Friday, 20 February 2015

Self-investigation and body-consciousness

A friend recently sent me a PDF copy of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and referring to the sixth chapter of it, ‘The Inner Body’, he wrote:
The chapter that talks on the inner body is quite remarkable, by taking the attention away from thoughts/body/sense perceptions and into the energy field of the body, there is the clear and vibrantly alive feeling “I Am” and nothing else. Going deeper into it, the feeling of inside and out dissolves, subject and object dissolve, and there is this sense of unlimited, unbound (by the limits of the body) and unchanging beingness or I Amness. Can this be likened to self-attention? Or more clearly, is this the same practice? Because in both we are removing attention from everything except the feeling “I Am” and focussing it on the feeling. Could it be that only the description is different? Where you describe it as focussing the attention on the consciousness “I Am” Eckhart describes it as focussing the attention on the aliveness/consciousness that pervades the physical body to the exclusion of all thoughts. He goes on to describe the state of pure being when the attention goes more deep.
This article is adapted from the replies I wrote to this and to two subsequent emails.

First reply:

Whether the practice that Eckhart Tolle talks about is the same as being self-attentive depends on how we interpret his rather vague and unclear words. What does he mean by ‘the inner body’?

On p. 73 he says, ‘The inner body lies at the threshold between your form identity and your essence identity, your true nature’, which seems to suggest that it is just the ego. If so, investigating our ego will cause it to subside and merge back into ourself, so it is the correct practice. However, if this is what he means, why did he not say it in such clear and simple terms? Why does he instead talk in such vague and ambiguous terms?

On p. 75 he says, ‘The more consciousness you direct into the inner body, the higher its vibrational frequency becomes’. What does he mean by ‘its vibrational frequency’? Anything that vibrates is an object — something other than ourself — because we ourself (the subject) can never vibrate in any way, and if we seems to vibrate, that is only we are mistaking ourself to be something other than what we actually are.

I have not read all of his ‘Inner Body’ chapter, but glancing through it I see he expresses many ideas that bear no relation to self-investigation (the practice of being self-attentive) as taught by Sri Ramana, so I doubt if it is actually the same practice that he is talking about. A lot of what he says about the effects of his practice seem to be imaginary, which suggests that it is an attempt to create certain experiences by auto-suggestion, and other effects he promises seem to be mere wishful thinking, such as that it will slow down the ageing process and strengthen the immune system.

According to Sri Ramana everything that we are to experience externally is determined by our destiny (prārabdha) and cannot be changed by any amount of effort on our part, so that means that no practice of any sort can alter whatever ageing or immune strength we are destined to undergo. Therefore generally I find that what Eckhart Tolle writes is at best only superficially similar of Sri Ramana’s teachings, and that careful scrutiny shows many glaring differences between them.

Eckhart Tolle may encourage people to practice something that some of them may interpret to be simple self-attentiveness, in which case he will be directing them towards the correct practice, but what he writes can easily be understood otherwise, in which case he is directing people towards something quite different to what Sri Ramana taught us.

Second reply:

In his reply to this my friend asked, ‘When focusing on the sense I Am, is it the same as focussing on the consciousness that pervades and animates the body?’, to which I replied:

The consciousness that pervades and animates the body is the ego, which is what we now experience ourself to be, so it is what the term ‘I’ (or ‘I am’) now seems to refer to. However this ego is not what we really are, because it is a confused mixture of pure consciousness (which is what we really are) and extraneous adjuncts such as our body and mind (which are not what we really are). Therefore what we need to try to attend to and experience is only our essential self, which is the pure adjunct-free self-awareness that the terms ‘I’ and ‘I am’ actually refer to.

In connection with this, you may find it useful to read two of my recent articles, The connection between consciousness and body and The terms ‘I’ or ‘we’ refer only to ourself, whether we experience ourself as we actually are or as the ego that we now seem to be.

From what you write in your mail it seems that you do understand the practice correctly (though it is perhaps better not to think of it in terms of an ‘inner body’, because all that actually exists is ourself, completely devoid of all kinds of body or anything else that our mind can conceive). As you say, when we attend only to ourself, all thoughts cease, because they can exist only so long as we attend to them, and hence pure self-attentiveness is the only means by which we can subside and sink deep within ourself. In other words, it is the only means by which we can retrace our ego back to the source from which it originated, which is our real self.

Third reply:

My friend then asked, ‘You have stated that the consciousness that pervades the body is the ego (I am the body idea/feeling). So, since we are to take the consciousness aspect of the ego as our target of attention, would it be proper to focus exclusively on the consciousness pervading the body whilst ignoring thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and sense perceptions?’, to which I replied:

You ask, ‘would it be proper to focus exclusively on the consciousness pervading the body whilst ignoring thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and sense perceptions?’, but the body itself is only a thought or idea, so how can you focus exclusively on ‘the consciousness pervading the body whilst ignoring thoughts’?

In order to ignore all thoughts, we must also ignore the body, so rather than thinking of the practice in terms of focusing exclusively on the consciousness pervading the body, it would be more helpful to think of it simply in terms of focusing exclusively on ourself, the conscious entity whose essential nature is only self-awareness and not awareness of a body or anything else.

So long as we are aware of our body or anything else other than ourself, we are experiencing ourself as the ego, because the nature of the ego is to experience things other than itself (starting with whatever body it experiences as itself), whereas our real nature is to experience ourself alone.

When we start the practice, for most of us it is not possible to immediately discard all awareness of our body and everything else, but our aim should be to do so. That is, we should try to be so exclusively aware of ourself alone that all awareness of our body and other things recedes into the background and eventually disappears.


Pravir said...

When I try to focus on the real I, I find for fleeting moments I can become aware of myself as a witness of body,thoughts and sensations. Then the desire comes (which is of the ego ) wanting to prolong or repeat this experience ...this is burnt away by the awareness of what it is. Then a thought comes in the form of a deep prayer to guru (who I understand to be my Self)praying to take me further onward on this path...this I do not see as a work of my ego but a sign of His Grace which has brought me so far into this journey.

Michael James said...

Pravir, so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself — whether our body, thoughts, sensations or whatever — we are experiencing ourself as the ego, so we are not yet focused on ourself as we actually are, which is what you call ‘the real I’. Whatever else we may be aware of, our aim should be to withdraw our attention from it by trying to focus our entire attention on ourself alone.

Witnessing or being aware of things other than ourself is the nature of the ego, so contrary to what some so-called ‘gurus’ claim, we should not imagine that it is a spiritual practice. According to Bhagavan, what we should witness or observe is only ourself and not anything else whatsoever.

Whenever we feel that we are not able to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, that is because our mind is then too strongly attracted to attend to other things, so in such a situation praying to Bhagavan, who is our own self, to help by drawing our attention back towards ourself alone can be a useful way to refocus our love to experience nothing other than ourself.

Sivanarul said...

This is a general advaita path question to anyone who wants to chime in. Is the path of advaita/non-duality life denying from a sadhana perspective? Life for this question is defined as I,
body and the world. By requiring to maintain an inner attitude that anything other than I is unreal, is the path denying the other two major parts of current reality (body, world).

From the current perspective, let's consider reality to be a spectrum where Absolute Reality (AR) is at the highest level and Lowest Reality (or unreality) at the lowest level. Our Current
Reality (CR) is somewhere within the spectrum. Further let's suppose that CR consist of I, body and the world as a package. Notice that in the other paths of Yoga/Bhakthi/Karma, as one
travels along the spectrum towards AR, the CR is never denied. The teachings convey that a properly lived CR (via practice of Yoga/Bhakthi/Karma), moves the I/ego up towards AR, chunks at
a time (chunk size does not matter). As the I travels to the next CR (same I, different body (gross/subtle), different world (gross/subtle)), the teaching does not deny that next CR also
and instead asks to live that CR well, to progress further. Finally the I reaches the AR and in that state also CR is not denied because CR and AR are one. So the I always holds to the CR
as an anchor throughout it's entire journey along the spectrum.

Let's look at it from another angle. Let's say AR kicked of Dream 1 (superimposition of Ignorance through it's own power of Maya). Dream 1 kicks of Dream2 and so on and so forth. Let's say
we are in Dream n. As one practices Yoga/Bhakthi/Karma, one wakes up in the previous dream. In Dream n-1, one realizes that Dream n was unreal (which is not CR anymore) but does not deny
CR (which is n-1). This is similar to our daily experience of waking/dream/deep sleep. We do not deny the reality of dream within dream (let's leave lucid dreaming alone). Upon waking in
the morning, we realize the events we experienced were simply a dream and we continue with our waking experience. We can deny the other 2 states from the current state. But we ever deny the current state.
Will continue in next comment.

Sivanarul said...

Enter Advaita. Within the spectrum of reality, every package of CR other than AR is asked to be denied. Even within the CR package, except I the other components of body and world are
asked to be denied (unreal). There is no anchor for the ship once it leaves it's bay until AR is reached, whereas in the other paths, the anchor of CR always is there for the ship until it
reaches AR (or dissolves in AR). Even though Ishvara (Personal deity in other paths) is acknowledged as AR with attributes in Advaita, nevertheless Ishvara is treated as a second class
citizen compared to Jnani in many advaitic writings by either pure omission or by just providing lip service. It is amusing that a Jnani who was once under the influence of Maya is treated
better than Ishvara who is Lord of Maya and who never was under it's influence. This is not to disparage Jnani's but only to point out how Ishvara is viewed and how everything else other
than AR is denied (even AR with attributes / Ishvara is denied by not giving much significance).

Even Bhakthi is reformulated as Jnana so that duality does not get implied. What is so anethema about duality with Ishvara in the sadhana stage? Let's look at another famous saint of
Arunuchala named Arunagirinathar. He was graced by Lord Muruga as he tried to commit suicide falling from Arunachala temple. Saving him, the lord instructed him "Summa Iru" (Be still). Him
being a ripe soul and having been instructed by the lord himself, Arunagirinathar spent 12 years in deep meditation and went on to compose soul stirring songs known as Thirupugazh. While
arunagirithar maintained duality with the lord, in his other classic song of Kandar Anubuthi verse 28, he declared his ultimate experience as advaitic by saying "I got absorbed in the I-I,
and the I-I alone shines herewith". So that is an example of duality with Ishvara where Ishvara takes the responsibility of merging the Jiva into AR at the appropriate time and the Jiva
maintaining duality towards Ishvara after absorption in AR. It is similar to Bhagavan composing Akshara manamalai and maintaining duality towards Arunachala inspite of Ajata being his experiential reality.

The point of this writing is not to criticize advaita, but to understand clearly what advaita is asking from us. Let's bring Bhagavan into this. Note that Bhagavan did not have to rudder
the ship without anchor and did not have to deny CR. Within a minute, the CR and AR merged and the ship found it's anchor in AR.

I welcome your comments.

Vahag B. said...

Hello again Michael.

I thought it would be best to ask this question in the comments so your reply can benefit all who may be wondering the same.

It is stated that the "I Am the body" idea is the ego by you and Bhagavan.

You say:

"The consciousness that pervades and animates the body is the ego, which is what we now experience ourself to be, so it is what the term ‘I’ (or ‘I am’) now seems to refer to."

That being so, if the practice of Self-Investigation is to pay attention to the first-person(the ego) would that be the same thing as saying that one should investigate(pay attention to) the consciousness that pervades the body in order to make separate that consciousness from the body through a powerful focusing of the attention on it to the exclusion of the body and mind?

By focussing only on the consciousness aspect of the ego which is now mixed up with and pervading the body, would that not, after focussing 100% exclusively on it, lead to the experience of Pure Awareness, free of all adjuncts and objects?

In short: You say the consciousness that pervades the body is the ego. It is stated that the ego is what is to be investigated and should be the object of attention. So does that amount to saying that the consciousness which now pervades the body should be the target of attention?

Namaste and thank you for you work!

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, you ask us to ‘consider reality to be a spectrum where Absolute Reality (AR) is at the highest level and Lowest Reality (or unreality) at the lowest level’, but such a spectrum cannot be real, because from an absolute perspective there are no degrees of reality. Each thing is either real or unreal, because the word ‘real’ signifies whatever actually exists, whereas ‘unreal’ signifies whatever seems to exist but does not actually exist.

According to Bhagavan and to advaita in general, only one thing actually exists, namely ourself, and everything else merely seems to exist but does not actually exist. This was clearly stated by Bhagavan in the first sentence of seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே.

yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē.

“What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self].”

Therefore in stating this Bhagavan was in effect denying the reality of everything else, so if you take ‘life’ to mean anything other than ourself, you would have to conclude that in that sense his teachings and advaita in general are ‘life-denying’. However, the fallacy that underlies such a conclusion is the idea that anything other than ourself (that is, anything other than what we actually are) is ‘life’, because according to what Bhagavan taught us in the second sentence of that paragraph and elsewhere, everything else (world, soul and God) is just a கற்பனை (kalpanai): a fabrication, figment of our imagination, mental creation or illusory superimposition, like the imaginary silver seen in a shell. Therefore, since we alone are real ‘life’, it would be more correct to say that Bhagavan’s teachings and advaita in general are ‘life-affirming’ rather than ‘life-denying’. That is, they affirm what is real and deny only what is unreal.

What you call ‘Absolute Reality (AR)’ is alone real, and what you call our ‘Current Reality (CR)’ is unreal, so since only the former actually exists and the latter does not actually exist, there is no spectrum between them, and hence no gradual journey from one to the other. Either we experience ourself as we actually are, or we experience ourself as something that we are not. Therefore if we investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we actually are, the transition from our present unreal state to that real state will be instantaneous.

What binds us to our present unreal state is our attachments, which are rooted in our ego, which is our mistaken experience of ourself. The process of weakening our attachments by persistently trying to experience ourself alone may be a gradual one, but it occurs only within the unreal state of ego. When they are sufficiently weakened, we will eventually be able to experience ourself as we actually are, and at that moment our ego (and its attachments) will thereby be destroyed, and we will then discover that we have always actually experienced nothing other than ourself alone.

In this path of self-investigation, the only anchor is ourself, which alone is real. No other anchor is required, and if we were to try to cling to any other anchor it would be unreal and would therefore keep us bound to unreality.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sivanarul:

You say that a jñāni was once under the influence of māyā, but that is not the case. Only the ego is bound by māyā, because there is no māyā other than the ego. The jñāni is what we really are, and nothing other than that, so it has never actually been bound or affected in any way by māyā, because in its view it alone exists, and hence māyā is yā mā, ‘she who is not’ (in other words, it is that which does not actually exist and has never actually existed).

In the case of Arunagirinathar, Lord Muruga acted as guru when he said ‘summā iru’ (just be), and those words instantly turned his mind within to merge in the one reality. Whatever he sang thereafter was sung by him only in the view of our self-ignorant ego and not in his view, because he had ceased to exist as a separate entity the moment he experienced himself as he actually is, just as what Bhagavan sang in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam was sung by him only in the view of our ego and not in his view.

Michael James said...

Vahag, what you call ‘the consciousness that pervades the body’ is the ego, which is a mixture of what we actually are and various extraneous adjuncts, such as whatever body we currently experience as ourself. Therefore when we practise self-investigation, we are trying to isolate from this mixture what we actually are. In other words, we are trying to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from all adjuncts and everything else that is other than ourself.

Therefore, though we start by investigating our ego, ‘the consciousness that pervades the body’, what we are actually trying to experience is only the essential consciousness aspect of the ego, which is what we actually are. In order to experience only the essential consciousness aspect of the ego, we need to try to attend to and experience ourself alone, thereby ignoring the body and all other adjuncts.

As you express it quite aptly, we are trying to ‘separate that consciousness [namely ourself] from the body through a powerful focusing of the attention on it to the exclusion of the body and mind’. Therefore, since this essential consciousness aspect of the ego is the pure self-awareness that we actually are, when we focus on it 100% exclusively, it will certainly ‘lead to the experience of Pure Awareness, free of all adjuncts and objects’, as you say.

This was clearly stated by Bhagavan in a reply recorded in the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 89):

“The ego functions as the knot between the Self which is Pure Consciousness and the physical body which is inert and insentient. The ego is therefore called the chit-jada granthi [the knot that binds the conscious and the non-conscious together as if they were one]. In your investigation into the source of aham-vritti [the thought called ‘I’, the ego], you take the essential chit [consciousness] aspect of the ego; and for this reason the enquiry must lead to the realization of the pure consciousness of the Self.”

Sivanarul said...

Michael, Thanks much for your excellent reply. You wrote “but such a spectrum cannot be real, because from an absolute perspective there are no degrees of reality”. That may well be true, but I meant it only from a relative perspective, just as we consider waking to be more real than dream. Although Bhagavan has said that there is no difference between waking and dream (except waking appears longer), that is only from the absolute perspective. Sadhana can only be started from the waking state and hence waking can be considered to have a higher degree of reality from dream. Moreover a lot of NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) reported in the last few decades point to higher degrees of reality, especially the recent one reported by Dr. Eben Alexander where he describes the realms he visited as “hyper real”. It is quite possible that in the universe there are sentient beings that have a higher intellect and advanced ego, in the sense that they are capable of intense vichara than humans can. Of course all of this is only from the relative standpoint, but that is all we got until ignorance dissolves.

You also wrote “You say jnani was once under the influence of maya, but that is not the case. Only the ego is bound by maya, because there is no maya other than ego”. The meaning I meant was in a typical way we describe a jnani. Let’s take Bhagavan as an example. There was a boy named Venkataraman who until age 16 can be considered to be under the influence of maya. At 16, Venkarataram (ego) lost that identity and Bhagavan/jnani remained. When we as an observer think about Bhagavan, we see him as someone who was identified with the ego (under the seeming influence of maya) till 16 and then from age 16 ceased to be identified with it. Now consider Ishvara, who never comes under the influence of maya and never has any vasanas. It was only in this context that I mentioned that it is amusing to me at least, that Ishvara is not given prominence by the sheer act of omission in many of advaitic writings.

From the standpoint of absolute reality Jnani’s write and tell many things that may or may not be applicable to sadhakas at an early stage. For example, Saint Valllalar (Chidambara Ramalingam, another famous Tamil saint) in his 6’th thirumurai essentially contradicted many of his own writings from the first 5 thirumurai’s. I normally take such things to mean as someone who has climbed the mountain using a ladder, can kick the ladder off, but it does not make sense for someone who has only climbed 20 feet. It may well be true that in the end, ego, Ishvara and the world all dissolve when ignorance dissolves. But until then, Ishvara provides invaluable help and guidance in the path. Putting it another way, may be all your writings will turn out to be unreal when ignorance dissolves, but until then, you are providing invaluable help to many of us.

Vahag B. said...

So does that amount to saying that the Consciousness or feeling of Being-ness or aliveness that pervades, at present, the body should be focussed on? Because in practice many times by going deeply into this feeling of "I Am" that pervades the body, awareness of the body and mind dissolve into the Silence of Pure Awareness(not total or else this question would not arise) but then a great fear of death(heat and trembling as well) arises which then prompts one to think thoughts and therefore lose the almost 100% Pure Awareness.

Verse 174 of Part 1(An analysis of the Truth) of Guru Vachaka Kovai has spoken about this:

"One’s fear and quaking of one’s body while one is
entering samadhi is due to the slight ego-consciousness
still remaining. But when this dies
completely, without leaving even a trace, one abides
as the vast space of mere consciousness where Bliss
alone prevails, and the quaking stops."

The fear must have arisen because there were still latent desires to enjoy the world of sense-objects and think thoughts(same thing). That must be why a complete merging did not take place in such experiences.

So perhaps by taking the attention deeply into this "I Am" that at present pervades the body, by a keen and powerful attention we may remain fixed in that sense of Being-ness/Awareness to the exclusion of body and merge in the state of Pure Consciousness

Is that proper?

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in reply to your latest comment, my writings have absolutely no value except insofar as they accurately and clearly reflect the essential teachings of Bhagavan, and it is up to each person who reads them to decide for themself whether or to what extent they do so.

In his essential teachings, Bhagavan was constantly urging us to stop clinging to our relative perspective, because any relative perspective exists only in the view of the ego, and hence so long as we cling to a relative perspective we are sustaining the fundamental illusion that the ego is what we actually are. Therefore if we want to free ourself from the illusion of ego, we must be willing to let go of everything that seems real from a relative perspective.

Everything other than ourself comes into seeming existence only when we rise as an ego, it is sustained only so long as we continue to experience ourself as this ego, and it ceases to seem to exist whenever our ego subsides. Therefore all the things that you speak of from a relative perspective are just an expansion of your own ego, the illusion that you are a finite entity. Since this ego will cease to exist if we investigate it, investigating it entails giving up not only the ego but also everything else except what we really are. This is the simple but profound truth taught by Bhagavan 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.

Therefore you have to decide for yourself: do you want to continue clinging to your relative perspective, or do you want to try to follow Bhagavan’s simple but reliable path of self-investigation, which entails giving up everything, including the ego that creates and clings to it all?

You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you want to keep it, you can never enjoy eating it, and if you eat it, you will no longer keep it. Likewise, you cannot experience what you actually are so long as you cling to anything else, because everything else seems to exist only so long as you mistake yourself to be the ego.

Michael James said...

Vahag, if you want to express it as you do in your latest comment, it does ‘amount to saying that the Consciousness or feeling of Being-ness or aliveness that pervades, at present, the body should be focussed on’, but rather than expressing it in such convoluted terms, it would be simpler, more direct and less seemingly objective to say that we must just focus on ourself alone.

Why should we even mention or think in terms of our body when our aim is to experience ourself alone? In order to experience ourself alone, we must completely ignore our body and everything associated with it, so the sooner we cease thinking of the practice in terms of our body the easier it will be to focus our entire attention or awareness on ourself alone.

Fear of death can arise only when we are attending to anything other than ourself, so to the extent that we ‘dissolve into the Silence of Pure Awareness’ (as you put it), we will be free from fear or any other distracting thought. Fear of death is one of the last defences of the ego, so if it rises we should try to respond as Bhagavan did, namely to investigate ourself alone, thereby ignoring the fear or any thoughts associated with it.

As you imply towards the end of your comment, whatever experience may arise, we should try to keep our entire attention fixed firmly on ourself alone, and if we succeed in doing so, everything else will dissolve in the pure self-awareness that we actually are.

bboyatkins said...

Hi Michael,

I have a question about the following statement from this article: "According to Sri Ramana everything that we are to experience externally is determined by our destiny (prārabdha) and cannot be changed by any amount of effort on our part, so that means that no practice of any sort can alter whatever ageing or immune strength we are destined to undergo."

This seems to imply that if our body is ill we should not attempt any form of treatment whether the treatment be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. It would seem to me that the prārabdha would include seeking the treatments themselves as they are also 'external experiences' if that is something that one is engaged in. I am curious of your perspective of this in light of Sri Raman's teachings. Thanks


Sundar said...

Similar to Brian's comment, I also have had a doubt which I had just rationalized in my own way. There is an anecdote where Bhagavan is said to have told the son of TK Sunderasa Iyer, Bhagavan's devotee, that it was wrong to have debt, as TKS's son had gotten into debt. Bhagavan is supposed to have told him that Fire, Debt and Poison are the same. Now if everything is to happen as per destiny or prarabhdha, then isn't the fact that this person was in debt also his prarabhdha, so why try to change it.

Now I very well know that getting debt will create problems but my bigger point is that we do have to make subjective judgements similar to this in several aspects. But in general we only consider the result part as destiny and not the decision making part. Another e.g. would be if I were to decide between two routes to travel during my morning commute and if I take one that usually has less traffic and I still get stuck in traffic, then I conclude that getting stuck that day was my destiny but then even deciding to take that route is also my destiny.

I guess fact is that at every juncture of our life we have to take decisions and both taking a particular decision and its result has to be part of our destiny not just one. Likewise if a person were to be put on life support for 2 years and dies then the very decision to put him there also is destiny. We cannot just take one component of an act, the result, and say that, that is destiny and the rest (the decision making, the choosing part etc) was freewill.

I think this part from Talks with Ramana Maharishi probably gives a clue that only our attitude of detachment is within our control but what we decide as well as what happens is all destiny. Atleast thats my understanding
D.: What are the means for gaining will-power?
M.: Your idea of will-power is success insured. Will-power should be understood to be the strength of mind which makes it capable for meeting success or failure with equanimity. It is not synonymous with certain success. Why should one’s attempts be always attended with success? Success develops arrogance and the man’s spiritual progress is thus arrested. Failure on the other hand is beneficial, inasmuch as it opens the eyes of the man to his limitations and prepares him to surrender himself. Self-surrender is synonymous with eternal happiness. Therefore one should try to gain the equipoise of mind under all circumstances. That is will-power. Again, success and failure are the results of prarabdha and not of will-power. A man may be doing only good and noble actions and yet prove a failure. Another may do otherwise and yet be uniformly successful. This does not mean that the will-power is present in the one and not in the other.
D.: Is it not said in the book Truth Revealed (Ulladu Narpadu) that the world is a product of the mind?
M.: Yes.
D.: Does it not follow that the mind grown strong brings the world under control?
M.: The mind in its external activities gives rise to the world. Such activities fritter away the strength of the mind. Its strength lies in being confined to itself with the external activities arrested.
D.: There is an idiot who cannot count up to ten. His mind does not certainly wander as does that of a thinker. Is the former a better man than the latter?
M.: Who says that he is an idiot? Your mind in its wandering says so.
D.: Is will-power gained by divesting oneself of thoughts?
M.: Rather by confining oneself to a single thought. Ultimately this will also disappear, leaving Pure Consciousness behind. Concentration helps one to it.
D.: So then, it is gained by directing the mind and concentrating it. The personality has nothing to do with it.
M.: Personality is the root-cause of external activities. It must sink for gaining the highest good.

R Viswanathan said...

"This seems to imply that if our body is ill we should not attempt any form of treatment whether the treatment be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. It would seem to me that the prārabdha would include seeking the treatments themselves as they are also 'external experiences' if that is something that one is engaged in. I am curious of your perspective of this in light of Sri Raman's teachings."

In accordance with my understanding of Bhagavan's teachings as assimilated from what Sri Michael James, Sri David Godman, and Sri Nochur Venkataraman wrote or spoke, this would be my perspective:

If there would a doer then there would be an experiencer, too.

If everything, I repeat everything, is always considered as occurring due to prarabdham, surely there will not be ever a doer or an experiencer.

I feel that more often than not, one tends to attribute certain things to prarabdham when one tries a lot to prevent something from happening (almost invariably, that which does not appear to go along with fulfillment of one's wish), and finally accept the result as due to prarabdham to develop some kind of inclination to cope up with the suffering that results. In other words, there is a doer and hence an experiencer, but the latter wants to get rid of the notion of experiencing by invoking the concept of prarabdham.

Thus, if there has been an element of doership, there would be an element of experiencership, too.

Very rarely do we see somebody who seems to have no problem what so ever and still genuinely utters that all this is only due to his/her prarabdham.

I remember Sri Nochur saying that Bhagavan's advice is:

இருக்கும் இடத்திலேயே இரு.
பின் எப்படி உலகத்தில் வ்யவஹாரம் செய்வது?
செலுத்தும் வழியில் செல்.

As for physical illness is concerned, I feel that Bhagavan would not ask one to not go in for treatment. He might say: "just accept that the illness is for the body and that the treatment is also for body; and let there be no elation when the treatment has cured the illness nor sadness when the treatment hasn't cured the illness".

I have read that Bhagavan underwent different kinds of treatments for his final illness, but never asked for it nor said anything against it, except when there was a suggestion to amputate the hand, which he did not agree to.

Like Brian, I will wait to hear what Sri Michael James has to say on the topic of prarabdham.

His previous writings include:

Anonymous said...

Some reflections on the current discussion here.

As a finite ego , whatever we are destined to experience we will experience , and no effort on our part will in any way whatsoever alter what we are destined to experience.

This naturally implies that the ego would perform all the actions necessary to experience what it is destined to experience.

But , all the occurrences in our life seem real to the extent to which we attend to them.

Thus , at each moment , we have only one choice - either to attend to this multiplicity involving the triad of the experiencer , the experienced , and act of experiencing (and hence perpetuate the illusion that we are this ego) , or to attend to our self - the one who seems to experience all this.

This choice is our only freewill.

Sundar said...

I think the gist of the teaching as I understand is take decisions as one would normally take and whenever one gets time pursue self inquiry. If we tried to extrapolate things like, "what would have Bhagavan said in this case?" etc etc in our decision making process, thats when we would probably get more confused, in my opinion because each Jnani's advice to a person is specific and two persons with seemingly different questions may get totally different answers. The only common advice is to pursue self inquiry as relentlessly possible and hopefully that by itself would reduce our vasanas and still our mind, so our day to day decisions will have clarity and conviction. Something like changing from inside out, but while doing that take decisions as we normally would without confusing ourselves too much. Atleast thats the conclusion I have reached.

Michael James said...

Brian, regarding the question you ask in your comment, whatever we experience according to our destiny (prārabdha) is what we have projected from within ourself, just as whatever we experience in a dream is what we have projected from within ourself. Likewise, whatever we need to do by mind, speech or body in order to experience our destiny we will be impelled to do from within.

For example, if we are destined to be ill and to take some treatment that will cure our illness, it may seem to us that we are taking that treatment of our own free will, whereas actually what impels us to take it is our destiny acting though our mind and body. If we want to take the treatment, our free will may be working in sync with our destiny, but even if we do not want to take it and try to avoid it, our destiny will somehow or other impel us to agree to take it (perhaps to please our family, or because we are afraid of the consequences if we do not take it).

In December 1898 when Bhagavan’s mother pleaded with him to come back home to Madurai, he wrote a note for her in Tamil, the meaning of which is as follows:

“According to the prārabdha [destiny] of each person, he who is for that [namely God] being there there [within each one of them] will make [them] act. What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort [one] makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] [one] does [to prevent it happening]. This indeed is certain. Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good.”

Please read one of my other articles, The karma theory as taught by Sri Ramana, in which I quote and discuss this note in more detail. As he says in the first sentence of this note, we will be made to do whatever we need to do to experience our destiny. Though we are free to want and to try to experience what we are not destined to experience, or to avoid experiencing what we are destined to experience, we cannot actually alter whatever we are to experience according to our destiny, no matter how hard we may try. This he says is certain, and hence he concludes by saying that what is good is to be silent — that is, to avoid trying to do anything according to our free will, and to only do whatever we are impelled to do by our destiny.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Brian (bboyatkins):

How does this apply to our practice of self-investigation? Since this practice entails trying to attend to and thereby to experience ourself alone, and since experiencing ourself alone is not an action but just a state of silently being, it is what Bhagavan advises to do in the final sentence of this note. Since being self-attentive is not an action, it is not bound in anyway by destiny or any other form of karma, so we are always free to be self-attentive, and nothing can prevent us being self-attentive except our own desire to experience anything other than ourself.

Our destiny (prārabdha) is the fruit of our past actions, so anything that we experience other than ourself is the result of actions that we have done in the past (that is, not in the lifetime of our present body, but in the lifetime of one of our many previous bodies). Therefore, since self-investigation (the practice of just being self-attentive) is not an action or karma, it will not alter or affect anything that we are destined to experience, which is why I wrote that according to Bhagavan it will not ‘alter whatever ageing or immune strength we are destined to undergo’.

However, the more we practise self-attentiveness, the more we will thereby cultivate the love to experience ourself alone, and hence the less we will be concerned about anything that our outward-turned mind may be destined to experience. Therefore, though being self-attentive will not cure any bodily ailment or enable our body to live any longer, it will enable us to become increasingly indifferent to whatever may happen to our body.

bboyatkins said...

Thanks for your answer Michael! That is helpful. My only questions now is how to discern whether one is attempting to do something through free will or impelled by destiny.

I guess the answer is just to practice Self-Attention?


Michael James said...

Yes, Brian, practising self-attentiveness is the only solution to all the problems of fate and free will. Since we now experience ourself as the doer of whatever actions are done by our mind, speech or body, we cannot (and need not) distinguish which of our actions are impelled by our fate and which are impelled by our free will. Sometimes these two driving forces are working in sync, and at other times in opposition to each other, so some of our actions may be impelled by both, whereas others may be impelled by just one or the other.

So long as we experience ourself as an ego, our free will will inevitably impel us to do volitional actions, so we can avoid doing such actions only to the extent that our ego has subsided, and it will subside to the extent to which we try to be self-attentive.

Michael James said...

Sundar, regarding your comment of 4 March 2015, Bhagavan generally did not tell anyone either to do or not to do anything (for the reason that he explained in verse 271 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai), and if he occasionally did so, such cases were the exception rather than the rule, so we cannot reliably draw any generalised inferences from them.

As you say, so long as we experience ourself as a person, we often have to make mundane decisions, but whatever such decisions we may make cannot change our destiny (prārabdha) in any way, as Bhagavan stated emphatically in the note he wrote for his mother (which I quoted above in my first reply to Brian). If it is necessary for us to make a certain decision in order to experience our prārabdha, ‘he who is for that [namely God] being there there [within ourself] will make’ us do so.

However, while making some decisions as prompted by our fate (either in sync with or in spite of our free will), we also make other decisions as prompted by our free will, and we cannot distinguished which decisions we make according to our fate, which according to our free will, or which according to both.

Since whatever we do according to our free will cannot change what we are destined to experience, but will only generate fresh karma (āgāmya), we should try to avoid making any decisions or efforts to do anything according to our free will. However, so long as we experience ourself as an ego, we cannot avoid having likes and dislikes, desires and fears, attachments and aversions, and such expressions of our free will will drive us to do actions by mind, speech and body. Therefore in order to avoid using (or rather misusing) our free will to do any action (karma), we must avoid rising as this ego, and according the Bhagavan the only way to avoid doing so is to be vigilantly self-attentive.

Only if we are constantly self-attentive will all the actions of our mind, speech and body be driven only by our fate and not by our free will. Therefore self-attentiveness alone is the state of true self-surrender, as Bhagavan taught us in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம். […]

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

“Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintana [self-contemplation], alone is giving oneself to God. […]”

Michael James said...

Regarding the Tamil words attributed to Bhagavan that Viswanathan quoted in his comment of 4 March 2015:

இருக்கும் இடத்திலேயே இரு.
பின் எப்படி உலகத்தில் வ்யவஹாரம் செய்வது?
செலுத்தும் வழியில் செல்.

I am not sure that these words are exactly what Bhagavan said, but they certainly seem as if they might be, because they are characteristically crisp and rich in implication. Therefore for the benefit of those who do not know Tamil I will translate them here:

“Be only in the place that is [or the place you are].
Then how to do activity in the world?
Flow in the path that flows [or the path in which you flow].”

In the first line he uses the word இடம் (iḍam), which literally means place, situation, context or space, but which he often used metaphorically. For example, in the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? he refers to our real self as the பிறப்பிடம் (piṟappiḍam) or ‘birthplace’ of the mind, and further on in the same paragraph he says, “நான் என்னும் நினைவு கிஞ்சித்து மில்லா விடமே சொரூபமாகும். அதுவே ‘மௌன’ மெனப்படும்” (nāṉ eṉṉum niṉaivu kiñcittum illā v-iḍam-ē sorūpam āhum. adu-v-ē ‘mauṉam’ eṉa-p-paḍum), which means, “The place in which the thought called ‘I’ does not exist even a little is svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or essential self]. That alone is called ‘mauna’ [silence]”. Therefore when he says, ‘இருக்கும் இடத்திலேயே இரு’ (irukkum iḍattil-ē-y-ē iru), which means ‘Be only in the place that is [or the place you are]’, what he implies is that we should be only in ourself — that is, that we should be only as we actually are.

The final sentence, ‘செலுத்தும் வழியில் செல்’ (selluttum vaṙiyil sel), literally means ‘Go [or flow] in the path that goes [or the path in which you go]’, but implies more of less the same as ‘Go with the flow’ (or rather ‘Flow with the flow’) in English.

Sivanarul said...

Previous posting did not go through. Reposting…

In general, a focus on Karma is not necessary or helpful for Sadhana. I understand Karma is discussed by Bhagavan and both by Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and at best is a stop gap measure to satisfy the mind which constantly asks why things are the way it is. Karma theory might have been needed earlier when ahimsa and compassion had not fully arisen in humans. So the theory of Karma (with reward/punishment for actions) might have been required as a deterrent. Bhagavan might have simply stuck with tradition when he made statements about Karma.
A focus on Karma (whether it is true or not) violates the law of compassion. Too many people have all kinds of pain, suffering, and poverty. To simply explain it away as Karma is not compassionate. Let’s say for discussion, person A in some earlier birth committed certain actions that have resulted in the present predicament. That person A does not remember who he was or what action he committed that resulted in his gross body having to undergo such a predicament. If you say the ego was the same and the ego is the one that experiences it (or the subtle body in both cases are the same and it experiences it), it still does not change the fact that the current experiencer (ego/body) has no recollection or identity with that previous entity.

Sivanarul said...

Continuation of previous comment:
Let’s take actions committed in this life that we do remember (and done by the same ego/body). It is best said in the movie Philadelphia where Tom Hanks plays a role who contracts AIDS through gay unprotected sex. Another person is shown where she contracts it via blood transfusion. When she takes the stand she tells the solidarity she feels with Tom Hanks (pain and suffering felt by both) and that it did not matter how they arrived at the current situation. In other words, the pain and suffering that a lung cancer patient undergoes (got by smoking) is no different than a non-smoker that got it for no apparent reason. A focus on Karma tends to become judgmental on both us and others and thus violates the law of compassion for us and as well as others. Compassion is the path that leads us to the royal gate of Moksha.

Do we really need a belief in Karma to not harm us or others? Do we really need to know about Karma to decide whether we need to take medicine or not? Do we really need Karma to follow ahimsa? When the mind asks for an explanation as to why things are this way, isn’t a simple saying “I don’t know and it does not matter” enough? In the here and now, it does not matter about Sanchitha or Prarartha. What matters is how can we alleviate the pain and suffering? I write this as someone who grew up hearing about Karma on a frequent basis and intimately familiar of writings on it. It is best to leave Karma alone and focus on compassion and ahimsa instead.

sundar said...

I have a general observation and this is ofcourse based on the conclusion I had arrived to satisfy myself. Before I write this, I would like to say that I am a follower of Bhagavan, not that it matters to this discussion, and have been trying to practice self inquiry for a few years. In many discussions like Bhagavan's (or for that matter any Jnani, be it Ramakrishna etc) opinion on something like Karma, destiny, Gods etc I have assumed that a Jnani being the self can only speak the truth and though it may seem to be different advice to different person's, the advice itself to a specific person would be the best advice to that person that comes from the SELF and not the Jnani's mind as the Jnani does not have a ego. As Bhagavan himself said, "There is no Jnani, there is only Jnanam". In other words what Bhagavan says must be the truth. For e.g. when he says that Arunachala is the self and that he had a vision of seeing Sages inside the mountain, that has to be true in whatever plane of existence.
If we don't accept this then on what basis do we accept other things Bhagavan says. Its illogical to say that Bhagavn is right when he says that everything is Self but he's just using psychology to satisfy a certain person when he says that Giri Pradakshina is very beneficial because that would bring up the question that since both come from Bhagavan, on what basis can we conclude that one must be true and the other is not. Truth is i'm not self realized and regardless of how much I trust Bhagavan and how much I respect him, until I realize my self, it is still belief maybe a very good intellectual conviction. Again, don't get me wrong, but how do I know even that Bhagavn was realized or for that matter any saint? I either have total faith in their words or I don't. If Bhagavan says Satsang is beneficial, I have to accept that as well or any other advice. So either you accept everything he says as the truth or you don't because once you start categorizing that Bhagavan said such and such a thing to satisfy a person of lower maturity and another to satisfy a more mature seeker, that seems to make him an ordinary Psychologist who adapts according to the person he speaks to based on his assessment of that person's character. If thats the case then what difference is there between a Jnani and an Ajnani. Both are just being ordinary psychologists, but we admit that what a Jnani says has to be the truth atleast with respect to the person he gives advice to. For e.g. if he advices someone to do Japam instead of self inquiry then we have to accept that, that indeed is the way for that person. Because often many people quote that Bhagavan said such and such a thing when its convenient to support their argument and I myself have done it before but now I believe that a Jnani speaks to a specific person and what he says has to be the truth for that person's spiritual progress.
In summation I can take all his generic advice like self inquiry, giri pradakshina and try to follow them rather than trying to read between the lines about his view on Karma and accept that all his words are true for those whom the advice was given. In Bhagavan's own words, "If a man is Self-realised he cannot tell a lie or commit a sin or do anything wrong."

R Viswanathan said...

It is a very beneficial comment from Sundar. Sri Nochur also used to say often - if you have faith in Bhagavan's words, then don't let your ego interfere with it by saying that it is all right for Bhagavan to say, but for a normal person like me, it won't work! As Sundar wrote, Bhagavan's statements are whole truth and hence we can't selectively have faith only in some and have our own opinion on others, if we want to derive true benefit for ourselves from his statements - the true benefit being incessant self attentiveness.

bboyatkins said...

Sri Sadhu Om does say in The Path of Sri Ramana Part one:

"Seeing the bewilderment of those who could not come to His path and taking pity on them, even
Sri Bhagavan would on some occasions reply to their doubts
in the sastraic terminology itself, as if like the sastras He too were accepting the false sense ‘I am the body’ as the base.
Therefore, such replies can never be the direct teaching of Sri Bhagavan!"

This does in fact point out that Sri Ramana did speak to people according to their level of understanding and not everything he spoke in reply to questioners is the Whole Truth of His teachings.

Sundar said...

Here is the problem, I see with Sadhu Om's statement and this is not taking a dig at him but just pointing the fallacy in this logic. Just like Sadhu Om's says that Bhagavan's teaching is not the whole truth and is as per the understanding how do we not know that Sadhu Om's statement is also exactly like that, that his calling Bhagavan's statement meant for only some people and it will soon lead us into some kind of circular logic. Also I wish to point out another thing aboout Sadhu Om's teaching, that maybe i'm wrong in interpreting. I have also read the "Path of Ramana" and it is indeed an excellent guide on self inquiry but in general Sadhu Om downplays the effect of a physical guru and places more emphasis on self effort but the fact is, if i'm not wrong, of all of Bhagavan's devotees, Sadhu Om stayed for the longest period with Bhagavan, 32 years infact I think. He came to Bhagavn in 1918 and was there till 1951. If Sadhu Om's statement about the effect of being near a physical guru is taken at face value, they why did Sadhu Om stay near or with Bhagavan for such a long time? He could have learnt the self inquiry technique in a few months or even a couple of years, left Bhagavan and practiced it on his own? Also, its quite possible that there are other Bhagavan devotees that do not have Sadhu Om's view of Bhagavan's teaching, so what will we do regarding their opinions. At the most we can say that when one realizes the self everything is Brahman and if not whatever we see is the truth. Bhagavan himself said that if you think your body is true, then both Vaikunta and Kailasa are true as well, so as long as we are the body, his visions or Arunachala being the self is also true.

Secondly, how do we know for sure that Sadhu Om was also not giving his teachings based on the maturity? and if that was the case how do we know that he or Bhagavan would consider us mature to follow one teaching of his while ignore others? and this is precisely the problem with assuming. Like I said earlier, I'm not realized nor do I know for sure that Bhagavan or Sadhu Om was realized or do I know what self realization is. At this point i'm just proceeding based on an intellectual conviction that what they say is logical, so I how can I say for sure that some of what they say is Psuchology and some of what they say is the truth. Ramakrishna once told Swami Vivekananda that there is no such thing called faith and blind faith. He said you either have faith or you KNOW. At present any teaching I read can only be faith.

Sundar said...

Also, this is where I love the beauty of Bhagavan's teaching because amidst all these opinions only thing one can be sure of, is the "I am" feeling. All the rest we can only go on faith in someone's words, be it Sadhu Om or Bhagavan. Infact at this point I don't even know for sure that by inquiring into "I am", I will indeed at one point realize that everything is the self. It appeals to me because, as Bhagavan says, "That I exist", is the only thing I can be sure of. Until then I have no other option but to pursue self inquiry because I know for sure that every other thing in the world which is the result of sensory perception keeps changing. But I will not dismiss things like Satsang, Arunachala being the self, Giri Pradakshina being beneficial as mere psychology.

I have faith in them not only because Bhagavan says that they are beneficial, but these things are emphasized by all scriptures, especially satsang with a Jnani and by other Jnanis and Bhagavan is not the only Jnani and there have been others before him in every part of the world and they have taught different teachings which have also helped people realize the self. I follow Bhagavan's teaching because that appeals to me but that does not necessary mean that other methods will not do that. Infact many of Bhagavan's devotees have done only Japam (e.g. Vilacheri Mani, NR Krishnamurthy, Lakshmana swamy did pranayama and Raja Yoga) and other methods before self inquiry occurred automatically in the presence of Bhagavan as their minds were quietened by his presence and was still enough for self inquiry to happen. Infact his very presence and its effect on his devotees is a proof of satsang, to me. So it is not as if only people who have done self inquiry have realized their self but I do it only because it appeals to my sense of logic.

Finally as Ramakrishna said, "God is with form, without form and also beyond form and formless".

Sundar said...

This is from “The Power of presence” Part-2 from Kunjuswami’s reminiscences. In fact I have only given 2 e.g. There are more such by Kunjuswami where he says Bhagavan never even asked many close devotees to do atma vichara. Not only that, he even asks Dandapani Swami to do Japa. Now if someone were to say, how reliable is Kunjuswami’s account, then that would apply equally well to all his devotees accounts and herein lies the problem if we categorize and assume that his advice as given according to psychology rather than the advice coming from the self. If that advice were according to psychology then that means Bhagavan must be thinking, “This guy does not like self inquiry, so let me try something else” and that means his answer is from the mind which cannot be possible for a Jnani. In the one below Dandapani Swami is a perfect e.g.

Everyone knows what great stress Sri Bhagavan lays on atma vichara, self inquiry. Yet, surprisingly, not once of his own accord did he ever ask any devotee to follow this method. He could have ordered the practice of self inquiry, and all the devotees would have blindly and willingly followed.
Let me give some examples. Yogi Ramiah, who was very close to Bhagavan for many years, used to practice hatha yoga. Bhagavan approved of the ashram providing him with a special diet that was part of his yogic regimen. Bhagavan would visit him in his cave in Palakothu, and Yogi would accompany him on his walks. Yogi was quite free to be with Bhagavan whenever he chose. Yet there is nothing on record to show that Bhagavan ever told him to do atma vichara instead of pranayama or Hatha Yoga.
Mudaliar Patti's son, Tambiram Swami, was a Virasaiva and followed the practices of this sect. he would collect flowers from the garden only at noon. The he would perform a puja at the tank in Palakottu, making a lingam out of the flowers. Day after day Bhagavan would watch this without making any comment. Tambiran swami was a very weak and a slow moving man. By the time he had finished his cooking and had his meal after this late puja, it would be evening.
Bhagavan once joked, 'Poor God. He has to wait so long for naivedya food offering since the puja itself takes so long to complete.'
But never once did Bhagavan tell him, 'Why do you waste your time like this? You could spend your time better by doing self inquiry.
Dandapani Swami persisted with his request and asked Bhagavan for some specific upadesa several times. Knowing that he would not give up asking, Bhagavan eventually asked him what practices he had been doing in the past.
Dandapani Swami answered, ‘I know nothing, but I have performed ten million Rama nama japa’.
‘That is enough’, said Bhagavan. ‘What more is needed? I will be enough if you can continue that without a break.’

Will continue my comment regarding the above in the next.

Sundar said...

In truth the following is my own opinion when I read about several of Bhagavan’s devotees.
What is important are the following
a) The inherent maturity of a devotee, how much of vasanas he has etc. I think the technique is secondary. For e.g. one person might understand the concept of self inquiry very well intellectually but if he has too many vasanas, those vasanas are not allowing him to do continuos self inquiry. Whereas there may another seeker who does not understand self inquiry and just does relentless japam but if this person has less vasanas, his progress in making his mind one pointed and still is going to be rapid and finally the person doing the japam, the “I”, will dissolve in no time and he will realize his self.
b) I think the presence of a Jnani is very important no matter how much people dismiss this. Almost every scripture and Jnani that I have read emphasize this. I also believe that a lot of Bhagavan’s disciplegot realized less due to their technique and mostly due to his sheer presence which stilled their minds effortlessly thus making the ‘I’ merge very easily. I have even heard that some of his devotees, ladies working in the kitchen realized their self later and they never even did any self inquiry or for that matter anything.

But having said all that, I will say that for me self inquiry seems to be a good way to quieten my mind in the absence of being with a Jnani, as who can know, who is one.

who said...

In one of his comments , Sundar posted an extract from a book , which highlights the importance of svatma-bhakti , as Bhagavan thus implicitly hinted through his refraining from forcing atma-vichara on others:

Extract in quotes:
"Everyone knows what great stress Sri Bhagavan lays on atma vichara, self inquiry. Yet, surprisingly, not once of his own accord did he ever ask any devotee to follow this method. He could have ordered the practice of self inquiry, and all the devotees would have blindly and willingly followed."

There is nothing surprising in that Bhagavan never requested or ordered anyone to practice atma-vichara , for the simple reason that until and unless we have a sincere love to know ourself , we will never correctly practice atma-vichara , even though we may profess to do so.

No amount of obligation , fearful compliance , or even reverential respect towards some authority (be it even the name-form of Bhagavan) will help us in self-attention. Only pure love towards god/guru (guru bhakti), whose purest form is svatma-bhakti , will help us in the sadhana of atma-vichara.