Friday, 1 August 2014

Self-awareness is the very nature of ‘I’

Last month a friend called Venkat asked me several questions in a series of three comments that he wrote on one of my recent articles, Is consciousness a product of the mind?, so this article is written in answer to his questions.

In his first comment he wrote:
Thanks very much for your response. I agree that it is not possible to know whether the external world (and the body-mind) exist independently of the perception of it. Equally, I don’t think that it is possible to prove that the world is just an illusion, a perception in consciousness.

So I agree that one has to examine / question what the ‘I’ is. You imply that the result of this is the certainty that only consciousness is real and all else (including ‘my’ body mind) is an illusion.

You commented in this blog, that Bhagavan’s ‘I am’ can be equated to the awareness that is aware of the awareness of a perception, and that we should turn our attention to this awareness. But is it possible to be ‘aware of the awareness that is aware’? since under Vedanta’s neti neti, one cannot be aware of this awareness, one can only BE this awareness, as I think Bhagavan says.

So two questions. Firstly, is the point of this attention on awareness to recognise that the feeling of ‘I’ is just another perception that arises, equivalent to all other perceptions and is neti neti [‘not this, not this’]? And second what does BEING awareness mean?
Yes, I agree that just as we cannot know that our body and this world exist independent of our experience of them, we equally well cannot know that they do not exist independent of our experience of them. In other words, we cannot know whether their seeming existence is a mind-created illusion or not, though there is no doubt that our mind does at least play a major role in creating the mental picture of this body and world that we experience. That is, what we actually experience is not any body or world as such, but only a mental picture of them consisting of ever-changing sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations, and we seem unable to ascertain whether this mental picture is created entirely by our mind, as in dream, or is at least partly caused by anything (any actual body and world) that is external to or independent of our mind.

The only possible means we have to ascertain whether all these things that we experience are an illusion or not is to investigate ourself, the ‘I’ that experiences them, and thereby to experience what this ‘I’ actually is. Once we know what this ‘I’ actually is, we may be able to know whether all that it experiences is created solely by it or is in any way or to any extent caused by anything that exists independent of it.

When Venkat wrote, ‘You commented in this blog, that Bhagavan’s ‘I am’ can be equated to the awareness that is aware of the awareness of a perception’, he was referring to the following paragraph that I wrote in another recent article, Since we always experience ‘I’, we do not need to find ‘I’, but only need to experience it as it actually is:
For example, if I am aware of the presence or absence of traffic noise outside, that awareness of noise or no noise is not ‘I’, because I am what experiences that awareness. Likewise, awareness that thoughts are present or that they seem to be absent is not ‘I’, because I am what experiences that awareness, so attending to that awareness is not attending to ‘I’. However, if we say that I am the awareness that is aware of that awareness of the relative absence of thought, in the first of these two senses the word ‘awareness’ does refer to ‘I’. Therefore ‘awareness’ is an ambiguous term, so in this context it can lead to confusion and misunderstanding (which is incidentally why the popular description of the practice of ātma-vicāra as being ‘awareness watching awareness’ can be easily misunderstood and is therefore potentially misleading).
Therefore, when I wrote ‘if we say that I am the awareness that is aware of that awareness of the relative absence of thought’, I did not mean to suggest that there is more than one awareness that is aware, but only meant to point out the ambiguity of the word ‘awareness’. For example, if I say that I am now aware that it is hot, my awareness that it is hot is not ‘I’, because that awareness is a temporary experience. However, I can be described as the awareness that is now aware that it is hot, so in this sense I am the awareness that is aware of that awareness that it is hot. When I talk of my awareness that it is hot, ‘awareness’ here means what I am aware of, whereas when I say that I am the awareness that is aware that it is hot, ‘awareness’ then means what is aware. In other words, the former use of ‘awareness’ refers to an experience (what is experienced) whereas the latter use of it refers to the experiencer (what experiences it).

The ambiguity of the word ‘awareness’ can be further illustrated by another example. Even if I do not actually experience something, I can still say I am aware of it. For instance, I can say that I am aware that Moscow is the capital of Russia, even though I have never been to Moscow or even to Russia. My awareness that Moscow is the capital of Russia is not an experience but just a piece of information or general knowledge that I have acquired from various sources, so it is certainly not ‘I’, but is just some information that I possess.

