Sunday, 12 October 2014

The essential teachings of Sri Ramana

A friend wrote to me recently saying, ‘My humble opinion with total respect: far far too many words. Can you indicate where in your web page is your essential succinct truth’, to which I replied trying to give a simple summary of the essential teachings of Sri Ramana as follows:

You are probably right: far too many words.

Sri Ramana’s teachings are actually very simple, and can therefore be expressed in just a few words, but our minds are complicated, so sometimes many words are necessary in order to unravel all our complex beliefs and ideas and to arrive at the simple core: ‘I am’.

‘I’ is the core of our experience (since whatever we experience is experienced only by ‘I’), and is also the core of his teachings. Everything that we experience could be an illusion, and everything that we believe could be mistaken, so it is necessary for us to doubt everything, but the only thing we cannot reasonably doubt is ‘I am’, because in order to experience anything, to believe anything or to doubt anything I must exist.

However, though it is clear and certain that I am, it is not at all clear or certain what I am, because we now experience a body and mind as ‘I’, yet we have good reason to doubt whether either this body or this mind is actually ‘I’.

Though we now experience this body as ‘I’, in dream we experience some other (mind-created) body as ‘I’. Therefore in dream we experience ‘I’ but we do not experience our waking body, so this body and ‘I’ cannot be identical. If this body was actually ‘I’, we could not experience ‘I’ when we do not experience this body.

In both waking and dream we experience our thinking mind as ‘I’, but in dreamless sleep we do not experience this mind at all. But though the mind disappears in sleep, we are able to experience its absence then, so we must exist and be aware of our existence in sleep in order to experience the absence of the mind or anything else in that state.

Though we generally believe that we are not aware of anything in sleep, it would be more accurate to say that we are aware of nothing. The difference between what I mean here by ‘not being aware of anything’ and ‘being aware of nothing’ can be illustrated by the following analogy: if a totally blind person and a normally sighted person were both in a completely dark room, the blind person would not see anything, and hence he or she would not be able to recognise that there is no light there. The normally sighted person, on the other hand, would see nothing, and hence he or she would be able to recognise the absence of light. The fact that we are able to recognise the absence of any experience of anything other than ‘I’ in sleep clearly indicates that we exist in sleep to experience that absence or void.

The fact that we do actually experience sleep can also be demonstrated in other ways. For example, if we did not experience sleep, we would be aware of experiencing only two states, waking and dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between each successive state of waking or dream. But we are aware that sometimes there is a gap that we call sleep, in which we experience neither waking nor dream. We do not merely infer the existence of this third state, sleep, but actually experience it, and that is why we are able to say after waking from a period of deep sleep: ‘I slept peacefully and had no dreams’.

Why it is important to understand that we do actually experience sleep, even though sleep is a state that is completely devoid of any knowledge of multiplicity or otherness, is that our experience of sleep illustrates the fact that we do experience ‘I’ in the absence of the mind. Therefore the mind cannot be what I actually am.

The only experience that exists in all these three states is ‘I am’. It is I who am now experiencing this waking state; it was I who experienced dream; and it was I who experienced the absence of both waking and dream in deep sleep. Therefore ‘I’ is distinct from anything else that we experience in any of these three states.

Once we have understood this, it should be clear to us that our present experience of ‘I’ is confused and unclear, because we now experience this transitory body and mind as ‘I’. Therefore though we know for certain that I am, we do not know for certain what I am, and hence it is necessary for us to investigate this ‘I’ in order to ascertain what it actually is.

In order to experience ‘I’ as it actually is, we need to experience it clearly in complete isolation from everything else. And the only way to isolate ‘I’ is to focus our entire attention on it, thereby withdrawing our attention from everything else. This is the practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation), which Sri Ramana taught us as being the only means by which we can experience what this ‘I’ actually is (which is why he also called this practice ‘investigating who am I’).

This is the sum and substance of Sri Ramana’s teachings, and is all that we need to understand in order to start investigating what we actually are. However, people approach this teaching from different standpoints, and each person has their own pre-conceived ideas, beliefs and values, and they ask a wide variety of different questions, so this same teaching can be expressed in different ways to suit the needs of each person.

This is why so many words have been written and spoken by me and others on the teachings of Sri Ramana, but whatever may be written or said about them (provided of course that it does accurately represent what he actually taught), it should all focus on, lead back to and boil down to the simple and compelling need for each of us to investigate and experience what ‘I’ actually is.

57 comments:

Steve said...

"You are probably right: far too many words."

Michael, this is the only time I'll ever accuse you of being wrong.

R Viswanathan said...

Thanks so much for such a simple and excellent description of the essential teachings of Bhagavan: continuously focus the attention on 'I' through self investigation.

Michael James said...

Steve, just as I replied to the person who prompted me to write this article, ‘You are probably right: far too many words’, I can reply to you that you too are probably right to accuse me of being wrong, because you are each correct from your own perspective.

That is, I can understand that from the perspective of someone newly coming to Bhagavan and trying to understand what his essential teachings are, much of what I write will seem to be far too many words, whereas from the perspective of someone who has studied his teachings more deeply and tried to understand them clearly and put them into practice, some of my deeper, more detailed and more elaborate arguments may be helpful.

Michael James said...

Incidentally, if any Italian speakers are reading this blog, several of my articles (espectially the more recent ones) have been translated into Italian by a friend and posted on his blog, La Caverna del Cuore. For example, Gli insegnamenti essenziali di Sri Ramana is a translation of this article.

Steve said...

I'm just glad all those words are there for each of us - as needed! :)

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, it is an interesting remark made by our friend: far too many words. But for example if we had only the essay Nan Yar?, in addition to say Upadesa Undiyar and Ulladu Narpadu, this friend would have probably commented: far too few words.

Bhagavan wrote his essential teaching in prose and verses in very few words. Most of us need some expansion and explanation of these few words, as our minds are too extroverted and gross to catch the real import of these words.

I don’t think that Bhagavan’s teachings would have been as clear as it is to us, without Muruganar’s expanded and comprehensive recording of his teachings as Guru Vachaka Kovai. Similarly we would not have understood the correct practice of atma-vichara without Sri Sadhu Om’s clear explanations of the same in The Path of Sri Ramana and at other places. I think before him nobody else had explained us that the practice of atma-vichara entails just simple self-attention and nothing else.

Similarly your book HAB, your articles in your blog, your various translations and explanations of the major works by Bhagavan, your replies to us through e-mails clarifying our doubts, and your various videos are great help to many like me. These not only explain the path of Bhagavan most clearly from different perspectives, but mere reading or listening to these keeps our minds focused on ‘I’.
Therefore I look forward to reading your words and listening to your videos.

Thanking you and pranams.

Robert said...

Thank you Michael for what you wrote, is writing and will be writing. I agree with Sanjay Lohia. We need all the help we can get, especially from those who have correctly understood and practiced Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings. I always look forward to reading your articles and translations. I have printed and studied all of them carefully, and I repeatedly go back to them. Also, I read the comments on your articles and your answers to the same. Again, we need all the help we can get.

R Viswanathan said...

I give below translation of some portions from Sri Nochur's book Atma Tirtham (Acharya Sankara's life and teachings)which is pertinent to the comment 'far too many words'.

p147 to 150:

Question: Is a difficult and big scripture like Brahma Sutra Bhashyam necessary for those who are already mumukshus?

