Sunday, 11 January 2015

Why are compassion and ahiṁsā necessary in a dream?

Last June, a few weeks after I posted on my YouTube channel the May 2014 video of me answering questions at a meeting of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, a friend called Jim wrote to me asking:
In your latest YouTube upload you talk about being vegetarian, and sweatshops, and signing petitions. I’m confused in this point. So much is said about this waking state being exactly like our dream state, what does it matter what we eat, or wear, or where our clothes are made? If in a dream I’m eating a chicken, a carrot or a car bumper none of it matters. Upon waking I realize it’s just a dream all created by my mind. There is no boy toiling in a sweatshop upon my waking right? So why is the waking state different?
The following is adapted from the long reply I wrote to him, and also from shorter replies that I wrote to two of his subsequent emails:
  1. A dream seems to be real so long as we are experiencing it
  2. How to respond to suffering seen in a dream?
  3. Waking up from a dream is the only solution to all the suffering we see in it
  4. Self-investigation is the only means by which we can wake up from this dream
  5. Until we wake up from this dream we must avoid causing harm to others
  6. We should not be too preoccupied with injustices or other worldly matters
  7. So long as our mind is turned outwards we should care about the well-being of others
  8. To keep our ego in check we must be vigilantly self-attentive
  9. Who is responsible for the creation of this world?
  10. Only in absolute silence can we experience what we actually are
1. A dream seems to be real so long as we are experiencing it

You say, ‘If in a dream I’m eating a chicken, a carrot or a car bumper none of it matters. Upon waking I realize it’s just a dream all created by my mind’. Yes, none of it matters after you wake up, but so long as you are dreaming it does matter.

Suppose that you dream that you are being eaten by a chicken. You are lying helpless, unable to move, whilst a chicken is ferociously pecking away at your flesh. Just as people relish the wings and breast of a chicken they are eating, this chicken relishes the flesh on your arms and chest, and is mercilessly ripping it off your bones. So long as you were experiencing such a dream, and feeling all the pain and fear that such an experience would entail, would it not matter to you? Would you not struggle wildly to escape such a situation?

After a while you would wake up and discover that it was a dream, and then it would no longer matter to you (though for a while it may linger on as an unpleasant memory), but while you were actually experiencing that pain and fear in your dream, it mattered to you very much. Why it mattered then is that while we are experiencing a dream it seems to us to be real.

In dream we experience a dream body as ourself, and therefore since we are real we experience that body as if it were real. And since that body is a part of the world that we experience then, that world also seems to be real. That is, we extend our sense of reality from ourself (who alone are actually real) to whichever body we experience as ourself, and via that body we extend it to the world, of which that body is a small part.

Therefore whatever we experience in a dream seems to us to be real at that time, and exactly the same occurs in waking. We now experience a body as ourself, so we extend our sense of reality from ourself to this body, and via this body to the world around us. Though we may now suspect that this waking life is just a dream, and though we may therefore doubt whether our body and this world are real, we nevertheless experience them as real so long as we are in this state.

2. How to respond to suffering seen in a dream?

Let us suppose that this waking life is actually just a dream (as Sri Ramana tells us that it is). In this dream we see many people (both human and non-human ones), and those people all seem to us to be real, and hence the joys and sufferings that we see them experiencing also seem to us to be real. If a beloved friend or relative is suffering in intense pain with terminal cancer, we do not try to console them by saying: ‘You are just part of my dream, so you and your suffering are just a creation of my mind, and hence your suffering does not matter’. When someone we love is suffering, we suffer seeing or even thinking about their suffering. Even if we tell ourself that this is all a dream, we cannot avoid feeling pained when we see them suffering.

Therefore, whether this waking state is real or just a dream, so long as we are experiencing it all the people we see in it seem to us to be real, and hence their suffering should matter to us. They may be just a creation of our mind, but if they are, so too is the person we now experience as ourself. If Michael is a creation of your mind, so too is Jim. Michael and every other person you come across are as real (or as unreal) as Jim.

If Jim is suffering either a physical or emotional pain, it certainly matters to you so long as you experience yourself as Jim. If Jim is in intense pain, you feel ‘I am in intense pain’, and though telling yourself that this is all a dream may help you to bear it, you feel that intense pain nonetheless, and you are eager to be relieved of it. Because you now experience yourself as Jim, he and all that he experiences seem to you to be real, so you have extended your sense of reality from yourself to Jim and all that he experiences. Because Jim seems to you to be real, all the other people you see in this world also seem to be real, so just as Jim’s suffering matters to you, the suffering of any other person (whether human or non-human) should also matter to you.

3. Waking up from a dream is the only solution to all the suffering we see in it

Of course, if this is all your dream, the best solution to all the suffering you see in this dream is for you to wake up. But you have not woken up yet, and the reason you have not woken up is that you are still very much attached to Jim, so you are unwilling to let go of the experience ‘I am Jim’. Therefore so long as you are attached to this person called Jim, this dream will continue until it is forcibly terminated by the death of Jim (after which you will either subside temporarily in the sleep in which that dream occurred, or you will immediately begin to dream some other dream). If you want to terminate this dream earlier than that — and at the same time to terminate the sleep in which it and all your other dreams occur — you must investigate who am I who now experience myself as Jim.

When you experience yourself as Jim, that adjunct-bound self-awareness ‘I am Jim’ is what is called the ego, and as Sri Ramana says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

ahandaiyuṇ ḍāyi ṉaṉaittumuṇ ḍāhu
mahandaiyiṉ ḏṟēliṉ ḏṟaṉaittu — mahandaiyē
yāvumā mādalāl yādideṉḏṟu nādalē
yōvudal yāvumeṉa vōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr.

English translation: 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. Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything.
Until we investigate and find out what this ‘I’ is that now seems to be masquerading as ‘I am Jim’ or ‘I am Michael’, we cannot give up everything else, so we will continue to be attached to everything that we experience as ‘I’ or ‘mine’.

So long as we are experiencing a dream, merely telling ourself that it is a dream is not a solution to all the suffering we see in it. The only solution is to wake up, and the only way to wake up in such a manner that we do not ever dream again is to investigate ourself, the ‘I’ who is experiencing this dream.

4. Self-investigation is the only means by which we can wake up from this dream

Until we are willing to give up entirely our attachment to the person we now experience as ourself (which entails also giving up our attachment to everything else that we experience as a result of experiencing ‘I am this person’), we will not be able to experience ourself as we really are, and hence we will continue dreaming one dream after another, and whatever we experience in any of those dreams will seem to us at that time to be real. Therefore we must give up our attachment to whichever person we experience as ‘I’, and the only effective means to give up this fundamental attachment is to investigate who I actually am.

The more we persevere in investigating ourself — that is, in trying to experience what this ‘I’ actually is by attending to ourself alone — the more clearly we will experience ourself as something that is distinct from and independent of any of the adjuncts that we now mistake to be ourself, and thus our attachment to the person we now experience as ourself will be gradually weakened, until eventually we will be willing to give up this attachment entirely. Only then will we be able to experience ourself as we really are, whereupon this dream will be dissolved along with the sleep of self-ignorance in which it and all our other dreams occurred.

5. Until we wake up from this dream we must avoid causing harm to others

Until we experience what we really are and thereby wake up from the sleep of self-ignorance that underlies and supports this and all other dreams, we will continue experiencing this dream or some other dream, and whatever we experience in any of these dreams will seem to us to be real so long that particular dream is occurring. Therefore, though our principal aim should be to experience ourself as we really are here and now, until we are able to do so we have to live in each dream as if it were real. In other words, though we should be inwardly investigating ourself as much as we can, outwardly we have to act in this world as if it were real.

Trying to act in this world as if it were unreal is futile and meaningless, because our actions and the person who feels ‘I am doing these actions’ are all part of this world. As this person, we and our actions are as real or as unreal as this world of which we now seem to be a part, so this person should outwardly act in this world as if it is as real as himself or herself (which it is), but should inwardly doubt the reality of all these things and should therefore try to investigate the ‘I’ who seems to experience them.

Moreover, even if we wanted to act in this world as if it were unreal, in practice we would not be able to do so consistently. If someone held our head under water, we would not be able to calmly dismiss the feeling that we are suffocating and drowning as being unreal or just part of a dream, but would struggle to raise our head above water in order to breath. Likewise, when we are crossing a road and see a speeding car coming towards us, we run out of its way, and do not just think, ‘This is only a dream, so let it hit me, because even if it hurts me, it does not matter’.

Whatever philosophy we may profess, in practice there are a lot of things that do matter to us in this world: when we are hungry, food matters to us; when we are thirsty, water matters to us; when we are cold and wet, a warm dry shelter or at least some adequate clothing matters to us; if we were forced to work 18 hours a day in a sweatshop for wages that were insufficient to support our family, it would matter to us; if we were conscripted unwillingly to fight as a soldier in a war, it would matter to us; if we were born as a factory-farmed animal, kept all our life in a small cage to produce milk or eggs or to be fattened as meat, and finally slaughtered in the brutal conditions of a modern abattoir, it would matter to us.

When conditions that affect the quality, comfort or convenience of our life as a person matter to us so much, should we not also be concerned about the conditions that affect other people or animals? When we do not like to suffer, should we not at least try to avoid causing suffering to any other sentient being?

If we practise self-investigation and thereby weaken our attachment to the person that we now experience as ‘I’, our sense of distinction between ‘I’ and ‘others’ will also begin to dissolve, so we will automatically feel compassion for the sufferings of others, as if we ourself were experiencing those sufferings, and hence we will naturally adhere to the practice of ahiṁsā (trying not to harm any sentient being), and we will do whatever we can to alleviate suffering wherever we happen to see or know about it. As Sri Ramana says at the end of the nineteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
பிறருக் கொருவன் கொடுப்ப தெல்லாம் தனக்கே கொடுத்துக்கொள்ளுகிறான். இவ் வுண்மையை யறிந்தால் எவன்தான் கொடா தொழிவான்?

piṟarukku oruvaṉ koḍuppadu ellām taṉakkē koḍuttu-k-koḷḷugiṟāṉ. i-vv-uṇmaiyai y-aṟindāl evaṉ-dāṉ koḍādu oṙivāṉ?

All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If [everyone] knew this truth, who indeed would remain without giving?

6. We should not be too preoccupied with injustices or other worldly matters

However, we should also bear in mind what he wrote in the previous two sentences:
பிரபஞ்ச விஷயங்களி லதிகமாய் மனத்தை விடக் கூடாது. சாத்தியமானவரையில், அன்னியர் காரியத்திற் பிரவேசிக்கக் கூடாது.

pirapañca viṣayaṅgaḷil adhikam-āy maṉattai viḍa-k kūḍādu. sāddhiyamāṉa-varaiyil, aṉṉiyar kāriyattil piravēśikka-k kūḍādu.

It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to enter [or interfere] in the affairs of other people.
Since the principal aim of our life should be to investigate ourself, we should not spend too much time worrying about the numerous injustices and sufferings we see in this world, because if we do so we will thereby be distracted away from our self-investigation.

Therefore we need to maintain a balance between our inward responsibility to try to experience what we really are and whatever outward responsibilities we have to this world of which we now experience ourself to be a small part. We should always give priority to investigating ourself, but so long as we experience ourself as a person, we will feel that we also have to give some time and attention to providing the food, clothing and shelter that our body requires, and while doing so we should try to avoid causing any harm to any other sentient being, and should feel that whatever harm we may cause to others, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we are actually causing to ourself.

7. So long as our mind is turned outwards we should care about the well-being of others

If we were so detached from our life as a person that we were able to devote most of our time and attention to investigating ourself and only the barest minimum to providing for the basic needs of our body, we should not allow anything else to distract us away from our self-investigation. However, if we are honest with ourself, I think most of us will have to admit that we are still too attached to our life as a person, because our liking to experience things other than ourself is still too strong, so we are not able to devote all our spare time and attention to self-investigation, and hence we spend our time and attention not only on investigating ourself and on providing the minimum needs of our body, but also on many other unnecessary thoughts and activities.

When such is the case, we should take care that our outward activities are not causing any harm either directly or indirectly to any other person or animal. Moreover, because we are spending some of our time paying attention to the world around us, we will inevitably notice in it numerous injustices and various forms of suffering, and though we obviously can do very little to rectify those injustices or to alleviate all that suffering, whenever we can do at least a little, our natural sense of compassion will prompt us to do whatever we can.

If we were so unmoved by compassion that we not only never try to rectify any injustice nor to alleviate any suffering, but do not even care about trying to avoid causing any harm, that would indicate a very strong ego — one that firmly believes in the false distinction between ‘myself’ and ‘others’, and that is unwilling to investigate itself, the basis of that distinction. Only a strong and unrefined ego will care only about its own well-being and remain indifferent to the well-being of others.

When I write all this, I am not trying to say that we should make doing good in this world to be our major priority. If we want to end all injustice and suffering, we need to wake up from this dream, so investigating ourself should be our foremost priority. But when we are still so attached to dreaming that we are not yet willing to destroy our ego by merging back into the source — the pure adjunct-free ‘I’ — from which we have risen, we would be deluding ourself still further if we were to act as if we were the only person in this world who matters, and we would thereby be strengthening our ego.

To the extent to which we care about others, to that extent at least our ego is diminished. However, just caring about others is obviously not a sufficient means to destroy our ego entirely, because caring about others presupposes their existence, and so long as others seem to exist our ego must also exist to experience their seeming existence. In order to destroy the illusion that there are others separate from ourself, we need to investigate ourself to find out whether we are actually this little person we now seem to be.

But until we thereby destroy our ego, the illusion that others exist will remain, and those others will seem to be as real as the person we now experience as ‘I’. Therefore their joys and sufferings will seem to be as real as our own, and hence we should care for them at least as much as we care for our personal self, and we can be justifiably indifferent to their joys and sufferings only to the extent to which we are genuinely indifferent to our own.

8. To keep our ego in check we must be vigilantly self-attentive

In your email you express your concern that caring about the suffering of others in this dream called ‘the waking state’ will create a ‘more spiritualized ego’ and make this dream and the individual doer seem more real:
Doesn’t this way of viewing the waking state subtly create more spiritualized ego? I’m better than you. I don’t eat meat. I sign petitions for clean water and air. I fight against child labor. Aren’t we then making the dream real? Aren’t we then making the individual doer more real?
Whatever we may do or not do in this dream, we always have to be vigilant about the subtle rising of our ego, because the nature of our ego is to delude us, and it uses countless tricks to do so. Therefore the danger you speak of is very real, and the only safeguard we have against it is to persevere in investigating ourself as much as possible.

If the only person we care only about is ourself, that is certainly egotistical, but even if we care about others, our ego can take that as a pretext to boost its own pride or to feel self-righteous. Indeed, so long as we attend to anything other than our essential self, our ego will find one way or another to nourish and sustain itself. Hence the only solution to this problem of ego is to practise persistent self-investigation: that is, to be constantly and vigilantly self-attentive.

This simple practice of self-attentiveness alone will solve all our problems (and also all the problems of this world, which seems to exist and be real only so long as we are experiencing it), so whatever else we may do in this dream we call our life, we should be careful not to neglect this practice. Even while engaged in other activities, we should try to remember to be attentively aware of ‘I’ (our essential self), and in the midst of all our activities, we should set aside some time to try to go deep into the experience of pure self-awareness — awareness of nothing other than ourself alone.

Our ego comes into existence and is sustained only by pramāda or self-negligence, so it will subside and be kept in check only to the extent that we are self-attentive. Whatever action we may do entails attending to something other than ourself, and to the extent to which we are attending to anything else, we are not attending to ourself. Therefore all the actions we do by mind, speech or body tend to sustain and nourish our ego, and only self-attentiveness can undermine it and make it subside in ourself, the source from which it originated.

As Sri Ramana says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

uruppaṯṟi yuṇḍā muruppaṯṟi niṟku
muruppaṯṟi yuṇḍumiha vōṅgu — muruviṭ
ṭuruppaṯṟun tēḍiṉā lōṭṭam piḍikku
muruvaṯṟa pēyahandai yōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும், உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṯkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum, uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai. ōr.

அன்வயம்: உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும். ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṯkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum. ōr.

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands [or endures]; grasping and feeding on form it grows [or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
Here உரு பற்றி (uru paṯṟi) or ‘grasping form’ means attending to or experiencing anything other than ourself, because we ourself are formless, since in this context a ‘form’ is anything that has any features that distinguish it in any way either from ourself or from other things. Therefore what Sri Ramana implies in this verse is that we rise or come into being as an ego only by attending to anything other than ourself, and that by continuing to attend to other things we sustain and nourish the illusion that we are this ego, but that if we instead try to attend to ourself alone, this illusion ‘will take flight’ — that is, our ego will subside and disappear in ourself, the source from which it had arisen.

Since we ourself are formless, we cannot continue to experience ourself as this ego if we attend to and thereby experience ourself alone. And on the other hand, we cannot cease to experience ourself as this ego so long as we persist in attending to and experiencing anything other than ourself. Therefore self-negligence sustains our ego, and self-attentiveness alone can subdue and destroy it. Hence the only means by which we can effectively keep our ego in check and prevent it deluding us is by being constantly and vigilantly self-attentive.

9. Who is responsible for the creation of this world?

In reply to the email that I adapted in the eight previous sections my friend wrote:
There is one confusing point I keep going back to. If all is ultimately one, and Brahma, isn’t the dream Brahma too? And if the dream is also Brahma isn’t it all unfolding perfectly as Brahma wants it to?
To this I replied:

Brahman is not anything other than ourself. It is just a name given to what we actually are. So if you say that everything is unfolding as brahman wants it to, that means it is unfolding as you want it to. But is all this what you really want? If it is, then there is no problem, and hence no need to investigate who am I.

But if you see any problems either in this world or in yourself, then this is not what you really want, so you have to rectify the wrong decision you made to create all this. All this came into being by your decision or choice, so in order to rectify your choice you first need to know exactly what is this ‘I’ in you that made this choice. Now you appear to be Jim, but Jim is part of the creation, so he cannot be the creator. Therefore if you are the creator, you are not Jim, so who are you?

Therefore it all comes back to the same point: what we each need first of all is to know who we actually are. If we first investigate ourself and thereby experience what we really are, we can then see whether any creator, creation, world or problems still exist, and only if they do will we then need to do anything about them.

10. Only in absolute silence can we experience what we actually are

Since I asked Jim in my previous reply, ‘Therefore if you are the creator, you are not Jim, so who are you?’, he replied to me saying among other things that he is ‘Satchitananda’, ‘the all-pervading consciousness, free from doing, non-attached, desireless, boundless and undisturbed’, but added:
I am trying to tell you the impossible. What I am. What you are. What only exists. Beyond the body mind. Beyond Brahman, Christ consciousness, and all other labels and concepts that point to the unspeakable, unknowable presence that we are. What am I?? What am I? I know I am not this lacking, imperfect, insecure, flawed sack of meat and bones who appears to suffer we call Jim.
To which I replied:

When I asked ‘you are not Jim, so who are you?’ it was not a question to which I expected an answer in words, because no words or ideas can answer it. The answer can only be found within ourself, by losing ourself in ourself (that is, by losing our ego in what we actually are).

Sat-cit-ānanda (being-consciousness-bliss), the all-pervading consciousness and whatever else you say you are are all just ideas — ideas that Jim has about what he really is — so how can any of them be what you actually are? What you actually are cannot be adequately expressed by any ideas or words, whether expressed affirmatively (I am that) or negatively (I am not this), but can only be experienced by you alone in the depth of absolute silence.

In order to experience ourself as we really are, we must each withdraw our attention from everything else (which is all mere noise created by our mind) by turning it back towards ourself alone and thereby allowing it to sink deep into ourself, its source (which alone is absolute silence). In other words, to know who you are, Jim and all his ideas (including his idea that Jim is just a phantom) must go, and the ever-silent and perfectly self-aware ‘I’ alone must remain.

24 comments:

Manasarovar said...

I do not understand why I should have no attachment for "my" ego.
I like my ego beyond all measure.
Therefore I do not want give up anything and not at all everything.
How can Sri Ramana recommend to give up everything ? What does that mean ? I have nothing else than my ego-person. All what I know and feel I do and did perceive through "my" ego. When Sri Ramana says that I should give up the ego I do not have any purpose in life and I will lose the zest for life. I will not be able to enjoy the sweet singings of the birds or cannot be glad about experiencing the inner peace of being fully aware of nature, mountains, lakes and waterfalls or to rejoice with other human beings, children or animals. Presumably my plain life and contented existence will be joyless and cheerless.
To be as we really are seems to be a loss and not so attractive as to experience oneself as a person.
How can I know if I would discover the same quality of everlasting happiness as Sri Ramana seemed to have discovered after self-investigation ? Sri Ramana maybe has had a extraordinary and exceptional gift to investigate his personal masquerade as a boy.
But to me it seems to be extremely risky to risk my fundamental attachment to my beloved person which I experience now as 'I'.

Ama Dablam said...

Section 4. Self-investigation is the only means...

Regarding the required willing to give up entirely our attachment to the person we now experience as ourself,which entails also giving up our attachment to everything else that we experience as a result of experiencing 'I am this person':

How and as a result of which or where shall we get that willing from ?

R Viswanathan said...

I guess that the statements of Manasarovar have all been made in lighter vein - to mock at the strong tendency of the 'ego-I' to survive at any cost.

Surely they are not serious statements since Sri Michael James explained so well in so many articles the need for and the means of annihilating the 'ego-I' and more importantly the means of reaching and abiding in the self.

Just in the unlikely event of the comments being really serious, I would like to state below something which I learnt by reading Michael James' articles, David Godman's books, and Sri Nichur Venkatraman's discourses, all related to Bhagavan's teachings:

The nature gives us the experience every night - that in sleep, the 'ego-I' does not exist (for that matter in all three states also), one loses everything one tries hard to be or to retain in waking state, but nevertheless, one is so very happy. That is, one experiences happiness in the sleep by the loss of one's personality which one strives hard to retain in the waking state. This should be the sufficient evidence to have the confidence that in the waking state also, one can be happy by the total loss of 'ego-I'. The way to lose the 'ego-I' is to incessantly attend to it (and not to the other experiences or other thoughts which this ego-I cling to for its survival).

Manasarovar said...

Dear R Viswanathan,
thank you for your comment.
Though not in the least completely serious intended my statement was the free,unbridled and unchecked report of the risen ego.
What you write about sleep I'd not go along with that :
Because of the absence of the ego in deep sleep rather then I do not know objectively anything. Therefore during sleep one cannot experience happiness and feel or be "so very happy". Maybe you think at the feeling and memory in the following waking state.

Anyhow I thank you for your honest advice:
The way to lose the 'ego-I' you are talking about is implying self-investigation or self-abidance as Sri Ramana suggests to us.

R Viswanathan said...

"Because of the absence of the ego in deep sleep rather then I do not know objectively anything. Therefore during sleep one cannot experience happiness and feel or be "so very happy". Maybe you think at the feeling and memory in the following waking state."

Please read the following articles of Sri Michael James once again, which had so much written on sleep and experience in sleep:

1) Sunday, 2 November 2014: Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep

2) Sunday, 12 October 2014: The essential teachings of Sri Ramana

3) Thursday, 12 June 2014: What do we actually experience in sleep?

4) Sunday, 18 March 2007: The consciousness that we experience in sleep

Also, please read Guru Vachaka Kovai verses (or explanations) 455 to 462. I reproduce below the text attributed to verse 458 in the recent book edited by Sri David Godman:

"The ego, the embryo [of manifestation] who suffers in the two states of waking and dream, imagining, 'I am the one who sees', is also the one who, by thinking, 'I did not see anything in sleep', loses his greatness and gets mentally perplexed."

In verse 461, Bhagavan describes the state of sleep as eminent and all pure bliss. He also makes a statement to the effect that ignorance experienced in the waking state, if not destroyed by Vichara, will prompt one to state that the sleep state is made only of ignorance.

Manasarovar said...

Thanks R Viswanathan for
the announcement of the mentioned articles and your invitation of reading them.
I will read them again.
But I do not have the intention of giving up to have own ideas and to follow also a train of own thought.
Studying of the experiences of others is good but as we say in Europe: All roads lead to Rome.
To have one'sown opinion and to carry out something oneself is also good. Home-grown vegetables taste excellent. To repeat something parrot-fashion is not my way.

R Viswanathan said...

Absolutely yes, Manasarovar, that one should experience something oneself instead of simply believing something written and repeating it in a 'parrot-fashion'.

I learn from one of Sri Michael James' articles that Bhagavan Ramana was also ever insistent of such a way: "though Sri Ramana did indicate by words what he discovered from his self-investigation, he made it clear that it is not sufficient that we just believe him, because any belief is just a fragile, insubstantial and unreliable mental phenomena, so he insisted that we should each investigate ‘I’ and discover for ourself what he had discovered."

However, I feel that I for one will have to cling onto the belief in the statement of Bhagavan that sleep is a state of eminence and bliss until my 'ego-I' is completely destroyed in the waking state through atma vichara.

I would also continue to believe that because we are only used to remember the experiences by the 'ego-I', we would surely insist on describing the experience during sleep as one of nothing (since the 'ego-I' does not have the entry-access into the sleep state).

Anonymous said...

Michael, how can we overcome attending to ourself for as long as we can? I can only go for about 20 minutes before something in my head gets irritated. If I am not attending to my Self, I am either studying Ramana's teachings or reading and even after that, my mind either feels agitated or tired. What should I do then?

Manasarovar said...

Michael,

Section 8. " To keep our ego in check we must be vigilantly self-attentive"
Vigilant self-attentiveness is strongly and absolutely necessary.
Because we have to verify the correctness of fantastical, uneven and preposterous stories about how the ego came into existence.
On the one hand we hear that the ego comes into existence only by pramada or self-negligence that is by attending to anything other than ourself.
By continuing to attend other things we sustain and nourish the illusion that we are this ego.
But if we instead try to attend to ourself alone, this illusion ‚will take flight‘…
Now while reading Mountain path(January-March 2015),
The Paramount importance of Self Attention, Part Twelve
page 22 :

„ ‚ Bhagavan often said self is the guru, so the guru has always been and will be with us.
Therefore we need not seek the guru, because he is already doing his part, so we should concern ourselves only with seeking our own real self.
As Bhagavan said in Maharishi’s Gospel […]:
If you seek either (God or guru) – they are not really two but one and identical - rest assured that they are seeking you with a solicitude greater than you can ever imagine.
[…] God or the Guru is always in search oft he earnest seeker.
…..‘
The mind can never imagine or understand what work the guru is doing within…..“
On the other hand we must put the question:
If so as it is said in the above mentioned quotes,
Did the guru take an after lunch sleep at that time as we have risen and come into being as an ego by attending to anything other than ourself….. ?
If the guru would have been fully aware he would have been able to prevent the ego from rising.
Obviously he did not have the aim or desire to prevent the rising of the ego.
So he can advise at his work he is doing within and can continue his entertainment.

At least we have the hope that the ego can be prevented to sustain and to be nourished.
It is possible to undermine it and make it subside in ourself, the source from which it originated.
Therefore as you say Michael:
All comes back to the same point:
What we each need first of all is to know who we actually are.
If we first investigate ourself and thereby experience what we really are, we can then see whether any creator, creation, world or problems still exist…
So it is highly necessary to find the truth !!!

Ambika said...

"Sat-chit-ananda...is just an idea".
Why should we spend time with any ideas ? Why do we let us lead on ? I have had enough of all senseless scriptures and meaningless gossip. That is futile !
So I would gladly be shot of all discussions.
Run for your lives !
Oh Arunachala , please do lead us on the right lines.

Yamunotri said...

Why are compassion and ahimsa necessary in a dream, Sunday, 11 January 2015
Regarding section 9. Who is responsible for the creation of this world ?
The statement, that "Jim" has to rectify the wrong decision or choice he made to create „ all this“ was a surprise to me but it seems to be consequent because he is Brahman too.
Abstractly seen it is to note that the fact that one who is part of the creation does not compelling exclude the possibility that the same subject is also partly the creator quasi as a co-creator.
Maybe a creator would include himself partly in his creation too.
So Jim is possibly both creator and at the same time part of the creation.

Michael James said...

Manasarovar, regarding your first comment, the reason you are so attached to your ego is that it is what you now mistake yourself to be, but the entire purpose of self-investigation as taught by Sri Ramana is for us to ascertain what we actually are.

If you relish the idea of being this finite ego, you are free to continue experiencing yourself as such. However, if you recognise that along with the ego come all sorts of limitations and if you want to be free of all such limitations, then the only way to free yourself from them is to investigate yourself to ascertain whether or not you are actually the limited ego or person that you now seem to be.

According to Sri Ramana, there is nothing about him that is extraordinary or exceptional, because he is nothing but ourself — what we actually are. Therefore he taught us that we can each experience the infinite, eternal and indivisible self-awareness, existence, knowledge and happiness that he experienced simply by investigating and experiencing ourself as we really are.

Michael James said...

Ama Dablam, the reason why we are not yet willing to give up entirely our attachment to the person we now experience as ourself is that we are still firmly convinced that this person is what we actually are. At a superficial level we may think that we are not actually this person, but at a deeper level our experience that we are this person is still firmly rooted. Therefore the only way in which we can cultivate the willingness or bhakti to give up our attachment to this person entirely is to investigate ourself repeatedly and persistently.

The more we practise self-investigation by trying to observe or attend to ourself alone, the weaker our attachment to this person and to everything else that we experience as a result of experiencing ‘I am this person’ will become, and hence the more willing we will become to give up our attachment to them entirely.

According to Sri Ramana, there is no other way. As he used to say, nobody can succeed without patient perseverance.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, in reply to your comment of 24 January, it is not necessary for us to try to be deeply self-attentive for a long duration, and for most of us it would not be possible to be so, because the nature of our mind is to be constantly going out towards other things, since experiencing other things is the food on which it lives. If we try too hard for too long, we will only be creating an unnecessary internal conflict.

Therefore, rather than trying continuously for a long duration, it is more effective if we try frequently but persistently for just a brief duration each time. Many brief but intense attempts will result in us being self-attentive for a longer total duration each day than we would be if we were to try to be self-attentive uninterruptedly for a prolonged period.

Bhagavan never advised us to try to fight with our own mind, because he said that trying to do so would be counterproductive, since we would thereby be strengthening it and weakening our love to be self-attentive. He advised instead that we should patiently and calmly persevere in our attempts to wean our mind away from its attachment to experiencing other things by bringing it back to ourself again and again.

Michael James said...

Manasarovar, the question you ask in your comment of 27 January presupposes that the ego has actually risen, but according to Bhagavan its rising is not real, and that is precisely why he asks us to investigate it. That is, we now experience ourself as if we were this ego, but if we investigate ourself we will experience what we really are and thereby we will come to know that this ego was never real.

Therefore we cannot blame the guru (who is actually nothing other than what we really are) for allowing something to happen that did not actually happen. If you dreamt last night that a thief had entered your house, when you wake up today you would not blame your family for allowing him to enter, because on waking up you would realise that no thief had actually entered. Likewise, if you investigate yourself and thereby wake up from this ego-dream, you will realise no ego has ever actually existed.

Michael James said...

Ambika, regarding your comment of 27 January, when I wrote in this article that sat-cit-ānanda is just an idea, I did so in a particular context, so what I meant should be understood in the light of that context. What I actually wrote was: ‘Sat-cit-ānanda (being-consciousness-bliss), the all-pervading consciousness and whatever else you say you are are all just ideas — ideas that Jim has about what he really is — so how can any of them be what you actually are?’, and the reason I wrote this is that Jim had written, ‘I am Satchitananda’.

So long as there is an ‘I’ to say ‘I am sat-cit-ānanda’, for that ‘I’ (the ego) sat-cit-ānanda is just an idea, because the ego does not actually experience itself as sat-cit-ānanda but merely believes (in Jim’s case at least) that it is sat-cit-ānanda. The words sat-cit-ānanda are a description of what we actually are, but until we experience ourself as such what they denote for us is just an idea.

Sat-cit-ānanda is our real nature, but our real nature does not think ‘I am sat-cit-ānanda’, because it experiences itself as it actually is, and hence there is no need for it to think anything. Therefore if we want to experience sat-cit-ānanda as it actually is rather than as a mere idea, we must investigate ourself by vigilantly observing ourself alone. In other words, in order to experience sat-cit-ānanda, we must set aside the idea of sat-cit-ānanda and try to experience ourself alone.

Michael James said...

Yamunotri, regarding what your write in your comment of 28 January, when I wrote in section 9 ‘you have to rectify the wrong decision you made to create all this’, I did not mean to imply that Jim had made that wrong decision and created all this, because Jim is part of the creation, so he cannot be its creator. That is why I wrote at the end of the same paragraph: ‘Now you appear to be Jim, but Jim is part of the creation, so he cannot be the creator. Therefore if you are the creator, you are not Jim, so who are you?’

What created this entire universe is not Jim or Yamunotri or Michael but only the ego that now experiences itself as Jim, Yamunotri or Michael. This is why I also wrote: ‘All this came into being by your decision or choice, so in order to rectify your choice you first need to know exactly what is this ‘I’ in you that made this choice’. If we try to experience what exactly is the ‘I’ that made this choice, our ego will subside and dissolve in its source, ourself, and what will then remain alone is what we actually are. When we thus experience ourself as we really are, we will realise that we never made any wrong decision or created anything, but always experienced only ourself, other than which nothing actually exists or has ever existed.

When we dream, we experience ourself as a person in that dream. Though it was only we who created that dream-world by our power of imagination, and though having created it we then experienced ourself as a part of it, we cannot say that the person we then experienced as ourself had created it, because that person was a part of our creation. What created that world and the person in it was only ourself as the ego, but as this ego we experienced ourself as that person, as if we were a part of our own creation.

Likewise, what created this present world and all the people in it is only ourself as the ego, but as this ego we now experience ourself as one of those people, as if we were a part of our own creation. Such is the wonderful power of māyā, which is our own power of self-deception.

Manasarovar said...

Thank you Michael for your reply:
Because of all sorts of limitations which come along with the limited ego it is surely enticing and attractive to ascertain what we actually are.
To say that Sri Ramana is nothing but ourself assumes to have an extraordinary access/experience or knowledge about the real relationships. That remark resembles to be omniscient because it is not the experience of (my) ego’s sensual perceptions in everyday life.
At any rate I have never met anyone who told me about one's full awareness of the real identity of Sri Ramana with us. That we can each experience the infinite, eternal and undivisible self-awareness, existence, knowledge and happiness „simply“ by investigating and experiencing ourself as we really are
is just the glad message in my life.

Ama Dablam said...

Thanks Mr. Michael James,
I have some hope to cultivate the willingness to give up the attachment to this person entirely by repeated and persistent self-investigation.
I have some hope to cultivate patient perseverance.
I have some glimmer of hope that I am not a hopeless case.
It would be a great pity about me.
I think the experience that I am this person was rooted firmly at a deeper level with the beginning of puberty at the age of 13 or 14 years.
Before then (that period of beginning puberty) I sometimes felt a significant skepticism about the different egos of my classmates.

Manasarovar said...

Thanks again Michael for your comment of 17 February 2015 at 10:46.
It is inexplicable to me why I gave preference to dream that ego-dream and go astray instead of wake up from this ego-dream. Can there be a superior hare-brained idea ?
Now it will be my holy duty to investigate myself with scrupulous and honest attention.

Ambika said...

Michael, many thanks for your response.
Sorry, I did not take notice of the particular context.
It is clearly expressed that we must set aside the idea of sat-cit-ananda
and try to experience ourself alone.

Yamunotri said...

Thank you, Michael James, for explaining
the wonderful power of maya - our own power of self-deception.

daisilui said...

Hi Michael, following on my youtube comment:

I do not debate the need for compassionate action taking that you talk about in this blog [and your youtube speech]. The issue I am raising is beyond it and has more subtle nuances [which I admit, are not all that clear to me...]
I agree, as long as we feel we are the body the laws of the world apply. As a parenthesis to using the word feel vs believe- I may believe/understand intellectually I am not the body but if I respond to the world’s stings and caresses as any body would do then I must take responsibility for the actions of this body and whether I like it or not, I am the body. I cannot use this intellectual understanding [not backed up by the feel] as a free pass to do whatever the ego feels like doing, either way- for selfish reasons or for apparently altruistic reasons as in fact the main reason is ‘feeling good/not feeling bad’, as the story goes with Lincoln and the pig. While in the body everyone seeks happiness, whether through charitable actions or crime but from the point of view of the absolute truth both approaches are falls as they are tied to the ego/duality.
But for those who acquired the intellectual understanding, while feeling in the body aren’t we trying to transcend it, isn’t this our first and most important duty?! How can I pay attention to the world’s affairs and at the same time renounce it? As you said somewhere- it cannot be both, it is either a rope or a snake and if it appears to be a snake my first duty is to look at it carefully while ignoring details about the place where the snake lays, the weather, people around me yelling advice on how to kill it, praising me for my courage or laughing at my foolishness saying it is a rope, etc... It doesn’t mean I can’t see and hear all that but my main focus is on the snake as my life is in danger. I may even respond and react in some way but not really consciously , more like in an ‘automatic pilot’ mode [in fact I did that just now when my wife said something to me while I was writing these words, and I responded… but I need to take some time off to really remember what was that about… ]
I am at a stage where I spend about 30% of my active time [and probably 50% of my diurnal ‘inactive time’] by ‘looking at the snake’. The rest is spent being interested in the environment or listening to peoples’ advice, praises or ridicule… When I hear people using Ramana as an example of real ‘embodiment’ of the Self, sounds like some sci-fi story [see the Gita accounting of those who get enlightened in the world], beyond imagination so I don’t even consider it as reality [firstly because is unattainable and secondly, it is not about me…]. I am looking at ‘awakening’ as a continuous effort of keeping my eyes on the snake while ignoring the mind. I hope one day this effort would vanish and I’ll be doing that as a way of living… Until then, that is my doing as a body, i.e. attentively watching the snake. I am oscillating between looking at the snake and being ‘lost’ in the contemplation of the rope, only to find myself ‘awaken’ by sudden doubt and trying to keep at bay the thought of the snake which however, I always know [but not always ‘feel’] is just a rope. Ramana’s advice for perseverance is the only option for me as who in his ‘right mind’ would choose to live in the lie once he found the truth?!

Michael James said...

Daisilui, I agree with what you write, and I do not think it is in any way opposed to what I wrote in this article, except perhaps in emphasis, because in the context in which I wrote this article it seemed appropriate to emphasise the need for compassion and ahiṁsā, though what I usually emphasise is the need for us to be self-attentive and thereby to ignore the world as much as possible.

As you imply, our primary interest, concern and effort should be to turn our mind inwards and to persevere in being self-attentive as much as we can, and when our mind is turned completely (or at least almost completely) within there are no others for whom we need feel compassion and whom we need avoid harming. However, because we have not yet developed sufficient love to attend only to ourself constantly, our mind inevitably comes out at times, and whenever it does so it becomes aware of the world and of ‘others’, and consequently it gets caught up in doing actions by mind, speech and body. It is only when we are thus engaged in actions that we need to consider others and to try to avoid causing them any harm.