Wednesday, 21 January 2009

What is self-attentiveness?

A couple of weeks ago a person called Jon posted the following comment on one of my recent articles, Self-attentiveness and time:

I’m having a hard time understanding exactly what Self-attentiveness is. I just don’t see where the ‘attentiveness’ part comes from. The way I understand it Self-attentiveness is the practice of simply remaining without thought while not falling asleep (being keen and vigilant to prevent any thoughts from rising). However, as I noticed, Sri Ramana says this isn’t so because if this were the case, one could simply practice pranayama [breath-restraint], and Sri Ramana said that the effect of this was only a temporary subsidence of mind and not the annihilation of it. So getting back to my question, what am I supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? Self is the I thought. Unfortunately, I can’t find this I thought anywhere! How am I to be attentive to it? Please elaborate. As I said earlier, the way I understand Self-attentiveness currently is simply being keen and vigilant not to let any thoughts rise. Yet I don’t think that when I remain without thoughts I am being self-attentive, because when I remain without thought I am actually not paying attention to anything! (I believe) Yet, isn’t the goal of self-attentiveness merely to destroy all thoughts? Can’t I do that without focusing on some obscure “Self”? Am I supposed to be additionally Self-attentive? If so, can you please really break it down for me so that there is absolutely no doubt as to whether I’m doing it right?
In reply to this, an anonymous friend wrote another comment:
“Am I supposed to be additionally Self-attentive? If so, can you please really break it down for me so that there is absolutely no doubt as to whether I’m doing it right?”

With reference to the above comment of John, I might state that self-attentiveness and eschewing thoughts would constitute a unitary process, there being no additional self-attentiveness over and above not paying attention to thoughts.
Jon replied to this answer in his second comment, in which he wrote:
Thank you anonymous for your comment. Just to be clear, you’re saying that the sole purpose of self-attentiveness is to ignore thoughts, therefore if I simply ignore thoughts I would be Self-attentive? Michael’s opinion on this would be greatly appreciated as well.
What the anonymous friend wrote in his or her answer to Jon’s first comment requires some clarification. Though it is true that self-attentiveness — when it is sufficiently keen and vigilant — will necessarily exclude all other thoughts (since we cannot think any other thought when our entire attention is focused only on ourself), it is not true to say the opposite, namely that the absence of all thoughts will make us self-attentive.

In sleep all thoughts are absent, but in spite of their absence we are not clearly self-conscious. Therefore to know ourself clearly, we need something more than just an absence of all thoughts.

In order to read a book, we must ignore everything that is happening around us, because if we notice anything else, our attention will be distracted away from what we are reading. However, instead of reading the book, if we simply ignore everything that is happening around us, we cannot thereby know what is written in the book. To know what is written in it, we must not only ignore everything else, but must actually read the book.

Likewise, in order to be self-attentive and thereby know ourself, we must ignore everything other than ‘I’, because if we pay heed to anything else, our attention will be distracted away from ourself. However, instead of attending to ourself, if we simply ignore everything else (that is, all our thoughts), we cannot thereby know ourself. To know ourself, we must not only ignore everything else, but must actually attend to ourself.

This is why Sri Ramana defined true knowledge in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār as follows:
[Our] mind knowing its own form of light [its true form of non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’], having given up [knowing] external objects, alone is true knowledge.
In this verse he placed emphasis on மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே (maṉam taṉ oḷi uru ōrdalē), ‘mind only knowing its own form of light’, by making it the subject of the sentence, and he included வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai vittu), ‘having given up external objects’, only as a subsidiary clause. Our ‘mind knowing its own form of light’ means self-attentiveness, the state in which we know nothing other than our essential self, which is the true light of clear self-consciousness, ‘I am’, whereas ‘having given up external objects’ means not attending to anything other than ourself.

In order to focus our entire attention upon our essential self-consciousness — our ‘form of light’ — we necessarily have to withdraw it from all external viṣayas (that is, anything that is other than ourself), but by merely withdrawing it from all external viṣayas we do not ensure that it is focused keenly upon ourself. If we are not extremely vigilant to be keenly self-attentive — that is, to cling firmly to ‘I am’, our fundamental consciousness of our own being — when we withdraw our attention from all external viṣayas (which are mere thoughts), we will become drowsy and fall asleep.

This is why if we try to restrain all our thoughts or mental activity by an artificial means such as prāṇāyāma or breath-restraint, our mind will eventually subside in a sleep-like state of manōlaya or temporary abeyance — unless we use the relative calmness of mind achieved by prāṇāyāma to focus our entire attention upon our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’.

The ‘sole purpose of self-attentiveness’ is to know ourself, and is not just ‘to ignore thoughts’, as Jon wrote. Ignoring thoughts is merely a by-product of self-attentiveness, and though it is certainly necessary, we should not concern ourself too much about it, because if we are keenly and vigilantly self-attentive, we will automatically be ignoring all thoughts.

If we take ‘ignoring thoughts’ to be our sole aim, instead of concentrating all our love and effort on simply being self-attentive, we will be setting ourself an impossible task, because we cannot effectively ignore thoughts merely by trying to do so, since that which attempts to ignore thoughts is our mind, which is itself a mere thought — our primal thought ‘I’, which is the root of all other thoughts.

Unless this root thought ‘I’ subsides completely, we cannot effectively ignore all thoughts, because this primal thought ‘I’ — our mind or ego — can stand only by attending to something (some thought) other than itself, so even if it succeeds in ignoring one thought, it will immediately begin thinking some other thought. As Sri Ramana says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
Grasping form [a thought] it [our mind or ego] comes into existence. Grasping form [thoughts] it stands. Grasping and feeding on form [thoughts] it flourishes abundantly. Leaving form [one thought] it grasps form [another thought]. [However] if [we] examine [it], [this] formless phantom ego takes flight. Know [thus].
The ‘forms’ that our mind grasps are all thoughts or mental images, which it creates by its power of imagination. Some of these thoughts are gross and therefore obvious, whereas others are more subtle and therefore less obvious, but so long as our mind experiences even the least otherness or duality, it is grasping — that is, attending to — some form of thought.

Even if this first thought ‘I’ could succeed in ignoring — that is, releasing its hold on — all thoughts merely by trying to do so, such an effort would only result in it falling asleep. However, in practice this thought ‘I’ cannot ignore all thoughts merely by trying to do so, because by making such an effort it would actually be sustaining itself, and if it did eventually fall asleep, that would only be due to exhaustion.

The reason why any effort that we make directly to ignore thoughts would actually sustain our primal thought ‘I’ — unless the means by which we try to ignore all thoughts is to attend instead to something that is not a thought — is that such an effort would inevitably involve our paying at least some attention to the thoughts that we are trying to ignore.

To borrow an analogy that Sri Sadhu Om gives in The Path of Sri Ramana (Part One, chapter seven, page 127), trying to ignore thoughts is like trying to take a medicine without thinking of a monkey. If we take ‘not thinking of a monkey’ to be our aim when taking the medicine, every time we want to take the medicine we will remember the monkey that we are supposed not to think about. Therefore instead of trying not to think about a monkey, we should simply think of something else, such as an elephant, because the thought of an elephant will divert our attention away from the thought of a monkey, and thus we will succeed in taking the medicine without thinking of a monkey.

Likewise, in order to ignore all thoughts, we must attend to something that is not a thought, and since everything other than our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’, is a thought, we can effectively ignore all thoughts only by attending to this consciousness ‘I am’. Therefore, instead of concerning ourself about thoughts and trying to ignore them, we should just concentrate our entire attention upon our own essential self — our simple consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’.

To illustrate what this means in our everyday practice, let us consider a simple example. Sometimes we may have happened to hear repeatedly a song with a particularly catchy tune and words, as a result of which we may find that tune and its accompanying words playing over and over again in our mind whenever we are not busy with other thoughts. If we consider this seemingly involuntary mental repetition of that song to be an obstacle to our self-attentiveness, we may try to push it out of our mind, but however much we try to avoid it, it will continue popping up again and again.

Instead of thus trying to avoid remembering this song, if we simply think ‘let it be’ and concentrate all our effort on just being self-attentive in the midst of it, we will soon find that it slips into the background and eventually disappears, and even if it does crop up again, it need not disturb us too much if we remember to continue being self-attentive. In fact, if we turn our attention back towards ourself whenever we find this song repeating itself in our mind, we may soon find that the song actually reminds us to be self-attentive.

When we are deeply absorbed in keenly focused self-attentiveness, all thoughts will certainly subside, since they cannot exist unless we think them — that is, unless we pay attention to them. However, even in the midst of thoughts, we can continue to be self-attentive, at least to a certain extent, so the best way to deal with thoughts is just to persevere in our effort to be self-attentive even in their midst, knowing that they will automatically subside as our self-attentiveness becomes keener and deeper.

Whatever thought we may think, we can think it only because we are. We cannot think any thought without also knowing ‘I am’. Therefore we should use every thought that may arise to remind us of our being, ‘I am’, because only by doing so will we manage to be constantly self-attentive. That is, whenever we happen to think any thought, we should remember the ‘I’ that thinks it and thereby cling firmly to our persistent practice of self-attentiveness, indifferent to whether any thought appears or not.

As Sri Ramana says about thoughts at the end of verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇāchala Aṣṭakam, நின்றிட சென்றிட நினைவிட வின்றே (niṉḏṟiḍa ceṉḏṟiḍa niṉaiviḍa viṉḏṟē), which means, ‘let [them] cease [or] let [them] continue, [because] other than you [Arunachala, our real self] they do not exist’. That is, since no thought can exist independent of our essential being, ‘I am’, we should be completely unconcerned about them and should attend only to their underlying reality, ‘I am’.

Every thought we think should remind us of ‘I’, who think it. Every sight we see should remind us of ‘I’, who see it. Every sound we hear should remind us of ‘I’, who hear it. Every taste we taste should remind us of ‘I’, who taste it. Every smell we smell should remind us of ‘I’, who smell it. Every sensation we feel should remind us of ‘I’, who feel it. Everything we desire should remind us of ‘I’, who desire it. Everything we fear should remind us of ‘I’, who fear it. Every emotion we experience should remind us of ‘I’, who experience it. If we constantly remind ourself of ‘I’ in this manner, our self-attentiveness will quickly become firmly established, and will continue as a background current even when we are busily engaged in other work.

Let us now consider the questions that Jon asked in his first comment. He begins by saying that he is ‘having a hard time understanding exactly what Self-attentiveness is’. Before I attempt to answer this crucial question — ‘what exactly is self-attentiveness?’ — I should first emphasise that any verbal answer that may be given to it can only be a pointer indicating how we should each find the real answer for ourself by immediate experience.

No answer given in words can ever truly express what self-attentiveness really is, because self-attentiveness is a state that is beyond thought and therefore beyond all words. Our thinking mind can never truly grasp or experience self-attentiveness, because as soon as we are actually self-attentive our mind will subside and disappear like a shadow in the clear light of pure thought-free self-consciousness.

We cannot actually know ‘exactly what self-attentiveness is’ until we actually know exactly what ‘self’ is, because self-attentiveness is the very nature of our essential self, which is pure sat-chit or being-consciousness — that is, perfectly clear consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’. Since our real self is always conscious of itself, and since there is nothing other than itself that it could ever know, it is eternally self-conscious or self-attentive.

However, though we cannot experience perfect self-attentiveness until we know ourself as we really are, we can always experience self-attentiveness at least imperfectly. That is, perfectly clear or ‘exact’ self-attentiveness is only the absolutely non-dual experience of true self-knowledge, but even when we do not experience such ‘exact’ self-attentiveness — that is, perfectly clear self-consciousness or self-knowledge — we can nevertheless experience partially clear self-attentiveness.

The more we try to be self-attentive, the more clearly we will be able to experience our natural self-consciousness, ‘I am’, free from the clouding and diffusing effect of upādhis or adjuncts, which are all thoughts or mental images, which we form within ourself by our power of imagination. Therefore, in order eventually to experience perfectly clear self-consciousness, we must persistently make effort to be as keenly self-attentive as we are able to be.

In other words, the only way to know ‘exactly what self-attentiveness is’ is to practice self-attentiveness, because self-attentiveness is truly our natural state of absolutely non-dual self-consciousness, which we can experience only by penetrating into the innermost core or depth of our own being. This is why the practice of self-attentiveness is called ātma-vichāra — self-investigation, self-examination or self-enquiry.

That is, the practice of self-attentiveness is an investigation or deeply penetrating search for true knowledge. It is a search not in the sense of seeking to find something whose whereabouts are unknown, nor in the sense of seeking to know something that is now completely unknown, but only in the sense of seeking to know clearly that which we always know but do not yet know sufficiently clearly.

It is a scientific research — the most truly scientific of all forms of research — because it is an investigation or vichāra in which consciousness seeks to know itself absolutely clearly. In order to know itself clearly, consciousness must cease attending to anything that appears to be other than itself, and must focus itself entirely upon itself. In other words, it must ignore all the adjuncts that it has superimposed upon itself, and must try to be keenly conscious only of itself — its own self-conscious being, ‘I am’.

The practice of ātma-vichāra — self-scrutiny or self-attentiveness — can be compared rather crudely to an attempt that is made to identify a minute object by examining it under a microscope. Until we are absolutely sure what the object that we are examining really is, we must continue increasing the magnification and refining the focus of the microscope.

Likewise, when we scrutinise ourself — our essential consciousness of being, ‘I am’ — in order to ascertain ‘who am I?’, we must continue refining our power of attention, making it ever more pure and subtle until we are finally able to distinguish clearly our extremely subtle consciousness ‘I am’ from all the adjuncts that now appear to be mixed with it.

Only when our mind or power of attention is perfectly purified — cleansed of all its viṣaya-vāsanas, its gross desires for objective experiences — will it be refined and subtle enough to be able to focus itself entirely upon itself and thereby to know itself perfectly clearly.

The only truly effective means by which we can achieve the required purity of mind is to persevere in practising self-attentiveness. As Sri Ramana says in the first sentence of the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?), தொன்றுதொட்டு வருகின்ற விஷயவாசனைகள் அளவற்றனவாய்க் கடலலைகள் போல் தோன்றினும் அவை யாவும் சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப அழிந்துவிடும் (toṉḏṟutoṭṭu varukiṉḏṟa viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ aḷavaṯṟaṉavāy-k kaḍal-alaigaḷ pōl tōṉḏṟiṉum avai yāvum sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba azhinduviḍum), which means, ‘Even though viṣaya-vāsanas [our latent impulsions, desires or propensities to attend to things other than ourself], which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts] in countless numbers like ocean-waves, they will all certainly be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-contemplation or self-attentiveness] increases and increases’, and in the first sentence of the eleventh paragraph, மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைகள் இருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும் (maṉattiṉkaṇ eduvaraiyil viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ irukkiṉḏṟaṉavō, aduvaraiyil nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vichāraṇaiyum vēṇḍum), which means, ‘As long as viṣaya-vāsanas exist in [our] mind, so long the vichāraṇa [investigation] “who am I?” is also necessary’.

Our viṣaya-vāsanas or desires to experience anything other than ourself are the driving force that impels our mind to be constantly active, attending to things other than our simple consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’. Since attending to anything other than ourself is the fuel that keeps the fire of our desire burning, we can extinguish this fire only by persistently practising self-attentiveness. This is why Sri Ramana says at the end of the second sentence of the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும் (sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍāppiḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum), ‘it is necessary to cling tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness]’.

