Saturday, 12 July 2014

A paradox: sphuraṇa means ‘shining’ or ‘clarity’, yet misinterpretations of it have created so much confusion

As a conclusion to my previous two articles, Demystifying the term ‘sphuraṇa and Self-awareness: ‘I’-thought, ‘I’-feeling and ahaṁ-sphuraṇa, I would like to observe what a paradox it is that a word that means ‘clarity’ has created so much confusion. That is, in the sense in which Sri Ramana used them, the terms ஸ்புரணம் (sphuraṇam) and ஸ்புரிப்பு (spurippu) both mean only ‘shining’ or ‘clarity’, so it is paradoxical that they have been misunderstood and misinterpreted to such an extent that their clear and simple meaning has been obscured and that they have therefore created a huge amount of confusion in the minds of his followers and devotees, particularly those who rely upon English translations and interpretations of his teachings.

If the meaning of these terms as they were used by Sri Ramana had been correctly understood and explained in English books, none of the mystery and confusion that now surrounds them would have arisen. When they are correctly understood, they are actually terms that convey profound and rich meaning and that help to clarify the practice and aim of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

That is, in the context of Sri Ramana’s teachings, sphuraṇa essentially means just ‘shining’, so if the metaphorical sense in which ‘shining’ is used here is correctly understood, it is a very apt and meaningful term. ‘I’ is shining in the sense that it is illuminating or making itself clearly known, but however we may try to explain the meaning of ‘shining’ in this context, no other word or words can actually capture its sense so well as it itself does. So long as it is understood to be employed in a metaphorical sense, its meaning is perfectly self-explanatory.

‘I’ is always shining clearly, and by its shining it is not only illuminating itself, but is also illuminating everything else that we experience or know. In other words, metaphorically speaking, ‘I’ is the light that enables us to experience not only ourself but also everything else that we may ever experience.

However, though ‘I’ is always clearly shining, so long as it is illuminating anything other than itself alone, the clarity with which it shines is somehow obscured by whatever else is made to shine by its light, because its real nature is so subtle and featureless that it seems to assume all the features of whatever is (in its experience) closest to it (namely the body and mind and their attributes), just as a perfectly clear crystal seems to assume the colour of whatever objects are closest to it.

Therefore, in order for ‘I’ to shine perfectly clearly, it must shine all alone, in complete isolation from everything else. In other words, it must experience itself alone and not anything else at all. In order to thus shine or experience itself alone, it must focus its entire attention only on itself, so that everything else is entirely excluded from its experience or awareness.

The more we thus attend to ourself alone, the more clearly we (this ‘I’) will shine. Therefore the clarity or brightness with which ‘I’ shines is determined by the extent to which we focus our entire attention on ‘I’ (ourself) alone. Normally we are so interested in experiencing other things that we make no attempt to attend to and thereby experience ‘I’ alone, so though we always experience the shining of ‘I’, we do not experience it sufficiently clearly.

Therefore the aim of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which is the practice of self-attentiveness, is only to experience the shining of ‘I’ ever more clearly. The increased and therefore fresh clarity with which we experience the shining of ‘I’ when we practise ātma-vicāra is what Sri Ramana called aham-spurippu or ahaṁ-sphuraṇam.

That is, though the shining of ‘I’ that we always experience could in a certain sense be called an ahaṁ-sphuraṇa, because ahaṁ-sphuraṇa literally means just the shining of ‘I’, when Sri Ramana used this term he generally did not mean the shining of ‘I’ that we are always accustomed to experience, but only the clearer shining of ‘I’ that we experience when we try to focus our entire attention only on ‘I’.

When we understand that this was the sense in which he used these terms aham-spurippu or ahaṁ-sphuraṇa, we will also be able to understand that they do not denote a single specific degree of clarity of self-awareness, but any increased degree of such clarity that we may experience while trying to be self-attentive. Sometimes we are able to focus our attention more keenly and accurately on ‘I’ than at other times, but whatever increased degree of clarity of self-awareness we may experience whenever we try to be more or less self-attentive is a kind of aham-spurippu or ahaṁ-sphuraṇa.