Answer: For those filled with Shradda, Bakthi and Dyana Yoga, mere sravanam of Mahavakyam is sufficient.

Acharya further answers that silence is also a teaching. The silence of Guru itself is jnana and jnana is so easy that Guru does not have to teach it by opening his mouth.

Question: Is it not sufficient to listen to Mahavakya from Guru once? and does one have to perform sravanam again and again?

Answer: For a matured (or qualified) person, hearing it once will help him realize Jnana; but for many, it requires that they perform many times the sravanam and mananam. Until one gets the Swarupa Pragna that will not leave even for a moment, one needs to keep performing mananam.

I also reproduce a sentence from a 2007 blog of Michael:

"if his teachings are presented in a clear, correct and comprehensive manner, they are self-validating and their credibility is self-evident and irrefutable."

shiba said...

Hello.
Bhagavan's teaching is very simple and practical, i think, like Buddha. But that simplicity don't mean that it is easy to understand for me.

Most difficult and confusing point is about Maya. Why does maya exsit in the Self can't be explained. Of course, I know maya don't exist from absolute standpoint. But from our standpint, it seems to exist apparently.

And, maya has another name of shakti. Shakti is worshiped as goddess which is one with sakta, brahman.
Should we worship maya?? Vikshepa and avarana is maya-shakti. When we worship sakti, what does exactly mean shakti?

I can't find the answer to these doubts still now, but i have faith in Bhagavan Ramana and his teaching.

Anonymous said...

Michael,
please would you give a translation
of the frequently seen sentence-
obviously Sanskrit-
" Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya"

Is it a kind of mantra ?

Anonymous said...

Michael,
Ramana's biography shows particularly up from the year 1946 till 1950 suffering from plenty of pain.
But sometimes we can read in Ramana-literature the ashtonishing statement "the body is unconscious".
This is incomprehensible to me and contradicts not only with my experience of life. You easily would see that contradiction while visiting a hospital.
Because I do not believe that the authors dont know about felt pain therefore I think it could be a bad mistake in translation.
Or do the Southindians have a quite different idea or understanding of the term "body" ?

Please clear up that doubt.

R Viswanathan said...

The question raised by Shibha as to why Maya exists in the Self prompts me to give the translation of a beautiful discussion between Acharya Sankara and a old Brahmin (believed by Padmapadhar as Vyasa Maharshi himself) as given by Sri Nochur in his book Atma Tirtham (p160-161).

Brahmin: what is Jivan?

Acharya: the finite boundary resulting from the assumption of the Sthula, Sukshma and Karana Sarirams as 'I' is Jivan.

Brahmin: How does Jivan get generated in the Nithya Sudhdha Bodham? (that is in pure and eternal Self)?

Acharya: Just as how in pure water there get generated impurities as foam and an assembly of foam. Just as although the foam or the assembly of foam are not separate from water, the water is pure and foam is impure. Therefore, although their inner property is the same, they differ only in their outward appearances.

Acharya then explains about how panchaboothams get formed from Self, and subsequently, the agricultural products (like rice, wheat etc.) which upon being eaten by men and women result in generation of children, who later on transform into Brahmachari, Grahasthan, and vanaprasthan in the course of time.

Finally, Acharya wonders " how unfathomable is Maya? Aho, Gambira Maya !!"

shiba said...

I read The sankaracharya's example of water and foam in "Atma Bodha", though in there not water but ocean.

But Atman and Brahman is without change, so ocean's movement that generate foam must be absent, and even if the change is not real change, such apparent change only for jiva don't seem logical. Logically, ajata vada is only rational though it is very hard to understand and completey contradict our experience.

And foam etc in water don't seems to be impurities for me, but jiva's evil nature which generate from pure brahman seems to be like white generate black and totally impossible and illogical for me.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
Can dream in which we experience us (our thinking and feeling) as an 'I' - with an other mind-created body than in the waking state - have any relevance to the 'I' of the waking state ?
The 'I' of waking seems to be at most similar to the 'I' of dream.
So they are(seem to be)different. Do they have any mutual connection to each other ? My experience shows that the present dream 'I' has some memory of past dreams if the current dream event closely resembles an old dream event. For example when I stay in a wellknown dream-building or dream-landscape the dream 'I' remembers immediately the old experiences made in that house or landscape although other people are acting now or other events occur now.

Regarding the importance of understanding that we do actually experience sleep:
You say :"We do not merely infer the existence of this third state, sleep, but actually experience it"....
"Though sleep is completely devoid of any knowledge of multiplicity or otherness we do actually experience sleep."
That means that we - the 'I' - do experience nevertheless the absence of the mind.
That we are able to say after waking from a period of so-called deep(=dreamless)sleep 'I slept' can only be the declaration from memory about a former event/situation.
Memory presupposes consciousness not only at the act of memory but also at the period during just happening of remembered events. Also the statement 'I slept peacefully' which includes the description of a quality - arrives obviously from memory.
The perception/awareness noticed just at waking that consciousness did not get lost over night not only let us infer that we have existed during that period but take it as an actual experience.
I do not assess now if it is a reliable improve of it. It seems to be, but how can a confused and unclear mind know it for certain ?

In order to experience 'I' as it actually is the requirement of the experience 'I' clearly in complete isolation from everything else meets some difficulties with the sentence
"ALL is One". Would you please give an explanation about it.

R Viswanathan said...


There is an interesting conversation between an old Brahmin and Acharya Sankaracharya, given by Sri Nochur Venkataraman in his book Atma Tirtham (page 289). It deals with 'I' which experiences its own existence,and whose nature is self effulgence and happiness. At the end of the conversation, Acharya gives his teachings briefly as 'ekasloki' (an equivalent translation for which has been reportedly given by Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi also in Ulladhu Narpadhu Anubandham).

If Sri Michael James can write on Acharya's ekasloki and/or its tamil translation by Bhagavan, it will be very beneficial for all of us.

R Viswanathan said...

I see that in Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai (by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James), the Tamil version of Acharya Sankaracharya's Eka Sloki by Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi is given. I reproduce below the essential content (p. 128):

The Guru asked: ‘What is the light for you?’
The disciple replied: ‘For me, in day-time the sun, and in darkness a lamp’.

Guru:‘What is the light which knows (those)lights?’
Disciple:‘The eye’.

Guru: ‘What is the light which
knows it (the eye)?’
Disciple:‘The light (which knows the eye) is the mind’.

Guru:‘What is the light which knows the mind?’
Disciple:‘It is I’.

Guru: ‘(Therefore) you are
the light of lights (that is, you are the light of consciousness
which illumines all the lights mentioned above)’.

When the Guru declared thus, (the disciple realized) ‘I am only That
(the supreme light of consciousness)’.

Michael James said...

Shiba, regarding your questions about māyā, according to Bhagavan māyā is the power that manifests as our mind or ego, and the reason why its existence cannot be explained is that it does not actually exist (as implied by its name, māyā, which is a compound of two words, yā mā, which mean ‘she who is not’), even though it seems to exist. This is, if we investigate this ego (which is the embodiment and primal form of māyā) to find out what it actually is, we will discover that it is not what it seems to be, but is only our infinite, immutable and indivisible self, other than which
nothing exists.

