Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Atma-vichara – the practice of 'looking at' or 'seeking' ourself

A friend wrote to me recently asking:

I was wondering if you are familiar with John Sherman (http://www.riverganga.org/) and his teaching and if you think what he says is the same as what you are saying self-inquiry is? John constantly says what he is teaching is to simply look at yourself. I asked you once before about “The Most Rapid and Direct Means to Eternal Bliss,” at that time you had indicated that the approach was the same as what you were saying on your blog and in your book.
The following is adapted from the reply that I wrote:

I had not heard of John Sherman until I read your mail, but I just now looked at his website and read part of one transcript, A Worldwide Meeting with John Sherman - November 1, 2008. To be honest I was not very impressed by what I read, because it appears to me that he does not have a truly deep or subtle understanding of Sri Ramana’s teachings.

For example, in one passage in this transcript he says:
... there’s an extremely important distinction to be made between the verbs “to seek” and “to look,” and between the ideas that “I am seeking myself,” and “I am trying to look at myself.” Those are two very different approaches. The actuality of the vichara seeks nothing. Seeking implies some expectation or hope of getting something. Nothing is to be gotten here, nothing needs to be sought, and no seeking needs to be ended. The possibility of looking at you, of course, happens in time. ...
In the context of ātma-vichāra or self-investigation there is truly no distinction between ‘looking’ and ‘seeking’, because both words provide clues to the practice of ātma-vichāra, which is the non-objective and hence extremely subtle effort that we make to experience our natural state of perfectly clear thought-free self-consciousness, and which is therefore too subtle to be adequately described by any words.

Like ‘attention’, ‘scrutiny’ or ‘investigation’, ‘looking’ and ‘seeking’ are words that indicate but do not adequately describe the ineffable state of ātma-vichāra. When describing the practice of ātma-vichāra in his original Tamil verses and other writings, two verbs that Sri Ramana frequently used are நாடு (nāḍu) and தேடு (tēḍu), which both mean ‘seeking’, ‘searching’, ‘investigating’, ‘examining’ or ‘scrutinising’, because ātma-vichāra is the effort that we make to ‘investigate’, ‘examine’, ‘scrutinise’, ‘look at’ or ‘attend to’ ourself in order to experience our essential self-consciousness perfectly clearly, and as such it can also be described as the practice of ‘seeking’ or ‘searching for’ absolute clarity of self-consciousness.

Therefore John Sherman is not correct when he says that ‘The actuality of the vichara seeks nothing’. Of course vichāra is not seeking anything new or other than ourself, but since we now appear to lack perfectly clear self-knowledge, it is the practice of seeking that clarity, which is always our true nature. In other words, vichāra is simply seeking to know ‘who am I?’ by keenly ‘looking at’ or scrutinising our fundamental consciousness ‘I am’.

When John Sherman objects that ‘the vichara seeks nothing’, he is taking the verb ‘seeks’ too literally, and is failing to understand the intended meaning that lies behind it in this context. The literal meaning of vichāra is ‘investigation’, ‘examination’, ‘scrutiny’, ‘discernment’ or ‘ascertainment’, and like any other form of investigation, ātma-vichāra or self-investigation is a search for true knowledge about that which we are investigating.

Moreover, when he says that ‘The possibility of looking at you, of course, happens in time’, it is clear that he does not truly know what the state of ‘looking at you’ — that is, the state of pure non-dual self-attentiveness or self-consciousness — really is, because it is not possible to experience that state in time. Time is an illusion created and experienced only by our mind, so as long as we experience time we are still mistaking ourself to be this mind, and hence we cannot be experiencing the true clarity of self-consciousness.

The experience of absolutely clear self-consciousness dissolves and devours the illusion of time, just as the rising sun dissolves and devours the early morning mist.  Time is a constant flow or movement from past to future, never actually stopping even for a moment in the present, and this unceasing movement of time obscures the ever motionless and unchanging nature of true self-consciousness. Therefore, when we experience time, our natural clarity of self-consciousness is obscured, and when we experience our natural clarity of self-consciousness, time ceases to exist.

Therefore pure self-consciousness can only be experienced in the precise present moment, which is truly not a moment in time (as I explain in chapter 7 of Happiness and the Art of Being), but is the eternal, unchanging, motionless and therefore timeless presence of our own essential being, ‘I am’. That is, the precise present moment is the timeless state of being that lies at the heart of our illusion of time, and of everything else that we experience. It is therefore the only doorway through which we can pass beyond the illusion of time into our true state of timeless being.