This is why Sri Ramana sometimes used to refer to even the absolute degree of clarity of self-awareness (in other words, the absolutely clear shining of ‘I’) that we will experience when our mind or ego is eventually annihilated by it as ahaṁ-sphuraṇa, and why he said that such a sphuraṇa is self itself. Therefore what ahaṁ-sphuraṇa or aham-spurippu essentially means is just a clear shining of ‘I’, so long as the clarity of that shining is greater than the clouded clarity with which we experience the shining of ‘I’ whenever we are engrossed (as we normally are) in attending to other things.

When we understand this, we will be able to appreciate more clearly the deep meaning of two sentences from the first sub-section of section 1 of Vicāra Saṅgraham that I quoted in both of my previous two articles, namely:
[…] ஆதலால், பிணமான தேகத்தைப் பிணம் போலவே இருத்தி, வாக்காலும் நானென்று சொல்லாமலிருந்து, இப்போது நானென விளங்குவது எதுவென்று கூர்மையாய் விசாரித்தால், அப்போது ஹிருதயத்தில், நான் நான் என்று சத்தமில்லாமல், தனக்குத்தானே ஓர் வித ஸ்புரிப்பு மாத்திரம் தோன்றும். அதனை விடாது சும்மா இருந்தால், தேகம் நானென்னும் அகங்காரரூப ஜீவபோதத்தை முற்றிலும் நாசமாக்கி, கர்ப்பூரத்திற் பற்றிய நெருப்புப்போல், தானும் சாந்தமாய்விடும். […]

[…] ādalāl, piṇamāṉa dēhattai-p piṇam pōla-v-ē irutti, vākkālum nāṉ-eṉḏṟu sollāmal-irundu, ippōdu nāṉ-eṉa viḷaṅguvadu edu-v-eṉḏṟu kūrmaiyāy vicārittāl, appōdu hirudayattil, nāṉ nāṉ eṉḏṟu sattam-illāmal, taṉakku-t-tāṉē ōr vidha spurippu māttiram tōṉḏṟum. adaṉai viḍādu summā irundāl, dēham nāṉ-eṉṉum ahaṅkāra-rūpa jīva-bhōdattai muṯṟilum nāśam-ākki, karppūrattil paṯṟiya neruppu-p-pōl, tāṉ-um śāntam-āy-viḍum. […]

[…] Therefore, setting down the corpse-body as a corpse, and remaining without uttering ‘I’ even by [physical or mental] voice, if one keenly investigates what it is that now shines as ‘I’, then in [one’s] heart a kind of spurippu alone will itself appear to itself [or to oneself] without sound as ‘I [am] I’. Without leaving it [that spurippu or fresh clarity of self-awareness], if one just is, it will completely annihilate the sense of individuality in the form of the ego, [which experiences itself as] ‘body [is] I’, and [then], like fire that catches on camphor, it will itself also be extinguished. […]
The main conditional clause in the first of these two sentences, ‘இப்போது நானென விளங்குவது எதுவென்று கூர்மையாய் விசாரித்தால்’ (ippōdu nāṉ-eṉa viḷaṅguvadu edu-v-eṉḏṟu kūrmaiyāy vicārittāl), ‘if one keenly investigates what it is that now shines as I’, describes the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) in an extremely clear manner, so our practice can be aided by our carefully considering the meaning of these words. That is, what we should be keenly attending to when we practise vicāra is that which now shines as ‘I’ (ippōdu nāṉ-eṉa viḷaṅguvadu), or in other words, our essential self-awareness, which we always experience as ‘I am’.

In addition to this main condition, there are two sub-conditions in this sentence, namely பிணமான தேகத்தைப் பிணம் போலவே இருத்தி (piṇamāṉa dēhattai-p piṇam pōla-v-ē irutti) and வாக்காலும் நானென்று சொல்லாமலிருந்து (vākkālum nāṉ-eṉḏṟu sollāmal-irundu). பிணமான தேகத்தைப் பிணம் போலவே இருத்தி (piṇamāṉa dēhattai-p piṇam pōla-v-ē irutti) means ‘setting down the corpse-body as a corpse’, which implies that we should be as unaware of our body as we would be if it were a corpse. வாக்காலும் நானென்று சொல்லாமலிருந்து (vākkālum nāṉ-eṉḏṟu sollāmal-irundu) means ‘being without uttering ‘I’ even by voice’, in which the word வாக்கு (vākku) or ‘voice’ implies in this context not only our physical voice but also our mental voice, because when our attention is focused keenly on what now shines as ‘I’, all mental activity will subside, being deprived of the attention that it requires to function, so the mind will be unable even to think the word ‘I’.

