Thursday, 5 June 2014

Self-investigation, effort and sleep

In the final paragraph of a comment that he wrote on my previous article, Since we always experience ‘I’, we do not need to find ‘I’, but only need to experience it as it actually is, Wittgenstein wrote:
From point 4 above [Due to the opposing nature of consciousness and non-consciousness, laya and vichara (self attention) are mutually exclusive], it is clear that one can not be self attentive while in sleep. That being so, there is a statement [believed to be made by Bhagavan] in Mudaliar’s book [DDWB] that if self attention is maintained and one drifts into sleep, it would continue even in sleep, which is difficult to understand. Does this simply mean that one would sooner or later wake up with a reminder to be self attentive? Or is there something else meant [assuming Bhagavan really made this statement]?
As Wittgenstein says, we obviously cannot make any effort to be self-attentive while we are asleep, but if we try to be self-attentive now while we are awake we will eventually be able to experience sleep in this waking state, as Sri Ramana says in verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (in which he summarised what Sri Muruganar recorded him as having said in verses 957-8 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai):
நனவிற் சுழுத்தி நடையென்றுந் தன்னை
வினவு முசாவால் விளையும் — நனவிற்
கனவிற் சுழுத்தி கலந்தொளிருங் காறும்
அனவரத மவ்வுசா வாற்று.

naṉaviṯ cuṙutti naḍaiyeṉḏṟun taṉṉai
viṉavu musāvāl viḷaiyum — naṉaviṟ
kaṉaviṯ cuṙutti kalandoḷiruṅ gāṟum
aṉavarata mavvusā vāṯṟu

பதச்சேதம்: நனவில் சுழுத்தி நடை என்றும் தன்னை வினவும் உசாவால் விளையும். நனவில் கனவில் சுழுத்தி கலந்து ஒளிரும் காறும், அனவரதம் அவ் உசா ஆற்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): naṉavil suṙutti naḍai eṉḏṟum taṉṉai viṉavum usāvāl viḷaiyum. naṉavil kaṉavil suṙutti kalandu oḷirum kāṟum, aṉavaratam a-vv-usā āṯṟu.

அன்வயம்: என்றும் தன்னை வினவும் உசாவால் நனவில் சுழுத்தி நடை விளையும். நனவில் கனவில் சுழுத்தி கலந்து ஒளிரும் காறும், அனவரதம் அவ் உசா ஆற்று.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): eṉḏṟum taṉṉai viṉavum usāvāl naṉavil suṙutti naḍai viḷaiyum. naṉavil kaṉavil suṙutti kalandu oḷirum kāṟum, aṉavaratam a-vv-usā āṯṟu.

English translation: The state of sleep in waking will result by subtle investigation, which is always examining [or attending to] oneself. Until sleep shines blending in waking [and] in dream, incessantly perform that subtle investigation.
The state that Sri Ramana describes here as ‘sleep in waking’ is what is also called the state of jāgrat-suṣupti (waking-sleep or wakeful sleep), which is the state in which we are awake to (or aware of) only ourself and asleep to (or unaware of) everything else.

Regarding the idea you refer to in Devaraja Mudaliar’s book Day by Day with Bhagavan, I think I found it in the section dated 2-1-46 Afternoon (2002 edition, pp. 85-6), where it is recorded that Sri Ramana said:
Persist in the enquiry throughout your waking hours. That would be quite enough. If you keep on making the enquiry till you fall asleep, the enquiry will go on during sleep also. Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up.
I suspect that the third sentence here, ‘If you keep on making the enquiry till you fall asleep, the enquiry will go on during sleep also’, is probably an inaccurate (or at least not very clear) recording of what Bhagavan said, and that what he actually said was perhaps something similar to what he wrote in verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (which I quoted above). That is, if we continue investigating ‘I’ until we experience the state of ‘sleep in waking’, in that state our self-investigation (that is, clear self-attentiveness or self-awareness) will continue automatically and effortlessly. Therefore it is only after we slip down from this state of ‘sleep in waking’ into our normal waking state that we need to resume our effort to be self-attentive, which is why Bhagavan concluded by saying: ‘Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up’.


Wittgenstein said...


That statement from Mudaliar is therefore dubious. Jagrat-Sushupti occurs in other recorded conversations with Bhagavan. As you say, Bhagavan should have meant that here too. Jagrat-Sushupti is also mentioned in Sadhanai Saram and is well elaborated in The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One, as most of us know [although not explicitly by that name]. But I was not aware of the quoted verse from Upadesa Thanipakkal. Thanks for the clarification.

Wittgenstein said...

In sushupti there are no thoughts and in jagrat there are thoughts along with their awareness. Therefore, the state jagrat-sushupti can be taken to be a state of thought free awareness.

Now, if we look at your post on 31 May 2014, you clearly say that there are only two states with thought free awareness: mano laya and mano nasa. Of these, jagrat-sushupti cannot be counted as mano nasa, since Bhagavan says we should resume vichara when we come come out of jagrat-sushupti. Had it been mano nasa, there will not be anyone left to resume anything. On the other hand, jagrat-sushupti cannot be counted as mano laya, as there is awareness.

So, from the above, we may be forced to say that jagrat-sushupti is a stage of abhyasa. If that is so, being thought free awareness, it should be taken to mean a 180 degree inversion in self-attention, which should lead to immediate dissolution of mind in a split second. That also can not be, as again, Bhagavan asks us to resume vichara.

What exactly is jagrat-sushupti?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Revered Sir,
When Bhagavan said or supposedly said: 'the enquiry will go on during sleep also', could he meaning that our sleep in such cases will be more deep or of a different quality? In spiritual terminology could he be indicating that though in such sleep we our overpowered by avarana, and there is no individuality or possibility of any conscious effort but there will be more clarity of self-awareness or in other other words the avarana in such cases could be more tenuous or thin? Therefore when we wake up from such sleep we may have more inclination to resume our self-attentiveness with effort because our last thought before sleep determines our first thought after we wake up from sleep.
Thanking you and pranams,
Sanjay Lohia

Sanjay Lohia said...

Revered Sir,
My understanding of the term jagrat-sushupti is as follows.

Jagrat-shushupti like other similar terms like sphurana or mauna could mean both our path as well as our goal, and they, that is - our path and goal are non-different, as Bhagavan has stated in Guru Vachaka Kovai.

Such jagrat-sushupti could be relative, that is – when our ego is present to experience the clarity of self-awareness , it could be relative and this could be our path, whereas jagrat-shushupti could also be absolute, that is – when our ego is destroyed and when we experience absolute clarity of our non-dual, infinite, self-awareness, ‘I am’, it could be absolute, which could be our goal.
However please clarify this term accurately.
Thanking you and pranams

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, in answer to your second comment above, the exact meaning of any term is context-sensitive: that is, it can vary to a greater or lesser extent according to the particular context in which it is used. So for example, Bhagavan generally used the term sahaja samādhi to mean our final goal, the state of true self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna), but he also sometimes used it to describe the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), as he did for instance in the portion of his introduction (avatārikai) to his Tamil translation of Sri Adi Sankara’s Dṛg-Dṛśya-Vivēka that I quoted in Ātma-vicāra and nirvikalpa samādhi, because the nature of this practice is essentially no different to the nature of its goal (that is, since the goal is the non-dual experience of pure self-awareness, the only means to attain it is to try to experience such pure non-dual self-awareness by focusing our entire attention only on ourself, ‘I’).

Likewise, though the term ‘sleep in waking’ or jāgrat-suṣupti would normally mean the state of true self-knowledge (pure self-awareness), Bhagavan might also sometimes have used it to denote any state of practice in which we have come close to experiencing pure self-awareness. In the former sense it would be the state in which our attention has finally turned a full 180 degrees away from everything else towards ourself alone, whereas in the latter sense it would be the state in which our attention has turned close to 180 degrees.

We do not know exactly what Bhagavan said in that conversation recorded by Devaraja Mudaliar on 2-1-46, but according to the context I inferred that he might have meant that if we continue investigating ‘I’ until we experience an almost sleep-like state in waking (a state in which we are clearly self-awareness but aware of almost nothing else), our self-investigation or clear self-attentiveness would continue in that state. Whether or not this is exactly what he meant, if he did follow it by saying ‘Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up’, it is clear that the state he was referring to was only a state of practice and not the final goal.

Since he was referring to a state of practice, it is not manōnāśa, and since he said that it is a state in which vicāra continues, it is not manōlaya, so it is presumably a state in which the primal thought called ‘I’ (the ego) and its adjuncts still remain, but in a very attenuated form. In other words, it is not a completely thought-free state, but is very close to being completely thought-free.

Whether or not my interpretation of what Devaraja Mudaliar recorded is correct, one thing that is certainly clear both from verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ and from what he recorded is that we should persist in practising ātma-vicāra incessantly throughout our waking state until we experience our true state of pure non-dual self-awareness. As Bhagavan concluded in verse 16, ‘Until sleep shines blending in waking [and] in dream, incessantly perform that subtle investigation’, and as Mudaliar recorded him saying, ‘Persist in the enquiry throughout your waking hours. That would be quite enough’.

Therefore this is all we need to understand: not only is it necessary for us to persist in our practice of ātma-vicāra until we attain our goal, the permanent and non-dual experience of pure self-awareness, but it is also sufficient if we do so.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, in answer to your second comment above, what you have written amounts to more or less the same as I was simultaneously writing in my above reply to Wittgenstein, namely that the meaning of terms such as jāgrat-suṣupti are context-sensitive, so as you say jāgrat-suṣupti (waking-sleep) could mean either our goal or the path by which we can reach that goal. In the former case it would mean the state in which we are awake to (or aware of) only ourself and asleep to (or unaware of) everything else, whereas in the latter case it would mean the practice of trying to be aware only of ourself and unaware of everything else.

In answer to your first comment above, when Bhagavan supposedly said ‘the enquiry will go on during sleep also’, it is not at all obvious what he might actually have said or meant, because if it is a state in which enquiry (that is, clear self-attentiveness or self-awareness) is going on, it is certainly not an ordinary state of sleep, since the state that is usually called ‘sleep’ is characterised (at least in the view of our waking mind) as a state in which there is a lack of clarity of self-awareness.

However, when we are talking about any state of clarity of self-awareness that is not quite the absolutely pure self-awareness that is our real state, we are talking about a state in which our mind or ego is so attenuated that we cannot form any clear idea or concept of it, so whatever words may be used to indicate it will be inadequate. Therefore I believe we should not try to understand everything conceptually (that is, by our intellect), but should accept that some things are beyond the range of conceptual understanding (and hence beyond the range of ideas and words), and that we should instead try to focus all our interest and attention only on the practice of self-investigation, which alone can make everything clear to us.

Ideas, concepts and words are at best useful only as pointers, and they are useful only to the extent that they point us towards the practice of self-investigation. Therefore, whatever the ideas, concepts or words may be, and however lofty, sublime, profound or subtle they may seem to be, if they do not help us to direct our mind towards this practice of investigating ‘I’, or if they create any confusion or uncertainty, we should be ready to reject or ignore them and to hold on instead only to the ideas that we can clearly understand and that prompt us to return to our self-investigation. When we reject or ignore any ideas that we do not clearly understand, we should not fear that we are perhaps missing something valuable, because if they are potentially of any value to us we may come to understand them in due course as a result of the clarity we gain by persistently investigating ‘I’.

In order to investigate ‘I’ and to persevere in our investigation, there are very few ideas or concepts that we actually need to understand, and those few are extremely simple and clear (even if they are subtle and profound), so we should always aim for a simple and clear understanding, and should not be perturbed by or concerned with any ideas or concepts that seem at all unclear, complex or confusing.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Revered Sir,
Thank you for this clarification. Yes, I agree with your comments and suggestions.

There is a limit to ideas and concepts which we can understand, and even if we understand all of them correctly, will it help us if it does not motivate or help us in our practice of self-investigation?

As you say: ‘ In order to investigate ‘I’ and to persevere in our investigation, there are very few ideas or concepts that we actually need to understand, and those are extremely simple and clear (even if they are subtle and profound)…’.

Therefore I agree with you that we should not get lost in the world of illusory concepts, but should just try to destroy our most basic idea or concept, that is – our thought-‘I’ or ‘I am the body’ idea. When this concept or idea is annihilated, all the other ideas or concepts, which are based on this basic idea or concept, will be destroyed simultaneously.

I think Bhagavan has also said something to the effect: 'Solve this puzzle ‘who am I’ and everything else is solved', or in other words if we experience ‘I’ with absolute clarity, everything else will become clear. Of course, if ‘everything’ will remain thereafter to become clear.

Thanking you and pranams

R Viswanathan said...

In the context of sleep that has been discussed here, I would like to give here my translation of the commentary of some verses in the section 15 titled 'Jnana Thuyil' from the Tamil book of Sri Sadhu Om: Sri Ramana Vazhi, Third part, Sadhanai Saram.

Remain in that Thuriya sleep boldly (unmindful of life in this world). There is no blemish in that sleep.

The world that appears and disappears in front of your eyes is a lie. Therefore, without attending to and ignoring that, attend to your self keenly and thus remain in the sleep in the self.

There is no job for you in this world which is governed more by unnecessary rumors, business, and bad things. Therefore, without having any desire on anything in this world, remain entangled in the cave of your heart and keep sleeping there all the time.

The God who manufactured (or synthesized) you had also manufactured (synthesized) this world. Therefore, know yourself as Anma (Self), and if you become wholly that divine self, then the world within you will be benefited by you. Therefore, keep sleeping as said above.

Without allowing your mind to get involved in the incidents of the past or the future, maintain the silence of the mind, and by the grace of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi whose lives with us only to help us become liberated, may the ego forms 'I' and 'mine' get destroyed and may you keep sleeping in the sahaja Atma Samadhi.

Anonymous said...

I am writing this with some trepidation and hope I won’t inadvertently give offense to anyone on this board, especially Michael James.

The question I have is this: What exactly is enlightenment, liberation, or nirvana, and what use is it really?

I’ve read it is ineffable and cannot be put into words but then so are many other things in life (ineffable). It is impossible, for example, to convey one’s emotions completely and accurately in words to another person.

This is a problem with other mystics too (arising from ineffability and the admonition not to try to understand the jnani’s mind, if such a thing exists.).

They all talk about the bliss of realization but what effect does it have on the rest of humanity? The answer usually given is to ignore the rest of humanity and look to one’s own sadhana.

But if there are very, very few (1 in a billion?) who manage to achieve liberation what is the point of it all? It seems a complete lottery to me because the Self chooses whom it will and we cannot know the basis on which it chooses. By the way, I am not in any way deprecating those who have chosen this path.

Bhagavan said that from the viewpoint of jnana all the suffering in the world is a dream but that until one reaches that state one should help the needy, etc, and try to lessen suffering whenever and wherever one can. He also said that the mere presence of the jnani has an effect on the world.

Now, just track the events that happened in the world during Bhagavan’s lifetime and you will see what I mean. (If we are to believe their devotees, there were other jnanis present in the world too.)

The only way to explain this is to accept the absolute predestination that Bhagavan taught. As Einstein said –
“Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions”

And then there are well regarded jnanis who count the number of “realized” persons they know of, and who they were, etc.

But I continue reading and exploring Maharshi Ramana’s teachings because I can’t help it and also because I find comfort in them.

The picture of a 17 year old youth undergoing the hardships he did brings tears to the eyes.

I look forward to your comments.

R Viswanathan said...

If one continues to read Bhagavan's teachings, the number of questions that rise in the mind will keep decreasing. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (3 volumes) have so many questions that have been answered by Bhagavan himself. David Godman's book 'Be As You Are' also has many chapters all in question and answer format with excellent introduction for each chapter by the author. The massive book by Michael James 'Happiness and the Art of Being', although not in question and answer format will clarify many doubts that arise. Similarly the books of Sri Sadhu Om 'Path of Sri Ramana' will be of great help to many questions.

Of course, the primary teaching of Bhagavan Nan Yar? has such classic questions and answers by Bhagavan. And so does the Tamil book 'Sri Maharshi Voimozhi'.

As for the audio, Sri Nochur Venkataraman's discourses will be very beneficial to obtain clarity. There are hundreds of discourses by Sri Nochur Venkataraman (mostly in Tamil), pertinent to Bhagavan's teachngs. For example,

For the audio files in English, I would suggest the following two recent interviews:

Finally, I will copy-paste the message for me from Michael James:

"When any such question arises in our mind, we should try to answer it for ourself by doing manana: that is, by reflecting on it in the clear light of Bhagavan's teachings. If you make a habit of doing this, you will be able to find the answer to most questions by yourself, so there will be no need to seek clarification from anyone else.

Instead of doing such manana, if we always want to rely only on sravana (hearing answers from others), we will be like the mic that ​Nochur Venkataraman mentioned, hearing everything but assimilating nothing.

Not only does manana help us to assimilate the teachings, but it also helps us to practise them, because when we think deeply about any question that may arise, it should lead us back to the need to experience what this 'I' actually is. For example, if we ponder deeply over the question you asked, we should think along the following lines: To whom does it appear that this world appears the same to many people? Only to me, so who am I? Thus we should turn our attention back to the 'I' that was troubled by this question.'

"Sravana, manana and nididhyasana should not be viewed as stages, one to follow another, but should all go on hand in hand from the very beginning. Without manana we will get very little out of any sravana, no matter how much we may do, and without nididhyasana we will get very little out of any manana (or sravana), no matter how much we may do.

The deeper we go in our nididhyasana, the more clarity we will give to our manana, and the more clarity we give to our manana, the more benefit we will derive from even a little sravana."

Venkat said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you for your hard work in documenting and explaining Bhagavan's words. May I ask for your comments on the following.

Science tells us that our fundamental building blocks (chemicals . . . electrons, protons, neutrons . . . ultimately energy waves) are inter-dependent and non-differentiated. For whatever reasons, the universe has evolved, and from which has evolved body-minds. These body-minds are fundamentally non-separate. Bhagavan's self-enquiry is for the seemingly separate 'I' to see this non-differentiated non-separateness and thereby to dissolve.

If you agree that this model is feasible, is consciousness a product of the mind? Nisargadatta talks about consciousness as a product of the food-body-mind, and the Absolute that is aware of this consciousness.

Thank you.


Michael James said...

Venkat, in reply to your comment above, I have written a new article, Is consciousness a product of the mind?, which I have just posted on this blog.

Michael James said...

I have posted a reply today to the questions asked in the anonymous comment of 7 June 2014 05:45 in a separate article: What is enlightenment, liberation or nirvāṇa?.