Sunday, 18 January 2015

The connection between consciousness and body

A friend wrote to me recently saying that in a German book on Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu called Über das Selbst (‘About the Self’) the author has written that the absolute consciousness is connected through our navel, and asked me to comment on this. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote:

I assume that what is meant here by the term ‘consciousness’ is what is conscious, which is the sense in which it is generally used in the context of the teachings of Sri Ramana or any other form of advaita philosophy. It is important to clarify this, because ‘consciousness’ is used in a variety of different senses, so its exact meaning is generally determined by the context in which it happens to be used.

In this sense, the term ‘absolute consciousness’ likewise means what is conscious, but the adjective ‘absolute’ distinguishes it from any form of relative consciousness. Since any form of consciousness that experiences anything other than itself exists relative to whatever it experiences, it is not absolute consciousness. Therefore ‘absolute consciousness’ means what is conscious of nothing other than itself, and hence it is what is otherwise known as ‘pure consciousness’ or ‘adjunct-free consciousness’ — the consciousness that we experience not as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ but only as ‘I am’.

According to Sri Ramana, absolute consciousness is what we actually are, and it is not connected with anything, because it alone truly exists. That is, logically it could not be connected with anything unless something other than itself actually existed, and if anything other than itself actually existed, it would necessarily be finite and hence not absolute but only relative. Therefore in order to be connected with anything, consciousness would have to be relative.

However though absolute consciousness is not connected with anything, everything that seems to exist is connected with it, because nothing else could seem to exist if it were not experienced by our ego or mind, and our ego could not seem to exist or to experience anything if it did not contain within itself an element of consciousness — an element that is nothing other than absolute consciousness, which is our real self, the only consciousness that actually exists. Therefore everything other than ourself (including our body) is connected with absolute consciousness (ourself) not through our navel, but only through our ego.

Though absolute consciousness is what we actually are, we now experience ourself as this ego or mind, so we now experience consciousness as if it were this ego, and it is only this ego-consciousness that is connected with our body and that experiences anything other than itself. That is, when consciousness seems to be connected with our body, it is not consciousness as it really is, but only consciousness in the limited and distorted form of our ego or mind.

Our ego or mind always experiences itself as a body, so it is a mixture of consciousness, which alone is real, and this body, which is unreal. In other words, the ego or mind is the adjunct-mixed consciousness ‘I am this body’, and hence it is described as cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) that ties consciousness (cit) and the non-conscious (jaḍa) body together as if they were one.

As the ego or mind, we always experience our body as being something that is intimately connected with ourself — that is, with our essential self-awareness or consciousness (which alone is what we actually are) — and hence we feel that our whole body is conscious, and that consciousness (in the form of our ego) pervades throughout our body. That is, we experience every part of our body as ourself, and since we ourself are conscious, we feel that every part of our body is conscious. Even if some part of our body is anaesthetised or is for any other reason deprived of sensation, we are still conscious of it as ourself, but as a part of ourself that is devoid of sensation or sensory feeling. If someone touches our hand, our foot or any other part of our body, we feel that they have touched us, because there is no part of our body that we experience as other than the entire body that we currently experience as ourself.

However, though consciousness (ourself) pervades throughout our body, it seems to be centred at different times in different parts of our body, depending on what activity we happen to be engaged in. For example, when we are engaged in seeing things, our consciousness seems to be centred in the region of our eyes; when we are engaged in hearing things, it seems to be centred in the region of our ears; since much of our thinking involves words and visual images, it seems to be going on in our head, close to our ears and eyes, so when we are thinking our consciousness seems to be centred there; when we are experiencing any strong emotion, our consciousness seems to be centred in our chest, or sometimes (in the case of some particularly unpleasant emotions) in the pit of our stomach; when we are engaged in feeling something with our hand, our consciousness then seems to be centred (at least partially) in that hand; when we are intensely aware of any pain in our body, our consciousness seems to be centred around that pain; and when we are engaged in sexual activity, our consciousness seems to be centred in the region of our genitals.

This is of course an oversimplification, because we are seldom so engrossed in any one activity or bodily experience that we are completely unaware of everything else, but it does explain to some extent the reasoning behind the yōgic idea of different centres of consciousness (cakras) in the body, and the associated idea that when we are engrossed in material desires and bodily pleasures our consciousness (which is what some yōga texts refer to as ‘kuṇḍalinī’) is located lower in our body, whereas when our interest shifts to more refined pleasures, concerns or aims, our consciousness or kuṇḍalinī rises gradually to higher locations in our body.

However, it is important in this context to remember that the consciousness that seems to be located in (or connected with) our body and that is sometimes described as ‘kuṇḍalinī’ is not absolute consciousness as such, but only our ego, which is a body-bound and hence relative form of our original consciousness. Therefore, since our aim is only to experience consciousness (ourself) in its absolute and original form — which is pure and unlimited self-awareness, unconnected in any way with any finite thing such as a body — we need not be concerned with any ideas about kuṇḍalinī or its location in our body.

Because yōga is concerned with exploring the connection between our mind (our ego, which is our body-bound consciousness), our prāṇa (our breathing and other life processes) and our body, it developed various theories about cakras (centres of consciousness in the body) and nāḍis (channels through which consciousness is said to spread or flow in the body), and among such theories there may be one that says that consciousness connects with our body in the region of its navel.