Together the main condition and the two sub-conditions in this sentence form a complex conditional clause, the heart of which is its main condition, ‘if one keenly investigates what it is that now shines as I’. The two sub-conditions are included here in order to clarify the nature of the self-attentiveness that is described in the main part of this conditional clause, but if we do keenly investigate what it is that now shines as ‘I’, as instructed in that main part, we will automatically fulfil the other two conditions. That is, if we keenly focus our attention on what now shines as ‘I’, our attention will be automatically withdrawn both from our body, thereby leaving it as if it were already a corpse, and from our mind or thinking faculty, thereby depriving it of the attention that it requires to function and thus leaving it without the ability to think even the word ‘I’.

When we thus attend to what now shines as ‘I’, we will experience ‘a kind of shining’ (ōr vidha spurippu), which will appear without sound as ‘I am I’ (nāṉ nāṉ). When Sri Ramana says this, he is obviously implying that this kind of ‘shining’ or spurippu is in some way different to the ordinary shining of ‘I’ that we are accustomed to experiencing always. Though ‘I’ is now shining, it is shining in an obscured and distorted form as ‘I am this body’ (நான் இத் தேகம்: nāṉ i-d-dēham), but when we focus our entire attention only on the shining of ‘I’ and thereby ignore our body so thoroughly that we cease to be aware of it as we would have ceased to be aware of it if it were a corpse, ‘I’ will then shine more clearly as ‘I am only I’ (நான் நானே: nāṉ nāṉ-ē).

Another very significant and deeply meaningful word that Sri Ramana uses in this sentence is the compound word தனக்குத்தானே (taṉakku-t-tāṉē). தனக்கு (taṉakku) means ‘to self’, ‘to itself’ or ‘to oneself’, and தானே (tāṉē) is in this context a strong intensifier (that is, tāṉ is an intensifier meaning ‘itself’, and the suffix ē is another intensifier meaning ‘only’ or ‘certainly’), so தனக்குத்தானே (taṉakku-t-tāṉ-ē) means ‘only to itself itself’. மாத்திரம் (māttiram) also means ‘alone’ or ‘only’, and since it is appended to ஓர் வித ஸ்புரிப்பு (ōr vidha spurippu), it applies to it, so it emphasises that this kind of spurippu or ‘shining’ appears alone. Thus தனக்குத்தானே ஓர் வித ஸ்புரிப்பு மாத்திரம் தோன்றும் (taṉakku-t-tāṉē ōr vidha spurippu māttiram tōṉḏṟum) literally means ‘a kind of spurippu alone will appear only to itself itself’, which strongly emphasises not only that all that will be experienced is only this kind of spurippu, but also that what will experience it is only itself.

That is, since this spurippu or clear shining of ‘I’ is nothing other than ‘I’ itself, it will not be experienced by anything other than itself alone. Thus this final clause emphasises the non-duality and otherlessness of aham-spurippu, the clear shining of ‘I’, and thereby indicates that it is a state of more or less pure (adjunct-free) self-experience or self-awareness. Of course it is not an absolutely non-dual or otherless experience, because absolute non-duality and otherlessness can be experienced only when the ego has been completely destroyed, but this relative kind of aham-spurippu is in itself essentially non-dual and otherless, even though it is experienced along with at least some trace of experience of something other than itself. In fact we can experience a certain degree of aham-spurippu even while we are outwardly engaged in other activities, but because it is in itself non-dual and otherless, it is an experience that is tending towards absolute non-duality and otherlessness. The more keenly our attention is focused on the shining of ‘I’ alone, the more clearly aham-spurippu will shine or be experienced, and hence the less anything else (any degree of duality or otherness) will be experienced.

I am aware that what I am trying to say here may seem to be self-contradictory, because how can aham-spurippu be an essentially non-dual and otherless experience when it is experienced along with anything else? The same contradiction may seem to be implied by Sri Ramana’s use of the word மாத்திரம் (māttiram), ‘alone’ or ‘only’, because if this kind of aham-spurippu alone is experienced, why does it not immediately destroy the ego, the illusion ‘I am this body’? This is why I tried to explain that this aham-spurippu is in itself essentially non-dual and otherless, even though it is experienced along with things other than itself. That is, it is in some sense an isolated (or at least a relatively isolated) experience in which we experience ourself alone, yet at the same time we peripherally experience other things to a greater or lesser extent. What exactly this means (and hence why this seeming contradiction is not actually a contradiction) can perhaps be understood only by those who have practised ātma-vicāra sufficiently deeply and have thereby experienced this kind of aham-spurippu clearly.