The more we persevere in practising self-attentiveness, the weaker our vāsanas or desires to attend to anything else will become. At the same time, our love to be self-attentive will correspondingly increase, as also will our clarity of self-consciousness. This is the process that is known as chitta-śuddhi or ‘purification of mind’, because our viṣaya-vāsanas are the impurities that cloud and obscure our natural clarity of self-consciousness.

The increasing clarity of self-consciousness that we experience as a result of our persistent practice of self-attentiveness is the true light of vivēka — discrimination, discernment or the ability to distinguish the real from the unreal — because it is only by this clarity of self-consciousness that we can truly distinguish and discern our real and eternal self from all the unreal and ephemeral adjuncts that we have imaginarily superimposed upon it.

Clarity of self-consciousness is both the cause and the effect of purification of mind. It is the effect because our non-dual self-consciousness — our fundamental consciousness of our own essential being, ‘I am’ — can be experienced by us clearly only to the extent that our mind has been purified of all its viṣaya-vāsanas or outward-impelling desires. And it is the cause because it is the light that illumines our heart with the clarity of true vivēka or discrimination, which alone can give us the firm conviction that real happiness can be experienced only within ourself — in our natural state of pristine thought-free self-conscious being — and can never be obtained from anything other than our essential self.

Thus this clarity of true vivēka is the cause of true bhakti and true vairāgya — intense love to know and to be our real self, and corresponding freedom from desire to attend to anything other than ourself. As the clarity of our vivēka increases as a result of our practice of self-attentiveness, our svātma-bhakti (our love to attend to our own self) and vairāgya (our freedom from desire for anything else) will increase proportionately, and as our bhakti and vairāgya thereby increases, the depth and intensity of our self-attentiveness will naturally grow.

This is how our viṣaya-vāsanas or outward-impelling desires ‘will all certainly be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-contemplation or self-attentiveness] increases and increases’, as Sri Ramana assures us in the first sentence of the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?. In the original Tamil the words that mean ‘when self-attentiveness increases and increases’ are சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப (sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba), in which the repeated word கிளம்ப (kiḷamba) is the infinitive form of the verb கிளம்பு (kiḷambu), which means to rise up, ascend, prosper, increase or become prominent. In this context the infinitive form of this verb is used idiomatically to mean ‘when it increases’, and the repetition of it indicates that it is an on-going process in which self-attentiveness increases or intensifies more and more.

As our self-attentiveness thus becomes increasingly intense, we will experience our pristine self-consciousness more and more clearly. This increasing clarity of self-consciousness is what is sometimes described as ‘focusing’ our attention more and more keenly upon our essential self.

Focusing our attention on ourself is obviously quite different to focusing it on any object, but just as we can concentrate or converge our scattered attention upon a single object, so we can draw it back and concentrate it solely upon ourself — the subject, consciousness or ‘I’ that knows all objects.

In this context ‘focusing our attention more and more keenly upon ourself’ means progressively isolating our pure self-consciousness, ‘I am’, by distinguishing it clearly from the dissipating and blurring effect of thoughts, which are adjuncts that we have imaginarily superimposed it.

In verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Sri Ramana describes the state in which our mind or attention is keenly focused upon ourself as கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati), ‘pointed [sharp, keen, acute, penetrating or subtle] mind [intellect or power of discernment]’, saying that by such a keenly penetrating mind we should sink within ourself and know the source from which we have risen as this ego:
Like sinking in order to find an object that has fallen into water, sinking within [ourself] restraining [our] speech and breath by kūrnda mati [a keenly pointed, sharp, acute or penetrating mind] we should know the place where [our] rising ego rises. Know [this].
கூர்ந்த (kūrnda) is a past relative participle of the verb கூர் (kūr), which means to be sharp, pointed, keen, acute, penetrating, intense or subtle, and மதி (mati) means mind, intellect or power of discernment, perception, cognition or attention. Since Sri Ramana says that this கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) or ‘keenly pointed mind’ is the means by which we should sink within and know the source from which our rising ego has risen, what it must be keenly pointed towards (or sharply focused upon) is only our essential self, which alone is truly உள்ளே (uḷḷē) or ‘within’ us and which is the அகந்தை எழும் இடம் (ahandai ezhum iḍam), the ‘rising-place’ or source of our ego or false self.

This கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) or selfward-pointed mind is not only the means by which we should sink within and know the source of our ego, but is also the means by which we should restrain our speech and breath. That is, when our mind is keenly focused upon ourself, it is automatically withdrawn from all thoughts, as a result of which our thinking mind subsides or ‘sinks within’, and since speech and breath are functions that are driven only by our mind, they will subside along with it.

In this verse Sri Ramana uses two words that mean ‘sink’, ‘immerse’, ‘plunge’ or ‘dive’. When giving the analogy of ‘sinking in order to find an object that has fallen into water’ he uses the verbal noun முழுகுதல் (muzhuhutal), which means sinking, bathing or being immersed, and when saying that we should likewise ‘sink within’ he uses the participle ஆழ்ந்து (āzhndu), which means sinking, plunging, diving, immersing, entering, piercing, penetrating or going deep.

The words உள்ளே ஆழ்ந்து (uḷḷē āzhndu) or ‘sinking within’ describe the state in which our mind subsides deep within our heart, the core of our soul, which is our pure thought-free non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’, and this ‘sinking’ or subsidence of our mind can be effectively achieved only by கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) — that is, by our attention being keenly and penetratingly focused within, piercing into the innermost depth of ourself, where our non-dual self-consciousness shines alone in its natural state of pristine clarity, free from the obscuring cloud of thoughts or imaginary adjuncts.

Thus the increasing clarity of self-consciousness that we experience when our self-attentiveness becomes more and more intense is what is described not only as ‘focusing’ our attention keenly upon our essential self, but also as ‘sinking’ or ‘diving’ deep within our heart, the core of our soul. That is, as our svarūpa-dhyāna or self-attentiveness ‘rises up’ more and more (sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba), our mind ‘sinks down’ ever deeper into our heart.

In this context words such as கிளம்பு (kiḷambu) or ‘rising up’ and ஆழ் (āzh) or ‘sinking deep’ are used figuratively. சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāṉam) or self-attentiveness is described as ‘rising up’ when it becomes more keenly focused and therefore clearer, and our mind is described as ‘sinking deep within’ when its outward-going activity subsides and becomes quiescent, thereby allowing our pure self-consciousness to shine clearly, unobstructed by the cloud of hitherto incessant mental activity.

That is, just as we describe a light as being ‘turned up’ when it is made brighter and ‘turned down’ when it is made dimmer, Sri Ramana describes our self-attentiveness as ‘rising up’ when the true light of our pure non-dual self-consciousness shines increasingly brightly or clearly within our heart, and he describes our mind as ‘sinking down’ or subsiding deep within ourself when the false light of our dualistic thinking consciousness — our imaginary object-knowing consciousness — becomes increasingly dim or faint, being swallowed in the increasingly clear light of pure self-consciousness, like the dim light of the moon being swallowed by the bright light of the rising sun.

The extent to which our mind subsides or sinks deep within ourself is determined by the keenness, intensity or clarity of our self-attentiveness, which in turn is determined by the intensity of our bhakti and vairāgya — our love and desirelessness, that is, our love to experience ourself as we really are and our freedom from desire to experience anything other than ourself.

In the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Sri Ramana compares vairāgya or desirelessness to the stone that a pearl-diver ties to his waist in order to sink deep into the ocean to gather pearls, saying:
... Just as pearl-divers, tying a stone to their waist and submerging, pick up a pearl which lies in the ocean, so each person, submerging [beneath the surface activity of their mind] and sinking [deep] within themself with vairāgya [freedom from desire for anything other than self], can attain the pearl of self. ...
Earlier in the same paragraph he defined vairāgya as அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் (aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal), ‘being without attending to anya [anything other than self]’, and he said that it is truly the same as jñāna, which he defined as தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் (taṉṉai viḍādiruttal), ‘being without leaving self’. Thus he clearly implied that we should sink deep within ourself to attain the pearl of self by ‘being without leaving self’ — that is, by clinging firmly to self-attentiveness and thereby refraining from attending to anything other than ourself.

To emphasise the truth that in order to attain the ‘pearl’ of true self-knowledge we need not make any effort other than to be vigilantly self-attentive, in the next sentence of this eleventh paragraph he assures us: ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அது வொன்றே போதும் (oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kaippaṯṟuvāṉāyiṉ adu oṉḏṟē pōdum), which means ‘If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own essential self], that alone will be sufficient’.

What he describes here as நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுதல் (nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kaippaṯṟudal), ‘clinging fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance]’ is the same state of vigilant and keenly focused self-consciousness that he described in the previous paragraph as சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடித்தல் (sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍāppiḍiyāy-p piḍittal), ‘clinging tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna [self-contemplation or self-attentiveness]’.

As we saw above, in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Sri Ramana describes this state of keenly focused self-attentiveness as கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati), ‘pointed [sharp, keen, acute, penetrating or subtle] mind [intellect or power of discernment]’, and he says that it is the means by which we should sink within ourself and know the source from which our mind or ego has risen. Likewise, in verse 23 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he describes it as நுண் மதி (nuṇ mati), ‘subtle [fine, sharp, acute, discriminating, precise, accurate or refined] mind [intellect or power of discernment]’, saying that by such a subtle and acutely discriminating mind we should scrutinise the source where our pseudo-‘I’ arises:
This body does not say ‘I’ [that is, it does not know ‘I am’, because it has no consciousness of its own]. No one says ‘in sleep I do not exist’ [even though in sleep this body does not exist]. After an ‘I’ has risen [imagining ‘I am this body’], everything rises. [Therefore] by nuṇ mati [a subtly discerning mind] scrutinise where this ‘I’ rises.
The meaning of நுண் (nuṇ) is similar to the meaning of கூர்ந்த (kūrnda), since it is an adjective that means minute, slender, fine, subtle, sharp, acute, discriminating, precise, accurate or refined, and as we saw above மதி (mati) means mind, intellect or power of discernment, perception, cognition or attention. Such a நுண் மதி (nuṇ mati) or ‘subtle discernment’ is the instrument that we must use to scrutinise and know our essential self, which is the source from which our rising ‘I’ or ego has arisen.

That is, in order to know our real self, which is the source of our false self, our power of attention must be extremely subtle and acute, and it can become so subtle only by persistently practising self-scrutiny or self-attentiveness. That is, our mind or power of attention has become gross and unrefined — contaminated with desires or viṣaya-vāsanas — due to our long-established habit of constantly attending to things other than ourself, so it can regain its natural state of pristine subtly — purity — only by attending to itself.

Anything that is other than ourself is a mere thought — an object known by our constantly thinking mind — and hence it is gross in comparison to our extremely subtle pure consciousness ‘I’. Therefore to know this pure and subtle consciousness as it really is, our power of attention must become equally pure and subtle — that is, it must become so refined and clear that it actually experiences itself as this subtle pure consciousness, which is what it always truly is.

In the final sentence of this verse Sri Ramana says இந்த நான் எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண் (inda nāṉ eṅgu ezhum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇ), in which நுண் மதியால் (nuṇ matiyāl) means ‘by nuṇ mati’ and எண் (eṇ) is an imperative form of a verb that means think, meditate, contemplate, consider, ponder or scrutinise, so this sentence means ‘by nuṇ mati [a subtle power of discernment] scrutinise where this “I” rises’.

In the kaliveṇbā version of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (in which he linked the forty-two verses into a single verse by adding an extra one-and-a-half metrical feet between each two consecutive verses) he expanded the final sentence of this verse as இந்த நான் எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்ண நழுவும் (inda nāṉ eṅgu ezhum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇṇa nazhuvum), which means ‘when [we] scrutinise by nuṇ mati [a subtle power of discernment] where this “I” rises, it will slip away’.

That is, when we scrutinise ourself with a subtle and keenly focused power of attention, we will discover that we are truly nothing other than the one infinite non-dual being-consciousness or sat-chit, which never knows anything other than itself, and thus our mind or false ‘I’ will ‘slip away’ or ‘take flight’ (as he says in the above quoted verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), just as the imaginary snake will ‘slip away’, ‘take flight’ or disappear when we scrutinise it and discover that it is just a rope.

Only when we thus experience the truth that our thinking mind — our object-knowing consciousness — is absolutely non-existent and that we are only the pure non-dual consciousness that never knows anything other than itself, will we truly have discovered ‘exactly what self-attentiveness is’.

In his first comment, after saying that he has difficulty ‘understanding exactly what Self-attentiveness is’, Jon explains his difficulty saying:
… what am I supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? Self is the I thought. Unfortunately, I can’t find this I thought anywhere! How am I to be attentive to it? Please elaborate. …
Firstly, it is not correct to say that ‘Self is the I thought’. Just as a rope is the sole reality that underlies the false appearance of an imaginary snake, so self is the sole reality that underlies the false appearance of our primal thought ‘I’, but just as it would be wrong to say that the rope is a snake, so it is wrong to say that self is our primal thought ‘I’.

This thought ‘I’, which is our thinking mind or ego, is a limited and distorted form of our real self, which is pure unlimited consciousness — consciousness that knows nothing other than itself, it own being, ‘I am’. When this pure non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’, is seemingly mixed with imaginary adjuncts such as a body, the resulting mixed consciousness, which experiences itself as ‘I am this body’ and which knows things that seem to be other than itself, is what we call our ‘mind’ or ‘ego’.

Since this mixed consciousness is only an imagination or thought, like the body that it imagines itself to be, and since it experiences itself as ‘I’, Sri Ramana called it the நான் என்னும் நினைவு (nāṉ eṉṉum niṉaivu), the ‘thought named I’ or more simply the ‘thought I’ (as I explained in more detail in another recent article, Our basic thought ‘I’ is the portal through which we can know our real ‘I’).

Jon asks what is the self that we supposed to be attentive to. Is it our real self or our false self, the mind or thought ‘I’? The answer to this is that we are actually only one self. When we remain as we really are — that is, as thought-free self-conscious being — we experience ourself as the true self that we really are, but when we imagine ourself to be a finite body, we appear to be this mind or thought ‘I’. However, whether we experience ourself as we really are or as this imaginary mind, we remain essentially the same one self or ‘I’.

Asking whether we should attend to our real ‘I’ or to our thought ‘I’ is like asking whether we should look carefully at the rope or the snake. Since the imaginary snake is actually only a rope, if we look at it carefully we will recognise that it is nothing but a rope. Likewise, since our imaginary mind or thought ‘I’ is actually nothing other than our real self — our essential non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’ — if we are keenly attentive to it we will experience it as the real self that it always truly is.

Therefore, as I explained in more detail in another recent article, Making effort to pay attention to our mind is being attentive only to our essential self, we cannot attend to our mind or ego — our primal thought ‘I’, which alone thinks all other thoughts — without actually attending to our real self, which is what this ‘I’ really is, just as we cannot look at the imaginary snake without actually looking at the rope that it really is.

Thus the answer to Jon’s questions, ‘… what am I supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? …’, is that we should be attentive to the consciousness that we now experience as ‘I’. Whether we understand that this ‘I’ is truly nothing other than our real self, or whether we imagine that it is only a thinking mind, if we actually attend to it very keenly and vigilantly, we will discover what it really is — who we truly are.