Therefore though ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ are terms that are sometimes used to refer to that which is aware or conscious, namely ‘I’, they do not necessarily or in all circumstances refer to this. More often they just refer to whatever I or anyone else happens to be aware or conscious of. Hence words such as ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ are ambiguous, because what exactly they refer to depends on the context in which they are used, so to avoid any ambiguity it is often preferable to use just the simple word ‘I’, which clearly denotes that which is aware or conscious.

If ‘I’ is what Venkat means by ‘awareness’ when he says ‘one cannot be aware of this awareness, one can only BE this awareness’, we obviously can be aware of this awareness, because the very nature of ‘I’ is to be aware of itself. Other than ‘I’ alone, nothing that we experience is aware of itself, so the seeming existence of everything else is dependent upon our being aware of it. If we were not aware of the world, it would not seem to exist. Therefore ‘I’ (ourself) is not only self-aware but also self-existent, whereas nothing else is either self-aware or evidently self-existent (because even if we suppose that some other things are self-existent, their supposed existence is not experienced unless ‘I’ is aware of it, so their supposed self-existence is just a supposition and can never be ascertained from experience).

If ‘I’ were not aware of itself, it would not be ‘I’, because ‘I’ is a word that essentially means that which is self-aware. Anything that is not self-aware does not experience itself as ‘I’, so the terms ‘self-awareness’ and ‘I’ essentially refer to the same thing — the same self-experiencing entity. ‘I’ experiences itself as ‘I’ because it is self-aware, and whatever is self-aware is aware of itself as ‘I’, the first person, the subject of all other experience (if at all it experiences anything other than itself).

Unlike the awareness that we have of anything else, which is temporary and therefore not ‘I’, our awareness of ourself is ‘I’, ourself, because it is permanent and because self-awareness is perfectly non-dual — that is, it is devoid of even the least duality, division or otherness. Hence the ‘I’ that is aware of itself, itself of which it is aware, and the awareness that it has of itself are all one and indivisible. Its self-awareness is not just awareness of ‘I’, but is awareness that actually is ‘I’. Its awareness of itself is itself, because its very nature is self-awareness.

Therefore, though ‘I’ is always self-aware, it is not aware of itself as an object (as it is aware of any other thing), nor is it aware of itself by any act of cognition or coming to know (as it is aware of any other thing), because it is aware of itself just by being itself, since self-awareness is its very nature. This is why Sri Ramana says in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தானா யிருத்தலே தன்னை யறிதலாந்
தானிரண் டற்றதா லுந்தீபற
      தன்மய நிட்டையீ துந்தீபற.

tāṉā yiruttalē taṉṉai yaṟidalān
tāṉiraṇ ḍaṯṟadā lundīpaṟa
      taṉmaya niṭṭhaiyī dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால். தன்மய நிட்டை ஈது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ-āy iruttal-ē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl. taṉmaya niṭṭhai īdu.

English translation: Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is devoid of two. This is tanmaya-niṣṭha [the state of being firmly established as tat, ‘it’ or ‘that’, the one absolute reality called brahman].
அற்றதால் (aṯṟadāl) is the instrumental case form of a third person neuter past participial noun that literally means ‘by having ceased’, ‘by having been severed’ or ‘by having been severed from’, so in effect it means ‘by being devoid of’ or ‘because it is devoid of’, or simply ‘because it is not’. Therefore the final clause of the first sentence of this verse, தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால் (tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl), means ‘because oneself is devoid of two’ or ‘because oneself is not two’, and hence it implies that oneself does not consist of two separate selves, one self that is known as an object and another self that as a subject knows it. It is just one and completely devoid of any such subject-object duality. Since ‘I’ (ourself) is single, non-dual, indivisible and self-aware, it knows itself merely by being itself.

Venkat suggests that ‘the feeling of ‘I’ is just another perception that arises, equivalent to all other perceptions’, but this cannot be the case, because ‘I’ is what experiences all other perceptions, and unlike any other perception, it is conscious. However, what we now experience as ‘I’ is a mixture of our pure ‘I’, which is conscious, and our body, which is not conscious, so from this mixture we need to separate our pure ‘I’ in order to experience it as it is, without it being mixed with anything else. This is why we must try to attend to ‘I’ alone.