The non-duality and otherlessness of this relatively pure self-experience is further emphasised by the words ஹிருதயத்தில் (hirudayattil) and நான் நான் என்று சத்தமில்லாமல் (nāṉ nāṉ eṉḏṟu sattam-illāmal). ஹிருதயத்தில் (hirudayattil) means ‘in the heart’, the word ‘heart’ signifying here the innermost core or centre of oneself, the ‘place’ in which nothing exists other than oneself alone — that is, oneself devoid of all extraneous adjuncts. நான் நான் என்று சத்தமில்லாமல் (nāṉ nāṉ eṉḏṟu sattam-illāmal) means ‘without sound as I am I’, in which the words நான் நான் (nāṉ nāṉ) or ‘I am I’ signify that what is experienced as ‘I’ is nothing other than ‘I’ alone.

Thus this first sentence is a very clear description both of the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) and of what will be experienced as a result of this practice, namely the non-dual clarity of pure self-awareness. Then in the second sentence Sri Ramana explains how we should persist in this practice, and what will eventually be experienced as a result of such persistence.

How we should persist in this practice is indicated by the conditional clause, அதனை விடாது சும்மா இருந்தால் (adaṉai viḍādu summā irundāl), which means ‘Without leaving it, if one just is’. அதனை விடாது (adaṉai viḍādu), ‘without leaving it [or that]’, means without leaving that spurippu, the fresh clarity of self-awareness that we experience when we keenly investigate what it is that now shines as ‘I’. In other words, it means that we should persevere incessantly in attending only to that fresh clarity of self-awareness, the clear shining of ‘I’ that Sri Ramana calls aham-spurippu. சும்மா இருந்தால் (summā irundāl) means ‘if [one] just is’, so அதனை விடாது சும்மா இருந்தால் (adaṉai viḍādu summā irundāl) clearly implies that we should just remain as we are, attending keenly to the clear shining of ‘I’ alone.

If we persist in just being thus without ceasing to attend to that spurippu or fresh clarity of self-awareness, Sri Ramana says that it will completely destroy our sense of individuality (jīva-bhōdam), whose form is the ego (ahaṅkāram), the illusory experience ‘this body is I’ (dēham nāṉ). That is, when we hold fast to the aham-spurippu, the clear self-awareness that shines as ‘I am only I’, it will gradually weaken and eventually destroy the clouded self-awareness that shines mixed with extraneous adjuncts as ‘I am this body’.

When it has thus completely annihilated the ego, Sri Ramana says that the aham-spurippu will itself also be pacified or extinguished (tāṉ-um śāntam-āy-viḍum), just as a flame that catches a piece of camphor will itself be extinguished when it has consumed all of the camphor. As I explained in each of my previous two articles, what he means by saying that it will be pacified or extinguished is obviously not that our clarity of self-awareness will cease (because the state in which the ego has been annihilated is a state of absolute clarity of self-awareness), but only that its seeming newness or viśēsatva (difference, distinctiveness or specialness) will cease, since it will be experienced as being perfectly natural (sahaja) and hence non-distinctive (nirviśēsa).

Just as the camphor is what sustains the flame, the seeming existence of the ego is what sustains the seeming newness or viśēsatva of the aham-spurippu. Therefore just as the flame will subside and disappear as soon as it has consumed all the camphor, so the seeming newness or viśēsatva of the aham-spurippu will subside and disappear as soon as it has consumed the ego entirely.

The verb that Sri Ramana uses here to mean ‘will be extinguished’ is சாந்தமாய்விடும் (śāntam-āy-viḍum), which literally means ‘will become peaceful’ or ‘will be pacified’. Just as a flame that has caught a piece of camphor will not be pacified until it has consumed all of that camphor , so our aham-spurippu or fresh clarity of self-awareness will not be pacified until it has completely consumed the very last trace of our ego. No matter how many times we may leave it and return to our preoccupation with other things, once we have tasted this fresh clarity of self-awareness by practising self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), our mind will be drawn back to it again and again, until finally it will destroy our mind completely. Then only will its newness, freshness and viśēsatva subside in the absolute peace of our natural state of pure self-awareness.

