Sunday, 7 January 2007

'Awareness watching awareness'

In a comment on the post Your comments and questions are welcome (1), Ganesan wrote:

http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/

Are you connected, sir, with the above site, carrying the caption mentioned on the subject, 'Awareness watching awareness', with your name or namesake as the promoter, containing excerpts on the writings of Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om, as well as containing the views of the promoter, purporting to explain the technique of self-enquiry? From the way the writings appear, I am inclined to believe that it is not so. Please clarify.
I am not in fact connected in any way with this site to which Ganesan refers, www.albigen.com/uarelove/, but after reading his question about it, I had a look at it and found that it is a mirror of various pages from two or three other sites, some of which I have seen before. All these pages are written or compiled by Michael Langford, who also writes under the pseudonym 'uarelove'.

I can understand why Ganesan is confused about these two Michaels, Michael Langford and me, because this other Michael's website is largely about Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om and their writings, and as Ganesan probably knows, I was closely associated with Sri Sadhu Om. Moreover, on one of the pages of his website, www.albigen.com/uarelove/michael_james_muruganar_sadhu_om.aspx (which is a mirror of a page from one of his other sites, http://uarelove1.tripod.com/wings.htm), Michael Langford has reproduced in a slightly modified form an article that I wrote many years ago about Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om.

Regarding Michael Langford's explanation about the technique of self-enquiry, his basic idea, namely that it is "awareness watching awareness", as he describes it, is correct. This term that he has coined, 'awareness watching awareness', is just another way of describing self-attention or self-attentiveness, which is the state in which consciousness is conscious only of itself and not of any other thing. This is the correct and only technique of self-enquiry.

So long as we, who are consciousness or awareness, are conscious of anything other than ourself, our natural clarity of pure non-dual self-consciousness or self-knowledge is clouded and obscured by that consciousness or knowledge of otherness or duality. Therefore if we wish to attain a clear, unconfused and certain knowledge of our true self or essential being, we must withdraw our attention or consciousness from all other things and must focus it wholly and exclusively on itself, that is, on ourself.

This state of clear unadulterated self-attention, self-consciousness or self-awareness can therefore be aptly described as 'awareness watching awareness', 'consciousness attending to consciousness', 'consciousness being conscious of consciousness' or simply 'us being conscious of ourself'.

Though 'awareness watching awareness' may not be a term that I would choose to describe the practice of atma-vichara (a term that is usually translated as 'self-enquiry' or 'self-inquiry', but which can be more accurately translated as 'self-investigation', 'self-examination' or 'self-scrutiny'), I can appreciate that for many people it is a description that may help them to understand exactly what the practice of atma-vichara or 'self-enquiry' really is. Therefore, by putting so much stress on this term 'awareness watching awareness', I believe Michael Langford may well have helped a considerable number of people.

Nevertheless, though I agree with Michael's description of self-enquiry or self-attention as being 'awareness watching awareness', I do have certain reservations about some of the other ideas that he expresses in his website, such as his idea about the 'six rings' of the direct path. However, to be fair to him, I feel that some such questionable ideas of his have arisen due to the fact that he has not been able to read the writings of Sri Ramana, Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om in their original Tamil form, but only some rather poor and inadequate English translations of them. This is perhaps the reason who he has classified two of the most important writings of Sri Ramana, Nan Yar? (Who am I?) and Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses on Being), or rather certain English translations of them, as belonging to the 'third ring' or third most direct expression of the direct path (as he writes in http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/five_sages.aspx).

However, Michael's view about how clearly the direct path of atma-vichara or 'self-enquiry' is expressed in Nan Yar? and Ulladu Narpadu might change if he were to read more accurate translations of these two very important works. In my book, Happiness and the Art of Being, I have included fresh translations of almost all of Nan Yar? and most of the verses of Ulladu Narpadu, along with often very detailed explanations of them, so if Michael reads this book, I hope he may be in a better position to appreciate how clearly and accurately Sri Ramana has expressed and explained the practice of this direct path of self-attention in these two central works of his.

I have not yet made an index for Happiness and the Art of Being, but in the PDF format in which it is currently available on my website, it is easy to do searches on words such as Nan Yar? or Ulladu Narpadu, and such searches will create a list of links to each of the pages on which any chosen word or group of words occurs. Therefore if any reader would like to read my new translation of most of Nan Yar? and Ulladu Narpadu, they may do so easily by using this search facility.

At present Happiness and the Art of Being contains nineteen of the twenty paragraphs of Nan Yar? and twenty-seven verses of Ulladu Narpadu, but before it is published as a printed book I hope to find appropriate places to incorporate the missing paragraph of Nan Yar? and at least six more verses of Ulladu Narpadu, and also some verses from Sri Ramana's other poems, so by the time the book is complete it should contain translations and explanations of most of his important philosophical writings.

