Thursday, 27 July 2017

Any experience that is temporary is not manōnāśa and hence not ‘self-realisation’

A recent post on the Facebook page of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK was a partial quotation of a paragraph in A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi (3rd edn, 1976, pp. 52-3), in which Alan Chadwick wrote:
Before I came to India I had read of such people as Edward Carpenter, Tennyson and many more who had had flashes of what they called “Cosmic Consciousness.” I asked Bhagavan about this. Was it possible that once having gained Self-realization to lose it again? Certainly it was. To support this view Bhagavan took up a copy of Kaivalya Navanita and told the interpreter to read a page of it to me. In the early stages of Sadhana this was quite possible and even probable. So long as the least desire or tie was left, a person would be pulled back again into the phenomenal world, he explained. After all it is only our Vasanas that prevent us from always being in our natural state, and Vasanas were not got rid of all of a sudden or by a flash of Cosmic Consciousness. One may have worked them out in a previous existence leaving a little to be done in the present life, but in any case they must first be destroyed.
Referring to this, a friend wrote to me: ‘Having once attained is there a chance of unattaining again? This question has confused me for many weeks. I was under the impression that once the ego had been completed annihilated it will never rise again. Yet discussions with fellow devotees on the Ramana Maharshi Foundation page seem to indicate that even once attained it is possible to be lost again if all vasanas [are] not destroyed. What was Bhagavan’s view on this? It disturbs me immensely that having attained one can fall again into the illusion, it also seems to render our practise quite meaningless if that is the case’. The following is my reply to her.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

What is aware of the absence of the ego and mind in sleep?

A friend wrote to me today asking:
If pure awareness simply is and is not aware of anything else because only it exists, and the ego is not there during deep sleep, what knows the absence of the ego and mind during deep sleep?

After waking up, I know for a fact that the ego-mind wasn’t there (in deep sleep). I also know that (due to not having investigated keenly enough) it appears to be here now (in waking).

So my question is, what is aware of both the presence of the ego-mind in waking/dream and its absence in deep sleep? It can’t be pure awareness nor the ego-mind itself.
The following is what I replied to him:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Pure self-awareness is not nothingness but the only thing that actually exists

A friend recently wrote to me asking, ‘What is the difference between nothingness and complete self-awareness? I understand the destruction of the mind is the ultimate goal of the practice, but does that mean we aim to just be nothing at all?’, but then added, ‘Obviously this question arises from an ego that is afraid to not be, but I am curious’. The following is adapted from my reply to him:

Friday, 7 July 2017

The non-existence of the ego, body and world in manōlaya is only temporary, whereas in manōnāśa it is permanent

In a comment on one of my recent articles, There is absolutely no difference between sleep and pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna), a friend called Roger asked me why, if there is no difference between sleep and self-awareness, Gaudapada says in Māṇḍukya Kārikā 3.44 that (in Roger’s words) ‘when during meditation the mind becomes inactive in oblivion (susupti / sleep) the mind should be awakened again, just the same as if the mind is distracted’. From this verse and Sankara’s commentary on it Roger inferred that ‘It seems you teach that sleep is the highest state, your whole teaching is oriented toward this, but Shankara explicitly warns against it’. Therefore this article is written in reply to this and a subsequent comment by Roger.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

What we actually are is just pure self-awareness: awareness that is aware of nothing other than itself

A friend recently wrote to me:
You say that the Self is always self-aware. What about then the concept of Parabrahman (where awareness isn’t aware that it is aware). Isn’t this a contradiction? Ramesh Balsekar used this phrase a lot in his teaching for instance.

Can you comment on this please.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

There is absolutely no difference between sleep and pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna)

After I wrote the reply that I reproduced in the article I posted here yesterday, namely Māyā is nothing but our own mind, so it seems to exist only when we seem to be this mind, the friend to whom I wrote it replied, ‘Thank you, Michael, but I assume ‘realisation’ is not quite the same as deep sleep?’, to which I replied:

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Māyā is nothing but our own mind, so it seems to exist only when we seem to be this mind

A friend wrote to me today:
Someone wrote this on FB yesterday and I am getting confused again because I thought the idea of becoming realised is to put an end to Maya:

“According to Adi Shankara (7th century father of modern non-dual philosophy), Maya is eternal. At no point does “form” cease to exist. It (maya/form) never had a beginning because it is eternal. It will also never have an end. The difference between enlightened and unenlightened is in the mind only. The universe doesn’t disappear. The mind ceases to be confused about the nature of one’s own Self. Bodies may come and go but the enlightened mind is not attached to them or identified with them. Yet they come and go like clouds in the sky.”