It appears that John Sherman is also confused when he talks of ‘the appearance of consciousness’ or ‘the arising of consciousness’ in passages such as ‘... The purpose of all creation flows from the evolutionary nature of the appearance of consciousness ...’, ‘... the evolutionary unfolding of creation, the arising of consciousness, and the arising of self-consciousness within consciousness ...’ and ‘... Timelessness and no-thought are that from which consciousness has arisen ...’. In this confusion about the word ‘consciousness’ and about the nature of that which this word truly denotes, he appears to be influenced by some of the English books that supposedly record the teachings of Nisargadatta, whom he refers to elsewhere in this transcript. (However, though some books record Nisargadatta talking about consciousness as if it had an arising, origin or appearance, I do not know what he actually said in his native Marathi, or what word he used that has been translated as ‘consciousness’.)

True consciousness (which is our pure adjunct-free self-consciousness, ‘I am’) is the eternal reality, and hence it never appears or arises. The consciousness that seems to ‘appear’ or ‘arise’ is not true consciousness, but is only the false object-knowing form of consciousness that we call our ‘mind’. Though true consciousness is the sole reality underlying the false appearance of our mind, there is a very important distinction between it and our mind (like the distinction between the underlying rope and the false snake that it appears to be), so it is confusing to use the term ‘consciousness’ when we mean ‘mind’, unless it is clear from the context that we are using this term only in that limited sense.

When John Sherman talks about consciousness ‘appearing’ or ‘arising’, he is clearly implying that consciousness is not the absolute reality, but according to Sri Ramana consciousness is the absolute reality, and is therefore eternal and unchanging, which means that it never appears or disappears — never arises or subsides.

With regard to ‘looking at yourself’, John Sherman says:
... First, prior to anything else, look at you. Just look at you. Not your true self, not beingness, not timelessness, no-thought or no-mind, not emptiness, not clarity, not freedom, not liberation, not God, not any of that. Just look at you, the ordinary, the everyday you that is at the bottom of the whole show. You are at the bottom of all of it, really. And you are here, you are never absent. You are the most ordinary thing in all creation. You are never absent, you never change, you are untouched, you are unmoved, you are unhelped and unhurt; you are as you have always been, and you are absolutely, forever accessible to yourself. ...
His instruction ‘look at you’ is correct, because ātma-vichāra is just the practice of being attentive to and therefore clearly conscious of our essential self, ‘I am’. He is also correct in saying ‘Just look at you, the ordinary, the everyday you’, provided that what he means by ‘the ordinary, the everyday you’ is only our mind (that is, not the countless thoughts that are constantly arising in our mind, but only the thinking mind itself), because when we look carefully at the very root or essence of our mind, which is our thinking thought ‘I’, what we are actually looking at is only our real self, which underlies the false appearance of this thinking ‘I’, just as when we look carefully at the false snake, what we are actually looking at is only the real rope that underlies its false appearance.

However, he confuses the whole practice when he says, ‘Just look at you. Not your true self, not beingness, not timelessness ...’. When we look at ourself — that is, at our essential consciousness ‘I’ — what we are really looking at is not anything other than our true self, our timeless being (even though our true self now appears to us to be this false thinking ‘I’). We cannot look at ourself correctly without looking at our true self, ‘I am’, because our true self alone is that which now appears to be our false self.

What does John Sherman think he is asking us to look at when he says, ‘Just look at you. Not your true self ...’? How can we look at ourself without actually looking at our true self? Even if we imagine that we are only looking at ‘the ordinary, the everyday you’, we are actually looking only at our true self, just as we would actually be looking only at the rope even when we imagine that we are only looking at a snake.

Moreover, why should we ‘look at ourself’ if our aim is not to see our true self? We look at our false self only to see what we really are, just as we would look carefully at the imaginary snake only to see what it really is.

If he had understood what it really means to ‘look at ourself’, he would not say ‘Not your true self’, but would clarify that when we look at ourself, we are truly looking at our real self, even though we now imagine ourself to be this false thinking consciousness called ‘mind’.

Unfortunately there are many people nowadays who superficially read one or two books on the teachings of Sri Ramana and, imagining that they have understood them correctly, begin to teach others with little or no reference to his original written teachings. As a result there are many so-called ‘teachings’ available in books and on the internet that superficially appear to be the same as the teachings of Sri Ramana, but which actually lack the true clarity that is the hallmark of his real teachings.

32 comments:

baskar said...

I think these are Sherman's words:

" The actuality of the vichara seeks nothing. Seeking implies some expectation or hope of getting something. Nothing is to be gotten here, nothing needs to be sought, and no seeking needs to be ended."

There was a comment to the previous post-

"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."

If what Sherman says is correct, then the comment made by Anonymous follows.

Such reductionist approaches could be intellectually consistent and satisfying, but are of little use.

who said...

