Saturday, 30 May 2015

In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings

In various comments that he wrote on one of my recent articles, Dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka: distinguishing the seer from the seen, a friend called Joshua Jonathan expressed certain ideas that other friends disagreed with, so the comments on that article include some lively discussions about his ideas. I will not quote all of his comments here, but anyone who is interested in understanding more about the context in which this article is written can read them here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The following is my reply to some of the ideas he expressed in those comments:
  1. The original writings of Sri Ramana express the essence of his teachings
  2. Guru Vācaka Kōvai is also an authentic and reliable record of his teachings
  3. The essence of his teachings are based entirely upon his own experience of pure non-dual self-awareness
  4. If his essential teachings are true, there are actually no ‘external factors’ that are reliable
1. The original writings of Sri Ramana express the essence of his teachings

Joshua, in reply to all your various comments, I think what most of us on this blog are primarily interested in (and also what the purpose of this blog is intended to be) is understanding the essence of what Bhagavan Ramana taught us so that we can try to put it effectively into practice.

To understand the essence of his teachings we do not need to rely on any second-hand sources such as Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi or Day by Day with Bhagavan, in which devotees recorded from memory (albeit in many cases quite soon after hearing it) what he replied to a wide variety of questions (often asked by people who had little or no interest in the aim or practice of his essential teachings), because contrary to what you claim in one of your comments, he did actually write the essence of his teachings in works such as Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, Upadēśa Undiyār, Ēkāṉma Pañcakam, Āṉma-Viddai and Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?), and also in many of the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam.

There are many good reasons why we should rely primarily on his own original writings (most of which he wrote only in Tamil, but some of he wrote in Tamil and also in one or more other languages, namely Sanskrit, Telugu or Malayalam), but I will only summarise some of these reasons here. One reason is the care that he took to express his teachings clearly and precisely when he wrote them; another is that since he wrote them himself, we do not have to doubt their authenticity or reliability (as we have to do in the case of whatever other people have recorded about what they remembered him saying, particularly since he spoke mostly in Tamil, whereas in books such as Talks and Day by Day what he said in Tamil was recorded in English); and another is the quality and relevance of the questions he was addressing in many of his written works.

For example, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār are two coherently structured texts that he wrote with great care and for a clearly defined purpose. He wrote the former in reply to Sri Muruganar’s request, ‘மெய்யின் இயல்பும், அதை மேவும் திறனும், உய்யும்படி எமக்கு ஓதுக’ (meyyiṉ iyalbum, adai mēvum tiṟaṉum, uyyumpaḍi emakku ōduka), which means ‘So that we may be saved, reveal to us the nature of reality and the means by which to attain it’ (as recorded by Muruganar in his pāyiram or introductory verse to Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), and the latter in reply to his request, ‘உலகு கன்ம மயல் தீர்ந்து உய்ய, கதி காண நெறி முறையின் மன்மம் வழங்குக’ (ulahu kaṉma-mayal tīrndu uyya, gati kāṇa neṟi muṟaiyiṉ maṉmam vaṙaṅguha), which means ‘For [the people of] the world to give up the delusion of karma [action] and be saved, tell [us] the secret of the practice of the path [or means] to experience liberation’ (as recorded by Sri Muruganar in his pāyiram to Upadēśa Undiyār).

Regarding Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?), though the earliest versions of it published between 1923 and 1926 were what Sivaprakasam Pillai had many years earlier recorded of the answers that Bhagavan gave him in reply to questions that he had asked him, in 1926 or 1927 Bhagavan himself edited and rewrote it in the form of an essay, which is now the principal version of it. While rewriting it as this essay, he not only rearranged the ideas in it and connected them together to form a coherent exposition of his teachings, but also in many places significantly modified and improved the wordings recorded by Sivaprakasam Pillai, omitting some sentences, clauses and words and adding others, and he wrote an entirely new opening paragraph, in which he summarised the purpose and essential import of his teachings. Therefore this essay version of Nāṉ Yār? was carefully and purposefully written by Bhagavan himself and is therefore an entirely authentic and reliable expression of his teachings.

Nāṉ Yār? is the only recording of his answers to questions that he himself later edited and rewrote in this way, and the reason he did so was because the questions that Sivaprakasam Pillai had asked him — particularly his first question, ‘Who am I?’ — were so relevant to the essence of his teachings that the answers he had given in reply to them contained the core of his teachings and were a very valuable guide to anyone wanting to practise them. Therefore he rewrote what Sivaprakasam Pillai had recorded partly to give it his stamp of approval, and partly to refine and enhance its clarity and value.

(Incidentally, the question-and-answer version of Nāṉ Yār? that contains twenty-eight questions and that is nowadays available in Tamil, English and many other languages is neither the version that he himself wrote nor one that was edited by Sivaprakasam Pillai, but is one that some other devotees compiled and edited in about 1932, based largely upon the essay version written by Bhagavan, but including many of the questions from the questions from the earlier thirty question-and-answer version edited by Sivaprakasam Pillai, and with the contents of Bhagavan’s essay reorganised to connect with each of those questions. I am not sure why they wanted to compile a new question-and-answer version when Bhagavan had already written it as such carefully structured essay, particularly since in order to do so they had to break up his structure in many places, but I assume that it was because they thought that some people would prefer to read questions and answers rather than a coherent exposition.)

Though his original writings consist of just a few relatively short texts such as Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, Upadēśa Undiyār and Nāṉ Yār?, they contain all that we need to imbibe in order to understand the essence of his teachings, and if we have understood them thoroughly they enable us to judge with confidence and to a sufficiently reliable degree the relative value and authenticity of whatever has been recorded in other books of answers that he gave in reply to questions he was asked by people with a wide variety of interests, beliefs and aspirations.

2. Guru Vācaka Kōvai is also an authentic and reliable record of his teachings

Regarding what you say about Guru Vācaka Kōvai in one of your comment, some of the verses in it were actually written by Bhagavan himself, and though most of the verses were written by Muruganar, they each express in a poetic format something that Bhagavan had actually said, and whenever Muruganar composed any of them he would show it to Bhagavan and discuss it with him, and in many cases Bhagavan would suggest ways in which the expression of his teachings in it could be refined or improved. Even after they had discussed each verse in so much detail and jointly revised each of them in this way, after all of them had been compiled as a book and were being printed, Bhagavan made further improvements to many of them in his own handwriting while proofreading them, and a bound copy of the proofs he had revised in this manner is available in the archives of Sri Ramanasramam. Therefore Guru Vācaka Kōvai is a perfectly authentic and reliable record of his oral teachings, and is consequently much more valuable than other less reliable records such as Talks or Day by Day.

3. The essence of his teachings are based entirely upon his own experience of pure non-dual self-awareness

Regarding what you write about ‘external factors’ that a certain scholar called Friesen believes ‘determined Bhagavan’s teaching style, his vocabulary, and even to some extent his world view’, such a claim makes me doubt whether that scholar actually knows Tamil or has studied any of Bhagavan’s writings in Tamil. If he has not, whatever other sources he may have studied would not qualify him to make such a judgement, because what could he know about Bhagavan’s vocabulary if he does not know Tamil and has not read any of his own original writings? If his only access to his teachings is via English translations and recordings of them, he cannot know much about his vocabulary, because such sources contain little or none of the actual vocabulary that he used in Tamil.

Regarding Bhagavan’s ‘world view’, according to his teachings his view is that no world actually exists, and that any world that seems to exist appears only in the view of the ego, which itself does not actually exist. The essence of his teachings are centred around this simple fact that the ego does not actually exist, but seems to exist only so long as it ‘grasps’ or attends to anything other than itself, and that if it investigates itself it will therefore disappear and cease to exist, and along with it the illusory appearance of the world will also cease. (If you doubt whether this is the essence of all that he taught, please read carefully all the verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and passages of Nāṉ Yār? that I quote and discuss in my previous article, The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom.)

When such is the essence of his teachings, I do not think that we have any reason to doubt that they are based entirely upon his own experience of pure non-dual self-awareness (unless of course we choose not to accept that what he taught in this regard is true), because unless he had actually experienced what he taught, he would have no justification for making such bold assertions. In fact I cannot see how anyone could accept the essence of his teachings as expressed by him in texts such as Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu without also accepting that he made such radical claims only because that is what he had actually experienced.

For example, in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says, ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். […]’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. […]’. If we consider a statement such as this, we seem to have only two options: either we have to accept that it is true, and that Bhagavan was able to know it is true because of what he actually experienced, or we have to doubt whether he had any adequate reason to make such a claim.

In our experience, other things appear only when our ego appears, and they disappear when our ego disappears, so we cannot logically prove his claim to be false. However, by logical reasoning alone there is no way in which anyone could prove this claim to be true, because the fact that no other things seem to exist when our ego subsides is not conclusive evidence that they do not actually exist when we do not experience them. Logical analysis can only enable us to understand that the existence of other things when we do not experience them is open to serious doubt. How then can Bhagavan make such a claim, unless he knows it to be true from his own experience?

Even if a similar claim had been made by anyone else in some older text, how could he know that such a claim was true? Either we have to conclude that he made this claim even though he did not know it to be true, in which case we would have no reason to believe his teachings, or we have to conclude that he made this and other such claims because he knew them to be true from his own experience.

We are of course free to choose whichever of these two options we prefer (though many of the things that he taught us — particularly his analysis of our experience of ourself in our three alternating states of waking, dream and sleep, which proves beyond doubt that our present experience of ourself as this body and mind is seriously mistaken and cannot be true — give us plenty of reason to believe that his essential teachings are true), but we cannot reasonably accept that what he taught is true without also accepting that he was able to teach it only on the basis of his own experience rather than because he was influenced by some ‘external factors’, because if he did not know that it was true from his own experience, he could not have known it for certain in any other way, in which case we would have no adequate reason to accept that it is true.

Therefore if we accept the essence of what he taught, we must also accept that it was based entirely upon his own experience of pure non-dual self-awareness, in which case any questions regarding whether or to what extent his expression of his teachings may or may not have been influenced by any ‘external factors’ will be of little concern to us and can be left to academics or others who are interested in such relatively trivial issues.

4. If his essential teachings are true, there are actually no ‘external factors’ that are reliable

Moreover, if we accept that his essential teachings are true, then we would have to accept that there are actually no ‘external factors’ that are reliable, because he taught that everything external to ourself is unreal and seems to exist only when our ego rises. Therefore, if his teachings are true, it would not even be true to say that he was a person who had experienced what is real, because only what is real can experience what is real, and what is real is only ourself.

Therefore if his teachings are true, they do not actually come from any person outside ourself or from any other external source, but only from our own actual self. Hence if he is not actually nothing other than our real self, his teachings would not be reliable, any more than anything else other than ourself is reliable.

Therefore we should either accept his teaching in their entirety and on their own terms or not accept them at all. If we accept only the parts of them we like, or if we imagine we can adequately judge them by any external standards or on the basis of any learned academic papers, then we are not doing justice either to them or to ourself. The sole purpose of his teachings is to prompt and motivate us to investigate ourself alone, so if we want to benefit from them we should try our best to be attentively aware of ourself as much as possible, and we should give up all curiosity about anything else and all interest in any externally directed investigations such as those we can find reported and considered in academic papers.

By investigating or taking interest in any external issues or ‘external factors’ we are just feeding and nourishing our ego, whereas by investigating our ego and taking interest only in discovering whether it is what we actually are we are undermining it by exposing its unreality, as Bhagavan clearly indicated in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. Therefore let us follow what he actually taught us by taking interest only in investigating our own ego rather than concerning ourself with any ‘external factors’ such as those that some scholar believed ‘determined’ his teachings in some way.

208 comments:

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RafeStoneman said...

This is a very thorough presentation, thanks for the detail and dedication to put this post together.

I would add that there is one key factor to Ramana's teaching that has been essential in my life. Actually visiting Arunachala. This in the end is a mysterious power that ultimately is totally beyond all words. The silent presence is the transmission in the Heart. This I truly feel was Ramana's primary focus, and self-inquiry was a secondary focus for those with a very intellectual orientation.

Truly, anyone interested in Moksha, regardless of what tradition appeals to them, will benefit by going to Arunachala.

Thanks again, Michael for all you convey in humble surrender to Sri Ramana!

Michael James said...

Yes, Rafe, Arunachala is the embodiment of silence (which is what we really are, our true heart), and self-investigation is the way to experience that silence (by surrendering our ego-self to it). Everything that Bhagavan taught is intimately connected and forms a single coherent whole.

Anonymous said...

Here is something from "Final Talks" (teachings of Annamalai swami by Godman)

Question: One can have a temporary experience of the Self, the underlying reality, but then it goes away. Can you offer any guidance on how to stabilise in that state?

Annamalai Swami: A lamp that is lit may blow out if the wind is strong. If you want to see it again, you have to relight it. But Self is not like this. It is not a flame that can be blown out by the passing winds of thoughts and desires. It is always bright, always shining, always there. If you are not aware of it, it means that you have put a curtain or a veil in front of it that blocks your view. Self does not hide itself behind a curtain. You are the one who puts the curtain there by believing in ideas that are not true. If the curtain parts and then closes again, it means that you are still believing in wrong ideas. If you have eradicated them completely, they will not reappear. While these ideas are covering up the Self, you still need to do constant sadhana. So, going back to your question, the Self does not need to stabilise itself. It is full and complete in itself. The mind can be stabilised or destabilised, but not the Self.

Question: By constant sadhana, do you mean self-enquiry?

Annamalai Swami: Yes. By strength of practice, by doing this sadhana, this veil will be removed completely. There will be no further hindrances. You can go to the top of Arunachala, but if you are not alert, if you are not paying attention, you may slip and end up at Easanya Math [a Hindu institution at the base of the hill]. You have to make an enormous effort to realise the Self. It is very easy to stop on the way and fall back into ignorance. At any moment you can fall back. You have to make a strong determined effort to remain on the peak when you first reach it, but eventually a time will come when you are fully established in the Self. When that happens, you cannot fall. You have reached your destination and no further efforts are required. Until that moment comes, constant sadhana is required.

Anonymous said...

[...]
Question: Is it important to have a Guru at this stage, this period when constant effort is required?

Annamalai Swami: Yes. The Guru guides you and tells you that what you have done is not enough. If you are filling a bucket with water, you can always add more if there is still space. But when it is completely full, full to overflowing, it is pointless to add even a single drop. You may think that you have done enough, and you may believe that your bucket is full, but the Guru is in a better position to see that there is still a space, and that more water needs to be added. Don’t rely on your own judgement in this matter. The state you have reached may seem to be complete and final, but if the Guru says, ‘You need more sadhana,’ trust him and carry on with your efforts. Bhagavan often used to say, ‘The physical Guru is outside, telling you what to do and pushing you into the Self. The inner Guru, the Self within, simultaneously pulls you towards itself.’ Once you have become established in the inner Guru, the Self, the distinction between Guru and disciple disappears. In that state you no longer need the help of any Guru. You are That, the Self. Until the river reaches the ocean it is obliged to keep on flowing, but when it arrives at the ocean, it becomes ocean and the flow stops. The water of the river originally came from the ocean. As it flows, it is merely making its way back to its source. When you meditate or do sadhana, you are flowing back to the source from which you came. After you have reached that source, you discover that everything that exists – world, Guru, mind – is one. No differences or distinctions arise there. Non-duality is jnana; duality is samsara. If you can give up duality, Brahman alone remains, and you know yourself to be that Brahman, but to make this discovery continuous meditation is required. Don’t allocate periods of time for this. Don’t regard it as something that you do when you sit with your eyes closed. This meditation has to be continuous. Do it while you are eating, walking, and even talking. It has to be continued all the time.

Anonymous said...

And also from "Living by the words of Bhagavan" :

About ten days after my arrival I (Annamalai Swami) asked Bhagavan, ‘How to avoid misery?’ This was the first spiritual question I ever asked him.
Bhagavan replied, ‘Know and always hold on to the Self. Disregard the body and the mind. To identify with them is misery. Dive deep into the Heart, the source of being and peace, and establish yourself there.’
I then asked him how I could attain Self-realisation and he gave me a similar answer: ‘If you give up identifying with the body and meditate on the Self, which you already are, you can attain Self-realisation.’

Joshua Jonathan said...

Hallo Michael,

Thank you for your kind and extensive reply. I'm glad you're not being set off by my criticisms, but response to them. That's very kind; thank you.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Ramana taught, or answered questions, speaking from "his" own "insight" or understanding, c.q. from "being" "this" "non-personal awareness" (apologies for all the citation marks; I'm trying to avoid reification and "thing-ness"). It's genuine, as far as I can judge, and that's why he's attractive to me, to speak for my personal preferences. But I also like Friesen's and Jacob's analysis; I don't think that critical analysis is opposed to self-inquiry. On the contrary, critical analysis also helps to undermine convictions. See for example John McRae's "Seeing through Zen," in which he eradicates many cherished Zen-narratives.

Regarding the "external factors", you write "if we accept that his essential teachings are true, then we would have to accept that there are actually no ‘external factors’ that are reliable, because he taught that everything external to ourself is unreal and seems to exist only when our ego rises." I don't think that the conclusion you're drawing here follows from the premises. The problem may be in the term "everything external to ourselves." This seems to imply a definition of this 'unbounded awareness', and thereby a reification, a "thing-ness", or a limitation; and a duality 'self' and 'non-self'. More precise would be 'what appears as concrete existences turns out to be appearances (phenomena) in this 'unbounded awareness.' And nevertheless, those "external factors" may still be worthwhile on their own accord. Ramana may have been speaking with the voice of 'unbounded reality', yet in the relative world of appearances political struggles were going on, and various Indian traditions did (and do) articulate their understanding of 'the ultimate' in different terms, and were (and are) influenced by these concrete struggles.

Nevertheless, I sincerely admire your painstaking analyses and translations of the texts. They urge me to reconsider once again my ubderstanding of Ramana, and seem to clarify and simplify his answers. I'll read the essay-version of "nan-yar"; thank you very much for pointing to this. Sincere regards, Joshua Jonathan.

Michael James said...

Joshua, what I meant by ‘everything external to ourself’ is everything that seems to be other than ourself. So long as we experience the seeming existence of otherness, we are experiencing duality and a distinction between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ — ‘myself’ and ‘other things’ — in which case the ‘self’ that we are experiencing as ‘myself’ is only our ego. In the absence of this ego (as in sleep) we experience no ‘non-self’ or ‘other things’, so our own ego alone is the root of this illusion of duality and otherness.

According to Bhagavan so long as we continue to experience any form of otherness we are ‘grasping form’, and as he says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, it is only by ‘grasping form’ that our ego comes into being, endures and is fed or nourished and sustained. However, since our ego itself is just a formless phantom, if we try to grasp it it will subside and disappear, because it is not what we really are. Therefore the only way to free ourself from the illusion of duality or otherness is to investigate or observe our ego alone.

Regarding your remark that you ‘don’t think that critical analysis is opposed to self-inquiry’, critical analysis is an activity of our mind, and in order to investigate or observe ourself alone we must leave all mental activity behind. However, in order to bring ourself to the point where we understand that all we need do is to investigate ourself, we do need to critically analyse our experience of ourself in each of our three contrasting states: waking, dream and sleep. Therefore critical analysis certainly has an important role to play, provided that what we critically analyse is ourself rather than any other thing. Most critical analysis that is done in the name of academia is directed outwards, away from ourself and towards other things, so such critical analysis is an unnecessary distraction or diversion of our attention away from ourself, and as such it is certainly opposed to self-investigation.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael and thank you Joshua.
Your comments were extremely interesting and helpful to read.
In appreciation
Bob

Bob - P said...

Thank you Rafestoneman and Anonymous too.

I think one of the hardest things to swallow so to speak is that according to Bhagavan's teaching (If I am understanding it correctly) is I / we have created Bhagavan along with his teaching as he is nothing other than ourself. Ourself externalised guiding our attention back onto ourself so I / we can investigate who or what we really are. Our internal guru externally projected. Also that there is in fact no "We" only "I" ...

In appreciation Bob.

Michael James said...

Joshua, I wrote my previous reply to your comment in a hurry, so I did not have time to reply to one other point, namely your remark that my ‘painstaking analyses and translations of the texts [...] seem to clarify and simplify his answers’. Yes, Bhagavan’s essential teachings are actually extremely simple, because they focus on the one crucial issue, namely our ego, which is the sole root and cause of all other issues, and he explains in the simplest manner possible why the only means to solve this primal issue is to keenly and constantly observe this ego and thereby to give up attending to anything else whatsoever.

He makes this very clear in his original writings, particularly in the verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that I quoted in The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom, but this simple essence of his teachings is often obscured in the answers that he gave to people’s questions, because most people who came to him came with their own preoccupations, concerns, beliefs and aspirations, so only a few of them really wanted to hear from him that we alone are the problem and we alone are the solution to the problem. Because they were not interested to hear this, he had to answer each of them according to their current needs and concerns, and hence he had to dilute his teachings to a greater or lesser extent to suit the needs of each individual he spoke to.

We alone are the problem because everything other than ourself comes into seeming existence only when we rise as this ego, and we alone are the solution to this problem because it is only by attending to ourself alone that we can dissolve this illusory ego that we now seem to be.

RafeStoneman said...

Even the rising of a so called ego becomes at a certain point nothing to be concerned about, like waves rising in the ocean, each wave being simultaneously an ego and the ocean itself, thus, when it is seen that the ego is not a fixed entity with linear progression or a birth in time, say at the moment of the body being born, but rather a momentary rising and falling, then as far as I can see, there isn't any person left to 'try' to eliminate an ego.

Self-inquiry proceeds as a function, conditioning of the brain, without a personal doer initiating it. It may seem that our 'practice' of self-inquiry led us to this point of automatic investigation with each arising movement of thought, but there is no actual way to verify that previous 'intentional' inquiry has produced the current/ present fruit of effortless abidance.

Michael James said...

Rafe, I suggest that perhaps you should reconsider the view you express in your latest comment, because if the ego were really ‘nothing to be concerned about’, why did Bhagavan focus his entire teachings on the need to eliminate this ego and the means by which we can do so?

In your first comment on this article you expressed your opinion that the silent presence of Arunachala is his primary focus, but in the very first verse of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai he says that Arunachala roots out the ego of those who meditate ‘Arunachala’ in their heart, thereby indicating that the very purpose of Arunachala is to eliminate our ego.

According to Bhagavan all our problems arise solely because of this ego, so eliminating it is the solution to all problems. Therefore so long as we experience ourself as this ego — that is, as anything that seems in any way separate or distinct from Bhagavan and Arunachala — it is certainly something to be concerned about, and hence something that we need to try to eliminate. If we truly love Bhagavan and Arunachala, the most important thing for us will be to merge in them completely, and we cannot do so without rooting out this illusory ego.

Steve said...

The ocean is never a wave, just as a rope is never a snake, just as the infinite is never finite, just as the real is never unreal.

"Just as knowledge of the rope, which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of a snake], will not arise unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, svarūpa-darśana [true experiential knowledge of our own essential nature or real self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise unless perception of the world, which is an imagination [or fabrication], ceases."

RafeStoneman said...

Yes, I agree that rooting out the ego is Ramana's emphasis to seekers. I was pointing at how the ego is not a fixed, time bound entity, and when that is seen, we have an entirely different understanding of what ego is and isn't. Any thing looked at from the Self, can only be seen as Self, in this sense I say, what could ever be a concern?

What else can waves be but the ocean?
What else can form be but the Self?
All is the Self.

"We think that there is something hiding Reality (bodiless awareness) and that it must be destroyed before the truth is gained. This is clearly ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will laugh at your past efforts. What you realize on the day you laugh is also here and now." Bhagavan

Steve said...

The article above these comments is titled, "In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana's teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings", a premise with which I completely agree.

Mouna said...

Dear All,

Please allow me to indulge into a small side-thought investigation/speculation on this ongoing discussion, on the wave and ocean relationship.
Sometimes this analogy could be a little misleading and confusing.
I’ll propose a different angle about it.

From one point of view clearly a wave cannot be the ocean or the ocean a wave because they have different attributes from the start, ocean is big and a wave is small. Ocean contains lots of waves, waves don’t contain oceans (unless you are a poet and declare otherwise!!).

But there must be a link between the two, and that link is their essential component, water. Not only in the sense of “liquid" water, but in the essential component of water, H2O (two atoms of hydrogen one of oxygen).

This essence H2O “manifests” differently as liquid (ocean), as condensation (cloud), and as frozen (ice) depending the form (and name) we superimposed on it, but essentially is ONLY H2O.
Now, let’s leave aside the clouds and ice for a moment.

As a Vedantic analogy, H2O may represent Brahman, the essence, the ground of being, the Self.
When attributes are superimposed on Brahman due to Maya, we don’t call it Brahman anymore, but Ishwara or God. H2O becomes ocean.
When veiling and projection are superimposed on Ishwara, creating the identification “I am the body” idea (ego/I-thought/mind, etc) due to Maya, it becomes the jeeva . The “ocean” with limitations becomes the “wave".
Here is where the analogy with “water" becomes interesting.

Jeeva wave and God ocean share the same form, liquid water, but not the same features (besides different names), as was said before, ocean is big, waves are small.
A wave is a modulation of the ocean and it is connected to all the other waves that constitute the ocean. But in fact there is only ocean.
Waves are only the surface of the ocean, we could say ocean has an “infinite” mass of water in relation to each wave, but nevertheless both of them share the same essence, “water” or H2O. H2O doesn’t change throughout all the stages of transformation of its form and name (liquid, condensation, ice), but oceans, waves, clouds and ice are in a constant change, we could even say that change is their main attribute or feature besides their name and form.

Disclaimer: all analogies have their “weak” spots when taken out of content, and sometimes we can’t use one or another analogy in a different context than which it was intended to be used. The ocean-wave analogy definitely falls in this category.
The most important point to realize with this analogy is that although this essence is “hidden” to the view whenever we identify with the wave (ego), nevertheless is ALL THERE IS, at any moment in time. Investigating the wave takes us directly to “liquidness” first (Jeeva and God share that same attribute), and H2O eventually.

You want an interesting experiment? next time we open the faucet, or look at a cloud, or look at the waves or the ocean, let's try to see the “water” (H2O) in them, which is what all these phenomena are made of. A little bit like Atma-Vichara turning attention within to investigate the ego… which will dissolve (because never existing) leading directly to what is essential and “always” there.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Michael James said...

Rafe, when you say in your latest comment ‘the ego is not a fixed, time bound entity’ that implies that the ego is a changing entity, but what actually changes is not this ego itself but only the adjuncts that it grasps as itself. As I explained in Distinguishing the ego from the rest of the mind, ‘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’.

So long as the ego seems to exist, it is the same ego, so it remains essentially unchanged, even though it is what experiences all changes. For example, many years ago you experienced yourself as a small boy, and now you experience yourself as a grown man with many accumulated memories, but the ‘you’ who has experienced all these things are still the same ‘you’, and that is the ego.

You say ‘All is the Self’, but that is just an idea or thought, and like all other thoughts its root is only this ego, the primal thought called ‘I’, so we cannot free ourself from this ego merely by thinking or ‘understanding’ that ‘All is the Self’. So long as we think ‘All is the Self’ we are perpetuating the illusion that we are this ego, because what we call ‘all’ is a seemingly endless variety of things, all of which exist only in the view of ourself as this ego. In sleep we do not experience ourself as this ego, and hence we do not experience any such ‘all’. It is only when we rise as this ego in either waking or dream that any such ‘all’ comes into existence.

This is why Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. [...]’. Whereas it is often said, ‘All is the Self’, here Bhagavan says that all is actually only the ego.

If we investigate this ego we will find that it is nothing other than our real self (just as if we examine an illusory snake we will find that it is nothing other than a rope), so we can say that ultimately (in a roundabout way) everything is our real self. However, if we simply say ‘All is the Self’ we are missing out the most important link, which is that everything is ultimately our real self because it is only an expansion of our ego, and if we investigate this ego we will find that what seems to be this ego is actually only our real self. Therefore what Bhagavan teaches us when he says ‘The ego itself is everything’ (அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்: ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām) is a much more practical and useful teaching than saying ‘All is the Self’.

If we say ‘All is the Self’, it gives room for us to imagine that we can experience ourself as we really are and still experience everything else, whereas when Bhagavan says, ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. The ego itself is everything’, it is clear that we can experience anything other than ourself only when we experience ourself as this ego, and hence that when we experience ourself as we really are there will be no ‘all’ or ‘everything’ for us to experience. This is why he concludes verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu by saying, ‘Therefore know that investigating what this [ego] is is certainly giving up everything’.

RafeStoneman said...

Thanks Mouna, that is a very precise example of how water/brahman is the essence

Michael, yes, upon investigation, an ego is not found, that said, may the investigation continue, not sure there is much use in discussion this investigation here, but all the best, thanks for your input on the matter

May the Grace of the Heart be with ALL

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, It is clear when you write in your comment addressed to Rafe:

‘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’.

So long as the ego seems to exist, it is the same ego, so it remains essentially unchanged, even though it is what experiences all changes. For example, many years ago you experienced yourself as a small boy, and now you experience yourself as a grown man with many accumulated memories, but the ‘you’ who has experienced all these things are still the same ‘you’, and that is the ego.

To expand on this, that is, how is it the same ego, I was reflecting on this. Whenever this ego rises it seems to exist with the same vasanas (unexhausted ones), the same amount of svatma-bhakti and same set of prarabdha (at least in each of our bodily existence) and the same set of sanchita karmas. Also this ego comes into existence with the same set of memories.

My question is are our vasanas and memories same or alike? It appears to be related in some way, but I am not able to understand their exact similarities or differences? Please clarify this.

Thanking you and pranams.

Bob - P said...

[This is why Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. [...]’.]

[Whereas it is often said, ‘All is the Self’, here Bhagavan says that all is actually only the ego.]

This second quote from Michael's latest comment above I find to be extremely helpful in helping me get a deeper understanding of Bhagavan's teaching , thank you Michael.

It reinforces that everything I experience in waking and dream is nothing but myself. But not myself as I really am but as the ego / the false "I" / First person illusory perceiver / creator ....

If I investigate this temporary first person earnestly the adjuncts will fall away so to speak and I will see it is nothing but myself the non dual beingness consciousness / but until my disobedient mind turns 180 degrees inward and dissolves in myself then everything I experience is nothing but my egoic minds projection. Like Michael says all is the ego.

I hope that came out right?
Please feel free to correct me if I am not understanding fully or if my writing misleads the teaching / truth in some way.

In appreciation
Bob

Michael James said...

Sanjay, no, vāsanās and memories are not the same but two quite different things. Though memories can be to a greater or lesser extent carried over from one dream to another (as we know from our memories of our night-time dreams in our present state, and from our memories of our present state while we are dreaming), they are not necessarily carried over (as we know from the fact that we started the dream of our present life without any memory of any former dreams, and from the fact that we often wake up knowing that we were dreaming but unable to remember anything about what we were dreaming). Vāsanās on the other hand are necessarily carried over from one dream to another (as we know from the fact that in dream we tend to behave, react, think and feel in much the same way as we would in our present state).

Memories are impressions of our past experiences that we can recall, so they are a function of the mind’s jñāna-śakti or power of knowing or cognition, whereas vāsanās are our predispositions, propensities, tendencies or inclinations to behave, react, think and feel in certain ways, so they are a function of the mind’s icchā-śakti or power of willing or volition.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for your clarification on the necessary difference between our vasanas and memories. As you write:

Memories are impressions of our past experiences that we can recall, so they are a function of the mind’s jñāna-śakti or power of knowing or cognition, whereas vāsanās are our predispositions, propensities, tendencies or inclinations to behave, react, think and feel in certain ways, so they are a function of the mind’s icchā-śakti or power of willing or volition.

So basically memories are harmless, whereas visaya-vasanas compel us to act, react, think and feel in certain ways.

But from another perspective our memories can also compel us to react or behave in certain ways. For example, if we are very fond of ice-creams, as soon as the memory of the taste of an ice-cream comes to our mind, we may somehow want to consume one. Of course it could be argued that it was our vasana to consume ice-cream which compelled us to consume one. Somehow these two, vasanas and memories, seem connected, though they may not be really connected. Just a few thoughts.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Yes, Bob, your understanding (as expressed in your latest comment) seems to be correct. Everything that we now experience is only an expansion or projection of our ego-self (ourself as we now seem to be) and not of our real self (ourself as we actually are), because what projects or expands as anything is only this ego, since our real self never projects or expands as anything, being the infinite, indivisible and immutable whole, other than which nothing exists or even seems to exist.

Therefore the statement ‘All is the Self’ is potentially very misleading, because our real self is not only single (kēvala) but absolute, indivisible and otherless oneness (kaivalya), whereas the term ‘all’ (sakala) suggests multiplicity, division and otherness, so in this sense ‘all’ is the very antithesis of our real nature.

The Sanskrit terms kēvala and sakala both mean ‘all’, ‘entire’ or ‘the whole’, but in two quite opposite senses, because kēvala means alone, single, simple, pure, partless and indivisible, so it means ‘all’ in the sense of ‘all that actually exists’, whereas sakala means having parts and being divisible, so it means ‘all’ in the sense of ‘all the many things that seem to exist’. What we really are is ‘all’ in the former sense, while our ego is ‘all’ in the latter sense.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael for your feedback and also for explaining the meaning of the Sanskrit terms kēvala and sakala.

In appreciation
Bob

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, what you have written in a your above comment addressed to Bob is an important clarification, because I see a lot of confusion amongst devotees on this topic. You have written:

... the statement ‘All is the Self’ is potentially very misleading, because our real self is not only single (kēvala) but absolute, indivisible and otherless oneness (kaivalya), whereas the term ‘all’ (sakala) suggests multiplicity, division and otherness, so in this sense ‘all’ is the very antithesis of our real nature.

I hear many devotees say 'All is God' or 'All is the self'. They overlook the verse 26 Ulladu Narpadu, which says that if ego comes into existence, everything (all) comes into existence. Therefore Bhagavan confirms that it is only our ego which becomes 'all'. Perhaps they have misunderstood verse 5 Upadesa Undiyar:

Worshipping [anything], thinking that all things [in this entire universe], [which is composed of] the eight forms of God, is good puja [worship] of God.

We sometimes forget the context in which the above was said by Bhagavan. When somebody said in front of Bhagavan something to the effect, 'I believe our true self pervades everything', Bhagavan replied to the effect, 'There is nothing for the self to pervade. Self alone is'.

Thus Bhagavan has repeatedly stressed that our atma-svarupa alone exists and, as you write, ‘all’ is the very antithesis of our real nature.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I was doing some manana on the topic of our vasanas and memories. Though as you say, 'vāsanās and memories are not the same but two quite different things', but I believe they may be having some connections with each other at times.

Taking my earlier example, if my memory makes me remember the taste of an ice-cream, such memory can trigger my vasana of my previous consumption of such ice-creams. Thus indirectly my memory of an ice-cream will make me eat more ice-cream. Just a thought.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Yes, Sanjay, vāsanās and memories are certainly connected, and their connecting point is this ego, because they both depend equally upon it and belong only to it. When we react to memories with feelings, thoughts or actions, it is our vāsanās that prompt us to react in such a way, and if we choose to dwell on certain memories or to try to forget other ones, it is again our vāsanās that prompt us to do so, so vāsanās and memories are not only connected but also constantly interact with each other.

Regarding your earlier comment that ‘basically memories are harmless’, in one sense it may be so, because what causes harm is not memories on their own but our reactions to them. However if a person has had some particularly bad experiences in the past, we sometimes say that they have deeply damaging memories, because their memories are so bad they cannot avoid being disturbed by them, but even in such a case it is the interaction between memories and vāsanās that causes the disturbance.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for your above response on the topic of connection between our memories and vasanas.

Yes, it is clear that it is only our reaction to our memories which is a problem, as it is only the resistance to our prarabdha which is a problem. I think these reactions and resistance create agamya.

Therefore the best course should be not to dwell on our memories as and when they appear in our mental horizon, but instead turn all our focus and attention only on being attentively self-aware.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Yes, Sanjay, to whom do these memories occur, and who is reacting to them? This is all that we need investigate, and the only way to investigate this is to be attentively self-aware, as you say.

Jacques Franck said...

Dear Michael, is Maharshi's Gospel is a reliable book? because I have heard that this one has been checked by Ramana... and also the talk from the book : sat darshana bhashya and talks that was read in the presence of ramana?

And what about also padamalai edited by david godman....

Thank you for all of your articles.... a real pleasure.... :)

Michael James said...

Jacques, of the three books you ask about, Pādamālai (or at least the Tamil original of it) is certainly the most reliable, because it was composed by Sri Muruganar, and I believe that whatever he wrote is a reliable reflection of Bhagavan and his teachings. Therefore if the translation that David edited is sufficiently accurate, it is likewise reliable. David himself does not know much Tamil, but the translation he edited was done by Venkatasubramanian and checked by Robert Butler, so I assume that in most cases it is probably reasonably accurate.

Maharshi’s Gospel is a useful book and probably the most reliable of all the books in which his teachings were recorded in English (unlike those in which they were recorded in Tamil and later translated into English). Though both the English and Tamil versions were published in Bhagavan’s lifetime and were therefore seen by him, we should not assume that they are therefore entirely accurate records of what he said, because though he may have read the proofs of at least the Tamil version, he would not necessarily have corrected any inaccuracies in the recording of what he said, because he sometimes corrected printing or grammatical errors without correcting the content of whatever he was checking.

Though the Tamil version of it, which is called மகர்ஷி வாய்மொழி (Maharṣi Vāymoṙi), was published in Bhagavan’s lifetime, it is a translation of the English version, because bizarrely what Bhagavan had said in Tamil was recorded in English and then later translated back into Tamil. The Tamil version is not an entirely accurate translation of the English version, but in some respects it is better, because whoever translated it had probably been present when some of the conversations recorded in it had taken place, so it is sometimes interesting to compare important passages in the two versions, but having often done so makes me doubt how accurately what Bhagavan said has been recorded in either of them. However, I would say that generally the ideas recorded in them give a fairly reliable picture of what Bhagavan might have said, even though they do not record his exact words, so many nuances in what he said may be missing in them.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Jacques Franck:

Regarding the ‘Talks’ section in Sat-Darshana Bhashya, I am much more sceptical about its reliability, because I do not consider anything written or recorded by Kavyakantha or his followers to be reliable, since their beliefs and aspirations were quite contrary to the teachings of Bhagavan (as you can see, for example, from a series of articles that K. Lakshmana Sarma (the author of Maha Yoga) wrote in The Call Divine in 1954, the first two of which are reproduced here and here, and also here and here). The Sanskrit text of Sat-Darshana is a deliberately distorted translation of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (as Bhagavan himself explained to Lakshmana Sarma), and in his Bhashya Kapali Sastri often argues against the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teachings. For example, in his introduction (Bhoomika) to the Bhashya Kapali Sastri wrote, ‘It is evident then that it is both futile and false to affirm that the substantial truth alone of the world-being, Brahman, is real and that the formal aspect of Brahman as the world is unreal’ (1953 edition, pp. 6-7), thereby implying that Bhagavan’s teaching that our essential self (which is the one and only true substance or vastu) alone is real and that the world is merely an unreal appearance is ‘both futile and false’.

Even if we consider the ‘Talks’ section alone, a glance at its section headings given in the Contents is sufficient to show that the subjects it covers includes siddhis, śakti and the location of ‘the Self’ in the body, which were three of the favourite topics that Kavyakantha or his followers liked to question Bhagavan about, and reading the questions in those ‘Talks’ (many of which are similar to the questions they asked in Sri Ramana Gita) shows their preoccupation with these and other such outward concerns, which are trivial and or no real relevance to Bhagavan’s actual teachings. Therefore even if the recording of Bhagavan’s answers there is not too inaccurate, those ‘Talks’ as a whole give a very imbalanced and distorted picture of his teachings, so it is not a text I would advise anyone to rely upon.

Michael James said...

Jacques, sorry, in the second of the two comments that I wrote in reply to yours, when I wrote that the two of the series of articles that Lakshmana Sarma wrote in The Call Divine in 1954 ‘are reproduced here and here, and also here and here’, I got the first of those four ‘here’ links wrong, because the one I gave by mistake is to the third article in that series, in which Lakshmana Sarma did not write anything directly about Kavyakantha or his followers.

The link to the first article in that series, which is the one I meant to refer to, is The Call Divine, June 1954, page 495, so what I should have written is ‘the first two of which are reproduced here and here, and also here and here’.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, it was nice to read the old articles by Lakshmana Sarma, as it appeared in The Call Divine.

I have also noticed that many of the current devotees of Bhagavan somehow are not able to reconcile to the advaitic standpoint of Bhagavan, Shankara and others, but are more comfortable to accept and believe in all their own dualistic ideas.

Thanking you and pranams.

Jacques Franck said...

Merci Michael.... :)

R Viswanathan said...

"I have also noticed that many of the current devotees of Bhagavan somehow are not able to reconcile to the advaitic standpoint of Bhagavan, Shankara and others, but are more comfortable to accept and believe in all their own dualistic ideas."

I would like to post here my interaction with one Michael in Ramanasramam sometime back. I saw him with a trough on his head, holy ash smeared and Kumkum at the joint of the two eye brows and praying to Mathru Bootheswarar (Mother temple) very intensely and also prostrating in a fashion like many veda reciting pandits do. I asked him about how is that he is doing all these just like many Hindus although originally he would have come to Ramanasramam with a view to becoming more familiar with Bhagavan's teachings and practise them. His answer was very striking to me: "yes, I came here with that objective. After sometime, I realized that everything is self and I don't find it odd to immerse myself into prayers and meditations - that is, every finite thing is within this infinite thing". He is a regular visitor to BudhGaya as well every year.

I also regularly see many non Indians, even youngsters, involving themselves fully with all the Pujas and Homams in Ramanasramam, in addition to meditating for long hours in the old hall as well in Bhagavan's Sannidhi.

So, I would think that as aspirants, there is no strict demarcation as an advait or dvait. Once we graduate to a level of realized being, I would think that there won't be an advait or dvait any more. Thus, all these apparent demarcations appear to be superfluous.

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay,
With respect to your comment “I have also noticed that many of the current devotees of Bhagavan somehow are not able to reconcile to the advaitic standpoint of Bhagavan, Shankara and others, but are more comfortable to accept and believe in all their own dualistic ideas.”

It is not “in all their own” dualistic ideas that devotees follow but the ideas of proponents of the dualistic tradition they identify with. Many devotees of Bhagavan (both during his time and current) had upbringing in dualistic traditions and simultaneously followed both Bhagavan and their dualistic tradition (like I do). Bhagavan did not see any conflict in this and did not ask anyone to change from what they were comfortable with, since he knew dualism will ultimately lead to the non-dual experience.

The following is a general comment and not addressed to you. Unfortunately in a lot of non-duality circles, dualism is being treated like anathema and discussed in a disparaging manner. Many of them who do so, only know superficially about dualistic traditions and yet somehow think they are qualified to disparage based on reading some non-dual teachings and doing some vichara. But when put to the test, will they pass? If the stock market crashes and they lose most of their savings or if they are afflicted with a serious illness, non-duality might quickly go out of the window, and they might start crying like babies and get depressed.

For those of us who follow duality and non-duality interchangeably, we do so under the authority of the spiritual tradition we had an upbringing in, and blessings of spiritual giants like Sri Ramakrishna, Aksharamanamalai of Bhagavan and Bhaja Govindam of Sri Shankara, just to cite a few examples.

Sundar said...

Its also worth remembering while talking about Advaita and Dvaita that Sankara himself wrote quite a few verses praising the dualistic forms of Krishna, Rama, Ranganatha at Srirangam, Devi etc. When someone asked Swami Vivekananda if there is only one God, his reply was, "There is only God" and if everything is God, whats not to worship. Likewise Ramakrishna also said, "God is with form, without form and beyond both form and formless".

Sundar said...

I came across another interesting quote on form worship by Acharya Vinobha Bhave who had tremendous respect for Bhagavan Ramana. I'm paraphrasing it and it goes something like, "The ability to see divinity even in a stone is perhaps the highest form of formless worship."

Nicolas said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you very much for your blog. You gave at the begining of your post some indications on accurate translations of the original teaching of Baghavan Ramana. Is there available books of these teachings ? There is a book in french which is french translation of "Collected works of Ramana Maharshi" (Madras 1963) by Editions Traditionnelles in Paris. I would prefer read a good english one from directly in Tamul. Thank you very much for your kind help.
I read your site and blog on quite a daily base. I appreciate very much the work you do to give us the most accurate sens of the teachings of Baghavan Ramana as well as your own experience. In my view, the most important thing to consider is the fact of a real and living intimate relationship with Baghavan Ramana that we can have through Atma Vichara and through the lights of his teaching related in books.
Many thanks
Kind regards
Nicolas

Sanjay Lohia said...


R. Viswanathan, I thank you for your comment dated 7 June 2015 14:47, in which you write:

I also regularly see many non Indians, even youngsters, involving themselves fully with all the Pujas and Homams in Ramanasramam, in addition to meditating for long hours in the old hall as well in Bhagavan's Sannidhi.

So, I would think that as aspirants, there is no strict demarcation as an advait or dvait. Once we graduate to a level of realized being, I would think that there won't be an advait or dvait any more. Thus, all these apparent demarcations appear to be superfluous.

This is not to show any disrespect to any dualistic forms of worship like pujas and homas, because Bhagavan says that these forms of worship also purify our mind (at least to a certain extent), but if we our following Bhagavan's direct path of self-investigation with all sincerity, I believe our attractions to all such dualistic mode of worship will start diminishing and eventually we will no longer be attracted to these practices. At least this is my experience.

Yes, I agree with you, till we imagine ourself to be this ego, we can say that there is no strict demarcation of us as an advaitin or dvaitin, but Bhagavan's experience was clearly advaitic. Otherwise why would he say in the seventh paragraph of Nan Yar?, 'That which actually exists is only atma-svarupa [our own essential self]'. He was clearly expressing his advaitic experience here.

Thanking you.

R Viswanathan said...

"The ability to see divinity even in a stone is perhaps the highest form of formless worship."

This statement encourages me to post this comment:

This is from the autobiography of a Yogi - Paramahamsa Yoganandha who established his ashrams in USA as early as in 1930s. I was reading the conversation he had when he as a young boy was pursuing God very sincerely and honestly. He heard so much about Tarakeshwar, but when he went there, he just a saw a big piece of stone which many people were worshiping. He did not feel inclined to prostrate before that. He went to the Guru he was seeking, and the later asked him where does he think God is. Yogananda (hat time his name was Mukunda) replied that he is there everywhere - to which the Guru asked him why then did he not prostrate before that big stone in Tarakeshwar. It is at that time he realized that although intellectually he was thinking that God is everywhere, his ego did not permit him to apply that in practice when he saw that big stone in Tarakeshwar. On his return, of course, he did prostrate before that.

Sundar said...

Viswanathan, I think you are referring to the portion below from Autobiography of a Yogi

/**
"Tell me; where do you think God is?"

"Why, He is within me and everywhere." I doubtless looked as bewildered as I felt.

"All-pervading, eh?" The saint chuckled. "Then why, young sir, did you fail to bow before the Infinite in the stone symbol at the Tarakeswar temple yesterday?2
Your pride caused you the punishment of being misdirected by the passer-by who was not bothered by fine distinctions of left and right. Today, too, you have had a fairly uncomfortable time of it!"

I agreed wholeheartedly, wonder-struck that an omniscient eye hid within the unremarkable body before me. Healing strength emanated from the yogi; I was instantly refreshed in the scorching field.

"The devotee inclines to think his path to God is the only way," he said. "Yoga, through which divinity is found within, is doubtless the highest road: so Lahiri Mahasaya has told us. But discovering the Lord within, we soon perceive Him without. Holy shrines at Tarakeswar and elsewhere are rightly venerated as nuclear centers of spiritual power."
***/

This one below is from "The gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" where in a similar vein Ramkrishna admonishes "M" the authour of the gospel for bringing down Idol worship
/**
M: "Sir, suppose one believes in God with form. Certainly He is not the clay image!"
MASTER (interrupting): "But why clay? It is an image of Spirit."
M. could not quite understand the significance of this "image of Spirit". "But, sir," he said to the Master, "one should explain to those who worship the clay image that it is not God, and that, while worshipping it, they should have God in view and not the clay image. One should not worship clay."
God the only real teacher
MASTER (sharply): "That's the one hobby of you Calcutta people - giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself. Who are you to teach others?
"He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone. He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon, men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up. The Lord has done so many things - will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher. He is our Inner Guide.
"Suppose there is an error in worshipping the clay image; doesn't God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will he pleased with that very worship. Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself."



**/

Sivanarul said...

With respect to Sanjay’s latest comment , “This is not to show any disrespect to any dualistic forms of worship like pujas and homas, because Bhagavan says that these forms of worship also purify our mind (at least to a certain extent)”.

This sentiment that dualisitic forms of worship purify our mind only to a “certain extent” is getting more and more prevalent with aspirants in non-duality and highly distorts Bhagavan’s teachings and traditional advaita. Ishvara/Personal God plays a key part in the traditional advaitic teachings. It is Ishvara himself that appeared before Sri Shankara as a Chandala and reminded him of advaitic wisdom when Sri Shankara asked an untouchable (practiced in those days) to move. Ishavara asked Sri Shankara who was that he was asking to move (the body or atman) reminding Sri Shankara that there was no difference between the Chandala and him (Ishvara).

It saddens me to read that dualistic forms of worship “just” purify our mind and having it attributed to Bhagavan. The lives of the 63 Nayanamars in Tamilnadu (south india) (whom Bhagavan deeply admired) and Periya Puranam (which deeply influenced Bhagavan) tells otherwise. Dualistic forms of worship not just purify the mind. They bring Ishvara in our lives and Ishvara takes the responsibility of helping the jiva merge with Brahman.

If anyone knew of Kannappa Nayanar’s life and his devotion, they would never, even in their dream, say that dualisitic form just purifies the mind to a certain extent.

Sundar said...

Bhagavan Ramana's devotion

/**
“One of the new features related to the temple of
Meenakshi sundaresvrar. Formerly I would go there rarely with
friends, see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred
vermillion on the forehead and return home without any
perceptible emotion. After the awakening into the new life, I
would go almost every evening to the temple. I would go alone and
stand before Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja or the sixty-three
saints for long periods. I would feel waves of emotion
overcoming me. The former hold (Alambana) on my body had been
given up by my spirit, since it ceased to cherish the idea
I-am-the-body (Dehatma-buddhi). The spirit therefore longed
to have a fresh hold and hence the frequent visits to the temple
and the overflow of the soul in profuse tears. This was God’s
(Isvara’s) play with the individual spirit. I would stand before
Isvara, the Controller of the universe and the destinies of all,
the omniscient and omnipresent, and occasionally pray for the
descent of His grace upon me so that my devotion might increase
and become perpetual like that of the sixty-three saints. Mostly
I would not pray at all, but let, the deep within flow on and into
the deep without. Tears would mark this overflow of the soul and
not betoken any particular feeing of pleasure or pain . ..”
~ Self Realization, The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, by B.V. Narasimha Swami pp. 23-24.1
***/

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul and Sanjay,

I have noticed through these years that I have been involved in some teaching discussions that we easily turn into two camps while discussing different aspects of them, for example bhakti or surrender versus atma-vichara or self-investigation, sadhana or meditation on form versus sadhana on the formless, etc.

At that point I believe we are failing to realize the holistic (or should we say "whole-istic") nature of sadhana in general. Although it seems that there is a linear progression towards the goal of self-realization let us remember that every aspect or "stage" of the process IS the goal itself, being dvaitic or advaitic in nature.

Bhagavan gave us the best example of a "comprehensive" course about this in Upadesa Undiyar, where he masterfully lays down the map of the territory to be cover, with the specific routes and ways that can take us to the goal, BUT always remembering that the process IS the goal and vice versa. Although is true that he said in many places that most of the sadhanas except atma-vichara intend to purify the mind to get it closer to the realization that vichara is the ultimate door, there is NO WAY one can avoid the process, either in this life time or in previous ones. One cannot jump stages and even Bhagavan said about his realization that he did sadhana in previous lifetimes.

I'll take Sri Sadhu Om's analogy that if we want to learn to bike because we need to go to a certain place (let's say Tiruvannamalai) we could always start to learn IN THE DIRECTION of Tiruvannamalai! It doesn't really matter if we stop or fall in the way, we are getting closer anyways! The preparation of all the falls we experienced put us closer not only to the aim of learning to bike but to our destination.

In that sense there is no harm in doing sadhana either with a dvaitic or advaitic intention, we could always ask and investigate "who" is doing the practice at all times. The Self does not need to practice, the body/psyque is not sentient, so it is only this illusory ego that "apparently" practices or investigates!

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sundar said...

I agree with Sivanarul. I have immense respect for Bhagavan and his teachings and myself try to follow self inquiry but we have to remember a few things
a) Bhagavan is not the only self realized being. There have been many many other great saints, sages and mystics belonging to different cultures and religions and all following different paths who have realized the self.
b) Its not like all people who follow self inquiry are getting realized by the 100's or 1000's and people following other methods are not.
c) This is very important. There are many of Bhagavan's followers who did not do self inquiry and realized their self, a few e.g. being Lakshamana swamy(who did self inquiry only during the last few months and practiced classical meditation and pranayama), NR Krishnamurthy iyer, Vilacheri Mani and others too.

I also disagree with the premise the people who do self inquiry are more spiritually advanced than others. There could be two people, one who has a very good intellectual grasp of self inquiry and the other who doesn't understand self inquiry, but the one who understands self inquiry could have too many vasanas and the other may have very less ego and less vasanas and may realize his self in no time. Mere intellectual understanding of something doesn't make anyone self realized. There are many intangibles like grace, being with a Jnani, ones inherent vasanas, that all add up. To say just doing self inquiry will make one realized faster than others is being too simplistic.

Here below is Bhagavan's own view on Ramakrishna from Face to Face with Bhagavan, Prof K Swaminathan's reminiscences.
/**
In one article the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung contrasted Sri
Ramakrishna and Sri Bhagavan and saw in this succession the progressive
advance from bhakti to jnana. On hearing this, Bhagavan promptly sat erect
and protested against the comparison, saying: When one has reached the
mountain-top, no matter from which side and by which path, one knows and
understands all other paths. What is there that Sri Ramakrishna did not know?
In a like manner he deprecated comparison by some devotees
between himself as a jnani and Mahatma Gandhi as a karma-yogi. The
eye that sees and the hand that works are like organs of one and the same
Eternal Goodness. Bhagavan saw only adhyatma sakti (the Supreme
power) working everywhere. Different persons perform different functions;
arranging them in an order of merit is ‘the mischief of the ego’.
***/

Sundar said...

Just as a clarification for my above comment, Lakshmana swamy said that self inquiry took place of its own accord in Bhagavan's presence. Though it is true that even for one who meditates on a name and form, the final point is to find out the meditator, for a ripe soul i'd think that, that one step could happen in a split second even if he has been practicing other methods like japa, meditation etc. And in most writings today, being with a Jnani and in his presence is often underrated and I firmly believe that many people who realized their self did that mostly due to being in the presence of Bhagavan and less due to their own efforts.


Here is Bhagavan himself on the presence of a Jnani from "The power of presence" by David Godman
/**
Sankalpa can be translated as 'will' or 'intention'. Bhagavan, along with many other Masters, held that Jnanis have no sankalpa. In this state the self makes the body behave in a particular way and makes it say whatever needs to be said, but there is no individual choice involved in any of these words or actions. Narayana Iyer once had a most illuminating exchange with Bhagavan on this topic, an exchange that gave a rare insight into the way that a Jnani's power functions:

'One day when I was sitting by the side of Bhagavan I felt so miserable that I put the following question to him: "Is the sankalpa of the jnani not capable of warding off the destinies of the devotees?"

'Bhagavan smiled and said: "Does the jnani have a sankalpa at all? The jivanmuktha can have no sankalpas whatsoever. It is just impossible."

'I continued: "Then what is the fate of all of us who pray to you to have grace on us to save us? Will we not be benefited or saved by sitting in front of you, or by coming to you?..."

'Bhagavan turned graciously to me and said: "...a person's bad karma will be considerably reduced when he is in the presence of a jnani. A jnani has no sankalpas but his sannidhi[presence] is the most powerful force. He need not have sankalpa, but his presiding presence, the most powerful force, can do wonders: save souls, give peace of mind, even give liberation to ripe souls. Your prayers are not answered by him but absorbed by his presence. His presence saves you, wards off karma and gives you boons as the case may be, [but] involuntarily. The jnani does save the devotees, but not by sankalpa, which is non-existent in him, only through his presiding presence, his sannidhi"' (The Mountain Path 1968, p.236)
**/

R Viswanathan said...

Thank you Sundar, yes, my reference is to that conversation from the book of Paramahamsa Yoganandha who sent Robert Adams to Bhagavan. Thanks also for the extract on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Thank you Sivanarul for your comment, too. Yes, listening to or reading Thiruvachakam, and Thirumurais bring out genuine Bakthi in anyone since Manikkavachagar and Nayanmargal experienced and sang them. Sri Nochur Venkataraman will say that true Jnanam is more
likely to reveal when it is applied as Bakthi. He also often will say that Jnanam without devotion is likely to be just a dry knowledge while Bakthi without Jnanam is likely to be just emotional.

I have heard from Sri Michael James himself that he used to perform Giri Pradhakshina 3 times on Sivarathiri. Without a genuine devotion to Arunachala, he would not have done that. Similarly, Sri David Godman who has lived and is living his life almost exclusively on Bhagavan's teachings and related aspects since 1976, chose to spend considerable time to understand and write about Thiruvachagam, Thayumanavar, Guhai Namasivaya and Guru Namasivaya. His recent videos, especially that on Bhagavan's Arunachala Walk is so heart warming.

Finally, from Sri David Godman, I learn that Ramana puranam of Muruganar (or rather Bhagavan's because not just the latter 300 lines have been written by Bhagavan, but the first two hundred also!) is modelled on Periyapuranam, which will bring tears into Bhagavan's eyes.

Sivanarul said...

Mouna, Vannakkam and thanks for your insightful reply, as always. As you said, I do my very best to look at all Sadhana as holistic. I used to, occasionally, look down on Sariyai (external temple worship alone) but have since realized my mistake and do not do that anymore.

Sundar in his second paragraph raises a very important point. Other than Ishvara, none of us know whether a self enquiry Sadhaka is closer to dissolving ignorance or a person on Sariyai (external temple worship alone) is closer. As Sundar says, various factors go into that and the only thing one can say is which path is suitable for them at the current time. Let us choose our path (It is Ishvara that chooses it for us, but let’s take credit for it) and leave the path for other people to be between Ishvara and them.

Regarding Sundar’s first paragraph, about Bhagavan’s followers like Lakshmana swamy who did self-enquiry for just 2 months and realized the self, I know of another person who did self-enquiry for just a minute and realized the self. Let’s all guess for a second. Drumroll and it is Bhagavan himself.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul,

As always also, I agree with everything you write. (except when I don't!) :-)

Yes, let's all guess for a second, that is the always "here right now" moment.
And if it doesn't "happen" in that second, then (in the mind's imaginary timeline) there is always the next one!

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, it was nice to read in one of the fellow travellers comment that at one time you used to do giri-pradakshina around the holy hill Arunachala three times in a day. Is it a fact? If it is true, I believe, you were super fit to do so much of walking in a day. Somehow Bhagavan has never made me do this pardakshina (except for a few unsuccessful attempts) , but it is said that after a while one loses one body-consciousness while doing Arunachala-pradakshina. Did this happen to you also?

There has been a lot of discussion amongst the fellow travellers of your blog about dualistic and non-dualistic way of sadhana. I write a few points on this.

Sri K. Lakshamana Sarma had written in an article dated 1st August 1954 of 'The Call Divine': The last work of the Bhagavan, the Ekaatma-Panchakam shows both in its title and its contents that the Bhagavan's natural standpoint is Advaitic.

Even if we feel that our path is of self-surrender or bhakti, how exactly can we achieve our aim of losing our identity in Isvara? Bhagavan clarifies this in verse 22 of Ulladu Narpadu:

Except by turning the mind inwards (towards the feeling 'I am') and (thereby) sinking (it) in the Lord, who shines within that mind (as its substratum) giving light (the light of consciousness) to the mind, which sees everything (other than itself), how is it possible to know (or to meditate upon) the Lord by the mind? Consider thus.

Sri Sadhu Om explains writes below this verse the following: In this verse Sri Bhagavan clearly reveals the truth that the only means by which one can know God, who is the real Self and who shines within as the pure consciousness 'I am', is to merge the mind in Him by turning it inwards through the enquiry 'Who am I?'.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sundar said...

I know here we are discussing Bhagavan's teachings and I'm also trying to follow self inquiry as I find it very intuitive to practice but it might help to remember the following immortal quote of Swami Vivekananda

/**
Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy — by one, or more, or all of these — and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details. -- Swami Vivekananda
***/

Sundar said...

The below is Bhagavan's advice to Kunjuswami, from the "Human Gospel of Ramana"

/**
Another day when he entered Bhagavan‘s hall, Bhagavan was quoting
from the Kaivalya Navanita, wherein the disciple asks the guru how he can
repay him for the grace he has received from him. The guru replies, "The
highest return the disciple can render to the guru is to remain fixed in the
Self without being disturbed by obstacles, obstructions, and outward
distractions."

This finally emboldened Kunju Swami. He prostrated before Bhagavan
and said, "Bhagavan, I want to go and live in Palakothu and pursue Self-
Enquiry, my sadhana." Bhagavan was delighted and exclaimed, "Oh,
good!" With a smile he said, "It is enough if the mind is kept one-pointed
in vichara, dhyana, japa, and parayana." Vichara is Self-Enquiry, dhyana is
meditation, japa is incantation, and parayana is repeatedly singing the
works of the Master, without aspiring to anything else. Then again he
prostrated before Bhagavan and pleaded, "Bhagavan, please bless me. I
am going to be alone, away from you. Guide me."

Bhagavan then said the most beautiful thing; he looked at him graciously
and spoke, "Make Self-Enquiry your final aim, but also practice
meditation, japa, and parayana. Relentlessly practice them alternately, and
if you tire of meditation, take to japa; if you tire of japa, take to Self-
Enquiry; if you tire of that, do parayana, i.e., the chanting of verses. Do
not have a gap between them. Do not allow the mind to sway from your
task. Practice this faithfully, and in the end you will be established in Self-
Enquiry and will find culmination in Self-realization." This is an
assurance, not just to Kunju Swami but to every listener of this profound
statement by the Master. Be assured, Self-Enquiry will establish you in the
nonphysical Truth you already are.
***/

Sivanarul said...

In regards to Sanjay’s latest comment, Bhagavan’s writing (verse 22 of Ulladu Narpadu) and Sadhu OM’s interpretation of it, it is written the way it is, to highlight the importance of Vichara. To use that as a reference to pass sweeping judgement on other Sadhana is like inferring that all other Mom’s in the world are ineffective based on a statement that “My Mom is the best”.

To Sanjay’s question, “Even if we feel that our path is of self-surrender or bhakti, how exactly can we achieve our aim of losing our identity in Isvara?”, Peace Pilgrim is an example of a person that did just that without having Vichara as an explicit Sadhana. She vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." She basically surrendered her entire life to Ishvara/God to such an extent that even basic needs of food and shelter was at the mercy of God’s will. In Saiva Siddhantha, this is termed as “Irai Pani Nittral” meaning “Under Gods’ service”. For more info (http://www.peacepilgrim.com/).

There is a reason why many people start defining Vichara as the one and only means of Salvation, which is sounding more and more cult like, sorry to say. That reason is that self-surrender is being defined (in many interpretations of Bhagavan’s writing) as simply a reformulation of Vichara. It gets written that self-surrender is just another synonym for Vichara.

While the end result of Vichara and self-surrender is said to be the same, the process is different. In Vichara, the ego that seems to exist now is investigated until it is found to be non-existent. In self-surrender, the devotee tries to keep Ishvara and only Ishvara in his thoughts, words and action until Ishvara absorbs the devotee in him. The end result in both cases is the dissolving of ignorance. The process by which they do is different.

For western devotees of Bhagavan, who may or may not have had any exposure to Bhakthi traditions, it is quite understandable why they may not be able to appreciate anything other than Vichara. It is quite surprising that Indian origin devotees, who have wide exposure to Bhakthi traditions, do not understand it.

who? said...

Sivanarul , you opine that "While the end result of Vichara and self-surrender is said to be the same, the process is different."

Sri Bhagavan defines atma-vichara in paragraph 16 of Nāṉ Yār? as under:
The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always being [abiding or remaining] keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [self]

In the same text , in paragraph 13 , he desribes self-surrender as under:
Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance, the state of just being as we really are], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation, the ‘thought’ of self, which is what we really are], is giving ourself to God.

As is quite evident , not only the goal of these two practices is the same , but these two practices (as tought by Bhagavan) are themselves two alternate ways of describing the same practice.

Bhagavan has also explicitly and categorically stated this teaching of his in verse 579 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai.

who? said...

Link to paragraph 16
Link to paragraph 13

Sundar said...

I think all paths essentially lead to the same. Bhagavan himself said that "Bhakthi and Jnana are the same. Bhakthi is to love God and Jnana is to know god. To know god is to love god." The paths may be different.

One other thing is that we interpret different teachers and their teachings with our mind and intellect. If we are inclined to follow Bhagavan's teachings, thats only because our mindset is suited for that, its not because other teachers like Jiddu, Nisargadatta or others are wrong. Because we understand Bhagavan's teachings well or atleast assume that we do, we try to put it in a water tight compartment and try to twist other's teachings and see if it fits there and if it doesn't we dismiss them. All great masters teach the same message which is directed to a set of people whose mindset is suited to absorb their teachings. Just because we don't understand and it did not make sense to us while looking through the glasses of Bhagavan's teachings(or rather our interpretation of it), doesn't mean they are wrong.

My own belief is that the type of teaching or practice is not the primary attribute that leads to realization. It depends on other factors like the maturity of the aspirant in terms of patience, even mindedness, egolessness, viveka, vairagya etc, and more importantly the association with a Jnani. To compare one teacher with another and say that this teaching is the best is a waste of time.

The other thing that I have read in many Jnani's lives is during their association with their teachers, it is not the words that are important. There is a silent communication between the Guru and disciple thats beyond the intellect and that is reason for the disciples progress. We only look at the words and try to read them in a gazillion different ways.

Bhagavan's teaching is quite simple. To persistently follow the source of "I am" and yet are we able to do that and this includes myself. If we were able to there would not be so many words written in the blog about so simple a teaching. Instead there could be another person who just plain prays all day without discussing and writing a word and to me, that person is much more spiritually adavnced than any of the people who just try to analyze Bhagavan's teachings in so many ways.

Here is Bhagavan himself on this topic and i'd be the first to agree that i'm not following this otherwise i wouldn't be writing all this
/**
This vivid Realisation, as a direct and immediate experience of the supreme Truth, comes quite naturally, with nothing uncommon about it, to everyone who, remaining just as he is, enquires introspectively without allowing the mind to become externalised even for a moment or wasting time in mere talk. There is, therefore, not the least doubt regarding the well established conclusion that to those who have attained this Realisation and thus abide absolutely identical with the Self, there is neither bondage nor liberation.

**/

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, this is in response to the comment by Sivanarul (9 June 01:32) and the comment by who? (9 June 03:37). Sivanarul writes:

In regards to Sanjay’s latest comment, Bhagavan’s writing (verse 22 of Ulladu Narpadu) and Sadhu OM’s interpretation of it, it is written the way it is, to highlight the importance of Vichara. To use that as a reference to pass sweeping judgement on other Sadhana is like inferring that all other Mom’s in the world are ineffective based on a statement that “My Mom is the best”.

Why should Bhagavan write v. 22 of Ulladu Narpadu, and Sri Sadhu Om interpret it the way they have done, if they did not mean it? Surely they were not sales agents for the path of atma-vichara. They were simply sharing their own experience with us.

I thank 'Who?' for quoting paragraph 13 of Nan Yar:

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance, the state of just being as we really are], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation, the ‘thought’ of self, which is what we really are], is giving ourself to God.

Surely Bhagavan meant this also and he did not say this just as a metaphor, or to highlight the practice of vichara.

What is liberation? If it is destruction of our ego, than self-investigation is the only effective method which will destroy our ego. Let us listen to Bhagavan in paragraph eight of Nan Yar?:

To make the mind subside [permanently], there are no adequate means other than vichara [investigation, that is, the art of self-attentive being]. If restrained by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided, [but] will emerge again.

Thanking you.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, sometimes back Michael had written probably in one his comments:

In the very first verse of Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai Bhagavan says that Arunachala roots out the ego of those who meditate 'Arunachala' in their heart, thereby indicating that the very purpose of Arunachala is to eliminate our ego.

I was reflecting on this. Yes, it is clear that Arunachala cannot root out our ego if we do not meditate on him, or to be more specific if we do not meditate on ourself alone, because Bhagavan has emphasised that Arunachala in its essential form is nothing but ourself as we really are. Bhagavan clearly indicates this by saying 'Arunachala in the heart'. There can be only the formless Arunachala in our heart - at least in my view.

This is not to deny the importance of the name and form of the hill Arunachala in the lives of many devotes, because Bhagavan does speak about the importance and the power of the physical form of Arunachala to draw our minds inwards, but if he says 'Arunachala in the heart', I just felt that he is clearly indicating here the formless Arunachala in our heart - at least in this verse one of Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai. Of course we are free to interpret most of these verse of Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam in a variety of ways as per our moods and mental make-up.

Therefore Bhagavan does not deny the need of dualistic mode of worship to Arunachala and other forms of God as a necessary path for many of us, and similarly he very much accepts if we interpret Arunachala as ourself, as we really are.

Thanking you



Bob - P said...

It is my understanding from visiting this blog, Michael's website and reading his book along with studying Bhagavan's teaching as best as I can but I must stress I am no expert and have only recently found Bhagavan unlike a lot of you.

Anyway back to what I was saying it is my understanding that Bhagavan described Self Investigation & Self Surrender as the direct path for all.

I don't think he actually said it was the best and all the other practises were not the best? I think he said it was the direct path for all.

My own personal interpretation rightly or wrongly is that Bhagavan is saying it is the most efficient. And I accept at some point on my journey to experience myself as I really am I must do so by practising self investigation / self surrender earnestly with all my heart and follow Bhagavan's teaching.

Even though I don't experience it I accept that everything is a projection of my mind and Bhagavan is myself as I really am appearing or guiding myself experiencing myself not as I really am to look within rather than outside of myself. I don't think that came out right, it is most difficult to write about it without messing it up so to speak.

But I am experiencing myself with ajuncts such as identifying myself with a body and creating a mixture of consciousness "I" and unconsciousness "body". I am taking / mistaking myself to be this limited finite consciousness.

I will follow Bhagavan's teaching as best as I can and luckily for me Michael explains Bhagavan's teaching so well for the western minds like me and other people who vsit his blog. Plus all the comments on this blog are so helpful.

That is why I love this blog as it is about Bhagavan and his teaching.

Apparently if Bhagavan was asked by a seeker what he or she should do he would say do Self Investigation. He never criticized other forms of practise as far as I know?

But his recommendation is to do self investigation / self attention / self surrender / etc investigate the first person or surrender it and that is the direct path for all.

If I was sitting in front of Bhagavan now and asked him face to face what should I
do to experience myself as I really am I think he would say investigate yourself, look within and see what you are.

I trust Bhagavan and will do what he says as best as I can by investigating myself and surrendering myself in the process. I have no idea how much progress I am making but my persistence is all I have as feedback.

It is also my understanding that self investigation and self surrender are basically the same thing described in different ways. If you are practising self surrender or self investigation you are in essence doing the same thing.

Best of luck with your own practise whether it is self investigation / surrender or another path you are on. We are all on the same journey and I appreciate even though I don't experince it if I trust Bhagavan there is no we only "I".

In appreciation
Bob

Sundar said...

I don't think Bhagavan ever put down other paths but he encouraged whatever path each one wanted to follow emphasizing that all the path ends in the disappearance of "I". Infact all masters including Ramakrishna, Ananadamayi Ma say that. But how they get to the point where the mind becomes absolutely still in order to drop the "I" may vary from person to person. Some may do Japa, some meditation, some pranayama and other methods. Even though I practice self inquiry, I don't believe that if for instance a person practices self inquiry from the beginning and another practices Japa or concentration on Name and Form, the one practicing self inquiry will necessarily realize his self any sooner than the other because his vasanas simply will not allow him to turn 180 degrees that Sadhu Om refers to.

Also, If you look at all the written material available about Bhagavan like Talks, Daya by day with Bhagavan, Letters from Ramana ashram, these only span 8 years of his total of 54 years at Tiruvannamalai. Talks from 1935-39, Day by day and letters from 1946-1951. So one can imagine how much of what Bhagavan said went unrecorded in the remaining 46 years. Even in talks its barely a 5 minute talk one day. My point being that the assumption that this is the only thing Bhagavan taught can be way off. A Jnani's teaching is always specific to the disciple. As Nochur Venkataraman says, A jnani does not answer the question, he answers the questioner, so the answers we read are just words, the actual conversation between Bhagavan and questioner happened in the silence between them.

The other thing is not all of Bhagavan's devotee hodl the same view that Bhgavan only emphasized self inquiry. If you read Sadhu Om's work you will get the idea that he placed emphasis on self inquiry but if you read Kunjuswami's reminiscences, he says that was not the case. Sadhu Om was with Bhagavan for 5 years while Kunju swami was with him for 32 years. Kunjuswami infact quotes many instances where Bhagavan never asked some of his main devotees to even do self inquiry.

Ultimately I guess one should do what is comfortable for oneself without saying this method is best or that method is. It is usually the followers themselves of all Gurus that say this. No Master ever says this.

Sundar said...

Lakshmana Swamy who pursued self inquiry during the last months before he realized his self in the presence of Bhagavan says that he would ask his disciple Saradamma to practice self inquiry frequently, but being of a devotional nature, she rejected it and only meditated on the Name and Form of Lakshmana Swamy who was her guru and she realized her self in 4 years at the age of 19. Even here I think more than anything it was being in the presence of Lakshmana Swamy that was the major factor.

As in the case of Bhagavan Ramana's talks with ramana maharshi, in the case of Ramnakrishna as well, he became known after people read "The gospel of Ramakrishna" and this was written by "M" (Mahendranath gupta) over a period of 4 years just like Talks but since he was a householder he recorded the conversations only when he came during the weekends. It is said that this is only 10% of Ramakrishna's teaching and since it was mostly spoken for the benefit of householders who came during the weekend, the instructions were very generic. However to his close disciples, the instructions were very specific including even how much to eat. Bhagavan himself gave such precise instructions on what to eat in the case of Annamali Swamy.

My point again is that what we know of his written works and recorded teachings is not necessarily the end of it.

Finally here below is an interesting conversation Paul Brunton had with "M" the author of "The gospel of Ramakrishna". This is from Brunton's "A Search in Secret India"
/**
"I wonder what Ramakrishna would say to a man who cannot live by faith alone, who must satisfy reason and intellect?" I murmur questioningly.
"He would tell the man to pray. Prayer is a tremendous force. Ramakrishna himself prayed to God to send him spiritually inclined people, and soon after that those who later became his disciples or devotees began to appear."
"But if one has never prayed - what then?"
"Prayer is the last resort. It is the ultimate resource left to man. Prayer will help a man where the intellect may fail."
"But if someone came to you and said that prayer did not appeal to his temperament. What counsel would you give him?" I persist gently.
"Then let him associate frequently with truly holy men who
have had real spiritual experience. Constant contact with them
will assist him to bring out his latent spirituality. Higher men
turn our minds and wills towards divine objects. Above all,
they stimulate an intense longing for the spiritual life. Therefore,
the society of such men is very important as the first step,
and often it is also the last, as Ramakrishna himself used to say."
***/

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, I agree to a large extent when you say and also quote Nochur Venkataraman:

A Jnani's teaching is always specific to the disciple. As Nochur Venkataraman says, A jnani does not answer the question, he answers the questioner,[...]

Yes, Michael often says that Bhagavan never preached or gave lectures, but only answered peoples questions. Moreover as Nochur says, 'A jnani does not answer the question, he answers the questioner'. It could mean that the jnani sees how prominent or subdued the ego is in the questioner and responds accordingly. A simple, apparently good question may not be responded to, whereas some absurd question may be answered by him with loving attention to the questioner, because basically the jnani responds to the state of our ego.

Thanking you.

Michael James said...

Sundar, regarding your remark (in this comment), ‘If you read Sadhu Om’s work you will get the idea that he [Bhagavan] placed emphasis on self-inquiry’, it is true that in many of his writings Sadhu Om did explain very clearly why Bhagavan placed so much emphasis on self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) as the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby destroy our ego, but he certainly did not do so to the exclusion or detriment of bhakti.

In the supplementary part of ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி (The Path of Sri Ramana) Sadhu Om wrote a long chapter analysing all the different types and stages of bhakti and showing how ātma-vicāra is the culmination of all of them, and if you have the impression that he undervalued bhakti in any way, you have obviously not read any of his heart-melting poetic writings such as his songs in ஸ்ரீ ரமண கீதம் (Śrī Ramaṇa Gītam) and ஸ்ரீ ரமண வர்ணங்கள் (Śrī Ramaṇa Varṇaṅgaḷ) or his verses in numerous other devotional works such as ஸ்ரீ ரமண ஸஹஸ்ரம் (Śrī Ramaṇa Sahasram), ஸ்ரீ ரமண வருகை (Śrī Ramaṇa Varuhai), ஸ்ரீ ரமண குருவருளந்தாதி (Śrī Ramaṇa Guruvaruḷantādi) and ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல வெண்பா (Śrī Aruṇācala Veṇbā).

The richness, depth and variety of his devotional outpourings certainly place Sri Sadhu Om (like Sri Muruganar) among the very foremost poet-saints in the age-old bhakti tradition of India, but (again like Sri Muruganar) his heart-melting devotion to the name and form of his sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, did not in any way detract from his equally heart-melting devotion to his teachings, the essence of which is the path of ātma-vicāra, because what he prays for in so many ways in his verses is only to be established firmly by Bhagavan’s grace in the egoless goal of ātma-vicāra. In the poetry of both Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om we can clearly see the oneness and inseparability of the purest form of bhakti and ātma-vicāra.

Incidentally, before the long discussion here about the relative merits of bhakti and ātma-vicāra had started, in response to an earlier comment on another article I had already began to draft an article on the relationship between bhakti and ātma-vicāra, which I hope to complete and post here within a week or so, so I hope that what I write in it may help at least to some extent to resolve some of the differences of opinion or viewpoint expressed in this discussion.

Sivanarul said...

In regards to who?’s quote of atma-vichara and self-surrender by Bhagavan in paragraph 16 and 13, what is described there is the end result of vichara and surrender and thus there is no surprise they amount to being the same. While the end result is being described there as the beginning itself, as aspirants, for sadhana, what we go by is: In vichara an aspirant “tries” to investigate the source of I. In surrender, the devotee “tries” to think of Ishvara in thought, word and deed. The devotee is not trying to look at source of ‘I’. Instead by focusing on Ishvara (by temple worship, puja, japa, meditation etc), the ego is ignored as a byproduct. Thus the ego is malnourished and through the final act of grace by Ishvara, the ego dissolves. I hope it is clear that the process is different, while the end result is the same.

It does not make sense to suggest that Bhagavan did not appreciate that the “process” of Bhakthi and Jnana are different. Bhagavan was born in a Saivite family, was raised in Saivism and was deeply moved by the 63 nayanmars and Peri Puranam (as Sundar wrote in an earlier reply). With such a background and upbringing, Bhagavan was aware of what the process of Bhakthi is , as he so beautifully expressed in Aksharamanamalai (wihich fuses Bhakthi and Jnana so nicely).

Let me stress this again. Bhakthi and Jnana are not different as an end result. The “process” by which they go about is different. This discussion started because, sadhana other than Vichara was written to be somewhat child’s play (not in those words, but in intent) and that Bhagavan’s devotee means one who strictly follows vichara and advaita. Such an attitude is a disservice to both Bhagavan and to one’s owns spiritual practice. Such attitudes generally prevail in cult like organizations, where it is my way or the highway. It is also a huge disservice to Vedas, Upanishads, Patanjali, Sri Ramakrishna, Tukaram, Kabir, Sri Shankara, 63 Nayanmars, 12 Alwars, Jesus Christ, Tulsidas, Radha and to thousands and thousands of similar people.

When Bhagavan says that when the lord appears to you in plain sight, he will disappear also and hence we need to look at the source, one should not immediately conclude from that, that the appearance of Ishvara is a trivial thing. When Bhagavan writes that Sahaja Samadhi is what we should abide by, one should not conclude that Nirvikalpa Samadhi is trivial. It really amazes me to read aspirants who probably have never seen Ishvara in plain sight or entered nirvikalpa Samadhi, use Bhagavan as a cover to disparage anything other than Vichara or Sahaja Samadhi.

Mouna said...

The first benedictory (mangalam) verses of Ulladu Narpadu set the tone for the whole teaching. While the first of those verses describe the why and how of atma-vichara the second do exactly the same for self-surrender or bhatki.

Those two pillars hold the entire edifice passing through the verses 25 and 26 where the whole of Bhagavan's "cosmology" is explained when he deconstruct the nature of ego/I-thought/mind, how it operates and how to destroy it.

The final blow is given in verse number forty, the last one, where he says:
"If it is said, according to the maturity of the mind, that liberation the is attained may be of three kinds, with form, without form, or with or without form, the. I will say that liberation is (in truth only) the annihilation of the form of the ego which distinguishes (liberation) with form, without form, or with or without form. Know thus”.

The conversation of vichara “versus" bhakti is meaningless, but the conversation about Bhagavan’s teaching tools (vichara AND self-surrender) with respect to other practices that eventually do not go deep enough to the root of the problem is not because we will never ever get nowhere near our goal if we do not address the main culprit, ego, with Bhagavan’s tools, in whichever “way” we want to go for.

Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

who? said...

While reflecting over this current discussion here , i read the introduction (written by Michael James) to Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam once again. The following extract from it is insightful and illuminating.

[...]Therefore in our struggle to return to our source, which is our own real self-conscious being, our love for being expresses itself as a mixture of non-dual love for our own being and dualistic love for God. To the extent that our mind subsides in our thought-free self-conscious being, we experience our love for being in its true non-dual form of self-love, and to the extent that our mind is impelled by its own lingering desires to rise and be active, we experience our love for being in its dualistic form of love for God.

Since our mind is repeatedly fluctuating between varying degrees of non-dual self-attentiveness and inversely proportionate degrees of dualistic thinking, our love for being correspondingly fluctuates between its expression as non-dual self-love and its expression as dualistic love for God. Therefore in the life of any true spiritual aspirant, the non-dual love for self and the dualistic love for God will be intimately mixed, intertwined and blended together, because in essence these two forms of love are both forms of the same single love just to be.[...]

Sri Michael's upcoming article will doubtlessly clarify things more.

Sivanarul said...

Thanks Mouna and who? for the insightful replies. They are more in tune with what Bhagavan would have wanted his devotee’s attitude to be. I especially like who?’s quote below:

“Since our mind is repeatedly fluctuating between varying degrees of non-dual self-attentiveness and inversely proportionate degrees of dualistic thinking, our love for being correspondingly fluctuates between its expression as non-dual self-love and its expression as dualistic love for God. Therefore in the life of any true spiritual aspirant, the non-dual love for self and the dualistic love for God will be intimately mixed, intertwined and blended together”

Sundar said...

In "Letters from Sri Ramanasramam" by Suri Nagamma, this was the first letter she wrote to her brother on 21st November, 1945


/**
The arati plate offered to Arunachaleswarar was brought to Bhagavan by Ashram devotees and Sri Bhagavan took a little Vibhuti (holy ashes) and applied it to his
forehead, saying in an undertone “Appakku Pillai Adakkam” (The son is beholden to the father). His voice seemed choked with emotion as he spoke. The expression on his face proved the ancient saying “bhakti poornathaya Jnanam” (the culmination of devotion is knowledge). Sri Bhagavan is Lord Siva’s son. Sri Ganapati Muni’s saying that he is Skanda incarnate, was confirmed. It struck us that Bhagavan was teaching us that
since all creatures are the children of Ishwara, even a Jnani should be beholden to Ishwara.
****/

Sundar said...

Michael, I will be looking forward to your writing on Bhakti and Atma Vichara. I just have a couple of observations

a) A couple of years back when my mind was restless and I found it hard to bring it back to the "I am" feeling, as always :-) but at that time when I was walking, I looked at a small photo of Bhagavan Ramana in my room and immediately my mind was silenced atleast for a minute or two and it made me think that what all my efforts at self attention could not do, just a look at Bhagavan's photo did it and I thought to myself, if the form of a saint, any saint, can still my mind what's wrong with that? Its not that I thought it was wrong before but this incident just highlighted it. At that point I decided that I should use whatever means, as Vivekananda suggests, that will help to make the mind still.

b) Being born in India, I think in most peoples life, being exposed to epics like Ramayana and Puranas, most Indians whether they want it or not have a devotional bent of mind, or I would think. So that devotion cannot be just thrown out. Infact the realized state is called sat-chit-ananda which includes ananda also. If it were just a state of a robot with no bliss, one might not want it. Now i'm not saying necessarily that just crying and emotion is equal to devotion but one cannot deny that often devotion is expressed that way.

c) One of the main reasons I was attracted to Bhagavan's teachings was though I had a devotional tendency, I did not like rituals and being born in an orthodox family and exposed to a lot of rituals which were enforced, I did not like that and so Bhagavan's teaching was a fresh breath of air for me which I could both intellectually accept as well as not forgo devotion. Now devotion is not to be confused with rituals and I have seen that in a lot of places that is the case.

Even in Gita, Krishna says that even if someone were to give a leaf or water with devotion he would accept it, highlighting the devotional aspect.

But I will really look forward to your piece on Bhakti

Sivanarul said...

Sundar,
In regards to your comment, “I think in most peoples life, being exposed to epics like Ramayana and Puranas, most Indians whether they want it or not have a devotional bent of mind, or I would think. So that devotion cannot be just thrown out.”
The need you feel that devotion must be thrown out, is also the vibe I get whenever I read things related to Bhagavan. That certainly saddens me, that the incorrect interpretation of Bhagavan’s teachings results in such a need arising. Ideally one should be adding to one’s devotional upbringing, Bhagavan’s teaching and not replacing it.

I was also born in a very religious Saivite family (not orthodox or ritualistic) and hold devotion very close to my heart. I only add Bhagavan’s teaching to it and do not take anything away. I have never experienced any conflict between those and don’t think will ever experience it in the future.

For western devotees, who may not have had an upbringing in bhakthi tradition, it makes sense they follow Vichara alone. But for Indian origin devotees, since most of them have wide exposure to Bhakthi tradition, it does not make any sense that they feel the need to drop devotion. There is zero evidence that Bhagavan wanted that or Ramanaashram wants that.

Sri Arunagirithar, another famous Arunachala saint, serves as a classic example of how Bhakthi and Jnana nicely flows and how the jiva gets liberated. Lord Muruga/Skanda appeared to him in human form and saves his life from suicide. He grants him the instruction “Summa Iru” (be still). Arunagirithar goes into nirvikalpa Samadhi for 12 years. He then wakes up, sings heart melting Thirupugazh, has many darshans of Lord mMurugan both externally and internally and finally declares the advaitic state in Kandar Anubhuthi: (“Yaan Agaiya Yennai Vizumgi, Thanai Nilayai Ninrathu Tharparama”) meaning the ‘I’ dissolved in ‘I-I’ and ‘I-I’ alone remains.

If you know Tamil and are well versed in Thevaram, Thirupuggazh, Thiruvasagam etc, it would be a travesty to throw that way.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, Michael has written in a recent comment dated 9 June 2015 13:28 addressed to Sunder as follows:

The richness, depth and variety of his devotional outpourings certainly place Sri Sadhu Om (like Sri Muruganar) among the very foremost poet-saints in the age-old bhakti tradition of India, but (again like Sri Muruganar) his heart-melting devotion to the name and form of his sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, did not in any way detract from his equally heart-melting devotion to his teachings, the essence of which is the path of ātma-vicāra, because what he prays for in so many ways in his verses is only to be established firmly by Bhagavan’s grace in the egoless goal of ātma-vicāra. In the poetry of both Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om we can clearly see the oneness and inseparability of the purest form of bhakti and ātma-vicāra.

This is a important clarification by Michael, especially to those us like me who are currently more drawn to atma-vichara. I write below my further reflections on this comment.

Generally most us start our spiritual life with some sort of dualistic kamya bhakti, but we soon graduate to niskamya bhakti to either a name and form of guru or a name and form of God. After such prolonged bhakti our mind becomes purified to a great extent, and we are somehow made to understand by grace that only atma-vichara can give us final liberation from this grip of our ego. Thus starts our earnest practice of self-investigation.

As we go on progressing in the path of vichara, our dualistic bhakti starts getting transformed into more and more svatma-bhakti. In other words, the importance we attach to all our outward forms of worship to a name and form of guru or God starts diminishing. Why does it happen? Verse 4 of Ulladu Narpadu tries to explain this:

If oneself is a form composed of flesh, the world and
God will be likewise (that is, they will also be forms); if
oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how?
Can the sight (that which is seen) be otherwise than the eye
(the seer)? Self, the (real) eye is the limitless eye (the eye
which is devoid of the limitation of name and form.

That is, as our ego or vishaya-vasanas starts getting undermined by our practice of vichara, we start giving less and less importance to our body, and this results in our giving less and less importance to this world and the name and form of God or guru. In other words as we grow in self-awareness, we start noticing or start depending on less and less of this world and a separate God.

It is because of this that some us start giving more and more importance to the teachings of advaita and the practice of vichara. This may make it appear that we are criticising other paths like bhakti. Actually we are just trying to communicate as per our present inner condition. This is how I see this all, but I may not be entirely correct and there may be many other perspectives to all this, which I am sure Michael will bring out in his forthcoming article.

Thanking you.

Sundar said...


/**
After such prolonged bhakti our mind becomes purified to a great extent, and we are somehow made to understand by grace that only atma-vichara can give us final liberation from this grip of our ego. Thus starts our earnest practice of self-investigation.
***/

Sanjay, I did not want to respond to your above comment until Michael writing on Bhakti was posted but i'm not able to resist. While what you say above as to the start of earnest practice of self investigation may be true for you, my whole contention is that it is not necessarily true for everyone. It is true that the "I" has to go finally but that can happen in second for a ripe soul. It need not happen through only prolonged self inquiry.

Let me paste an answer from Lakshaman Swamy from "No mind I am the self" where he talks about his disciple Saradamma
/**
Swamy: Concentration on name and form is not a mere beginner's practice. If it is done with love and devotion, and if the form can be held continuously without any other thought arising, then such a practice can take one all the way to self realization. Before Sarada realised the self I tried to get her to take up self inquiry, but she was not interested. She only wanted to hold on to my name and form, and in the end that was enough. By following this method she realised her self in three years.
***/

My point is this. Each one is made of different prakriti or nature or combination of 3 gunas according to Yoga shastra. So it is not necessary that all should follow atma vichara in order to do that. If a soul has been purified by any method, all it takes for is atma vichara to spontaneously occur in a split second like it did for Ramana and its enough for one to realize the self.

By making a statement that everyone almost have to follow a prolonged practice of self inquiry, you are dismissing many many other great saints who achieved this through meditation on name and form and other methods. Patanjali was not stupid to write a whole well researched literature on Yoga.

As I said, I myself practice self inquiry most of the time not because Bhagavan Ramana said it but only because after trying methods like Japa, meditation of some types, I felt comfortable with this. If I had felt comfortable doing Japa I would have done just that, but just because I find it intuitive, to dismiss all other methods and say this is the only method would make it look like Bhagavan Ramana is the only person who realized his self and all others like Ramakrishna, his several monastic disciples, Swami Sivananda, Narayana Guru, Tukaram, Namdev, Eknath, alwars, nayanmars, manikkavachakar were fools.

I completely respect your liking for self inquiry but your phrasing looks like that is the only way when in reality all that is necessary is for the "I" to disappear in a second if your mind has been purified by other methods.

If you haven't already read i'd suggest you read about Papaji, Ramana's own disciple who did Japa regularly, worshipped name and form, but in the end when he came in front of Bhagavan all it took was a second for self inquiry to spontaneously occur and he realized his self and even here I firmly believe it was the presence or Sannidhi of Ramana that caused the final destruction of ego.

Sundar said...

I had posted this some months earlier but did not know how to paste the link to this one, so I had to cut and paste it again. Sorry about that, but here it is..

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

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

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, thank you your above comment in response to an earlier comment by me. We may differ in our understanding and approach to our sadhana, how does it matter? Who knows you may be correct, who knows you may modify your position in the times to come, or I may modify my views as my understanding matures. As long as we are holding on to Bhagavan's feet, he will surely show us the correct way. After all you or me or anybody else can only follow whatever grace reveals to us to be true at any given time.

As far as reading books on Papaji is concerned, I have read most of his books, including the three part series by David Godman 'Nothing Ever Happened'. The point is I longer have any interest to read any other guru's teachings, except Bhagavan's teachings.

According to Michael in order to understand Bhagavan's real teachings we have to read carefully and repeatedly his original works like Nan Yar? (essay version), Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesa Undiyar and Guru Vachaka Kovai. According to him books like Talks, Day by Day etc does not explain his teachings accurately. Therefore we should try readings his original works in order to make up our minds as to what Bhagavan wants us to 'do' or 'not to do'. Of course Micheal's website, his book HAB, Sri Sadhu Om's book 'The Path of Ramana part 1' should be included in our must read list.

For example, Bhagavan says in v. 27 of Ulladu Narpadu:

The state in which 'I' exists without rising is the state in which we exist as that [brahman or God}. Without investigating the place[or source] from which 'I' rises, how to attain the annihilation of oneself [the ego], where 'I' does not rise? [And] without attaining [this annihilation of one's ego], say, how to abide in the state of oneself, in which oneself is that?

Through this and many other verses and writings, Bhagavan clearly indicates that our only goal is ego-annihilation, and the ego can be only annihilated by self-investigation. This clarity is obscured in his recorded teachings, therefore Michael suggests that we should first read Bhagavan's original works in depth.

Thanking you.

Sundar said...

Sanjay,

Yes, as long we follow whats comfortable for us, it does not matter. As a matter of fact, I was only interested in Bhagavan's teachings until a couple of years back and as far as Sadhana is concerned, I follow self inquiry and I don't even dispute the fact that the "I" has to go because every Jnani I have read about from Ramakrishna to Sivananda to Anandamayi Ma says the same, but where I differ is the fact that I don't think prolonged self inquiry is the only way to attain it and I don't dispute the fact that finally inquiry has to occur but it will easily occur no matter what method one follows, once one's mind is purified. That is the only point I was trying to make.

But for me the change happened after I read "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master" written by his direct disciple Swami Saradananda. Only in the life of Ramakrishna, I saw someone who did many sadhanas and and finally said that all leads to Brahman. Infact Ramakrishna had many Guru's and his Vedanta guru was Jnani Totapuri. Totapuri had made fun of Ramakrishna intially when he said that he saw only Divine mother's form. It is said that after Ramakrishna attained Nirvikalpa samadhi and stayed in the state for sometime, when Totapuri was about to leave, he who only saw brahman everywhere suddenly saw the divine mother's form and came to Ramakrishna with surprise and Ramakrishna just smiled at him, proving his saying that "God is with form, without form and beyond it."

If one disputes this one only needs to ask why Bhagavan Ramana states again and again the only that hill Arunachala is the self when the self is everywhere and all mountains are self. Neither Ramana nor any of his devotees are able to answer that question. For a person who sees brahman as the "adhistanam" and non-dualism, why must that one hill be special so much so that he could not leave that place?

But I don't want to debate all this as its only a waste of time nor is it my intention but as you said we should and can believe in only what we feel is right and I would not dismiss any path. Infact to say that only this path will lead to realization is itself a form of ego.


Sundar said...

actually, let me rephrase my comment about Bhagavan saying that only Arunachala is the self. I did not mean to write that. What I meant was when for him everything was a form of self, why give that much importance for that one hill? No writer who writes about Bhagavan nor any devotee of his has given an answer to that question. All they say is, they use words like "mysterious" and so on. Why should a physical form of a mountain prove that important to a Jnani who proclaims that everything is self, so much that pours out verse after verse in devotion over that mountain. Why?

I think in Aksharamanamalai (i'm not sure), he says, "adhisayam idhan seyal..(meaning surprising is this mountain's pull) and this is Bhagavan's own writing.

Sundar said...

Many people say that for Bhagavan, Arunachala was the guru and hence his gratefulness but when he realized his self in Madurai, he hadn't even seen Arunachala, so why should someone who has realized his self and sees the ONE everywhere suddenly find an attraction to a physical form? I am very well aware that in Gur Vachaka Kovai Bhagavan says that Advaita can assumed with everyone but with one's Guru because of one being thankful but for one who has waken up from a dream, who is thankful to whom?

I have read many devotees accounts but not a single person has answered this question except with some vague and cryptic answers. Now I bring this up only in Bhagavan's case because many of his followers who proclaim advaita on the one hand are puzzled with this.

I don't mean to criticize Bhagavan himself and in fact if anything I can easily accept his devotion but not many of his followers are able to.

Bob - P said...

Please correct me as I am not sure about what I am about to write here and please know I am in no way criticizing your post.

But isn't Bhagavan's body and everything that body does only from our limited dualistic perspective as the ego / mind / false 1st person. We see his body on video footage doing all kinds of things, eating , sleeping walking around Arunachala answering questions, loving everything around him, liberating his mother and lakshmi the cow.

But my understanding is that Bhagavan & Arunachala is nothing but our real non dual self appearing in a limited form (ie) as Bhagavan with a mind and a body and Arunachala as a physical mountain because the separate finite "I" ego / mind is trapped in dualism and can't experience Bhagavan as he really is.

Bhagavan / Arunachala is / are nothing but ourself as we really are but the separate egoic "I" limited counciousness limits him and reduces him into a body and a mountain as it can not concieve him / it.

Any feedback on my thinking is much appreciated as I may be way off track here and not understanding properly.

Please don't think I am disrespecting Bhagavan by saying this as he is the only real "I" and alone is shining in us.

In appreciation.
Bob

R Viswanathan said...

"But my understanding is that Bhagavan & Arunachala is nothing but our real non dual self appearing in a limited form (ie) as Bhagavan with a mind and a body and Arunachala as a physical mountain because the separate finite "I" ego / mind is trapped in dualism and can't experience Bhagavan as he really is.
Bhagavan / Arunachala is / are nothing but ourself as we really are but the separate egoic "I" limited counciousness limits him and reduces him into a body and a mountain as it can not concieve him / it.
Any feedback on my thinking is much appreciated as I may be way off track here and not understanding properly."

You may want to read this excellent post of Sri David Godman:Who were you Ramana?
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/07/who-were-you-ramana.html

Mouna said...

Dear Bob-P,

You wrote: "But my understanding is that Bhagavan & Arunachala is nothing but our real non dual self appearing in a limited form (ie) as Bhagavan with a mind and a body and Arunachala as a physical mountain because the separate finite "I" ego / mind is trapped in dualism and can't experience Bhagavan as he really is…”

Myself I will put it a little more elementary and in a different order: at one point seemingly appears the ego/I-thought and projects a world of objects among which we found Arunachala, Bhagavan, cosmos, "sentient" and insentient beings, etc and even a body which ego will call "mine". When ego will be destroyed (according to Bhagavan-verse 25 Ull. Narp.), sort to speak, everything goes or will not exist anymore (in any case in the form we conceive it now), like in deep sleep.

Eventually, we are saying the same, butI prefer this way of presenting the concept of Arunachala or Bhagavan because it "forces" me to immediately turn the attention towards the first cause of this illusion, namely, ego, which "I" think is "my" mind.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

With respect to Sanjay’s comment: “After such prolonged bhakti our mind becomes purified to a great extent, and we are somehow made to understand by grace that only atma-vichara can give us final liberation from this grip of our ego. Thus starts our earnest practice of self-investigation”

Sundar has already replied providing an excellent analysis and said whatever I wanted to say. Let me add a few more things, since this idea of, atma-vichara being the only way ,does gross disservice to Bhagavan and more importantly it can be detrimental to many sadhaka’s spiritual unfoldment, if they buy into this and go against their natural tendencies.

First of all, to begin with, Bhagavan proposed both Vichara and Surrender/Bhakthi as two equally valid paths that end in the same place. In my previous replies I have already clearly explained how the “process” of these two is different and reproducing it below for convenience:

In vichara an aspirant “tries” to investigate the source of I. In surrender, the devotee “tries” to think of Ishvara in thought, word and deed. The devotee is not trying to look at source of ‘I’. Instead by focusing on Ishvara (by temple worship, puja, japa, meditation etc), the ego is ignored as a byproduct. Thus the ego is malnourished and through the final act of grace by Ishvara, the ego dissolves. I hope it is clear that the process is different, while the end result is the same.

So let us please stop turning Bhagavan’s teaching to Vichara alone and harming people who may not have time or energy to research on their own. The most important tenant of Spirituality is, “Do No Harm”. The harm that will be done is, if the Sadhaka is a Bhakthi type or Meditative type (his natural tendencies lean towards that), switches prematurely over to Vichara, will end up stagnant there because he is now going against his natural tendencies. As Sundar wrote many times, it is not important how many years one practices Vichara, but how ready he/she were for it. Case in point, Bhagavan himself, who did Vichara just for one 1 min. In his last life, he “might” have been a great yogi or great Bhaktha, who knows? So in essence, he might have done 99.99999% Sadhana in Bhakthi and Yoga and the .00001% of atma vichara finished the job.

Sivanarul said...

Continuation of previous comment:

The second point is, let us not turn Bhagavan into a cult leader, especially when Bhagavan was far from it. A cult typically organizes in “my way or the highway” and enforces uniformity. When you narrow everything down to Vichara alone, it makes Bhagavan look like a cult leader, whereas in reality, Bhagavan catered to people of all religions, faiths and also to atheists. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews etc were all welcome to his presence and all benefited by “adding” to their practices Bhagavan’s teaching and not taking anything away.

Consider Vichara and Surrender/Bhakthi as two trains that run in parallel in a 1000 mile journey and merge into one train during the last mile. During the 1000 mile journey they run in parallel. While running in parallel, let‘s say the trains are connected via a conduit. So a passenger from one train can go to the other train and say travel 100 miles, then they can come back to their train and travel another 100 miles. Since both trains are going forward, they are free to move around or more importantly just stay in their train of choice until they reach the destination.

I did not include Meditation and Service (Karma Yoga) trains above, since Bhagavan focused on the above two trains and it may be too much for “Vichara alone is the way” friends to hear that, ancient wisdom of India does say that all 4 trains run in parallel for most of the journey (say 995 miles) and in the last 5 or so miles, meditation and Karma Yoga merge into Jnana and Bhakthi trains and those two themselves merge in the single train and arrives at the destination.

Who knows, even Meditation and Service trains may go all the way to the destination, even though Bhagavan did not say so. If you take Bhagavan as Reality itself, then that same Reality came in as Patanjali and said that Meditation train takes one all the way. That same Reality came in as Lord Krishna and said that the Karma Yoga train takes one all the way to the destination.

Bhagavan is not just Ulladu Narpadu or Naan Yaar. That would be like saying that a few medical textbooks are everything. A good doctor uses the medical textbook, but treats the patient based on the patient himself. Many times his treatment may be in complete contradiction to what is written in the textbook. Bhagavan is also Aksharamanamanalai and a great Bhaktha among many many other things.

Let’s say you belong to the Christian tradition or similar devotional traditions. Prayer is a huge part of that tradition. Let’s say after reading that “Vichara is the only way” you give up on Prayer. That would be a big loss, because Bhagavan would not have wanted you do that and you are losing a powerful tool. So instead of exclusively looking at Ulladu Narpadu or Naan Yaar, look at Bhagavan’s action itself. When his mother was stuck with Typhoid fever, Bhagavan did not say, ”I am a Jnani and Prayer is beneath me”. Instead he actually Prayed to Arunachala (surprise, surprise) via a song and asked Arunachala to save both his mother’s body and as well as her soul. Guess what, Arunachala responded swiftly.

who? said...

I live in New Delhi , which according to some recent surveys is the most polluted city in the world.

However , Delhi's notoriously bad air quality does not deter my urge to breathe. Breathing is natural to me - it happens spontaneously , without much conscious attention on my part.

So also with sadhana. If someone is totally attracted to a particular spiritual practice , convinced of its efficacy , and single-mindedly intent upon the actual practice , then their mind will naturally and spontaneously engage in it , unmindful of the praise or censure given to that practice by other people.

They would engage in discussions and ask questions only insofar that these assist them in their practice. At all other times , they would quietly and relentlessly and enthusiastically engage in their practice.

Such are the exalted devotees , whom i wish to emulate.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, this is in response to the comment by 'who?' dated 11 June 2015 05:14, and a comment by Sivanural dated 11 June 2015 01:57. 'Who?' writes in his comment:

[...] If someone is totally attracted to a particular spiritual practice , convinced of its efficacy , and single-mindedly intent upon the actual practice , then their mind will naturally and spontaneously engage in it , unmindful of the praise or censure given to that practice by other people.

I totally agree with 'Who?'. When one knows for certain that the clear experience of atma-jnana can be had with the persistent practice of self-investigation, why not just go on practising it to the best of our ability. Bhagavan had repeatedly emphasised that this is the most direct of all paths and the only effort which will eventually destroy our ego or mind.

Sivanural writes in his comment:

Consider Vichara and Surrender/Bhakthi as two trains that run in parallel in a 1000 mile journey and merge into one train during the last mile. During the 1000 mile journey they run in parallel. While running in parallel, let‘s say the trains are connected via a conduit. So a passenger from one train can go to the other train and say travel 100 miles, then they can come back to their train and travel another 100 miles. Since both trains are going forward, they are free to move around or more importantly just stay in their train of choice until they reach the destination.

I agree with this. Vichara and bhakti to the name of form of our guru does run parallel in our lives (as demonstrated to us by Sri Sadhu Om, Sri Muruganar and others), at least for the major part of our sadhana, but I do not agree with Sivanural when he writes, 'Bhagavan is not just Ulladu Narpadu or Naan Yaar'. In my view, which I believe Micheal has also been constantly emphasising in his writings that, these two are the most important texts of Bhagavan. These texts contain everything we need to learn about Bhagavan's teachings - at least from the perspective of our practice of vichara. Of course the verses of Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam are also important for those of us who are attracted to the name and form of Arunachala.

Micheal writes in the introduction to his translation of Nan Yar?:

This simple practice of atma-vichara, self-investigation, self-scrutiny or self-conscious being, is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, and hence it is the central theme running throughout this profound but clear treatise [Nan Yar?] on the philosophy, science and the art of true self-knowledge.

Micheal's this comment is equally applicable to Bhagavan's work Ulladu Narpadu.

Thanking you.

Bob - P said...

Thank you very much R Viswanathan I will read this article to help with my understanding.

Mouna thank you for your help and what you said below was very helpful to me indeed.

[Myself I will put it a little more elementary and in a different order: at one point seemingly appears the ego/I-thought and projects a world of objects among which we found Arunachala, Bhagavan, cosmos, "sentient" and insentient beings, etc and even a body which ego will call "mine". When ego will be destroyed (according to Bhagavan-verse 25 Ull. Narp.), sort to speak, everything goes or will not exist anymore (in any case in the form we conceive it now), like in deep sleep.]

I have also been thinking / reflecting about your recent water metaphor you posted and that too was most helpful. It reminded me of the gold being the foundation of all things made of gold in their various forms but your metaphor was more thorough ...

So I will thank you here for that comment too Mouna.

Yes I agree the most important thing is turn within and investigate this first person and love it so much we don't want to attend to anything else ..

Which is my understaning of Bhakti ??

But again not sure ... Then eventually we will see it for what it really is. Bhagavan our self - "I" which was never limited in any way and just is as it is . Being - Counciousness - Bliss.

I just wish I could stop trying to understand and intellectualize and just surrender competely (lol)!!

In appreciation
Bob - P -

Bob - P said...

Thankyou too everyone for all the comments above they are all helping with my understanding .

In apprecuation
Bob - P -

Sundar said...

who? Sanjay, I don't deny the point of your observation about Sadhana and assuming your comments are based on the debate here, i'm sorry this doesn't measure up to your high standards. But it seems to me that if you have taken the time to read all this comments and interrupted your own sadhana to pass a comment, you are not acting upon your own advice. You should just ignore what does not interest you and pursue your sadhana.

Also, if all of truly follow Bhagavan's teaching which as simple as persistently following the "I am" feeling for 24 hrs a day, not one sentence would exist on this blog nor any comment. Its only because sometimes we have doubts and our vasanas come out we visit this blog and what may seem to be a heated argument initially may later shed some light on our own faults and misconceptions.

As Bhagavan himself said when asked once why he doesn't punish some of his devotees who are arrogant or behave badly, his reply was, "If I start to do that, not even a crow will remain be in this ashram."

But your advice is well taken and wish you luck in your sadhana.

Sivanarul said...

With respect to who?’s comment:
“I live in New Delhi , which according to some recent surveys is the most polluted city in the world.
However , Delhi's notoriously bad air quality does not deter my urge to breathe. Breathing is natural to me - it happens spontaneously , without much conscious attention on my part.
So also with sadhana. If someone is totally attracted to a particular spiritual practice , convinced of its efficacy , and single-mindedly intent upon the actual practice , then their mind will naturally and spontaneously engage in it , unmindful of the praise or censure given to that practice by other people.”

Breathing is natural to you, even though you live in the most polluted city in the world, only because you have good lungs. Remember that an estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. When those people are put in a place like Delhi, breathing is extremely difficult for them and not as natural as it is for you.

There was a recent article in NYTimes where the author moved from DC to Delhi for his job. He has a son who had lung related issues. In the article, he describes the struggles his son had to go through and almost died, while living in Delhi and how he ultimately had to leave Delhi. I am providing the link of the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/holding-your-breath-in-india.html?ref=topics&_r=0

The discussion that is going on here is for those 300 million people who have asthma and not for people like you who have good lungs. It is to improve the quality of air of the sangha (make it more tolerant of other Sadhana) so that people like us who have asthma can still live in the city (visit and participate in the sangha). Since the city/Delhi is otherwise a great city (the Sangha is otherwise great), we do not want people like the author of the article leave the city (sadhakas leaving the Sangha).

This is not about censure / praise and people not taking it well. Such luxuries are only for people with good lungs. Unfortunately the world has 300 million people with asthma.

Sivanarul said...

My earlier comment correction: instead of:
It is to improve the quality of air of the sangha (make it more tolerant of other Sadhana)

corrected to:
It is to improve the quality of air of the sangha (make it more accommodating and friendlier to other Sadhana)

Sivanarul said...

Looks my earlier comment did not go through. Trying it again:

With respect to who?’s comment:
“I live in New Delhi , which according to some recent surveys is the most polluted city in the world.
However , Delhi's notoriously bad air quality does not deter my urge to breathe. Breathing is natural to me - it happens spontaneously , without much conscious attention on my part.
So also with sadhana. If someone is totally attracted to a particular spiritual practice , convinced of its efficacy , and single-mindedly intent upon the actual practice , then their mind will naturally and spontaneously engage in it , unmindful of the praise or censure given to that practice by other people.”

Breathing is natural to you, even though you live in the most polluted city in the world, only because you have good lungs. Remember that an estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. When those people are put in a place like Delhi, breathing is extremely difficult for them and not as natural as it is for you.

There was a recent article in NYTimes where the author moved from DC to Delhi for his job. He has a son who had lung related issues. In the article, he describes the struggles his son had to go through and almost died, while living in Delhi and how he ultimately had to leave Delhi. I am providing the link of the article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/holding-your-breath-in-india.html?ref=topics&_r=0

The discussion that is going on here is for those 300 million people who have asthma and not for people like you who have good lungs. It is to improve the quality of air of the sangha (make it more accommodating and friendlier to other) so that people like us who have asthma can still live in the city (visit and participate in the sangha). Since the city/Delhi is otherwise a great city (the Sangha is otherwise great), we do not want people like the author of the article leave the city (sadhakas leaving the Sangha).

This is not about censure / praise and people not taking it well. Such luxuries are only for people with good lungs. Unfortunately the world has 300 million people with asthma.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, this is in response to your comment dated 11 June 2015 12:25, in which you write:

As Bhagavan himself said when asked once why he doesn't punish some of his devotees who are arrogant or behave badly, his reply was, "If I start to do that, not even a crow will remain be in this ashram."

Yes, I member this comment by Bhagavan. As you rightly imply that our job is to correct ourself and not to correct others, but sometimes in a discussion when we are trying to emphasise our point we may appear to be correcting others, but we may be just stating our view point, and since it may differ with others view point it may wrongly seem that we are trying to correct others. When I have not managed to correct or transform myself (to my true non-dual form or essential self), how foolish it will be on my part if I try to correct others?

In any healthy exchange of views, difference of opinion are inevitable, as no two minds are alike. Therefore in a debate either we try to please everybody or state our inner most beliefs and convictions - which may not necessarily match with other persons beliefs and convictions. It does not matter who is right or who is wrong as long as we learn from the discussion or debate.

Thanking you.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sorry, I have just learnt that 'viewpoint' is one word, and not written separately as 'view point'. As I wrote this as two separate words twice in my previous comment, I would like to correct the same.

Thanking you.

Sivanarul said...

With respect to Sanjay’s comment:
“Therefore in a debate either we try to please everybody or state our inner most beliefs and convictions - which may not necessarily match with other persons beliefs and convictions. “

At this juncture, I don’t see much use in continuing the debate, as Sanjay seems to be not getting the points, in spite of many repetitions. So accommodating other Sadhanas (especially when approved by Bhagavan) now tends to be “try to please everybody”. Let me repeat again, this is not about other persons beliefs and convictions. This is about acknowledging a path that was duly authorized by Bhagavan (his belief and conviction) and not sticking to “Vichara is the only way” (my way or the highway).

Remember Sanjay, the current conversation started because of your initial statement that disparaged other devotees who follow Surrender/Bhakthi as though they are not aligned with Bhagavan and Shankara. I reproduce your statement below:

“I have also noticed that many of the current devotees of Bhagavan somehow are not able to reconcile to the advaitic standpoint of Bhagavan, Shankara and others, but are more comfortable to accept and believe in all their own dualistic ideas.”

This is NOT about your liking of Vichara and pursuing Vichara. In simple English it is about, “Live and let live”. It applies equally well in materialism and as well as in Spirituality.

Sivanarul said...

Bob. P,
With respect to your comment:
“Yes I agree the most important thing is turn within and investigate this first person and love it so much we don't want to attend to anything else ..
Which is my understaning of Bhakti ??”

That is Bhakthi expressed from Vichara’s point of view. While from Vichara’s point of view, that may be correct, that is not how Bhakthi is defined in devotional traditions and that is not how Bhagavan wanted it interpreted, since he grew up in a Saivaite family and was intimately family with 63 Nayanmars and Periya Puranam. Let me reproduce what Bhakthi is, from my earlier comment:

In Bhakthi/surrender, the devotee “tries” to think of Ishvara/God in thought, word and deed. The devotee is not trying to look at source of ‘I’ and it is not first person love as interpreted above. Instead by focusing on Ishvara/God (by temple worship, puja, japa, meditation etc), the ego is ignored as a byproduct. Thus the ego is malnourished and through the final act of grace by Ishvara/God, the ego dissolves.

I hope that is clear. If one wants to follow Vichara, that is great. But why redefine Bhakthi in terms of Vichara instead of letting Bhakthi run as its own parallel train. Note that the 4 paths of Jnana, Bhakthi, Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga are distinct paths with distinct processes that all merge in the end. Let us not try to make everyone see the world with the glass that we would like to wear.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, amidst this 'grand war' (said in a lighter vein) between bhakti and jnana, probably we have missed out that the number of comments on this article is nearing one hundred (it stands on 95 now, and after my this comment it will make it 96). In the game of cricket a century is in important landmark which needs to be celebrated as and when it is reached by any batsman.

Therefore we should keep the comments on this article going at least till we reach a century of comments. I think it will be first time that any article on this blog will achieve such a coveted milestone. Michael can confirm if what I say is correct or not.

Thanking you.

Sivanarul said...

On the lighter vein that Sanjay has started, let me add something from Bhakthi’s side to reach his goal of century. For a change, since we have been hearing “Vichara is the only way”, let’s hear that “Bhakthi is the only way”. Note that I do not subscribe to anything as being the only way. So this is posted in a lighter vein.

From Narada Bhakthi sutras:
http://www.sivanandaonline.org/public_html/?cmd=displaysection&section_id=1122

6. Supremacy of Devotion
Bhakti is, indeed, greater than action, knowledge and Yoga.

Arjuna puts a question to the Lord: "Those devotees who, ever steadfast, thus worship Thee and those also who worship the Imperishable and the Unmanifested-which of them is better versed in Yoga?" (Gita: XII-1. ) The Lord gives the answer: "They who with mind fixed on Me ever harmonised worship Me, with faith supreme endowed, they in My opinion are best in Yoga. " There again He says: "The Yogi is greater than the ascetics; he is thought to be greater than even the wise; the Yogi is greater than the men of action; therefore become thou a Yogi, O Arjuna. And among all Yogis, he who, full of faith, with the inner Self abiding in Me, adoreth Me, he is considered by Me to be the most completely harmonised. " (Gita: VI-46, 47. ) You will find in the eighth chapter (22) of the Gita: "He, the highest spirit, O Partha, may be reached by unswerving devotion to Him alone, in whom all beings abide, by whom all this is pervaded. " Then again in XI-54 you will find: "But by devotion to Me alone I may thus be perceived, Arjuna, and known and seen in essence and entered, O Partha. "
There is the keynote of devotion and surrender throughout the Gita. Bhakti-marga is easy for the vast majority of persons. God takes the form for helping the devotees. There are no pitfalls or snares in the path. The Lord is ever ready to guide the devotee. He actually takes him by His hands and embraces him in His sweet bosom of Love. He showers His grace on the devotees, as soon as He finds out that they are sincere and earnest. Success is sure in this path. Bhakti-marga is the easiest, safest, surest and quickest way for attaining the highest bliss or God-realisation.

That is the reason why Narada Rishi says: "Bhakti is greater than Karma, Jnana and Yoga. "

From its being itself the form of reward.
Notes and Commentary
Devotion is higher than the others, because it is its own reward. It is devotion for devotion's sake. It is love for love's sake. Therefore Narada says phala-rupatvat. That is the reason why it excels others. Those who follow other paths cherish some ulterior motives in view. So they fail to attain God.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you Sivanarul, yes, we can love a name and form of God only for love's sake, but likewise we can also love ourself (in other words have svatma-bhakti) also only for love's sake.

Moreover in my view whenever Sri Krishna addresses himself as 'Me' he could be referring to our true self, but for some this 'Me' could stand for the name and form of a personal God and this interpretation will be as valid and needed for them.

I am glad we have reached 98. We hope to celebrate our century tomorrow ....

Thanking you

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay,

Why celebrate tomorrow? Haven't you heard that there is no past/present/future. There is only the NOW. So in the NOW, you can have the pleasure of making the 100'th comment. Congratulations!

May we be blessed with seeing all paths as valid in the attainment of the Self (or dissolving of ignorance) and may Bhagavan's choicest blessings be upon every sentient being.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you Sivanarul and all fellow travellers, yes, without Bhagavan's blessings and grace we would not be discussing all this on this wonderful blog created and managed by Sri Michael James.

Congratutions!!! We have reached a century of comments on this article.

Thanks and regards to one and all....

Mouna said...

Dear all,

As a celebration on our 100th, wouldn't be the right time for a small "Summa Iru"?...

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

R Viswanathan said...

"As a celebration on our 100th, wouldn't be the right time for a small "Summa Iru"?..."

The suggestion reminds me of Lord Krishna slaying Sisupala after waiting for the latter to commit 100 sins.

Bob - P said...

Congratulations everyone on passing the 100!!

Thank you Sivanarul for your help and feedback about my comment on Bhakthi, it is much appreciated and improved my understanding about it.

Even though I pratcise self investigation / surrender I respect all other practise as we are all on the same journey with the same goal in our hearts.

Thank you

Bob - P -

Sivanarul said...

Now that the war is over and we are in peace mode and we have had a little time for “Summa Iru” as Mounaji wanted, it is time for some advaita humor. I will leave it to my good friend Sanjay to come up with a Surrender/Bhakta humor. It is written in lighter vein. So please don’t take it seriously.

Once upon a time there were 2 close friends. One was a Bhakta and other was an advaitin. Both had retired and had all their savings in the stock market. Suddenly the market crashed and they lost 100% of their savings and were on the street. Both were tired, starving and depleted.

Bhakta started an intense prayer to God and God appeared before him. Bhakta requested God to provide both of them with at least basic needs. God granted Bhakta’s wish, but only for the Bhakta. The advaitin did not get any help. The Bhakta was bewildered. Bhakta started a conversation with the lord:

B (Bhakta) : Oh Lord, why have you not granted my friend advaitin anything?
G (God): You take the world to be real, so I granted you basic needs. Your friend does not need it. He is not the body.
B: But Lord, he surely needs food, shelter and clothing.
G: No, this is a dream for him. Since it is a dream, he does not need anything.
B: But lord, he is crying, starting to curse and getting hysterical.
G: Only to your eyes. He only “appears” to cry without crying.

B: But lord, there must be something you can do.
G: I only exist for you. For your advaitin friend, both you and I are merely dream characters. So there is nothing you or I can do.
B: Lord, at this rate he will die.
G: My dear Bhakta, He was never born to begin with. Where is the question of dying?

Sivanarul said...

Continuation:

B: Ok Lord. Will you at least grant him liberation?
G: According to him, there is no one granting liberation and no one needing liberation.
B: But Lord, his crying is going out of the roof and he might turn mad.
G: Oh Bhakta, he does not experience this in deep sleep. So he can go back to deep sleep where there is no hunger or crying.

B: Ok Lord, I got to square with you. My good friend was saying all these things because the advaitin Ramana Maharishi said so.
G: You see Bhakta, Ramana was as much a Bhakta as an advaitin. He prayed to me when his mother was sick. He loved me in external form as Arunachala. He loved all beings created by me. He shed a tear of bliss on his last second hearing my name of Arunachala. He came from me and he is absorbed in me. He is I. I am he.
B: But Lord, you are not answering my question. My friend merely followed Ramana’s words.
G: Oh Bhakta, to your friend, Ramana is simply a lion appearing in an elephant’s dream. Ramana does not exist. He is simply a dream character.

B: Let it be so. My friend simply followed the dream character Ramana’s words.
G: Oh Bhakta, there is a big difference between Ramana and your friend. Ramana really bore hunger in Pathala linga. He remained unconcerned with the body in spite of severe cancer pain. Yet he was compassionate towards hungry people. He was compassionate towards sick. In other words, he was an advaitin’s advaitin and a Bhakta’s Bhakta.
B: What can my friend do?
G: For starters, your friend can realize that the 2 top advaitins of your time, Shankara and Ramana were both great Bhakta’s who have sung soul stirring songs on me.
B: Then, my lord.
G: Then if he integrates Bhakthi with Jnana, he will one day become like Ramana.
B: Thank you lord. Have a nice day!

Mouna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sivanarul said...

What happened Mounaji? You deleted your comment. I won't reveal it's contents since you chose to delete it. I thought it was good.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul,

Haha... :-)
Wrong manipulation, thought one could add to a posting!, here it goes:

I hold you accountable for almost choking while having my lunch because laughing so hard at your posting!
Humor is one of those few things in life that needs to be taken very seriously.

(the added part): I'm still scratching hard my head to come up with an Advaitin/Vichara humor to counteract the Surrender/Bhakta one, but I can't, would that be because I'm becoming "too non-dual"?

Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

Good one. Vichara has already made you non-dual. There is no humor and there is no one to humor to. But you still seem to have a sense of humor. You should spend some time now and trace the 'I' who has a sense of humor :-). Until then you are still a jedi in training and not yet yoda. You are certainly getting there.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, what R. Vishwanathan wrote in one his recent comment was very interesting:

As a celebration on our 100th, wouldn't be the right time for a small "Summa Iru"?..." The suggestion reminds me of Lord Krishna slaying Sisupala after waiting for the latter to commit 100 sins.

Yes, in one way our each and every thought is a sin, as it takes us away from ourself, therefore we are perpetually committing sins. Therefore in my view self-attentiveness could be a perfect antidote to such sins.

Sivanarul, you have posted a nice story about the two friends. Hope you were not alluding to both of us through this story? I know you were not, I am just joking!

Yes Sivanarul, I agree with what you imply, as fellow travellers we should try and discuss things in a more friendly manner. This does not mean that we should not put across our points as clearly and as often as possible. After all our battle should be only with this ego or 'I am this body' idea, and bhakti and jnana seem to be two powerful weapons which assists us in this fight. I hope you will agree.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Fellow travellers, today I was reading Michael's introduction to the book Upadesa Undiyar by Sri Sadhu Om. He writes and I quote:

The main purpose of His [Bhagavan's] life was to teach to the world the correct method of practising the simple and direct path of Self-enquiry, which is not only the only path which can ultimately lead one to the goal of Self-knowledge, but which is also the spiritual path which is most suited to the rational and scientific temperament of modern man. That is why Sri Bhagavan always put the main emphasis of His teaching upon the path of Self-enquiry, which is a short-cut means that bypasses the need for all other kinds of spiritual practice.

Sivanarul, please do not see this as a resumption of the battle. I read something interesting today and felt like sharing the same with this group. Till our ego lasts, non of our understanding can be perfect, because our ego itself is imperfection, but through bhakti or sravana, manana and nidhidhyasana (vichara), we are trying to destroy our ego. Only after its destruction can the true perfection and understanding blossom.

Banana-breeder said...

Sanjay Lohia,
your comment is well said.
But after destroying of the(our)ego is there any need of the blossom of true perfection and understanding ?
Are we not taught that then we will be blossomed into the eternal omniscient perfect state of atma svarupa ?

R Viswanathan said...

Page 17 of Arthur Osborne's book "The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in His own Words" gives this as Bhagavan's answer for solving the dilemma of dualism and non-dualism:

"Nammalvar says: "In ignorance, I took the ego to be the Self, but with right knowledge the ego is not and only you remain as the Self". Both the non-dualists and the dualists agree on the necessity for Self-realization. Attain that first and then raise other questions. Non-dualism or dualism cannot be decided on theoretical grounds alone. If the Self is realized, the question will not arise." Reference: (Talks with Ramana Maharshi 491)

Banana-breeder said...

R Viswanathan,
"If the self is realized, the question will not arise".
This conditional clause is often given on this blog and in Ramana literature.
But this often is not really a satisfactory answer to our questions. It can only spur us to realize self.
But of course that cannot be otherwise !

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay my friend,

The battle is over and although it is tempting to take the bait you have offered, I am going to pass for the most part, since I am now fully vaccinated against the “Vichara only” bug :-) That bug was troubling me for quite some time now, and thanks to everyone who participated and my writings, I am now fully vaccinated against that bug.

But the bait is too good to completely pass. So let me take a tiny crack at it from Vichara itself. Whoever practices Vichara, whenever the “ONLY” bug arises in you ,whether for materialism or spiritual purposes, turn your attention within, to that ONLY feeling. Who is having that feeling? Dive deep like a pearl diver. The answer would be ‘I’. Ask Who am I without actually asking. Do not expect an answer. Just be with the I, as long as possible. Again a thought will come which will say, “but Vichara is the only way” according to Bhagavan, Sadhu OM and Michael. When that thought arises, answer by saying they are all nothing but dream characters and you don’t have to take them seriously. After all do you take anything that happened in your last night’s dream seriously? The mind will then settle. Then ask, in whose dream that Bhagavan, Sadhu OM and Michael appear? The answer would be ‘I’. Then ask Who am ’I’. Rinse and Repeat the process.

If you keep on practicing the above practice, there will no ‘I’ left to say that ‘Vichara is the only way’. A true Vichari will not give any importance to the thought that says ‘Vichara is the only way’ because what is it other than just a thought :-) You my friend are not a thought.

Again Sanjay, that is not a resumption of battle, it is just a tiny crack at the bait for fun. Have a nice day!

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul,

I might be completely on the wrong track here, but your last posting was a little bit puzzling... No longer started to sound "in a light vein" but more as "sarcasm", and there is a difference between constructive humour and sarcasm. The former is a detached view on one's own (or another's) point of view, but the latter is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt (dictionary definition).
Unfortunately the internet doesn't help much when it comes to show what kind of emotion lies "behind the words" in a conversation, a debate or an exchange of points of view and we could be easily mistaken, that's why I said I could be wrong.
But the tone used in that last comment was something different than in previous comments, at least to my ears.

Since this blog is a place that primarily is based on respect of one another's view ( even if there is disagreement) I thought it was worth pointing this out, specially because of the friendly exchange we had you and me in the last day or so. Please excuse me if I misunderstood your intention.

In the end, it is only in that Silence and Devotion within ourselves that everything gets resolved.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji
,
That was not intended as Sarcasm and was definitely intended in a lighter vein. I apologize for it coming across as sarcasm. It was written for me as much as for anybody else. While in spirituality I don’t hold the ONLY view, there are areas where i still do. That was meant for me to ask myself whenever the ONLY thought arises, who is the ‘I’ that holds on to that view. So if it came across as sarcasm, rest assured that it was against me more than others.

The last few days of debates might have made me come across that I am against Vichara. That is far from the truth. I do practice Vichara spontaneously and use it for any problem that arises in my life.

You have been a great help to me, and I certainly don’t want you to feel offended.

Again, I am very sorry, that it came across that way. That was not my intent. I will be more careful how it comes across in future replies.

Mouna said...

Dear SIvanarulji,
I do believe you my friend.

At this table, we are all beggars.

And as the poet says: "All's well that ends well."

yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sanjay Lohia said...

Banana-breeder, according to my understanding, 'destruction of the ego' and 'blossoming to true perfection' mean the same thing. They are just two ways to describe our goal - which is merging in God or the state of atma-jnana.

Thank you Sivanarul. Yes, I party agree and partly disagree with you when you write:

If you keep on practicing the above practice, there will no ‘I’ left to say that ‘Vichara is the only way’. A true Vichari will not give any importance to the thought that says ‘Vichara is the only way’ because what is it other than just a thought [...]

I agree when you say, 'If you keep on practicing the above practice, there will no ‘I’ left to say that ‘Vichara is the only way’. Yes, as and when we reach our goal, there will be no individual 'I' left to claim or decide or assert anything for or against vichara or bhakti. Thus our experience then will be of just 'I am', and no thoughts of any sort can appear in our consciousness in such a state.

However I do not entirely agree with you when you say, 'A true Vichari will not give any importance to the thought that says ‘Vichara is the only way’ because what is it other than just a thought'. I think till our ego seemingly exists, it also carries its power of viveka with it, and like in all other matters it decides the 'right' and 'wrong' in sadhana also.

Therefore for some of us the thought 'vichara is the only way' or 'vichara is my way' can be conviction born our viveka, like for some 'all paths are equally valid' is born our of their viveka and conviction.

That is why I am totally convinced when Michael says, '[...] Sri Bhagavan always put the main emphasis of His teaching upon the path of Self-enquiry, which is a short-cut means that bypasses the need for all other kinds of spiritual practice', but not everyone need subscribe to this view. We must use our viveka or discrimination and act accordingly.

Banana-breeder said...

Sanjay Lohia,
i did refer to the last sentence of your comment of 12 June 2015 at 08:08:
'Only after its destruction can the true perfection and understanding blossom'.
Therefore - as you wrote on the same day at 17:14 - the destruction of the ego is only a way to describe our goal.
You should not overlook the meaning of the preposition "after":
If something happens after a particular event, it happens during the period of time that follows that event.
At least in the chronolical sequence strictly speaking 'destruction of the ego' and 'blossoming to true perfection' cannot mean the same thing.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Banana-breeder, thank you for your last comment addressed to me. As Michael has been repeatedly pointing out to us, our words and thoughts have severe limitations as these are there to describe things or objects of the world, and cannot adequately describe either the practice of self-investigation, nor can they adequately describe our final attainment. Words are at best pointers.

Without going into details of the words I used in my previous comments, which may not be entirely correct usage of words, I state my view here.

According to my understanding (which may be imperfect, because I am just a aspirant like you), both 'destruction of the ego' and 'blossoming to true perfection' mean the same thing and happens simultaneously. We can either say that when we blossom to perfection (in other words experience ourself as we really are) our ego will be destroyed at that very moment, or we can say that when our ego is destroyed we will blossom to perfection (or experience ourself as we really are).

Does the darkness vanish first or does the sun rise happens first? We can say either. Actually these two happen together. Ignorance has to disappear for jnana to dawn, or jnana has to dawn for the ignorance to disappear. We can describe it either way. This is just my view. If Michael has time he will clarify this for both of us.

R Viswanathan said...

"Does the darkness vanish first or does the sun rise happens first?"

This question leads to remember Sri Nochur Venkataraman's statement attributed to Rabindranath Tagore - birds can feel the light before the sun actually rises. He said this to indicate that we can feel the self very often, especially during the interval between two thoughts, if only we are attentive enough.

Banana-breeder said...

Sanjay Lohia,
Astronomically seen the vanishing darkness and the rising sun do not happen together.
According to Wikipedia: ( Without going into "Atmospheric refraction"):
Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun itself is still below the horizon. Twilight is the period in the morning during which the sky is lilight but the sun is not yet visible. The beginning of morning twilight is called dawn.
Dawn should not be confused with sunrise, which is the moment when the leading edge of the sun itself appears above the horizon.
Astronomical dawn is defined as the moment after which the sky is no longer completely dark
( Twilight is the illumination of the earth's lower atmosphere when the sun is not directly visible because it is below the horizon.
Twilight is produced by sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere, illuminating the lower atmosphere so that the surface of the earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark).
Sunrise is the instant at which the upper edge of the sun appears over the eastern horizon in the morning.
Sunrise occurs when sun's upper limb appears tangent to horizon(appears to cross the horizon).
"Rise" and apparent travel of the sun:
Although the sun appears to "rise" from the horizon, it is actually the earth's motion that causes the sun to appear. The illusion of a moving sun results from earth observers being in a rotating reference frame; this apparent motion is so convincing that most cultures had mythologies and religions built around the geocentric model, which prevailed until astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus first formulated the heliocentric model in the 16 th century.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Banana-breeder, I thank you for your comment. Analogises are just pointers, they cannot make us understand the actual experience accurately. Therefore I stand by my comment dated 14 June 2015 20:51, until Michael wishes to correct me. Other members in this group may can give their views on this topic if they feel like.

We will simultaneously discover that there is no snake, and only its substratum, the rope actually exists or has ever existed. Likewise we will simultaneously discover that the ego never actually existed and what actually exists is only our true, non-dual self.

In my previous comment I had written 'sun rise' as two words, but I have come to know that it is one word 'sunrise'. When I am not able to spell ever 'sunrise' properly how can I claim that my views on Bhagavan's teachings to be always correct. Like my friends have recently made me understand the role of dualistic bhakti to the name and form of sadguru, and that without such bhakti we will not be even motivated to practise the path shown to us by that supreme light, our sadguru Bhagavan Ramana.

Bob - P said...

Dear Banana Breeder
I think it is very hard to talk / write about non duality as it is beyond duality.
It don't think it can ever be explained with words only pointed to as my friend Sanjay mentioned above.

Physics seems to be getting more like mysticism now, the smaller it goes all it seems to find is smoke and mirrors as Dr Bandler (physicist)often said in his NLP seminars.

I think it is very interesting how "Bucky" Fuller and Tesla two of the greatest scientific minds of all time near the end of their lives both embraced the non scientific. It seems science didn't provide them with all the answers they sought.

I don't think science can ever have all the answers as the scientific model is firmly located in dualism. This is why science / scientists didn't like people like Ingo Swann because he challenged their dualistic model.

Science seems to be the observer investigating the observed. If we turn 180 degrees and investigate the observer that is a whole different science all together.

But again my comment and all I write above is from my own limited self created dualistic perspective.

It is often said you must never take yourself too seriously. The more I investigate myself I find that to be so very true.

In appreciation.
Bob - P -

Banana-breeder said...

Sanjay Lohia,
sorry, in the fifth line of my recent comment it should be read "light" instead of "lilight"(Twilight is the period in the morning during which the sky is light...).
I did not doubt the correctness of the used analogy or your views on Bhagavan's teachings.
I only wanted to draw your attention to the astronomical fact that the disappearance of the nightly darkness happens before sunrise.
So in this case we dont need to consult Michael James for arbitration proceedings.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Banana-breeder and Bob-P, thank you both for your recent comments. I liked the part by Bob-P where he says, 'If we turn 180 degrees and investigate the observer that is a whole different science all together'. Yes, I also believe that this is the only science which can give us any certain answers. All materialistic science is just like investigating the dream world or dream experiences, therefore they can provide only dream answers.

Thank you Banana-breeder. As you imply, we should only go to Michael as a last resort. His articles, his comments and his other writings can provide us with most of the answers to our questions. I think repeated readings of these constantly is useful.

Banana-breeder said...

Bob-P,
I did not talk either about non-duality or duality.
I did not talk about physics or science.
I only did direct the attention to the actual event of the chronological sequence of dawn, twilight and sunrise.
All what I wanted is to sharpen the focusing control at the way of looking at things.
Generally it would do no harm if somebody takes a closer look at something.

Bob - P said...

Deear Banana - Breeder
If you are talking about time and perceiving events ocurring in time (ie) the chronological sequence of dawn, twilight, and sunrise. Then that is duality as you the perciever are percieving things other than yourself within time and space.

But I totally understand where you are coming from Banana Breeder as my answer is filled full of errors and contradictions too, it is so hard to write about these things isn't it.

Anyway if I misunderstood you my sincere appologies.

All the best to you.
Bob - P -

Banana-breeder said...

Bob-P,
yes, of course - writing and reading is just duality.
What I wanted to express is that I did not talk about duality as such as the subject/topic/theme.
Dear Bob-P, nobody has obliged you to write hardly about "these things".
You did not even call which errors and contradictions are possibly contained in your answer, so you should not lament your comment.

All the best to you.

Bob - P said...

Dear Banana Breeder
I was just refering that what you said below in your previous comment to Sanjay was stated as a fact and is from your own dualistic perspective.

"I only wanted to draw your attention to the astronomical FACT that the disappearance of the nightly darkness HAPPENS before sunrise."

From who's perspective?

The contradiction is that I am replying to you now saying this which reinforces dualism.

It is mind boggeling to be honest.

I am sure you admit Banana Breeder the whole thing is rather funny!!
I am very sorry if I upset you in anyway as your last comment suggests.

In appreciation and apologies once again.
Bob - P -







Banana-breeder said...

Bob-P,
when walking on the dualistic road i.e. talking about wordly(dualistic) things we cannot avoid to adopt a dualistic view. Therefore to have both feet on the dualistic ground and with that apply dualistic viewpoints is (hopefully) not a crime against Sri Ramana's teachings.
So in this way we dont bring disgrace on the truth.
Be assured - your comment causes in no circumstances any upset to me.

Bob - P said...

Dear Sanjay
I can't take credit for what I said.

'If we turn 180 degrees and investigate the observer that is a whole different science all together'.

I have heard this from either Michael or somenone on this blog I can't remember who it was? I was just repeating it as when I read it I must confess it made me laugh .... how very true.

From my own perspective the more I understand Bhagavan's teaching I find great humour rises in me.

In terms of living the dualistic life percieved by the false "knowing counciousness" Bob I think hunour and not taking yourself too seriously is so very important !!!

How can you take yourself seriously!!

Banana-Breeder that is very good to know. Thank you very much for your comments and your reply.

All is good.

In appreciation as always.
Bob

Banana-breeder said...

Bob-P,
in spite of the seriousness of the ego's situation we should remain good-humoured.
So let us bear the burden of our ego cheerfully !

Bob - P said...

{in spite of the seriousness of the ego's situation we should remain good-humoured.
So let us bear the burden of our ego cheerfully !}

How very true !!! So very well said !!!
Thank you
Bob - P -

Michael James said...

Nicolas, regarding your comment asking about accurate translations of Bhagavan’s writings, unfortunately most of the English translations that have been published in books are not very accurate, and some of the ones in the English book The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi are particularly bad, as you can see from the example that I mention in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 8 (section 7e of my latest article, Prāṇāyāma is just an aid to restrain the mind but will not bring about its annihilation).

No translations are perfect, and I am always finding ways to improve my own ones, but the most accurate English translations published in books so far are the ones in Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai, PDF copies of which you can find on my website, where I also give my own translation of Nāṉ Yār?.

I have also given accurate translations of many of Bhagavan’s verses in the articles on this blog, and whenever I find time to do so I hope to post accurate translations of all his original writings on my website.

As you say, the most important thing is for us to have direct contact with Bhagavan himself, which we can have only by practising ātma-vicāra. Since he alone is the source of all his teachings, and since he is always shining within us as ourself, ātma-vicāra is the most direct access we can have to the real essence and substance of his teachings.

Ukawango said...

Mr Michael James,
I am very new on this blog.
I refer what you wrote in your recent reply (to Nicolas):

As I read in the Ashram Homepage Ramana Maharishi left his mortal remains in April 1950. When you say "he is always shining within us as ourself" may I assume that his real being is the same entity as our real existence ? If this is true can we infer from it that his permanent shing has been "as ourself" already before his coming in his physical life and also before our all coming in physical, mental and spiritual life ?
So it seems to me that we have never lost this "shining within us" because we cannot lose it all. So why do we need to have "direct contact with Bhagavan" and "most direct access to the real essence and substance of his teachings" ?
What is this term "shining" exactly ?
Losing it seems to mean not being aware of it and therefore not attending to it or something similar.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding the comment in which you ask whether it is true that I used to do pradakṣiṇa around Arunachala three times in a day, I used to do pradakṣiṇa once a day for many years, but occasionally I used to do twice in a day, and on Śivarātri or Deepam I would sometimes do three times consecutively with other friends throughout the night. I was never ‘super fit’, and did not need to be, because one pradakṣiṇa is only about eight miles (thirteen kilometres), so if one is used to it it is not a very long distance. Even doing it three times consecutively is not very difficult, though by the end of it one’s feet will be a little tired because of walking barefoot.

I never lost body-consciousness or had any such experience while doing pradakṣiṇa. I did it every day because I enjoyed it, and it was a pleasant break from sitting down and doing writing work most of the rest of the day. However, though I had no special experience while doing it, I do believe it was beneficial, and perhaps it helped to create the inner clarity to understand Bhagavan’s teachings more deeply. Therefore even if you are not used to walking such a distance barefoot, I would recommend that it is worth doing it whenever you are in Tiruvannamalai.

Michael James said...

Ukawango, in reply to your comment, according to Bhagavan what actually exists is only ourself, and everything else is just an illusory appearance, so he is nothing other than our own self. He appeared outwardly in physical form only to advise us that we should turn our attention back to ourself in order to experience ourself as we really are.

We are always aware of ourself, but we are not attentively aware of ourself because we are more interested in attending to and thereby experiencing other things. So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, but are only experiencing ourself as this finite ego, which appears in waking and dream and disappears in sleep. Therefore this ego is not what we really are, so we need to be attentively self-aware in order to experience ourself as we really are.

In this context the term ‘shining’ is used metaphorically to denote both the fact that we are always aware of ourself (just as we are always aware of sunlight during daytime) and the fact that our self-awareness is the light, so to speak, that illumines everything else that we experience. That is, without this ‘light’ of self-awareness, we would not be aware of anything, either ourself or any other thing.

Since we are always self-aware, we have never lost this ‘shining’ of our self-awareness within ourself, and we never could lose it. However, all troubles arise only because we are now aware not only of ourself but also of other things, and we are aware of other things only because we are not aware of ourself as we really are (that is, as the infinite and immutable self-awareness, other than which nothing actually exists). Therefore we need to experience ourself as we actually are, which is what I described metaphorically as having ‘direct contact with Bhagavan himself’.

Michael James said...

In one of my earlier comments above I wrote: ‘Incidentally, before the long discussion here about the relative merits of bhakti and ātma-vicāra had started, in response to an earlier comment on another article I had already began to draft an article on the relationship between bhakti and ātma-vicāra, which I hope to complete and post here within a week or so, so I hope that what I write in it may help at least to some extent to resolve some of the differences of opinion or viewpoint expressed in this discussion.’

Though ten days have passed since I wrote that, I have not yet had time to complete the article on the relationship between bhakti and ātma-vicāra that I referred to there, because in the meanwhile I got diverted into writing my latest article, Prāṇāyāma is just an aid to restrain the mind but will not bring about its annihilation, which I expected to complete quickly, but which then began to grow like Draupadi’s sari, so ended up being a very long one. Now I have a few other things that I need to catch up on, and then I will resume work on writing the article about bhakti.

However, while I was writing the article on prāṇāyāma I was reading all the comments above as and when they were posted, so in that article I replied to some of the views expressed in them, particularly in the eighth section, Is it wrong to say that self-investigation is the only means by which the mind can be annihilated?, and to a lesser extent in the sixth and seventh sections, Can our ego or mind be annihilated by any means other than self-investigation? and Can our ego or mind be annihilated by meditating on a form or name?. However I will probably address these questions further in that article about bhakti.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for your reply to my comment regarding pradaksina. Yes, Bhagavan willing I will try to do Arunachala pradaksina next time I visit Tiruvannamalai, but when I say 'Bhagavan willing' it actually means 'myself willing', because my essential nature is not different from Bhagavan. You had written something to this effect in one your e-mails to me.

It is necessary to do this pradaksina barefoot, or can we walk around with our footwear on? I know it is customary to walk barefoot, but will it really make a difference if I go around with my footwear on? I am relatively more fit now than I was earlier because my various health issues, and these have settled down now. So I believe I can go for Arunachala pradaksina now.

Thanking you and pranams.

R Viswanathan said...

"Therefore even if you are not used to walking such a distance barefoot, I would recommend that it is worth doing it whenever you are in Tiruvannamalai."

Sanjay, it is possible to do it barefoot - My wife and I do it once in three or four months for the last three years. We began to do it after reading Sri Michael James, article on Pradhakshina. I am 61 now and my wife 57; I am giving this information so that it can serve as encouragement to you, now that you say you are fit again. We generally start at 5 AM from Ramanasramam and end the Pradhakshina at around 9.30 or 10. Only on Sivarathiri, we begin at 9 PM. You may pray to Bhagavan to give you the sufficient strength to do that.

(U)Okawango said...

Michael,
thank you for giving me an abriged version of Sri Ramana’s teaching.
The statement (Bhagavan’s) „ WHAT ACTUALLY EXISTS IS ONLY OURSELF"
seems to imply that we (majority) attend to or are engaged/occupied with illusory i.e. not actually existing appearances. Because otherwise would not be any need/ demand to make that statement.
For whatever reason I (as a finite ego) did prefer to experience other things instead of being aware only of myself as I really am – as the infinite and immutable self-awareness – seems to be in the lap of the gods. In any case a gigantic veil must have clouded my consciousness.
It is time to justice to my real task.
Obviously I was not ashamed enough to have missed the target of life.
However, it seems to be unjust that a murderer uses the same light of self-awareness to commit a murder.
But now I go to have immediately direct contact with Bhagavan mimself...

Mouna said...

Dear Sanjay,

You asked: "It is necessary to do this pradaksina barefoot, or can we walk around with our footwear on?”

Far from contradicting or judging Michael’s suggestion about "Therefore even if you are not used to walking such a distance barefoot, I would recommend that it is worth doing it whenever you are in Tiruvannamalai” I would like to offer my own experience in the matter. First of all, I am a “westerner” and I never walked barefoot in my life except in swimming pools and at home.

When I first arrived in Arunachala I was very excited in doing pradaksina, and wanted to do it barefoot. After sometime of embarking in such a physical new adventure I realize that instead of keeping my attention inwards, 150% of it was going to the end extremities of my legs! Meaning that instead of keeping attention upon "Arunachala’s sacred feet” I was completely “absorbed” not only in the pain but also the possibility of attracting diseases through the growing blisters on my worldly ones!

After consulting with the ashram authorities, fellow inmates of the ashram and ponder it myself I understood that, 'in my case', it was more important to keep the attention inwards (or try to) than to distract myself with parts of my body. I believe it is quite different when you are born (or live enough years) in countries where going barefoot is a daily endeavor. Everyone is different when it comes to outward “tapas”.

That is to say that we need to realize that going barefoot or not is just another “action” that in itself won’t bring us closer to ourself if not investigated who is it that is performing it.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

R Viswanathan said...

"In this context the term ‘shining’ is used metaphorically to denote both the fact that we are always aware of ourself (just as we are always aware of sunlight during daytime) and the fact that our self-awareness is the light, so to speak, that illumines everything else that we experience. That is, without this ‘light’ of self-awareness, we would not be aware of anything, either ourself or any other thing."

So nicely stated by Sri Michael James. Thanks so much for this.

Regarding the awareness of sunlight, Sri Nochur Venkataraman said in one if his discourses the following: Many want to see God in Prathyaksham, and Surya Bhagavan is one Vibuthi of Bhagavan Krishna, but how many really attentively saw the sunrise or how many are even attentively aware of its light?

Similarly, I think that not many are not attentively aware of the light of self-awareness, but by turning the attention selfwards one can feel it - in the form of natural feeling of one's own existence.

Regarding the reference to illumination, I see a beautiful passage in the book of Sri Arthur Osborne:

"Everyone is the Self and indeed, is infinite. Yet each person mistakes his body for his Self. In order to know anything, illumination is necessary. This can only be of the nature of Light; however, it lights up both physical light and physical darkness. That is to say, that it lies beyond apparent light and darkness. It is itself neither, but it is said to be light because it illumines both. It is infinite and Consciousness."

In another place Sri Arthur Osborne has beautifully stated the difference between the merger of ego in realization and in sleep:

"In the Fourth State (the true state of realized being), the ego merges in Consciousness, as in sleep it does in unconsciousness".

I infer that in the former case of realization, the ego gets annihilated and in the latter case of sleep, the ego just remains dormant is implied.

Sanjay Lohia said...

R. Viswanathan and Mouna (Carlos), thank you for sharing your experience about giri-pradaksina. Since you both wrote from different perspectives, it was nice to get a balanced view on the matter. I think I have to agree with Mouna when he writes:

That is to say that we need to realize that going barefoot or not is just another “action” that in itself won’t bring us closer to ourself if not investigated who is it that is performing it.

Though the hill is considered to a siva-linga, or Lord Siva himself, I believe it may be advisable to keep our footwear on in some rare cases. After all, we cannot put our body in great stress and do any genuine sadhana. This is not to say that I do not agree with Michael and R. Viswanathan that we should go around the hill barefoot, because such an action does demonstrate our reverence for our guru's Guru, the beloved Arunachala of our Bhagavan.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, in an email to me sometime back you had explained to me as to how we misuse our power of grace. You had written something on the following lines (though whatever I write is from my memory):

Due to some inexplicable reason, our original light of grace or self-awareness gets reflected as our mind (an illusory first person 'I'), and we misuse this borrowed power of grace to produce and experience our thoughts and objects. Thus when we misuse this power of grace, this power becomes the power of maya, and when we look at the source of this mind-light, this partial, reflected light merges in its source. This is yielding to the power of grace or true self-surrender.

Thus at each moment we have a choice, either we misuse our power of grace by directing our power of attention towards outward thoughts and objects, or we use it correctly to turn within and to remain as we are.

Our choice should be quite obvious. At each moment we should try and turn within and try to merge in our source and substance of our original light of grace. This is the practice of continuous self-investigation or atma-vichara. I hope whatever I have written here is correct.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, your question about whether it is necessary to do giri-pradakṣiṇa barefoot has already been answered by two other friends, Viswanathan and Carlos (Mouna), but their answers represent two very different viewpoints. My own view is that having lived many years in India and having immersed myself in Hindu culture, I could not walk around Arunachala with any kind of footwear, because it would just not feel right to do so.

According to Bhagavan, Arunachala is Siva himself, in exactly the same way that we consider the body that came from Madurai in September 1896 and lived there till its demise in April 1950 to be Bhagavan, or that we consider some other body to be ourself, so we should show the same respect to Arunachala as we would to any other physical form of God. Walking around Arunachala is a form of worship or expressing our love, so just as we would not enter a temple or walk around Bhagavan’s shrine wearing shoes, we should not walk around Arunachala wearing any kind of footwear.

From the mid-1970s, when I first arrived there, up to the late 80s, it was generally accepted by everyone I met in Tiruvannamalai that doing pradakṣiṇa meant walking barefoot, and it was only in the early 90s that I first heard anyone trying to justify that walking with footwear was also an acceptable way of doing pradakṣiṇa. At first this was an argument advanced only by people who were unfamiliar with Asian culture, but I have been told that nowadays even some Hindus seem to believe that it is still pradakṣiṇa even if one walks with footwear.

Of course it is possible to give arguments to justify any action, but as far as I understand it, pradakṣiṇa by definition means walking barefoot. I have known people who had never walked barefoot in their life before but who nevertheless happily walked around Arunachala barefoot, in spite of all the discomfort it caused them, because they believed that that was the appropriate way to express their love for Arunachala. As the old saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way, and where there is love nothing will seem to be an obstacle.

When the Mahabharata war was over, Krishna asked Kunti (the mother of the Pandavas) what boon she wanted, and she prayed to him to continue giving her troubles. When she was asked why, she said that so long as she is experiencing trouble her mind will always be taking refuge in Krishna, but if she were not experiencing any trouble her mind may begin to think of other things. This story is often cited to remind us that pain, discomfort or hardship need not be an obstacle between us and thinking of God or ourself, because if we adopt the correct attitude such troubles will only remind us to think only of him within our heart. Likewise, if we feel pain or discomfort while walking barefoot around Arunachala, that should help to remind us to keep our attention constantly on ourself, who are experiencing such pain.

If we are physically incapable of walking barefoot around Arunachala, that does not matter, because merely thinking of Arunachala with love in our heart is sufficient, but if we are able to do pradakṣiṇa and love to do so, it seems obvious to me that we should do so properly, which means walking barefoot.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you very much for your last comment. I have fully understood why it is necessary to do Arunachala-pradaksina barefoot. I am fully convinced with what you write in your last paragraph, reproduced below:

If we are physically incapable of walking barefoot around Arunachala, that does not matter, because merely thinking of Arunachala with love in our heart is sufficient, but if we are able to do pradakṣiṇa and love to do so, it seems obvious to me that we should do so properly, which means walking barefoot.

As you say pradaksinaby definition means walking barefoot, and since we cannot imagine going around Bhagavan's shrine wearing a footwear, how can we think of going around Arunachala (which is nothing but Bhagavan's another, more enduring form) with our footwear on?

This is why I had written in one my earlier comments on this blog that personal contact with a guide like you on any spiritual path is very important. True spirituality, according to me, is learning the theory or correct method of any spiritual practice, implementing this in practice and constantly clarifying one's questions and doubts, and this clarification is as important as our knowing the correct method of practice and actual practice. This is why your emails, comments and videos are as important as your articles, books, translations etc. These help us to clear our doubts and correct out wrong understanding (like in my case that we can do pradaksina with our footwear on). These mental cobwebs can hamper our progress or at least can prevent us from gaining holistic understanding of our path.

Nobody has explained me so convincingly as to why we should do pradaksina only barefoot. Thank you once again.

Thanking you and pranams.

Banana-breeder said...

Michael,
yes, I could not believe my eyes, last February-Mahasivaratri quite a lot of Indian people walked with footwear instead barefoot around Arunachala.
For those who are afraid of blistering/getting blisters I can give a tip:
before starting girivalam/pradakshina you can stick plasters against blisters on the sole of your bare feet(ask in chemist's shops).It helps in some kind to avoid big blisters.
I had a funny experience when I first climbed to the top of Arunachala in January of the year 2000. Some minutes below the summit when I wore my typical western "outdoor" - sandals I met a school class walking down barefoot with their teacher. As soon they have seen me climbing with footwear they started to sing a funny chorus-song "No-no-no-no, slippers* are not allowed" and repeated it for some time in refrain(*or similar to "chappels"). Only after removing my footwear - and chatting and getting some drinks from my waterbottles - the children were satisfied and let me continue my walk to the peak of Arunachala. Since then I try to walk also on the stony slopes of the hill for a major part without sandals.

R Viswanathan said...

The discussion on walking barefoot around Arunachala hill reminded me of a story narrated by Sri Nochur Venkataraman in which Bhagavan himself apparently has helped Jagadisha Sastri walk barefoot on the Arunachala hill one afternoon when the rocks will be really hot - by teaching him Raviraksha mantra 'Suryosmi'. I am not sure whether Sri Michael James had ever heard of this story from Sri Sadhu Om. If yes, it would be good to hear from him about it in this blog as a comment, even though I guess that Sri Michael James gives utmost importance to Bhagavan's core teachings rather than to narration of incidents in Bhagavan's life.

Sivanarul said...

I think many people share Mouna’s concern of blisters and something getting poked into their feet based on walking barefoot (I am one of them). At the same time, Arunachala is considered Lord Siva himself and with a Saivite upbringing, it would be a BIG no no for me to walk with Slippers. It would be the equivalent of entering a temple with chappels. Caught between the two is probably the reason, why I have never done pradikshina yet.

The solution is either to summon the courage to barefoot it out as Michael recommends or to pray to Arunachala to grant the courage to do so. I am a big believer in the efficacy of prayer and strongly believe Ishvara/God/Arunachala always responds whether we believe he is doing so or not.

Carlos Grasso said...

Dear Michael,

Reading your blog these past years I have always wondered if there was any topic at all with which I would have a different viewpoint from yours, or disagree with on some aspects, and "maybe" after reading your recent posting about pradaksina I found the first! (I believe mainly could be because of my lack of understanding rather than I am right and you are wrong), but in any case this is my view, for what is worth.
The whole point of what follows is that every situation is different and it has to be dealt with the awareness of what works or not.

In a certain way it is a slippery slope we embark upon when we start mixing cultural and religious values (that differ from culture to culture) with the essential parameters of a very specific teaching like Bhagavan’s which deals mainly with the anihilation of the ego through self-investigation/surrender. I know that everything is connected, at least in the relative world, so that is why it is sometimes difficult to “take a position” in relation to certain topics without giving the impression that one is “against” the other position as a whole.

One thing Atma-Vichara practice gave me through time (at my beginner level) is a certain sense of discrimination as to when ego undermines sadhana in subtle ways, before that, I couldn’t detect those so easily. In other words when ego takes the flag of certain very valid values to defeat the efforts and continue attaching itself to form.

Bhagavan taught us a lot the value of the awareness of what the moment requires, regardless of conventions, that is why sometimes he allowed things to happen in a certain way that went completely against cultural values and the next day he will go completely “by the book” about the same situation.

In my subjective opinion, going around Arunachala barefoot or not is not in itself a proof of the respect/disrespect or love we have towards Arunachala/Bhagavan (by the way is quite different to be barefoot around Bhagavan’s shrine and in the ashram than on the streets of Tiru, specially for first time westerners), it is more a proof of the respect we have for the Hindu tradition and its values in relation to Arunachala/Bhagavan. The love/respect we have for Bhagavan (or Arunachala) is an inner attitude that may or may not outwardly show with certain actions, and it is principally based on how thoroughly we practice His directives to eliminate ego that desperately look for ways to attach to form. Only oneself can be the judge of that. In some cases it may show following cultural directives to the letter, even if it is painful, in other cases it may show as going against the status-quo, Bhagavan’s teachings are not tamilian or hindu, they are exclusively “against ego” in whatever form it might take.
(continues in next post)

Carlos Grasso said...

(Continuation of the previous post)
Reviewing the first experience I had (that I noted in my last posting doing pradaksina starting barefoot and having to come back after a while to the ashram and put sandals) I just wanted to add that getting rid of the feet pain allowed me to walk in a state of wonder, looking almost all time to the Hill, in a complete state of surrender and marveling the colors of people, animals, temples, the odors of different cooking pots in the street, the eyes of beggars, cemeteries along the road, murtis of all kind, black covered lingams and nandis because of all the abishekams performed on them, it couldn’t be other than the Grace of Arunachala that gave me that gift, it was like having Siva/Nataraj as guide through this jungle of manifested forms while the overpowering presence of Arunachala, immovable, pointed its invisible finger towards the Heart of things… it almost transformed my life, and I say almost because the final blow came sitting quietly in Bhagavan’s old hall in front of the couch when a “silent voice” initiate “me” into what is really important in Bhagavan’s teachings and “how” to do it.

Could all this miracle have happened going barefoot and in pain, of course YES, but who knows? I also know that maybe I would have finished my painful barefoot odyssey having the egoic sense of pride of being a good boy, proving my love for Arunachala, etc, etc… a little bit like those middle-age monks that used to self-flagellate to prove to the world and themselves how much they love Jesus by inflicting onto themselves the same pain and suffering he went through. After all it is a form of tapas, isn’t it?

I don’t know what is going to happen next time I’ll go to Arunachala to do pradakshina, I’ll certainly start again barefoot for sure, why not? But it will not be because I “should” do it or it is the “right way” of doing it, but because it will come from that place that actually is not identified "doing it" in either way, because the whole point is not the walk but rather the investigation/surrender of “that” which walks.

It’s all a process, the unravelling of which I’m still working on it (I must confess that your post evoked feelings like “I don’t value Bhagavan’s teachings enough, I am not really connected to Arunachala and I should be more so like Michael is pointing out, I wish I could have lived more in India", etc, etc, and a thousand more etceteras that after second thoughts are a clear indication of ego taking over again), that’s is why I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to have this conversation with you and fellow members of this blog.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos (aka formerly Mouna)

Sivanarul said...

Carlosji (I liked Mounaji better :-)),

As always, your replies are a gem to read. While I share your concern, as replied just a little earlier, and agree with your latest comments, how does a Sadhaka whose primary sadhana is rooting out the ego, which is defined primarily as “I am the Body” idea, justify the concern of getting a few blisters or something poking his feet.

I am not saying a Sadhaka has to go before a tiger or perform rigorous tapas in the hot sun. But if the very basis of the Sadhana is removing this false idea of “I am the body”, I cannot see how concern over the body helps in that. This may not be about internal or external respect towards Arunachala but the ego’s firm grip with “I am the Body” idea. By the way, as I wrote earlier, I don’t have the courage to go barefoot yet, but also cannot justify (to myself) going with slippers both because of my saivite upbringing and also because of the deeply rooted “I am the Body” idea.

Mouna said...

Vanakkam dear Sivanarulji,

First of all, I also appreciate your presence in this virtual sangha.
Secondly, Mouna was for many years a pen-name I used to “wear” in old advaitin lists and then carried on just by habit (nothing wrong with that) but lately I felt like coming back to the basic nakedness of Carlos, the birth certificate given identity! :-)

You raised a very valid point: " But if the very basis of the Sadhana is removing this false idea of “I am the body”, I cannot see how concern over the body helps in that.”

Let's start by saying that the "I am the body idea" is not limited to the physical body only (in the form of sensations and perceptions) but it also constitutes emotions and thoughts (beliefs and concepts).
The concern is not over the physical body only, but mostly over the kind of distractions that impact the practice of surrender/vichara, and those may take the form of beliefs, not only physical sensations. To be honest with you, in my life I find much more challenging and difficult to stop watching my favorite tv series than to go around Arunachala barefoot, even if my feet bleed and get infections. In the past, I’d been in spiritual communities (not related to hinduism) where I used to perform many sorts of “tapas” (physical and emotional) that had a physical/emotional impact in the body/mind in terms of discomfort and pain. So I have a small idea of what that means to utilize pain as a “wake-up call” to remember one's aim. My experience tells me that pain sometimes works sometimes doesn't, and the whole idea of tricking the ego is to be aware enough of when, how and which tool to use at the right time.

In any case, we are all trying to do our best to the limits of our understanding. Beyond that, it is all Grace.

Yours in Bhagavan
Carlos

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

"My experience tells me that pain sometimes works sometimes doesn't, and the whole idea of tricking the ego is to be aware enough of when, how and which tool to use at the right time."

Well said. I have always justified taking care of the body as critical not only to fulfill one's family and social responsibilities, but also as the foundation for doing Sadhana. Without a good body, how to do Sadhana? I have tried to do Sadhana a few times when I had a severe headache (and other pains) and have always failed miserably. When one is in pain, the only thing one can think of is how to get rid of the pain. That is why I always say, advaita is for a person who has had a good meal and a good sleep and sitting in a nice A/C room. Trying advaita on an empty stomach is not going to get one too far.

I would have definitely not been able to go more than a 100 feet on barefoot in pradikshana. If I have, i would have constantly been looking at the ground for particles or trash and having my entire focus on my feet rather than Arunachala. So I think you made a wise decision to use slippers and focus your mind on Arunachala, rather than your feet.

I deeply admire people who seem to really not care of their body. They probably are closer to awakening. For people like I, it is going to be quite a challenge to let go of the concern for the body. The good news is with Sadhana (any Sadhana), the grip certainly loosens up and one can only hope that it will loosen up enough for serious sadhana to commence that results in awakening to reality.

Sundar said...

My own opinion on wearing a footwear or not is the following but i'd like to give a couple of e.g. before that

a) Nochur Venkatraman says that Sankara has sung about two bhaktas prominently, one Gnanasambandar and the other Kannapa Nayanar (For those interested you can look up their stories). Gnanasambandar was born in an orthodox brahmin family, knew the vedas etc, Kannapa Nayanar did not have all this knowledge and he actually filled water in his mouth and bathed the Shiva lingam, fed him a piece of meat he had already tasted to see if its good enough to be fed to the lord and placed his feet on the lingam to stop the lingam bleeding. Sankara finally says that the devotion of both of them as well as the Jnana is exactly the same. The key being one's devotion.

b) Nochur quotes another e.g. He says that the saint Ekanath says in his Bhagavatham commentary that if one sweeps his house with utter devotion as if doing God's work and throws the trash saying the Lord's name, it is equivalent to a pooja. The key again being devotion.

My own case is peculiar. For the first 24 years of my life I lived in India where I used to run on hot tar roads in the middle of the day barefooted and played cricket. Then during the next 15 plus years, I lived in the US where just to step out and get a newspaper outside, I wore a shoe or a slipper. Now, when i'm in India, I have not yet gotten used to walking barefoot completely yet. I go to Tiruvannamalai once every few months and I have been to Girivalam only 4 times and all the times I wore slippers. But I never felt that I was disrespectful. After all when we say that everything in brahman or the self, the slipper is also brahman though I am aware of the respect to Arunachala. I would never wear my slipper inside a temple as Michael says or even inside my house which is the custom in the south of INdia.

Ultimately I think one should do what ones feel comfortable with. I don't feel any remorse so far about doing a pradakshina with slippers but i'd say if one feels guilt or remorse one should not do it. Nochur mentions a very interesting point. He says the hallmark of a true devotee is that every devotee's path, sadhana and ways are unique. Dhruva was not like Prahlada, Prahlada was not like Arjuna and so on. Often we get caught up in following this or that person or custom to the letter that we miss the goal of devotion. But as I said, if one's devotion includes not wearing a slipper, then one should not wear. As I quotd before, one my favourite quotes is that of Swami Rama Tirtha, "Do not enslave yourself to Krishna, Buddha or Jesus. The prophets came to liberate you not enslave you." and i'd add Ramana or Ramakrishna or anyone else to the list without any disrespect to them. As long as we think we are the body, our every action would be a reflection of our prakriti or nature, so no point in talking advaita on the one hand and on the other hand think about what we should wear while going around another physical name and form. We better accept what we are and hope that sadhana will rectify our defects. This is my opinion.

Infact i'd asked as is asked in this blog often, why not ask oneself, "who is the one who's worried about walking barefoot or not?" Isn't that what Bhagavan Ramana would ask. I bet he'd also ask us to ponder, "who wants to do shravana and manana?" :-)

Jacques Franck said...

Sundar agreed with you.... me too I go every year to Arunachala et I have a very difficulty to do the pradakshina on bare foot, because all the time I wear shoes... so my stay in arunachala in for a few week... if my stay were longer may be my foot would be experienced to do that on bare foot...

But when I go in the cave just on the path of about 1.4 km there I walk bare foot... but all the 14 km no thanks...

:)

Michael James said...

Carlos, I agree with you that in the realm of duality there are no absolutes, so what might be wrong in one set of circumstances may be right in another set. However, as a general rule, I feel that in duality we should abide by the rules or customs of duality, unless there is some overriding reason for not doing so.

As far as any spiritual or devotional practice is concerned, what we always need to remember is that the ultimate purpose of all such practices is only the effacement of our own ego, so whatever helps towards that is good and whatever hinders it is bad. We know from Bhagavan that ultimately the only completely effective means to efface our ego is simple self-attentiveness, so if we were able to be entirely self-attentive there would be no issues and hence no dilemmas, but when our desires and attachments impel us to rise as this ego, we experience duality and hence we are faced by so many problems and dilemmas.

In such circumstances we must still keep our ego in check as much as possible, and devotional activities (whether outward ones like pradakṣiṇa, pūjā or singing bhajans, or more inward ones like mānasika japa or mūrti-dhyāna) can be an effective way of doing so at least to a certain extent. However, when we do such activities, what keeps our ego in check is not the activity itself but the love with which we do it, so if we do such activities for any reason other than pure love, they can cause our ego to swell with pride.

In the case of Kannappa Nayanar (referred to by Sundar in one of his recent comments and by Sivanarul in a much earlier comment), the way he worshipped the Siva-linga was technically sacrilegious, but he did so with such completely self-effacing love that it was actually an act of perfect devotion. Therefore there are obviously no hard and fast rules that apply in all cases.

If anyone were to judge Kannappa’s actions as wrong, that would show that they have no idea what real devotion is, so I do not think that any of us should seek to judge what anyone else does as an act of devotion. It may seem wrong to us (as Kannappa’s actions seemed to be in the view of the Brahmin priest, until he saw him plucking out his own eyes to stop the bleeding of the Siva-linga’s eyes), but we may be mistaken (like the Brahmin priest) because we do not know how deep is the devotion with which it is done.

Therefore please do not feel that I am judging your actions when I say that I believe that as a general rule we should do giri-pradakṣiṇa barefoot, and that if we are not able to do so there are alternative ways in which we can express our devotion to Arunachala. For example, if we cannot walk barefoot around Arunachala, we can probably at least walk barefoot around Bhagavan’s shrine, so if we believe that Arunachala and Bhagavan are two embodiments of the same reality, walking around his shrine is no different to walking around Arunachala.

Though we all admire the devotion of Kannappa, sadly few of us have devotion that could be compared in any way with his, so I believe that as a general rule the most humble option for us is to abide by cultural customs when expressing our devotion through any dualistic activity (particularly any outwardly visible one like pradakṣiṇa, because by doing so we are respecting the devotion with which other people do such actions believing that they should be done in a certain way).

Sundar said...

on a lighter note, here atleast we are discussing the pros and cons of going barefoot but these days, i've heard from more than a few people about doing pradakshina in an auto or scooter :-) I'd assume the tires to be the equivalent of slippers. I even remember vaguely reading that Bhagavan himself once made fun of someone when that person said that he had done pradakshina in a bullock cart if the "punya" for that pradakshina goes to him or to the cow that pulled the cart.

Mouna said...

Thank you Michael and all for this exchange of thoughts and insights on the importance of Giri-pradaksina and the means to realize it.
It really ties the subject with the forecoming one on bhatki.
Real Sat sangha this virtual blog...

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Sundar said...

Another interesting comparison with Giri pradakshina is the pradakshina around Mount Kailash. In the boob "Wanderings in the Himalayas" by Swami Tapovan (Guru of Swami Chinmayananda), he talks about the devotion of people that go to Mount Kailash. Mount Kailash is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists and for Hindus, its the abode of Shiva. Its circumference is 50 miles (compared to 14 kms for Arunachala). Mt Kailash is approx 16000 ft above sea level. Arunachala, if memory serves right, is 2600 ft tall and Skandashram is at 600 ft above sea level.

Pilgrims go around Mount Kailash in freezing temperature. It is said that the way Tibetans do the pradakshina is to walk a few steps, prostrate fully, then walk a few steps again. Imagine doing that for 50 miles. Swami Tapovan lived the last 30 years of his life above Uttarkashi which is about 10000 feet above sea level. He says people only wore a small sweater and many walked barefoot usually in that cold.


Here are some of his observations. This was around the 1930's
/**
The winter in Hrishikesh is a delightful time,‭ ‬pleasant and peaceful.‭ ‬Many sadhus from different corners of India congregate here during the season.‭ ‬Sadhus are as independent as kings,‭ ‬but with a difference.‭ ‬If it is wealth that enables a king to do what‭ ‬he likes,‭ ‬it is wealthlessness that enables a sadhu to lead the sort of life he lives.‭ ‬A sadhu's lack of possessions,‭ ‬and contentment with what chance gives him,‭ ‬stand him in good stead wherever he goes.‭ ‬Among the Himalayas,‭ ‬even in these days of remorseless materialism,‭ ‬one may come across sadhus who touch no coin with their hands,‭ ‬who know not when or where they might get their next morsel of food and whose only occupation is communion with God.‭ ‬Startling is the contrast between the Indians and European‭ ‬travelers who proceed to Tibet:‭ ‬the latter with equipment worth tens of thousands of rupees,‭ ‬and the former trekking bare-footed joyfully across the highest mountains of the world,‭ ‬without a pie,‭ ‬without a piece of bread,‭ ‬or an extra piece of clothing and no wonder,‭ ‬compared with the might of the soul force,‭ ‬the might of gold and silver is nothing.‭ ‬What a king is unable to achieve with all his wealth a sadhu achieves easily with his soul force.‭ ‬That soul force brings with it perfect indifference to worldly‭ ‬attachments,‭ ‬perfect happiness and a perfect sense of resignation which are invaluable‭ ‬possessions of an ascetic.


But in spite of the startling changes brought about by the passage of time,‭ ‬Hrishikesh still remains the resort of saintly men.‭ ‬Its inhabitants are skilled not only in the control over external and internal senses,‭ ‬but also in the study of vedanta.‭ ‬It is really surprising how even illiterate women here are able to discuss the vedanta philosophy using purely technical terms.‭ ‬It bespeaks their association with great souls,‭ ‬their fondness for the stories of god and godly men and above all,‭ ‬their superior mental culture.‭ ‬In comparison with them,‭ ‬the people of the south seem to lag far behind.‭ ‬Even among scholars in the south,‭ ‬how many are there who can answer unhesitatingly questions such as,‭ ‬what is the nature of Jiva‭? ‬or of Moksha‭? ‬Ofcourse,‭ ‬this is not altogether their fault.‭ ‬Environment is not everywhere quite congenial to the development of vedantic culture.‭ ‬Whatever that be,‭ ‬the fact remains that in Hrishikesh not merely human beings,‭ ‬but even animals and plants seem to feel for themselves,‭ "‬Sivoham,‭ ‬Sivoham‭"‬.
***/

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, I liked Sunder's last comment in which he quotes Swami Tapovan, and talks about Mount Kailash pradaksina and life of sadhus in Himalayas (Hrishikesh region). I particularly liked when Swami Tapovan says:

1. Sadhus are as independent as kings,‭ ‬but with a difference.‭ ‬If it is wealth that enables a king to do what‭ ‬he likes,‭ ‬it is wealthlessness that enables a sadhu to lead the sort of life he lives.

2. What a king is unable to achieve with all his wealth a sadhu achieves easily with his soul force.‭ ‬That soul force brings with it perfect indifference to worldly‭ ‬attachments,‭ ‬perfect happiness and a perfect sense of resignation which are invaluable‭ ‬possessions of an ascetic.


Obviously we have a lot to learn from our rich and varied bhakti tradition. Michael has written in a recent comment addressed to Carlos:

[...] as a general rule, I feel that in duality we should abide by the rules or customs of duality, unless there is some overriding reason for not doing so.

This sounds to be a wise thing to do. He has also written in this comment:

[...]so if we believe that Arunachala and Bhagavan are two embodiments of the same reality, walking around his shrine is no different to walking around Arunachala.

This sounds quite appealing to a lazy person like me. We can just walk around Bhagavan's shrine to our heart's content, and it will give us the same benefit as Arunachala pradaksina. Very appealing!

Yes, as Michael says, we obviously are not Kannappa Nayanar, so we should respect or submit to the local customs and traditions in our outward modes of worship, especially if we are participating in a group worship. In this context I recall a recorded conversation with Bhagavan, which goes somewhat like this:

Devotee: Sri Ramakrishna had shown God to Vivekananda. Can you show me the same?
Bhagavan: Are you Vivekananda?


Bhagavan was clearly implying here that if and when we reach the maturity of love for God, which Vivekananda had, he can show us God or our true nature here and now. but obviously most of us lack such bhakti . Similarly if our inner state is like that of Kannappa Nayanar, we would not bother about the 'right' or 'wrong' of walking with our footwear on around Arunachala.

Just one question, which may be Michael may answer. What about socks? Are they considered footwear, or initially one can wear them on our pradaksina ? Not a very intelligent question, I know, but nevertheless a doubt.



Sundar said...

Sanjay,

I do agree with Michael in following the customs. For e.g. I would never wear a slipper inside a temple an in many temples one needs to take of one's shirt. But where I disagree is the seeming assumption that one needs to have the devotion of Kannapa Nayanar or our devotion is nothing. In other words there is absolutely no relation to one's internal devotion to what one seems, wears or eats outside. Just because i'm not Kannapa Nayanar doesn't mean that my devotion means nothing or its zero and because some saint has followed something doesn't mean I also necessarily have to do that to prove my devotion. One doesn't need to prove one's devotion to anyone.

Bhagavan has also said that self inquiry is only for ripe souls.

/***
In Upadesa Manjari, chapter two, question two, the following question and answer can be found:

Question: Can this path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?
Bhagavan: This is suitable only for ripe souls. The rest should follow different
methods according to the state of their minds.
***/

Do we all know that we meet Bhagavan's standards to follow self inquiry? and yet we are following it with the noble intention to get there. If one has to meet the standards of saints for doing something spiritual i doubt if many of us will be qualified for anything at all whereas our goal is to get there. If I already had the devotion of Kananapa Nayanar I will not be commenting on this blog :-)

We should not confuse one's following local customs and one's devotion and nor is there any necessity to compare. These two are not the same. There are lakhs who go for Girivalam on full moon day and many of them might be going barefoot and want material gains even at the cost of another, so is their going barefoot respectful for Arunachala. Another person may be wearing a shoe and might only be thinking of Arunachala. Who is better? Again, following customs is good but for me unless I feel guilt in wearing a footwear, i don't see why it should reflect on my devotion and at the same time I have made it clear that if one believes its bad, one should take it off.

I can also assure you that most traditional customs have long gone away with the wind. Customs also change with time and place as Michael pointed out.

Bob - P said...

Dear Sundar
You mentioned in you above comment:

{Bhagavan has also said that self inquiry is only for ripe souls.]

I have also heard Michael say many times that Bhagavan said that self inquiry is the direct path for all.?

If Bhagavcan did indeed say both it seems a contradiction?
It is a bit confusing especially for someone like me who is new to the teaching.
Please coud you share your thoughts about this Sundar.

In appreciation
Bob

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder And Bob-P, Sunder writes:

In Upadesa Manjari, chapter two, question two, the following question and answer can be found:
Question: Can this path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?
Bhagavan: This is suitable only for ripe souls. The rest should follow different
methods according to the state of their minds.


This may be true in some cases, but I do not think Bhagavan said this to all. That is, he did not say 'this path is suitable for ripe souls' as a general rule. He might have this to this questioner, seeing his level of receptivity and other reasons. His general and most frequent stand was that 'self-investigation is the direct path for all'. In one of my recent comments I have quoted Sri Sadhu Om. He also reiterates the same. Sri Sadhu Om had said:

By saying, 'This is the direct path for all', Sri Bhagavan points out that anyone, however weak his mind may be, can acquire through this path that true strength of mind which is required to abide in the source. Therefore taking to self-attention, which is the real introversion, is by itself far better than giving any other target to the mind.

Sundar said...

Bob-P, I have been trying to practice self inquiry for a few years now and irrespective of what Bhagavan or anyone said, I will continue to practice that. Also when Sanjay quotes Sadhu Om saying its the direct path for all you should remember Upadesa Manjari is not an instruction given to Bhagavan during his talks to someone. It was compiled by none other than Sadhu OM. It is said that Bhagavan himself looked at it and appreciated it. Here is the Foreword from the book
/**
In this book named Upadesa Manjari (bouquet of spiritual instructions) Sri Natanananda, a true devotee of his, who serves and praises him by laying at his lotus feet many garlands of songs, has brought out Bhagavan’s words heard by him at different times. They consist of questions and answers comprising four chapters entitled upadesa(instruction), abhyasa (practice), anubhava (experience) and arudha
(attainment). I humbly request devotees to accept this small book which offers wholesome food for the spirit.
****/

But the point I was trying to make by quoting that is the fact that if one were supposedly to do things only if one compared with the best, then none of us would meet that standards and the reason I said that is just to say that there is no necessity for one to follow or not follow a custom only if one has the devotion of Kannapa Nayanar.

In the absence of a physical guru, I believe that we should do what we believe is comfortable, so if at this point your gut instinct tells you to follow self inquiry, you should do it.

Also Sadhu Om, is not the only devotee of Bhagavan Ramana. There are other devotees with other viewpoints. I greatly respect Sadhu Om because if not for his book "The Path of Sri Ramana-Part one", I would not have understood self inquiry well enough to practice but at the same time, I will take what I find useful from him and from other devotees of Bhagavan or even other saints. I am not going to quote only sadhu Om for everything.

Sundar said...

Bob-P just to clarify any confusion in my comment above, in the foreword its says Sri Natanananda. If you are not aware just in case, that was Sadhu Om's name.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Sanjay & Sundar for your help with my comment it is much appreciated and has helped with my underdstanding.

[In the absence of a physical guru, I believe that we should do what we believe is comfortable, so if at this point your gut instinct tells you to follow self inquiry, you should do it.}

Yes I agree whole heartedly.
In appreciation as always.

Bob

Michael James said...

Sundar, Swami Natananandar and Sadhu Om were very close friends, but they were not the same person (except in the sense that all of us are one). Swami Natananandar was a much older devotee, having come to Bhagavan when he was living in Skandasramam, which was several years before Sadhu Om was even born.

I once asked Swami Natananandar about the passage of உபதேசமஞ்சரி (Upadēśa Mañjari) that you referred to (2nd chapter, question 2), and he told me that that should not discourage anyone from practising ātma-vicāra, because anyone who is attracted to this path must already have the required pakva (ripeness or maturity), and those whom Bhagavan referred to as ‘others’ (ēṉaiyōr) are those who do not aspire to know what they really are and are therefore not attracted to this path.

Incidentally, when Sadhu Om said that ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for all’, he was quoting Bhagavan’s own words in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār: ‘மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது’ (mārggam nēr ārkkum idu).

Michael James said...

Sundar, to clarify what I just wrote, the word ஏனையோர் (ēṉaiyōr), which I translated as ‘others’, was what was translated as ‘The rest’ in the translation of Upadēśa Mañjari that you quoted.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael ...
Your above comment/s were a big help for me too.
Yes that makes sense if we are drawn to Bhagavans teaching (self investigation) and it resonates deeply with us and makes sense / feels right it must mean we are ready for it. If we were not ready it would not resonate with us and other forms of practise would.

In appreciation
Bob

Banana-breeder said...

Sundar,
What gives you that idea not to distinguish between Sri Natananda(r) and Sri Sadhu Om ? Next time do you mixe up Mount Kailash and Arunachala ?
By the way the quoted foreword to the original Tamil Version of Upadesa Manjari is written by Viswanathan,2-2-1934.

Sundar said...

My genuine apologies. I really thought that Natanananda was Sadhu Om's pre monastic name.

Banana-breeder, You can assume that i mixed them up just as we supposedly mix our ego with our real self. Next time when I mix up Kailash and Arunachala you can point it to me.

Bob - P said...

Sundar
I get mixed up all the time !!! some of my posts reinforce this no end like that time I asked Michael that stupid question about Bhagavan's one jiva teaching !!!

What I am trying to say is I find your posts such a huge help to me I think you are allowed to make one slight mix up Sundar if you didn't you wouldn't be human !!!! (lol)

All the very best to you and thank you very much for all your posts and your replies on this wonderful blog
Massive appreciation.
Bob - P -

Sundar said...

Thanks Bob-P. Yes, we all make mistakes all the time and I have no problems in accepting it but having said that, the core message and the opinion I expressed in the post regardless of this mix up stays :-) But I will continue to make mistakes in the future which Banana Breeder can point out :-) Even though I also follow self inquiry and have great respect for Bhagavan, its not going to be the case where I'm going to agree with every opinion in this blog.

As far as mistakes go, I remember an incident related by Nochur with Bhagavan. It seems one of Bhagavan's attendants(Krishnaswamy was his name I think but I'm not sure of his name:-)) once supposedly had an affair with a woman in town and being afraid of people's anger he ran away for a while. Later he showed up at the ashram and Bhagavan Ramana asked him to just remain in the old hall doing some chores. When other people came to know that this attendant was back, they questioned Bhagavan as to how he could let this attendant stay in the ashram after he committed such a mistake and Bhagavan replied, "Krishnaswamy, unfortunately, you are not as clever as these other people in covering up your mistakes." clearly implying that others were not saints either.

Couple of similar anecdotes with Ramakrishna. Once Ramakrishna was talking to some ladies from a rich strata of the soceity when a prostitute walked by the ganges and waited to see him to get his blessings. He immediately got up and blessed her and when he came back these rich ladies asked him in a patronizing tone as to how he could go and talk to that prostitute and Ramakrishna simply said, "the same divine mother who's in you is in them too."

Another time there was lady who was cleaning up sewage at Dakshineshwar temple and taking them to another spot as there were no sewage systems with pipes then. When Ramakrishna saw her, he immediately prostrated in front of her saying, only divine mother herself could even do such work.

Bilva leaf said...

Yes Sundar,
regarding your recent comment to Banana-breeder,
certainly we kindly accept your genuine apologies.
Our voiced opinions are often based only on (wrong) supposition because we have only a superficial knowledge of something. Sometimes we read something only cursorily.
As you seem to pass on, much more serious than to mix up Sri Ramana's most staunch devotees is to mix up our ego with real self.
Surely carefulness is better for us than carelessness.

R Viswanathan said...

To the story of attendant of Bhagavan posted by Sundar, it would be beneficial if what Sri Nochur Venkataraman further said (attributed to Bhagavan) is also posted: Bhagavan chose to keep that person close to him after that incident, saying that all others (who rebuked the attendant) had the benefit of being able to sit in the hall and listening to him for long durations whereas the attendant did not. I infer that the incident was narrated by Sri Nochur to let us know how Bhagavan was uniformly compassionate to all - to the person who committed some mistake by letting him stay close to him and to the others as well (who opposed his re-induction) by not permitting their ego to get nourished.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding your question ‘What about socks?’, if I begin answering such questions I would create an impression that I am prescribing ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, which is the last thing I would want to do. Bhagavan has explained to us certain principles and left it to us to work out how to apply them in practice. If we are able to work out how to apply all the principles he has taught us about self-investigation, we should be able to work out all the principles he has taught us about bhakti.

What he has taught us about Arunachala is that it is Siva himself as much as this body is ourself, so as long as we experience and cherish this body as ourself, we should respect and cherish Arunachala as God. This is the reason why it is customary to walk barefoot around Arunachala, and barefoot means without any covering.

In many temples in south India men are not allowed to enter unless they are bare-chested, so whether you go there wearing a thick coat or a very thin shirt, if you want to enter you must remove all covering from your upper body. From this I hope you can work out your own answer to the question ‘What about socks?’

Consider also the story that Sundar referred to in one of his comments about what Bhagavan joked when someone told him they had gone round Arunachala in a cart. It is a well-known story, so told in various slightly different ways, but the version I was once told by Kunju Swami is that Bhagavan said, ‘Then the punya [merit or karmic credit] goes to the wheels, not to you’. So perhaps if your socks are in need of punya, you should let them walk around Arunachala.

Sivanarul said...

As Michael said, each one of us has to decide what is appropriate at any given situation. In this particular case, I guess it comes down to whether one believes one is disrespecting the Lord’s abode by wearing footwear. I thought it did and that is one of the reasons why I have not gone on pradikshna, as I am also not ready to go on barefoot. But as Jacques wrote, if you are not used to walking on barefoot and are only for a week in Thiru, your feet does not have time to adjust and trying to go on barefoot will be like a person who has never exercised trying to go on a marathon. He will probably drop dead within a few miles.

I am reminded of a story concerning symbolism. When Swami Vivekananda was visiting a Maharaja, the Maharaja began discussing spirituality with him and asked him how come a Vendantist like him can support idol worship. Swami asked the attendant to bring the Maharaja’s picture to him that was nearby. Once the attendant brought the picture, Swami asked the attendant to spit on the picture. The attendant said he can’t spit on the Raja. Swami said, Raja is sitting nearby and he is asking him only to spit on a picture. The attendant could not do it. The Maharaja understood the instruction Swami was providing him.

Sundar said...

Sanjay, A guru is said to stop your thought process. If you look at your worry about whether to go barefoot or not, this seems to have only increased your thought process and instead of thinking about Arunachala, you are thinking about shoes, slippers and socks :-) Nochur in one of his discourses was saying that after one of his discourse, a brahmin came to him and told him that because he was so busy with his work, he was unable to follow any of the daily rituals like morning and evening sun worship(sandhyavandhanam, etc) etc and what the solution was. Nochur laughingly told him that the very purpose of these rituals was to prevent a brahmin to go into worldly work and go after money. These rituals were enforced strictly so a brahmin had to do them but did not get any benefit out of it. It was strictly a training in karma yoga. You just do it and don't think about it and just so you don't stop doing it, they said you will incur such and such a sin if you stop doing it.

But ofcourse now people will say that times have changed and its not practical. These rituals are instituted to not make you think and to inculcate a sense of discipline. Yu just follow it and do it. But if it starts making you think so much and develop guilt and fear, their purpose is not served. Either you follow it and not think about it or don't follow it and not think about it.

I know Sivanarul quoted an e.g. of Vivekananda and a Raja. But here is the other side. The same Vivekananda when he went to kerala and saw so many customs and rituals and caste discriminations, said that he felt that he had entered a lunatic asylum.

Below is a excerpt from a letter from Swami Turiyananda(Ramakrishna's direct disciple) to one of his devotees who was always worried about eating sattvic food. See Swami VIvekananda's quote within it

/**
Discrimination about the right or wrong food is for beginners in spiritual life. Those whose minds are absorbed by God are not affected by anything. The main thing is to fix your mind on him. Perhaps you have read in the works of Swamiji[Vivekananda] where he said: "Is God a nervous fool like you that the flow of his river of mercy would be dammed up by eating a piece of meat? If such be he, his value is not a penny!" In other words, food is not the main issue in spiritual life: it is the purification of thoughts that is important. If a person thinks of God, although he eats pork, his food becomes equal to the purest food, such as boiled vegetables, rice and clarified butter. ON the contrary, if a person eats the purest food but harbours jealousy, hatred, lust and greed in his mind, what good is that food? "I am a vegetarian" - this kind of religious conceit will drag him downward.

It has been seen that what is sattvic food to one person may be the opposite to another person. Milk is such an excellent food; it nourishes the body with health and beauty. Again, when this same milk becomes a snake's food that increases its poison. About food, the Master's[Sri Ramakrishna] advice is excellent: "That food is the best which helps a person to fix the mind steadily on God." This is the way one can judge whether food is sattvic or not; because the sattvic nature turns the mind towards God.

This however does not mean that there is no need for discrimination about food. What I mean is, don't put your whole mind on this food business. Try to focus your whole mind on God, and everything will come afterwards. Do not "tie the knot of your cloth and leave the gold." It is for the sake of gold that one ties the knot. What good is that knot if there is no gold inside the cloth? Similarly, all rules, regulations, and spiritual practices are meant for God realization. All these mechanical rules and routines are meaningless if one's mind is not focussed on God.
****/

will continue in my next.

Sundar said...

At the end of the day, Swami Vivekananda said that Vedanta and Upanishads should inculcate fearlessness and he said that anything that breeds fear in you, discard it and anything that removes fear, embrace it.

The other way to look at it is, if there were a wall around Arunachala, you can be pretty sure that you will not be allowed to wear a slipper like in a temple, but here is a question. If there was a wall around it, that was 3 feet away, within that perimeter, you would not be allowed to wear slippers whereas if the same wall were around it 10 feet away, you would not be allowed to wear within that. So where is the limit. Instead the focus should be on Arunachala.

Go barefooted if you prefer that and half way through if you feel uncomfortable, take an auto and go around :-) I'm sure you will get atleast half the merits :-)

This is the problem I have seen with rituals and customs in my own family. It only breeds fear rather than devotion and as Vivekananda famously said, "We are worried about what will happen if a brinjal touches a potato when half the nation is starving!"

I will tell you one more interesting incident about my own experience with Girivalam. I am also a very lazy fellow like you :-) and in my first 7 visits to Tiruvannamalai during the last 3 years, I never went for Girivalam and many people kept asking me why. I said I just don't think its important and said that to me being in Ramanasramam is the most important thing. Then in the 8th visit, I thought to myself that if Arunachala wants me to go around, for a lazy person like me, it will happen only if someone persuades me to go and also walk along with me. That very morning as I came outside the old hall, an Indian living in canada approched me, struck up a conversation(In all my prior vistis I never spoke to anyone at all preferring the silence) and asked me in the course of conversation if I would accompany me for Girivalam with him and his wife. I just told him i will let him know later and di not intend to go. But later the next morning, as a matter of amazing coincidence both of us were supposed to meet David Godman outside the ramanasramam office room just to ask some questions and out of the blue I asked him what Bhagavan's view was about Girivalam and he said Bhagavan adviced self inquiry only when he was asked and the only advice Bhagavan himself gave to many voluntarily was Girivalam. That was it. I went with that couple for my first Girivalam. But since then I have vistied Tiruvannamalai about 10 times and went for Girivalam only 3 more times. For me just sitting in the old hall and looking at Arunachala from there was enough from then on but if I feel like going for it anytime I will.

Bottomline, my own opinion is that what you do or don't do should not bother you and leave you at peace.

The other paradox is that for all the talk of Advaita and self inquiry, Bhagavan at the end of it adviced dualistic worship the most. Many Ramana devotees when asked about this will give you all sorts or mystic, vague and cryptic answers and dress it up, but to me its pure and simple. Going around Arunachala and thinking of it as Shiva, how different is that from going around a temple with an idol of Rama, Shiva etc? Its exactly the same and yet we elevate Giripradakshina as superior but other forms of Bhakti as somehow a lower stage. Infact in one of his conversations with Kunjuswami in "the power of presence" Bhagavn says that one needs to do noting more than Giri pradakshina, not even self inquiry, when Kunjuswami puts down a devotee who only does that.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, I thank you for your comments addressed to me. In your first of these comments you quote Swami Turiyananda:

[...]it is the purification of thoughts that is important. If a person thinks of God, although he eats pork, his food becomes equal to the purest food,[..]

About food, the Master's[Sri Ramakrishna] advice is excellent: "That food is the best which helps a person to fix the mind steadily on God." This is the way one can judge whether food is sattvic or not; because the sattvic nature turns the mind towards God.


Swami Turiyananda seems to be contradicting his master Sri Ramakrishna here. How can a swami say, 'If a person thinks of God, although he eats pork, his food becomes equal to the purest food,[..]'? Sri Ramaksishana clearly says that it is only the food which helps a person to fix the mind steadily on God is best. In other words Sri Ramakrishna advises us to consume only satvic, vegetarian food, but how can pork be satvic?

Michael has spoken in his videos and other places about these issue. All non-vegetarian food, including eggs, and all stimulants like alcohol, tobacco etc can't be considered satvic. In other words these food will make our mind tamsic (dull)and rajasic (excited). How can such food help us to fix our mind steadily on God?

Therefore, I have to most humbly state that I do not agree with the advice given by Swami Turiyananda.

Sundar said...

Sanjay, I was afraid, i'm going to stir a hornet's nest by this :-) but the main reason I gave this e.g. was that devotion should be the main goal and not other elements. But with regards to your question about sattvic food, let me ask you a few things.

a) There are people living in parts of the world where no land is arable, like snowy areas, deserts etc and the many native eskimos kill and eat whales and native americans in the US ate bisons. Does our definition of sattvic food apply to them as well because their only option is to starve then.
b) There are Jains in India who only eat when a fruit falls out of a tree and do not pluck them, But tell me when we eat aren't there bacteria in our own body. Jagdish Chandra Bose, one of India's famous scientists showed that even plants have feeling through his instruments. Are we not killing plants?
c) Swami Tapovan lived for the first 30 years in kerala when he was a vegetarian and did not drink tea as tea is not considered to be satvic being a stimulant. Then for the next 30 years of his life he lived in the Himalayas, where he said he started drinking tea because in the North because of the cold, he found tea to be sattvic or light.

I was born in a brahmin family where meat is a big no, but due to my rebellious nature, I chose to eat meat when I was in my college and from then on ate meat though sparesely. Strangely after my first visit to Ramana ashram, I gave up eating meat even without trying. I just lost the taste for it. I have seen Arthur Osborne say the same and I have read this about Nisargadatta as well.

I'm not going to say anything more about this as this is a controversial topic and I only showed it to highlight my point. Also, both Swami Turiyananda and Ramakrishna were themselves born in an orthodox brahmin families that did not eat meat. In Dakshineshwar temple where they sacrificed goats and gave it as prasad, Ramakrishna is said to have just touched the prasad and placed it on his tongue.

I will leave it at that. Actually the more I write here, the more I realize the wisdom of Bhagavan's advice to keep quiet which is what he'd have adviced me had he been in his physical body. I won't comment anymore :-)

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I thank you for your reply to my question, 'What about socks'? Yes, I am convinced, we should walk around Arunachala or any other shrine bare-footed. I walk around Bhagavan's shrine wearing my socks, but I think now I will discontinue this practice. Thanks.

You had written in a comment addressed to Carlos:

As far as any spiritual or devotional practice is concerned, what we always need to remember is that the ultimate purpose of all such practices is only the effacement of our own ego, so whatever helps towards that is good and whatever hinders it is bad.

Yes, this is a very important advice and we should try and keep a watch on our ego whenever we engage in any group spiritual or devotional practice. For example, both you and Sri Sadhu Om are against giving lectures on Bhagavan's teachings, and you prefer a question and answer format over talks. It seems that the ego of the speakers (at least in some cases) gets a boost after they give such lectures.

Likewise, in many Indian homes we often organise group devotional activities, like bhajans, homas, talks by eminent speakers etc. If these are done purely for love of God, these can be a purifying practice for its organiser, but in many cases these group activities can also give a boost to the egos of the organisers of such events.

Thus you very rightly say, 'As far as any spiritual or devotional practice is concerned, what we always need to remember is that the ultimate purpose of all such practices is only the effacement of our own ego, so whatever helps towards that is good and whatever hinders it is bad'. Needs to remembered!

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, yes, I agree. This topic is like stirring hornets' nest. But since we have already stirred it, I will give my views on this, which is largely based on whatever I have learnt from Michael. Michael writes in his article titled: The importance of compassion and ahimsa, as follows:

As a general rule, if any action is likely to cause harm to any sentient being, we should refrain from doing it, even though it may also result in some good. Moreover, whatever action we may decide either to do or to refrain from doing in any particular situation, we always should remember that the ultimate good, which is the infinite happiness of true self-knowledge, can never be achieved by any amount of action or ‘doing’, but only by just ‘being’[...]

Ahimsa is the strict code of discipline governing most of the religions of Indian origin - like Hinduism. Jainism, Buddhism and others. Doe not eating non-vegetarian food transgress this most fundamental principle of these religions? How can we kill sentient creatures and still can ourself spiritual?

As far as possible we should eat sattvic, vegetarian food. Surely we do not live in a desert or a snowy region. Let people living in those regions decide what food is good for them. Surely plants, fruits and vegetables are different to sentient animals. Animals are just like us, that is, just like us they feel pain and pleasure and just like us they have their families. Just like us they would like to continue existing in their bodies, and not to be killed for somebody's food. Surely free-fall fruits are the most sattvic food, but we have to consider vegetables, grains, pulses, seeds etc also sattvic in our context.

Why did you stop eating non-vegetarian food after your first visit to Sri Ramanasramam? You have to think deeply on this. Surely when we really turn to God, we will find eating non-vegetarian food is just non right. Our viveka will not allow it. I have heard that many saints and sages also gave up eating non-vegetarian food as they progressed in their sadhana. They gave up such food because they just could not tolerate suffering to any sentient creature any further.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sunder, I just remembered that Bhagavan has spoken about the ahara niyama in the ninth paragraph of Nan Yar:

Just like pranayama, murti dhyana [meditation upon a form of God], mantra japa [repetition of sacred words, such as a name of God] and ahara niyama [restriction of diet, particularly the need of consuming only vegetarian food] are [just] aids that restrict the mind [but will not bring about its annihilation] [...] By mita sattvika ahara-niyama [restriction of consuming only moderate quantity of pure or sattvika food], which is the best among all restrictions, the sattva-guna [the calmness, clarity or 'being-ness'] of the mind will increase and [thereby] help will arise for self-investigation.

Bhagavan calls eating sattvika (vegetarian food) as 'best among all restrictions'.

Sundar said...

Sanjay, You just sidestep my main point of devotion and keep hammering on all the other points.

I am guessing that you may have read "Living by the words of Bhagavan", Annamalai Swami's autobiography. IN it there is an anecdote where Bhagavan asks Annamalai Swamy to kill ants in the hall because people will soon be entering the hall and when Swamy hesitates about killing, he says something like, "Do it thinking that you are not the doer and I'm telling you to do" (You can verify the exact words but in essence he asks him to kill the ants. David Godman also told me that Bhagavan authorized the killing of mosquitoes using sprays as they caused malaria etc. Are they not sentient?

When you talk about sentient beings, read the below research by Bose.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagadish_Chandra_Bose#Plant_research

Even according to Vedanta even a stone is sentient.

I know what your reply will be. You will say that mosquitoes and ants are ok as we don't eat them and thats exactly my point. IN the world of duality, everything is relative. To say that this is the only way makes no sense.

Again, i am against killing anything but my point is that in duality I would never judge anyone who eats meat and says that, it is wrong. You pointed that I left eating meat. That is only in my case. I have friends who strive for the same goal and eat meat. So again all this is relative. I am neither advocating eating meat nor am i judging people who eat meat. Same with doing pradakshina with or without footwear.

/**
As a general rule, if any action is likely to cause harm to any sentient being, we should refrain from doing it, even though it may also result in some good.
**/

You mentioned the above quote. Are you aware that our cell phone towers are responsible for killing bees which are essential in pollination and also many birds are killed by the tower's radiation. Will you stop using your cellphone and such devices? If we go down this path I can give you so many arguments that we will keep going in circles forever.

Bhagavan Ramana was not the only realized saint and nor is his teaching the only one. I am aware that here in this blog we are discussing his teachings. There are many saints and all have taught different and equally valid ways.

One conclusion I have reached is that there is no shravanam, mananam going on here, and i'm speaking about myself and blaming myself so this is not directed at others. It is only leading to more agitation of thoughts and amking me argumentative instead of follwing Bhagavan's two main dictums, "Summa irru" and "vandha velaiya paaru", so with this last post, i'm out. Everyone should follow whatever they feel is best for them.

Sivanarul said...

Here is a miracle on 34’ Th Street. I finally am going to be in full agreement with one of Sanjay’s comments. I generally subscribe to the notion that when it comes to Spiritual practices, each one of us has to follow the advice of our inner guru and work with the ego on our own terms and our own pace. So there is no one size fits all. The one rare exception I believe is the rule of Ahimsa. It is the one rule, I firmly believe that all spiritual aspirants should aspire to. Meat eating is a serious violation of Ahimsa. Anyone can start a marathon, but unless one is fit, one cannot proceed more than a few miles. Similarly, anyone can become a spiritual aspirant, but without Ahimsa, one will not be able to proceed further.

Since I personally have never eaten meat, because of my upbringing, I do not know how difficult it will be to stop eating it. I imagine it will be in the neighborhood of getting over an alcohol or smoking addiction and as such it would be a major undertaking, if one decides to do it. Two more added reasons, if one wants to do it, is for better health and for the environment. The single thing that can combat climate change by itself is reduction in meat consumption, as it is now well established that more than 1/3 of fossil fuels are burnt for meat production. So the environment and future generations will be very thankful.

Since we are on this topic and since I know many of you are vegan, what do you eat to get calcium and B-12? Also without yoghurt, how do you take care of GI health? I know about soy based products, but they are not that appealing. I have considered going Vegan many times and have backtracked every time because of concerns for calcium, B-12 and GI health. Any feedback is highly appreciated.

Sundar, please don’t go into silence on comments. Your quotes from various saints are very nice to read and you seem to have in hand lots of relevant quotes to topics under discussion. Anyway, once you awaken, it is said that you may not have any inclination to talk. So you might as well do it now (under the assumption you are still dreaming).

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thanks Sivanarul for coming on board on my side, at least on this issue. Yes, ahimsa has to be the basis of our spiritual life. We have Bhagavan's life in this regard as an example. He calmly bore the beating of the thieves who had come to steal from his asram, and when other devotees wanted to thrash the thieves, he forbade them. There are many examples like this in his life.

Yes, you can easily turn vegan. I am one since over six months now, and I believe Michael is a vegan since at least over a decade, if not more. Avoiding meat and modern dairy products is not only good for our spiritual health, but also for our mental and bodily health. I can testify this, and so will Michael. Michael's mental clarity can be easily seen from the quality of articles he produces.

Modern dairy and milk is produced with as much himsa as meat and eggs. Moreover dairy products are as harmful as meat. We humans are not meant to consume another animal's milk, as the growth hormones in cows milk (both its natural and artificial) are much beyond our body's needs, and therefore are harmful. Moreover dairy products contain a lot of antibiotics, pus and other harmful substances in it. It is full of extra, unneeded fat.

There is a wealth of information on the internet/YouTube on vegan diet. It is hard not be convinced by their arguments in favour of the need of a vegan diet. Calcium, protein etc are absolutely not a problem in a healthy vegan diet - which are more of fruits, vegetables (raw or lightly cooked) supplemented by grains, pulses, seeds, nuts. This sort of a diet can never lack any nutrient. Moreover a vegan diet has a lot of fibre, which helps us to control our weight and also helps digestion. I had sever digestion problem and was on three medicines for my IBS problem. I am totally medicine free after converting to a vegan diet.

Only thing vegetarians and vegans have to watch out is their B12 and D3 levels. Simple blood tests for these two will determine whether you need a supplement for these. I am on both these supplements. Regarding GI health I do not know what exactly is this? May be Michael can guide you on this.

You can also see the website of one doctor, called Dr Nandita Shah (based in Auroville, Puducherry). She is a strong proponent of a vegan diet, and treats her patients through only change in their diet. Her website is: www.sharan-india.org, and her email id is: nandita@sharan-india.org. This website can answer all your queries about a vegan diet. You can also write to Michael, he is a expert in diet and nutrition.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thanks Sivanarul, Yes, a vegan diet is the most healthy and himsa free in today's world. I am a vegan since over six months and I believe Michael is one since over a decade. Moreover Michael had a wealth of information and knowledge on diet and nutrition. You can correspond with him.

Calcium, protein etc are no problem is a healthy vegan diet. By healthy I mean more of fruits, vegetables (raw and lightly cooked), supplemented by grains, pulses, seeds and nuts (small quantity). Vegetarians and vegans have to watch out for their B12 and D3 levels. D3 level could be a common problem for all - vegetarians and non-vegetarians. I do not know about GI health, may be Michael can help you in this.

You can also see one Dr Nandita Shah's website called: www.sharan-india.org. It has a wealth of information about all matters concerning a vegan diet.

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay,
Many thanks for the info provided. I will look at the website you referred. I wouldn’t put meat and dairy products in the same category. Meat eating is about killing a sentient being. Dairy is getting something out of a sentient being. There “may be” some himsa involved in dairy processing, but the dairy industry has responded well by removing bGH and other growth hormones and by treating cows very humanely. Dairy products have been considered Sattvic for a very long time in the spiritual literature.

Dairy can be consumed non-fat, so the concern of excess fat is easily taken care of. A vegetarian diet can be full of fiber (beans, oats, nuts etc), so one does not have to be a vegan to get fiber. GI, I was referring to is Gastro Intestinal health. Yoghurt provides so much good bacteria that keeps GI tract healthy, I do not see how a Vegan diet would help in that.

I am aware that there is lot of resources on the web for Vegan and I have read some of those. But so far, I am not yet convinced to switch from my lifelong Lacto Vegetarian diet (without eggs) to Vegan which for me essentially means giving up dairy products.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, I agree with what you write about the importance of ahiṁsā, but unfortunately the way that milk is produced nowadays means that the principle of ahiṁsā leaves us no choice but to be vegan, both because of the way dairy cows are treated like milk-producing machines, whose superfluous offspring are slaughtered for meat, and which are themselves slaughtered as soon as they cease producing milk at an optimally profitable rate, and also because the environmental impact you refer to (which is arguably the greatest hiṁsā of all) is caused not just by the meat industry but by the livestock industry in general, which includes its two closely intertwined branches of meat and dairy production.

The meat and dairy industries have both been very successful at promoting myths that serve their cause. One of their favourite myths is the ‘protein myth’, according to which animal protein is superior to plant protein, so to get adequate protein we need to eat animal products (meat or milk). This is totally false for two reasons: firstly because most plant foods (including most fruit) have adequate quantities of protein, so it is almost impossible to consume sufficient calories without also consuming sufficient protein (unless we manage to get all our calories from ‘refined’ sources such as white sugar or alcohol), and secondly because there is no such thing as ‘superior protein’ in the sense they mean, since our bodies cannot use protein without first breaking it down into its constituent amino acids, from which we build our own proteins, and by eating a variety of plant foods we get all the amino acids we need. Animal proteins are actually more complex and hence more difficult to break down and assimilate, so for our needs the simpler and more easily digestible plant proteins are superior. This is why protein malnutrition hardly ever occurs except among alcoholics or people who are starving for want of sufficient calories, or very rarely among people suffering from metabolic diseases that prevent normal digestion and assimilation.

One of the favourite myths of the dairy industry is the ‘calcium myth’, according to which we need to consume milk in order to get sufficient calcium. This is a total fabrication, because epidemiological research shows that osteoporosis is most prevalent in societies that consume most animal protein, particularly in those that consume most dairy products. The reason for this is that though milk does contain calcium, the net effect of consuming milk is a loss of calcium, because when a human body (particularly one that has passed the age of natural weaning) digests the complex proteins in cow’s milk, it has an acidifying effect on our blood, so to neutralise that acidity our bodies need to leach calcium from our bones and teeth.

Plant foods are not deficient in either protein or calcium, and for human bodies they are the most suitable sources of these and other nutrients. Where do cows get all their protein and calcium from? Only from eating green grass. Likewise, for humans green leafy vegetables are the richest and most suitable source of both protein and calcium.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sivanarul:

Regarding GI (gastrointestinal) health, most GI problems are caused by eating animal-derived foods, so vegans who eat balanced whole-food plant-based diets generally have the healthiest gastrointestinal systems and seldom suffer from the common GI problems that meat or dairy eaters suffer from. Curd, yogurt and buttermilk do provide beneficial gastrointestinal flora (bacteria), but if we eat a healthy plant-based diet our naturally occurring gastrointestinal flora will thrive, so there would be no need for us to supplement it by consuming curd, yogurt or buttermilk.

Regarding vitamin B12, animal bodies do not produce it, so we normally need to get it from food. It is naturally produced by bacteria and micro-fungi that live on the surface of plants, so in the past dietary deficiency of it was not an issue. What has primarily caused a deficiency of B12 in our diets nowadays is the widespread use of pesticides and fungicides in modern agriculture, and we cannot necessarily bypass this problem by consuming organic produce, because even such produce is affected by the prevalence of pesticides and fungicides in the environment. B12 deficiency is a problem nowadays not only for vegans but for many other people also, but vegans tend to be affected by it the most. Not all vegans are deficient in B12, but for those who are it is fortunately easy nowadays to buy vegan B12 tablets, which are a simple way of avoiding any deficiency.

Incidentally, after posting the first of these two comments I read your latest one, in which you wrote ‘the dairy industry has responded well by removing bGH and other growth hormones and by treating cows very humanely’. I am afraid this is another myth, because there is actually very little humanity in the modern dairy industry, and a huge amount of cruelty all the way from birth till slaughter. For example, how many dairy cows nowadays are allowed to live their natural lifespan? At best only a tiny percentage. Like almost every other industry, greed for profit trumps compassion every time, and greed for profit demands the profitable disposal of any waste or surplus, which in the dairy industry means slaughter for meat, both of surplus calves (particularly male ones) and of dairy cows as soon as their productively begins to decrease.

Carlos Grasso said...

Dear All,
To add to Michael's savvy information about veganism and vegetarianism, two more pieces of information mostly for our western friends that define ourselves to be vegetarians.
In almost all hard cheeses (I don't know about industrial paneer) there is rennet (aka called enzymes). A cheese coagulant that is produced with the inner lining of the calf. SO most cheeses throughout the world ARE NOT vegetarian. For real vegetarian cheese it has to say, on the label, "vegetable enzymes or vegetable rennet", since even the "microbial enzymes could come from animals)
And surprise surprise, most of the wine (yes, you heard it well, the wine) produced is also not vegetarian since many animal products get in the process of filtrage... (check it on Google if you doubt)

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Carlos Grasso said...

What I meant in my previous post is "the inner lining of the calf's stomach".
Carlos

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thanks much for your detailed reply. As someone who believes deeply in ahimsa, your reply about the practices in dairy industry is troubling. The one faith I always had was, even if my spiritual practices does not mature, the practice of ahimsa alone will vouchsafe progress in the lives to come. When that is called to question, I guess it is time to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate Vegan diet and come up with a plan to at least partially adopt it. I have had a few attempts before and retraced back based on concerns I expressed earlier. You convinced me to at least give up on Pizza and cheese (which i was planning to give up for a long time but couldn't do it). You pushed me over the pizza edge :-) Thanks much again.

Bob - P said...

I am a vegan and I appreciate you can get ahimsa milk and eggs "BUT" I personally don't take the risk ... I enjoy my diet knowing it is causing minmial suffering to my animal friends.

I agree with what Michael said above whole heartedly.
In appreciation
Bob.

P.S - I supplement b12 sublingual vegan approved and also multi vit /min again vegan approved as a back up.

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