Why do people have different ideas on self-realisation?
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to her:

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Concern about fate and free will arises only when our mind is turned away from ourself

What I wrote in one of my recent articles, Do we need to do anything at all?, triggered a discussion about the roles of destiny (prārabdha) and the ego’s own volition or free will (though free will was referred to only implicitly, not explicitly) and how we can determine whether any particular thought arises due to destiny or due to free will. This discussion started from the first comment, in which a friend called Samarender Reddy wrote:
There seems to a problem with what you say. If whatever is to happen is decided by my prarabdha, then whatever motions the body is to go through and whatever the mind has to “think” to get the body to do actions as per prarabdha are also predetermined and “I, the ego” have no say in it. But you also say, “therefore we need not think”. And yet the mind will necessarily think some thoughts as per prarabdha. How do I distinguish thinking or thoughts associated with prarabdha and the other non-prarabdha associated thinking I seem to indulge in? Whenever any thought occurs, how do I know if it is prarabdha or the ego thinking? If I say, ok, whatever thoughts have to occur will occur to make the body do whatever it has to do, then it would seem that one has to be totally silent and not thinking and whenever any thought arises involuntarily I have to consider that as prarabdha thought and act accordingly? Is that what you are saying? Also, in that case will only such prarabdha thoughts then occur which require the body to do something or will such thoughts also occur which do not require the body to do something? I would really appreciate if you can clarify these doubts of mine.
This article is my reply to this comment, and also less directly to some of the ideas expressed in subsequent comments on the same subject.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Why should we believe that dream is anything other than a fabrication of our dreaming mind?

A friend wrote to me last night saying that his father and brother believe that when one dreams ‘the dream is really you leaving the physical body and going to some other realm and interacting with other souls’, and that he always had trouble believing this idea, but asked me: ‘What is the best argument philosophically to counter such an assertion?’ The following is what I replied to him:

Thursday, 1 June 2017

What is the purpose of questions such as ‘To whom have these thoughts arisen?’?

A friend wrote to me today saying that he is practicing a Buddhist tradition of investigating ‘Who is reciting the Buddha?’, which he considers to be ‘no different from Ramana Maharshi’s teaching of self-enquiry’, and he asked whether there is spiritually any difference between investigating ‘to whom have these thoughts arisen?’ and ‘who is giving rise to these thoughts?’. The following is what I replied to him:

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Do we need to do anything at all?

During a recent meeting of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, which was recorded on the video 2017-05-13 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on importance of practice, a friend called Alasdair was questioning me, and from 33.46 to 39.51 our dialogue was as follows:
Alasdair: OK, so, if I am lying in bed, and I manage to remind myself that the first thing I have got to think of is ‘who am I?’ and keep the ‘I’-current running, but I also know that shortly after I get out of bed I have got to do certain things in the kitchen, or I have got certain tasks to …

Michael: Who has all these tasks?

A: The little ‘I’, and it is precisely that which …

M: No, it is not the little ‘I’. The little ‘I’ doesn’t have any tasks. It’s Alasdair who has all these tasks, isn’t it?

Saturday, 13 May 2017

How to avoid following or completing any thought whatsoever?

A friend recently wrote to me:
I have a question on self-investigation:

I clearly understand that I do not have to complete any of my thoughts when they arise, but, as you explain in your book, have, instead, to use my rising thoughts to remind myself of my thinking mind, that is ‘I’, which in its turn should remind me of ‘I am’.

But I have a problem: when some useful thought (in my opinion) rises, I lose my strong intention to not complete it and just use it as a reminder of everything that it has to remind me. When some thought that I think to be good or useful rises, I try to use it as a reminder, but unsuccessfully and the idea given me by that thought continues living in my mind. That is, usually I do not tend to just stop such thoughts and cannot help completing them.

Could you please tell me what you do in such cases? Sri Bhagavan says that we should not complete any of our thoughts, and as I understand he means exactly what he says: any of our thoughts. He calls them ‘enemies’ that must be destroyed. What does the situation which I describe should look like ideally? How can I ignore such thoughts in a sense of treating them as well as all other thoughts? Please give me an explanation based on your own experience and understanding.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to her:

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Does anything exist independent of our perception of it?