"First, prior to anything else, look at you. Just look at you. Not your true self, not beingness, not timelessness, no-thought or no-mind, not emptiness, not clarity, not freedom, not liberation, not God, not any of that. Just look at you, the ordinary, the everyday you that is at the bottom of the whole show. You are at the bottom of all of it, really. And you are here, you are never absent. You are the most ordinary thing in all creation. You are never absent, you never change, you are untouched, you are unmoved, you are unhelped and unhurt; you are as you have always been, and you are absolutely, forever accessible to yourself. ..." Apropos the above comment of Sherman, I am of the opinion that what he means is only the mindfulness of the Buddhism, which demands being aware of the relative contents of consciousness without interpreting them, a method suggested by J.Krishnamurti also, which is however different from the self-consciousness, " I am," of Bhaghavan. But mindfulness or choiceless awareness is a good approach, I feel.

Losing M. Mind said...

"The actuality of the vichara seeks nothing. Seeking implies some expectation or hope of getting something. Nothing is to be gotten here, nothing needs to be sought, and no seeking needs to be ended."

As an ajnani, I believe this to be incorrect. Inquiry is seeking the Self, even though the Self is not different from us, or seperate from us, we have the illusion that it is, that happiness is "out there", far away. So now, there is a seeking inward, instead of outward, for our real nature, the Self. Within, is not the direction inward, or within the body. It is within Consciousness. Something big is to be gotten there, the effulgent bliss of the Self without a veil, the unlimited Consciousness, immortality, formlessness. Yeah, as Ramana said, it's not the creation of anything new, but since our attention is always outward, it's the effortful dissolution of that tendency, I think.

"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."

The classic, "don't do", wrong approach, bad idea, don't follow, example.(lol)
This seems like the sure way, to have a zillion more births, and much more suffering and pleasures and pains. Since without the effort to Realize the Self, really means the allowance, the unfettered tendencies running rampant, with no investigation, or inquiry. Since the boons of practicing Inquiry, i.e. unveiled Bliss are immediately apparent even to an ajnani such as myself, it is clear that there is no reason not to inquire, not to attempt the dissolution of egoity. It's immediately apparent in the love and happiness that shines, when the individual with the problems is gotten out of the way, dissolved. As long as their is that suffering, it's not going to go away on it's own, as long as I believe in my own imaginings. It rests upon my own shoulders so to speak to dissolve my own self-conjured imagination, and tendencies. Sincerity, and earnestness are clearly the signs of grace, because they are the awareness that happiness doesn't lie out there. Nothing to do, would seem like an excuse, to do nothing because it's easier. But is it easier? I think it's easier to be in Bliss, to be myself, the Self.

baskar said...

I am typing this from the print edition of Mountain Path, Aradhana 2004 issue.

I quote from an article by David Frawley, "Misconceptions about Advaita"

He writes:

"Advaita, which refers to the state of non-duality of the Self and God, can easily lend itself to all sorts of misconceptions. Indeed one can argue that since the Advaitic state transcends all thought and all dualities, all conceptions about it are ultimately misconceptions!"

"The Advaitic path is also rooted in a powerful and simple logic which is not difficult to learn. "You are That", "The Self is Everything", "All is One", and so on....We can answer all questions with 'Who is asking the question?', when it may be no more than a verbal exercise."

___________________________

It is in this context that I look at this comment: ""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," and find there is some truth in this, which is that we can get automatically enlightened only if we simply don't give a **** about not only this enlightenment stuff, but everything else.
Such indifference, Vairagya, is fruitful.

Losing M. Mind said...

"It is in this context that I look at this comment: ""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," and find there is some truth in this, which is that we can get automatically enlightened only if we simply don't give a **** about not only this enlightenment stuff, but everything else.
Such indifference, Vairagya, is fruitful."

Not giving a ****, in my experience, when I've done it, or observed it in others, is still a mental mode, one adorns oneself with, it is still based on an identity, which is still rooted in the I-thought, the ego, being an individual. I suppose if not giving a **** meant, Being-Consciousness Bliss was our experience, and not just theoretical, so that there is no-one, or nothing that is non-self. And the problems, postures, attitudes, longings, fears, laziness, hatreds, and uncaring-ness were seen to be totally unreal in the Reality of the Self, the perfect Bliss, and perfect Love, samadhi-absorption, individual-less, nondifferentiated Self, the imaginings of suffering and the mind that was experiencing them permenantly dissolved. Yeah. That's the kind of not giving a **** that I find worth striving for, contemplating, experiencing, developing the certitude that it is the Truth. The suffering kind of not giving a **** that involves living in an imagined "world", and not knowing what love is, and so not giving a **** about others, that would be profoundly undesirable, and from what I've been told, and what I've read from those who Know, all of this, all of that suffering is unreal. I believe them.

This seems to be a similar example, that was stated either seriously or in jest, couldn't tell, to my thinking that non-doership could be realized through laziness. Or that my difficulties functioning institutionally, could be remedied by "dropping out", and that had something in common with not being the doer of actions, when it means precisely the opposite. The natural state is striving, "those who strive are liberated", Adi Shankara. The only reason I wanted to drop out, was because of my fears, my fears of disapproval, fears of not measuring up. The apropo. question in light of Ramana Maharshi's teachings is "who is that?"

In a similar way, not giving a shit, could easily be misconstrued to be equivalent to dispassion, vairagya. When that is precisely the opposite. The ego is the one who has preferences. gives a shit about something, or someone, and doesn't give a shit about something else. Prizes friends and relatives over homeless people on the street. vairagya is the perfect, Bliss, all-encompassing Love of the Self, there is no one and nothing excluded from it's all embracing love. Who is the one who doesn't give a shit? Are they real? This is what I ask myself.

baskar said...

Thanks Losing M. Mind for this comment, I should have been more clear;

Vairagya is generally translated as dispassion. It goes with Viveka, discrimination.

"Not giving a ****" in ordinary terms might be understood to mean that you are dropping out of everything, you just sit lazy. There is nothing wrong in this understanding, but there could be another kind of not giving a ****.

When in Gita we read that we should work without having expectations about its fruits, it could also mean don't give a **** for it.

Whether we care for it or not, we cannot resist the impulse towards activity. Even if I wanted to, I cannot be lazy. May be I can stop going to work, stop reading, stop talking- but I can't stop the activity of my mind.

But if I am really dispassionate about it, I can do anything, I can reign in the midst of chaos without giving a **** about it, like King Janaka.

I have a story about this:

"‘King Janaka still worked as a king after enlightenment happened. He did all his kingly duties, including the pleasures and the entertainment that came with his role. Once a guru had a disciple with a great deal of understanding, but who put a great deal of importance in asceticism. The guru sent the disciple to King Janaka. The disciple arrived at King Janaka's court in the evening and he found the king enjoying his usual entertainment. There was a feast going on, girls dancing, and everything that was expected of a king. So this disciple said, ‘Why has my guru sent me here? This is just entertainment. King Janaka is enjoying all this just like a rich man. ‘King Janaka said to him, ‘Go and rest for the night. In the morning at six o'clock I'll pick you up and we'll go for a walk in the garden and talk about things which your guru has asked you to discuss with me. So the next morning King Janaka picked up this disciple. As they started walking the disciple noticed a big fire in the quarters where he had spent the night. He said to the king, ‘Your Majesty, there's a fire there.’ The king said, ‘Yes, yes, yes. Let's go on and talk. They go a little further and the disciple says again, ‘There is a fire there!’ And the king says, ‘Yes, yes. Let's talk.’ The disciple takes a few more steps and then he couldn't wait any longer. So he said, ‘Your majesty, you may have many clothes, but my only other loincloth is in there, hanging on a string and drying.’"

This is what I meant by not giving a ****. You don't drop out- king or beggar, who cares? You just go on doing what you are destined to do, but you don't really worry about what you are doing, what its results will be etc.

It may be noted that Bhagavan often quoted Janaka to point out that activity is no hindrance to self-realisation.

I may be wrong in this, if so, please feel free to correct me.

Regards,

Losing M. Mind said...

Well put Baskar, nothing to add

Losing M. Mind said...

Actually, one thing to add, it seems like that comes naturally, the more I experience Bliss, and it's a non-circumstance dependent Bliss, and it's helpd along, if I can accomplish the additional step, of seeing that there is no individual, and that all the mental modes are completely and utterly false. (I still have to attentively inquire) Since the reality I was attributing to the world, has been almost entirely mental in character, I'm freed up from the clenched-nature of being an individual (fearing it's own creations). I would then assume, that the wonderous free-spiritedness of King Janaka, naturally flows from that Bliss, or the bliss-laden archival footage of Ramana in his bliss-laden Arunachala surroundings. Not giving a **** then seems to mean, be another way of saying, that there is no belief in the reality of problems, whatever they are. I was watching Byron Katie, and even wars, and bombs, she so gracefully discounted that the suffering, terror, was anything other then mental.(Something someone only experientially established could really do) Cancer (she was for it, because if it exists, it's good) Not giving a **** seems a bit of an awkward way to put it. Because it's that the problems do not even exist, even death is unreal. Only the Bliss, Being and expansive Consciousness is true. There isn't anything to give a **** about, or not give a **** about, inquiring for the direct experience of Jnana.

Losing M. Mind said...

Besides Jnana, that is worth caring about, drinking as much of, at as high, and as repetitive of dosage as possible. the analogy that just popped into my head, is being like a moth drawn to the light. Maybe that's the perfect analogy because the moth is killed, in the same way that the individual dissapears in the Self. (my ajnani analogies just are not as good, the flaw being, is it's more of a blissful merger, in which I realize I, the seperate I, had no seperate existence, from joy) The bliss of losing our individuality. The sadhana, the attempt at Self-inquiry, is like the moth flying toward the light, but then the light does the work to do in the moth, and then there is just light, and no moth (lol) The light, is the Self, Brahman, God, or the Jnani. Since the Jnani, is only the light, and not the moth, the illusion of moth-hood having gone. Correspondence, contact with a Jnani, is again, flying toward the light. Reading spiritual texts like the Ribhu Gita, and becoming absorbed in what they are saying. Reading Talks with Maharshi, and being astounded at the brilliance, when I read that for the first time, I was blown away. Caring about Self-inquiry, caring about Jnana, and becoming more established in it, is in a sense arleady turning inward toward the Self, the source of joy. And all the thing sI used to care about, seem so small and insignificant. Why wouldn't I inquire into the Self, what purpose does life have, if I'm not happy living it. Again, the necklace, the tenth man, and then more and more my face is lit up to be like those photos of Muruganar. (hopefully). My teacher, gave me great advise, I'll share it, because it seems to be working like magic, in his last e-mail. "One should not remain with thoughts or fight them". Doing that, I realize it is inquiry, because it's a disidentification from the reality of thoughts, and then Reality will do the rest. Fighting thoughts, or going down a thought tangent, is a belief that what thoughts are saying has any reality to it. Immediately, so much of the reality, the suffering reality, the solid reality, just vanishes, and effulgent Bliss takes over. I was thinking about why do sages advise Self-inquiry, it's to get even your own effort I suppose turned toward the light, so that the individual is questioning his own individual existence, Who am I? And then the grace of the Guru, the Jnani is given all the more opportunity to act, and completely dissolve the individual, that grace is not inside or outside, that grace is what is. Byron Katie was saying, "Unconditional Love is a questioned mind", which accords perfectly with Ramana's teachings.
Perfect.

baskar said...

Just one more thing:

We read often that Bhagavan says that the obstacle to liberation is the thought that we are in bondage.

From this I don't think we can conclude that those who don't generate the thought that they are in bondage are free.

That would be ridiculous.

There has to be some sort of insight, some sort of experience of the spiritual reality, some direct knowledge of our inner self. If that happens, then Bhagavan's teachings apply.

Because someone who knows bliss, has some non-dual experience is entitled to dismiss the thought that he is in bondage, and get back to the business of abiding in the Self, as the Self.

For others, people like me, the application of Bhagavan's instruction that 'the thought that I am in bondage is the obstacle to freedom,' would only make it worse that what it is.
___________________________________


And of course, the statement "...problems do not even exist, even death is unreal. Only the Bliss, Being and expansive Consciousness is true." cannot be faulted with, and also, "There isn't anything to give a **** about, or not give a **** about..., but I think we should make sure we are doing Vichara or otherwise, if these are empty words, they might come back to haunt us. Because that attitude is suitable only for people who are serious about getting back to the source, serious about understanding their true nature, people who feel love and compassion and are not self-centred, people who don't choose what they want to have.

When there is real surrender, which is in truth, real involvement in the pursuit of Happiness/ Being- then we won't really give a **** about anything- and it won't matter one way or the other.

Wish you well.

Regards,

baskar said...

Re: "The bliss of losing our individuality. The sadhana, the attempt at Self-inquiry, is like the moth flying toward the light, but then the light does the work to do in the moth, and then there is just light, and no moth (lol) The light, is the Self, Brahman, God, or the Jnani. Since the Jnani, is only the light, and not the moth, the illusion of moth-hood having gone. Correspondence, contact with a Jnani, is again, flying toward the light."

I am reminded of these two verses of Arunachala Aksharamana malai:

102. Once I thought of you and your grace fell on me, you imprisoned me, tying me up and eating me out like a spider, Arunachala!

And, the previous verse,

101. I happened to think of Arunai, and got caught in your glance- would the net of your grace ever miss, Arunachala!

And then there is the famous assurance of Bhagavan:

"Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru's gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. "

(Who am I?/ Naan Yaar?)

Losing M. Mind said...

lately inquiry has taken on a bunch of different forms. watching Byron Katie, it's made sense in light of all the other ways the teachings are expressed. When thoughts arise, any thoughts, but particularly negative thoughts, fearful, sad, longing, etc., "Is this true?" No, it's a thought. disbelieving thoughts seems to go along way. As long as thoughts are believed they can't really be repressed. also disbelieving thoughts includes evidently, disbelieving the person having the thought, because the thought, is a thinker about something. Who am I? Is this true? deep questions like that, that dissolve imagination, really are it seems inquiry. there have been temporary states of immense egoic quietude. when I get really deep, there is an intense sense of bliss, and for me, waves sweeping over me, peaceful waves. thoughts about the world, and other people, it's pretty clear that the mind doesn't really know anything about the world. When the mind stops believing in it's beliefs about the world, other people is there a world apart from those beliefs, are there other people apart from thoughts about them, that is where all the verses of 40 verses start to make a whole lot of sense. So far, there is for me still an appearance of the world, and I couldn't tell you if I've experienced the Self in all it's glory, or if I could classify a certain state as samadhi. Except there is more and more an awareness, that in that state, no harm can come and that all harm, sorrow, is the mind, period. when I really lose sight of inquiry and am back on the attachment level, Lakshmana swami might call it the "sticky mind". I immediately set about getting off the attachment level, to get off of suffering. There is a strong feeling, that inquiry rather then external action is the solution to the problems, that Grace cures all, solves all.

Alexander said...

Found this post a little late.

You guys are welcome to slice up every word and debate the brief outtakes off the site. And I see you wasted no time ;) But John Sherman's strength is bringing the message a little closer and a little simpler to the people through plain language.

A little less intellectualizing and a little more practice.

I listened to a lot of Advaita-Speak telling me to do nothing. Nothing is to be done. You already are that which is. You are eternity. Eternal conciousness. And so on. John was my first exposure to the message that there is actually something that can be done.

His words may be a little different to Ramana's, but I think you'll find that the central message is identical.

Youtube him - you'll see. Vid called "The Work".

Anonymous said...

Hi Alexander, what you have been listening to is neo advaita; nothing to be done etc. Both Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta
said effort was needed and earnestness.

Anonymous said...

This post is very funny..You have not freed yourselves of anything to take such polarizing views...It's in the "seeing" and it might take "time" for some.But pointing to the timeless Truth within,is what all the sages have "pointed" back too.Drop your concepts and just look..its the same message my friends!Tell me is IS the Atlantic ocean not just as salty as the Indian ocean? Please...hahahahahahaha...Peace

ray brooks said...

Thank you for pointing in the direction of John Sherman. I had never heard of him.
blessings

Anonymous said...

We all have people in our lives who are struggling and, though you probably can't solve all their problems for them, you can make their transit through the day, the hour, just a bit rosier.



By making that phone call, stopping to chat, following up with a person you know is up against it at the moment, you're also making the world a better place - pure and simple.



Another way to cultivate this instinct is to be in a constant state of surrender.



"You don't have to believe in a higher power, you just have to picture yourself as transparent to ANY power (higher or inner or whatever you want to call it) and simply ask (out loud if possible) 'What do you want me to do next?'"



"If you always ask, 'What you do want me to do next?' and you ask it with sincerity and without trying to control the answer, the answer will always come.

Anonymous said...

"If I allow you to
interpret
Ramana's words
for me,
who will be found
to interpret
Ramana's smile?"

Bill

Anonymous said...

The Hindu states that girivalum on the inner path in Tiruvannamalai will be banned because of previous forest fires. Will this be enforcable? I think not.

Anonymous said...



In an increasingly depersonalised world of faceless internet forums and forms and unloved factories churning out unloved and unwanted plastic, it seems to me that the last thing we need is an ‘I am not a person and neither are you’ philosophy pretending to be the absolute truth yet devoid of basic human compassion; a philosophy that was originally imported from India and then totally misunderstood, warped, distorted and even abused by the western mind desperately trying to nourish its own already-depersonalised and faceless conditioning.

Since when did spirituality, with all its beautiful and transformative potential, become about simply believing that you’re ‘not a person’
JF

Bill Callahan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Callahan said...
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Zubin said...

I live near where John Sherman gives his talks and have gone to a couple. When he teaches or writes there may be a discrepancy between his words and Ramana's, and he may make it unnecessarily complicated, but when he describes his practice it is thankfully just self-enquiry.

He essentially says, once you've looked at yourself (I AM) once, that is all you need to start. Beyond that it is just a matter of training the mind to spend more and more time aware of I AM, by returning to it over and over.

Sherman, and many other western Advaita teachers, also say that there is value in looking at the identity-feeling (I AM THIS vs I AM), and I have found that exercise useful too.

By trying to hold on to the identification, turning it into an object, there seems to be a release (in the moment it dissolves, i.e. the moment you realize the snake is a rope) with the same intensity that you were trying to hold on to it.

Seeing the I-thought as false, over and over again every time you look at it, seems to help increase the desire to find out what you really are.

Anonymous said...

Many years I have tried to resolve the I Am, Self abiding etc... and all the words used to explain the "practice". It was for along time a mind exercice trying to locate, zoom to, reach this "I" that I was supposed to "abide".

Putting a lot of concentration energy, having headache and lots of frustration. Until I understood Annamalai Swamy..."When I say "Meditate on the Self" I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it." Or Ramana Do you have two Self, one looking for another. (not sure of the precice wording, from memory).

Thus it is not anything else but the everyday Self, "I".

Although necessary for a time, I think too much thinking about Vichara has to be gotten rid of, it is only the mind carrying our attention in numerous intellectual areas and consequently away from Vichara, The attention has to be directed on the "I", self abidence.

Anamalai: " Here and now you are already the Self" There is nothing to attain, nothing new to get...only the attention on the I. Anything else just keeps our attention outward, away from the Self.

My very humble comprehension, nothing else.

jacques franck said...

Here is the full passage. But I think it is a little in opposite with that Bhagavan said in his own writing

Q: Can this happen at any time?
AS: Here and now you are already the Self. You don't need time to realise the Self, all you need is correct understanding. Each moment you identify yourself with the body and the mind, you are going in the direction of ego and misery. The moment you give up that identification, you are moving towards your real Self, towards happiness.

Q: We are accustomed to making distinctions between things. You say 'Meditate that you are the Self'. If I try to generate this feeling 'I am the Self' it will not be the real thing. It will just be another idea in the mind. Can thinking about this idea really help me?
AS: When I say, 'Meditate on the Self' I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it. Be aware of what remains when thoughts stop. Be aware of the consciousness that is the origin of all your thoughts. Be that consciousness. Feel that that is what you really are.

If you do this you are meditating on the Self. But if you cannot stabilise in that consciousness because your vāsanās are too strong and too active, it is beneficial to hold onto the thought 'I am the Self; I am everything'. If you meditate in this way you will not be cooperating with the vāsanās that are blocking your Self-awareness. If you don't cooperate with your vāsanās, sooner or later they are bound to leave you.
If this method doesn't appeal to you, then just watch the mind with full attention. Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other and watch how this ghost called mind catches hold of all your thoughts and says 'This is my thought'. Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless or unnecessary things or ideas which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us a knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts. Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts.

Annamalai swami : living by the words of Bhagavan.

Sanjay Lohia said...

jacques franck, yes, the extract from the book (as reproduced by you), Living by the words of Bhagvan by Annamalai Swami, doesn’t confirm with Bhagavan’s teachings. I am not sure how accurately these are recorded. I have no problems with what he says in the first three paragraphs, but the fourth paragraph: ‘If this method doesn’t appeal you . . . unaffected by transient thoughts’, does not at all corroborate with Bhagavan’s teachings.

For example, he says, ‘Watch the mind wandering here and there . . . Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts’. If Annamalai Swami really said this, it is a gross distortion of Bhagavan’s teachings. We will certainly not ‘remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts’, by watching our thoughts.

By watching or attending to our thoughts, we do not become detached from them, but on the contrary become attached to them. Thoughts are maya, meaning ‘what is not’, whereas we are Ulladu, meaning ‘what is’. How can we experience ‘what really is’, by attending to ‘what is not’? It is simply illogical, and incompatible with Bhagavan’s teachings.

jacques franck said...

I don't know if Annamalai Swami speaks english but from the introduction here an extract.

Although Annamalai Swami likes to lead a reclusive life, he generally welcomes visitors who want to talk about Bhagavan and his teachings. For about nine months in 1986 an American sannyasin called Satya recorded and transcribed many of his conversations. This final chapter contains edited highlights of the exchanges that took place during this period. The questioners were all foreigners and most of them had come to Annamalai Swami for advice on how to meditate properly. Annamalai Swami responded by giving them an elegant and forceful summary of Bhagavan's teachings on spiritual practice.

Each of the numbered talks that follows contains the teachings that were given on a particular day during this period. I have not been able to identify the questioners, but I should point out that on several days more than one person was asking questions. This accounts for some of the abrupt changes of subject matter and some of the apparent contradictions in the attitudes, practices and experiences of the questioners.

Jacques Franck

Sanjay Lohia said...

Jacques, to the best of my knowledge, Annamalai Swami did not converse with other devotees in English. I think he spoke only in Tamil. Therefore, there is bound to be inaccuracies in the recording of his words, as is the case with all recordings.

