Sunday, 23 November 2014

Other than ourself, there are no signs or milestones on the path of self-discovery

A few months ago a friend wrote to me asking in Tamil:
ஆத்ம விசாரம் என்பது ‘தன்மையுணர்வை நாடுதல்’ எனப் புத்தகங்கள் கூறுகின்றன. இதையே நானும் நேரம் கிடைக்கும்போதெல்லாம் பயின்றும் வருகிறேன். இவையெல்லாம் மிகச் சுலபமாக தோன்றினாலும் உண்மையில் இது ஓரு சூட்சுமமான பாதையாகவே இருக்கிறது. நான் சாதனையைச் சரியாகத்தான் செய்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா, பகவானின் வாக்குகளை சரியாகப் புரிந்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா என்ற சந்தேகம் எப்போதும் என்னை வாட்டி வதைக்கிறது. இந்தப் பாதையில் சரியாகப் போய்க்கொண்டிருக்கிறேன் என்று அறிந்துக் கொள்ள ஏதேனும் அறிகுறிகள் அல்லது மைல்கற்கள் உள்ளனவா?
which means:
Books say that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is ‘investigating the first person awareness’. I too am practising only this whenever time is available. Though all these appear to be very easy, in truth this is such a subtle path. The doubt ‘Am I doing sādhana correctly? Am I understanding Bhagavan’s words correctly?’ is always vexing and tormenting me. Are there any signs or milestones [to enable me] to know that I am proceeding correctly on this path.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote (in English):

Sri Ramana’s path is a path of vicāra — investigation or exploration — so we can follow it only by trying to investigate what this ‘I’ is and thereby learning from our own experience what following it correctly actually entails.

Therefore, no matter how unsteady or faltering our attempts may initially be, so long as we are focussed on trying to experience what this ‘I’ actually is we are certainly following his path correctly. He did not expect us to experience ourself as we really are as soon as we set out on this path, but only advised us to try persistently to experience ourself thus, so if we are persevering in our attempts to experience ourself we are on the right path.

From reading his teachings we can understand that to investigate ourself we must try to be exclusively self-attentive — that is, to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’ — but we can discover what self-attentiveness actually is only by experience, and we can gain that experience only by experimentation: that is, by trial and error, by persistently trying to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’ until we succeed. This is why he called this path ‘ātma-vicāra’ (self-investigation), because it is only by investigation, examination, exploration or experimentation that we can discover what experiencing ourself as we really are actually is.

Since what we really are is indescribable and inconceivable, being beyond the reach of any words or concepts, we can know it only by experiencing it, and on the path towards experiencing it there can be no signposts or milestones other than ourself, because anything other than ourself could not lead to ourself, nor could it indicate where we are on the path that leads to ourself. As Sri Ramana often said (as for example in verse 579 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai), our goal is only ourself, so the path to reach this goal is likewise only ourself, because anything other than ourself would lead us only away from ourself. Therefore, just as our goal cannot be adequately described in words or conceived by our mind, so the path leading to it cannot be adequately described in words or conceived by our mind.

Anything that could be taken to be a signpost or milestone on this path would be something other than ourself, so it would not actually be a signpost or milestone on this path, but would only be a signpost or milestone on some diversion away from this path. That is, since anything other than ourself would distract our attention away from ourself, when trying to follow this path we should neither aim nor expect to experience anything other than ourself. Therefore the only real signpost or milestone on this path is ourself, so if you want to see any signpost or milestone you should try to see only yourself.

Since our mind does not want to be destroyed, as it will be if we experience ourself as we really are, it will always try to find ways to distract our attention away from ourself. Doubts and feelings of uncertainty are effective means by which our mind can thus distract our attention, so we should try not to give room to any doubts such as the ones that have been troubling you, but should instead persevere unswervingly in trying to be aware only of ourself. What Sri Ramana says in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) about not giving room to any doubting thoughts is equally applicable to the doubts you are having:
[...] அத்தனை வாசனைகளு மொடுங்கி, சொரூபமாத்திரமா யிருக்க முடியுமா வென்னும் சந்தேக நினைவுக்கு மிடங்கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும். [...]

[...] attaṉai vāsaṉaigaḷum oḍuṅgi, sorūpa-māttiramāy irukka muḍiyumā v-eṉṉum sandēha niṉaivukkum iḍam koḍāmal, sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum. [...]

[...] Without giving room even to the doubting thought ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vāsanās and be [or remain] only as self?’ it is necessary to cling tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness]. [...]
Therefore without giving any room to doubts about whether or not you are following his path correctly, you should just persevere in trying to be exclusively self-attentive.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person?

In the comments on my previous two articles, Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep and Why should we believe that ‘the Self’ is as we believe it to be?, there has been some discussion about the subject of being a ‘self-realised’ person, with one friend claiming ‘I have realised who I am’ and others expressing doubts about that, so in this article I will examine this concept of being a ‘self-realised’ person and consider whether it accurately represents anything that truly exists.

Firstly I will consider the common use of the term ‘self-realisation’ as a translation of the Sanskrit terms ātma-jñāna or ātmānubhava, which respectively mean self-knowledge and self-experience in the sense of experiencing or being clearly aware of ourself as we really are. Though ‘realise’ can mean to recognise, understand, ascertain or become clearly aware of something, it is a rather vague and ambiguous term to use in this context, because it has various other meanings such as to accomplish, achieve, fulfil, actualise, effect, bring about, acquire or cause to happen, so ‘self-realisation’ is not the most appropriate term to use as a translation of ātma-jñāna or ātmānubhava, particularly since in psychology the term ‘self-realisation’ means self-actualisation or self-fulfilment in the sense of achieving one’s full personal potential.

Though he did not speak much English, Sri Ramana understood it enough to recognise that ‘self-realisation’ is not a particularly appropriate term to use in the context of his teachings. He therefore used to joke about it saying that ourself is always real, so there is no need for it to be realised, and that the problem is that we have realised what is unreal (that is, we have made the unreal seem to be real), so what we now need to do is not to realise our ever-real self but only to unrealise everything that is unreal, particularly our seemingly real ego, which is the root cause of the seeming reality of everything else.

However, even if we take the term ‘self-realisation’ to mean experiencing ourself as we really are, what do we mean when we speak of a ‘self-realised’ person? Is there actually any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person? So long as we experience ourself as a person, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, so we are not ‘self-realised’. That is, we may have realised our full personal potential (whatever that means), but we have not realised what we actually are. Therefore in the context of the teachings of Sri Ramana, the concept of a ‘self-realised’ person is a contradiction in terms.

When we experience ourself as we really are, we will no longer experience ourself as person — an ego, a separate entity who experiences itself as if it were a body and mind — because this person is just a transitory appearance in the absence of which we still experience our existence in sleep. According Sri Ramana, what we really are is the one infinite, eternal, indivisible and immutable reality, other than which nothing exists. As he says in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தனாதியல் யாதெனத் தான்றெரி கிற்பின்;
னனாதி யனந்தசத் துந்தீபற
      வகண்ட சிதானந்த முந்தீபற.

taṉādiyal yādeṉat tāṉḏṟeri hiṯpiṉ
ṉaṉādi yaṉantasat tundīpaṟa
      vakhaṇḍa cidāṉanda mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: தனாது இயல் யாது என தான் தெரிகில், பின் அனாதி அனந்த சத்து அகண்ட சித் ஆனந்தம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉādu iyal yādu eṉa tāṉ terihil, piṉ aṉādi aṉanta sattu akhaṇḍa cit āṉandam.

அன்வயம்: தான் தனாது இயல் யாது என தெரிகில், பின் அனாதி அனந்த அகண்ட சத்து சித் ஆனந்தம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): tāṉ taṉādu iyal yādu eṉa terihil, piṉ aṉādi aṉanta akhaṇḍa sattu cit āṉandam.

English translation: If oneself knows what the nature of oneself is, then [what exists is only] beginningless, endless [or infinite] and unbroken sat-cit-ānanda [being-consciousness-bliss].
In such a state of ‘self-realisation’, what experiences itself is only our infinite real self, because our finite personal self (the ego) has ceased to exist, since it was just an illusion and therefore could not stand in the bright and all-consuming light of such absolutely clear self-awareness. In other words, the only thing that exists in that state is the one infinite ‘I’, so what experiences that infinite ‘I’ is only itself, because no personal ‘I’ exists (or even seems to exist) there to experience it.

Since there is no personal ‘I’ in that state of ‘self-realisation’, and since the one infinite ‘I’ need not and does not think or say that it has realised itself, there is no one there to think or say ‘I have realised who I am’ or ‘I know myself’. Therefore, in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Sri Ramana says:
என்னை யறியேனா னென்னை யறிந்தேனா
னென்ன னகைப்புக் கிடனாகு — மென்னை
தனைவிடய மாக்கவிரு தானுண்டோ வொன்றா
யனைவரனு பூதியுண்மை யால்.

eṉṉai yaṟiyēṉā ṉeṉṉai yaṟindēṉā
ṉeṉṉa ṉahaippuk kiḍaṉāhu — meṉṉai
taṉaiviḍaya mākkaviru tāṉuṇḍō voṉḏṟā
yaṉaivaraṉu bhūtiyuṇmai yāl
.

பதச்சேதம்: ‘என்னை அறியேன் நான்’, ‘என்னை அறிந்தேன் நான்’ என்னல் நகைப்புக்கு இடன் ஆகும். என்னை? தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘eṉṉai aṟiyēṉ nāṉ’, ‘eṉṉai aṟindēṉ nāṉ’ eṉṉal nahaippukku iḍaṉ āhum. eṉṉai? taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl.

அன்வயம்: ‘நான் என்னை அறியேன்’, ‘நான் என்னை அறிந்தேன்’ என்னல் நகைப்புக்கு இடன் ஆகும். என்னை? தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஒன்று ஆய்; ஆல்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ‘nāṉ eṉṉai aṟiyēṉ’, ‘nāṉ eṉṉai aṟindēṉ’ eṉṉal nahaippukku iḍaṉ āhum. eṉṉai? taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai oṉḏṟu āy āl.

English translation: Saying ‘I do not know myself’ [or] ‘I have known myself’ is ground for ridicule. Why? To make oneself an object known, are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience.
Therefore if any person thinks ‘I have realised who I am’, they are obviously self-deluded rather than self-realised, because if they had realised what they really are, they would thereby have ceased to be a person, having merged completely in and as the one infinite reality, and hence would have no mind and would not think anything.

Though we may believe that certain people such as Sri Ramana do experience what they actually are, we cannot understand their state so long as we consider each of them to be a person — an individual with a body and mind — albeit one who treats us kindly and gives us spiritual guidance. So long as we experience ourself as a person, we cannot conceive what the state of true self-experience is, because in that state nothing other than ‘I’ exists (not as the person we now seem to be but as what we actually are). As Sri Ramana says in verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
தன்னை யழித்தெழுந்த தன்மயா னந்தருக்
கென்னை யுளதொன் றியற்றுதற்குத் — தன்னையலா
தன்னிய மொன்று மறியா ரவர்நிலைமை
யின்னதென் றுன்ன லெவன்.

taṉṉai yaṙitteṙunda taṉmayā ṉandaruk
keṉṉai yuḷadoṉ ḏṟiyaṯṟudaṟkut — taṉṉaiyalā
taṉṉiya moṉḏṟu maṟiyā ravarnilaimai
yiṉṉadeṉ ḏṟuṉṉa levaṉ
.

பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை அழித்து எழுந்த தன்மயானந்தருக்கு என்னை உளது ஒன்று இயற்றுதற்கு? தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai aṙittu eṙunda taṉmaya-āṉandarukku eṉṉai uḷadu oṉḏṟu iyaṯṟudaṯku? taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?