In a comment on my previous article, Why is effort required for us to go deep in our practice of self-investigation?, a friend called Samarender Reddy asked:
Take the case of anesthesia. I may be undergoing an operation, for which anesthesia is given. Under the influence of anesthesia, I am unaware or do not perceive the world. But once the operation is done and the anesthetic wears off and I wake up, I might see a big scar with stitches on my abdomen. Can I not thereby conclude that the world existed during the anesthesia for the operation to have taken place even though I was not perceiving it due to the effect of anesthesia. Otherwise, how to account for the fact of the scar on the abdomen, and the consequent relief from pain I might be experiencing. If the world did not exist when I was under anesthesia, then how did the operation take place, as evidenced by the scar and relief of symptoms, and maybe, say, even a specimen of my gallbladder taken out. And if we so concede that the world existed during anesthesia, then analogously can we not conclude that the world exists even during deep sleep. Perception is not the only means to establish a fact, right, with inference and verbal testimony being the other means of knowledge to establish a fact. In the case of anesthesia and deep sleep, while I cannot resort to perception as a means of knowledge to establish the fact of the existence of the world during those states, but surely inference (with regard to cause-and-effect) and the verbal testimony of others can lead me to conclude that the world does indeed exist during anesthesia and deep sleep, right?
In reply to this I wrote the following comment:

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Why is effort required for us to go deep in our practice of self-investigation?

A friend recently wrote to me asking:
My question about I-Alone is this: in relaxing attention from objects I can be keenly aware of my existence as Sat Chit. That is effortless, but it is not completely and exclusively ‘I’-Self-aware. Other objects are also ‘known’.

But, today I have read from you [in Our aim should be to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else]: “Our real aim should not be just longer durations of self-attentiveness but should be more deep, intense and clear self-attentiveness — that is, attentiveness that is more keenly and exclusively focused on ‘I’ alone, without the least trace of any awareness of anything else.”

First of all, wow! My experience so far is that this is not effortless, but an intense, actively engaged ‘focusing down’, so to speak, on Self.

I just wanted to ask you if that is correct. That intense active focusing is required.
The following is adapted from what I replied to him:

Friday, 24 March 2017

After the annihilation of the ego, no ‘I’ can rise to say ‘I have seen’

In Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 33: the ‘I’ that rises to say ‘I have seen’ has seen nothing, which is the final section of one of my recent articles, There is only one ego, and even that does not actually exist, I quoted a Tamil saying, ‘கண்டவர் விண்டில்லை; விண்டவர் கண்டில்லை’ (kaṇḍavar viṇḍillai; viṇḍavar kaṇḍillai), which means ‘those who have seen do not say; those who say have not seen’, and then verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Bhagavan says:

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

To eradicate the mind we must watch only its first thought, the ego

A friend recently wrote to me saying that a friend of his had advised him that the way to quieten the mind is to watch it, and he implied that watching it means watching whatever thoughts flow through it, because he claimed that ‘once you start watching it [the flow of thoughts] you get separated from your thoughts’, thereby implying that we can detach ourself from thoughts by watching them. This article is adapted from the reply that I wrote to him.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

What is ‘remembering the Lord’ or ‘remembrance of Arunachala’?

This article is adapted from the reply that I wrote to a friend who asked: ‘In Hinduism, it is written that if one remembers the Lord at the time of death one will obtain Moksha. Ramana Maharishi seems to endorse the same teaching with regards to Arunachala. I have read the path of Sri Ramana by Sadhu Om and practiced for many years what he calls Jnana japa. I have visited the holy mountain Arunachala many years ago. I am now over 60 and in the last years of my life. I am wondering whether it would be better to change my practice to remembering the Name of Arunachala. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated’.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Is ‘guided meditation’ possible in Bhagavan’s path of self-investigation?

In April the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK are organising a non-residential retreat in London, which they have asked me to lead, and recently a friend wrote suggesting that ‘in addition to the usual question and answer sessions, some sessions could be devoted to practising guided meditations’, so that ‘the sessions in the retreat should go beyond clarifying doubts to practising focussed meditation’. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

There is only one ego, and even that does not actually exist

A friend recently wrote to me asking various questions about what I had said in some of the videos on my YouTube channel, Sri Ramana Teachings, and also about several other related topics, so this article is adapted from my reply to her.

Rather than being aware of being aware, we should be aware only of what is aware, namely ourself

This article is my reply to a recent comment on one of my earlier articles, How to attend to ourself?, in which a friend wrote: ‘I have tried being aware of being aware. I find it slightly different than being aware of myself. In being aware of being aware, it is more like getting more awake towards entire gamut of experience. While being aware of myself is more like somewhat withdrawing from other experiences. There is more effort involved in the latter. What is your experience?’