However, when asked about such theories, Sri Ramana often remarked that we need not concern ourself with any such ideas, because concepts such as nāḍis, cakras and kuṇḍalinī are all mere imaginations or mental fabrications (kalpanās), and if questioned further, he would explain that they are all things that pertain to the body and are supposed to exist in it, so since the body itself is just an imagination, they must also be nothing but imaginations. For example, Suri Nagamma recorded in Telugu one occasion when he made such a remark, and the following English translation of what she recorded was published in 1969 in the Ramana Jyothi Souvenir, p. 14, and was later reproduced in The Mountain Path, October 1983 issue, p. 250:
In 1943, a pandit who came to the Ashram went on talking to Bhagavan for a full four days about the amrita nadi and its significance. Bhagavan was nodding His head saying that the nadi would act like this and like that. Having heard their discussions, I felt aggrieved that I had had no experience of any such nadi. After the visitor had left, I met Bhagavan while He was returning from the gosala side and said, “You have been discussing at length the amrita nadi”, but before I could finish the sentence He said with some impatience, “Why do you worry about all that?” I ventured to say, “You have been discussing it for the last four days and so I thought I could know something about it from you”. Bhagavan replied, “You thought so, did you? He was asking something based on the sastras and I replied to him accordingly. Why should you worry about it? All that you should do is to follow the enquiry ‘Who am I?’” So saying, He walked away.

Two days after that when someone in the hall raised the topic regarding amrita nadi Bhagavan coolly said, “Yes, that is an idea”. Surprised at it, I asked, “Is the amrita nadi an idea only?” “Yes. What else is it but an idea? Is not the body itself an idea?” Saying this, Bhagavan looked at me with compassion.
Ideas such as nāḍis, cakras and kuṇḍalinī may have a metaphorical significance, but if our aim is only to experience what we really are, they are unnecessary concepts and need not concern us. Indeed we should not be concerned with any body-related ideas, because what we should be trying to experience is only ourself, in complete isolation from our body and everything else.

So long as we allow ourself to attend to anything other than ourself, our body and all the other extraneous things that we thus experience seem to be real, so Sri Ramana advises us to try to attend only to ourself, the ‘I’ who is conscious of both ourself and all those other things. Therefore if we wish to follow his path and thereby to experience what this ‘I’ really is, we should not be concerned with our body or any connection we may seem to have with it, but should focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one absolute consciousness or pure self-awareness ‘I am’.

42 comments:

Sthanu said...

Some questions may arise:
According to Sri Ramana we are actually absolute consciousness.
We use the word "actually" to indicate that a situation exists or happened, or to emphasize that it is true.
Absolute consciousness is only one - so we all together.
Saying "now we experience ourself as this ego or mind ..." you use "now" to refer to the present time obviously in contrast to a time in the past. How comes/came the awful event of the quoted "now -experience" into being ?
Why did the ego or mind make the mentioned "mixture of consciousness" and like to be only the cit-jada-granthi ?
Was there not a unreasonable behaviour of the real absolute consciousness at the moment when the mixed sauce was in the process of getting blended ? Who is/was the blender of that ill-fated blend ?

How can there be anything else than absolute consciousness ?
How can there be(any form of)seeming or relative consciousness ?
How was born the necessity to use the adjective 'absolute'to give extra information about the noun "consciousness" at all ?
Who has firstly made that distinction between absolute and relative consciousness ?
A distinction is a difference between similar things.
How can there be different kinds of consciousness which means one consciousness is unlike to another ?
Are there really separate and distinct things of the same kind ?
What are the feature and quality that distinguish one consciousness from another causing the two things to be regarded as different ?

Because we cannot get any satisfactory answer to the questions above
we have to walk only on one road, that is as you say, Michael, to focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one pure self-awareness 'I am'.

R Viswanathan said...

"Because we cannot get any satisfactory answer to the questions above ....."

Even if one gets satisfactory answers, it is only the ego that is going to be satisfied, but only momentarily, since further questions might come up in due course of time.

"we have to walk only on one road, that is as you say, Michael, to focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one pure self-awareness 'I am'."

Yes, focusing one's attention on the 'I' that is raising these questions is a better option and is more beneficial.

Sthanu said...

Thanks R Viswanathan,
for your surely well-intentioned statement about my raised issues and questions.
Of course questions were put "only by the ego". Of course answers are given and meant "only to the ego".
Of course our pure self-awareness
transcends questions and answers both.
As you say more beneficial than raising questions is to investigate ourself, the 'I' who is experiencing itself as the questioner.
But an adjunct-bound self-awareness 'I' - called the ego - which from time to time is asking questions will not give the eternal self any shake-up.
To give up our attachment to the reasoning ego suddenly all at once is naturally our all aim/willing but seldom reached/achieved if ever.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Arunachalaramanaya

R Viswanathan said...

"But an adjunct-bound self-awareness 'I' - called the ego - which from time to time is asking questions will not give the eternal self any shake-up."

Yes, surely, the 'I' that is asking questions cannot get the eternal self any shake-up - because it is the eternal self which is the one changeless and self-shining base on which everything else seems to acquire illusory existence.

"To give up our attachment to the reasoning ego suddenly all at once is naturally our all aim/willing but seldom reached/achieved if ever."

It is my genuine feeling that one needs to have total trust in Bhagavan's statement to the effect that if one attends to this 'I' (and this 'I' alone and not to the other experiences or thoughts which sprout from this 'I'), it will subside in the birth place.

Sri Nochur Venkataraman suggested in one of his pravachanams that one can also keep praying to Bhagavan for acquiring the necessary love and determination to be able to do this self investigation persistently and incessantly so that the 'ego-I' would remain subsided in the self for ever.

It is my genuine feeling again that one also would need to pray to Bhagavan to help even removal of the very doubt as to whether annihilation of the ego can ever be achieved. I remember Sri Nochur Venkataraman saying that Bhagavan once stated that to have such a doubt removed alone, one might need to be born again.