When we attend only to ‘I’, we are just being the self-awareness that we always actually are, whereas when we attend to anything else, we become aware of things that seem to be other than ourself. Being aware of anything other than ourself is not natural to us, because it is a temporary state that arises in waking and dream and ceases to exist in sleep, so whereas self-awareness is ‘I’, awareness of anything else is not ‘I’. Therefore being self-attentive is our natural state of pure self-awareness, so it is a state of just being (summā-v-iruppadu), a state in which we just are as we always are, whereas attending to and experiencing anything other than ourself is a state of action or ‘doing’, because it entails a movement of our attention away from ourself, its source.

In his second comment Venkat wrote:
Just to elaborate on my query, the Brihadaranayaka Upanishad states rather beautifully:

“Through what should one know That owing to which all this is known? This Self is That which has been described as neti, neti [‘not this, not this’]. It is imperceptible, for It is never perceived; undecaying, for It never decays; unfettered — It never feels pain and never suffers injury. Through what should one know the Knower?”

This would seem to point to a conclusion that anything perceived, including the feeling / thought of I is not it — because it is perceived. Therefore one has to regress to see that all perceptions occurs on a screen of consciousness, and there is no differentiation in those perceptions of I, you, etc.
Regarding this passage from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, we cannot know ourself as an object (as we know all other things), but we do know ourself simply by being ourself, because self-awareness is our very nature. The issue we now face is not how to know ourself, because we always know ourself, but how to know ourself as we really are. Now we know ourself mixed with extraneous adjuncts (upādhis), such as this body and mind, so to know ourself as we really are we must experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from all extraneous adjuncts. As Sri Ramana says in verse 25 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தன்னை யுபாதிவிட் டோர்வது தானீசன்
றன்னை யுணர்வதா முந்தீபற
      தானா யொளிர்வதா லுந்தீபற.

taṉṉai yupādhiviṭ ṭōrvadu tāṉīśaṉ
ḏṟaṉṉai yuṇarvadā mundīpaṟa
      tāṉā yoḷirvadā lundīpaṟa.


பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை உபாதி விட்டு ஓர்வது தான் ஈசன் தன்னை உணர்வது ஆம், தானாய் ஒளிர்வதால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai upādhi viṭṭu ōrvadu tāṉ īśaṉ taṉṉai uṇarvadu ām, tāṉ-āy oḷirvadāl. [...]

English translation: Experiencing oneself, having relinquished [one’s own] adjuncts, itself is experiencing God himself, because [he] shines as oneself.
In this context the word ஈசன் (īśaṉ) or ‘God’ denotes brahman, the one infinite and absolute reality, so the final clause, தானாய் ஒளிர்வதால் ( tāṉ-āy oḷirvadāl), ‘because [God] shines as oneself’, indicates that that infinite reality is what we always actually are. Therefore the import of this verse is that if we experience ourself without any adjuncts (upādhis), we will be experiencing ourself as we really are.

Whatever is perceived or experienced as an object (something other than the experiencing ‘I’) is perceived or experienced by an ‘I’ that experiences itself as something separate. This ‘I’ is not just our pure ‘I’ (what we really are), but our pure ‘I’ mixed with adjuncts, so as long as we perceive or experience anything other than ‘I’, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, so we need to try to experience ourself alone by focusing our entire attention only on ‘I’.

So long as we perceive or experience anything other than ‘I’, we will experience differences between each of those other things and between all those other things and ‘I’, so unless we experience ourself alone, we cannot experience a state devoid of differentiation. In sleep we temporarily experience a state devoid of differentiation, but because we enter sleep only due to exhaustion and not due to clearly experiencing ourself as we really are, we sooner or later rise from sleep and again experience a state of differentiation either in waking or in dream. Therefore, in order to be permanently free from all differentiation, we must experience ourself as we really are, and we can experience ourself as we really are only by experiencing ourself alone, without any adjuncts.

In his third comment Venkat wrote:
Sorry, to elaborate again. Bhagavan said: “Be quiet and still and all thoughts will disappear. Self-enquiry and self-surrender are only techniques which bring one to the state of inner stillness and quietness. The ultimate instruction is therefore: ‘Be still and quiet; stabilise in this state and the Self will be revealed’.”

