not real as the thing it seems to be but only as the thing that it actually is. Therefore to be real, a thing must not merely seem to exist but must actually exist, so ‘real’ means ‘actually existent’.

Our ego does not actually exist, even though it seems to exist, so it is not real, even though it seems to be real. Likewise phenomena do not actually exist, even though they seem to exist, so they are not real, even though they seem to be real, because all phenomena are just an illusion created by our ego, so they seem to exist only so long as our ego seems to exist, as Bhagavan clearly implied when he wrote 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. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’.

Since any dream is just a series of phenomena experienced by our ego, it is as unreal as our ego, and it seems to be real only when we seem to be the ego who experiences it. And since our present state, which seems to be a state of waking so long as we experience it, is also just a series of phenomena experienced by our ego, it is just another dream, so it is likewise as unreal as our ego.

According to Bhagavan what actually exists is only ourself, as he clearly and emphatically states in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே.

yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē.

What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self].
Since we alone actually exist, whatever else seems to exist does not actually exist, so nothing other than ourself is real. Everything else is just a kalpanā (a fabrication, imagination or idea created by our mind or ego), like the imaginary silver seen in a shell, as he says in the second sentence of the same paragraph. And since everything other than ourself is experienced only by our ego, our ego is the first kalpanā and the root and cause of all other kalpanas. That is, since our ego is not what we actually are but only what we seem to be, it is not real but is just a kalpanā or illusory fabrication.

The fact that only what actually exists can be considered real is also indicated by Bhagavan in the first few sentences of the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
சுகமென்பது ஆத்மாவின் சொரூபமே; சுகமும் ஆத்மசொரூபமும் வேறன்று. ஆத்மசுகம் ஒன்றே யுள்ளது; அதுவே ஸத்யம்.

sukham-eṉbadu ātmāviṉ sorūpamē; sukhamum ātma-sorūpamum vēṟaṉḏṟu. ātmasukham oṉḏṟē y-uḷḷadu; aduvē satyam.

What is called happiness is only the svarūpa of ātmā [the ‘own form’ or actual nature of oneself]; happiness and ātma-svarūpa [one’s own actual self] are not different. Ātma-sukha [the happiness of oneself] alone exists; that alone is real.
Bhagavan used to define reality by saying that what is real must be eternal, unchanging and self-shining (as he explains, for example, in a dialogue recorded in the third chapter of the second book of Maharshi’s Gospel: 2002 edition, pages 67-8). It must be eternal, because whatever does not exist always is confined within the limits of time, and time is not real, since it exists only in the view of our ego (as we can infer from the fact that we experience time only in waking and dream, when we seem to be this ego, but not in sleep, when we are not aware of any ego). It must be unchanging, because whatever changes is not exactly the same thing at all times, since what it was before each change is different to what it is after that change, so each thing that it changes into is confined within the limits of time. And most importantly, it must be self-shining (that is, it must illumine or make itself known without the aid of any other thing, which means it must be self-aware), because whatever does not illumine and know itself must depend upon something other than itself in order to be known, so whether it is real or not would depend upon whether that thing that illumines or knows it is real, and hence it would not be independently real.

What then is real according to this standard? No phenomenon is eternal, unchanging or self-shining, because phenomena seem to exist only when they are experienced by our ego, and our ego itself is just a temporary phenomenon that appears in waking and dream and disappears in sleep. Because it is temporary, our ego is not eternal, and because it has no form of its own it depends for its seeming existence upon whatever form it attaches itself to, and because it attaches itself to different forms at different times (that is, to one body in waking and another body in dream), it is not unchanging. Though it may seem to be self-shining, because it is aware of its own existence, our ego does not actually shine by the light of its own awareness but only by the light of awareness that it borrows from our actual self (ātma-svarūpa), as we can infer from the fact that we continue to be self-aware in sleep even though we are then not aware of ourself as this ego.

Therefore the only thing that is eternal, unchanging and self-shining is ourself, so we alone are real. We are eternal, because we have never and could never experience a moment when we did not exist. We are unchanging, because whatever changes we may seem to experience are not changes that happen to ourself but only to other things, since we always remain essentially the same ‘we’ or ‘I’. And we are self-shining, because we are always aware of ourself, and our awareness of ourself does not depend on anything else, since we continue to be self-aware whether other things seem to exist (as in waking an dream) or not (as in sleep). Therefore according to Bhagavan and to this standard of reality that he defined, what is real is only ourself and nothing else whatsoever.

In the second of Sivanarul’s two comments that I referred to above he wrote, ‘Advaita accepts three orders of reality’, and then he explain that these ‘three orders of reality’ are pāramārthika satya, vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya. Though these three terms are used in advaita texts and commentaries, it is wrong to assume that advaita accepts more than one reality, because ‘advaita’ means non-duality, so it is the name given to a philosophy that does not accept that more than one thing is real.

What is real is only ourself, so the reality of ourself is called pāramārthika satya, which means the ultimate truth or reality. The other two terms, vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya, are each a description of what seems to be real but is not actually real. Vyāvahārika satya means ‘transactional reality’, the seeming reality of worldly affairs, business and activity, whereas prātibhāsika satya means ‘seeming reality’ or ‘illusory reality’. In some texts a distinction is made between vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya, and what we experience in the waking state is said to be vyāvahārika satya, whereas what we experience in dream is said to be prātibhāsika satya, but according to Bhagavan this waking state is just another dream, so vyāvahārika satya (transactional reality) is actually just prātibhāsika satya (seeming reality). In other words, other than our real self, whatever seems to be real is not actually real but only seemingly real.

11. Why is it so important to distinguish what is actually real from what merely seems to be real?

In section 11 of my previous article, Is there more than one way in which we can investigate and know ourself?, I had quoted verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Bhagavan says, ‘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. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’, and in section 9 of the article prior to that, Sleep is our natural state of pure self-awareness, I had quoted verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in which he said, ‘மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை’ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai), which means ‘When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting], anything called ‘mind’ will not exist’. Since he explained in the next verse of Upadēśa Undiyār that the mind is in essence just our ego or root-thought called ‘I’, I drew from verse 17 the obvious inference, ‘our ego or mind does not actually exist at all, even now’.

This prompted a friend called Rudraksha to write a comment in which he asked whether what Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is not contrary to what he says in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār. However, there is actually no contradiction between these two verses, because though our ego or mind does not actually exist, it does seem to exist, and it will persist in seeming to exist until we investigate what it actually is.

When a rope is mistaken to be a snake, there is actually no snake there at all, but there does seem to be a snake, and so long as it seems to exist the snake is liable to cause fear. Likewise, we now mistake ourself to be this ego, even though this is not what we actually are, so though there is actually no ego, it seems to exist, and so long as it seems to exist it creates all sorts of problems for us. Just as the only way to free ourself from the fear caused by the illusory snake is to look carefully at what seems to be a snake, because then only will we see that there is no snake but only a harmless rope, so the only way to free ourself from all the problems caused by this illusory ego is to look carefully at ourself, who are what seems to be this ego, because then only will we see that there is no ego but only our own infinite self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

Therefore we should be careful not to mistake our ego to be real, even though it seems to be real, because it is not actually real and hence is not what we actually are. So long as we believe it and everything that it experiences to be real, it will continue deluding us and causing us endless problems and suffering, so Bhagavan advises us to doubt its reality and therefore to investigate it to see whether or not it is actually real, as it now seems to be.

This is why it is so important for us to distinguish what actually exists and is therefore actually real from what merely seems to exist and therefore merely seems to be real. What actually exists and is real is only our own simple self-awareness, which we experience without a break in waking, dream and sleep, because everything else, beginning with our own ego or mind, does not actually exist even though it seems to exist and to be real. To know this from our own experience, all we need do is to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are, rather than as we now seem to be.

12. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: why does Bhagavan say that if our ego does not exist, nothing else exists?

As I mentioned in each of the previous two sections, in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan says: ‘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. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’. Since I had cited this verse in section 11 of my previous article, in a recent comment on that article a friend called Algeciras referred to the second sentence of it, ‘if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist’, and remarked, ‘That clause we obviously cannot take literally (word for word)’. He then explained, ‘For example, when I am sleeping the ego does not exist. But can we really say that then nothing does exist?’, and after elaborating on this argument he concluded by asking: ‘Could you please explain, in what sense we should understand this verse correctly?’

Bhagavan did intend us to take what he wrote in this verse literally, but it is difficult for us to accept that everything that we experience depends for its seeming existence upon the seeming existence of our ego unless we are willing to accept that our present so-called waking state is actually just another dream. The arguments that Algeciras gave are based on the assumption the world we now experience is not just a mental projection, like everything that we experience in a dream, but according to Bhagavan it is just a mental projection, so it seems to exist only so long as we are aware of its seeming existence, and we are aware of it only when we experience ourself as this ego.

Because we are attached to our present life and to the person that we now seem to be, we are naturally reluctant to accept that this is all just a creation of our ego and therefore no more real than any other dream that we experience. However, if we want to experience what is actually real, we need to doubt the reality of everything that we now experience. The only thing that must necessarily exist is ourself, because whether everything else is real or just an illusion, we must exist in order to be aware of it. As Descartes argued, ‘I think, therefore I am’, though his argument would have been simpler and more robust if he had instead argued, ‘I am aware, therefore I am’, or ‘I experience, therefore I am’.

Other than ourself, there is nothing that certainly exists or is certainly real, because everything else that we perceive or experience could be just an illusion, like everything that we perceive or experience in a dream. While we are dreaming, we seem to be awake, so everything that we experience in a dream seems to be real so long as we are dreaming, and is found to be just a mental creation and hence unreal only after we wake up. Therefore just because we now seem to be awake and not dreaming does not mean that we are actually not dreaming, because we could be just dreaming that we are awake.

Algeciras argued that the ‘fact’ that the world exists in the absence of the ego in sleep ‘would be easily proved by a film camera which would film all the scene’, but whatever may be filmed would not prove anything, unless we could watch the film while sleeping, which we obviously cannot. If someone were to argue with us in a dream that the world exists while we are asleep, and if they were to show us a film of our body sleeping in our bed, would that prove anything? No, it obviously would not, because the film we were shown was part of our dream, the whole of which was just a creation of our ego. Likewise, even if we now watch a film of our body sleeping in our bed, that would not prove that our body or the world existed while we were asleep, because if our present state is just a dream, that film would just be part of this dream.

Another argument in support of Algeciras’s view was offered by a friend called Samarender Reddy in a later comment, namely that we could watch the body of a friend while he is asleep, so since we ‘know for a certain fact’ that ‘his body and the world existed when he slept’, we ‘can certainly extrapolate and infer (which is a reasonably good inference given that I am not different from him) that pretty much the same thing would happen if I were to go to sleep and he sat in watch by my bedside’. This argument is again based of the assumption that our present state is not a dream, because though we may see the body of a sleeping friend in a dream, we would not consider it reasonable to infer from this in our present state that our dream body and dream world exist even when we are asleep, since we now know that the body of our sleeping friend that we saw in our dream was just a creation of our own ego or mind. Therefore if our present state is also just a dream, all the friends we see in this dream are likewise just creations of our own ego, so they and the rest of this world do not exist or even seem to exist except when we are perceiving them in this dream.

Unless we can prove that we are not now dreaming, we cannot prove that any of the things that we now perceive exist while we are asleep. Since there is no means by which we can prove — either to ourself or to anyone else — that our present experience is not just a dream, there is no means by which we can prove that anything other than ourself exists while we are asleep.

We could argue that just as we cannot be sure that we are not now dreaming or that anything other than ourself exists while we are asleep, we equally well cannot be sure of the opposite, namely that we are now dreaming or that nothing other than ourself exists while we are asleep. That would be a perfectly reasonable argument, but it would show that we should at least doubt whether anything exists independent of our awareness of it, and that we should admit the possibility that everything that we experience other than ourself could be just our ego’s dream creation.

However, since Bhagavan has shown us that we cannot be the body or person that we now seem to be (since we experience ourself even when we do not experience either this body or this person), and since everything else that we experience seems to exist only when we seem to be a body and person, it is reasonable for us to believe him when he says that everything else seems to exist only when this ego (our illusory awareness of ourself as a body) seems to exist, and that whenever this ego does not seem to exist nothing else exists. However, in order to ascertain from our own experience whether or not this is actually the case, he says that we need to investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we really are.

Believing what he taught us (particularly in verses such as 25 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) can certainly help us in our self-investigation, but it is not an adequate substitute for self-investigation, because all his most essential teachings were given to us in order to convince us that we need to investigate what we ourself actually are. As he often used to say, we cannot know the reality of anything else until and unless we know our own reality, and to know our own reality we must investigate what we actually are.

13. A thought is anything fabricated by our ego or mind, so everything other than ourself is a thought

In an earlier comment on my previous article, a friend called Amrita quoted some portions from section 11 of that article and asked, ‘In order to understand the above statements in their complete significance could you please give a more detailed description what a thought is’.

The word that Bhagavan generally used in Tamil to mean ‘thought’ or ‘idea’ was நினைவு (niṉaivu), but in verses he sometimes used எண்ணம் (eṇṇam) instead, and occasionally he would use a word of Sanskrit origin such as சிந்தனை (cintaṉai, which is a Tamil form of cintana) or விருத்தி (virutti, which is a Tamil form of vṛtti). However, whichever word he used to mean ‘thought’, what he meant by it was generally anything produced or fabricated by our ego or mind, so all types of mental phenomena were included in what he called ‘thought’, and since according to his teachings all phenomena (including those that seem to us to be physical) are actually mental (because they are created only by our mind and are experienced within it), he taught us that everything other than our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) is just a thought.

As he often said, the first thought and root of all other thoughts is only the thought called ‘I’, which is our ego, so without this thought no other thought can arise, because every other thought is produced and experienced only by this first thought, ‘I’. Since our mind is nothing but a collection of thoughts, and since no thought could seem to exist if it were not experienced by our ego, what our mind essentially is is just this ego, our primal thought called ‘I’. Other thoughts come and go and are constantly changing, but so long as our mind is active this first thought called ‘I’ endures, so our mind cannot exist in the absence of this thought.

The reason why Bhagavan describes our ego as a thought is that it is not what we actually are, but only what we seem to be, and we seem to be this ego only when we experience ourself as a body. Therefore our ego is a confused mixture of pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are, and awareness of a body, so since any body (or our awareness of it) is just a thought, our ego is itself just a thought. That is, as a mixture of what is real (namely our pure self-awareness) and a thought (namely our body-awareness), our ego is a thought.

Since our ego is the illusory experience ‘I am this body’, it cannot seem to exist without experiencing itself as a body, so as soon as it rises it projects a body and experiences it as itself, and then through the five senses of that body it projects and experiences a world. Since this happens in both waking and dream, Bhagavan said that this so-called waking state is just another dream. Just as everything that we experience in a dream (including the body that we then experience as ourself, and the seemingly external world that we experience through the senses of that body) is just a mental fabrication, and hence just a collection or series of thoughts, so everything that we experience in this so-called waking state is likewise just a mental fabrication, and hence just a collection or series of thoughts.

Since our ego cannot rise or endure without projecting and experiencing other thoughts, beginning with whichever body it currently experiences as itself, it is sustained and nourished by experiencing other thoughts, and it could not even seem to exist if it was not aware of them. This is what Bhagavan implies in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and hence he says in the same verse, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, and which implies that if we try to be aware only of our ego, it will subside and disappear, and along with it all its other thoughts will also cease to exist.

This is the vital clue that he gives us in order to enable us to free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego. That is, we seem to be this ego only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, so when we try to be aware of ourself alone, our ego will dissolve and vanish, and what will then remain is only pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

Since the production and experiencing of any other thought entails directing our attention away from ourself, attention is the instrument by which our ego produces and experiences thoughts. Therefore, since the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails directing our attention back towards ourself, Bhagavan sometimes described it as ‘thought of oneself’ or ‘thinking of oneself’, as I explained in the early sections of this article.

However, though he thus described self-attentiveness as ‘thought of oneself’, it is a ‘thought’ quite unlike any other thought, because whereas other thoughts feed and nourish our ego, this thought of ourself undermines and dissolves our ego, and along with this ego it also dissolves all its other thoughts. Therefore self-attentiveness it is a ‘thought’ that will destroy both its parent, namely our ego or primal thought called ‘I’, and all its siblings, namely all our other thoughts.

This therefore is all that we need to know about thoughts and their nature. They are all unreal, being mere apparitions, but of all of them, the one unreal thought that will destroy all other unreal thoughts is only this ‘thought of oneself’, which is the simple practice of trying to be attentively self-aware.

14. Birth and death are both mere thoughts, as is any kind of body that we may experience as ourself

In another comment, a friend called Tirich Mir wrote, ‘We often see bodily weakness, frailty of old age, disease and death of the body. Let us assume that many of us seekers are or will be not able to give up everything and to destroy this ego for ever before physical death. Therefore knowing ourself might include to know whether the ego will grasp any other subtle form of body after leaving the physical body because of death’, and then asked several questions about what we may experience after death.

Before answering his questions I will start by saying two things in reply to his opening remarks. Firstly, why should we assume that we ‘will be not able to give up everything and to destroy this ego for ever before physical death’? If we assume that, we would thereby be setting an unnecessary limitation upon ourself, so it is best not to assume anything about when we may destroy our ego. If we really want to, we can destroy it here and now, so if we do not do so, that is only because we do not yet want to be free of it more than we want anything else. In other words, we are still attached to our finite life as this ego, so we are not yet ready to let go of it.

How close we are to being ready to let go of it is something that we cannot know, because we cannot see how deeply our attachments are still rooted. It may seem to us that our attachments are still very strong, and hence we constantly resist our own attempts to be calmly self-attentive, but perhaps our present resistance is just the last desperate struggle of our ego to survive, in which case we may finally surrender ourself much sooner than we now expect. Trying to know how close or how far we now are from finally giving up everything is a futile effort, so we would make better use of our time and effort trying to see who it is who now seems to be resisting so strongly.

Our love to surrender ourself completely may now seem to be very feeble, but we have taken refuge in Bhagavan and his teachings, so since he is the sole reality, whereas our ego is merely an illusory apparition with no substantial existence, we should trust in his power to save us in spite of our present lack of true wholehearted love to merge in him. Now we may feel ourself to be too weak to effectively wield the supreme weapon (brahmāstra) of self-attentiveness (who am I?) that he has given us, but as Sadhu Om once assured me when I said this, he who has given us this weapon will also surely give us the strength to wield it effectively. Therefore let us just persevere in making our feeble attempts to be attentively self-aware with complete faith in the assurance that Bhagavan gave us in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, namely that we are now like the prey in the jaws of a tiger, so all we have to do is to avoid resisting by persistently following the path of self-investigation that he has shown us.

Secondly it is not correct to say ‘knowing ourself might include to know whether the ego will grasp any other subtle form of body after leaving the physical body because of death’, because this ego is not what we actually are, so knowing what forms it may assume in future has nothing to do with knowing ourself as we actually are. In order to know what we actually are we must investigate ourself and thereby discover that we are not and never have been this ego that we now seem to be.

Tirich Mir’s first four questions were about what we may experience at the moment of physical death and thereafter, what kind of body our ego may grasp or what kind of thought it may have then, whether there is a life as an astral body, what influence such a life may have on a future physical body, and whether there is any ‘world on the opposite side of the river called (physical) life’. According to Bhagavan our present so-called ‘physical’ life is just a dream, so whatever we experience after this dream will either be a temporary sleep or another dream, and as we all know from experience, in a dream we can experience just about anything, so we could dream that we are in heaven or in hell, wandering as a ghost or born again in another world very similar to the one we now seem to be in, or in any other condition that we may imagine. However, all we need to know about any possible future condition of this ego is that whatever body or world we may experience will just be a dream and will therefore be no more real than the present condition of our ego.

Regarding ‘astral’, mental or physical bodies, there is really no significant difference between such things, because though whatever body we experience as ourself in a dream is actually just a mental fabrication (a thought or idea), while we are dreaming it seems to us to be a physical body, and the same applies to the body that we now experience as ourself. As I mentioned in the previous section, all phenomena — including those that seem to us to be physical — are actually just mental phenomena, so though whichever body we are currently experiencing as ourself (whether in this dream or in any other one) seems to us to be physical, it is actually just a thought or idea fabricated by our own mind, and hence even if we experience ourself being in heaven or hell, the body we would then experience as ourself would likewise be just a mental creation, as also would be the heaven or hell in which we then find ourself.

Regarding death, we will only experience ourself as this body so long as it is alive, so the moment it dies will be like the ending of any other dream. Either we will temporarily subside into a state like sleep, or we will immediately start to dream another dream. During the last few hours, minutes or seconds of the life of our present body we may struggle to hold on to it, as one can often see happening if one is by the bedside of a dying person, but once this body is actually dead, this dream will be over. In some cases one may then experience the sort of condition described by some people who have had a near-death experience, such as seeing one’s body lying in bed and people surrounding it crying, but that would be just another dream, because one would then experience oneself not as the dead body but as another body that is seeing it.

The bottom line is that whatever we may experience other than ourself, whether before death, while dying or after death, is only a dream, so it is not real and hence is not worth thinking about. If we are wise, we should try to direct all our attention only towards ourself, because that is the only means by which we will be able to experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego.

Since everything other than ourself is just a thought, whatever body we may experience as ourself is likewise just a thought, and so too is both its birth and its death. Neither birth nor death is real, because they are just the beginning and ending of a dream, and every dream is unreal. What is real is only ourself, so the only truly worthwhile endeavour is to try to experience what we ourself actually are.

In his fifth and sixth questions Tirich Mir asked whether Bhagavan ever answered questions such as the previous four that he had asked, or whether he always advised the questioner ‘only to seek the source of the ‘I’-thought in the now’. Bhagavan adapted the answers he gave to any question according to the need of the person asking it, so he did not always answer the same question in the same way, but generally he did try to divert people away from asking useless questions by directing their attention back towards themself, the ego who was asking those questions.

As he often said in reply to questions such as the first four asked by Tirich Mir, when we do not know what we ourself actually are at this present moment, how can we know what we will be in future. Whatever we actually are is ever unchanging, so to know what we will actually be in future, all we need do is to find out what we actually are here and now. Whatever we may now believe about what we will be in future cannot be true, because what we now experience ourself to be is not true. Even now we are not this ego that we seem to be, so we will not be anything that this ego may seem to become in future. Therefore we should give up enquiring about the past or future, and should instead investigate what we actually are now, at this precise present moment.

15. Is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) a ‘method’ or just a simple and direct means?

In several comments, beginning with this one, an anonymous friend repeatedly asserted that ‘methods’ do not work, and in support of this questionable assertion he did not offer either any evidence or any logical arguments but only other equally questionable assertions, or ones that either did not support his primary contention or that directly contradicted it. Therefore I do not think it is worth spending time trying to repudiate each of his false, questionable or merely superficial assertions, but there is one implication in what he wrote that is worth discussing, namely the implication that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is just one among many methods, none of which can enable us to experience what we actually are.

Bhagavan taught us that self-investigation is the simple and direct means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, but is it correct to call it a ‘method’? Looking at something is definitely the means to see it, because if we do not look at it we will not be able to see it, but would we say that looking is a method to see? Most of us would not, because looking is too simple and also too essential to be called a method to see. Generally the term ‘method’ means a contrived or elaborate means to accomplish something, so a simple, natural and indispensable means such as looking is not considered to be a method. It could be part of a method (just as, for example, looking at evidence can be part of a method of scientific research), but it is not a method by itself.

Just as looking is the simple, natural and indispensable means to see something, or just as listening is the simple, natural and indispensable means to hear something, so being self-attentive is the simple, natural and indispensable means to experience or be aware of ourself as we actually are. Therefore, since self-investigation entails nothing but simply being attentively self-aware, it is not a method, even though it is the direct means to experience what we really are and thereby to dissolve the illusion that we are this ego.

A method is necessary only when no simple and straightforward means is available or would be sufficient to accomplish something, so to accomplish our aim of knowing what we really are, no method is required, because all that we need do is to investigate ourself by simply looking at, observing, attending to or being attentively aware of ourself. This is the simplest and most straightforward of all means, it is sufficient by itself, and it is also indispensable, because we cannot know what we actually are unless we examine or scrutinise ourself in this way. Therefore self-investigation is just the simple, direct and obvious means to know ourself, but it is too simple and straightforward to be called a method.

Regarding the efficacy of self-investigation, that is, whether or not it will ‘work’ as a means to accomplish its aim, simple logic demands that it must be effective. Just as looking carefully at an illusory snake is the only effective means to see that it is actually just a harmless rope, so looking carefully at ourself, who now seem to be this ego, is the only effective means to see what we actually are. If we do not look carefully at the ‘snake’ we will never actually see that it is only a rope, and likewise if we do not look carefully at ourself we will never actually see what we really are. Therefore investigating ourself by looking at ourself carefully is logically the only effective means to know ourself as we really are, and hence it is indispensable, as Bhagavan repeatedly explained to us.

16. Since Bhagavan says ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’, we would be wise to follow it from the outset

In one of the comments he wrote on my previous article Sivanarul said, ‘I am a firm believer that the ocean can be reached by various rivers following various paths, even if the last 10 feet is a single path. I consider Vichara as that last 10 feet and not the only path from beginning to end that all rivers must follow’. This is an apt analogy. All other paths are like tributaries that must sooner or later merge in the river of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), because as Bhagavan taught us, ultimately self-investigation is the only path that can destroy our ego and thereby discharge us into the infinite ocean of joy that always exists within us as our own real self.

Though on at least the last ten feet of our journey, so to speak, we must travel along the royal highway of self-investigation, we need not wait for that metaphorical final ten feet before joining this path. As Bhagavan used to say, since this is the quickest and most direct path from wherever we may now be standing, if we are truly intent upon freeing ourself from our ego we should start trying to practise self-investigation from the moment we are given to understand that this is the only means by which our ego can ultimately be destroyed. This is why he ended verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār (which I cited in full in the second section of this article) by declaring, ‘மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது’ (mārggam nēr ārkkum idu), which means ‘This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone’.

In this final sentence of verse 17, மார்க்கம் (mārggam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word मार्ग (mārga), which means way, road, path or means; நேர் (nēr) means straight, direct, appropriate, suitable, proper or correct; ஆர்க்கும் (ārkkum) literally means ‘for whomever’, so it implies ‘for anyone’ or ‘for everyone’; and இது (idu) means ‘this’, referring to the practice of self-investigation described in the first sentence of this verse. Thus in this sentence Bhagavan affirms that this path is suitable not only for certain people but for everyone who truly wishes to surrender themself completely by giving up the illusion that they are this ego or mind. Therefore none of us need wait or delay our progress till we have gained greater purity of mind or spiritual maturity by following any other path before we begin trying to practise this simple path of self-investigation, nor is it necessary for us to practise anything else if we are sincerely trying our best to follow this path.

This is clearly illustrated by what Bhagavan said during the following incident. Once a group of villagers came to him and asked what is the best way to attain liberation (mukti), and he replied explaining in simple terms that all one need do to attain liberation is to investigate who is oneself, who seeks to attain it. After the villagers left he went out for his usual walk, whereupon Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri, who had been present while he was talking with them, turned to his followers and remarked:
Why does Bhagavan always recommend his path of ātma-vicāra to everyone, even to such ignorant villagers? His path may be the best one for some people, but it is suitable only for those who are learned, so how can these villagers understand or practice it? Even for a very learned person like me it is difficult to follow it, so how can he expect that such unlearned people would be able to do so? Surely it would have been more useful to them if he had advised them to do a simple practice like japa. Or if he does not like to teach japa, he could have directed them to me, knowing that I would teach them mantra-japa.
When Bhagavan returned from his walk, someone told him what Kavyakantha had said in his absence, to which he replied:
What to do? I can only teach what I know. I do not know anything about any mantras or tantras, because I have never been attracted to learn about such things or to practice them. What I know is that liberation means being free from the ego, and in order to be free from it we must know who we really are, and we can know who we really are only by investigating ourself. This is why I advise anyone who asks how to attain liberation to try to find out who they are.

This is the easiest and most simple path, so it can be practised by anyone, and in order to practise it there is no need to be learned. In fact it can be easier for an unlearned person to practise it than for a learned person, because the minds of learned people tend to be full of unnecessary thoughts and counterarguments, which confuse them and distract their attention away from themself, making it more difficult for them to simply turn their attention back towards themself.

I know that if I were to advise anyone to practise japa or any path other than ātma-vicāra, I would sooner or later have to tell them that such practices are not sufficient, because ultimately the only way to destroy one’s ego is to investigate oneself and thereby to experience oneself as one actually is. Therefore why should I recommend any path knowing that I would later have to say that it is not enough? I would be cheating people if I were to do so. Since everyone must ultimately practise ātma-vicāra in order to annihilate their ego, it is best to advise them to practise it from the very beginning.

Not only is ātma-vicāra sufficient from the outset and necessary at the end, but it is also the simplest, easiest and quickest path from wherever one may begin. If some people want to practise other paths, let them do so, but if anyone really wants to be free from their ego, I can only advise them to practise this simple and easy path of self-investigation and complete self-surrender. When an aeroplane is available and is the quickest means to reach our destination, why should I advise anyone to travel by any slower means such as a bullock cart or a train?
These are not the exact words that Bhagavan spoke, but they are the gist of what I have been told he said on that occasion. I first heard this story from Kunju Swami, and later it was confirmed to me by Swami Natananandar and others who were present at the time, and it was also recorded more briefly by Joan and Matthew Greenblatt on page 74 of their book Bhagavan Sri Ramana: A Pictorial Biography, which was published by Ramanasramam in 1981 as one of their special publications to commemorate Bhagavan’s birth centenary. Kunju Swami also referred to this incident rather obliquely in the final paragraph of his reminiscences as presented by David Godman in Part Two of The Power of the Presence (2005, pp. 95-6), and in a footnote David quoted his fuller account of it as recorded in the Pictorial Biography.

17. Is there any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’?

Another friend called Viswanathan wrote a comment in which he quoted something that David Godman wrote recently (in his reply to a comment on his video on self-enquiry, in which someone called James Austin had asked him about two sentences from the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that he had quoted in his comment on verse 389 of Guru Vācaka Kovai), namely:
Though Bhagavan defines self-enquiry as ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ in ‘Who am I?’, I think that this is an advanced level of the practice that most people aspire to rather than experience. Until that is possible, attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self.
This implies that attending to the sense of ‘I’ is in some way different to ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’, which is an idea that could cause confusion in the minds of those who wish to practise what Bhagavan taught us, because if the ‘self’ we are trying to know is something other than the ‘I’ who is trying to know it, that would mean that we have more than one ‘I’ or self, which obviously cannot be the case. Therefore to clarify what the practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) actually is and to remove any confusion that could arise from this statement by David, let us carefully consider the meaning of the words he used here in order to try to understand whether there is actually any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’.

The sentence in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) that David referred to when he wrote that Bhagavan defines self-enquiry as ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ is the one I cited and discussed in the first section of my previous article, where I explained that the words ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu) used by Bhagavan in that sentence literally mean ‘putting [placing, keeping or fixing] the mind in [or on] oneself (ātmā)’, which is an idiomatic way of saying attending to oneself, so what he clearly implied in that sentence is that the term ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) means only the simple practice of keeping our attention fixed firmly on ourself.

Though the word ஆத்மா (ātmā), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word आत्मन् (ātman), is often used to refer specifically to our actual self (which in English is often referred to as ‘the Self’, meaning ourself as we actually are), it is actually just a generic pronoun, the basic meaning of which is ‘oneself’, and which depending on the context can therefore mean myself, yourself, herself, himself or itself. In this context we can take it to mean either our actual self or ourself in general, without making any distinction between our actual self and our ego, because what seems to be this ego is only our actual self, so when we seem to be attending to our ego what we are actually attending to is our actual self, just as in the case of an illusory snake when we seem to be looking at a snake what we are actually looking at is only a rope. Therefore it makes no difference in practice whether we interpret ஆத்மா (ātmā) in that sentence to mean our actual self or ourself in general, because in either case what Bhagavan clearly implies in that sentence is that the term ātma-vicāra refers only to the practice of being self-attentive.

What then does David mean by attending to the sense of ‘I’? In this context ‘sense’ presumably means awareness, and ‘I’ is obviously a pronoun referring to ourself, so the sense of ‘I’ must simply mean our awareness of ourself. Since self-awareness is our very nature, attending to our self-awareness means exactly the same as attending to ourself. Therefore it is hard to see what difference there could possibly be between attending to the sense of ‘I’ and keeping one’s mind fixed on oneself. These are simply two different ways of describing the simple practice of being self-attentive.

When using this term ‘the sense of I’ in this context David may have meant specifically our ego, but since our ego is merely what we now seem to be, when we attend to our ego we are attending to ourself (as I explained in more detail in an earlier article, By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself), and if we attend to ourself (this ego or sense of ‘I’) sufficiently keenly, we will discover that what we actually are is only our real self, which is not this finite ego but only the one infinite space of pure self-awareness. Just as an illusory snake and the rope that seems to be that snake are not two different things, this illusory ego and our actual self are not two different things, because our ego is merely what our actual self seems (in the view of this ego) to be.

This is why in that sentence of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan said:
சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்.

sadā-kālam-um maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadaṟku-t tāṉ ‘ātma-vicāram’ eṉḏṟu peyar.

The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] keeping the mind [one’s attention] always on oneself.
In this sentence தான் (tāṉ) is used as an intensifying suffix, which can mean ‘itself’, ‘only’ or ‘definitely’, but which in this context it clearly implies ‘only’, so the clear implication of this sentence is that the term ‘ātma-vicāra’ means nothing other than ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu), ‘keeping the mind on oneself’ or ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’. In other words, what Bhagavan asserts here is that ātma-vicāra is only the simple practice of being self-attentive. Therefore keeping one’s mind or attention fixed on oneself (or at least trying to do so) is not merely ‘an advanced level of the practice’ (as David wrote) but is the only practice from beginning to end.

Since keeping one’s mind on oneself means being self-attentive, it is in no way different to the practice of attending to one’s sense of ‘I’, so David is correct in saying that ‘attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self’. His only mistake lies in thinking that this is in any way different to what Bhagavan described as ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu), which means ‘keeping the mind on oneself’ or ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’.

The phrase ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ can be interpreted as something other than simply attending to one’s sense of ‘I’ only if one takes the term ‘the Self’ to mean something other than oneself. But how could ‘the Self’ refer to anything other than oneself, because we obviously do not have more than one self? In this context the term ‘self’ or ‘the Self’ must refer only to ourself, because there cannot be any self other than whosesoever self it is. I and myself are not two different things, just as a table and itself are not two different thing, because nothing can ever be different to itself. Therefore we have no ‘self’ or ‘Self’ other than ourself, so ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ can only mean keeping one’s mind on oneself.

Moreover, in Tamil and Sanskrit scripts there are no capital letters, nor is there any equivalent in such languages to the English article ‘the’, so the word ஆத்மா (ātmā) used by Bhagavan in this context simply means ‘self’ or ‘oneself’, so it makes no distinction between oneself and ‘the Self’. Therefore ‘keeping the mind on ātmā’ simply means keeping one’s attention on oneself or being self-attentive, so it means exactly the same as attending to one’s sense of ‘I’, because one’s sense of ‘I’ is simply one’s awareness of oneself. Since self-awareness is our very nature, there is no difference between ourself and our awareness of ourself, so attending to our awareness of ourself is the same as attending to ourself.

Bhagavan used many different terms to describe the practice of ātma-vicāra, but whatever terms he used were terms that mean simply being self-attentive. For example, in Nāṉ Yār? he used terms such as ஆன்மசிந்தனை (āṉma-cintaṉai or ātma-cintana) or ‘thought of oneself’, நானார் என்னும் நினைவு (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu) or ‘the thought called who am I’, சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāṉam or svarūpa-dhyāna) or ‘meditation on oneself’, and சொரூபஸ்மரணை (sorūpa-smaraṇai or svarūpa-smaraṇa) or ‘self-remembrance’, but all such terms mean only being self-attentive. Likewise, when he described ātma-vicāra as looking at oneself, turning towards oneself, facing oneself, investigating the ego, investigating from where it rose, or investigating its source, birthplace or rising-place, these were all just alternative ways of describing this one simple practice of scrutinising ourself by being keenly self-attentive. Therefore he neatly summarised the essential meaning of all these various descriptions by writing in this sentence: ‘சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்’ (sadā-kālam-um maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadaṟku-t tāṉ ‘ātma-vicāram’ eṉḏṟu peyar), which means ‘The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always on oneself’.

In his comment that I referred to at the beginning of this section, after quoting what David had written about this sentence, Viswanathan then quoted another sentence that David had written to him when he asked him about it, namely ‘Self is what remains when the one that directs attention disappears’. This is correct, because the one who directs attention is only our ego, and when this ego directs its entire attention back towards itself instead of towards anything else, it will subside and disappear, and what will then remain is what we actually are.

An important word in this sentence is the verb ‘remains’, because when something is said to remain, that implies that it was already present. Our actual self remains when our ego disappears because it is what always is and has always been present. It is not something that we are not already aware of, but is only ourself, the only thing that we are always aware of. However, though we are always aware of ourself, we now mistake ourself to be this ego, which is not what we actually are but only what we seem to be whenever we attend to anything other than ourself. Therefore when we attend only to ourself, this illusory ego will disappear, and what will then remain is what we essentially are, which is just pure self-awareness.

Therefore, though David had written that ‘attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self’, he was presumably using the term ‘route back to the Self’ in a metaphorical sense rather than a literal one, because ‘the Self’ is what we always are, so it is not something that we need to literally return to or reach. What is meant by returning to or reaching ourself is simply remaining as we actually are instead of rising as this ego.

As Bhagavan repeatedly emphasised, the only means by which we can remain as we actually are is by trying to be self-attentive, because so long as we attend to anything other than ourself we are nourishing and sustaining our ego, which comes into existence, stands and thrives only by attending to or ‘grasping’ anything other than ourself (as he taught us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu). Since attending to anything other than ourself sustains our fundamental illusion that we are this ego, we can free ourself from it and thereby remain as we actually are only by attending exclusively to ourself.

This is why Bhagavan sometimes described this practice of being self-attentive as சும்மா விருப்பது (summā-v-iruppadu), which means ‘just being’, ‘silently being’, ‘being without activity’ or ‘being still’. So long as we attend to anything other than ourself, our ego and mind are active, but when we try to attend only to ourself, they subside and become inactive, so being self-attentive is the only means by which we can just be as we actually are, which is eternally motionless (acala) and hence inactive self-awareness (as the term acala in the name aruṇācala or ‘Arunachala’ signifies).

Therefore though in a passage from an interview with David that Viswanathan quoted in a later comment David said that ‘summa iru’ (‘be quiet’ or ‘be still’) was Bhagavan’s ‘primary advice’, but that ‘he knew that most people couldn’t naturally stay quiet. If such people asked for a method, a technique, he would often recommend a practice known as self-inquiry’, and though some people may mistake this to mean that being quiet (summā iruppadu) and self-enquiry (ātma-vicāra) are two distinct practices (as another friend called Steve remarked in one comment that it seems to imply), I assume that is not what David meant, because according to Bhagavan ātma-vicāra is the practice of being self-attentive, which is the only means by which we can subside in our natural state of just being, which is what is denoted by the term ‘summā iruppadu’.

18. Is analysis of any use or relevance to self-investigation?

Towards the end of the same comment that I referred to at the beginning of the previous section Viswanathan wrote that when he asked David some further questions about the practice of self-investigation, David replied, ‘Too many words and too much hair-splitting. Self-enquiry is not something you analyse like this. It is something you do to keep the mind away from pointless busyness such as this’.

Obviously most analysis that people do is about things other than ourself and the means by which we can experience what we really are, so such analysis would distract our mind away from the necessary task of investigating ourself, and hence engaging in it would be ‘pointless busyness’ for those of us who want to experience ourself as we really are. Even analysis of ourself and the practice of self-investigation can be a distraction if it is not done properly, because confused or misguided analysis can lead to further confusion. Therefore when we analyse this practice or any other aspect of Bhagavan’s teachings, we should take care to be guided by his words and should try to avoid misinterpreting them.

However, not all analysis is harmful, and if done in the right way and for the right purpose it can be beneficial, because the aim of analysis is (or at least should be) to simplify and clarify one’s understanding and thereby to free one from confusion and misunderstanding. Each one of us has come to Bhagavan because we are confused about what we actually are. Our confusion is more than just an intellectual or conceptual confusion, because it is a deeply rooted experiential confusion, since what we experience as ourself is not what we actually are. Therefore to help us remove our confusion Bhagavan begins by teaching us that we are not what we now seem to be, and he explains this by teaching us to analyse our experience of ourself in each of our three states of waking, dream and sleep.

This analysis of our experience of ourself in these three states is the conceptual foundation of his teachings. Since we are always aware of ourself, we cannot be anything that we are not always aware of, so since we are aware of ourself as one body in waking, another body in dream and no body at all in sleep, we cannot be any body that we temporarily experience as ourself. Likewise, since we are aware of ourself as a finite ego or mind in waking and dream but not in sleep, this ego or mind cannot be what we actually are. Therefore Bhagavan advises us to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are.

Though he taught us that the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is simply being self-attentive, and though there could not be anything simpler than just being attentively self-aware, our mind is used to dealing with complexity and it hankers for and thrives on it, because it cannot survive without experiencing things other than itself, which inevitably leads to complexity. Therefore though the practice of ātma-vicāra is extremely simple, our mind is complex, and since the very simplicity of ātma-vicāra threatens the seeming existence of our mind, our mind tends to make it seem much more complicated than it actually is.

For many people the idea of trying to be self-attentive seems completely baffling, so they ask how to attend to oneself and what is the ‘self’ or ‘I’ that one should attend to. Other people get confused even by the very simple words that Bhagavan uses to explain this practice, so they ask questions such as whether the ‘I’ they should attend to is the ego or the Self, as if there were more than one ‘I’ or ‘self’ that they could attend to. Another common confusion is that when Bhagavan advises us to investigate who am I or to investigate to whom thoughts occur, many people mistake ‘investigate’ to mean ‘enquire’ in the sense of asking a question, so they assume that he meant that we should constantly ask ourself ‘who am I?’ or should wait for the next thought to rise in order to pop the question ‘to whom is this thought?’ Even when it is explained to people that enquiring or investigating who am I simply means observing oneself or being self-attentive, it is hard for many people to believe that it could really be as simple as that, so they begin to imagine that there are different stages to this practice, and that though the ‘I’ that they are now trying to observe or attend to is only their ego, at a later stage they will find something called sphuraṇa or they will experience a new and wonderful state called nirvikalpa samādhi.

In these and so many other ways people become confused about this simplest of practices, so in order to remove such confusion and to prevent further confusion arising, it is necessary for most of us to repeatedly reflect on what Bhagavan has taught us and to carefully analyse his words in order to be sure that we have not misinterpreted them or failed to understand their full implication. Such reflection and analysis, which is what is called manana, is obviously not a substitute for actual practice, but it is nevertheless necessary to prevent us from misinterpreting his teachings and to ensure that we are practising them correctly.

When we first read Bhagavan teachings, our understanding of them is relatively superficial, but as we go deeper into the practice of them, we are able to see fresh depth of meaning in his simple words, so until our ego has been completely annihilated, we should not imagine that we have understood his teachings perfectly and that there is therefore no longer any need for us to read them or to reflect upon them. Whenever our mind in not deeply engaged in being self-attentive, we should be reading or reflecting on his teachings, because they constantly remind us of the need to be self-attentive and they encourage us in so many ways, besides providing subtle clues to help us practise most effectively.

Of course we should avoid engaging in hair-splitting about any unnecessary or irrelevant subjects, but if done properly ‘hair-splitting’ in the sense of making fine distinctions with regard to the practice of self-investigation is necessary, because self-investigation entails making the finest distinction of all, since it entails splitting the ego, which is far finer and more subtle than even the finest hair, and we can split it only by distinguishing our pure self-awareness from all the adjuncts with which we are now confusing it. If we are not able to grasp correctly at a conceptual level what we need to distinguish from what while practising ātma-vicāra, we will not be able to distinguish it in practice. Therefore having a subtle and finely nuanced understanding of the practice is absolutely necessary, and such an understanding comes from persistent practice supported by careful reflection on and analysis of Bhagavan’s own words about this practice.

Bhagavan’s words, particularly as written by him in his own original works, have tremendous power to convey clarity, so reading them and thinking about them carefully, deeply and repeatedly can help us greatly in our attempt to practise self-investigation and self-surrender correctly and persistently. Therefore we should not disparage any attempt by our fellow aspirants to analyse and try to understand what he taught us, nor should we discourage them from doing so. Of course if any of them ask us any questions or talk to us about his teachings in a way that shows that they are analysing them incorrectly or have formed a confused understanding of them, we should gently point out to them where and why we think they have gone wrong, but we should not discourage them from trying to understand them correctly.

The important point to bear in mind is that Bhagavan’s teachings and the practice he recommended are extremely simple, albeit also very subtle and abstract, so to comprehend and practise them correctly our understanding of them needs to be equally simple and subtle. Therefore when we analyse what he has taught us about the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender our aim should be to simplify and thereby clarify our understanding of them. If our analysis leads to any complication or confusion, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them incorrectly, whereas if our analysis leads to simplicity and clarity, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them correctly.

19. Bhagavan’s teachings and ātma-vicāra are the sharpest of all razors, comparable to Ockham’s razor in their aim and effect

In the comment by Venkat that I discussed in the ninth section he wrote, ‘Bhagavan’s is the simplest and most elegant ‘method’, fulfilling Occam’s razor, without adding any frills or further concepts’. This is correct, because the practice of self-investigation and Bhagavan’s teachings in general conform perfectly with the principle of parsimony, popularly known as Ockham’s (or Occam’s) razor, which is the principle that plurality or complexity should be kept to an absolute minimum, or that no complexity should be accepted unless absolutely necessary. Since the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails nothing other than being self-attentive or attentively self-aware, and since self-awareness is our very nature (that is, what we essentially are), this practice entails only one entity, namely ourself being aware of ourself, and hence it is the simplest or most parsimonious state possible.

The principle of parsimony is called Ockham’s razor because William of Ockham (a fourteenth century monk and philosopher) used it so frequently and effectively to shave off all unnecessary complexity and thereby to keep philosophical, theological and scientific theories as simple as possible. Not only does the philosophical basis of Bhagavan’s teachings likewise shave off all unnecessary complexity (which exists in abundance in many of the traditional accounts of advaita and vēdānta philosophy), thereby keeping his explanations as simple as possible, but the actual practice of self-investigation that he taught also shaves off our awareness of anything other than ourself. Therefore we should use the sharp razor of his teachings to shave away all our unnecessarily complex ideas and resulting confusion in order to arrive at a simple and clear understanding, and we should use the even sharper and most deadly razor of self-investigation to shave away our awareness of anything other than ourself. The former requires careful analysis to determine which ideas are necessary and synthesis to connect those necessary ideas together into a coherent yet simple understanding, while the latter requires keen discrimination (vivēka) to distinguish and isolate ourself from everything else.

20. Is ātma-vicāra an exclusive or inclusive practice?

In one of his more recent comments Sivanarul appealed to me ‘to please try to reduce the “appearance” of putting down other Sadhana’ and referred to some of his earlier comments, in one of which he wrote, ‘It is my honest belief, that aspirants will serve themselves and Bhagavan better, if they are more inclusive of all paths, just like Bhagavan himself was’, and in another of which he explained what he meant by an exclusive way of promoting ātma-vicāra and by an inclusive way of promoting it, before finally writing: ‘Many of us are really turned away by the exclusive promotion and we would greatly benefit if the “appearance” becomes more inclusive. There has to be a way by which the importance of Vichara can be stressed without appearing to put down other Sadhana’.

Before answering his appeal directly, I would first like to mention that there is a sense in which ātma-vicāra is all-exclusive and another sense in which it is all-inclusive. It is all-exclusive in the sense that it entails trying to focus one’s entire attention on oneself alone, thereby excluding everything else from one’s awareness. The reason why it is necessary to exclude everything else from our awareness is that what is aware of anything other than ourself is only our ego, so as long as we are aware of anything other than ourself we are not experiencing ourself as we actually are but only as this ego, which is what we seem to be and not what we actually are, and hence in order to experience ourself as we actually are we must be aware of nothing other than ourself.

This is why the state of liberation (mukti, mōkṣa or nirvāṇa) is often called kaivalya, which means isolation, solitude or aloneness. Since perfect isolation or aloneness entails excluding everything other than oneself, liberation is an all-exclusive state in which oneself alone exists, and since our goal therefore excludes everything other than ourself, the means to attain it must also exclude everything other than ourself. In other words, exclusive isolation or kaivalya is not only our goal but also the only means by which we can ultimately experience it.

However ātma-vicāra is also all-inclusive in the sense that it can be practised by anyone, whatever their religion may be or whether they believe in any religion or not, because everyone is self-aware, so investigating or attending to one’s own self-awareness in order to observe whether or not one is what one seems to be does not conflict with any religion, philosophy or science. It is also all-inclusive in the sense that one can practise it at any time or in any circumstances, because it does not require any outward restrictions or observances, and in the sense that one can practise it either as one’s sole spiritual practice or alongside any other spiritual practice that one may like to do.

It is particularly compatible with any devotional practices, and is especially suitable for devotees who believe that God or guru is essentially one’s own actual self and is therefore most intimately and immediately present and accessible to one as oneself, which is a belief that must logically be held by anyone who truly believes that God is infinite, because if he is infinite nothing can be other than him, since if we or anything else were other than him, he would thereby be limited and hence not infinite. Therefore for any devotee who firmly believes that God alone is real and that as a seemingly separate entity (this ego) we are therefore nothing, it should be obvious that the most pressing and imperative need is for one to look within oneself to see past the illusion of one’s separate self and thereby to recognise experientially that what actually exists within oneself as one’s own real self is only God.

This is why Bhagavan ended his discussion of the relative efficacy of each of the various kinds of devotional practice such as pūja (physical or bodily worship of God), japa (repetition of a name of God, whether done aloud, softly or mentally) and dhyāna (meditation on God) in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār by saying in verse 8 that rather than அனியபாவம் (aṉiya-bhāvam or anya-bhāva), which means ‘meditation on what-is-other’ and which in this context implies meditation on God or devotion to him as if he were something other than oneself, அனனியபாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam or ananya-bhāva), which means ‘meditation on what-is-not-other’ and which in this context implies meditation upon God as nothing other than oneself, is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), which means ‘the best of all’ or ‘the best among all’ and which in this context implies the best, foremost, highest, greatest or most excellent among all practices of devotion (bhakti) and all forms or varieties of meditation.

If we understand the full implication of the principle that God is not other than oneself, which is one of the most fundamental principles of both advaita philosophy and the teachings of Bhagavan, ananya-bhāva or meditation upon God as not other than oneself means not merely meditating on the thought ‘I am God’ (sōham, śivōham or ahaṁ brahmāsmi), because such a thought is something other than oneself, but means only meditating on oneself alone, so it is just an alternative way of describing the practice of ātma-vicāra. Therefore in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan clearly implies that ātma-vicāra is the best among all practices of devotion (bhakti).

In saying this, he did not intend to ‘put down’ other practices (as Sivanarul and another anonymous friend seem to think anyone is doing if they try to explain why he taught us that ātma-vicāra is such a special and efficacious practice), but merely intended to teach us the relative efficacy of each kind of practice and thereby to show them all in a clear perspective. He never disparaged or intended to disparage any devotional practice or any other practice that was done for the love of God or for attaining liberation, but for those of us who want to know what is the best and most efficacious devotional practice or means to free ourself from our ego, he never hesitated to explain why ātma-vicāra is அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம் (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the best among all.

He also taught us through the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and through the example of his own devotion to Arunachala and many of his oral teachings that practices of dualistic devotion are not incompatible with the practice of ātma-vicāra, but are in fact complementary to it, so if we choose we can combine other devotional practices with it. The reason for this is that most of us do not yet have sufficient bhakti to keep our attention always immersed only in ourself, so for much of the time our attention is flowing out towards other things, and hence whenever we are not trying to be exclusively self-attentive we can instead be praying to Bhagavan to give us more love to be self-attentive or doing any other devotional practice that may appeal to us at that moment, such as aruṇācala-pradakṣiṇa (reverentially walking around Arunachala). Such a blend of seemingly dualistic devotion and love to be self-attentive is beautifully expressed in so many verses Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and also in numerous heart-melting verses sung by devotees such as Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om, who were both staunch and uncompromising advocates of the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra.

Another sense in which ātma-vicāra is all-inclusive is expressed by Bhagavan in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār and verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham. After saying in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār that ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness the best among all practices, in verse 9 he says that by பாவ பலம் (bhāva-balam), the strength of bhāva (meaning the strength, power, intensity or firmness of ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness), being in sat-bhāva (the ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’), which transcends bhāvana (thinking, thought, imagination or meditation), is பரபத்தி தத்துவம் (parabhatti-tattuvam or parabhakti-tattva), the real essence or true state of supreme devotion, and then in verse 10 he says:
உதித்த விடத்தி லொடுங்கி யிருத்த
லதுகன்மம் பத்தியு முந்தீபற
     வதுயோக ஞானமு முந்தீபற.

uditta viḍatti loḍuṅgi irutta
ladukaṉmam bhattiyu mundīpaṟa
     vaduyōga jñāṉamu mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்: அது கன்மம் பத்தியும்; அது யோகம் ஞானமும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal: adu kaṉmam bhatti-y-um; adu yōgam jñāṉam-um.

English translation: Subsiding and being in the place from which one rose: that is karma and bhakti; that is yōga and jñāna.
What Bhagavan describes here as ‘உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்’ (uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal) , which means ‘subsiding and being in the place from which one rose’ or ‘being having subsided in the place from which one rose’, is the same state of just being that he described in the previous verse as ‘பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), which means ‘only being in sat-bhāva [one’s real state of being], which transcends bhāvana [thinking or meditation]’, so in the context of verses 8 to 10 what he implies by ‘உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்’ (uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal) in this verse is remaining in (and as) oneself, the source from which one arose, having subsided there by the intensity or firmness of one’s ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness. Therefore what he implies in this verse is that subsiding and abiding in oneself by intensely focused self-attentiveness amounts to practising perfectly all the four kinds of spiritual practice, namely karma (niṣkāmya karma or desireless action), bhakti (love or devotion), yōga (a set of practices that include prāṇāyāma and various kinds of meditation) and jñāna (knowledge, which entails self-investigation).

That is, since the ultimate aim of each of these four kinds of spiritual practice is the removal of one’s ego, and since this ego can be completely and effectively removed only by means of ātma-vicāra, practising ātma-vicāra and thereby merging back into one’s actual self, which is the source from which one rose as this ego, is itself the culmination and pinnacle of karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. Likewise in verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham he implied much the same thing:
வினையும் விபத்தி வியோகமஞ் ஞான
மினையவையார்க் கென்றாய்ந் திடலே — வினைபத்தி
யோகமுணர் வாய்ந்திடநா னின்றியவை யென்றுமிறா
னாகமன லேயுண்மை யாம்.

viṉaiyum vibhatti viyōgamañ ñāṉa
miṉaiyavaiyārk keṉḏṟāyn diḍalē — viṉaibhatti
yōgamuṇar vāyndiḍanā ṉiṉḏṟiyavai yeṉḏṟumiṟā
ṉāhamaṉa lēyuṇmai yām
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினையும், விபத்தி, வியோகம், அஞ்ஞானம் இணையவை யார்க்கு என்று ஆய்ந்திடலே வினை, பத்தி, யோகம், உணர்வு. ஆய்ந்திட, ‘நான்’ இன்றி அவை என்றும் இல். தானாக மனலே உண்மை ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉai-y-um, vibhatti, viyōgam, aññāṉam iṉaiyavai yārkku eṉḏṟu āyndiḍal-ē viṉai, bhatti, yōgam, uṇarvu. āyndiḍa, ‘nāṉ’ iṉḏṟi avai eṉḏṟum il. tāṉ-āha maṉal-ē uṇmai ām.

English translation: Investigating to [or for] whom are these, karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna, is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. When one investigates, without ‘I’ [the ego] they [karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna] never exist. Only being permanently as oneself is true.
In the first line of this verse வினை (viṉai) means action or karma; விபத்தி (vibhatti) means vibhakti, but in the special sense of ‘lack of devotion’ rather than its usual sense of ‘separation’; வியோகம் (viyōgam) mean ‘separation’; and அஞ்ஞானம் (aññāṉam) means ajñāna or ‘ignorance’ in the sense of self-ignorance. Since these defects seem to exist only so long as our ego seems to exist, and since they are defects that are inherent in our ego, we can get rid of them entirely only by getting rid of our ego. Therefore, since these defects cannot exist without this ego (as he says in the next sentence), and since investigating this ego will reveal that it does not actually exist, Bhagavan says that investigating to whom or for whom these defects seem to exist is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. Hence the simple practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) includes within itself all the benefits of practising every other kind of spiritual practice, so in this sense it is all-inclusive.

21. Does explaining the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra imply that we are ‘putting down’ all other kind of spiritual practice?

However, I appreciate that Sivanarul’s appeal to me was not directly concerned with the question of whether ātma-vicāra itself is inclusive or exclusive, but was rather concerned with what he perceives as an ‘appearance’ that my presentation of it seems to ‘put down’ other practices and hence to be insufficiently inclusive, so I will now address his appeal more directly. Paradoxically, one of the reasons why I tend almost exclusively to promote ātma-vicāra rather than any other practice in my writings is precisely because I am so firmly convinced by Bhagavan’s teachings that it includes within itself all the benefits of practising every other kind of spiritual practice, so I feel I would not be true to my understanding of his teachings if I were to promote any other practice instead of ātma-vicāra.

However, this is not the only way in which I can explain why I focus so much on what I perceive to be the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra as taught by Bhagavan, so I shall try to explain this in several other ways. Firstly, ātma-vicāra is concerned primarily with investigating and experiencing what we ourself actually are, so since ourself is what is dearest and of greatest concern to each one of us, logically ātma-vicāra should appeal to all of us, particularly if we believe Bhagavan when he says that what we actually are is infinite happiness, and that we seem to suffer only because we do not experience ourself as we actually are. This is beautifully expressed by him in the first paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, which was not part of any answer that he gave to Sivaprakasam Pillai but was added by him when he rewrote the questions and answers recorded by Pillai in the form of an essay, and which was largely a summary of what he had written earlier in the first sentence of his introduction (avatārikai) to his Tamil translation of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi (a translation of which I give towards the end of the first chapter of Happiness and the Art of Being).

However, though we should each logically want to experience ourself as we actually are and should therefore be attracted to the practice of ātma-vicāra, in fact most of us are not, because we are reluctant to let go of all the illusions we have about ourself and everything else. Since ātma-vicāra is a direct threat to all our dearly held illusions, most people would take no interest in it at all even if they heard about it, and even among those of us who have heard about it and the central importance Bhagavan attached to it, most of us shy away from it and find one excuse of another not to practise it.

Some people like me recognise why Bhagavan recommended it so strongly and therefore acknowledge that we should practise it, yet due to our lingering attachments to our illusions about ourself and everything else we find ourself reluctant to be self-attentive as much as we could be and know that we should be, so our attempts to practise ātma-vicāra face tremendous internal resistance, which can be overcome only by patient persistence. Others who face similar internal resistance prefer to believe that since Bhagavan did not try to dissuade anyone who preferred to practise any other kind of spiritual practice, he considered all kinds of spiritual practice to be equally efficacious, or that he at least considered that though ātma-vicāra is the quickest and most efficacious practice, it is suited only to certain people, so others can reach the same goal by other means.

When it is pointed out to such people that in Nāṉ Yār? he explicitly taught that other practices such as prāṇāyāma (breath-restraint), mūrti-dhyāna (meditation on a form of God) or mantra-japa (repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God) are only aids but will not bring about manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind), and that other than ātma-vicāra there is no adequate means by which we can eradicate our ego and mind, and also that this message is repeated and further explained by him in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, Upadēśa Undiyār and other texts, they are reluctant to accept that these texts are the truest and purest expressions of his fundamental teachings, and they argue that in his day-to-day conduct and in so many answers that he gave to devotees’ questions recorded in books such as Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan he showed that he was far more inclusive and accepted that one can attain liberation by following any spiritual path that may appeal to one. If we feel inclined to accept such a view of his teachings and are therefore willing to dismiss or attach less importance to the clear, explicit and unequivocal teachings that he wrote in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Upadēśa Undiyār and Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and if we therefore believe that those devotees who attach central importance to these texts are thereby excluding those who do not accept that ātma-vicāra is uniquely efficacious and is ultimately the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby liberate ourself from the clutches of our ego, we should perhaps consider what motivates us to take such a view, rather than deploring those who are not willing to agree with our view.

The only reason why we seem to be unable to experience ourself as we actually are here and now, and why we therefore find it difficult to practise ātma-vicāra, is that we are still too strongly attached to all our illusions about ourself and everything else, so if we prefer to believe that ātma-vicāra is not ultimately the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are or that it is not uniquely efficacious, and that we can attain liberation by other means also, in the final analysis the reason for this preference would seem to be simply that we are reluctant to surrender all our illusions about ourself and everything else, or even to acknowledge this reluctance is ultimately the sole obstacle that we all face, no matter what spiritual path we may choose to follow. Since all our illusions are embodied in our ego, which is their sole root and foundation, the fundamental difference between ātma-vicāra and every other kind of spiritual practice is that ātma-vicāra tackles this root directly by giving it absolutely no room to rise its ugly head, whereas other spiritual practices tackle it more indirectly, allowing it room to endure but endeavouring to keep it in check.

Not only has Bhagavan explicitly stated that ātma-vicāra is the only means by which we can give up or surrender our ego entirely, but he has also explained clearly and logically why this is so. As he pointed out to us in so many ways, what is aware of anything other than ourself alone is only our ego, and it cannot rise or endure even for a moment without being aware of anything other than ourself, so being aware of other things is the means by which it nourishes itself and survives. This is a simple and inviolable law of nature (and unlike other laws of nature, such as the laws of physics, which are laws that hold in some dreams but not necessarily in all dreams, this is a law that necessarily holds in every dream, because it is the fundamantal law upon which the very appearance of any dream is based), and it is therefore one of the fundamental principles of his teachings, which is expressed by him clearly in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he uses the phrase ‘உரு பற்றி’ (uru paṯṟi) or ‘grasping form’ to mean grasping or being aware of anything other than oneself, who is உருவற்ற (uru-v-aṯṟa) or formless. Therefore, since being aware of anything other than ourself nourishes and sustains our fundamental illusion that we are this ego, logically the only means by which we can destroy this illusion is by trying to be aware of ourself alone. This is why he says in the same verse: ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it [this ego] will take flight’.

Trying to be aware of ourself alone entails trying to focus our entire attention only on ourself, so this simple practice of trying to be attentively self-aware is the only way in which we can investigate ourself and thereby experience what we actually are. Therefore since every kind of spiritual practice other than self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails attending to or being aware of something other than ourself, no such practice can be a direct means to annihilate our ego and thereby to establish us firmly in our natural state of absolutely pure self-awareness, which alone is the state of true liberation.

This is not to say that other practices are of no use. As Bhagavan said, they can be aids to achieving liberation, but none of them can be a direct means to achieve it, so they must all eventually lead one to the simple practice of self-attentiveness, which alone will ultimately liberate us from our ego.

I make no apology for repeating this again and again when answering questions that I am asked about Bhagavan’s teachings or when writing on this blog, even if it does make it appear to some friends that I am promoting ātma-vicāra too exclusively and ‘putting down’ other practices, because if I did not emphasise this explicitly and unequivocally, I would not be true to my understanding of what I believe Bhagavan taught us no less explicitly or unequivocally. This practice of self-attentiveness is taught more or less explicitly in numerous ancient texts (such as in Bhagavad Gītā 6.25-6), but as far as I know no one before Bhagavan had ever emphasised it so strongly or explained its unique efficacy so clearly as he did, so in this important respect his teachings are very special, and this is what has attracted many of us to him and encouraged us to try to practise ātma-vicāra.

Of course he did not attempt to compel anyone to practise being self-attentive unless they were willing to try, so whenever anyone was clearly not willing even to try to be self-attentive, he would encourage them to continue doing whatever spiritual practice they wanted to do. To practise being self-attentive requires sincere bhakti or love to experience what is real, so he knew it would be futile to try to compel anyone to practise it, but when he was asked questions he would not hesitate to encourage people at least to try little by little to be attentively self-aware in order to find out who or what they actually are.

22. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: why is ēkāgratā (one-pointedness) considered so necessary?

One quality that is considered to be of utmost importance in any kind of yōga or spiritual practice is ēkāgratā, which means ‘one-pointedness’ and which implies single-minded devotion to the pursuit of one goal by one means. The reason why it is considered so necessary is explained by Bhagavan in the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்.

maṉam aḷaviṟanda niṉaivugaḷ-āy virigiṉḏṟapaḍiyāl ovvoru niṉaivum adi-bala-v-īṉam-āha-p pōgiṉḏṟadu. niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum.

Because of the mind spreading out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. When thoughts [progressively] reduce and reduce, for the mind which has gained strength by [thereby] achieving ēkāgratā [one-pointedness] ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished.
If we habitually allow our mind to scatter in many directions, it will lack the power to remain focused for any length of time on just one thing, so such a mind will be a poor instrument for practising either ātma-vicāra or any other type of yōga or spiritual practice. Therefore in order to successfully pursue any form of spiritual practice it is necessary to train one’s mind to be one-pointed in its pursuit, and hence in every form of yōga one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) is considered to be absolutely necessary.

If we want to dabble in doing various kinds of spiritual practice, such as a little bit of ātma-vicāra together with some bhakti and some raja yōga, and perhaps also some vipassanā as well as some Tibetan Buddhist and Zen meditation, and also throw in some Sufi practices and Christian prayers for good measure, that would be OK, because engaging in such practices is no doubt better than engaging in many other kinds of more worldly activity that we could be doing instead, but spreading our energy, effort and interest out in many different directions like this would not enable us to go deep into any of these practices. Therefore if we want to make significant progress in any spiritual path, we should decide to focus primarily on just one path leading to one clearly defined goal.

The term ēkāgratā and the synonymous term ēkāgratva are each a compound of two words and a suffix: ēka means one, single or only; agra means first, foremost, summit, tip, point, aim, goal or climax; and the suffixes and tva are both equivalent to the English suffix ‘-ness’. Therefore ēkāgratā and ēkāgratva both mean ‘one-pointedness’ or having a single aim or focal point, both in the sense focusing one’s attention on just one thing and in the sense of having just one goal. Hence in order to develop ēkāgratā or one-pointedness we must first choose a single goal towards which we wish to work and then choose a single means by which we can achieve that goal.

As Bhagavan implied in the two sentences of Nāṉ Yār? cited above, we can gain the bala (strength, power or ability) required to achieve our goal only if we seek it one-pointedly rather than allowing our energy and attention to be scattered in many different directions. Hence if we take him as our guru and therefore wholeheartedly accept that the only goal that we should seek to achieve is the annihilation of our ego, which is what is also called complete self-surrender, we should try to focus all our interest, effort and attention on one-pointedly practising ātma-vicāra, which he has taught us is the only direct means by which we can achieve this goal.

Focusing one-pointedly on a single path leading to a single goal does not mean that we are putting down all other kinds of spiritual practices. We can single-mindedly take interest in and try to practise only our chosen path while at the same time recognising and acknowledging that other people have chosen other paths because those other paths are better suited to their particular beliefs, interests, aims and aspirations.

Not everyone is ready yet to accept that annihilation of one’s own ego is the best goal to seek, and even among those who accept this, not everyone is ready yet to accept that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means to achieve this goal. For example, in some bhakti traditions merging completely in God (which is an alternative way of describing the annihilation or complete surrender of one’s ego) is not considered to be the goal, because they argue that God is like honey, so it is better to be a bee drinking the honey than to be one that falls in it and drowns. Therefore in such traditions liberation (mukti) is not considered to be a state of absolute oneness with God, but a state in which one perpetually loves him and worships him as someone other than oneself. For devotees who believe this, dancing and singing in praise of God will naturally seem to be a better path than ātma-vicāra (even though they may be devotees of Sri Krishna, who taught the practice of ātma-vicāra in Bhagavad Gītā 6.25-6).

Though Bhagavan taught us that the honey analogy used by such devotees is not an appropriate one (because God is not insentient like honey, so if we become one with him by drowning in him and thereby losing our ego, we will enjoy the infinite happiness that is him as our own self), if any such devotee came to him, he would encourage them to continue one-pointedly practising their chosen path of devotion, knowing that just as a bee drinking from a bowl of honey would eventually become so intoxicated with it that it would fall into it and drown, any devotee who practises dualistic bhakti with one-pointed love will eventually become so intoxicated with love of God that his or her mind will turn within and drown in God, who is always shining within each one of us as our own self.

However, for those of us who have come to him seeking to know the simplest and most direct means to achieve the perfect happiness that we are all seeking in one way or another, he taught that the simplest, quickest and most direct means is ātma-vicāra, so if we are convinced by his teachings we should try one-pointedly to practise ātma-vicāra. One-pointedly trying to practise ātma-vicāra does not mean that we should not seek the aid of his grace whenever our mind is dragged outwards by our old attachments and viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or desires to experience things other than ourself), or that we should not express our yearning for his grace through dualistic practices of devotion towards his human form or his form as Arunachala, but ātma-vicāra should be the focal point of all our practises, and if we pray to Bhagavan or Arunachala we should pray only for him to give us the love to practise ātma-vicāra as he has taught us.

In Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and elsewhere Bhagavan has clearly indicated that the purpose of worshipping Arunachala is the same as the purpose of practising ātma-vicāra, namely the annihilation of our ego. One of the traditional beliefs about Arunachala is that mere thought of Arunachala will bestow liberation (mukti), and since Bhagavan has taught us that Arunachala is our own real self, the ‘thought of Arunachala’ is a metaphorical way of describing thought of oneself (ātma-cintana) or self-attentiveness. This is clearly indicated by him in the first verse of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai:
அருணா சலமென வகமே நினைப்பவ
      ரகத்தைவே ரறுப்பா யருணாசலா.

aruṇā calameṉa vahamē niṉaippava
      rahattaivē raṟuppā yaruṇācalā
.

பதச்சேதம்: அருணாசலம் என அகமே நினைப்பவர் அகத்தை வேர் அறுப்பாய் அருணாசலா.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aruṇācalam eṉa ahamē niṉaippavar ahattai vēr aṟuppāy aruṇācalā.

English translation: Arunachala, you root out the ego of those who think at heart ‘Arunachalam’.
Since அகம் (aham) is both a Tamil word that means inside, within, heart or mind, and a Sanskrit word that means ‘I’ or ego, அகமே (ahamē) in the first line of this verse can either mean within, at heart, in heart or in one’s mind, or it can mean ‘only I’. Therefore an alternative interpretation of this verse, which was emphasised by Sri Muruganar in his commentary, is:
Arunachala, you root out the ego of those who think that Arunachalam is only ‘I’.
Thus, as in many other verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, in this verse Bhagavan has given room for us to interpret what he sang as a reference to Arunachala as the outward form of a hill or as our own real self, and by doing so he has beautifully and significantly blended seemingly dualistic devotion with devotion to what we ourself actually are, because until we root out our ego and thereby remain as we actually are, these two forms of devotion are like two wings that together will enable us to fly to our destination, or like two oars that will enable us to row to liberation, the shore of this ocean of saṁsāra. However, the use that we make of these two wings should be one-pointed in their aim, namely to root out our ego.

When the need for us to one-pointedly follow the path that Bhagavan has shown us is explained to people, some of them argue that this does not necessarily mean that we should practise only ātma-vicāra, because when he explained the need for one-pointedness in the two sentences of the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that I cited at the beginning of this section he did so in the context of explaining how both mūrti-dhyāna (meditation on a form of God) and mantra-japa (repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God) are aids to restrain the mind. However, though he said that the mind will gain one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) by both mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa, he clearly indicated that the resulting one-pointedness should then be used to practise ātma-vicāra, because mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa are only aids but will not bring about manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind), which can be achieved only by ātma-vicāra.

In order to succeed in annihilating our ego by ātma-vicāra (which is what he meant by the words ‘ஆத்மவிசாரம் சித்திக்கும்’ (ātma-vicāram siddhikkum) or ‘ātma-vicāra will be accomplished’ in the second of the two sentences cited at the beginning of this section) we obviously need to develop one-pointedness, but rather than developing it by any other means, it is best to develop it by trying one-pointedly to practise ātma-vicāra from the outset. Sadhu Om used to explain this by the following analogy:

Let us suppose that we are in Tiruvannamalai and we need to reach Vellore, which is a town to the north of it, as quickly as possible, and that the fastest available mode of transport is a bicycle, but we have not till then learnt to ride a bicycle. Obviously the quickest way to reach Vellore would be to start learning to cycle on the road to Vellore, because by the time we have become proficient in cycling we would already be well on the way to reaching Vellore. We could of course start to learn to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, which is a town to the south of Tiruvannamalai, but by the time we have become proficient in cycling we would be further from our destination than we were when we started, so we would then have to turn back to cycle to Tiruvannamalai before preceding from there to Vellore.

Likewise, since the one-pointedness we need to succeed in reaching the goal of ātma-vicāra is a one-pointed focus on ourself alone, the best way to gain that one-pointedness is by trying to focus our attention only on ourself. This is like learning to cycle on the road to Vellore. If instead we try to gain one-pointedness by focusing our attention on a mūrti (a form of God) or a mantra (a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God), that would be like learning to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, because by the time we have gained a one-pointed focus on our chosen mūrti or mantra, we would then have to turn around and try instead to gain a one-pointed focus on ourself alone. Since the one-pointed focus we need is on ourself alone, it is logical to try to cultivate one-pointedness by focusing on ourself from the moment we understand that this is our aim.

In the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan’s aim was to explain how mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa can each be an indirect aid to ātma-vicāra, but this does not mean that he was recommending that we should practise either mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa. Since he made it clear in other paragraphs that ātma-vicāra is the only direct and adequate means by which our ego can be annihilated, we can infer that the best way to gain the one-pointedness required to accomplish the aim of ātma-vicāra (namely to experience ourself as we actually are) is to practise only ātma-vicāra from the outset by trying to be attentively aware of ourself alone.

Therefore my answer to Sivanarul’s appeal to me to present ātma-vicāra in a more inclusive manner and ‘to reduce the “appearance” of putting down other Sadhana’ is that since this blog is intended to be primarily about Bhagavan’s teachings and his unique path of ātma-vicāra, and since one-pointedness is required for any of us to derive the full benefit of this path, I believe it would be doing a disservice if I did not focus so one-pointedly and single-mindedly on the need for ātma-vicāra and the efficacy and benefit of practising it one-pointedly. My aim is not to ‘put down’ any other sādhana or spiritual path, but is only to explain what is so special and unique about the efficacy and benefit of this path, in order to encourage myself and others to cling one-pointedly and tenaciously to this simple practice of being attentively self-aware.

23. What skill is required to practise ātma-vicāra?

In one of his comments Sivanarul wrote, ‘We all know Vichara was close to Bhagavan’s heart and some of us are highly skilled in that practice, while others struggle with it’, and in a later one he wrote:
Let us take our worldly skills as an example. Isn’t it obvious that each one of us is highly skilled in certain things and is really bad in certain others? People with great artistic skills usually are very poor in analytical skills and people who have great analytical skills are poor with artistic skills. It is well established in science, different parts of the brain is involved in different skills.

Spiritual skills/practices are no different. The brain is still being used and some of us have devotional predisposition and some of us have analytical predisposition.
If any of us were highly skilled in the practice of ātma-vicāra, we would be able to dissolve very quickly the illusion that we are this ego, because our ego is just a spurious entity, so as Bhagavan taught us it cannot stand in the clear light of vigilant and unwavering self-attentiveness. As he said in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’.

The reason our ego has not yet taken flight and disappeared forever is precisely because we are not yet highly skilled in the practice of ātma-vicāra. However ‘skill’ is perhaps not the most appropriate word to use in this context, because skill is required to do anything complex or difficult, whereas being attentively self-aware is the simplest and easiest of all things. The only ‘skill’ we require to be self-attentiveness is a sincere liking or love to be so. As I wrote in an earlier comment on the same article in reply to a question asked by another friend:
Perseverance in this practice of being attentively self-aware is the only means by which we can cultivate the necessary love (bhakti) to be aware of ourself alone, and this love will give us the ability or skill to keep our entire attention fixed firmly on ourself without allowing it to be distracted away towards anything else.
Other kinds of spiritual practice may require a particular skill, because they may involve doing something complex or difficult, but ātma-vicāra requires absolutely no skill other than the love to be self-attentive and hence aware of oneself alone. It does not entail using the brain in any particular way, because the brain may be needed for doing anything, whereas being attentively self-aware does not entail doing anything, since it is simply a state of just being (summā iruppadu). Nor does it require an analytical predisposition rather than a devotional one. In fact quite the opposite: though an analytical predisposition may help us to understand the practice and its simple theoretical basis more clearly, to put it into actual practice requires a strong devotional predisposition, because without single-minded devotion or love to be aware of oneself alone it is not possible to hold firmly on to being attentively self-aware.

24. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 40: annihilating our ego by means of ātma-vicāra is fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma

In many of his comments Sivanarul referred to sanātana dharma, which means the ‘eternal dharma’ and which is a term that generally refers to the Hindu religion or those parts of the dharmic family of religions, philosophies, beliefs and practices (which includes all the various forms of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) that in one way or another revere the Vēdas. For example, in one comment he wrote that sanātana dharma ‘does not exclude any religion, spiritual practice or even materialism. It articulated all 4 (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha) as attainments open for all of mankind and maintains that Artha and Kama when practiced with Dharma, will ultimately lead to Moksha. Bhagavan was one of the greatest exponents of Sanatana Dharma’.

Though it is true that Bhagavan was one of the greatest exponents of sanātana dharma, he did not teach all aspects of it, nor does every aspect of it represent his teachings, because sanātana dharma is an extremely broad church, so to speak, in that it encompasses a wide range of very different and often conflicting philosophies, aims, beliefs and practices. For example, as Sivanarul says, sanātana dharma is said to recognise four puruṣārthas or legitimate goals of human life, namely dharma (righteous conduct), artha (prosperity or material wealth), kāma (sensual pleasures) and mōkṣa (liberation), but though Bhagavan obviously did not condone any behaviour that did not conform to dharma (in the broad sense of being righteous, ethical and not causing harm), and though he would not have condoned seeking artha or kāma by any means that did not conform to dharma, he did not recommend any of these three as being a worthy goal of life, because he made it clear that the only truly worthwhile goal that we should seek is mōkṣa (as indicated by Sri Muruganar in verses 8 and 1204 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai).

However, though all forms of sanātana dharma generally acknowledge that mōkṣa is the ultimate goal of human life, within sanātana dharma there are many different conceptions of what mōkṣa actually entails, whereas Bhagavan did not accept that there is more than one kind of real liberation, as he made clear in verse 40 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருவ மருவ முருவருவ மூன்றா
முறுமுத்தி யென்னி லுரைப்ப — னுருவ
மருவ முருவருவ மாயு மகந்தை
யுருவழிதன் முத்தி யுணர்.

uruva maruva muruvaruva mūṉḏṟā
muṟumutti yeṉṉi luraippa — ṉuruva
maruva muruvaruva māyu mahandai
yuruvaṙitaṉ mutti yuṇar
.

பதச்சேதம்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம், மூன்று ஆம் உறும் முத்தி என்னில், உரைப்பன்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம் ஆயும் அகந்தை உரு அழிதல் முத்தி. உணர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam, mūṉḏṟu ām uṟum mutti eṉṉil, uraippaṉ: uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam āyum ahandai uru aṙidal mutti. uṇar.

அன்வயம்: உறும் முத்தி உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம், மூன்று ஆம் என்னில், உரைப்பன்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம் ஆயும் அகந்தை உரு அழிதல் முத்தி. உணர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uṟum mutti uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam, mūṉḏṟu ām eṉṉil, uraippaṉ: uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam āyum ahandai uru aṙidal mutti. uṇar.

English translation: If it is said that mukti one will experience is three, form, formless, or form or formless, I will say: know that the destruction of the ego-form, which distinguishes form, formless, and form or formless, is mukti.

Paraphrased translation: If it is said that mukti [liberation] one will experience is of three kinds, with form, without form, or either with form or without form [that is, a state in which one can alternate back and forth between being a form or being formless], I will say: know that the destruction of the ego-form, which distinguishes [these three kinds of liberation], with form, without form, or either with form or without form, is [alone real] mukti.
As Bhagavan made clear in this verse, in his view the only real liberation is the destruction of our ego, so this is the only true puruṣārtha, goal or purpose of human life. Then why is liberation described in so many other ways by sages and in sacred texts? The answer to this was given by Bhagavan in the words he added before this verse to link it to the previous one when he composed the kaliveṇbā version of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, namely ‘மனத்துக்கு ஒத்தாங்கு’ (maṉattukku ottāṅgu), which means ‘so as to suit the mind’, and which implies ‘in order to suit the different beliefs, desires and aspirations of various minds’.

Sanātana dharma consists of an extremely broad range of different philosophies, goals, beliefs and practices because it is intended to cater for the needs of all people before ultimately leading them to the final goal of life, which is only the annihilation of our fundamental illusion that we are a finite ego, whereas Bhagavan’s teachings are intended to cater specifically for the needs of those of us who want to finish this long journey as quickly as possible. Thus sanātana dharma is like the legendary ocean of milk and Bhagavan’s teachings are like the amṛta (the ambrosia or nectar of immortality) that was churned from it. Therefore having been blessed to receive this amṛta, let us be intent on drinking it fully rather than concerning ourself with any of the other contents of the vast ocean of sanātana dharma.

Most of the beliefs and practices prescribed in sanātana dharma are there for the sake of those who are not yet ready to embark on the final stage of the long journey of the soul or ego towards its own annihilation, whereas Bhagavan’s teachings have been given to us to enable us to complete this final state as directly and as quickly as possible. Let us therefore not confuse other parts of sanātana dharma with his teachings, because they are a preparation for his teachings but not his teachings themselves. By following his teachings single-mindedly we are fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma, so we are not thereby showing any disrespect to it, even though to complete our journey we need to ignore the bulk of it.

429 comments:

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venkat said...

Maya, please go back and read what anonymous wrote.

Anonymous basically alleges:

1) Michael is setting up a teaching lineage or pedigree. This is clearly accusatorial. And false. Michael has been very clear that he is not realised, and is just sharing his understanding of what Sadhu Om taught him. He never put himself forward as the "official" Ramana mouthpiece, or that we should slavishly follow what he writes - it is there for us to take or leave. If others interpret it as such, that is not his fault.

2)Michael doesn't give due attention to what other Ramana followers have said. But the clear premise of this website is what Michael learned from Bhagavan through his reading, and from Sadhu Om. We are all old enough to exercise our own viveka on Michael's interpretation vs that of others - and to discuss it as adults - and agree to disagree where appropriate. For myself, I enjoyed and learnt from our conversation on devotion.

3) Michael dismisses how David and others interpret Bhagavan. But if, based upon what he has understood from Bhagavan and Sadhu Om, he doesn't try to convey that (with quotes to back up his points), then what is the point of these musings. And as far as I can see, he has not been derogatory about David, Nisargadatta or others. He has however been very certain in his own conviction and understanding. He himself said that he writes to clarify and solidify the teaching in his own mind.

4) Michael should stop spoon-feeding and writing, and just practice his own self-abidance. Seems somewhat patronising to both Michael, and readers of this blog? Who is anyone to tell someone else to do or not do something? I don't think Michael ever has? We all practise in our own way - Michael explicitly has said writing helps him keep Bhagavan's teaching in mind. When the time is right, perhaps he will fall silent - that is his call, as it is with all of us.

It seems that you are not happy that Michael does not come out and say all paths lead to liberation, but rather insists that self-enquiry is the necessary final step. This is clearly his understanding, and how he has interpreted Bhagavan and Sadhu Om. It is his musings, as it says on the tin. You seem to want him to formally endorse your position, and are unhappy that he doesn't do so to your satisfaction.

I write this not out of sycophancy or to criticise. Just trying to understand how you can miss the point of this website - "my recordings of some of the explanations that I heard from Sri Sadhu Om, and my own musings about the philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge as taught by Sri Ramana."

venkat said...

There is an old Ch'an (zen) koan, which goes along the lines of "If you see a Buddha on the path, kill him".

It is up to each to interpret and understand. To me, it means don't carry your own preconceptions about anything, even of what a Buddha is. And think for yourself, don't follow anyone.

maya said...

Venkat,

"my own musings" is not the problem. "as taught by Sri Ramana" is the problem. This where I disagree that Ramana did not teach just that and what I write are "my musings". I did not ask Michael to come out and say that all path leads to liberation. I said Bhagavan never said that other paths will not lead to. Bhagavan is a universal figure and each one can interpret his teachings any way. Michael does it his way. I'm doing it may way and in the process I say, I don't agree with Michael's viewpoints. Simple. Show me one place where I asked Michael to change his opinion. As I said before, this is his site and he has every right to write what he wants. Likewise since he has allowed public access, I beg to differ with some of his viewpoints and i'm also grateful he has allowed different viewpoints.

If I could not think for myself I would agree with every comment here. Just as you write not out of sycophancy, neither do I. Just as you pointed out that i'm writing expecting Michael to ratify my view points, what are you saying? That I should agree with every viewpoint. Why then write here at all? Never mind.

Sivanarul,

Good luck man. Sorry. Thats it for me.

Illimani said...

Michael,
first of all I want to say that I do not doubt Sri Ramana’s experience or Sadhu Om’s or your interpretations but on the contrary I want to understand Bhagavan's teaching mentally in its entirety.
Particularly I cannot comprehend that sleep is not actually a state of darkness or ignorance but our natural state of pure self-awareness. Although my comment belongs from the point of view of content more to your article of Wednesday, 11 November 2015 I make it here. None the less I have to study that November –article still carefully and write a comment on it.
May I expound my ego-bound train of thought and you could point out what is a wrong thought :
A) you say that keenly observing or being attentively aware of ourself alone could remove our self-ignorance. To be aware of ourself as a separate and hence limited ego is surely not satisfactory. According to Bhagavan we need to focus our entire attention on ourself alone as the one infinite reality that we actually are. You call it the "simple practice of self-investigation (atma-vichara)" that he has taught us. But how can we really learn self-investigation ?
Often when I tried to turn inwards I came to a state of near sleep. Sometimes while sitting on the ground my knee joints began to hurt. Because my concentration could not reach sufficient keen/deep attention that practice was in no way simple. But I will try it again with more perseverance.
B) Regarding sleep
Ah, maybe I have underrated the degree of consciousness of a block of wood by thinking that it would be low.
I do agree that after waking we know that we have slept.
Distinguishing the difference between being asleep and dreaming is possible presumably only while dreaming.
Awareness of being asleep :
That we while being asleep were not aware of anything else other than ourself I have for the present to accept in the absence of better judgement. But all the evidence /everything suggests that there is an underlying flow of consciousness in all our three states. The statement that we as the dreamer would not be able to distinguish sleep from dream if we were not aware of being asleep I do grasp in the sense that this distinction is drawn of the difference of the thoughtfree sleep state between the appearance of thoughts in the dreaming state .
That we would not be aware of any gap between consecutive states of waking or dream I do understand in the same sense that because of the difference between the thoughtfree state of sleep and the fact that in waking and dream we have thoughts. But for the present I cannot comprehend the conclusion that there should/must be inevitably a subject being aware of the thoughtfree state of sleep. Is it not conceivable that the thoughtfree state exists for itself without any awareness ? Why should the thoughtfree state of sleep be the same as 'the one infinite reality that we actually are'? Is there any indication for that assumption ?
Who or what is the experiencer of that featureless state ?
Can it at all be experienced ?
C) That we were not aware of any other things during sleep does not inevitabely mean that the awareness of nothing is the awareness of ourself as we really are.
D) That we are able to refer to ourself only because we are self-aware is comprehensible.
E) The use of the personal pronoun in the sentence 'I was asleep' or 'I slept'
may be some indicator that we were aware of ourself being in that state.
But I would not see it as a proof for having been aware as we really are.
F) That we did exist while asleep I clearly do understand. But it is conceivable that we were then aware of absolutely nothing. That we were then aware of absolutely nothing ELSE WHATSOEVER than ourself as we really are is not proved to be right.
Continuation will follow

Illimani said...

Continuation of my previous comment:

G) That we cannot ever cease to be self-aware I would comprehend.
H) To know that we did exist while asleep does not prove that we have been in a state of our absolute consciousness – as we really are.
I) That we can never be aware of not being aware at all is correct to me.
J) The very fact that we are aware of having been in a state in which we seemed to be not aware of anything does not mean that we were aware of being in such a state. Because we know it only from memory and memory does not embrace/contain direct knowing.

Sivanarul said...

Excellent discourse by his holiness of the attitude required of a sincere seeker. It is 30 mins long and is in Tamil.

Vedanta 4 of 15: The Attitude of a Sincere Seeker by the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Sringeri

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxCrNXKe-mM&feature=plcp

maya said...

Venkat,
I don't know why i'm not able to let this go that easily, for a person who has only been reading this blog for these few days ad for one who rarely ever reads spiritual blogs. But anyway since my vasana is not letting me go, here is another point.
In the Brihadaranyaka upanishad Sage Yajnavalkya tells his wife Maitreyi that no love is selfless in this world. A husband or a wife love each other only because of their love of their own self. Lets look at it from the point of view of this heated debate we are having
a) Why are you (and others) up in arms against me and Anonymous? Its because you are getting or learning something from this website and Michael and i'm diasgreeing with some of the views. Would you be so self rigtheous or take the moral high ground if you are not gaining anything here? So the reason for your opposition is neither all that altruistic nor based on any moral high ground. Are you standing up other such so called injustices if it has no bearing on you? Would you even bother about this website if you didn't get anything out of it?
b) Michael himself has said that one of his goal is that he share his views and if possible learn from others. How can you be sure he is not learning anything from this just because of the abrasive nature of the questions and who are you to prevent this? On top of it when Michael, himself has not deleted and allowed our comments, who are you to say its wrong. Thats why I said in one of my previous posts that everything you say against me, I can easily turn it around on you but thats not the purpose here.
c) Ultimately all of us us are selfish and egoistic and worried only about ourselves. Only a person who has no trace of ego will do something for a purely selfless reason. To be even more blunt
1) I wrote my experiences with 'I am' partly to show where i'm coming from and partly to show off.
2) Wittgenstein provides a methodical reply because its his nature but partly to show others that he is methodical (maybe its subconscious and hidden but there nevertheless). Sorry Wittgenstein, I didn't target for any particular reason but just wanted to make my point. You may ofcourse disagree.
Similar for others. You can honestly look at yourself and
In an ironical way we all are aiming towards advaita, buy trying to impose and convert others to our own opinion, so that there is just one opinion, except that we are doing it the wrong way.
And again to re-emphasize for the umpteenth time, the only reason I have raised my questions is because this site has the words "Ramana" on it and Ramana belongs to everyone and his teachings mean several things to several people. If the site said Sadhu Om or Michale James, we would not be having this conversation. Of that i'm sure. thats why I had given several e.g. of Bhagavan's own disciples who got to the ultimate in many other ways. I never disagreed that finally the 'I' has to go, but where I disagreed is that other methods will either not get you there or is slower. I had also given a quote of sadhu Om, where he says other methods are a hindrance.
But if you look at anonymous's questions dispassionatinately even if you feel they are condescending, his questions do have validity. No man who is not self realized is truly altruistic. His ego may manifest in a lesser form but its there nevertheless and looking for a slight admiration and gain. But I personally don't think Michael has any notion that he is Ramana's mouth piece and I understand he is only speaking based on his conviction. And so am I. We just happen to disagree. Thats all.

Sivanarul,

I had seen 8 out of the 15 Jagadguru's vidoes some months back and they are indeed good.






Michael James said...

Illimani, what you have written in your two most recent comments requires careful thought and consideration, so I will try to reply to each of your points in a separate article. However, I am now in the process of writing an article in response to some of the other comments here, and then I have some other urgent work I need to catch up on, so my reply to you may not come till sometime next month. Therefore please bear with me, and in the meanwhile if you have any other related questions you would like to ask, you may do so either here or on the other article you referred to, Sleep is our natural state of pure self-awareness.

venkat said...

Hi Maya
I have never believed in stifling opinions or questions. If you go back to what I wrote, I challenged Anonymous and you in your criticism of Michael, as factually as I could, though I agree my tone also became accusatorial. I don't think I asked either of you to stop writing or questioning - I have no such right. By contrast, that is actually what Anonymous implied that Michael should do:
"You write a lot. Talk a lot. You say you still practise self enquiry. Where is the time for your practice? By your activities it is clear you are most of the time hooked on to the computer and internet."

If someone used that tone with you, how would you feel? Is there a question or difference of opinion there, or just a somewhat superior statement - more so in the context of what had preceded in terms of "establishing a pedigree".

You need to distinguish between an honest question or challenge on facts (which is what Michael always does) vs what is an ad hominem attack on a person.

The only reason that I wrote is that Michael probably will not respond to the personal attack - and I don't want him to feel that silence of others in response to such criticism is something that others agree with.

Michael James said...

Venkat, thank you for your concern for me (expressed in the final paragraph of your most recent comment), but I should not be bothered by personal attacks on me, because they are attacks on my worst enemy, namely my own ego, so I should be grateful for them. As Bhagavan used to say, those who criticise us are better friends than those who praise us, because they are criticising our ego and thereby helping us in our effort to eradicate it.

Wittgenstein said...

Maya,

No, that was not at all blunt. You are right. There was this psychologist called Carl Jung who used the concepts of ‘persona’ and ‘shadow’. Persona is what we show the world and shadow is what is lurking in the subconscious. These are inseparable and shadow being subconscious, we project it on to the world (including the people or group of people in it). This is akin to vasana and one may recognize even persona is a projection in Bhagavan's philosophy. In fact, when we are worked up about something, that is exactly the time we can recognize our shadow. Except that we are not aware we are worked up with ourselves. More we are worked up, longer we are worked up, thicker our shadow is.

Michael has the flimsiest of all shadows here. So his reactions will be proportionate to that. The more shadow (and even persona) is brought out under the fire of ‘I am’ it gets burnt easily. Atma vichara works pretty neatly when we are upset the most. It is relatively easy (yes, I mean it!) to watch ourselves during such moments and the moment we do, it evaporates like a mist under sun, reminding us ‘heavy’ things are not all that ‘heavy’. It is rightly said ego is a phantom and it disappears when we look for it. Till its ultimate disappearance we have to keep looking at it.

Of all people if you remembered my name to give an example, probably you like being methodical, because you think I am methodical. That is also part of shadow, like me writing this comment to show off!

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Michael has put it beautifully when he writes, 'I should not be bothered by personal attacks on me, because they are attacks on my worst enemy, namely my own ego, so I should be grateful for them. As Bhagavan used to say, those who criticise us are better friends than those who praise us, because they are criticising our ego and thereby helping us in our effort to eradicate it'. Yes, this is a point worth remembering that all praise or criticism which we receive from others are directed towards our ego, and it has got nothing to do with the our ourself as we really are.

I remember an incident about Bhagavan which was told by Nochur Venkataraman. It goes vaguely like this (if somebody knows the exact incident, please share it with us):

Somebody wrote a biography of Bhagavan in his lifetime, probably in Malayalam or Telugu, and the draft of the same was shown to Bhagavan. This biography was an act of fiction, with many factual errors and many horrible imaginations or misinterpretations by the author. It said that Bhagavan was married and had children and had left them all to become a sanyasi and so on. Bhagavan just read it without any reaction and simply corrected some grammatical errors in the draft, but did not bother to correct the factual errors, and handed back the draft to the author to have it printed. When a devotee of Bhagavan saw this he was shocked and horrified. He said to Bhagavan, 'Bhagavan, how can this be printed? This is all wrong and nonsense!' Bhagavan remarked, 'Is this only false and wrong?'

Bhagavan implied that everything we see, hear, perceive, think, speak and so on are false and wrong in the ultimate analysis, as according to Bhagavan only our atma-svarupa is absolutely real and true. Everything else could be relatively real, that is, relative to our ego everything else could be seemingly real, but in the absolute sense nothing is real.

Moreover any praise to our ego generally makes it bloated, thus this may not good to us spiritually, whereas any criticism directed at us is an attack on our ego. Therefore it could be a good opportunity for us to further attack our ego by vigilant self-investigation, by trying to find out, 'who is being criticised?' Therefore I believe a spiritually mature person should welcome criticism more than praise. I hope Michael will agree with my manana here. Regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Wittgenstein, I wholeheartedly agree with you when you write, 'It is rightly said ego is a phantom and it disappears when we look for it. Till its ultimate disappearance we have to keep looking at it. This is the gist or summary of Bhagavan's teachings, his central teaching. Verse 25 of Ulladu Narpadu can be read here. Regards.

Sivanarul said...

It looks like the calm is returning after the storm and back to regular programming :-). I will end this comment chain with a few observations.

In the youtube video of his holiness that I posted yesterday, his holiness was saying that a sincere aspirant should take both praise and censure with equanimity with no ruffles in his chitta. Michael, by his latest comments demonstrated that he is adhering to that and is an inspiration for those us who do not have such equanimity (mine has gotten little better, but nowhere close to the finish line). Michael also is a big inspiration (along with David Godman) for me in the act of Surrender. To be able to trust Bhagavan, without having a decent bank account, to provide basic living needs is an act of deep surrender that is not easily achieved. That is why an autobiography of him will be, one of the best things he can do (of course, in my opinion). The autobiography does not need to be long. It could just be the size of a long article he writes that can be completed in a week or two. This way, it does not interrupt his other things. It will just be another article. Hopefully, he will reconsider it, and if Bhagavan willing, will write it.

With respect to Wittgenstein, I have never seen anything he has written come across as showing off. It is not just his methodical writing, but his genuine understanding that if one wants to help another aspirant, you need to meet them where the aspirant is and not where you are. He, along with Michael’s latest comment to me to let the camel just a little in the tent, has both convinced me to do a little more Vichara. I thank both of them for that and I am slowly beginning to be with the ‘I’ :-)

With all the heated arguments, it is easy to forget the common purpose we all share. One is the seeking of Moksha by following whatever path that appeals to us. Other is the deep affection we all have for Bhagavan. Whether we are following Bhagavan alone or Bhagavan and other Gurus, there is no denying that Bhagavan has had a great influence in our lives. Some of us like Talks, others like Ulladu Narpadu. Some of us like Bhagavan’s actions, some his writings. Let’s not forget that all of those are indeed Bhagavan, in spite of our preferences. In Bhagavan, we trust.

Mouna said...

Another trap of the ego, albeit a very subtle one, is equating behavior, or different kinds of, to jnana. Behavior, either caused by shadow-vasanas or "conscious action"-vasanas it's still at the level of the ego, that means seemingly real, illusory.
We will never know if Bhagavan or any other character in this play of lila, got their docility, all-inclusiveness and compassion from the advent of jnana or it was in his destiny-prarabdha already a life of calm, silent and "introversion" if he wouldn't had awaken to ourself.
Let us remember that although all compassionate and inclusive as Bhagavan Krishna was, He propulsed Arjuna to fulfill his righteous destiny and kill, literally, members of his own family for a higher dharmic purpose. Even if we take the Gita as if it actually happened or an internal battle metaphor, it comes to the same. Reminds me the story about Bhagavan instructing, I believe it was Annamalai Swami, to cement a hole in the ground knowing that it would have caused hundreds of ants to die.
We often quote India gaining its independence from the British Empire with non-violent means, forgetting that the British Empire was a very rational society. It would have been a very different story if we had Nazis to fight against, the Holocaust proves it.
My point is that actions and behavior are the script or content of this mirage/hallucination called ego universe. Anonymous (the second one) writing, to my eyes, in a put-down language no matter how "intelligent" the questions could be (and then trying to redeem himself) or the reaction of some of us to his intentions, doesn't at all show or prove anything in relation to jnana or "thinness/thickness" of mind of any of the characters involved, that being Anonymous or Michael (after all, at the transactional level, and assuming he has one, who knows what is happening actually inside Michael's mind?) or whoever, except that, at the level of ego this is an illusory realm where anything happens the way it does, without any meaning whatsoever, like in a dream, or put into a religious language, ordained by Ishwara's will.
So there are no culprits or righteous ones here, only the script developing as it should.
And when the play will be over, the poet will be right in claiming: "All's well that ends well".

Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

Your comments have certainly become more and more mystic like and at this rate you would have to start offering sat sang soon :-), from Ojai, the place with the vibrations of JK.

I know you used to differentiate clearly between behavior at the worldly level and practicing advaita in the heart. For example, I have seen you call out on any comments that seem to be disrespectful. So I can only attribute this change to some kind of spiritual transformation you have undergone.

I take Bhagavan Krishna ordering Arjuna to kill his greater family as purely an internal metaphor. The Lord is ordering the Jiva to do his Dharmic duty of reining in on the senses and return to Ishvara, his rightful place. It does not make sense that the Lord who preached ahimsa and compassion would turn around and order Arjuna to violate ahimsa. I am not an expert on Gita, and I am aware of Kshatriya Dharma, but I see it as a purely internal metaphor. Regarding Bhagavan asking Annamali swami to plug a hole in the ground: Ahimsa does not mean we cannot take practical decisions like plugging a hole or keeping a mosquito repellent or using fertilizers in the soil.

I have read some debates of Jnana having no correlation with behavior (and implying that a Jnani is not bound by ethical and dharmic rules). I find that a tough pill to swallow and explain away. Let’s say a Jnani has a sexual relation with his disciple. It violates the sacrosanct relationship of Guru/Shishya dharma. More importantly, the Jnani, by definition sees 'his' body apart from 'I'. So who is it that has the relationship, which obviously is a need for the ego but not for the Self. This is very different than eating food and fulfilling basic needs. Explaining it away with Prarartha, is in my opinion, a very weak explanation. Luckily Bhagavan’s saintliness is impeccable, so it does not matter.

Michael James said...

As Mouna writes, there is no necessary correlation between behaviour of any particular kind and ātma-jñāna or any other kind or level of spiritual development. An ajñāni may behave as we would expect an ātma-jñāni to behave, and conversely an ātma-jñāni may behave as we would expect an ajñāni to behave, so outward behaviour is a very poor indicator of anyone’s inward state.

Therefore just because I wrote in my previous comment ‘I should not be bothered by personal attacks on me, because they are attacks on my worst enemy, namely my own ego, so I should be grateful for them’ does not mean I am egoless or anywhere near to being egoless. Firstly I was careful to say ‘I should not be bothered’ and ‘I should be grateful’ rather than ‘I am not bothered’ and ‘I am grateful’, because though I understand that I should be grateful rather than bothered, I cannot guarantee that I will always respond as I know I should, since my ego is not yet annihilated, so it can assume any ugly form at any time. Secondly, even if I am sometimes able to be not bothered but grateful, that could be because I am so egotistical that I do not care what anyone thinks of me, or because I enjoy confrontation with other egos.

As Mouna says, ‘after all, [...] who knows what is happening actually inside Michael’s mind?’ and this applies equally well to every other person we interact with. In my case, only I (and in a certain sense Bhagavan also) know what is happening inside my mind, and I cannot say I am proud of all the thoughts that I allow my mind to follow or of my woeful lack of real love to be self-attentive as much as I should be. Probably we all feel more or less the same about ourself in this regard, and if so this should teach us that we cannot judge even our own level of spiritual development, let alone that of anyone else.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

“An ajñāni may behave as we would expect an ātma-jñāni to behave, and conversely an ātma-jñāni may behave as we would expect an ajñāni to behave, so outward behaviour is a very poor indicator of anyone’s inward state.”

I respectfully disagree that outward behavior is a very poor indicator of anyone’s inward state. If one matures inwardly, it will show up in outward behavior. A person who truly started believing in ahimsa inwardly, would exhibit outside behavior by refraining from eating meat. Do you truly believe you are capable of harming someone or being uncompassionate after 30+ years of sadhana? Certain human tendencies like getting angry or irritated are a different story. Even in that case, I think for one who had matured internally, the anger or irritation would subside very quickly.

Let’s suppose that you do get hurt or take pride. Let’s take another person who also does the same, but who has not done any sadhana. I bet the difference between the two of you is that you will not hold the hurt or pride for more than a few minutes or a day or two, whereas the other person might carry it for a lifetime. So I think Sadhana and inward state has a huge impact on outward behavior.

Certain behavior by a Jnani, might appear erratic (like Sri Seshadri Swami) and unworldly like. But that is very different than saying a Jnani will violate ahimsa or dharma, just because he is not bound anymore.

venkat said...

Michael - but for a jnani, his acts would conform to nishkama karma as per the Bhagavad Gita; inevitably so, because of a lack of ego. I think Bhagavan said in Padamanamalai:

"Prarabdha (the actions the body has to perform in this life) is of three categories: ichha, anichha and parechha (personally desired, without desire and due to others' desire). For him who has realised his Self, there is no ichha prarabdha. The two others remain. Whatever he does is for others only. If there are things to be done by him for others, he does them but the results do not affect him."

Mouna, I don't want to go off at a tangent, but in the spirit of de-conditioning ourselves . . . all empires are based on rapacious greed, it is just a matter of degree. The British Empire is no exception - it is just that the 'victors' get to write history. India achieved freedom from independence because Britain had gone through a protracted war, and did not have the stomach to fight. Churchill used poisoned gas on the Kurds in Iraq in the 1920s; he would never have let India go, but fortunately he lost the election post WW2. There is a shameful record of British colonial brutality even post-1950 in places like Malaysia and Kenya.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/british-empire-crimes-ignore-atrocities
https://markcurtis.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/the-war-in-malaya-1948-60/

The legacy of the British in apartheid South Africa, Palestine and the Middle East is all too evident. Ditto their support for the French and subsequently Americans in a vicious war against a peasant society in Vietnam and Cambodia. I'm afraid the list goes on.

All that you can conclude is that greed, selfishness, ego is at the heart of all the misery in the world. And all peoples in the world have this evil within them.

Best wishes,
venkat

venkat said...

Sorry I should have referred to Padamalai.

Sivanarul said...

I just want to add one more thing about Michael’s writings. Let’s suppose, for argument that Michael has never done any self-enquiry at all and has only written about it in this lifetime. Now from a moksha perspective, one could say that, if one only writes about it and never practices it, then moksha will most likely be elusive. That would be like someone looking at a map of the country, but never visiting a country.

Even in this case, not all is lost. His constant writing about self-enquiry will have created powerful samskaras in his subtle mind that he will carry forward to his next dream in which those powerful samskaras will “force” him to do self-enquiry.

So the point is, if one has firmly decided to walk the spiritual path, even if one does not practice, but only constantly thinks or writes about practicing, such writing or thinking will eventually (in a future dream) bear fruit. It has to, if you believe in samskaras. One never loses in the spiritual path. It is only a matter of non-existent time :-)

ropedancer said...

venkat,
who has realised "his Self" ?
Is the self ever unrealised that it needs any realisation ?
Freedom from what has India achieved ?

maya said...

Mouna,

"forgetting that the British Empire was a very rational society".

You gotta be kidding. Have you heard of Jallianwala Bagh and Bengal famine and how the british embargo on salt production affected millions ? Please read it up before commenting.

/**
By August 1943 Churchill refused to release shipping to send food to India. Initially during the famine he was more concerned with the civilians of Nazi-occupied Greece (who were also suffering from a famine) compared with the Bengalis, noting that the "starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis is less serious than that of sturdy Greeks".
**/

I know this is a digression from spirituality but please don't brush off things that you don't know about. I can go on and on about the subject of colonial rule but this is not the forum for that.

Many people talk about ahmisa and veganism, but you know what ahimsa is. It is non violence in thought, deed and word. Even if one harms someone by a word, that is ahimsa. Just being a vegan doesn't mean much. As Bhagavan Ramana himself once said as long as you think you are in a dream you have to eat dream food. I believe he even admonished someone saying that, "Would you go by a woman who is being molested without helping her saying its a dream" Advaita in theory is different from practice. Advaita only means that if I see a tiger near me I will neither hate it nor love it. Doesn't mean I will go and embrace it.

As Ramakrishna says it is quite easy to talk about Advaita but the moment a thorn pricks your feet, you will start crying "thorn prick" and say your are the body.

From all your writings, as Sivanarul says, you seem to be a mystic or have realized your self. If so good, if not just uttering such statements won't make you realized. We should not try to act realized before we are and please don't give me the argulent that you are already the self!

Mouna said...

Maya my friend,

"From all your writings, as Sivanarul says, you seem to be a mystic or have realized your self. "

You're kidding right?? You gotta be kidding my friend.
If you are pulling my leg, then we are laughing together!
And if you're not kidding then I'm laughing harder than before!!

Be well friend
M

maya said...

One other thing regarding quoting the Gita is it has to be quoted in conjunction and in the context and the background of Mahabharata. Just quoting some random stuff from the Gita will never make any sense.

You have to remember a few things about Krishna urging Arjuna to fight

a)Before the war started where Krishna adviced Arjuna to fight, Krishna went as messenger of peace and said that the war could be averted if even one village was given to the pandavas but the Kauravas refused to give even a needle space. Only then Krishna urged them to fight. All avenues to peace were exhausted. And only because that decision to fight was reached after a great deal of thought did Krishna urge Arjuna to fight.
b) There is also the context of societal observances. Arjuna belonged to a warrior caste and it was considered his duty to fight.
c) At the spiritual level Arjuna had a lot of warrior tendencies or vasana within him which had to be exhausted. Krishna knew that Arjuna initially refused to fight because the situation overwhelmed him. Infact just as the war was about to start when Arjuna asks Krishna to take his chariot to the middle of the two armies, Krishna deliberately takes it in front of Bhishma and Drona so that Arjuna's weakness of attachment comes out. Also in a previous occasion Arjuna wanted to take sanyasa but ended up marrying another girl. So he was not yet ripe for it. That is why to exhaust his vasanas, Krishna asks Arjuna to fight without worrying about the fruits of his action and just because its his duty. This way his attachment to the result will be gone and he will be ready for Jnana.
On the other hand at the end of the war Krishna severely admonishes Drona, who belonged to a priest caste, and says he should have never fought the war as it was not his duty.

Ofcourse the duty etc in the old age depended on ones inclinations but later became muddled up with caste etc.

But one needs to really understand the Gita before quoting it and even many Jnanis concede that Gita is probably the toughest scripture to understand as it reconciles the effort to live in the world with the ultimate goal. It is the battle of every Sadhaka. Whereas scriptures like the Yoga Vasishtha, Ashtakara Gita, Tripura Rahasya etc only deal with the ultimate, so its direct.

There are two things, which are the absolute truth (paramarthika satyam) and relative truth (vyavaharika satyam). Observing traffic rules like driving on the right or left is relative truth. You cannot say, "I am brahman" and drive on the left where right is the norm. You will only get injured or killed. Thats why just quoting absolute statements doesn't even a million times doesn't mean anything.

maya said...

Mouna,

You have confused me even more than before :-) but then why am i trying to understand you in the first place? Atleast you are laughing and having a good time. I'm just confused.

Anonymous said...

Maya, are you the same person who used to post earlier in this blog by the name 'Sundar'? It seems so to me.

maya said...

anonymous,

no, i'm not sundar but were you something else and anonymous now or were you anonymous before?

maya said...

Personally i've never understood how to carry out the message of the Gita in my own life. So i've given up on that though I listen to Gita discourses.

Honestly I don't even understand the concept of prarabhdha and the advice given based on that. On the one hand people say you cannot escape the prarabhdha and on the other hand say, "Don't try to escape the prarabhdha". If one cannot escape the prarabhdha then its obvious that whatever decision one takes is based on the prarabhdha.

Prarabhdha is only know in retrospect. If live in one city for years and then move to another city for 2 years, then only at the end of the 2 years I know that my prarabhdha was to live in another city for 2 years. So in many cases, say where someone wants to renounce and takes up sanyasa and is not able to handle it, so comes back to his previous life. Then lets say after a few months he again has the urge to take up sanyasa and someone tells him. It is not in your prarabhdha as proven the first time, how does one necessarily know that his prarabhdha was to be successful the second time and not the first?

It reminds me of a dialogue from the Tom Cruise movie, "the last samurai" where cruise's character is asked by the samurai chief, "Do you believe in destiny" and he says, "A man does what he can until destiny reveals itself". Only this makes any sense to me anymore. Do your sadhana and act as you are acting now and hopefully the sadhana will clear the cobwebs with time. Instead trying to guess, what Bhagavan or Krishna would have told me to do would be a waste to time and for me would only lead to more confusion. Jnanis probably dissuaded some people because they probably knew their prarabhdha.

This makes me wonder, if hypothetically Bhagavan Ramana were alive and if we were to go to him and tell that he is doing self inquiry and if, just an if,he says "No. do Japa. Thats the right sadhana for you at this stage", would we accept Bhagavan's words or would we just continue with self inquiry.

Reason I ask is, in the case of Ramakrishna, he first asked his devotees whether they believed in god with or without form and then gave them advice on what to meditate on. In some cases he went with the aspirants choice in others overrode their choice. It is said that the only disciple he adviced to read Ashtavakra Gita was Vivekananda as Ramakrishna thought only he was ripe to grasp the subject.

Mouna said...

Maya,

"You have confused me even more than before :-) but then why am i trying to understand you in the first place? Atleast you are laughing and having a good time. I'm just confused."

Let's back up a little.
It wasn't at all my intention to make fun of anyone or anything anyone said, in fact when I said I'm laughing hard was more a figure of speech than actual reality.

I read your points very carefully.
Apologies if I added confusion instead of clarity to the soup we are trying to cook together here in this blog. Completely unintentonal.

And thanks for your insights about the british influence of the past and the Gita comments. Certainly added a different dimension to was I was saying (that I still sustain).

Warm regards,
Mouna

(By the way, I don't consider myself enlightened, it would be an oxymoron. At the same time I don't consider myself non-enlightened either! Go figure!... :-)


Mouna said...

Maya,

When I said "Go figure!" I meant I'm still trying to figure that out myself!

Be well friend,
M

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, Vannakkam
(responding to your last posting addressed to me)

Reading all these comments, counter-comments, additions to the comments coming from many sides, questions, answers, theories, opinions, etc.. I have this impression and feeling at this moment that I am in the middle of a jungle of words, some are beautiful flowers with aromatic parfumes, others are stingy, others stinky, other even carnivor plants!. At a certain point the feeling-impulse is just to climb the nearest tree in this jungle, go high and up and high and up and even higher to the top until there are no more branches obstructing the clear view of the sky. And look, and just rest there.
Let's meet at that spot my friend, at least for a short while, I am pretty sure that we can even ask everyone in this blog to join us and nobody will refuse.
As I said, just for a short while.

And then we can come back down and continue travelling the jungle of words, meeting each other again in the words and concepts, but we will be revitalised, clear minded, oxigenated by the pure and satvic view of a clear horizon.

May Him shower blessings your way.
M


Wittgenstein said...

Mouna,

By talking about "thinness/thickness of mind” and "shadow-vasanas” and their correlation with behaviour, probably you were referring to what I wrote. I agree with you that one can never know what is there in someone’s mind. If we take it to the next logical level, we can never even know if there is another mind. Nevertheless, we do have a ‘gut feeling’ about someone, whether you agree or not. And that could be wrong. When it happens, well, I will change my current opinion. Currently I cannot help having a couple of opinions.

Mouna said...

Wittgenstein, hello

I agree with you about the "gut feeling" and I have it also. The thing is, that kind of gut feeling I don't trust.
I trust more what you said that at the next logical level we can never even know if there is another mind. My deep-deep (or high-high) gut feeling tells me that there isn't. Not "in here" (yours truly) nor out there (the rest of you guys). This kind of gut feeling I trust, it has a scent of truth embeded.

(by the way, and this is not related to your post at all, I never liked the word opinion 9although I use it many times). Someone once described it as the middle way between a truth and a lie.)

M

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

Q: I meditate a lot but most of the time I don't seem to get any results. When I cannot quieten my mind, is all my effort wasted, or will it bear fruit at some future time?

AS: Most minds are like wet wood: they need a long period of
drying out before they catch fire. While your mind is on the Self it
is drying out. When it is on the world it is getting wet again. The effort you expend in keeping the mind turned towards the Self is never wasted. It is only wasted when you lose interest and revert to your old mental habits.

Don't worry if your efforts do not produce immediate results.
Sooner or later you will get your reward.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once told a story. Two sadhus who were friends agreed to do intense tapas together to attain the darshan of Kali. They had agreed beforehand that if she did not appear to them they would both kill themselves.

Their tapas was so intense that at about 1 a.m. one night the
Goddess Kali appeared before them. One of the sadhus enjoyed the bliss which came from having darshan of the Goddess but the other lost consciousness and became comatose.

The man who was awake became very concerned about his unconscious friend and asked Kali, 'We were both doing the same sadhana, yet when you came to give us darshan my friend became totally unconscious and went into a coma. Why this partiality? It does not seem fair because we have both done an equal amount of tapas.'

Kali replied: 'You have been doing this tapas for several
Life-times. In the past you lost consciousness just like this man. You can stay conscious now because of your previous practices and because your karma is finished. Your friend still has a lot of karma to experience: one day when he has finished it all he will have the same conscious experience that you are now having.’

- LWB, p. 343

Wittgenstein said...

Mouna,

You are different!

venkat said...

I must say that the Bhagavad Gita is the most beautiful of scriptures that we have in inherited. It has profound advice for all levels. It is easy to understand why it is said to carry the essence of all the upanishads.

As Maya rightly noted, Arjuna, a worldly man, because of his identification with kin, no longer wanted to fight a war, that was for a just cause, against his corrupt cousins. So he essentially feigned a deep - and advanced - interest in jnana, and wished to escape from confronting wrong by becoming a sannyasin. So he parroted the words of of wisdom that he had picked up.

Krishna saw through Arjuna's self-deception and so urged him to action. But the actions that he urged him to pursue, was to be done without desire for the personal fruits of action (i.e. in the spirit of egolessness) and for the good of the world.

Krishna said that only one in a thousand will be interested in this wisdom, and of these, only one in a thousand will realise it. So a clear warning can be read within BG - don't deceive yourself (like Arjuna) with the feeling that you have understood and are advanced in jnana yoga, when in reality you are still a man of the world.

He goes on to extol how a true man of wisdom is. One of the 42 verses that Bhagavan picked from BG reads:

"The man who, giving up all objects of desires, moves about seeking nothing, and rid of all sense of ‘mine’ and ‘I’, wins peace."

Sankara’s commentary on this verse reads:
"His efforts have been reduced to securing just what sustains life – this is the sense. ‘Seeking nothing’ – he does not desire even to keep the body alive. So he is free from all sense of mine – he has no sense of possessions even in regard to those few things needed to maintain his body alive."

Bhagavan's life - and those of his close disciples - clearly exemplified this. Not that they volitionally tried to act in this way - it naturally fell on them, as they had attenuated the ego to such an extent, and because they were absorbed in the Self.

Instructive when one considers that every other man these days seems to have set himself up as a neo-advaitin master, with a website, seminars, DVDs and books, all for sale.

Mouna - I'm sorry to hear that your belief in the virtues of the rational British Empire "is sustained". You might want to read Noam Chomsky's "Necessary Illusions" (an apt title for us!) and "Year 501: The Conquest Continues", or Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America" to understand the evils of the European and American empires.

Anonymous said...


Here is a extract from the book "No mind I am the self" :

Sri Lakshmana Swami: Mind is only thoughts. The more easily you can be without thoughts, the nearer you are to a direct experience of the Self. To make the mind die you must deprive it of thoughts. The effortless thought-free state is the highest level of practice.

There are no states or degrees of realization, there are only stages of spiritual practice. The final stage of sadhana is this effortless thought-free state. If this state can be maintained, then the “I” will sink into the Self and it will experience the bliss of the Self. These experiences are only temporary; the “I” will continue to reassert itself until the moment of realization. Realization can only happen in this effortless thought-free state, for it is only in this state that the Self can destroy the “I”-thought. The “I”-thought, which is the mind, must die completely before Self-Realization occurs.

Question: How is one to make the mind die?

Sri Lakshmana Swami: The mind can never eliminate itself without the grace of the Self. The mind is afraid of its own death; it will not do anything to endanger its own existence. It is like the theif who poses as a policement in order to catch himself because he ultimately wants to escape. Similarly with the mind. The mind will engage in sadhana, thinking it wants to destroy itself, but as soon as the mind starts to sink into the Heart, a great fear arises which prevents the mind from completely subsiding. This fear is part of the mind’s self-defence mechanism, and you will never overcome it by effort alone. It is because of this that you need the grace of the Guru. When you concentrate on the name and form of the Guru, or try to be without thoughts, the grace of the Guru calms the mind and helps it to overcome the fear which would otherwise prevent it from completely subsiding.

Question: Whyis it necessary for the mind to die?

Sri Lakshmana Swami: The mind must die, there is no other way to realize the Self. Some people say that complete equanimity of mind is Self-Realization, but this is not true. This is only a stage one passes through on the way to Self-Realization. Other people say that seeing the Self or God everywhere is Self-Realization, but this is not true either. To see the Self everywhere there must be an “I” who sees, and while that “I” exists the mind will also exist. The jnani does not see anything because the seeing entity in him has died. In the Self, there is no seeing, only being. When the mind still exists one can reach a stage where one can see the whole world as a manifestation of the Self, but when the mind dies, there is no one who sees and no world to be seen.

If you have a mind then the earth, the sky, and the stars will exist, and you will be able to see them. When the mind dies there will be no earth, no sky, no stars, and no world. The world of objects, names, and forms is only the mind, and when the mind dies, the world dies with it. Only the Self then remains.

Seeing everything as the Self gives the impression that the Self is equally distributed everywhere. This is also an idea in the mind. When the mind finally dies you realize that there is no distribution and no everywhere.

maya said...

About the depth of Bhagavad Gita, another incident illustrates this. It seems when Arjuna was learning archery from Drona, Drona had adviced some other disciples of his to make sure that when Arjuna was having his dinner, there was always some light and to make sure Arjuna never ate in darkness. On one day either the disciple forgot or the wind blew the light out. The next day, it seems Drona saw Arjuna during the day trying to practice with a cloth tied around his eyes and Drona went to him and asked him why he was doing that. To this Arjuna said that the previous day when the light was out and he was forced to eat in the darkness, as he was eating, a thought occurred to him. If my hands could take the food to my mouth by instinct knowing its location then I can instinctively know the location of my target from other means even if there is no light.

The above anecdote illustrates how deep the warrior instinct was buried inside Arjuna and it cannot be thrown out just on a whim because Arjuna was overwhelmed with emotions at a given point. Moreover Arjuna had fought against the same Kaurava army before. The vasana had to be washed away with doing actions without fruit which is supposed to remove the desire for action ultimately.

That is why in Sanatana Dharma (or Hinduism as its called now) there was a logical division of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha which would wipe out one's desire gradually and take him stage by stage to liberation while during the whole process, the ultimate goal was always kept in mind. But this does not mean that one who is ripe cannot renounce right at the beginning and it was alright for a ripe candidate to renounce even at the beginning. But the question is how do we know we are ripe? Also as Ramana said waiting for all desires to subside is like waiting for all waves to subside before deciding to swim.

a) A realized guru will definitely know it and can see through our mind. As is demonstrated by Bhagavan never allowing Annamalai swamy to meditate for the first 12 years of his life engaging him in Karma Yoga(masonry) and later allowing him to meditate full time as his vasanas had been wiped out while for many others he asked them to right from the start. For some he never objected to their renouncing for other he was against it. Bhagavan even advice Annamalai swamy to eat only a particular restricted diet for one whole year. Ramakrishna used to say that he could see into the minds of others as if it was a glass cage. He gave very specific advice to each of his disciples knowing their internals very well. He once told a disciple that if someone talks against your guru, you should even be ready to kill him and for another the exact opposite advice that no matter what someone else said of him, he should keep quiet. The first disciple was a mellow and shy character while the second was an aggressive character. Medicine according to the disease and the patient.

I hate to bring this up again :-) but that is precisely why the dictum that self inquiry will work right from the start for everyone, in my opinion is not true. But i'm tired going into that again. Suffice to say that there are many factors. But in the absence of a physical Guru all we can do is to take our best guess and do what is comfortable.









Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding your comment in which you ‘respectfully disagree that outward behavior is a very poor indicator of anyone’s inward state’, I think you were reading more into what I wrote in my previous comment than I intended. I did not say that outward behaviour is no indicator at all of one’s inward state, but just that it is a very poor indicator of it, and I did not say that there is no correlation at all between behaviour of any particular kind and ātma-jñāna or any other kind or level of spiritual development, but just that there is no necessary correlation between them.

Therefore I do not disagree with most of what you write in that comment of yours. As a general rule our progress in the spiritual path will be reflected in some respects or to some extent in our outward behaviour, and we can generally expect the behaviour of an ātma-jñāni to be exemplary, even though there may be times when they act or react in a way that we would not expect and cannot understand.

Judging from their outward behaviour alone we cannot know whether a person is an ātma-jñāni or an ajñāni, because an ajñāni may behave as we would expect an ātma-jñāni to behave, particularly if that ajñāni is one who has devoted their life to practising some form of sādhana, whereas for some reason that we cannot understand an ātma-jñāni may sometimes behave as we would expect only an ajñāni to behave. This is why I said that there is no necessary correlation between behaviour and ātma-jñāna. Generally there may be a certain amount of correlation, but since as ajñānis we cannot understand all the actions of an ātma-jñāni, we should not expect them always to behave as we think they should.

Maya said...

A good insight on meditation and spiritual life. By Swami Dayatmananda of Ramakrishna Mission, London. It provides a lot of insight into spiritual process, especially meditation

/***
So, under all circumstances maintaining a philosophical attitude, helps us a lot in achieving this harmony. When we can achieve this type of harmony, the mind becomes very very restful. If we analyze our minds, we see that most of the time it is in a state of restlessness, and the cause of this restlessness is always disharmony. We are always grumbling, “It is cold or it is hot, or this person is good, that person is bad, or why I don't have this, why I don't have that, etc." If we can develop some amount of philosophical attitude, the mind becomes quite peaceful. I can tell you that. Now, apart from that, there is another type of harmony, which we call lower harmony. There are some persons who seem to be quite content in life. They are not Yogis, they are not practising meditation, but they seem to be quite happy. They go to work, they come back, they earn a little money, their families are there, they seem to be quite content. But we, who start practising meditation, are always in a state of agitation.

So, sometimes we think “What is this? That man is not practising meditation, yet he seems to be quite happy. But I am practising meditation, I am supposed to be more happy, but I am not.” The reason for that man's contentment is not because he has achieved calmness of mind, but he has surrendered his will to what we call “collectivity”. He goes the way of 99% of the people. He is like a slave, he doesn't exercise his brain, and think, “What is life, what is the goal, what should I do?” This type of calmness and quietness is of no use, either for him or for others.

The second type of lower harmony is: there are some people, a few people, who are very stoic. They have sufficient reasons to become unhappy, but they say, “No, I am not going to express my unhappiness to anybody, I will bear it with gritted teeth”.

In both these cases, the result is the same: they are not trying to overcome the situation, but they are trying to appear calm and quiet and contented. Such people cannot progress in spiritual life at all.

Spiritual life starts with what we call a “divine discontent”. We are not happy to live in the way others are living. We want to rebel against the world's way and turn back to its very source. That's why it is a tremendous battle; it is called “The unseen warfare”.

Now, there is another obstacle in the path of harmony. There are spiritual aspirants who want to fight, who want to walk the way of spiritual path. That is to say they want spiritual freedom. But, they are terribly afraid of taking responsibility. You see, the concept of freedom is always linked with the concept of responsibility.

As an example: if you are working in an office under somebody, you just have to do what the man asks you to do. You are not free. But if you start your own business, it gives you complete freedom, but you are responsible for the good or evil, whatever is the outcome. And many people are afraid of this responsibility. This is one reason, why people very easily fall in line with other people's behaviour than rebel, even though they desire to do that.

To summarise this concept of harmony: First of all there must be an inner harmony. Then we must also know how to achieve external harmony, which means The Purpose & Practice of Meditation – Swami Dayatmananda that we should not surrender our will to collectivity. Nor should we be afraid of taking responsibility for ourselves. If we fulfill this condition, then we have taken a great step forward towards meditative life.


Will continue..

maya said...

Continued..

Self-Identity
Now, the second thing that is an important accessory to achieving success in meditative life is: one must have some kind of self-identity. What I mean, is that most of us, as we are now, do not know about our inner self. If somebody tells us, “You are a good man”, we get elated. If somebody says, “Don't do this, do that”, we are quite prepared to obey. In other words we don't say, “I am a complete individual in my own right. I have a right to think for myself. I have a right to decide what is good and what is not good for me: I have a right to choose what I think is good, and I have a right to follow it, whatever the external world thinks of me”. In other words, I must have definite ideas about my own personality, and I must have definite principles to live by.

This is very important in spiritual life. I should not be moral because of the police fear, nor should I be good because of public opinion. I must have these principles of my own free will. In order to have this self-identity, I must have a strong power of analyzing myself and try to understand my weaknesses and my potentialities as well.

Much of our unhappiness is caused by the lack of selfknowledge. By self I do not mean the Divine Self. What I mean is our psychological self, our mind, our personality. This lack of self-knowledge: how much misery it can bring to us! You only have to just open your eyes and look at your family members, at your neighbours—the lack of self-knowledge is enormous. Sometimes we have to go to a psychoanalyst and pay lots of money, just to be told that, “You are a good man and have lots of potentialities!"

This self-knowledge is very important, because the goals that we can set for ourselves, even in spiritual life, much depend upon the knowledge of the self. We have, each one of us, certain defects or certain weaknesses, and we have certain wonderful potentialities. If we have right self-knowledge, only then can we know how to overcome our weaknesses, and only then can we know how to set realistic goals. It's very important to set realistic goals. If we do not have this self-knowledge, we live in a world of self-illusion. And the result could be disastrous.

Here a spiritual teacher can help us a great deal, and this is where the greatness of a teacher really comes out. A real teacher understands the personality of a disciple and sets goals and guides him accordingly. And that is also the reason why the teacher, although the teaching is the same, presents it to the disciples in accordance with the capacity of their individual ability, digestion and practice.

And self-knowledge is also important for another reason: if we do not have proper self-knowledge, we are often forced to indulge in self-fantasy.

An example: We love to watch T.V. Do you know why? Unconsciously, we are identifying ourselves with the heroes and the heroines we see on the screen. The reason for this is: if we are incapable of fulfilling our expectations in actual life, we are drawn to fulfill the same reality by proxy, on the screen or in imagination. If we do not have proper self-knowledge, we become incapable of discriminating between what is fantasy and what is reality. And the result will be a terrible failure in actual life. You only have to open your eyes and see how many people have fallen frustrated in real life only because they have fallen from their life of fantasy, and not from actual life. If anyone has at least some amount of self-knowledge, he'll be a happy man in this world, even if he doesn't seek spiritual life.

Will Continue...

maya said...

Our Concept Of God Is Based On Our Self-Image

Now, understanding of our own self has a great spiritual benefit. It is a law of the spiritual world, that our goal in the spiritual world entirely depends upon the concept we have regarding our own self. This is a deep matter to be thought of. Many people cannot conceive of God. So, they cannot set spiritual goals, not because they don't want to, but because their self-knowledge is so inadequate that they are unable to imagine something higher. But, if any man has adequate self knowledge, he cannot but understand that there is a Divine Spark within each one of us.

There is a point which has nothing to do with our topic, but it is a very interesting point.

You know that there are hundreds of opinions about God. And everybody thinks that his idea of God alone is right. But the truth is that each one is trying to conceive of God according to his own self-image. If somebody has a very strong sense of justice, then he thinks God is Supreme justice; and if somebody else has love, he thinks that God is of the nature of love. So what we are quarreling about, is not about God but about concepts of God. But if anybody has got adequate self- knowledge, he would be intelligent enough to understand that all these quarrels are useless, because they are based on our own self-concept. And that is a great benefit in itself.

Meditative Life & Moral Life

We come to one more point in this class and then we'll stop. This is the connection between meditative life and moral life. By meditative life I mean spiritual life. Spiritual life is based on moral life, but spiritual life is not moral life. Moral life, is like a foundation of a building. Without a foundation there can be no building. But if you just have the foundation, it is equally useless.

Many people mistake a good moral life for a spiritual life. They think, “Don't bother about God, live a good life and that is enough.” That is good as far as it goes, but such a person is far, far away from perfection. A moral life is very necessary for spiritual life, but mere moral life is not enough. This is a point that spiritual aspirants need to understand, because after starting a little meditative life, one becomes more sensitive, loving, and sympathetic.

Such people become so sensitive that if they have to be harsh, even though they are justified, they feel terribly guilty.

Will continue..

maya said...

continued...

Simplicity Of Conduct

There is another point of importance. Usually spiritual aspirants try to be truthful, gentle, loving and considerate. So they make certain rules and try to follow them. Sometimes, however, they may not be able to follow them. Then they fall victim to restlessness, and suffer unnecessarily. What we need is a general guidline for our behaviour and we should try to put it into practice. If for some reason, we are not able to do that, we should not bother too much about it. Just to give an example: Suppose you feel that any guest who comes to your house must be treated extremely well. That is a very good rule of conduct. Supposing a guest comes to your house and for some reason you don't have enough things to offer him. You don't have to fall over your heels, and go on apologizing to the man, feeling uneasy in your mind. Simply offer whatever you have with simplicity and love, and finish with that affair. Otherwise, endlessly we go on, “Oh, I don't have anything, I am so sorry”. After that you phone, “Oh, I am so sorry”. After that you write, “Oh, I am so sorry”. All this is complexity of conduct. Such behaviour soon turns into snobbishness.

To give another example, this time from spiritual life. Supposing that you make a rule: “I will bathe and then only sit for meditation”. Perhaps one day, there is no water. You don't need to worry whether God becomes angry with you because you haven't taken a bath. Just wash your hands and go and sit and pray wholeheartedly. The idea is simplicity of conduct should not become a burden on our minds, taking away all our time and energies.

This also applies to our inner meditative life. Supposing we make a rule, that we should not think ill of any person. Maybe one day we are sitting for meditation, and some bad thoughts come about others. So, what do we do if we are snobbish? We go on blaming ourselves over and over and over again. This is an obstruction to meditative life. What we should really do is, take notice of the thought, and say: “This thought should not have come”, and continue our medita- tion. That is the way to progress in concentration. If, the conditions we discussed in the morning are fulfilled, then we are in a fit condition to enter into meditative life. When we are fit and ready, a teacher comes, invariably, to guide us; he points out the appropriate path, and sets us in that direction. From then onwards we have to struggle to progress in spiritual life.

ropedancer said...

venkat,
I would be glad if you would take time to refer to the questions put yesterday at 23:19.
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

THE LIFE AND THE TEACHINGS OF BRAHMAJNA MA (from https://www.facebook.com/RamanaHridayam)

"As everything, residence, house, men and trees appeal
to be revolving and their forms seem distorted to a person who spins round and round in the courtyard of a house, so
the Atma witnesses the world of five elements as a result of unsteadiness due to imagination. In reality it grows from
Maya, Is created by the mind and is the offspring of the delusion of the mind, rendered unsteady by cravings.

When cravings disappear through means of insight caused by discrimination the mind becomes steady and the Atma in the infinite vastness is realized.
Then all illusions vanish and Atma alone in the form of wisdom and bliss persists.

Atma is real—Its revolving and waving state in the form of the world of five elements is distortion caused by Maya.

The material body is the creation of mind. Atma alone shines to the inward sight when the mental and physical vision is abandoned."

Mouna said...

Dear Venkat and Maya,

Just a small point to clarify my intention in relation to the rationality of the british empire. I never equated rationality with the quality of compassion or goodness. Far from that. I was only comparing that kind of rationality with the nazi "kind" of rationality, that you have to agree with me, was kind of different. The means to override the former wouldn't necessarily have worked with the later. I never intended to praise imperialism or rationalism of any kind or color.
My whole point was about efficacy of action regarding specific situations.

About the Gita part, I was paraphrasing Bhagavan's response to Annamalai Swami's questioning Bhagavan in the incident of cementing the ants (as told by Annamalai Swami).

In "egoland" (vyavaharika and pratibashika satya) we tend to see actions (including our own) as backed up and initiated by intentions, by "doers", "individuals" or societies of different kinds (and from egoland's point of view is necessary, so we can judge criminals and examine our life). Apparently jnanis (if there is such a thing) don't have that misconception. Because if ever, even for one split fraction of a second we could raise our head above the water and see what is really going on here, we would be astonished of how thick but specially how unreal this seemingly existing veil is.

Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

maya said...

Mouna,

At a very high level, purely from the highest spiritual point, maybe you are right but that cannot be accepted from the relative level. The problem is this, at the risk of going beyond spirituality and into politics. But I will just say this. The British, when they were the colonial empire, were much more nuanced that say bulldoze a country like the nazis, but the effect was the same.

Not to prolong this but just give you a brief summary, there was this guy by the name of Thomas Babbington Macaulay, who devised a genius of a ploy to break India, which was to destroy the native learning of the Indians with English education. If you are interested he says so in a paper he wrote (see below)

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/macaulay/txt_minute_education_1835.html

From the above paper here was what he thought of Indian scriptues
/**
But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.
**/

Rational is not compassionate but nor does psychological breaking any different from bulldozing when the end goal is destroy a country and take over it and plunder its resources.

English (or british) education was introduced in India in 1835. Calcutta was the cultural capital of India and became highly westernized.

In the Gita there is a saying, one of the most often quoted one
/**
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bhaarata;
Abhyutthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham.
7. Whenever there is a decline of righteousness, O Arjuna, and rise of unrighteousness, then I manifest Myself!
**/

English education was introduced in 1835. In 1836 a boy was born in a small village not too far from Calcutta who refused to go to school, who experienced kevala Nirvikalpa samadhi when he was 6 years. He then became a temple priest at Calcutta. This was non other than Ramakrishna. He slowly turned the tide of atheism and westernization and when idol worship was reviled, started with Idol worship and reached Nirvikalpa samadhi and went through several practices like tantra, japa, several Bhavas, Vedanta meditation. He lived as a Muslim and a Christian for brief periods and proved that all of them lead to the same brahman.

Many of Bhagavan's own devotees came to Bhagavan after they were inspired by Ramakrishna. Not many in India even now know his greatness. They only know Swami Vivekananda and it was through him he brought a wave of spirituality.

will continue...

maya said...

continued...

Here is Bhagavan's disciple TR Kanakammal who learned most of Bhagavan's teaching directly from Muruganar. Her family knew Bhagavan for a long time and she knew Bhagavan from when she was young but here is what she says in her autobiography
/**
While I was in the 5th std, I had a lesson on Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. That lesson made a profound impression on my mind. I felt inspired by Sri Ramakrishna's story and it awakened in me a desire for a life free from all worldly attachments. I wanted to dedicate myself to spiritual pursuits and it grew stronger with the passage of time.
**/

Gandhi himself was highly inspired by Swami Vivekananda's writings. I know I digressed from politics to spirituality, but the justification for everything is possible from the highest level but only a Jnani can make that judgement in my opinion. Until we are realized its just a blind statement from us. If a freind has lost his parent, I cannot go and tell him, "don't worry. no one was born or died and all is brahman." That would be fine if I'm realized otherwise thats just hypocrisy.

Again I get what you are saying at the highest level but at the level of ego I cannot accept that being born in India. But no hard feelings :-)

Anonymous said...

Michael,
I like you very much. You don’t make money by selling Bhagavan’s teachings. Your work is of very great use to many people around. Beyond what you imagine. Nobody needs to advise you on these. We need only to learn. But you need to look at other things. Honestly. I have broken my promise. Come back again. I will tell why I did what I did.
You hurt people. You say you write to clarify. Take one example. Cohen article. You clarified. Still Viswanathan did not get the point. Came his first comment. It showed he did not get it. Sensitivity dictates leave it at that. If not, explain again in a gentle manner. You lost patience. Not good. What did you do? You write, “Viswanathan, if you were not confused by what Cohen wrote in his reflections on that passage of Talks your understanding of this subject is perhaps better than mine”. No, that is not the way to write. He will be hurt. Your pride comes out here. So much of sarcasm. In the end you write, “If you were able to understand what he meant when he made this distinction, please explain it to us, because I for one find it utterly confusing.” Again sarcasm. Viswanathan will not come forward if you invite like this. You are clever. Viswanathan uses the phrase ‘I for one’ often. You use the same to tease him. It was intentional. You knew what you were doing. Ok. Was there any clarification? No. Only humiliation. Only hurt. He went back. One gentleman wrote his love and respect for you deepened. After reading my comment. In the same way, the love and respect for Cohen and David deepened in Viswanathan. He comes back and quotes Cohen. Quotes David again on self enquiry. Anything changed? We are sensitive. Are we sensitive to others? If things happen to us, we will know. Is this clarification? No. David, Lucy, Kavyakanta fans get hurt. No clarification. Clarification only for your fans. There are many examples. I give just this one. It will fill pages.
Read Talks. Read Face to Face With Ramana Maharshi. How did Ramana deal with people? If point is not got, he went their way. There was no hurt. I repeat. There was no hurt. Clarification comes little by little. He works in and through them. Without their knowing. Then comes clarity. It takes time. We don't have that power. We have only words. Our power is limited. We need patience. Without hurt. I repeat. Without hurt. ‘Attentively self-aware’ is not the mantra he uses for everyone. Everyone is different. Be sensitive. You say ‘attentively self-aware’. Okay. But don’t hurt. Don’t hurt. Please don’t hurt.
I am extremely sensitive. I don’t like suffering. I thought thick skinned people should be pricked properly. In the proper place. In the proper way. Now the game is over. I see many suffer. I suffer seeing that. I am hurt. I am hurt. If my point is understood it will be good.
I am doing what you didn’t. Sorry. A million times sorry. To everyone.
Please don’t talk about it. Everyone. Don’t talk about it any more. I want no answer to my questions. That was just drama. Real intention is revealed here. The way adopted was out of necessity. I had no choice. Sorry dudes.

maya said...

Mouna,

There is another key element which drives my argument as well as Sivanarul's and people like us who were born in India. In the west your search for truth has probably led you to Bhagavan Ramana and you are attracted to his teachings. But in India we have been exposed to a long line of illustrious saints and a variety of scriptures, even if some of them may have never happened. So this allegiance to just one Guru, though happens for a lot of Indians, still for many of us Bhagavan is just one illustrious saint among many that we have heard and read about. And when we reconcile all of their teachings we have this innermost conviction that they all say the same. It is generally said that Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism has never depended upon one person or a saint or a temple. There are many and we can take something from each of them. And that has been the core driving force behind my arguments.

The other thing is most Indians have devotion in their blood as we are exposed to it from our young age. Even if we are reason oriented when we come to science education, inwardly we can switch to a devotional mode with just a flip and we trust that there is something with superior intelligence above us.

I cannot generalize anything but the above is just my observation and the main reason why I often quote many saints as opposed to just Bhagavan Ramana. I see the same guru guiding me through Ramana, Ramakrishna, Thaymanavar, Nisargadatta, JK or Jesus. Only difference is they all talk to a different set of people and appeal to their specific nature. But I have no doubt that they all say the same.

When Swami Vivekakanda was in America, he was asked if Indians have millions of gods and he laughed and said the they infact need 300 millions of god, one for each person. He was an advaitin but what he meant was since our individual mindset was so different, each one needs a different conception of God to reach the same one truth. Just look at us. All of us follow Ramana but we have so many different viewpoints.

I hope this clarifies the reason behind the core of the debate that I had.

venkat said...

Hi Ropedancer,

Apologies, I thought your questions were rhetorical.

You asked me:
1. who has realised "his Self" ?
2. Is the self ever unrealised that it needs any realisation ?
3. Freedom from what has India achieved ?

If you are trying to point out that we are always the Self, and that the Self is in no-need of realisation , then fine. The conversation was on the relative rather than absolute level, where we understand the ego veil that covers the Self, and the need to dissolve it. The quote is from Bhagavan who talks about the actions of one who has realised the Self, because he recognises he is communicating at the relative level. Please clarify if I have missed the import of your questions.

On the final question, you are, in my mind, quite right. India achieved freedom from a white raj, only to be transferred into the hands of an utterly venal brown raj. No real change. Humans continuing to act for their own egoic interests above all else. Which perhaps is why sages throughout the ages have not involved themselves in political or social movements, because as JK used to say, first change yourself and then worry about changing the world.

best wishes,
venkat

venkat said...

I just came across this relevant discussion in Day by Day with Bhagavan, on 18/7/46:


S.P. Tayal: I have been doing sadhana for nearly 20 years and I can see no progress. What should I do?
Bhagavan: I may be able to say something if I know what the sadhana is.
S.P. Tayal: From about 5 o’clock every morning I concentrate on the thought that the Self alone is real and all else unreal. Although I have been doing this for about 20 years I cannot concentrate for more than two or three minutes without my thoughts wandering.
Bhagavan: There is no other way to succeed than to draw the mind back every time it turns outwards and fix it in the Self. There is no need for meditation or mantra or japa or dhyana or anything of the sort, because these are our real nature. All that is needed is to give up thinking of objects other than the Self. Meditation is not so much thinking of the Self as giving up thinking of the not-Self. When you give up thinking of outward objects and prevent your mind from going outwards and turn it inward and fix it in the Self, the Self alone will remain.
S.P. Tayal: What should I do to overcome the pull of these thoughts and desires? How should I regulate my life so as to attain control over my thoughts?
Bhagavan: The more you get fixed in the Self, the more other thoughts will drop off by themselves. The mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, and the I-thought is the root of all of them. When you see who this ‘I’ is and whence it proceeds all thoughts get merged in the Self.
Regulation of life, such as getting up at a fixed hour, bathing, doing mantra, japa, etc., observing ritual, all this is for people who do not feel drawn to Self-enquiry or are not capable of it. But for those who can practise this method all rules and discipline are unnecessary.

******

K.M. Jivrajani: It is said in books that one should cultivate all the good or daivic qualities in order to prepare oneself for Self-realisation.
Bhagavan: All good or daivic qualities are included in jnana and all bad asuric qualities are included in ajnana. When jnana comes all ajnana goes and all daivic qualities come automatically. If a man is a jnani he cannot utter a lie or do anything wrong. It is, no doubt, said in some books that one should cultivate one quality after another and thus prepare for ultimate moksha, but for those who follow the jnana or vichara marga their sadhana is itself quite enough for acquiring all daivic qualities; they need not do anything else.

Anonymous said...

Talk 40

"All people cannot be expected to do the same kind of action. Each one acts according to his temperament and past lives. Wisdom, Devotion, Action (jnana, bhakti, karma) are all interlocked. Meditation on forms is according to one’s own mind. It is meant for ridding oneself of other forms and confining oneself to one form. It leads to the goal. It is impossible to fix the mind in the Heart to start with. So these aids are necessary. Krishna
says that there is no birth (janma) to you, me, etc., and later says he was born before Aditya, etc. Arjuna disputes it. Therefore it is certain that each one thinks of God according to his own degree of advancement."

venkat said...

Maya, with regard to your quote from Sw Dayatananda, it reminded me of a superb set of two conversations between JK and Sw Venkatesananda on the nature of enlightenment, the role of a guru, and the need to think for yourself. Youtube now only has the second conversation - though I think the first is even better. They are both captured in JK's "Awakening of Intelligence" - but listening to them talk conveys something that reading just doesn't, especially the warmth and mutual affection between them. If you can listen to them both, I would highly recommend it.

A short extract from the second talk:

SV: It is not so much that I am restless, and there is a state of peace; I want to know what is this feeling, 'I am restless' or - if you may forgive the bad grammar - 'I' is restless. Is the 'I' restless, or is the 'I' dull? Am I dull, or is dullness only a condition which I can shake off?

K: Now who is the entity that shakes it off?

SV: Wakes up. The 'I' wakes up.

K: No, sir. That's why the difficulty. Wait, sir, let's finish this first. I am unhappy, miserable, sorrow - laden with it. And I want to experience something which has no sorrow because that is my craving. I want to have an ideal, a principle, or an end, which by struggling I ultimately get that. That's my craving. And I want to experience that and hold on to that experience - right? - that is what all the - apart from all the clever sayings, clever coverings - that is what human beings want.

K: What does that mean?

SV: 'Cut down all these cravings. Even the craving to be one with god, cut it down', he said.

K: Yes, I understand. Now wait a minute. If I, if the mind can free itself from this agony, then what is the need of asking for an experience of the supreme? There won't be.

SV: No. Certainly.

K: It is no longer caught in its own conditioning. Therefore it is something else; it is living in a different dimension. Therefore the desire to experience the highest is essentially wrong.

SV: If it is a desire.

K: Whatever it is! How do I know the highest? Because the sages have said it? I don't accept the sages. They might be caught in illusion, they might be talking nonsense or sense. I don't know, I am not interested. I find that as long as the mind is in a state of fear, it wants to escape from it, and projects an idea of the supreme, and wants to experience that. But if it frees itself from its own agony, then it is altogether in a different state. It doesn't even ask to experience because it is at quite a different level.

SV: Quite, quite.

K: Right? Now, why do the sages, according to what you have said, say, 'You must experience that, you must be that, you must realise that'?

SV: They didn't say you must, you are.

K: Put it any way you like. Why should they say all these things? Would it not be better to say, 'Look here, my friends, get rid of your fear. Get rid of your beastly antagonism, get rid of your childishness, and when you have done that...'

SV: ...nothing more remains.

K: Nothing more. You'll find out the beauty. You don't have to ask, then.

Mouna said...

Maya, Pranams

"I hope this clarifies the reason behind the core of the debate that I had."

It does and I'm very grateful indeed for this illuminating class on Mother India's past.
Nothing more to add on that topic.

"Again I get what you are saying at the highest level but at the level of ego I cannot accept that being born in India. But no hard feelings :-) "

And of course, on this side of this skin, no hard feelings whatsoever also, why should we? After all, we are all in this same school boat trying to learn and become the supreme Art of Silence.

Be well, my fiend
M

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you Venkat for quoting from Day by Day with Bhagavan - dated 18/7/46. As Bhagavan says here:

There is no other way to succeed than to draw the mind back every time it turns outwards and fix it in the Self. There is no need for meditation or mantra or japa or dhyana or anything of the sort, because these are our real nature. All that is needed is to give up thinking of objects other than the Self. Meditation is not so much thinking of the Self as giving up thinking of the not-Self. When you give up thinking of outward objects and prevent your mind from going outwards and turn it inward and fix it in the Self, the Self alone will remain.

Can Bhagavan be more clear? He clearly says here that 'There is no other way to succeed than to draw the mind back every time it turns outwards and fix it in the Self. There is no need for meditation or mantra or japa or dhyana or anything of the sort, because these are our real nature. All that is needed is to give up thinking of objects other than the Self'. Therefore Bhagavan's path and strong recommendation has only been for this practice of self-investigation. If we still want to do japa or dhyana or puja or pranayama and so on, that is our choice, and not Bhagavan's suggestion.

Therefore it is not only in Nan Yar?, Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar that Bhagavan strongly recommends the practice of self-attentiveness, but if we read carefully we will find that this recommendation is repeated in books likes Talks, Day by Day and his other recorded conversations also. Regards.

maya said...

Venkat,

I did come across that conversation between JK and SV but did not read it fully as I got sidetracked by something else, the bane of the internet, but I will look up the youtube video.

But you may have seen this question about JK asked to Ramana
/**
A young man from Colombo, Ceylon, said to Bhagavan:
J. Krishnamurthi teaches the method of effortless and choiceless
awareness as distinct from that of deliberate concentration.
Would Sri Bhagavan be pleased to explain how best to practise
meditation and what form the object of meditation should take?
B.: Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we
can attain that state and abide in it, that is all right. But one cannot
reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the
age-old vasanas (inherent tendencies) turn the mind outwards to
external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the
mind turned inwards and that, for most people, requires effort. Of
course, every teacher and every book tells the aspirant to keep
quiet, but it is not easy to do so. That is why all this effort is necessary.
Even if we find somebody who has achieved this supreme state of
stillness, you may take it that the necessary effort had already been
made in a previous life. So effortless and choiceless awareness is
attained only after deliberate meditation. That meditation can take
whatever form most appeals to you. See what helps you to keep
out all other thoughts and adopt that for your meditation.
***/

Maya said...

Venkat,

There is also a very important point with respect to a conversation with a Jnani. rather me interject, david Godman puts it beautifully. this is what gets missed out in the transcripts. The message passed in silence and this is the reason our scriptures talk about the purifying influence of Jnani's presence. Going by your name i'm not sure if your native tongue is Tamil, but if it is listen to this anecdote by the Sringeri Acharya on the effect of a Jnani, his guru Chandrasekhara Bharati. If its not Tamil, ignore it.

Here is the Acharya's video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl7ZSq8coNs

Infact just watch the video from the 9th minute onwards for 6-7 mins.

But here is the experience as told by david Godman in an interview
/**
There is something else that is going on when you sit in front of a true teacher. There is an effortless transmission of peace that stills the mind and brings an intense joy to the heart. None of this will be recorded in the dialogue that is going on between the two of you. It is something very private, and only the two of you are in on the secret. Words may be exchanged but the real communication is a silent one. In such cases the teacher is often reacting to the temporary absence of your mind, rather than the question you asked a few minutes before, but who else can see this?

Let me give you an example from my own experience. In the late 1970s I sat with a little-known teacher called Dr Poy, a Gujurati who lived in northern Bombay. On my first meeting I asked him what his teachings were and he replied, 'I have no teachings. People ask questions and I answer them. That is all.'

I persevered: 'If someone asks you ''How do I get enlightened?'', what do you normally tell them?'

'Whatever is appropriate,' he replied.

After a few more questions like this, I realized that I wasn't going to receive a coherent presentation of this man's teachings, assuming of course that he had any. He was a good example of what I have just been talking about. He didn't have a doctrine or a practice that he passed out to everyone who came to see him. He simply answered all questions on a case-by-case basis.

I sat quietly for about ten minutes while Dr Poy talked in Gujurati to a couple of other visitors. In those few minutes I experienced a silence that was so deep, so intense, it physically paralyzed me.

He turned to me and said, smiling, 'What's your next question?'

He knew I was incapable of replying. His question was a private joke between us that no one else there would have understood. I felt as if my whole body had been given a novocaine injection. I was so paralyzed, in an immobilized, ecstatic way, I couldn't even smile at his remark.

He looked at me and said, 'There is no such thing as right method, there is only right effort. Whatever technique you choose will work if you follow it intensely enough. You asked for my teachings and here they are: ''Part-time sadhus don't get enlightened.'''

On one level this was a statement that one had to work hard at one's sadhana, but at the same time the experience I was having there clearly indicated to me that it is the powerful presence of the teacher that effortlessly quietens the mind. So much is going on in a teacher-student encounter that is not picked up by other people who are watching it take place. Just about everyone I know who has been with a real teacher has had experiences like this, experiences that have little or nothing to do with the words that were going backwards and forwards.
***/

venkat said...

Maya

Yes I did see Bhagavan's response on JK. I actually think JK is trying to highlight the ego, the selfishness that is inherent in all our actions; and by being choicelessly aware of the ego's action in everyday life, it starts to erode and disappear. Bhagavan then takes it to the next level by saying turn away from the external world and look exclusively at the 'I'. Both aim at dissolving the ego, which they identify as the cause of suffering - internal and external.

I am Tamil, but my great misfortune is that I have forgotten most of it.

Thank you for the David Godman quote and sharing your personal experience. I agree that there seems to be something conveyed in mouna upadesa, that cannot be conveyed in words or writing. Bhagavan wrote in Aksharamanamalai:

v.36: Arunachala you did not say the words, ‘Do not speak, just be still’, but communicating through the posture of divine silence you remained still, speech and breadth both in abeyance.

v.37: The bliss of the Self shines within the Heart in its own nature when one remains silent, completely indifferent to external phenomena, and entirely free of the mischievous movements of the body, speech and mind, which arise from the aggressive ego. If I remain there peacefully experiencing that bliss in unsleeping sleep, (is that not the supreme path?) If there is any path other than this, you may in grace let me know of it.

And Murugunar's comments on these verses:

This mouna upadesa that Arunachala conveys to those like Bhagavan who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity, dwelling within as the awareness that underlies their own consciousness, in order that they may truly avail themselves of that teaching. This indeed is the method of instruction that Dakshinamurti employed with Sanaka and the rest of the rishis. Other than mouna, there is no other means to truly know or impart knowledge of the infinitely subtle supreme Reality, which is beyond word and thought. The aim of the guru in remaining still is to instruct his disciples to – cause them to- remain like himself in their natural state.

Swami Chinmayananda notes in his autobiography the impact Bhagavan's silence had on him:

“At the Ashram I was told that the Maharshi was in the hall and anybody was free to walk in and see him. As I entered, I saw on the couch an elderly man, wearing but a loincloth, reclining against a round boster. I sat down at the very foot of the couch. The Maharshi suddenly opened his eyes and looked straight into mine. I looked into his. A mere look, that was all. I felt that the Maharshi was, in that split moment, looking deep into me – and I was sure that he saw all my shallowness, confusions, faithlessness, imperfections and fears.

"I cannot explain what happened in that one split moment. I felt opened, cleaned, healed and emptied! A whirl of confusions, my atheism dropping away, but scepticism flooding into question, wonder, and search. My reason gave me strength and I said to myself, “It is all mesmerism, my own foolishness.”. Thus assuring myself, I got up and walked away.“But the boy who left the hall was not the boy who had gone in some ten minutes before. After my college days, my polical work, and after my years of stay at Uttarkashi at the feet of my master, Tapovanam, I know that what I gained on the Ganges banks was that which had been given to me years before by the saint of Tiruvannamalai on that hot summer day – by a mere look.

“Sri Ramana is not a theme for discussion; he is an experience, he is a state of consciousness. Sri Ramana was the highest reality and the cream of all the scriptures in the world. He was there for all to see how a master can live in perfect detachment. Though in the mortal form, he lived as the beauty and purity of the infinite”

Not sure where I now find a Bhagavan in England!

maya said...

Venkat,

There are a few things that has surprised me about Jiddu over the years. If you read about David Godman's acct and if you get a chance, download the 2011 July-September Mountain path from the Ramana ashram website. In it there is an article where a guy Domingos Vierira, has written called "The awakening of oneself" in which he recounts his meeting with Jiddu at Saanen switzerland. Very interesting. It might give you a new perspective about Jiddu which is more in line with other Jnanis

See the below para from that article. How similar it is to what David Godman was saying
/**
Some ‘strange’ things happened during the talks. In one of them, I didn’t understand one of the words he used. At once, he looked at me and enumerated some of its synonyms. Mentally, I said ‘I understand now,’ and he continued the talk. Another friend from Brazil told me that he conversed mentally with K during the talks, asking questions and obtaining answers, and I told him I knew what he was talking about.
***/

There is also another interview with one of his closest disciple Vimala Thakar in which she says that Jiddu, every evening in his later life, used to ask 3 or 4 children to chant the vedas and followed it diligently. Quite the different picture from how many look at him. I will post it when I find this. I read this a while back.

There is also an anecdote of his encounter with Yogi Ramsuratkumar of Tiruvannamalai.
All these helped in convincing me that Jiddu is saying nothing different from all the other Jnanis. I will post it when I find this. I read this a while back.

maya said...

Venkat,

Also the experience was david godman's and not mine. Just wanted to clarify that.

maya said...

Venkat,

http://www.prahlad.org/vimala/ajourney.htm

See above the interview with Vimala Thakar, Jiddu's disciple (he probably wouldn't like the word :-))

But see this para. When I saw this and thought about all my readings of Jiddu before I came across this, it surprised me quite a bit
/**
"Only three people I have heard sing who had that quality: my grandfather, Vinoba Bhave, and Krishnamurti. You know, Krishna has a wonderful voice. You should hear him sing the Vedas. He sits with six boys on one side and six girls on the other side and he in the middle with his Indian dress...."

We interrupted, surprised that Krishnaji should come up in such an ancient and traditional image. It was incredible and beautiful.

"Yes," she said. "Krishna learned Sanskrit very late in life. When he was 60 he went to a Sama Veda Maharaj to learn, because of his great love for the Vedas. You know, when you are finished with the instruction you are to bow down and take a gift of a coconut to the teacher - it was beautiful how he did it."

"The chanting of the Vedas is a kind of great ecstasy. You cannot sing them, every word must be learned just so, every word has its own modulation, its own vibration."

Marvin asked why, if Krishnaji felt this way, did he attack the traditions so strongly.

"Don't ask me, why don't you ask him?"
***/

Thats why I strongly feel that the Jnani's speak to a specific mindset and just because we don't understand it, doesn't mean they are saying anything different. I say this because I loved Jiddu but I thought there was something missing in his teachings. Now I don't have any doubts. Infact I have seen quite a bit of similarity between Osho and Jiddu.

Also, Yogi Ramsuratkumar of Tiruvannamalai says that he too loved Jiddu but one thing he could never get was why Jiddu attacked traditions and so after listening to Jiddu for 3 or 4 times, he thought he'd ask Jiddu directly. Jiddu walked towards him and when the Yogi asked him why he was attacking traditions, Jiddu it seems smiled and told him, "My talks are not meant for you. You already have belief." and then he just patted the Yogi on the back and the Yogi lost body consciousness briefly.

venkat said...

Maya

Thank you very much for those references - especially re: Vimala Thakar, who I have not come across before.

I also have no doubt about JK. I suspect that K attacked all traditions because they tended to encourage blind faith. He - like Vivekananda - wanted to encourage people to think for themselves, to stand on their own without crutches. And perhaps he also saw that the advent of scientific progress and atheism necessitates talking to people in different terms from what had gone before.

His talk with children in Rishi valley are beautiful, gentle and inspiring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSqzkGyxpmc

He clearly saw that the "world was burning" and selfishness, egoism is at the root of suffering - external and internal. My only disappointment with him is that he was conditioned by the western propaganda against communism, but never really saw and understood the equivalent evils of western capitalism, and its wars in Indochina, South America, etc.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

“At a certain point the feeling-impulse is just to climb the nearest tree in this jungle, go high and up and high and up and even higher to the top until there are no more branches obstructing the clear view of the sky. And look, and just rest there.
Let's meet at that spot my friend, at least for a short while, I am pretty sure that we can even ask everyone in this blog to join us and nobody will refuse. As I said, just for a short while.”

Very well said! I suggest that we meet there from Christmas day till New Year’s. Other than karmic duties and obligations, let’s plan to leave everything behind including commenting and reading/listening to Spirituality. Let’s plan a week of silence and peace with whatever sadhana(s) that we do (Vichara, Meditation, Japa, Parayana). Let it be a week of intense Sadhana. I can’t think a better way to end the year.

A weeklong event of:

“Dancing with the ‘I’, breathing ‘OM’, resting at the mountain top peacefully surrendering everything to Ishvara”

Whoever wants to join is welcome to join.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

To your comment:

“Honestly I don't even understand the concept of prarabhdha and the advice given based on that. On the one hand people say you cannot escape the prarabhdha and on the other hand say, "Don't try to escape the prarabhdha". If one cannot escape the prarabhdha then its obvious that whatever decision one takes is based on the prarabhdha.”

I personally have stopped focusing on Karma (and removed it from my vocabulary) for a long time now (whether it is Prarabdha, Agamiya or Sanchita). I have said it a few times in various comments, but may be worth repeating. I find that a focus on Karma is a violation of ahimsa and compassion towards others and towards oneself.

Let’s say someone else is undergoing terrible hardship. A focus on Karma will produce the reply or internal thought, “Too bad. He is just going through this terrible hardship due to his karma. It has to do with things he did in his previous lives”. Let’s say we ourselves are undergoing terrible hardship. It will also produce an internal dialog “I don’t know what kind of sins I had done in the past lives to go through such a terrible hardship now. I am such a sinner”.

In both cases, I think we violate compassion towards others and to oneself (and possibly ahimsa). For those of us who have an unshakeable bond with Ishvara, a focus on karma is an unnecessary headache. Karma by definition is Jada. Why do we need karma, a jada, in between us and Ishvara?

Whatever we can bear, let’s bear as Ishvara’s will (what has karma got to do with it?). If it gets to be too much, then just as Bhagavan called on Ishvara to cure his mother’s illness, let us call on Ishvara to help us to get through the hardship.

Note that this does not mean one takes a position on whether Karma is real or not. It just means, ”I don’t care whether it is real or unreal. It is useless to me. I deal directly with Ishvara. I don’t need an intermediate agent or explanation”

maya said...

Venkat,
Jiddu's role in this process for me was somewhat like this

Jiddu: Broke all my concepts to a great extent, sort of upanishadic "not this, not this" and I was always of the questioning nature when it came to tradition.
Ramana/Nisargadatta: Pointed me to "this, this.."
Ramakrishna: Everything, no exclusions. Just as Jiddu broke concepts, Ramakrishna united everything and said that if your true goal is God, any path will will lead you there. He also gave an analogy. He said if you want to go to a town and suppose you take the wrong direction, if you have faith and if your desire to reach the town is intense, someone or the other will correct your direction and show you the right direction even if you stray from it. Ramakrishna really opened my mind.
The problem is for most of us, we want the map of the spiritual path with the start and destination charted out right at the outset whereas the truth is it unravels as it goes on.

Thats why the following points that anonymous quoted before, without getting into arguments again and making it very subjective, made total sense to me

a) Ramana (or the inner guru) led me to Jiddu, Nisargadatta and many others and finally to Ramakrishna and several books along the way as well. Infact the books that led me to spirituality had nothing to do with scriptures or saints. The books were "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" and Henry David Threau's "Walden". Nothing ever goes wasted in this path, as the Gita says. Ramana himself is probably just one on the list.

b) The simple act of looking at the photo of Ramana or any other saint which quietens my mind is far greater than all the intellectual jugglery, so name and form cannot be dismissed in its utility.

Ramakrishna had a very good analogy. He said that if you want to kill yourself a small blade will do, but if you want to kill others you need a sword and a shield. He clarifies this further saying, for one to attain God, simple faith will do but if you want to defend yourself against others or teach others knowledge of scriptures and all this intellectual jugglery is needed. He had a disciple Swami Adbhutananda who was an illiterate teenager from a poor family. He attained Jnana just by his faith on Ramakrishna. Vivekananda gave him the name "Adbhutananda" and called him "the miracle of Ramakrishna."

Finally, it seems someone asked Vivekananda during his 2nd or 3rd day of lecture at Chicago that if everything is an illusion, then he, Vivekananda, is also an illusion and they all are an illusion. To this Vivekananda is supposed to have replied, "yes but withis difference. everything in this illusion reinforces your belief that this illusion is real while i'm part of the illusion that says, this is an illusion and asks you to wake up."






maya said...

Venkat,

One main problem I had with Jiddu is at a later stages of my reading him, I could not figure this out, which is, if everything is a concept and we have to get rid of concepts, then that also is a concept. Either we have an ego or we don't. Its not like I can switch my ego off for an hour and then turn it on. What tells you something is a concept is also your mind and what tells you isn't is also the mind, so where does that leave me? I had only one choice which is to still the mind or thoughts and see where it leads and when I saw all other practice aims at this, slowly things started making sense.

Mouna said...

SIvanarulji, Vannakkam

"A weeklong event of:
“Dancing with the ‘I’, breathing ‘OM’, resting at the mountain top peacefully surrendering everything to Ishvara”

DEAL! I'm in.
M

(by the way, where do you live in India? Tamil Nadu?)

maya said...

Sivanarul,

W.r.t Karma, I agree with you that dismissing other suffering as Karma is not something I believe in and most people I know apply this principle of Advaita and bad karma when its convenient for them but let it affect them of their family, this will all disappear. I'm with you there.

But to me there are useful things about karma if we approach it in another sense, which Sadhu Om points out in the Path of Sri Ramana, which is
a) If someone does good to you, just accept that you probably did something good to him before and be grateful.
b) If someone does bad to you, accept it with equanimity saying that what you did in the past is coming back to you and leave it at that.
c) If you do good to someone, assume that you are just repaying his debt without taking pride.
d) Don't do bad to others because it will come back to you.

Where I get confounded by the prarabhdha karma advice is that on the one hand they say that you cannot escape your prarabhdha and on the other hadn they advice you not to try to escape implying that you can escape and that you have the free will to escape.

I understand, to an extent, that you transcend your prarabhdha by going within because prarabhdha affects your body and if you think you are not the body, briefly you transcend it, but here is the problem, you either have the conviction that you are the body or you don't. Again as anonymous pointed out, either you are in deep shit or in deeper shit. Actually there is nothing to be offended by this though it seems crude because Ramakrishna gives this very e.g. So as long as you are not realized how can you transcend your prarabdha.

will continue...

maya said...

continued...

But I will give you a very interesting anecdote of david Godman's stating his own experience. A very interesting anecdote

/**
Although most people know that Bhagavan taught that all the body's acts are pre-determined, there is a 'get-out' clause in Upadesa Manjari (Spiritual Instruction) where Bhagavan says: 'Destiny only affects the extroverted mind. The more you introvert the mind, the more you transcend your destiny.'

When I was in Lakshmana Swamy's ashram about twenty years ago, Saradamma made the following interesting comments to me:

'[Lakshmana] Swamy can see past lives of people who come to see him. Sometimes images of these lives just come to him unasked. Occasionally he also sees future lives also, but only in people who have no interest in God or meditation. For such people the future seems to be fixed. However, he doesn't see the future lives of people who have devotion or who are meditating to realise the Self. For them the future does not seem to be so fixed.'

It is said that in the presence of the Guru the worst effects of destined karma can be mitigated to some extent. A major accident can be reduced to a minor one, and so on. Saradamma told me once that in some cases karma can even be experienced and eliminated in dreams, rather than in the waking state.

In 1985 I was in their ashram when Saradamma informed me that she felt that I was about to have a bad road accident, and that I should therefore stay in the ashram until she felt it was safe for me to leave. A few days later I was attempting to remove a large photo of Lakshmana Swamy from the wall of the Ramana Mandir there in order to do some cleaning. The ladder I was standing on slid from underneath me; the picture rail I grasped at came away from the wall, and I, the ladder and a large photo all came crashing down together. My feet were only about three feet from the ground but I somehow managed to sustain a fractured femur in the incident. I was taken to a hospital, put in traction, and was told I would have to be there for about twelve weeks. Apparently, if you are around thirty, which I was at the time, the pins and plates that would speed up recovery in older people are not recommended because they don't last for the rest of one's life.

I have to say that the treatment seemed a bit medieval to me. I felt like a cartooon character with my leg bolted to the bed, and pulleys and weights stretching its components in the right direction.

I consulted my mother, who was a physiotherapist in the UK, and she reassured me that this was still the standard treatment for young people with major femur fractures. I also consulted a doctor friend of mine who had a private practice just off Harley Street in London. I borrowed my x-rays and sketched a picture of what my femur looked like. I am no expert, but it looked like a very alarming picture. There seemed to be a gap of almost an inch between the two broken bones.

The message cam back from London: 'I think you have sent me the wrong x-ray. You can't break your femur like this falling three feet off a ladder. This is the standard break of someone who has been hit in the side by a car travelling at about 30 miles per hour.'

So, my destined road accident happened in a traffic-free zone. I like to think that having it in the ashram temple, holding on to Lakshmana Swamy's photo as I fell, made it a lot less severe than it might otherwise have been. I could have been flattened on a street in the nearby town and had far more severe injuries.
**/

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

Bhagavan once said, ’The jnanis are the only pure people.
Others are polluted by their egos. Getting the association of jnanis is very important for people who want to make spiritual progress’

Q: Does satsang mean 'association with jnanis' or can it also mean 'association with good people'?

AS: The real sat, which is being, is within you. You associate with it and get satsang every time you turn your attention towards it. You do not need a jnani for such satsang. You can get it anywhere.

On the other hand, worldly people who are living near jnanis
are often not getting satsang because they are not tuning into the jnani's sat.

Some people who live near saints are just like little insects called ‘unni' (ticks) which live on the udders of cows. They drink the blood there instead of the milk. Some people who were physically associated with Bhagavan ignored his teachings and failed to make contact with the grace he was radiating. They worked and ate at the ashram, but they got little benefit from being there. These people were not having satsang, they were just human unni.

LWB, p.320.

venkat said...

Maya

All the Vedantic sages - actually probably most faiths - have at the heart of their teaching that the ego is the cause of suffering, and that we must strive to get rid of this illusory ego. Ramakrishna said the same.

Devotion / bhakti is a means to subsume the personal ego in an attitude surrender to another - whether that be God or Guru. So your own preferences and desires are unimportant - your love is to abide in the thought of God / Guru. So the ego is effaced to a great extent.

And in both jnana and bhakti yoga, grace seems to be required to take you over the precipice. Perhaps both jnana and bhakti serve to increase the chance of such grace showering upon you. Which is why there is no point to try to judge whether one path is faster or not; living the path is also the goal, and we should let go of our desire for some 'liberation' event, for that is neither janna's egolessness nor bhakti's surrender.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, thank you for sharing with us some extracts from Annamalai Swami's book Living by The Words of Bhagavan - page 320. He writes here:

Q: Does satsang mean 'association with jnanis' or can it also mean 'association with good people'?

AS: The real sat, which is being, is within you. You associate with it and get satsang every time you turn your attention towards it. You do not need a jnani for such satsang. You can get it anywhere.

Yes, this is what Michael has been repeatedly reiterating in his writings that 'the real sat, which is being, is within you. You associate with it and get satsang every time you turn your attention towards it'. However David Godman, Laksmana Swamy and some others are of the opinion that eventually we will somehow need a physical presence of jnani to annihilate our ego. When Michael points this misrepresentation of Bhagavan's teachings, many of the friends here feel that Michael is unnecessarily criticising David and others. How can stating Bhagavan's teaching be criticising others?

Again David writes in his book Be As You Are..., in the introduction of the chapter Creation theories and reality of the world, as follows:

Sri Ramana said that the jnani is aware that the world is real, not as an assemblage of interacting matter and energy, but as an uncaused appearance in the Self. [...]

Michael points out the inaccuracy in this statement of David, and clarifies that this is not Bhagavan's teaching. Bhagavan teaching is that there is no world-appearance in the view of the jnani. He also clarifies that there cannot be anything called 'an uncaused appearance', and that if there is an appearance it must have a cause, and the cause for all appearances is only our ego. How can this be taken as insulting David?

In fact I may have read David's book Be As You Are... at least about ten times, but I never realised that what David says about the world-appearance could be a misinterpretation of Bhagavan's teaching. Therefore Michael is doing a great service of sharing Bhagavan's teachings with us, even if it is wrongly taken as criticising others. Regards.

ropedancer said...

Anonymous,
as Annamalai Swami said:
let us gain the pure love for tuning into the jnani's that is in one's own sat.
Arunachala

ropedancer said...

venkat,
thanks for replying.
I only wanted to remind you to be immediately aware who you are in the very moment.
When I was asking you from what has India achieved freedom I wanted to draw your attention to the sentence you have written in your comment of 20 December 2015 at 20:12:"India achieved freedom from independence...". Is that really your opinion or did you rather mean dependence ?

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

"A weeklong event of:
“Dancing with the ‘I’, breathing ‘OM’, resting at the mountain top peacefully surrendering everything to Ishvara” DEAL! I'm in. (by the way, where do you live in India? Tamil Nadu?)

Ok great. If someone else wants to join, please feel free to join.

I live in good old New Jersey (originally from Tamilnadu)

Michael James said...

Maya, when you write in one of your comments, ‘Where I get confounded by the prarabdha karma advice is that on the one hand they say that you cannot escape your prarabdha and on the other hand they advise you not to try to escape implying that you can escape and that you have the free will to escape’, I assume you are referring to what Bhagavan wrote in his December 1898 note to his mother, particularly in the portion in which he says: ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu. iduvē tiṇṇam. āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), which means ‘What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]. This indeed is certain. Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’.

This does not actually imply ‘that you can escape’, but only that you can try to escape. However, as Bhagavan makes clear, though we can try to escape our prārabdha, either by trying to experience what we are not destined to experience or by trying to prevent or avoid what we are destined to experience, we cannot actually escape it, no matter how hard we may try. Therefore rather than wasting our attention and effort trying in vain either to experience what we are not destined to experience or to avoid what we are destined to experience, we should use our attention and effort wisely by trying to be just silently self-attentive, which is what he means by ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai): ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’.

Therefore you are correct in saying that ‘you have the free will to escape’ (that is, you are free to want to escape), but not in saying that ‘you can escape’. We can want and try to escape as much as we like, but we will not succeed. ‘இதுவே திண்ணம்’ (iduvē tiṇṇam): ‘this indeed is certain’. However, if we try to turn our attention inwards and thereby just silently be, to whatever extent we succeed in our attempt we will thereby be unaffected by whatever destiny (prārabdha) our body has to undergo, because as Bhagavan often used to say, prārabdha can only affect an outward-turned mind and not an inward-turned one.

Ultimately we can severe all our connection with any karma (including prārabdha) only by severing our connection with this ego, which alone does karma and experiences its fruit, and the way to severe our connection with this ego is by trying just to silently be by focusing our entire attention on ourself alone. As Bhagavan often explained, attending to ourself is perfect inactivity and silence, whereas attending to anything else is an activity and therefore noise.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

Nice points from Sri Sadhu OM about karma and I can see how those could be useful to some people. The same thing can be achieved by ahimsa, compassion and a strong bond towards Ishvara.
a) When one helps someone else, it is out of compassion to alleviate suffering. There is no question of pride.
b) You don’t do bad to others, because it violates ahimsa and compassion.
c) If someone does bad to you, take that it is coming from Ishvara. If possible abide by Ishvara’s will. If not possible, ask Ishvara for relief.

I have found my bond with Ishvara has grown in leaps and bounds after I stopped any focus on Karma. The ups and downs of life, I take it directly to Ishvara.

Sri Sundarar is my inspiration for this. He promised the Lord, that he will not leave his wife sangiliyar. He breaks the promise due to his intense love to see Thiruvaroor ther. The Lord makes him blind for breaking the promise. Sri Sundarar knows fully well the reason for this. He does not blame it on his karma (his action in this life that immediately bore fruit). He takes it directly to Ishvara and says to him:

“I understood why you did this. He narrates a story where in those days if a rat or rat drop falls in a pot of water, they will discard the water and will fill the pot with new water. But it is a pot of milk, they will put thairpai as a cleaning agent and will retain the milk. So he tells Ishvara, it is fine for Ishvara to do it for people who are like water, but he says I am like milk. You have to accept me and have to restore my sight. After much pleading and cajoling, Ishvara yields and restores his sight”

My suggestion to you regarding Prarartha, is to try forgetting anything about Karma. Deal directly with Ishvara (good things are Ara Karunai, bad things are Mara Karunai). See how it goes. If it doesn’t help you, switch back to Sri Sadhu OM’s nice points.

Sivanarul said...

Michael’s excellent suggestion to Maya regarding Prarartha is certainly one very good attitude to Prarartha. For those with a deep devotional background, there is the other alternative I explained to Maya earlier. Just to summarize the alternative (if you have an unshakable faith in Ishvara)

a) You base your actions in life according to dharma, ahimsa and compassion (as best as you can). Don’t think of Agamiya or Prarartha or Sanchita. Any mistakes you make, ask Ishvara for forgiveness and try not to make the same mistake again. Compassion must start with oneself. So be compassionate to yourself first and then to others as well.

b) Any ups and downs in life, try to bear it as Ishvara’s will, as best as you can. If it gets really tough, pray to Ishvara to provide relief. If there is no relief, keep praying. Ishvara will eventually relent. It may not be fully, but it will be at least to some extent.

c) Bhagavan demonstrated by action that we retain the right to ask Ishvara for relief. That is what Bhagavan himself did when he prayed to Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill of typhoid and samaric ill of birth.

Anonymous said...

Good thinking about David and his book. We want no rationality. We want compassion. ‘Be as you are’ has acknowledgments page. The last paragraph says – “To Michael James for assistance in adapting verses from Guru Vachaka Kovai and for offering constructive advice throughout the preparation of the book”. Book gets published first in 1985. So Michael sees this in 1985. Michael’s article appears on Tuesday 22 September 2015. Why not give constructive advice to David before publication? Ok. Later? Busy during these 30 years? Suppose he gave. More than once. But assume David neglected. Then no need to correct David again. Simple. People see acknowledgments. Then they see this article. They need explanation. What was ‘constructive advice’, really? We need compassion.
Where does this come in article? Does context require? Absolutely require it? Given the background in previous paragraph, why is it needed? Or it was purposely padded to expose David? We need compassion. We need to look at ourselves honestly. Even before we are ‘attentively self-aware’.
Those who read the book multiple times. Read chapter 3. David says jnani=jnana in the introduction. Want David’s definition of jnana? Go to chapter 1. He defines it in the introduction. There is no seeing in jnana – David says. So chapter 1 and 3 okay. But chapter 17 not okay. Something wrong. Probably he overlooked. He was not careful. It is not that he does not know completely. He is my friend. For decades. He showed the book for advice before publication. I missed all opportunity. But create an opportunity after decades in my blog. And thrash him. I am brutal in this. I call he is misinterpreting. Misunderstanding. Is this compassion?
I have told you dudes. I told you dudes to leave this, if there can be no honesty, no compassion. But you are methodical. Logical. You want to justify. Justify. Save Michael. You don't know I am helping him. Love is blind. I can be brutally logical. But I can not be brutal with someone. With my friend. But wait. Am I assuming friendship here? What if there was no friendship at all these days?
Now choice is yours. You stop. I stop. I started for a purpose. The seed has been planted. People will mellow down. I am already seeing it. I deal with people who can change. I don't pick insensitive people. Others keep quiet with your shitty logic. I know what I am doing.
I am no Nazi.

maya said...

Michael,

You said "This does not actually imply ‘that you can escape’, but only that you can try to escape. However, as Bhagavan makes clear, though we can try to escape our prārabdha, either by trying to experience what we are not destined to experience or by trying to prevent or avoid what we are destined to experience, we cannot actually escape it, no matter how hard we may try."

But here is my problem when it comes to our daily life. That "you are trying to escape", how do you even know that you are trying to escape. The "trying to escape" sort of implies that one has some foreknowledge or indication as to what one's prarabhdha is.

Let me give you an e.g. I'm employed at a certain place where I have a bad boss. So I decide that I will look for a new job. Now how do I know what my prarabhdha is, at this point. There are a few possibilities.

a) According to Bhagavan I should accept my bad boss and try to stick to this current job as running away would be trying to get away from my prarabhdha and Bhagavan's implication is that even if I were to go to another job and if my prarabhdha is suffer, then I will end up with either another bad boss or a different set of problem. But at the point where I'm pondering about quitting my job, how do I know for sure that the other job will be necessarily bad and that was to be my prarabhdha.
b) Isn't it quite possible that my new or next job is much better than this one and prarabhdha was to firts have bad boss followed by a good environment.

So Prarabhdha is known only in retrospect. At any given point in life, we have to make decisions, so when we are taking the decision, all we have unfortunately is our limited mind and ego and we have to rely on that, so the way I see it, even "this trying to escape" does not make sense because, how can I try to escape from something I don't know yet.

Bhagavan said that when he tried to get away from Tiruvannamalai a few times, he couldn't and later he told GV Subburamiah that it was his prarabhdha to stay there, but he knew that only after his attempts to get away were unsuccessful. What if one the attempts were successful?

In our daily life, when I have to make a decision, I am forced to take this or that. For e.g. if my car gets stuck in snow, does that mean I should stay stuck until help comes along or should I try to figure out a way to get my car out of it. Now after all my attempts to get out lets say nothing succeeds, at that point it is easy to say that, to be stuck there was my prarabhdha, but what if my attempt had succeeded, then we will say that it was my prarabhdha to try and succeed. Or am I supposed to sit and do self inquiry there or pray. Obviously of one could do that this question will not arise at all as that means that one has fully surrendered, but until we realize our self this cannot happen.

Like Sivanarul says, I have also come to a different conclusion about this based partly on the Gita saying of giving up the fruits of the action (I say only partly) and partly accepting the fact that as long as I have an ego. So I will take a decision based on my ego and accept the results(or try to) as per the Gita knowing well that the option/alternative I choose to make my decision, at the point I make my decision is based on getting a favorable result.

The crux of this question comes to this. How does a spiritual aspirant conduct his day to day life while still having an ego and a mind? Its as simple as that.

maya said...

Michael,

If you explain to me as to what would we the ideal course of action based on my two worldly e.g. onw, with a job and the other, car in the snow, that would be more helpful. Bhagavan's teachings are helpful at the highest level but to me it doesn't clarify my every day actions, call it my immaturity.

For e,g, Bhagavan often says work like an accountant that handles money in our household life, i.e. he only does what he is told and handles transactions and not worry about profit or loss. Is that possible in the modern day. I doubt if it was possible even during Bhagavan's day. In our day to day job we are held accountable for our handling our job, be it an accountant or whatever position. So a sense of doership will be forced on us no matter what and as long as we have an ego, how can we turn off the ego?

I never understood Bhagavan's above e.g. at all in the practical sense. Again my own contrived solution. I handle the money and make decisions based on my mind, intellect and ego. If something good happens, ignore, if something bad happens, leave it to prarabhdha (like the Gita says and Sivanarul muses). But when I take a certain decision before making the transaction, I have to make it based on the result. And even if this e.g. suits an accountant job, it doesn't suit many other high pressure jobs where you have to deliver on a deadline.

No manager can afford to say, "That, sorry we were not supposed to deliver as per our destiny", i.e. while living a worldly life.

I think both Ramana and Ramakrishna (and other jnanis too) have clearly said that "Only jnanis can be good karma yogis".

maya said...

many times i feel that one can as well take any decision based on a coin toss as was done in a famous old Indian movie (Sholay-hindi). The coin toss might as well indicate our prarabhdha :-)

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

“The crux of this question comes to this. How does a spiritual aspirant conduct his day to day life while still having an ego and a mind? Its as simple as that.”

A spiritual aspirant conducts his day to day life in adherence to dharma, ahimsa and compassion as best as he can. In the bad boss scenario you described, you take the action of looking for a new job because that is the most compassionate thing you can do towards yourself. This does not mean that you start hating your old boss (that is the part of being compassionate towards others). It simply means you accept that things did not work out and you have decided to move on. What if the new job also is bad? You again look for another job and so on and so forth.

Same things applies towards the car example. You try to get your car out from snow because staying stuck in snow is not being compassionate towards yourself.

Prarartha does not have to come in play in any of the situations. We have an ego (or “seemingly have it”). The goal then is to make the ego’s action sattvic in nature (as best as possible) and take action as and when needed guided by dharma, ahimsa and compassion.

maya said...

Sivanarul,

As for the solutions you suggested in either case, that is exactly what I would have done. But the reason I started this discussion based on the prarabhdha is simply because it shows up in many places in Bhagavan's teaching, i.e. "Don't escape(or try to as Michale corrected me) the prarabhdha" and I was trying to reconcile it my everyday life.

But moving onto Dharma, I don't know the rules of Dharma nor have to time to figure out. All you need is Mahabharata, what is Dharma in one context cannot be dharma in another. Infact I don't even know what that word means in a given context. In Mahabharata, in Moksha parva, when Bhishma lies on a bed of arrows, Yudhistra asks him what the highest and the best dharma is. Bhisma says something simple, "Attaining the supreme" and then goes onto say "Vishnu Sahasra namam". Swami Vivekananda was once asked what is good and what is bad. He said, "That which takes you to god or realization is good and that which does not is bad" Good answer at the highest level and he probably knew that one can never given an answer at the relative level without the context.

As for ahimsa, that complicated for me too. Yes, one can be a vegan, But when you are sitting Chennai at 39 degree celsius with no power and sweating and mosquitoes all over you, will you sit without killing the mosquitoes one way or the other knowing well that you could get a serious fever like Chicken Guniya. If one can do that one is a Jnani. As Mouna pointed out Bhagavan himself once allowed and asked Annamalai swamy to shut a hole and kill ants and not only that David Godman told me that Bhagavan approved of spraying insecticides to kill mosquitoes at Ramana ashram when there was a threat of malaria? wasn't killing them himsa?

These things are not that clear or open and shut cases for me. We damage our environment with our style of living and cut forests, pollute rivers and yet we are not ready to give up our standards of living. Is this not himsa? when it comes to practice, ahimsa is not that black and white?

Even plants are sensitive as proved by Jagdish Chandra Bose. read the article below. You probably already know. Are we not doing himsa?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagadish_Chandra_Bose#Plant_research

/**
From the analysis of the variation of the cell membrane potential of plants under different circumstances, he hypothesised that plants can "feel pain, understand affection etc."
**/

"feel pain, understand affection"???

venkat said...

Hi Ropedancer, "freedom from independence" was my typo - apologies; it should have just read freedom / independence from British rule.

Maya- in your two examples of prarabhda, I wonder if you are trying to over-intellectualise this? The purpose of talking about prarabhda karma / destiny is for the mind not to get agitated by what events happen to the body-mind, despite one's deepest wishes / prayers, etc. The guide for action surely is just do whatever is required in the situation, but try to do so whilst minimising your selfish motivations, ie egoless, as we discussed. And then, whatever the outcome / fruits of the action, you just accept, without getting worried, upset or elated about it; and if it suits your inclination to put it down to prarabdda fine. And if the outcome is not what you want, and you still have an opportunity to act, then do so, but again without anxiety for the results. It is less important what you do, but more what your inner attitude is.

Remember what goes on in daily life is all part of the illusion that we are caught in; the theory of karma is just so that you don't waste too much time on the illusion, and focus instead on what is important - the discovery of who you are. Your job, or being stuck in the snow, is really not important; it is just part of the ups and downs of life; it is an illusion built on an illusion. Don't attach any spiritual significance to these; the teaching is just to be equanimous, whatever the external event.

Bhagavan: "Be still, be without desire, and let whatever is to be come to be."

maya said...

Venkat

"Like Sivanarul says, I have also come to a different conclusion about this based partly on the Gita saying of giving up the fruits of the action (I say only partly) and partly accepting the fact that as long as I have an ego. So I will take a decision based on my ego and accept the results(or try to) as per the Gita knowing well that the option/alternative I choose to make my decision, at the point I make my decision is based on getting a favorable result."

What I said above in a previous post is exactly what you have suggested. That is how I try to act. I brought up the two situations just to give it a dad to day context and not simply talk at the abstract level. In most people's life who are not even familiar with the term "prarabhdha" or "karma", what you and I suggested is exactly how they would act but one who knows the meaning of these words will(or should) not worry too much. But I am not close to that maturity now even if I know all this theory. :-)

You said
"Remember what goes on in daily life is all part of the illusion that we are caught in; the theory of karma is just so that you don't waste too much time on the illusion, and focus instead on what is important - the discovery of who you are. Your job, or being stuck in the snow, is really not important; it is just part of the ups and downs of life; it is an illusion built on an illusion. Don't attach any spiritual significance to these; the teaching is just to be equanimous, whatever the external event."

I remember all this when I don't deal with a problem or an issue or not taking a decision but when I have to deal with those, its easier said than done :-) As Ramakrishna says, its easy to talk advaita, but the moment a thorn pricks, we will think we are the body and shout "thorn prick". I was just wondering what others would do in these kind of situation and if you are really able to maintain your equanimity. Lets just say, I was trying to compare notes on actual behavior as opposed to theory which is all good.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

“Perfect” dharma or ahimsa is not possible or extremely difficult at an aspirant level (whether it is possible for a Jnani, is a different story and has no bearing on us now). What is possible for an aspirant is “good” adherence to dharma and ahimsa. In your example, you certainly don’t want to get chikun gunia, so you don’t let the mosquito keep on biting you.

With respect to standards on living, we certainly have to do our best not to damage our environment. This can be adhered to by following a vegetarian/vegan diet, by driving a hybrid car, not living in mcamansions etc etc. Again we do what we can do. We do not aim for perfection, but we aim for good. In some cases, aiming for perfection might mean you stop driving any car and taking public transportation which may take in 4 hours travel with all the waiting. That is not practical. Aiming for good means, driving a hybrid or a car that gives high mileage.

With respect to plants, we are doing himsa in that case, if one looks at it from a “perfect” ahimsa perspective. But if one looks at it from “good” ahimsa perspective, that is not himsa, since we have a right to life and eating plants is the way to stay alive.

You asked Venkat “Lets just say, I was trying to compare notes on actual behavior as opposed to theory which is all good.”

From notes on my side, I don’t consider the world or things that happen in life as an illusion. So a thorn prick is very real to me along with all ups and downs in life. I try my very best to adhere to “good” dharma and ahimsa (not “perfect” dharma and ahimsa). The use in understanding all the scriptures is that we will be trying to extend the “good” towards “perfection” every day in life (fully accepting that perfection is out of reach). I am not perfect and will never be perfect. But I "hope" to improve to the point, where I can look at Ishvara in the eye and say, you have to accept me like milk and not discard me like water (like Sri Sundarar's example). I am not there yet but hope to get there through sadhana.

maya said...

Sivanarul,

I am glad you didn't say you handle such situations with perfect equanimity and know that the world is an illusion, otherwise i would be banging my head on the wall right about now :-)

Yes, Sundarar's e.g., I have heard. Nochur Venkataraman who I listen to has quoted that more than a few times and to me when i'm all stuck, the easiest thing is good old fashioned prayer. I somehow am not able to locate that "i am" feeling at such crucial moments :-)

anyway, off this topic, since you mentioned you live in NJ, you must have heard how Jay Leno loves NJ and all the NJ jokes, if at all you see those late night shows.

Michael James said...

Maya, regarding your latest series of comments (beginning with this one) in reply to my answer to one of your earlier comments, Bhagavan provides a simple answer to your issues in the first and last sentences of his December 1898 note to his mother.

In the last sentence he says ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), which means ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’, which is how we should always try to be inwardly. However, being inwardly silent does not mean that we should not outwardly act in an appropriate manner, as each occasion demands. If we are truly silent inwardly, whatever actions we do outwardly will be appropriate, because by being silent we are surrendering our own individual will to the will of Bhagavan (guru or God), and hence our actions will not be driven by our free will (in other words, they will not be āgāmya) but only by our prārabdha, which is his will.

As Bhagavan says in the first sentence of that note, ‘அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன்’ (avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ), which literally means ‘According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to act’, and which implies ‘According to the prārabdha of each person, he who is for that [namely God or guru] being in the heart of each of them will make them act’. Unless our prārabdha is to do nothing, which is unlikely, we will not be able to do nothing, because we will be driven from within to do whatever actions our prārabdha demands.

While being driven by our prārabdha, our actions are also usually driven by our free will, in which case while experiencing our prārabdha we are also doing fresh āgāmya. Only if we are able to surrender our own will entirely and thereby be inwardly silent will we be able to avoid doing any āgāmya, in which case all our outward actions will be driven only by our prārabdha.

In this context it is worth considering very carefully what Bhagavan teaches us in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, in the first sentence of which he explains how we can surrender ourself to God by attending only to ourself, and in the remaining sentences of which he explains why we need not attend to any other thoughts. As he indicates in this paragraph, it is only when we do not surrender ourself entirely by ‘giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana)’ that we are faced with the dilemma of whether we should act in this way or that.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Maya:

So long as we are unable to surrender ourself entirely, we do need to make decisions about how we should act, not because our decisions will make any difference to the prārabdha that we are to experience, but because we are morally responsible for the actions that we do according to our free will. In such a situation what Sivanarul advised you about adhering to ahiṁsā and being motivated by compassion are useful guidelines, but the root of all hiṁsā (harm) is the rising of our ego, so the most effective way to practise ahiṁsā is to surrender oneself by clinging firmly to self-attentiveness and thereby giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any other thought.

This is why Bhagavan says in the final paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, ‘எவ்வளவுக்கெவ்வளவு தாழ்ந்து நடக்கிறோமோ அவ்வளவுக்கவ்வளவு நன்மையுண்டு’ (evvaḷavukkevvaḷavu tāṙndu naḍakkiṟōmō avvaḷavukkavvaḷavu naṉmai-y-uṇḍu), which means ‘To whatever extent being subdued [subsided or humble] we behave, to that extent there is goodness [or virtue]’. That is, the more we manage to subside within by being silently self-attentive, the less any harm — either to ourself or to anyone else — will result from our outward behaviour.

You say that ahiṁsā is complicated for you, but there can be two ways in which it can be complicated. One way is that by avoiding one kind of hiṁsā we may cause another one, so it is sometimes not clear which option causes the least hiṁsā, in which case we have to use our judgement to choose whatever seems to be least harmful. The other way in which ahiṁsā can seem complicated is that it often entails making a certain amount of personal sacrifice, but if we are compassionate and wish to follow any spiritual path we must be ready to make such sacrifices.

As you say, our modern lifestyles and the grossly unjust economic system on which they depend cause a huge amount of harm, both in terms of exploitation of the economically disadvantaged and in terms of irreparable damage to the environment on which we and all other animals depend, so we do need to live a lifestyle that minimises our contribution to this systemic harm that we are all causing, which entails making sacrifices. One morally imperative way in which we can avoid contributing to such systemic harm is by being vegan, because the meat and dairy industries cause horrendous harm not only to the animals involved but also to our global environment.

ropedancer said...

Michael,
your latest comment in reply to Maya (or maya) appeals to me greatly.
Because I am vegetarian (since nearly 50 years) but use to consume milk products from natural-biological small farms I would like to hear your opinion about that special kind of products fundamentally and particularly with regard to harm to our global environment ?

Anonymous said...

http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/

http://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/how-does-eating-meat-harm-the-environment/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-most-polluting-protein-environmental-impact-of-beef-pork-poultry/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars

Anonymous said...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/beef-is-10-times-more-damaging-to-the-environment-than-poultry-dairy-eggs-or-pork-9621160.html

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/agriculture-food/scientists-find-beef-production-harmful-environment-303690

should be enough

ropedancer said...

Michael,
in addition to my previous comment I want to remark that I drink enthusiastically the buttermilk when served nearly every day at the end of lunch in Sri Ramanasramam.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

“anyway, off this topic, since you mentioned you live in NJ, you must have heard how Jay Leno loves NJ and all the NJ jokes, if at all you see those late night shows.”

I used to see some late night shows a longtime ago. Nothing these days.

We (Jerseyan's) are used to being the material for late night tv jokes. We are glad that rest of America gets some comedy relief at our expense. May be we should levy a humor tax on non-jerseyans’s :-) I am sure Mounaji would not mind paying :-)

maya said...

Michael,

Thanks for your reply.

You said "‘According to the prārabdha of each person, he who is for that [namely God or guru] being in the heart of each of them will make them act’.

How do we know whether its the prarabhdha or our vasana, thats making us act? Because when we act based on our vasana, isn't that when we strengthen it, create more karma. A vasana can make us act by itself as well, so how do we distinguish that. The short answer, i know is we probably can't. Maybe for a gross vasana we can but for a subtle on, we can't.

In general I don't disagree with your thoughts on ahimsa and am well aware of the effects of meat production but I think, many a times

a) Being a vegan etc produces its own sort of subtle and sometimes strong ego, "that i'm a vegan and i'm doing whats good for the environment" just like many a times I have seen this in many so called "moral people" who follow rituals or superficial moral rules and put down others who either don't follow it or are not in a condition to follow it. Like people living is areas like the colder region where its tough to grow anything. As long as one doesn't judge others, its fine. The moment one makes judgement on others, no matter how good one's conduct is according to Dharma or ahimsa, it is nothing but purely ego. We follow spirituality for our own benefit not for others.

b) When we start making a judgement on what is least harmful or ahimsa and what is not, that is exactly when we go down a slippery slope. For e.g. in the US and many countries, it becomes OK to eat certain kinds of meat but its a crime to eat horse meat etc. I'm just giving a high level e.g.

Whereever subjective judgement enters, it's slippery slope. Like the mosquito e.g. I quoted. As gandhi said, "there enough for everyone's need and not everyone's greed" But when the term "Need" becomes subjective, its a problem.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

Subtle ego can come in for any reason at all, not just when one is a vegetarian/vegan and one follows ahimsa.

It can come for just following the spiritual path. One may look at the materialistic brothers and wonder, “Geez aren’t these guys throwing their lives away in the pursuit of mundane things. How many dreams do they have to go through before they will commence Sadhana”.

It can come following advaita. One may look at dualism and wonder, “Geez aren’t these guys wasting their time worshiping Ishvara, who is one step lower than Brahman? When will they realize they are Brahman itself and Ishvara is an illusion created by them?”

It can come following dualism. One may look at advaita and wonder, “Geez aren’t these guys fooling themselves. They think they can stare down the ego and realize oneness with Brahman. Saying ‘Aham Brahmasi’ the whole day will not make one realize Brahman. Why not try saying ‘Aham King’ every day and see whether you become a King.

When the subtle ego arises as such, Surrender to Ishvara to strike it down or investigate to whom did this come to :-)

maya said...

Sivanarul,

I never said subtle ego cannot come in other ways. All i said was subtle ego can come through the idea that "i'm a vegan" and i say that because i've seen that in quite a few people i know well.

After all the whole idea of spirituality is to get rid of the ego in one way or the other.

R Viswanathan said...

This response is intended to clarify some points of reference (given to exchanges between me and Sri Michael James) by Anonymous in the comment that appeared on 21 December 2015 at 14:53.

Coincidentally, I read this comment when I was in Tiruvannamalai and having been with Sri David Godman for about 45 minutes in the open space in front of Bhagavan Samadhi hall. First, I need to confess that I had never thought that Sri Michael James was sarcastic about me since I sincerely believe that a person who is so much immersed in Bhagavan's teachings in such steadfast manner for so long can ever be so. Therefore, I chose to reply to him through my personal email and also chose to explain my understanding of Cohen's statements during a skype talk with him.

As for my frequent quotes from Sri David Godman, I do so due to my genuine wish that others also can get to benefit by knowing them just as I benefited. If some think that Sri David Godman is misrepresenting Bhagavan's teachings, obviously they think that their understanding at that point of time is better than that of Sri David Godman. So be it. To me, Sri David Godman has always been very kind to answer my queries in person or through email. I look upon his words as though Bhagavan himself is talking just as I look upon the words of Sri Sadhu Om or Sri Robert Adams or Sri Arthur Osborne or Sri S.S. Cohen or Sri Michael James or Sri Nochur Venkataraman. It is just that I get to meet with him more often than with other living Bhagavan devotees. When I learn about Bhagavan and his teachings through these devotees, it is normal that I can never assume that I can understand Bhagavan's teachings better than these devotees. I thank Bhagavan for infusing into me such a thought and I pray that it remains like that for ever.

Regardless of what anyone says about Sri David Godman, I never get confused about his words or his messages just as I don't get confused about the words of Sri Michael James or about the words of all others who I have referred to above. I have utmost respect for all of them.

Finally, this is the message from Sri David Godman I learnt through my last meeting: He is ever ready to give any information on Bhagavan or his teachings, if and when anyone wants, but he would not indulge in arguments. I feel that this is in total accordance with Bhagavan's teachings.

maya said...

Sivanarul,

The following is a talk by Nochur Venkataraman in Tamil on Ulladu Narpadu, verse 28

28. Controlling speech and breath, and diving deep within oneself — like one who, to find a thing that has fallen into water, dives deep down — one must seek out the source whence the aspiring ego springs.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/ramanaaudios/sri_venkataraman_talks/ulladunarpadu/2013/Day3_2013.mp3

Its quite good. You may want to check it out if you are interested. You can either listen to the whole thing or forward to the 35th min and listen from there. Provides more insight into self inquiry and listening it in Tamil makes it more intuitive, atleast for me.

Yuvaraj said...

Wow, wow, wow! Another phenomenal essay by Michael on Atma Vichara and what a fantastic series of comments. Such eclecticism and high maturity among participants. Hat’s off to you all!

This essay and the comments (and the humour) that followed are a gem - great anecdotes, lessons and learnings for me from you all.

This is the first time I comment (you all have inspired me to) so let me first thank you all for making this blog such a fine satsang – Blunt Anonymous, Bob, Bob-P, Carlos, Maya, Sanjay, Shiba, Sivanarul, Steve, Venkat, Viswanath, Wittgenstein, other anonymous(es) and some of you that I may have missed out. Sirs and mams, I owe you much. I have learnt immensely from Michael’s writings but so have from your writings.

Michael, I must have been blessed to have discovered you and benefited from your guidance and friendship. All my thanks still fall short badly. Thank you, sir. You said, “I should not be bothered by personal attacks on me, because they are attacks on my worst enemy, namely my own ego, so I should be grateful for them. As Bhagavan used to say, those who criticise us are better friends than those who praise us, because they are criticising our ego and thereby helping us in our effort to eradicate it.” Can I grow up to live this sentiment? I wish to.

Allow me an ego trip and here are some comments.

- After months of uncomfortable questioning around Atma Vichara and questions like – what are the milestones on the path of atma vichara? – thanks to Google that I came across Sadhu Om’s book and then soon after Michael’s book and website – about two years back. “Perseverance is the only milestone,” Michael paraphrased Bhagavan. Hard answer but I found it deeply satisfying, it challenged me. Few months later I was keen to understand Aham Sphurana and Michael kindly shared his essay on it. On being led to Michael’s website again and again in the course of my net searches I finally realised he wrote a blog. I have since been a regular reader. Michael’s essays on Atma Vichara and the quotes on this link by Annamalai Swami have been immensely beneficial. Bhagavan’s teachings are too direct and simple for my complex mind -

http://freddieyam.com/gen2/p/quotes.annamalai.html

(contd.)

Yuvaraj said...

(contd.)

- Then last many months I have been asking myself as to how I could increase my bhakti and in the process my Atma Vichara. At this time Michael responded with Bhagavan’s saying, “Bhakti is the mother of Jnana”. The thought momentarily freed me up but few weeks later I was still stuck with the old question, this time harder. A visit to Tiruvannamalai at this time helped somewhat. Then few months back in a discussion I saw mention of Sri Ramakrishna and his sayings. Intrigued, I began to read Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. I felt an extraordinary feeling reading the Talks by Sri Ramana 3-4 years back and since then I have been hooked to Sri Ramana’s books (only) and for the first time I was going in another direction and the same extraordinary feeling returned once more. Sri Ramana’s Talks destroyed all my spiritual baggage and helped me focus and now here was Sri Ramakrishna helping me construct the minimum that I needed. Sri Ramana’s simple and powerful teaching was hard for my complex mind which was demanding some spiritual gossip, crutches and other support. I have to add that without my understanding of Sri Ramana’s teachings I would not have benefited greatly reading the Gospel. My questions on Bhakti have eased (atleast for now). I am currently reading Swami Saradananda’s Sri Ramakrishna – The Great Master. In between I read The Life of Nag Mahasay by Sarat Chandra Chakravarty (available on the web) - a must read if you are devoted to Sri Ramankrishna and an ardent devotee’s perspective interests you. Nag Mahasay was a householder-devotee in the close circle of Sri Ramakrishna and very dear to him. Swami Vivekananda on Nag Mahasay - “Our life is passed vainly in the search after truth; only he among us is the true blessed son of our Master” and "Only by seeing Nag Mahasay one can understand to what spiritual height a man can attain through the grace of the Lord. In self-control and in renunciation he is by far our superior."

- I wrote to Michael after reading the Gospel and his response -” Yes, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is a beautiful and inspiring book, particularly when read in the light of Bhagavan's teachings. I think it is the only 'spiritual non-Bhagavan book' that I have read in its entirety since I was attracted to his teachings, and though many of the things that Sri Ramakrishna said may superficially seem to be quite different to Bhagavan's teachings, I found the inner spirit of all that he said to be in perfect tune with them, particularly if one considers the circumstances in which he spoke and the views and understanding of the people he spoke to.”

- I have been questioning my sincerity for many months as my atma vichara had plateaued. But then strange happenings help you. After reading the Gospel there was a crisis which took me to Kolkata. While dealing with the crisis one day I went to Dakshineshwar, home of Sri Ramakrishna. That visit deeply affected me and my atma vichara that had improved on reading the Gospel, reinforced. In hindsight the crisis was godsend as it was for the good. And it seemed it had happened to get me to Dakshineshwar!

- I have been greatly helped by K’s (J Krishnamurti) teachings for many years but it finally left me frustrated – it took me far but beyond a point it was taking me round and round, I thought. A friend then introduced me to his “early talks” (first 10 years of his teachings – raw and direct and very different from the K we know – available on the net) and I was rediscovering K again (this time in the light of Sri Ramana’s teachings). Thanks to the comments made by some of you I have learnt that the limitations are mine and not the jnani’s. And it does my ego no good to indulge in trashing these high souls. But then this is the play of my ego and it will keep playing until my effort and grace silences it. Incidentally, I was once told that when a sincere and close devotee expressed her difficulty with his teachings K suggested she read Nisargadatta and Sri Ramana!

(contd.)

Yuvaraj said...

(contd.)

-After I had first left K’s teachings I discovered Bhagavad Gita and Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on Gita. Gita’s idea of Swadharma and Swabhava made a deep impact on me. It helped evolve an important lesson for life – “Life is all about Self-expression, honest and complete. And I need to go all out to pursue it taking regular leaps of faith in the process.” Or put in another way “follow your big itch but be wary of the smaller itches (which actually hide the big itch and also distract). And in following the big itch the journey itself becomes much of the destination and the fruit loses some of its sweetness”. This helped me unshackle myself from corporate/society’s boundaries to discover my calling and then follow it. I think one way to go beyond maya is to fully engage with work that deeply compels oneself. Pursuing it one reaches a point of “appreciating its futility (somewhat!)” and hopefully this will finally lead to “realizing completely its futility” which will then lead us to summa iru? I agree with the sentiments expressed here that we are all different and unique (and each has his or her own personal religion) and hence there are 1.25 billion gods and goddesses in India!

- On how I came in touch with Sri Ramana’s teachings. Some years back a book called Physics of Karma by Sri Dwaraknath Reddy (based on Sri Ramana’s teachings) came my way and I was very intrigued. I located the author in Tiruvannamalai and began to spend time with him every few months (Sri Ramana’s direct teachings had yet to attract me). Few years later I was drawn towards Vipassana. After completing the 10-day course I continued with it for a month and then one day I was drawn to the book I am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj. Years back I had read a few pages and it made no impact but this time I ended up reading his subsequent two books as well, in one go. I was lucky to have Dwaraknathji’s guidance in understanding the nuances. In hindsight this book by Sri Nisargadatt (or Vipassana or Dwaraknathji or Bhagavad Gita or K or Osho or ???) prepared me for Sri Ramana’s teachings. In hindsight, Vipassana gave me the first sense of “I-am ness”, “I-feeling” and atma vichara.

(contd.)

Yuvaraj said...

(contd.)

- I cannot imagine life without the suffering (mostly mental and less physical) I have been through. Because they made me spiritual and every new bout deepened it. Suffering in the present, I hate but when I look back it is very sweet, so sweet that suffering seems kind of alright in the present now. When I get a chance will share an old letter written by K (have not seen on the net - I have a scanned copy that needs to be transcribed). Here is a quote by Anthony Hopkins from the film Shadowlands – “I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that he makes us the gift of suffering. Pain is Gods megaphone to rouse a deaf world. You see we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel which hurt us so much with are what makes us perfect.”

- I have never met a jnani. David says of sitting in the presence of a jnani, “there is an effortless transmission of peace that stills the mind and brings an intense joy to the heart.” But have we all not felt some such sometime – say, visiting ramana ashram or Dakshineshwar or reading a book that deeply affected us?

- Sometimes when I feel supremely convinced of my convictions and opinions I am reminded of the story that Buddha and Mahavira often used – elephant and the eight blind men. Can I ever have a complete view of anything? Am I not one of the blind men? Sometimes when I feel superior by putting down the evil I read and see around me and I remind myself of the story of Angulimal and Buddha. The evilest of evil Angulimal also had a particle of godliness which in an instant engulfed him, thanks to Buddha’s grace. There is enough evil within me – why not I look at it rather than look at the evil around and feel superior? But these stories come to mind only “sometimes”, rest of the times the ego runs amok!

- I believe the biggest obstacle to godliness is sexual energy. I got further convinced when I read that Sri Ramakrishna too suffered it. I wish Michael can write about it and on ways of transmuting it. But sex is such a taboo it is impossible to write explicitly on a blog. The best hint I have got is from the love gopis had for Lord Krishna – madhura bhava.

- I think, the path of a seeker is messy and chaotic on the outside but starts to develop symphonical from the inside – none outside can appreciate it. Likewise as an outsider I will also not be able to appreciate someone else’s spiritual journey to the fullest.

- I for one believe that Atma Vichara is the most potent and the ultimate step to Godliness. But it is too hard and Sravana-Manana-Nidhidhyasana requires other support - like spiritual gossip (plain gossip too, occasionally!) and mind tricks now and then. That’s my mind and ego! Thanks Bhagavan, thanks Sri Ramakrishna, thanks jnanis that your grace exists.

A sincere sorry, if my comments jar or conflict with yours.

Thanks again to you all. Wow, what a satsang – wow, wow, wow!

Yuvaraj, Chennai

maya said...

Yuvuraj,

Good to read about your post in general and your comments on Ramakrishna. I agree with you that though superficially Ramakrishna's teachings seem different, I don't see an iota of difference between them. In fact Ramakrishna made me understand Ramana even better. Many of Ramana devotees came to him after reading about Ramakrishna.

Here is an anecdote from Prof K Swaminathan, Bhagavan's devotee on Ramana's view of Ramakrishna
/**
In one article the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung contrasted Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Bhagavan and saw in this succession the progressive advance from bhakti to jnana. On hearing this, Bhagavan promptly sat erect and protested against the comparison, saying: When one has reached the mountain-top, no matter from which side and by which path, one knows and understands all other paths. What is there that Sri Ramakrishna did not know?
**/

One other thing about Ramakrishna which even I realized only recently. Most people know him only through the "Gospel of Ramakrishna" which was the one translated into English from Bengali. That is quite similar to talks with Ramana maharshi in that it was recorded by 'M' (Mahendranath Gupta), during a 4-5 year period, during the weekends as he was employed during the weekdays. Infact the way he recorded it was he went home and wrote everything from memory about what Ramakrishna had talked about and for the first 2 years did not even tell Ramakrishna. It is said that one day he wrote the notes late in the night and when he showed up at the Dakshineshwar temple and was very sleepy, Ramakrishna came to him, smiled and said "Don't work too hard by writing late in the night" showing he knew that 'M' was recording the conversations. And when initially another direct disciple of his, Swami Shivananda was taking notes while in the room, he told him not to and said, "There is already a person for that role and it is not your role". At this point M had not even told him about his recordings.

When Paul Brunton later 'M', 'M' supposedly told him that what is known in the 'Gospel of Ramakrishna' is probably only 10% of Ramakrishna's teachings meant only for householder devotees who visited him. That is in it he constantly says Bhakthi is the easiest path since the householders have to go to work and work hard to keep up their family.

But the book "Ramakrishna, the great master" by Swami Saradananda, his direct disciple and self realized is the real book, the one you are reading now. I came to know only recently that it was first translated into English only in 1951, after the death of Bhagavan, so most people who knew Ramakrishna always assumed that he only talked about devotion. This is the book one must read to know the real Ramakrishna and will open anyone's eyes. Swami Saradananda talks about all of Ramakrishna's experiences, practices, samadhis etc in depth and he was said to be a low key person, but at the end when he briefly talks about his life, he says this, "Nothing that has been recorded in this book is beyond the scope of the author's experience"

will continue..

maya said...

continued..

Yuvaraj

This is what Swami Vivekananda said later about the perception of their attitudes by others.
/**
Many a time, in his later years, Narendra said, comparing his own spiritual attitude
with that of the Master: 'He was a jnani within, but a bhakta without; but I am a bhakta within, and a jnani without.' He meant that Ramakrishna's gigantic intellect was hidden under a thin layer of devotion, and Narendra's devotional nature was covered by a cloak of knowledge.
**/

Nochur Venkataraman (you may have heard about him) himself who is a great Ramana devotee and his discourses are very good is said to have first got his mantra initiation from Swami Ranganathananda of Ramakrishna mission, but only talks about atma vichara in most of his discourses without putting down any other methods.

To go to Dakshineshwar is one of my dreams too. Hopefully one day I will. But Ramana ashram is probably preventing me right now :-)

Sanjay Lohia said...

Maya, you write 'Nochur Venkataraman (you may have heard about him) himself who is a great Ramana devotee and his discourses are very good is said to have first got his mantra initiation from Swami Ranganathananda of Ramakrishna mission, but only talks about atma vichara in most of his discourses without putting down any other methods'.

I have listened to a few of the talks by Nochur Venkataraman. He repeats in his talks that only dualistic bhakti will not suffice, and that one needs jnana in order to end all our troubles and so on. Whether one will call this putting down practices other than vichara is not clear to me, but this is what I have heard him stress in his talks. Regards.


Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael writes in one of his comments addressed to Maya, 'So long as we are unable to surrender ourself entirely, we do need to make decisions about how we should act, not because our decisions will make any difference to the prārabdha that we are to experience, but because we are morally responsible for the actions that we do according to our free will'.

Therefore effectively we have to act as if all our actions are based on our free-will, however we should remember that the results of all our actions will be as per our prarabdha, and we should keep this mind. I hope this understanding is correct, if not I will request Michael to correct me. Regards.

venkat said...

Yuvaraj

You are right - this is a wonderful Satsang.

Thanks for your snippet that JK advised a follower to read Bhagavan and Nisargadatta. I hadn't heard that before.

Ganesan, Bhagavan's nephew, tells this story of a meeting with Nisargadatta:

He then told me, “Sri Ramana Maharshi is my brother. So, you are like my grandson. In our culture, only the grandfather should give gifts to the grandson. Not the other way around. Therefore, never bring me gifts like garlands and fruits, and never ever, bring me money!” He even instructed his family members that no one should prevent me from coming in and seeing him, at any time, any day. Another day he told me, “We are three brothers, Ramana Maharshi, J. Krishnamurti and I. We teach the same truth, but in different languages, that‟s all!”

maya said...

Venkat, Yuvaraj,

This below was the one I had been searching for and finally found. Its to do with Yogi Ramsuratkumar of Tiruvannamalai's meeting with Jiddu. You probably know that the Yogi was self realized and had met Bhagavan Ramana as well as Aurobindo and finally went to Swami Ramdas. He recounts his meeting with Jiddu as he was very fond of him. I'm not going to paste the entire stuff but just the 2 key paragraphs. This is from the Yogi's biography. It again clearly shows that all the jnani's say the same. It is our minds that tries to differentiate. Here it goes. Th Yogi always refers to himself as "this beggar"
/**
One day, Ram Surat Kunwar was keenly observing J. Krishnamurti’s movements after the latter’s talks. J. Krishnamurti went upstairs and washed himself and came down to go for a walk among the crowd. J. Krishnamurti also watched Ram Surat Kunwar looking at him with mixed emotions. He came directly to Ram Surat Kunwar, gifted him with a blissful, broad smile and patted him on the back. Yogi Ramsuratkumar later narrated the event to Parthasarathy, saying, “J. Krishnamurti came directly to this beggar and patted him on his back and this beggar slept.” He repeated this several times and made one understand that after the touch of J. Krishnamurti, he was able to be in the deep samadhi state.

In the winter of 1964, Krishnamurti arrived in Madras to give talks. Ram Surat Kunwar also reached Madras to listen him. This time he was determined to get his doubts cleared. He went wherever Krishnamurti went. At Bombay Krishnamurti was answering the questions of the people. Ram Surat Kunwar attended the meeting. At this gathering an elderly man asked Krishnamurti, “Krishnaji, you know well what reverence and faith we have in our Gurus and Mantras. But when we hear your remarks on the Gurus and the Mantras, we feel hurt and we feel pain. We know that it is not your intention to hurt us. Then why do you do this?” Krishnamurti instantly responded by saying,
“ Why do you come here sir? This is not the place for the people who have the faith.” When Ram Surat Kunwar listened to the words of Krishnamurti, he was thrilled. All his doubts cleared. He understood that the mission of Krishnamurti was to bring the people who had no faith in any Gurus, Gods and religions, into the path of enquiry to reach the Ultimate Truth.

Yogi Ramsuratkumar during his later years said that Krishnamurti was a great Mahatma.
***/

Again this shows Anonymous point, if we look at it dispassionately, as to how the inner guru works.

maya said...

Venkat, Yuvaraj,

Also below is Papaji's view of Jiddu. The comments below are by David Godman

/**
In 1993 Papaji made the following remarks about J. Krishnamurti. The first paragraph is Papaji’s words. The subsequent two are my comments on them, taken from Nothing Ever Happened, volume two, p. 230:

I listened to Krishnamurti while I was in Switzerland. I liked him very much because I could find no fault in him. I am a hard person to satisfy but I will say that he was, no doubt, an enlightened man. But something was missing. The power to transmit that enlightenment to others was not there.

Papaji’s assessment, though it seems to be harsh, was shared by Krishnamurti himself. In a book commemorating his birth centenary Evelyne Blau, a long time associate of his, wrote: ‘For fifty years he had taught, spoken and travelled all over the world. Why was not a single person transformed? He [Krishnamurti] was certainly concerned with this problem.’

As Krishnamurti lay dying in California, a tape recorder was running to record his final words. Shortly before he died he said, ‘Where did I go wrong? No one got it?’
***/

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in a comment addressed to Maya:

If we are truly silent inwardly, whatever actions we do outwardly will be appropriate, because by being silent we are surrendering our own individual will to the will of Bhagavan (guru or God)[...]

My questions are: 1. If we are inwardly perfectly silent, I think no action is possible at least in our view. Than how can our actions be appropriate in such a situation?
2. And if we are not perfectly inwardly silent than our ego is active, in which case our actions cannot be fully appropriate as ego cannot be always expected to act appropriately. What do you say?

Thanking you and pranams.

ropedancer said...

Sanjay Lohia,
when being inwardly silent you can act a lot.
Not only you can walk in perfect silence but also do properly and appropriately some little (home)works as a housekeeper.
Also writing a comment on an article at this blog is possible in well-ballanced silence.
Best wishes

Steve said...

ropedancer, the things you mentioned are done in perfect silence, but not by perfect silence.

ropedancer said...

Steve,
thanks for pointing out the difference which was not yet recognized by my poor understanding.
If you wanted to express that perfect silence would from the start prevent mankind performing any of the mentioned actions I do not agree.
If you wanted to express that perfect silence itself is never an actor and therefore would never act in any respects I do agree.
What I wanted to express was only that being in perfect silence does not exclude acting and is not finished by performing of any action.
In my view perfect silence is our essential awareness. It has neither beginning nor end.
Or did you rather draw a distinction between A)being in perfect silence and B) perfect silence as such (thinking in the abstract) ?

Steve said...

ropedancer,

I agree that perfect silence is never an actor, and therefore would not and could not prevent any actions. And I agree that perfect silence has neither beginning nor end. But I would then ask, can there be any actions, or does it only seem so? Can there be an actor, or does there only seem to be one? Can there really be someone separate from perfect silence to be in perfect silence? So yes, I was drawing a distinction between being in perfect silence, and perfect silence as such.

I was speaking to what I think was the crux of Sanjay's questions. Perhaps Michael's quote, 'If we are truly silent inwardly, whatever actions we do outwardly will be appropriate, because by being silent we are surrendering our own individual will to the will of Bhagavan (guru or God)[...]', should be seen in light of the words immediately preceding it, [...]‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’, which is how we should always try to be inwardly.' That's just my opinion.

ropedancer said...

Steve,
we have to be on our guard what opinion our ego will project on the screen of consciousness. Regarding actions let us read what Michael explains :
'According to the prarabda of each person, he who is for that being in the heart of each of them will take them act'. Yes, therefore let us understand Michael's quote fully and 'try to be inwardly' because as Bhagavan said in his December 1898 note to his mother 'Therefore silently being or being silent is good'.

Sivanarul said...

Yuvaraj,

It was very nice to read your posts. With regards to your comments:

“- I believe the biggest obstacle to godliness is sexual energy. I got further convinced when I read that Sri Ramakrishna too suffered it. I wish Michael can write about it and on ways of transmuting it. But sex is such a taboo it is impossible to write explicitly on a blog. The best hint I have got is from the love gopis had for Lord Krishna – madhura bhava.”

It need not be a big obstacle. Sexual energy is a natural energy which when spent under the boundaries of morality is no more an obstacle than say watching tv. There is no point in ostracizing a natural human instinct. Just like the advice of food is to eat sattvic and in moderation, the same applies to sexual energy also (that it adheres to basic moral code and is in moderation). Until ‘I am the body’ is there, the sexual drive will also be there.

“I for one believe that Atma Vichara is the most potent and the ultimate step to Godliness. But it is too hard and Sravana-Manana-Nidhidhyasana requires other support”

In regards to it being too hard, there are two views on this. One is to keep practicing Atma-Vichara and it will eventually become easy and natural. The other view (that I subscribe to) is to add whatever practices that you have a natural inclination to that will help support the practice of Vichara. Much is made by “Vichara only” view that any other practice will really be an obstacle in the long run. There is absolutely no merit to this. How can manolaya obtained by other practices become an obstacle is beyond me. Anyways, be your own judge on what works for you.

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

Thanks for the link of Sri Nochur’s talk. I listened to it and found it very useful. Thanks also for the info about "Ramakrishna, the great master" by Swami Saradananda. Didn’t know there was another book of the caliber of Gospel of Ramakrishna.

maya said...

Here is an interesting account of a Ramana devotee's meeting with Nisargadatta. You will see another side of Nisargadatta.

http://nisargadatta.net/SwamiParamatmananda.html

When a person criticizes the traditional methods, here is what Nisargadatta tells her(from above link). The advice is not for the Ramana devotee but to the person that accompanies him.
/**
I may talk about Vedanta to some of the people that come here,” Maharaj continued. “That is not for you and you should not pay any attention to what I am telling others. The book of my conversations should not be taken as the last word on my teachings. I have given answers to the questions of certain individuals. Those answers were intended for those people and not for everyone. Instruction can be on an individual basis only. The same medicine cannot be prescribed for all.

“Nowadays people are full of intellectual conceit. They have no faith in the ancient traditional practices leading to Self-Knowledge. They want everything served to them on a silver platter. The path of knowledge makes sense to them and because of that, they may want to practice it. The will then find that it requires more concentration then they can muster and slowly becoming humble, they will finally take up easier practices like repetition of a mantra or worship of a form. Slowly the belief in a Power greater then themselves will dawn on them and a taste for devotion will sprout in their heart. Then only will it be possible for them to attain purity of mind and concentration. The conceited have to go a very roundabout way. Therefore I say that devotion is good enough for you,” Maharaj concluded.
***/

maya said...

Sivanarul,

Yes, if you truly want to know about Ramakrishna and his entire gamut of spiritual practices, "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master" by Swami Saradananda is the book to read. Infact one has to be very open minded to read this book because it shows in detail all his tantra practices, devotional practices etc. Also, one can easily see that the description of samadhis etc come from Swami Saradananda's own experience, not just someone who has gobbled up a lot of theory and spits its out.

It is said that when Swami Vivekananda was asked to write the biography of Ramakrishna, he laughed and said something like, "What if I was trying to sculpt an image of Shiva nd it comes out like the image of a monkey" and refused to do it and it was him that asked Sarat(later Swami Saradananda) to write the bio.

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

Q: Are there no breaks at all in the jnani’s awareness of the Self? For example, if he is engrossed in reading a good book, will his full attention 'be always on the book? Will he simultaneously be aware that he is the Self?

AS: If there are breaks in his Self-awareness this means that he is not yet a jnani. Before one becomes established in this state without any breaks, without changes, one has to contact and enjoy this state many times. By steady meditation it finally becomes permanent.

It is very difficult to attain Self-abidance, but once it is attained
it is retained effortlessly and never lost. It is a little like putting a rocket into space. A great effort and great energy are required to escape the earth's gravitational field. If the rocket is not going fast enough, gravity will pull it back to earth. But once it has escaped the pull of gravity it can stay out in space quite effortlessly without falling back to earth…

LWB p. 284

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, thank you again for sharing with us Conversations with Annamalai Swami, from his book LWB p. 284. As he says:

It is very difficult to attain Self-abidance, but once it is attained
it is retained effortlessly and never lost. It is a little like putting a rocket into space. A great effort and great energy are required to escape the earth's gravitational field. If the rocket is not going fast enough, gravity will pull it back to earth. But once it has escaped the pull of gravity it can stay out in space quite effortlessly without falling back to earth…

Annamalai Swami gives a nice analogy of 'putting a rocket in space', and how this is similar to becoming the jnani. Yes, this is clearly stated by Bhagavan that once we become the jnani we cannot become an ajnani again. Therefore, to use Annamalai Swami's analogy, we have to escape the gravitational pull of our visaya-vasanas, which always pushes us outwards into the never ending world of thoughts, and the only fully effective way of doing this is by our constant or repeated self-abidance. Regards.

venkat said...

Michael,

Could I go back to the original article (!), where you wrote, in response to one of my comments:

Bhagavan’s teaching was not ‘look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched’, because the watcher is nothing other than our ego (since what is aware of anything other than itself is only this ego and not our actual self), so the aim of self-investigation is not to see that we are the watcher but is only to see that we have never watched or been aware of anything other than ourself.

I have just been reading your recording of talks with Sadhu Om entitled "The Paramount Importance of Self Attention". In it Sadhu Om seems to have commented, on 10 Jan 1978:

Bhagavan often used the term udasina brava, which means an attitude of indifference, and it is necessary for us to have such an attitude towards the mind. What is required is a change of identification: instead of taking the mind to be 'I', take that which knows the mind to be 'I'.

So, he seems to be saying that we should in fact take ourselves to be the watcher (in my words) or the knower, that watches the mind or the ego.

Could you clarify if I have misunderstood this?

Thank you,

venkat

Yuvaraj said...

Venkat,

That snippet came my way when I had finished reading I Am That and had begun reading Bhagavan's talks. So it seemed like K was giving me the message! The messenger also told me the person's name. After the momentary urge to locate and contact her...I let it pass.

At one time a message from you too came in a very timely way. You had quoted Sri Sankara from Viveckachudamani and that was just the message I needed then - "Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion!" Thank you.

Maya,

More excellent anecdotes from you - thank you. I finally visited Yogi Ramsuratkumar's ashram in my last visit to TVM. I found it hard to digest some of his quotes around but then again that is my problem. Thanks for his perspectives, time for a revisit. I once worked close to an ISKCON temple and would see the "loony guys dancing and going crazy", time for a revisit. Or as Michael would remind us, time for atma vichara each time such thoughts occur.

I think much above us, there goes on another satsang of these jnanis, where they seem to play some divine games using us.

The start of Swami Saradananda's book is stunningly good. For instance, the way he portrays Sri Ramaksrishna's father's life and bhakti. He must have actually gotten into his mind and lived his life. After your comments I am only too eager to keep going.

Sivanarul,

I love your humour, man! Agree with your comments on Sexual Energy. When I said obstacle I did not mean to imply unsurmountable...but very very very hard. To flip your quote, "until the sexual drive will be there, ‘I am the body’ is also there."

On Atma Vichara, from my own experience...once you get a hang of it, it is very easy. What makes it so very very hard is best captured by Michael, "thoughts are like a safety railing fixed along the edge of a cliff, and trying to be self-attentive is like trying to throw ourself off the cliff into the bottomless abyss below. Since we are not yet ready to fall into that abyss of pure self-awareness, whenever we try to throw ourself over the cliff we also try to catch hold of the railing in order to save ourself." I still love my desires much much more than atma vichara. So the choice is mine. I can keep crying asking for more Bhakti. But only I can help myself....grace will come much later. Hopefully, reading about Sri Ramakrishna's life and teachings removes these desires, one by one, and can make me better at atma vichara.

Michael,

It is some of your quotes like the one above that have time and again come as a "aha" moment. Thank you again, sir.

Yuvaraj

maya said...

Yuvuraj,

Following is Ramakrishna's answer to lust when asked by a young man. This is from "Ramakrishna, The great master". You can read it for yourself. I'm just typing the gist of his advice
/**
The Master : "Ah, lust does not vanish till God is realized. So long as the body lasts, a little of it continues even after that realization; but then it cannot raise its head............. Again even if an undesirable thing happens to arise once or twice in the mind why should you feel worried because of it? It is natural to the body, it sometimes comes and goes; Pay no more heed to it than to the bodily functions, the calls of nature. Do people feel worried because of such functions? Similarly consider these feelings to be very trifling, unworthy of any attention and do not think of them any more. Moreover, pray to him heartily....Do not take notice whether they come or go. They will slowly come under control." The Master had become, as it were, a youth speaking to a youth.
***/

In between the above conversation he talks about about he himself was overcome with lust. But such statements should be taken carefully. It is true as well as not. Many a times Ramakrishna identifies with such feelings just to encourage a sadhaka.

One other advice he gives, in the same book, is try to use all your emotions towards attaining God. For e.g. he says, if you are jealous prone, be jealous of someone who has more devotion than you and pray for it. If you are prone to anger, be angry that you have still not attained God. His constant advice is the more you develop your love for God (or self in Bhagavan's Ramana's words) the more your desires drop off. He uses the phrase, "if you want to go away from west, go more and more towards the east, focusing your time entirely on God and spirituality.

Also here is conversation from 'M''s (Mahendranath Gupta, The author of Gospel of Ramakrishna) Satsang. See how similar Ramakrishna's teachings are with Bhagavan. There is not an iota of difference except that they speak of different ways suited to their audience. Ramakrishna is referred to as 'Thakur', which was how his devotees called him
/**
M. (to Antevasi) – It is said in the Vedas that all this is going on byHis power of maya. The rishis had seen maya... ‘Devatmashaktisvagunanir-gudam,.’ (Divine Power has Her own inherent qualities).

"Thakur (Ramakrishna) also saw it with these very eyes that this power of maya creates the whole universe and then it lives becoming the universe. Itis inside and it is outside too. He saw that this very maya creates the world, whole universe. And It Itself devours it. Said he, ‘All is under It.’ He said that so long as there is the body there is the world. Tillthen one is under it, within its domain. Speech, action and thought are all His maya. Even meditation on Him is maya. What is beyond maya cannot be spoken with the word of mouth. There one can only go with the Lord of maya.

"The world reflects itself because there is the mind. When the mind perishes the world perishes. However, one has to take recourse to onemood to understand it — shanta (attitude of calmness), dasya(attitude of a servant), sakhya (of a friend), vatsalya (of a parent) andmadhura (of a lover), so saidsays Thakur. Or ‘Soham’ (I am He) —this too is an attitude. One should take up that favourable attitudewhich one likes. One has to have a relationship. Why did he ask us to forge a relationship? The answer, such relationships are already there among us, you see. So one has to change their course to God. The man calls those who are related to him by body as his near and dear one. ‘Near and dear one,’ that is to say one’s own. But in reality only God is one’s own.

will continue..

maya said...

continued..

"The earth on which one falls down also uplifts one when one holds onto it. Form, taste and the rest bind one, yet they are the means to liberation. Maya brings bondage, and then holding on to it one gets uplifted

"Everything on that side is ‘beyond speech and mind,’ all formless. The guru enjoined one to reach the Formless by holding on to the One with form. Reason? The mind cannot perceive anything unless it is concrete. So one should bhe intimate with God in the attitude of father, mother, friend and such other sweet relationships. The man understands such relationships naturally.

"Holding on to His form and meditating on it, one has the vision of His form. If the bhakta so desires, the Lord also shows him Hisformless Self. Besides, there are worshippers of the Formless too. But this is very difficult. In the Gita He says, ‘Avyakta hi gatir dukhamdehavadbhir avapyate,’ (Gita 2:5). (For the goal of the Unmanifestedis very hard for the embodied to reach).

"Thakur said, ‘Just as the snow falls like cotton shreds, so as one hasthe vision of all His forms.’ "
***/

maya said...

Yuvuraj,

One thing that i'm convinced after all these years is that all Jnanis talk of the same thing, except expressed differently. It is our own mind and intellect that interprets them in different ways. But once you get the conviction that they all talk the same thing, you can read any of their teachings and they all will help you. Atleast thats my conclusion. Doesn't mean that if you follow self inquiry, reading others teachings will affect it. On the contrary my experience is just the exact opposite. More I got convinced that they all speak of the same, more faith I got in self inquiry, not that I lacked at it at the start. But opinions and practice will vary. Just because their teachings don't tally on a word to word basis we should not jump to the conclusions that they are something else. Our mind cannot be trusted.

Here is Nisargadatta
/**
Questioner: What about witnessing the witness?

Nisargadatta: Putting words together will not take you far. Go within and discover what you are not. Nothing else matters.
**/

To give an e.g. here is a story of another lesser know devotee of Bhagavan Ramana, Swami Ramagiri


http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.in/2009/01/swami-ramanagiri.html

See how he talks about the technique of self inquiry as he practiced it. He modified it applying principles of Yoga as well. You can read his technique here.

There are so many differences in the practice of self inquiry.


Sanjay Lohia said...

Yuvaraj, thank you for quoting Michael in one of your recent comments. As you quote, Michael had written in one of his recent articles, 'thoughts are like a safety railing fixed along the edge of a cliff, and trying to be self-attentive is like trying to throw ourself off the cliff into the bottomless abyss below. Since we are not yet ready to fall into that abyss of pure self-awareness, whenever we try to throw ourself over the cliff we also try to catch hold of the railing in order to save ourself'.

What a beautiful analogy by Michael and how very appropriate! Yes, if we do not cling to thoughts (which are like safety railings), we will surely fall into the bottomless abyss of pure self-awareness. But our visaya-vasanas force us to cling to our thoughts, while we try to practice self-investigation. Therefore our aim while practising self-investigation should be to leave all thoughts behind, by clinging more and more firmly to self-attentiveness. By this way we are sure to fall into the bottomless abyss of pure self-awareness, sooner rather then later. As our sastras say, only a dhira (a brave one) can accomplish this goal of permanently abiding in pure self-awareness. Let us try and be such a dhira.

This is just my manana. Regards.

ropedancer said...

maya,
why do you worry about differences in the practice of self-inquiry ?
Mind and find your own way.

maya said...

ropedancer,

i only pointed out the difference methods. Please ignore my writings and don't mind them and follow your way.

Anonymous said...

Every day is Christmas day :

TEACHINGS OF BRAHMAJNA MA (from https://www.facebook.com/RamanaHridayam/photos/pb.362686667174158.-2207520000.1451152138./819940738115413/?type=3&theater)

MANIFESTATION

According to the difference in intensity, imagination appears subtle or gross. The stronger the vibration of the mind the more vivid the imagination. If the mind vibrates mildly it assumes subtle forms and by degrees, as the vibrations become intense, it assumes gross forms. Subtle imagination itself gradually assumed gross forms. The difference between subtle and gross lies only in degree.

The mind always indulges in subtle thoughts. The more these imaginary ideas are repeated, the grosser they become. This body of five elements is but a gross manifestation of thought.

In proportion to the unsteadiness of the mind thoughts increase or decrease. When the mind becomes more unsteady thoughts increase in number and assume visible
forms. Imagination, hopes, desires, etc., are all mere projections of the same mind; according to the increase of the projection of the mind material objects multiply.

The mind modifications by mere solidification assume gross forms; it is in this way that one considers oneself to be the body. Forthwith bodily actions, such as eating and sleeping, and all forms of ‘I’-consciousness, such as my body, my house, my work and so on, become deep rooted and thus illusion is confirmed. At this state one cannot remember that there is any such thing as the Self, and through illusion or Maya thought after thought arises in the mind, and the jiva rotates like a whirl-pool. Thus- though there is no existence of anything in reality, by the fancy of the mind the world mirage becomes visible.

Anonymous said...

From https://www.facebook.com/RamanaHridayam/photos/pb.362686667174158.-2207520000.1451157705./819213398188147/?type=3&theater

SRI RAMANA EXPERIENCE
By Sri Muruganar

158. Through the glorious Wisdom
of His all-transcending nature,
which graciously granted me
the attainment of final Bliss,
free of all mental confusion,
I entered a place where all actions,
whether of thought, word or deed,
are no more:
the realm of Holy Silence.

164. In glory, severing bondage’s knot,
my Master fixed His Gaze upon me,
establishing His Grace once and for all
within my Heart.
And as the Bliss of True Knowledge suffused me,
that ego-bound knowledge,
filled with desires that bring suffering in their wake,
was abolished completely.

ropedancer said...

Anonymous,
Sri Muruganar was really blessed with the masters grace and bliss.

Oh Muruganar, I am envy you of your attainment.
I only say my prayers:
Let me follow in your footsteps.
Help to sever the bondage's knot and abolish my ego-bound knowledge.
Rescue me from all mental confusion.
And let me enter the realm of Holy Silence.

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

Q: Bhagavan often told devotees to 'Be still'. Did he mean ‘Be mentally still'?

AS: Bhagavan's famous instruction ‘summa iru' [be still] is often misunderstood. It does not mean that you should be physically still; it means that you should always abide in the Self.

If there is too much physical stillness, tamoguna [a state of mental torpor] arises and predominates. In that state you will feel very sleepy and mentally dull. Rajoguna [a state of excessive mental activity], on the other hand, produces emotions and a mind which is restless.

In sattva guna [a state of mental quietness and clarity] there is stillness and harmony. If mental activity is necessary while one is in sattva guna it takes place. But for the rest of the time there is stillness. When tamoguna and rajoguna predominate, the Self cannot be felt. If sattvaguna predominates one experiences bliss, clarity and an absence of wandering thoughts. That is the stillness that Bhagavan was prescribing.

- LWB p.273

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael and everybody else,

Were you aware that Bhagavan wrote himself something in english ?

Have a look here page 75 :

https://ramanafiles.s3.amazonaws.com/mountainpath/2005%20III%20July.pdf

Yuvaraj said...

Maya,

You have a collection of rare gems. Do keep sharing. And your opinions in the last comment...I relate with.

Sanjay,

I like the way you utlise Michael's blog for your sravana-manana

R Viswanathan said...

Aksharamanamalai discourses in English by Sri Nochur Venkataraman live on http://www.gururamana.net/

29 Dec 2015 to 04 January 2016 from 9.30 to 11 A.M Indian time.

Noob said...

Dear Michael,
In GVC verse 30 it says

"If it is thus said that this world is a mere play of
thoughts, why, even when the mind is quiet, does the
world-scene, like a dream, suddenly appear in front of
us? That is due to the stored momentum of past
imaginations!"

Would not it be more correct to say that until the primal thought "I", that identifies itself with the senses and body, finally merges into self, thus merging all senses into self consciousness, the world scenery will keep running.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Noob, you ask Michael, 'Would not it be more correct to say that until the primal thought "I", that identifies itself with the senses and body, finally merges into self, thus merging all senses into self consciousness, the world scenery will keep running'.

I share my reflections on this question of yours before Michael answers your question. Yes, what you write seems to correct, but it has to be noted that our senses are also nothing but thoughts. Therefore until we experience ourself as this body, we will experience a body as ourself, and this body is nothing but our thought, and since our senses are part of our body it is also a thought. When we destroy our ego by vigilant self-investigation, all our thoughts will be destroyed once and for all, and since this 'world scenery' is nothing but our thoughts all this world scenery will also be destroyed once we experience ourself as we really are. Regards.

sruti said...

Noob,
the merging of the primal thought 'I' into self is just of the same value or synonymous with the moment "when the mind is quiet".

Eleusis said...

Michael,
when it is said that "this world" is a MERE play of thoughts then it is highly important to explain what a thought is.
Only after giving an extensive and comprehensive definition then we may perhaps understand that the statements "the body, the world or the whole universe are ONLY a thought" is the truth.
Arunachala, Aruna-achala-Siva...

Sardanapal said...

Sanjay Lohia,
how can the ego destroy itself by vigilant self-investigation ?
The ego will never be willing to destroy itself.
You only can create a state where the ego does not at all arise.

Noob said...

The reason I asked the question to Michael about verse 30 is because of its 2nd part, namely :

"That is due to the stored momentum of past
imaginations!"

I am not sure about how this is said in Tamil, but it does seem quite vague in English.
The reason why we sense the world (see, hear, touch, etc) is only because our self-consciousnesses seems to be split into this multitude of senses, through which we project/perceive the world into its seeming existence.

Noob said...

And also, talking about thoughts....(thats to Sanjai Lohia)
Are senses part of our body or is the body a product of the seeming split of self consciousness into a multitude of senses?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Noob, according to Bhagavan Ramana, anything we experience other than ourself as we really are is nothing but thoughts, therefore our body and its senses are nothing but thoughts of one kind or another. It is not clear to me what exactly do you mean when you ask, 'Are senses part of our body or is the body a product of the seeming split of self consciousness into a multitude of senses?' Therefore I am not able to comment on this. Regards.

Origenes said...

Eleusis,
regarding your question what a thought is I can tell you a strange experience which because of its peculiarity I will never forget and had never experienced again:
It was long ago (in November of the year 1970) on the journey that I was travelling in a tram in a Central European capital with a friend. The local time was then 17 h 30.
All at once in a kind of hallucination ( I admit it was one hour after smoking some potent hashish - the branded product "black Nepali") I had the impression that before I thought the next thought I saw that very thought some seconds before it was actually thought in a pictorial scene.
I was very exited about that experience. But in the same moment I heard myself asking a question some seconds before I did actually put this very question to my friend.
Again I was very exited about that experience.
But in the same moment I no longer was sure that I have questioned at all any question.
Therefore I asked my friend sitting right beside to me if I had put any question to him.
But he answered that I have not spoken anything at all or put any question to him in the least few minutes.
So my conclusion was that any thought or particularly any question is prepared/created in some way like lightning/in a flash in an own act of thinking and then in an following own act of decision is decided if it should be conveyed to others or not.

Montevideo said...

Sardanapal,
destroying the ego is only an other name for preventing the ego from rising.

venkat said...

Viswanathan - thanks very much for the link to Sri Nochur Venkataraman's live talks.

D. Samarender Reddy said...

David Godman: Papaji, you say that enlightenment is a very easy thing to discover and yet I have heard you say many times that the number of people who have fully woken up to their own Self can be counted on one’s fingers. If it is so easy, why do so few succeed?


Papaji: It is so easy because you don’t have to work for it. It is so easy because you don’t have to go anywhere to get it. All you have to do is keep quiet. Attaining freedom is therefore a very easy thing. People say that it is difficult only because their minds are always engaged with something else. Freedom itself is not difficult. It is giving up the attachment to other things that is difficult. Disengaging yourself from attachments may be difficult. You have to make a decision to do it. You can decide now or put it off till your next life.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Samarender, in once what Papaji says is true: It [enlightenment] is so easy because you don’t have to work for it. It is so easy because you don’t have to go anywhere to get it. All you have to do is keep quiet.

But we should not feel that no effort is required to attain enlightenment, just because Papaji says 'you don’t have to work for it'. Yes, we need no action to attain our ever attained state of atma-jnana, but we do need maximum possible effort to remain quiet or just be. Regards.

D. Samarender Reddy said...

Sanjay,
If the necessity and efficacy of "keeping quiet" is truly understood, you will naturally fall silent without much effort. If we are finding it difficult to keep quiet and are having to expend much effort, it means that at some level we have not fully understood the importance and efficacy of the imperative "Summa iru" or "be still".

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

Q: You talk a lot about vasanas. Could you please tell me exactly what they are and how they function?

AS: Vasanas are habits of the mind. They are the mistaken
identifications and the repeated thought patterns that occur again and again. It is the vasanas which cover up the experience of the Self. Vasanas arise, catch your attention, and pull you outwards towards the world rather than inwards towards the Self. This happens so often and so continuously that the mind never gets a chance to rest or to understand its real nature.

Cocks like to claw the ground. It is a perpetual habit with
them. Even if they are standing on bare rock they still try to scratch the ground.

Vasanas function in much the same way. They are habits and
patterns of thought that appear again and again even if they are not wanted.

Most of our ideas and thoughts are incorrect. When they rise habitually as vasanas they brainwash us into thinking that they are true. The fundamental vasanas such as 'I am the body' or 'I am the mind' have appeared in us so many times that we automatically accept that they are true.

Even our desire to transcend our vasanas is a vasana. When we think 'I must meditate' or 'I must make an effort' we are just organizing a fight between two different vasanas. You can only escape the habits of the mind by abiding in consciousness as consciousness.

Be who you are.
Be as you are.
Just be still.

Ignore all the vasanas that rise in the mind and instead fix your attention in the Self.

- LWB, p. 272

Anonymous said...

SRI RAMANA EXPERIENCE
By Sri Muruganar

186. There are those who bear the marks
of the highest maturity,
but even they will fail to perceive the way to salvation
and must suffer accordingly
unless they seek illumination from an enlightened Master
and Realize the Truth.
It is the True Teacher alone
who can cut away the fetters of the world and the soul.

187. No matter that we read the Truth in Holy books,
no matter how many vows we keep,
it is only with the help of the True Teacher
that we can conquer our confusion.
Although I was a sinner,
impure in mind,
He established me in His own state
and showed forbearance,
accepting my homage and becoming my Lord.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Samarender, you write 'Sanjay, If the necessity and efficacy of "keeping quiet" is truly understood, you will naturally fall silent without much effort'. In my experience I believe I have understood the necessity of keeping quiet, but I still have to make effort to keep quiet. All our intellectual understanding has to be practised upon, which in Bhagavan's teachings is done by investigating ourself alone, and this investigation does require focused effort to remain as we really are. Regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, anonymous, as Annamalai Swami writes 'Ignore all the vasanas that rise in the mind and instead fix your attention in the Self'. This is the essence of Bhagavan's teachings, so very simple but requires superhuman perseverance to keep practising it. But sooner or later we are bound to reach our goal if we keep at this practice. This is Bhagavan's assurance to all of us. Regards.

ropedancer said...

Anonymous,
Sri Muruganar let us hope that we all - impure in mind - may some day conquer our confusion with the help of Sri Ramana Arunachala.
Annamalai, please cut away the fetters of the world and the soul.

Baalbek said...

Anonymous,
is realizing the truth really the end of our suffering ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Baalbek, realising the truth - which means, experiencing ourself as we really are - has to be end of all suffering. In fact experiencing ourself as we really are is the end of the sufferer (our ego), and without the ego how can any suffering remain? We should not doubt this simple but obvious fact, as this intellectual conviction is the prime motivator for all our inward effort. By Bhagavan's grace, may we (that is this ego) not remain to see the end of 2016. Meanwhile a very happy new year to all. Regards.

Anonymous said...

The vasanas arise because of the habits and practices of previous lifetimes. That is why they differ from jnani to jnani.

When vasanas rise in ordinary people who still identify with the
body and the mind, they cause likes and dislikes. Some vasanas are embraced wholeheartedly while others are rejected as being undesirable. These likes and dislikes generate desires and fears which in turn produce more karma. While you are still making judgements about what is good and what is bad, you are identifying with the mind and making new karma for yourself. When new karma has been created like this, it means that you have to take another birth to enjoy it.

The jnani's body carries out all the acts which are destined for
it. But because the jnani makes no judgment about what is good or bad, and because he has no likes and dislikes, he is not creating any new karma for himself- Because he knows that he is not the body, he can witness all its activities without getting involved in them in any way.

There will be no rebirth for the jnani because once the mind has been destroyed there is no possibility of any new karma being created.

Living by the Words of Bhagavan, p. 274

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, you again quote from the book LWB by Annamalai Swami, but some of the passages here seem to be confusing, but this could be a case of wrong interpretation of his words.

Like he says, 'The vasanas arise because of the habits and practices of previous lifetimes. That is why they differ from jnani to jnani'. Does any vasana ever arises in the jnani? It cannot be so, as any vasana can arise only in an ajnani. It may seem to us that the jnani is thinking or acting in various ways, but this is only in our view. In Jnani's clear non-dual view, any sort of an action is impossible, thus no vasana can ever arise in the jnani.

Again Annamalai Swami says 'he [jnani] can witness all its activities without getting involved in them in any way'. Again this statement does not seem to be in tune with Bhagavan's teachings. The jnani, according to Bhagavan, never witnesses anything, as according to Bhagavan he witnesses or experiences only himself. It is only our ego which can witness something apart from himself, and as there is no ego in the jnani, any sort of witnessing is impossible for him. Regards.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay,
Annamalai swamy spoke in tamil, his attendant translate it into english, and then Mr Godman made a book. Therefore we will never know what Annamalai swamy truly said. This is the problem with spiritual books. Happy new year !

gargoyle said...

A general question for anyone wishing to dispel my ignorance………

(quote)
"While you are still making judgements about what is good and what is bad, you are identifying with the mind and making new karma for yourself. When new karma has been created like this, it means that you have to take another birth to enjoy it."
(end quote)

By this logic, I assume that Bhagavan could have not created any karma during the first 15 years of his birth, and had he done so he would have to taken another birth as a human.

I'm not disputing the text, it appears to be taken from a book and not anyone's opinion, so please forgive me if my stupidity and ignorance are clouding my failure to grasp the real meaning.

Gargoyle


Anonymous said...

Gargoyle,
Maybe the statement you quote havsnever been said... Then, why worry about your so called stupidity about something that has, perhaps, never benn said ? If you direct your attention toward the one who is reading this comment or if you look to whom this doubt arise, then all will be well and you will realize that book have their limits.
I wish you a happy new year and be sure that Bhagavan will do everything for you, for us, for everybody !

Sanjay Lohia said...

Gargoyle, Bhagavan may have created fresh karma in the first fifteen years or so of his bodily existence, but these karmas were all burnt in the fire of jnana-agni, when the boy Venkataraman dissolved his ego in his famous 'death-experience' in his sixteenth year. Thus all his karmas became non-existent henceforth. Regards.

gargoyle said...

Anonymous
&
Sanjay Lohia

The ego (that scoundrel) was asking the question to keep me away from my morning pracisce of atma vichara.

Gracias

gargoyle said...

that would be 'practice'

R Viswanathan said...

"when the boy Venkataraman dissolved his ego in his famous 'death-experience' in his sixteenth year."

Sri Nochur Venkataraman often states that it is not appropriate to call it a death-experience, but it is appropriate to call it an experience of deathlessness or of immortality.

Baalbek said...

Sanjay Lohia,
thanks for wishing a happy death before the end of the year 2016 to the (my) ego.
Although by realizing the truth the suffering of the (my) ego would be now at an end the suffering of the "projected other sufferers" will remain very living.
Therefore the end of the suffering of one "projected person" is only slightly an alleviation of the vast ocean of "projected sufferers".
Not every realized being is destined for teaching many aspirants - as in the case of the incomparable Sir Ramana.
But while writing I do doubt if the (my) ego belongs to me as I really are.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

“At a certain point the feeling-impulse is just to climb the nearest tree in this jungle, go high and up and high and up and even higher to the top until there are no more branches obstructing the clear view of the sky. And look, and just rest there. Let's meet at that spot my friend, at least for a short while” "A weeklong event of: “Dancing with the ‘I’, breathing ‘OM’, resting at the mountain top peacefully surrendering everything to Ishvara” DEAL! I'm in M

How was the resting of the weeklong event? Have you come back to the mundane world :-)

While I was able to keep my end of the deal by shutting out everything other than work and family, I can’t say I climbed more than a few branches and couldn’t get a clear view of the sky. Nevertheless, it was nice climbing :-)

One of the interesting insights I had was the realization of the deep clinging to the perceived world. Part of my sadhana is contemplation of physical death and the disappearance of the perceived world (as known now) as a result of physical death. When this contemplation deepens, there is intense fear that develops and the contemplation ends. I figure this is what is described in the Yoga sutras as:
“2.9 Even for those people who are learned, there is an ever-flowing, firmly established
love for continuation and a fear of cessation, or death, of these various colored
modifications (kleshas). (sva-rasa-vahi vidushah api tatha rudhah abhiniveshah)”

Saint Patthirigiriyar’s Jnana wailings:

“ஊன் நிறைந்த காயம் உயிர் இழந்து போகுமுன்னம்
நான் இறந்து போக இனி நாள் வருவது எக்காலம்?”
Before this body dies when will the day come for this ‘I’ to die?

பிறப்பும் இறப்பும்அற்றுப் பேச்சும்அற்று மூச்சும்அற்று
மறப்பும் நினைப்பும்அற்று மாண்டிருப்பது எக்காலம்?
Eliminating birth, death, speech, breath, forgetfulness and remembrance when will the day come to be dead?

Sivanarul said...

More gems from Saint Patthirigiriyar:

வேதாந்தவேதம் எல்லாம் விட்டொழிந்தே நிட்டையிலே
ஏகாந்தமாக இருப்பதினி எக்காலம்?
Leaving behind Vedanta and the Vedas, when will the day come when I will be with myself in Samadhi?

நீரில் குமிழிபோல் நிலையற்ற வாழ்வை விட்டுநின்
பேரின்பக் கருணை வெள்ளம் பெருக்கெடுப்பது எக்காலம்?
Leaving behind this life as a mere bubble in water, when will the day come when your blissful grace of ocean will rise?

பல்லாயிரம் கோடிப் பகிரண்டம் உம்படைப்பே
அல்லாது வேறில்லை என்று அறிவது இனி எக்காலம்?
These several thousand crore universes are nothing but your creation, when will the day when I will realize this?

அல்லும் பகலும் என்றன் அறிவை அறிவால் அறிந்து
சொல்லும் உரைமறந்து தூங்குவதும் எக்காலம்?
Realizing day and night through the real ‘I’ of ‘I’, transcending speech and thought, when will the day come when I will be asleep?

என்னை விட்டு நீங்காமல் என்னிடத்து நீ இருக்க
உன்னை விட்டு நீங்காது ஒருப்படுவது எக்காலம்?
You are with me without ever leaving me; When will the day come when I can merge in you without ever leaving you?

என்னை என்னிலே மறந்தே இருந்த பதியும் மறந்து
தன்னையும் தானே மறந்து தனித்து இருப்பது எக்காலம்?
Forgetting ‘I’ in ‘I’, Forgetting even the Lord, when will the day come when ‘I’ forgetting itself, will be by itself?

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarulji, Vannakkam and western calendar Happy New Year!

What a nice introduction to 2016 to wake up to such a warm posting. It makes all the difference!

I did come back to the mundane world, yes. Proof of it, this writing!
The climbing was also good, but I must confess, like you did, I didn’t see any clear sky, except when fell asleep in one of the branches. Couldn’t get clearer that that! :-)

Listen my friend, I loved Saint Pathhirigiriyar’s “Jnana wailings” as you said, loved it, really. The same loving advaitic perfume that Aksharamanamalai exudes…
When the passion for the longing mixes with the knowledge of it, couldn’t be a better balm in this whole earth for the deluded as we are, or at least as I am. So thank you for this unexpected gift.
By the way I tried to google Him (Saint Pathhirigiriyar) but no results. Is He an obscure saint from Tamil’s lineage of enlightened or a very prominent name in that lineage? I was surprised that there are no records (not a single one) in our "sacrosanct all-knowledgeable” Google database.

On a complete different note, if ever God's intricacies of destiny rule in my favor and bring me near the Jersey land or nearby, would you like to meet and have some chai or lunch or just a nice chat? The same of course counts if you come to The Angels land of southern California Republic, would be such a treat to meet you (or any other member of this sangha of course). My personal email is “maunna-at-gmail-dot-com"

Be well, and again happy new year and may His blessings match the direction of your deepest and most sattvic desires for these coming times.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

Happy New Year 2016 to you too. Let’s hope we all progress much further in the path this year and may Bhagavan’s grace guide us from darkness to light.
Whenever you come by the Jersey shore, let me know and we can meet for some nice chai and/or Indian food. We got some really nice Indian restaurants in Jersey just like California.

I misspelled the saint’s name. If you google “Saint Pathiragiriyar”, you will find results. Google knows things even God doesn’t know :-) He is also known as “saint badragiriyar”.

Saint Pathiragiriyar was the disciple of Saint Pattinathar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattinathar). Saint Pattinathar is a highly respected and revered saint and siddhar in the Saivite tradition. He physically renounced the world when he read the leaflet “Even an earless needle will not accompany you when you leave the body”. Just like the word “Arunachala” brought a great change in Bhagavan when he first heard it, similarly that sentence brought a dramatic change in Pattinathar and he immediately renounced the physical world. Considering he was a very rich man during those times (equivalent to a billionaire now) and everything was going 100% right for him in life, his physical renunciation was deeply admired by Saint Thayumanavar who wrote:

“Rejecting the entire world as an illusion, renouncing the world like Pattinathar is a rare, rare and rare event”

After renouncing the world, Saint Pattinathar still stayed in the same town, since his mother requested that he not desert her. He begged for alms and just wore a loincloth (exactly like Bhagavan). He was practically immersed in Samadhi for most of the time. After his mother’s death, he left the town and visited various places. During one of those visits, while he was lost in Samadhi in a temple, thieves who stole from the king, threw a necklace to the statue of Lord Ganesh as thanks for helping them for a successful loot. But the necklace fell on Pattinathar’s neck since he was sitting close to the statue. The next morning the king’s guards, while searching for the thieves saw the necklace on Pattinathar’s neck and apprehended him as the thief. The King (who was Pathiragiriyar) without much investigation sentenced Pattinathar to death.

Pattinathar was taken to the execution ground and a noose was put and he was prepared for execution. At that point pattinathar composed the following song:

“My lord, I have now realized that none of the actions was ever mine and everything was only yours. I have not committed a single mistake in this life for this to happen. Whatever I have done in my past lives must have resulted in this”.

Sivanarul said...

As soon as he sang this, the noose got on fire and was burnt. The guards realized that this was a saint and not a thief and reported the matter to the King Pathiragriyar, who realized his mistake and asked the saint for forgiveness and instruction. The king immediately renounced the world and become the disciple of Pattinathar and served him by begging for food and providing it to his guru.
The lord came to Pattinathar in disguise as an ascetic and begged for food.

Pattinathar looked at the ascetic and said, “I am a sanyasi, you are also a sanyasi. What can I give you? But in the upper chambers of this temple lives a householder (saint Pathiragiriyar, his disciple). Go ask him for food”.

When the lord asked Pathiragiriyar for food narrating what his guru had told him, Pathiragiriyar wailed in anguish that his guru considered him as a householder even though he had renounced everything. Upon careful examination, he realized he had a begging bowl with him and the guru had labelled him a householder how having that bowl. He immediately threw that bowl away.

By such careful training and shaping by his Guru, Pathiragiriyar became an exemplary saint in his own right and attained Moksha even before his own Guru. His songs just like saint Pattinathar are deeply mystical, devotional and can stir the heart of any serious sadhaka. They are effused with both Bhakthi and Jnana and are a delight to contemplate.

For those who know Tamil, http://www.projectmadurai.org/pmworks.html contains pdf and html versions of all well-known tamil saints. Enjoy!

When one studies the vairagya and detachment that saints like these had (along with Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu OM, Swami Ramanagiri, Mastan Swami and many others), one feels like being a 5’th grader put in a graduate level advanced quantum mechanics class. What are we doing here in the company of such great luminaries? We don’t understand one bit of the deep quantum stuff. Why are we really here instead of doing simple experiments like noticing an apple fall from a tree which is more in the level of a 5’th grader.

The only answer can be that Ishvara/Bhagavan/Grace has decided to drag us along, even if it be kicking and screaming, and even if it be we are unqualified. They either know something we don’t or they are very gullible and kind or they are both. Whatever the reason is, we find ourselves in this quantum mechanics class having the IQ of a 5’th grader and having to trust Grace to show us how to pass this course. In God/Grace/Bhagavan we trust to pass this class, at least with a gentleman’s C :-)

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji,

So well said and stated my friend, so well said...

You almost deserve a C+... :-)

Yours in the classroom,
M

Out of focus said...

Michael,
the idea of ekagrata (one-pointedness) meets on my part some reservation about it.
Where is the dividing line to one-sidedness ?
A tunnel vision does generally not provide an overall view of the fullness of all details/individual case study/single valuation. Is there not a risk to lose the ability of doing error detection and correction.
But of course as you write our energy and attention should not be scattered in many different directions. Rather we have to focus all our interest, effort and attention on one-pointedly practising atma-vicara.
Although I take Bhagavan as my guru and I am or at least seem to be convinced by his teachings I regret that my mind still does not want to be of the firm and wholehearted conviction that the ONLY GOAL THAT WE SHOULD SEEK TO ACHIEVE IS THE ANNIHILATION OF MY EGO, which is what is also called COMPLETE SELF-SURRENDER.
Therefore I can only hope to soon get ready to gain the bala required to achieve the goal. So I have to start the re-establishment of my yearning for his grace and continue to seek the aid of his grace whenever my mind is dragged outwards by my old attchments and visaya-vasanas. I pray to Bhagavan Ramana (and) Arunachala to give me the love to practise atma-vichara as he has taught us. I have to restore the full understanding of atma-cintana.
Oh Arunachala, do not forget to keep your word that you root out the ego of those who think at heart 'ARUNACHALAM' or that ARUNACHALAM is only 'I'.
Oh Arunachala, please let me not put down my two oars before I reach the shore of samsara.
Oh Arunachala, keep an eye on developing ekagrata(one-pointedness) by watching carefully over my trying to focus on myself alone.

Noob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

In this particular post, there are lot of comments from multiple people who have been associated with Bhagavan's teaching. And each one have been doing self inquiry in some form or other, which is what I could sense. Hence posing few questions that has been there on my self inquiry practice.

I know that though we all understand the method and approach of self inquiry, it is purely subjective. So the practice am doing based on the understanding is also subjective but still mind plays the trick of "Am I doing it right?" "Is this what Bhagavan meant by focusing on "I"? "This is what Michael / David Godman meant?" etc etc. Sometimes, I do keep asking "Who is having these questions?" "Who is the thinker of those questions?" etc but still deep at heart I know the vasanas to "clarify one last time exists" and hence writing the questions of my mind.


1. While practicing, the understanding I have got is Self inquiry is a one step process. It is paying gentle attention on our self. It is not like one thing paying attention to one another thing, but more like being that attention, feeling the attention itself as I. It is not like focusing on something but being that focus itself. It is like resting the "effort to focus on anything" but being alert and aware of the source of focus. All this is more like description that I can put in words while paying attention to Iam. Let me know know if this is right way of doing it?


2. I have read in Michael's post our intent should be "exclusively focus on I" , like when I try to focus on I, I can still see some stray attention going to the sound of the fan or some thoughts popping up, or to the breathing. It is not exclusive attention. And I guess the intent to focus exclusive on I creates a tension in mind as it tries to "do" something.


3. This is where I need a help. People who do meditation and self - inquiry or any other practice, say that they feel more peaceful, calm and relaxing. But whenever I sit and do self inquiry, after I get up, I feel so much pain around neck, shoulders, me head feels heavy. I referred to some talks and read that Bhagavan mentioned, it should be done from Heart. I did ask Michael once, he said focusing on I is our natural state, it is what we are, so there shouldn't be any pain etc. Only when the mind resists and not allowing, there comes a tension. Focusing on I is never a tension. But whenever I practice, it feels like so pain and heavy inside. It is never a peaceful process. It is like those few minutes of sitting, I have waged a war inside me. Focus on I, slip into thoughts, again focus on I, again get lost into thought trains, again focus on I, deep breathing and sighness, resting in I, again lost in thoughts.... so basically, not able to pay attention to I for long abidance. It is like to and fro and this frustrates and makes me feel heavy. I still continue to do so, because I don't know any other way.


4. Pay attention to I, I-thought, I-feeling, Ego, Thinker, Awareness, Observer = all these mean same when we say pay attention to I right?

Michael and other friends, I would be really glad of any help you could provide on the above questions. I feel demotivated sometimes that I don't get it 'right' or may be self inquiry is not for me.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Palaniappan, self-investigation is a practice of experimentation, and we will only succeed in this practice once - that is, when we experience ourself alone. Till then we will continue to have all such doubts, as mentioned by you.

Yes, our body may feel some strain and pain if we practise self-attentiveness for a long time at a stretch, and I feel such bodily pain and tiredness usually on Sunday evenings as I generally sit for a long time in self-attentiveness every Sunday morning. Therefore the body can feel some strain in some cases, but we just have to persevere and everything will come right in the end. Regards.

Mouna said...

Dear Palaniappan Chidambaran, greetings

I am really sure that you will get very good advice not only from Michael directly (perhaps) but from many of our friends in this sangha. We can all relate to your questions because many of us live constantly with them daily or perhaps sometimes hourly.

As for myself, when the movements of the mind (or the sensations/feelings in the body) try to override sadhana efforts questioning the efficacy of it or the “why?” “how?”, etc… it might be as simple as try to relax sitting in a comfortable posture or laying down and… just stop and be silent for a brief moment, even a few seconds. Silence, just silence.

We can rest in that silence, and if the movement stirs up again then it’s alright, after a while we may come back for a few seconds to the silence, I mean the inner silence. Paying attention to that silence is to be done gently, not forcing it.

This is one of the tools ( and there are many) that works for me at times. Of course, investigating the ‘I’ or ego or observer, etc (which are all the same) or turning attention inwards is the main tool but if we “feel” we are getting nowhere, we may always turn to read something or just enjoy what is in front of us.

Consistency and perseverance with small effective efforts are more important than forceful ones.

All the best in your quest,
Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

PS: from one point of view, your name carries the answer to your questions, Lord Siva’s temple in its ethereal, space-like form...

Wittgenstein said...

Palaniappan,

It might be a good idea to start with your fourth question, which would require some basic definitions. The terms ‘I’,’ I-thought’,’ ego’,’ thinker’ and ‘observer’ are equivalent. They refer to the idea ‘I am the body’. On the other hand, ‘I-feeling’ and ‘[self] awareness’ are equivalent. They refer to the ‘I am’ portion of the ‘I am the body’ idea. The portion ‘I am’ is of the nature of awareness.

The term ‘I-feeling’ found in Ramana literature comes from the Tamil word tannunarvu. While the word unarvu has the meaning of ‘awareness’ in this context, it was somehow translated as ‘feeling’. From then on, everyone follows this. Therefore, tannunarvu=tan+unarvu, or equivalently, in English, ‘I’+’awareness’=’I-awareness’, which is awkward. More correctly, it should be self-awareness, rather than ‘I-awareness’ or ‘I-feeling’.

When Bhagavan talks about atma vichara, he says we should investigate ‘I’ or ’I-thought’ or ’ the ego’ or ’the thinker’ or ‘the observer’. While doing so, he says, we should pay attention to the ‘I am’ portion in them, by neglecting ‘the body’ portion. Therefore, atma vichara is attention to self-awareness.

Bhagavan also says self-awareness is never lost. Now, nobody here is absolutely self-aware, in the present state to vouch for that fact. This is precisely the reason why when ‘the body’ portion is completely absent in sleep, we intellectually understand that there is self-awareness and it is not lost. If we experienced it then, rather than intellectually understanding it now, nobody will be asking these questions here.
From the above considerations, it is clear that our ‘normal’ sense of self-awareness is mixed with ‘other-awareness’. In ‘other-awareness’ all thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions are included. Therefore, we are vaguely (hazily) self-aware. This vagueness is the reason why the doubts such as, ‘Am I doing it right?’ comes. As our Sanjay pointed out, these doubts will come to every one of us, till atma vichara comes to an end. Nevertheless, whatever be the current state of our vagueness/clarity, we should try to put our attention on that.

When it is told that we should be exclusively aware of ourselves, it would also be qualified invariably with the phrase ‘try to’. Therefore, we try to be exclusively self-aware right now. If we succeed in that, we come to the end of the investigation. From this description it is clear that those who are discussing here have not succeeded in being exclusively self-aware.

In trying to be exclusively self-aware, no force should be used on thoughts. During the sitting sessions, we may reach a stage where our self-awareness comes very ‘glaringly’ in the foreground and thoughts recede to the background and become non-intrusive. It is very important to distinguish between intrusive and non-intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are attention-grabbing, divert us away from our main aim. Non-intrusive thoughts are not so ‘dense’ and powerful. They come slowly, do not produce further thought chains and silently disappear. Slowly, their number and frequency will reduce on their own, once our attention is on self-awareness. When we are at the ‘non-intrusive’ stage, we should expend no energy in checking with them, trying to grab them, make them disappear etc. We should simply abide in our state of enhanced self-awareness. This should be very peaceful and relaxing.

contd..

Wittgenstein said...

Headaches, aches around the eyes and between the eye brows and heaviness of head come because of too serious attempts. They indicate the teeth-gritting approach to atma vichara, which is against its spirit of summa iru.

Regarding pain in the shoulders, neck and back, I have a feeling (and that is only my feeling) that most of the underlying emotions are having a ‘physical’ catharsis and these are normal. I had lot of them. They will all go away on their own.

As Sanjay told, atma vichara happens only once and that is the ‘moment less moment’ when we succeed in being one-hundred percent self-aware in the waking state, after several attempts. There should not be room for despair and thoughts related to giving up atma vichara. If one goes by that, all of us here should give up. Bhagavan will not let us do so. The fact that you are interested shows you are already guided by Bhagavan.

maya said...

Palaniappan,

my two cents. As many have indicated already when you try to focus too much or make intense effort you will have headaches etc. One thing I realized over time, and many have indicated before, is to relax as much as possible and then focus on the "i am". I feel that the more relaxed one is the less body consciousness there is. The more hard you try to focus, the more you strengthen the "I" or the one that's focusing and the more you will be aware of your pains.

I also think that the technique Sadhu Om suggests in "the path of ramana part 1" in the chapter "Sadhana and work", where he says its better to have bursts of intense focus and then relax in between, rather than continuously try to focus for an hour. Its probably better to focus for 3-4 mins, relax for a few minutes and try again, atleast in the initial stages of our practice.

As for relaxing, i've found simple deep abdominal breathing, i.e. just watching the breath go deep and feel the abdomen expand, very helpful. As a matter of fact this happens naturally in Yoga asanasa and also is taught in many martial arts. To sum up i'd say just relax before you start and the less body conscious you will be and more still your body and mind will be enabling greater focus.

And like Mouna suggested when you are getting nowhere on some days, better to go for a walk, read a book or watch a movie :-)

maya said...

Palaniappan,

Going by your name, i'm assuming you know Tamil. Trying to focus on the "irukkindren" feeling might help. Just relax and try to focus on that feeling. I guess most people, sense that feeling somewhere within their body between the heart and the abdomen. I know its not a specific physical location but I generally sense that feeling of "being alive" or "core of your being" or irukkindren there.

I have read in other forms of meditation that focusing on the head region for some people might result in headaches along with too much effort.

ropedancer said...

Palaniappan Chidambaram,
sit down keeping your back upright. Breathe out deeply. Take a deep breath and hold it some seconds.
Then breath out again and repeat breathing in this way several times.
Do not care about peace , calm and relaxation.
Do not pay attention to any sound of the fan or some thoughts popping up or the breathing.
Do not care if your attention is exclusive or not.
Now you are here in your eternal being. Nothing can deprive you of your present being. Try to hold your simple attention of your present being so long you can.
If you may feel some pain around neck, shoulders or in your head stop and try it later again.
Do not care about any difficulties. Do only try again and again to be aware of yourself alone.
The pain in neck, head shoulders may be caused by many other bodily facts or circumstances. Consult a good physiotherapist who knows holistic medicine or can look at your problems in its entirety( osteopathy).
Do not give up your fight/practice. Do not care at all about any mind-bound or/and ego-born difficulties/doubts. Do never forget that your core of being is immortal and eternal !
All is a case of your staying power.
I too could not practise properly for twenty years. But I did return reverentially and humbly to the path having confidence in Sri Ramana Arunachala.
Om namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya !

Sivanarul said...

Palaniappan Chidambaram (very nice name),

Greetings and Happy Year! You have gotten really good replies to your question from various perspectives. I will add one more. Note that Self-Enquiry is a very minor part of my practice, so my reply is based on the broader spiritual platform than any significant experience with Vichara itself.

“People who do meditation and self - inquiry or any other practice, say that they feel more peaceful, calm and relaxing.”

From my experience, yes, this is true some times, but not always during all sessions. Some sessions are like “When will this end?”. There has developed a current of peace, calm and relaxing that is sustained during the entire waking hours for most of the time. My practices are Meditation, Mantra Japa (silent repetition), Parayana, Pratyahara and a sprinkle of Vichara.

While Vichara can certainly produce PCR (peaceful, calm relaxing), it is more easily attained by the firm conviction that there is nothing in Samsara that you really need (other than basic needs and Starbucks chai :-)). To me peace has been a direct result of Pratyahara (5’th limb of the yoga sutras). Withdraw the mind from all unnecessary things of the world or at least keep it to a bare minimum. Peace also arises as a direct result of partial surrender to Ishvara/Bhagavan/Grace. When withdrawal is combined with partial surrender, the peace is so wonderful. Along with that peace, there is also fear that arises that this peace will be lost with physical death. That fear is a clear indication that the peace experienced is only a fraction of the “peace that passeth all understanding” which has no fear in it at all.

“But whenever I practice, it feels like so pain and heavy inside. It is never a peaceful process. It is like those few minutes of sitting, I have waged a war inside me.”

This could be because you are practicing too much or there are some underlying physical issues or some vasanas are being brought out to the surface by practice. Do you practice anything other than Vichara? Do you have a devotional temperament? If you do, are you having these issues during those practices as well or is it happening in Vichara alone?
If you are open to other practices, include those other practices also as part of your sadhana. There are two thoughts on this. One is that Vichara being the direct, complete and full confrontation of the ego by the ego that, that is all that is required. I beg to differ. The ego is on a journey that will bring its own destruction. Too much direct confrontation is not possible other than for really advanced sadhakas who have done the preliminary work in earlier lives. For a lot of us, indirect weakening is a powerful tool available at our disposal.

I also practice a combination of Buddhist contemplation of death along with Bhagavan’s own contemplation. This weakens the ego’s attachment to the body since it repeatedly is exposed to the fact that this body it has such a strong affinity to is very very temporary. If you are open to such practices, please give it a try and see whether you experience pain or war during these practices as well.

Sivanarul said...

“I feel demotivated sometimes that I don't get it 'right' or may be self inquiry is not for me.”

It is fair to say that 99.99% of all sadhakas feel demotivated sometimes and doubt whether they are following the path correctly or not. I do it quite often. Most of the members of this sangha take the view that perseverance alone is the proof that you are doing it right. Again, I beg to differ. That is a very high standard. It is important to remember that this journey is unlike anything else in that ego is trying to self-destruct itself. Why would it do that, if there are no carrots before it?

Let’s say you have worked very hard for 5 years and you question yourself what is the point of working and the answer you get is, your motivation to work further itself is the point of working. While that answer may satisfy a few workers, most of the workers will not be happy with it. The more convincing answer is that you now a sizable bank balance due to your working, and if you continue to work your balance will grow.

The ego is being asked to leave behind it’s samsaric pleasures. It begins the journey because it sees that the pleasures also come with lot of pain and suffering and spirituality promises that at the end of the tunnel, sat-chit-ANANDA is waiting. It is this ANANDA (unparalleled bliss with no tinge of sorrow at all) is the big carrot for the ego to proceed in the journey that will bring its own destruction. But it needs some direct evidence from itself in waking state, a small foretaste, however minute it might be of that Ananda. That foretaste comes upon reflecting back from where you started and where you are now. If you do that analysis, you will realize that your sense of peace, joy and satisfaction has increased tremendously. This is the small carrot. Rejoice the small carrot like a rabbit for a while whenever you feel demotivated. Then think of how wonderful the biggest carrot will be. Your motivation will return soon to get that bigger carrot.

“குறள் 350
பற்றுக பற்றற்றான் பற்றினை அப்பற்றைப்
பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு “
Couplet 350
Cling thou to that which He, to Whom nought clings, hath bid thee cling,
Cling to that bond, to get thee free from every clinging thing
Explanation
Desire the desire of Him who is without desire; in order to renounce desire, desire that desire

As the Thirukural says, in the sadhaka stage, we need to cling to that which has no clinging to get rid of our clinging. The ego needs to cling to the everlasting ANANDA to get rid of samasric Ananda. There lies your motivation.

Sivanarul said...

Saint Thayumanavar songs:

Many the Garlands (4/10)
I realized that all life is an illusion.
But having realized it, I did not look beyond for a way out,
But remained here depressed.
What is this delusion
If this way is now blocked,
The way further beyond will also be blocked.
Is this fate? Or your play? Or this poor soul's fault?
Pray, speak! No more can I in vain distress suffer.
Oh! Thou, who createth, preserveth and destroyeth all!

Desire that is so Known (16/40)
Yesterday they were,
Today they are dead.
Even after seeing that
I adore Thee not.
Alas! How I wasted my time!
No more can I bear this!
Oh, Lord of Pervasive Bliss!
Am I to fall into the boundless mire of maya
And wallow in it still,
Unworthy that I am?

No Doing is My Own (13/27)
It is time that Thou grant me the boon
That I sit in solitude in mauna samadhi (silent trance)
My heart's yearning, too, is ripe for it.
Thou, the Pure One, the Compassionate One,
Nothing that Thou doth not know!
Pray therefore speak and bless me!

No Doing is My Own (27/27)
Oh, Father,Having meditated deep,
Thine devotees cling to Thee,
Aware that there is nothing but Thee.
But sinner that I am, I hold as real this worldly life
That is total maya.Verily am I unto that
That carrieth on a trade without capital.

Leaping Leopard (14/59)
''I am a primal being'' -
Thus was I speaking.
To make me hang my head in shame
He, the Primal Being, Himself in fullness appeared
And conferred incomparable bliss
And consumed all my sentience
And made me lose my consciousness
And caused the state of silentness.
What more am I to say?

Achaimenes said...

Michael,
regarding section 17:
It is really strange and odd that the one 'I' tries to know something other than the 'I' . Still more strange is that the illusory ego can at all seem to exist and to have a separate existence. But the height of cheek is that the illusory ego has an own 'view of itself' or an own 'view of our actual self' and with it a completely wrong assumption one. Because only of that reason we have to keep the mind in ourself(atma) or in other words keep our attention fixed firmely on ourself. What is more we have to attend to ourself(this ego or sense of 'I' sufficiently keenly. Only after that sufficiently keen attention we will discover that what we really are is only our real self, which is not this finite ego but only the one infinite space of pure self-awareness.
But how can/should we expect that the ego will direct its entire attention back towards itself instead of towards any thing else ? Do we not misjudge the very nature of the ego when we assume that it will subside and disappear possibly on its own initiative ? Is it not the greatest interest of the ego to remain as ego and not as that what we really are ? Does not the ego try with its last effort to prevent the scrupulous investigation of its source or birthplace ? Does not the ego endeavour to get not dissolved ? Does not the ego take trouble over and fight for its own well-being ? Does not the ego refuse to comply with its annihilation ? Does not the ego put up resistance against any restriction of its sphere of activity and freedom of action ? Does the ego not brace itself against any attempt of its disappearance ?
After vanishing without a trace what then will remain is what we really are.
I imagine that remaining of our actual self pictorially as an island which is really a mountain rising up from the bottom of the sea till some height/elevation above the waterlevel. The foot of the mountain would become apparent only after epavoration of the sea water although it was existent already been present.
So let us subside our ego and mind and be herewith what we always are, which is eternally motionless (acala) and hence inactive self-awareness: Arunachala.
Practising of being self-attentive will let us subside in our natural state of just being, ‚summa iruppadu‘.

Anonymous said...

Here is a saying of The Old Rabbit :

"God is vegetarian and will never eat a parrot, therefore it is better to be a carrot." Rabbit Vachaka Kovai, verse 624.

Tulasi said...

Anonymous Rabbit,
be careful, God sometimes has already devoured parrots together with rabbits and carrots.
Arunachala Vachaka Kovai,verse 1

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks to one and all for showering with all your sincere advises and suggestions. Feeling gratitude and as well trying to understand each of the views. Thanks Sanjay, Mouna, Anonymous Wittgenstein, Maya, Ropedancer, Sivanarul.

Though I understand that "forceful" attention will never help or against the whole essence of Self inquiry, but when I sit unknowingly / unconsciously the attention becomes too focused or concentrated. And when I realize, there is a heavy breathing and a thought of "I'm not getting it". And when I keep aside all these and just sit doing nothing, like complete relaxation, either I doze off or get lost in world of numerous thoughts. That knack of holding the simple attention of my being without getting dozed off or not getting frequently lost comes with practice and love.

Wittgenstein on your definition of 'I am':

"It might be a good idea to start with your fourth question, which would require some basic definitions. The terms ‘I’,’ I-thought’,’ ego’,’ thinker’ and ‘observer’ are equivalent. They refer to the idea ‘I am the body’. On the other hand, ‘I-feeling’ and ‘[self] awareness’ are equivalent. They refer to the ‘I am’ portion of the ‘I am the body’ idea. The portion ‘I am’ is of the nature of awareness."

and

Maya

"Trying to focus on the "irukkindren" feeling might help. Just relax and try to focus on that feeling."

To be honest, I have been trying to focus on that feeling. Either it is too clouded or am not sure if "that" is what is the feeling. I had a word with Nochur Venkatraman and he said something similar, "Naan irukkindren andha unarvu" that is what one has to to rest the attention. So when I close my eyes and sit, I start with a mental chant of "Iam". Because I remember in one of the talks and Be As you are book and as well as in Michaels blog, Ramana had advised a householder woman to chant "I, I, I ..." and it will lead one to the source. So before doing anything, I chant Iam, Iam, Iam, Iam slowly for about 5 minutes and letting go off the chant, I just sit with the feeling of me. Whether it is I-thought, Observer, Thinker, Self-awareness, Irrukindrain andha unarvu I don't know. And the more I think about, it is not helping. So recently after the chant, I just drop it and sit with whatever feeling of me I could sense of my presence.

Recently I came across a short video of Rupert Spira. He says, Direct your attention to the light on the corner of room, direct your attention to the flower in the table, next direct your attention to the sensations in the feet. Now direct your attention to attention itself. The attention will drift for few moments because there is not object or form or memory to focus. It will drift for a while and will rest the attention back to itself. Have been experimenting it as well, but the mind keeps asking will resting in the attention is what self awareness or irrunkindrain?

@Ropedance - Yes sometimes it is right. Caring too much on peace, calm and relaxation itself puts lot of force to mind. Sometimes I try dropping everything, even the intention of paying attention to anything (may be because the word attention in the mind sub-consciously tries to focus on 'something') and just drop, drop and be with myself with whatever is there. But as I said, it is too passive and the amount of time I lost in thoughts were too high.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

@Sivanarul - Yes, my mom had raised me religious. I chant two chantings esp whenever I'm not able to do vichara - "Arunchala Shiva" and "Om Saravanabhava". In addition, I do sing Bhagavan's Aksharamanamalai, chant Lalitha Sahasranamam etc. But yes the main focus is to do Vichara. Chanting helps to create that concentration and not letting mind drift, singing helps in surrendering etc. When I do chanting or singing, I do not have these problems. Because I guess in my observation, the mind knows what object to focus. And even if I drift from chanting, I come back to chant and so is with singing. But while doing vichara, most of the mental energy is dissipated in trying to ascertain "Is this the I-feeling that am paying attention" "Is this the self awareness" etc etc and trying to desperately focus on some feeling. Sometime chanting Iam, Iam, Iam and then I notice what it feels to be this Iam (not this I'm body feeling) but again am not sure if that is what self awareness.

Sorry again for keeping the comments long. Thanks much to all of you for giving time to respond.

Sandilya said...

Michael,
section 16,
atma-vicara is (considered as) 'the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone'.
Atma-vicara is the quickest and most direct path of self-investigation and complete self-surrender.
Are there life situations or situations in life imaginable/conceivable in which Bhagavan would advice anyone to travel by any slower means such as a bullock cart ?
I am thinking of the case in which one grandfather feels (preordained) responsibility for a baby or little child for example his granddaughter which is left unprovided and/or unattended. I put this question assuming that atma vichara is practised in such a case not fully concentrated but mostly intermittently or not without hindrance.
However, while writing this question I think atma-vicara is possible also under unfavourable conditions as any burdens or additional difficulties.

Wittgenstein said...

Palaniappan,

I think if we try too much to think about the ‘I am’ feeling (or any of those equivalent descriptions, if at all it can be described), we will be confused. Considering this persistent confusion, I thought we may try to take a different approach.

Let us say we had a very sound sleep, probably because we went for a very brisk walk that evening, had an early (and light) dinner and were not thinking too hard on anything. Don’t we go to sleep the moment we hit the bed in those circumstances? Don’t we wake up very refreshed after such a sleep? Even after we wake up (very naturally, without the effect of any alarm) on such occasions, does not the peace and happiness (they are actually one and the same) linger for a while after we wake up? This lingering ‘sensation of peace’ or ‘peaceful feeling’ is the ‘I-feeling’ or the ‘I am’ feeling. It may be too simple a description. Nevertheless, it is true. We may get into showing why this is the ‘I am’ feeling from Bhagavan’s core teachings. But that is not our aim here.

When we get up on such occasions, we may, instead of instantaneously jumping out of the bed, just sit on the bed and try to enjoy that peaceful feeling by paying attention to that feeling alone and by neglecting the few slowly crawling thoughts. That would be a very good session of atma vichara. It would be easy to neglect those thoughts then, as they would not have gained momentum (they will gain momentum during the course of the day) and we will not fall back to sleep, as we feel refreshed.

Once this is done, it can be done sometime during the day also, albeit with some difficulty. The goal of atma vichara understood this way is actually going to sleep starting from the waking state, while remaining alert. When we actually (reach) sleep this way, vichara comes to end. Again, this may be supported and elaborated by the jagrat-sushupti state described by Bhagavan, but that is not our aim here.

Our aim here was to get a different perspective and to get rid of the mysterious conceptions about the ‘I am’ feeling by recognizing that it is very common (but bit elusive for a busy mind).

Alpamayo said...

Michael,
section 15. self-investigation is the simple and direct means.
Regretably I missed negligently to recognize the indispensability of looking at myself carefully. In my spiritual blindness I did overlook that I will never actually see what I really am if I do not look carefully at myself. I feel ashamed of my foolishness. First I will try to overcome the obstacle of general tiredness and then I will try that effective means to know myself as I really am.

Tirich Mir said...

Michael,
regarding section 14: birth and death are both mere thoughts...
I receive gratefully your reply given in the expected manner.
But I have put that questions inspite of my fear that your answer cannot/would not turn out in an other way.
Thanks.

Amrita said...

Michael,
section 13: A thought is anything fabricated by our ego or mind...
thanks for your summarizing explanation about the nature of thoughts and what is worth knowing about them.
So it is completely up to me to direct the 'thought of oneself' - which is my attention - back towards myself.

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