Though Sri Ramana did not use the terms sphuraṇa or spurippu in any of his original Tamil writings, he did use them in certain contexts while replying to questions (such as in some of his answers that are recorded in Vicāra Saṅgraham), and if we understand that what he meant by them was nothing more than the fresh clarity of self-awareness that we experience whenever we turn our attention towards ‘I’, and that there are therefore a broad range of degrees of sphuraṇa or clarity (varying from the slightly increased clarity that we experience when we first start to practise ātma-vicāra to the absolute clarity that we will experience when our mind or ego has been completely destroyed by it), it will be clear to us why he used these terms and how they fit perfectly alongside all the other explanations that he has given us about the practice and purpose of ātma-vicāra.

The confusions and misunderstandings about ahaṁ-sphuraṇa that are so prevalent among his followers and devotees are due in part to the fact that in most English books the meaning of sphuraṇa as it is used by Sri Ramana has not been explained, and in part to the fact that when it has been explained it has been explained wrongly by confounding the meaning intended by him with other meanings of the word, such as pulsation, throbbing or vibration. It is therefore a case of the lakṣyārtha or intended meaning of sphuraṇa as it was used by him having been confused with an inappropriate selection from the broad range of vācyārtha or literal meanings of it as given in dictionaries.

The meaning intended by him was only ‘shining’ (in the sense of clarity) or ‘shining forth’ (in the sense of a fresh degree of clarity), so what he meant by the term ahaṁ-sphuraṇa was only the clear shining of ‘I’ or fresh clarity of self-awareness that we experience whenever we are self-attentive. What he obviously did not mean was that ahaṁ-sphuraṇa is any kind of pulsation, throbbing or vibration of ‘I’, because anything that pulsates, throbs or vibrates would be an object experienced by ‘I’ and hence could not be ‘I’ itself.

Yet in spite of the obviousness of this, the simple and clear meaning of ahaṁ-sphuraṇa as intended by him has been so widely (and wildly) misunderstood by those who have attempted to interpret his teachings that the wrong belief that ahaṁ-sphuraṇa is some sort of pulsation, throbbing or vibration of ‘I’ became — and has now been for eighty years or so — the prevalent belief about it among his devotees. What a paradox it is that a term whose meaning in the context of his teachings should be so simple, clear and obvious has been misinterpreted to such a great extent and consequently misunderstood so prevalently.

9 comments:

Wittgenstein said...

On 19 June 2014 15:19, I wrote in the comment column of your article, "Why do we not experience the existence of any body or world in sleep?", as a reply to Sanjay's comment preceding mine: "That 'fresh clarity' stuff appears somewhere as a footnote in The Path of Sri Ramana and it is the only place where it occurs. After that, in one of the appendices, a tenuous current of self awareness is mentioned, although I am not sure if this is sphurana. After you quote Michael, I have a hunch that it might be so. Of course, with increasing abhyasa a faint constant current is felt throughout the day, especially when one is not doing something serious".

My hunch gets confirmed when you say here, "... but this relative kind of aham-spurippu is in itself essentially non-dual and otherless, even though it is experienced along with at least some trace of experience of something other than itself. In fact we can experience a certain degree of aham-spurippu even while we are outwardly engaged in other activities, but because it is in itself non-dual and otherless, it is an experience that is tending towards absolute non-duality and otherlessness" [bold emphasis mine]. Strange how things get answered!

Wittgenstein said...

The 'I' we experience [even before turning-in] is aham-spurippu, with feeble clarity, since 'I [am] I' is never fully concealed.

"In fact we can experience a certain degree of aham-spurippu even while we are outwardly engaged in other activities [...]" - this is Sri Sadhu Om's tenuous current of self-awareness, with little increased clarity due to turning-in.

"[...] it is [aham-spurippu] in some sense an isolated (or at least a relatively isolated) experience in which we experience ourself alone, yet at the same time we peripherally experience other things to a greater or lesser extent. What exactly this means (and hence why this seeming contradiction is not actually a contradiction) can perhaps be understood only those who have practised ātma-vicāra sufficiently deeply and have thereby experienced this kind of aham-spurippu clearly" - this is jagrat-sushupti, with increased turning-in and experienced with much higher clarity.