அன்வயம்: தன்னை அழித்து எழுந்த தன்மயானந்தருக்கு இயற்றுதற்கு என்னை ஒன்று உளது? தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): taṉṉai aṙittu eṙunda taṉmaya-āṉandarukku iyaṯṟudaṯku eṉṉai oṉḏṟu uḷadu? taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?

English translation: For those who enjoy tanmayānanda [‘bliss composed of that’, namely our real self], which rose [as ‘I am I’] destroying the [personal] self [the ego], what one [action] exists for doing? They do not know [or experience] anything other than self, [so] who can [or how to] conceive their state as ‘it is such’?
When our personal self is destroyed by the experience of true self-knowledge (which he describes here as tanmayānanda, bliss composed of tat, ‘it’ or ‘that’, the absolute reality called brahman, which is our real self), the mind, body and world that seemed to exist only in the view of that personal self (the ego) will cease to exist, and hence no one will then remain to do anything. What will remain in that state is only our real self, which is timeless and immutable, and hence devoid of all action, so since nothing other than ourself will then exist (or even seem to exist), we will not experience anything other than ourself. Therefore, since that otherless state of self-experience is completely devoid of even the slightest trace of any person, ego, mind or thought, we cannot adequately conceive the real nature of that state so long as we experience ourself as a person consisting of mind and body.

The otherless nature of that state is also expressed by Sri Ramana in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham:
தானன்றி யாருண்டு தன்னையா ரென்சொலினென்
றான்றன்னை வாழ்த்துகினுந் தாழ்த்துகினுந் — தானென்ன
தான்பிறரென் றோராமற் றன்னிலையிற் பேராமற்
றானென்று நின்றிடவே தான்.

tāṉaṉḏṟi yāruṇḍu taṉṉaiyā reṉcoliṉeṉ
ḏṟāṉḏṟaṉṉai vāṙttugiṉun tāṙttugiṉun — tāṉeṉṉa
tāṉbiṟareṉ ḏṟōrāmaṯ ṟaṉṉilaiyiṯ pērāmaṯ
ṟāṉeṉḏṟu niṉḏṟiḍavē tāṉ.


பதச்சேதம்: தான் அன்றி யார் உண்டு? தன்னை யார் என் சொலின் என்? தான் தன்னை வாழ்த்துகினும், தாழ்த்துகினும் தான் என்ன? ‘தான்’, ‘பிறர்’ என்று ஓராமல், தன் நிலையில் பேராமல் தான் என்றும் நின்றிடவே தான்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ aṉḏṟi yār uṇḍu? taṉṉai yār eṉ soliṉ eṉ? tāṉ taṉṉai vāṙttugiṉum, tāṙttugiṉum tāṉ eṉṉa? ‘ tāṉ’, ‘piṟar’ eṉḏṟu ōrāmal, taṉ ṉilaiyil pērāmal tāṉ eṉḏṟum niṉḏṟiḍa-v-ē tāṉ.

அன்வயம்: ‘தான்’, ‘பிறர்’ என்று ஓராமல், தன் நிலையில் பேராமல் தான் என்றும் நின்றிடவே தான், தான் அன்றி யார் உண்டு? தன்னை யார் என் சொலின் என்? தான் தன்னை வாழ்த்துகினும், தாழ்த்துகினும் தான் என்ன?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ‘tāṉ’, ‘piṟar’ eṉḏṟu ōrāmal, taṉ ṉilaiyil pērāmal tāṉ eṉḏṟum niṉḏṟiḍa-v-ē tāṉ, tāṉ aṉḏṟi yār uṇḍu? taṉṉai yār eṉ soliṉ eṉ? tāṉ taṉṉai vāṙttugiṉunm, tāṙttugiṉum tāṉ eṉṉa?

English translation: When oneself always abides inseparably in the state of self, without experiencing [any differences such as] ‘myself’ and ‘others’, who is there besides oneself? If whoever says whatever about oneself, what [does it matter]? What indeed [does it matter] whether one praises or disparages oneself?
If anyone claims to be self-realised yet takes offence when others do not recognise or believe them to be self-realised, they are clearly still experiencing differences between ‘myself’ and ‘others’, and hence they have not actually experienced the non-dual and otherless state of true self-experience. Since our mind and other minds, thoughts, bodies, other people, the world and everything else other than ‘I’ all exist only in the view of our ego, so long as we still experience any such thing (anything at all other than ‘I’), we are still experiencing ourself as an ego or personal self, and hence we are not experiencing ourself as we really are.

As I mentioned earlier, the term ‘self-realisation’ is often used to represent the Sanskrit term ātma-jñāna, and hence the term ‘a self-realised person’ is likewise used to represent the term ātma-jñāni, because ‘ātma-jñāni’ is generally understood to mean a person who experiences ātma-jñāna or true self-knowledge. However, what actually experiences true self-knowledge is not any person but only our real self itself, so the true meaning of ātma-jñāni is not a person who experiences ātma-jñāna but only our real self, which alone experiences itself as it really is. Even this, however, is a rather clumsy definition of this term ātma-jñāni, because when we say that our real self alone experiences itself as it really is, we are describing ourself (what we really are) as if we were a third person, so it would be more accurate to say that the term ātma-jñāni refers only to ourself, who alone experience ourself as we really are (though when we define it thus, what we mean by ‘ourself’ is obviously not the ego or personal self that we now seem to be, but only our real self — what we actually are).

Since the ātma-jñāni is therefore nothing other than our infinite real self, when we consider any person to be an ātma-jñāni we are obviously failing to comprehend the real nature of the state of ātma-jñāna, in which the ātma-jñāni (the self that knows itself), the ātma-jñāna (its knowledge of itself) and itself that it knows are all one and indivisible. In order to adequately comprehend this state, we must experience it ourself, because so long as we experience ourself as anything other than the one infinite and indivisible reality we cannot but experience a distinction between the knower (jñāni), the knowing (jñāna) and the known (jñāta) in whatever we may know or experience.

However, even if we understand this conceptually, it would not seem right to us to deny that Sri Ramana and certain other people are ātma-jñānis. How then to reconcile this seeming contradiction? The only way is the understand that an ātma-jñāni such as Sri Ramana is not the person, body or mind that he seems to be. So long as we experience ourself as a person, an ātma-jñāni will seem to us to be a person with a body and mind, just like us, but according to Sri Ramana the body and mind that seem to be the ātma-jñāni exist only in the deluded view of the ajñāni (the person who is self-ignorant and therefore experiences himself or herself as a body and mind), because in the clear view of the ātma-jñāni no mind or body exists at all, as he describes graphically in verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham:
வண்டிதுயில் வானுக்கவ் வண்டிசெல னிற்றிலொடு
வண்டிதனி யுற்றிடுதன் மானுமே — வண்டியா
மூனவுட லுள்ளே யுறங்குமெய்ஞ் ஞானிக்கு
மானதொழி னிட்டையுறக் கம்.

vaṇḍiduyil vāṉukkav vaṇḍisela ṉiṯṟiloḍu
vaṇḍidaṉi yuṯṟiḍudaṉ māṉumē — vaṇḍiyā
mūṉavuḍa luḷḷē yuṟaṅgumeyñ ñāṉikku
māṉadoṙi ṉiṭṭaiyuṟak kam
.

பதச்சேதம்: வண்டி துயில்வானுக்கு அவ் வண்டி செலல், நிற்றல் ஒடு, வண்டி தனி உற்றிடுதல் மானுமே, வண்டி ஆம் ஊன உடல் உள்ளே உறங்கும் மெய்ஞ்ஞானிக்கும் ஆன தொழில், நிட்டை, உறக்கம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): vaṇḍi tuyilvāṉukku a-v-vaṇḍi selal, ṉiṯṟil oḍu, vaṇḍi taṉi uṯṟiḍudal māṉumē, vaṇḍi ām ūṉa uḍal uḷḷē uṟaṅgum meyññāṉikkum āṉa toṙil, ṉiṭṭai, uṟakkam.

English translation: The activity [in waking or dream], the niṣṭhā [the inactivity, absorption or samādhi] and the sleep that are [seemingly occurring] to the mey-jñāni [the knower of reality], who is asleep within the fleshy body, which is [like] a cart, are similar to a cart moving, standing or the cart remaining alone [with the bullocks unyoked] to a person sleeping in that cart.
Just like someone who is fast asleep in a cart and who is therefore not aware whether the cart is moving, standing with the bullocks yoked or remaining with them unyoked, the ātma-jñāni is (so to speak) asleep in whatever body and mind seems to be an ātma-jñāni in the view of others, so the ātma-jñāni is not aware of whatever that body and mind may seem to be doing, or whether they are just inactive or asleep. Metaphorically speaking, as an ajñāni we are asleep to what we really are but awake to the illusory appearance of our mind, body and the world, whereas when we experience ourself as we really are we will as the ātma-jñāni be asleep to the appearance of mind, body and world but wide awake to what we actually are. That is, the ātma-jñāni does not actually experience anything other than the one infinite self, because other than that nothing truly exists.

Though ancient texts talk as if there were more than one ātma-jñāni, and describe those ātma-jñānis as if they were each a person functioning in this world as a body and mind, and though they even distinguish different states of those ātma-jñānis such as jīvanmukti (meaning liberation while still alive in the body) and vidēhamukti (meaning liberation without the body), Sri Ramana explained that all such descriptions are given and such distinctions are made only to suit the ignorant view of ajñānis, who mistake the ātma-jñāni to be a body and mind, and hence such descriptions and distinctions seem to be true only in the confused view of ajñānis. In the clear view of the ātma-jñāni there is only one ātma-jñāni and absolutely no distinction between jīvanmukti and vidēhamukti, because this distinction is based on the seeming existence of the body, which has never existed or even seemed to exist in the infinite view of our real self, which alone is the ātma-jñāni.

Therefore, to avoid unnecessary confusion, we should clearly understand the difference between what the ātma-jñāni actually is and the body-mind-person that it (the ātma-jñāni) seems to be in our view so long as we experience ourself as a body and mind, and hence also the difference between what it actually experiences and what it seems to experience through the body and mind that we mistake to be it. If we are able to understand this difference, we should also understand that we need not concern ourself with questions about who is or is not an ātma-jñāni, because the only real ātma-jñāni is our own infinite self, the true nature of which we now seem to be not experiencing. Therefore, when we do not experience ourself as we really are, whatever we may believe we know about or may speculate about the state of anyone else is just an extension of our own ignorance about ourself.

In this context a Tamil poem composed by Sri Sadhu Om called யார் ஞானி? (yār jñāni?: ‘Who is a Jñāni?’, which is included in Sādhanai Sāram as verses 340-50 in the current Tamil edition and as verses 280-90 in the English version) is particularly relevant, so I will quote this entire poem and give an English translation of it here:
  1. ஞானியிவ ரென்றிவரஞ் ஞானியென்று தீர்க்குமதி
    ஞானமோ வன்றியஞ் ஞானமோ — ஞானியொன்றே
    ஆனவிரு பேரா யறியுமறி யாமைகண்ட
    ஞானியுமஞ் ஞானவிளை வாம்.

    ñāṉiyiva reṉḏṟivarañ ñāṉiyeṉḏṟu tīrkkumati
    ñāṉamō vaṉḏṟiyañ ñāṉamō — ñāṉiyoṉḏṟē
    āṉaviru pērā yaṟiyumaṟi yāmaikaṇḍa
    ñāṉiyumañ ñāṉaviḷai vām
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: ‘ஞானி இவர்’ என்று, ‘இவர் அஞ்ஞானி’ என்று தீர்க்கும் மதி ஞானமோ அன்றி அஞ்ஞானமோ? ஞானி ஒன்றே. ஆன இரு பேர் ஆய் அறியும் அறியாமை கண்ட ஞானியும் அஞ்ஞான விளைவு ஆம்.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘jñāṉi ivar’ eṉḏṟu, ‘ivar ajñāṉi’ eṉḏṟu tīrkkum mati jñāṉam-ō aṉḏṟi ajñāṉam-ō? jñāṉi oṉḏṟē. āṉa iru pēr-āy aṟiyum aṟiyāmai kaṇḍa jñāṉi-y-um ajñāṉa viḷaivu ām.

