Sunday, 15 February 2015

Why is it necessary to consider the world unreal?

In several comments on some of my recent articles various friends have tried to argue that we need not be concerned about whether or not the world is real or exists independent of our experience of it. For example, in his first comment on Science and self-investigation Periya Eri wrote:
What is wrong in our deep-rooted “but unfounded” belief that the world exists independent of our experience of it? The statement saying that the world is unreal does not in the least change the fact that we have to master all difficulties in our life. The same evaluation goes for the conclusion that the world does not exist at all independent of our mind that experiences it. And the same is true of the statement that even the mind that experiences this world is itself unreal. Also the account that the mind does not actually exist at all and that after its investigation it will disappear, and that along with it the entire appearance of this world will also cease to exist. […]
In reply to this I wrote a comment in which I said:
Periya Eri, even if our present waking state is just a dream, and this world is therefore just a mental creation, like the world we experience in any other dream, so long as we are dreaming ourself to be part of this world, we obviously have to face all the difficulties that that entails, such as struggling to earn a livelihood or taking care to avoid being cut by a power saw.

Philosophical questions, self-investigation and particle physics are not intended to solve such mundane problems of daily life, just as taking care to cross a busy street safely is not intended to provide answers to any philosophical or scientific questions, or to enable us to experience what we really are. Each human endeavour has its own purpose, and the fact that endeavour E1 does not serve purpose P6 does not mean that it is useless, because it was never intended to serve purpose P6 but only to serve purpose P1. So long as it serves purpose P1, it is useful for that purpose, even if it is not useful for any other purpose.

Therefore before deciding which endeavour is useful for us, we need to decide what our purpose or aim is. If your aim is to experience what you really are, then self-investigation and Bhagavan’s teachings are very useful, but if your aim is anything else, then perhaps they are not useful for achieving that aim.

If your aim is to experience what you really are, you need to understand that you are not what you now seem to be. Now you seem to be a person living in a material world, and if you believe that this is true, you will see no purpose in self-investigation, because you believe that you are what you seem to be. However, if you are ready to doubt whether you are what you now seem to be, you will recognise that self-investigation is necessary to solve this doubt.

If you doubt whether you are what you now seem to be, you will also have to doubt whether the world and all the other things that you experience are what they now seem to be. You now seem to be a body called Periya Eri, and hence that body seems to be real, but if that body is not what you actually are, it is perhaps not real but just a mental creation, like any body that you experience as yourself in a dream. And if this body called Periya Eri is just a mental creation, the world that you perceive through the five senses of that body must also be a mere mental creation.

Therefore if your aim is to experience what you really are, questions about the reality of your body and this world will be of great value to you. They will seem to be of little or no value only if you do not aim to know what you really are.

You say, ‘While experiencing ‘I’ as it actually is, take a power saw and amputate one of your legs’, but if we experience what we really are, we will not experience ourself as a body, so there will then be nobody to take a power saw and amputate one of his or her legs. What you say is like saying, ‘While experiencing yourself as the body you now seem to be, take a power saw and amputate one of the legs off the body you seemed to be in a dream’. The body you seemed to be in your dream does not exist now, so how could you now amputate one of its legs?
Periya Eri then wrote another comment in which he argued:
[...] So it is not relevant if I do not much think of the statement that the waking state is just a dream and this world is just a mental creation. [...] I do not care if the world is really or just a mental creation. [...] I feel that question does not have any relevance or significance for my spiritual ripeness. I cannot agree with your conclusion that questions about the reality of my body and this world will be of great value if it is my aim to experience what I really am [...] The statement that the body and the world would be “just” or “mere” a mental creation of mind for me does not contain any useful significance. […]
However, according to Sri Ramana, if we want to experience what we really are, it is necessary for us to consider the world to be unreal and our seeming life in it to be a mere dream created by our own mind, as he explained in the following dialogue recorded in Maharshi’s Gospel, Book 2, Chapter 3 (2002 edition, p. 64):
D: I cannot say it is all clear to me. Is the world that is seen, felt and sensed by us in so many ways something like a dream, an illusion?

M: There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone.

D: Why so?

M: For the simple reason that unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real you will never know the Real itself, although it is the Real alone that exists. This point is illustrated by the analogy of the ‘snake in the rope’. As long as you see the snake you cannot see the rope as such. The non-existent snake becomes real to you, while the real rope seems wholly non-existent as such.
The root cause for the seeming reality of the world is the ego, which experiences itself as a physical body. What is actually real is only ourself, so when we experience ourself as a body, that body also seems to be real, and since it is part of the world that we experience through its senses, that world also seems to be real. In other words, by experiencing ourself as a body, we superimpose our own reality upon that seeming body, and via that body upon the world.

Therefore the seeming reality of the world is rooted in the ego and inseparably bound up with it. So long as we experience ourself as this ego, whatever body and world we experience will seem to us to be real, and so long as we take them to be real, we cannot free ourself from the illusion that this ego is what we actually are.

The world appears in our experience only when we experience ourself as the ego. In waking and dream we experience ourself as the ego, and hence we experience a body and world, whereas in sleep we do not experience ourself as the ego, and hence we experience no body or world. The appearance of either this present world or any other world (such as the world we experience in a dream) is therefore entirely dependent upon our mistaking ourself to be the ego. As Sri Ramana argued in a later passage of the same chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pp. 67-8):
Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In sleep there is neither mind nor world. When awake there is the mind and there is the world. What does this invariable concomitance mean? You are familiar with the principles of inductive logic, which are considered the very basis of scientific investigation. Why do you not decide this question of the reality of the world in the light of those accepted principles of logic?
Since the seeming existence of the world is entirely dependent upon our mistaking ourself to be the ego or mind, if we cherish the idea that the world is real we are in effect cherishing the idea that we are this ego, so we cannot free ourself from the ego so long as we continue to cherish the idea that the world is real. The fundamental reason why we are attached to the idea that the world is real is that we are attached to our ego, which is the foundation on which the appearance of the world is based, so until we are willing to give up the idea that the world is real we will not be willing to give up our mistaken experience of ourself as the ego.

In one of my recent articles, Does the world exist independent of our experience of it?, I wrote:
Still more importantly, all objective sciences are based upon a metaphysical assumption that they have no means of either verifying or falsifying, namely the assumption that some things that are experienced exist independent of the experiencer. We perceive what seems to be an external world, and we assume that that world exists independent of our perception of it (just as in dream we perceive what seems to be an external world, which at that time we assume exists independent of our perception of it), but what we are actually perceiving is not an external world as such but just a series of perceptual images that have been formed in our own mind.

For example, when we see a tree, what we are actually seeing is a mental image of a tree. Whether or not (and if so, to what extent) that mental image of a tree is caused in any way by something that exists outside our mind is something that our mind has no means of knowing. However, in spite of this fundamental uncertainty about all that we seem to experience, science is based on the arbitrary assumption that our perceptual experiences are in some way caused by things that exist independent of our experience of them.
In a comment referring to this, Gaurishankar wrote:
The example of seeing only a mental image of a tree does not cover the whole range of perceptual sense impressions. If ten people take a close look at the same tree and all ten observers feel the trunk, the bark, the branches of the same tree and all hear the chirping of the birds, the rustle of the leaves, smell the scent of the blossoms, eat the fruits of the same tree, saw up some branches of the same tree, climb the same tree, if some car drivers ram the same tree on the verge of the street, ten photographers take a photograph of the same tree, ten cameramen make a film about film actors sitting on the same tree, the lightning has struck the same tree, the woodpecker knocks at the same tree, the gardener transplants the same tree transporting it with a truck, and so on... we need not doubt if the tree is part of an external world. To say that we have no adequate evidence that the mentioned tree actually exists we may calmly leave to the sceptical dreams of philosophers. […]
To which I replied in another comment:
Gaurishankar, Bhagavan often used the verb ‘see’ metaphorically to mean ‘perceive’ through any of our five senses. As you say, we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear a tree, and all the combined sensations we have of a tree form a mental image or impression of an object we call a ‘tree’. However, none of these sensations nor the combined impression that they give us of a tree prove that a tree actually exists independent of those sensations or that impression, because we can experience exactly the same sensations and impression in a dream, and though at that time we believe that we are perceiving a tree that exists independent of our perception of it, when we wake up we recognise that it was merely a creation of our own mind.

All the evidence you describe in your comment could be experienced by you in a dream, but you would not now argue that that evidence proves that the world you experienced in your dream existed independent of your experience of it. Why then should you assume that the same type of evidence that you experience in this waking state proves that the world you now perceive exists independent of your perception of it?

If you ask anyone in your dream whether they perceive the same world as you do, they will probably testify that they do perceive it, and that they perceived it even while you were asleep, but after you wake up from that dream you would not give any weight to their testimony, because you would then recognise that they were all just a creation of your own mind. Why then should you give weight to the testimony of other people that they too perceive this world and that they perceived it even while you were asleep?

Bhagavan used to say that relying on the testimony of other people as evidence that your body and this world existed when you were asleep is like relying on the testimony of a thief as evidence that he is not guilty of a crime. The other people who tell you that the world existed when you were asleep are part of the world whose existence is in doubt, so how can their testimony provide sufficient evidence to prove that it did exist when you were not perceiving it?

Their testimony would be admissible only on the basis of an assumption that they existed when you were asleep, so accepting their testimony would be begging the question — that is, it would be assuming the conclusion and using it as a premise to try to prove itself. In other words, it would entail circular reasoning, because their testimony would be valid only if they existed when you were asleep, so if the world did not exist then their testimony would be invalid.

When we do not even know what we ourself are, how can we know the truth about this world, which we experience only when we experience ourself as a body and mind? If we were really this body and mind, we should always experience ourself as such, even during dream and sleep, but in dream we experience ourself as some other (mind-created) body, and in sleep we experience ourself without experiencing either a body or a mind. Therefore we cannot be this body and mind, so our current experience of ourself is confused and mistaken. Hence, since we are not what we now seem to be, how can we be sure that the world is what it now seems to be? Why should we assume that it is anything but another mental creation, like any world that we experience in a dream?

The reason I cited Hume was merely to show that not only do so-called ‘mystics’ such as Bhagavan tell us on the basis of their own transcendent experience that this world is just a mental creation, but even ordinary philosophers are able to understand on the basis of simple analytical reasoning that we have no reason to assume that the world exists independent of our perception of it.
In another comment on the same article Narada wrote:
I do easily comprehend the difficulty which your friend had accepting or understanding the quoted passage from section 616 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharishi: “ahankara shoots up like a rocket and instantaneously spreads out as the Universe”. Did Ramana ever explain that hair-raising assertion? With the greatest respect for Sri Ramana: how should the ego be able to create the universe? In which way could that work? […] It would be nice if we could get some detailed clarification and expounded insights into the reasons about the claim: “If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence. If the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. The ego itself is everything.”
The latter quotation is my translation of the first three sentences of verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, which I had quoted in that article. Sri Ramana made this claim on the basis of his own clear experience, and though we cannot deductively infer the same conclusion from our present confused experience, it does not in any way conflict with anything that we experience, because in our experience a world appears whenever our ego rises, it endures so long as our ego endures, and it disappears whenever our ego subsides in sleep.

Regarding Narada’s questions, ‘how should the ego be able to create the universe? In which way could that work?’, according to Sri Ramana the ego creates this world in waking in exactly the same way that it creates a world in a dream. In sleep we do not experience any body or world, but as soon as we begin to dream our ego rises, creating for itself a body and projecting a world through the five senses of that body. Likewise when we wake up from sleep, our ego rises and creates for itself our present body, through the five senses of which it projects this world.

The idea that our ego has created this entire universe seems improbable only if we assume that the universe is anything other than a series of mental or perceptual images. However, we do not have any adequate justification for making such an assumption, because we can only know what we actually experience, and what we experience as ‘the world’ or ‘the universe’ is nothing but a series of perceptual images — sights, sounds, tactile sensations, smells and tastes. We assume these perceptual sensations are caused by things that exist outside of and independent of our mind, but our experience offers us no real evidence that this is the case.

In a subsequent comment on the same article Durvasa challenged the idea that we do not have sufficient evidence to support our belief in the existence of a mind-independent world, saying:
Because we have not the power to avoid the experience of the world so the fact that we experience the (waking) world in the waking state has sufficient evidence. [...] We have no reason to doubt if the world does not exist in all three states. To ask the next-door neighbour and his confirmation of our speculation of an existing world during our sleeping time maybe make no scientific proof. Because we find essentially the same world at waking as we went to sleep is practical evidence enough. That we have no certainty about that conclusion does not matter. [...]
The fact that ‘we find essentially the same world at waking as we went to sleep’ is at best only circumstantial evidence — but extremely weak circumstantial evidence — because the idea that this world exists during our sleep and hence independent of our experience of it is not the only possible explanation for such seeming continuity. For example, it could equally well be explained by the idea that it is our same mind that has projected it, and that because our mind has a propensity to convince itself of the reality of its creation, it projects what seems to be essentially the same world on waking that it had projected before falling asleep.

In the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) Sri Ramana says:
[...] நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை. தூக்கத்தில் நினைவுகளில்லை, ஜகமுமில்லை; ஜாக்ர சொப்பனங்களில் நினைவுகளுள, ஜகமும் உண்டு. சிலந்திப்பூச்சி எப்படித் தன்னிடமிருந்து வெளியில் நூலை நூற்று மறுபடியும் தன்னுள் இழுத்துக் கொள்ளுகிறதோ, அப்படியே மனமும் தன்னிடத்திலிருந்து ஜகத்தைத் தோற்றுவித்து மறுபடியும் தன்னிடமே ஒடுக்கிக்கொள்ளுகிறது. மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தினின்று வெளிப்படும்போது ஜகம் தோன்றும். ஆகையால், ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது; சொரூபம் தோன்றும் (பிரகாசிக்கும்) போது ஜகம் தோன்றாது. [...]

[...] niṉaivugaḷai-t tavirttu jagam-eṉḏṟōr poruḷ aṉṉiyamāy illai. tūkkattil niṉaivugaḷ illai, jagam-um illai; jāgra-soppaṉaṅgaḷil niṉaivugaḷ uḷa, jagam-um uṇḍu. silandi-p-pūcci eppaḍi-t taṉṉiḍamirundu veḷiyil nūlai nūṯṟu maṟupaḍiyum taṉṉuḷ iṙuttu-k-koḷḷugiṟadō, appaḍiyē maṉam-um taṉṉiḍattilirundu jagattai-t tōṯṟuvittu maṟupaḍiyum taṉṉiḍamē oḍukki-k-koḷḷugiṟadu. maṉam ātma sorūpattiṉiṉḏṟu veḷippaḍum-pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟum. āhaiyāl, jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu sorūpam tōṉḏṟādu; sorūpam tōṉḏṟum (pirakāśikkum) pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟādu. [...]

[...] Excluding thoughts [or ideas], there is not separately any such thing as ‘world’. In sleep there are no thoughts, [and consequently] there is also no world; in waking and dream there are thoughts, [and consequently] there is also a world. Just as a spider spins out thread from within itself and again draws it back into itself, so the mind projects the world from within itself and again dissolves it back into itself. When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa [our essential self], the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa does not appear [as it really is]; when svarūpa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear. [...]
What he implies here when he says, ‘ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது’ (jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu sorūpam tōṉḏṟādu), ‘when the world appears, svarūpa does not appear’, is that we cannot experience ourself as we really are so long as we experience this or any other world. The reason for this is very simple: what experiences the world or anything other than ourself is not ourself as we really are but only ourself as the ego, so we cannot experience what we really are so long as we experience anything other than ourself. Therefore the only way to experience what we really are is to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from our ego, our mind, our body, the world and everything else, and the only way to experience ourself alone is to attend to ourself alone.

When a spider has projected a thread and then withdrawn it back into itself, when it next projects it it will be essentially that same thread that it had projected and withdrawn earlier. Likewise, when the mind wakes from sleep and projects this world, what it projects seems to be essentially the same world that it had previously projected but then withdrawn into itself when falling asleep. Therefore the fact that the world seems to be essentially the same whenever we wake up does not mean that it existed as such when we were asleep, because this fact is more simply explained by the idea that whenever our mind rises from sleep it projects essentially the same pattern of thoughts or ideas, and that that pattern of thoughts or ideas is what constitutes the world we perceive.

Even the world that we experience in a dream seems to us at that time to be essentially the same world that we experience in waking, and this is one of the reasons why while dreaming we assume we are awake. Only when we wake up from a dream are we able to recognise the fact that it was not this waking state but only a dream.

Just as we mistake the dream world to be real so long as we are experiencing it, we mistake this waking world to be real so long as we experience it, because in both these states we experience ourself as a body, as if we were just a small part of the seemingly vast world that we are experiencing. While dreaming, we do not recognise either the world we are perceiving or the body we are experiencing as if it were ourself to be mere creations of our mind. Only after we have woken from the dream are we able to recognise this. Likewise, while experiencing this waking state, we are not able to recognise either the world we are now perceiving or the body we are now experiencing as if it were ourself to be mere creations of our mind. We may doubt their reality and suspect them to be mental creations, but we nevertheless experience them as if they were real.

In the same comment that I referred to above Durvasa also wrote: ‘Even in waking state we don’t have any certain knowledge if anything — including ourself — really do exist at all’. However, this is simply not the case. Though we cannot know for certain whether anything other than ourself actually exists (because though such things do seem to exist, they could all be illusions created by our own mind), we do know for certain that we exist, because in order to experience anything, whether real or illusory, we must exist. Our own existence is therefore self-evident, whereas the existence of anything else (including the ego, mind and body that we now mistake to be ourself) is doubtful.

Since our own existence — and our awareness of our existence, which is inseparable from it — alone is certain, Sri Ramana advises us to set aside the idea that anything else is real and to focus all our interest, effort and attention only on trying to experience what we really are. Therefore, since we cannot experience ourself as we really are so long as we are attached to the idea that anything else that we experience is real, he taught us that it is necessary for us to consider our ego, our mind, our body and this world (or any other body or world that we may experience) to be unreal.

47 comments:

Noob said...

Ripe minds are attracted to the idea of self investigation automatically, this is like when in a dream you feel that you are about to wake up.

shiba said...

Hello.

ulladu narpadu verse 3 says

‘The World is true’; ‘No, it is a false appearance’;‘The World is Mind’; ‘No, it is not’; ‘The World is pleasant’;‘No, it is not’ — What avails such talk? To leave the world alone and know the Self, to go beyond all thought of ‘One’and ‘Two’, this egoless condition is the common goal of all.

So, if we think the world is real or not , we can practice Sri Ramana's teaching and realise truth. Though, it may be better that we accept the world is unreal and based on that we practice sadhana.

I think the world which Bhagavan mean is misapprehension based on the false feeling which regards only this body is I. I feel the world different from me. But as saints says, "All is One and Self" is the truth. So if false I and the world are not different from the One true Self which is the source of them is understood, the misapprehension called separate world from false I is no more. The world has been revealed as Self and is real as Self. All this is only my intellectual understanding.

Michael James said...

Shiba, verse 3 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu does not imply that it does not matter whether we consider the world to be real or unreal, and if anyone were to claim that it does imply this, that would be a misinterpretation. Its basic import is that engaging in disputes about the world is futile, and that we should instead ignore the world and all disputes about it by trying to know ourself and thereby free ourself from the ego, which is what engages in such disputes. The actual verse and its meaning are as follows:

உலகுமெய்பொய்த் தோற்ற முலகறிவா மன்றென்
றுலகுசுக மன்றென் றுரைத்தெ — னுலகுவிட்டுத்
தன்னையோர்ந் தொன்றிரண்டு தானற்று நானற்ற
வந்நிலையெல் லார்க்குமொப் பாம்.

ulahumeypoyt tōṯṟa mulahaṟivā maṉḏṟeṉ
ḏṟulahusukha maṉḏṟeṉ ḏṟuraitte — ṉulahuviṭṭut
taṉṉaiyōrn doṉḏṟiraṇḍu tāṉaṯṟu nāṉaṯṟa
vannilaiyel lārkkumop pām
.

பதச்சேதம்: ‘உலகு மெய்’, ‘பொய்த் தோற்றம்’, ‘உலகு அறிவு ஆம்’, ‘அன்று’ என்று, ‘உலகு சுகம்’, ‘அன்று’ என்று உரைத்து என்? உலகு விட்டு, தன்னை ஓர்ந்து, ஒன்று இரண்டு தான் அற்று, ‘நான்’ அற்ற அந் நிலை எல்லார்க்கும் ஒப்பு ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘ulahu mey’, ‘poy-t tōṯṟam’, ‘ulahu aṟivu ām’, ‘aṉḏṟu’ eṉḏṟu, ‘ulahu sukham’, ‘aṉḏṟu’ eṉḏṟu uraittu eṉ? ulahu viṭṭu, taṉṉai ōrndu, oṉḏṟu iraṇḍu tāṉ aṯṟu, ‘nāṉ’ aṯṟa an nilai ellārkkum oppu ām.

English translation: What is the use of disputing: ‘The world is real’, ‘[No, it is] an unreal appearance’; ‘The world is sentient’, ‘It is not’; ‘The world is happiness’, ‘It is not’? Leaving [all thought about] the world, knowing oneself, and [thereby] separating [oneself from all disputes about] one and two [non-duality and duality], that state in which ‘I’ [the ego] has [thereby] perished is agreeable to all.

What engages in disputes about the world is only the ego, so we cannot free ourself from the ego so long as we have a taste for such disputes. However we also cannot free ourself from it so long as we cherish the idea that the world is real, so according to Bhagavan it is necessary for us to consider the world unreal if we want to experience what we really are.

The unreality of the world is clearly implied and explained in many verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, including the very next one, verse 4:

உருவந்தா னாயி னுலகுபர மற்றா
முருவந்தா னன்றே லுவற்றி — னுருவத்தைக்
கண்ணுறுதல் யாவனெவன் கண்ணலாற் காட்சியுண்டோ
கண்ணதுதா னந்தமிலாக் கண்.

uruvandā ṉāyi ṉulahupara maṯṟā
muruvandā ṉaṉḏṟē luvaṯṟi — ṉuruvattaik
kaṇṇuṟudal yāvaṉevaṉ kaṇṇalāṯ kāṭciyuṇḍō
kaṇṇadutā ṉantamilāk kaṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்:: உருவம் தான் ஆயின், உலகு பரம் அற்று ஆம்; உருவம் தான் அன்றேல், உவற்றின் உருவத்தை கண் உறுதல் யாவன்? எவன்? கண் அலால் காட்சி உண்டோ? கண் அது தான் அந்தம் இலா கண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uruvam tāṉ āyiṉ, ulahu param aṯṟu ām; uruvam tāṉ aṉḏṟēl, uvaṯṟiṉ uruvattai kaṇ uṟudal yāvaṉ? evaṉ? kaṇ alāl kāṭci uṇḍō? kaṇ adu tāṉ antam-ilā kaṇ.

English translation: If oneself is a form, the world and God will be likewise; if oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how [to do so]? Can what is seen be otherwise than the eye [that sees it]? The [real] eye is oneself, the infinite eye.

What we actually are is infinite and hence formless self-awareness, so since only a form can see forms, what we actually are cannot see any forms. What sees the forms that constitute this world is only the ego, and since the ego comes into existence only by experiencing itself as form (a body), it can only see forms and can never see the formless reality that we actually are.

I will continue this reply in my next comment.

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Shiba:

Regarding your remark, ‘I think the world which Bhagavan mean is misapprehension based on the false feeling which regards only this body is I’, the fundamental misapprehension that gives rise to the appearance of the world is only the ego, because the ego is nothing but our misapprehension of ourself — that is, our error of experiencing ourself as something that we are not. Having misapprehended or mistaken ourself to be this ego, we expand ourself as the mind and all its thoughts, of which the entire world is just a part.

Therefore as Bhagavan says in the passage from the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that I quoted in this article: ‘மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தினின்று வெளிப்படும்போது ஜகம் தோன்றும். ஆகையால், ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது; சொரூபம் தோன்றும் (பிரகாசிக்கும்) போது ஜகம் தோன்றாது’ (maṉam ātma sorūpattiṉiṉḏṟu veḷippaḍum-pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟum. āhaiyāl, jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu sorūpam tōṉḏṟādu; sorūpam tōṉḏṟum (pirakāśikkum) pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟādu), which means ‘When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa [our essential self], the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa does not appear [as it really is]; when svarūpa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear’.

He also expressed the same idea in the thirth paragraph:

சர்வ அறிவிற்கும் சர்வ தொழிற்குங் காரண மாகிய மன மடங்கினால் ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கும். கற்பித ஸர்ப்ப ஞானம் போனா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான ரஜ்ஜு ஞானம் உண்டாகாதது போல, கற்பிதமான ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கினா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான சொரூப தர்சன முண்டாகாது.

sarva aṟiviṯkum sarva toṙiṯkuṅ kāraṇam āhiya maṉam aḍaṅgiṉāl jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgum. kaṯpita sarppa-jñāṉam pōṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa rajju-jñāṉam uṇḍāhādadu pōla, kaṯpitamāṉa jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgiṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa sorūpa darśaṉam uṇḍāhādu.

“If the mind, which is the cause of all knowledge [other than our fundamental knowledge ‘I am’] and of all activity, subsides, jagad-dṛṣṭi [perception of the world] will cease. Just as knowledge of the rope, which is the base [that underlies and supports the illusory appearance of a snake], will not arise unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, svarūpa-darśana [experience of our own essential self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise unless perception of the world, which is an imagination [or fabrication], ceases.”

When you say that the world ‘is real as Self’, it is important to understand the correct meaning of such a statement. So long as we see the world as such, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, so contrary to what some people imagine, we can never see the world as ourself. When we see ourself as we really are, there will be no world for us to see.

What we now see as this entire appearance of ego and world is actually only ourself, but so long as we experience this appearance, we cannot experience ourself as we actually are. As Bhagavan said in the first passage that I quoted in this article from Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 64), this is aptly illustrated by the snake and rope analogy. So long as we see the snake, we cannot see the rope as it really is, and when we see the rope as it really is, we will no longer see any snake. Likewise, when we experience ourself as we really are, we will no longer see any world.

shiba said...

Dear Micheal,

It is difficult to express my correct idea in English,,,

I still think it is no matter if we think the world is real or unreal.In either way we think, it is only idea or thought ,indirect knowlege. As Bhagavan said somewhere, until we dont relaize what is eternal we can't truly understand the world is unreal or so. In this present sleeping condition, if we say by mouth the world is unreal, the feeling of reality of the world don't cease. As Bhagavan said if we think only I I I that leads us to the truth. Did Bhagavan say to H.C.Khanna's wife in "Day by Day with Bhagavan" it is nessesary to think the world is unreal? When we thinking I I or engaging in some meditation, is there any room for thought such as 'the world is real or not'. So
' the world is unreal as the world' as Bhagavan said , but we don't need to think to 'think so' is essential for realization of truth. Maybe at ripe moment we naturally accept unreality of the world not merely as a thought.

For jnani the world is seen as Brahman. Bhagavan can do every day's duty perfectly, so he can recognize the differences of name and form of the world. But he also know the substratum of the world and the world is Self.



Michael James said...

Shiba, last night I thought I should also reply to one more remark that you made in your first comment, namely ‘if we think the world is real or not, we can practice Sri Ramana's teaching and realise truth’, but when I sat down to do so this morning, I saw your second comment, in which you elaborate on this idea.

Of course we can begin to practise self-investigation even if we consider the world to be real, but if we want to go deep into this practice and thereby experience ourself as we actually are we must sooner or later come to accept Bhagavan’s teaching that the world is unreal, being just a creation of our own mind. As he said in the first passage that I quoted in this article from Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 64): ‘There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone [because] unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real you will never know the Real itself, although it is the Real alone that exists’. Therefore the sooner we accept at least intellectually that the world is unreal, the faster we will be able to progress in our practice.

Bhagavan’s essential teachings are a single coherent whole, each aspect of which is logically connected with and dependent upon each other aspect, so if we try to select from them only the aspects we like and ignore those that do not appeal to us, our understanding of them will be incomplete and incoherent, and hence we will fail to derive the full benefit of all the help that they offer us. A piecemeal understanding cannot be a correct, complete or clear one.

You say that whether we consider the world to be either real or unreal, that is only an idea or thought. Of course it is just an idea, as is everything else that we experience except ourself, but as Bhagavan used to say, just as we can use one thorn to remove another thorn that is stuck in our foot, we can use certain useful ideas to remove many other more harmful ideas from our mind. According to him, the idea that the world is unreal is an extremely useful idea, because it helps to weaken the strong attachment that we have to the world and to ourself as a person in it.

Regarding the final paragraph in your latest comment, the jñāni is brahman itself, and brahman never sees the world but only itself. Therefore when it is said that the jñāni sees the world as brahman, it does not mean that he sees the world as such but only that what we see as the world he sees as nothing but brahman, because in his view brahman (himself) alone exists.

Being nothing but brahman, Bhagavan never saw any world or anything other than himself, and hence he never did anything. It is only in our ignorant view that he seemed to be a body and mind, and that as such he did his everyday duties perfectly and recognised differences as we do. By seeing him thus as a body and mind, we are simply superimposing our own ignorance upon him. As he said in verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu about those whose ego has been destroyed: ‘தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?’ (taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?), which means ‘They do not know [or experience] anything other than themself, [so] who can [or how to] conceive their state as ‘it is such’?’.

shiba said...

Dear, Mickeal

I don't like to understand Bhagavan's teaching arbitrary. I always try to understand his teaching objectively and practically. At this point I believe myself and I swear if I find I am wrong I immediately admit my fault and correct my wrong idea humbly.

What I want to say is to think "the world is real" is not essential to practice Bhagavan's teaching. Practically, Bhagavan didn't stress on the unreality of the world when he taught. He taught to enquire who am I first of all.

"Let the world bother about its reality or falsehood. Find out first about your own reality. Then all things will become clear. What do you care how the jnani sees the world? You realise yourself and then you will understand. The jnani sees that the world of names and forms does not limit the Self, and that the Self is beyond them." (From "Day by Day with Bhagavan")

In addtion, does Bhagavan have the idea that the world is unreal when he experienced Self when he was 16? He didn't care such a thing.

Then why did he say in "Maharshi's Gospel" that "There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone [because] unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it".

I think "give up the idea" should be understand corretly. We have " I am a body "idea, and as we taught by Bhagavan if we only think (not exprience) 'I am not a body', does it mean to give up the idea? The idea that "I am a body" still persist. To give up the idea here means totally to destroy the idea and actually experience that. So if we have a idea that the world is real or not, our minds are always runing after the world. To think like this clear apparent contradiction.

And again

ulladu narpadu verse 3 says

‘The World is true’; ‘No, it is a false appearance’;‘The World is Mind’; ‘No, it is not’; ‘The World is pleasant’;‘No, it is not’ — What avails such talk? To leave the world alone and know the Self, to go beyond all thought of ‘One’and ‘Two’, this egoless condition is the common goal of all.

As you said "Its basic import is that engaging in disputes about the world is futile, and that we should instead ignore the world and all disputes about it by trying to know ourself and thereby free ourself from the ego, which is what engages in such disputes". But it also mean "it does not matter whether we consider the world to be real or unreal". I explained the reason above. And if we naturally think verse 3, it is clear that Bhagavan doesn't think it matter whether we think the world is true or not. If someone say "whether the world is round or square, to live together in peace is important", does he think it matters that the world is round or square? He surely don't view either opinion important. It is natural way of thinking for me.

About jnani's view of the world , I think it is depend on what we think jnani is like. If we think Jnani is a self-realized person with body he see both difference and substraum. If we think jnani is substraum itself, Self, infinite consciousness,arunachala-ramana, he maybe don't see anything. Because he have no physical eye but he is also expressed 'infinite eye'. I need more reflection on this point.

Happy Shivaratri!

Mouna said...

Bhagavan gave us a set of tools to deal with the Mind/Ego/Maya, etc. the main one was and is Atma-Vichara (Self-Investigation or Self-Abidance) nobody doubts or discuss that.
Sometimes and for unknown reasons it seems that Atma-Vichara gets a little "stuck" or needs a different "jump-start," and in those cases is good to have the knowledge of the secondary set of tools available. I for one, the "concept" of "seeing the world as unreal" fulfills that function, and when I use that valuable tool, right away the mind "turns", so to speak, and the process of investigation resumes.
And that besides the fact that the unreality of the world is one of the fundamentals on Bhagavan's teaching because is linked to the unreality of the "I-thought".
There is a part of the mind that helps on the process (the thorn that helps uprooting another thorn) so seen from that angle, the "unreality of the world" is another valuable tool offered by Bhagavan.

Michael James said...

Shiba, happy Sivaratri to you too.

In your latest comment you write, ‘Bhagavan didn’t stress on the unreality of the world when he taught’, but though he obviously did not repeat that the world is unreal whenever he answered any questions or wrote anything, the idea that the world is unreal — being a creation of our own mind like any world we see in a dream — is one of the fundamental principles that underlie his entire teachings.

This fundamental principle is emphasised by him in many of his most important writings, such as Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Nāṉ Yār?, and even in verses 6 and 7 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam, in which he explains that the world is just our own thoughts projected out through our five senses, just as in a cinema a film is projected out through the lens of the projector (verse 6), and that if the thought called ‘I’ (the ego) does not exist, nothing else will exist (verse 7). Therefore we would be deluding ourself if we were to imagine that all that he has taught us about the unreality of the world is an unimportant part of his teachings. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the entire philosophical basis of his teachings.

You say, ‘does Bhagavan have the idea that the world is unreal when he experienced Self when he was 16? He didn’t care such a thing’. The idea that the world is unreal may not have been present in his mind at that final moment, but according to what he later taught us, we can infer that if his mind had been attached to the idea that the world is real, he would not have been able to turn and merge within so effortlessly. As he said in the third paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (the whole of which I quoted in one of the replies above that I wrote to you yesterday): ‘கற்பிதமான ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கினா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான சொரூப தர்சன முண்டாகாது’ (kaṯpitamāṉa jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgiṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa sorūpa darśaṉam uṇḍāhādu), which means ‘unless perception of the world, which is an imagination [or fabrication], ceases, svarūpa-darśana [experience of our own essential self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise’.

Regarding the passage you quoted from Day by Day, I do not know how accurately whatever Bhagavan actually said is recorded there, but if he did say ‘Let the world bother about its reality or falsehood’, that was presumably the appropriate answer to give to that person in that particular context. But it would obviously be wrong if we were to infer from this one reply that Bhagavan was thereby overriding all that he has written and said elsewhere about the need for us to consider the world unreal. If we want to understand what his essential teachings actually are, the principal source upon which we should depend is his own writings in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, and not any of the other books in which some replies that he gave to specific questioners are recorded, often not entirely accurately.

I will continue this reply in my next comment.

Steve said...

'[...]does Bhagavan have the idea that the world is unreal when he experienced Self when he was 16? He didn't care such a thing.'

When Sri Ramana was 16, he wanted to know if he would die when the body dies. Who or what dies? Who am I? What is real?

He cared about whether the world (including body) is real or not, enough to investigate who am 'I' deeply enough to 'experience Self'.

And the rest is history.

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Shiba:

Regarding what you write in your final paragraph, ‘About jnani’s view of the world , I think it is depend on what we think jnani is like’, the jñāni’s view obviously does not depend on anything that we may think. The jñāni’s state is beyond our power of mental conception, as Bhagavan clearly implied when he wrote in verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?’ (taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?), ‘They do not know [or experience] anything other than themself, [so] who can [or how to] conceive their state as ‘it is such’?’.

However, one very clear point that he expressed here is ‘தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்’ (taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār), ‘They do not know [or experience] anything other than themself’, so from this it should be obvious that they do not experience the world or anything else other than themself. This is something that Bhagavan emphasised on so many occasions. He often explained that the jñāni is nothing other than our real self — what we actually are — so he is not the body and mind that he seems to be in our self-ignorant view.

This is not just an opinion, but what Bhagavan himself stated on many occasions. Therefore if he sometimes spoke about the jñāni as if he were a body and mind or as if he experienced the world as we do, we should understand that he said so only as a concession to those who could not understand his real teaching, namely that the jñāni is nothing but the one infinite reality, other than which nothing exists.

Moreover, if we understand Bhagavan’s essential teachings correctly, it should be obvious to us that the jñāni cannot see any world, because according to him the world is just a creation of the ego and seems to exist only in its view. Therefore in the absence of any ego, who is there to see any world? This is what he implied when he said in verse 4 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (the whole of which I quoted in the first reply I wrote to you yesterday): ‘உருவம் தான் அன்றேல், உவற்றின் உருவத்தை கண் உறுதல் யாவன்? எவன்?’ (uruvam tāṉ aṉḏṟēl, uvaṯṟiṉ uruvattai kaṇ uṟudal yāvaṉ? evaṉ?), which means ‘if oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how [to do so]?’.

shiba said...

Dear, Micheal

I know the authenticity of Bhagavan's work. I read about it in Mr.David Godman's blog. But the way he taught his teaching can properly be understood in whole context. And I don't like interpret Bhagavan's teaching dogmatically and only theoritically. I am practical, so from my experience the thought 'the world is real or unreal' doen't have much effect in my practice. Even if we accept "the world is unreal" by head, the mind is always running after the world. Does desire and anger in mind decrease by that thought? The acception is not real but only theoretical, and only make him more like vedatin and more special person. He may only place one more burden on his head. What matters is vairagya. All are lack of vairagya( of course me also), and some of them say "the world is real' and others say "not so". There is no real difference.

"Another visitor asked, “What is the reality of this world?”

Bhagavan: If you know your reality first, you will be able to know the reality of the world. It is a strange thing that most people do not care to know about their own reality, but are very anxious to know about the reality of the world You realise your own Self first and then see if the world exists independently of you and is able to come and assert before you its reality or existence.

Another visitor asked, “Why is there so much pain even for the innocent, such as children for instance? How is it to be explained? With reference to previous births or otherwise?”

Bhagavan: As about the world, if you know your own reality, these questions won’t arise. All these differences, the pains and miseries of the innocent, as you say, do they exist independently of you? It is you that see these things and ask about them. If by the enquiry ‘Who am I’? you understand the seer, all problems about the seen will be completely solved.(Day by Day)

His way of teaching is clear to me from these talks.

"the jñāni’s view obviously does not depend on anything that we may think." it is misapprehension of my view, what I want say is not so. Bhagavan himself taught Jnani's view according to our understanding, that is ,what we see as jnani .

So my opinion is similar that of you - "This is not just an opinion, but what Bhagavan himself stated on many occasions. Therefore if he sometimes spoke about the jñāni as if he were a body and mind or as if he experienced the world as we do, we should understand that he said so only as a concession to those who could not understand his real teaching, namely that the jñāni is nothing but the one infinite reality, other than which nothing exists."

You said "Of course we can begin to practise self-investigation even if we consider the world to be real", so this is important point for me and we agree on this point.

I talked too much and this discussion make my mind unsteady. I who is lack of vairagya have to run away to my retreat to rest(lol). Please forgive my ego's rudeness.

Sundar said...


This is a discourse by Nochur Venkataraman in English on Bhagavan's Aksharamanamalai, this year at Ramanasramam.

He talks about the real/unreal nature of the world and the I-thought in general. Its really good and worth listening to once

http://www.sriramana.org/sri_venkataraman_talks/aksharamanamalai/day4_2015.mp3

Michael James said...

Shiba, we should not try to create an artificial divide between the theory and the practice of Bhagavan’s essential teachings. They are inseparable, because he did not teach any theory that does not have a practical significance and value. Whatever he taught us about the nature of the world — how it is created by our own mind, that its seeming reality is entirely dependent on the seeming reality of our ego, that it is experienced only by ourself as this ego and therefore does not exist when we do not experience ourself as this ego, and so on — is intended to help us in our practice of self-investigation.

Even if you cannot at present understand the connection between his teachings about the world and the practice of self-investigation, that does not mean that such a connection does not exist. All it indicates is that you have not yet gone sufficiently deep into the practice to understand the connection. Therefore instead of trying to argue with yourself and others that whatever he has taught us about the world and the need for us to consider it unreal does not matter, you should try to investigate the ego who is engaging in such futile arguments. If you persevere in doing so, you will sooner or later come to understand the practical significance of all that he has taught us about the world.

Regarding the two passages from Day by Day that you quote in your latest comment, if we consider them in the light of all that Bhagavan has taught us elsewhere about the world, it is clear that in both these passages he is implying that the seeming existence and reality of the world is entirely dependent upon the seeming existence and reality of ourself as the ego who experiences it. If the ego seems to exist, then the world also seems to exist, but if the ego does not really exist, the world also does not really exist.

The reason he taught us this simple truth about the world is that if we understand this, we will understand that we should not waste our time thinking about the world but should instead focus all our interest and attention only on investigating ourself, who are what now seems to be experiencing this world.

Noob said...

Intellectual understanding of the untrue nature of the world is one of the motifs for detachment from the world and that helps to get attachment to "Self"

shiba said...

Dear, Mickeal

Bhagavan himself said no theory is needed to Khanna's wife. Evidently theory is not important than actual sadhana. I can quote more instances. Sometimes He actually divided theory and practice, then ignored theory. Why u don't clearly admit this???

And I also don't deny the importance of what Bhagavan thaught in theory. I only say which is important accoding to what Bhagavan said actually.

Based on your actual experience of sadhana, if you feel "All it indicates is that you have not yet gone sufficiently deep into the practice to understand the connection1・・・・If you persevere in doing so, you will sooner or later come to understand the practical significance of all that he has taught us about the world", It is OK. If not so, it is meaningless and only your dogmatic opinion.

When you talk, you don't clearly distinguish what you have actually experienced between what have you leared in books. I am not so. But by saying above you imply "I am advanced sadhaka than you. I know it.". I don't think it is humble and sincere way. When those who teaches advaita or any other reigions talk or write much, they rarely distinguish actual experiences between bookish knowledge. But wirting or talking fluently, by confidently declaring and interpreting what sages say, they implicitly impress to readers or audiences that they are "advanced" men or (near) self-realised person. It is hidden dishonest. I dislike this way.

"What is the use of letters to those lettered folk who do not seek to wipe out the letters of fate by inquiring, ‘Whence are we born?’ What else are they but gramaphones, O Lord of Arunachala? They learn and repeat words without realizing their meaning." (ulladu narpadu 35)

There are many gramaphones in the world, little experiences, little sadhana and large bookish knowledge.

And by talking with you I feel you tend not to understand what Bhagavan said naturally and simply, in whole context, but interpret it in your own way ,in more complicated way like ulladu narpadu 3.

" if we consider them in the light of all that Bhagavan has taught us elsewhere about the world, it is clear that in both these passages he is implying that the seeming existence and reality of the world is entirely dependent upon the seeming existence and reality of ourself as the ego who experiences it. If the ego seems to exist, then the world also seems to exist, but if the ego does not really exist, the world also does not really exist"

Such explanation of implication is needless here. Why did u write this? What Bhagavan said is simple and direct but you obscure the clarity by your "right and needless" explanation. You implicitly obscure what Bhagavan stressed and say "we should not try to create an artificial divide between the theory and the practice of Bhagavan’s essential teachings". Is this honest way?

If I am you, I admit that sadhana is more important than theory and base on that I say the effect of theory. That is end of talk. But you don't do so and obscure the impotance of sadhana implicitly, but below, stress the importance of sadhana.

"The reason he taught us this simple truth about the world is that if we understand this, we will understand that we should not waste our time thinking about the world but should instead focus all our interest and attention only on investigating ourself, who are what now seems to be experiencing this world."

I agree with this. But what matter is whether you actually doing this or not.

If you are really feel the world unreal, what matter I said here(lol).

Mouna said...

Dear Shiba-Ji
Although it is clearly a two way conversation at this point between yourself and Mr Michael James, I would like to intercede one or two words to give some perspective to this exchange of view.
I really don't know how familiar you are with Mr James bibliography and blog posting, but if you are, you will have to agree with me that much more than 95 % of what he ever wrote is essentially focused in the PRACTICE and PRACTICAL side of applying Atma-Vichara.
I have to confess that when I discovered Mr Michael James's writings I was even a little bit surprised (and egotistically upset) by this fact (that he focused ONLY in the practice) because I wanted theories!! since I have a philosophically inclined mind. In time, Mr James humble and persistent vision of Bhagavan teachings and his pragmatic approach to them won the "battle" and I started to see how all the seemingly "theoretical and intellectual" side of his writings served only the purpose of helping the process of Self-investigation, pretty much as Bhagavan did in his time.
It seems to me that you are also a learned person in the matter, considering the amount of Bhagavan's quotes you provided in this exchange, and you seem honest in your own quest for clarity and the means to attain it.
In that regard I will respectfully suggest that please don't doubt Mr Michael James intentions and knowledge in this topic, I can assure you, based on the knowledge I have of his writings, that he not only speaks from his intellect, but most importantly, from the Heart and the deep understanding he has of Bhagavan's teachings in general and Atma-Vichara in particular.

Warm regards
Yours in Bhagavan
Carlos Grasso

Sivanarul said...

Posted this two days back. Not sure whether it went through. Reposting it. Apologies, if it is a duplicate.

Michael,

Thank you for your writings all these years and your recorded talks. Much appreciated.

Practically what does it mean to take the world as unreal? When it comes to practical purposes it does not seem that Bhagavan took the world as unreal. When his mother was afflicted with Typhoid fever, he composed a song to arunachala asking for both bodily cure and as well as liberation for her. He showed tremendous compassion for all devotees, animals and anyone who visited him. He made sure the ashram will continue to serve people by having a will drawn that ensures the first born in Bhagavan's brother's family will take over ashram management. He practiced duality towards Arunachala. So even though Ajata was his experiential state, when it came to things that are practical, his actions were that of the world being real (Thankfully for us).

So for sadhana, what does it mean practically, to take the world as unreal? What behavior's one would change? I respectfully disagree that one has to take Bhagavan's teaching as a whole to gain benefit or make progress. Bhagavan himself has said in another context that the scriptures cater to different levels of aspirant's and hence has to provide various answers and he asked us to pick those we are comfortable with and discard those that we are not comfortable with.

R Viswanathan said...

Having read what Carlos Grasso wrote, I thought that I would present my point of view as well here.

We all read the articles of Sri Michael James to benefit by way of obtaining a better understanding of Bhagavan's teachings. And when we post our comments on his articles, surely, our intention is to express our ideas which might or might not be consistent with what Sri Michael James wrote or answered. However, at no point of time does Sri Michael James ever claim that he is a realized being or more advanced aspirant, although after knowing that he has been in the path of Bhagavan since 1976 in such a steadfast manner, I would definitely regard him as a very very advanced aspirant or even a realized being already.

In this context, there has been an excellent article by Sri Michael James himself, way back in 2006 to a question whether he is a realized being:

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.in/2006/12/who-has-attained-self-realisation.html

The simplicity and honesty of Sri Michael James is self-evident in his answer in this article, from which I produce a selected portion:

"Regarding your question about whether I have attained 'self-realisation' or 'enlightenment', the simple answer is that as an individual person I have certainly not attained anything. However, as spiritual aspirants our aim is not to attain 'self-realisation' as a person, but is to discover that we are not the person that we now imagine ourself to be, but are only the eternal and infinite real self, which is absolute being-consciousness, and which always knows nothing other than itself."

There has also been a very recent article pertinent to whether anyone is realized:
Thursday, 20 November 2014
Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person?
http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/is-there-any-such-thing-as-self.html

My comments have been refuted by Sri Michael James so many times, but, his rebuttal invariably prompted me to read his articles and responses to my comments as well to others comments once again with more seriousness, and I certainly feel that I always benefited by this process.


Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in reply to your questions, ‘Practically what does it mean to take the world as unreal? [...] What behaviors one would change?’, considering the world unreal is an inner attitude, but it obviously should not be expressed directly in our outward behaviour, because our body, which behaves outwardly, is itself part of the unreal world. Therefore we should behave outwardly as if the world were real, as I explain in more detail in one of my recent articles: Why are compassion and ahiṁsā necessary in a dream?.

However, it was for a practical reason that Bhagavan taught us that the world is unreal, being just a creation of our own mind like any world we experience in a dream, and that practical reason was to help us cultivate an inward attitude of indifference (udāsīna bhāva) towards the world and our life in it. What such an attitude means in practice is not that we should behave outwardly as if we do not care about others or their difficulties or sufferings, but only that inwardly we should remain indifferent to the seeming pains or joys of our own life. We should not try to avoid and should not be dejected by whatever seemingly adverse things may happen in our life, nor should we strive for or be overjoyed by any seemingly favourable things that may outwardly happen to us. In other words, we should cultivate detachment or desirelessness (vairāgya), knowing that whatever happens is not real but just part of an insubstantial dream.

Such udāsīna bhāva and vairāgya are essential prerequisites if we are to succeed in turning our mind within and merging forever in our source and substance, our real self, because merging thus entails experiencing ourself alone, and hence it is not possible so long as we still have desire to experience anything else. This is why Bhagavan said in the passage that I quoted in this article from p. 64 of Maharshi’s Gospel:

“There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone [because] unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real you will never know the Real itself, although it is the Real alone that exists.”

Mouna said...

In relation to the practicality in considering the world unreal for sadhana’s sake, we could approach the topic in a slightly different way asking: what are the practical advantages (if any) or disadvantages, for sadhana, in considering the world as “real”?

First of all, if we grant reality to the world (according to Bhagavan’s definition of reality), we are implying that it exists in and by itself, and that would mean that it exists separate from us, “out there”, including us and every possible object (that by this definition will also have to be real since a part of the world) within its limits.
Granting reality to objects (of any kind: things, people, thoughts, etc…) is the building block of the sense of separation created by the I-thought. From there, there is only a little step to start believeing that objects are the “source” of my happiness and or unhappiness. And with that belief, fear and desire are born, the offsprings of the I-thought/mind/ego sense of separation.
At this point is pretty evident that considering he world “real” doesn’t present much of an advantage for Self-investigation, but quite the contrary, it is one of the seeds that makes the mind extroverted and eventually suffering.

The moral issue of how to act “in the world” is already determined by the prarabdha acting on the I-thought, so it’s little we can do about it, but if we grant ourselves free will (as long as we feel ourselves separate individuals), then we have to follow Bhagavan’s advice of try to enact our role to the best of our abilities, keeping advita in our heart and thoughts (atma-vichara) and acting dvaita, maintaining a sattvic mind and body and not harming others and/or ourselves…

Bhagavan: In the “sadhak” stage [the stage of being a spiritual seeker] you have got to say that the world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets he is Brahman, who is real, permanent and omnipresent, and deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe which is filled with bodies that are transitory, and labour under that delusion, you have got to remind him that the world is unreal and a delusion. Why? Because his vision which has forgotten its own Self is dwelling in the external material universe. It will not turn inwards into introspection unless you impress on him that all this external material universe is unreal. When once he realizes his own Self, and also that there is nothing other than his own self, he will come to look upon the whole universe as Brahman. (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 24th Aug, 1946)

Sivanarul said...

Thanks Michael, for putting unreality in the context of inner attitude. That provided better clarity. Even to consider the world unreal only as an inner attitude, is probably crossing
quarter way through the journey and remains very difficult to early sadhak's. For those of us who struggle in accepting this, I would suggest Buddha's first noble truth of dukkha/suffering
as a first step. That is something easy to comprehend and reflect upon, as we all experience dukkha one way or the other (for developing Vairagya) but we never experience unreality of the world.

I would say a big "Amen" with respect to Carlos and Viswanathan's well written replies regarding Michael's writings and sincerity. Bhagavan's path (and General Jnana path for that matter) is a straight line that aims to dissolve ignorance by traveling the shortest distance in the shortest time. Michael's writings tend to stick to that goal and hence rarely offers
concessions for anything that is not true to that. If we remember this, it is easy to take Michael's writings in the proper context, irrespective of whether we currently agree with it or not.

I will give two examples. First, in his book, he writes (Chapter 10, Happiness and the art of being) began Vegan is really the only thing that can be considered Sattvic food (along with
moderation) and vegetarian food does not quite cut it. He gives good reasons to justify his position. I am a lifelong vegetarian (was brought up that way) who loves his yoghurt,chai and cheese pizza. There would be no point in debating Michael that vegetarian food is sattvic in nature and one does not have to be vegan, because I love those foods and I don't want to give them up. Second, in one of his recent articles, he wrote that focusing on the breath (even as an aid) can be troublesome in the long run and suggested that it should be avoided. For many of us, breath is something between subtle and gross and focusing on it provides a very calming affect. The real 'I' is hidden deep covered by ignorance (seemingly). The body is gross and
termed to be unreal. The breath is the only thing that is more subtle than the body but can be felt and can be returned to consciously whenever we want to irrespective of place and time. Again there is no point in debating Michael on this because he sticks true to Bhagavan's path of dissolving ignorance via the shortest path.

Sivanarul said...

Continuing my previous comment:

I don't agree with Bhagavan himself on some things. Not because Bhagavan is wrong, but simply because I am not ready. Advaita in general and Bhagavan's teaching in particular were
traditionally reserved for advanced Sadhakas who have passed the earlier classes. Even though Bhagavan's writings like Ulladu Narpadu is uncompromising in admitting steps in the path of
truth, it is useful to remember that when Bhagavan was with form, he did adjust his message according to the maturity of the aspirant, if they can't assimilate the direct path. It is also
useful to remember that Annamalai Swami, irrespective of hearing that Vichara is the direct path from Bhagavan himself, still spent time in Patanjali style meditation for many years in Palakotthu before going on to Vichara. Bhagavan himself did vichara less than a minute, albeit with such intensity to dissolve ignorance. It is safe to assume that Bhagavan had passed classes in Japa, Meditation etc in earlier lives.

Thanks for Mouna/Carlos for the reply that turns the question into practical advantages/disadvantages for considering the world as real. While I hear you and agree with you, the issue is, considering the world as real is the default modus operandi. It is ingrained very deeply in the psyche. That objects are the source of happiness/unhappiness is an experiential reality (for now, at least). The bliss of the Self is currently an article of faith in Bhagavan and scriptures. It seems far away as a distant dream. The happiness that the senses provide is immediate. I am intellectually aware that the mind subsides during the sensory enjoyment and the bliss of the Self flows through which is mistaken as if it comes from the object. But here is the rub. Without the senses, there is no way of accessing the bliss of the Self in the current state of ignorance.

Michael James said...

Thank you, Mouna (Carlos), for your latest comment, which I think answered Sivanarul’s earlier questions more clearly and eloquently than my reply did. Viewing a question from a different angle, as you did, can often provide an answer that is not only fresh but also deeper and more useful.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in reply to your latest two comments, it can take time to assimilate and accept Bhagavan’s teachings and their implications in their entirety, but putting whatever we can understand and accept into practice to the best of our ability will gradually make it easier for us to understand and accept the more difficult ideas and implications.

R Viswanathan said...

"That objects are the source of happiness/unhappiness is an experiential reality (for now, at least). The bliss of the Self is currently an article of faith in Bhagavan and scriptures. It seems far away as a distant dream. The happiness that the senses provide is immediate. I am intellectually aware that the mind subsides during the sensory enjoyment and the bliss of the Self flows through which is mistaken as if it comes from the object. But here is the rub. Without the senses, there is no way of accessing the bliss of the Self in the current state of ignorance."

That it is everyone's experience everywhere that happiness existed in sleep might be taken to indicate that even in the absence of any knowledge of Bhagavan's teachings, one does experience the bliss - that which is not connected with sense-objects. Admittedly, of course, this became clear to me, only after I was drawn to Bhagavan's teachings - primarily through reading (and/or listening to) Sri Michael James, Sri David Godman, Sri Nochur Venkataraman, and Sri Robert Adams during the last few years now.

In this context, I would like to reproduce here the explanatory note of Sri Muruganar, as given in the book Guru Vachaka Kovai commentary translation by Sri David Godman (for the verse 1026):

Muruganar: He who has woken up from sleep declares the truth of his experience when he says, 'I slept happily'. It is a fact, acceptable to all, that in the natural state of deep sleep, wherein the mind remains thought-free, having no contact with sense objects, the Self is experienced as happiness. The bliss that was your own nature in the state of sleep ceases and fails to manifest when you wake because the desires that chase after sense-objects make you forget your Self-nature, which is bliss, and separate you from the state of the Self. Therefore, you should attain the fortune of unsurpassed bliss, your own true experience, by having a mind that does not, through the desires that arise from delusion, wander after sense-objects, that remains calm without forgetfulness of the Self in the waking state, just as it does in sleep.

Sivanarul said...

Viswanathan said “That it is everyone's experience everywhere that happiness existed in sleep might be taken to indicate that even in the absence of any knowledge of Bhagavan's teachings, one does experience the bliss - that which is not connected with sense-objects. Muruganar: He who has woken up from sleep declares the truth of his experience when he says, 'I slept happily'.”

Viswanathan, I slept happily does not necessarily imply that the bliss of the Self was experienced. It also does not necessarily mean that bliss was experienced with that not connected with sense-objects. During sleep, body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Tissues get repaired and muscles rebuilt. Dead cells are replaced with new cells. So the happiness that is reported upon waking can simply be explained by the energy gained due to body reconstruction. So it could just be a physiological phenomenon. I am aware that your writing is supported by advaitic scriptures and one can possibly take it as an article of faith in Bhagavan and general advaita.

If the bliss of the Self is that obvious why would anyone run after the happiness of sense-objects? Why would someone reject the highest bliss of the Self (as per sages?) to the fleeting happiness provided by the senses? The only reason could be that the bliss of the Self is not obvious (due to ignorance / maya etc). Whatever the waking mind says about Deep sleep (whether bliss or nothingness existed) cannot be relied on, since the waking mind was not there during deep sleep.
In Sat-Chit-Ananda, Sat and Chit are self-evident. I know I exist and I know I am conscious. The Ananda/Bliss part is not really evident during Sadhana stage.

If the happiness of sense-objects really comes from the mind subsiding due to fulfillment of desires and no new desires existing for a brief time, then the only known “easy/quick ”way for the subsidence of the mind, is to engage with the sense objects (at least while ignorance persists) so that the mind will subside briefly and happiness can be had. Meditation can provide that after persistent practice and according to Bhagavan, vichara can provide that in the most direct way. However both Meditation and Vichara cannot provide it that quickly compared to eating an ice-cream which is immediate. If this was not so, attachments would drop immediately and all sentient beings would lose ignorance and awaken to their true nature instantaneously.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in your latest comment you say, ‘I slept happily does not necessarily imply that the bliss of the Self was experienced’, but that cannot be correct. The fact that we slept happily does necessarily imply that the happiness we then experienced was ourself, because in sleep we do not experience anything other than ourself.

You also say, ‘During sleep, body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Tissues get repaired and muscles rebuilt. Dead cells are replaced with new cells’, but this is a belief that can arise in your mind only during waking or dream. In sleep we do not experience any body (whether the one that we now experience as ourself, nor any other one that we experience as ourself in a dream), so our belief that our waking body existed when we were asleep is an assumption that is not adequately justified.

If we were having this discussion in your dream, you would claim then that the body you then experience as yourself existed and was rejuvenated during sleep, but when you wake up from that dream you would understand that that body was actually just your own mental creation and therefore does not exist when you do not experience it. How then can you be sure that your present body is not likewise just your own mental creation, and does not therefore exist only when you experience it?

Therefore your claim that ‘the happiness that is reported upon waking can simply be explained by the energy gained due to body reconstruction’ is an hypothesis that is not supported by any reliable evidence. Moreover, it is an hypothesis that cannot stand up to logical analysis, because in sleep we are not aware of any ‘body reconstruction’ occurring, nor of any energy being gained thereby, so the happiness we experience then cannot be explained by something that we are not actually aware of in that state.

You ask, ‘If the bliss of the Self is that obvious why would anyone run after the happiness of sense-objects?’, but this is a question that Bhagavan has answered very clearly and simply in the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

[...] பிரபஞ்சப்பொருள் ஒன்றிலாவது சுகமென்பது கிடையாது. அவைகளிலிருந்து சுகம் கிடைப்பதாக நாம் நமது அவிவேகத்தால் நினைக்கின்றோம். [...]

[...] pirapañca-p-poruḷ oṉḏṟil-āvadu sukham-eṉbadu kiḍaiyādu. avaigaḷilirundu sukham kiḍaippadāha nām namadu avivēkattāl niṉaikkiṉḏṟōm. [...]

“[...] Happiness is not obtained from any object of the world. We think that happiness is obtained from them because of our avivēka [lack of discrimination]. [...]”

In your final paragraph you suggest that since the mind subsides and thereby experiences happiness when any of its desires are fulfilled, the easiest and quickest way to make the mind subside is ‘to engage with the sense objects’, but such a conclusion is obviously the result of avivēka, because we know from experience that the happiness we seem to gain from sense objects is fleeting and unsatisfactory, and after studying Bhagavan’s teachings (especially the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?) we should understand that that is because the subsidence of mind that results when any desire is fulfilled is only partial and is soon disturbed by the rising of other desires.

In order to free ourself from the avivēka that drives our mind to go outwards to experience sense objects, we must cultivate vivēka, and the only effective way to do so is to persevere patiently in our practice of self-investigation.

Mouna said...

This statement has been made:
"...then the only known “easy/quick ”way for the subsidence of the mind, is to engage with the sense objects (at least while ignorance persists) so that the mind will subside briefly and happiness can be had.”

The whole problem with this statement lies in the phrase "at least while ignorance persists” because fulfilling desires is EXACTLY what makes ignorance persist!

Every imaginable desire, except the desire for atma-vichara (self-investigation), is a seed for further desires in the tree of ignorance, seed that once planted and nourished (meaning fulfilled) will flourish into more ignorance in the form of vasanas (or latent impulses of the same kind pushing themselves to be further fulfilled). Ignorance (in the sense of veiling or avarana shake) MEANS vasanas.
Desire to turn the mind inwards asking the question “Who is having this desire?’ and diving deep into the waters of the Silence produced by this question is the only desire that has the power of self-annihilation, so even if it could be defined as a vasana, it would be the kind of tendency we do want cultivate (what Bhagavan called a sat-vasana). The thorn that removes a thorn.

(The following paragraph is from “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi", talk no. 495)
Question: One must become satiate(d) with the fulfillment of desires before they are renounced.
Bhagavan: Fire might as well be put out by pouring spirit over the flames. [All laugh.] The more the desires are fulfilled, the deeper grows the “samskara.” They must become weaker before they cease to assert themselves. That weakness is brought about by restraining oneself and not by losing oneself in desires.
Question: How can they be rendered weaker?
Bhagavan: By knowledge. You know that you are not the mind. The desires are in the mind. Such knowledge helps one to control them.
Question: But they are not controlled in our practical lives.
Bhagavan: Every time you attempt satisfaction of a desire, the knowledge comes that it is better to desist. Repeated reminders of this kind will in due cousre weaken the desires. What is your true nature? How can you ever forget it? Waking, dream and sleep are mere phases of the mind. They are not of the Self. You are the witness of these states. Your true nature is found in sleep.

Mouna said...

In my previous comment, where it reads: "Ignorance (in the sense of veiling or avarana shake)" I meant to say: "Ignorance (in the sense of veiling or avarana-shakti)"

Spelling correction doesn't have a clear understanding about advaita terminology and corrects according to its limited understanding!

Sivanarul said...

Michael, Thanks for your reply and insight. Advaita Hypothesis 1 is that the happiness felt upon waking is the bliss of the Self. Advaita Hypothesis 2 in your words is “so our belief that our waking body existed when we were asleep is an assumption that is not adequately justified.” Common Man (ego’s) experience 1 is that happiness comes from sense objects (eating an ice-cream). Common man’s experience 2 is that he sleeps in a bed at night. Waking state disappears. A dream state appears with a dream body. Then a state is there without dreams (deep sleep). In the morning he wakes up, he finds himself in the same place in the same bed, with the same bad haircut he got yesterday. Upon waking up he feels happy. He takes that to be due to the “rest and rejuvenation” the body got. Your insight uses another Advaita hypothesis (hypothesis 2) to justify the first hypothesis. It is not justified using a common man’s experience. That is why hypothesis 1 can be accepted as a matter of faith but not as a direct experience until one is firmly established in Turiya (based on scriptures description of turiya).
Further upon waking, “I am the body” takes hold in a matter of seconds. Any pronouncement made from that point includes feedback from the body. If a healthy person sleeps well, he pronounces I am happy based on the feedback of wellbeing received from the body. If a cancer patient who is in continuous pain wakes up, he also says he is thankful (happy) that he was able to forget his pain during sleep (upon waking within seconds the pain has returned). So in both cases the statements made in a waking state includes direct feedback from the body and hence cannot be said with any degree of certainty that it is the bliss of the Self.
You also wrote about avivēka and “when any desire is fulfilled is only partial and is soon disturbed by the rising of other desires.” I think by definition a sadhaka is in aviveka and hence that is easily accepted. I think the point of the writing is that the bliss of the Self is not self-evident, and fulfilled desire even though partial is at least partial and evident. That does not mean that I am saying that one must continue with partial fulfillment and not seek the Self. It was simply a statement that sadhakas in the beginning stage cannot self-hypnotize themselves into accepting as experience as something that is not their experience (accepting as faith is altogether different).

Sivanarul said...

Mouna, Thanks much for your insight. You said “because fulfilling desires is EXACTLY what makes ignorance persist!”. I agree. But that is the catch-22, isn’t it. Ignorance compels one to fulfill desires and fulfilling desires keeps ignorance on. The quote you provided by Bhagavan indicates the way out of the catch 22.

“Question: But they are not controlled in our practical lives.
Bhagavan: Every time you attempt satisfaction of a desire, the knowledge comes that it is better to desist. Repeated reminders of this kind will in due course weaken the desires.”

Thanks for that quote.

R Viswanathan said...

I would think that who experiences what is very difficult to convey correctly for the experiencer himself/herself; and surely it must be even more difficult to be certain whether the experience being described corresponds to that of a sadhaka or of a Jnani. Under this situation, since almost everything boils down to faith, (that is, the validity of anyone's understanding or statement), I for one would prefer to fully go with Bhagavan's statements with the firm conviction that one does experience bliss in sleep, regardless of whether such a conviction is self-hypnotized one or not.

Sri Nochur Venkataraman used to describe an anecdote involving Swami Vivekananda: one of the youngsters, determined not to be swayed by his ever-inspiring speech, interceded him during his discourse by stating that he is only trying to hypnotize them; and Swami replied: Child, you are already hypnotized; I am only trying to de-hypnotize you.

Sri Nochur also used to say that Bhagavan would often make very similar statement, too - to the effect that one is just pretending to be unhappy since happiness is one's own true nature.

Anonymous said...

The discussion on whether or not we experience the 'bliss of self' in sleep is futile so long as we are treating happiness (or bliss) in objective terms.
The happiness of eating ice-cream is objective , but the happiness of sleep is subjective.
In sleep , in the temporary absence of the mind , we experience ourself alone. Upon waking , we (as an ego) experience the duality which we refer to as happiness and misery.
But in sleep , what exists is pure non-dual self-consciousness - and that itself is what we as an ego call 'bliss of self' or 'infinite unalduterated happiness'.
The happiness of self is self-evident , because it is not different from self , but they are the same 'thing'.

Anonymous said...

Some more reflections on my previous comment.

As a finite , individual ego , it is futile to compare the physical , mental , or emotional pleasures we experience , all of which necessarily involve duality , to the non-dual experience of sleep.

When we debate whether or not we experience bliss of self in sleep , what is necessary to understand is that in sleep , no finite ego rises to proclaim 'i am experiencing happiness' , but only the one infinite reality (i.e we) experiences ourself , and that itself is bliss.

This is perhaphs the most useful (and accurate) conceptual description about our experience in sleep.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in your comment dated 28 February 2015 at 23:21 you say, ‘Advaita Hypothesis 1 is that the happiness felt upon waking is the bliss of the Self’, but I think the hypothesis or argument you are referring to is actually not that ‘the happiness felt upon waking is the bliss of the Self’ but that the happiness that we experienced while asleep was ourself.

Before proceeding any further, I think it is first necessary to clarify more about the nature of happiness. Happiness is not something that is added to us in sleep, but is what remains when everything else is removed, because happiness is what we are.

Happiness is like a light that pervades everywhere unless it is obstructed, and varying degrees of unhappiness are like varying degrees of darkness. What naturally exists is that all-pervading light, and darkness occurs only when that light is to a greater or lesser extent obstructed or obscured. When there is no obstruction, light pervades everywhere. Likewise, what actually exists is only happiness, so unhappiness occurs only when happiness seems to be obstructed or obscured. In the absence of any obstruction, what remains is only happiness.

What obscures (or rather seems to obscure) happiness is only the rising of our ego and all that it experiences (which according to Bhagavan is just its own thoughts or ideas). The more voraciously the ego feeds itself on whatever it experiences, the more intensely it is active, and its activity is what obscures the happiness or peaceful stillness (inactivity) that we actually are.

The ego is unable to remain continuously active for long, because the longer it prolongs each stretch of its activity, the more tired it becomes. The more tired it becomes, the more it begins to crave only one thing, namely to be inactive — to sleep — for a while. When we fall asleep, all activity ceases, and what we then experience is only ourself. When we thus experience ourself alone in the absence of any activity, we are peaceful and happy. This is the experience of each one of us.

Is there anyone who complains that they are unhappy while asleep? Is there anyone who does not crave sleep when they become exhausted after many hours of ceaseless mental activity? Is this not evidence enough to show the happiness we spend most of our day seeking in other things actually lies within ourself?

You say that the hypothesis or argument we are happy while asleep and that happiness is therefore our real nature ‘is not justified using a common man’s experience’, but it certainly is. Everyone is happy while asleep, and it is the experience of everyone that unhappiness can arise only in waking or dream. Since we are each happy while asleep, and since we do not then experience anything other than ourself, we can deductively infer that the happiness we experience in sleep is nothing other than ourself. The ‘common man’, as you call the majority of people, may not make this inference, but no one could reasonably argue against it, because we all know from our own experience that we are peaceful and happy while asleep even though we do not then experience anything other than ourself.

We do not need faith to know that we are happy while asleep, because we actually experience that happiness whenever we are asleep, and we do not need faith to infer conclusively that that happiness is therefore ourself, because we do not experience anything else while asleep, so there is no other way to account for that happiness.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sivanarul:

You say, ‘Further upon waking, “I am the body” takes hold in a matter of seconds. Any pronouncement made from that point includes feedback from the body’. However, though we experience ourself as a body during waking, and hence whatever we experience in waking ‘includes feedback from the body’, we know that we did not experience ourself as a body while asleep, so no feedback from the body can account for the happiness we experienced while asleep.

You also say that ‘the bliss of the Self is not self-evident’, but actually the happiness that we experience while asleep is self-evident, because it is ourself, and hence it is evident to itself. That is, since we ourself experience that we are happy while asleep, and that we do not experience anything else at that time, the happiness we then experience must be ourself, and hence it is the happiness that is ourself that is then experiencing itself. Nothing else is self-evident, because whatever else seems to be self-evident is not actually evident to itself but only to ourself, who alone experience it.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, regarding your latest comment, as I tried to explain today in my replies to Sivanarul, we actually experience being happy whenever we are asleep, so we do not need any faith to know that we were happy then.

You say that ‘who experiences what is very difficult to convey correctly’, but in this context we know that what we experience in sleep is nothing other than ourself, and that we are happy then. We also know that who experiences happiness while asleep is only ourself, because we can obviously experience only what we ourself experience and not what anyone else experiences (even if there is anyone else who experiences anything, which is something we cannot actually know so long as we experience ourself as this finite ego). Therefore we cannot know for certain about any experience other than our own, so when we talk about what we experience in sleep, it is not difficult for us to say correctly that it was only we ourself who experienced it, and that what we experienced was also only ourself.

You also say, ‘surely it must be even more difficult to be certain whether the experience being described corresponds to that of a sadhaka or of a Jnani’. I assume that in this context what you mean by ‘the experience being described’ is what Bhagavan taught us regarding our experience in sleep, namely that since we are happy during sleep, even though we do not then experience anything else, the happiness we experience then must be ourself — what we really are. The fact that he meant that it is we ourself who experienced being happy while asleep is very clear from the way in which he carefully worded the first paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

சகல ஜீவர்களும் துக்கமென்ப தின்றி எப்போதும் சுகமாயிருக்க விரும்புவதாலும், யாவருக்கும் தன்னிடத்திலேயே பரம பிரிய மிருப்பதாலும், பிரியத்திற்கு சுகமே காரண மாதலாலும், மனமற்ற நித்திரையில் தின மனுபவிக்கும் தன் சுபாவமான அச் சுகத்தை யடையத் தன்னைத் தானறிதல் வேண்டும். அதற்கு நானார் என்னும் ஞான விசாரமே முக்கிய சாதனம்.

sakala jīvargaḷ-um duḥkham-eṉbadu iṉḏṟi eppōdum sukham-āy-irukka virumbuvadālum, yāvarukkum taṉ-ṉ-iḍattil-ē-y-ē parama piriyam iruppadālum, piriyattiṯku sukham-ē kāraṇam ādalālum, maṉam-aṯṟa niddiraiyil diṉam aṉubhavikkum taṉ subhāvam-āṉa a-c-sukhattai y-aḍaiya-t taṉṉai-t tāṉ aṟidal vēṇḍum. adaṯku nāṉār eṉṉum jñāṉa-vicāram-ē mukhiya sādhaṉam.

“Since all living beings desire to be always happy without what is called misery, since for everyone the greatest love is only for oneself, and since happiness alone is the cause of love, [in order] to attain that happiness, which is one’s own [true] nature that [one] experiences daily in [dreamless] sleep, which is devoid of the mind, oneself knowing oneself is necessary. For that, jñāna-vicāra [knowledge-investigation] ‘who am I’ alone is the principal means.”

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Viswanathan:

Since in the first two clauses of this paragraph he refers to ‘சகல ஜீவர்களும்’ (sakala jīvargaḷum), which means ‘all living beings’, and ‘யாவருக்கும்’ (yāvarukkum), which means ‘to everyone’ or ‘for everyone’, it is clear that the argument he presents in the first sentence is based on the experience of each one of us, and that when he says in the fourth clause ‘மனமற்ற நித்திரையில் தின மனுபவிக்கும் தன் சுபாவமான அச் சுகத்தை யடையத் தன்னைத் தானறிதல் வேண்டும்’ (maṉam-aṯṟa niddiraiyil diṉam aṉubhavikkum taṉ subhāvam-āṉa a-c-sukhattai y-aḍaiya-t taṉṉai-t tāṉ aṟidal vēṇḍum), which means ‘to attain that happiness, which is one’s own [true] nature that [one] experiences daily in [dreamless] sleep, which is devoid of the mind, oneself knowing oneself is necessary’, the words தன் (taṉ: the inflectional base of tāṉ, which is used here to represent its genitive form, meaning ‘of oneself’ or ‘one’s’), தன்னை (taṉṉai: the accusative form of tāṉ, ‘oneself’) and தான் (tāṉ: the nominative case, ‘oneself’ or ‘one’) refer to each one of us and not just to the jñāni.

According to Bhagavan the jñāni is our real self, which is what alone actually exists, and it does not experience anything other than itself, so it does not experience three separate states, waking, dream and sleep, but only one state, namely its own nature — the real nature of ourself (tāṉ subhāvam or tāṉ svabhāvam). Therefore it is not only in sleep that the jñāni experiences ‘that happiness, which is one’s own nature’ (தன் சுபாவமான அச் சுகம், taṉ subhāvam-āṉa a-c-sukham), whereas so long as we experience ourself as an ego, it seems to us that we experience that happiness in its pristine form only when we are asleep.

By using the relative participle அனுபவிக்கும் (aṉubhavikkum, which means ‘that [one] experiences’) to qualify தன் சுபாவமான அச் சுகத்தை (taṉ subhāvam-āṉa a-c-sukhattai, ‘that happiness, which is one’s own nature’), Bhagavan was clearly emphasising that in sleep the happiness that is our own real nature is what we ourself actually experience. Therefore he was not saying anything that he expected us to accept on mere faith, but was only pointing out what we actually experience and what we should logically infer from that experience.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
Thanks much for your detailed clarification. It is very helpful to reflect on this since a firm conviction that the natural state is blissful can go a long way in the path.

Your writing helped me to see clearly what Saint Arunagirinathar meant in the following Kandhar anubuthi verse:
எல்லாம் அற, என்னை இழந்த நலம்
A loose translation is “Everything subsided, ego getting lost, wellbeing (bliss) remained”. I have read this verse so many times, but it never sinked in before. Thanks again for the clarification. Much appreciated.

who? said...

The reply of Sri Michael James to a comment by R Vishwanathan contains a subtle truth whose implications are tremendous , and i post it here in the following words:

I can never verify experientially whether or not other people , who are a part of my experience , experience the same i that i now experience as i (myself).

Despite this fundamental doubt , i still attribute the same i to other people , by assuming them to be conscious , just like me.I do this only when i experience myself as a finite body.

However , since even this finite body (or any other dream-body) is a part of my experience , i am certainly not this body , so the fundamental question on whose experiential answer everything else ultimately depends , is , who am i?

Michael James said...

Yes, ‘who?’, as you say, this fundamental doubt has tremendous implications, because our assumption that other people are conscious and therefore experience this world as we do is the basis of our belief that our present state is not a dream. However, we make exactly the same assumption in any dream, which is why we believe we are awake whenever we are in fact dreaming. How then can we be sure (and why should we assume) that our present so-called waking state is not just another dream?

Just as our assumption that other people are conscious as we are is not justified by any evidence that we experience, our assumption that we are not now dreaming is likewise not justified by any evidence that we experience. We believe that it is evident that other people are conscious because they behave and seem to respond to stimuli just as we do, and we believe that it is evident that this is not a dream because we assume that all the people we see here are conscious, but we experience and believe exactly the same evidence in any dream.

If all that we now experience — including our own body — is just a dream, then it is all a creation of our own mind, and hence we cannot be the body that we now seem to be. And if all this is just a creation of our own mind, it does not exist when we do not experience it. Moreover, since this mind is just a temporary phenomenon that appears in waking and dream and disappears in sleep, it cannot be what we actually are.

Therefore reflecting in this way brings us back to the most fundamental doubt of all: who am I?

As you say, we cannot resolve any of our other doubts until we resolve this most fundamental doubt, and we can resolve it only by investigating ourself — that is, by trying to experience ourself as we actually are, which we can experience only when we experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
in the fourth comment, dated 16 February 2015 at 19:47, third paragraph,
I think there is a typo:
In the sentence "He also expressed the same idea in the thirth paragraph:" we should read 'third' instead of 'thirth'.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
My last comment (typo)- written a few minutes ago - was in regard to the article "Why is it necessary to consider the world unreal", Sunday, 15 February 2015.

Michael James said...

Thank you, Josef, for pointing out that typo in my comment dated 16 February 2015 at 19:47. I noticed it the next day when I wrote another comment, in which I referred to it. I think how this typo occurred was that I had copied and pasted the code that I had written for another link (to the fourth paragraph) in the same comment, but I carelessly left the final ‘th’ from ‘fourth’ when I tried to amend it as ‘third’.

Kokonor said...

Periya Eri, Gaurishankar, Narada and Durvasa express our thanks to you, Michael, for the thoroughness and carefulness of your reply to our comments in an own article. We now write a comment together with a new identity.
Periya Eri: My aim is surely to know what I really am. In my current opinion I am not in any way prevented from that knowing if I mentally accept the body and the world as seeming existent.
Gaurishankar: I agree with you:
When we do not even know what we ourself are, how can we know the truth about this world ?
But the fact that we experience the world only when we experience ourself as a body and mind does not mean necessary that we identify ourself only (always and completely) as a body and mind. There is no denying that we cannot be this body and mind.
That in sleep we experience ourself without experiencing either a body or a mind is not reason enough to claim that the world is only a mental creation because just due lacking of any knowledge what we ourself are, we cannot know the truth about this world.
When we do not even know what we ourself are it has no beneficial effect on us to simply repeat Bhagavan‘s experience.
Narada: Yes,as you say we can only know what we actually experience, and what we experience as 'the world' or 'the universe' is nothing but a series of perpetual images -sights, sounds, tactile sensations, smells and tastes. Yes,as you say we assume these perceptual sensations are caused by things that exist outside of and independent of our mind,but our experience offers us no real evidence that this is not the case.
Durvasa: I agree: In order to experience anything, whether real or illusory, we must exist.
But we have no sure certainty that we exist because our „self-evident own existence“ could also be an illusion created by our own mind. Particularly just in view of the often quoted power of the mind to create the seemingly vast waking world we must well believe of it to be easily able to simulate a seemingly „self-evident own existence“ of an experiencing ego.
[…because our mind has a propensity to convince itself of the reality of its creation, it projects what seems to be essentially the same world on waking that it had projected before falling asleep].
Since at present I am not convinced that our own existence and our awareness of our existence alone are certain, the conviction that it is necessary for us to consider our ego, our mind, our body and this world to be unreal for the present do not arise.

little thing said...

Shea Kang,
and what is the further conclusion of your statement ?