My understanding is that the I-thought, is the fundamental illusion . . . that this body-mind is distinct, separate and ‘mine’ relative to all else. So to realise ajata vada [the doctrine that there is no creation] and non-duality, thought itself needs to see that it is limited and therefore come to an end. Bhagavan’s technique for this is to focus on the origin of all other thoughts — the ‘I’-thought, whenever it arises, and thereby see that it is no different from all other thoughts and perceptions, and like all those, it appears on a screen of consciousness. Is this correct?
Venkat is correct in saying that the ‘I’-thought (the thought that we call ‘I’, which is our ego) is our fundamental illusion, but it is not a thought like other thoughts, because whereas all other thoughts are non-conscious and therefore experienced only by this thought called ‘I’, this thought called ‘I’ is a mixture of our pure ‘I’, which is conscious (cit), and extraneous adjuncts, which are non-conscious (jaḍa). Therefore this ego or thought called ‘I’ is called cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) that binds the conscious and the non-conscious together as if they were one.

Hence in order to experience our pure ‘I’ (what we really are) we need to separate it from all the extraneous adjuncts with which it is now mixed, and the only way to do so is to try to attend to ‘I’ alone. This attempt to attend to and experience ‘I’ alone is the practice that Bhagavan calls ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.

Venkat suggests that ‘thought itself needs to see that it is limited and therefore come to an end’, but no thought other than the thought called ‘I’ can see anything, and this thought called ‘I’ already experiences itself as limited. Therefore it does not come to an end merely by seeing that it is limited. In order to come to an end (that is, to cease to be the finite entity that it now seems to be), it must experience itself as it really is. When it experiences itself as it really is, it will cease to experience itself as any of the adjuncts (such as this body and mind) that it now experiences as itself, and thus it will cease to be the adjunct-mixed ‘I’ that it now seems to be, and will instead remain as the pure ‘I’ that is always actually is.

Regarding the words of Bhagavan Ramana that Venkat quoted, I suspect that these are not his exact words, but the idea that they convey is certainly in accordance with his essential teachings. The sentence ‘Self-enquiry and self-surrender are only techniques which bring one to the state of inner stillness and quietness’ is true in the sense that when we practise ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry), we are trying to experience ourself alone by focusing our entire attention only on ‘I’, and since self-attentiveness is not an action but our natural state of just being (summā-v-iruppadu), it is a state in which we are perfectly quiet and still. And since thoughts arise only when we attend to anything other than ‘I’ (indeed thoughts are nothing but the attention that we pay to other things), when we remain perfectly quiet and still by attending only to ‘I’, all thoughts will automatically disappear.

Regarding self-surrender, it is the state in which we do not rise as an ‘I’ that seems to be separate from God, the one infinite reality that always shines within us as our innermost self, and the only way to avoid rising as such a separate ‘I’ is to attend to ourself alone. As Sri Ramana says in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம். [...]

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṯku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām. […]

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance, the state of just being as we really are], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation, the ‘thought’ of oneself], is giving oneself to God. [...]
Therefore ‘self-surrender’ is just another name for ātma-vicāra or self-investigation — another way of conceptualising the same practice — so the actual practice of self-surrender is identical to the practice of ātma-vicāra. Whether we conceive of it as investigating ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are, or as surrendering ourself entirely in order not to remain separate from God, what we actually need to practise is be aware of nothing other than ourself alone. Since being aware of ourself alone is our natural state of just being as we really are, self-investigation or self-surrender is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are and thereby be permanently established in our natural state of absolute stillness, quietude or silence.

19 comments:

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks Michael. In today's internet world, there is so much "meaning" and "understanding" of the usage of word Awareness and Consciousness. Especially when it is stated all around "Be aware of thoughts, be aware of emotions, be aware of feelings". Many come to understanding being aware is awareness. The awareness is "I" which experiences all feelings, which perceives all emotions, which thinks all thoughts. It is that "I" which we should be.

I also understand that to "Be I" one should exclusively pay attention to it by just being it without attending to thoughts, outside forms, the breath, the body sensations and it is a state of just being one self without paying attention to anything else. But if that is the case, then during the day when we have attend exclusively to "I" "Just Being", then we should take a break in between the day's work and activities and pay attention. Not sure if we can exclusively attend to "I" while working or while I type the comments now or while reading. The "I" is always there even during that time, but that "I" is attending to the work in hand, it is attending to the thoughts to write comments, it is attending to words while reading.

