Friday, 17 April 2009

Why to write about self?

A question that I am asked quite frequently is why I take so much trouble to write about the nature of self and the means by which we can know ourself as we really are, when all that we really need to do is just to be vigilantly self-attentive. For example, a friend wrote to me recently asking:

If we are Infinite Self (Being), without qualities and interests, wherefrom comes the urge or interest to engage in so much writing on the subject of the Self.

If the mind is a myth, is then also all your writing a myth? We can say yes, but this ultimate myth (concept) of Self will destroy all other myths and concepts.

Is then your desire to write so much on the subject of the Self, satisfying your spiritual need, or is a consequence of your compassion for deceived suffering souls?
The following is the reply that I wrote:

Yes, the mind is certainly a myth, māyā, a figment of our self-deceiving power of imagination. Therefore our whole mind-centred life is also just a myth, as is our writing or any other activity that we may do. In fact everything that this unreal mind experiences is a myth, except for its fundamental knowledge ‘I am’, which alone is real.

Why then should there be any urge to write about self and the means to know it as it really is?

The answer is that so long as we experience ourself as this mind, we experience it and everything known by it as real. So long as we are dreaming, the dream is real for us. Though we have understood intellectually that all this is unreal, our experience is still that it is real.

We can actually experience the truth that the mind and all it knows is unreal only when we wake up from this dream by knowing ourself as we really are, and to know ourself as we really are we must withdraw our attention from all thoughts — all objective knowledge, everything other than ‘I’ — and focus it entirely upon ourself.

To practise this successfully requires intense bhakti and vairāgya — love to know and to be our real self, and freedom from desire for anything else — and we can gain such intense bhakti and vairāgya only by persevering patiently in our practice of self-attentiveness.

Until our bhakti and vairāgya are sufficiently intense, we will repeatedly succumb to pramāda or self-negligence, slipping down from our natural state of vigilant self-attentiveness or clear self-consciousness and thereby experiencing this mind and its body-bound life as real. Since we are not yet able to remain free of pramāda constantly, we have to wean our mind gradually away from its infatuation with this body-bound life by doing everything that we can to draw it back to self.

In this struggle to overcome pramāda, our nididhyāsana or practice of self-attentiveness will be greatly aided by śravaṇa and manana — studying and reflecting upon the teachings of our guru, Sri Ramana. For me any writing that I do is a form of manana, and therefore I write in order to keep my mind dwelling upon the need to be constantly self-attentive.

In other words, I write primarily for my own spiritual benefit, but if in this dream life — in which other people seem to be as real as our mind, which alone knows them — there are people who feel it beneficial to read what I have written, I am happy to share my writings with them.

I suppose you could call it compassion, but it is just like the compassion that a group of terminally ill patients would feel for each other. We are all after all in the same boat, struggling to overcome the self-imposed delusion in which we each now find ourself.

22 comments:

ellengwhite said...

This teacher, "supposedly" Self-realized that i write to for guidance has really changed some of the tenets of what were just intellectual understandings for me of what the Self is, and Self-Realization is, and the nature of Self-inquiry. And the core thing I may have learned is that, fervor and devotion to these teachings is maybe the most important pre-requisite for realizing them. (i.e. The desire for Liberation) The Self isn't from what I gather, an intellectual absence of thought, some existential abyss, it is the source and wellspring, the nature of everything that in the manifest, objective "world" we consider good, is really an intuition of the Self, misplaced. Because we view ourselvse as a subject, and see everything good in objects to be attained, that we do not possess, forgetting the "tenth man", our selves, our real nature which is Being-Consciousness-Bliss, the True, Good, and Beautiful. We superimpose conditions on experiencing Bliss, define beauty. The individual is a particularization of Consciousness, which isn't limited. So Self-inquiry is getting rid of any and all of these self-definitions that make up the illusion of being a suffering individual. That's why, it seems to me, that devotional religion and Self-inquiry are really the same thing, and I think Ramana explicitly said this. Because in one case you are clearing away the notion of the person, so that only the divine remains (Supreme Bliss). And in the other case, we (you, are, me) are making yourself (ourselves)so small in comparison to the divine that only the divine remains. (i.e. Brahman, the Self, Siva, the Sad-Guru) I think what got me thinking of this, is because obviously, clearly, wanting to read about, talk about, discuss, the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, and Self-inquiry, is because we are excited by them, awe inspired by them. This excitement and awe, is NOT a manifestation of the ego, but an intuition of the Self, the divine, Brahman, Siva, Christ, Mary etc. Why do Gnanis talk so much, "enjoy" talking so much about the Self, Self-Realization, and Inquiry, because they realize it is the Supreme Bliss, and it's the only Truth, so what else is there to talk about? And every conversation, every thought pattern, every endeavor ultimately leads to Self-inquiry. Even science, investigating the origins of life (evolution, Cambrian explosion), origins of the universe (Big Bang), is also a tracing, and where does it lead, who is perceiving these forms? Who am I? And the Realized such as Ramana are so saavy, so eloquent about guiding a seeker directly to the Self-ward investigation. I guess my point is, talking about, discussing about, being excited about, even being thrilled by sudden, temporary states of egolessness is not the ego, is not in the wrong direction, is the RIGHT direction, because it leads to more faith, more conviction, more certitude that what Ramana is saying is absolutely true.

Matthias said...

there is illuminated writing....this is not only writings of sages or saints but also of poets...

these words are pointing directly to their own source....and sometimes I feel myself in the position to share my insights through such inspired words, and to expereince your insights through your inspired words.....

so what greater thing is there to talk about then the self?

I mean common....

Best Ramana Maharshi Book said...

You may claim Ramana Maharshi as your guru, but your teaching style reminds me even more of Nisargadatta Maharaj, in the way he talked specifically about "focusing on the sense-of-I" to the exclusion of all else.

Losing M. Mind said...

"Whose is the doubt? Who is it that wants a course of action? Find the doubter. If you hold the doubter, the doubts will disappear. Having lost the Self the thoughts afflict you; the world is seen, doubts arise, also anxiety for the future." Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi

Losing M. Mind said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TobKYgnIi5E

on the topic of differences between teachers, this Youtube, and all Youtubes of this "person" (definitely in quotes), reminds me of reading Talks with ramana Maharshi, in the sense of in essence cutting down the aspirants doubts with the sword of discrimination. Watching this, I feel I get a taste of watching the dialogues in Talks. How about some Eroica 2nd movement in the background
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drxcjTbDsts Open two Youtube windows, or feel free to.

Losing M. Mind said...

In such dialogues with a well-established Jnani, a thing occured to me, that the jnani being aware there is only the Self, is not having the egoic dialogue we normally attribute with "talking to eachother", of proving a point, or convincing the other person. The analogy that came to mind as maybe having some appropriateness perhaps, is that for instance Byron Katie, or Ramana Maharshi in Talks, or Nisargadatta maharaj, maybe Michael James has such anecdotes with Sadhu Om, are not talking as if there are other individuals, the other person talking, is them talking, they just finish the discrimination to the same awareness, essentially finish the thought, introverted back to the only Self, thus the blissed out reaction of the questioner whose Reality has become established within strongly, again. I always have to keep in mind, that the Reality of the Jnani, is not some quaint eccentric, novel Reality, it is what is Real, my egoic stories when they arise, my inner dialogue, my thought-determined perception of the world is totally unreal, who i think I am, when there is these personas, also totally unreal. the Jnani doesn't have these, is not basking in the fame that sometimes arises around their spiritual wisdom, anymore then I might bask at the color purple being displayed in Mother of Pearl, to use Ramana's vedantic analogy.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is certainly beneficial to other seekers because it provides an opportunity for the seekers to be in satsangha. As a seeker, sometimes I feel a tremendous loneliness. I feel the lack of contact with a spiritual father figure. This online satsangha mitigates that to a certain extent. Thank you.

Losing M. Mind said...

I have a question, that I really don't have an answer to, but just for curiosity, are ajnani's that are deep in practice (not me) qualified to be spiritual teachers? My guess would be no, but they certainly can share there insights, of course, why not? But to the degree there is some sense of being an individual, a mind, in a body, in a world, then we are just another person with opinions about something, intellectual knowledge, which cannot necessarily do so much to help someone Realize, or even become happier. Also, in response to anonymous, respectfully, as an unRealized ajnani, but dilligent practicer, it seems to me, that it is the earnest practice that is the cornerstone of deepening in Self-Knowledge, if the practice is earnest, and intense, if the desire to be free from the egoic limitations and suffering is strong, everything will work out. In my own case, my focus was first and foremost on this, and interestingly the teacher that I was first exposed to these teachings through, I ended up writing him (a year later), and that correspondence has taken me incredibly much deeper. But that is only because this person is the Self, and nothing else, or so it seems to my foggy glasses. Interestingly, the earnestness of practice, I think makes those glasses less foggy, and like Sri Ramana promised, the external guru woudl manifest, if the internal practice was intense enough. And of course much of my effort was well-meaning, but somewhat misplaced. The advise he gave to me, which I don't know if it is the most appropriate for everyone was that the dissolution of desire and fear would occur if the source of happiness was ascertained to be within. That joy is within, because that was a certainly veiled Truth. Anyway, my point being that just like Ramana promised, the Self does respond with Grace to effort, and that Grace eventually takes the form of a Jnani, since I'm not the doer of actions, ultimately, whether I realize it or not, it may be through me recognizing the Truth in a spiritual teacher, the peace I feel, and associating more and more, closer and closer, almost as a poetic metaphor for my clinging to my Self, in the external guise of the teacher.

Anonymous said...

Michael,
What do you think of this New York Times article titled 'Enlightenment therapy'?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/magazine/26zen-t.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&em

Why do so many so many seekers go astray? Do you think it's better to seek the 'joy of a man with a life of his own'? When I read stuff like this, I feel apprehensive about sadhana without the presence of an enlightened teacher because it seems easy to make a mess of your life without one.

baskar said...

I don't know to what extent i am correct in saying this, but it seems to me that the earnestness of the individual is more important than the quality and attainments of the master.

Most famously there are the 24 gurus of Dattatreya : earth, air, sky or ether, water, fire, sun, moon, python, pigeons, sea, moth, bee, bull elephant, bear, deer, fish, osprey, a child, a maiden, a courtesan, a blacksmith, serpent, spider, and wasp.

Since the Guru is inside as well as outside, we will definitely find the master if we are sufficiently earnest enough.

But i think as long as i feel an i with a body and mind, i can share whatever i think and feel, but i should not assume the role of a teacher just because i feel clear about something.

Regards,

Losing M. Mind said...

"Why do so many so many seekers go astray? Do you think it's better to seek the 'joy of a man with a life of his own'? When I read stuff like this, I feel apprehensive about sadhana without the presence of an enlightened teacher because it seems easy to make a mess of your life without one."

In my own experience it is far more dangerous to not engage in spiritual practice (sadhana) then it is to engage in it. Because my mind (speaking for myself) could take me to the worsed places, both externally and internally. Ramana Maharshi's Who am I? and other writings is a good place to start. But it seems important to me, to come to it with an attitude of not knowing what inquiry is, not thinking I know, until I've Realized the Self, that way I'm not stuck on some bad habit, and calling it spiritual practice. Because ultimately spiritual practice if done right, should make our lives far better, and more joyful, in that I'm questioning the ways I cause my own suffering. And also, I was corrected, spiritual practice, Self-inquiry has nothing to do with self-neglect. self-neglect has not helped me efface my ego. Contrariwise, taking care of myself, earnestly, intensely, while inquiring, has helped immensely in effacing my ego. One thing the teacher I correspond with for help has pointed out, is that inquiry should start at the level of the mind (Who am I? or other writings by Ramana, and others are read, and then thought about), but that is a jumping off point, to transcending thought (not repressing thought.) Transcending thought, lately has through the advise of said teacher, taken on the form of leaving thought, nto fighting thought, leaving the level of thought, to the spacious, peaceful, joyous realm that is beyond the mind. As he put it, "One should neither remain with thoughts, or fight them" Also, inquiry for me has taken the form of dissolving personality notions when they appear to arise, because clearly they are imaginary. And I would say the most important thing that I've goten as far as advise, is seeking to know that the source of happiness is within, and not dependent on circumstances. I'm just putting things forward, because they are corrections to the ways, that for me, inquiry was not only NOT inquiry, but suppressive, like in the article of things like taking care of myself. So speaking of taking care of myself, I am an Asperger's diagnosee, despite difficulties with organization, dispelling the mind, the ego while working dilligently on school work, actually makes it much easier, because I'm not looking forward to a break, wishing for a vacation, or wanting to be in a different circumstance. I'm still not Realized, but this is the stairway to Realization, clearly. Because an Autism specialist advised me too, I dress as fashionably in the punk-ish counter-culture as possible, as part of taking care of myself. But more and mroe not because I'm expecting some reward for diong so, but purly for the act of self-care.

Losing M. Mind said...

And if nothing else works, you could write the same teacher I'm writing, for me he has been very helpful, and willing to answer my confusions. Sat@cruzio.com For what it's worth, in my opinion he's Enlightened.

Anonymous said...

"In my own experience it is far more dangerous to not engage in spiritual practice (sadhana) then it is to engage in it." Absolutely. I agree. Nobody knows when the dream is going to go awry and become a nightmare. It's better to get out of the dream and rest blissfully in the Self. What's the name of the enlightened teacher? The writings of the owner of this blog are good enough to clear most of my doubts. It's just that I'd be a lot more confident of my chances if I could meet with someone like Ramana or Papaji on a regular basis. They'd know how to tailor their advice to my needs and keep me out of trouble when, say, my kundalini awakens and I have no clue how to handle it.

Anonymous said...

Right, Anonymous : kundalini awakening, to become crazy … There are many fears which are the reason why we get stuck in practice. You know? I met someone who had met Krishnamurti, he talked to him about his fear of becoming mad if he decided to go on with the practice of observation and so on, and what did K. responded? Well, become mad then!

Regards,

A.A.

Losing M. Mind said...

I had that happen, my kundalini awakened when I was 22, and I almost went crazy, and almost became enlightened. But managed to fight my way back to a pseudo-sanity. I agree with Krishnamurti. That teacher I correspond with does for me, exactly what you mentioned, about Ramana and Papaji.

Losing M. Mind said...

The name of the teacher is Nome, he teaches in Santa Cruz, I've covered some of my experiences with him on my blog, and have put all of the dialogues I've had with him there as well. There are negative things some people have said about him, on the internet. You are free to believe them (lol), however, my experiences suggest to me, that this is a qualified spiritual teacher. His Realization of the Self story is covered in an autobiographical account called Timeless Presence which is mostly devotional to Ramana. My interactions with him, remind me alot of, even in e-mail exchange, contact with a Papaji or Ramana, and I've found his advise good. You are free to see if you agree with me. If you live in Santa Cruz, he does Satsang at Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT)

Losing M. Mind said...

I should add, that my reasons for writing Nome, were the same reasons, I had attempted inquiry intensely, constantly for a year, and wanted to take it deeper. I wanted contact with a Papaji-like, maharshi-like Sage. Ironically the person who introduced me to Self-inquiry took me to Society of Abidance in Truth, so a year later, after watching one of the few videos of him on Youtube, and still having a profound experience, I wrote him, and have corresponded with him ever since.

Anonymous said...

@ A.A
"Well, become mad then!" I know of cases where the person who had become mad after or during a kundalini awakening caused grievous injury to others around him. I don't want that to happen. Having said that, I will continue to try meditation and self-enquiry hoping that Ramana will take care.
@Scott (Losing M Mind)
Thanks for the email address of Nome.

Losing M. Mind said...

Ramana did say something about how Self-inquiry is far safer than kundalini for perhaps some of the reasons you are mentioning. I think with Self-inquiry, practicing the best of what was mentioned in Who am I? It would be hard to imagine that leading to some place worse then the one I was already in. Questioning thoughts always seems good, and if there is some hallucenatory freak out, questioning thoughts further. Lately I've been trying a little of the method mentioned by Byron Katie, for questioning thoughts. When an agitated thought occurs (one that causes fear, anger, despair, etc.), asking "Is it true?" Since it feels true to me, I usually respond yes. Then I sit with that, quietly, then "Can you absolutely know that it is true?" Certainty in the problem is starting to waver, sit with that, even deeper, more peaceful. Then, "How do I react when I think this thought?" Then, "How would I be if I dropped this thought?" Byron Katie advised not actually dropping the thought, but just posing the question, for the reason that attempting to drop the thought, will make the attachment stronger, and the thought will return more agitated since you tried to repress it. But just asking, "How would I be without it?" Braver, Kinder, Happier, more Loving, etc. Then, after all these questions, turning it around. An opposite statement, if the opposite were true. She said that all the other questions should be done first, and thoroughly, otherwise, the turn-around will seem harsh and brutal. I was noticing that, simple methods like this have the ability to awaken pure Jnana (Bliss), because our thinking that is causing us to suffer, to be bound, starts to not have the same seriousness, or power. So in the midst of a terrifying kundalini awakening, I would think these same methods would help stabilize it, since in my own experience, frightening, mad, hallucenatory states, are again caused by frightened thinking. So, then, the prudent thing would be to question the reality of the frightening thoughts. @anonymous, you are welcome.

Losing M. Mind said...

I've had all manner of things arise internal, and external since I started trying to practice Self-inquiry. The last few days, some angry states were experienced. I think the key is, as Michael James has said, to keep focus on the I. For me, correctly, or incorrectly, focusing on the I, is not focusing on the thought "I", or focusing on some location inside the body physically, or also it is not "riveting mental attention" as my teacher Nome pointed out, nor is it repressing thoughts, or dampening agitated states (I already did those things before attempting inquiry anyway). It's more and more become the focus of dispelling my own illusions, because what is there always, whether I dwell in those illusions or not, is the Self. Questioning thoughts, focusing on the source of happiness being already obtained, being my nature, same with peace, and love. That there is nothing to attain from the unreal dream of the world, and also consequently nothing that can be lost. As I believe Ramana pointed out, sometimes, and this has been my experience, the things that happen, internal and external, can become more and more dramatic, as if to say, look at me, I'm real, don't ignore me, want me, fear me. Because I'm holding my attention to the beauty that is inside, that I already possess, the storm internal and external can seem to rage, to get my attention away from the Self. The states internal can seem more and more agitated, the circumstances externally can seem more and more urgent. But the more I focus on the calm, quiet, peaceful, joyful happiness inside despite these apparent attention grabbers, the more I realize that this joy is what is real, and it isn't threatened by anything that seems to be happening. Even the dream starts to become pleasent, luck starts going my way, people with negative energy cannot affect me, someone can point a gun at me, and I'd smile. So I keep it up.

baskar said...

Great comment...

Thanks.

Ramprax said...

"I suppose you could call it compassion, but it is just like the compassion that a group of terminally ill patients would feel for each other."

I guess, we(our mind-egos) are all terminally ill waiting for Bhagavan to destroy it.