However, Jon writes, ‘…Unfortunately, I can’t find this I thought anywhere! How am I to be attentive to it? Please elaborate. …’. Who is this ‘I’ that says ‘I can’t find this I’? It is the same ‘I’ that we should be attentive to.

Jon imagines that he cannot find it because he overlooks that fact that he himself is the ‘I’ that he is looking for. ‘I’ is not an object, so being self-attentive is quite unlike attending to any object. Instead of focusing our attention upon any object, as we are habituated to doing, we have to turn it back on itself — to attend to nothing other than itself, the attending consciousness.

Therefore self-attentiveness is just the state in which consciousness knows nothing other than itself — the state in which consciousness is conscious only of consciousness, attention attends only to attention, ‘I’ knows only ‘I’, or we know only ourself.

In other words, self-attentiveness is our natural state in which we do nothing but just remain clearly conscious of our own being, ‘I am’. Since our being is itself the consciousness that knows itself as ‘I am’, the state in which we are self-attentive or clearly conscious of nothing other than our own being, ‘I am’, is the state of self-abidance — the state in which we remain as the one real non-dual self-conscious being that we really are.

Therefore self-attentiveness is not ‘focusing on some obscure “Self”’, as Jon calls it, but is only focusing our attention on ourself — our ever clearly self-evident consciousness, ‘I am’. There is nothing obscure about ourself, since we always know ‘I am’ more clearly and certainly than we know any other thing.

However, though we know clearly that we are, we do not know clearly what we are, because we are so enthralled with attending to thoughts (of which this entire world is composed) that we constantly ignore or overlook ourself, the consciousness that knows both itself and everything else. Therefore, in order to clearly know what we are — ‘who am I? — we must focus our entire attention upon ourself, thereby withdrawing our attention from everything that appears to be other than ourself.

Jon writes, ‘… The way I understand it Self-attentiveness is the practice of simply remaining without thought while not falling asleep (being keen and vigilant to prevent any thoughts from rising) …’, but further on in the same comment he writes, ‘… Yet I don’t think that when I remain without thoughts I am being self-attentive, because when I remain without thought I am actually not paying attention to anything! (I believe) …’.

Is Jon being self-attentive when he remains ‘without thought while not falling asleep (being keen and vigilant to prevent any thoughts from rising)’? This is a question that only he can answer for himself — and that each one of us must answer for ourself.

If we are really ‘without thought while not falling asleep’, what are we actually conscious of? Are we conscious of anything other than ourself — anything other than the simple consciousness of being, ‘I am’, that we experience in sleep? If we are clearly conscious of nothing other than consciousness — that is, if we clearly know ‘I am’, and if our consciousness of ‘I am’ is not obscured either by thoughts or by drowsiness — then we are truly being self-attentive.

If we are conscious of anything that we do not experience in sleep, that thing of which we are conscious is obviously something other than ourself — that is, it is only a thought, an imaginary creation of our mind. Our essential self — our true being, ‘I am’ — is experienced by us at all times and in all states, so nothing that we experience only temporarily (that is, at one time but not at another time, or in one state but not in another state) can be our real self.

The defect in sleep is not a complete absence of self-consciousness but is only a lack of clarity of self-consciousness. We know ‘I am’ in sleep, but because we subside in sleep without keenly attending to ‘I am’, our self-consciousness in sleep is subtly clouded — obscured but not entirely concealed — by a seeming lack of clarity.

As a result of this lack of clarity of self-consciousness, in sleep — as in waking and dream — we know that we are but do not clearly know what we are. However, though it is not perfectly clear, our experience in sleep of our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’, is a vital clue that indicates to us the real thought-free nature of the pure self-consciousness that we should aim to isolate and experience clearly when we practice ātma-vichāra or self-investigation.

That is, because we know from our experience in sleep what it really is to be absolutely free of all thoughts yet conscious of our essential being, ‘I am’, it should be easy for us to aim to experience the same thought-free self-consciousness more clearly now in our present state of so-called waking. Only when we are thus able to isolate and experience the thought-free self-consciousness of sleep perfectly clearly will we experience our true waking state — our natural state of absolutely unobstructed self-consciousness or true self-knowledge.

The seeming lack of clarity of self-consciousness that we experience not only in sleep but also in waking and dream is the effect of āvaraṇa śakti, the power of self-concealment or self-obscuration, which is the most basic of the two forms of māyā or self-deception — the other form being vikṣēpa śakti, the power of projection or dispersion, the effect of which is thoughts. During waking and dream we are under the influence of both āvaraṇa and vikṣēpa, whereas in sleep we are only under the influence of āvaraṇa, the veil of self-ignorance that prevents us from clearly recognising the true nature of our pristine self-consciousness, which we experience in sleep.

That is, when our mind subsides in sleep or any other state of manōlaya such as coma, anaesthesia, certain forms of samādhi or death, we become temporarily free from the power of vikṣēpa, but we nevertheless remain ensnared in the tight grip of the power of āvaraṇa — that is, enveloped in the dense veil of self-ignorance.

Since āvaraṇa is the power of self-deception that obscures our natural clarity of self-consciousness, thereby enabling vikṣēpa, our power of imagination, to project thoughts and delude us into mistaking ourself to be an imaginary body, it is also called pramāda (self-negligence) or taṉ-maṟadi (self-forgetfulness), and it is the fundamental obstacle that we must overcome in order to know ourself as we really are.

When we practise meditation, even if we are able to remain without any thought, we are thereby temporarily overcoming only the power of vikṣēpa, which is the secondary form of māyā (our power of self-deception), but this mere absence of thoughts cannot by itself enable us pierce through the veil of āvaraṇa, the primary form of māyā. In order to pierce through the veil of āvaraṇa or self-ignorance, we must not only refrain from thinking, but must also be keenly self-attentive — that is, exclusively, profoundly and clearly self-conscious.

Since pramāda or self-negligence is the veil of āvaraṇa — the root and primal form of māyā, which obscures our natural clarity of self-consciousness, preventing us experiencing ourself as we really are — keen and vigilant self-attentiveness is the only means by which we can pierce through this veil and penetrate into the uttermost depth of our heart — the innermost core of our soul, which is the infinitely clear light of pure non-dual self-consciousness.

As Sri Ramana says in his avatārikai or introduction to his Tamil translation of Dṛk Dṛṣya Vivēka, தன்னையே பாஹ்யாந்தர திருஷ்டிபேதமின்றி எப்போதும் நாடும் சஹஜசமாதிப் பழக்கத்தால் அவ்வாவரணம் நீங்கவே, அத்விதீயப் பிரஹ்மாத்ம சொரூபமாத்திரம் மிஞ்சிப் பிரகாசிக்கும் (taṉṉaiyē bāhyāntara diruṣṭi-bhēdam-iṉḏṟi eppōdum nāḍum sahaja-samādhi-p pazhakkattāl a-vv-āvaraṇam nīṅgavē, advitīya-b brahmātma sorūpa-māttiram miñci-p pirakāśikkum), which means ‘when that āvaraṇa [self-obscuring ignorance] is removed by the practice of sahaja samādhi [natural contemplation or attentiveness], which is scrutinising self alone always without bāhya-āntara-dṛṣṭi-bhēda [the distinction of seeing outside or inside], only advitīya-brahma-ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self, the absolute reality without a second] will remain and shine’.

Here the words advitīya-brahma or ‘secondless absolute reality’ are an allusion to the statement in Chāndōgya Upaniṣad 6.2.2 that Sri Ramana quoted at the beginning of this introduction to Dṛk Dṛṣya Vivēka, namely ēkam ēva advitīyam brahma, which means ‘brahman (the absolute reality) is only one without a second’, and ātma-svarūpa means our own essential self, so advitīya-brahma-ātma-svarūpa means ‘our own essential self, the absolute reality, [which is the only one] without a second’. To experience this advitīya-brahma-ātma-svarūpa alone, we must remove āvaraṇa, our obscuring veil of self-ignorance, which we can do only by சஹஜசமாதிப் பழக்கம் (sahaja-samādhi-p pazhakkam), the ‘practice of sahaja samādhi’, which is தன்னையே எப்போதும் நாடுதல் (taṉṉaiyē eppōdum nāḍudal), ‘always investigating, scrutinising or attending to self alone’. In other words, we can remove our self-negligence and thereby experience ourself as we really are only by practising self-investigation — being attentive only to our own essential self.

Jon asks, ‘…Am I supposed to be additionally Self-attentive? …’, implying that he thinks that self-attentiveness may perhaps be some condition that should be added to the condition of remaining without thoughts. Though self-attentiveness does appear to be a new or ‘additional’ condition when we first begin to make the necessary effort to be self-attentive, what is actually new or ‘additional’ is not self-attentiveness itself but is only the effort that we make to be self-attentive.

In truth self-attentiveness is not something ‘additional’ but is only our natural and permanent state of self-consciousness. However, since we are accustomed by long habit — cultivated by our strong outward-going desires or viṣaya-vāsanas — to being conscious of things other than ourself, we must now make the fresh or ‘additional’ effort to be exclusively self-attentive — that is, attentive to or conscious of nothing other than ourself.

By making this effort to be exclusively self-attentive, we are automatically withdrawing our attention from everything other than ourself, and thus we are shedding everything that is ‘additional’ or extraneous to our essential self — that is, all our false adjuncts or upādhis. Therefore self-attentiveness is truly not an ‘additional’ state but is only that state that remains alone when everything ‘additional’ has been removed.

The more we cultivate the habit of being self-attentive, the more clearly we will come to recognise that self-attentiveness is not anything ‘additional’ but is only our underlying and permanent self-consciousness, which is the support and base without which we could not be conscious of any other thing. However, in order to experience self-attentiveness thus as the perpetual background of all that we experience, we must repeatedly and persistently make the effort to be keenly self-attentive.

In his first comment Jon finally asks, ‘…can you please really break it down for me so that there is absolutely no doubt as to whether I’m doing it right?’ As I wrote above, self-attentiveness is a vichāra or investigation — a journey of self-discovery — so it is up to each of us to discover for ourself ‘exactly what self-attentiveness is’ and whether we are now ‘doing it right’. There cannot be — and should not be — ‘absolutely no doubt’ until we finally experience perfectly clear self-knowledge, because the fundamental doubt ‘who am I?’ is the force that should drive our ātma-vichāra or self-investigation.

To find out for ourself ‘exactly what self-attentiveness is’ we must experiment — that is, we must repeatedly try to be as clearly self-attentive as possible; we must try to attend to the consciousness that we now experience as ‘I’; we must try to remember this ‘I’ as frequently and as constantly as possible; we must look deep within ourself to discover ‘who am I? what is this consciousness that is constantly shining within me as “I”?’

If we have difficulty understanding what it means to be self-attentive — how we can focus our entire attention upon ourself, how we can be conscious of nothing other than our essential consciousness ‘I’ — we should at least think ‘I, I’ (or ‘I am, I am’) constantly and repeatedly, trying to be conscious of what these words ‘I’ or ‘I am’ really denote. As Sri Ramana says in the fifth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, நான், நான் என்று கருதிக்கொண்டிருந்தாலுங்கூட அவ்விடத்தில் கொண்டுபோய் விட்டுவிடும் (nāṉ, nāṉ eṉḏṟu karuti-k-koṇḍirundāluṅkūḍa a-vv-idattil koṇḍupōy viṭṭuviḍum), which means ‘even if [we] go on thinking “I, I”, it will certainly take [us] and leave [us] into that place [our heart, the ‘birthplace’ or source of our mind]’.

In this sentence, as in many other places in Nāṉ Yār? and elsewhere in his teachings, Sri Ramana uses the word இடம் (iḍam) or ‘place’ figuratively to denote our real self, which is the ‘birthplace’ or source of our mind. அவ்விடத்தில் (a-vv-idattil) is the locative form of அவ்விடம் (a-vv-idam) and therefore means ‘in that place’; கொண்டுபோய் (koṇḍupōy) is a participle that means taking or leading; and விட்டுவிடும் (viṭṭuviḍum) is an emphatically repeated form of the verb விடு (viḍu), which means to leave, let go or release, and which is also used as an auxiliary verb that conveys the sense of certainty, finality or the conclusion of an action. Thus அவ்விடத்தில் கொண்டுபோய் விட்டுவிடும் (a-vv-idattil koṇḍupōy viṭṭuviḍum) means ‘it will certainly take [or lead us] and leave [us] into that place [our real self]’.

That is, if we slowly and meditatively think ‘I, I’, we will certain be taken deep into our real self, because (just as thinking of the name of any person or object will draw our attention towards that person or object) thinking of this word ‘I’ will draw our attention towards ourself, and as our attention is thus focused more and more keenly upon ourself — the consciousness that this word ‘I’ denotes — our mind will subside in it. Thus meditative repetition of the word ‘I’ can be a useful aid that will help us to discover what the state of self-attentiveness really is.

However, whatever aid or clue we may use, what is essential is that we must be intensely passionate to know ‘who am I?’ — so passionate that we make every possible effort to be constantly, vigilantly, keenly and profoundly self-attentive, trying incessantly to experience what this consciousness ‘I’ really is.

If we are gripped by such intense passion to know what we really are, the means will reveal itself to us. That is, our intense love to experience ourself as we really are will unfailingly impel us to discover our natural state of absolutely non-dual self-attentiveness — perfectly clear, thought-free and sleep-free self-consciousness — which is both our goal and the only means by which we can attain it.

A few days after posting his first comment on the article Self-attentiveness and time, Jon posted a modified and expanded version of it in another comment on my most recent article, Self-attentiveness, intensity and continuity. In this new version, after the sentence that ended ‘…Sri Ramana said that the effect of this [prāṇāyāma] was only a temporary subsidence of mind and not the annihilation of it’, Jon added:
… Furthermore, on one of your recent articles, Self-attentiveness, effort and grace, you said: “The exclusion of all thoughts, the cessation of sense-perceptions and the melting away of body-consciousness are by-products that will certainly result as the clarity of our self-consciousness increases, but we should be careful not to make such by-products our aim, because as soon as we do so our attention will be diverted away from our essential being towards the body-consciousness and resultant thoughts and sense-perceptions that we wish to get rid of. We can free ourselves from thoughts, sense-perceptions and body-consciousness only by ignoring them entirely and being attentive only to our essential self, ‘I am’.” From this comment, I assume that I am currently not practicing Self-attentiveness correctly. …
He then modified the next few sentences of his original comment, saying:
… So getting back to my question, what am I supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? Self is the ‘I am’. Unfortunately, I can’t find this ‘I am’ thing anywhere! How am I to be attentive to it? Please elaborate. …
This ‘I am’ thing that Jon imagines that he cannot find anywhere is he himself — the very same ‘I’ that says “I can’t find this ‘I am’ thing anywhere”. What is this ‘I’? This is the crucial question for which we must each find the answer by looking within ourself, trying to experience this essential consciousness ‘I’ in absolute isolation — free from the imaginary superimposition of either thoughts or sleep.

In order to experience this ‘I’ in such absolute isolation, the only effort that we need to make is focus our entire attention upon it — that is, upon ourself, the consciousness that we always experience as ‘I’. What can be simpler than this? Whether or not we know any other thing, we always know ‘I am’, so why should we imagine that we cannot be exclusively self-attentive — that is, conscious of nothing other than this fundamental consciousness ‘I am’?

Since we are able to focus our attention or consciousness upon other things, which appear and disappear, we must equally well be able to focus it upon itself, ‘I am’, which never disappears even for a moment. We do not know anything else as clearly and as certainly as we know our own being, ‘I am’, so attending exclusively to this ‘I am’ cannot really be difficult. If it appears to be difficult, that is only because we have more taste or desire to attend to other things than we have to attend to ‘I am’ alone.