Returning once again to Ganesan's question about the views that Michael Langford expresses in his website, in spite of the reservations that I have about some of his ideas, I still feel that he has compiled in his website a lot of material that can be very useful to people who are unable to read the teachings of Sri Ramana in their original Tamil. For example, in two pages, http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/sadhu_om_self_inquiry.aspx and http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/sadhu_om_technique.aspx, he has reproduced the final two chapters of The Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om, 'Self-Enquiry' and 'The Technique of Self-Enquiry'.

I also believe that Michael Langford has done a good service in his website by emphasising the importance of the contribution made by both Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om to the correct understanding of Sri Ramana's teachings that many people now have. As Michael rightly makes clear, the writings of Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om make them the two most significant disciples of Sri Ramana from the prespective of any of us who truly wish to understand his philosophy and practise his teachings.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael, please explain how to "withdraw our attention or consciousness from all other things and . . . focus it wholly and exclusively on itself, that is, on ourself" while one is moving, talking, eating, etc. How can I be typing these words if I am withdrawing my attention from the computer, my fingers, and the thoughts forming in my head? Or are you saying that this investigation is to be done only when one is sitting in meditation with the eyes closed? Maybe you answer this question in your book, but I have not finished it yet. Thanks.
Mark

Ganesan said...

Regarding the question of Mark, I think what he says is correct from the view point of objective meditation, but is not applicable to self-enquiry, where the search is for the very source of thoughts. This is clarified in the chapter, 'Aham Vritti,' of the book, 'Gospel,' edited by Maurice Frydman. Hence, once the quest is begun, it should be continuing, of course in the subliminal consciousness ( I don't want to use the word sub-conscious in view of its different connotations relating to Frauedian ideas of dreams )in spite of surface activities, this being more so in view of the fact that there is no individual doer, and is a misconception, in the light of the truth of the sole reality of the self. Further, one should not confound the Vyavaharic reality of the waking state as having any bearing on the Self, and interpret self-enquiry from that standpoint.

Anonymous said...

Mark, what I've been experimenting with, I've documented here .. http://practicaladvaita.blogspot.com/2007/03/practicing-in-daily-life.html

Perhaps you may find something that feels right for you. Is that the right way, I don't know, I'm yet to find out myself.

Michael James - www.happinessofbeing.com said...

In reply to today's comment by 'anonymous':

Whatever helps each of us individually to draw our attention back to ourself — that is, to our fundamantal and essential self-consciousness 'I am' — is beneficial.

However, we should be careful not to be distracted from our single goal, which is the absolute clarity of non-dual self-consciousness. Anything other than 'I am' — whether a subtle object like a thought or a gross object like our breath — is liable to distract us from our essentially non-objective self-consciousness.

The practice of self-attentiveness is so very simple that we really do not need anything to support it. All we need is the true all-consuming love just to know and to be our real self, which we always truly are, but from which we allow ourself to be distract by our desires and attachments for anything other than that.

Provided that we have that love, there is nothing easier than to know and to be ourself. The sole aim and purpose of all our practice is therefore just to cultivate that love, and its inseparable counterpart, absolute freedom from desire and attachment.

Best wishes, Michael

Mujeeb said...

Awareness watching awareness as a term may inadvertentntly imply two awareness principles/components?? Yes I agree as mentioned by michael - that it may help some to understand the principle of self-enquiry - but nonetheless it may also become confusing in the act of the practise itself By continuing to create an subject-object principle whereby the practitioner begins to (unknowingly/subconsciously) 'watch out' for awareness 'literally' seperated from themselves within their practise Hence why I tend to lean more towards the preciseness of ramana usuage of the term self-enquiry self-scrtuniy self-attentivenss - because it ceases/stops the practitionair to look for an awareness component as separate/divided from the practitionair him/herself - &/or as perceiving the subject-object idea that mind is so easily comforted with The other concern I would have in the practise itself is highlighted by the word watching This uses a component of the senses I know both ramana & murugannar may use these to get across the theoretical practise for those who find it hard to undertsand But in the practise itself they both seem on the whole?? to remain strict with words like 'being' be be still as opposed to some sensory terminology which would retain the practitionairs idea of seeing looking watching out or sensing for awareness Yes it is difficult to get across the practise of be still or being without perserverience in the practise itself Here most of us tend to get lost by the conditioned mind But I am glad that Michael remains so strict with extrapolating words as close as possible to the original tamil From the stories of ramana it seems that he himself remained strict in correcting even muruganar whose poetical skills however immense gifted may at times loosen the precisiness of the terminology that ramana offered instead for the rigours of the practise itself that is essentially our only real nature Yes it may seem pedantic to some reading this - but until we practise earnestly diligently it is impossible to qualify that importance of the exactness of these terms used by wise sages like ramana He knows more then any the confused doubting self-conceit nature that is mind

Kurt jean said...

Awarness watching awarness -the term may not be grasped and assimilated , because like many of the comments state, it denotes an alien 2 person object as the aim. However, jumping over the hurdle of technicalities, what he means is indeed intriguing, to say the least. The body, the I , pointed out by Sri ramana is an idea, a thought. We do not live in the world, the world is our own projection. Similarly, the I thought is an object or form that we pick up in this "appearent" mental mess we create. When we have no center from which we operate from, to use the beautiful anology of Sri om, then we dwell in the limitless awarness- consciousness, just as the man who leaves the dark cave to emerge in the unlimited rays of the sun to arrive at the source of the so called I .Suppose that you did not operate from a center, therefore you had absolutely no limitations , likes and dislikes? Naturally, you would have absolutely no thoughts. Hence, you would be limitless awarness. As pointed out by Sri ramana, minds exists only in relation to gross objects. To put it more clearly, the illusion of being a body in a world with an existence in time and space "bounds" you to this bodies memories , feelings , thoughts, in short, all of it's idiosyncratic tendencies. What is the only state according to Sri ramana? The only state is the state free of thoughts. Therefore by dwelling in this state with firm love and abiding in it, the body consciousness, the feeling I am this body becomes a second person object. The ego cannot attend to self, the self is already realised and does not need inquiry. Sri ramana gave the exemple of shadows on the water. The ego is but mere shadows that have no true existence, the ego is false. The self, the state free of thoughts is the ever present background. There is no need to inquire, the only thing needed to do is to abide in self.Again, what is the self? The state free of thoughts. What do thought pertain to? Gross objects. And what do thoughts signify? Identification with forms. This is where I think the mistake both in the interpretation of awarness watching awarness and in the explaination arises. You cannot use this "i" idea to inquire. Awarness watching awarness would mean considering the false ego as true and inquiring into the self which is preposterous. How would a pen inquired into the nature of the the seer of that pen? Well, the I which is also just an object is powerless and devoid of any ability to inquire into the self. What would be more accurate would be to state that once youve actually seen and are mature enough to see the body as a alien second person object, follow and stay on that "frequency" to use the words of maharaj. Awarness would then denote a state and the "watching" part would be a farewell because the watcher would "dive" and dissolve in awarness to never again reemerge. Hence, the "watching" part is not a distance, nor an action, it simply denotes a state. It would mean the finality of the "watcher" , because once you are aware, then you are aware.

Anonymous said...

Awarness watching awarness -the term may not be grasped and assimilated , because like many of the comments state, it denotes an alien 2 person object as the aim. However, jumping over the hurdle of technicalities, what he means is indeed intriguing, to say the least. The body, the I , pointed out by Sri ramana is an idea, a thought. We do not live in the world, the world is our own projection. Similarly, the I thought is an object or form that we pick up in this "appearent" mental mess we create. When we have no center from which we operate from, to use the beautiful anology of Sri om, then we dwell in the limitless awarness- consciousness, just as the man who leaves the dark cave to emerge in the unlimited rays of the sun to arrive at the source of the so called I .Suppose that you did not operate from a center, therefore you had absolutely no limitations , likes and dislikes? Naturally, you would have absolutely no thoughts. Hence, you would be limitless awarness. As pointed out by Sri ramana, minds exists only in relation to gross objects. To put it more clearly, the illusion of being a body in a world with an existence in time and space "bounds" you to this bodies memories , feelings , thoughts, in short, all of it's idiosyncratic tendencies. What is the only state according to Sri ramana? The only state is the state free of thoughts. Therefore by dwelling in this state with firm love and abiding in it, the body consciousness, the feeling I am this body becomes a second person object. The ego cannot attend to self, the self is already realised and does not need inquiry. Sri ramana gave the exemple of shadows on the water. The ego is but mere shadows that have no true existence, the ego is false. The self, the state free of thoughts is the ever present background. There is no need to inquire, the only thing needed to do is to abide in self.Again, what is the self? The state free of thoughts. What do thought pertain to? Gross objects. And what do thoughts signify? Identification with forms. This is where I think the mistake both in the interpretation of awarness watching awarness and in the explaination arises. You cannot use this "i" idea to inquire. Awarness watching awarness would mean considering the false ego as true and inquiring into the self which is preposterous. How would a pen inquired into the nature of the the seer of that pen? Well, the I which is also just an object is powerless and devoid of any ability to inquire into the self. What would be more accurate would be to state that once youve actually seen and are mature enough to see the body as a alien second person object, follow and stay on that "frequency" to use the words of maharaj. Awarness would then denote a state and the "watching" part would be a farewell because the watcher would "dive" and dissolve in awarness to never again reemerge. Hence, the "watching" part is not a distance, nor an action, it simply denotes a state. It would mean the finality of the "watcher" , because once you are aware, then you are aware.