Sunday, 5 March 2017

What is the real ‘living guru’, and what is the look of its grace?

A friend wrote to me recently asking ‘is it really not necessary to have a living guru if one truly opens oneself to Sri Ramana, and tries as best as one can to live the teachings with devotion and sincerity?’, to which I replied:

Sunday, 26 February 2017

I certainly exist, but I am not necessarily what I seem to be

A friend wrote to me recently explaining how he feels most of the time, and he started by saying, ‘I know for sure, that whatever I say, think or do, there is no “I” who is doing anything’, so the following is adapted from what I replied to him:

Sunday, 19 February 2017

What is the difference between God and the ego?

After I wrote the article What is the difference between pure awareness and the ego, and how are they related? yesterday, the same friend replied asking me to explain to her the difference between īśvara and the ego, so the following is what I replied to her:

Saturday, 18 February 2017

What is the difference between pure awareness and the ego, and how are they related?

A friend recently wrote asking me to explain the difference between awareness and consciousness and how consciousness is connected to the ego, so the following is what I wrote in reply to her:

Monday, 6 February 2017

How can we see inaction in action?

A friend recently wrote asking me to explain Bhagavad Gītā 4.18, in which Krishna says that whoever sees inaction (akarma) in action (karma) and action in inaction is wise (buddhimān), and how to apply this in practice in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings, so the following is an elaboration of my reply to him:

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 12: other than the real awareness that we actually are, there is nothing to know or make known

In section 16 of one of my recent articles, What is aware of everything other than ourself is only the ego and not ourself as we actually are, I quoted and discussed verse 12 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, after reading which a friend who has translated many of my articles into Italian and posted them on his blog , La Caverna del Cuore, wrote asking me to explain the exact meaning and implication of a word in the third sentence that I had translated as ‘for causing to know’. Since this is a very significant word that has a deep and broad meaning in this context, I will explain its significance in this article.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

What is aware of everything other than ourself is only the ego and not ourself as we actually are

In a comment on one of my recent articles, Why does Bhagavan sometimes say that the ātma-jñāni is aware of the body and world?, a friend called Ken wrote, ‘Ramana states: “The ego functions as the knot between the Self which is Pure Consciousness and the physical body which is inert and insentient.” Therefore, there is nothing that can experience other than the Self. [...] since the body is insentient (cannot experience), and only the Self can experience, then any experience that occurs, can only be experienced by the Self’, but contrary to what he argues in this comment and in several other ones, what experiences everything (all forms or phenomena) is not ‘the Self’ (ourself as we actually are) but only ourself as this ego, as I will try to explain in this article.

Friday, 6 January 2017

When this world is nothing but an illusion, why do we run after it?

A friend wrote to me this morning, ‘When this world is nothing but an illusion... Why run after it; why try to change it; why try to enjoy its seeming pleasures; why be over concerned about expected profits and losses; why look forward to various relationships... why? Why not just remain still, now and always...When this world is nothing but an illusion...’, to which I replied:

Whether it be called ‘yōga nidrā’ or ‘nirvikalpa samādhi’, any kind of manōlaya is of no spiritual benefit

A friend recently wrote to me describing how he sometimes goes involuntarily into a sleep-like state, and he asked me about the significance of such experiences, referring to what he had read about the distinction that some people make between ‘yōga nidrā’ or ‘nirvikalpa samādhi’, so the following is what I replied to him:

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Friday, 23 December 2016

Whatever experience may arise, we should investigate to whom it arises

A friend recently wrote to me describing an experience she had had, saying “Whilst in the middle of doing my chores, there arrived a sudden ‘clarity’ that there was no solidified ‘I’ or ego. That ‘I’ — my ‘ego’ — was just a bunch of synapses firing away in the brain. That it was just the result of conditioned experiences and habitual patterns”, as a result of which ‘a spontaneous self-enquiry’ arose, and then explained her interpretation of this experience. This article is adapted from the replies I wrote to this and a subsequent email.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Is it possible for us to see anything other than ourself as ‘the Self’?

On one of my recent articles, The observer is the observed only when we observe ourself alone, a friend called Zubin wrote a comment in which he ended by saying:
I also think it is possible (and I don’t say this to be proud, it is just what I experience) that any adjunct of the ego can be seen as the Self, and as such it is still self-attendance. For example, I can see a thought (frustration, sadness, etc.) running through and I can immediately see that that thought-feeling is infused with, made up of, awareness/consciousness, and it subsides back into awareness/consciousness when it is looked at directly.

I think looking at anger as anger gives the ego life, but looking at the Self in everything, including anger is, I hope, still self-enquiry.
What sees adjuncts or any other phenomena is only the ego, and since the ego is a mistaken awareness of ourself, how can it ever see ‘the Self’ (ourself as we actually are)? If it did see ‘the Self’ even for a moment, it would cease to be the ego and would therefore cease seeing any adjuncts or other phenomena. Therefore in this article I will try to explain to Zubin the fallacy in the beliefs that he has expressed in this comment.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

When the ego seems to exist, other things seem to exist, and when it does not seem to exist, nothing else seems to exist

In several comments on one of my recent articles, The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive, a friend called Ken argued that the ego does not exist even in a relative sense, but that vāsanās and other phenomena do exist in a relative sense, though not in an absolute sense. However one of the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teaching is that since all phenomena seem to exist only in the view of this ego, they seem to exist only when it seems to exist (as in waking and dream), and when it does not seem to exist (as in sleep) nothing else seems to exist. Therefore in this article I will reply to some of Ken’s comments and try to explain this fundamental principle to him in more detail.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Why does Bhagavan sometimes say that the ātma-jñāni is aware of the body and world?

In the comments on several of my recent articles there has been an ongoing discussion regarding the question of whether or not the ātma-jñāni is aware of the world, because many friends are convinced by Bhagavan’s teachings that all phenomena (second and third persons) seem to exist only in the self-ignorant view of the ego (the first person), and that therefore when the ego is dissolved forever in the clear light of ātma-jñāna (pure self-awareness) no phenomena will seem to exist, whereas other friends seem to believe that even though the ātma-jñāni is nothing but brahman itself, it is still somehow operating through a body and mind and is therefore aware of that body and of the surrounding world. The latter group of friends often cite passages from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and other records of his oral teachings that seem to support their point of view, and they have even found verses in Guru Vācaka Kōvai and passages in Sadhu Om’s writings that likewise seem to support it.

During the course of this discussion, a friend called Bob wrote a comment on one of my recent articles, The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive, in which he cited a passage from The Path of Sri Ramana that had been referred to several times by other friends and remarked ‘Hopefully Michael can shed some light on the deep meaning of this passage for us’, because he conceded that it seems to support the belief that ‘the jnani still experiences the world / multiplicity but experiences everything as itself’, even though his own belief is that ‘the jnani / myself as I really am does not experience the world / body or duality of any kind’, in support of which he cited a translation by Sadhu Om and me of the kaliveṇbā version of verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and a note regarding it from pages 58-9 of Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai. Therefore the following is my reply to this comment.

Monday, 21 November 2016

What is the correct meaning of ajāta vāda?

In a comment on my previous article, The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive, a friend called Venkat questioned my understanding of the meaning of ajāta vāda, citing something that I wrote in the sixth section of that article, What is unborn (ajāta) is only pure self-awareness, and since it is the infinite whole, nothing else actually exists, namely ‘ajāta vāda is the contention that no creation has ever occurred even as an illusory appearance’, and then arguing:
Michael I think that you might be incorrect in your understanding of the advaitic meaning of ajata vada. I cannot argue with you on what Bhagavan Ramana meant by it.

Gaudapada’s famous ajata verse occurs in the second chapter of his karika. If this verse is taken in context of the verses that precede and follow it, it is clear that Gaudapada does indeed mean that there is no real creation of the world or the jiva, and that both are illusions.

30: This Atman, though non-separate from all these, appears as it were separate. One who knows this truly interprets the meaning of the Vedas without hesitation
31: As are dreams and illusions or a castle in the air seen in the sky, so is the universe viewed by the wise in the Vedanta
32: There is no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.
33: This (the Atman) is imagined both as unreal objects that are perceived as the non-duality. The objects are imagined in the non-duality itself. Therefore non-duality alone is the highest bliss.

Sankara’s commentary on v32 is also worth reading, though quite long. Relevant extracts:

“This verse sums up the meaning of the chapter. When duality is perceived to be illusory and Atman alone is known as the sole Reality, then it is clearly established that all our experiences, ordinary or religious, verily pertain to the domain of ignorance.”

“Thus duality being non-different from mental imagination cannot have a beginning or an end . . . Therefore it is established that duality is a mere illusion of the mind. Hence it is well-said that the Ultimate Reality is the absence of destruction, etc, on account of the non-existence of duality (which exists only in the imagination of the mind”.

My understanding is that srsti-drsti vada says first the world is created and then jivas evolve from it thereafter. Then, vivartha vada takes a step back to say that actually the jiva’s perceiving creates the world. And ajata vada then takes a further step back to point out that the jiva itself is an illusion, a superimposition on the atman.
In this article, therefore, I will try to explain more clearly why the correct meaning of ajāta vāda is the contention that no vivarta (illusion or false appearance) has ever been born or come into existence at all.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive

I wrote my previous article, As we actually are, we do nothing and are aware of nothing other than ourself, in reply to various comments written by a friend called Ken, and in reply to it he wrote another comment in which he argued:
Thank you for your thorough research on these topics, they are a significant aid in understanding Ramana’s teaching.

[…]

Beyond that, it seems to me that we are getting into an area ruled by semantics.

For example, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character. As such, he “is unreal and never existed”. However, his lack of existence is a semantic one. From our viewpoint, we certainly find a difference between our current world (with at least two different Sherlock Holmes series in production) and an alternative universe where Conan Doyle never invented the character Sherlock Holmes.

In a similar way, we go to sleep and have a dream. When we wake up, we realize that the events in the dream were unreal. “Nothing ever happened”. But we cannot say that our night was the same as a night where we did not dream at all.

And, if we go into the dark garage and mistake the coiled rope for a snake, we can certainly say “the snake is unreal and never existed”. However, there is a difference between going into the garage and immediately recognizing the rope, or else going into the garage and mistakenly seeing the snake. If there were no difference, then Ramana would not have advised, in Ulladu Narpadu 35:

“The subsided mind having subsided, knowing and being the Reality, which is (always) attained, is the (true) attainment (siddhi). [...] (Therefore) know and be (as) you (the Reality) are.”

If there were no difference between seeing the snake and seeing the rope, then he would have said instead:

“The mind is unreal and does not exist, so do not practice self-attention, go home, watch cricket and stop bothering me.”

So, a universe where there was never any appearance of temporary phenomena, never any maya, never any mistaken identification, never any ego... just satchitananda.... is perhaps theologically, metaphysically, and/or philosophically identical to this universe.... but it is not entirely identical, otherwise Ramana would have never answered Pillai’s question of “Who Am I?”.

The Advaita Vedanta standard of “real” and “exists” is very meaningful — it tells us what is important. But if we use it in all contexts, we end up with “Neo-Advaita”, i.e. “Nothing ever happened, the ego never existed, so go home and watch T.V., that will be $50, thanks.”

In Path of Sri Ramana, Sadhu Om is careful to apply absolute metaphysical standards to theology and philosophy, but not otherwise. For example, he stated:

“The sole cause of all miseries is the mistake of veiling ourself by imagining these sheaths to be ourself, even though we are ever this existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda).”

This is similar to my statement quoted from 9 September 2016:

“Because there is nothing other than the Self, so there is nothing that can force the Self to do anything. The Self is alone, so it decides to “veil” itself and limit itself as a multitude of ‘individuals’. This is the Lila, the play.”

The Upanishads, Shankara and Ramana all agree that there is nothing other than the Self. So, there cannot be anything that forces the Self to do anything.

Sadhu Om characterizing veiling as a “mistake”, while I characterize it as a “decision”. Well, certainly those two things are compatible. Plenty of decisions are found to be mistakes (such as deciding to drive when you have drunk far too much alcohol).

Before the “veiling”, there was no ego, so Sadhu Om can only be referring to the Self as the one who veils.
Therefore in this article I will try to explain to Ken why these arguments of his do not adequately address the issue I was discussing in my previous article, namely the confusion that arises if we believe that our actual self veils itself and sees itself as numerous phenomena.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

As we actually are, we do nothing and are aware of nothing other than ourself

In several comments on one of my recent articles, What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?, a friend called Ken wrote:
Note that the Self is what is watching the movie [...] (4 September 2016 at 17:45)

[...] the ego is actually the Self in another form. (4 September 2016 at 23:27)

The Self is God [...] The Lila (play) of the Self (Brahman/Atman) is that it “veils” itself so it itself thinks it is limited. As “veiled”, it is watching the movie. When it decides to stop watching the movie, and the lights go on, it then sees it is actually the Self. Hence “Self-” “realisation”, i.e. realizing that it is the Self. (5 September 2016 at 04:16)

The ego stops giving attention to “2nd person and 3rd person”, i.e. sense perceptions and thoughts. The Self sees this and if it is convinced of complete sincerity, then it terminates the ego (this is the “action of Grace performed by the Self” according to Ramana — paraphrased). [...] since the Self IS your own basic awareness, then it is entirely aware of everything you have ever thought, said or done. (5 September 2016 at 04:26)

The Self (atman) is: The present moment [and] That which is looking. (7 September 2016 at 03:26)

This is what is called “The Play of Consciousness” (lila in Sanskrit). [...] The Self makes the “mistake” of identifying with a character in the world. (8 September 2016 at 02:09)

The Self definitely wants to see the movie, otherwise the movie would not even exist. (8 September 2016 at 17:49)

Because there is nothing other than the Self, so there is nothing that can force the Self to do anything. The Self is alone, so it decides to “veil” itself and limit itself as a multitude of “individuals”. This is the Lila, the play. (9 September 2016 at 00:04)
Ken, in these remarks you have attributed properties of our ego (and also properties of God) to ‘the Self’, which is ourself as we actually are, so in this article I will try to clarify that our actual self does not do anything and is neither aware of nor in any other way affected by the illusory appearance of our ego and all its projections, which seem to exist only in the self-ignorant view of ourself as this ego.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

An explanation of the first ten verses of Upadēśa Undiyār

For nearly five years I have been editing notes I made in 1977 and 78 of useful ideas and explanations that I heard Sadhu Om telling me or other friends, and since April 2012 these have been serialised in each issue of The Mountain Path under the title ‘The Paramount Importance of Self-Attention’. Since the notes I made at that time were intended just to remind myself of some of the explanations Sadhu Om gave, they are too sketchy to publish as they are, so I have had to edit and elaborate them in order to make them more understandable and to represent more faithfully and in more detail the type of explanations and clarifications he used to give, so while editing them I have freely drawn on my memory of what he would generally say about each subject. Therefore the final edited form in which my notes are published in The Mountain Path does not record the exact words of Sadhu Om, but it does convey reasonably faithfully ideas that I remember him frequently expressing.

Recently while preparing the next instalment for the January 2017 issue I came across the notes I had made on 19th August 1978 of an explanation that Sadhu Om had given about the first ten verses of Upadēśa Undiyār, but as usual my notes were not very detailed and I could see that in some respects I had not accurately recorded what he used to explain about each of those verses, so I had to edit and elaborate them in order to convey what I remember him explaining about them on various occasions. Since in its final edited form this portion of my notes conveys quite clearly what he often used to explain about these verses, I decided to reproduce it here:

Thursday, 6 October 2016

God is not actually the witness of anything but the real substance underlying and supporting the illusory appearance of the witness and of everything witnessed by it

A friend wrote to me recently and asked me whether ‘the witnessing or observing consciousness within’ is the same as the ultimate ‘I’, referring in particular to the clause ‘he [God] exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts’ in the following passage of one of my earlier articles, Dhyāna-p-Paṭṭu: The Song on Meditation:
In accordance with this important teaching of Sri Ramana in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in this song Sri Sadhu Om gently weans the minds of those who may consider God to be other than what they experience as ‘I’ away from that idea, firstly by emphasising that his real form is suddha-mauna-cit or ‘pure silent consciousness’ (verse 3); secondly by implying that he is the ‘one blissful substance’ that exists within our heart and that we can experience by seeking it with love (verse 4); thirdly by saying that only after we experience him within ourself will we be able to experience that everything that exists is him (verse 5); and fourthly by saying that he exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts, and that he will appear clearly within us only where and when all our thoughts subside (verse 6).
The following is what I wrote in reply to her question:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Why does the term ‘I am’ refer not just to our ego but to what we actually are?

In a comment on my previous article, ‘I am’ is the reality, ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego, a friend called Mouna raised several objections to what I had written in it, so in this article I will try to reply to his objections.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

‘I am’ is the reality, ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego

In a comment on my previous article, What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?, a friend called Viveka Vairagya quoted an extract from chapter 99 of I am That in which it is recorded that Nisargadatta Maharaj said, ‘Relax and watch the ‘I am’. Reality is just behind it’, which prompted another friend who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Extremely Simple’ to ask, ‘But why should reality be “just behind the ‘I am’”?’

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?

In a comment that he wrote today on my previous article, Is it incorrect to say that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate our ego?, a friend called Viveka Vairagya wrote:
You say self-enquiry is nothing but “attentive self-awareness”. I get the “attentive” and “awareness” parts. I don’t get the “self” part coz all I am aware of now is my body and thoughts, including the “I-thought”. So, do you mean I should be attending to the awareness of “I-thought”? That could make sense coz it is kinda attending to the snake (I-thought) and finding lo and behold that it is a rope (self). So, why then don’t you say self-enquiry is “attentive I-thought-awareness”? I hope my doubt makes sense.
The following is my answer to this:

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Is it incorrect to say that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate our ego?