So, there is a range of clarity, called by various names as, 'tenuous current', 'jagrat-sushupti' etc. All these are not apart from 'I [am] I' and they all get dissolved in that eventually.

Thanks Michael for giving me this understanding!

Wittgenstein said...

To explain the various degrees of relative clarity of the self, an analogy of a perfectly clear crystal is given here. Here are my reflections on the same using another analogy.

In the popular film projector analogy, we can liken the intensity of light on the screen to the degree of clarity of the self. At the very least level, we can have a dark screen, representing sleep. It would be very interesting to observe that the initial response to explain this darkness would be to assume that the light is turned off. This is equivalent to thinking erroneously that we are not there in sleep [since we are the light]. Another possibility [in fact the correct one] is that the light is on but the film in front of the light is completely opaque. This is equivalent to saying the non-self is not there [represented by completely opaque film], although we [the light] are there.

The other extreme is to have a completely transparent film and with the screen fully bright. This could also be understood as having no film at all. Of these, the second case represents complete destruction of ego.

Of course, between these two extremes of laya and nasa we have various mixtures of light and darkness [contrast on the screen] representing the 'tenuous current of self-awareness', jagrat-sushupti etc. In the end, the film [vasana], the screen [whatever we experience] and the level of intensity of light on it [sphurana], the one projecting all this [கர்த்தன்] are all not diffrent from the light. நாம உரு சித்திரமும், பார்ப்பானும், சேர் படமும், ஆர் ஓளியும், அத்தனையும் தான் ஆம் அவன்.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, regarding what you write in your previous two comments about jāgrat-suṣupti (‘waking sleep’ or ‘wakeful sleep’), this term is generally used to denote only our natural state of true self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna), which transcends the three states of waking, dream and sleep and is in fact the only real state, as Bhagavan says in verse 32 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham.

That is, only in the absolutely non-dual state of ātma-jñāna will we be truly awake only to ourself and completely asleep to the world (because the world does not actually exist, being just an illusion that seems to exist only in the deluded view of the mind, which is itself unreal), so it is the only state that can be truly described as ‘waking sleep’ or jāgrat-suṣupti. Though during our practice of ātma-vicāra we may sometimes come close to being in such a state in which are aware only of ourself and not of anything else, until our mind is finally destroyed by the absolute clarity of ātma-jñāna we will still be experiencing at least a trace of something other than ourself. Therefore if we choose to describe any state that we may experience during practice as jāgrat-suṣupti, we should understand that it is not actually the perfect state of jāgrat-suṣupti but only a semblance of it — a state in which we are almost aware only of ourself and only slightly aware of anything else.

Anyway, what is most important is not any terminology that may be used to describe the varying degrees of clarity of self-awareness, but is only the understanding that our sole aim is to experience only ourself, ‘I am’, in complete isolation from everything else, and that so long as we still experience even the slightest trace of anything other than ‘I’, we must persevere in our effort to experience ‘I’ alone.

Other than this one point about jāgrat-suṣupti, I agree in general with all that you write in these comments.

Incidentally, for the benefit of those who do not know Tamil, your final sentence நாம உரு சித்திரமும், பார்ப்பானும், சேர் படமும், ஆர் ஓளியும், அத்தனையும் தான் ஆம் அவன் (nāma uru cittiramum, pārppāṉum, sērpaḍamum, ār oḷiyum — attaṉaiyum tāṉ ām avaṉ) is a quotation of the last half of verse 1 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, which means: ‘[...] The picture of names and forms [the world], the one who sees [it], the screen on which [it] depends, and the pervading light [of consciousness that illumines it] – all these are he [the ‘first thing’ or base], which is self’.

Wittgenstein said...

The reason why I added jagrat-sushupti as an element in the range of aham-sphurana was that you had answered one of my comments on 6 June 2014 11:18, in your article, "Self-investigation, effort and sleep", posted on Thursday, 5 June 2014:"... 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" [bold emphasis mine].