Sthanu said...

Thanks R Viswanathan for your comment.
There is really need for total trust in Bhagavan's teachings.
Praying to Bhagavan for permanent subsidence of the ego in the birth place might be the same as trying to be self-enquiry.

Dean P said...

Thanks for posting these clear elucidations on the practice. There are so many "teachers" out there mixing up self-inquiry with bodily experiences and physical considerations. This clears things up for those with the good fortune to read it.

Sthanu said...

Sorry, in my last comment it should be read 'self-attentive' instead of 'self-enquiry'.

Amalakapriya said...

Michael,
I am a form of consciousness that experiences not only itself but anything other than itself too.
I am not aware of something which is conscious of nothing other than itself.
Therefore I am not aware exclusively of absolute consciousness.
I experience consciousness not only as pure ‚I am‘ but also as ‚I am this‘ or ‚I am that‘.
My ego, that is my body-bound consciousness is connected with my body. So it is not consciousness as it really is, but only consciousness in the limited and distorted form of my ego or mind.
But here we are at the crucial point:
The ego contains within itself an element of absolute consciousness.
Without that fact we even would not be able to direct our thoughts to self never mind would be able to let rest the ego temporary in our source. Without the basic field of absolute consciousness no ego could have been sprouted.
Neither condemnation nor playing down of the ego can bring us to our destiny or destination.
Only clarity and clearness of consciousness will be a safe ferry to cross the torrential river of samsara.
While writing this I feel happy about that fact and subsequently I feel myself safe and continual.
I think a lot of the idea that the ego contains more or less elements of absolute consciousness .
So beside its function of suppression of evidence the ego is as the adjunct-mixed consciousness also our anchor.

Kailasa said...

Consciousness only in the limited and distorted form of our ego or mind is nothing bad but our springboard into reality. So we should be aware that we have no other tool/ instrument/springboard.
For a beginner on the path it maybe important to feel or to know that the experience of every part of the body as ourself is not the end of the line but the base to make a getaway through the veil of uncertainty.
So long we - as the limited and distorted - do not have the power to stop our attention to anything other than ourself,
so long we - as the limited and distorted - don't have the power to focus all our interest only on ourself as absolute consciousness,
we should learn to bow our restricted constitution to the allconsuming grace of Arunachala.
Therefore open your mind widely to Arunachala-Ramana !

R Viswanathan said...

"I am a form of consciousness that experiences not only itself but anything other than itself too.
I am not aware of something which is conscious of nothing other than itself. Therefore I am not aware exclusively of absolute consciousness. I experience consciousness not only as pure ‚I am‘ but also as ‚I am this‘ or ‚I am that‘. My ego, that is my body-bound consciousness is connected with my body. So it is not consciousness as it really is, but only consciousness in the limited and distorted form of my ego or mind."

If I understand correctly Bhagavan's teachings, I would think that these statements are valid for the so-called waking and dream states, but not for sleep state wherein the mind or body consciousness do not have entry. I remember Sri Michael James stating in one of his articles that in deep sleep one indeed is aware exclusively of absolute consciousness.

"The ego contains within itself an element of absolute consciousness.
Without that fact we even would not be able to direct our thoughts to self never mind would be able to let rest the ego temporary in our source. Without the basic field of absolute consciousness no ego could have been sprouted.
Neither condemnation nor playing down of the ego can bring us to our destiny or destination."

Sure, the mere condemnation of the ego will not help us reach the destination since such an act represents turning our attention further away from self. Yes, only by using the very ego or the mind, but through the self-ward turned attention does can one reach and abide in the self. The mind being Chit-jada-kranthi (the knot of Chit, the absolute consciousness and jada, the relative consciousness), one needs to strive to discard the jada aspect. For this, I feel that one needs to first of all have the firm desire for the annihilation of the ego itself rather than giving it some merit.

Amalakapriya said...

R Viswanathan,
Thanks for your comment.
Let me ask you some questions:
1. Why do you quote a statement of Michael James about Sri Ramana's experience to substantiate your claim ? Do you have no own experience about your exclusive awareness of absolute consciousness in sleep state ?
2. Who do you think has to turn its attention to self ?
3. Is it not the task of the ego ?
4. Who exactly will strive for discard the jada aspect ?
5. Who will have the firm desire for annihilation of the ego itself ?
I do not expect that anything other than the ego has the calling to fulfill or carry out the effort to turn the attention to self and so on. It is not a matter of giving some merit to the ego.
Here in my last comment I tried to consider the quasi leading role played by the ego in the "play" of self-investigation.

R Viswanathan said...

Thanks for the series of questions posed by Amalakapriya.

Question 1: First of all, I am genuinely sorry if my response gave any indication of any kind of claim. If at all I quoted the statement of Michael James, it is only because so much had been discussed about sleep in his previous articles, and I thought that it would be of great help to all readers of this blog.

Yes, the faith in the statements of Bhagavan and the convincing answers given by Michael James to many comments including some posted by me, gives me the conviction that my experience during sleep indeed is of exclusive awareness of absolute consciousness.
http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.in/2014/11/our-memory-of-i-in-sleep.html

I feel that the comment following the question 5 itself answers all questions from 2 to 5.


Amnye Machen said...