Our real self is infinitely powerful, because there is nothing other than it to limit its power in any way. Infinite power is infinite freedom, so we are free to use our infinite power in any way we wish. If we use our power wisely to remain as we really are, it is called ‘grace’, whereas if we misuse to rise as an ego, it is called ‘māyā’. Therefore māyā and grace are the same power, but used in two opposite ways, and this power (which is personified as śakti) is nothing other than ourself (which is personified as śiva). This essential oneness of ourself and our power is described metaphorically as the oneness of śiva and śakti.

Therefore, if we worship śakti, we can worship her either as the power of grace or as the power of māyā. If we worship her to fulfil our worldly desires, we are worshipping her as māyā, whereas if we worship her without any desire other than to be free of our ego, we are worshipping her as grace.

These two forms of śakti, the power of grace and the power of māyā, are what Sri Ramakrishna called vidyā-māyā and avidyā-māyā respectively, because worshipping her as grace will help us to attain ātma-vidyā (self-knowledge), whereas worshipping her as māyā will help to perpetuate our avidyā (ignorance).

According to Bhagavan, grace is the shining of ‘I’ (our real self) within us, so the most appropriate way to worship śakti as the power of grace is to attend with heart-melting love only to ‘I’. If we attend to anything other than ‘I’, we are worshipping her as māyā, the power of self-delusion.

Michael James said...

In reply to the anonymous comment asking about the meaning of the mantraōm namō bhagavatē śrī ramaṇāya’: ōm is considered to be the primal sound, and hence it is often described as the first name of brahman of God (but this commonly held view was corrected by Bhagavan, who said that the first name of brahman of God is actually ‘I’ or ‘I am’); namō is a form of namas, which means bowing, salutation, obeisance, adoration or reverence; bhagavatē is the dative or ‘fourth case’ form of bhagavan, so it means ‘to Bhagavan’, and śrī ramaṇāya is likewise the dative form of śrī ramaṇa, so it means ‘to Sri Ramana’. Thus ōm namō bhagavatē śrī ramaṇāya means ‘Om, obeisance to Bhagavan Sri Ramana’.

shiba said...

Mickeal, if Self which has infinite power use it's infinite freedom to limit itself and suffer as ego, Self can't escape the charge of foolishness. SO it can't be so.

Michael James said...

Shiba, we (our real self) do have infinite power, but we escape the charge of foolishness, because we have never actually misused our power to rise and suffer as an ego. Now it seems to us (the ego) that we have risen as this ego, but if we investigate ourself we will find that we have always remained as the one infinite self that we really are and have never risen as an ego.

This is why the ego (and its projection, this world) is called māyā (she who is not), because though in its own view it seems to exist, it does not really exist. So long as we experience ourself as this ego, we have to accept sole responsibility for having made the foolish decision to rise as such (because there is nothing other than us that could make us rise as an ego), so we have to recify this foolish decision by investigating ourself. However, when we do investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we really are, we will find that there never was any ego or any foolish decision to rise as such.

In the view of our mind, māyā may seem to be a self-contradictory concept, because it denies the existence of the mind that tries to understand it. Therefore by our mind or intellect we cannot understand māyā, so the only solution to the problem of māyā is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra): that is, investigating whether I actually am the mind or ego that I now seem to be. Until we investigate and thereby experience ourself as we really are, we will continue to be caught in this illusion called māyā.

Michael James said...

In reply to the anonymous comment asking about the body, consciousness and pain: When we experience pain (or any other sensation, such as a sight, sound or taste), what is actually experiencing it is not our body but only ourself, the conscious ‘I’. However, because we now experience our body as if it were ourself, we mistake our body to be the conscious experiencer.

The nervous system is just an information transmission system, like the circuitry in a computer, and the brain is just an information processing system, like the processor in a computer. Just as a computer processes information (receiving input, processing it, storing it in memory, and outputting processed information) without actually being conscious of what it is doing, the body likewise processes information (receiving sensory input, interpreting it, storing it in memory, and outputting speech and behaviour) without actually being conscious of anything. What distinguishes us from a computer is that it has no conscious (experiencing) element, whereas we have not only a non-conscious body but also a conscious (experiencing) element called ‘I’.

For the body, pain is just some electrochemical impulses transmitted by the nervous system to the brain, whereas for ‘I’, the experiencing ego, the information conveyed by those non-conscious electrochemical impulses is experienced as an unpleasant sensation called ‘pain’.

In the case of Bhagavan Ramana, there was no ego that could mistake his body to be ‘I’, so though his nervous system transmitted electrochemical impulses that we would experience as pain, there was no ego that could experience those impulses as pain, so he was indifferent to and unaffected by them.

So long as we experience a body as ‘I’, the idea that this body is not conscious will seem to us to be astonishing, but if we try to distinguish ‘I’ (which is the experiencing subject) from the body (which is an experienced object) by investigating who am I (that is, by trying to experience ‘I’ alone, in complete isolation from the body and everything else that we experience), we will begin to recognise that ‘I’ (ourself, the conscious subject) is something quite distinct from this physical (non-conscious) body.

shiba said...

Mickeal,as you say, what we Ramana devotees have to do is certainly Self-enquiry and not inference about maya.

Accoridng our position as ego, don't you want to blame Self if Self use infinite power to limit itself and make us suffer (even if our suffering at last is found to be non-existent)... though Self is verily me. How confusing!

For me concept of maya is still contradictory in advaita-vedanta. Bhagavan sometimes said maya is active side of Reality not illusion, and only have appearance of illusion. If Self use its infinite power to make world(viksepa) I feel it isn't so bad but if Self make veiling(avarana)too I can't understand such act and it's act contradictory to it's mercifulness because avarana is root cause of all suffering, all our evil nature.

Michael James said...

Josef, in reply to your comment, who experiences waking now, and who experienced dream? When you now remember a dream, do you not remember it as something that you experienced? Therefore the ‘I’ that now experiences this waking state and that now remembers experiencing a dream is the same ‘I’ that experienced that dream.

The body in each state is different, but the ‘I’ that currently experiences this body as itself is the same ‘I’ that experienced some other body as itself in another state.

What is significant about our memory of any dream is that we remember that I experienced it. Even if we forget a dream, the ‘I’ that experienced it is the same ‘I’ that has now forgotten it, so even a discontinuity of memory is not sufficient to show that it was a different ‘I’. We forget many things that we have experienced in the waking state, but we do not infer from that that the ‘I’ who experienced what is now forgotten was in any way a different ‘I’. Since ‘I’ is ourself, we could never experience ourself as a different ‘I’, so whether we remember or have forgotten anything that we experienced in the past, the ‘I’ who experienced it is not other than the ‘I’ that now remembers or has forgotten it.

Regarding your questions about our memory of having slept, there is a subtle difference between our memory of anything we experienced in waking or dream and our memory of what we experienced in sleep, because whatever we experience in waking or dream has numerous features, whereas what we experienced in sleep was featureless, because it was nothing other than ‘I’, ourself. Because ‘I’ remains essentially unchanged in all these three states, we remember that in the past I experienced waking, I experienced dream and I experienced sleep. To remember the existence of ‘I’, we do not require the mind, because our self-awareness, ‘I am’, carries within itself, so to speak, its own memory of itself.

In sleep we cannot remember anything that we experienced in waking or dream (other than ‘I am’), because in sleep the mind is absent. Because it is the mind that experiences anything other than ‘I’, it is only the mind that can remember experiencing anything other than ‘I’. However, because ‘I’ experiences itself even in the absence of the mind, it does not require the mind to remember itself, and hence we can remember that I slept, even though the mind was absent in sleep.

Regarding the claim that all is one, this implies that what seems to be ‘all’ (all this multiplicity and diversity) is not actually many different things but only one thing. In other words, manyness is an illusion, because only one thing actually exists, and that one thing is what we experience as ‘I’, ourself. As Bhagavan said in the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?: ‘யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே’ (yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē), ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]’.

Michael James said...

Shiba, regarding your latest comment, there is no use trying to understand māyā, because it does not actually exist. Bhagavan never said that it is anything more than an illusion, and he also clarified that even to say it is an illusion is not quite correct, because an illusion can exist only if there is someone who experiences it, and the only one who experiences māyā is the ego or mind, which does not actually exist.

Since māyā does not actually exist, it cannot be what we really are, so enquiring about it is anātma-vicāra (investigation of what is not ourself), which Bhagavan said will always be futile. Therefore we should give up all such anātma-vicāra and instead do only ātma-vicāra (self-investigation), because only by ātma-vicāra can we experience ourself as we really are and thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego who experiences māyā.

We now seem to experience māyā only because we have not investigated who am I (what this ‘I’ actually is), so we have only ourself (the ego) to blame for māyā. We cannot blame our real self for māyā, because in its view māyā never existed or could ever exist, because what actually exists is only ‘I’, as Bhagavan said in the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?: ‘யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே’ (yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē), ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]’.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in your comment dated 19 October 2014 18:36, addressed to Shiba as follows:

…This is, if we investigate this ego (which is the embodiment and primal form of māyā) to find out what it actually is, we will discover that it is not what it seems to be, but is only our infinite, immutable and indivisible self, other than which nothing exists.

Is our ego the primal form of maya? Ego is our thought called ‘I’, therefore it is the primal form of viksepa or dispersion, whereas we have learnt from you that our primal form of maya is avarana or concealment.

Could you please clarify as to how this ego is the embodiment and primal form of maya, as written by you in your this comment?

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, there is no māyā other than the ego, because as Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I quoted in this article): ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. [...]’.

Just as an illusory snake effectively veils and obscures what the rope actually is (even though the snake does not actually exist but just seems to exist), so the ego effectively veils and obscures what we actually are (even though the ego does not actually exist but just seems to exist), because the ego is an illusion, a mistaken experience of ourself. Therefore the ego is āvaraṇa (the power of self-veiling, self-obscuring or self-concealment), which is the primary form of māyā.

The ego cannot rise or endure without experiencing something other than ‘I’, so as soon as it comes into existence and so long as it exists it projects and experiences things other than itself. Thus it is not only āvaraṇa but also vikṣēpa (the power of scattering, dispersion, diffusion or dissipation), which is the secondary form of māyā.

It is often said that though the ego subsides in sleep, māyā persists in its primal form of āvaraṇa, but this is said only to explain how the ego rises again from sleep. Therefore the persistence of āvaraṇa in sleep is true only from the perspective of the ego, but not from the perspective of our real self, in whose clear view māyā has never existed or even seemed to exist at all. Therefore, when it is said to satisfy our desire for a consistent and coherent explanation that āvaraṇa persists in sleep, we have to infer that though the ego has subsided in sleep, it still exists then in a seed form as āvaraṇa.

However, all such explanations are required only so long as the ego seems to exist, but if we investigate what this ego really is (that is, who or what I actually am), we will discover that there is no such thing but only our one infinite, immutable and indivisible self, and hence that there has never been any māyā at all, because māyā seems to exist only in the view of the non-existent ego. Hence it is called māyā: yā mā or ‘she who is not’.

shiba said...

>Bhagavan never said that it is anything more than an illusion, and he also clarified that even to say it is an illusion is not quite correct, because an illusion can exist only if there is someone who experiences it, and the only one who experiences māyā is the ego or mind, which does not actually exist.

Mickeal, but how do you think following comment of Bhagavan? And I don't come across such a comment of Bhagavan that "he also clarified that even to say it is an illusion is not quite correct...", would you tell me where Bhagavan said so?

From "Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi" Talk 20
D.: What does Maharshi think of the theory of universal illusion
(Maya)?
M.: What is Maya? It is only Reality.
D.: Is not Maya illusion?
M.: Maya is used to signify the manifestations of the Reality. Thus Maya is only Reality.

From "Guru Ramana" chapter 9
C. But how out of Truth does illusion, falsehood spring up?
Bh. Maya is not falsehood, although it has the appearance of
it, but the active side of Reality. It is the maker of forms
in Consciousness and form means variety, which causes
illusion – mind you, all this variety is in consciousness
and nowhere else; it is only in the mind. One jiva, seeing
another jiva, forgets its identity with it and thinks of it
as separate from itself. But the moment it turns its
attention on its own nature as consciousness, and not as
form, the illusion of diversity or separateness breaks as a
dream breaks when waking takes place.
C. It is hard to conceive God, the formless, giving rise to forms.
Bh. Why hard? Does not your mind remain formless when
you do not perceive or think, say, in deep sleep, in
samadhi, or in a swoon? And does it not create space and
relationship when it thinks and impels your body to act?
Just as your mind devises and your body executes in one
homogeneous, automatic act, so automatic, in fact, that
most people are not aware of the process, so does the
Divine Intelligence devise and plan and His Energy
automatically and spontaneously acts – the thought and
the act are one integral whole. This Creative Energy
which is implicit in Pure Intelligence is called by various
names, one of which is maya or shakti, the Creator of
forms or images.

Is Maya mere illusion?

R Viswanathan said...

Bhagavan would probably respond to Shiba in this way:

Find out or investigate who charges Self of foolishness; and who doubts whether Maya is mere illusion. Definitely not the Self. However, through investigation of who(am I), the ego which charges or doubts would dissolve in the Self and so would the charge and the doubt, too.

Fortunately, clearest presentation of Bhagavan's teachings are available in his own words (most of which he spoke or wrote in Tamil). Unfortunately, however, those who do not know Tamil have to rely on translations of them. Even if one knows Tamil (like me), one needs to rely on the commentary of them or discourses on them !!.

As Michael always suggests, Self-investigation is the only effective, practical, and complete solution to any question that may sprout in us from time to time. For how long, one has to perform this? As long as questions sprout in us.

Mahishasura said...

to Shiba's 19th and Michael's 24th comment :
God is not only a foolish decision-maker but also a big crook. It is an unbearable impertinence to use his infinite power and split up to 8 billion suffering egos.
Perhaps twenty or fifty or hundred non-sufferer at the one side of the river -
opposite 8 billion not actually existing egos at the other side. However, that is what I call a "tough match".

In revenge we should arrest him and throw into prison.
Or shall we punish him in a moment by death penalty ?
Only the practicability of that action would be relatively difficult...
That we cannot blame our real self for maya
shows possibly that the cards are stacked against us experiencer of maya.
We have to understand clearly that our world can never be explained by our mind - may
if be only a nonexistent projection or not.

So there is only the last resort from misery of ignorance to seek and find what we really are.
Let us destroy any illusion.
We should have the power to overcome (our) - not actually existing - enemies.
How happy must we be as the real self where no maya ever existed ?
Is it not tempting to get the clear view of our real self ?
Our problem cannot be the not at all existing ego.
As you say, Michael, our problem is the phantom-phenomenon of a mysterious 'ego-lady' called 'she who is not'. She is the queen-master of concealing appearance.
What us shakes and tremles is the seemingly gigantic power of the seemingly existing ego-lady
1.to project and to experience things,
2.to veil and obscure what we really are
3.to conceal the true state of affairs
4.to project perspectives which are only true from the view of the obscure ego-lady.

So there is no other way than to investigate...
After careful and thorough investigation it is often said that we will discover...

Therefore we should always have faith in Bhagavan's assurance
that we are like the prey in the jaws of a tiger, and that we can never escape.
Let our attention remain in its source.

girivalam said...

Thanks Michael for the explanation of the sanskrit-mantra.
Would it be proper to use it as a part of everyday life particularly at serious difficulties ?

sonadri said...

Thanks Michael for your explanation about the mistake of the body as the conscious experiencer.
To declare unpleasant sensations called pain as distinct from the physical(non-conscious) body is admittedly original but out of touch with everyday life.
However, also in this point the everyday life-experience maybe wrong.

shiba said...

Yes,yes, I understand what we have to do Self-enquiry and I am practising it though insufficiently. And sravana and manana is also admitted to be spiritual practice. If you can continue Self-enquiry all the time , such intellctual understanding isn't necessary.But I can't do so.

I swear that I don't want to shake anyone's faith on God or Goddess. I simply and sincerly have doubts and make my doubt cleared and ask to help me. Because I want to have faith on God and Goddess. But I can't have faith on wielder of maya who make me suffer if it is ture...

In "Kaivalya navaneeta" there are passages- "Those fools head for disaster who, in their ignorance, attribute to God the six evils [lust, anger, greed, delusion, conceit and jealousy], which are of their own making, but the wise will gain untainted deliverance by recognising that the same evils are of their own making and not God's."

Does God(dess) or Self wield maya which is root cause of six evils?

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
your comment(nr.20)
middle paragraph,
The second sentence,
beginning with "So long as we experience ourself as this ego,...,"
in correction of the word "recify"
we should read "so we have to rectify this foolish decision...".

sonadri said...

Michael,
keyword non-conscious body,
As a further remark to my today's comment to your explanation given as reply(comment nr.21) to the anonymus comment(nr.11)
I would note:
As you say all sensations such as sight, sound or taste
are experienced by the conscious 'I'.
Now at this very moment the conscious element called 'I' in one homogeneous automatic act - in combination with my non-conscious body - writes on the computer-tabulatur key to you while watching the screen. In this act at the same time my (the) experiencing ego is using the bodily nervous system and the bodily brain maybe on the basis of transmitted non-conscious electrochemical impulses.
For the daily use it seems not necessary to distinguish this experiencing 'I' which is obviously bound to the body from the physical non-conscious body.
To be able to write to you it is clear that I must use a living body and not a corpse.
But is using evidently the bodily functions the same as experiencing the body as 'I' ?
Only by trying to experience 'I' alone - that is our essential self (atma svarupa)- it would be necessary to be aware of 'I' in complete isolation from the body and everything else that we experience.
Is it not possible to be completely aware as atma-svarupa that is experiencing nothing other than 'I' alone - without any care for the body and without any look after complete isolation of the 'I' experience from the body ?

Josef Bruckner said...

Many thanks Michael for your reply to my comment(nr.14).
You did clearly refer to the continuity of the experiencing and forgetting 'I' of different bodies in each state.
Also you have shown that there is no different 'I' in any way regarding memory of dream on the one hand and experiencing, remembering and forgetting anything in the waking state on the other hand.
The suptle difference between our memory of anything we experienced in waking or dream and our memory of what we experienced in sleep is also well elaborated.
I am happy about the wonderful power of our self-awareness 'I am' who/which carries within itself its own memory of itself.
And that even in the absence of the mind in deep sleep ! So it is not the mind that remembers of having slept (featureless 'I') but the 'I' itself who/which remains essentially unchanged in all the three states.

So if I have understood correctly therefore the sleeper can only be the 'I'.

Regarding the claim "All is One" my doubt is still alive:

You say "In order to experience'I' as it actually is, we need to experience it clearly in complete isolation from everything else. And the only way to isolate 'I' is to focus our entire attention on it, thereby withdrawing our attention from everything else. This is the practice of atma-vicara(self-investigation),...".
You quote Bhagavan's seventh paragraph of "Nan Yar ?":
'What actually exists is only atma svarupa[our own essential self]'.

If manyness is an illusion because only one thing actually exists I cannot see immediately the need of the experience 'I' alone, in complete isolation from the body and as a result the experienced world, in sum from everything else.
If all is the self how can we consider the body as outside of the self ?
Can in general anything be outside of self ?
Are there in general things other than ourself ?
As you say the seemingly many things - all this multiplicity and diversity-
are not actually many things but only one actually existing thing.
That one thing is what we experience as 'I', ourself.
So how could so called other things than 'I' do any harm to us ?

R Viswanathan said...

"So if I have understood correctly therefore the sleeper can only be the 'I'.

Regarding the claim "All is One" my doubt is still alive:

So how could so called other things than 'I' do any harm to us ?"

I have understood from Sri Nochur Venkataraman that correct understanding results when the mind/brain ego combination checks whether what is heard or read matches with the knowledge (absolute) that remains eternally within and shines forth as truth and happiness. That is when the attention is turned inwards and focused on that centre. The ego that gave rise to the disturbing doubt dissolves in the Self.

Therefore, I would contend that the remaining doubt also will get resolved soon when the brain/mind combination finds that what is heard or read matches with the Self-knowledge.

Or, by investigating inwards to whom the others things do or could do any harm. The doubt will get detached and loose its existence and the 'I' that was thinking or doubting so will merge into the Self.

Or, one has to simply have faith in Bhagavan's statements and get instant relief from the clutches of any doubt.

Josef Bruckner said...

Thanks R.Viswanathan,
you are right. The doubt rose only to the discussing ego which has to dissolve in the Self.
The best remedy to remedy doubts is to turn the attention inwards.
Inspite of apparently having faith in Bhagavan's statements the ego always tends to fall into the clutches of any doubt.
Lets merge the doubter now into the Self.
Nanri

shiba said...

Hello.

I came across the following book. I would like to know reader's impression of this book. For me author's explanation of ajata vada is beyond my comprehension.

http://www.holybooks.com/lights-on-advaita-selected-teachings-of-v-subrahmanya-iyer/#comments

Michael James said...

Shiba, regarding the passages from section 20 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and chapter 9 of Guru Ramana that you quote in your comment of 20 October 2014 23:37, I doubt whether either of these is a reliable or accurate recording of what Bhagavan actually said, because I do not think he would have said, for example, ‘Maya is not falsehood’ (though in the very next sentence of that passage from Guru Ramana it is recorded that he explained that māyā causes illusion, since it is ‘the maker of forms’ and ‘form means variety, which causes illusion’ and which ‘is only in the mind’).

As you know, he often explained that māyā means ‘she () who is not ()’, which clearly indicates that māyā is not real but just an illusion or false appearance. For example, the following dialogue is recorded in section 144 of Talks:

Mr. Prakasa Rao: What is the root-cause of maya?

M.: What is maya?

D.: Maya is wrong knowledge, illusion.

M.: For whom is the illusion? There must be one to be deluded. [...] When the objects are not themselves present how can maya exist? Maya is ya ma (maya is what is not). What remains over is the true Self. [...] There is nothing but the Self.

And in section 433 of Talks it is recorded that he said: ‘The mind is maya. Reality lies beyond the mind. So long as the mind functions there is duality, maya, etc. Once it is transcended the Reality shines forth’. In verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār he said, ‘மனம் என ஒன்று இலை’ (maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai), which means ‘anything called mind does not exist’, and he often explained that the mind or ego seems to exist only because we do not investigate what it actually is, so since he says that the mind is māyā and that māyā seems to exist only so long as the mind functions, we can conclude that like the mind māyā does not actually exist.

In Day by Day with Bhagavan, in the entry dated 7-4-46 Night it is recorded that he said:

“[...] when Shankara is called mayavadi [one who argues that maya exists] it may be retorted, ‘Shankara says maya does not exist. He who denies the existence of maya and calls it mithya or non-existent cannot be called a mayavadi. It is those who grant its existence and call its product, the world, a reality who should rightly be called mayavadis. One who denies Ishwara [God] is not called Ishwaravadi, but only one who affirms the existence of Ishwara.’”

This once again clearly indicates that Bhagavan considered māyā to be completely non-existent. Therefore the answer to your final question, ‘Is Maya mere illusion?’ is yes, if we accept that māyā and its products (the ego and world) seem to exist, it is a mere illusion, because it does not actually exist.

In the portion you quoted from section 20 of Talks it is recorded that Bhagavan said twice that māyā ‘is only Reality’, but this does not mean that it is real as such, because this is like saying that the snake is actually only a rope. This does not mean that the snake actually exists, but only that it does not exist, because what seems to be a snake is actually only a rope. Likewise, if Bhagavan said something to the effect that māyā ‘is only Reality’, he did not mean that it (or its products, the ego and world) actually exists, but only that it does not exist, because what seems to be māyā and its products are actually nothing but ourself, which is the sole existing reality.

Michael James said...

Girivalam, in reply to your question referring to my answer about the meaning of ‘ōm namō bhagavatē śrī ramaṇāya’, yes, it would be ‘proper to use it as a part of everyday life particularly at serious difficulties’, provided that we remember that namō means bowing, salutation, obeisance, adoration or reverence and therefore signifies loving surrender of ourself to Bhagavan. Therefore the devotional attitude with which we should utter this mantra is one of surrendering all our concerns to him, and hence we should not utter it with any desire in mind.

If we face any difficulties, we should not even desire to be free from them, but should only desire to surrender ourself entirely to him so that we may be free of the ego who experiences both the difficulties and joys of life.

Michael James said...

Sonadri, in one of your comments you say, ‘To declare unpleasant sensations called pain as distinct from the physical (non-conscious) body is admittedly original but out of touch with everyday life’, but I did not actually say that unpleasant sensations are distinct from the physical body. Obviously the physical sensations that we experience as pain occur in the body, but what I tried to explain is that what experiences them as pain is not the body itself but only ‘I’.

Because we mistake the physical body to be ‘I’, it seems to us that the body is experiencing pain, but since the body itself is just a biological organism consisting of physical matter, it obviously cannot experience (or be consciously aware of) anything, any more than a computer could be consciously aware of any input, processing or output.

As you say in your later comment, for functioning in the world it is not necessary to distinguish the experiencing ‘I’ from the body that it experiences as itself, but in order to experience ourself as we really are it is necessary to make this distinction and to try to experience ‘I’ (ourself) in complete isolation from the body. Our attempt to experience ourself thus is the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

In answer to your question, ‘But is using evidently the bodily functions the same as experiencing the body as ‘I’?’ when we use any bodily functions such as reading a computer screen or typing on a keyboard, we experience our use of those functions as ‘I am reading this computer screen and typing on this keyboard’, so it is clear that we are thus experiencing the functioning of the body as if the body were ‘I’.

If I have understood your final question correctly, ‘Is it not possible to be completely aware as atma-svarupa that is experiencing nothing other than ‘I’ alone — without any care for the body and without any look after complete isolation of the ‘I’ experience from the body?’, as you say ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self] does not experience anything other than ‘I’ (itself) alone, so it does not experience or care for the body, and hence if we isolate ‘I’ from the body and thereby experience ourself as we really are (that is, as ātma-svarūpa), then we will certainly be completely aware of (and as) ātma-svarūpa alone.

Michael James said...

Yes, Josef, you are correct when you point out in one of your comments that in one of my earlier comment I mistyped ‘rectify’ as ‘recify’, but I cannot correct it now because there is no edit function on comments once they have been posted.

girivalam said...

thanks Michael,
for your important advice:
While uttering this mantra - I use it not in spoken words but only in thoughts -
we should surrender ourself entirely along with all our concerns to him.
We should not allow even the thought to be free from difficulties but be aware of the need of total personal surrender ourself to Bhagavan.
As you say that means loving surrender to him so that we may be free of the ego who experiences joys and sorrows of life.

Michael James said...

Shiba, in your comment of 22 October 2014 00:34 you wrote, ‘I want to have faith on God and Goddess. But I can’t have faith on wielder of maya who make me suffer if it is true’, but instead of believing that God or Goddess is the wielder of māyā, why do you not believe that he or she is the destroyer of māyā — the one who will save you from the cruel clutches of māyā?

Bhagavan has taught us that there is truly no God or Goddess other than our own real self (ātma-svarūpa), which alone actually exists, and that since māyā does not exist in its clear view, it cannot be the wielder of māyā. Māyā exists only in the self-deluded view of the mind or ego, so the true cause and wielder of māyā is only the mind that experiences its effects.

Though it is sometimes said that God or Goddess wields māyā, this is said only to suit the needs of those who cannot grasp or are unwilling to accept that everything other than ourself is created only by the mind or ego and is therefore just an illusion or false appearance. Therefore, having come to Bhagavan and taken him as your guru, why do you not accept his teaching that māyā does not actually exist, but seems to exist only because we mistakenly experience ourself as an ego who perceives a world?

The verse you have quoted from Kaivalya Navanītam is very apt in this context. Only the ignorant will attribute māyā or any of its evils to God, whereas ‘the wise will gain untainted deliverance by recognising that the same evils are of their own making and not God’s’.

sonadri said...

Many thanks for your explanations, Michael.
Now I cannot see any unclear points.

Mahalingam said...

We are slow on the uptake:
So long we do not sufficiently investigate what the mind or ego or maya actually is,
we can't see the wood for the trees.

shiba said...

Mickeal, thank you for your all replies, though I was late saying that.

To be honest, I can't solve my questions still now, and I will continue to try to solve my questions by sadhana and by sravana and manana.

And you asked me "why" two times, first why I ansewer " If someone hit you and after that he or she treat you, do you feel he is kind person?". And second why, I answer I haven't said that I don't regard world as unreal. I simply want to understand BHagavan's viwe more deeply.

I think all men in this blog may fed up with me and my questions and my broken English(lol), so I come back to my solitary vichara.. thank you very much.

・moksha gita chapter3, verse6
He who gets knowledge of the Self having overcome Maya, the illusory power, will alone know what Maya is, how it arises and is destroyed.

Michael James said...

Josef, in reply to your comment of 22 October 2014 13:05:

Regarding what you wrote in response to my earlier reply about our memory of ‘I’ in sleep, I think that perhaps this requires some further clarification, so I will write a separate article on that, which I will try to post here next week.

Regarding your doubt about ‘all is one’, if you are happy experiencing the illusion of manyness, you need not try to experience ‘I’ alone, but I suspect that like most of us you are not entirely happy with your present state, so it is surely worth your while trying to find out what this not entirely happy ‘I’ actually is. Understanding that in theory everything is ourself is not of much use to us when we are suffering or dissatisfied, so we need to find out from our own experience whether or not this theory is true, and we can find that out only by investigating what this ‘I’ (ourself) actually is.

If ‘I’ alone exists, as Bhagavan says, then nothing other than ‘I’ can harm us, because nothing other than ‘I’ exists. But it seems to us that other things do exist and that they do or can harm us, so there is a clear discrepancy between the theory that I alone exist and what I am now experiencing. The theory really cannot help us much unless we experience the truth of it ourself. If we are suffering mental anguish or physical agony, the theory that it is all an unreal appearance will not do much to alleviate our suffering. Therefore mere belief in a theory without actual experience of what is real is deeply unsatisfactory, and hence we need to try to experience ourself as we really are.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, in your latest comment you offer three solutions to the doubt raised by Josef in his previous comment, but according to Bhagavan all doubts and other problems are caused only by the rising of the ego, and there is actually only one real solution to this fundamental problem, the ego, namely self-investigation (which is the second of your three solutions).

The first solution you offer, ‘[...] when the brain/mind combination finds that what is heard or read matches with the Self-knowledge’, cannot be effective, because the mind and brain are both expansion of the ego, and so long as the ego exists we cannot experience true self-knowledge, since the ego is a wrong knowledge (a mistaken experience) of ourself. The brain is jaḍa (non-conscious), so it cannot experience anything, but if the ego or mind tries to check ‘whether what is heard or read matches with the knowledge (absolute) that remains eternally within’, as you suggest, it will be dissolve in its source and thereby forget all that it has ever heard or read. This is why Bhagavan ended the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ-ār? by saying: ‘கற்றவை யனைத்தையும் ஒருகாலத்தில் மறக்க வேண்டிவரும்’ (kaṯṟavai y-aṉaittaiyum oru-kālattil maṟakka vēṇḍi-varum), ‘At one time it will become necessary to forget all that has been learnt’.

The third solution you offer, ‘Or, one has to simply have faith in Bhagavan’s statements and get instant relief from the clutches of any doubt’, may be sufficient for some people to set aside their doubts, but it does not solve the original cause of any doubts, namely the ego. This is why Bhagavan used to say, ‘சந்தேகி யாரென்று சந்தேகி’ (sandēhi yār-eṉḏṟu sandēhi), ‘Doubt who is the doubter’, and why he did not ask us merely to believe his words, but advised us to investigate who am I in order to experience for ourself what is actually real.

Michael James said...

Shiba, regarding your comment asking about the book Lights on Advaita: Selected Teachings of V. Subrahmanya Iyer, I checked the online copy and found that the words ajata and ajati occurred in it eight times (in 21.10, 21.21, 21.24, 21.30, 21.105, 21.113, 21.114 and 48.14), but I am not surprised that it was beyond your comprehension, because all I could understand from it was that the author does not seem to understand what ajāta vāda actually is or what the distinction is between ajāta vāda and vivarta vāda.

He seems to think that the distinction between them is to do with causation, and that ajāta vāda is merely a theory of non-causality and not a theory that denies the existence of anything that could be considered to have a cause. The actual difference between ajāta vāda and vivarta vāda is that (as I explained in several recent articles) while they both claim that the ego and world do not actually exist, vivarta vāda accepts that they seem to exist and are therefore just an illusion or false appearance (vivarta) whereas ajāta vāda denies that they even seem to exist. However Subrahmanya Iyer seems to think that ajāta vāda accepts the existence or appearance of the mind and world, because he wrote:

‘At this moment you think of the mountains, rivers, towns and people of dream as being the mind you have Ajativada. [...]’ (21.21)

‘When you believe the mind, in dream, has appeared as a mountain, it is the Vivartavada view. When you know that the mind has not changed in any way, it is called Ajativada.’ (21.30)

‘To rise above this error you should get to Ajativada, viz. I am witnessing the world’ (21.105)

In 21.24 he implies that what Sankara taught was not vēdānta, because he says ‘Vivartavada’s theory of world creation is not the highest, nor (is it) Vedanta; [...] This is not our view. We say no world at all has been produced, because when you know truth you can no longer talk of cause and effect, as does the Vivartavada theory. Brahman is thus the cause of world in Vivartavada. Sankara’s Vedanta Sutras comment does not go beyond Vivartavada. [...]’.

Moreover, since vivarta vāda denies that the world actually exists, it certainly does not say that brahman is the cause of it. What it actually says is that brahman remains ever unchanged and is therefore not affected in any way by the false appearance of the world, and that the cause of the appearance of the world is the ego’s self-ignorance.

Since vivarta vāda argues that the effect (the appearance of the ego and world) is unreal, it also argues that the cause of this effect (namely self-ignorance) is likewise unreal, so it is not true to say (as Subrahmanya Iyer implies) that vivarta vāda takes cause and effect to be real.

shiba said...

Micheal, thank you very much for responding to my request.

You kindly and clearly explained author's wrong understanding of ajata vada and now I have no doubt about that. I think ajata can be experienced only by Self-realised person and totally beyond logic. And I think author seemes to value intellect too much(and it is also criticism to me).

Michael James said...

Yes, Shiba, the mind can never adequately understand ajāta, because ajāta denies the very existence (and even the seeming existence) of the mind, so only when we investigate this mind (the ego or finite ‘I’) and thereby experience ourself as we really are can we experience what ajāta actually means.

Perhaps I too value intellectual understanding too much, but when we have such a tendency we should be careful to use it in such a way that we understand the essential simplicity of Bhagavan’s teachings, which reduce all problems down to the ego, the one fundamental problem in which all other problems are rooted, and which therefore show that the only solution to all problems is to investigate this ego, which is just a false appearance that obscures and conceals our real nature.

An over-active intellect is a dangerous thing that can easily lead us astray, so we have to tether it firmly to the simple essence of Bhagavan’s teachings: trying to experience what this ‘I’ actually is.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
many thanks for your reply.

Regarding 'All is one' I refer to the small book of Vaiyai R.Subramaniam, published by:President Sri Ramanasramam,
4th Edition - May 2003.
According the Publisher's note the booklet was written by Sri Bhagavan's devotees in His sacred presence based on an old Tamil publication which has been commended by Him.
This was first published by Colombo devotees on the occasion of Bhagavan's Seventy-first Birthday in January 1950.
'Ellam Ondre' :

"Paragraph I. Unity

1. All including the world seen by you and yourself, the seer of the world, is one only.
2. All that you consider as I, you, he, she and it,
is one only.
3. What you consider to be sentient beings and what you consider to be insentient, such as earth, air, fire, and water is all one.
4. The good which is derived by your considering all as one, cannot be had by considering each as separate from the other. Therefore all is one.
5. To consider all as one, is good for you and good for others as well. Therefore all is one.
6. He who considers "I am separate", "you are separate"...
...Therefore give up differentiation. All is one only.
7. If you should ask, "In the world all things appear different; how can I consider all as one ? Is there any way of gaining this knowledge ?" I shall tell you : "In the same tree...
Similarly, all things, all bodies, all organisms, are from the same source and activated by a single life principle. Therefore all is one."
8. Oh good man ! See for yourself if the statement "All is one", is conducive to good or evil. As far as...
Regard all as unity; love all as unity. In truth, all is one.
9. Who can share the mental peace and purity of the knower of unity ?
There is no other means of gaining such love than the knowledge of unity. Therefore all is one.
10. Regard the world as a whole as your undecaying body and that you are the everlasting life of the whole world.....
I put it briefly : the knower of unity will act as one should. In fact, it is the knowledge of unity that makes him act. He cannot err. In the world, he is God made visible. All is one."

A theory is a formal idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain something.
I agree with you that we need to find out from our own experience whether or not this theory is true, and we can find that out only by investigating what this 'I' (ourself) actually is.
But is this text only a theory ?
However, I do understand : As you say mere belief in a theory without actual experience of what is real is deeply unsatisfactory, and hence we need to try to experience ourself as we really are.

Michael James said...

Josef, in answer to your question ‘But is this text only a theory?:

Unless we have actually experienced it, whatever we read, hear or believe is for us just a theory.

Moreover in a certain sense ‘All is one’ can never be anything but a theory, because so long as we experience ‘all’ (all this variety, diversity and multiplicity) we cannot experience ‘one’ as it really is, and when we experience ‘one’ we will experience nothing else, so there will then be no ‘all’ (or at least no ‘all’ other than ‘one’).

What is this ‘one’? So long as we experience anything other than ourself, we are experiencing more than one, so the experience of ‘one’ can only be the experience of ourself alone. When we experience ourself alone, we experience ourself as we really are, but when we experience anything other than ourself, we are experiencing ourself as the ego, because other things (which are what is denoted by the word ‘all’) exist only in the view of the ego.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.14.1 says, ‘सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म’ (sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma), which means, ‘all this indeed is brahman‘ (sarvaṁ = all; khalu = indeed, certainly, truly; idaṁ = this; brahma = the absolute reality, which is our real self), but Bhagavan gives us a more practical teaching when he says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandayē yāvum ām) ‘The ego itself is everything’.

That is, as he explains in that verse everything (or ‘all’) comes into existence only when the ego rises, and it ceases to exist when the ego subsides, so it is just an expansion of the ego. Since the ego rises and is sustained only by creating and experiencing things that seem to be other than ‘I’, it will ‘take flight’ or cease to exist if it tries to experience itself alone (as he explained in the previous verse), so the only way to experience the state of oneness in which nothing else exists is to investigate what this ego is by trying to experience it alone.

When we investigate this ego and thereby experience ‘I’ alone, we will discover that what seemed to be an ego is actually our infinite self, which alone actually exists, and which is therefore the absolute reality called brahman. Hence, since everything is only the ego, and since the ego is a false appearance that when scrutinised turns out to be nothing but brahman, what seems to be ‘all’ or ‘everything’ is actually only brahman.

However, so long as we experience anything else we cannot experience brahman (the one reality) as it actually is, and when we do experience it as it actually is , we will not experience anything else, so we cannot simultaneously experience both ‘all’ (anything other than ‘I’) and the ‘one’ (brahman, our real self). Therefore since we cannot experience both together, we have to choose whether we want to experience ourself alone (the ‘one’) or ourself and other things (the ‘all’).

Hence the true state that is denoted by the words ‘எல்லாம் ஒன்றே’ (ellām oṉḏṟē), ‘all is one’, is the state in which our one ‘I’ alone is experienced — that is, in which it is discovered that there is actually no ‘all’ other than this one ‘I’.

Michael James said...

Josef, as I mentioned in my reply to one of your earlier comments, I have today posted a new article in which I share some further reflections on Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep.

Josef Bruckner said...

Many thanks Michael,
for your explanation about 'All is one' being only a theory so long as we experience 'all'(all this variety, diversity and multiplicity).
I mentally do understand that we cannot simultaneously experience both 'all'(anything other than 'I') and the 'one' (brahman,our real self) and so we have to choose whether we want to experience ourself alone(the 'one') or ourself and other things (the 'all').
But I have something on my mind:
If Bhagavan has commended that old Tamil publication to read
he must have been aware that he commended only a theory.
So for what use would be this commendation of just a theory
if not for the benefit of devotees.

Another question arises in my mind, also a real brain-teaser:
According your given explanation of the quoted verse 26 of Ulladu Narpadu:
"All comes into existence only when the ego rises, and it ceases to exist when the ego subsides, so it is just an expansion of the ego".
It seems that this statement is not applicable also to simple cases of everyday life ? For instance : I go to bed in the evening. In the sleeping room there is a bed, a book shelf etc. Now in deep sleep the ego subsides. How can be said that that things(sleeping room, bed, shelf etc.) would cease to exist and while dreaming would come into existence (again)?
As you see Michael, I am not exactly an Einstein. Is there still
a ray of hope ?

Michael James said...

Josef, in reply to your latest comment, whatever we read, hear or believe about metaphysical matters is for us just a theory, because what is metaphysically true can become an actual experience only when we experience ourself as we really are. Therefore whatever is written in any sacred text is for us just a collection of theories, and they are useful theories only to the extent that they prompt us to investigate what we actually are.

Regarding the claim that Bhagavan commended the text எல்லாம் ஒன்றே (Ellām Oṉḏṟē: All is One), I have heard such claims made about many texts, but I tend to be a bit sceptical about them, because often such claims may be based merely on the fact that in a certain context or in reply to a certain question he may have mentioned or referred to the concerned text. I have not yet come across any text that he is said to have recommended that in terms of practical value is anywhere near to the value of his own texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Upadēśa Undiyār or Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Regarding your question about verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, if we accept what Bhagavan says in this verse and elsewhere, everything other than ‘I’ exists only in the view of our ego, so when our ego subsides everything else also ceases to exist. This applies to the entire universe, so it also applies to simple cases of everyday life.

What is real is only ‘I’, but since we now experience our body as if it were ‘I’, our body seems to be real, and because this body is part of this world, this world also seems to be real. Since they seem to be real, we assume that they exist even when we do not experience them, just as while we are dreaming our dream body and world seem to us to be real, and hence we assume then that they exist even when we do not experience them. Only when we wake up from a dream are we able to recognise that whatever we experienced in it was our own mental creation and therefore does not exist when we do not experience it.

Just as we cannot recognise this so long as we are dreaming, we cannot now recognise that whatever we are currently experiencing is our own mental creation and therefore does not exist when we do not experience it. Therefore, if we want to verify from our own experience whether or not what Bhagavan says is true, we must try to wake up from our present dream by investigating the ‘I’ who now seems to experience all other things.

We do not have to be Einstein to understand that we cannot know for certain whether or not anything that we experience actually exists independent of our experience of it. All we need is to be willing to question all our habitual assumptions and beliefs, because when we do so it will be clear to us that most of them do not have any sure foundation. Since we do not know whether anything exists when we do not experience it, it should not be too difficult for us to accept at least tentatively that what Bhagavan teaches us in this regard is true, and that the only way we can verify this is by investigating and experiencing ourself as we really are.