However, I was just now trying to read, randomly and from different places, his other book Annamalai Swami Final Talks edited by David Godman. Obviously he was a good devotee of Bhagavan, and a sincere sadhaka. He had a wealth of knowledge about Bhagavan’s life and teachings. At places, he conveys Bhagavan’s teachings in its pure form, but at other places these are confusing, and at some places even misrepresented. It could be a faulty recording, but we have no means to verify this.

Therefore, according to me, the words of Sri Murugunar, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Michael James are indispensable, if we want undistorted expansion of Bhagavan’s true teachings. Other writers or even speakers, who give talks, come nowhere near the writings of these three.

Of course, as Michael has been pointing out to us, Bhagavan’s direct words in Nan Yar?, Upadesa Undiyar and Ulladu Narpadu contain his teachings in a most clear and undiluted form. As Michael suggests, these three should be read and reread, and continuously reflected upon, until we understand the principles laid down in these works as clearly as possible.

jacques franck said...

Sanjay, I completely agree with you

"Therefore, according to me, the words of Sri Murugunar, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Michael James are indispensable, if we want undistorted expansion of Bhagavan’s true teachings. Other writers or even speakers, who give talks, come nowhere near the writings of these three... "

:)

Anonymous said...

I also agree on the indispensable words of Sri Murugunar, Sadhu Om and Michael. In fact I don't know how I could have understood the heart of the teaching. For one thing the different answers that Bhagavan gave to disciples. He never argued with anyone and his answers reflected this in respect to the questionner. This at first doesn't make sense and unless you read the above mentionned, it is very difficult to sort things out.

The most important for me was Sri Sadhu Om's book often mentionned by Sri Machael James.

The conclusion that I was making is that the heart of Bhagavan's teaching is: "BE"

Not this or that, not trying to attain a state.

Sri Annamalai also mentionned in the same book: "The Guru may tell his disciples a thousand times, "You are the Self, you are not what you imagine to be," but none of them ever believes him. They all keep asking the Guru for methods and routes to reach the place where they already are."

Since I am the Self, I don't need to reach It. I only have to get rid of the cloud hiding the Self. This is self-abiding, Vichara.

For myself only...I noticed that it was very pleasant to discuss, read, talk about the teaching...in fact too much. All of that was for myself taking a lot of my attention outward, pleasant to the mind. I realised why some go into caves and as Bhagavan said the best thing to do is Mouna - Silence.

Love to you all!

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, I agree when you say: 'heart of Bhagavan's teaching is: BE'. I think ‘be’ can be translated as iru in Tamil. Please correct me if I am wrong. ‘Be’ or iru is the simplest and the briefest teaching possible, but nothing can be a more profound than this teaching. We should try to ‘be’ what we really are. It seems paradoxical, but this is the correct practice of self-attentiveness.

Yes, the best thing is to remain silent, but for most of us it does not seem possible now (at least, all the time), hence the second best option is to read and reflect on Bhagavan’s teachings.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that you understood that my comments weren't critics, but only my point of view. No judgements.

Yes silence all of the time would necessitate a good cave !!!!

IRU: This is a quote fron David Godman:
My own feeling is that when Papaji or Ramana says 'Summa iru' they are not asking you to do anything at all. They are issuing an order directly to your mind, and if the mind is receptive, it stops being busy. This order cuts out the middle man, the person who wants to 'do' something to 'attain' some state.

Papaji himself occasionally wondered out loud on why some people got the experience he was pointing to, while others didn't. I heard him say that some people who seem to be ready don't get it, while those who looked to him to be ill-equipped would occasionally startle him by suddenly having direct glimpses of the Self.

The Upanishad says, 'The Atman chooses whom it will'. Sometimes even Gurus are surprised by the Atman's choice.

Sometimes Papaji attributed it to attentive listening to the Guru. He said that if you allow the words of the Guru to go directly into your Heart, without thinking about them or analysing them, they will manifest there as a direct experience. And who can do that, or allow it to happen? I don't know. Sometimes it seems to be a bit of a lottery."

There are many mention to have the courage to accept the words of the Guru. Bhagavan quote: "A strong conviction is necessary that I am the Self, trancending the mind and the phenomena"

Because as I wrote above, from Sri Annamalai on the Guru saying that you are the Self but almost all the disciple ask about a method etc... Curious isn't it that they do not trust, believe the words of the Guru???

Sri Muruganar also said: "Unless THE THOUGHT the bliss of the Self has NOT BEEN experienced is completely destroyed, the experience of the Self is not revealed" This relate to conviction and faith in the Guru's words. Then why search for what is already there. Remember the story about the necklace?

The teaching is only to turn the attention inward on the Self. That's the greatest gift of Bhagavan to "us". From lack of attention the mind will sink into the heart and then the cloud, the veil, the ego will be destroyed.