45 years ago I had a very strange encounter:
One of these fine days in the evening my brother brought with him a long-haired male visitor whom he had picked up off the streets of Vienna/Austria. The visitor said that he hails from New York City and he is a traveller only for the purpose of getting an answer to a certain question.
After taking some dinner with us
he asked us directly "How can anything exist?". We tried to give him a satisfying answer. But our anwers did in no way satisfy the feelings of our visitor. And till the crack of the dawn we were not able to satisfy to his thirst for knowledge. Both my brother and I had then in the year 1970 only a few philosophical skills or qualifications. And apart from that: also the following next three days and nights we were at our wits' end.
Summa summarum the mysterious questioner put his unsolved issue surely 500 times ! In words : fivehundred times ! He did speak scarcely any other sentence ! Only after 4 days the question got on our nerves and we had to throw the mysterious traveller out of our room.
As far as I can remember I was very sorry that we could not at all solve the problem sufficiently or adequately.
We never had seen the strange specimen again.

R Viswanathan said...

"he asked us directly "How can anything exist?"... the mysterious questioner put his unsolved issue surely 500 times !... I was very sorry that we could not at all solve the problem sufficiently or adequately."

Reading the above narration, I am immediately reminded of what is in Maharshi's Gospel (p. 68-69), the discussion between a devotee (D) and Bhagavan (M).

D: The world may not be conscious of itself, yet it exists.

M: Consciousness is always Self-consciousness. If you are conscious of anything you are essentially conscious of yourself. Unselfconscious existence is a
contradiction in terms. It is no existence at all. It is merely attributed existence, whereas true Existence, the sat, is not an attribute, it is the Substance itself. It is the vastu. Reality is therefore known as sat-chit,
Being-Consciousness, and never merely the one to the exclusion of the other. The world neither exists by itself, nor is it conscious of its existence. How
can you say that such a world is real?
And what is the nature of the world? It is perpetual change, a continuous, interminable flux. A
dependent, unselfconscious, ever-changing world cannot be real.

D: Not only does Western empirical science consider the world real, but, the Vedas etc., give elaborate cosmological descriptions of the world and its origin. Why should they do so if the world is unreal?

M: The essential purpose of the Vedas etc., is to teach you the nature of the imperishable Atman, and to declare with authority “Thou art That”.

D: I accept. But why should they give cosmological descriptions spun out at great length, unless they consider the world real?

M: Adopt in practice what you accept in theory, and leave the rest. The sastras have to guide every type of seeker after Truth, and all are not of the same mental
make-up. What you cannot accept treat as artha vada or auxiliary argument.

Amnye Machen said...

Thank you, R Viswanathan, for your reply.
We often hear something what does not correspond to our experience of life or we may not be in agreement with somebody.
Therefore Bhagavan's final answer in the mentioned discussion between a devotee and Bhagavan(M)could be used in general:

("Adopt in practice what you accept in theory, and leave the rest.
The sastras have to guide every type of seeker after Truth, and all are not of the same mental make-up.
What you cannot accept treat as artha vada or auxiliary argument".)

Would you please explain the (Sanskrit ?) words "artha vada" ?

R Viswanathan said...

Thank you Amney Machen. You asked me: Would you please explain the (Sanskrit ?) words "artha vada" ?

I have only a very preliminary knowledge of Sanskrit. I would normally take 'artha' means meaning and 'vada' means discussion or argument.

The following link gives the meaning of 'artha vada' as interpretation.

http://prabhupadabooks.com/cc/adi/17/72?d=1

R Viswanathan said...


For artha vada, this link gives more detailed explanation:

https://books.google.co.in/books?id=qcoUFYOX0bEC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=artha+vada&source=bl&ots=XfuvcVFOjZ&sig=nVEYDbaWS_49wX3gmXWBPuTaRCY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fPHOVNOsK-S0mwW_74L4BA&ved=0CBwQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=artha%20vada&f=false

artha vada: eulogistic meaning; corroborative sentence; supplimental texts which are explanatory to injunctive texts; non essential statements.

I guess that auxiliary argument which is mentioned in Maharshi's Gospels might be what Bhagavan meant for artha vada.

Michael James might be able to explain better.

sundar said...

Meaning of artha vada. Kanchi Paramacharya gives an example below

/**
*svakarmaNA tam-abhyarchya siddhiM vindati mAnavaH* -- A person by doing his svadharma as a dedication to God, attains the goal – so says the Gita in its last chapter. Those who say that karma yoga is a direct SAdhanA for moksha, interpret the word ‘siddhi’ here as ‘mokshaM’. But the Acharya explains: “The siddhi that is spoken of here is only the eligibility for jnAna-yoga; the end-goal (siddhi) of karma-yoga is the transition from the stage of renunciation of the fruits of action to the stage of renunciation of karma itself so that one can enter the stage of jnAna yoga and pursue the enquiry of the Atman all the time”. Reading his impeccable logic with all its pros and cons one is sure that this is the correct understanding. Wherever the Gita extols karma yoga to the skies, it should be taken as ‘artha-vAda’, says the Acharya. To cheer us up and encourage us to go by a certain path is what ‘artha-vAda’ means. It is like telling the child to learn its alphabet in order that ‘the child may become king of the country’! This cheering up is nothing but ‘artha-vAda’. In other words, it is an exaggeration done in the best interests and well-meant. When we wail in desperation :“Only jnAna is the path to moksha; but I am not able to go the jnAna path; I think I have to only sweat it out with this karma” – the Lord, in order to cheer us up in the path which is suitable to us, says: “Don’t under-estimate karma yoga like that, my dear; this karma yoga can do this, can do that, in fact it will give you such and such merits”. However when he talks about the JnAni, ‘The JnAni is nothing but myself’ (*jnAnIt-vAtmaiva me mataM*), ‘The JnAnis are those who have reached my bhAva’ (*mad-bhAvam-AgatAH*) – so says He in right earnest.
**/

Amnye Machen said...

Thank you both,
R Viswanathan and Sundar, for the given explaining of 'artha vada'.

Amalakapriya said...

Regarding last paragraph:
So long as we[1] allow ourself[2] to attend to anything other than ourself[3],
our body and all the other extraneous things that we thus experience seem to be real, so Sri Ramana advices us to try to attend only to ourself…
Here we have to be aware of different subjects:
[1]: „we“ , that is our ego
[2] : „ourself“ , that is also the ego
[3] : „ourself“ , that is our true ‚I‘

Why should we care about the seeming reality of body and extraneous things that we thus experience ?
Our task is to try to attend only to ourself or to focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one absolute consciousness or pure self-awareness 'I am'.
I do not think that it is my responsibility to keep watch over the (seeming) appearance or reality of
body and extraneous things. So I would let them seem to be real - or to be real. That does not fall within my competence.

Unknown said...

Hi Michael. Someone in our little Ramana Maharshi google group has asked the following series of questions. Would appreciate any helpful reply you could give as his questions do seem very sincere and earnest. Thanks and peace:

1.whether sri. Ramana maharishi realized self; then tell me , how it is ?
2.if self has no birth and death ; then why it is fitting into human body?
3.if its circumference is no where ; then why we are not consious about some thing outside our body at certain distance 'x'.
4. let 'god ' be the omni present ; is he a superficial being or formless ,undestructive matter?
5. if god is superficial being ; how he came into existence?
6.if god is a formless matter matter ; how matter can raise thought? 7.what is outside universe?
8. what is existence ? i think evervy thing is maya or big illusion?
9.if soul has no death ; why ramana maharshi cannot take immediate birth into new body?
10.how to communicate with ramana maharshi ; who is in still existence ?
11. how many souls are created at the time of creation ?
12. is every thing which exist in universe is only one soul?
13.what is the idea for the man after universe?
14. i cant understand . if iam the self; then why realization of self; iam thinking yes;then why to verify who is thinking ; which leads to mental disturbance ; may cause some mental problems...

Anonymous said...

The latest change in the website to show only the first couple of paragraphs of each article is very useful to me because I often go back to consult or read older articles.

Thanks to Michael for the new layout.

Michael James said...

Sthanu, regarding the first question you asked in your first comment, ‘How comes/came the awful event of the quoted “now-experience” into being?’, according to Bhagavan time (like everything else) is just a creation of our ego, so to understand how time came into existence we must understand how the ego came into existence — that is, how we came to mistake ourself to be this ego. However, if we investigate this ego, we will find that it does not actually exist, and that therefore none of its creations such as time and this entire universe actually exist.

Therefore the only useful answer to your first question is Bhagavan’s advice that we should first investigate the ego that experiences time in order to ascertain whether or not it actually exists. This is also the only useful answer to all your other questions.

So long as our ego seems to exist, numerous other things and distinctions between them will also seem to exist, and hence we will be able raise endless series of questions about them. Whatever answer may be given to one question will give rise to another question, so there will be no end to the questions we can ask until we investigate ourself to ascertain whether we are actually the ego that we now seem to be. If we persevere in this investigation until we experience ourself as we really are, we will thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego and that other things therefore exist.

Michael James said...

Amalakapriya, regarding what your write about the ego in your first comment, our self-ignorance is like a prison cell, the door of which is our ego. Our ego keeps us locked inside this prison cell, but it is also the only way out. So long as we attend to anything other than ourself, the door is thereby kept securely locked, but we can unlock it and escape by attending only to ourself (which is what we now experience as this ego, but which is actually the infinite reality).

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, in your comment of 30 January you wrote, ‘The mind being Chit-jada-kranthi (the knot of Chit, the absolute consciousness and jada, the relative consciousness), one needs to strive to discard the jada aspect’, but it is not actually correct to interpret jaḍa as ‘the relative consciousness’. In this context jaḍa means non-conscious or insentient, so anything that is jaḍa is not conscious at all. Therefore cit-jaḍa-granthi means the knot (granthi) that ties the conscious (cit) and the non-conscious (jaḍa) together as if they were one.

What is actually conscious (cit) is only what we really are, and everything else is non-conscious (jaḍa), but the former alone actually exists, whereas the latter merely seems to exist. But how and in whose view does the latter seem to exist? Only in the view of the ego, which is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a confused mixture of ourself, who alone are conscious (cit), and various adjuncts such as a physical body, all of which are non-conscious (jaḍa).

Since everything that is non-conscious (jaḍa) exists only in the view of the ego, the ego alone is relative consciousness. Therefore relative consciousness is not jaḍa but a confused combination of cit and jaḍa, and hence it is known as cit-jaḍa-granthi.

As you say, we need to discard the jaḍa aspect of the ego in order to experience ourself (the cit aspect) as we really are, and according to Bhagavan the only way to discard it is to try to attend to and experience ourself alone.

Michael James said...

Amalakapriya, as you say in your comment of 30 January, the ego does have a leading role to play in self-investigation, because it is only the ego that needs to investigate itself. However, though it is the ego that starts to investigate itself, as a result of its self-investigation it will subside and merge in its source and substance, namely ourself, so what remains at the end of the process of self-investigation is only ourself — what we actually are.

Michael James said...

Amnye Machen, regarding the question asked by your visitor that you refer to in your first comment, namely ‘How can anything exist?’, this is a question for which there can be no meaningful answer. It is like the popular philosophical question, ‘Why is there something and not nothing?’ The fact that something does exist cannot be explained by anything other than itself: it just does exist, and nothing more than that can be said to explain it.

What is a more useful question than either ‘Why does something exist?’ or ‘How can anything exist?’ is ‘What is it that actually exists?’ Many things seem to exist, but just because something seems to exist does not mean that it actually exists, so what is it that actually exists? Everything other than ourself could be an illusion, because though it seems to us that such things exist, we cannot be sure that they actually exist.

Therefore the only thing that we can be sure does actually exist is ourself, because whether other things are real or illusory, in order to experience them we must exist. Moreover, not only do we experience the (seeming or actual) existence of other things, but we also experience our own existence, ‘I am’, and even when we do not experience the existence of anything else, as in sleep, we still experience our own existence. Therefore the fact that we exist is indubitable. Even if the existence of all other things is an illusion, we ourself are something that does certainly exist.

However, though it is certain that I am, at present I cannot be certain about what I am, because I now experience myself as certain transient phenomena such as a body and mind. Since I do not always experience myself as this body and mind (because in dream I experience myself as some other body, and in sleep I experience myself without experiencing any body or mind), they cannot be what I really am, so Bhagavan advises us to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are.

Therefore the question ‘What is it that actually exists?’ logically leads us to the need to investigate what we actually are, so it is a useful question in so far as it prompts us to investigate ourself, the only certainly existing thing.

Michael James said...

Amalakapriya, regarding what you write in your comment of 3 February, when I wrote in the final paragraph of this article ‘So long as we allow ourself to attend to anything other than ourself’, in this clause not only the ‘we’ and the first ‘ourself’ but also the second ‘ourself’ all refer only to ourself as the ego, because what we really are (our true ‘I’, as you call it) is infinite, and hence nothing can be other than it. Therefore everything that seems to be other than ourself is only other than our ego and not other than what we actually are.

When I wrote in the same paragraph, “so Sri Ramana advises us to try to attend only to ourself, the ‘I’ who is conscious of both ourself and all those other things”, I did not mean that we should attend to or be conscious of anything other than ourself, but only that we should attend to or be conscious of ourself alone.

Therefore as you imply, we need not be concerned about the appearance or seeming reality of our body or any of the other extraneous things that we experience, but should focus all our interest and attention only on ourself. Bhagavan taught us that everything else is unreal only to encourage us to ignore them and to attend only to what is real, namely ourself alone.

venkat said...

Dear Michael,
When you say the "ego starts to investigate itself", the ego is just a thought. There is no entity there. So how can one thought "investigate" itself?

If what we are is pure consciousness, with thought, body and world arising like a dream on this screen of consciousness, what is it that is directing thought to investigate itself? To pay attention to itself.

I hope this makes sense.

Best,
venkat

Michael James said...

Yes, Venkat, the ego is just a thought, but it is a thought unlike any other thought, because whereas all other thoughts are non-conscious objects, which do not experience anything, it is the conscious subject, which is what experiences both itself and all other thoughts. That is, whereas all other thoughts are jaḍa (non-conscious), the ego is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a confused mixture of the conscious (cit) and the non-conscious (jaḍa).

Therefore, since the ego experiences itself as ‘I’, it is able to investigate itself, and if it does so sufficiently deeply, it will cease to be the finite ego that it now seems to be, and will instead remain as the infinite consciousness (cit) that it actually is.

You say, ‘There is no entity there’. It is true that according to Bhagavan the ego does not actually exist as such, but it seems to exist, and only because it seems to exist do all other things also seem to exist. When we actually experience the non-existence of the ego, everything else will also cease to exist, because the ego alone is the foundation for the appearance of everything else, since everything else seems to exist only in its view.

The pure consciousness that we actually are does not need to investigate itself, because it always clearly experiences itself as it really is, so self-investigation is necessary only for the ego. That is, when we experience ourself as if we were this ego, as such we must investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are. Therefore when we practise self-investigation, what directs its attention to itself is only ourself as the ego.

Michael James said...

Itinerant Yogi, regarding the questions you list in your comment:

1. Sri Ramana experienced himself as he really is by investigating himself — that is, by turning his mind inwards in order to try to experience what ‘I’ actually is. Because his mind was to a very great extent free from all attachments, he was able to experience himself alone, and thus in a brief moment he experienced himself as he actually is. Therefore at that moment he ceased to exist as a person (though in the self-ignorant view of others he seemed to continue to be the same person), and merged forever in the one infinite reality, which is what we each actually are.

2. According to Sri Ramana, what we actually are (our real self) is the infinite and eternal reality, so it has no birth or death, and is in no way connected to any human body. However, at present we do not experience ourself as we actually are, and hence we mistake ourself to be a body, which was born and will one day die. When we experience ourself thus, we are experiencing ourself as an ego, but this ego is not limited to just one body, because it is able to create a body for itself whenever it rises, as it does for example in a dream. This ability of the ego to project a body from within itself and to experience it as itself is what gives rise to the appearance of repeated births and deaths.

3. As the ego, we always limit our existence to the extent of a particular body (currently our present body, and in any other state some other body), so as such we cannot be said to have our circumference nowhere. However, even when we mistake ourself to be this ego, what we actually are is only pure and infinite consciousness or self-awareness, in whose view no other thing exists or even seems to exist. Therefore as the pure and infinite consciousness that we actually are, we are devoid of any limits, and hence our circumference is nowhere.

4. People have many different conceptions of God, but according to Sri Ramana the real nature of God is nothing other than ourself — what we actually are. As such, he is neither superficial nor material, but is only pure, infinite and formless self-awareness.

5. God is what actually is, so he is not superficial being, and he has never come into existence, because what actually is exists eternally and without any change.

6. Whatever is material must have a form of one kind or another, so there is no such thing as ‘formless matter’.

7. The universe is just a set of ideas or thoughts in our own mind, and our mind arises only in us, so what is outside the universe is only ourself.

8. There is no ‘existence’ separate from or other than what actually exists, and according to Sri Ramana what actually exists is only ourself. Everything else is just an illusion, which seems to exist only when we mistake ourself to be an ego.

9. The word ‘soul’ is generally used as a synonym for the ego, and since the ego is an illusion — a false appearance — it is not deathless. It came into existence as a result of our self-negligence, so it will cease to exist if we investigate ourself by trying persistently to be self-attentive. Since Sri Ramana had investigated himself thoroughly, he no longer has any ego, so he is the infinite reality, for which there can be no birth or death.

10. As the infinite reality, Sri Ramana is our real self — what we actually are — so the best way to communicate with him is just to attend to ourself alone. His real language is silence, so we can tune into his silence, so to speak, only by being silently self-attentive.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Itinerant Yogi:

11. According to Sri Ramana there is only one ego or soul, namely ourself, just as in a dream there is only one person who is actually experiencing it.

12. The universe and everything that seems to exist in it is experienced only by the ego, so it does not exist independent of the ego. As Sri Ramana said in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘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. [...]’.

13. Rather than concerning ourself with what may happen in future, we should first investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are now. If we do so, according to Sri Ramana we will find that we are the one timeless and immutable reality, for which there is no past or future.

14. Whatever we may actually be, we now experience ourself as a body and mind, which cannot be what we actually are, because every day we experience their disappearance in sleep and their reappearance in waking. Therefore we need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are. Mental disturbance can occur only when we experience ourself as a mind, so if we experience ourself as we actually are, there can be no mental disturbance.

R Viswanathan said...

Dear Sri Michael James, thanks so much for pointing out that my interpretation of chit jada granthi (as the knot of Chit, the absolute consciousness and jada, the relative consciousness) is wrong.

I will try to remember your statements:

"cit-jaḍa-granthi means the knot (granthi) that ties the conscious (cit) and the non-conscious (jaḍa) together as if they were one".

"the ego alone is relative consciousness".

Unknown said...

Michael! Thankyou so much for your wonderful reply to those questions. I only just saw them now which is why I was so late in getting back to you. I will forward them to our google group and I will refer the questioner to your blog if he has any more questions! Thanks again! Peace.

who? said...

Regarding the connection between i and body:

Though i seem to be different bodies in different states (waking or dream) , at any given instant , i always experience myself as only one body. I never simultaneously experience two bodies as myself. I always experience myself as one , regardless of whether or not i seem to experience multiplicity (as in waking or dream) , or no multiplicity (in sleep).

Here is the experiential conclusion , that i always remain the same one i , yet , i somehow bestow consciousness 'i' on insentient bodies while at the same time deep down experiencing myself as same i.

Sthanu said...

Thanks Michael for your reply of 18 February 2015.
In view of the apparent gigantic power of the (only) apparent existence of the ego to create the illusion i.e. to give the false or deceptive impression on the viewer of having the quality of reality we have the certainty that our original real being must be still more glorious than the(only seeming) ego.

Amalakapriya said...

Michael,
thank you for your three replies all dated 18 February 2015.
The comparison of the ego's self-ignorance with a prison cell is clear and vivid.
To focus all our interest and attention only on our-real-self and to ignore everything else as unreal is grace. Whithout devotion to Arunachala's grace we cannot succeed.

Amnye Machen said...

Thank you Michael James for your comment of 18 February 2015.
Yes, to know 'What is it that actually exists ?' self-investigation is absolutely necessary.

R Viswanathan said...

"To focus all our interest and attention only on our-real-self and to ignore everything else as unreal is grace. Whithout devotion to Arunachala's grace we cannot succeed."

Very similar statement comes from Sri David Godman in his interview to a Integral Yoga Magazine:

"Ultimately, it is the grace or power of the Self that eliminates the final vestiges of the desire-free mind."

The pertinent link is:
http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/05/interview-with-integral-yoga-magazine.html

Since the answers given by Sri David Godman in this interview for the following questions were very beneficial for me, I give them below just in case some others also might have such questions in their minds:

Are there books on Ramana Maharshi you would recommend for a beginner?

Would you tell us something about Sri Ramana’s own spiritual journey?

Many associate the question, ‘Who am I?’ with Sri Ramana’s teachings. Was this the main teaching?

Can you explain the technique of self-enquiry?

For those who may find this challenging or a bit abstract, are there any helpful hints you could share?

What can we do if the mind continues to wander?

What about Self-realisation?

samana said...

Namaste - Greetings Michael,

A central question to the article arises, that of 'not being concerned with the body'. There is a clear recognition of all what is discussed and written to here. One need not identify with the body to also have a wellness practice, and Awareness of health itself, as these also contribute and significantly support ones' ability to investigate, increase Awareness, and rest as Presence.

Surely it is possible for any health, nutrition, wellness practice to be hijacked or even conditioned to serve self and ego. Ayurveda, for example, and as it is in the Vedas, speaks to longevity, not in the modern sense or understanding, but rather as a means to support the body as the vehicle of Consciousness, that one may have the health and time for Self-realization here.

There are certainly many other aspects, such as balance with environment, an ability to sit for great lengths, etc. From my understanding, Sri Ramana had many people preparing conscious meals from an Ayurvedic perspective and Awareness. Ayurveda speaks to both Avidya, and Pragya-Paradh, as addressing the delusions and 'mistake of the intellect'. Vasanas, habits, patterns, conditioning, show up everywhere, especially in regards to diet, health, and ones' relationship to self. This itself maintains identification, as choices made from this, inhibit ones' clarity, Awareness, insight, and recognition of Truth, and maintain the attachment to self. As you are aware, subtle avoidance arises, and can be maintained, which in turn brings suffering, and longing for ones' True-Nature, I AM.

It has also been seen that a complete dis-identification with the body starves it, brings neglect, and in turn illness or death. if one succeeds in losing all identity with the body, the biology can get ill and die from neglect. From this knowing can come the understanding and deeper appreciation of the body, and its' need and purpose as a vehicle of Consciousness, the means to go home, to BE home, and a deeper sense and understanding of the survival instincts that arise in the body-mind.

The body is not separate. It is a matter of how one identifies with this that is here, present. To "not be concerned with any body-related ideas", is to deny another fact and aspect of what arises here. The body as such, is as much a part of creation and Consciousness, as any and every other aspect, as there is only This, as Oneness. To avoid or not be concerned with 'a part', is to deny and avoid the whole. There is no separation. There can indeed be love and gratitude for this body, and there can indeed be a holistic Consciousness that is inclusive. The body is also an aspect of God. An integrated approach to wellness is but another aspect of integration. Isolation from the body is separation. The body itself may be an idea, but that does not deny its needs.

Sri Ramana was well taken care of, as was the Maharaj, Papaji, and many others. For those of us who must do for oneself, there is choice. The body gets hungry, the body gets thirsty, the body has needs. To not care for or recognize the body actually supports ego. The choices one makes in caring for self, or for the body, reflects ones' Awareness, and completely determines the ability to come to rest, be present, and have clear focus and Awareness.

With gratitude for all your work
Peace and Blessings
All Love ૐ

Michael James said...

Samana, you seem to be taking what I wrote in this article about not being concerned with the body out of context and therefore reading a different meaning into what I said in this connection. I referred to not being concerned in three sentences in this article, namely:

1: Therefore, since our aim is only to experience consciousness (ourself) in its absolute and original form — which is pure and unlimited self-awareness, unconnected in any way with any finite thing such as a body — we need not be concerned with any ideas about kuṇḍalinī or its location in our body.

2: Indeed we should not be concerned with any body-related ideas, because what we should be trying to experience is only ourself, in complete isolation from our body and everything else.

and 3: Therefore if we wish to follow his path and thereby to experience what this ‘I’ really is, we should not be concerned with our body or any connection we may seem to have with it, but should focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one absolute consciousness or pure self-awareness ‘I am’.

When I wrote these three sentences I obviously did not mean to imply that we should completely neglect our body or stop eating, drinking or breathing. The body has its own dharma, which includes the need to breath, drink and eat, so we should allow it to carry on its dharma, but we should not be overly concerned with it and should not give it more attention than is absolutely necessary. Of course, so long as we experience this or any other body as ourself, we will be concerned about it, but if we are intent upon investigating and experiencing who or what we actually are, we should try as far as possible to minimise that concern by attending only to ourself and not to our body or any other thing.

In this article I was discussing in a general way yōgic ideas about the connection between consciousness and body, so in this context when I wrote that we should not be concerned with such ideas or ‘with our body or any connection we may seem to have with it’ it should have been clear that the main point I was try to emphasise is that we “should focus all our interest and attention only on ourself, the one absolute consciousness or pure self-awareness ‘I am’”, because this one-pointed focus on ourself is what self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails — in fact, it is what ātma-vicāra actually is.

Regarding what you write about bodily health and āyurvēda, according to Bhagavan the relative health or illness of the body is determined solely by our prārabdha, so we need not be overly concerned with such matters, because whatever effort we may make to ensure good health or avoid illness will not change our prārabdha in any way but will only create fresh āgāmya. If we are ill and any treatment (whether āyurvēdic, allopathic or whatever) comes to alleviate or cure our illness, that is according to prārabdha, so we should try to avoid being unduly concerned with such matters. Our only aim and concern should be to try to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from whatever body currently seems to be ourself.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Samana:

In this regard, what Bhagavan wrote in verse 12 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham is very pertinent:

இழிவுடல்யா னென்ன லிகந்திடுக வென்று
மொழிவிலின் பாந்தன்னை யோர்க — வழியு
முடலோம்ப லோடுதனை யோரவுனல் யாறு
கடக்கக் கராப்புணைகொண் டற்று.

iṙivuḍalyā ṉeṉṉa lihandiḍuga veṉḏṟu
moṙiviliṉ bāndaṉṉai yōrga — vaṙiyu
muḍalōmba lōḍudaṉai yōravuṉal yāṟu
kaḍakkak karāppuṇaigoṇ ḍaṟṟu
.

பதச்சேதம்: இழிவு உடல் ‘யான்’ என்னல் இகந்திடுக. என்றும் ஒழிவு இல் இன்பு ஆம் தன்னை ஓர்க. அழியும் உடல் ஓம்பல் ஓடு தனை ஓர உனல் யாறு கடக்க கரா புணை கொண்டு அற்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): iṙivu uḍal ‘yāṉ’ eṉṉal ihandiḍuga. eṉḏṟum oṙivu il iṉbu ām taṉṉai ōrga. aṙiyum uḍal ōmbal ōḍu taṉai ōra uṉal yāṟu kaḍakka karā puṇai koṇḍu aṟṟu.

English translation: Cease considering the wretched body [as] ‘I’. Investigate [or know] yourself, who are ever-unceasing [or imperishable] bliss. Thinking [intending or trying] to know oneself while cherishing the perishable body is like grasping a crocodile [as] a raft to cross a river.