In response to this expanded version of Jon’s comment, Bas wrote the following comment, which is quite an appropriate reply to it:
Please someone correct me where I am wrong.

The statement quoted by Jon reads, “The exclusion of all thoughts, the cessation of sense-perceptions and the melting away of body-consciousness are by-products that will certainly result as the clarity of our self-consciousness increases, but we should be careful not to make such by-products our aim, because as soon as we do so our attention will be diverted away from our essential being towards the body-consciousness and resultant thoughts and sense-perceptions that we wish to get rid of. We can free ourselves from thoughts, sense-perceptions and body-consciousness only by ignoring them entirely and being attentive only to our essential self, ‘I am’.” (emphasis mine)

I read this statement thus: As our self-consciousness increases, thoughts and sense-perceptions decrease. But this not our purpose. For if we make the cessation of thoughts and perceptions our aim, our attention is then diverted towards what is external to our essential being. Instead of anchoring ourselves on no-thought, we should be attentive to our essential self, “I am”.

I feel the practice of Jon is correct. He writes, “The way I understand it Self-attentiveness is the practice of simply remaining without thought while not falling asleep (being keen and vigilant to prevent any thoughts from rising)”. But what about awareness, the sense of presence? This is the Self to which attention is to be paid, which I am sure Jon does.

The reply to the other question, “... isn’t the goal of Self-attentiveness merely to destroy all thoughts? Can't I do that without focusing on some obscure “Self”? Am I supposed to be additionally Self-attentive?” would seem this. Bhagavan, I think, has stated that while the Mahavakya ‘Thou art That’ implies that we are to seek to know what we are (Thou), we seek to know what we are not (That). There are not two Selves to be known. There is no need to focus on some obscure “Self”. Please someone correct me where I am wrong in this.

And finally, Jon says, “I’m having a hard time understanding exactly what Self-attentiveness is.” This, to me, says Jon’s practice is right. Because, the question, “What exactly is Self-attention?” is the point of Vichara. I feel it can’t be right to be given a definition of ‘Self’, and a definition of ‘attention’, and then to go and sit comfortably doing ‘Self-attention’, sure that we are doing it right. We can know the nature of Self-attentiveness only when we know what the Self is. Till such time, the question, What is Self-attentiveness, would be the one that drives Vichara. What Jon is doing is more dynamic than following any set regimen.
Bas began this comment saying ‘Please someone correct me where I am wrong’ and repeated this request further on, but there is actually nothing seriously wrong in what he or she has written, except in the rather inaccurate wording of the statement that “while the Mahavakya ‘Thou art That’ implies that we are to seek to know what we are (Thou), we seek to know what we are not (That)”.

It is not correct to say that tad or ‘that’ is ‘what we are not’, because the mahāvākya or ‘great saying’ tat-tvam-asi or ‘that you are’ affirms that tad or brahman (the one absolute reality) is what we really are. Therefore it would be more accurate to reword this statement of Bas as follows: “while the mahāvākya ‘that you are’ implies that we are to seek to know correctly what we now know incorrectly (thou), we seek to know what we imagine we do not yet know at all (that)”.

However Bas is correct in the inference that he or she draws from this, namely that ‘There is no need to focus on some obscure “Self”’ because ‘There are not two Selves to be known’. There is truly no self other than ourself — our own ever-present and self-evident consciousness ‘I’ — so the self on which we are to focus is only ourself, the same self who is focusing on it.

Bas is also correct in implying that if we are able to remain simply ‘without thought while not falling asleep’, we should recognise that the ‘awareness’ or ‘sense of presence’ — the consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’ — that we experience in that absence of thoughts and sleep is the ‘the Self to which attention is to be paid’.

Even when thoughts or sleep appear to be present, we always experience this same fundamental ‘awareness’ or ‘sense of presence’, but thoughts distract our attention away from it, and sleep obscures its natural clarity, so we should try to experience it in the absence of thoughts and sleep. However, to experience it in the absence of thoughts and sleep, the only effort we need to make is to focus our ‘awareness’ on itself, its ‘sense of [its own] presence’, because this is the only truly effective means by which we can exclude both sleep and all thoughts — including our root thought ‘I’.

Since the fundamental cause of both sleep and thoughts is only pramāda or self-negligence, we cannot prevent the repeated appearance of sleep and thoughts unless we completely exclude pramāda by means of its opposite — that is, by being vigilantly self-attentive. Unless we are vigilantly self-attentive, we remain in the grip of pramāda, and so long as we are in its grip, we cannot be entirely free both of sleep and of all thoughts — that is, we will either be lulled into sleep or we will be distracted by thoughts, at least of some subtle kind.

It is easy for us to imagine that we are remaining without thoughts, but unless we are clearly conscious of nothing other than our own being, ‘I am’, we are actually not completely free of even the subtlest thoughts, because anything that we experience as other than our ever-present adjunct-free self-conscious being, ‘I am’, is a thought.

Finally in the last paragraph of his or her comment, Bas is correct in saying that ‘…the question, “What exactly is Self-attention?” is the point of Vichara. … We can know the nature of Self-attentiveness only when we know what the Self is. Till such time, the question, What is Self-attentiveness, would be the one that drives Vichara’. As I explained above, we can discover exactly what self-attentiveness is only by repeatedly trying to be self-attentive, and this is why this effort to be ever more deeply, clearly and ‘exactly’ self-attentive is called ātma-vichāra or self-investigation.

In another comment on the same article, Self-attentiveness, intensity and continuity, an anonymous friend wrote:
Since self-attentiveness involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it, there is no question of any limits of duration in regard to this since this involves a journey, not in terms of time and space, but is one of consciousness. It is only the achievement, result-oriented mind, that is bothered about time though it might have some significance in the beginning, being very rudimentary in advance stages. In a place J. Krishnamurti says with regard to this that patience is timeless whereas impatience involves time.
There appears to be some confusion underlying this comment. What does Anonymous mean by saying that self-attentiveness ‘involves a journey, not in terms of time and space, but is one of consciousness’? The only consciousness in which any journey can take place is our mind, which is a false finite form of consciousness, because a journey (even a figurative one) must involve some movement or change, and in our real consciousness — our non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’ — no movement or change of any kind can ever take place.

For our essential self, which is the only real consciousness, there can never be any journey, movement or change, because it is absolutely immutable being. It is only in the false perspective of our mind that our present journey of self-discovery appears to be real.

Until we experience ourself as the immutable being-consciousness that we really are, we must make effort to experience ourself as such, and since this effort progressively purifies our mind, cleansing it of all its out-going desires until it is finally willing to surrender itself entirely in the absolute clarity of pure thought-free self-consciousness, it is figuratively described as a journey.

But this journey is made only by our mind and not by our motionless real self. It is the journey by which our mind returns to its original source, which it will reach only when we discover that it is truly non-existent — that is, when we discover that we are not really this imaginary effort-making consciousness that we call our ‘mind’ but are only the pure effortless self-consciousness, ‘I am’, which can never journey anywhere, since there is no place other than itself to which it could travel.

Anonymous writes that ‘self-attentiveness involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it’. This statement requires some clarification. Our essential consciousness is eternally self-attentive, because it always experiences itself as ‘I am’ and there is nothing other than itself that it could be conscious of, but the consciousness that now makes effort to be self-attentive is only our mind and not our essential consciousness. Only when — by its effort to be self-attentive — our mind finally merges in our essential consciousness, will we clearly experience ourself as this essential consciousness.

We are always only this essential consciousness, even when we experience ourself as this mind, so when we make effort to be self-attentive, what we are actually attending to is only our essential consciousness. In this sense it is true to say that our effort to be self-attentive ‘involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it’, but we should not mistake this to mean that our essential consciousness is making any effort.

The self-attentiveness that we experience with effort is a less than perfectly clear form of self-attentiveness, because it is not absolutely devoid of even the slightest trace of any thought or drowsiness, so we should not confuse such partial self-attentiveness with the transcendent experience of absolutely clear self-attentiveness, which is our natural state of pure thought-free self-consciousness. The former is a state of abhyāsa or practice, while the latter is the ultimate state of ārūḍha or attainment.

Though self-attentiveness is our natural state, in which we conscious of nothing other than our timeless self, so long as we continue to experience ourself as this mind, we have to make effort to be self-attentive. Since this effort is made only by our mind, which is a false time-bound form of consciousness, it is made within time. Therefore, though we will ultimately discover that self-attentiveness is timeless, so long as we have to make effort to be self-attentive, it is experienced within the limits of time.

Anonymous writes that ‘…It is only the achievement, result-oriented mind, that is bothered about time …’. As long as this mind exists, it will always be making some effort or other to achieve some result, so rather than making any effort to achieve some result that is other than our essential self, we should make effort to be self-attentive, since that is the only means by which we can ‘achieve’ or ‘attain’ our real self.

When we actually ‘attain’ our real self — that is, when our effort-making mind finally merges effortlessly in the all-consuming light of absolutely clear self-consciousness — we will discover that it is eternally attained, because we are truly never anything other than that. But until we actually experience this ever-attained state of true self-knowledge, we should not give up our effort to be vigilantly self-attentive and thereby to subside into the innermost depth of our being.

Anonymous concludes by saying that ‘… patience is timeless whereas impatience involves time’. It is true that our real self is absolutely patient, because it is timeless and because there is nothing other than itself for it to be impatient about, so such absolute patience is certainly timeless. However, when we talk about patience and impatience, we are talking about a pair of opposites, each of which exists only in relation to the other.

Like all forms of duality, such relative patience and impatience exist only in our mind, and therefore they both co-exist with time, which is a mind-created phenomenon. Though our mind creates time, it cannot live without time, so everything that is created by our mind is time-bound.

Impatience is caused by our mind’s restless desire to constantly experience something other than itself. Without such desire, we would have nothing to be patient about. Therefore cultivating patience can be a useful aid to curbing our desires.

Impatience is certainly an obstacle to our practice of self-attentiveness, because the desires that make us impatient will distract our mind from its peaceful state of self-attentiveness. Therefore in order to be truly and deeply self-attentive, we must persevere patiently in our practice, expecting nothing other than to be calmly and clearly self-attentive here and now, in this present moment.

When we are impatient, we are not dwelling in the present moment, but are hankering for something that is not present but may be in the future. Since the past and future are only thoughts, which distract our attention away from ourself, in order to be truly self-attentive we must set aside impatience and the thoughts that enkindle it.

The goal we seek to attain — the goal of true self-knowledge or perfectly clear self-consciousness — does not exist in the future but only in the precise present moment, so we cannot experience it anywhere other than in this present moment. Therefore we should give up all thought of future attainment, and should seek to experience our eternal state of absolutely clear self-consciousness only now, in this precise present moment.

However much time it may seem to take, we must patiently persevere in our effort to be perfectly self-attentive at this present moment, because only such keenly focused self-attentiveness will enable us to pierce through the illusion of our mind, in whose view alone time seems to exist.

In response to this anonymous comment, Bas wrote another comment, in which he or she began by saying:
This is about the statement of Anonymous: Since self-attentiveness involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it...

I have a doubt about it: Is the kind of attention we pay now, even though it is directed towards the self, qualify as self-attentiveness? As long as there is ‘subject-object’, ‘me-other’ in our consciousness, can we pay attention to the self?
There is ‘subject-object’ or ‘me-other’ in our consciousness only so long as we are attending to thoughts, because we always experience thoughts as objects that are other than ourself, the thinking ‘I’. But when we turn our attention away from all thoughts towards this thinking ‘I’, the subject that knows them, our attention or consciousness is focused only on itself, so it is a non-objective state of consciousness.

Until we experience the absolute clarity of true self-knowledge, our self-attentiveness is not completely free from even the least trace of any thought or sleepiness, so we have not entirely transcended the duality of ‘subject-object’ or ‘me-other’. But to the extent to which our attention is focused solely upon ourself, we have freed ourself from this fundamental duality. In other words, the more clearly we experience our essential non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’, devoid of any superimposed adjunct, the more truly and thoroughly will we be free from the imaginary duality of ‘subject-object’ or ‘me-other’.

Therefore the answer to Bas’s doubt, “Is the kind of attention we pay now, even though it is directed towards the self, qualify as self-attentiveness? As long as there is ‘subject-object’, ‘me-other’ in our consciousness, can we pay attention to the self?”, is that our present effort to be self-attentive certainly does ‘qualify as self-attentiveness’, even though it is not yet perfectly clear and free of any trace of thought, and that even in the midst of our present experience of this duality ‘subject-object’ or ‘me-other’ we can choose to attend only to ourself, the ‘subject’ or ‘me’, and thereby ignore everything else, the ‘object’ or ‘other’.

In the next paragraph of this comment Bas remarks:
Since the self which is negated in our enquiry, is negated because of its association with concepts and sensations, I think the consciousness that negates it is also incomplete, and has to be negated as not-I.
The ‘self which is negated in our enquiry’ and the ‘consciousness that negates it’ are both only our mind, which is our false self or consciousness. That is, in ātma-vichāra or self-enquiry our mind ‘negates’ itself — that is, it exposes its own non-existence — by turning its attention towards itself.

Just as an imaginary snake is ‘negated’ when we look at it closely and see that it is only a rope, so our mind will ‘negate’ itself when it keenly attends to itself and thereby discovers that it is not actually a finite thinking consciousness but is only the infinite thought-free consciousness that knows nothing other than its own being, ‘I am’.

Bas then concludes this comment by saying:
This might seem obvious and unimportant, but sometimes it happens that in looking at the self, I tend to take it for granted that the sense of I or awareness as it is felt now is real, and is followed to its source.

Somehow it feels wrong that the consciousness/ awareness that is perceived now could be the right one.

If this is so, then it looks like continuity of time or intensity or consciousness is a false one, because the consciousness/ awareness/ ‘I’ that posits it is itself a false one.

Real consciousness is entirely outside time. And Self-attentiveness also has to be timeless.
Is ‘the sense of I or awareness as it is felt now’ real or not? So long as we experience ourself as this mind, as such this ‘sense of I or awareness’ is not real. However, though this mind is a false form of our essential consciousness ‘I’, it appears to be real because it consists not only of unreal adjuncts but also of our real consciousness of being, ‘I am’.

That is, our mind — ‘the sense of I or awareness as it is felt now’ — is a compound consciousness, a mixture of our essential consciousness ‘I am’ and the imaginary adjuncts or upādhis that we have superimposed upon it. Since our essential consciousness ‘I am’ is the sole reality of our unreal mind, what we are actually conscious of when we are ‘looking at the self’ is only this real consciousness ‘I am’ (just as what we are actually looking at when we are looking at an imaginary snake is only a rope).

Therefore we need have no doubt that the ‘I’ that we are attending to is our real ‘I’, because there really is no ‘I’ other than this. Now we are experiencing this one real ‘I’ in a seemingly distorted form, but if we look at it carefully, we will experience it as it really is.

Therefore we should not feel that it is ‘wrong that the consciousness/ awareness that is perceived now could be the right one’. What other consciousness could there be? As Bas wrote in his or her earlier comment, ‘There are not two Selves to be known. There is no need to focus on some obscure “Self”’. What we now experience as ‘I’ is our one and only real ‘I’, even though we now experience it in a seemingly distorted form as our mind.

Bas writes that “…it looks like continuity of time or intensity or consciousness is a false one, because the consciousness/ awareness/ ‘I’ that posits it is itself a false one”. It is true that time is just an imagination, a false creation of our mind, and that any continuity that we experience in time is therefore equally false. Likewise, as a relative quality, intensity is also false.

Everything other than our essential consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’, is false, being just an imagination created by the imaginary form of consciousness that we call our ‘mind’. However, though everything other than ‘I am’ is entirely unreal in the perfectly clear perspective of our real self, it is all as real as our mind, so we have to accept its seeming reality so long as we experience ourself as this mind.

We cannot actually experience anything else as unreal until we experience our mind as unreal, and we can experience our mind as unreal only by experiencing ourself as we really are. That is, we can truly expose the unreality of our mind and all its imaginary creations only by keenly and vigilantly scrutinising ourself to know ‘who am I?’

Until we thus experience ourself as we really are, we must continue to make effort to be as keenly and intensely self-attentive — this is, as clearly self-conscious — as possible. Therefore so long as we still need to make effort to be self-attentive, ‘continuity’ and ‘intensity’ are for all practical purposes quite real.

In another still earlier comment that he or she wrote on this same article, Self-attentiveness, intensity and continuity, Bas began by asking ‘Is time the measure of continuity?’ and concluded by saying:
It would be helpful if we could know in what sense time is related to continuity, because obviously meditation/ Dhyana/ Vichara is a timeless enterprise.
In the context of our practice of being self-attentive, ‘continuity’ means continuity in time, but there is no need for us to try to measure our practice in terms of time, because we can be truly self-attentive only when we completely ignore the illusion of time.

Our practice of self-attentiveness — which is called ātma-vichāra, svarūpa-dhyāna or ‘self-meditation’ — will certainly result in our eventually merging forever in our timeless real self, which is eternally self-attentive, but so long as we need to make effort to experience our natural state of self-attentiveness, we cannot say that our practice is truly ‘a timeless enterprise’. It is an enterprise that we undertake and pursue in time, but aiming always to be attentive only to that which is essentially timeless.

That is, we are making effort by our mind — which is now bound within its self-created illusion of time — to experience our timeless real self, so until we experience it perfectly clearly, our self-attentiveness is a portal between our time-bound mind and our timeless self.

The key to this portal or doorway between time and timelessness is the precise present moment, because it is only in this present moment that we can experience our ever-present real being, ‘I am’. Therefore, to pass through this doorway, we must ignore time along with all other thoughts and must concentrate our entire attention upon our ever-present and therefore timeless consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’.

In response to Bas’s third comment, in which he or she asked ‘As long as there is ‘subject-object’, ‘me-other’ in our consciousness, can we pay attention to the self?’, an anonymous friend wrote another comment saying:
True. What we do now is not self-attentiveness, it being a subject-object search. But one has to begin somewhere. We can’t avoid our being implicated in this duality. But it depends on how much we are intense in tracing it back to the essential source. Until the sphurana, the awareness of the self, transpires, we can’t escape from this dichotomy. But we should not place ourselves at a disadvantageous position by being too much guilty of this.
It is certainly not correct to say that self-attentiveness is ‘a subject-object search’, because it is a search in which the subject or ‘I’ seeks to experience itself perfectly clearly. As Sri Ramana often emphasised, it is an entirely non-objective investigation — an investigation in which we focus our entire attention upon ourself, thereby excluding all thought of any object or otherness.

It is true that we begin this vichāra or investigation from where we now experience ourself, which is within the realm of this duality of ‘subject-object’, but instead of attending to any object, we turn our attention away from all objects towards ourself, the subject that experiences them. Therefore from the very outset we are turning our back (so to speak) on this duality of ‘subject-object’ in order to experience our non-objective self-consciousness, ‘I am’, as it really is.

What exactly does Anonymous mean when he or she writes, ‘Until the sphurana, the awareness of the self, transpires, we can’t escape from this dichotomy’? What is the meaning of this word sphuraṇa, and when does it ‘transpire’? This question ‘what is aham-sphuraṇa?’ is an important one that deserves to be answered in detail, so I will try to answer it in a separate article, which I hope I may have time to write sometimes within the next few weeks.

In a more recent anonymous comment, someone wrote:
I think we are always self-attentive except that our attempt to be that is a distraction as it were introducing alien thoughts, which also we needn’t bother as the self is the witness of them whether we want it or not. That is why J.K talked of choiceless awareness.
We are always self-conscious, but this does not mean that we are always self-attentive, because even though our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’, is always clearly present as the source, foundation, substratum and only real substance of all our other experiences or knowledge, we are so enthralled with our experience of otherness that we tend to ignore or overlook our basic self-consciousness. That is, to the extent to which we are attentive to anything other than our essential self, ‘I am’, we are inattentive to ourself.

Self-attentiveness is the state in which our entire consciousness is focused keenly upon itself. Therefore when we are truly self-attentive, we are not conscious of anything other than ‘I am’, so unless we never know anything other than ‘I am’ we cannot say that ‘we are always self-attentive’.

Of course our real self — our essential self-consciousness — is always self-attentive, because there is nothing other than itself for it to know, but so long as we experience ourself as this thinking or objecting-knowing mind, we are being self-negligent and not self-attentive.

It is also not true to say that ‘our attempt to be that [self-attentive] is a distraction as it were introducing alien thoughts’. Alien thoughts arise only when we are not self-attentive, and they are automatically excluded when we focus our entire attention upon our self. Therefore self-attentiveness is the medicine that Sri Ramana prescribed to exclude and destroy all thoughts, including our primal thought ‘I am this body’.

What does Anonymous mean when he or she writes that ‘the self is the witness of them [alien thoughts]’? In what sense is our real self the ‘witness’ of thoughts? It is the ‘witness’ only in the sense that all thoughts arise only in its presence, but it does not actually know these thoughts, because in its perfectly clear view nothing exists other than itself.

Thoughts are known only by our mind, which imagines them, and not by our real self. That is, we create and become aware of thoughts only when we imagine ourself to be this thinking mind, but when we experience ourself as we really are, we clearly know that we alone exist. Our mind and its thoughts are an illusion that seems to exist only in its own view, but when it actually scrutinises itself to know ‘who am I?’, it will discover that it is truly not this imaginary thinking consciousness that we call ‘mind’ but is only the eternally thought-free self-consciousness, ‘I am’.

Therefore we should not make the mistake of imagining that we can know ourself as we really are by ‘witnessing thoughts’. If we witness or observe thoughts, we are only nourishing and sustaining our mind or primal thought ‘I’, because this mind lives by thinking — that is, by experiencing its own thoughts. Since that which can witness thoughts is only our mind, we should not witness any thought other than our primal thought ‘I’, which is the thinker of all other thoughts. In other words, we should ‘witness only the witness’. That is, we should pay attention only to our thinking thought ‘I’, which is the witness of all other thoughts, because our thinking mind will subside only when its attention is directed exclusively towards itself.

After saying that ‘we needn’t bother [about alien thoughts] as the self is the witness of them whether we want it or not’, Anonymous concludes ‘That is why J.K talked of choiceless awareness’. What is ‘choiceless awareness’? Awareness of thoughts or anything other than ourself is certainly not ‘choiceless awareness’, because we are aware of thoughts only because we choose to think them.

The only truly ‘choiceless awareness’ is our self-awareness — our consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’ — because we can never be unaware of ourself, even if we choose to be so. We are always choicelessly aware of ourself, but in addition to our essential and therefore unavoidable self-awareness we can also choose to be aware of other things, which we create by our own desire-driven imagination.

Because we have by our own choice cultivated very strong viṣaya-vāsanas or desires to experience things other than ourself, we are impelled by these desires to be constantly thinking of such things. Therefore, since we feel that we are unable to resist these self-cultivated desires, our habit of constantly thinking now appears to us to be choiceless.

In order to resist our desire to think, we must now choose to make the effort to be self-attentive — that is, to attend to the thinker rather than to the thoughts. Therefore we cannot experience truly choiceless awareness so long as we experience ourself as this mind. If we are aware of thoughts, we are aware of them only because we choose to be so, and if instead we are aware only of ourself, the ‘I’ that seems to think these thoughts, we are thus exclusively self-aware only because we choose to be so.

Only when we finally see through the illusion of this mind as a result of our persistent effort to be keenly self-attentive — exclusively self-aware — will we truly experience the absolutely choiceless awareness of our essential self, ‘I am’. Awareness of anything other than this eternally thought-free non-dual self-awareness, which is our own essential nature, is not true ‘choiceless awareness’.

In another comment on this same article, Self-attentiveness, intensity and continuity, Vishy explains his understanding of self-attentiveness, saying:
… This being never bothers the Known one and surrenders to the Unknown. ... Unknown is logically residing there with every body and one has to explore with this known and wait for the Unknown to arise (like clouds falsely shadowing the sky) by following Bhagwan’s path of either surrender or self enquiry.
If by the term ‘the Known one’ Vishy means our mind as a collection of known thoughts — objects of knowledge — rather than as our root thought ‘I’, which is the subject that knows all these known thoughts, what he describes as ‘never bothers the Known one’ is the state of not attending to any known thought, which we can experience only by attending exclusively to ourself. And if by the term ‘the Unknown’ he means our real self, what he describes as ‘surrenders to the Unknown’ is the state of self-surrender, which we can effectively practise only by being vigilantly self-attentive in order to avoid rising as our thinking mind, which is our false self.

However, ‘the Unknown’ is truly not an appropriate description of our real self, because one of the central truths that Sri Ramana repeatedly emphasised is that we always know our real self as ‘I am’. Since our real self is eternally clear self-consciousness, which we always experience as ‘I am’, it can never be unknown.

Whatever is known at one time and unknown at another time is only a transitory appearance, and therefore it cannot be true knowledge. True knowledge is that which is known at all times and in all states, and that is only our consciousness of our own essential being, ‘I am’. Since this consciousness is we ourself, we always know ourself.

Therefore we need not ‘wait for the Unknown to arise’, because what we seek to know is only ourself, which we know even now. However, just as clouds seemingly obscure the bright sunlight, our present knowledge of ourself is seemingly obscured or distorted by our mind, which is our false adjunct-mixed knowledge ‘I am this body’. Therefore to know ourself as we really are, we must experience ourself clearly in the absence of even the slightest trace of any adjunct.

In order to know ourself thus, the only effort we need to make is to be keenly and vigilantly self-attentive, because only by such self-attentiveness can we pierce through and dissolve the illusory cloud of our thinking mind.

In another comment on this same article, Arvind asks:
Could somebody please help on this doubt — trying to practice Self inquiry has now become the act of just Being. In this Being there is no question of effort, I just remain (as Being — although only for a very short period). While you are in simple Being there should be no effort to do anything but just Be, of course after some time thoughts come back up till I remember to Be again. My question is this the right attitude/approach?
Yes, the correct practice of ātma-vichāra or self-attentiveness is not an action or ‘doing’ but only summā iruppadu or ‘just being’, because when we attend to nothing other than our essential self, our mind automatically subsides and rests in our natural state of just being. Attending to anything other than ourself is an action or ‘doing’, but attending only to ourself is a state of perfect inactivity or ‘just being’.

However, when we practise ‘just being’, we must be vigilant to remain clearly conscious of ourself — our essential being, ‘I am’ — because if we are not clearly self-conscious or self-attentive, we will either be distracted by thoughts or we will slip inadvertently into sleep. The only effective shield to ward off all thoughts and sleep, which both arise only due to pramāda or self-negligence, is keenly vigilant self-attentiveness.

Therefore we should understand the term சும்மா இருப்பது (summā iruppadu) or ‘just being’ to mean our natural state of vigilantly self-attentive being — clearly self-conscious being.

In response to this comment by Arvind, Bas wrote another comment saying:
Being is an effortless state, it is as natural as falling. I feel there is no question of the right approach or attitude. As long as Being happens naturally, as naturally as falling, any approach should be right.

I feel the question we should be asking is, is the state of thoughtless, effortless Being natural, spontaneous, unforced and leaves no residual impression? If it is so, there should be no problem.

Please someone correct me on this.
Being is our natural state, and as such it is truly effortless. We always are, and hence we need no effort to be. However, though we are truly always in our natural state of being, we do not experience it as it really is so long as we experience ourself as this thinking mind.

Therefore so long as we experience ourself as this mind, it is necessary for us to make effort to experience our natural state of just being. Being will ‘happen naturally’ only when our mind subsides completely in our essential being, ‘I am’, and it will subside thus only when we are keenly self-attentive.

Therefore it is not correct to say that ‘any approach should be right’, because any approach other than self-attentiveness will involve paying attention to something other than our essential being, ‘I am’, which will nourish and sustain our mind. Since our mind is active or ‘doing’ when it attends to anything other than ourself, it will subside only when we are exclusively self-attentive.

Just as thinking leaves ‘residual impressions’, which are called viṣaya-vāsanas or desires to experience things that appear to be other than ourself, so the practice of just being leaves a ‘residual impression’, which is called sat-vāsana or the love just to be. Therefore the more we practise just being, the more our love to be thus will increase.

In another comment on this same article, an unknown friend quotes the fifth paragraph and the beginning of the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, and then asks:
In this connection, may I ask the learned members what they understand by the term the first person or the I thought, and the idea that that which arises as the I in the body is the mind. If we seriously meditate on this truth, we can know that all our traffickings in the world involve the I thought. If we did not have the I thought, we could not do anything; we could only be. …
As I explained earlier in this article, our primal thought ‘I’ is our mind or ego, the ‘I’ that thinks and knows all other thoughts. The term ‘first person’ also denotes only this same thinking ‘I’, the subject that knows all objects, which Sri Ramana calls the second and third persons.

Whenever this false thinking ‘I’ appears, it does so only by imagining a body to be itself, so Sri Ramana also describes it as the thought ‘I am this body’. Since this false ‘I’ cannot rise without imagining itself to be a body, he describes it as ‘rising in this body’.

However it is important to remember that this body is just a thought or imagination, so it does not exist in the absence of our mind or primal thought ‘I’. Just as the body that we imagine to be ourself in a dream comes into existence only when we imagine it thus, so our present body exists only when we imagine it to be ourself in this waking state.

As this unknown friend says, ‘all our traffickings in the world involve the I thought. If we did not have the I thought, we could not do anything; we could only be’. When we do not rise as this false thought ‘I’, nothing exists other than our essential self-conscious being, ‘I am’. Therefore our aim should be to avoid rising as this false ‘I’.

Since this ‘I’ rises only because of our self-ignorance, which is caused by our pramāda or self-negligence, we can prevent it rising only by being vigilantly self-attentive and thereby experiencing ourself as we really are.

This unknown friend continues the same comment saying:
… Since all thoughts arise only after the I thought, does what Bhaghavan demand in his advise that one should hold on to the I, presuppose the idea of an “I” not admitting of an attachment to objects as against its timeless lapse into the form of thoughts, the I being identified with the object. Even in our tenacious attempts to locate the unassociated, ‘I’ we are tantalized and tormented by our confronting it only as an object. From what Bhaghavan says can we not infer that anything other than abiding as our true self through self-attention, or being aware of only awareness and not objects, constitutes the involvement in the non-self? …
Yes, no object can ever be ourself, since it is known by us as something other than ourself. Our real self is only the fundamental consciousness in which both subject and object appear and disappear. The subject is our mind, our thinking thought ‘I’, and all objects are thoughts imagined and known by it.

However, though both this mind and its thoughts arise and subside only in us, they arise only when we mistake ourself to be this mind. Since this mind is nourished and sustained by attending to thoughts or objects, we must refrain from attending to them by clinging firmly and exclusively to our natural state of self-abidance or thought-free self-conscious being.

Therefore this unknown friend is correct in saying that ‘anything other than abiding as our true self through self-attention, or being aware of only awareness and not objects, constitutes the involvement in the non-self’, and any ‘involvement in the non-self’ prevents us from experiencing ourself as we really are — that is, as the non-dual absolute reality, which is ‘one without another’.

This unknown friend also asks:
… Is the I thought referred to by Bhaghavan a pointer towards a natural pause of thought available as an interval between two thoughts, a sushupti [sleep] existing even in the jagrat [waking], which we are not aware of? Is it an interval between two thoughts …? …
Our primal thought ‘I’ is the base and support of all other thoughts, but it cannot rise without attending to some other thought, which it forms by its power of imagination. Each time it rises, it does so along with some other thought.

Therefore it is not correct to say that it is the ‘interval between two thoughts’. In the ‘interval between two thoughts’, our root thought ‘I’ subsides along with whatever thought it was thinking, and it rises again with its next thought.

However, if we focus our attention upon this first thought ‘I’, it will subside, because it cannot stand without attending to something other than itself. Therefore attention to this thought ‘I’ is the vital key that enables us to subside and abide firmly in our real self, which alone exists in the ‘interval between two thoughts’.

This unknown friend finally asks:
… Since we cannot be aware of the Self as an act since it involves a duality, a swerving from the natural state of poise of our being, but since this is demanded of us in view of our being a sad mixture of the true and the false, does not self-enquiry presuppose the idea of always falling back upon our natural state as one of Being-Awareness through this natural pause in thought as an interval, being available to us? …
It is true that our natural state of self-consciousness, self-awareness or self-attentiveness cannot be an ‘act’, because any action is a thought and ‘involves a duality, a swerving from the natural state of poise of our being’. Therefore we can experience our natural state of pristine self-conscious being only by being exclusively self-attentive and thereby subsiding with our essential being-consciousness, which is devoid of even the slightest trace of any thought, including our root thought ‘I’.

Let me now conclude this long article by saying that though it may be described in various ways, the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender that Sri Ramana has taught us is actually extremely simple and clear, both to understand and to practise. To surrender our false self, our mind or ego, and thereby to know our real self, the only effort we need make is to be keenly and vigilantly self-attentive. What can be easier than this? We are always conscious of ourself as ‘I am’, so how can it be difficult for us to be self-attentive — that is, just to be with our entire attention focused keenly and exclusively upon this essential self-consciousness, which we always experience as ‘I am’?

If this simple practice does appear to us to be at all difficult, complicated or unclear, that is only because our complicated and confused mind makes it appear to be so. Let us therefore not allow ourself to be confused by this self-deceiving mind and its endless doubts and uncertainty, but instead separate ourself from it entirely by persevering tenaciously in our effort to follow this extremely simple and clear path shown to us by our sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana — namely the thought-excluding (and therefore mind-excluding) practice of ātma-vichāra or keenly vigilant self-attentiveness, which is the only effective means by which we can completely surrender our thinking mind and thereby rest in eternal peace.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michale for your elaborate explanations for the various queries raised. You have made the theory part of it very clear. Now we must discourage the acquisitive mind from posing too many questions which constitute a digression from our true quest.

Arvind said...

Thanks Michael, for this great explanation. Deeply grateful for taking time to do so.

Arvind

Sankarraman said...

You are right Michale in your affirmation that the Self does not witness any thought, but the thoughts exist in its presence, and it is only the mind that witnesses thoughts. You have also rightly clarified that the witnessing the thoughts increases the appetite of the mind, and hence should be eschewed; but the attention should be given to the source. The term Witness ( Kutastha in sanskrit) has been very much misunderstood, being confounded with an adjunct-bound consciousness, whereas the Witness is supremely alone. When someone refers to the term, 'Witness," Bhaghavan quips by saying, " Where is the Sakshi ( Witness ) without the Sannidhi ( Presence ). Our true nature is only Presence which has been usurped, as it were, by thought, and all the attempts that we make to restore it are also part of the usurping since we unfortunately miss our closest, essential being of the Self, and wander around seeking this and that. We have a wrong notion that we should have something extra over our true Self, and all half baked religious teachers have encouraged all this.

Jon said...

thank you Michael, for this phenomenal explanation.

Anonymous said...

If one becomes enlightened, there are still multitude of others to be enlightened. But Bhaghavan's teachings don't subscribe to this idea, as he denies the very idea of a separate jiva existing. Even though philosophically this seems to be very sound, empirically one sees a world and the multitude of individuals passing through misery.The philosophy of Bhaghavan seems to be centred around eka-jiva vada ( solipsism). The very analogy of sleep and dream and the unreality of the three states, through the method of agreement and difference, support the idea of solipsism.

Sundar said...

Michael, Though you have asked 'what could be easier than being, the "I am"?', I still feel that this needs even more elaboration. Perhaps we can be given some more help with respect to 'easing into "being" through some "doing", such as pranayama? We need more explanation on 'how to just be' or how to peel away the aavaranaas or the coverings that have covered the 'I am'.
Sincerely,
sundar

Anonymous said...

Actually speaking, is the thought-free I am self-evident to us as is often quoted by many teachers as our immediate concern and confrontation seems to be with some alien things which we are not able to eschew. No doubt, Bhaghavan has given us the sovereign path of self-enquiry, requiring our attention to be paid only to our essential being of I am instead of the external phenomena of thoughts. But the frustrating thing is we end up in some thought or other. I think we should sincerely pray Bhaghavan for his Grace, accepting everything in life.

Arvind said...

Sundar, this may help. We ARE always, aren't we? Hence to Be is our natural state, what happens is when we think, we have to invariably make an assumption of our selves, that is contrary to Being. So the problem is reverse, it is not the point of achieving the Being state, but rather the practice of leaving our Being state that we need to drop off. Keep focusing on the state of Being or I am when you remember to do so; that's all that can be done. The effort is negative, you try to be effortless because you ALWAYS ARE. At all times we are only one Self or Being; there is no need to seek this Being, we can NEVER NOT BE.
Hope this helps.
Arvind

Sundar said...

Arvind,
Is not 'focussing on the state of being' also an effort? More importantly, I can benefit with any more elaborations you can make on how to 'focus on the state of being'. I guess it has to be a non mental activity. It can't also be an analysis. It has to be a sort of a sense of existence - is it?
sundar

vishy said...

Michael,

Good compilation. Thanks for including my comments.

However Bhagwan always said that true seeker does not need any method or scripts as He is only in that state for ever , that means from confused sleep to Awakened state.

May be a temporary glimpse of all these thoughts Maya ( illusion ) is forcing this being to term that state as UNKNOWN .

Once the light ( source )is there at the end of tunnel , then automatically you move out of the darkness and till that time one may need to go through , understand His noble sayings or be there in satsangs ( holy union) like your Blog .

Let there be Light to the Known
from unknown .

Like Great Sri Sadhu Om , one must follow the two paths of Bhagwan.

Bhakthi- Bhagwan's Name ( Surrender)
Jnana - Bhagwan's True Nature ( only SELF alone is True )

Anonymous said...

"What the anonymous friend wrote in his or her answer to Jon’s first comment requires some clarification. Though it is true that self-attentiveness — when it is sufficiently keen and vigilant — will necessarily exclude all other thoughts (since we cannot think any other thought when our entire attention is focused only on ourself), it is not true to say the opposite, namely that the absence of all thoughts will make us self-attentive." With reference to the above comment of Michale, I wish to state that I didn't mean that the mere absence of thoughts should be the sine qua non for self-attention. What I mean to say is that it is a conscious avoidance of thoughts, abandoning the alien element superimposed on the self, focussing the attention on the bare self. Otherwise, we should be enlightened even in deep sleep state. Moreover, our essential consciousness is not inimical to avidya, which can be destroyed only through the akhandakara vritti of the search for self through the method of, " who am I."

iinself said...

Hi Sundar. I am a student myself; so please take my suggestions with a pinch of salt.
If we go back to our sleep state (from the waking state) we see we did not have any desire to know the truth. Right? So this desire to know the truth is created by thought which arises on waking. So in a way the desire is false, but nevertheless a good desire - to freedom. Now using the snake and rope analogy, there is no snake but only an imagination of it. If someone asks me how to remove the snake I won't try to help him by talking about techniques to remove the snake; like use a long stick etc, rather I will try to convince the person that there is no snake in the first place. So coming back to effort, it is like this, if we worry too much about how to be effortless, it is equivalent to the snake catching techniques. Instead we focus on the only reality, which is the reality of Being. Being being a natural state, we can not make any effort. All effort is by thought which is the creator of the snake in the first place so using it is futile - (thief turning policeman or trying to stamp the shadow of your head analogies are given here). Questions like the following may help:
1> Can you think without being? No
2> Can you be without thinking? Yes

This way we seperate thinking from Being, in the beginning this Being is very subtle but it becomes more clearer with practice and the mind subsides. I can only vouch till this stage as I am a student still the mano-nasha or mind-destroyed is more of theory for me at this stage.

Hope this helps.

Arvind

Arvind said...

Sundar, one more point - one needs to be aware of the difference between thinking about Being and Being. This I feel is a important - in the beginning we do a lot of thinking about Being, gradually we loose the thinking part and just Be. Also there are different effect on the body in the 2 approaches - in thinking about Being, there will be heat generated and brain will be involved more and in just Being there will be a kind of coolness and ease in the body, it is like somebody said in the blog, like falling, very natural and easy.

Regards
Arvind

Arvind said...

Sundar, you are very right it is an non-mental activity, yes it can not be an analysis, it has to be just Being. Anything we say about it will be wrong, but it is very easily felt. It is an experience, true and self-evident, yet our mind always wants to move away from this center because we believe we will find happiness outside. There is a analogy of one stepping into the hot sun from the cool shade of a tree only to come back to the shade again. In a way this is what we do, we leave our Being and then set about thinking about it and then realize we could just be and give up this thinking and practice and all. It is funny why we do it :)

Regards
Arvind

vishy said...

Further to comment by Anonymous " I think we should sincerely pray Bhaghavan for his Grace, accepting everything in life" .

With HIS Grace ( which is abundant and only condition is go there with a very big bowl )followed by the Bhaghavan 's advise given below will definitely lead to peace, bliss , joy and finally eternity .

Bhagavan gave some verses he had selected from the Yoga Vasishta.
He said they contained the essence for the Path of a Pure Life.

Steady in the state of fullness which shines when all desires are given up,
and peaceful in the state of freedom in life, act playfully in the world, O Bhagava!

Inwardly free from all desires, dispassionate and detached, but outwardly active in all directions, act playfully in the world, O Bhagava!

Free from egoism, with mind detached as in sleep, pure like the sky, ever untainted, act playfully in the world, O Bhagava!

Conducting yourself nobly with kindly tenderness, outwardly conforming to conventions but inwardly renouncing all, act playfully in the world, O Bhagava!

Quite unattached at heart but for all appearance acting as with attachment, inwardly cool but outwardly full of fervor, act play- fully in the world, O Bhagava!

Sankarraman said...

The self enquiry trying to understand the self presupposes a conscious search for the self abandoning the alien thoughts. In all our perceptions two elements are required: one is the clarity of the object through the reflected light of the self, and the other being able to keep the object intact through the permanent light of the Self, lest the object should not be deposited in one's mind as the buddhi is only an insentient entity functioning through the borrowed light. In vedantic terminologies, the former is called vritti chitanya ( clarity of light of the object ) and the latter, phala chitanya ( the fulness of the vision of the object by virtue of the permanent light of the self). In ordinary perceptions both are required. But for the perception of the self, since Being and Awareness are one and the same, the mere focusing on the unassociated self yields to the knowledge of the self, there being nothing over and above the self as an object, here subject and the object being one and the same. The fact that the self is not antagonistic to avidya explains the fact that the self is the natural light incapable of being known through any thought process, and the element of avidya cannot unsettle it. In deep sleep the self remains intact in spite of the veil of the avidya leading to misapprehension through avarana. In waking and dream states,there is the vikshepa projecting seemingly real objects over and above the self, which are known by destruction of the sthula avidya hiding the object, whereas for the self to be known the mula avidya, taking over the place of the self by the objects, has to be destroyed through what is known as akhandakara vritti which is not a search for anything, but the mere search for Being which is at once Awareness, in which one doesn't know anything, but abides in the natural light.

Arvind said...

Hi,
I would like to request someone to explain the difference between consciousness and Being. To me consciousness is related to the body specifically the brain. If you don't take food, water or air you become unconscious. Thus this consciousness cannot be the Sat-Chit which is eternal. Am I right? So Being is not consciousness but rather something different and I believe this is what is meant by Chit. Any clarification on this greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Arvind

Sankarraman said...

With reference to the request of Aravind to explain the distinction between Being and consciousness, it is to be pointed out that it is not the body-bound empirical consciousness that is synonymous with Being. Nor Being is one of the phenomenal objects. In all our perceptions there is this relative knower knowing something objective, which are called the pramatar and premeya in vedantic knowledge ( knower and known ). The knowing in between is known as pramana. But the self is incapable of being known by any valid means of cognition since it is bereft of anything alien; nor does it have the need to know or be known in view of its self-evident cognition, more so it not being inimical to avidya. But by virtue of the natural avidya we are labouring under, there is this notion of the self not being self-shining, but requiring the mind to be known, whereas the self is the apriori consciousness. In the same breath, there is the viksepa sakthi projecting alien objects as real. The self cannot be known like we know the objective things. It demands the focusing of attention on the subject ignoring the objective side of consciousness, being convinced of the fact of its unreality, which demands ignoring anything happening in between cognized by the mind. This is known as pure vritti jnana where the subject and the object are one and the same, that is Being and the Consciousness of Being, which has been very beautifully explained in the benedictory verse of, " ULLADU NARPATHU," composed by Bhaghavan. All that a mumukshu ( serious aspirant ) needs is the repeated dwelling on the unassociated I as clearly brought out by Bhaghavan in ULLADU NARPATU.

Anonymous said...

Arvind, don´t know if this may help:

Difference is in the state of consciousness. There is the state that we all know, a state of identification with mind and body, and there is the state of consciousness free from adjuncts which is just being or Self, but there is only one consciousness, the chit aspect of the ego is Self itself as well and it is always there mixed with adjuncts , though. So, to free consciousness from the identification with adjuncts is our aim and to focus the attention on the chit aspect of the ego, as often as possible, the practice that, Bhagavan stated, will lead to the pure state of consciousness or Self.
To show this, Sri Ramana tells that he experienced the body´s death one day while he was walking and how he could follow the process of the body´s death since he kept consciousness intact.

Kind regards,
A.A.

Arvind said...

Thanks A.A and Sanarraman for your comments.

Arvind

Anonymous said...

No doubt, the subjective state of isolation in which we find ourselves is attributable to our having forgotten our essential free consciousness of, " I am," having identified it with the external adjuncts of body and mind. But this thought seems to be very far away from our many mental psychological problems which demand some empirical treatment and psychological understanding. There is a yawing gulf between the two. Does this mean that we have to look at life in the proper perspectives, that is at the deeper level of freeing ourselves from this samsara relying upon the metaphysical teachings of Ramana, and at the superficial level seeking solutions at the empirical side, depending on the modern developments? Otherwise we should make our lives a mess. We have to demarcate at some level. Would Michale kindly clarify this as in the modern world man is beset with many mental problems needing solutions at various levels, as further at one stroke we cannot steer clear of every fragmentary aspect of the disease of life through self-enquiry.

baskar said...

"At one stroke we cannot steer clear of every fragmentary aspect of the disease of life through self-enquiry...." Should we then,
"seek solutions at the empirical side, depending on the modern developments?" for " our many mental psychological problems which demand some empirical treatment and psychological understanding".

I think the answer has to be, "Yes". Advaita is not a practice- it is understanding, I think.

Our life is an unfolding of our understanding, even when it is erraneous. If we turn it the other way, practice what we should understand, I think life will be riddled with contradictions.

It might look good to try to live as if we are Gnanis, but it is sure to end up in deception and disappointment.

When there is power-cut, we don't depend on the light of Self to find our way. So, why should it be different in cases of Schizophrenia or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Paranoia or whatever? We have to take medicines the same way we take medicines for diarrhoea or typhoid!

Anonymous said...

Baskar, would then even jnanis have the possibility of the type of problems mentioned by you even though they have understood the self as the brain is only one of the parts of the body, the main part, and like typhoid and other things which are courted by the body, the body of a jnani also may have such problems as body is common to both jnanis and ajnanis, and that it is a fact that the mind is also only the body at a different level? So we cannot make any categorical statement about the signs of a jnani from the bodily, cerebral perspective.

baskar said...

"...the mind is also only the body at a different level...So we cannot make any categorical statement about the signs of a jnani from the bodily, cerebral perspective."

Definitely, yes. Here in Tamil Nadu, we don't make any distinctions between madmen and Saints. If respectable people vouch someone as a Saint or Gnani or Siddha, we ignore everything he does and place our faith in him.

This might help false godmen and delude some, but in actuality, it is a good thing that we don't approach a saint with out prejudged notions of sanity.

Even Seshadri Swamigal would be labelled something, but he identified Bhagavan's greatness very early.

I think we need medicines because we have to go on with our everyday activities... They might get cured with self-enquiry or devotional worship, but the exigencies of our affairs do not wait for us to get well.

Regards,

Anonymous said...

A few questions :
a) Do we have to reject the reality of the world, in order to find the Self ? Or, finding the Self makes us see that the world is not real ?
b) Similar question w.r.to body : Do we have to reject the (notion of I am ) body to find the Self ? or, finding the Self naturally leaves the body ?
c) Is Self-enquiry/investigation supposed to be a kind of enquiry in the sense of trying to find out something, or is it just being without even doing any enquiry ?
d) Though I don't feel I am the body, I feel I'm somewhere inside the body. Is it something to be questioned and overcome ?

murali said...

One need not reject either the body or the world as the absence of these in deep sleep does not confer on one self realization. One has to stop indulging in conceptualizations whenever any objective thought arises without converting them into a subjective me, which, put in Ramana's words, paying attention to the I thought, the background of all thoughts. Though this is effortless at the deeper level of the consciousnes since it is our very nature, and since effort is needed only to keep oneself identified with thought, by virtue of long vasanas we have lost track of the true Self superimposing on it the I thought which should be removed. All that is required is perception or understanding which is not at the fag end of a discursive reasoning. Being is our very nature in spite of apparent contrary things, the creation of the mind. Let us look at the subject which is the present now instead of fantasizing as to what will happen in the future or ruminating on the past. The present moment, the Now is the secret. The Now should not be confounded with the content in the Now.

baskar said...

Sir, I have a doubt about this:

Bhagavan is noted as saying this: "Breath and mind arise from the same place and when one of them is controlled, the other is also controlled. As a matter of fact, in the quest method- which is more correctly "Whence am I?" and not merely "Who am I?"- we are not simply trying to eliminate saying 'we are not the body, not the senses and so on,' to reach what remains as the ultimate reality, but we are trying to find whence the 'I' thought for the ego arises within us. The method contains within it, though implcitly and not expressly, the watching of the breath." - (Day by Day with Bhagavan, page 55)

I have never seen Bhagavan's teachings in this light. It came as a shock to me, my ignorance.

I would like to know, i) how is the enquiry 'whence am I?' included in the question 'who am I?', and ii) is watching the breath as important as the vichara itself- Bhagavan expressly states, "The method contains within it, though implicitly and not expressly, the watching of the breath."

Clarifications would be of great help, it seems that I don't even know what self-enquiry is.

Regards,

Unknown said...

With reference to the latest comments of Baskar regarding self-enquiry, I wish to state the following. The approaches, " whence am I," and ," Who am I," are one and the same, the only difference being as regards verbal terminologies. When the question is, " Whence am I," it is as regards the true place of the self, the consummation being that it transcends the spatial limitations. It is not as if to search for something, some centre somewhere, but to realize the consummate silence of not seeing anything, hearing anything and knowing anything, which is not sunya, though it may be sunya in a metaphysical sense. The quest, " Who am I," is to know the metaphysical truth of oneself. As regards breath and mind whereas the former is gross and graspable, the latter is very subtle, being bereft of any locus to lean upon. Watching the breath gives rise to stoppage of objective consciousness, but not the realization of the self. Some yogis will land up in the laya which is known as kevalakumbhaka in vedanta and samphrajna samadhi in yoga. The approach of watching the breath is a good start but one should not be merely struck with laya and some powers. The neti method is the very starting point of interiorization of consciousness, which if done with intense meditation will definitely enable one to reach the successive higher stages of kosas, being the precursor to enquiry.

who said...

Further to the comments of baskar and the response made by unknown to it, it is interesting to note that according to Vivarna school of Advaita, the Mahavakya, " Tatvam Asi," is not meant to be contemplated as it involves the triad of knower, knowledge and known, which belongs to the realm of action, whereas the impartite self is not to be known through action as it is our essential being. Vivarna school further says that it involves listening and not repetition. With the listening is the explosive revelation of the ever known self, and with the realization of it the individual will have known all his efforts to know it are unreal, belonging to the realm of ignorance. In fact he will have the understanding that such a thing has never happened, that is his attempts and efforts performed, as time itself will have been realized to be unreal. It is interesting to note in this context the central theme of J.Krishnamurthy, that is, the art of listening which he very much has emphasized. This has no equal in any traditional terminology, but may have close connection with the self-enquiry of Bhaghavan. In a talk in ZANEN J.Krishnamurti talks about attention, inattention and the awareness of inattention. He says that during the day one might have had only very small intervals of attention, the major portion having been one of inattention. He further says that attention is a state where there is no me and raises the question as to what is the state of that mind that has been in inattention, and what could one do to move towards attention, and concludes that the becoming from inattention to attention is a false process, involving psychological time and becoming, and that all that one could do is to be aware of that inattention. J.K says that single instant of awareness of inattention brings about a radical mutation in the brain cells, bringing about the understanding that there had never been any inattention, and all there has been is only attention.

baskar said...

Sir, it's been long time since the previous post. May I request that Arunachala Akshara Manamalai be taken up? I find that all that is classified as philososphy comes alive in this devotional hymn.

I feel that no one has brought the depth and beauty of this great work, and versed as you are in Tamil language and Bhagavan's philosophy, and equipped with the deep understanding of Muruganar's teachings through association with Sadhu Om, you could be the right person to do this.

Further, who knows, by the Grace of Bhagavan, this could grow into a companion volume to Happiness of Being.

In my mind, this is the most important work of Bhagavan- far more definitive than Ulladhu Narpadhu or anything else...

Pardon me if I have said anything out of place...

Regards,

aruval said...

Many thanks for your substantial explanatory interpretation of Self-attentiveness.
I wrote a question as a comment to your previous article Self-attentiveness and time(31.12.2008)

aruval said...

Evidently I did not push the button "Publish your comment".
So on the article Self-attentiveness and time(31.12.2008) there cannot be found my comment posted yesterday..
Maybe its content had too much connection with my current personal view about distraction by things or thoughts about "anything other than ourself".
Now I feel it primarily necessary to follow the suggestions given by Michael to SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE ABSORBED IN SELF-ATTENTIVENESS, VIGILANTLY AVOIDING PRAMADA OR SELF-NEGLIGENCE.

Arvind said...

From Talks, talk 336
M.: ..The questioner retired. Later, Sri Bhagavan said: Divine sight means Self-luminosity. The world divya shows it. The full word means the Self. Who is to bestow a divine eye? And who is to see? Again, people read in the books, “hearing, reflection and one-pointedness are necessary”. They think that they must pass through savikalpa samadhi and nirvikalpa samadhi before attaining Realisation. Hence all these questions. Why should they wander in that maze? What do they gain at the end? It is only cessation of the trouble of seeking. They fnd that the Self is eternal and self-evident. Why should they not get that repose even this moment? A simple man, not learned, is satisfed with japa or worship. A Jnani is of course satisfed. The whole trouble is for the book-worms. Well, well. They will also get on.

From Ashtavakara Gita -

Everyone is miserable
because they exert constant effort.
But no one understands this.
A ripe mind can become unshackled
upon hearing this one instruction.


Quotes similar to above brings a very important point - effort is the problem. This sounds strange at first but then it is easy to see that our effort is only after the rise of the ego or I-thought, so fueling this effort is actually fueling the ego.

Any thoughts on the above appreciated.

Arvind

baskar said...

This could be interesting:

"Because the kartavya idea, that deluding conviction, is indeed the evil seed that produces in quick succession all of one's afflictions, only in those who have been freed from it will the authentic bliss of tranquillity spring forth from the Heart and shine"-
Guru vachaka kovai, verse 466.

So, obviously, the sense of agency, doership, is the problem.

In the print edition of "Happiness and the Art of Being' by Michael James, I find that this is discussed in pages 258-261. It helped me understand this- the e-book is available, here- Happiness and the Art of Being. (in seaching for that particular page in the pdf, please type page 264 to get page 258 displayed)

Regards,

Arvind said...

Hi Baskar, yes it is a different question isn't it? Whence am I instead of Who am I? I believe the intention is to move to our pristine state of being Self, for this one needs to get past the I-thought. The key idea is that thoughts need to subside for the Self to reveal itself. So when one inquires from where is this I-thought coming, then one is pushed back to the feeling of Being or Self. Who am I seems to trap one in examining the I-thought more rather than going beyond it, whence am I takes you beyond the I-thought.

But the Self is ever there, it cannot be absent at any time. Also no effort of any kind is necessary to reach/realize the Self as it already reached/realized. Meditation becomes more effective if we avoid thinking. Thinking/analyzing is not meditation, so one should refrain from trying to form new concepts about Self. In fact thinking takes one away from the Self, for this reason Silence is prescribed. It is a feeling and not a thought. Sometimes it is very easy, too easy, one is ever the Self. If we examine what is that which never leaves us even for an instant we see it is only our Self. Not the thought of Self but Self itself. It is shinning perpetually as I I. Mind is not necessary for this realization, infact absolute effortlessness will take us to our sense of I I.

Please note I am learner like you, so I may be wrong.

Arvind

baskar said...

Dear Sri Arvind, thanks for responding to my earlier comment.

I can sense that I am alive and living and present. But I can't seem to get at "I". It is more an unexamined verity than a certainty that is born of experience. This does seem contradictory, How do I claim to be, without having access to the sense of I? But this is how it is.

So when it is asked of me to retrace my path back to the source of the "I-thought", I can't even start, because I can't even touch the I-thought.

It is possible that with the stilling of the mind, and when there is silence, then it could happen, but that has not been my experience so far.

I understand the distinction you have made between "who am I" and "whence am I", and I thank you for indicating that whence am I implies that I move with the feeling of I back to its source. What I wanted to know was how the two questions are similar, because who am I and whence am I cannot be different, it would mean there are two different paths we can take. I think Bhagavan does not mean it this way.

I am sorry if I am too analytical about this- in my mind, the two appear different questions. I think I am wrong in seeing this difference, and if we can have at least an intellectual understanding of how self-enquiry in practice joins together the two questions, it might help to some extent- because in asking this question, we are looking for the I to find an answer, something like a kaon, if I may say so.

And another question I asked was, how does observing the breath come in? Is it so important as the quote I have cited makes it to be? I never thought there was any importance to it, it was just for the beginning stages etc.

In respect of the second part of your response, where you say, "Also no effort of any kind is necessary to reach/realize the Self as it already reached/realized," and, "Mind is not necessary for this realization, infact absolute effortlessness will take us to our sense of I-I," it is true, but I will add this:

This is like falling. If we are afraid of taking a fall, or when we don't know how to fall (it is different that we can throw ourselves down, I am speaking about natural falling) however much we try to fall, we won't fall. Or, however much we try to relax, we won't leg go and fall down. But once there is absolute effortlessness, the body will fall on its own, because gravity is constantly pulling it in.

I think something similar is the case here. We cannot do a proper namaskar to the Self, it seems.

Thanks for your response.

Regards,

Sankarraman said...

There is no distinction between the quest who am i and the other one
whence am I, the two referring to two different illusory concepts
about the self, the one that the self is a relative entity, an object,
and the other that it is within the fold of time and space. Hence the
quest into the fundamental self without entertaining these alien
notions destroys all alien ideas and concepts, leaving one in
sphurana, wherein all mental activity is stopped. It is as Bhaghavan
says like a stick used to spread the flames of funeral pyre, the stick
itself getting lost in the blaze.

baskar said...

Sir, I understand your comment to mean this:

"Who am I", refers to the sense of I where the 'I' has an identity such as name. form etc. Not only that, but also such identity is associated with the continuous craving for the perpetuation of the identity, the constant effort to find further security through identification with activities through time etc.

And "whence am I" refers to the sense of 'I', where 'I' is supposed to unfold in time and space- that is, the 'I' is assumed to have an origin, and is supposed to extend itself through time in a particular location.

So, for someone with a strong sense of identification, "who am I" is suggested, and for someone who sees 'I' as the self-knowledge which unfolds through time and space, "whence am I" is suggested.

Since we are all a mix of both these views, in the dynamic process of self-enquiry, both these questions are pursued at once, because we do not ask this question verbally, but keep our eyes glued to "I-am".

And since "Being That" is "Seeking That", in our attention to the Self through effortless Being both the questions are asked at the same time and find answer in Silence.

I would like to know whether I understand your comments correctly or have distorted it to suit my own prejudices.

Regards,

Arvind said...

Hi Baskar,
you raise very practical and important questions - I can only try to answer, as like you I can not claim too much of experience :)

To seek I using mind is like imagining a snake and then trying to remove the imagination. Let me explain - there is only Self always and everywhere, in its place a spurious I rises as imagination or thought, now this spurious I tries to remove itself after suffering its birth. This will not work, it is like catching ones shadow. So effort of all type will be frustrating since it is made by the spurious I. As Maharshi says a thief turned policeman. When we (as spurious I's) keep quiet, we vanish (as spurious Is) and the Self shines in its place, not because the Self suddenly chose to but because it is now not clouded by the spurious I. Think about the state in sleep when all these doubts did not exist, we are asked to remain in a similar state while awake. It is advised we try to curb the restlessness of the mind gradually.

To me it is all about patience and faith. Trust the Guru and try to remain as Self without thinking but by keep our attention on the I-feeling. With His Grace, things will clear up by themselves. To much of analysis will only take us away from our Self. The practice of being quiet seems to be essential.