There were two personal reasons for writing that comment. [1] Since sphurana refers to a range of experiences of varying clarity, I just wanted some sort of listing of those elements that constitute the range, to improve and consolidate my own understanding and [2] I have been around here for more than a month or so and I have participated in discussions revolving around nature of sleep and the I-thought and that comment of mine sort of summarizes to myself all that I have been learning here so far. I did this because I feel understanding the nature of sleep and the I-thought in Sri Ramana's philosophy plays a vital role in carrying out the correct practice. It is so important that if one misses the point, the practice is going to be invariably wrong.

Apart from the above two selfish reasons, I totally agree with you that the focus on 'I' should alone be our primary concern, not any list-making on the go. However, I should say that being around here helps me a lot in that focus too. Further, as I normally do not write or talk about Sri Ramana elsewhere and when I want to re-visit any questions I had asked, I am sure it is in your blog [with the right answers from you] and within it, it is all a search away! This too is selfish.

I was just being lazy with the Ulladu Narpadu verse. Many thanks for translating that. Every bit of what you write helps me in some way or other.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, your these three articles on ‘sphurana’ has given us enough sphurana (clarity) on its meaning. Thank you.

You have written in this article:

[…] This is why I tried to explain that this aham-spurippu is in itself essentially non-dual and otherless, even though it is experienced along with things other than itself. That is, it is in some sense an isolated (or at least a relatively isolated) experience in which we experience ourself alone, yet at the same time we peripherally experience other things to a greater or lesser extent. What exactly this means (and hence why this seeming contradiction is not actually a contradiction) can perhaps be understood only by those who have practised ātma-vicāra sufficiently deeply and have thereby experienced this kind of aham-spurippu clearly.

Wittgenstein has commented on this passage. Now I would also like to write my reflections on it:

Our deep-sleep is a non-dual and otherless experience, because in deep-sleep our ego fully subsides in self and therefore no effort is possible in this state – either to attend to objects or to attend to self.

Similarly our heightened and intense experience of aham-spurippu is also ‘essentially non-dual and othereless experience’, but with slight difference. Our ego stands with its head bent in such aham-spurippu, that is, though our ego is active in a very tenuous form here, it has no love or will to attend to thoughts or objects. Thus it is akin to sleep. But smaller or greater effort is possible and needed to maintain this ‘essentially non-dual and otherless experience’. Therefore it can be called conscious sleep or sleep with effort.

It will be nice to hear your comments on my reflections.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein and Sanjay, it seems to me that you have both understood (each in your own way) what I was trying to explain, so there is not much more for me to add. Whatever words we may use cannot capture or adequately express the experience of clear self-awareness, so we should understand that whatever words may be used are only crude indicators, and that to recognise what they are indicating we must investigate ourself by trying to experience the clear shining of ‘I’ alone.

No matter in how many ways we may try to express this, what we are trying to express is actually very simple and can be known only by experiencing it, which is what we are all trying to do. However, though it may seem futile to continue trying to express the inexpressible, it is not without some benefit, because writing, reading and thinking about it helps to draw our attention back to it (the clear shining of ‘I’) again and again.

Jacques Franck said...

Michael, is there a good translation of vichara sangraham, mainly chapters (verses) that deal with Atma vichara. Like nan yar there is two versions, prose and essay, which one is better? is the one in the collected works is good or the one in words of grace?

Thank you Michael...

JF

Michael James said...

Jacques, as far as I know none of the published English translations of Vicāra Saṅgraham are satisfactory. I have never attempted to translate more than a few extracts from it, because I do not consider most of it to be a clear or accurate representation of Bhagavan’s teachings, since most of the questions asked by Gambhiram Seshayyar were about books on rāja yōga and jñāna yōga written by others, which he asked Bhagavan to explain to him. Therefore many of the ideas expressed in it are not Bhagavan’s own ideas but ones that he translated or paraphrased from the books that Seshayyar asked him to explain. It does contain some useful teachings, but it is a text that needs to be read with discrimination in order to distinguish the portions that do represent Bhagavan’s teachings from those that represent other ideas.

Both the question-and-answer version and the essay version were edited by Swami Natananandar from the notes made by Gambhiram Seshayyar, and the essay version (which is the one included in Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu, the Tamil ‘Collected Works of Sri Ramana’) is generally the better of them. However, the English translation by T.M.P. Mahadevan of the question-and-answer version is generally more accurate than the translation of the essay version included in Words of Grace (and in some versions of The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi).