Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka: distinguishing the seer from the seen

In a comment that he wrote on my previous article, ‘Observation without the observer’ and ‘choiceless awareness’: Why the teachings of J. Krishnamurti are diametrically opposed to those of Sri Ramana, a friend called Venkat quoted two passages that record what Bhagavan replied on two occasions, first in response to a question that he was asked about the teachings of J. Krishnamurti and second in response to a comment about them.
  1. Bhagavan’s view about ‘effortless and choiceless awareness’
  2. The ego is not ‘a bundle of circumstances’ but what experiences all circumstances
  3. Whatever is experienced depends for its seeming existence upon the ego that experiences it
  4. Distinguishing the ego from the rest of the mind
  5. Distinguishing the experiencer (dṛś) from the experienced (dṛśya)
  6. The essence of the mind is the ego, and the essence of the ego is pure self-awareness
  7. To see what is real we must give up seeing what is seen (dṛśya)
  8. What we really are is not the witness (sākṣin) or seer (dṛś) of anything
  9. To experience what we really are, we must cease witnessing or being aware of anything else
1. Bhagavan’s view about ‘effortless and choiceless awareness’

The first passage that Venkat quoted was from Day by Day with Bhagavan (11-1-46 Afternoon), where it is recorded that a young man from Colombo asked Bhagavan:
J. Krishnamurti teaches the method of effortless and choiceless awareness as distinct from that of deliberate concentration. Would Sri Bhagavan be pleased to explain how best to practise meditation and what form the object of meditation should take?
Bhagavan’s reply to this is recorded there as:
Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain it or be in that state, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age-long vasanas [tendencies, propensities or inclinations] carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that, effort is necessary for most people. Of course everybody, every book says, “சும்மா இரு” [summā iru: just be] i.e., “Be quiet or still”. But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find one who has at once achieved the mauna [silence] or Supreme state indicated by “சும்மா இரு” [summā iru], you may take it that the effort necessary has already been finished in a previous life. So that, effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation. […]
This recording of Bhagavan’s reply may not be entirely accurate, but it is probably accurate enough to give us a general idea of his view about ‘effortless and choiceless awareness’. As he says, effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature, because our real nature is to be aware of ourself alone, so pure self-awareness is what we actually are, and hence it requires no effort for us to be self-aware, nor does it entail any choice, because we could not choose not to be self-aware.

However, though we are always effortlessly and choicelessly aware of ourself, we are at present also aware of other things, and so long as we aware of anything other than ourself, we are not aware of ourself as we actually are, but are only aware of ourself as this ego or mind. Therefore in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are, we need to make effort to turn our attention back towards ourself alone — and thus away from everything else.

That is, we cannot experience ourself as we actually are so long as we experience ourself as this ego, and it is only when we experience ourself as this ego that we are also aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore we need to give up being aware of other things in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are, and to give up being aware of other things requires deliberate effort on our part, because the very nature of our ego is to cling to things other than itself.

The reason why our ego’s nature is to cling to other things is that it cannot stand or endure without doing so, so being aware of things other than itself is what nourishes and sustains it, as Bhagavan points out in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I quoted in the second section of my previous article, We cannot choose to be ‘choicelessly aware’). Therefore in order to survive as this ego we must be constantly aware of other things, and hence as this ego we always have a strong urge to direct our attention away from ourself towards other things. This urge is the power behind our outward-going tendencies (vāsanās), so we need to make deliberate effort to resist this urge by turning our attention back towards ourself alone, because only when we are aware of ourself alone will we experience ourself as we really are and thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego. This is what Bhagavan implied when he explained to the young man from Colombo:
[…] But one cannot reach it [our real nature] without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age-long vasanas carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that, effort is necessary […]
Thus Bhagavan explained clearly that though effortless and choiceless awareness of ourself is our real nature, we cannot experience our real nature as it is without choosing to make a deliberate effort to meditate upon ourself alone. When he says here that ‘All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward’, what he implies by ‘all such thoughts’ is all thoughts about anything other than ourself, and what he implies by ‘turned inward’ is turned selfward — that is, turned back towards ourself alone — because everything other than ourself is ‘outward’, external or extraneous to ourself. Therefore, though these may not be his exact words, the general implication of the portion of his reply that I quoted above is that in order to ‘reach’ or experience our real nature we must turn our mind back towards ourself alone.

Though Devaraja Mudaliar records that after telling the young man from Colombo that ‘effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation’, Bhagavan ended his reply by saying, ‘That meditation can take any form which appeals to you best. See what helps you to keep away all other thoughts and adopt that method for your meditation’, we have to infer either that this portion of his answer was not recorded sufficiently accurately, or that he said so only as a concession, perhaps because he knew that that young man would not yet be willing to try meditating on himself alone.

However, whether or not he actually ended his reply thus, and if he did, whatever be his reason for doing so, we know from his own original writings and from many other records of his answers to questions that his real teaching was that we can experience ourself as we really are only by meditating on ourself alone. Meditating on other things may help to purify our mind to some extent, but sooner or later we must meditate upon ourself alone, because unless we do so we cannot experience ourself as we actually are.

2. The ego is not ‘a bundle of circumstances’ but what experiences all circumstances

The second passage that Venkat quoted was from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (section 239), where it is recorded that Maurice Frydman once said to Bhagavan, “Krishnamurti says that man should find out the ‘I’. Then ‘I’ dissolves away, being only a bundle of circumstances. There is nothing behind the ‘I’. His teaching seems to be very much like Buddha’s”, to which Bhagavan replied in a non-committal manner: ‘Yes — yes, beyond expression’.

I replied to Venkat’s comment in a series of two consecutive comments, in the earlier part of the first of which I wrote:
Venkat, regarding the two replies of Bhagavan that you refer to in your comment, it is interesting to note that in the passage recorded in Day by Day (11-1-46 Afternoon) he is very explicit in expressing his view that ‘effortless and choiceless awareness’ cannot be a method or means to experience our real nature, because so long as we experience ourself as this mind we need to make deliberate effort in order to experience what we really are, whereas in the passage recorded in Talks (section 239) his reply is non-committal, which should prompt us to consider why he did not express his view more explicitly in the latter.

One possible explanation is that in the passage in Talks Maurice Frydman did not actually ask him a question but just expressed his own view that Krishnamurti’s teaching seems to be very much like Buddha’s, so Bhagavan did not feel called upon to express his own view, whereas in the passage in Day by Day the young man from Colombo was actually asking him a question about spiritual practice, so he felt called upon to give an explicit answer. Another possible explanation, but one that is closely aligned to and compatible with the first one I suggested, is that Bhagavan recognised that the young man from Colombo was genuinely eager to learn from him, whereas perhaps he recognised that Frydman was content with his own view of Krishnamurti and therefore did not really want to learn anything from Bhagavan but only to get his approval for his own view, and hence Bhagavan did not commit himself either to approving or disapproving it.

If Frydman had asked him a question or shown any sign of wanting to learn what his view actually was, Bhagavan could have pointed out to him that contrary to what he (Frydman) or Krishnamurti had said, the ego (the ‘I’ that they were talking about) is not ‘only a bundle of circumstances’ but is that which creates and experiences all circumstances, and that it is not correct to say that there is nothing behind it, because what is behind the illusory appearance of this ego is only ourself. If there were nothing behind the ego, when it dissolves nothing would remain, but according to Bhagavan what actually exists and always exists is only ourself, and everything else seems to exist only when our ego seems to exist, so when our ego is dissolved everything else also ceases to exist, and then we alone remain. Therefore we alone are what is behind the appearance of this ego and everything else.

However, though this is what Bhagavan taught to anyone who sincerely wanted to know what is real, he did not of his own accord teach this to anyone who did not come to him seeking to know the truth, so whenever anyone told him their own views, beliefs, aspirations or practices instead of asking him what they should believe, aspire for or practise, or why they should do so, he would not repudiate their views or disturb them from their chosen beliefs and practices.
3. Whatever is experienced depends for its seeming existence upon the ego that experiences it

After quoting the two passages I discussed above, Venkat concluded his comment by writing:
I think there are (as I have said before) two plausible explanations for our experience. One is that everything is an image in consciousness — eka jiva vada [the argument that there is only one jīva or ego, just as a dream is experienced by only one person].

The other is that there is some existing world made of subatomic particles, of which our body-minds are an integral part and never separate from (as in gold substratum in jewellery). These particles come together to evolve humans with mind, which then begin to think and from self-preservation reasons, develop the ego, which is just a bundle of thoughts and conditioning, but not real.

JK’s approach seems to take the latter as the starting point — perhaps because he felt people could not appreciate eka jiva vada perspective? — and therefore strives to show the ego is non-existent and simply a construct of the past conditioning. Whilst Bhagavan’s approach is to focus on the fundamental assumption — the ‘I’-thought — and investigate its reality; which I have to agree goes to the root of the matter.
I replied to this portion of his comment in the remainder of the first and all of the second of my two consecutive comments:
Regarding what you say about ‘two plausible explanations for our experience’, I think you are probably correct in saying that JK [J. Krishnamurti] seems to have accepted the view that the world exists independent of our experience of it, because all that he said and did gave the impression that he accepted the world as real, or at least did not question whether it is actually real, as it seems to be. His interest seems to have been more with the mind and psychology than with more abstract metaphysical questions such as what it is that appears as this ego and whether anything that this ego experiences exists independent of it.

If JK believed that the ego is ‘only a bundle of circumstances’ or that there can be observing without any observer, he was clearly lacking in vivēka, particularly the deepest and most essential form of it, namely dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka, which is the ability to distinguish what experiences (the dṛś, which literally means the eye or what sees, and which becomes dṛg in compounds such as dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka) from what is experienced (the dṛśya, which literally means what is seen). Whatever circumstances we may experience, and also anything that we may observe, is dṛśya (an experienced object), whereas we, the ego who experiences or observes it, are dṛś (the experiencing subject). According to Bhagavan, nothing that is dṛśya can exist independent of the dṛś, so only when we rise as the dṛś does any dṛśya come into existence, and hence the dṛś (the ego or experiencer) is the essential foundation on which all experience is built. Therefore Bhagavan advises us to be concerned with and to investigate only ourself, the experiencer (dṛś), whereas JK seems to be more concerned with whatever else we experience, which is all dṛśya.

Of the ‘two plausible explanations for our experience’ that you speak about, the first is the view recommended by Bhagavan, namely that whatever is experienced (dṛśya) depends for its seeming existence upon the seeming existence of ourself as this ego, the subject (dṛś) who experiences it. The second is based upon the unjustified assumption that the physical world that we experience is not just a series of images created by our own mind, like a dream, but is something that exists independent of our experience of it. This assumption is based upon our experience of ourself as a physical body, but Bhagavan has explained why this experience of ours is just an illusion, because if we were actually this physical body, we could not experience ourself without experiencing it, whereas in fact we do experience ourself both in dream and in sleep without experiencing ourself as this body. In dream we experience ourself as some other body, and in sleep we experience ourself as no body at all, so we cannot be the body that we now seem to be.

Therefore, since our experience that we are this body is an illusion, everything else that we experience on the basis of this illusory experience must also be illusory. Hence the second explanation that you mention is not as plausible as it superficially seems to be, and we have good reason to reject it. If we analyse our experience of ourself in our three transitory states, it is clear that we have no reason to suppose that our present state is anything but a dream, and we have no evidence that anything other than ourself actually exists. Even the ego that we now seem to be is not real, because it seems to exist only in our waking and dream states, whereas we endure in its absence in sleep.

This type of metaphysical analysis is totally lacking in the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, so it is clear that whatever his teachings are concerned with is completely different to the central concern of Bhagavan’s teachings, which is that we should investigate ourself in order to experience what is real and thereby free ourself from everything else, including the ego that experiences it all.
Because I wrote this reply as a comment, I did not reply in more detail, but if I had done so I would have analysed Venkat’s description of the second of the ‘two plausible explanations for our experience’ that he wrote about. He started his description of it by saying, ‘The other is that there is some existing world made of subatomic particles, of which our body-minds are an integral part and never separate from’, but there is a serious weakness in this view, because the essential element of the mind is consciousness or awareness, which cannot be explained adequately or satisfactorily in terms of subatomic particles.

Subatomic particles are theoretical entities, and as such they are just ideas that scientists have developed to explain their observations, and their ideas about such particles are constantly developing and changing in order to explain fresh data that they gather from more sophisticated methods of observation, so whether such particles actually exist or what their exact nature is is a matter that is open to endless debate. However, even if we assume that they do exist and that scientists’ current understanding or them is more or less accurate, they are just physical entities, and hence they do not and cannot explain the existence of something that is conscious or aware.

What is it that is conscious or aware? Is it the subatomic particles themselves? It seems unlikely that they are aware, and even if they are, we have no means of knowing what they are aware of. We can only ever experience one awareness, namely our own, and what we know about our own awareness is that our awareness of other things is constantly changing, whereas our awareness of ourself is essentially the same. Sometimes we are aware of ourself as if we were one thing (such as the body that we now experience as if it were ourself), and at other times as if we were something else (such as whatever body we experienced as ourself in a dream), but if we set aside all such transient experiences and consider only what underlies them, namely our basic and essential awareness of ourself alone, it is clear that that is something that is constant and unchanging.

Therefore, whereas our awareness of our body and other physical things is impermanent, our awareness of ourself is permanent, so our experience of physical things is a temporary phenomenon, the existence of which depends upon our more permanent and enduring experience of ourself. Therefore, since we experience ourself even when we do not experience anything physical, it seems implausible to suggest that our awareness could in any way be dependent upon or could originate from physical phenomena.

Venkat also wrote, ‘These [subatomic] particles come together to evolve humans with mind, which then begin to think and from self-preservation reasons, develop the ego, which is just a bundle of thoughts and conditioning, but not real’. This is clearly putting the cart before the horse, because what projects and experiences all thoughts is only the ego, so thinking cannot come before the ego. In the absence of the ego, there could be no thoughts, because there would be no one to experience them. The ego is also not ‘just a bundle of thoughts and conditioning’, because as I explained in the previous section it is what experiences that bundle, and though that bundle is constantly changing, what experiences it and all its changes is the same. Therefore taking the ego to be either ‘only a bundle of circumstances’ or ‘just a bundle of thoughts and conditioning’ is a result of not correctly applying dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka — that is, not distinguishing the subject or experiencer (dṛś) from the objects or things that it experiences (dṛśya).

4. Distinguishing the ego from the rest of the mind

In reply to the two comments that I wrote in reply to his first comment, Venkat wrote another comment, in which he started by quoting the following portion from my second comment:
Whatever circumstances we may experience, and also anything that we may observe, is dṛśya (an experienced object), whereas we, the ego who experiences or observes it, are dṛś (the experiencing subject). According to Bhagavan, nothing that is dṛśya can exist independent of the dṛś, so only when we rise as the dṛś does any dṛśya come into existence, and hence the dṛś (the ego or experiencer) is the essential foundation on which all experience is built.
After quoting this, Venkat commented:
Just to clarify, in drs-drsya viveka, the ego, which is part of the illusion, is put in drsya (not in drs). So the viveka is to understand that all that you see, perceive, feel, think, is part of the illusory ego-world, part of the drsya (hence the 5 sheaths analysis); and there is something which is the substratum, the drs that is observing this illusory ego-world.

Sankara in the first verse of his drgdrsyaviveka writes: “An object form is perceived, but it is the eye which perceives. This is perceived by the mind which becomes the perceiving subject. Then, the mind, with its modifications, is perceived by the witness (the Self) which cannot be an object of perception”.

Bhagavan in v18 of Upadesa Undiyar, equates the ego with the mind, which he says is a multitude of thoughts (not that different from ‘a bundle of circumstances’). So drs drsya viveka requires the discrimination that all thoughts, including the ‘I’-thought is part of drsya, and you are the witness that observes all this.

So I think when K says to observe carefully, to be choicelessly aware of thoughts/feelings, and to see the selfishness inherent in them, you will find out for yourself that you are not those thoughts/feelings but their witness.
In the first verse of डृग्दृश्यविवेकः (dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ), which Venkat refers to here, Sankara uses the term sākṣin, which (as I explained in What is meant by the term sākṣi or ‘witness’?) is not a term that Bhagavan generally used of his own accord, because its meaning is ambiguous and hence it is liable to create confusion rather than clarifying matters. Therefore, before considering that verse in more detail, I will first consider the other verse that Venkat refers to here, namely verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār, which is an original composition by Bhagavan himself and which therefore represents his actual teachings more clearly and accurately than any text such as Dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ. What he says in verse 18 is:
எண்ணங்க ளேமனம் யாவினு நானெனு
மெண்ணமே மூலமா முந்தீபற
      யானா மனமென லுந்தீபற.

eṇṇaṅga ḷēmaṉam yāviṉu nāṉeṉu
meṇṇamē mūlamā mundīpaṟa
      yāṉā maṉameṉa lundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: எண்ணங்களே மனம். யாவினும் நான் எனும் எண்ணமே மூலம் ஆம். யான் ஆம் மனம் எனல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): eṇṇaṅgaḷ-ē maṉam. yāviṉ-um nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam-ē mūlam ām. yāṉ ām maṉam eṉal.

அன்வயம்: எண்ணங்களே மனம். யாவினும் நான் எனும் எண்ணமே மூலம் ஆம். மனம் எனல் யான் ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): eṇṇaṅgaḷ-ē maṉam. yāviṉ-um nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam-ē mūlam ām. maṉam eṉal yāṉ ām.

English translation: Thoughts alone are mind. Of all [thoughts], the thought called ‘I’ alone is the mūla [the root, base, foundation, origin, source or cause]. [Therefore] what is called mind is [essentially just] ‘I’ [the ego or root-thought called ‘I’].
Though Venkat wrote, ‘Bhagavan in v18 of Upadesa Undiyar, equates the ego with the mind, which he says is a multitude of thoughts (not that different from ‘a bundle of circumstances’)’, that is not actually what Bhagavan implied in this verse, and it is not correct to infer from it that he is saying that the ego is ‘a multitude of thoughts’ or implying that it is ‘a bundle of circumstances’.

In the first sentence of this verse he says, ‘எண்ணங்களே மனம்’ (eṇṇaṅgaḷē maṉam), in which the word எண்ணங்கள் (eṇṇaṅgaḷ) is the plural form of எண்ணம்’ (eṇṇam), so it means ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideas’. Thus what he implies in this first sentence is that the term மனம் (maṉam) or ‘mind’ is a collective name for thoughts. When he uses terms that mean ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideas’, he does not use them in a narrow sense but in the broad sense of mental phenomena of all kinds, and hence according to him the entire world and everything else that we experience other than ourself are merely thoughts or ideas — that is, phenomena that appear in our mind and that have no existence independent of it.

In the second sentence he says, ‘யாவினும் நான் எனும் எண்ணமே மூலம் ஆம்’ (yāviṉum nāṉ eṉum eṇṇamē mūlam ām), which means, ‘Of all, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the mūla’. Here the first word யாவினும் (yāviṉum) means ‘of all’, which refers to the thoughts mentioned in the first sentence, so it means of all the thoughts that constitute the mind. நான் எனும் எண்ணம் (nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam) means ‘the thought called I’, which is the ego, and the suffix ē that is appended to eṇṇam is an intensifier that implies ‘only’, ‘itself’ or ‘certainly’. Thus out of all the thoughts that constitute the mind he is distinguishing one thought, namely the ‘I’ or ego, and he says that this one thought alone is the mūla, which is a word that means root, base, foundation, origin, source or cause.

The reason he distinguishes this one thought from all other thoughts and says that it is the root or origin of them all is that it is the only thought that experiences anything (since it is the only thought that is aware or conscious), so no other thought could arise or appear if it were not experienced by this original thought called ‘I’, the ego. This ‘I’ is therefore the experiencing subject, the dṛś or ‘seer’ (that is, the perceiver, cogniser or experiencer), whereas all the other thoughts are objects experienced by it, and hence they are dṛśya or the ‘seen’ (that is, they are what is perceived, cognised or experienced). Thus this sentence is an example of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka, distinguishing the perceiver (dṛś) from the perceived (dṛśya) — indeed, it is the very essence of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka, because it is distinguishing the essential perceiver or experiencer from everything else that it experiences.

The ego or thought called ‘I’ is the essential and ultimate perceiver (dṛś). In fact it is the only real perceiver, because it alone perceives everything, and nothing else actually perceives or experiences anything. No other thought experiences or is aware of either itself or anything else, whereas this primal thought called ‘I’ experiences and is aware of both itself and all other thoughts. This is why Bhagavan distinguishes it as the mūla, the root, base, foundation, origin, source and cause of all other thoughts. This is also why he says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that if this ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence (அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்: ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum), and that if it does not exist, nothing else exists (அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும்: ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum).

When this ego or thought called ‘I’ has not arisen, no other thought can arise or appear, because other thoughts cannot exist or seem to exist unless they are experienced by this ego. Therefore this ego endures so long as any other thought appears. Other thoughts come and go, so the contents or constituents of the mind are constantly changing, but so long as they come and go the ego endures and remains unchanging. The only change that the ego undergoes is to rise and subside — that is, to appear and disappear — so once it arises or appears it remains unchanged until it again subsides and disappears. All the change that it constantly experiences is not any change in itself but only change in what it experiences.

Thus the ego is the only thought that endures so long as the mind endures, so it is the essence of the mind. Other thoughts constitute the entire package called ‘mind’, but none of them are essential to it, because each of them can be and sooner or later will be replaced by some other thought. Of all the thoughts that constitute the mind, the only one that is never replaced and cannot be replaced is this fundamental thought called ‘I’, the ego. Therefore Bhagavan concludes verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār by saying: ‘யான் ஆம் மனம் எனல்’ (yāṉ ām maṉam eṉal), which means, ‘what is called mind is I’.

What he implies in this verse is therefore that though the term ‘mind’ is generally used as a collective name for the totality of all thoughts or mental phenomena, of all such thoughts the only essential one is the ego, which is the original thought called ‘I’, so what is called mind is essentially just this ego.

Therefore contrary to what Venkat wrote, in this verse he does not simply ‘equate the ego with the mind’, nor does he say that the ego ‘is a multitude of thoughts’. Quite the opposite, he actually distinguishes the ego from all other thoughts, so he does not equate it with the entirety of the mind, but only says that it is the root, foundation or essence of the mind. Therefore in some contexts the term ‘mind’ refers to the collection of all thoughts, whereas in other contexts it refers to its only essential element, namely this ego.

Therefore, when used in its collective sense, the term ‘mind’ refers to an entity whose constituents or elements can be classified into two groups: अहम् (aham) and इदम् (idam), நான் (nāṉ) and இது (idu), ‘I’ and ‘this’. The aham, nāṉ or ‘I’ element of the mind is the ego, the first person or subject, which alone is the actual seer or experiencer (dṛś), and which is therefore the essence of the entire mind. The idam, idu or ‘this’ portion of the mind is all or any of its other thoughts, which are second and third persons or objects, and which are therefore what is seen or experienced (dṛśya).

When we practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), we are trying to observe or attend to ourself alone in order to experience ourself in complete isolation from all other things, so self-investigation is the practical application of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka, trying to distinguish aham or ‘I’ (the experiencing subject or dṛś) from everything else, which is idam or ‘this’ (the experienced objects or dṛśya). Therefore dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka is not merely an intellectual exercise or rational analysis, but is the actual process of distinguishing ourself experientially from everything else that we experience. Intellectual analysis is of course a necessary starting point, but it is only laying the foundation, as it were, and it is on this foundation of intellectual discrimination that we must apply the actual process of trying to distinguish or discern ourself experientially from everything else with which we are now mixed and confused.

5. Distinguishing the experiencer (dṛś) from the experienced (dṛśya)

Having carefully considered the simple and essential dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka that Bhagavan expresses in verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār, let us now consider the somewhat more complicated expression of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka in the first verse of Dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ:
रूपं दृश्यं लोचनं दृक् तद्दृश्यं दृक्तु मानसं ।
दृश्या धीवृत्तय साक्षी दृगेव न तु दृश्यते ॥

rūpaṁ dṛśyaṁ lōcanaṁ dṛk taddṛśyaṁ dṛktu mānasaṁ
dṛśyā dhīvṛttaya sākṣī dṛgēva na tu dṛśyatē
.

पदच्छेद: रूपम् दृश्यम्, लोचनम् दृश्; तत् दृश्यम्, दृश् तु मानसम्; दृश्या धी-वृत्तय, साक्षी दृश्-एव न तु दृश्यते.

Padacchēda (word-separation): rūpam dṛśyam, lōcanam dṛś; tat dṛśyam, dṛś tu mānasam; dṛśyā dhī-vṛttaya, sākṣī dṛś-ēva na tu dṛśyatē.

English translation: Form is seen, the eye is the seer; it [the eye] is seen, whereas the seer is the mind; the seen are the vṛttis [the modifications or thoughts] of the mind, [whereas] the sākṣin [witness] is only the seer but not what is seen.
Though we generally say that our eyes see the visible forms of the external world, and that our other senses perceive other types of sensation, neither our eyes nor any of our other senses actually see or perceive anything, because they are not conscious. They only receive impressions and convert them into neural impulses, which they transmit to our brain (or at least this is what is generally believed to happen). Though our brain (supposedly) receives these neural impulses and processes or registers them in some way, it likewise does not actually experience anything, because it is not conscious. What actually ‘sees’ or experiences all the information that is believed to be transmitted from our eyes and other senses to our brain is only our mind, and what it experiences is not actually any external objects or any neural impulses but only a series of perceptual images or impressions, which are all just thoughts, ideas or mental phenomena (just like the perceptual impressions that we experience in a dream).

However, though the mind is said to be the seer, we need to distinguish what exactly is meant by this, because most of the thoughts or phenomena (vṛttis) that constitute the mind do not see or experience anything. The only element of the mind that sees or experiences anything is the ego, so this ego is what is referred to in this verse as the sākṣin or ‘witness’, which is dṛś, whereas all the other elements of the mind are what are referred to as dhī-vṛttaya, ‘mental modifications’ or ‘movements of the mind’, which are dṛśya.

The final clause of this verse, ‘साक्षी दृश्-एव न तु दृश्यते’ (sākṣī dṛś-ēva na tu dṛśyatē), which means, ‘the witness is only the seer but not what is seen’, emphasises that though the ego sees everything else, it itself cannot be seen by anything. The only thing that can see anything is this ego, but if it tries to see itself it will subside and disappear, because it is not actually what it seems to be, but is only what we actually are (our real self), which does not see anything other than itself (ourself) alone. So long as we see or experience anything other than ourself, we seem to be this ego, but if we try to see ourself, we will see that we are not this ego but only the one infinite reality, other than which nothing exists to be seen at all.

Trying to see the ego is like trying to see an illusory snake. We seem to see a snake, so we can watch it, but we cannot actually see it, because if we look at it too closely, we will see that it is not a snake but only a rope. Likewise, we seem to be aware of ourself as this ego, so we can watch it or try to attend to it, but we cannot actually see it, because if we look at it too closely, we will see that it is not the ego or ‘witness’ that it seems to be (that is, it is not a finite entity that sees things other than itself) but is only the infinite essence or real substance, which sees nothing other than itself.

6. The essence of the mind is the ego, and the essence of the ego is pure self-awareness

The fact that the ego can never be seen was often emphasised by Bhagavan. For example, in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means, ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, and in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār he says:
மனத்தி னுருவை மறவா துசாவ
மனமென வொன்றிலை யுந்தீபற
      மார்க்கநே ரார்க்குமி துந்தீபற.

maṉatti ṉuruvai maṟavā dusāva
maṉameṉa voṉḏṟilai yundīpaṟa
      mārgganē rārkkumi dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. mārggam nēr ārkkum idu.

அன்வயம்: மறவாது மனத்தின் உருவை உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. இது ஆர்க்கும் நேர் மார்க்கம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṟavādu maṉattiṉ uruvai usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. idu ārkkum nēr mārggam.

English translation: When [one] investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting, anything called ‘mind’ will not exist. For everyone this is the direct [straight, proper, correct or true] path.
The opening words of this verse, மனத்தின் உருவை (maṉattiṉ uruvai), which mean ‘the form of the mind’ (உருவை being an accusative form of உரு, which means ‘form’), do not refer to any of the other thoughts of the mind, but only to its one original, fundamental and essential thought, namely the ego. If we investigate, observe or scrutinise any other thought, we will thereby be nourishing and perpetuating the illusion that we are this ego, because as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the ego rises and stands by grasping other thoughts. Only if we investigate, observe or scrutinise our ego, the thought that experiences all other thoughts, will it be found to be non-existent, and only when it thereby ceases to exist will the entire edifice of the mind crumble down and disappear.

The first half of the first sentence of this verse, மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva), means ‘when [one] investigates the form of the mind without forgetting’. Though the ‘form of the mind’ that we must thus investigate is the ego, when we investigate it we are not investigating any of the adjuncts with which it is now mixed and confused, such as our body or any of the other thoughts with which we identify ourself, but are only investigating the essential core of the ego, which is its self-awareness. This is what Bhagavan meant when he said (as recorded in the last chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel, 2002 edition, page 96), ‘In your investigation into the source of aham-vritti, you take the essential chit aspect of the ego’.

Aham-vritti’ (ahaṁ-vṛtti) means the ‘I-thought’ or ego, and ‘chit’ (cit) means consciousness or awareness, which in this context means specifically self-awareness, not any awareness of anything else. As Bhagavan had just pointed out in the same passage of Maharshi’s Gospel, the ego is sometimes described as cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) that binds together two distinct elements as if they were one, namely ourself, who are cit or pure self-awareness, and our physical body, which is jaḍa, not conscious or aware. The jaḍa element of the ego is merely an adjunct or set of adjuncts, so it is not what the ego essentially is, but is something extraneous to its essence. Its essential element is only its self-awareness or consciousness (cit), which is what we really are, so when we investigate our ego, what we are trying to isolate and experience as it is is only its essential self-awareness, devoid of all the adjuncts with which it now seems to be mixed.

Just as the ego is the essence of the mind, pure self-awareness is the essence of the ego, so when Bhagavan says in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār that if we investigate the form of our mind without forgetting, we will discover that there is actually no such thing as mind at all, what he means by ‘the form of the mind’ (மனத்தின் உரு: maṉattiṉ uru) is only our ego, or still more specifically its essential self-awareness. In other words, we can interpret these words ‘மனத்தின் உரு’ (maṉattiṉ uru) or ‘the form of the mind’ either with reference to next verse as the ego or ‘thought called I’ (நான் எனும் எண்ணம்: nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam), or with reference to the previous verse as the mind’s ‘form of light’ (ஒளியுரு: oḷi-y-uru), which is its essential self-awareness.

7. To see what is real we must give up seeing what is seen (dṛśya)

We have already considered the meaning of the next verse (verse 18) in the fourth section above, so let us now consider the meaning of the previous verse (verse 16):
வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு, மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu, maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdal-ē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

அன்வயம்: மனம் வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṉam veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdal-ē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

English translation: Having given up [knowing] external viṣayas [objects or anything perceived or cognised], the mind knowing its own form of light alone is real knowledge [or knowledge of reality].
The opening words of this verse, வெளி விடயங்களை (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai), mean ‘external viṣayas’, because வெளி (veḷi) means outside or external, and விடயம் (viḍayam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word विषय (viṣaya), which means an object or anything perceived, cognised or experienced. In this context ‘external’ does not only mean external to our body, but external to ourself, so external viṣayas are anything other than ourself. In other words, they are anything that is dṛśya (seen, perceived or cognised), as confirmed by Bhagavan in his Sanskrit translation of this verse, in which he translated வெளி விடயங்கள் (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷ) as दृश्य (dṛśya):
दृश्य वारितं चित्त मात्मनः ।
चित्त्व दर्शनं तत्त्व दर्शनम् ॥

dṛśya vāritaṁ citta mātmanaḥ
cittva darśanaṁ tattva darśanam
.

पदच्छेद: दृश्य वारितम्, चित्तम् आत्मनः चित्त्व दर्शनम् तत्त्व दर्शनम्.

Padacchēda (word-separation): dṛśya vāritam, cittam ātmanaḥ cittva darśanam tattva darśanam.

English translation: What is seen [being] kept away, the mind seeing its own cittva [awareness or consciousness] is seeing tattva [‘itness’, what actually exists or is real].
In both the Tamil and Sanskrit versions of this verse the first clause in an adverbial one, with its verb being a participle, which subordinates it to the main clause of the sentence, so what is described in the first clause is in effect a precondition for what is described in the main clause. In Tamil the first clause is வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu), in which விட்டு (viṭṭu) is a participle that means leaving, quitting, removing, getting rid of, relinquishing or giving up, so the whole clause means leaving or giving up external viṣayas or objects of cognition. Likewise in Sanskrit the first clause is दृश्य वारितम् (dṛśya vāritam), in which वारितम् (vāritam) is a participle that means kept away, warded off or prevented, so the whole clause means dṛśya (what is seen or cognised) being kept away or warded off. Unless we give up attending to or being aware of any external viṣayas or dṛśya — that is, anything other than ourself — we cannot experience ourself as we really are.

Experiencing ourself as we really are is what is described in the main clause of this verse. In Tamil the subject of the main clause is ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), which means ‘the mind knowing its own form of light’, and in Sanskrit it is ‘चित्तम् आत्मनः चित्त्व दर्शनम्’ (cittam ātmanaḥ cittva darśanam), which means ‘the mind seeing its own awareness’. The Tamil word ஓர்தல் (ōrdal) is a verbal noun that actually means either knowing or investigating, examining or observing attentively, but since this clause is describing what is real knowledge or awareness, in this context ஓர்தல் (ōrdal) means knowing or experiencing.

The words ஒளி உரு (oḷi-uru) literally mean ‘form of light’, but here ஒளி (oḷi) is a metaphor for awareness or consciousness, which is why Bhagavan translated it as चित्त्व (cittva) in Sanskrit. चित् (cit) means what is aware or conscious, and the suffix त्व (tva) means more or less the same as the suffix ‘-ness’ in English, so चित्त्व (cittva) means the quality or condition of being aware or conscious, or in other word awareness or consciousness. आत्मनः (ātmanaḥ) is the genitive form of आत्मन् (ātman), so it means exactly the same as தன் (taṉ), which in this context is ‘its own’, meaning the mind’s own.

The mind’s own ‘form of light’ (ஒளி உரு: oḷi-uru) or ‘awareness’ (चित्त्व: cittva) is its essential self-awareness, which in its pure condition is what we actually are and what alone is real, so Bhagavan says that the mind knowing or seeing its own form of light or awareness is உண்மை உணர்ச்சி (uṇmai uṇarcci) or तत्त्व दर्शनम् (tattva darśanam). உண்மை உணர்ச்சி (uṇmai uṇarcci) means real knowledge or awareness, or knowledge or awareness of the reality, and तत्त्व दर्शनम् (tattva darśanam) means seeing what is real.

The mind itself cannot actually experience real knowledge or see what is real, but when it gives up experiencing or being aware of anything other than itself (that is, any external object or dṛśya) by trying to experience only its own essential self-awareness, it ceases to be the mind or ego that it seemed to be (in other words, it ceases to be dṛś, the seer, perceiver or witness of any object), and remains as what it always really is, which is pure adjunct-free self-awareness. That is, when all dṛśya is given up, nothing remains as dṛś (the ego or mind), so what then remains is only pure self-awareness, which is the mind’s essential ‘form of light’ or ‘awareness’, and which is also the sole reality (uṇmai or tattva) and hence what we always actually are.

Therefore the mind that sees only its own ‘form of light’ or awareness is no longer the mind as such but is only that ‘form of light’ itself, so what actually sees or experiences its own ‘form of light’ or awareness is actually only our real self, because nothing other than what we really are can be aware of what we really are. So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we seem to be this mind or ego, but when we are aware of ourself alone, we are only what we really are.

The only means by which we can give up or keep away all dṛśya is by trying to see the seer or ego (dṛś), but though we try to do so, we will never actually be able to see the seer, because when by trying to see it we manage give up all dṛśya, the seer will also cease to exist as such, and what we will then see is only what we actually are, which is neither dṛś nor dṛśya, because there is nothing other than ourself either for us to see or to be seen by. That state in which we see or are aware of nothing other than ourself is what Bhagavan describes in this verse as ‘real knowledge’ (உண்மை உணர்ச்சி: uṇmai uṇarcci) or ‘seeing the reality’ (तत्त्व दर्शनम्: tattva darśanam).

8. What we really are is not the witness (sākṣin) or seer (dṛś) of anything

In the fifth section above I argued that the ‘witness’ (sākṣin) or ultimate seer (dṛś) referred to in the final clause of the first verse of Dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ is only our ego. However in many translations of that verse the witness is interpreted to be ‘the Self’ (as it was interpreted to be in the approximate translation that Venkat gave in his comment), and this implies that it is not our ego but what we actually are.

Though I believe that this is a misinterpretation, it could be argued that Bhagavan’s Tamil translation lends support to it, because he translated (or rather adapted or paraphrased) this verse as follows:
நாம் பார்க்கும் இப்பிரபஞ்சவுருவம் கண்ணாற் காணப்படுவதால் திருசியம், காணுங் கண் திருக்கு; அக்கண் மனதாலறியப்படுவதால் திருசியம், மனம் திருக்கு; விருத்திகளுடன் கூடின அம்மனம் சாக்ஷியாகிய ஆத்மாவா லறியப்படுவதால் திருசியம், ஆத்மாதிருக்கு; அது ஒன்றாலு மறியப்படாததால் திருசியமன்று.

nām pārkkum i-p-pirapañca-v-uruvam kaṇṇāl kāṇa-p-paḍuvadāl diruśiyam, kāṇuṅ kaṇ dirukku; a-k-kaṇ maṉadāl aṟiya-p-paḍuvadāl diruśiyam, maṉam dirukku; viruttigaḷ-uḍaṉ gūḍiṉa a-m-maṉam sākṣi-y-āhiya ātmāvāl aṟiya-p-paḍuvadāl diruśiyam, ātma dirukku; adu oṉḏṟāl-um aṟiya-p-paḍādadāl diruśiyam aṉḏṟu.

Since the form of this world that we see is seen by the eye, it is dṛśya, [whereas] the eye that sees is dṛś; since that eye is known by the mind, it is dṛśya, [whereas] the mind is dṛś; since that mind, which is mixed [or crowded] with thoughts, is known by ourself, who are the sākṣi, it is dṛśya, [whereas] ourself is dṛś; since it [ourself] is not known by anything, it is not dṛśya.
Though the word ஆத்மா (ātmā), which I have translated here as ‘ourself’, is often used to denote what we really are (our real self), what it actually means is exactly the same as the Tamil word தான் (tāṉ), namely oneself, myself, yourself, himself, herself or itself, so it does not necessarily mean our real self, and it is often used to denote our personal self (jīvātman) or ego, or more generally just oneself, without specifically meaning either what we really are or what we seem to be. It is in this non-specific sense that it is used here, which is why I translated it simply as ‘ourself’ (I could have translated it as ‘oneself’, which in this context would mean the same as ‘ourself’, but since Bhagavan began this sentence with the word நாம் (nām), which means ‘we’, I decided that ‘ourself’ would be more appropriate here).

Though he uses ‘ஆத்மா’ (ātmā) in this non-specific sense here, we can infer that what it refers to in this context is not what we really are (our real self) but only our ego, which is what we seem to be whenever we see anything other than ourself. What we really are is not the witness (sākṣin) or seer (dṛś) of anything other than ourself, and it certainly does not know our mind or any of its vṛttis or thoughts, because they exist only in the self-ignorant view of our ego.

If anyone has any doubt about whether or not this inference is correct, they can refer to verse 98 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai (which I translated and discussed in In a literal sense, the only sākṣin is our ego), because in that verse Muruganar records that Bhagavan said, ‘ஆன்மாதான் ஏன்ற கரி என்றல் இழுக்கு’ (āṉmā-tāṉ ēṉḏṟa kari eṉḏṟal iṙukku), which means, ‘it is incorrect to say that ātman itself is the actual witness’, and also gave a clear reason for saying this. In the context of that verse of Guru Vācaka Kōvai ஆன்மா (āṉmā) clearly means only our real self, so when he says in his Tamil adaptation of the first verse of Dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ ‘சாக்ஷியாகிய ஆத்மா’ (sākṣi-y-āhiya ātmā), which means, ‘ourself, who are the sākṣi’, he is obviously not using ஆத்மா (ātmā) in the sense of our real self but only in the sense of ourself as the ego, which alone is what sees anything other than itself.

The fact that our real self does not see anything other than itself is also clearly implied in many verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. For example, in verse 4 Bhagavan says:
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.

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

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): tāṉ uruvam āyiṉ, ulahu param aṯṟu ām; tāṉ uruvam aṉḏṟēl, uvaṯṟiṉ uruvattai yāvaṉ kaṇ uṟudal? 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 [in nature] than the eye [that sees it]? The [real] eye is oneself, the infinite eye.
In the final sentence of this verse, ‘கண் அது தான் அந்தம் இலா கண்’ (kaṇ adu tāṉ antam-ilā kaṇ), Bhagavan implies that what we actually are is devoid of any end or limit (antam), and hence is infinite and formless. The first (and also the last) word of this sentence, கண் (kaṇ), literally means ‘eye’, but is here used in a metaphorical sense to mean what sees, knows or is aware. அது (adu) is a pronoun meaning ‘that’ and refers to the preceding word கண் (kaṇ), so it does not really have any separate meaning here, and hence கண் அது (kaṇ adu) simply means ‘the eye’, or perhaps ‘that eye’. In this context தான் (tāṉ) can be interpreted either to mean ‘oneself’, in which case கண் அது தான் (kaṇ adu tāṉ) would mean ‘the eye is oneself’, or to be an intensifying suffix appended to அது (adu), in which case கண் அது தான் (kaṇ adu tāṉ) would mean ‘the eye itself’, ‘the eye alone’ or ‘the eye indeed’. அந்தம் இலா (antam-ilā) means endless, limitless or infinite, and the final word கண் (kaṇ) again means ‘eye’, so the meaning of this whole sentence is either ‘the eye is oneself, the infinite eye’ or ‘the eye itself is the infinite eye’, so the implied meaning is that the real eye is only oneself, but not oneself as a finite form, but only oneself as the infinite and hence formless ‘eye’ or awareness.

Whatever has form of any kind whatsoever is finite and hence separate from all other forms, whereas whatever has no form is infinite and hence separate from nothing, because any kind of form is a limitation and thereby excludes from itself whatever is beyond or outside the limits of its form. Therefore, since what we really are (our real self) is ‘the infinite eye’, we are actually formless, and hence nothing other than ourself exists. Therefore as the infinite and hence formless eye we cannot see or be aware of anything other than our own formless self, so this infinite eye (our real self) is just pure self-awareness — awareness of nothing other than ourself alone.

Therefore we can see or be aware of forms only when we experience ourself as a form. As the infinite eye, we cannot experience ourself as a form, so what experiences itself as a form is only our ego, which is not what we actually are but only what we now seem to be. In the view of the infinite eye, this ego does not exist, so it exists only in its own view — that is, in the view of ourself as this ego. Our ego is therefore an inexplicable enigma, and according to Bhagavan it does not actually exist, as we will discover if we investigate ourself to see whether we actually are what we now seem to be.

As Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the ego is உருவற்ற பேய் (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy), a ‘formless phantom’, so it has no separate existence of its own, but can seemingly come into existence and endure only by grasping form. That is, since it is formless, it seems to exist only when it grasps and identifies itself as a form, namely a physical body. However, the body that it experiences as itself does not exist independent of it, because as Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, everything else comes into (seeming) existence only when the ego comes into (seeming) existence, so when we do not experience ourself as this ego, nothing else exists (except of course ourself as we really are). Therefore the body and all the other forms that this ego experiences are only its own projections. They exist only in its self-ignorant view, and they do not exist or seem to exist when it does not rise to experience them.

Therefore when Bhagavan says in the first sentence of this verse, ‘உருவம் தான் ஆயின், உலகு பரம் அற்று ஆம்’ (uruvam tāṉ āyiṉ, ulahu param aṯṟu ām), ‘If oneself is a form, the world and God will be likewise’, he means that if we rise as this ego and thereby experience ourself as a body, we will see everything else as forms. And when he then asks, ‘உருவம் தான் அன்றேல், உவற்றின் உருவத்தை கண் உறுதல் யாவன்? எவன்?’ (uruvam tāṉ aṉḏṟēl, uvaṯṟiṉ uruvattai kaṇ uṟudal yāvaṉ? evaṉ?), ‘If oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how [to do so]?’, he means that if we do not rise as this ego and therefore do not experience ourself as a body or any other kind of form, there will be no one to see any other forms, and no means to do so.

Therefore we can see forms (anything other than our infinite and formless self) only if we experience ourself as a form, and hence when we experience ourself as we really are we cannot experience any form. This is the implication of his other question in this verse, ‘கண் அலால் காட்சி உண்டோ?’ (kaṇ alāl kāṭci uṇḍō?), which means ‘Can what is seen be otherwise [in nature] than the eye [that sees it]?’ Therefore our real self, which is ‘the infinite eye’, can never see anything other than itself, and hence it cannot be correct to describe it as either a ‘witness’ (sākṣin) or a ‘seer’ (dṛś). Therefore what is called the ‘witness’ and ‘seer’ of the mind and its thoughts (vṛittis) in the final half of the first verse of Dṛgdṛśyavivēkaḥ is only our ego and not our real self.

9. To experience what we really are, we must cease witnessing or being aware of anything else

Regarding what Venkat wrote in the final sentence of his comment that I quoted in the fourth section above, namely ‘So I think when K [J. Krishnamurti] says to observe carefully, to be choicelessly aware of thoughts/feelings, and to see the selfishness inherent in them, you will find out for yourself that you are not those thoughts/feelings but their witness’, in order to know that we are not any of the thoughts or feelings that we experience but only what witnesses or is aware of them, we do not need to observe them carefully or try to be ‘choicelessly aware’ of them, because we can work out this obvious fact simply by doing a little rational analysis. All the thoughts or feelings that we experience appear and disappear, whereas we exist whether they appear or not, so they cannot be ourself.

However, though we are the witness of thoughts or feelings when we experience them, we do not always experience them, so we are not always a witness. In deep sleep we do not witness any thought or feeling, yet we are aware that we exist, so the witness of thoughts or feelings cannot be what we really are. We experience thoughts or feelings only when we experience ourself as a body, and when we experience ourself thus we are not experiencing ourself as we really are. Therefore so long as we experience ourself as the witness of thoughts, feelings or anything else other than ourself, we are just perpetuating the illusion that we are a finite ego rather the infinite self-awareness that we actually are.

Therefore, in order to experience ourself as we really are, we must cease witnessing or being aware of anything other than ourself, and must instead try to be aware of ourself alone. This is the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) that Bhagavan taught us, and as he repeatedly emphasised, this is the only means by which we can destroy our ego, the illusion that we are anything other than pure and infinite self-awareness.

The purpose of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka (distinguishing the seer from the seen, or the perceiver from what is perceived) is only to enable us to withdraw our attention from everything else and to focus it exclusively on ourself alone — or in other words, to cease being aware of anything else and to be attentively aware of ourself alone. The more we succeed in being attentively aware of ourself alone, the more our ego will subside and dissolve back into ourself, its source, and when we eventually succeed in our attempt to be aware of ourself alone, we will experience ourself as we really are, and thus we will know that we have actually always experienced ourself only as we really are and have therefore never experienced ourself as an ego or ‘seer’ (dṛś), nor have we ever experienced anything else (any dṛśya).

104 comments:

Kamadhenu said...

Michael,
again we all are gratified with your recent article.
While reading on page 8 "the only change that the ego undergoes is to rise and subside - that is, to appear and disappear - [...].All the change that it constantly experiences is not any change in itself but only change in what it experiences" the question interests me if the ego is aware of its appearance and disappearance.

Michael James said...

Kamadhenu, the ego is certainly aware of its appearance in the sense that we are aware of waking up or beginning to dream, though we are not able to detect the precise moment at which we wake up or begin to dream, because the ego rises so quickly that by the time we notice it we are already awake or dreaming. Regarding its disappearance, when it disappears in sleep it is no longer there to be aware of its disappearance, so we become aware that it had disappeared only after it has reappeared.

However, we can try to observe the disappearance of our ego by watching it (ourself) vigilantly, because the more closely we watch it the more it will subside back into ourself, its source. Nevertheless, even though we can try to observe its disappearance by being vigilantly self-attentive, when it thereby actually disappears we will experience ourself as we really are, so we will then not feel that we have seen the disappearance of our ego, because it will be so clear to us that we have always been aware of ourself alone and have therefore never been aware of any such thing as this ego.

Our ego and its appearance and disappearance seem to exist only in the view of ourself as this ego, so when it disappears it does not exist at all, and even when it appears it does not actually exist but only seems to exist in its own view. Therefore it is an imposter and is cheating us by taking what is rightfully ours (namely ourself), so we must prevent it at all costs, and the only way to do so is to watch it vigilantly at all times.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
Did you plan to make a fresh translation of "Arunachala Venba" of Sadhu Om ?

http://sadhuom.net/e-books/verses/book/7-sri-arunachala-venba/2-verses.html

Michael James said...

Anonymous, Arunachala Venba is one of many works that I would like to make a fresh translation of, but it is not one of my highest priorities, and nowadays I seem to have no time for doing any fresh translation work, because all my spare time is taken up replying to emails and to comments on this blog, and even for that I do not have sufficient time, which is why I have recently not been able to reply to many comments here and to many of the emails I have been receiving.

Bob - P said...

It is deeply appreciated Michael.

I am sure everyone understands if you take a much needed break from answering questions so you can focus on your own work, projects and practise.

Thank you for everything you do.

Bob

Anonymous said...

Michael, with a fresh translation of "Arunachala venba" people here will read it, they will all cry, and they will spend more time practicing atma-vicara, then, they will not ask you too much questions... then you will have time to do what you have come for : to make fresh and good translation of Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om...
I love you !

R Viswanathan said...

" the question interests me if the ego is aware of its appearance and disappearance."

Sri Michael James answered it so well.

This is how Sri Arthur Osborne gives Bhagavan's answer in his book: The teachings of Ramana Maharshi in his own words.

"You see, he who eliminates all the 'not-I'cannot eliminate the 'I'. In order to be able to say 'I am not this' or 'I am That', there must be the 'I' to say it. This 'I' is only the ego or the 'I'-thought." (page 116)

"The 'I'-thought is like a spirit which, although not palpable, rises up simultaneously with the body, flourishes with it, and disappears with it. The body consciousness is the wrong 'I'. Give it up. You can do so by seeking the source of 'I'. The body does not say: 'I am'. It is you who say 'I am the body'. Find out who this 'I' is. Seek its source and it will vanish." (page 117)

Amrita said...

Michael,
section 6. The essence of the mind is the ego, and the essence of the ego is pure self-awareness

"Just as the ego is the essence of the mind, [...], so when Bhagavan says in verse 17 of Upadesa Undiyar that if we investigate the form of our mind without forgetting, we will discover that there is actually no such thing as mind at all".
To me it is not clear what Bhagavan means with the words "without forgetting".
What/which /whom should we - as the ego - not forget ?
Please can you explain that further ?

Michael James said...

Amrita, what generally happens when we try to investigate ourself? We start off with an intention to try to attend to ourself alone, but it is usually not long before we forget this intention and begin to think of something else. This is the ‘forgetting’ that Bhagavan says we should avoid, because unless we avoid it will not be able to go sufficiently deep within ourself to experience ourself alone and thereby to experience what we really are, and it is only when we experience ourself as we really are that we will discover that there is actually no such thing as mind or ego at all.

The self-forgetfulness that Bhagavan refers to in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār when he says மறவாது (maṟavādu), ‘not forgetting’ or ‘without forgetting’, is what is often called pramāda, which is a Sanskrit word that means intoxication, madness, carelessness, negligence or a mistake, but which in advaita philosophy means specifically self-negligence or the mistake of not remembering to be attentively self-aware. Pramāda or self-negligence is the opposite of ātma-vicāra or self-attentiveness, so it is what we must avoid at all costs.

R Viswanathan said...

"'What/which /whom should we - as the ego - not forget ?"

I would infer that we should not forget to investigate or scrutinize the form of mind. Since Sri Michael James mentioned in the same article that the form of the mind does not refer to any of the other thoughts of the mind, but only to its one original, fundamental and essential thought, namely the ego, I would infer that we should not forget to pay attention to the ego or the basic 'I"-thought that thinks or perceives other thoughts.

Thus, it boils down to whether the attention is on the other thoughts or the basic 'I"-thought.

I benefitted from this note of Sri Arthur Osborne in his book "The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in His own Words":

"It must already be apparent from these indications that Self-enquiry as taught by Bhagavan is something very different from the introversion of psychologist. In fact, it is not really a mental process at all. Introversion means studying the compositions and contents of the mind, whereas this is an attempt to probe behind the mind to the Self from which it arises".

venkat said...

Dear Michael

Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to respond to my comments - an excellent forensic analyses.

If I may ask, when you say it is the I-thought that perceives other thoughts, how can a thought perceive other thoughts? The mental model I had of this, is this pure consciousness is like the screen on which appears the body-mind and world, and because of the on-going association of the body-mind with the screen of consciousness, the error is made that it is the body-mind. However your essay makes clear that pure consciousness doesn't experience anything (hence non-duality) - so how to explain experience, i.e. the arising of this appearance. I think Bhagavan said that it is pointless to seek an explanation to this, without first seeking who am I.

Also, could I ask about two quotes from Bhagavan that David Godman had in his translation of Guru Vachaka Kovai - though I agree it is at odds with the verse itself:

"In the mantra sakshi cheat kevalo nirgunascha, the word sakshi must be understood as sannidhi [presence], without which there could be nothing. See how the sun is necessary for daily activities. He does not however form part of the world actions; yet they cannot take place without the sun. He is the witness of the activities. So it is with the Self."

"Talking of the 'witness' should not lead to the idea that there is a witness and something else apart from him that is he is witnessing. The 'witness' really means the light that illumines the seer, the seen and the process of seeing. Before, during and after the triads of seer, seen and seeing, the illumination [venkat: the witness?] exists. It alone exists.

Thank you again.

venkat said...

Sorry, I omitted the verse reference in GVK - it is v.98 that Michael referred to.

Kamadhenu said...

Thank you Michael for your instructive explanation of the characteristics and peculiarities of the ego as well as the possibilities to observe it.
The only change that the ego constantly experiences is that in what it experiences. It is aware of the change of its altenate playground - first the waking state of a subject and then another time the dream state. After "work" while dreaming it disappears in (deep) sleep anywhere – let us say to a beautiful place (maybe in the heart) for relaxing. Ah - you say when it disappears it does not exist at all. But the time of non-existence does not last too long because next appearance (reappearance) in a new dream is waiting for a zealous ego.
Apparently the ego’s life may be not very full of variety.
Do you know Michael if the(an)ego has special fondness or preference to the experience in a particular state (waking or dreaming) ? Or is it a matter of complete indifference to it ?
Who is the regulator of the alternate succession of the ego's presence ?
Is vigilantly watching the ego done also by the ego itself ?
To clarify the fact that we have always been aware of ourself alone and have therefore never been aware of any such thing as this ego should be my (our) aim in life.
When considering the heading of section 6. of the represential article that the essence of the ego is pure self-awareness I anyway feel some difficulties/reservations/reluctance to prevent the ego at all costs metaphorically speaking to beat it as an imposter and cheater with a cudgel.
But I understand that there is no other way as to watch it vigilantly at all times.

Michael James said...

Venkat, in answer to the first question in your comment, ‘when you say it is the I-thought that perceives other thoughts, how can a thought perceive other thoughts?’, this thought called ‘I’ (our ego) is fundamentally different to all other thoughts, because whereas all other thoughts are non-conscious objects (dṛśya), this thought is the conscious subject (dṛś). In other words, all other thoughts are jaḍa (devoid of awareness) whereas this thought is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a confused mixture of self-awareness (cit) and various jaḍa adjuncts, beginning with a physical body. Because of its essential cit element, this ego or thought called ‘I’ is aware of itself, and because it is also mixed with jaḍa elements, it is also aware of other things, which are jaḍa.

As you say, Bhagavan always said that it is useless to ask how this ego and everything else that it experiences came into existence, because if we investigate it we will find that it does not actually exist and has never existed. It seems to exist only in its own view (that is, in the view of ourself when we experience ourself as this ego), so when we investigate ourself and thereby discover that we have never actually experienced ourself as this ego, because we always experience ourself only as we really are, it will be clear that this ego never even seemed to exist. This is ajāta, the truth that nothing has ever come into being, and that we alone exist.

Regarding the two passages that David quotes as a note to verse 98 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai in the translation that he edited, they are from Talks (section 466) and Day by Day (18-7-46), and the mantra that Bhagavan refers to in that passage from Talks is a part of Śvētāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.11, in which the nature of the ‘one God’ (ēkō dēvaḥ) is described, saying among other things that he is the ‘witness’ (sākṣi). I am not sure how accurately either of these two passages record what Bhagavan actually said, but even if we assume that they do so more or less accurately, what he seems to be saying in them is not exactly the same as what he says in verse 98 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, so they are not entirely relevant to it.

However, what we can infer from what is recorded in those two passages is that if the term ‘witness’ (sākṣi) is interpreted literally, it implies duality, because there must be a distinction between the witnessing subject (the ego) and whatever objects it witnesses. Therefore in its literal sense this term ‘witness’ can refer only to the ego.

However, our real self is sometimes described as the ‘witness’ (sākṣi), in which case we should not interpret this term literally. In the passage from Talks Bhagavan interprets it to mean sannidhi or ‘presence’ (which is the sat or being aspect of ourself), and in the passage from Day by Day he interprets it to mean ‘the light that illumines’ (which is the cit or awareness aspect of ourself).

In the latter passage, the ‘illumination’ that Bhagavan says alone exists is our real self, so it is the same as ‘the light that illumines the seer, the seen and the process of seeing’. Venkat, on the other hand, is the body or person that the ego now experiences as itself, so he is not that illumination, though that illumination (which is pure self-awareness) is what the ego essentially is, so it is what we will experience as ourself when we strip ourself of all the adjuncts that now make us seem to be this ego or the person called ‘Venkat’ (or ‘Michael’ or whatever).

Amrita said...

Thank you Michael,
now I grasp what we should avoid.
Yes that self-forgetfulness is really a poisoning we better are not overcome with it.

Michael James said...

Kamadhenu, in answer to your comment, what our ego has a special fondness for is primarily itself, because what it essentially is only what we really are, and self-love is the very nature of what we really are, because we are infinite happiness and we cannot but love being happy. However, because our ego mistakes itself to be what it is not, its special fondness for itself is misdirected to whatever it mistakes to be itself.

So long as we mistake ourself to be this ego and whatever adjuncts it has currently attached itself to, we will do all that we can to survive as this ego, and to survive as such we must always experience things other than ourself. Therefore we as this ego are equally fond of both waking and dream, and we also like sleep whenever we are sufficiently tired, because though in sleep we do not experience anything other than ourself, we subside into sleep without being attentively self-aware, and hence as a result of our inattentiveness we as this ego somehow manage to conceal ourself under a thick cloak of self-ignorance.

Regarding your question ‘Who is the regulator of the alternate succession of the ego’s presence?’, the usual answer that is given to such questions is God, but to anyone who was more serious in seeking to know what is true, Bhagavan would answer that we should first investigate to see whether the ego is actually present. God as the regulator of whatever we experience seems to be real only so long as we seem to be this ego, but when we experience what we really are, we will find that there is no God other than our real self, and our real self does not do or regulate anything, because it alone exists.

Regarding your final question, ‘Is vigilantly watching the ego done also by the ego itself?’, yes, it is only the ego that needs to vigilantly watch itself. Our real self could not watch it, because in its view it alone exists, so there is no ego for it to watch. However, though we seem to be this ego when we begin to watch ourself vigilantly, the more keenly we do so the more this ego will dissolve and disappear, and when we eventually succeed in seeing (experiencing) ourself alone, we will find that we have never been an ego and have never been watching anything other than what we really are.

venkat said...

Thanks Michael - and apologies for adding to your workload.

Michael James said...

No need to apologise, Venkat. Doing such ‘work’ is a pleasure, because it keeps my wayward mind dwelling on Bhagavan’s teachings.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
Many thanks for your recent articles. In your latest reply to Venkat, you wrote “This is ajāta, the truth that nothing has ever come into being, and that we alone exist.”

I understand that Sri Gaudapada was a proponent of it and Bhagavan has said that it is the ultimate truth. However the thought of ajata is pretty scary to ponder from the ego’s perspective. We always seek something to escape “aloneness” whether we are a materialist, beginner in spirituality or advanced aspirant. Solitary confinement is said to be one of the worst form of punishment that can be inflicted on humans. There have been experiments conducted where if a person is kept alone and doesn’t know what time it is, he gets severely deranged.

I understand all of this is only a problem from the ego’s perspective and in deep sleep, this does not appear as a problem. Nevertheless, in waking it does sound scary.

What does the “one” do/be all day :-)?

Sivanarul said...

In continuation of my previous comment, I am wondering whether traditions that are proponents of duality, in merger with God, tell that it is like salt in water, an eternal oneness but is also twoness) do so, so as to not scare the aspirant away from “aloneness”. They figure once you get to that twoness state, you will be better equipped to handle “oneness”.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul,

The phrase “…we alone exist…”, is very different from “…we exist alone…”

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Mouna,
Thanks for the reply. I understand what you are saying. Even with the different phrasing, the idea of "aloneness" is really terrifying (of course in that state there is no mind). May be that is why they say reality can never be understood by the intellect.

svayamprakasa said...

Mouna,
we should be grateful for your writing some more lines about the meaning of the mentioned phrase "...we alone exist..." and what your experience is with it.

Mouna said...

Dear Svayamprakasam,

As stated by Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi), when ego/mind/I-thought apparently rises, not only projects the world but also feeds itself with this apparent projection. Duality starts on the basis of “relationship” to these externals forms and names. As the ego/I-thought limits itself to a body/psychology and feels separate from the rest (world), it will never have the occurrence of this concept (the world) being its own projection, so it will think and feel that the world will continue to exist even in its absence, like in sleep and death.
When the mind tries to conceptualize Self-realization (or death), one of the ways it does is by thinking that the world will evaporate and itself will continue to exist alone in a “space" with no world, indeed a terrifying thought because let’s not forget that it feeds in objects other than itself… The ego/mind cannot conceptualize its own disappearance.

In my own experience, the concept “we alone exist” refers to the dissolution of the feeling of “relationship”, so what is left is pure existence. No one can feel loneliness or aloneness in a “state” where there is no relationship to anything and where there is no individual in the first place to feel the absence of relationship (and feel lonely). And we do experience this in deep sleep, where we alone exist, meaning there is “only” existence/consciousness, not “lonely existence.”

This “state” of non-relationship (or non-duality) connects intimately with self-investigation.

I noticed that the practice of atma-vichara thins the ego in two ways, by reducing the "belief and feeling" of separation due to the projection of multiplicity (vikshepa), and also by increasing the “intuitive" understanding that there is no ego to start with (avarana).
But since it is the mind and ego that carries out the investigation, it can only go so far by its own means turning around into itself as an object of investigation or surrendering itself, and according to Bhagavan, the final blow can only be done by the pull and Grace of the Guru/Self that lies at the core center of ourselves, in the Heart.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

(I was once presented a very interesting riddle: "Imagine that you are in a room with no windows, no doors or exits of any kind, how do you get out?”….
You may want to stop and think about it before reading the answer if you wish?…
otherwise here it is: …...Stop imagining!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

You write a lot, but to me it seems that you don't make Ramana's word clearer. On the contrary, it seems that you're using Ramana's words to express your own ideas, even to the point of distorting Ramana's words, and reinterpreting them to fit your own understanding ("we have to infer either that this portion of his answer was not recorded sufficiently accurately, or that he said so only as a concession"). It's also typical that you append Ramana's words with your own interpretation: "effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature" (RM) - "because our real nature is to be aware of ourself alone, so pure self-awareness is what we actually are" (MJ). RM is very clear: "beyond expression", yet you're using a lot of words to give an interpretation, establishing some"thing" that we "really" are. "Beyond expression"; RM has made similar statements: "If one remains still without leaving it, even the sphurana – having completely annihilated the sense of the individuality, the form of the ego, 'I am the body' – will itself in the end subside, just like the flame that catches the camphor. This alone is said to be liberation by great ones and scriptures." (http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.nl/2008/06/more-on-bhagavans-death-experience.html).
Sorry for the harsh words, but less may be more in this case. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan

RafeStoneman said...

To Anonymous,
Perhaps in the end, the point is not to clarify words at all, or continue the infatuation with Ramana's words.
Perhaps, what this website exists as is a push into Atma-Vichara, or a pull from within.
In that way, M. James and this site clarifies Ramana's teaching, to the extent we are able to put attention on Self, (which after all is Ramana), and not attention on language (words) or mental understanding (thought), which after all is not Self.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in answer to the question you ask in your first comment above, namely ‘What does the “one” do/be all day?’, the one that alone is real (which is what we essentially are) does not do anything, because its nature is pure being. Only being is real, and action is just a distortion of it — but a distortion that seems to exist only in the view of our ego, and not in the view of our essential being.

The reality is only our essential self, which is what is described as sat-cit-ānanda (being-awareness-happiness) or asti-bhāti-priya (being-shining-beloved), and kriyā-jñāna-icchā (doing-knowing-desire) is just a distortion of it: kriyā (doing or action) is a distortion of sat or asti (our being or what is); jñāna (in the sense of knowing things other than ourself) is a distortion of cit or bhāti (our awareness, shining or illumination); and icchā (desire, volition or liking) is a distortion of ānanda or priya (our happiness or love, which are inseparable, because in non-duality they are one and the same thing, and in duality each causes the other).

So this “one” does not do anything, and for it there is no ‘all day’, because time is just an illusion created by our ego. For the “one” the present is ever present, so it revels blissfully in that ever-present presence, which is itself, because it is not only presence (sat or asti) but also awareness (cit or bhāti) and happiness (ānanda or priya).

And most importantly, it is not even ‘it’ (a third person or object) but only ‘we’ or ‘I’, ‘ourself’ or ‘myself’ (which is the reality that underlies the appearance of the false first person or subject). The restrictions of language sometimes make it necessary for us to refer to what is real (the “one”) as ‘it’, but we will be able to experience it as it is only when we experience it as ourself, in complete isolation from any thought of anything that is a second or third person.

Regarding the scariness of ‘aloneness’, it is scary only for the ego, because the ego cannot stand alone, since it can seem to rise and endure only grasping the appearance of things other than itself. Because it needs to be constantly grasping and experiencing other things, the ego is always looking for the stimulus of fresh experiences, which are like a drug to which it is addicted, and this is why solitary confinement with minimum variety of sensual stimuli becomes such a torture for it.

However, in the absence of our ego, as in sleep, we have no problem with being alone. In sleep we feel neither lonely nor bored, because loneliness and boredom are products of our ego, being just its emotional reaction to a lack of its desired stimuli.

As Mouna pointed out, there is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. Loneliness is an emotion, which is something other than ourself, so whenever we are lonely we are not absolutely alone, because we are then in the company of our loneliness. When we are absolutely alone, there is no ego or mind, and hence no emotion such as loneliness or boredom, but only ourself.

Regarding your second comment, I think you may be right. The idea of kaivalya (complete isolation or aloneness) is too scary for most of us, so the idea of being eternally with God — either in his company or in a state of partial or complete union with him — is for most people a more attractive goal, and hence it is the bait that initially needs to be offered to people into order to draw them onto the spiritual path.

Steve said...

Anonymous (Joshua Jonathan), your comment is nonsense.

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous / Joshua Jonathan,
With regards to your comment that Michael “On the contrary, it seems that you're using Ramana's words to express your own ideas, even to the point of distorting Ramana's words”. From what I have read, Michael uses Ulladu Narpadu and Naan Yaar as the primary reference for Bhagavan’s teachings and uses Talks as a secondary reference. Whatever is recorded in Talks is an answer provided by Bhagavan taking into account the maturity of the questioner. Bhagavan did not have such constraint when he wrote/prescribed Ulladu Narpadu and Naan Yaar. So when you say Michael fits it to his own understanding, it would be more accurate to say that Michael fits it into Ulladu Narpadu or Naan Yaar’s understanding and if it contradicts those, he describes them as a concession.

Your point regarding less may be more gets truer and truer as one progresses in the path. Isn’t the ultimate instruction just made of two words (Summa Iru / Be Still)? If one can enter Samadhi just upon hearing those two words, it would be wonderful. For those of who can’t, lots of words are needed and many of us have commented in this blog that Michael’s detailed writings have been helpful to us.

In the end, it is Michael’s blog and he is free to interpret Bhagavan’s writings however he wants. We are free to take it or leave it. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose he interprets it completely wrong. Bhagavan would not find it troublesome. When a book/article was written about Bhagavan that was disparaging and had many factual things wrong, the author took it to Bhagavan and asked him to verify its accuracy. Bhagavan looked at it and said it is fine. While Kunju Swami (I think it is him, I could be wrong) came to know about it, he asked Bhagavan how could he approve a writing that is so disparaging and factually incorrect. Bhagavan replied, “Is any of the other things real”?

Sivanarul said...

Mouna,
Thanks much for your elaborate writing on aloneness. If you don’t mind, can you write about how you practice atma vichara? I am aware of the general literature on it, but would be helpful to know your particular practice. My practice is mostly meditation and japa with rare sprinkles of vichara. I would like to increase the frequency of vichara, so your practice method will be very helpful.

Mouna said...

Dear Joshua,

First of all, I respectfully disagree with Steve, who said that your posting is nonsense.
It is well written and gives food for thought even if we disagree with the content of it. The fact that you warn at the end “sorry for the harsh words”, proves, at least to me, that your intention is not to attack or hurt Mr Michael James but it might come from a valid doubt about his method of writing and/or approaching Bhagavan’s teachings. On the other hand I don’t doubt that Mr James, through his long time practice and understanding, developed enough “thick skin” as to take these kind of postings as objects of reflection rather than personal vendetta.

That being said, my thought on the matter is that, as you may well be aware, traditional Vedanta talks about three stages of one’s relationship to attain knowledge of the Self: sravana (or hearing/learning/reading/etc the teachings of the Guru), manana (or reflecting upon them, clearing all doubts, questioning, studying, etc) and nididhyasana (or the digestion of the teaching by the actual application of it on oneself)

The second aspect, manana, takes different forms, one of them being writing about the teaching to further clear one’s own understanding. Manana may take place within a framework of a sangha, where like-minded people get together acknowledging their common interest in reflecting about the teachings of a specific Guru.
I do think that this is what happening here in Michael’s blog. And although we know in the back of our understanding that there is “only one jeeva or mind” we make the concession and allow each “individual” to express his/her understanding according to his/her own intellectual structure.

To me, Mr James proved, through time, to be a complete reductionist (defined in this case as "procedure or theory that reduces complex data and phenomena to simple terms.”) when it comes to Bhagavan’s teachings. How much simple can it get when someone, ALL THE TIME, keeps repeating and repeating (granted, with different shades of color) the imperious need to place our attention not in objects other than ourself, but rather investigate who is this “I” and where is it rise from? Bhagavan may not have used the same word construction but definitely was speaking about the same thing, all-the-time (even when he was silent!).

In any case, it seems that many of us are profiting from Mr James’ writings, which push our understanding further, clearing the way for a proper nididhyasana, and it is in that sense, regardless of the “different interpretation” he might have about Bhagavan’s teachings, that many os us are grateful for the way he expresses himself.

Thanks.
Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Steve said...

"...you're using Ramana's words to express your own ideas, even to the point of distorting Ramana's words, and reinterpreting them to fit your own understanding..."

Mouna, respectfully, you don't know nonsense when you see it.

Mouna said...

Dear Steve,

The way I work in situations like this is first of all bypassing the egoic tendency to react and instead asking myself the question: why do I think this person is wrong (if at all)?. And also putting myself in Joshua’s position, why would I interpret Michael’s writings in this way? Joshua might be right at some level and wrong at some other level, I wouldn’t know until I “think” or reflect upon the matter myself.

The word nonsense carries a strong judgemental implication, besides the fact that it didn’t follow any explanation as to why it sounds like nonsense! For you it might be evident, but for many might not.

Also, Joshua was never belligerant in his tone, nor insulting, so why don’t we use this “critique” of our friend Michael’s approach to further our own understanding in the matter, instead of giving in the first reaction that appears?

Where you see nonsense I see possibilities for further conversation, even this one we are having at this very moment with you.

What really makes "non sense” is ego.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Bop-p said...

Thank you Michael for your recent comments answering questions about your article.

In appreciation.
Bob

Mouna said...

Namaste Sivanarul-ji,

I wish these blogs had the Facebook capability of addressing people through personal messages rather than public postings. I said that because talking about one’s personal sadhana feels a little odd (translate that into ego not wanting to expose itself). But you already proved to be intelligent enough through your postings to read this one as a complete personal and subjective rendition of “what works for Mouna", instead of the way it “should” be done by everybody. I use this posting more like a conversation between two friends telling their stories, and it will be interesting to hear your side of it.

Basically, I follow strictly Bhagavan’s proposal (Ulladu Narpadu 1st benedictory verse towards the end of the verse) of abiding, as much I can remember to do so in the waking state, in the Heart.
“Heart” meaning in this case for me and in different ways to put it: simply awareness (raw and unobstructed, or pure consciousness), the subjective “feeling” of “I” (or “I-ness”), the core of one’s Being in the Present moment, etc…

For that abidance to happen we all have our own "bag of tricks” to defeat not only the natural egoic tendency to fetch objects other than ourself but also this other tendency of forgetting completely who we really are (pramada) that connects with your concern of increasing frequency.

In my case, the basic pratice is to turn the attention inwards towards the source from where sensations, perceptions, thoughts and feelings are arising, basically what we call the primordial thought, the I-thought. Trying to get the 180 degree turn that Sadhu Om and Michael speak about.
Even while meditating (sitting in silence, that I do occasionally) my main concern is not on what’s happening but from where what is happening arises from. I would say that with japa of any kind is the same attitude, mostly going for the source of it rather one pointed concentration.
Another concept that helps me at times is "following my master’s scent” (like the dog analogy that Bhagavan used) and that scent is the “feeling (subjective, not objective) of “I”. A little bit like when we pose the question “Who or What am I?" which directs automatically our attention inwards to awareness.
Still another one is “seeing” the world around me (including relatives, objects, events and blogs!) as not real, as illusory appearances like water on a paved road, which prompt me to “disengage” more easily.

As for the frequency concern, I believe there is no other way than to persevere doing the best we can and using every moment available during the waking state (when we are not using our attention for work or survival) to do our “homework”, but with the backstage understanding that eventually results are not in our hands.
This last thought take us directly to the second most powerful proposal or tool Bhagavan gave us, the idea of Surrender. Who surrenders What and to Whom, right? In answering that question we are “back” to square one, the Heart, the Self, which is really all there is.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Anonymous said...

Joshua,

In the first invocatory verse of Ulladu Narpadu Bhagavan says that apart from the One Reality or 'That which is', there is no consciousness of being. Furthermore he adds that that Reality exists free of thought in the Heart as our essential self and so we can only meditate on it by being it, or by 'being as we are'.

To me it seems clear that in this profound verse Bhagavan is declaring that what we 'really are' is self-awareness because our being and our consciousness of our being are one and the same thing, but we are obviously not a 'thing'. Therefore I fail to see how Michael is distorting Bhagavan's words when he says, "because our real nature is to be aware of ourself alone, so pure self-awareness is what we actually are".

Gavin Huxham

Sivanarul said...

Mouna,
Namaste and Vanakkam (in Tamil). Thanks very much for your “bag of tricks”. I have always found it helpful to know what practices sadhakas follow, since I have found it essential for me to have a wide variety of tricks on hand and depending on the guna (Sattva/Rajas/Tamas) the mind is in, on any given day, one trick works versus another. On some days nothing works and there is simply, “the dark night of the soul” as explained in Christian tradition. This is especially true for Vichara, since for unknown reasons, I have a strong resistance towards Vichara which leads me to question, why did Bhagavan choose to enter my life when I have so much resistance to Vichara, his primary teaching. I am slowly convincing myself to give Vichara an honest try and your tricks would certainly be helpful. Thanks again.

Joshua Jonathan said...

Sivanarul and Mouna, thanks for your nice replies. Let met confess that I'm a Buddhist (though some say I'm not a "real" one; no tradition is free from demarcation-lines ;)), and I'm especially fond of Zen and Madhyamaka. Madhyamaka is, as you'll probably know, very akin to Advaita (or vice versa), with one big difference. Madhyamaka says: yeah, this whole world is real and true, conventionally seen. But ultimately, there's no "essence" to it. It's empty, sunyata, of such an essence. And that does not mean that sunyata itself is such an essence; sunyata itself is also "empty." So, what can we say about what's left behind when we find out that there are no "essences," no "real me," etc? 'Whatever you say, it won't do. But keeping silent won't do either,' to paraphrase Zen (and which shows the influence of Madhyamaka).
So, seen from this this perspective, to talk about 'the real' and the unreal etc., is to take yet another perspective, to create a new image or idea. But alas, that's my take on it. Of course I think I'm right, but you never know; I may as well be "wrong."

And Steve, can you be sure that you recognize "nonsense"? Can you be sure that it is possible to know what is nonsense, and what is not? Best regards, Joshua Jonathan.

PS: I love Ramana Maharsi. He saved my soul when I was a teenager.

Steve said...

In this case, Joshua, yes.

Sivanarul said...

Joshua Jonathan,
I am also very much influenced by Buddha and his teachings even though I am not a Buddhist. Buddha’s four noble truths are especially a gem and along with focus on mindfulness and impermanence, provide a solid foundation for Sadhana. They have helped me many times. With regards to emptiness/void, all eastern traditions agree upon the existence of void /sunyata / vetta veli (in Tamil). The key difference is the existence of Self/Reality/Siva beyond the void as stressed by Bhagavan and Saivite tradition whereas it is said that Buddha remained silent on it (I am not an expert on Buddhist teachings).

With respect to what is right, the best would be to follow what rings true to one’s heart. All spiritual traditions share the same goal of turning the mind inward. Once sufficient progress has been made, it is my belief that Reality itself chooses the final path for the aspirant. Bhagavan is on record saying the Christian saying “IAM THAT IAM” sums up the whole truth. So the tradition does not matter so much in the beginner stage. Christ surrenders to Reality/God before his crucifixion and says, “Not my will, but thy will be done”. That surrender is the method recommended by Bhagavan for people who are unable to do vichara. So I see lot of synergy between traditions in spite of the many differences that exist.

Joshua Jonathan said...

Well Steve, in that case you have to consider that Ramana didn't write down his "teachings"; his devotees wrote down his answers to questions, summarizing and editing them, and they interpreted them in an Advaita (especially Advaita Vedanta) framework. That's already two layers of revision. "Guru Vācaka Kōvai" is an extended example, but even a basic work like "Nāṉ Yār?" is the result of this proces.

As Michael correctly has noted, translation into English is a third layer of revision. Further explanation in English is a fourth layer. So, how do you know what's Ramana's, and what's from others, except for your own preferences and interpretation? Best regards, Joshua Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

Joshua, in that case who wrote Ulladu Narpadu and Updesa Undiyar in your view? Muruganar? Who wrote the Five Hymns To Arunachala? These works are not merely devotees writing down Bhagavan's answers to questions, summarizing and editing them, as you say.

Gavin Huxham

Mouna said...

Dear Joshua,

I’m afraid the source where you got your information is mistaken.
The most important works of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi were either written by himself (by his own hand) or in some cases heavily edited by him.

Examples of these are (to name a few): Nan-Yar? (Who am I?) he created and edited a prose version based on the questions and answers that that were posed to him two decades before by SIvaprakasam Pillai; Ulladu Narpadu (Forty verses on Reality or Forty verses on what is) entirely composed by him as well as Upadesa Undiyar (in sanskrit Upadesa Saram or The essence of Instruction); Aksharamanamalai or Bridal Garland of letters, the beautiful poem/song/teaching on Arunachala and many others hymns and songs without forgetting Guru Vachaka Kovai, which was completely edited by him with Muruganar, which book Bhagavan himself said it was the main or most important representation of his teachings…

If you were refering to “Talks with Ramana Maharishi” or many other recollections of his questions and answers on many books by his devotees, yes, in that case we will never know what exactly was said because he never had access to that text or some other texts that came after his passing and we depend solely on the memory of the devotees remembering what was said. But still the essence of his teachings are pretty much kept in all those secondary texts that are very much used as reference.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Bob - P said...

Thank you very much Mouna for sharing how you practise I found it very helpful indeed. Thank you Sivanarul too.

I agree we will all have different ways of applying Bhagavan's teaching.

My own practise is trying as best as I can to focus my attention on my beingness / "I" thought as much as I can sometimes more intensley than other times depending on the illusory external circumstances.

To help me stay centered or focused on my egoic "I" I find Douglas Harding "Seeing" a very practcal easy way to switch attention on the root "I" thought by seeing anything outside of myself as superimposed on me so the whole world and all its contents eminates out of my false conciousness. With attention fixed on from where it comes ... Myslef.

This helps me stay focused as best I can on myslef / egoic "I" Root though I am the body.

I find Mr Harding's "seeing" to be very complementary to Bhagavan's teaching as it is also self enquirey and very easy to do.

But we all have our own way I agree whole heartedly.

I also find re reading Michael's book and writings very helpful too. Along with Sri Sadhu Om's books.

And of course visiting this wonderful blog.

In appreciation
Bob

venkat said...

Hi Joshua,

Both Buddhism and advaita say that ego is illusory and the cause of suffering; and reality is realised when the ego is given up.

My understanding of referring to something as empty, is that it has no inherent existence in its own right, separate from everything else. Hence in a conventional sense, everything is inter-dependent, inter-related; and therefore there can be no ego separate from the world.

Then, saying sunyata is also empty, is saying that it too has no inherent existence - i.e. it is also a concept. Hence zen pushes you to a state of no-mind, no concepts, no thoughts. Because reality cannot be captured in concepts.

This is akin to the tao te ching statement "the tao that can be spoken of is not the real tao"

And of course Bhagavan's "Silence is unceasing eloquence. It is the best language. There is a state when words cease and silence prevails"

Finally, it is worth remembering that Bhagavan's ultimate experience was, he said, summarised in Mandukyakarika's "There is no creation and no dissolution. There is no bondage, no one doing spiritual practices, no one seeking spiritual liberation and no one who is liberated". Is this that different from sunyata?

Joshua Jonathan said...

Hi Mouna and Gavin,

This is what Gabriele Ebert (Ramana Maharshi. His Life) writes on "Nan Yar": "[Sivaprakasam Pillai] asked him the burning questions that were troubling him. Again the asnwers were written down by Ramana on the floor or with chalk on a slate. Afterwards Sivaprakasam Pillai made notes of the questions and answers from memory. In 1923 he published them under the title 'Nan Yar' (Who am I?)" (p.77-78).

So, not exactly hos own words, but Sivaprakasam Pillai's recollections, from memory, published twenty years after the events.

Venkat, the reference to ajativada is very close to Madhyamaka - as a matter of fact, Gaudapada took over Madhyamaka ideas in his commentary on the Mandukya. To me your quote seems very akin to akin; but thta's my personal impression. I wouldn't dare to make a "final" statement on this.

NB: J. Glenn Friesen has written two excellent papers on the background of ramana's teachings, and the way he came to be interpreted as an Advaita vedanta philosopher. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan

Joshua Jonathan said...

More specific:
* Friesen, J. Glenn (2006), "Ramana Maharshi: Hindu and non-Hindu Interpretations of a jivanmukta"
Friesen, J. Glenn (2005), "Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi"
* Alan Edwards (2012), "Ramana Maharshi and the Colonial Encounter." Master Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington
Best regards, Joshua Jonathan

R Viswanathan said...

Sri Michael James, Sri David Godman and Sri Nochur Venkataraman are the three who I regard most and resort to for understanding and assimilating Bhagavan's teachings.

Very very recently, I wrote to Sri Michael James on the authenticity of Bhagavan's teachings. I give below my email and his reply. This is pertinent to what is going on now in this blog.

My email to Sri Michael James:

A request on this special day of Tamil new year. Can you write something on the authenticity of Bhagavan's teachings - like the one written by Sri David Godman years ago:

sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/search?q=authenticity+of+Bhagavan+teachings

Monday, May 5, 2008
The authenticity of Bhagavans writings and dialogues

I know that you have written in various places that you attach most importance to the essay version of who am I, Ulladhu narpadhu, Upadesa Undiyar...Neverhteless. so much discussion going on which are often attributed to Bhagavan, it would benefit all of us, if you can write a general article on this.

The reply of Sri Michael James on May 5th:

It is difficult to generalise about the value of the various books. There is something good in all of them, but some are much better than others. As you say, I attach most importance to Bhagavan's own original writings, and as regards the rest, we have to judge individually each saying of his that has been recorded, so I prefer not to give any generalised judgement on whole books.

If we understand the essence of Bhagavan's teachings, we can judge for ourself each thing that has been recorded or attributed to him. This is why I prefer to focus just on the essence of his teachings, because they illumine everything else.

Joshua Jonathan said...

R. Viswanathan, thank you for your kind reply and reminder. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan.

R Viswanathan said...

"Alan Edwards (2012), "Ramana Maharshi and the Colonial Encounter." Master Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington.

Because Joshua Jonathan chose to give the above reference, I feel it necessary to send this comment:

When I read this thesis in 2012, I tried to contact Alan Edwards in vain. This was the email I wrote to him on Apr 13, 2012 To: alan.edwards@library.otago.ac.nz

Hello, if this e-mail reaches Mr. Alan Edwards who wrote the thesis on Ramana Maharshi and the Colonial encounter, I would like to discuss with him - not to counter, but to convey the simple and basic teaching of Maharshi - that Gnanam is there with everyone, it is agnanam which veils it. Gnam means knowledge, true knowledge. There is no religion in this. If this e-mail id is not that of Mr. Alan Edwards who wrote that thesis, please excuse me.

Recently, in some context I mentioned about this thesis also to Sri Michael James, and his reply conveyed that the writer obviously had no interest in understanding Bhagavan's teachings. He mentioned that Sri David Godman also found the thesis objectionable.

Sri Michael James and Sri David Godman both had spent four decades almost exclusively on Bhagavan's teachings, having moved closely with Bhagavan's devotees like Sri Sadhu Om, Sri Kunju Swami, and Sri Annamalai Swamy. I for one would ever regard as more reliable the words of these two more than those of the one who spends a few months to write the thesis on Bhagavan.

Mouna said...

Dear Joshua,
Again, your information is only partially right when it comes to how the prose version of Nan Yar. Bhagavan DID EDIT Sivaprakasam Pillai's original version with questions and answers and created a prose version (again, Bhagavan itself did this one) that is available nowadays still from various sources (Michael James and David Godman' websites), even as free PDFs of it.

Unfortunately, I prefer not to continue a conversation that, in my eyes, is turning more to "arguing" than to know what is true or right. So I'll prefer to stop here regarding this thread for now, my friend, wishing you the best in your sadhana, whichever form it takes.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Joshua,
Let’s grant that none of Bhagavan’s teachings were written by him (even GVK, Aksharamanammalai) but were all written by his foremost devotees based on being associated with Bhagavan. Devotees like Sri Muruganar, Sri Sivapraksam Pillai, Sri Annamalai Swami and Sri Sadhu OM have spent so much time with Bhagavan absorbing his teachings; it is very valid for us to say they have power of attorney to write about Bhagavan’s teachings. Hence any of the writings from them are not hearsay and we can take it as coming from Bhagavan himself.

Kamadhenu said...

Thanks Michael,for your nice answer,
but additional questions arise:
How could we transform the ego’s primary fondness to itself and make tempting to it to avoid mistaking itself to be what is not and misdirecting to whatever it mistakes to be itself , similar to the follow ?
Hey ego-cow, what is that lovely smell in the cowshed here - your real home ?
Can't you not smell the fresh and tasty grass you get when you graze in your cowshed ?
To subside into deep sleep without being attentively self-aware - probably due of the tiredness of the body-adjunct – does not reflect any credit on you.
Obviously without someboby's permission you dare to conceal your essential pure awareness under a thick cloak of self-ignorance. You are taking some real liberties, you go too far !
In this play hide-and-seek with strict allocation of roles the ego plays the role of the concealer – and our real self likes playing the part of staying in concealment.
Yes of course, Bhagavan would amonish us gently first to investigate to see whether the ego is actually present.
May first success in seeing (experiencing) ourself alone i.e. in our keen self-attention give us reason to hope that your statement is true that we will find that we have never been an ego and have never been watching anything other than what we really are.

svayamprakasa said...

Dear Mouna,
thank you for your interesting contributions which are in any case an enrichment.
We learn a lot from your writing.
At the foot of your comments we can read
"Yours in Bhagavan" which gives the impression to me that you concern yourself with the matter of Sri Ramanasramam.

Mouna said...

Dear Svayamprakasa, namaste

Thank you for your kind words. This blog (I like to think it more like a "virtual" sangha where practical ideas about the practice of Atma-vichara are exchanged) initiated and run by Michael (James) is a very "inspiring" place for all of us readers of it, starting with the priceless contributions/essays of Michael, down to our own thoughts on the matter.
I am not sure I understand the last part of your posting about Ramanasramam. If you were making reference to the ashram itself, although Ramanasramam is a very dear place to my heart where I would like to spend more time if I could, I am not connected in any official way to it (I also live at the other side of the planet from it!). If you were referring to Bhagavan Sri Ramana, He is my one and only sadguru, as I believe is the case for many of us here in this blog, and "Yours in Bhagavan" is just a formality (used also by many) to acknowledge that we are all "in" and "made of" Him.

Thanks again,
Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

Slow- worm said...

Michael,
The subsiding into sleep remains a complete mystery to me.
As you say in your reply(23 May 2015 at 15:45) to the comment of "Kamadhenu"
we as the ego also like sleep whenever we are sufficently tired. Here you mean the second "we" obviously as the tired body as an adjunct of the ego. Further you say that we subside into sleep without being attentively self-aware and that in sleep we experience nothing but ourself. Because in deep sleep the ego is absent or not existent the experiencer of ourself cannot be the ego but the ever-present sat-chit-ananda.
It seems that just our inattentiveness allows in that state to conceal ourself under a thick cloak of self-ignorance and we as a result of our inattentiveness experience nothing but ourself. That experience of ourself seems to be not very influential to our waking state. Rather the mentioned inattentiveness seems to prevail not only in the moment of transition to the sleeping state but may also predominate in waking and dream because our self-ignorance seems to be present also both in that states and as well in the transitions between the states.
Please Michael if you find time do explain for better understanding how that facts really stand.

svayamprakasa said...

Yes Mouna,
this blog for me too is like a virtual satsang.
The standard formulation of your goodbye reminds me of
my email correspondence with Sri Ramanasramam when I occasionally ask the president for providing accommodation. The president of Sri Ramanasramam always greets with "Yours in Bhagavan". That is the reason why I spoke to you about that.

R Viswanathan said...

"The subsiding into sleep remains a complete mystery to me."

There are some excellent and descriptive articles by Sri Michael James in this blog.

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

Sunday, 15 June 2014: Why do we not experience the existence of any body or world in sleep?

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

Sunday, 30 November 2014: How to experience the clarity of self-awareness that appears between sleep and waking?

R Viswanathan said...

Sri David Godman had already discussed the following two references given by Joshua Jonathan.
Friesen, J. Glenn (2006), "Ramana Maharshi: Hindu and non-Hindu Interpretations of a jivanmukta"
Friesen, J. Glenn (2005), "Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi"

Please see the link:http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2010/05/paul-bruntons-background.html

The concluding portion from this article is given below:

"Dr Friesen does seem to accept that Bhagavan realised the Self, but he does not accept that such an experience was the source of everything he said and wrote. He goes to extraordinary lengths in these two papers to track down and isolate all the influences that Bhagavan was subjected to during his life, before going on to posit that these external factors determined Bhagavan’s teaching style, his vocabulary, and even to some extent his world view.

I confess that I went through these two papers, over 200 pages in total, with a mounting feeling of amazement. I am used to talking to people whose ignorance of Bhagavan and his teachings come from unfamiliarity with the texts on his life and teachings. In this case, though, I was encountering a sophisticated academic mind that had thoroughly immersed itself in the Bhagavan literature, thought about it, analysed it, and then come to a conclusion that, to me, was utterly bizarre and completely unsustainable."

Slow- worm said...

Thank you R Viswanathan for referring to my lack of knowledge about the mentioned complex of themes(consciousness in deep sleep etc.)
I will read the given articles of Michael James again with increased attention.

Till Eulenspiegel said...

The remark "That is, when all drsya is given up, nothing remains as drs(the ego or mind), so what then remains is only pure self-awareness, which is the mind's 'essential form of light' or 'awareness', and which is also the sole reality [...]" reminds me of the antique saying "to rise like the phoenix from the ashes"(Egyptian or Greek myth).

Sleepwalker said...

Michael,
As you say at the end of section7 "The only means by which we can give up or keep away all drsya is by trying to see the seer or ego(drs), [...], we will never actually be able to see the seer, because when by trying to see it [...].
That state in which we see or are aware of nothing other than ourself is what Bhagavan describes in this verse as 'real knowledge' or 'seeing the reality'(tattva darsanam)".
Therefore to see never the seer is no great mishap because nobody can see his own eyes.
Far more important is to be (see) "what we will then see is only what we really are, which is neither drs nor drsya, because there is nothing other either for us to see or to be seen by".

Desertfox said...

Michael, when you write in section 8 "Whatever has form of any kind whatsoever is finite and hence separate from all other forms, whereas whatever has no form is infinite and hence separate from nothing, because any kind of form is a limitation and thereby excludes from itself whatever is beyond or outside the limits of its form".
Should we not consider the form of the unique Siva-lingam-mountain Arunachala as an exceptional case from the above statement ?

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding the comment in which you write, ‘[...] for unknown reasons, I have a strong resistance towards Vichara which leads me to question, why did Bhagavan choose to enter my life when I have so much resistance to Vichara, his primary teaching [...]’, please do not think you are alone in experiencing such resistance. I suspect that many if not all of us experience similar resistance, because such is the nature of our ego or mind.

By trying to practise ātma-vicāra — that is, by trying to be self-attentive — we are quite literally putting our head on the guillotine, so to speak, and our ego knows this, so it does all that it can to resist, because it is not yet willing to sacrifice itself. However, the only way to cultivate and nurture the required willingness is to patiently and persistently continue trying to be self-attentive.

Every moment of self-attentiveness is taking us one step closer to our goal, so we should treasure every such moment, and however much inward resistance we may face, we should just continue trying as much as possible. No other effort that we may make is as worthwhile or as valuable as this simple effort to be self-attentive. No matter how many times we may fail, if we persevere in trying, we will certainly succeed sooner or later — whenever we are finally sufficiently willing to surrender ourself entirely to Bhagavan, who is our own real self.

I say this to myself as much as I say it to you, because I experience as much inward resistance as anyone here. I feel like a moth that is constantly flying around the flame but has not yet plucked up sufficient courage to go close enough to it.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
Thanks much for the encouragement to pursue Vichara. I have accepted, in spite of the inner resistance, that practicing Vichara itself is the remedy to the resistance. You have also inspired me to study Ulladu Narpadu. I have had a copy of Tamil version of Ulladu Narpadu (with explanation by Laksmana Sharma) for more than 2 years, but couldn’t read it after a few pages since it sounded too alien to me. Your blog and the interaction have made me open the book and study it carefully whenever I can. It still is difficult, but at least not alien. Thanks again for your continued help to all of us.

fire fly said...

Michael,
who will convince the moth that it would be well worth to die in the flame ?
How could the moth see for itself that the death would be worth its while ?

Joshua Jonathan said...

@R Viswanathan: that's what David Godman writes. Did you read Friesen's papers yourself? Why depend on someone else's authority? Be your own authority!

David writes that Friesen "does not accept that such an experience was the source of everything he said and wrote."

Note the term "everything." Friesen does not doubt Ramana's death-experience; what he doubts is the picture that is created and presented by others. Friesen, and also Alan Edward, conclude that this picture was influenced by a traditional Advaita Vedanta understanding of Brahman etc. Jung and Zimmer noted that this picture was modelled after Indian expectations of holy man.

Note that the word-for-word exegesis of texts, and terms like "nididhyāsana," are typical for classical Advaita Vedanta. Ramana, and also Nisargadatta Maharaj, and the Nath-tradition, made these teachings available for common people, in contrast to the elitist study of Vedic texts which was confined to a social elite. "Der Weg zum Selbst" (Heinrich Zimmer 1943; Dutch translation 1948) contains an account by "Ramananda," who confesses his despair to ever reach moksha, since he was considered to be impure by Vedic studies, and did not have access to Vedic studies. He was very happy to meet Ramana, who disregarded these elitist restrictions!

Friesen concludes that "external factors determined Bhagavan’s teaching style, his vocabulary, and even to some extent his world view." There's nothing alien about that conclusion. Early on, devotees read aloud classical Advaita texts to Ramana, and he recognized what those texts were saying, and commented on it. That's natural too. It seems to me that Ramana was a very intelligent man, who easily understood those texts, not being hindered by a formal Advaita Vedanta education.

@Sivanarul: it is scaring. I wouldn't even say that "the ego" resists; that's a reification of the ego, making it bigger, and turning it into something real which has to be combatted. Just notice: there's awareness of "I", of "I, Sivanarul." That's you, after all! But who or what is it that is aware of "I, Sivanarul"? "I," of course - but hey, how can this "I" be aware of "I"? How can this "I" be both the thing it's looking at, and the thing that's looking? If the stone becomes aware of the stone, is it aware of "the stone," or is it aware of a picture "stone"? If it is a picture, than you are - well...

Most treatises, both Hindu and Buddhist, don't acknowledge this scariness. Especially western pop-spirituality pictures "enlightenment" or "awakening" as an event that's great, and ends all sorrows. "Bloop!", you've got it, and then you're done. While "insight" may just be the start of the real journey, in which the egocentric tendensies are lessened (hopefully), and the mind becomes settled in this "greater reality," be it "awareness" or "emptiness." Ramana too seems to acknowledge this; one may even wonder if Ramana was settled right away in this insight, or that he too needed time to "adjust." See this remark of him:

"If one remains still without leaving it, even the sphurana – having completely annihilated the sense of the individuality, the form of the ego, 'I am the body' – will itself in the end subside, just like the flame that catches the camphor. This alone is said to be liberation by great ones and scriptures." (http://www.davidgodman.org/rteach/jd1.shtml)

So, investigating this sense of I is one thing; becoming aware of "awareness" itself a second; and staying with it a third. Wish you all the best, Joshua Jonathan.

Joshua Jonathan said...

NB: regarding Maurice Frydman:

David Godman also recalls the following conversation on the understanding by his visitors of his teachings:

[Nisargadatta:] 'Why do I waste my time with you people?' he exclaimed. 'Why does no one ever understand what I am saying?'

[Godman:] I took my chance: 'In all the years that you have been teaching how many people have truly understood and experienced your teachings?'
[Nisargadatta:] He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, 'One. Maurice Frydman.' He didn't elaborate and I didn't follow it up. (http://davidgodman.org/interviews/nis1.shtml)

Michael James said...

Fire Fly, in reply to your questions, it is up to the moth to convince itself. However, it cannot convince itself merely by reasoning, no matter how much it may reason with itself, or even by just reading and reflecting on Bhagavan’s teachings, but only by actually following what he taught us, which is to try to be self-attentive as much as possible.

The more we attend to ourself, the more our desires for and attachments to anything other than ourself will be weakened, and to the extent that they are weakened our love to just peacefully be attentively aware of ourself alone will gain ascendancy.

RafeStoneman said...

After so called 12 years of self-inquiry to the best of my then ability (meaning, how focused and one pointed was it really-- how consistent and perpetual, etc.), I joined the Army for 3 and a half years. This was in a way like being in a monastery (as I would picture it-- since I've never lived in a monastery). Practicing self-inquiry in the Army took on a much stronger practical surrender, because I really didn't have any free will in a relative sense. As Ramana teaches, self-investigation and self-surrender go hand in hand.

That said, what I am finding as I look around at various expressions of Self-realization, enlightenment, etc. is that everyone seems to have their thing that they are doing to carve out a niche for themselves. Even to keep the identification of "Ramana devotee" is a kind of niche, an identity. Trust me, it has been a very hard attachment to give up, this notion of being saved by Ramana. And in a sense, the true aspect of being saved by Ramana can't be given up, just as anything natural that happens in existence need not be altered. The true aspect is that one always feels gratitude towards the Guru that pointed towards freedom, but the false aspect is that this gratitude is from a person to another person.

Ramana was never a person. Ramana was never a body-mind organism.
And neither are we.
What Ramana was (as his name actually means: That which lives in the Heart of all beings) is exactly That.
Same for all of us.
We are all That only.
So the gratitude is from That to That.

Thank you for reading.

R Viswanathan said...

"Did you read Friesen's papers yourself? Why depend on someone else's authority? Be your own authority!"

I did not read Friesen's papers, but read Alan Edwards' thesis. I tend to agree with you - why depend on someone else's authority. Why to depend on Friesen's authority or Alan Edwards' authority of what they inferred about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's experience or wisdom or teachings. Let me be my own authority - that of the self or antharyami. It guided me to read and listen to Sri Nochur Venkataraman, Sri Michael James, and Sri David Godman to understand and assimilate Bhagavan's teachings.

When Bhagavan himself told: what has not come out of Rishis' mouths will not come out of him - to drive home the point that there is only one truth and when it is uttered by anyone, it will always make it appear as though someone has learnt from someone else - of course for that 'someone' who has a 'someone' inside who has the desire left to critically analyze and judge others as well as others' teachings.

Sri Nochur Venkataraman will say: unless the antharyami lets you listen properly which will happen when one is ripe or becomes ready for it, one will simply continue to hear or read or analyze.

Gold-digger said...

In my opinion to discuss,thinking draw conclusions about Sri Ramana's teaching style, his vocabulary and his world view is not in anyway a necessary spiritual discipline. Rather it is just like a classic egotistic mental pompousness due to a lack of clarity about our real destiny/destination.
So instead of buzzing off to outside pastures - let us direct our whole attention to our source.

fire fly said...

Thanks Michael for your reply.
Yes,Michael, we should not be weak-minded(lacking strength of purpose) to weaken that desires for and attachments to anything other than ourself as you say.
Since we possess the needed ability to try to be self-attentive in a constant stream of attentive awareness in our heart, we should keep an careful eye on it.
Otherwise we will lose our valuable talent/capability and cannot gain ascendancy.

Michael James said...

Joshua Jonathan, I have replied to some of the ideas you express in your various comments above in a separate article, In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings.

Michael James said...

Slow-worm, in answer to your first comment, subsiding into sleep will always remain a complete mystery to the ego, because when it subsides it ceases to exist as this ego. However, we can unravel this mystery by unravelling the mystery of the ego itself. What is this ego, and how did it arise in the first place? The only way to solve this mystery is to vigilantly observe this ego, and according to Bhagavan when we do so it will disappear, because it is not real, and what will then remain is what we always are and always have been.

You imply that we need sleep because the body is tired, but that is not the complete truth or even the most important part of it. The body may have been relaxing all day, but at the end of the day we are tired, so we need sleep. Therefore sleep is required whether the body is tired or not, because even if it is not tired our ego is tired after spending many hours directing its attention away from itself towards other things. Because the ego is tired, it eventually subsides into sleep, and when it subsides, the body and world also disappear.

In order to destroy our ego, we must expose it to the perfectly clear light of attentive self-awareness, which we can do only in waking or dream, because in sleep it has subsided and disappeared. Though we experience perfectly clear self-awareness in sleep, what experiences such clear self-awareness is not our ego but only ourself as we really are. However, as we really are we are always experiencing nothing other than perfectly clear self-awareness, so that does not solve the problem of ego. As this ego we must try to experience perfectly clear self-awareness, and only when we succeed in this attempt will our ego be destroyed. That is, the ego itself can never experience perfectly clear self-awareness, but when it tries to do so it will be destroyed in the process, because perfectly clear self-awareness will consume it, just as the rising sun consumes the early morning mist.

You say, ‘It seems that just our inattentiveness allows in that state to conceal ourself under a thick cloak of self-ignorance and we as a result of our inattentiveness experience nothing but ourself’, but that is not actually what I meant. What I meant is that because the ego subsides into sleep without being attentively self-aware it is not destroyed. I did not mean that there is any inattentiveness in sleep, because what is inattentive is only the ego, and the ego does not exist in sleep. What we really are is always attentively aware of ourself alone, so it can never be inattentive. Inattentiveness is therefore a problem only for the ego.

Inattentiveness in the sense of self-negligence is the very nature of the ego, so in order to destroy itself our ego must be attentively self-aware. If it subsides without being attentively self-aware, as it does every day on falling asleep, it does not thereby destroy its self-ignorance, and hence it does not destroy itself.

Michael James said...

Desertfox, in answer to your comment, what do you mean by ‘the unique Siva-lingam-mountain Arunachala’? The real form of Arunachala, the unique Siva-lingam-mountain, is only ourself, and it appears as the physical form of a mountain only when we rise and experience ourself as a physical body. As Bhagavan says in verse 4 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I quoted in section 8 of this article), it is only when we experience ourself as a physical form that God appears to be likewise.

The reason why our own self appears outwardly in the physical form of Arunachala is because that particular form is endowed with an incomprehensible power to turn our mind back towards ourself alone. This is expressed by Bhagavan in many verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, but most clearly in the last two verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam and the first three of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam (which you can read on pages 142 to 154 of this PDF copy of the translation by Sadhu Om and me).

Arunachala is both a form and formless, depending on how we look at it. If we look outwards, away from ourself, it seems to be the form of a mountain, but if we look inwards, we will experience it as our own formless and hence infinite self. We can be physically separated from its outward form (when our body is in some distant place) and we can be mentally separated from it (whenever our mind is attending to other things), but we can never be separated from its real form, which is always shining within us as ‘I’.

R Viswanathan said...

The most recent video release by Sri David Godman, "Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - Gurumurtam Temple" has some portion in which Sri David Godman describes about Palaniswamy his main attendant at that time reading Tamil Vedantic books and also Malayalam Adyathma Ramayanam. It turns out that the reading of each chapter of Adyathma Ramayanam, before the meal can be served, became instrumental in Bhagavan learning Malayalam language from Palaniswamy within three days, and recitation of the scripture by Bhagavan himself. Sri David Godman also reveals that Bhagavan was very proficient in Tamil even at the age of 13. He also reveals that Bhagavan preferred to give answers in Tamil, although his proficiency in English language was also good - the way he corrected the translations of his answers.

The link to this video is:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2quOPCGF8t0

It is a striking coincidence that this video was to be released almost at the same time when some discussion was going on in this blog initiated by the remark of Joshua Jonathan.

Desertfox said...

Thanks Michael for your reply.
You asked me what I mean by ‚the unique Siva-lingam-mountain Arunachala':
When I pleaded for an exception from the mentioned statement I regarded
the form of Arunachala - described as the unique Siva-lingam-mountain -
only as the limited physical form of a mountain.
But nevertheless I did consider Arunachala’s qualities as infinite and hence not excluding from itself whatever is beyond or outside the limits of its form.
Inspite of its separate physical form I consider Arunachala as infinite self and hence as separate from nothing.
In my experience Arunachala’s magnetic power is unquestionable because I cannot bear not to come from Europe as from the year 2000 every two years - and now as from the year 2014 every year - to its physical form.
As you say I consider Arunachala both as a form and formless.
To write the represential comment of course I rose and experienced myself as an ego together with a physical body.
I am grateful too for the hint on the indicated verses of
Sri Arunacala Stuti Pancakam, Sri Arunacala Patikam and Sri Arunacala Astakam.

Slow- worm said...

Thank you Michael for your explaining answer.

But may I ask some new questions ?

1.) How can the ego as a formless and featureless entity be tired ?

2.) Is the ego which arises on waking and dreaming the same which subsided on falling asleep in the previous night or is it newborn on its birthplace at awakening every morning or in every dream ?

3.) What is the difference between the waking ego and the dreaming ego ?

4.) Can be assumed that the "place" of the ego's subsiding is quite the same "place" from which the ego arises ?

In any case therefore in order to destroy our ego we should prevent the subsiding of the ego without being attentively self-aware.

Michael James said...

Slow-worm, in reply to each of the questions you ask in your latest comment:

1) What our ego essentially is is only our formless and featureless self, so if it remained as such it would never get tired. However, because it is not content to remain as such, it rises by grasping forms, each of which has features, and the first form it grasps is a body, which it immediately experiences as if it were itself. So long as it experiences itself as a body, it also experiences other forms, and since experiencing forms entails directing its attention away from itself, it becomes tired by doing. Therefore if we want to experience a state of perfect rest in which we can never become tired, we should not rise as this ego but should just remain as we always really are.

2) The state that we call waking is just another dream, and all dreams are created only by the rising of the ego. Since this ego is what we seem to be whenever we experience ourself as anything other than what we actually are, there can only ever be one ego, so it is always the same ego that rises and experiences any dream. But how can the ego cease to exist in sleep and then come into existence again whenever it wakes into another dream? This is a question that cannot be answered, because it presupposes that this ego has really come into existence, which is not the case. Even when it seems to exist, this ego does not actually exist, and even its seeming existence is only in its own self-ignorant view, so it is a paradox, and hence the only solution to any question asked about it is to investigate it to see what it really is. If we do so, we will find that it is only our infinite and immutable self-awareness, which has never risen or experienced anything other than ourself.

3) The waking ego and the dreaming ego are the same ego, and the only difference between this ego in one state and another is the body that it grasps as itself. In each state it projects a different body, which it experiences as itself, but any such body is just an adjunct, whereas the ego that experiences it remains the same. If we do not experience ourself as we really are, when the dream of our present waking life comes to an end, we will sooner or later begin to dream some other dream, in which we will remember nothing about our present life, but even our memories are just adjuncts, so we will still be the same ego.

4) Yes, because our ego rises only from ourself, so when it subsides there is no place other than ourself in which it could subside. Except ourself, everything else comes into existence only when our ego rises and ceases to exist when our ego subsides (as Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), so we are the only thing from which our ego could arise and into which it could subside. However, if we investigate it, we will find that it is non-existent, so it has never actually arisen or subsided.

Therefore all we need do is only investigate ourself to see whether we are actually this ego that we now seem to be, because if we succeed in our investigation, we will find that there is no ego to ask any questions or to ask any questions about.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Michael has written in a comment addressed to Slow-worm (dated 19 June 2015 02:17) as follows;

But how can the ego cease to exist in sleep and then come into existence again whenever it wakes into another dream? This is a question that cannot be answered, because it presupposes that this ego has really come into existence, which is not the case. Even when it seems to exist, this ego does not actually exist, and even its seeming existence is only in its own self-ignorant view, so it is a paradox, and hence the only solution to any question asked about it is to investigate it to see what it really is. If we do so, we will find that it is only our infinite and immutable self-awareness, which has never risen or experienced anything other than ourself.

What a mystery! Our ego is non-existent in sleep, and even when it seems to exist as in our waking and dream states, it actually does not exist, but this entire world picture is created and sustained by this illusory, non-existent ego. This is maya - a non-existent ego creating a non-existent world picture, and then the same ego makes all sort of efforts only to dissolve or destroy itself. What a mystery!

Slow- worm said...

Thanks Michael for your detailed reply to each of the four questions
1) Instead of rising as this ego we should just remain as we always really are, indeed. Seen from my point of view: As soon as the ego has grasped the body form we seem to have lost a good chance of winning. For example to have the masculine sexual desire under controll is if at all possible for me only with some difficulty. Even when successfully controlled a half year the next day I cannot suppress the lust of flesh not even for a second more.
After satisfying the strongest sexual desire I am able to keep a curb on my lustfulness and to keep my sexual emotions on a tight rein. But after some time
the mentioned terror starts tirelessly again. Therefore in this case I can not at all confirm any tiredness of the ego.
So I am able to tell a thing or two about the power of the seemingly risen but not actually existing ego – although only in my own self-ignorant view.
2) Hence the only solution to any question about the paradoxical ego is to investigate it to see what it really is. My hope is that I will find then that it is only our infinite and immutable self-awareness , which has never risen or experienced anything other than ourself.
3) Projected bodies and memories are just adjuncts of the formless and featureless ego which will even after the so-called death be the same ego, exept we do experience ourself as we really are.
4) If after investigation I will find that the ego is non-existent, the drinks are on me this evening.
All we need is only investigation ourself to see whether we are actually this ego that we now seem to be. We need nothing but successful application of this cure-all.

Sivanarul said...

Slow-worm,

If you are used to drinking, better drink up (responsibly of course, for your own safety) before finding that the ego is non-existent. After finding it, there will be no one who needs a drink and no one to buy a drink -:).

Michael James said...

Slow-worm, regarding the tireless ‘terror’ of sexual desire, it is something we can never free ourself from so long as we experience ourself as a body. Sometimes it may wax and at other times it may wane, but it is always there lurking inside us, waiting to pounce and bring us under its sway once again. This is why for our sake Bhagavan composed verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai:

காமாரி யென்றுநீ யன்பரா லென்றுமே கதித்திடப் படுகின்றா
யாமாமெ யுனக்கிது வாமாவென் றையுறு மருணாச லேச்சுரனே
யாமாயி னெங்ஙனத் தீரனே சூரனே யாயினும் வல்லனங்கன்
காமாரி யாகுமுன் காலரண் சரண்புகு கருத்தினுட் புகவலனே.

kāmāri yeṉḏṟunī yaṉbarā leṉḏṟumē kathittiḍap paḍugiṉḏṟā
yāmāme yuṉakkidu vāmāveṉ ḏṟaiyuṟu maruṇāca lēśśuraṉē
yāmāyi ṉeṅṅaṉad dhīraṉē śūraṉē yāyiṉum vallaṉaṅgaṉ
kāmāri yāhumuṉ kālaraṇ śaraṇpuhu karuttiṉuṭ puhavalaṉē
.

பதச்சேதம்: காமாரி என்று நீ அன்பரால் என்றுமே கதித்திடப்படுகின்றாய். ஆம், ஆம், மெய். உனக்கு இது ஆமா என்று ஐ உறும், அருணாசலேச்சுரனே. ஆம் ஆயின், எங்ஙன் அத் தீரனே சூரனே யாயினும் வல் அனங்கன் காமாரி ஆகும் உன் கால் அரண் சரண்புகு கருத்தினுள் புக வலனே?

Padacchēdam (word-separation): kāmāri eṉḏṟu nī aṉbarāl eṉḏṟumē kathittiḍappaḍugiṉḏṟāy. ām, ām, mey. uṉakku idu āmā eṉḏṟu ai uṟum, aruṇācalēśśuraṉē. ām āyiṉ, eṅṅaṉ a-d-dhīraṉē śūraṉē āyiṉum val aṉaṅgaṉ kāmāri-y-āhum uṉ kāl araṇ śaraṇpuhu karuttiṉuḷ puha valaṉē?

English translation: O Arunachalesvara, you are always described by devotees as Kamari [the slayer of kāma or lust]. Yes, yes, true. [However] doubt arises whether this [name] suitable for you. O Arunacalesvara, you are always described by devotees as Kamari [the slayer of kāma or lust]. Yes, yes, true. [However] doubt arises whether this [name] suitable for you. If it is suitable, how can that mighty Anangan [Kama, the ‘bodiless one’], though brave and valiant, enter a mind that takes refuge in the fortress of the feet of you, who are Kamari?

As Bhagavan indicates here, the only refuge where we can escape sexual desire is the fortress of the feet of Arunachala, and since his feet exist deep in our heart as our own self, we can take refuge in them only by subsiding within. As soon as we allow ourself to come out as this ego, we are opening the door of our mind to lust, so it can enter us at any moment. That is, so long as we attend to anything other than ourself, we experience ourself as a body, and the nature of animal bodies is to have sexual desire. Therefore the root of sexual desire is our ego, so we can free ourself from it only by destroying this ego by vigilant self-attentiveness.

However, due to our strong outward-going desires, we are often not able to hold on to self-attentiveness (the feet of Arunachala), so at such times our only recourse is to pray to him to give us ever-increasing love for his feet, as Bhagavan sings at the end of the next verse of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai: ‘உன்றன் கழல் இணையில் காதல் பெருக்கே தருவாயே’ (uṉḏṟaṉ kaṙal iṇaiyil kādal perukkē taruvāyē), which means, ‘give only increasing love for your two feet’.

Slow- worm said...

Many thanks, Michael
for the given translation of the quoted verses of one of the five emotional Hymns to Arunachala :Sri Arunacala Navamanimalai, the Necklet of Nine Gems.
Thank you also for stressing again that the only means to free ourself from sexual desire is destroying this ego by vigilant self-attentiveness.

I assume that 'Arunac(h)alesvara' means the same as Arunachala.
Yes, to me too doubt arises whether 'Kamari' as the slayer of kama/lust is the fitting title of Arunachala. Maybe also a killer takes sometimes a nap. So Kama occasional continues to creep seemingly unimpeded in my mind.
Or is my already taken refuge in the fortress of the feet of Arunachala not complete ?
You are wright, having sexual desire is the nature of animal bodies.
But I thought having an human body would contrast sharply with an animal desire.
But as you write the only recourse is to pray :
Oh Arunachala ! Give only ever-increasing love for your feet !

Michael James said...

Yes, Slow-worm, Aruṇācalēśvara is a compound of two words, aruṇācala (Arunachala) plus īśvara (which means God as the ruler of the universe), so it is another name for Arunachala.

I have just noticed, as you had probably already noticed, that there is a repetition of the first three sentence in the translation I gave of verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai. I had meant to make a correction in the last sentence, but it seems that somehow I pasted the entire translation over it, so the correct translation is:

‘O Arunachalesvara, you are always described by devotees as Kamari [the slayer of kāma or lust]. Yes, yes, true. [However] doubt arises whether this [name] is suitable for you. If it is suitable, how can that mighty Anangan [Kama, the ‘bodiless one’], though brave and valiant, enter a mind that takes refuge in the fortress of the feet of you, who are Kamari?’

The slayer of kāma never takes a nap, because he is our ever-awake self-awareness, but kāma (sexual desire) arises in us because we have taken a nap — that is, because we have ignored what we really are and are dreaming that we are an embodied person. Though we would now like to take refuge in the fortress of the feet of Arunachala, we have not yet done so completely, because we are still not willing to let go of our ego entirely, so if we blame Arunachala, we are blaming him for our own fault.

In the Indian bhakti tradition devotees often take the liberty of blaming God, as Bhagavan does in this verse, because we are free to take such liberties, since he is our own self and hence our nearest and dearest. Of course we know that we alone are to blame, but by blaming him we remind ourself of how totally dependent we are upon him for everything.

Slowworm said...

Michael,
thank you again for your prompt outstanding reply along with the corrected translation.
I noticed the repetition of the first three sentences of verse 6 of Sri Arunacala Navamanimalai, but I thought Bhagavan was enjoying his poetic licence. Lacking of knowing Tamil I did not compare the word-separation.
Moreover you quite rightly corrected me: It is not Kamari as our ever-awake self-awareness who has taken a nap but I, because I have ignored my real being and instead I have dreamed that I am an embodied person. So it is completely up to me to apologize to Arunachala for my unforgivable blaming him.
Further I have to admit shamefacedly that I am still not willing to let go of my ego. Only my glaring and flagrant blindness could make me blame my dear Arunachala for my own fault. But to a certain part I let myself be induced by Bhagavan’s blaming Kamari. Bhagavan it would bring you honour if you do not refute that you are partly responsible for my inappropriate behaviour/lapse.
In deep reverence I bow my head to you, Kamari-Arunachala.
As Michael indicates: Upon you – Lord Arunachala - I am totally dependent for everything. Please make complete my taking refuge in the fortress of your feet. Annamalai, may you chase away the mighty Anangan [Kama, the ‚bodiless one‘] ! Let Kama be on the run from you Siva, Lord of Mercy, for ever and ever.

Slowworm said...

Sivanarul,
to celebrate such a glorious moment before it occurs seems not appropriate,
because between the solemn ceremony and the celebrated occurrence maybe pass a period of 1000 aeons.
If after finding the non-existence of the ego will be anyone thirsting present to have something liquid in store we can leave it to Isvara as the ruler of the universe. Cheers for all !

Sivanarul said...

Slowworm,

Very true. But when one finds non-existence of ego, it is said that time will be found to be non-existent also. So no aeons would have passed :-). It "might" be like having woken up from a non-dreamt dream. Who knows. I am still dreaming.

Regarding difficulty in letting go of the ego, most spiritual aspirants are in a similar category. We simply have to keep up with whatever Sadhana that appeals to us and have more faith in what our inner guru says, irrespective of whatever else is going on. Only the inner guru knows one's vasanas and the best path one should take. There is no "one size" fits all.

BTW, on a separate note for everyone, there are excellent talks by Swami Sarvapriyananda of Ramakrishna mission on youtube. While the material will not be new to most people who have read Bhagavan's teachings, I found the swami's talk very reinforcing. He is an excellent speaker.

Slowworm said...

Sivanarul,
in duality we cannot ignore/disregard the chronological sequence of events.
After experiencing of nothing other than what/who we really are, space and time will probably also disappear - appropriate to the occasion.
Yes, in accordance with our vasanas, faith in our pure awareness - you name it inner guru - will show us the most fitting path.

Sivanarul said...

Slowworm,

Fair enough. I was only kidding about time. That being said, in yoga vashistha, the jiva is described to be living multiple lives in parallel. So even in duality, the chronological sequence of events is not rock solid. Theory of parallel universes also support this notion where it is said that the individual exists as all possibilities in the parallel universes. So in one he is a king, in the other he is a poor man.

Sivanarul said...

At the subatomic level, time seems to be able to flow backwards and the future seems to be able to change the past. Other than the famous double-slit experiment, another one was conducted recently and details can be found at:
http://secondnexus.com/technology-and-innovation/physicists-demonstrate-how-time-can-seem-to-run-backward-and-the-future-can-affect-the-past/

Even in duality we never experience past or future (other than as thought) and hence time as a chronological sequence is never experienced by us. Other than for practical uses like appointments, planning a trip etc, time has really no significance or real existence even in our "real" world.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Slowworm, you say: 'After experiencing of nothing other than what/who we really are, space and time will probably also disappear - appropriate to the occasion'.

According to Bhagavan's teaching space and time will certainly disappear after our 'experience of nothing'. Space and time depends on the seeming existence of our ego, and once this ego is destroyed by our vigilant self-attentiveness, how can space and time survive?

Space and time are as much a myth as our ego or mind, but they all seemingly exist together or are destroyed together.

Bob - P said...

From my understanding space and time exist only from a dualistic perspective along with the oberver and observed. The observed and observer appear similtaneously within or on our true non dual being counciousness. For this to happen a false identification with a body is needed and it all happens similtaneously.

As space and time seem to only exist from my own perspective in dream and waking but not in deep sleep it can't be real but is instead unreal alng with the experiencer.

In deep sleep where I / we experience myslef as the undual being counciouness no time exists.

I think space and time is unreal just as the world and the false "I" egoic counciouness that creates all duality. It seems we are gods trapped in our own imingary dualistic creation ... limited gods sleeping who are really the one real unlimited infinite God "I"

In appreciation
Bo b

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Bob-P, as you say, we do not experience space and time temporarily in our sleep or in other similar states of manolaya. Similarly on manonasa also we will not experience space and time, but it will be a permanent destruction of our ego, space and time, all at one time.

Slowworm said...

Sivanarul,
the theory of parallel universes seems to be fairly fantastical and preposterous.
So I rather do rely on my own sensory perceptions and experiences.

Slowworm said...

Sivanarul,
though time as a chronological sequence is never experienced by us, it is a suitable working hypothesis in our daily life -even if time would do a headstand.

Slowworm said...

Sanjay Lohia,
therefore let us destroy the ego.

Sivanarul said...

Slowworm,

Parallel universes is a widely accepted hypothesis that can be directly inferred from String theory (which is also widely accepted). While it has not been proven yet, there will be experiments conducted in the future that may likely prove it (just like Higg's Boson was proved in 2013 or 2014).

Sensory perceptions do not relay an accurate model of physical reality. Your eyes, when it sees seomthing only sees roughly 20 to 30% of it. You brain interprets the remaining and comes up with a model of the physical reality in your head. So sensory perception is not always a conveyor of physical reality.

http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/parallel-worlds-exist-and-interact-with-our-world-say


Slowworm said...

Sivanarul,
sensory perception may be surely far from physical reality but is at least home-made.

Kamadhenu said...

Michael,
regarding section 7. To see what is real we must give up seeing what is seen (drsya), could you please give an illustration/demonstration to us how to manage giving up seeing what is seen
while using the following example : I am sitting/walking on the beach and I am watching the oceanwaves coming and going ?
On which point do we have give up attending to or being aware of any external visayas or objects of cognition ?
Can you give approximately a graphic description where the point is on which the mind is seeing its own cittva and is seeing tattva ?

who? said...

Kamadhenu , though you have clearly addressed your questions to Michael , i am tempted to post my (uncalled for) views in reply to your questions.

The application of dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka is the same practice of atma-vichara regardless of external scenarios. So , in the context of the 'beach scenario' which you portray , as in any other scenario , atma-vichara entails trying to pay attention only to ourself (which necessarily implies not attending to anything else).

I appreciate the seemingly insurmountable difficulty of achieving this in practice. What generally helps in this practice is to contemplate on the teachings about and importance of atma-vichara. We must remember to be self-attentive in order to be self-attentive , and such contemplation reminds us of that.

While walking/sitting leisurely on the beach , such contemplation can be commenced. Alternatively , we may reflect on the greatness of our guru with increasing love. The immeasurable love our guru has for us is surely worthy to be remembered and praised at all times , specially at such times when we are in a state of relative repose.

I'm afraid that even the atma-gnani can not give an ' approximately a graphic description where the point is on which the mind is seeing its own cittva and is seeing tattva ?' , because when the mind sees tatva , it is no longer the mind , but tatva itself. Words and concepts fail utterly in their attempts to describe an experience that transcends them.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes Who?, I agree when you write:

Words and concepts fail utterly in their attempts to describe an experience that transcends them.

How can our words, and the jnani's words are no better in this regard, describe the experience of absolute silence? This absolute silence can only be achieved once we manage to annihilate our ego and mind. Therefore how can our words capture this silence or mouna? In fact words can only indicate the correct method of practice and the state of perfect self-abidance, but the same words have to eventually given up in order to merge in ourself alone.

Kamadhenu said...

Thanks who ? for your views about my questions.
To remember the immeasurable love of our real being-you name it our guru-is surely the best precondition to commence a deep contemplation.
But I do not see that your tips can be much helpful in that case.
I tell you :
Now I am on holiday at the southcoast of the island of Crete in Greece.
In front of me is the Mediterranean Sea in direction to Africa. Behind me are steep slopes with sheer rocks. It is late afternoon, early in the evening, the evening sun says now goodbye. I am now in a state of "relative repose". I am sitting very comfortably on a level stone under an olive-tree in a olive grove. I catch some fragrances and scents of blooming plants.
I only hear the rhythmical roar of the waves and some goates are grazing and bleating very near. No people are seen. All around is peace. I am just the center of that inexpressible idyll. I left all my troubles, wishes and worries. Now I feel in real heavenly paradise and fully happy.
I feel the pulsing of the (physical) heartbeat. The breath is flowing in perfect rhythm.
Now I let go all the peaceful feelings, thoughts and impressions. All what I am is subsiding in my source which I call Arunachala. I am just self-attentive now.

But why do I return to the feeling of my limited ego again after some time (one or two hours)?
That is what I wanted to get to know.