On page 431 of the second e-book edition (page 439 of the forthcoming printed edition) of Happiness and the Art of Being, chapter 9, ‘Self-Investigation and Self-Surrender’, I give the following translation of an important sentence from the sixteenth paragraph of Nan Yar?, in which Sri Ramana defines the true meaning of the term atma-vichara or ‘self-investigation’ by saying:
… The name ‘atma-vichara’ [is truly applicable] only to [the practice of] always being [abiding or remaining] having put [placed, kept, seated, deposited, detained, fixed or established our] mind in atma [our own real self]…After this quotation, on pages 439 to 456 of the forthcoming printed edition I have incorporated some fresh material, and on pages 456 to 459 I have expanded what I had written on pages 431 to 432 of the second e-book edition. Since this new and expanded material comes to a total of twenty pages in the forthcoming printed edition, it is too long to give here in one post, so I shall divide it up into a series of five posts.
The following is the new explanation about the sentence from Nan Yar? that I have quoted above, which will come immediately after it on pages 439 to 441 of the forthcoming printed edition:
In both Sanskrit and Tamil the word atma, which literally means ‘self’, is a philosophical term that denotes our own true, essential and perfectly non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’. Hence the state that Sri Ramana describes in this sentence as sadakalamum manattai atmavil vaittiruppadu is the state of just ‘being’, in which we keep our mind firmly fixed or established in and as atma, our own essential non-dual self-conscious being.
The compound word sada-kalamum means ‘always’ or ‘at all times’, manattai is the accusative form of manam, which means ‘mind’, atmavil is the locative form of atma and therefore means ‘in self’, and vaittiruppadu is a compound of two words, vaittu, which is a past participle meaning ‘having put’, ‘having placed’, ‘having kept’, ‘having seated’, ‘having fixed’ or ‘having established’, and iruppadu, which is a gerund formed from the verbal root iru, which means ‘be’. When it is used alone, this gerund iruppadu means ‘being’, but when it is appended to a past participle to form a compound gerund, it serves as an auxiliary verbal noun denoting a continuity of whatever action or state is indicated by the past participle. Therefore the compound word vaittiruppadu can be interpreted either literally as meaning ‘being having placed’, or idiomatically as denoting a continuous state of ‘placing’, ‘seating’, ‘fixing’ or ‘keeping’. However there is actually no essential difference between these two interpretations, because the state in which we keep our mind continuously placed, seated, fixed or established in atma or ‘self’ is not a state of activity or ‘doing’, but is only the state of just ‘being’ as we really are.
Thus in this sentence Sri Ramana clearly defines the exact meaning of the term atma-vichara, saying that it denotes only the state of just ‘being’ — the spiritual practice of keeping our mind firmly established in and as atma, our own real ‘self’ or essential self-conscious being, ‘I am’. In other words, atma-vichara or the investigation ‘who am I?’ is only the practice of just being as we really are — that is, just being in our true and natural state, in which our mind has subsided peacefully in and as our own essential self, our thought-free and therefore absolutely actionless self-conscious being.
Thus from this extremely clear, simple and unambiguous definition of atma-vichara that Sri Ramana has given in Nan Yar?, and also from many other compatible truths that he has expressed elsewhere in his own writings, we are left with absolutely no scope to doubt the fact that the essential practice of self-investigation does not involve even the least activity of mind, speech or body, but is simply the non-dual state of mind-free and therefore perfectly inactive self-conscious being.
Since our real self is absolutely non-dual self-conscious being, we cannot know it by doing anything but only by being as it is — that is, by just being ourself, our own perfectly thought-free self-conscious being. Therefore true self-knowledge is an absolutely thought-free, non-dual and therefore non-objective experience of clear, uncontaminated self-conscious being. Hence in verse 26 of Upadesa Undiyar Sri Ramana defines the non-dual state of true self-knowledge by saying:
Being [our real] self is indeed knowing [our real] self, because [our real] self is that which is devoid of two. This is tanmaya-nishtha [the state of being firmly established in and as tat or ‘it’, the absolute reality called brahman].Since our goal is only the non-dual state of self-conscious being, the path by which we can attain that goal must likewise be nothing other than self-conscious being [which is a truth that Sri Ramana clearly expresses in verse 579 of Guru Vachaka Kovai, which I quoted in my recent post Actions or karmas are like seeds and on page 261 of the forthcoming printed book]. If the nature of our path were essentially any different from the nature of our goal, our path could never enable us to reach our goal. That is, since our goal is a state that is infinite and therefore devoid of all otherness, division, separation or duality, the only means by which we can ‘reach’ or ‘attain’ such a goal is just to be one with it by merging in it — that is, by losing ourself, our seemingly separate finite mind, entirely in it.
In other words, we cannot be firmly established as our own real non-dual self-conscious being by doing anything or by knowing anything other than ourself. No amount of ‘doing’ can enable us to merge completely in the real state of just ‘being’. Hence in order to know and to be our own real self, we must attend to nothing other than ourself, our own essential self-conscious being.
Attending to anything other than ourself is an action, a movement of our mind or attention away from ourself. Attending to ourself, on the other hand, is not an action or movement, but is just an actionless state of being self-conscious, as we always really are. Therefore atma-vichara or ‘self-investigation’ is only the practice of being self-conscious — that is, the practice of being conscious of nothing other than our own self, ‘I am’. Only by this simple practice of thought-free self-consciousness or self-attentiveness can we know who or what we really are.
(to be continued)