Think along these lines if you need to:

1. Anything that comes will go, which means any understanding that comes by analysing will go and hence of no use.

2. What you can forget can not be of use as it is transient which means all these learnings.

3. What is the only thing that never leaves you, it is your I-feeling not I-thought, I-thought also vanishes in sleep.

4. Anything that can't survive the sleep state is of no use, since it is transient, which means all thoughts or learning or reasoning are of no use, sleep will make them go away. The only thing that survives the sleep state and hence worth going after is your I-feeling or Self.

Hope this helps, it helps me to put my understanding on paper, even if it may be not all right :)

Arvind

Sankarraman said...

I think that we should not make too much of deep sleep state as we succumb to it or enjoy it without our volition, that being beyond our control. The I thought not being present in deep sleep state is not an assurance that the I is understood to be unreal by us, an understanding unmediated by all the three states. Also it has to be understood that the concept of time is unmanifest in deep sleep state. Deep sleep state is only an example given by Maharishi to give a fillip to our enquiry making us understand that there is a possibility of our going beyond all the three states, remaining in the pristine purity of Awareness.

Baskar said...

Dear Sri Arvind, thanks for your thoughtful response. I am grateful for this, and will mull over it and ask for further clarifications, if there are any.

Once again, I wish to thank you.

Regards,

Arvind said...

Hi Sankarraman,
you are right we should not make too much of deep sleep state - that is trying to enjoy it or do it too much :). It is an aid to reasoning, to see how all the reasoning, thinking, analyzing etc that we try during the waking state vanishes easily in deep sleep, indicating their impermanence. Having reasoned as such, then one may proceed to try to find That which survives the deep sleep state, which is nothing but the I-I or Being or Self. This should be done and can be done only in the waking state and I believe (not a experience yet :)) that if we reach such levels of maturity then we may find ourselves witnessing waking, dreaming and deep sleep state (?)

Thanks for bringing that point up.

Arvind

Arvind said...

Hi Dear Baskar,
you seem to have a good idea of your I as you explain in these lines "
I can sense that I am alive and living and present. But I can't seem to get at "I".". This feeling of I that you have is all that is necessary. One has to stay with it for sufficiently long time to become totally familiar with it. Once this familiarity becomes second nature, superimposition on this I-feeling will be easily identified and discarded as such.
Right now for most of us this I-feeling is superimposed with feeling of I-am-body-mind idea.

Another mistake we do is we seek for I mentally, it CANNOT be grasped mentally. It is very subtle, I believe subtler than thought. Try to FEEL it as Presence/Existence/Being.

Chapter nine of Tripura Rahasya is pretty useful here. Below are some quotes from that chapter.

70. If a product, it cannot be the Self. For, how can the
Self be got anew? So then, the Self is never gained. Gain is of
something which is not already possessed. Is there any
moment when the Self is not the Self? Neither is control of
mind used to gain it. I shall give you some examples:

75. So also the control of your mind is not the cause
of your Self-realisation; though the Self is always there, it
is not recognised by you even with a controlled mind
because you are not conversant with it.

81. Though he be a pandit well grounded in the theory
and the discussion of the philosophy of the Self, he cannot
realise the Self because it is not realisable but already realised.
Realisation is not attained by going far, but only by staying
still; not by thought, but by cessation of thought.

83-85. Effort towards Realisation is like the attempt to
stamp with one’s foot on the shadow cast by one’s head. Effort
will always make it recede.

86-88. .....The knower therefore is the only reality behind knowledge
and objects. That which is self-evident without the
necessity to be proved, is alone real; not so other things.

98. Now let not your mind be outgoing; turn it inward;
control it just a little and watch for the Self, always remem-
bering that the investigator is himself the essence of being
and the Self of self.

99. Be also free from the thought ‘I see’; remain still
like a blind man seeing. What transcends sight and no
sight, That you are. Be quick and be That.

Hope that helps a bit.

Arvind

Sankarraman said...

As a matter of fact, I believe, deep sleep doesn't happen to us, most of it being forgotten dreams. If deep sleep transpired in our life, that would be turiya, the fourth, the natural state of turiyatitha, in which we find ourselves one with our essential consciousness, " I am," unmediated by thoughts. Then we don't have to search for anything; our journey in life comes to a stop; rather it really begins then only, which is not in time somewhere in the future that our brains are stubbornly programmed to believe. It is here and now. It is a calamity that when a great treasure is underneath our feet, buried in the ground on which we step everyday we sidestep it thinking that life's security consists in building up the appertuances of the nonself assiduously.

Baskar said...

This could be potentially controversial, but I agree with Sri Sankararaman, and I would like to say how I see this:

Deep Sleep doesn't happen to us, in the sense that the I that is present in waking and dream states has no claim on what happens when it is absent.

We can make inference about deep sleep, but we don't have direct knowledge.

Still, the idea of deep sleep is intellectually useful, and could help us in understanding the nature of 'I'.

And thanks to Arvind for his comments, especially, these parts I am grateful for:

"This feeling of I that you have is all that is necessary. One has to stay with it for sufficiently long time to become totally familiar with it. Once this familiarity becomes second nature, superimposition on this I-feeling will be easily identified and discarded as such," and, "Another mistake we do is we seek for I mentally, it CANNOT be grasped mentally. It is very subtle, I believe subtler than thought. Try to FEEL it as Presence/ Existence/ Being."

Ultimately it in the doing that we understand, I think, this is not an intellectual activity. We have to get to the I-Feeling, the sense of presence. Though we talk with words, words don't help us, but we can't do without words, in our present condition.

I am really grateful for this, and also the excerpts from Tripura Rahasya.

Regards,

Arvind said...

Hi Baskar,
you are welcome.

You are right, practice is the key, in fact I believe it is not all that complicated. If we have faith in Guru and just follow His words we will experience this more quickly. All the difficulties and complications are raised by our thinking. How difficult can simply being be? :) It is the uncontrollable mind that wants to run away from this pleasant peaceful Being and then tries to finds its way back, what a sad joke. It runs away by making a simple error - that it is the body-mind. If we question "who am I" or "when am I" or I even use "where did this thought come from", we are taken back to our Self or simple Being. On looking at this Self we find it is Peace itself. It also has the attributes of Existence and Awareness. It is about familiarity with this Self. Here is an extract of a talk by Sri Ramana Maharshi

Talk 336 from TALKS WITH SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI

M.: The questioner retired. Later, Sri Bhagavan said: Divine sight means Self-luminosity. The world divya shows it. The full word means
the Self. Who is to bestow a divine eye? And who is to see? Again, people read in the books, “hearing, reflection and one-pointedness are necessary”. They think that they must pass through savikalpa samadhi and nirvikalpa samadhi before attaining Realisation.
Hence all these questions. Why should they wander in that maze?
What do they gain at the end? It is only cessation of the trouble of
seeking.
. They find that the Self is eternal and self-evident. Why should they not get that repose even this moment?
A simple man, not learned, is satisfied with japa or worship. A jnani is of course satisfied. The whole trouble is for the book-worms. Well, well. They will also get on.

Bolding is mine.

About deep sleep, yes it is controversial, and I think it does not matter :).

Arvind

baskar said...

Hi Arvind, thanks for your comments.


This is about this: "How difficult can simply being be? :) It is the uncontrollable mind that wants to run away from this pleasant peaceful Being and then tries to finds its way back, what a sad joke."

Very true.


And this: "It runs away by making a simple error - that it is the body-mind."

It seems terribly easy, but is not.

I am reminded of these lines in Sivapuranam:

ஏகன் அநேகன் இறைவன் அடிவாழ்க
வேகம் கெடுத்தாண்ட வேந்தன் அடிவெல்க
பிறப்பறுக்கும் பிஞ்ஞகன்தன் பெய்கழல்கள் வெல்க (5-7)

It is interesting that the word வேகம் is used. It is speed, velocity, momentum.

What the Lord does is, He destroys the momentum- we run away not because we want to, but because we are forced to, we are impelled to run, so to say.

Hope you understand Tamil.

Regards,

Arvind said...

Hi Baskar,
I understand Tamil but can not read/write (just a few letters). But I understand your statement "we run away not because we want to, but because we are forced to, we are impelled to run, so to say." I think the term used is vasanas or past impressions of our karma.

I like the word "impelled", so I have taken the liberty to use it more than necessary below, hope you don't mind.

The way I look at it is, at this moment in our life's we are currently being "impelled" to seek our Self, that is the probably the reason not everyone is seeking the Self - their vasanas are not impelling them to. Having said this, we are now left with only one choice to try and see how much our vasanas will allow us. Thus we try to remain as our Self/Being/Presence and of course knowing well that we will only succeed to the degree we are "impelled" to. It is kind of a chicken-egg situation. Again Baskar, I feel, these complexities are not necessary, they are just created by our minds. All we have to do is keep quiet (as much as we can) and try to attend to the Self. My personal firm belief is this alone matters and everything else is secondary. In a way follow the dictum from Gita - "To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction" "

In due course this effort will have its effect in the causation chain and things should move forward.



From Anma Viddai

4. For loosening karma’s bonds and ending births,—
This path is easier than all other paths.
Abide in stillness, without any stir of tongue, mind, or body.
And behold the effulgence of the Self within;
The experience of eternity; absence of all fear;
The vast ocean of bliss. (Refrain)


We have to try hard to practice and stop analyzing too much because after a while words only take us further from the Self. A single moment of practice will take us much further than what a thousand words/thoughts can.

Regards
Arvind

baskar said...

Sri Arvind, Thanks for your comments.

Why I asked that question was because that thiruvachagam line exactly agrees with what you say about just being quiet and not run away.

Manickavachagar writes, "vekam keduthu aanda vendhan adi velga"

Roughly translating this, it comes to:

Win, Feet of the Emperor
who disrupted the momentum and reigned supreme!"

True surrender requires that the momemtum that forces us towards activity come to cessation.

I was wondering about how beautifully this is captured in just four or five words in that verse...

" Thus we try to remain as our Self/Being/Presence and of course knowing well that we will only succeed to the degree we are "impelled" to"

Of course, there is sat-vasanas too, and as you indicate, it might be possible that our efforts to remain quiet, may generate a momentum of different kind.

This may be so or not, but however, "A single moment of practice will take us much further than what a thousand words/thoughts can. "

True words.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

it seems to me that if we simply didn't give a **** about this enlightenment stuff we would automatically be enlightened. There is really nothing you can do to become enlightened so forget about it and be happy.

baskar said...

Have we come to this?

Anonymous said...

Self-Attentiveness Vs. Freddie Yam's "Aware State"

In his article entitled, "What is Self-Attentiveness", Michael replies to a number of questions, in particular to that of Jon who asked, "what am i supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? Self is the I thought. Unfortunately, I can't find this I thought anywhere! [so] how am i to be attentive to it?"

Jon framed his question in a way that captures, precisely, my own doubt about how to practice self-attention correctly. And Michael's article, though clear, has not resolved the question completely for me; perhaps it never could since, as Michael admitted in his article,"any verbal answer ... can only be a pointer indicating how we should each find the real answer for ourself by immediate experience".

What seems more likely to be helpful is a "direct pointing" to the state of mind (if that is what it is) of self-attentiveness. Since a state of mind is subjective, and cannot be directly communicated, I had just about given up hope of finding such a "direct pointer", and had resigned myself to muddling through, as it were, by trial and error, using such verbal descriptions as there are (such as Michael's) as a guide and hoping to hit upon some inward clue that I was on the right track, when (searching the web) I came across the article, "How to Stop Thoughts" by one Freddie Yam. In this article the author seeks to point directly to what he terms "the aware state" which he asserts to be the same as that called by others "self-remembering" or "I AM". (Presumably he would equate this with "self-attentiveness" also.) Recognising that, in his own words,"the most difficult thing about [experiencing the "aware state"] is figuring out from somebody else's description what the aware state is exactly. It's very hard to describe a state of mind", Freddie proceeds to "point directly" by having us recall a state we've already experienced. Readers will see what I mean by reading Freddie's article which can be found at: http://www.freddieyam.com/index.html

My further questions and comments assume the reader has read this article; please do.

I was struck by the aptness of Freddie's method of "pointing" because the state he is pointing to is one that I (and perhaps anyone who has ever meditated even for a short period) can easily enter. It seems to be nothing other than the moment of having "come back" from being lost in thought, and the consequent "brightening" of awareness; "staying present" in the moment to which we've come back would then seem to constitute "self-attentiveness".

My question, to which (as a help to me and possibly to others) I invite answers from the community of practioners of the self-enquiry/self-attention method, is this: Is Freddie's "aware state" the state we are trying to maintain in our practice of self-enquiry? Is it the "self-attentiveness" prescribed by Ramana? As Michael so kindly took the trouble to respond to others' doubts by writing his article, "What is Self-Attentiveness", if he is able to find some time to respond, I'd be grateful.

Assuming this "aware state" is what we're aiming to abide in, I have some follow-up questions (Can it be that simple? What's the point of such an 'useless' state? Why does it, in a subtle way, seem conditional on or "mixed in" with aspects of sensing ...) but I will reserve these until after (if) this post elicits a response.

Thank you.

DRPVSSNRAJU said...

Self-Enquiry is holding on to awareness of being that
"we already are".When the mind strays you bring it back-
thats all.Self-Enquiry is not through thought but paying
attention to the source of it.There is no ego apart from
the idea of "I" thought.The "I" thought arises from the self and depends upon the self for it's existence.It is never apart from the self and infact the self but forgetful of it's
true nature.It believes in the lie of it's independent existence apart from the self.As enquiry proceeds the lie becomes tenuous until it loses it's power to hold us.Each time when you observe this "I" thought you break your
identification with the "I",you disconnect from this "I" as being part of you.As you peel from this false "I" ,you will find yourself spontaneously abiding in a tranquil centre,just abide in that "I am".At this point there is no feeling of "I" thought as an object presently sensed.Just
be there.After sometime mind will take over,that is natural,
do not be frustrated.With practice we will find much easier
to abide in this state of "I am" and for longer periods.
There is no place for effort,expectation,hurry in this.
The idea that one is an individual person is generated and
sustained by "I" thought and it's habit of constantly attaching itself to all thoughts and perceptions that go on in the mind and the body.Self-Enquiry is to reverse this process by depriving the "I" thought of all the thoughts and perceptions that it normally identifies with.If one can break the connection between "I" thought and the thoughts it identifies with,then the "I' thought itself will
subside and finally disappear.This can be done by holding on to "I" thought,excluding all other thoughts.If one can keep the attention on the inner feeling of "I",the power of self pulls the "I" thought back into it and eventually destroys it so completely that it never rises again.This is the moment of self realisation.When this happens the concept of individual self is destroyed,only self remains.
All this happens when we perform self-enquiry with the same intensity as that of a drowning man struggles for air.

Anonymous said...

Hey Michael, Thank you for sharing your clarity on Sri Bhagavan's teaching. Could you clear a remaining question?

In the following link, the blogger compares Self-Attentiveness of Bhagvan to feeling the inner body by Eckhart tolle, both practices very similar. Are they the same? Any comment would be great thank you.

http://shravanam.blogspot.ca/2006/09/meditation-on-feeling-of-i-and-inner.html

Anonymous said...

In one paragraph , the 5th from last , you begin by saying :

However, if we focus our attention upon this first thought ‘I’, it will subside, because it can stand without attending to something other than itself.

We should read 'cannot' instead of 'can'.

Michael James said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for pointing out this typo, which I have now corrected.