So Michael, if we have to exclusively attend to I, one is to sit for sometime as a formal sitting every day and also during the day, take time here and there and attend to I alone completely. Is it right understanding?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in this article:

The issue we now face is not how to know ourself, because we always know ourself, but how to know ourself as we really are. Now we know ourself mixed with extraneous adjuncts (upādhis), such as this body and mind, so to know ourself as we really are we must experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from all extraneous adjuncts.

Yes, the issue is 'to know ourself as we really are'. Or to put it in other words, we certainly do know ourself, but our knowledge of ourself is not absolutely clear. Therefore we need persistent practise of atma-vichara, which will eventually enable us to achieve the perfect clarity of ‘I’. This perfect clarity of ‘I’ can only be attained by experiencing ‘I’ in complete isolation, and once we are able to do this our (that is, this ego’s) story will end forever.

How simple and direct are Bhagavan’s teachings, but we prefer complicating it, because we seem to be more interested in all things but this ‘I’. Actually we have to reverse this process. We have to become interested only in ‘I’ and neglect everything else. After all everything else, according to Bhagavan, is just our mind created imaginations, therefore why bother about these imaginations.

Thanking you and pranams

Anonymous said...

Michael, thank you very much for your response.

Best wishes
Venkat

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, in reply to your comment, our aim should be to be self-attentive as much as possible, both in terms of quantity (that is, for as much time as possible) and in terms of quality (that is, as deeply as possible).

In order to be as deeply self-attentive as possible, we should try to set aside some time each day to devote to being exclusively self-attentive. This need not be at a fixed time every day, but whenever we can find at least a few spare moments during the course of any day, and we need not be sitting or in any particular posture, because our aim should be to not allow our body or anything else to distract us. Therefore it is usually best to be sitting, reclining or lying comfortably, but even if we are for example standing in a crowded bus, we can still try to be exclusively self-attentive for at least a short while.

However, most of us cannot spare much time each day to be exclusively self-attentive, so even in the midst of other activities that do not require our whole attention we can try to be self-attentive as often and for as long a duration as possible. During the course of each day, we typically think countless thousands of thoughts, but most of those thoughts are not necessary in order for us to do whatever outward activities we need to be doing. Therefore we should try as much as possible to replace our unnecessary thoughts about other things with self-attentiveness. If we could spend all the time we normally spend thinking unnecessary thoughts attending instead to ‘I’, we would end up being at least partially self-attentive for a considerable time every day.

The more time we are able to spend being at least partially self-attentive, the deeper and more intensely we will be able to be self-attentive during the spare moments that we can devote to trying to be exclusively self-attentive. That is, the quantity of our self-attentiveness will help to increase its quality, and its quality will help to increase its quantity.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks Michael. Essentially , our focus should be always on our self awareness as much as possible, as and when we get time. It is ironic because to focus as much as possible on "I" requires Love for that and how to cultivate the love, only by more practice.

Michael James said...

Yes, Palaniappan, the only way to cultivate love to be self-attentive is to practise being self-attentive, but this is not as ironic as it may seem, because it is similar to cultivating any other skill.

For example, if you want to acquire skill in playing piano, even if you have never played piano before, the only way to acquire and develop that skill is to start practising and to continue practising until you have acquired the level of skill you desire. Likewise, the only way to acquire and develop the love and skill that is required to be exclusively self-attentive is to practise trying to be exclusively self-attentive. By persistent practice you will eventually succeed in cultivating the level of love and skill that is required to merge forever in ātma-jñāna, the state of absolutely pure self-awareness.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Agreed Michael. It is like learning any other skill. And once the skill has be acquired, one need not practice with "effort", the practice becomes (the practice is still there) natural and effortless.

The only irony point, I felt in my opinion was that even to practice the skill of playing piano, one should have interest and love. For some, they don't want to play because they have least inclination.

Similarly the case of atma jnana. But during this time, the attitude atleast which I think one should take is, the motivation to practice must be for the sake of Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi, the love of the guru displayed through the act of practice.

Michael James said...

Yes, Palaniappan, I agree. If we genuinely love our guru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, we will at least try to do as he instructed us, namely to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). If we do so, our guru-bhakti will grow and blossom as svātma-bhakti (love for our own self, which is the essence of what we now experience as ‘I’).

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Hi Michael, I was reading your initial comment on reply to my comment once again. You had mentioned: "our aim should be to be self-attentive as much as possible, both in terms of quantity (that is, for as much time as possible) and in terms of quality (that is, as deeply as possible)."

When you use the word "deeply", is it holding to our self attention exclusive and not partial. Because when I read deep self awareness, my mind immediately starts thinking what is deep, because self attention is just being, is deep, intense, go deep into it is something different than being just self attentive?

Michael James said...

Yes, Palaniappan, the depth or intensity of our self-attentiveness means the extent to which it is exclusive — that is, free from any mixture or contamination with awareness of anything other than ‘I’, The more exclusive it is, the greater is its depth or intensity.

In other words, the closer we are to just being — that is, the less we are engaged in ‘doing’ or action of any sort — the more deep our self-attentiveness is. Therefore going deeper into self-attentiveness (penetrating deeper within ourself) means coming closer to our natural state of just being (summā-v-iruppadu), in which we are aware of nothing other than ‘I’ alone (and are therefore not engaged even in the least in thinking, perceiving or any other type of action).

Thus going deep into self-attentiveness means the same as Sri Sadhu Om means when he describes our attempts to be exclusively self-attentive as trying to turn a full 180 degrees away from all other things towards ‘I’ alone. The closer we come to turning 180 degrees, the deeper, more intense and more exclusive our self-attentiveness will be.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks Michael. Consistent practice at every given opportunity is needed. The mind plays trick with little more reading, wanting to perfect its understanding, hear more discourse, pray more, but never want to continuously remain in itself for long time.

I have seen this pattern in me, the mind likes to read more and more about self inquiry (though I understand it is simple, gentle and relaxed attention one has to pay on oneself) but still the mind wants to read, understand more, refer Bhagavan's book, Sadhu Om's book's and also to think about it. Somehow this vasanas is so strong that reading itself has become an obstacle now.

Praying for Bhagavan's Grace to give me Will and Love to just do it once for all.

R Viswanathan said...

The comment of Palaniappan (7 Aug) with regard to liking to read about Bhagavan or listen discourses reminds me of my state, too. However, I don't think of it as an obstacle since the attention is on Bhagavan rather than on something else. I feel that when Bhagavan decides that I would no longer have to read or listen, these activities will come to end, and my attention will be wholly onto my Self.

In this context, I would like to reproduce the quote from David Godman's
website: http://davidgodman.wix .com/ramanamaharshibooks

Seek my grace within the Heart. I will drive away your darkness and show you the light.This is my responsibility.

If you would only fix your gaze upon me, you would know that, established in the Heart, my gaze is ever fixed upon you.

Josef Bruckner said...

Dear Palaniappan Chidambaram,
yes, the Ego endless wants to be
engaged in a study of all sorts of writings of Bhagavan, Sadhu Om, Michael James and so on.
The best praying for Bhagavan's Grace may be to keep keen attention immediately to the student himself.
(Persistant self-investigation "at every given opportunity" as you say.) Atma-vicara is possible (nearly) every moment. We are not prevented from experiencing "I" alone - without adjuncts - every breath, even we have to go for a bottle of milk.
It seems to be important to stay in self-abidance just in that daily life.
To help "other people" with any actions appears to be not an obstacle to be deeply self-attentive (as possible). As Michael says "our aim should be not allow our body or anything else to distract us...but even if we are for example standing in a crowded bus".
So I think whatever outward activity we have to do we can be at least partially self-attentive.
Regarding the quality of our self-attentiveness:
In my experience to think countless thoughts has not really damaging consequences provided that I become aware of the thoughts as a witness. To be aware of my thoughts during the day on the screen of awareness without distraction seems to be equaly effective as to devote my time(or spare moments)to try to be exclusively self-attentive.

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, unless we have all-consuming love to experience only ‘I’, which most of us do not yet have, we will not be able to spend all our spare time being self-attentive. Therefore we should try to be self-attentive as much as we can, and whenever we are not being self-attentive the next best thing is to be reading and thinking about self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), because that will keep our enthusiasm for trying to be self-attentive burning brightly in our heart.

In other words, whenever we are not practising nididhyāsana (self-contemplation) we should be doing śravaṇa (studying Bhagavan’s teachings) and manana (reflecting about them). Being self-attentive is the best sat-saṅga, and the next best sat-saṅga is keeping our mind dwelling on his teachings by śravaṇa and manana.

Of course, we should not allow reading and studying to become a substitute for practice, because without practice they will be of little use to us, but as a support to our practice they are a great aid.

If we persevere in our śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana, we are opening our heart to Bhagavan’s grace (which is the clear shining of ‘I’ within us), so it will certainly enkindle within us all-consuming love to experience only ‘I’.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks Viswanathan, Josef Bruckner and Michael for the comments.

Just yesterday I read in one of the books, where Kunju swami had asked Bhagavan that He cannot do self enquiry all times. Bhagavan replied, "Yes, yes, one cannot do vichara always, our vasanas wont allow us to do. It will tired you. SO when you are not able to do, read texts like Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakara Gita, Yoga Vasishta etc and contemplate or do japa or so anything that makes the mind fixed in one."

Balance is key. I guess what we read is also important. Because in my earlier I used to read variety of texts on spiritual subjects. Used to read from different masters and books and it confused me with lot of concepts. Now the learning has helped me read selected few books which has essence of one subject.

It is also necessary to recognize the subtle love we have for reading and Iam. To be honest, I (the mind) can sense lot of interest and love for reading. Until we cultivate the thirst, the love, the deep desire to be in Iam, to see ourselves as we are, that nothing else is required. That strong force should drive us until we realize that thinking, reading, talking will never take us but just being.

Gurudas Bailur said...

While focussing one's attention on I, how does one "investigate' the "I"? What is meant by to investigate? Does it mean only focussing attention on I or something more?

Secondly, how does one look for the source of I or go to the root of I!? Does focusing intense or deep attention on
i, ignoring everything that is not I, by itself, lead one to the root or source of I?

Michael James said...

Gurudas, the verbs that Sri Ramana used most frequently in Tamil to mean ‘investigate’ were நாடு (nāḍu) and விசாரி (vicāri), both of which mean to investigate or examine, so what he meant by ‘investigate’ is to examine, inspect or scrutinise — in other words, just to carefully observe or attend keenly to. Therefore ‘investigating I’ or ‘investigating who (or what) am I’ entails nothing other than trying to focus our entire attention only on ‘I’, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness.

Just as the only way to investigate what is written in a book is to open it and read it, so the only way to investigate what or who am I is to keenly attend only to ‘I’. To investigate anything in the outside world we need not only our attention but also the aid of our mind and one or more of our five senses, and in many cases additional aids such as light, infrared, x-rays, microscopes, telescopes, computers, etc., but to investigate ‘I’ the only instrument we can use is our attention, unaided by any other instrument.

Just as the source and substance of an illusory snake is only the rope that seems to be that snake, so the source and substance of our ego is only our real self, which now seems to be this ego. The ego is nothing but our real self mixed and confused with unreal adjuncts, such as this body, so it rises from our real self only by mistaking itself to be those adjuncts. In order to experience those adjuncts as ‘I’, our ego must attend to them, so if it tries instead to attend only to itself, our pure ‘I’, it will separate itself from them and thereby subside in its source, our pure adjunct-free ‘I’.

Therefore attending to nothing other than ‘I’ is the only way to experience our real self, which is the source of the ego. Hence the answer to your final question is yes, focusing our entire attention deeply and intensely on ‘I’ alone, thereby ignoring everything that is not ‘I’, will by itself lead us to our real self, which is the source of the ego, the adjunct-mixed self-awareness that we now experience as ‘I’.

Gurudas Bailur said...

Many thanks, Michael. Your blog is a treasure house of clarifications and explanations of obscure aspects of Atma Vichara.

Looking forward to meeting you soon.

Anonymous said...

In his third comment Venkat wrote:

Sorry, to elaborate again. Bhagavan said: “Be quiet and still and all thoughts will disappear. Self-enquiry and self-surrender are only techniques which bring one to the state of inner stillness and quietness. The ultimate instruction is therefore: ‘Be still and quiet; stabilise in this state and the Self will be revealed’.”

This quote is from the book "No mind I am the Self", and is said by Lakshmana swamy.