    English translation: Is the intellect that decides ‘this person is a jñāni’, ‘that person is an ajñāni’, knowledge (jñāna) or ignorance (ajñāna)? The jñāni alone exists [and hence is only one, not many]. Therefore even the jñāni seen by the ignorance [the mind] that sees [jñānis] as many people is only a product of that ignorance (ajñāna).

  2. நீயேவோ ரெண்ண நினதெண்ணத் தொன்றேதான்
    தூயோர் மகானாச் சொலப்படுவோர் — மாயமாம்
    அவ்வெண்ண மெவ்வாறோர் ஆன்மபர ஞானியாம்
    இவ்வண்ணங் காண்பா யிதை.

    nīyēvō reṇṇa niṉadeṇṇat toṉḏṟēdāṉ
    tūyōr mahāṉāc colappaḍuvōr — māyamām
    avveṇṇa mevvāṟōr āṉmapara ñāṉiyām
    ivvaṇṇaṅ gāṇbā yidai
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: நீயே ஓர் எண்ணம். நினது எண்ணத்து ஒன்றே தான் தூயோர் மகானா சொலப்படுவோர். மாயம் ஆம் அவ் எண்ணம் எவ்வாறு ஓர் ஆன்மபரஞானி ஆம்? இவ்வண்ணம் காண்பாய் இதை.

    Padacchēdam
    (word-separation): nī-y-ē ōr eṇṇam. niṉadu eṇṇattu oṉḏṟē tāṉ tūyōr mahāṉā solappaḍuvōr. māyam ām a-vv-eṇṇam evvāṟu ōr āṉma-para-jñāṉi ām? ivvaṇṇam kāṇbāy idai.

    English translation:
    You [the ego that sees others] yourself are a mere thought. [Therefore] the person who is said [by you, this first thought] to be a holy person or mahātma [a great soul] is just one among your thoughts. How can that thought, which is [an illusory product of] māyā [your delusive self-ignorance], be the ātma-para-jñāni [the transcendent knower of self]? In this manner consider [or recognise] this.

  3. நல்லோ ரிவர்ஞானி நாமறிவோ மென்பதும்பொய்
    எல்லோரும் ஞானிகளே யென்பதும் பொய் — பல்லோ
    ரிருப்பதாய்க் காணலறி வின்மையடை யாளம்;
    ஒருத்தனே யுண்டதுநீ யோர்.

    nallō rivarñāṉi nāmaṟivō meṉbadumboy
    ellōrum ñāṉigaḷē yeṉbadum poy — pallō
    riruppadāyk kāṇalaṟi viṉmaiyaḍai yāḷam;
    oruttaṉē yuṇḍadunī yōr
    .

    பதச்சேதம்:
    ‘நல்லோர் இவர், ஞானி, நாம் அறிவோம்’ என்பதும் பொய். ‘எல்லோரும் ஞானிகளே’ என்பதும் பொய். பல்லோர் இருப்பதாய் காணல் அறிவின்மை அடையாளம். ஒருத்தனே உண்டு: அது நீ ஓர்.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘nallōr ivar, ñāṉi, nām aṟivōm’ eṉbadum poy. ‘ellōrum jñāṉigaḷē’ eṉbadum poy. pallōr iruppadāy kāṇal aṟiviṉmai aḍaiyāḷam. oruttaṉ-ē uṇḍu: adu nī ōr.

    English translation:
    Even saying ‘this person is a good soul, a jñāni, we know’ is untrue. Saying ‘all people are jñānis’ is also untrue, [because] seeing as if many people exist is a definitive sign of ignorance. Only one person actually exists: know that is you [tat tvam asi].

  4. ஞானிக்கஞ் ஞானியில்லை ஞானியென்றஞ் ஞானியொரு
    மேனிக்கே நாம மிடுகின்றான் — ஞானியையும்
    தேகமாய்க் காணுந் திருட்டியினா லஞ்ஞானி
    யாகவே கண்டோ னவன்.

    ñāṉikkañ ñāṉiyillai ñāṉiyeṉḏṟañ ñāṉiyoru
    mēṉikkē nāma miḍugiṉḏṟāṉ — ñāṉiyaiyum
    dēhamāyk kāṇun diruṭṭiyiṉā laññāṉi
    yāhavē kaṇḍō ṉavaṉ
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: ஞானிக்கு அஞ்ஞானி இல்லை. ஞானி என்று அஞ்ஞானி ஒரு மேனிக்கே நாமம் இடுகின்றான். ஞானியையும் தேகமாய் காணும் திருட்டியினால் அஞ்ஞானியாகவே கண்டோன் அவன்.

    Padacchēdam
    (word-separation): jñāṉikku ajñāṉi illai. jñāṉi eṉḏṟu ajñāṉi oru mēṉikkē nāmam iḍugiṉḏṟāṉ. jñāṉiyai-y-um dēham-āy kāṇum diruṭṭiyiṉāl ajñāṉiyāhavē kaṇḍōṉ avaṉ.

    English translation:
    To the jñāni there is no ajñāni [because in the view of the jñāni no person or anything else other than our one eternally self-aware self actually exists]. The ajñāni applies the name ‘jñāni’ only to a body. By this [mistaken] view that sees even the jñāni as a body, he [the ajñāni] sees [the jñāni] merely as an ajñāni.

  5. எத்தனைமான் மாக்களிட மேகினுநீ யாவரட்ட
    சித்திகளைக் காட்டினுமச் சேட்டைகளிற் — புத்திசெலா
    துண்முகமா கென்றா ருனைத்திருப்பு வாரவர்தா
    னுண்மைமகா னென்றே யுணர்.

    ettaṉaimāṉ mākkaḷiḍa mēgiṉunī yāvaraṭṭa
    siddhigaḷaik kāṭṭiṉumac cēṭṭaigaḷiṟ — buddhiselā
    duṇmukamā keṉḏṟā ruṉaittiruppu vāravartā
    ṉuṇmaimahā ṉeṉḏṟē yuṇar
    .

    பதச்சேதம்:
    எத்தனை மான்மாக்களிடம் ஏகினும் நீ, யாவர் அட்ட சித்திகளை காட்டினும், ‘அச் சேட்டைகளில் புத்தி செலாது உண்முகம் ஆகு’ என்று ஆர் உனை திருப்புவார், அவர் தான் உண்மை மகான் என்றே உணர்.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): ettaṉai māṉmākkaḷiḍam ēgiṉum nī, yāvar aṭṭa siddhigaḷai kāṭṭiṉum, ‘a-c-cēṭṭaigaḷil buddhi selādu uṇmukam āku’ eṉḏṟu ār uṉai tiruppuvār, avar tāṉ uṇmai mahāṉ eṉḏṟē uṇar.

    English translation:
    Even though you may go to however many mahātmas, and even though any of them may exhibit the aṣṭa siddhis [the eight kinds of supernatural power described in yōgic texts], know that whoever turns you [inwards to investigate yourself] saying, ‘Instead of letting your mind spread out in [pursuit of] such juggleries, become inward facing’, alone is a true mahātma [great soul].

  6. மகான்மாக் களைத்தேடி வானிமயங் கானம்
    புகான்மாதா னெங்கென்றுட் புக்கு — சுகான்ம
    சொரூபமா கட்டுமுன் தோன்றுமகா னெல்லாம்
    சொரூபமீ தேரமணன் சொல்.

    mahāṉmāk kaḷaittēḍi vāṉimayaṅ kāṉam
    puhāṉmātā ṉeṅgeṉḏṟuḍ pukku — sukhāṉma
    sorūpamā kaṭṭumuṉ tōṉḏṟumahā ṉellām
    sorūpamī dēramaṇaṉ sol
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: மகான்மாக்களை தேடி வான் இமயம் கானம் புகு ஆன்மா ‘தான் எங்கு’ என்று உள் புக்கு சுகான்ம சொரூபம் ஆகட்டும். முன் தோன்றும் மகான் எல்லாம் சொரூபம். ஈதே ரமணன் சொல்.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): mahāṉmākkaḷai tēḍi vāṉ imayam kāṉam puhu āṉmā ‘tāṉ eṅgu’ eṉḏṟu uḷ pukku sukhāṉma-sorūpam āhaṭṭum. muṉ tōṉḏṟum mahāṉ ellām sorūpam. īdē ramaṇaṉ sol.

    English translation:
    May the ātman [the person or jivātman] who goes into the vast Himalayas and forests seeking mahātmas [instead] become sukhātma-svarūpa [the eternally blissful self] by going within seeking where itself is. All the mahātmas who had previously appeared in front [as if they were other people] will [then be known to] be svarūpa [our own self]. This is what Sri Ramana said.

  7. தன்னையறி முன்னந் தவசியரைத் தானறித
    லென்ன விதத்து மியலாது — தன்னை
    யொருசீவ னென்ற வுணர்வை யொழிக்கும்
    பெருமுயற்சி யொன்றே பிடி.

    taṉṉaiyaṟi muṉṉan tavasiyarait tāṉaṟida
    leṉṉa vidhattu miyalādu — taṉṉai
    yorujīva ṉeṉḏṟa vuṇarvai yoṙikkum
    perumuyaṯci yoṉḏṟē piḍi
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை அறி முன்னம் தவசியரை தான் அறிதல் என்ன விதத்தும் இயலாது. தன்னை ஒரு சீவன் என்ற உணர்வை ஒழிக்கும் பெரு முயற்சி ஒன்றே பிடி.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai aṟi muṉṉam tavasiyarai tāṉ aṟidal eṉṉa vidhattum iyalādu. taṉṉai oru jīvaṉ eṉḏṟa uṇarvai oṙikkum peru muyaṯci oṉḏṟē piḍi.

    English translation:
    Before one knows oneself, oneself knowing [the real nature of] tapasvis [those who are merged forever in the egoless state of ātma-jñāna, which alone is true tapas] is not in any way possible. [Therefore giving up all futile efforts to know who is a real jñāṉi] cling only to the exalted effort [namely ātma-vicāra or self-investigation] that will destroy [your illusory] awareness of yourself as a jiva [a person or ego].

  8. ஞானியரஞ் ஞானியென்று நாடும் விருத்தியினித்
    தானெழுந்தாற் சட்டென்று தள்ளிவிட்டு — ‘நானியார்’
    என்றவ் விருத்தி யெழுந்தவிடத் துட்டிருப்பி
    யொன்றுவதி லேகவன மூன்று.

    ñāṉiyarañ ñāṉiyeṉḏṟu nāḍum viruttiyiṉit
    tāṉeṙundāṯ caṭṭeṉḏṟu taḷḷiviṭṭu — nāṉiyār
    eṉḏṟav virutti yeṙundaviḍat tuṭṭiruppi
    yoṉḏṟuvadi lēgavaṉa mūṉḏṟu
    .

    பதச்சேதம்:
    ஞானியர் அஞ்ஞானி என்று நாடும் விருத்தி இனி தான் எழுந்தால், சட் என்று தள்ளிவிட்டு நான் யார் என்று அவ் விருத்தி எழுந்த இடத்து உள் திருப்பி ஒன்று அதிலே கவனம் ஊன்று.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): jñāṉiyar ajñāṉi eṉḏṟu nāḍum virutti iṉi tāṉ eṙundāl, saṭ eṉḏṟu taḷḷi-viṭṭu nāṉ yār eṉḏṟu av virutti eṙunda iḍattu uḷ tiruppi oṉḏṟu adilē gavaṉam ūṉḏṟu.

    English translation:
    If any thought rises [in you] hereafter wanting to know [whether someone is] a jñāni or an ajñāni, rejecting it immediately [by] turning within investigating who am I [this ego who wants to determine the state of others], fix your attention and merge only in the source [yourself] from which that thought arose.

  9. இவர்ஞானி யஞ்ஞானி யென்றறிதல் விட்டே
    அவரிருப்ப தாக வறிவோர் — எவரென்
    றுசாவவது நானென் றுதிப்பவனை யாரென்
    றுசாவுகமெய்ஞ் ஞானியுதிப் பான்.

    ivarñāṉi yaññāṉi yeṉḏṟaṟidal viṭṭē
    avariruppa dāha vaṟivōr — evareṉ
    ṟucāvavadu nāṉeṉ ḏṟudippavaṉai yāreṉ
    ṟucāvuhameyñ ñāṉiyudip pāṉ
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: இவர் ஞானி அஞ்ஞானி என்று அறிதல் விட்டே, அவர் இருப்பதாக அறிவோர் எவர் என்று உசாவ, அது நான் என்று உதிப்பவனை யார் என்று உசாவுக. மெய்ஞ்ஞானி உதிப்பான்.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): ivar jñāṉi ajñāṉi eṉḏṟu aṟidal viṭṭē, avar iruppadāha aṟivōr evar eṉḏṟu ucāva, adu nāṉ eṉḏṟu udippavaṉai yār eṉḏṟu ucāvuha. mey-jñāṉi udippāṉ.

    English translation:
    Giving up trying to determine whether these people are jñānis or ajñānis, when one investigates who is the one who perceives them as existing, it will be clear that it is ‘I’, so investigate who this ‘I’ who rises is. The true jñāni will [then] shine forth [as your own self, your pure self-awareness ‘I am I’].

  10. யாரானால் ஞானி நமக்கென்ன நாம்நம்மைப்
    பாராத மட்டும் பயனில்லை — ஆராயின்
    ஞானமே ஞானி நரவடிவ மன்றுபர
    வானமே நாமவ் வடிவு.

    yārāṉāl ñāṉi namakkeṉṉa nāmnammaip
    pārāda maṭṭum payaṉillai — ārāyiṉ
    ñāṉamē ñāṉi naravaḍiva maṉḏṟupara
    vāṉamē nāmav vaḍivu
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: யார் ஆனால் ஞானி நமக்கு என்ன? நாம் நம்மை பாராத மட்டும் பயன் இல்லை. ஆராயின் ஞானமே ஞானி. நர வடிவம் அன்று. பர வானமே. நாம் அவ்வடிவு.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): yār āṉāl jñāṉi namakku eṉṉa? nām nammai pārāda maṭṭum payaṉ illai. ārāyiṉ jñāṉam-ē jñāṉi. nara vaḍivam aṉḏṟu. para-vāṉam-ē. nām a-v-vaḍivu.

    English translation:
    Whoever may be a jñāni, what is it to us? So long as we do not know ourself, it will be of no benefit. If we investigate, jñāna alone is the jñāni. It [the jñāni] is not a human form. It is only the transcendent space [of pure self-awareness]. We are that form [the transcendent space of self-awareness].

  11. ஆகவே ஞானி யவரிவரென் றாய்மதியைச்
    சாகவே செய்வாய்வி சாரணையால் — ஏகமாய்
    நானிதுவென் றுந்தியெழா ஞானமே ஞானியென
    மோனமதாற் காணல் முறை.

    āhavē ñāṉi yavarivareṉ ḏṟāymatiyaic
    sāhavē seyvāyvi cāraṇaiyāl — ēkamāy
    nāṉiduveṉ ḏṟundiyeṙā ñāṉamē ñāṉiyeṉa
    mōṉamadāṟ kāṇal muṟai
    .

    பதச்சேதம்: ஆகவே ஞானி அவர் இவர் என்று ஆய் மதியை சாகவே செய்வாய் விசாரணையால். ஏகமாய் நான் இது என்று உந்தி எழா ஞானமே ஞானி என மோனம் அதால் காணல் முறை.

    Padacchēdam (word-separation): āhavē jñāṉi avar ivar eṉḏṟu āy matiyai sāhavē seyvāy vicāraṇaiyāl. ēkam-āy nāṉ idu eṉḏṟu undi eṙā jñāṉam-ē jñāṉi eṉa mōṉam adāl kāṇal muṟai.

    English translation:
    Therefore, by self-investigation [ātma-vicāra] annihilate the petty mind that seeks to know whether this person or that person is a jñāni. The correct way [to see the jñāni] is seeing by means of silence [the state in which the mind has never existed] that only jñāna, which being one [the sole existing reality] does not rise and jump out as ‘I am this’, is the jñāni.
In each of the final two verses of this poem Sri Sadhu Om says ‘ஞானமே ஞானி’ (jñāṉam-ē jñāṉi), which means ‘jñāna alone is the jñāni’. Jñāna means knowing or knowledge, and jñāni means knower or what knows, but generally in the context of Sri Ramana’s teachings and advaita philosophy jñāna means specifically knowledge in the sense of pure self-awareness, our fundamental knowledge ‘I am’, and jñāni accordingly means that which is thus aware of itself. Since we are aware of ourself, and since the self we are thus aware of is not other than us, the ‘we’ (or ‘I’) who is aware of it, pure self-awareness is a non-dual experience — an experience in which there is absolutely no distinction between the experiencer (ourself who experiences) and the experienced (ourself who is experienced). Moreover, since being self-aware is our very nature, our awareness of ourself is not anything other than ourself. Therefore, since pure non-dual self-awareness is what the word ‘jñāna’ denotes in this context, the jñāni or knower who experiences such jñāna cannot be other than that jñāna itself.

Therefore jñāna (in the sense of ātma-jñāna — self-knowledge or pure self-awareness) is our real self, and hence in the first sentence of verse 13 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Sri Ramana says ‘ஞானம் ஆம் தானே மெய்’ (jñāṉam ām tāṉ-ē mey), which means ‘self, which is jñāna, alone is real’. To make it clear that the jñāna he refers to here is absolutely non-dual, solitary and devoid of any otherness, in the next sentence he distinguishes it from any knowledge of multiplicity, diversity, variety or otherness by saying ‘நானா ஆம் ஞானம் அஞ்ஞானம் ஆம்’ (nāṉā ām jñāṉam ajñāṉam ām), which means ‘knowledge of manyness is ajñāna’. நானா ஆம் ஞானம் (nāṉā ām jñāṉam) literally means ‘knowledge which is manifold’ or ‘knowledge which becomes manifold’, but in this context it used to mean knowledge of manyness, as is clear from an earlier version of this verse, which is now verse 12 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ, in which the equivalent phrase he used in the second sentence was ‘நானாவாய் காண்கின்ற ஞானம்’ (nāṉā-v-āy kāṇgiṉḏṟa jñāṉam), which means ‘knowledge that sees manyness’.

The ‘knowledge that sees manyness’ is our ego or mind, which is the confused knowledge or adulterated self-awareness ‘I am this’ (in which ‘this’ represents anything other than our pure self-awareness ‘I am’). The nature of this ego is to experience things other than itself, and it cannot rise or endure as the ego without experiencing things other than itself. Therefore as soon as it tries to experience itself (‘I’) alone, it begins to subside, and if it manages to experience itself alone, it will merge forever in its source, which is ourself, the pure non-dual knowledge (jñāna) ‘I am’.

The ego and its knowledge of multiplicity are both unreal, because they do not actually exist but only seem to exist. However, their seeming existence depends upon the actual existence of our real self, because they could not even seem to exist if we (our real self) did not actually exist, so we alone are the one real substance that now seems to be the ego and all the diverse things it experiences, just as gold is the one substance that seems to be a diverse variety of gold ornaments, as Sri Ramana says in the second half of verse 13 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
ஞானமாந் தானேமெய் நானாவா ஞானமஞ்
ஞானமாம் பொய்யாமஞ் ஞானமுமே — ஞானமாந்
தன்னையன்றி யின்றணிக டாம்பலவும் பொய்மெய்யாம்
பொன்னையன்றி யுண்டோ புகல்.

ñāṉamān tāṉēmey nāṉāvā ñāṉamañ
ñāṉamām poyyāmañ ñāṉamumē —ñāṉamān
taṉṉaiyaṉḏṟi yiṉḏṟaṇika ḍāmpalavum poymeyyām
poṉṉaiyaṉḏṟi yuṇḍō puhal
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஞானம் ஆம் தானே மெய். நானா ஆம் ஞானம் அஞ்ஞானம் ஆம். பொய் ஆம் அஞ்ஞானமுமே ஞானம் ஆம் தன்னை அன்றி இன்று. அணிகள் தாம் பலவும் பொய்; மெய் ஆம் பொன்னை அன்றி உண்டோ? புகல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): jñāṉam ām tāṉē mey. nāṉā ām jñāṉam ajñāṉam ām. poy ām ajñāṉamumē jñāṉam ām taṉṉai aṉḏṟi iṉḏṟu. aṇikaḷ tām palavum poy; mey ām poṉṉai aṉḏṟi uṇḍō? puhal.

English translation: Self, which is knowledge (jñāna), alone is real. Knowledge that is manifold is ignorance (ajñāna). Even [this] ignorance, which is unreal, does not exist apart from self, which is knowledge. All the many ornaments are unreal; say, do they exist apart from the gold, which is real?
Because gold is a physical substance, it can be divided and shaped into an endless variety of forms, and whatever form it takes does not actually conceal the fact that it is gold. Therefore, though the variety of ornaments made of gold is a good analogy to illustrate how one substance can appear in many forms, we should not try to stretch the implication of this analogy too far, because unlike gold our real self cannot be divided into many parts, and it never actually becomes any different forms. This is why Sri Ramana emphasises here that knowledge of manyness is not only ignorance but is also unreal. Whereas gold is actually shaped into many different ornaments, self is immutable, so it never changes or becomes anything, and hence the ego and its experience of manyness are just an illusion or false appearance.

The appearance of everything — all duality, multiplicity, diversity, variety and otherness — is experienced only by the ego, so it depends entirely upon the appearance of the ego, as Sri Ramana says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

ahandaiyuṇ ḍāyi ṉaṉaittumuṇ ḍāhu
mahandaiyiṉ ḏṟēliṉ ḏṟaṉaittu — mahandaiyē
yāvumā mādalāl yādideṉḏṟu nādalē
yōvudal yāvumeṉa vōr.


பதச்சேதம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr.

அன்வயம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், அனைத்தும் இன்று. யாவும் அகந்தையே ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே யாவும் ஓவுதல் என ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, aṉaittum iṉḏṟu. yāvum ahandai-y-ē ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē yāvum ōvudal eṉa ōr.

English translation: If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything [or everything is only the ego]. Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything.
Since the ego is just a mistaken experience of ourself, if we investigate ourself by trying to experience ourself alone, without experiencing even the slightest trace of anything else, and if we thereby experience ourself as we really are, the ego will be destroyed entirely, and hence everything else will cease to exist. This is why Sri Ramana ends this verse by saying, ‘ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்’ (ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr), ‘Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything’.

Therefore in the state of ātma-jñāna — the state in which we experience ourself as we really are — there is absolutely no ego and hence no experience of anything else whatsoever. Since the entire multiplicity of other things seems to exist only in the self-ignorant view of the ego, it will no longer seem to exist when the ego is destroyed by the experience of ātma-jñāna, because in the absence of the ego there will be nothing to experience anything other than ourself, the pure non-dual knowledge ‘I am’.

Since ātma-jñāna is an experience that is completely devoid of even the slightest experience of any duality, diversity, multiplicity or otherness, there is nothing that could experience ātma-jñāna other than ātma-jñāna itself. Therefore as Sri Sadhu Om says: ‘ஞானமே ஞானி’ (jñāṉam-ē jñāṉi), ‘jñāna alone is the jñāni’. There is no jñāni other than jñāna itself, and jñāna is nothing but our real self, the one non-dual knowledge or self-awareness that experiences only itself and not anything whatsoever.

Therefore the ātma-jñāni is not a person — a human body or mind — but only our infinite self, and it does not experience anything other than ourself. Hence the ātma-jñāni is not anything other than ourself, so we can truly ‘see’ the ātma-jñāni only by experiencing ourself as we really are. Therefore until we experience ourself as we really are, whatever we may believe we know about the ātma-jñāni or the state of ātma-jñāna is just an idea, a thought that has risen in our mind, and is therefore just another product of our self-ignorance (ajñāna).

However, though our mind cannot conceive the state of the ātma-jñāni, we can at least avoid some of the worst misconceptions that are prevalent about the ātma-jñāni, such as that the ātma-jñāni is a person with a body and mind, or that the ātma-jñāni experiences the world as we do. We can also avoid being deceived by anyone who claims ‘I am an ātma-jñāni’ or ‘I have realised myself’, because even though the ātma-jñāni may sometimes appear in our experience as if it were a ‘person’ such as Sri Ramana, such a ‘person’ is completely devoid of ego and will therefore conduct itself with perfect humility, and will not claim to be anything special, since it sees no differences between itself and ‘others’. For example, in reply to someone who said to him, ‘Your realisation is unique in the spiritual history of the world’, Sri Ramana replied in English: ‘What is real in me is real in you and in everyone else. Where is the room for any difference?’ Such self-effacing humility is perhaps the surest outward sign of ātma-jñāna, if at all anything external could be said to be a sign of it.

Since ‘ourself, which is jñāna, alone is real’ (as Sri Ramana says in verse 13 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), and since the jñāni is therefore nothing but jñāna itself, it always remains as it is, immutable and without ever doing anything, so it does not actually become any person or human form. However, from the self-ignorant perspective of our ego it does seem to appear sometimes in a human form such as Sri Ramana, but after studying his teachings we should understand that the jñāni is not actually whatever human form it may seem to be, and that the only reason why it appears in such a human form is to teach us that in order to experience what is real we must turn our attention inwards, towards ourself alone, and thereby try experience ourself as we really are.

This is therefore another reason why we should not allow our attention to go outwards in an attempt to know whether this person or that person is a jñāni. Trying to know whether or not any particular person is a jñāni is a futile effort, not only because we cannot know what the inward state of anyone else actually is so long as we do not even know what we ourself are, but also because trying to know about others distracts our attention for no good reason away from trying to experience what we actually are. Even if we do decide that someone such as Sri Ramana is a jñāni, and even if that is in some sense true (at least from the limited perspective of our ego), we cannot truly understand his state or what is actually meant by being a jñāni, because whatever idea we may have about it is certainly not accurate, since we can only conceive it in terms of what we now experience, which according to him is only ignorance (ajñāna).

The common idea that a jñāni is a person who knows ātman, ‘the Self’, but who also knows the multiplicity and diversity of the physical world and events happening in time and space, is a wildly mistaken concept that has resulted from our own self-ignorance — our fundamental confusion that we are a body and mind. Therefore until we get rid of our present self-ignorance by experiencing ourself as we really are, whatever idea we may have about the experience of the jñāni falls far short of what it actually is. However, though our mind cannot know what that experience is, we can to some extent at least understand what it is not, and one thing that it is certainly not is an experience of any multiplicity or difference, or of anything else other than ourself alone.

So long as we think that a jñāni is a person or that he or she experiences anything other than ‘I’, we open the doors to numerous other misconceptions. One common misconception is that there are different states or different degrees of ātma-jñāna or self-realisation. For example, some people talk about others being ‘fully realised’ or ‘partially realised’, whereas in fact there is no such thing as partial ātma-jñāna or self-realisation, because we either experience ourself as we really are or we experience ourself as something else. So long as we experience ourself as anything other than what we really are, we are not self-realised or even partially self-realised, but are still immersed in self-ignorance.

However, though there can be no degrees of ātma-jñāna (or any differences in it at all), we could say that there are degrees of ajñāna in the sense that it can be more or less dense. The stronger our desire is to experience anything other than ourself, the denser our ajñāna is, so to speak, because such desire is what prevents us from experiencing ourself as we really are. Therefore, if we want to progress on the path towards ātma-jñāna, we must weaken our desires to experience anything other than ourself and correspondingly increase our love to experience ourself alone, and the only way to do this is to persevere in trying to be self-attentive as much as possible.

To return now to verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Sri Ramana said ‘என்னை அறியேன் நான், என்னை அறிந்தேன் நான் என்னல் நகைப்புக்கு இடன் ஆகும்’ (eṉṉai aṟiyēṉ nāṉ, eṉṉai aṟindēṉ nāṉ eṉṉal nahaippukku iḍaṉ āhum), which means ‘Saying “I do not know myself” [or] “I have known myself” is ground for ridicule’, both of these statements are ‘ground for ridicule’ because they both indicate the existence of the ego, since in the absence of the ego there would be no one to think either ‘I know myself’ or ‘I do not know myself’. However, whereas a person who thinks or says ‘I do not know myself’ is thereby not only demonstrating his or her self-ignorance but also acknowledging it, any person who thinks or claims ‘I know who I am’ or ‘I have realised myself’ is demonstrating his or her self-ignorance while at the same time denying it.

If we are to free ourself from our self-ignorance, the first thing we must do is to recognise that we are self-ignorant, and that our self-ignorance is the cause of all our other problems, because otherwise we will have no motivation to try to experience ourself as we actually are. Therefore recognising that we are now covered in an armour of self-ignorance is the first chink we can and must make in this armour, because then only can we begin to unravel it. In this sense we can say that if we recognise and acknowledge our own self-ignorance or ajñāna, it is at least less dense than it would be if we were to deny it either to ourself or to others. Therefore as a general rule we should be sceptical and wary about anyone who claims to be a jñāni or who says ‘I have realised myself’, because the chances are that such a person is either deluding themself or trying to delude others.

Moreover, as Sri Sadhu Om says in verse 10 of Yār Jñāni?: ‘யார் ஆனால் ஞானி நமக்கு என்ன? நாம் நம்மை பாராத மட்டும் பயன் இல்லை’ (yār āṉāl jñāṉi namakku eṉṉa? nām nammai pārāda maṭṭum payaṉ illai), ‘Whoever may be a jñāni, what is it to us? So long as we do not know ourself, it will be of no benefit’. We can derive true benefit from ātma-jñāna only when we experience it ourself, and we can experience it only by persistently practising ātma-vicāra — that is, trying to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else that we may experience.

When we experience ourself as we really are, we will discover that the only jñāni is ourself, because nothing other than ourself actually exists. Since the seeming existence of other people and even of the person we now seem to be is just an illusion created by our own self-ignorance, how can any of those other people be jñānis? By experiencing them as if they were other than ourself, we are experiencing them as products of our own ajñāna, so how can any product of ajñāna be a jñāni?

Even if we accept that from the relative perspective of our ego the jñāni does sometimes seem to be a ‘person’ such as Sri Ramana, we do not have any reliable means to know who is a jñāni so long as we do not experience what we ourself really are. Therefore we cannot truly know who is a jñāni, and even if we could know it, we would not derive any benefit from knowing it unless we try to experience ourself as we really are, so rather than concerning ourself with questions about who is or is not a jñāni, we should focus all our interest and attention only on trying to know who am I, this ego who is so eager to know about others.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why should we believe that ‘the Self’ is as we believe it to be?

In a comment on my previous article, Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep, a friend called Joel wrote:
Why do you talk of the Self remembering itself? It IS itself, so what is there to remember? The notion of the Self ‘remembering’ the Self during deep sleep when now awake is merely a creation of the mind to justify a continuity through the three states that actually is not in need of justification, because apart from the mind there are no three states.
The following is my reply to this comment:

One of the mistakes you are making here, Joel, is that you are taking an argument, assuming its conclusion to be true, and claiming that the argument is therefore unnecessary. But without the argument, what reason do you have for believing its conclusion to be true? If we believe a certain proposition to be true, but have no reason for believing it, our belief in it is unjustified. An argument is simply a reason or a set of reasons for believing a certain proposition or idea to be true, so when we consider whether or not a certain belief is true or justified, we need to consider whether the arguments or reasons for believing it are sound.

You are expressing a certain belief about ‘the Self’ (whatever you mean by that term), but what justification do you have for such belief? Have you actually experienced this ‘Self’ as it really is? If not, you must have some reason for believing that it is as you believe it to be. Your reason may be faith in the teachings of Sri Ramana, but he never asked us to arbitrarily and blindly believe his teachings (rather than arbitrarily and blindly believing any other metaphysical view, whether based on religion, philosophy or science). There are so many different metaphysical views that people hold, so why should we choose one such view in preference to others?

If Sri Ramana had not given us good reasons (sound arguments) for believing at least tentatively that what he taught is true, his teachings would be no better than any of the numerous religious doctrines that already exist in this world. The only reason that can be given for believing in most religious doctrines, particularly those concerning or related to metaphysical issues, is that they are what is taught in a certain holy book or by a certain holy person, but when such is the case, which holy book or holy person should we believe? Should we believe the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Talmud, the Koran, the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pali Canon, the Jain Agamas, the Tao Te Ching or the Guru Granth Sahib, and should we believe the Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhavacharya, Patanjali, Confucius, Lao Tse, Jesus, Mohammed or Guru Nanak? If their teachings were all the same, we could believe all of them, but their teachings conflict with and often directly contradict each other, so what or whom should we believe?

Why do we choose to believe the teachings of Sri Ramana rather than any other spiritual or religious teaching? What reason do we have for believing what he teaches rather than what any other person or religion teaches? Are we adequately justified in believing his teachings in preference to all the numerous other philosophies, doctrines, religions or sciences that we could alternatively believe? I believe we are, because he did not merely claim that what he taught is what he had experienced (just as many other holy persons or mystics claim that what they teach is what they had personally experienced, or what was divinely revealed to them), but focussed his teachings entirely on ‘I’, our own experience of ourself, and on the basis of a clear and logical analysis of our experience of ourself in our three states of waking, dream and sleep he gave us sound reasons for believing that I am not the person, body or mind that I now seem to be, and that I therefore need to investigate myself in order to experience what I actually am (who am I).

If we are honest with ourself, we must admit that we are metaphysically ignorant: we do not know exactly what we are, or what is real; we are unable with any degree of certainty to distinguish reality from appearance; we do not know for certain whether the world we perceive exists independent of our experience of it, or whether it is just a mental creation, like a dream. Each religion provides its own answers to such questions, but without giving us adequate reasons to believe its answers rather than any alternative ones, and for thousands of years philosophers have tried to find satisfactory answers by relying entirely upon reasoning, but without ever actually finding a convincing solution to any of the numerous doubts that have risen in human minds about metaphysical issues, and without discovering any empirical means by which we could solve such issues.

However, Sri Ramana has taught us that the only way to remove our metaphysical ignorance (ajñāna) is to experience ourself as we really are. But why should we believe this? We must have some reason for believing it, and mere preference or wishful thinking is arbitrary (like Pascal’s wager) and hence not a very good reason for believing anything. Therefore Sri Ramana gave us a set of reasonable arguments that demonstrate that what we call ‘I’ (ourself) cannot be the body or mind that we now mistake ourself to be and that we therefore need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are, and other arguments that demonstrate that all our experience and knowledge of anything other than ‘I’ is dependent upon our mistaken experience of ourself as a body and mind.

Sri Ramana gave such arguments in order for us to think carefully and deeply about them and thereby form a strong conviction in the truth of his teachings and a deep interest in and passion for trying to experience ourself as we really are. What I wrote in my previous article was accordingly some reflections on his argument that we do experience ourself in the absence of our mind in sleep, and I wrote those reflections because another friend raised some reasonable questions about how we remember that we experienced ourself in sleep, since memory is generally a function of the mind, which did not then exist to experience or remember anything.

Unless we accept that we do remember having been asleep (that is, in a state in which our mind was absent and in which we therefore experienced nothing other than ourself), what reason would we have for claiming that we experienced ourself being in such a state? And unless we recognise that we did experience ourself being in sleep, what reason would we have for believing that we are anything more than this mind, or that we existed in sleep in its absence?

You ask regarding what you call ‘the Self’: ‘It IS itself, so what is there to remember?’ I assume that what you mean by ‘the Self’ is what we actually are, in which case ‘It IS itself’ simply means that we are what we actually are, which is obviously true and which therefore no one could reasonably dispute, but this then raises the question: what actually are we (or in other words, who am I)? Essentially we are something that is self-aware, so being ourself entails knowing or experiencing ourself, as Sri Ramana says in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தானா யிருத்தலே தன்னை யறிதலாந்
தானிரண் டற்றதா லுந்தீபற
      தன்மய நிட்டையீ துந்தீபற.

tāṉā yiruttalē taṉṉai yaṟidalān
tāṉiraṇ ḍaṯṟadā lundīpaṟa
      taṉmaya niṭṭhaiyī dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால். தன்மய நிட்டை ஈது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ-āy iruttal-ē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl. taṉmaya niṭṭhai īdu.

English translation: Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is devoid of two. This is tanmaya-niṣṭha [the state of being firmly established as tat, ‘it’ or ‘that’, the one absolute reality called brahman].
Just as being ourself entails knowing ourself, it also entails remembering ourself, because our self-awareness is not limited or bound in any way by time, since we experience ourself with an experience of time in waking and dream and without any experience of time in sleep. However, when remembering our existence, we are not remembering an experience that is now past, but are remembering our only experience that is always present, so our memory of ourself is not like any other memory, as I tried to explain in my previous article.

Another mistake you make in your comment is that you imply that I was writing about ‘the Self remembering itself’, whereas in fact I was writing just about us remembering ourself, and I never made any mention of ‘the Self’. In fact, though this term ‘the Self’ (with the definite article and a capitalised ‘S’) is used in most English translations of the teachings of Sri Ramana and commentaries on them, I avoid using it, because I believe it is a potentially misleading term and misrepresents the terms used by him while writing or speaking in Tamil.

In Tamil and other Indian languages, there are no capital letters and no definite article (like ‘the’ in English), so in most cases when it is recorded in English that Sri Ramana referred to ‘the Self’, the word he probably used in Tamil would have been தான் (tāṉ), which means oneself, myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself or (in the sense in which he often used it) just self or ourself, though in some cases it might have been ஆன்மா (āṉmā) or ஆத்மா (ātmā), which mean more or less the same as தான் (tāṉ), but which he generally used to refer specifically to what we actually are rather than what we just seem to be. Like ‘oneself’, ‘myself’ or ‘ourself’ in English, in Tamil தான் (tāṉ) can refer either to what we actually are (our real self) or to what we seem to be (our ego), depending on the context. In some contexts it may refer specifically to our real self and in other contexts it may refer specifically to the ego, but in many contexts it is not necessary and may even be wrong to specify which it refers to, because we are always one, whether we experience ourself as we really are or as the ego that we now seem to be.

One reason why I believe ‘the Self’ is a potentially misleading term is that the definite article and capitalised ‘S’ seems to suggest that it refers to something other than ourself — some distant object that is somehow divine or superior to ourself. Just as the Sanskrit term paramātman (which is a superlative noun that literally means the most distant, remotest, highest, ultimate or supreme self) is often used or understood to mean the Supreme Spirit or God rather than our own self, the term ‘the Self’ is easily mistaken to mean some distant or superior thing that we are to reach only in future or that can be experienced only by a privileged few, rather than our own most intimate self — what we actually are and actually experience as ‘I’ here and now.

When we read or are told that we are not what we now seem to be, if we do not think deeply and critically about this idea, we tend to think superficially of our real self and our false self as if they were two separate things, whereas in fact they are one and the same thing. That is, what we now experience as our false self or ego is actually just our real self seeming to be something other than it is actually is. Our false self is merely an illusion, so the dualistic distinction between it and our real self is likewise just an illusion, but this illusory distinction is subtly reinforced when we use terms such as paramātman or ‘the Self’ to refer to what we actually are. If what we mean by ‘the Self’ is simply what we actually are, why should we routinely capitalise the initial ‘s’ and objectify it by prefixing the definite article ‘the’ instead of just referring to it as ‘ourself’?

The habit of translating தான் (tāṉ) or ஆத்மா (ātmā) as ‘the Self’ arose from our tendency to think about ourself in dualistic terms, as if we had two distinct selves, a real self and a false self, and it also tends to perpetuate our tendency to think in such dualistic terms. Therefore if we are to outgrow our dualistic beliefs and patterns of thinking and to learn instead to think about the distinction between our real self and our illusory self in a more nuanced manner, we should avoid the clumsy habit of capitalising the initial ‘s’ in ‘self’ whenever we think it refers to our real self rather than our seeming self.

If it was appropriate in every case to distinguish our real self from our seeming self, using ‘Self’ with a capitalised ‘S’ to denote our real self would perhaps not cause too much confusion, but in many cases it is not appropriate to make this distinction. For example, if we take ‘Self’ with a capital ‘S’ to mean only our real self as opposed to our ego, and if we translate the terms ātma-vicāra or taṉṉāṭṭam (தன்னாட்டம், taṉ-nāṭṭam, a Tamil term often used by Sri Ramana that means the same as ātma-vicāra) as ‘Self-investigation’ or ‘Self-enquiry’, that would imply that what we are to investigate is not our ego but only our real self. However, since our real self is what now seems to be an ego, we could not in practice investigate our real self without starting by investigating what seems to be an ego, just as we could not look carefully at the rope without starting by looking carefully at the illusory snake that it now seems to be.

When we investigate who am I, it obviously does not matter whether we consider the ‘I’ we are investigating to be our real self or our ego, because there is only one ‘I’, which is actually our real self but which now seems to be our ego, so in order to avoid implying that we should investigate only our real self and not our ego (as if they were two entirely separate things), it is more appropriate to translate ātma-vicāra or taṉṉāṭṭam as ‘self-investigation’ (or ‘self-enquiry’) with a lower case ‘s’ than with a capital ‘S’. Likewise, there are many other contexts in which the word ‘self’ is used in Sri Ramana’s teachings to denote ourself in general rather than specifically either our real self or our seeming self. However, if we use ‘Self’ with a capital ‘S’ to denote our real self, it would imply that whenever we use ‘self’ with a lower case ‘s’ it denotes only our unreal self (our ego), so to avoid causing confusion in any of the many contexts in which no distinction should be made between our real self and our ego, it is necessary to avoid using ‘Self’ with a capital ‘S’ in any context whatsoever.

When you ask, ‘Why do you talk of the Self remembering itself? It IS itself, so what is there to remember?’ you seem to imply that we (our real self) do not remember ourself, which is absurd. We always remember ourself (at least in the sense that we never forget ourself), although as I explained in my previous article our memory of ourself is quite unlike our memory of anything else, because in remembering ourself we are not remembering an experience that is now past but an experience that is ever present. Our memory of ourself is therefore nothing other than our awareness of ourself, because we are always aware of ourself, and in being thus always aware of ourself we are so to speak always remembering ourself.

Memory usually entails storing and recalling some experience or information from the past, but we (our real self) are always present, so we are never past, and hence our constant awareness of ourself is not a memory in the usual sense of the word. Indeed, since we are ever present and ever aware of ourself, we have no need to remember ourself in the same sense that we remember other things that we experienced or knew about in the past. However, since we are always aware that I am, we cannot be said to have ever forgotten that I am, so since being always aware that I am entails never forgetting that I am, in that sense it can be said to be constantly remembering that I am. Therefore, when we talk of remembering ourself or our memory of ourself, we should understand in a more nuanced manner the special sense in which the terms ‘remembering’ and ‘memory’ are used in this context.

You also seem to imply that it is somehow wrong to say that we remember ourself having been in the state we call sleep, because you say that ‘apart from the mind there are no three states’. It is true that the appearance of the three alternating states of waking, dream and sleep is a creation of our mind, but our mind actually experiences only two of these three states, because what we call sleep is a state in which the mind has subsided entirely and therefore does not experience anything. That is, whereas waking and dream are created by the presence of the mind, sleep is created by the temporary absence of the mind in the midst of the other two states in which it seems to exist, so though sleep seems (from the perspective of the mind) to be a third state, it is actually the background state in which waking and dream temporarily appear and disappear. Since we experience the appearance and disappearance of waking and dream, we also experience the background state in which they appear and disappear, so though our mind does not experience sleep, we ourself experience it as a state in which our mind is absent, and we are able to remember having experienced it after we have woken from it (that is, after our mind has risen from it).

Since our mind had then subsided, what experienced our existence in sleep was not our mind but only our real self, but paradoxically what now remembers having experienced our existence in sleep is our mind, which was then absent. How is this possible? It is possible only because what we now seem to be (our mind or ego) is actually nothing other than what we actually are (our real self), just as what a rope seems to be (a snake) is actually nothing other than what it actually is (a rope). It was we as we actually are (our real self) who experienced our existence in sleep, and it is we as what we at present seem to be (our mind or ego) who now remembers having experienced it.

That is, our mind or ego is a confused mixture of what we actually are and various extraneous adjuncts — things such as our body which we now seem to be but which are not what we actually are. The self-aware element of our mind (the element that is aware of its own existence, ‘I am’) is what we actually are, and all the other elements are merely extraneous adjuncts, which are not self-aware. Whereas all the other elements of the mind rise and endure only during waking and dream, but subside and cease to exist in sleep, the self-aware element of our mind endures always: in all states, at all times and even when time does not seem to exist. It is this self-aware element (our real self) that experienced itself in the absence of everything else in sleep, and it is because of this self-aware element (the essential element of our mind) that our mind is able to remember ‘I existed and was aware that I existed in sleep’.

In other words, though our mind as mind did not exist in sleep, it did exist as our real self, which is its essence. It is therefore this essential element of our mind, which alone endured in sleep, that experienced its own existence in sleep, and that now seems to be the mind and thereby enables the mind to remember its existence in sleep. Though the actual memory of having been in sleep belongs only to what we actually are (our real self), what is now able to recall that memory is what we now seem to be (our ego or mind).

This is why trying to understand the subtle distinction between what we actually are (our real self) and what we now seem to be (our ego or mind) in the simplistic terms of duality, as if they were two entirely separate things (and as if they could always be readily distinguished simply by either capitalising or not capitalising the initial ‘s’ in the word ‘self’), can never be satisfactory, and why we therefore need to understand this distinction in a far more nuanced manner, not as two entirely separate things but as only one thing that experiences itself either as it actually is (our real self) or as something else that it merely seems to be (our seeming self, the ego or mind). Whether we experience ourself as we really are or as the mind that we now seem to be, we are always the one and only self or ‘I’, and there is no self (or ‘Self’) other than ourself.

In your second comment on my previous article you wrote:
I meant that the very notion that there are three states is a creation of the mind in what we refer to as the waking state. There is no waking state, no dream state, and no deep sleep, save as an idea in the mind right now. So the attempt to say that the Self is present during deep sleep is just an idea of the mind in the waking state, the waking state also being an idea of the mind right now. There is no time-line beyond the mind during which these states lie in succession.
Though as you say the three states of waking, dream and sleep are ideas created by our mind, they are states that we actually seem to experience, so as long as we experience them, we need to analyse our experience of ourself in each of them, because only when we do so will we be able to recognise from our own experience that we cannot be the body or mind that we now seem to be, since we experience ourself without either of them in sleep, and without our present body in dream.

According to Sri Ramana, whatever we experience other than our pure adjunct-free self, ‘I am’, is only an idea in our mind, but what experiences all these ideas is only our primal idea called ‘I’, the ego, which is a mixture of our real ‘I’ and various adjuncts. Though our real ‘I’ is not an idea, when it is mixed and confused with adjuncts, which are all ideas, it seems to be an idea. Therefore, though waking, dream and sleep are just ideas from the perspective of our mind, as long as we experience ourself as this mind they seem to be real, and what is most significant about them is that in each of them we experience ourself as something different. Since we cannot be anything that we do not experience permanently, such as our body or mind, our contrasting experiences of ourself in these three states provide us with invaluable evidence that we are not what we now seem to be, and that we should therefore investigate ourself in order to discover what we actually are.

Though we experience all these three states, what is special about sleep is that whereas we experience ourself as our mind during waking and dream, during sleep we experience ourself in the absence of our mind. Therefore, though sleep as a third state that is distinct from waking and dream is created by the mind, what we experience in sleep is ourself devoid of our mind — and hence devoid of all ideas. Thus our experience of ourself in sleep is the only evidence now available to us that we are not this mind that we now seem to be, nor any of its ideas.

From what you write in this second comment of yours, it seems that you believe that you do not experience anything other than your mind and its ideas. If you are unable to recognise and therefore do not believe that that you experienced yourself in sleep in the absence of your mind and its ideas, what evidence do you have that anything other than your mind and its ideas exist? If you only ever experience your mind and its ideas, what reason do you have for believing in the existence of ‘the Self’ that you speak of, or for believing that it is as you believe it to be?

If you believe that you have never experienced yourself as anything other than your mind, what reason do you have for supposing that you are actually anything other than it? If you speak of ‘the Self’ without any evidence from you own experience that you are anything other than your mind, ‘the Self’ that you speak of can only be either your mind or some belief held by your mind without any adequate reason or justification.

Now we experience ourself as our mind, and the only evidence that we as this mind have that we are actually anything other than this mind is our experience of ourself in sleep. Therefore, if you deny that we either experienced ourself in sleep or remember that we experienced ourself in sleep, you do not have any adequate reason for believing that you are not just your mind. This is why it is extremely important that we think deeply and carefully over Sri Ramana’s teaching that we experienced ourself in the absence of our mind in sleep and that we are able to remember our experience of ourself thus.

Recognising that we do experience ourself in the absence of our mind in sleep not only provides us with strong evidence that we are not this mind, but also helps us to understand more clearly and accurately the nature of the state of pure, thought-free self-awareness that we aim to experience when we investigate ourself by trying to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’. That is, it helps us understand how completely devoid our pure self-awareness is of even the slightest awareness of anything other than ourself, which in turn helps us whenever we try to investigate ourself to focus our entire attention on ourself alone to the exclusion of everything else.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep

In one of my recent articles, The essential teachings of Sri Ramana, I wrote:
Though we generally believe that we are not aware of anything in sleep, it would be more accurate to say that we are aware of nothing. The difference between what I mean here by ‘not being aware of anything’ and ‘being aware of nothing’ can be illustrated by the following analogy: if a totally blind person and a normally sighted person were both in a completely dark room, the blind person would not see anything, and hence he or she would not be able to recognise that there is no light there. The normally sighted person, on the other hand, would see nothing, and hence he or she would be able to recognise the absence of light. The fact that we are able to recognise the absence of any experience of anything other than ‘I’ in sleep clearly indicates that we exist in sleep to experience that absence or void.

The fact that we do actually experience sleep can also be demonstrated in other ways. For example, if we did not experience sleep, we would be aware of experiencing only two states, waking and dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between each successive state of waking or dream. But we are aware that sometimes there is a gap that we call sleep, in which we experience neither waking nor dream. We do not merely infer the existence of this third state, sleep, but actually experience it, and that is why we are able to say after waking from a period of deep sleep: ‘I slept peacefully and had no dreams’.

Why it is important to understand that we do actually experience sleep, even though sleep is a state that is completely devoid of any knowledge of multiplicity or otherness, is that our experience of sleep illustrates the fact that we do experience ‘I’ in the absence of the mind. Therefore the mind cannot be what I actually am.

The only experience that exists in all these three states is ‘I am’. It is I who am now experiencing this waking state; it was I who experienced dream; and it was I who experienced the absence of both waking and dream in deep sleep. Therefore ‘I’ is distinct from anything else that we experience in any of these three states.
Referring to this, a friend called Josef wrote a comment on that article in which he remarked: ‘That we are able to say after waking from a period of so-called deep (=dreamless) sleep ‘I slept’ can only be the declaration from memory about a former event/situation’, in reply to which I wrote another comment, in which I explained:
Regarding your questions about our memory of having slept, there is a subtle difference between our memory of anything we experienced in waking or dream and our memory of what we experienced in sleep, because whatever we experience in waking or dream has numerous features, whereas what we experienced in sleep was featureless, because it was nothing other than ‘I’, ourself. Because ‘I’ remains essentially unchanged in all these three states, we remember that in the past I experienced waking, I experienced dream and I experienced sleep. To remember the existence of ‘I’, we do not require the mind, because our self-awareness, ‘I am’, carries within itself, so to speak, its own memory of itself.

In sleep we cannot remember anything that we experienced in waking or dream (other than ‘I am’), because in sleep the mind is absent. Because it is the mind that experiences anything other than ‘I’, it is only the mind that can remember experiencing anything other than ‘I’. However, because ‘I’ experiences itself even in the absence of the mind, it does not require the mind to remember itself, and hence we can remember that I slept, even though the mind was absent in sleep.
In a later comment Josef replied:
The subtle difference between our memory of anything we experienced in waking or dream and our memory of what we experienced in sleep is also well elaborated. I am happy about the wonderful power of our self-awareness ‘I am’ who/which carries within itself its own memory of itself. And that even in the absence of the mind in deep sleep! So it is not the mind that remembers of having slept (featureless ‘I’) but the ‘I’ itself who/which remains essentially unchanged in all the three states.
This prompted me to think that this subject perhaps requires further consideration and clarification, so the following are some more reflections on our memory of ‘I’ in sleep:

Our memory of ‘I’ is quite unlike our memory of anything else. What experiences and remembers other things is our mind, but what experiences and remembers ‘I’ (our own existence and awareness) is only ‘I’ itself. Our experience ‘I’ or ‘I am’ is essentially timeless, because whether we experience time (as in waking and dream) or no time (as in sleep), we always experience ‘I am’, so this ever-present experience is beyond time.

When we think of time, we cannot but think of it in relation to ‘I’. The present moment is experienced as being present because it is the moment in which I am now present, so it is the presence of ‘I’ (myself) that makes this particular moment seem to be present. The past is past in relation to this moment in which I am now present, and the future is future in relation to this moment in which I am now present. Though we think I was in the past and I will be in the future, when we actually remember a past moment or anticipate a future moment, we do so as if I am now present at that moment to experience it, so the ideas ‘I was’ and ‘I will be’ are just expressions of our ever-present experience ‘I am’ in relation to the idea of a past or future time.

When we think of death, we can imagine our body being dead, but we cannot really imagine the non-existence of ‘I’, because the very act of trying to imagine this entails ‘I’ being present to envisage its own non-existence, and so long as it is present it cannot be non-existent. Therefore, when we try to imagine the non-existence of ‘I’, the ‘I’ that we are imagining to be non-existent is not our actual ‘I’ but some other imaginary ‘I’. This is why the idea of our own death or non-existence never quite seems real to us, and why Sri Ramana once remarked that even in a battlefield when a soldier sees others dying all around him, in spite of his fear of the bombs and bullets he always feels inwardly, ‘I will not die, at least not now’.

If we try to imagine ‘I’ ceasing to exist, and if we try to make what we are trying to imagine seem more real by trying to imagine ‘I’ ceasing to exist not just at some distant time in future but now, at the very next moment, we cannot really manage to imagine it, because without ‘I’ there could be no experience, so to imagine the non-existence of ‘I’ we must imagine absolutely nothing — not even an experience or mental image of ‘nothing’, but nothing at all.

Just as we cannot really imagine the future non-existence of ‘I’, we cannot imagine its past non-existence. In terms of our body, we know that we did not exist before we were born, but when we try to picture any moment before our birth, we picture it as if we were there (at least as some sort of disembodied spectator, as we seem to be in relation to the people and events we witness in a film while we are watching it), because we cannot picture or imagine anything without the presence of ‘I’. Everything that we experience, remember, anticipate or imagine is experienced, remembered, anticipated or imagined only by ‘I’, so we can never actually exclude ‘I’ from whatever it is that we experience, remember, anticipate or imagine.

Moreover, when we remember, anticipate or imagine anything, at that moment whatever we remember, anticipate or imagine is present in our experience, so it is remembered, anticipated or imagined by and in relation to the ‘I’ that is now experiencing itself as ‘I am’. In other words, whatever we remember, anticipate or imagine is experienced by us at that moment as ‘I am remembering’, ‘I am anticipating’ or ‘I am imagining’, so the past and future exist for us now only in this present moment and are experienced only by this ever-present ‘I’.

Time seems to exist only because we experience change, so in the absence of any change there would be no experience of time. In sleep we experience nothing other than ‘I’ (our essential self-awareness), and since ‘I’ does not change, we do not experience any time in sleep. Our fundamental experience ‘I am’ is thus the basis on which time appears and disappears, like the screen on which cinema pictures appear and disappear, and hence ‘I’ is not time-bound. Everything else is time-bound, because it appears and disappears in time, so ‘I’ is the only thing that transcends time.

Since ‘I’ is timeless, and since we cannot think of time except in relation to ‘I’ (that is, except in relation to ourself, who conceive and experience time), we cannot imagine experiencing any time or state in which ‘I’ is absent. Whatever we experience is experienced only by ‘I’, so there can be no experience without ‘I’, and no memory of any experience without ‘I’. Thus whatever experience we may remember entails a memory of ‘I’, so when we remember the experience of having slept — that is, of having been in a state in which we seemed to experience nothing — we cannot remember it without remembering that it was ‘I’ who slept.

Though our mind was absent in sleep, we experienced its absence, so we cannot but remember the ‘I’ that experienced that absence. Therefore our memory of ‘I’ is independent of our mind.

Whatever we may remember other than ‘I’, we are liable to forget it, and sooner or later we will forget everything that we can now remember — except ‘I’. Whereas we can forget other things, and sooner or later will forget each and every one of them, we can never forget ‘I’, because ‘I’ is our ever-present experience.

We are not this mind, because it appears and disappears in our experience, but we now experience ourself as if we were this mind, so the fact that we experience ourself as something that is not actually ourself — not actually ‘I’ — means that we can forget what ‘I’ actually is. However, though we can forget what I am, we cannot forget that I am, because we always experience that fact that I am, and we could not experience anything else unless we simultaneously experienced that I am.

Therefore we can never forget ‘I’, and hence we cannot but remember ‘I’ at all times. Whatever else we may remember or forget, we always remember the ‘I’ who experienced, knew or believed whatever we have now remembered or forgotten. ‘I’ is the basis of all experience and all knowledge, because without ‘I’ (the experiencer or knower) there would be no experience or knowledge. Likewise, our ever-continuous experience of ‘I’ is the basis of all memory, because it is the thread that connects all experience together, and because whatever is remembered is something that was experienced, known or believed by ‘I’.

When we experience anything other than ‘I’, that experience makes an impression on our mind, and though such impressions tend to fade, some of them to a greater or lesser extent leave a trace that we can later recall. Thus when we remember something other than ‘I’, we are recalling the impression of a past experience — an experience that no longer exists. Our memory of ‘I’ is therefore quite unlike our memory of anything else, because when we remember ‘I’, we are not just recalling the impression of an experience that is now past, but are remembering an experience that is ever present.

Since ‘I’ is aware of its presence in every experience and every memory, its memory of itself is inherent in its self-awareness. Its memory of itself is not just a memory of a past impression, but is a memory of an every-present experience. Therefore, though we talk of remembering ‘I’, our memory of ‘I’ is not a memory like the memory of any other thing.

Because things other than ‘I’ are experienced only by our mind, they can be remembered only by our mind, and they cannot be remembered in the absence of this mind. Though ‘I’ now seems to be experienced by our mind, it is experienced not only by our mind but more profoundly by our essential self-awareness, which underlies and supports the appearance of our mind in waking and dream, and which endures in its absence in sleep. Because our self-awareness — our experience of ‘I’ — endures in all states, at all times and even in the absence of time in sleep, it in effect carries within itself its own memory of itself irrespective of the temporary presence or absence of the mind.

Neither the appearance nor the disappearance of the mind in our experience interrupts our ever-continuous and unbroken experience of ‘I’, ourself. However, when our mind appears in waking or dream, our attention tends to be attracted by all the multitudinous phenomena that accompany its appearance, and thus our attention is distracted away from ‘I’, as a result of which we overlook and take little interest in this fundamental and continuous experience of ‘I’. So little interest do we take in ‘I’, our essential self-awareness, that we tend to dismiss sleep as a state in which nothing is experienced, even though it is actually a state in which we experience ‘I’ but nothing else.

Since everything else appears and disappears, ‘I’ is the only enduring reality, so it is the only thing that is really worthy of our interest. Other things appear only when we mistake ourself to be a finite mind, and they disappear when we cease to experience ourself as this mind, as we do in sleep. Therefore the cause of the appearance of anything other than ‘I’ is our present failure to experience ourself as we really are, so we need to investigate ourself — the ever-present ‘I’ — by trying to experience this ‘I’ clearly and alone, in complete isolation from everything else.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

There is only one ‘I’, and investigation will reveal that it is not a finite ego but the infinite self

A friend wrote to me a few months ago saying that after reading the teachings of Sri Ramana and Nisargadatta he was confused about whether the ‘I’ we should investigate in ātma-vicāra (self-investigation) is the ego (the jīvātman or finite individual self) or our real self (the ātman or infinite self), and he asked whether there is any difference between their respective teachings, and whether perhaps Sri Ramana refers to the jīvātman whereas Nisargadatta refers to the ātman. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Your comment that you are a little confused about the ‘I’ referred to in ātma-vicāra suggests that there could be more than one ‘I’, which is obviously not the case. As we each know from our own experience, and as Sri Ramana repeatedly emphasised (for example, in verses 21 and 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘தான் ஒன்றால்’ (tāṉ oṉḏṟāl), ‘since oneself is one’, and ‘தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்’ (taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl), ‘To make oneself an object known, are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience’), there is only one ‘I’. When this one ‘I’ experiences itself as it really is, it is called self or ātman, whereas when it experiences itself as something else it is called ego, jīva or jīvātman.

Just as the rope and the snake are not two different objects, so self and the ego are not two different ‘I’s. The rope is always only a rope, even when it is misperceived as a snake, so the ‘snake’ is never anything other than the rope. Likewise, self is always only self, even when it is misperceived as an ego, so the ‘ego’ is never anything other than self.

Self is the one and only ‘I’ there is, or ever could be, so when we practise ātma-vicāra (that is, when we investigate ‘I’ by trying to attend to it alone in order to experience it as it really is), the ‘I’ we are investigating is only self. However, because we now experience ourself as a person or ego, it seems to us initially that we are investigating our ego, but if we persevere in our investigation, we will find that this ‘ego’ is nothing other than self.

This can be illustrated by the rope and snake analogy. Suppose that we were walking with Sri Ramana along a footpath in the dim light of dusk, and that we suddenly noticed a snake lying on the path ahead of us. We would stop to let the snake pass, but Sri Ramana would say to us: ‘Don’t be afraid. Though it seems to be a snake, it is actually only a rope. Look at it carefully and see’. Though it may still seem to us to be a snake, we would look at it carefully and see that in fact it is only a rope.

When we look at it carefully, are we investigating the snake or the rope? We could say either. Initially it will seem to us that we are looking at a snake, but when we look at it carefully enough we will see that it is only a rope. Likewise, initially it may seem to us that we are investigating this finite entity called ‘ego’, but when we examine it keenly enough we will discover that it is actually only the one infinite reality, which is our true self or ātman.

You ask, ‘How does the process of enquiring into the phenomenal “I” lead to the realisation of the non-existence of this I?’ This can be answered by considering it in terms of the rope and snake analogy. What actually exists is only the rope, whereas the snake is a phenomenon that seems to exist but is not actually what it seems to be. Therefore if we examine the phenomenal snake, we will discover that it does not actually exist as such, because what seemed to be a snake is in fact only a rope.

Likewise, what actually exists is only our real self (as Sri Ramana says in the first sentence of 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]’), whereas the ego is a phenomenon that seems to exist but is not actually what it seems to be. If we examine this phenomenal ‘I’ (the ego), we will discover that it does not actually exist as such, because what seemed to be an ego is in fact only our real self. In other words, discovering the non-existence of the ego by investigating what it is (who am I) is nothing other than discovering the sole existence of self.

You say that you find it easier to concentrate your attention on ‘I am’ than on ‘who am I’, but Sri Ramana never suggested that the words ‘who am I’ should be the object of our meditation or concentration. He advised us only to investigate who am I, not merely to ask ‘who am I?’ or to concentrate on this question, and the only way to investigate who am I is to focus our entire attention upon ‘I’ (or ‘I am’) alone. Therefore, if you are concentrating your attention on ‘I am’ (not merely on the words ‘I am’ but on the awareness or experience ‘I am’), you are practising the investigation who am I as taught by him.

Since the question ‘who am I?’ consists of words, and since words originate from thoughts, asking or attending to this question is a mental activity: that is, it involves thinking. Moreover, since the question ‘who am I?’ is a product of thoughts, it is something other than what I actually am, so attending to it cannot be the correct means of investigating who I am.

You say, ‘Focussing on “who am I” leads to blankness or a void and then asking who is noticing the void leads to stillness or quietness. But I or the observer is still there and does not disappear or merge with the observed’. So long as we observe anything other than ‘I’, we are nourishing the illusion that we are an ego, a finite entity that is separate from other things, so we are thereby preventing ourself from merging in our source, which is our real self. Therefore what we should observe is only ‘I’, the observer, because only by our carefully observing it will it merge back into its source (since it is only a false appearance, like the illusory snake, which merges back into its source, the rope, when we observe it carefully).

If we experience any void, blankness, stillness or quietness that comes or goes, it cannot be ‘I’, because ‘I’ is what we experience permanently. Therefore if we think we are experiencing a void or any such alien phenomenon, we should turn our attention back towards ‘I’, the experiencer of whatever we may be experiencing. Anything that is temporary — experienced at one time but not at all times — cannot be ‘I’, but it also cannot be experienced by anything other than ‘I’, so it should remind us to turn our attention back to ‘I’.

Regarding your questions about the teachings of Nisargadatta, I do not know enough about them to be able to say whether or not they are different to Sri Ramana’s. From the little I have read of them, some of his teachings seem to be at least superficially similar to Sri Ramana’s, but some of them seem to be quite different. However, I do not know whether this is due to poor translations or whether he actually taught something different, but whatever be the case, I do not think that comparing different teachings is useful for someone whose only aim should be to investigate and experience ‘I’ as it really is.

Sri Ramana’s teachings are simple, clear, logical and in accordance with our experience of ourself in each of our three states of waking, dream and sleep, so they should be sufficient to convince any earnest seeker about the need to investigate who am I, but I do not know whether the same can be said of the teachings of Nisargadatta. However, if we have studied and understood Sri Ramana’s teachings, there should be no need for us to compare them with other teachings, and any attempt to make such comparisons is liable to lead to confusion and lack of clarity, as in fact it often does.

What I have noticed in this regard from questions that I am frequently asked about Sri Ramana’s teachings is that people are often confused even after reading his teachings alone (mainly due to poor translations of his writings, inaccurate recordings of what he said, failure to appreciate that many of the answers he gave were not his actual teachings but were said in order to suit the limited understanding, interests or aspirations of whoever was then questioning him, and incorrect explanations that have been written about his teachings in various books), but that if they have read other teachings (whether from modern teachers such as Nisargadatta or J Krishnamurti or from more ancient sources such as Vedanta, Advaita, Yoga or Buddhist texts) and try understand Sri Ramana’s teachings in terms of those other teachings, they tend to be even more confused, or are confused in ways that they would not have been if they had only read Sri Ramana’s teachings.

One reason why Sri Ramana’s teachings are so unique and valuable is that he has presented the very essence of all the ancient teachings of advaita, but in much clearer and more simple terms, and that in doing so he has cut through and trimmed back to its bare essentials all the extremely complex conceptual framework in terms of which such teachings have been presented in earlier texts. Not only has he thereby safeguarded us from most of the vast potential for confusion and misunderstanding that exists in ancient texts, but still more importantly he has clarified and highlighted the only means by which we can actually experience the non-dual reality that those ancient texts pointed towards, namely the simple practice of investigating ‘I’ alone. Therefore if instead of understanding Sri Ramana’s teachings in their own light and in their own terms we try to understand them in terms of any of the ancient texts, we will be burdening our mind with many of the unnecessary and often very complex concepts, beliefs and ideas that Sri Ramana has cut through and avoided in his essential teachings, and thereby we will be inviting confusion and misunderstanding.

Though when answering questions that related to other teachings and ancient texts Sri Ramana did sometimes discuss some of the unnecessary concepts, beliefs and ideas that are found in such teachings and texts, in his essential teachings he kept everything as simple and as clear as possible by focusing only on the practice of investigating ‘I’ and on the reasons why this practice is so necessary. This is why when we study his teachings we have to carefully and clearly distinguish his essential teachings on self-investigation from all the answers that he gave related to other subjects and practices that people asked him to explain or clarify.

Since the essential teachings of Sri Ramana — which are expressed in very clear and simple terms in his own original Tamil writings, and which can also be found expressed more or less clearly in at least some portions of the various books that record his oral teachings (provided that such books are read with discrimination and in the light of his own writings) — are complete and self-contained, they provide more than sufficient guidance for anyone who wants to follow the path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) and thereby to experience ‘I’ as it actually is. There is therefore no need for us to read or study any other teachings, and if we do so it will not only tend to confuse us but will also distract our attention away from ‘I’, which is all that we should be investigating.

When we investigate ‘I’, the very existence of our mind or ego is thereby threatened, because vigilant self-investigation will expose it as being an illusion and hence non-existent as such. Therefore our mind will try to find any means that it can to distract our attention away from self-investigation, and studying and comparing different teachings is just one of the many ways in which our mind can thus distract us. If we genuinely want to experience ‘I’ as it actually is, we can get more than enough clear guidance from Sri Ramana’s teachings, so there is no need to us to get distracted and to risk being confused by trying to compare them with any other teachings.

Regarding your final question about jīvātman (the personal self) and ātman (self), as I explained above, Sri Ramana taught us that there is only one ātman or ‘I’, which now seems to be a jīva or ego, but which is actually only the infinite ātman (our actual self). In order to experience ‘I’ as the ātman that it really is, we must investigate it, and when we do so it will cease to appear as if it were a finite jīvātman. Therefore it is wrong to suggest that the ‘I’ that Sri Ramana asks us to investigate is only the jīvātman and not the ātman, because investigation will reveal that ‘I’ is actually not the ego or jīvātman that it now seems to be, but is only the one infinite self or ātman.

We now confuse ‘I’ to be a finite person or ego, and if we read too many books we are likely to become still more confused about the real nature of this ‘I’, so the only way to remove all our confusion is to investigate this ‘I’ by trying to attend to it alone, in complete isolation from everything else, and thereby to experience it as it really is. As Sri Ramana often used to emphasise (for example in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?), we cannot experience what ‘I’ actually is by studying any number of books, but only by investigating it alone with single-pointed attention and perseverance.