I began to write this article this morning as a comment in reply to one written by a friend called Roger on my previous article, Why is it so necessary for us to accept without reservation the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings?, but since my reply ran to more than two thousand words, I decided to post it as this article instead. The comment that I reply to here is the latest of many in which Roger argued that it is wrong for me and others to say that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate our ego, because he believes that making such a claim is egotistical and competitive, so my aim here is to explain why I believe that we are justified in making this claim on the basis of the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Why is it so necessary for us to accept without reservation the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings?

In a comment on my previous article, The observer is the observed only when we observe ourself alone, a friend called Sivanarul wrote: ‘Only in things pertaining to phenomenal world, one can say there is a direct or indirect method that applies to everyone (For example, reaching from point A from point B). In the spiritual journey, there is no direct or indirect method that applies to everyone. The very usage of direct or indirect is simply a play of the ego that has assumed a spiritual identity and to satisfy its need for superiority, it must label its method as the “direct” method. (Jnanis and/or saints saying that, is very different, since they are promoting the way they attained the goal in this life. Also when they promote it, they are very careful to tailor the promotion based on the seeker)’. This article is my answer to these contentious ideas.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The observer is the observed only when we observe ourself alone

In a recent comment on one of my earlier articles, ‘Observation without the observer’ and ‘choiceless awareness’: Why the teachings of J. Krishnamurti are diametrically opposed to those of Sri Ramana, a friend called Zubin wrote:
I read a lot of Krishnamurti when younger, and I do agree that his approach may have been unnecessarily complicated.

Krishnamurti focused on self-exploration of one’s mind. If you are angry, dissect it to find out what is deeper than it, etc. In effect, you would be looking at all the little adjuncts of the ego to see each one as false.

But ultimately, Krishnamurti’s main theme was “The Observer is the Observed”, which he repeated frequently.

So, in that sense, there is no difference in Krishnamurti’s ultimate teaching and Ramana’s. When you do self-enquiry you are Self looking at Self. When you are looking at the feeling of I AM, the looker is also that same I AM feeling, or, in other words, the observer is the observed.
The following is my reply to him:

Sunday, 17 July 2016

If we are able to be steadily self-attentive, where do we go from here?

A friend wrote to me explaining how he is practising self-investigation and asked, ‘Where do I go from here?’ The following is what I wrote in reply to him.

When you write, ‘I seem to be “witnessing” or aware of the I am thought all the time now’, what exactly do you mean by ‘the I am thought’? The reason I ask is that people tend to objectify everything, so some people assume that the I-thought is some sort of object that one can watch, but the term ‘I-thought’ is just another name for the ego, which is not an object but the subject, the one who is aware of all objects. Therefore what we need to watch or ‘witness’ is not any object but only ourself, the subject (the ego or thought called ‘I’).

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Asparśa yōga is the practice of not ‘touching’ or attending to anything other than oneself

In a comment on my previous article, Names and forms are all just thoughts, so we can free ourself from them only by investigating their root, our ego, a friend called Roger cited extracts from two verses of Māṇḍūkya Kārikā, namely 3.44 and 3.46, saying that the practice Gaudapada describes in them is similar to what he is practising, and after writing some reflections on this practice he invited me or anyone else to comment on what he had written, so this article is my response to his invitation and is therefore addressed to him.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Names and forms are all just thoughts, so we can free ourself from them only by investigating their root, our ego

A friend recently sent me a long email in which she began by saying, ‘The ego generates words in consciousness. The ego presents in consciousness as streams of words which form the so-called “stream of consciousness”’, and then went on to express her reflections on this idea, saying for example, ‘We all know how the mind races at times with endless streams of words which form thoughts of countless subjects, fears, hopes, memories, etc.’, and ‘Language forms words into thoughts, objects, events, time, space, memories, etc. creating the dream of a populated earth in a vast universe’, and she explained how she tries to apply such ideas in her practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). The following article is my reply to her.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

When can there be total recognition that the world is unreal?

A friend recently wrote to me, ‘Could you tell me whether realisation would be like deep sleep with no world present or would there still be a world but with total recognition that it is unreal. I feel driven to understand but seem to be going round in circles’, to which I replied: