Sunday, 23 November 2014

Other than ourself, there are no signs or milestones on the path of self-discovery

A few months ago a friend wrote to me asking in Tamil:
ஆத்ம விசாரம் என்பது ‘தன்மையுணர்வை நாடுதல்’ எனப் புத்தகங்கள் கூறுகின்றன. இதையே நானும் நேரம் கிடைக்கும்போதெல்லாம் பயின்றும் வருகிறேன். இவையெல்லாம் மிகச் சுலபமாக தோன்றினாலும் உண்மையில் இது ஓரு சூட்சுமமான பாதையாகவே இருக்கிறது. நான் சாதனையைச் சரியாகத்தான் செய்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா, பகவானின் வாக்குகளை சரியாகப் புரிந்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா என்ற சந்தேகம் எப்போதும் என்னை வாட்டி வதைக்கிறது. இந்தப் பாதையில் சரியாகப் போய்க்கொண்டிருக்கிறேன் என்று அறிந்துக் கொள்ள ஏதேனும் அறிகுறிகள் அல்லது மைல்கற்கள் உள்ளனவா?
which means:
Books say that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is ‘investigating the first person awareness’. I too am practising only this whenever time is available. Though all these appear to be very easy, in truth this is such a subtle path. The doubt ‘Am I doing sādhana correctly? Am I understanding Bhagavan’s words correctly?’ is always vexing and tormenting me. Are there any signs or milestones [to enable me] to know that I am proceeding correctly on this path.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote (in English):

Sri Ramana’s path is a path of vicāra — investigation or exploration — so we can follow it only by trying to investigate what this ‘I’ is and thereby learning from our own experience what following it correctly actually entails.

Therefore, no matter how unsteady or faltering our attempts may initially be, so long as we are focussed on trying to experience what this ‘I’ actually is we are certainly following his path correctly. He did not expect us to experience ourself as we really are as soon as we set out on this path, but only advised us to try persistently to experience ourself thus, so if we are persevering in our attempts to experience ourself we are on the right path.

From reading his teachings we can understand that to investigate ourself we must try to be exclusively self-attentive — that is, to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’ — but we can discover what self-attentiveness actually is only by experience, and we can gain that experience only by experimentation: that is, by trial and error, by persistently trying to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’ until we succeed. This is why he called this path ‘ātma-vicāra’ (self-investigation), because it is only by investigation, examination, exploration or experimentation that we can discover what experiencing ourself as we really are actually is.

Since what we really are is indescribable and inconceivable, being beyond the reach of any words or concepts, we can know it only by experiencing it, and on the path towards experiencing it there can be no signposts or milestones other than ourself, because anything other than ourself could not lead to ourself, nor could it indicate where we are on the path that leads to ourself. As Sri Ramana often said (as for example in verse 579 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai), our goal is only ourself, so the path to reach this goal is likewise only ourself, because anything other than ourself would lead us only away from ourself. Therefore, just as our goal cannot be adequately described in words or conceived by our mind, so the path leading to it cannot be adequately described in words or conceived by our mind.

Anything that could be taken to be a signpost or milestone on this path would be something other than ourself, so it would not actually be a signpost or milestone on this path, but would only be a signpost or milestone on some diversion away from this path. That is, since anything other than ourself would distract our attention away from ourself, when trying to follow this path we should neither aim nor expect to experience anything other than ourself. Therefore the only real signpost or milestone on this path is ourself, so if you want to see any signpost or milestone you should try to see only yourself.

Since our mind does not want to be destroyed, as it will be if we experience ourself as we really are, it will always try to find ways to distract our attention away from ourself. Doubts and feelings of uncertainty are effective means by which our mind can thus distract our attention, so we should try not to give room to any doubts such as the ones that have been troubling you, but should instead persevere unswervingly in trying to be aware only of ourself. What Sri Ramana says in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) about not giving room to any doubting thoughts is equally applicable to the doubts you are having:
[...] அத்தனை வாசனைகளு மொடுங்கி, சொரூபமாத்திரமா யிருக்க முடியுமா வென்னும் சந்தேக நினைவுக்கு மிடங்கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும். [...]

[...] attaṉai vāsaṉaigaḷum oḍuṅgi, sorūpa-māttiramāy irukka muḍiyumā v-eṉṉum sandēha niṉaivukkum iḍam koḍāmal, sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum. [...]

[...] Without giving room even to the doubting thought ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vāsanās and be [or remain] only as self?’ it is necessary to cling tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness]. [...]
Therefore without giving any room to doubts about whether or not you are following his path correctly, you should just persevere in trying to be exclusively self-attentive.

57 comments:

R Viswanathan said...

"Therefore without giving any room to doubts about whether or not you are following his path correctly, you should just persevere in trying to be exclusively self-attentive."

Thanks so much for this very very encouraging piece of advice for all aspirants like us to whom such a doubt arises once in a while.

I copy paste some sentences from your previous blog for the benefit of me as well as others, to remember what we read previously:

"we can be truly self-attentive — that is, firmly established in the non-dual practice of atma-vichara or atma-nishtha — only to the extent that we surrender or deny ourself by refraining from rising as this thinking mind, which is our false self."

"the only true sadhana or means to self-knowledge is vigilant and keenly penetrating self-attentiveness."

"no other sadhana can enable us to experience self-knowledge directly, because we cannot know ourself as we really are unless we closely and carefully attend to ourself."

In each of the above quotes, the words attention or attentiveness figure, and pertinent to these terms, I found it beneficial to read this passage from the same article:

"Attention, which is our ability to direct our consciousness towards something (or rather, our ability to bring something within the centre of our consciousness), is the only means by which we can know anything, so we can know our essential self only by attending to it — that is, by attending to our fundamental self-consciousness, the consciousness that we always experience as ‘I am’."

Anonymous said...

Dear all,

Please forgive me for pasting this here as its not relevant to this topic but the following were answers given by Swami Vivekananda(taken from the Complete works of Swami Vivekananda) in the year 1897, many years before Bhagavan started talking about it. Its amazing that his answer is the same as what Bhagavan was saying for the next 50 years or so.

/**
Disciple: Sir, this "I" has a most tenacious life. It is very difficult to kill it.
Swamiji: Yes, in one sense, it is very difficult, but in another sense, it is quite easy. Can you tell me where this "I" exists? How can you speak of anything being killed, which never exists at all? Man only remains hypnotised with the false idea of an ego. When this ghost is off from us, all dreams vanish, and then it is found that the one Self only exists from the highest Being to a blade of grass. This will have to be known, to be realised. All practice or worship is only for taking off this veil. When that will go, you will find that the Sun of Absolute Knowledge is shining in Its own lustre. For the Atman only is self-luminous and has to be realised by Itself. How can that, which can be experienced only by itself be known with the help of any other thing? Hence the Shruti says, says, " विज्ञातारमरे केन विजानीयात्—Well, through what means is that to be known which is the Knower?" Whatever you know, you know through the instrumentality of your mind. But mind is something material. It is active only because there is the pure Self behind it. So, how can you know that Self through your mind? But this only becomes known, after all, that the mind cannot reach the pure Self, no, nor even the intellect. Our relative knowledge ends just there. Then, when the mind is free from activity or functioning, it vanishes, and the Self is revealed. This state has been described by the commentator Shankara as अपरोक्षानुभूतिः or supersensuous perception.

Disciple: But, sir, the mind itself is the "I". If that mind is gone, then the "I" also cannot remain.
Swamiji: Yes, the state that comes then is the real nature of the ego. The "I" that remains then is omnipresent, all-pervading, the Self of all. Just as the Ghatâkâsha, when the jar is broken, becomes the Mahâkâsha,[3] for with the destruction of the jar the enclosed space is not destroyed. The puny "I" which you were thinking of as confined in the body, becomes spread out and is thus realised in the form of the all pervading "I" or the Self. Hence what matters it to the real "I" or the Self, whether the mind remains or is destroyed? What I say you will realise in course of time. " कालेनात्मनि विन्दति—It is realised within oneself in due time." As you go on with Shravana and Manana (proper hearing and proper thinking), you will fully understand it in due time and then you will go beyond mind. Then there will be no room for any such question.
Hearing all this, the disciple remained quiet on his seat, and Swamiji, as he gently smoked, continued: "How many Shastras have been written to explain this simple thing, and yet men fail to understand it! How they are vesting this precious human life on the fleeting pleasures of some silver coins and the frail beauty of women! Wonderful is the influence of Mahâmâyâ (Divine Illusion)! Mother! Oh Mother!"
***/

Thanks,

Sundar

R Viswanathan said...

Yes, it was once a surprise for me, too. But, it ceased to be of surprise after hearing from Nochur that Bhagavan himself told that what has not come out of Rishis' mouths will not come out of his, too. Nochur clarified further that there is only one truth (aham or I or Self ...) and that it gets stated from time to time by one who is ever in the state of atmanishtai.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael. Apologies for the off topic comment. But can you explain why Bhagvan consistently prescribed giripradikshana of the hill to all devotees. On the ashram website it says that it is like a moving meditation or something. I have done giripradikshana a few times now and can't really say I've felt it to be meditative - more often challenging and at times even frustrating really. I'm intrigued as to why he emphasized the importance of this practice so much? I read somwhere that he said it gives tremendous benefit even if you are not performing it in a devout state of mind. Thanks.

R Viswanathan said...

That you did Giri Pradhakshina a few times indicates that the frustrating experience,if it really was, did not deter you from doing it again. That is the power of Arunachala.

Please see the article of Michael James in David Godman's website for the power of Arunachala:

http://davidgodman.org/asaints/powerofa2.shtml

(I learn that it was first published in The Mountain Path, 1982, pp. 75-84.)

This was the piece of advice by Michael James to me when I sought one from him (when I was contemplating to settle down after my retirement in Thiruvannamalai or Chennai):

" if you are able to spend your time in Tiruvannamalai practising self-attentiveness, studying Bhagavan's teachings and doing giri-pradakshina or pradakshina of Bhagavan's sannidhi, you will certainly be greatly benefited by living there." and

"if you are living in Chennai, you will be able to visit Tiruvannamalai whenever possible to do giri-pradakshina and spend time in Bhagavan's holy sannidhi."

If someone is interested in viewing what is it like doing Giri Pradhashina in 1978, with Sri Sadhu Om!! and also hearing him singing, too.

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

Part 2 pertains to Thinnai Swamigal:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_st5FLvXtw

Michael James is seen in one or two places in these videos, if my identification is right.

Surely, we will greatly benefit from some fresh writing by Michael James on Arunachala Giri Pradhakshinam.

Michael James said...

In reply to the anonymous comment asking about giri-pradakṣiṇa (barefoot circumambulation of Arunachala hill), it cannot be explained in a way that would satisfy a sceptical intellect, but if we have faith in Bhagavan and his testimony it is one of the things that we believe because of his example and what he said about it. According to what he said and wrote, though Arunachala appears to be an insentient hill, it is actually an outward manifestation of our real self, so it has a special power to turn our mind inwards, and doing giri-pradakṣiṇa is one way in which we can tap into that power, so to speak.

In Sādhanai Sāram there is a poem (verses 63-70 in English and 451-60 in Tamil) in which Sadhu Om explains the efficacy of Arunachala-pradakṣiṇa, and in many verses in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam Bhagavan has described the power of Arunachala more generally. For example, in verses 10 and 11 of Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam he says:

“I have seen a wonder, [this] magnetic hill that forcibly attracts the soul. Subduing the mischievous [mental] activities of the soul who has once thought of it, drawing [that soul] to face itself, the one, and making it motionless (acala) like itself, it feeds upon that sweet [pure and ripened] soul. What [a wonder] this is! O souls, be saved by thinking of this great Arunagiri, the destroyer of this soul [the ego], who shines within [our] heart [the innermost core of ourself]”

“How many like me have been destroyed by thinking this hill to be the Supreme! O people who are wandering about thinking of a means to give up the body, having lost desire for this [worldly] life due to [its] expanding misery, there is on earth one rare medicine that when thought of once in the mind will kill [the ego] without killing [the body]. Know that it is Aruna Hill.”

As Viswanathan suggests in his reply to you, for a more detailed explanation you could also read my article The Power of Arunachala.

Sundar said...

Regarding things like Girivalam, I read in one of Papaji's satsangs where he says that when one is attracted to such things as Girivalam, Jnani's samadhi or presence, temples etc, the urge comes from the self and not from our mind as there is no food there for the mind and the senses like a movie or a sports event etc. It is our need for peace that attracts us there as the very nature of self is peace. Even when people go with a worldly desire for Girivalam at the heart of it is a desire for peace. Otherwise they would not keep going because in most cases its quite possible that even after many such visits they find that their worldly desires are not fulfilled and yet they keep going. Personally my first visit to Ramanasramam was in 2009 where I stayed for 15 mins and found nothing much except that it was quiet but since 2012, I have made more than a dozen visits and truly there is nothing at all for my mind there and yet it is the peace that beckons me again and again.
When Sri Ramakrishna who always said that Ganga is Brahman in liquid form was once asked what happens after one realizes God, he said that then both the Ganga and the ditch water are Brahman. So until then we have to accept these Jnani's words that there is something more in these places. Annamalai Swami also says that even though water is found everywhere on earth, in some places its more easily accessible than others. Finally I think Swami Vivekananda nailed it by this immortal quote, "Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy -by one, or more, or all of these and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details."

Also here is Bhagavan on Giripradakshina, from The power of presence, Kunjuswami's reminiscences.
/**
Sri Bhagavan always spoke highly of Pradakshina and encouraged devotees to go as often as possible. The following story shows just how highly he regarded the practice. A Tiruvannamalai sadhu used to go round the hill every day, without fail, but other than that he did not do any meditation, japa or other practice. One day he asked Bhagavan for a particular book, so Sri Bhagavan asked me to get it and give it to him. Later Sri Bhagavan asked me whether I had handed over the book. I told him that I had and then asked Sri Bhagavan. "That sadhu is not doing anything other than pradakshina. He does not seem to know about anything else. What does he want the book for?"

Sri Bhagavan replied, 'What is there superior to pradakshina? That alone is sufficient. Even if you sit and do japa, the mind will wander, but if you do pradakshina the mind will remain one pointed even though the limbs and the body are moving. Doing japa or meditation with a one-pointed mind, while moving about, without having any other thought other than the japa, is known as sanchara samadhi[absorption while moving]. That is why in the olden days pilgrimage on foot, without using any other conveyance, had so much importance.

'Giri pradakshina is unique. As there are many types of herbs on the hill, the breeze that blows over them is good for the body. Even today there are many siddhas and great souls on the hill. They too go around the hill, but we cannot see them. Because of this when we do pradakshina, we should keep to the left of the road. If we do this we do pradakshina without causing any convenience to them. We also get the merit of walking round these great souls, thereby receiving their blessings. As we do pradakshina the body becomes healthy and the mind attains the peace of the self. Because of all these things pradakshina is an extraordinary sadhana.'
**/

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I will keep these comments in mind for my next walk which will be during the Karthik full moon. Although I do agree that the hill has very mysterious power of summoning people to it. Otherwise, how on earth I could have made it there I don't know LOL!

Sundar said...

You may want to read this interview with a western devotee Hamsa Johannus de Reade who was attracted to Arunachala in the late 70's. Its possible that Miachael may have known him. The interview is interesting and funny as well.

http://www.newlives.freeola.net/interviews/36_hamsa_johannus_de_reade.php

Gautama said...

In the article "The Power of Arunachala",Page 2,
there is a title "Gurutvam of Arunachala".
Please Sir Michael James, translate this term.

Michael James said...

Gautama, please see this comment, in which I replied recently to a similar question asked in a comment on another article, Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person?.

Gautama said...

Many thanks for your advice to your reply to the similar question asked in a comment on the article about a "self-realised" person.

Noob said...

For me the sexual desire is the one that needs direct and utmost investigating, this desire + hunger for food are the onse that require the most attention.

Noob said...

And the last one : the desire to breath

Noob said...

But we know that Self is always trying to help us in any way possible. We just have to be patient.

R Viswanathan said...

Are the goal and path are same?
How can one attain freedom?
How long one needs to do Atma Vichara?

I would like to share some simple stories by which Sri Nochur Venkataraman explained these in his discourses.

Are the goal and path are same?: Suppose that there is a room in which a bring lamp is lit, but closed, except for a small hole. There will be a ray of light emanating through that. If one follows the ray of light, it will eventually lead to the room and to the lamp inside. What showed the path is only the lamp - that is both the path and the goal are the same.

How can one attain freedom (from the assumed bondage)?: Some one is feeling imprisoned because of the locked grill door in front of him. He wants to seek freedom but does not know how. The Guru says to him that if only he turns back, he will see that there is no wall at all behind, and it is all completely open. So, as long as one goes on trying to enjoy freedom by all the time looking outwards, he is going to feel imprisoned, but the moment, he turns within, he is going to realize that he is never imprisoned, but totally free.

How long one has to do Atma Vichara?: Two frogs fell into a vessel containing curd. They both tried to come out by kicking their legs, but soon found that it is not going to help them. One frog applied logic (or rather its brain?) and said that it is of no use, and hence will simply remain without any struggle. Consequently it died. The other frog however said to itself, yes, I also think that it might be useless to keep trying, but I am going to try till my very end, come what may. At some point of time, the constant kicking resulted in the formation of a thick layer of butter, which provided an appropriate base for that frog to be able to jump out of the vessel alive. In the same way, one needs to keep performing atma vichara and at some point of time, it will result in revelation.

R Viswanathan said...

I too wished very much that there are some signs of progress as one practises Atma Vichara, even though I do realize that the objective of merging or dissolving the mind in the self itself should serve as a great motivation.
Robert Adams touched almost all aspects an aspirant might require to know, and I see that he did talk about signs of progress on Feb 14, 1991. (The Collected works of Robert Adams, Volume 1, p125).
I feel that it would be a very useful and practical guide, and hence would like to share
some selected passages from the talk:

Many people still ask me, "Robert, how can I tell if I'm making progress on the path? How can I be sure?"

There are many signs.

The first is a sense of peace, When you are no longer disturbed by worldly conditions. The world appears to go on. You begin to see there's a picture, a movie. You begin to recognize what the world really is, an expression of your own mind. And when you can do that the world will never harm you again. It will lose its power over you.

Of course your body is part of the world, and so is your mind. You therefore have to give up those also. When there is no thought for the body, no thought for the mind, and no thought for the world, then divine right action is taking place in your life and everything becomes joy. Everything becomes love. Without your thinking about it, without desire, without need, you become free.

Another way to know if you're making progress is you’re no longer disturbed by any condition. You may lose your job, you may lose a family member, you may go through various experiences, but you're not disappointed, because you're able to see through the experience to the other side. And the other side is the fourth state of consciousness besides dreaming, sleeping, waking. And in the fourth state of consciousness there's always happiness, for that is the substratum of every thing you see. Again the choice is yours. You have the freedom to identify with the world, to identify with your self. There is no one, there is no thing, that can harm you or disturb you or bother you if you focus your attention on God or the self.

How do I focus my attention on God? By remembering I am. I am is the first name of God. When you think of I am you're invoking the name of God and you're focusing your attention on God.

You can tell if you're making progress by how happy you’re becoming. When you see you're just happy, without any condition making you happy, then you know something is working. If you need something or someone to make you happy, the same someone or something will make you sad. When the person who makes you happy leaves your presence you'll be sad. When the thing you're enjoying is taken away from you you'll be upset. Therefore do not depend on any condition for your happiness. Happiness is your real nature. All you have to do is to invoke I am, and you're radiantly happy right there.

People still believe that they if become enlightened, only enlightened to themselves, they will have to stop working or stop going out. They will just want to be by themselves and they will care about nothing. On the contrary, remember that you are not your body. Your body will carry on and do whatever it came here to do, but it has nothing to do with you.

When you begin to recognize that the world is like a dream, like a bubble, the mind becomes weaker and weaker, and one day it just dissolves. It really doesn't dissolve because it was never there to begin with. Yet you awaken. We call it an awakening, and you realize that I and my father are one. You just become the unity of all existence. There is no longer any diversity. You have become the imperishable self.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, Bhagavan used to say that perseverance is the only true sign of progress. That is, if we persevere in our attempts to experience ourself as we really are by trying to attend to ourself alone, that indicates that we are proceeding in the right direction alone this path of self-investigation.

We can persevere in our practice of self-attentiveness only to the extent that we have genuine love to experience ourself alone, and we can progress in this practice only to the extent that we have such love. Hence as Bhagavan said, perseverance is the only true sign of progress, because it is the only true sign of svātma-bhakti (love for our own self — that is, for experiencing ourself as we really are).

Other than this, there is absolutely nothing that could reliably indicate that we are progressing on this path, because as I explained in this article, anything that we may imagine serves as a sign would be something other than ourself and would therefore only indicate that our attention had been distracted away from ourself.

By saying that perseverance is the only true sign of progress, Bhagavan was trying to make us focus all our interest and effort only on our practice of self-attentiveness and not allow ourself to be distracted by anything else. In order to reach our goal we must try persistently to attend only to ourself and not to anything else, so perseverance in the practice of self-attentiveness is our path, and hence it is itself also the only sign that we are following (or progressing along) this path.

In other words, we can progress in our practice only by persevering in it, so perseverance in it is the only true sign that we are progressing. Therefore the logic in what Bhagavan said is simple and irrefutable.

Hence, when Bhagavan made it so clear and obvious that perseverance in our practice is the only true sign that we are progressing in it, Robert Adams was not only contradicting him but also saying something quite illogical when he claimed that there are many signs that indicate our progress.

All the phenomena described by Robert Adams as signs of progress in the passage you have quoted (such as ‘a sense of peace’, being ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ or ‘how happy you’re becoming’) are relative and transitory conditions of the mind, so they are other than ourself, and hence we can be aware of them only when our attention has been distracted away from ourself. Therefore they are a sure sign that we have been distracted away from our practice of self-attentiveness, and hence they cannot be a sign that we are persevering or progressing in it.

Moreover, if we take these or any other such conditions to be signs of progress, it would be easy for us to imagine that they are developing within us and thus to delude ourself that we are making progress in this path when in fact we are just preoccupied with transitory conditions of our mind, and hence still wrapped up in our experience of ourself as a person. Therefore imagining that any such phenomena are a sign of our progress would be just another self-delusive trick by which our mind tries to distract us away from our practice of self-attentiveness.

Jacques Franck said...

All the phenomena described by Robert Adams as signs of progress .... are relative and transitory conditions of the mind

Michael, yes it is true, but for the people you have to put words, he also said that no words can express the truth, only in silence (put all his attention on the "I".
It is impossible to express the truth because there is no mind.

Thanks again for you post, always a real pleasure to read you....

R Viswanathan said...

Robert Adams (RA): "Again the choice is yours. You have the freedom to identify with the world, to identify with your self. There is no one, there is no thing, that can harm you or disturb you or bother you if you focus your attention on God or the self."

Michael James (MJ):"if we persevere in our attempts to experience ourself as we really are by trying to attend to ourself alone, that indicates that we are proceeding in the right direction alone this path of self-investigation."

I would think that RA agrees with MJ or vice versa - on perseverence.

RA: "Everything becomes love. Without your thinking about it, without desire, without need, you become free."

MJ: "We can persevere in our practice of self-attentiveness only to the extent that we have genuine love to experience ourself alone, and we can progress in this practice only to the extent that we have such love."

I would think that RA agrees with MJ or vice versa - on love of self (without the desire or need for it).

RA: "Of course your body is part of the world, and so is your mind. You therefore have to give up those also. When there is no thought for the body, no thought for the mind, and no thought for the world, then divine right action is taking place in your life and everything becomes joy."

MJ: "Therefore imagining that any such phenomena are a sign of our progress would be just another self-delusive trick by which our mind tries to distract us away from our practice of self-attentiveness."

I would think that RA agrees with MJ or vice versa - on mind.

RA: "Happiness is your real nature. All you have to do is to invoke I am, and you're radiantly happy right there."

"You just become the unity of all existence. There is no longer any diversity. You have become the imperishable self."

I would think that RA advocates (clinging onto or) the use of ray from the self to reach the lamp of self: happiness and existence (Anand and Sat). I see the agreement with Sri Nochur here who said that this is example of the path and the goal being the same.

Sundar said...

/**
He was in bed for nearly two months. Towards the end of that period he became a little despondent about his lack of spiritual progress:
'The body could escape from the jaws of death, but I could not escape from the ever-yawning mouth of the tiger, ego, I could not supress the surge of egoism. How to efface it? I was much perturbed and gazed at the portrait of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. From Bhagavan's face flowed grace and compassion in abundance.'

**/
The above is from Lakshmana Swamy's bio "No Mind I am the Self" by David Godman. Lakshmana Swamy started his sadhana at the age of 17 with pranayama/meditation/Japam. He continued his austerities for the next 5 years had met Ramana Maharishi once and sometime after that visit he fell extremely sick. It was during that time that he felt the above extract. A few weeks later, he got better went to meet Bhagavan again where self inquiry spontaneously happened in his presence and he is said to have realized his self in Bhagavan's presence and also gave a the following note to Bhagavan in Telugu "O Bhagavan, in your presence and by the quest['Who am i'] I have realised the self." and here is what happened next.
"Sri Ramana read the note, looked at him for a moment, and then his face lit up in a radiant smile. The two men looked at each other for a few seconds, and then Ramana Maharshi asked him where he had come from. ...... As Sri Lakshmana was leaving to take his place in the hall Ramana Maharshi asked his attendant to keep the note on a shelf behind him."

Whats interesting about the above is this: After 5.5 years of sadhana, Lakshmana swamy still felt that there was no letdown in his ego, so this indicates two things to me
a) There is absolutely no way to judge spiritual progress
b) Spiritual progress is not a linear curve where in you feel more and more peace day by day. Its possible but not necessarily true in all cases. I have been trying to practice self inquiry for a couple of years and I can say that I have had days when I have felt immense peace but the very next day should I hear a bad news or should an unwanted event happen, it seems its back to square one.

Gavin Huxham said...

Robert Adams has said many things that seem to me to be misleading to those of us who are sincerely trying to follow Bhagavan's teachings in a dedicated and one pointed manner.

If we are busy looking out for any of these so called 'signs of progress' we obviously wont be looking only at 'I' will we? Which is why as Michael points out: 'we can progress in our practice only by persevering in it, so perseverance in it is the only true sign that we are progressing. Therefore the logic in what Bhagavan said is simple and irrefutable.

Hence, when Bhagavan made it so clear and obvious that perseverance in our practice is the only true sign that we are progressing in it, Robert Adams was not only contradicting him but also saying something quite illogical when he claimed that there are many signs that indicate our progress'.

Furthermore as I have already indicated in a previous comment on this blog, Bhagavan has stated categorically in Who am I? and elsewhere that pranayama is only an aid to check the mind but will not lead to our goal. Investigating 'I' is the only means and that alone is required. Attending to breath or anything else whatsoever can become a distraction away from ourself or 'I', which is all we should be aiming to attend to.

Bhagavan of his own accord never recommended paying attention to the breath so anyone advising people to pay attention to the breath (as Robert Adams does, 'breathe in say 'I', breathe out say 'Am') has not understood Bhagavan correctly and is surely not representing or 'spreading in the West'(as claimed) Bhagavan's teachings faithfully or accurately.

This may seem like a 'small inconsistency' to some but if our aim is to follow our sadguru Bhagavan Sri Ramana's words and instructions as closely and faithfully as possible then taking note of such inconsistencies may help us to avoid being confused about what exactly the correct practice is that we should be attempting to persevere in.

Michael James said...

Jacques, in your comment you say ‘but for the people you have to put words’. I agree that for most of us words are required to point us in the right direction, but the reason they are required is that our minds are now going outwards, which is the wrong direction. Since the only right direction in which we should go is inwards — towards ‘I’ (ourself) alone — the only words that will help us are those that direct our attention inwards.

In order to go (proceed or progress) inwards, we must persevere in our attempts to be aware only of ourself, so the words we are given should urge us to persevere in this attempt, and should not prompt us to look outwards for any external ‘signs’ of progress.

When Bhagavan said that perseverance is the only true sign of progress, these words (like all his other words) urge us just to persevere in our attempt to look within — to try to experience ourself alone. But when Robert Adams said that there are many signs of progress, those ‘many signs’ must be things other than ourself (since we are one, not many), so his words prompt us to scatter our attention outwards, away from ourself, looking for some or all of those signs. And when he goes on to specify certain mental conditions such as ‘a sense of peace’, being ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ or ‘how happy you’re becoming’ as signs of progress, these words are further prompting us to look away from ourself, the experiencing ‘I’, towards conditions that we may or may not be currently experiencing.

Whether we are currently experiencing such conditions or not, we ourself are always present and aware of ourself, so Bhagavan would urge us to attend only to ourself, who experience such conditions, and thereby to ignore the transitory presence or absence of any particular conditions.

If we are honest with ourself, I think most of us will admit that our perseverance is insufficient. We know that we should be trying to attend only to ‘I’, but most of the time we are thinking unnecessary thoughts about other things instead, so if we accept that perseverance is the only true sign of progress, we will recognise that we have not yet progressed far enough, and that to progress further and faster we must persevere still more in trying to experience only ‘I’.

If instead of accepting that perseverance is the only true sign of progress, we imagine that the type of conditions described by Robert Adams are signs of progress, we can easily fool ourself into thinking that we are making progress when we are not. Even if not always, sometimes at least it is easy for us to imagine that we are experiencing ‘a sense of peace’, or that we are ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ as much as we used to be, or that we are now becoming more happy, so if we take these to be signs of progress, it is easy for us to delude ourself thereby.

The conditions of the mind are in a constant flux, so they are not a reliable indicator of our spiritual progress. Even if we have no love to experience ourself alone, and even if we therefore never make any effort to attend to ourself alone, we may still sometimes feel ‘a sense of peace’, or that we are less ‘disturbed by worldly conditions’, or that we are generally becoming more happy, so conditions such as these cannot be a reliable sign of any genuine spiritual progress. Moreover, by looking for such signs we are directing our attention away from ourself, and hence missing the opportunity to make real progress here and now by persevering wholeheartedly in our attempt to experience ourself alone.

Therefore, the words we need to read or hear are only those that urge us to persevere in trying to be self-attentive (as Bhagavan’s words do), and not any words that distract our attention away from ourself towards the transitory conditions experienced by our mind.

R Viswanathan said...

Robert Adams: "The first is a sense of peace, When you are no longer disturbed by worldly conditions."

Sundar: "Spiritual progress is not a linear curve where in you feel more and more peace day by day. Its possible but not necessarily true in all cases. I have been trying to practice self inquiry for a couple of years and I can say that I have had days when I have felt immense peace but the very next day should I hear a bad news or should an unwanted event happen, it seems its back to square one."

Robert Adams said 'when you are no longer disturbed'! Since he did not specify the time (even if one agrees that time is a concept of mind), I would think that not experiencing peace on alternate days after trying to practise self enquiry for couple of years need not be taken as true indication that there is absolutely no way to judge the progress in spiritual path. In any case, he has said many times in his Satsangs not to blindly believe what he says but experience it oneself.

Peace is the nature of the self, the goal. Since the path is the same as the goal, I feel that there is no inconsistency with Bhagavan's teaching, the suggestion of Robert Adams to use the peace as a means of progress.


Gavin Huxham: "Robert Adams has said many things that seem to me to be misleading to those of us who are sincerely trying to follow Bhagavan's teachings in a dedicated and one pointed manner."

Yes, I agree that he said so many things on so many aspects, most of which appeal to me as real treasure and not as inconsistent with Bhagavan's words. For instance, if one reads talks with Maharshi or day by day with Bhagavan or David Godman's "Be As You Are", and if one is more inclined to see the inconsistencies, one will perhaps say the same about Bhagavan also. But if one is not inclined to see inconsistencies but absorb only that which will aid travel on the path of self and reach the self, one will consider everything as treasure, which I definitely do.

Yes, when teachings of Bhagavan are there, why to go to someone else is a very valid question. I feel it as Bhagavan's grace that makes me go into others' writings also - like David Godman's, Michael James' Robert Adams' and Nochur's.

Nochur used to say that merely reciting Nan Yar or Ulladhu Narpadhu or Arunachala Akshara Manamalai will do the job since Bhagavan's words are there, but my mind asks for more words from Michael James, David Godman, Nochur, and Robert Adams. Fortunately, I don't feel distracted a bit. Perhaps, I don't realize that I am distracted, but I will let Bhagavan's grace work on me.

Sundar said...

Viswanathan: My comment about the difficulty in judging spiritual progress was just a generic comment and not trying to disprove what Robert Adams has said. Though I was attracted to Bhagavan's self inquiry after I tried Japam, meditation on a form, witnessing the breath etc etc I also read the same Robert Adams satsang that you have mentioned frequently and not just that I read many other Jnanis works including and not limited to Nisargadatta, Anandamayi Ma, Osho, Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Ramakrishna and his disciples, Swami Sivananda etc. I regularly listen to Nochur as well. Also I think reading any Jnani's work is a satsang. I also think that when a Jnani speaks in a satsang and this includes Bhagavan ofcourse, he is specifically speaking to that person and as to what benefits that person. Nochur says that the Jnani addresses the questioner rather than the question. Like you said I don't see any contradictions and even if I feel there is I just accept it as my lack of understanding and take whatever I can accept.

As for spiritual progress I accept that a Jnani might be able to see that easily in his disciples. An e.g. would be once when Annamalai Swami was having a lustful thought, Bhagavan suddenly walked in front of him and asked him to step on a hot stone in the afternoon sun and talked to him about building matters and Annamalai Swamy says that the moment the lustful thought left his mind, Bhagavan walked away clearly showing how a Jnani can see what is in the mind. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that he could see what was in other's minds as if it were a glass cage. There are also many similar anecdotes in the life of Anandamayi Ma and Jiddu Krishnamurthy as well. But I am not so sure that a person who is not realized can do it more the person himself as it is still the 'I' that is making the judgement. When Robert Adams says 'When you are no longer disturbed by worldly conditions', what does that 'When' mean? If its not a time indicator then obviously he means forever and that should mean that a person has no ego to be disturbed or he has realized his self. Otherwise if it comes and goes how can one judge one's progress and for most aspirants this sense of peace comes and goes I assume.

Sundar said...

Also just to clarify, I did not imply that there is no such thing as spiritual progress. All I meant was, atleast thats my belief, that there is no way for an aspirant himself to judge progress as it is his 'I' thats making the judgement. And if i'm never disturbed, meaning forever, then obviously there is nothing else for me to do as there is no 'I' to be disturbed anymore. But atleast from my readings of devotee's lives, almost all of them have periods of peace followed by depths of despair before they realize their self, so how would they know where they are at any given point in time and if we are not speaking of time or concerned with it that person ceases to be an aspirant any longer.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, in your latest comment you write: ‘Peace is the nature of the self, the goal. Since the path is the same as the goal, I feel that there is no inconsistency with Bhagavan’s teaching, the suggestion of Robert Adams to use the peace as a means of progress.’

Yes, peace is the nature of our real self, but that peace is absolute, infinite, eternal and unbound by any conditions, whereas any ‘sense of peace’ experienced by our mind is relative, finite, transitory and conditional, so we should not confuse one with the other. Any ‘sense of peace’ experienced by the mind is due to a partial subsidence or reduction in the intensity of mental activity, but we can experience such a condition only so long as we experience ourself as this mind, so it is not a state of complete cessation of all mental activity. Moreover, we can experience such a ‘sense of peace’ even when we are not attending only to ‘I’, so though the mind will peacefully subside if we attend only to ‘I’, any ‘sense of peace’ that we may experience is not necessarily caused by or connected with self-attentiveness, and hence it is not necessarily a ‘means of progress’ towards our goal of perfectly clear and adjunct-free self-awareness.

In the passage you quoted in your earlier comment Robert Adams did not actually say that ‘a sense of peace’ is ‘a means of progress’ but only that it is one of the ‘many signs’ of progress. However, even if we assume that he was thereby suggesting that we should ‘use the peace as a means of progress’, as you say, that is not consistent with what Bhagavan taught us, because any ‘sense of peace’ experienced by our mind is something other than ourself, whereas Bhagavan taught us that the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are is to attend to ourself alone.

Only when we attend to ourself alone (thereby ignoring everything else, including all mental conditions such as ‘a sense of peace’) will our mind subside entirely in its source, ourself, and will we thereby experience ourself as we really are, which alone is true and infinite peace.

When we are trying to experience ourself alone, it is very easy for us to mistake whatever subtle conditions we may experience along the way, such as ‘a sense of peace’, to be ourself, so it is important that we avoid getting distracted by such subtle but temporary experiences by going still deeper within ourself until we experience nothing temporary but only our eternal and ever-unchanging self — our pure adjunct-free self-awareness ‘I am’.

The only way to go deeper and deeper within ourself is the way that Bhagavan has shown us: whatever we may experience (whether ‘a sense of peace’ or anything else), we should ignore it and try to experience ourself alone. That is, instead of attending to whatever experience may arise, we should turn back and try to attend only to ourself, the ‘I’ who experiences it.

Gavin Huxham said...

Viswanathan, I agree with you regarding inconsistencies in Talks, Be As You Are and Day by Day etc. These books were neither checked nor corrected by Bhagavan before publication and so we can assume that they do not contain his pure teachings.

For this reason I tend to restrict my reading to Guru Vachaka Kovai and Bhagavan's own original writings. For me these few works contain all the essential teachings. If we study these original works in depth, then when we read the other books mentioned such as Talks, it will be easier for us to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

In my view this discrimination, while only intellectual, is essential and it's not a matter of being either inclined to see inconsistencies or not but rather of being able to clearly understand at least on an intellectual level, what the correct manner in which to practice self investigation is, i.e. attend only to 'I' and what is unnecessary i.e. pranayama and meditation on mahavakyas such as 'I am He' etc. These are all only aids at best and round about means to arrive at the real practice which ignores the breath, body and all thoughts including thoughts such as 'I am He' and instead focuses only on our own essential self which is the true import of 'I'.

When it comes to Robert Adams my own view is that the inconsistencies with what Bhagavan has taught regarding self investigation and specifically the way to practice it correctly, are rather glaring and obvious.

If reading him helps you then that is fine and I don't mean to tell you or anyone else what to read, but I don't see him as a great source of clarity and light when it comes to practicing atma vichara.

Bhagavan alone is sufficient in terms of guidance on this path for me and I do disregard anything said by anyone which is not entirely in line with Bhagavan's instructions.

Michael James said...

Sundar, in your latest comment you wrote: ‘But at least from my readings of devotee’s lives, almost all of them have periods of peace followed by depths of despair before they realize their self, so how would they know where they are at any given point in time[?]’.

Yes, as we progress on this path, our love to experience ourself as we really are will increase, and such love will felt as a great yearning, so until it is fulfilled by our merging in our real self it will give rise to intense anguish. This anguish will increase until the ego is destroyed, so it is a fallacy to believe that our progress will necessarily be indicated by signs such as ‘a sense of peace’, being ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ or ‘how happy you’re becoming’, as Robert Adams claimed in the passage quoted in one of the comments above.

The intense anguish felt by a devotee as he or she is progressing closer and closer to the goal of merging in self is expressed clearly and beautifully by Bhagavan in many of the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, and also in verses composed by Muruganar, Sadhu Om and many other more ancient poet-saints. Reading such verses and seeing the intense love, yearning and anguish expressed in them, we would be foolish to conclude that because those saints did not then experience ‘a sense of peace’, or were no yet ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’, or were not becoming more happy, they had not yet progressed as far as we have on this path.

Feeling ‘a sense of peace’ or that one is becoming more happy can be a sign of spiritual complacency, because if we truly want to experience ourself alone and thereby to be free of our ego, we will not be satisfied with whatever we may experience until we have merged forever in our source. Even being ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ is not necessarily a sign of progress, because for a devotee whose love and yearning to experience self alone is increasing, the condition of living as a person in this material world will be experienced as a correspondingly increasing misery, as Bhagavan indicated in several verses, such as 8 and 11 of Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam:

“You made me worthless [by] destroying [in me] the intelligence to know the way in which to live in the world. If you keep [me] in this condition, it will not be happiness for anyone [but] only misery. Death indeed will be better than this life. [...]”

“[...] O people who are wandering about thinking of a means to give up the body, having lost desire for this [worldly] life due to [its] expanding misery, there is on earth one rare medicine that when thought of once in the mind will kill [the ego] without killing [the body]. Know that it is Aruna Hill [our real self].”

As our love to experience ourself as we really are increases, we will feel increasingly disturbed by the illusory condition of experiencing ourself as body living this this world, and we will recognise that we will be unable to experience real peace or happiness until we merge forever in our real self, the source from which we as this ego have originated.

(To be continued in my next comment.)

Steve said...

We usually tend to think only of positive experiences, such as feelings of peace or happiness, as signs of progress on a spiritual path, but negative experiences, such as feelings of doubt or fear, will just as surely arise, and may even be a more indicative sign of progress.The positive experiences may actually have the effect of reducing our perseverance, rather than strengthening it. The bottom line is, as Michael pointed out, they are all simply experiences. For whom are they occurring?

Regarding what Robert Adams or anyone else may say that contradicts, or is inconsistent with Bhagavan's teachings, in that they elicit the kinds of responses they do from Michael, they too can be quite useful.

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sundar:

Therefore, as you wrote in one of your earlier comments, ‘Spiritual progress is not a linear curve where in you feel more and more peace day by day’, and it would be naive to suppose that it is. Our self-ignorance is like a dense darkness, so there is no way in which we can predict what we may experience in our journey struggling to extricate ourself from this darkness by trying to experience ourself as we really are. We may experience all sorts of highs or lows, but no matter what we happen to experience, we should persevere tenaciously in our attempts to attend only to ourself until we merge in it forever.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
in today's comment (nr.29)replying to Sundar, in the last paragraph,
in the second line, I think after the words "as body living" instead of the first word "this" we should be read "in". So we should read ...by the illusory condition of experiencing ourself as body living in this world,...

R Viswanathan said...

I looked in Guru Vachaka Kovai whether there is anything discussed on spiritual progress. I could get only two verses.

624. By exposing oneself due to the desire of being praised by others, one is unnecessarily removing one’s protection and creating obstacles to the sadhana one has undertaken.
Sadhu Om: The desire for the annihilation of the ego is the
right sign of atma-sadhana. But fame and praise are things to be gained only by the ego. Therefore, if one has a desire for fame it means that one does not like to destroy the ego. That is why Sri Bhagavan says that the one who has desire for fame is himself creating obstacles to his sadhana.
Therefore, if the atma-sadhana is to progress unobstructed
and well protected, it is better for an aspirant to live a life of
unknown name and unknown place.

819. If one’s conscience, according to which one has
[always] been acting, once tells one not to live in a [seemingly] good society, it is better for one to live alone rather than to live in that society, rejecting one’s
pure conscience.
Sadhu Om: This verse is an instruction given to some good
devotees like Sri Muruganar who came to live in the Ashram,
believing it to be a favourable environment for their spiritual
progress, but who soon had to leave and live alone outside
the Ashram, having found for one reason or another that it was not a suitable environment. When a seemingly good society is thus bound by an advanced aspirant to be unsuitable, he should follow his conscience and live alone, and should not continue to depend in any way upon that society.
However, it should be noted that in this verse the word ‘conscience’ means only the conscience of an advanced
aspirant, which is why it is referred to as a ‘pure conscience’. Since the minds of immature people are often unable to resist their bad tendencies, their conscience may sometimes decide good to be bad and bad to be good, and hence it is not the conscience of such people that is meant here. Rather than being misled by their wrong discrimination, it would be better
for such people to follow the advice of their elders.
Sri Muruganar: If one’s conscience, being driven by
prarabdha, separates and prevents one from living in a good society, it will be better for a wise aspirant to live alone instead of rejecting his pure conscience by trying to live among the same group of people.


R Viswanathan said...

On the measure of progress from Talks with Ramana Maharshi:

Talk 49.
M.: Progress can be spoken of in things to be obtained afresh. Whereas here it is the removal of ignorance and not acquisition of knowledge. What kind of progress can be expected in the quest for the Self?

Talk 73.
M.: Does not one find some kind of peace while in meditation? That
is the sign of progress. That peace will be deeper and more prolonged with continued practice. It will also lead to the goal.

Talk 103.
M:Or again, even if instructed by
others to do japa or dhyana, they do it for some time, but are always looking to some results, e.g., visions, dreams, or thaumaturgic powers. If they do not find them they say they are not progressing or the tapas
is not effective. Visions, etc., are no signs of progress. Mere performance of tapas is its progress also. Steadiness is what is required. Moreover they must entrust themselves to their mantra or their God and wait for its Grace. They don’t do so. Japa even once uttered has its own good effect, whether the individual is aware or not.

Talk 132.
D.: There must be stage after stage of progress for gaining the Absolute. Are there grades of Reality?
M.: There are no grades of Reality. There are grades of experience for the jiva and not of Reality. If anything can be gained anew, it could also be lost, whereas the Absolute is central - here and now.

Talk 198.
D.: Is the individual capable of spiritual progress in the animal body?
M.: Not unlikely, though it is exceedingly rare

Talk 380.
D.: Do you mean to say that there is no progress?
M.: Progress is perceived by the outgoing mind. Everything is still
when the mind is introverted and the Self is sought.

Talk 427.
D.: In the practice of meditation are there any signs of the nature of subjective experience or otherwise, which will indicate the
aspirant’s progress towards Self-Realisation
M.: The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration on a single thought are the measure to gauge the progress.

Talk 439.
D.: Vasanakshaya (total end of all predispositions) - Mano nasa
(annihilation of mind) - Atma-sakshatkara (Realisation of the Self). They seem to be interdependent.
M.: The different expressions have only one meaning. They differ
according to the individual’s stage of progress. Dispassion,
Realisation, all mean the same thing; also they say ‘practice and
dispassion’. Why practice? Because the modes of mind once subside
and then rise up; again subside and rise up, and so on.

Talk 618:
M:The degree of the absence of thoughts is the measure of your progress towards Self-Realisation. But Self-Realisation itself does not admit of progress; it is ever the same. The Self remains always in realisation. The obstacles are thoughts. Progress is measured by the degree of removal of the obstacles to understanding that the Self is always realised. So thoughts must be checked by seeking to whom they arise. So you go to their Source, where they do not arise.

Talk 637.
There was some question about progress.
Sri Bhagavan said that progress is for the mind and not for the Self.
The Self is ever perfect.


Michael James said...

Thank you, Josef.

Yes, as you say in your comment, in the last sentence of my comment dated 1 December 2014 21:17 the words ‘this this’ were a typo and should have ‘in this’, so that sentence should have been:

As our love to experience ourself as we really are increases, we will feel increasingly disturbed by the illusory condition of experiencing ourself as body living in this world, and we will recognise that we will be unable to experience real peace or happiness until we merge forever in our real self, the source from which we as this ego have originated.

R Viswanathan said...

"As our love to experience ourself as we really are increases, we will feel increasingly disturbed by the illusory condition of experiencing ourself as body living in this world, and we will recognise that we will be unable to experience real peace or happiness until we merge forever in our real self, the source from which we as this ego have originated."

Does this statement qualify to be indicator (or sign) of progress or of one's position relative to the that at destination?

I learnt from David Godman's interview (which I posted as a comment for another article on Jnani), that I should confess that whatever Robert Adams proposed are only signs of progress and not necessarily proof of progress! May be that existence of this uncertainty is the reason why Michael James and many others disputed the validity of Robert Adams' proposals?

In any case, if none of us is realized yet, do we really have the authority to totally refute when somebody proposes somethings as signs of progress - just because it did not appeal to us as being proof enough? or just because he proposed various other things, too? If persons like Michael James and David Godman who have spent nearly three decades, almost wholly, on understanding Bhagavan's teachings confess that they are not realized yet, I genuinely wonder what is the harm in taking Robert Adams' list of signs of progress? Sure, they may not be proof of progress, but then as long as it can work as encouragement to continue to travel along the path of realization to the goal of realization, my mind would go with the acceptance of Robert Adams' proposals.

I will go to Thiruvannamalai on Dec 16. If it is the will of Bhagavan, then I will have the opportunity to discuss this topic with David Godman and Nochur Venkataraman, the two living persons who I revere as much as I do Michael James. If there emerges some clarity to me, I will share in this blog.

Kartikai said...

Michael James,
R Viswanathan,
since sometimes Nochur is quoted
please tell me who is it and why his teachings or explanations are of significance to us.
May I take Bhagavan's sannidhi as the same as his samadhi shrine ?

Nilotpala said...

R Viswanathan,
do you know if both (David Godman and Nochur Venkataraman) will be present in Sri Ramanasramam at that time of your visit (16 December 2014) ?

Michael James said...

Kartikai, I do not know anything about Nochur Venkataraman except what I have heard about him from Viswanathan and occasionally from others. From what I have heard, my impression is that he is a devotee and scholar who gives talks on advaita philosophy as expounded both in ancient texts and by Bhagavan Ramana. Except that he has studied and written commentaries on Bhagavan’s teachings and mentions them a lot in his talks, I do not know of any reason why his explanations should be considered to be of any special significance to us.

The Sanskrit word sannidhi (or saṁnidhi, as it is more precisely transliterated) means presence, vicinity or nearness, and is therefore a term that is used to refer to a shrine where a deity is present or where the body of a jñāni is interred. Hence when people nowadays talk of Bhagavan’s sannidhi they are generally referring to his samādhi shrine, but during his bodily lifetime they would usually have meant his physical presence. However the same term can also be used to mean his real (spiritual) presence, which is most intimately present within each of us as our own self, ‘I am’, and which is also omnipresent and hence not limited by time or space.

R Viswanathan said...

Sri Nochur Venkataraman regularly gives discourses on Bhagavan's teachings for so many years now, and also on Bhagavat Gita, Bhagavatam, and Adhi Sankaracharya. Sri Ramanasramam website gives some discourses by him:

http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/resource_centre/audio-2/

He lives in Thiruvannamalai for many years now near Sri Ramanasramam and is presently giving discourse on Akshara Manamalai in Tamil in Sakara Matam, Thiruvannamalai (from 26 Nov to 4 Dec, 2014 9.00 to 10.30 a.m.) As far as I know he shuns publicity, but his programme listing can be found in website: http://nochursravana.com/

I got initiated into Bhagavan's teachings first through listening to his discourses - Bhagavan's grace. There are hundreds of hours of his discourses on Bhagavan available - on Ulladhu Narpadhu, Akshara Mana Malai, Nan Yar, Atma Vidya Keerthanam, Ekanma Panchakam...

To me, he along with David Godman and Michael James are the source and inspiration of Bhagavan's teachings, and hence all three are of significance to me. Whatever has gone into my heart (of Bhagavan's teachings) is through what these three wrote or talked, and of course, basically because of Bhagavan's grace. Both David Godman and Nochur have regard for Robert Adams, and hence I began to read his articles and book Silence of the Heart, and I found them very consistent with Bhagavan's teachings, although, my view is disputed by Michael James and some others.

Some one asked whether I know that Both David Godman and Nochur Venkataraman will be present in Ramanasramam. Nochur visits Rmanasramam daily, whenever he is in Thiruvannamalai. David Godman, I will have to request by e-mail, and he kindly obliges me everytime I seek his appointment by coming over to Ramanasramam. I hope that this time, too, he does.

Sundar said...

Viswanathan: I had mentioned the Lakshmana swamy incident that I had mentioned in this blog in an email about progress to David Godman a few days back and here was his reply to me

/**
I also agree that the mind is in no position to determine whether realisation is near. Lakshman Swamy used to say: 'It is the disciple's job to make the effort and the Guru's job to ascertain the progress. The Guru cannot make the effort for the devotee, and the disciple cannot ascertain what progress he is making.'
**/

Also, Nochur has mentioned the same aspect many times and he even quotes an example of Sarada Devi where she says that a child is hungry and sleepy and its mother feeds it while the child is sleeping and puts it to sleep and in the morning when the child wakes up it wonders how it got to the bed and Sarada Devi says that spiritual progress is also like that. We may have no clue but we may be progressing.

Ofcourse like you said I also think anything that encourages one in this path is good but the only caveat is that sometimes we may be misled that we are making progress looking at such signs and its possible that our ego might increase as well.

However I will also eagerly await your answers from Nochur and David Godman.

Gavin Huxham said...

Viswanathan, Bhagavan's advice regarding progress, i.e. that perseverance in self attention is the only true sign, was to indicate to us to keep our focus only on 'I' - ourself. That is the best encouragement anyone can give us because it keeps our mind focused on the path and on the goal.

Robert's advice encourages us to look outwards in the direction of our mental states and worldly circumstances for 'a sense of peace', 'more happiness' etc. This is looking in the opposite direction so how can it be encouraging us? We may even become self deluded by following such advice?, 'Oh I'm less troubled by worldly conditions these days, I must be really advancing along nicely'. But who is advancing? Only ego, so how does that help?

In my view Michael has offered the following not as a sign of progress, but only to suggest we may actually become less at peace the further along the path we go, hence; "As our love to experience ourself as we really are increases, we will feel increasingly disturbed by the illusory condition of experiencing ourself as a body living in this world, and we will recognise that we will be unable to experience real peace or happiness until we merge forever in our real self, the source from which we as this ego have originated."

If I try to refute anything at all it is only that which is inconsistent which the simple and clear instructions and guidance of Bhagavan and not based on any other authority.

As for David Godman and Nochur Venkataraman, do they really have more authority than anyone else? Why should we be at all interested in what their respective views may or may not be in this regard?

Karthikai said...

Thanks Michael for the given information about Nochur Venkataraman
and Bhagavan's sannidhi(samnidhi),
samadhi shrine and the spiritual unlimited omnipresence of 'I am ' in each of us.
May I add a question about walking round the samadhi shrine and other hinduistic customs which I have seen at my last visit in Tiruvannamalai ?
Ramana's body is there buried and a lingam is erected. Of course people are convinced that Ramana's spiritual presence in the Ashram and in each of us did not come to an end on 14 th April 1950.
What is the gain to the devotees for walk or hurry round that lingam ?
What is the benefit from seeing and getting the blessed flame(arati)presented by the priest and applying the vibhuti and red powder on the forehead ?
What is the spiritual gain from drinking the blessed milk and from the mentioned practice as well as generally the pujas particularly to a westerner in connection with the path atma-vicara ?

Karthikai said...

R Viswanathan,
much obliged for your response.

Nilotpala said...

R Viswanathan,
thanks for your reply.

R Viswanathan said...

"As for David Godman and Nochur Venkataraman, do they really have more authority than anyone else? Why should we be at all interested in what their respective views may or may not be in this regard?"

I agree that these two also may not have more authority than anyone else.

Nevertheless, I am interested in their views as much as I am interested in Michael James' views since in my view, these are the three who I revere most to assimilate Bhagavan's teachings in me, apart from Robert Adams. David Godman has already agreed to meet with me, but since Nochur cannot be approached through e-mail or phone, I will have to see whether I have Bhagavan's blessings in order to be able to meet with him in Ramanasramam and also in order that he is able to spend a few minutes with me.

Steve said...

With regard to atma-vicara, progress = stillness.

If our focus is on progressing, we can be certain we're not.

Sundar said...

One of the things I would like to say is based on my readings, though we can take a lot of generic stuff that helps us from transcripts or talks with Jnani's we should be very careful not to read too much into individual one on one conversation one way or the other as its very specific answer to the questioner. They are well demonstrated by the following two anecdotes.

The one below is by Chalam who was Ramanar's devotee and met him in the 40's and this is from "The Power of Presence"
/**
I myself witnessed one incident that produced a reaction in Bhagavan that was understood only by two people. A friend of mine called Dharmapuri, who had no faith in swamis, came to see Bhagavan. Having decided not to prostrate to Bhagavan, he spent the whole of his brief visit wandering around the ashram instead of sitting with Bhagavan in the hall. In the evening, as it was summer, Bhagavan's chair was placed outside near the well. Bhagavan came and sat on it and all the devotees sat on the floor near him. Dharmapuri was wandering in the area at the time. When he saw Bhagavan sitting there, he felt an irrepressible desire to prostrate before him. His determination not to prostrate vanished as he fell full length at Bhagavan's feet. Bhagavan noticed his performance and laughed loudly. None of the devotees, except for me, knew why Bhagavan had suddenly laughed. Everyone else was looking around, trying to ascertain the cause of Bhagavan's laughter.
***/

I'll add another apt anecdote by david Godman in my next comment as it doesn't fit in here.

Sundar said...

An anecdote by David Godman
/**
There is something else that is going on when you sit in front of a true teacher. There is an effortless transmission of peace that stills the mind and brings an intense joy to the heart. None of this will be recorded in the dialogue that is going on between the two of you. It is something very private, and only the two of you are in on the secret. Words may be exchanged but the real communication is a silent one. In such cases the teacher is often reacting to the temporary absence of your mind, rather than the question you asked a few minutes before, but who else can see this?
Let me give you an example from my own experience. In the late 1970s I sat with a little-known teacher called Dr Poy, a Gujurati who lived in northern Bombay. On my first meeting I asked him what his teachings were and he replied, 'I have no teachings. People ask questions and I answer them. That is all.'
I persevered: 'If someone asks you ''How do I get enlightened?'', what do you normally tell them?'
'Whatever is appropriate,' he replied.
After a few more questions like this, I realized that I wasn't going to receive a coherent presentation of this man's teachings, assuming of course that he had any. He was a good example of what I have just been talking about. He didn't have a doctrine or a practice that he passed out to everyone who came to see him. He simply answered all questions on a case-by-case basis.
I sat quietly for about ten minutes while Dr Poy talked in Gujurati to a couple of other visitors. In those few minutes I experienced a silence that was so deep, so intense, it physically paralyzed me.
He turned to me and said, smiling, 'What's your next question?'
He knew I was incapable of replying. His question was a private joke between us that no one else there would have understood. I felt as if my whole body had been given a novocaine injection. I was so paralyzed, in an immobilized, ecstatic way, I couldn't even smile at his remark.
He looked at me and said, 'There is no such thing as right method, there is only right effort. Whatever technique you choose will work if you follow it intensely enough. You asked for my teachings and here they are: ''Part-time sadhus don't get enlightened.'''
On one level this was a statement that one had to work hard at one's sadhana, but at the same time the experience I was having there clearly indicated to me that it is the powerful presence of the teacher that effortlessly quietens the mind. So much is going on in a teacher-student encounter that is not picked up by other people who are watching it take place. Just about everyone I know who has been with a real teacher has had experiences like this, experiences that have little or nothing to do with the words that were going backwards and forwards.
****/

Sundar said...

Here(below) is another example with Jiddu Krishnamurti. This is from an article "The Awakening of Oneself" by Domingos Vieira, a Brazilian, describing his meeting with Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1982 at Saanen in the Swiss Alps, taken from 2011 July edition of the "Mountain Path" journal of Ramanasramam. Now i'm not pasting all of this to demonstrate the mind reading siddhis of Jnanis but just because it shows, as David Godman says, that a lot more goes on between the questioner and the Jnani than the words we read into it one way or the other from the transcripts. Infact the judgment we make on these conversations one way or the other is also made based on our own preconceived notion of right and wrong or which method is right and our mind and intellect so they also can be misleading. To me this actually emphasizes the beauty of Bhagavn's teachings even more which is to just focus on the "I am" feeling as all else is just the imaginings of the mind.

/**
Some ‘strange’ things happened during the talks. In one of them, I didn’t understand one of the words he used. At once, he looked at me and enumerated some of its synonyms. Mentally, I said ‘I understand now,’ and he continued the talk. Another friend from Brazil told me that he conversed mentally with K during the talks, asking questions and obtaining answers, and I told him I knew what he was talking about.
***/

R Viswanathan said...

"Robert's advice encourages us to look outwards in the direction of our mental states and worldly circumstances for 'a sense of peace', 'more happiness' etc. This is looking in the opposite direction so how can it be encouraging us? We may even become self deluded by following such advice?, 'Oh I'm less troubled by worldly conditions these days, I must be really advancing along nicely'. But who is advancing? Only ego, so how does that help?"

I understand that essentially, the opposition to Robert Adams' postulates of signs of progress comes from the possibility that they might only result in the increase of ego. Yes, I agree that there is absolutely no substitute for perseverance to self attention. I understand that self attention becomes possible through 1) attention to the feeling of one's existence or 2) attention to ego and trace it to its source, which is the self. So much has been written by Michael James on both.

I give below a discussion on ego between an aspirant (SR) and Robert Adams (R)- which I found very beneficial. R insists that no one should believe what he says but find out for themselves whether it is true:

SR: Robert, who is the...I know this is back to a question that keeps coming up and probably
I know what the answer is going to be from you but I'll ask it again. Who is the author/creator of the ego that did all of this? I mean if you're acknowledging that there is an ego I that exists and we all seem to share it in this room to some degree, maybe it's academic but where did this come from and why? I think a lot of people ask... (R: I know.) Why? Why have it to start with?

R: Yes. I'm only acknowledging there is an ego for your benefit. An ego never did exist. It doesn't exist now and the only words I can use to make you understand this is the water in the mirage. When you see water in the mirage you say it's water but when you come up closer and you inspect it, there is no water it's a mirage. The same way that the ego and the world looks real. It appears real because we're so bound in the illusion. Yet nobody created it. It never was created. I admit the finite mind can never comprehend this.

How can nothing be created when I see everything with my eyes? It's like hypnosis, you're made to see something that doesn't exist. Why? There is no why because nothing
does exist. If it really existed then there would be why. But since it doesn't exist there is noone to say why.

To understand this better you have to dive deep within yourself and you will find that you never existed and you do not exist now. Do not try to analyze it, you'll get nowhere, you'll go crazy. This has been my experience. But of course do not believe me why
should you. But do the practice. You have to work on yourself until the question is answered.
SE: How can that which never existed, practice?

R: That which never existed does not practice. But that which believes that it exists
practices. So as long as you believe something exists you have to practice until you find out nothing exists and there will be no practice.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, when Bhagavan said that perseverance is the only true sign of progress, we can infer that he was indirectly implying: ‘If you are truly interested in progress, just persevere in practising vicāra, because that is the only way to progress’. He was not advocating that we should look for any signs of progress, but only that we should persevere in our practice without thinking of ‘progress’ or anything else at all other than ourself alone.

There is truly no reliable sign of progress except earnest desire and persistent effort to experience ourself alone, without even the least thought of anything else. So long as we are thinking of progress, we are not attending to ourself and hence not progressing. As Steve wrote in another comment, in ātma-vicāra stillness alone is progress, so if we are thinking of progress instead of just silently being as we really are, we are certainly not progressing. Therefore let us give up all thoughts of progress and just try here and now to be what we really are.

As you would have understood by reading this article and some of my replies to comments on it, I believe that looking for any signs of progress is not only futile but also a distraction that diverts our attention away from ourself, which should be our only concern and interest, yet in your comment dated 2 December 2014 14:19 you quote the final sentence in my comment dated 1 December 2014 21:17 and ask ‘Does this statement qualify to be indicator (or sign) of progress or of one’s position relative to the that at destination?’ No, this was not the intention with which I wrote that sentence, because what I was trying to explain in that comment was only that progress on the spiritual path is not necessarily marked by signs such as ‘a sense of peace’, being ‘no longer disturbed by worldly conditions’ or ‘how happy you’re becoming’, since if we have intense love and yearning to merge in our source, we are liable to experience extreme anguish until such love and yearning are fulfilled, as illustrated by Bhagavan in many verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam.

If we were actually burning in such a fire of intense anguish born of unfulfilled love to merge back into our source, our only concern would be to merge in it here and now, so we would not be satisfied merely by thinking that we were making progress, or by anything less than absolutely clear self-awareness. Therefore a devotee in such an advanced state would be so intent on trying to experience what ‘I’ really is at this very moment that he or she would have absolutely no interest in looking for any signs of progress.

A sign is something other than what it signifies, and according to Bhagavan we should not be thinking of anything other than ourself, so if we are genuinely interested in experiencing ourself as we really are, we should ignore all thoughts of progress or of supposed signs of it.

So long as we think of progress, we are maintaining an artificial distance between ourself and our goal. Our goal is actually nothing other than ourself, so who is to progress where? The idea of progress seems meaningful only to our ego, because for our real self there is neither progress nor anywhere to progress to. Therefore if we identify anything as a sign of progress, we will just be feeding our ego, because so long as we allow ourself to feel ‘I have made progress’, we will be perpetuating the illusion that this ego is ourself. Hence if we are looking for any signs of progress, we are just pandering to our ego and its vanity.

Michael James said...

Karthikai, most Hindu rituals such as the ones you mention in your comment of 3 December 2014 09:22 are intended to be an expression of respect and love, so it is better to view them as such rather than thinking of them in terms of any gain or benefit.

If we worship God for any gain or benefit, what we are actually expressing love for is not God himself but only whatever gain or benefit we hope to obtain from him, so it is best to put all thoughts of gain or benefit out of our mind, particularly when we visit Bhagavan’s shrine.

If we are trying to follow the path of ātma-vicāra taught by Bhagavan, we are doing so in order to free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego, so we are not actually going to gain anything but to lose everything (except what we really are, which we can obviously never lose). Therefore in order to follow this path we need to give up all ideas of personal gain — because the person who could gain anything is an illusion and is therefore not what we really are — and to think instead in terms of the joy of being relieved of everything.

We are following this path because we have understood from Bhagavan that we cannot be the body, mind or person that we now seem to be, since we experience our existence even in their absence in sleep, and that we therefore need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are. Because we have learnt all this from Bhagavan, we naturally feel great love and respect for him, so if we visit the shrine where his body in interred we will express our love and respect in whatever way seems most appropriate to us. If you feel any of the rituals that are performed there are a suitable way of expressing your love and respect, you can participate in them, or else you can just sit quietly in his presence.

Personally I am not particularly interested in elaborate rituals (though I respect them as things that are meaningful to others), but when I am in the presence of Bhagavan’s shrine I like to simply prostrate before it and walk around it (preferably while trying to be self-attentive rather than being distracted by any other thoughts), because for me that is a meaningful expression of the love I feel for him.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
your yesterday's comment about Hindu rituals to Karthikai, second last paragraph, fourth line:
You wanted to write:
".....so if we visit the shrine where his body is interred we will express our love and respect....."
There is a typo: instead of "in" we should have "is".

Michael James said...

Thank you, Josef. Yes, I meant to type ‘is’, so ‘in’ is a typo, and the whole paragraph should have been:

We are following this path because we have understood from Bhagavan that we cannot be the body, mind or person that we now seem to be, since we experience our existence even in their absence in sleep, and that we therefore need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are. Because we have learnt all this from Bhagavan, we naturally feel great love and respect for him, so if we visit the shrine where his body is interred we will express our love and respect in whatever way seems most appropriate to us. If you feel any of the rituals that are performed there are a suitable way of expressing your love and respect, you can participate in them, or else you can just sit quietly in his presence.

Karthikai said...

R Viswanathan,
Thanks to you for the given information (3 December 2014 00:39)about Sri Nochur Venkataraman.

Karthikai said...

Thank you, Michael James, for your reply. Thanks too for the advice that most Hindu rituals are to view them primarily as an expression of respect and love.
I should have emphasized that my question in which way I could spiritually benefit from participating in the mentioned rituals at Bhagavan's shrine just did not exclude the aspect of losing the illusion that we are this ego.