Monday, 11 May 2015

‘Observation without the observer’ and ‘choiceless awareness’: Why the teachings of J. Krishnamurti are diametrically opposed to those of Sri Ramana

In a comment on one of my recent articles, What is meant by the term sākṣi or ‘witness’?, a friend called Sankarraman wrote:
I wouldn’t say that JK advocated witnessing of thoughts, since he has said that the witness being the ego is tied to thoughts. So that position extenuates him from that charge. But he speaks of the observation without the observer, which is similar to Patanjali’s extinction of thoughts as paving the way for liberation, which is called transcendental aloneness. There are a lot of parallels one can find in the two teachings except that they don’t constitute the flight of the Ajada.
In reply to this I wrote the following comment:
Sankarraman, the crucial question about the teachings of J. Krishnamurti is not which verb he chose to use, whether either ‘witness’ or ‘observe’ (because in the context of spiritual practice they mean essentially the same), but what he actually advised us to witness or observe. If he advised us to observe thoughts or anything else other than ourself — that is, anything that is not permanent and unchanging — that is diametrically opposite to what Bhagavan advised us to observe, namely ourself alone. Bhagavan taught us that we should try to observe ourself alone because according to him observing anything other than ourself nourishes and sustains the illusion that we are this ego or mind, whereas observing ourself alone will dissolve and destroy this illusion.

If as you say JK speaks of ‘observation without the observer’, that is a patently absurd proposition, because no observation can occur in the absence of any observer. If we observe anything, we become the observer of that thing, because we obviously cannot observe anything without being the observer. This is a simple fact that even a child can understand.

Therefore I fail to understand how anyone could seriously believe that there could ever be any observation without an observer. If anyone claims that they do believe this, they would be wilfully fooling themselves, like the crowd of people who claimed that they could see the fine robes that the emperor was wearing, when in fact everyone could see that he was actually naked.

I have never heard anyone suggest that Patanjali believed that there could be any observation without an observer, and I doubt whether he could have actually believed it. I have heard that some Buddhists claim that Buddha taught that there is only seeing but no seer, only experiencing but no experiencer, but they are doing a disservice to his reputation by making such an absurd claim, because the idea that there could be any seeing without anything that is seeing is so obviously self-contradictory.

You refer to a state called ‘transcendental aloneness’, but if there is such a state, in it there must be something that exists alone (because nothing could not exist alone, since it does not exist at all), and in order to know that it exists alone that something must be self-aware. Since it exists alone, there would be nothing else for it either to transcend or to observe, so we could argue that in one sense there is no observer in such a state — because there is nothing for it to observe — and hence there is no observation either. However, it could also be argued that, if the meaning of ‘observation’ is taken to include self-observation, what exists in that state is always observing itself, so in that sense it is a self-observer, and hence there is both self-observation and a self-observer in that state.

Either way, whether we take ‘observation’ to include self-observation or restrict its meaning only to the observation of other things, there can never be any observation without an observer.
Another friend called Venkat then came to the defence of Krishnamurti by writing the following reply:
Just to clarify, when JK speaks of “observation without the observer”, I think he means a state of being in which one does not bring the accumulated baggage of the past (and future expectations), i.e. the ego, into the present.

When he talks of choiceless awareness, it is a similar point. His ‘advice’ was to be attentively aware to your own thoughts and feelings as they arise in reaction to external interactions — and thereby see that 99% of these thought / feelings are attributable to the ego, to selfishness. And by being choicelessly attentive to this (not thinking about it, or trying to remove such thoughts/feelings) they will evaporate by themselves.

I don’t think it is that very different from Bhagavan — though Bhagavan said it most simply and clearly — just a different way of pointing in the same direction. I think JK sets us down a path of becoming aware of how destructive the ego is — Bhagavan’s teaching then takes us to the end.
The following is my reply to the points that Venkat raised in this comment:
  1. Our ego is the observer, and without it there can be no observation
  2. We cannot choose to be ‘choicelessly aware’
  3. Our awareness of other things is not our primary illusion but only a secondary one
  4. What Krishnamurti teaches is diametrically opposed what Bhagavan teaches us
1. Our ego is the observer, and without it there can be no observation

The ‘accumulated baggage of the past (and future expectations)’ is not the ego, as Venkat seems to assume, because our ego is what experiences everything, whereas its accumulated baggage is a collection of some of the things that it experiences. Since this baggage of past memories and propensities and of future expectations is not conscious of anything, neither it nor any of its constituents can be the experiencer or observer of anything, so they are obviously distinct from our ego. However, though this baggage is not our ego itself, it is one of its expansions or creations, and hence one of the things (or sets of things) that belongs to it and that is nourished and sustained by its very existence. That is, though our ego and its accumulated baggage are mutually dependent and mutually sustaining, our ego is the original cause of everything and its baggage is just one of its effects. Therefore we cannot free ourself from all this baggage unless we free ourself from its root and cause, namely our ego.

Everything that we as this ego experience or observe, including all its past memories and propensities and its future expectations, seems to exist only so long as we experience ourself as this ego, so it is all just a projection or expansion of our ego, as Bhagavan points out in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu when 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’. Therefore so long as there is observation of anything other than ourself, the cause of both that observation and whatever is observed is only our ego, which alone is what experiences or observes anything other than itself. Hence however we may try to explain it, ‘observation without the observer’ is a self-contradictory and absurd proposition, as I explained in my above-quoted reply to Sankarraman.

The only way to get rid of ‘the accumulated baggage of the past (and future expectations)’ and everything else that we now experience (except of course ourself, which is the permanent and unchanging reality, and which we can therefore never separate from or get rid of) is to get rid of our ego, and the only way to get rid of this ego is to investigate what it actually is. This is why Bhagavan concludes verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu by saying: ‘ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்’ (ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr), ‘Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything’.

2. We cannot choose to be ‘choicelessly aware’

Regarding what Venkat says about ‘choiceless awareness’, it is not just 99% of all thoughts and feelings that are attributable to our ego, but 100% of them, and by being attentively aware of them we cannot free ourself either from them or from this ego, because we become aware of them only by grasping them in our attention or awareness, and our awareness of them is what sustains and nourishes this ego, as Bhagavan indicates very clearly in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

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

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

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

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

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

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
Moreover, how can we be ‘choicelessly aware’? We obviously cannot choose to be so, because if we were to choose it, it would not be choiceless, so JK’s advice to be choicelessly aware is self-evidently impractical. The only thing that we are choicelessly aware of is ourself, because self-awareness is our very nature, so we could never choose not to be self-aware, though we can and generally do choose to neglect or pay little heed to our self-awareness, because we are more interested in being aware of the other things.

To be aware of anything other than ourself is the result of a choice, because we rise as this ego and thereby become aware of other things only by grasping them in our awareness, as Bhagavan implies when he says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṯkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum), which means, ‘Grasping form, it [the formless phantom-ego] rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form’. Grasping is the very nature of our ego, but we do not actually have to grasp anything, so if we do so it is only because we have chosen to do so. Whatever we may be aware of (other than ourself), we became aware of it because we have chosen to rise as this ego and thereby to be aware of things other than ourself.

Just as we have chosen to be aware of other things, we can also choose to be aware of ourself alone, and only if we choose this latter option will our ego and everything else evaporate, leaving ourself alone, as Bhagavan indicates when he says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means, ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’. That is, what nourishes and sustains our ego is only its awareness of anything other than itself, so if instead of choosing to be aware of anything else, we choose to try to be aware of ourself alone, our ego will subside and disappear, because it has no substance of its own, but is just an illusion that seems to exist only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself.

3. Our awareness of other things is not our primary illusion but only a secondary one

Venkat says that thoughts and feelings ‘will evaporate by themselves’ if we ‘choicelessly’ attend to them, and he seems to imply that this is the reason that JK gives for advocating ‘choiceless awareness’, but this is directly opposite to what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, because according to what he says there, attending to anything other than ourself is what feeds, nourishes and strengthens our ego, and what therefore sustains the illusion that we are this ego and that other things exist. However, for the sake of further clarity, let us consider more carefully this proposition that the illusion that anything other than ourself exists will somehow dissolve or evaporate if we attend to it in a particular way.

This idea that other things will dissolve it we attend to them is explicitly asserted by Nisargadatta, for example, and it seems to be implied if not explicitly asserted by JK (though I have not read enough of his teachings to say for certain, I have noticed that like Venkat many other people who have heard him speak or read his books seem to believe that he did either assert or imply this). It also seems to be what is assumed by most people who believe that witnessing or observing thoughts and events is somehow an effective spiritual practice, including by those who believe that vipassanā meditation as it is taught and practised nowadays is a means to attain nirvāṇa. Therefore apart from the fact that this proposition cannot be satisfactorily reconciled with what Bhagavan teaches us in verses 25 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, do we have any other reason for concluding that it cannot be true?

We know that certain illusions do dissolve or evaporate if we look at them sufficiently carefully. For example, if we closely inspect an illusory snake, we will be able to recognise that it is not actually a snake but only a rope, so the illusion that it is a snake is effectively dissolved merely by our looking at it carefully. When such is the case, is there any reason why we should not believe that the same will happen if we attend sufficiently carefully to our thoughts or anything else other than ourself? Yes, there is a reason, and it is that whereas the illusion of a snake is a primary illusion, in the sense that there is no other illusion that stands between it and the rope that it actually is, the illusion that anything other than ourself exists is not a primary illusion but only a secondary one. The primary illusion in this case is only our illusion that we are this ego, because it is only when we experience ourself as this ego that we experience the illusion that other things (including all kinds of mental and physical phenomena, such as thoughts, feelings and external objects and events) exist.

Whenever we cease to experience ourself as this ego, as we do in sleep, we also cease to experience anything else, and it is only when we again experience ourself as this ego, as we do in both waking and dream, that we again experience other things. Therefore, since we cannot experience the existence or seeming existence of any other thing without experiencing ourself as this ego, whenever we attend to, observe, watch, witness, experience or are aware of anything other than ourself, we are reinforcing our primary illusion that we are this ego. Hence our secondary illusion that thoughts and other things exist will not dissolve or evaporate so long as we attend to them or are aware of them in any way, because this secondary illusion rides on the back of our primary illusion, which is nourished and sustained by our awareness of other things.

That is, whenever we experience our primary illusion that we are this ego, we also experience our secondary illusion that other things exist, because we cannot experience ourself as this ego without also experiencing other things. If we doubt this we can try and see for ourself what happens to this ego if we try not to be aware of anything else. Since we can never cease to be aware of ourself, because we continue to be aware of ourself even in the absence of our ego in sleep, the only way in which we can manage to be aware of nothing else is by trying to be aware of ourself alone. If we try to be aware of ourself alone, we will find that to the extent that we manage to do so, our ego will subside, because it can rise and stand only by clinging to awareness of anything other than itself.

Thus by trying to be aware of ourself alone, we can verify for ourself the truth of what Bhagavan teaches us in verses 25 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. Whenever we experience anything other than ourself, we experience ourself as this ego (that is, as this adjunct-mixed form of self-awareness, which always experiences itself as a body), and vice versa: whenever we experience ourself as this ego, we always experience the existence of things other than ourself. Conversely, whenever we do not experience anything other than ourself, we also do not experience ourself as this ego, and whenever we do not experience ourself as this ego, we also do not experience anything other than ourself.

Therefore, by experiencing, being aware of, attending to, observing or watching anything other than ourself, we are perpetuating the illusion that we are this ego, and so long we perpetuate this primary illusion, we are also perpetuating the secondary illusion that other things also exist. Therefore we cannot bring about the dissolution or evaporation of anything else by attending to it, but can do so only by trying to attend to ourself alone.

If it were possible to bring about the dissolution or evaporation of other things merely by observing or inspecting them closely, scientists who closely observe and inspect the appearance of physical phenomena should find that such phenomena evaporate and disappear as a result of their observation, but in practice they do not find that this is what happens. Followers of JK or Nisargadatta could perhaps argue either that scientists are observing the wrong kind of phenomena or that they are not observing them in the correct manner, and that if we observe other kinds of phenomena, such as mental ones, or if we observe some or all kinds of phenomena in a particular way (such as ‘choicelessly’, ‘without the observer’ or in a detached manner), then we will find that they evaporate. However, this argument cannot stand up to careful scrutiny, because whatever kind of phenomena we may observe and in whatever way we may observe them, we cannot do so unless we experience ourself as this ego, so whatever we may observe other than ourself and in whatever special way we may observe it, we would still be perpetuating our primary illusion that we are this ego, and thereby we would also be perpetuating our secondary illusion that other things also exist.

4. What Krishnamurti teaches is diametrically opposed what Bhagavan teaches us

Therefore what JK teaches (and also what Nisargadatta teaches, at least in this respect) is not only very different to what Bhagavan teaches us, but is diametrically opposed to it, because whereas Bhagavan’s teachings lead us relentlessly back to ourself alone, JK’s lead us relentlessly in the opposite direction, away from ourself and towards all sorts of fanciful and impractical notions such as ‘observation without the observer’ and ‘choiceless awareness’. There is no way we can reconcile their teachings without rejecting or ignoring the central principles of Bhagavan’s teachings, especially as expressed by him in verses 25 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

The important principle that he teaches us in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is that everything other than ourself depends for its seeming existence upon our ego, so if our ego did not seem to exist nothing else would either exist or seem to exist. Therefore, since our ego will not cease to exist unless we investigate what it actually is, investigating it is the only means to get rid of everything.

The important principle that he teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is that this ego is only a formless and insubstantial phantom that seemingly comes into existence, endures and is nourished and strengthened only by grasping form (that is, by attending to and experiencing anything other than itself), so we can never free ourself from this ego so long as we persist in attending to anything other than ourself (that is, anything that has any features that distinguish it from this essentially featureless ego). Therefore the only way to free ourself from this ego is to investigate it — that is, to try to grasp it alone in our awareness. Since this ego itself is featureless and therefore formless, and since it can stand and masquerade as ourself only by grasping forms in its awareness, if we try to grasp this ego alone, it ‘will take flight’ and disappear, just as an illusory snake would disappear if we were to look at it carefully and thereby recognise that it is not actually a snake but only a rope.

Therefore if J. Krishnamurti or anyone else suggests that we can free ourself either from our ego or from all its progeny (everything else that we experience) by attending to anything other than ourself, they are contradicting these simple, clear and essential teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, and are pointing us in the opposite direction to the one in which he is leading us, because according to him the only means by which we can dissolve and free ourself from this ego and all its baggage is to investigate ourself by trying to attend to and experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else.

The choice we are faced with is therefore very simple: do we want to follow the teachings of Sri Ramana by trying to attend to ourself alone, or do we want to follow any other teachings that direct us to attend to anything else?

79 comments:

Anonymous said...

From David Godman's blog :
http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.fr/2008/08/power-to-enlighten.html

"In 1993 Papaji made the following remarks about J. Krishnamurti. The first paragraph is Papaji’s words. The subsequent two are my comments on them, taken from Nothing Ever Happened, volume two, p. 230:

I listened to Krishnamurti while I was in Switzerland. I liked him very much because I could find no fault in him. I am a hard person to satisfy but I will say that he was, no doubt, an enlightened man. But something was missing. The power to transmit that enlightenment to others was not there.

Papaji’s assessment, though it seems to be harsh, was shared by Krishnamurti himself. In a book commemorating his birth centenary Evelyne Blau, a long time associate of his, wrote: ‘For fifty years he had taught, spoken and travelled all over the world. Why was not a single person transformed? He [Krishnamurti] was certainly concerned with this problem.’

As Krishnamurti lay dying in California, a tape recorder was running to record his final words. Shortly before he died he said, ‘Where did I go wrong? No one got it?’ "



Dragos Nicolae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dragos Nicolae said...

If we start from the tentative assertion that this reality work EXACTLY like a dream, then everything MAKES SENSE.

In a dream I am the only ego/jiva there is. Since the guru appearing in the dream tells us there is a way of waking up, the ONLY logical way is to investigate what this dreamer (ego/jiva) is.

It is only logical this can be done only by putting your keen attention on it/scrutinizing it.

On waking up, there is the realization not that this is a dream, but that it never really existed in the first place. So there are no people in bondage, no people that need to be liberated. You yourself are the creator of this seeming reality, everything is a projection of your vasanas/desires and you are no more real than anything else.

Unless we study carefully the WHOLE teaching it will NEVER make sense and we will continually try to mix teachings and continuosly search for other books and teachers.

If this is properly understood (this is just another dream projected by your jiva/ego, you alone exist, the only way to wake up is to investigate this ego/jiva) you don't even need to read books on Bhagavan. You'll actually never need to read anything else you'll just try to attend to yourself, to this ego/jiva and see what it is.

If you understand this correctly even if you have a vision of Ramana you'll know is just a desire in your own mind...

Unless you take THE WHOLE teaching, you'll forever seek some other teacher, saying, comparison... etc.

If you understand correctly you'll never need to read anything else... :)

In truth, absolutely everything is a distraction from the simple thing we have to do: attend to yourself.

(PS: I deleted my previous comment, it has some errors)

Anonymous said...

The reason we are attracted to other teachings is because of lack of clear viveka.
Time and again we fail to discriminate clearly and fall for the allure of other practices , hoping that they will help us to experience perfect unlimited happiness that we all seek. Sooner or later , though , they all disappoint us in that regard.

Bhagavan opines that we ourself are the unlimited happiness that we constantly seek - we only have to experience ourself clearly in order to verify it.

venkat said...

Michael,
Thanks for the note - very helpful.

Bhagavan was asked by someone about JK's "choiceless awareness" - recorded in Day by Day. His response was: "Effortless and choiceness awareness is our real nature. If we can attain it or be in that state, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age-old vasanas carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that effort is necessary for most people"

In Talks (#239) Maurice Frydman (who was with Bhagavan, JK and Nisargadatta) asked: "Krishnamurti says that man should find out the 'I'. Then 'I' dissolves away, being only a bundle of circumstances. There is nothing behind the 'I'. HIs teaching seems to be very much like Buddha.
Bhagavan replied "Yes - yes, beyond expression".

I think there are (as I have said before) two plausible explanations for our experience. One is that everything is an image in consciousness - eka jiva vada.

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

JK's approach seems to take the latter as the starting point - perhaps because he felt people could not appreciate eka jiva vada perspective ? - and therefore strives to show the ego is non-existent and simply a construct of the past conditioning. Whilst Bhagavan's approach is to focus on the fundamental assumption - the 'I'=thought - and investigate its reality; which I have to agree goes to the root of the matter.

Sivanarul said...

Dragos & Anonymous,
I don’t think other teachings/practices are sought (after learning Bhagavan’s teaching) for lack of viveka or for attaining perfect unlimited happiness. They are sought due to the ego realizing it is not good for its survival if it continues too intensely with Bhagavan’s teaching.

Initially, sadhakas are attracted to Bhagavan himself and not so much to his teachings. His compassion, saintliness and his mystic face & eyes are like a powerful magnet that draws anybody that comes closer to it. Then as they slowly read his teachings, it does not look too threatening to the ego as Bhagavan says that you do not have to renounce work, food, family or anything at all. The only condition he really posits is that the diet be vegetarian. Even that you can gradually adopt and don’t have to become a vegetarian on day 1.

As one gets deeper into Bhagavan’s teaching, one realizes that he really is asking to renounce the renouncer/ego. Renouncing work/food/family/materialism etc. is relatively easy to the ego since although it loses its many outlets and gets diminished, its survival is not threatened until the very end. But with Bhagavan’s teaching, the threat begins from day 1. Other teachings take a gentler approach and hence the ego takes flight to those teachings for survival.

Nevertheless, as Bhagavan as said (based on my memory) that once anyone gets caught into the mouth of a tiger, they are guaranteed to become it’s victim, so does anyone who gets caught in Bhagavan’s web will eventually get absorbed in him. It is only a matter of time. This will be true especially if you keep reading Michael’s articles. His writings are too dangerous for the ego. You have been warned :-)

Anonymous said...

Michael
In part 3 of of this article , paragraph 3 , you mention:

Yes, there is a reason, and it is that whereas the illusion of a snake is a primary illusion, in the sense that there is no other illusion that stands between it and the snake that it actually is, the illusion that anything other than ourself exists is not a primary illusion but only a secondary one.

A very important point it is , but there is typo here - the second mention of 'snake' should be read as 'rope'.

Michael James said...

Thanks for pointing out that typo, Anonymous. I have now corrected it.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, thank you for your comment, in which you highlight a very important point. I think Anonymous was correct in saying, ‘The reason we are attracted to other teachings is because of lack of clear viveka’, because if we had clear vivēka we would not seek to avoid or delay the annihilation of our ego, but what clouds our vivēka is our reluctance to give up this ego, and that is where your comment becomes so relevant. As you say, other teachings or practices ‘are sought due to the ego realizing it is not good for its survival if it continues too intensely with Bhagavan’s teaching’.

Though when viewed superficially he and his teachings are very attractive, if we delve deep into them and understand them correctly, we will recognise how very dangerous they actually are, because as you say they threaten so directly and immediately the very survival of ourself as this ego. Even if we reject all other practices and aspire to follow only the simple practice of self-investigation that he taught us, we as this ego inwardly resist our own attempts to be self-attentive, because we are not yet ready to sacrifice ourself entirely to him.

This is why this simple practice seems so difficult, and why we do not practise it as much as we should. We want to be self-attentive, but at the same time we evade being so as much as we can, and hence we constantly have to struggle against our own adamant evasiveness.

In this regard I am no better than anyone else. As I am sure is the case with most of us, I have to struggle hard against the strong current of my outward-going tendencies in order to be self-attentive, and even then I seem to end up being self-attentive for only a few moments here and there throughout each day, but fortunately Bhagavan has made me understand that there is no other way and there are no shortcuts (because what can be shorter than the direct path?), so I just have to continue trying as best as I can. As he himself used to say, no one has ever succeeded without perseverance, so we just have to go on persevering with dogged determination no matter how much inward resistance we face.

Regarding your final paragraph, it is in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that Bhagavan said that we are like the prey caught in the jaws of a tiger:

[...] புலிவாயிற் பட்டது எவ்வாறு திரும்பாதோ, அவ்வாறே குருவினருட்பார்வையிற் பட்டவர்கள் அவரால் ரக்ஷிக்கப்படுவரே யன்றி யொருக்காலும் கைவிடப்படார்; [...]

[...] puli-vāyil paṭṭadu evvāṟu tirumbādō, avvāṟē guruviṉ-aruḷ-pārvaiyil paṭṭavargaḷ avarāl rakṣikka-p-paḍuvarē y-aṉḏṟi y-oru-k-kāl-um kaiviḍa-p-paḍār; [...]

[...] Just as that [prey] which has been caught in the jaws of a tiger will not return, so those who have been caught in the glance of guru’s grace will surely be saved by him and will never instead be forsaken; [...]

However, he also added an important proviso by ending this assurance with the warning:

[...] எனினும், குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்.]

[...] eṉiṉum, guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum.

[...] nevertheless, it is necessary to proceed [behave or act] unfailingly according to the path that guru has shown.

Thus he insisted once again that we cannot evade the need to persevere in trying to follow this path of self-investigation shown by him.

Bob - P said...

Thanks for posting this article Michael and for everyones comments linked to it. So helpful to read and digest as always.

Yes I agree understanding and practising Bhagavan's teachng is like initiating the progressive suicide of the ego.

Bhagavan is dealing out tough love but with the best of intentions.

Thanks
Bob

Melchisedech said...

important warning:
"...it is necessary to proceed [behave or act] unfailingly according to the path that guru has shown.
"...we cannot evade the need to persevere in trying to follow this path...".
To behave in the proper way and to take the necessary actions is always in all circumstances the essential crux of the matter. For it we need to have the required sense of duty which is provided only if we are not forsaken by God. May Arunachala protect us and preserve us from falling from divine grace.

Steve said...

Bhagavan Sri Ramana's attachment to a body was dissolved during his very realistic intentional death simulation, and it was done without the benefit of his own teachings. For some of us who have benefitted greatly from his teachings, I wonder if our viveka will be strong enough, and we will be 'ready to sacrifice ourself entirely to him' at the time of our actual death. That, too, although seemingly very realistic, will be nothing more than a simulation, this being just a dream.

Sivanarul said...

Yeah, we better be ready with significant accomplishments (Sadhana) when we ask the Boss (Self) for the ultimate raise (dissolution of ignorance). Otherwise how could one ask with a straight face? It is said in many spiritual traditions that there is always an opportunity between lives/dreams for the absorption into the Clear light / Self and that many will not take up on the opportunity due to fear of losing one’s identity. Sadhana is the only thing that will prepare us and it is better that the dissolution happens now itself, since as Thayumanavar said: “If this life/dream is lost, which other life/dream will I get and what will come in that?”

Michael James said...

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

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

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

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

Regarding what you say about ‘two plausible explanations for our experience’, I think you are probably correct in saying that JK seems to have accepted the view that the world exists independent of our experience of it, because all that he said and did gave the impression that he accepted the world as real, or at least did not question whether it is actually real, as it seems to be. His interest seems to have been more with the mind and psychology than with more abstract metaphysical questions such as what it is that appears as this ego and whether anything that this ego experiences exists independent of it.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Venkat:

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

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

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

This type of metaphysical analysis is totally lacking in the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, so it is clear that whatever his teachings are concerned with is completely different to the central concern of Bhagavan’s teachings, which is that we should investigate ourself in order to experience what we actually are and thereby free ourself from everything else, including the ego that experiences it all.

Gilgamesch said...

Comment to point 2. We cannot choose to be ‚choicelessly aware‘:

Assuming that we as this ego do not anything without any reason: What can/could be the reason to become aware of thoughts and feelings by grasping them in our attention or awareness ?
One reason might be that to be without an ego seems to be very insip and dull whereas sustaining and nourishing this ego appears to be exciting or funny and amusing. Some pictures show the egoless Bhagavan being/feeling/looking not very happy.
So we should not be surprised that people have chosen to rise at this ego and like to stay with their ego.
To be aware of other things (or of things other than ourself) seems to make happier, more joyful and more delightful – for instance to hear or play wonderful awe-inspiring music and to create an inspiring work of art or to experience such a magnificent work of art to the full or to be in contact with an excellent human being and so on and so forth.
Another reason might be that we have no better own knowledge. To hear/read about the happiness of being (aware of ourself alone)as only obtained from second-hand maybe is not enough.

Michael James said...

Gilgamesch, we cannot judge how happy Bhagavan is merely by seeing his outward appearance, because he is not the body that he appeared to be. His body and mind seem to exist only in our self-ignorant outlook, because according to him he experienced no body, mind or world but only himself.

We are free to choose whether we want to remain in self-ignorance, experiencing this petty ego as ourself, and thereby allowing ourself to be bound by all its desires, attachments, fears, joys and sorrows, or whether we instead want to try to experience ourself as we really are. According to Bhagavan, if we experience ourself as we really are, we will experience ourself as unlimited happiness, so we should perhaps consider whether we want to investigate ourself and thereby discover for ourself whether or not what he has said in correct, or whether we want to continue experiencing the ever-changing and unstable mixture of partial happiness and partial unhappiness that always accompanies our experience of ourself as this ego.

Our present circumstances may be quite pleasant, but circumstances can change at any time, and sooner or later our body will die, whereupon the dream of our present life will end, and we do not know what dreams we as this ego may experience thereafter. There is no guarantee that any future dream will be as pleasant as our present one. Therefore clinging to this ego is a dangerous gamble, and whatever we may gain from this gamble will be finite and transient, so is it not worth trying to free ourself from this ego by investigating what we actually are? Even if we doubt whether we can experience unlimited happiness by giving up this ego, it is surely worth trying, because when we are anyway gambling, why should we not gamble for the highest stakes and the chance of winning the jackpot?

Bob - P said...

I think the wake , dream & deep sleep analogy used in Michael's book / writings and also in Part One of The Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om is so powerful.

It really helps us understand that the world including all its contents includng our false self which is the experincer of our illusory self projcted world are only transient and temporary. Plus if we trust Bhagavan they are actually non existent.

When I understood this it really hit me for six. It was frighening at first admitted, but it makes so much sense.

I find it really helps with my own practise.

Like previously mentioned Bhagavan's teachings are very dangerous for the ego !!

Bob

venkat said...

Michael, you said:

"Whatever circumstances we may experience, and also anything that we may observe, is dṛśya (an experienced object), whereas we, the ego who experiences or observes it, are dṛś (the experiencing subject). According to Bhagavan, nothing that is dṛśya can exist independent of the dṛś, so only when we rise as the dṛś does any dṛśya come into existence, and hence the dṛś (the ego or experiencer) is the essential foundation on which all experience is built"

Just to clarify, in drs-drsya viveka, the ego, which is part of the illusion, is put in drsya (not in drs). So the viveka is to understand that all that you see, perceive, feel, think, is part of the illusory ego - world, part of the drsya (hence the 5 sheaths analyses); and there is something which is the substratum, the drs that is observing this illusory ego - world.

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

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

So I think when K says to observe carefully, to be choicelessly aware of thoughts/feelings, and to see the selfishness inherent in them, you will find out for yourself that you are not those thoughts / feelings but their witness.

best
venkat

Gilgamesch said...

Thank you Michael for your reply.
Yes, allowing ourself to be bound by all its desires, attachments, fears, joys and sorrows is actually a dangerous gamble. To experience ourself as the ego accompanied by experiencing the everchanging and unstable mixture of partial happiness and partial unhappiness cannot permanently give us pleasure.
To experience ourself on the other hand as unlimited happiness is really tempting because there will be no need of a petty ego.
Oh, let us win the jackpot !

Anonymous said...

Venkat

You opine that " So drs drsya viveka requires the discrimination that all thoughts, including the 'I'-thought is part of drsya, and you are the witness that observes all this".

I think you went wrong in the end here. dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka is not just a conceptual understanding that 'you are the witness that observes all this' , but is actually a process of differentiating ourself (dṛg) from anything else which is experienced by us (dṛśya).

venkat said...

Anonymous,

I agree that it is not a conceptual understanding . . . though it is a start. Armed with that conceptual answer, you then discard, neti neti the drsya; which includes all the thoughts and feelings that we identify with, and become aware of, abide in the awareness that is aware of these thoughts and feelings. So thoughts / feelings fall away, and just stillness remains.

This of course is Bhagavan's teaching. Hence why he said somewhere succinctly and cogently:

"Abiding in that consciousness by which we know that we exist is absolute stillness. It is thoughtless awareness. It is consciousness without an object or a subject. It is the Awareness that's prior to subject, prior to object. This is what is meant by self-abidance. This is what is meant by silence. This is stillness. In this stillness there is peace."

whizz-kid said...

Yes, Venkat,
let there be peace !

samsari said...

Michael,
some questions arise about the second last sentence of the article:

"the only means by which we(*) can dissolve and free ourself(**) from this ego(***) and all its baggage is to investigate ourself(**) by trying to attend and experience ourself alone(****), in complete isolation from everything else."

(*) 1. who is the "we" ?
(**) 2. who is "ourself" ?
(***) 3. is ego ident with (*) "we" ?
(****)4. is the "ourself alone" diametrical different to (**) ourself ?

Sivanarul said...

Samsari,
“We” is the one asking the question and the one answering the question.

“Ourself” is the one that remains after ignorance dissolves.

Ego is another name for “we.”

“Ourself alone” is the same as “Ourself”. The alone is used to indicate the non-arising of adjuncts.

samsari said...

Sivanarul,
thanks for your comment,but you did overlook that my questions refer only to the mentioned sentence placed in quotation marks.
Your statement includes the rather inappropriate and improbable possibility that the ego could free itself from the ego.

Noob said...

We just should not fool ourselves into trying to cut imaginary bread with an imaginary knife (about the observer and what is observed).
I think that Self is not observing anything. ("I think" is already a product of my mind) No point in trying to mentally understand it, the best way is to just throw it all away (Which is not easy).

Sivanarul said...

Samsari,
I do not believe that my statement implied that the ego could free itself from itself. I am not sure how you arrived at that. No spiritual tradition, which I know of, posits such a conclusion. It is Grace/Self/God that delivers the final blow that collapses the ego. The ego starts the journey. Even that it does not do of its own accord, but through the prompt of grace. It is grace that begins the journey, guides through the journey and completes the journey. The ego simply takes credit for beginning and travelling the path.

I am not sure whether your questions are of the Ribhu & Nidagha style where sage Ribhu plays a simple village rustic and asks his disciple what does he mean by above and below and finally asks him what does he mean by ‘I’ and ‘You’ which results in a deep awakening for Nidagha.

Hatschepsut said...

Michael,

Monday, 11 May 2015
Article "Observation without the observer..."
Comment to Point 4. What Krishnamurti teaches…,
Third paragraph
When you say : „Since this ego itself is featureless and therefore formless, and …[…]“ do you not cover up the difference between the ego and ourself alone which is said to be also featureless and formless.

samsari said...

Sivanarul,
when you detect "It is God that delivers the final blow that collapses the ego"
please refer strictly to the mentioned sentence of my first comment.
As you see I am exploring which subject exactly is involved in practising self-investigation.

Orontes said...

Michael,
regarding your comment of 14 May 2015 at 19:37 in first reply to Venkat,
what do you answer to us about "the more abstract metaphysical questions" such as:
1.) What is it that appears as this ego ?
2.) Does anything that this ego experiences exist independent of it ?

Nefertari said...

Michael,
no one lives totally alone, isolated from the society around them.
Then to investigate ourself why should we try to attend to and experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else ?
Is it not a kind of ego trip ?

R Viswanathan said...

"Is it not a kind of ego trip ?"

I copy paste below a selected portion of the conversation between Sri Robert Adams and his student, as given by Sri David Godman in http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/06/robert-adams-again.html

Robert: Self-enquiry is only for the ego.

Question: I’m like Bob then. I’ve got a big ego.

Robert: Keep practising. Keep practising and you’ll break it down.

Question: Robert, you said, when you ask yourself the question, you don’t answer because when you answer, that just comes from the mind. When you ask, ‘Who am I?’ just rest, don’t question.

Is consciousness observing the self-enquiry?

Robert: Consciousness is self-contained. It has nothing to do with self-enquiry. Only the ego does.

Question: Then why do we have to do self-enquiry?

Robert: Because you have to use the ego to get rid of the ego.

Question: So consciousness is noticing all of the self-enquiry then?

Robert: It doesn’t notice anything. As you practice self-enquiry, your mind will disappear and your true Self will come forth all by itself.

Question: Isn’t our true Self here now?

Robert: Yes, you will awaken to it, but you don’t believe it is, so you must practice self-enquiry.

Question: How do you trace it to the heart, when you say that with self-enquiry you trace it to the heart?

Robert: Another term for the heart is consciousness, so the heart is really consciousness. You simply enquire, ‘Who am I?’ It takes care of itself. The ‘I’ becomes weaker and weaker and disappears.

Question: Your attention then should always be focused on the source. When you hold onto the ‘I’, that’s just a way of focusing attention on the source from whence the ‘I’ arises.

Robert: Yes, when I say hold onto the ‘I’, I mean you’re witnessing the ‘I’. You’re watching where it goes. From whence it came from and where it goes back to.

Question: When you say that consciousness or God dwells in you as you, that ‘as you’ is not referring then to the ego?

Robert: No, it’s referring to consciousness.

Question: It’s redundant really.

Robert: Yes. Consciousness is your true existence and nothing else. Everything else we talk about, everything else we do is to make you realise that your true nature is consciousness. Then everything becomes redundant, but we have to talk like this because you believe you’re human. You believe you’re the body. When will you stop believing that?

Question: Robert, if a person believes that they’re happy in this alleged consciousness that we all possibly share, I mean your students, is that the same thing? Being in love with nature as being in love with life. Is that about on the same level in your eyes as...

Robert: All of these things that you’re referring to are a projection of your mind. You create your universe, and you create your world, and you create the trees and the birds and everything else. So get rid of your mind and everything else will go.

Steve said...

Nefertari, it looks like you're unfamiliar with both Michael's writings and Sri Ramana's teachings. Here is a quote from a recent article by Michael which you may find helpful:

"So long as we experience anything other than ourself, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, because nothing other than what we really are actually exists. Therefore we can experience ourself as we really are only when we experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from the seeming existence of anything else, and hence our aim when practising self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is to experience ourself alone."

The article is "Any experience we can describe is something other than the experience of pure self-attentiveness"

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2015/04/any-experience-we-can-describe-is.html

Nefertari said...

Thank you Steve for your kind quote of a recent article of Michael James.
Yes I do not read Michael's articles and Ramana's teachings every day. But I retain the daringness to put questions because in my everyday life I experience the so called "seeming existence of anything else " very lively and vividly.
But I understand that for the aim of immediate practice of atma-vicara for some 'special' moments it is necessary to experience ourself alone , in complete isolation from anything else.
I do not deny that according Sri Ramana Maharishi-the wise man from the mountain Arunachala-nothing other than ourself as we really are actually exists. But even now in this present moment which is currently in everyday life I experience me writing on the computer keyboard watching the display screen.
So it is evident that also the seeming world as the changing appearances exists although only in relative reality on the universal background of absolute reality of the infinite true self (brahman).

Nefertari said...

Thank you R Viswanathan for your reply with the copy of the interesting conversation between R Adams and his student.
But to this I have to raise the objection that R Adams has not the same natural authority as Sri Ramana. Therefore the remarks of R Adams are in no way comparable with the quality of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharishi.

Steve said...

Nefertari, 'the daringness to put questions' about our everyday experience is what leads us from blind belief to truth.

R Viswanathan said...

"R Adams has not the same natural authority as Sri Ramana. Therefore the remarks of R Adams are in no way comparable with the quality of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharishi."

Sure, none will have the same natural authority as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi himself - to pronounce (or even interpret) correctly his teachings. But then, if someone like me cannot grasp Bhagavan's teachings fully, comprehensively, and correctly from his own works like Ulladhu Narpadhu and Nan Yaar, one tends to resort to listening to or reading others' books or discourses. I look upon (for my continuous benefit) Sri Sadhu Om, Sri Michael James, Sri David Godman, Sri Nochur Venkataraman, and Sri Robert Adams.

Ironically, in the same link I gave in my previous comment, the following conversation is given:

Robert: There are some people who just awaken. There are some people who go through stages. There are some people who do a lot of work. There are some people who practise meditation and mantras all day long. There are some people who do nothing and they awaken.

Question: Yes, but the people like that are very few, like Ramana. Ramana was an exception.

Robert: Well, then learn how to do it and become like Ramana. Practise what Ramana practised, and you too can be an exception. Why should you identify with the other? Identify with Ramana’s practice. He said the same thing. Why go through the trouble to go through yoga practices? You’ll come back life after life after life and keep practicing yoga. Find out who’s practising and become free.

Doesn’t that sound reasonable? All you have to do is to find out who’s practising. Who needs to do all these things? I do. Well, ‘Who am I? Where did I come from?’ ‘I-I’. Get rid of that ‘I’ and you’re home free.

nightingale said...

Regarding what Venkat has written about the self-contradictory proposition 'observation without the observer':
Strictly speaking 'future expectations' cannot be part of the accumulated baggage because they occur of course only just in the future.

Nefertari said...

R Viswanathan,
I did not want to say anything against your resorting to the mentioned excellent commentators.
However, in questions of fundamental importance I rather resort to the pronouncements of our unique Sri Ramana Maharishi who himself resorted to the unique place of refuge, Arunachala.

Sivanarul said...

Nefertari,
It is more than likely that Bhagavan was Arunachala itself. For the sake of us who cannot understand teachings via silence, Arunachala took the human form of Bhagavan. Even in that human form, the teaching was mostly through silence, except when devotees prompted for written and oral teachings. It is worth remembering that as soon as Bhagavan heard the word “Arunachala” he had a strong reaction in him. Also at Bhagavan’s mahanirvana, a shooting star (seen as far as Bombay), settled itself behind Arunachala signifying absorption from where it arose from.

Bhagavan’s writings are like Upanishads and Upanishad’s are typically studied through commentaries (Bhashyas). Upanishads themselves can be considered a commentary on the Vedas. What can be a cryptic one liner in the Upanishad may best be understood through the elaborate commentary of the commentator. I see all the authors that Viswanathan mentioned as commentaries on Bhagavan’s Upanishad. Depending on the seeker that commentary may be more valuable than the original itself. This does not impugn the original. It simply means that for that seeker the commentary is more helpful than the original.

For example, in Bhakthi traditions like Saivaite and Vaishnavaite traditions, the nayanmars and alwars are considered more important than Lord Siva or Vishnu themselves. The reasoning goes that the lord resides in the devotees’ heart whereas the devotee does not reside in the lord’s heart. So when you worship the devotee you are worshiping both the devotee and as well as the lord whereas when you worship the lord, you are worshiping the lord alone.

So one never knows whether they will be benefited more by directly approaching Bhagavan’s teachings or through one of the many commentaries available on it (like Michael’s writings).

Bujumbura said...

Comment to the formulation 'to get rid of our ego':
Michael James,
1.) I am not convinced by the correctness of the pronouncement that we - as the ego - should get rid of our ego. Because I cannot easily imagine how oneself can get rid of himself.
On the other hand we as the permanent and unchanging reality do not need any liberation.
2.) However, I am convinced by your further English translation saying:
„ Therefore, know that investigating what this ego (actually) is
alone is giving up everything“.
Although in both sentences the included task is referring to the same subject- namely the ego- it seems that the second statement is conveying the intended complete content.

R Viswanathan said...

This is what Sri David Godman has to say on how Sri Robert Adams and Sri Sadhu Om explain Bhagavan's teachings:

"I also like the way that Robert Adams explains self-enquiry. Very clear, and very much to the point. I think he had a great talent for explaining the complexities of Bhagavan's teachings to westerners in a way they could easily understand, without compromising on the philosophy involved."

"It's strange how teachers of enquiry take one aspect of what Bhagavan said and often exclude other portions. Sadhu Om rarely mentions asking the question 'Who am I?', preferring instead to tell people that holding on to the 'I'-thought is true self-enquiry. Robert Adams leaves out the 'holding on to the "I"'and puts the emphasis on asking the question.

Bhagavan, of course, advocated both approaches. I like his description in Maharshi's Gospel where he says:

Maharshi. Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti ['I'-thought] is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master’s scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature etc., counts. The dog holds on to that scent undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him."

Alhambra said...

Sivanarul,
who did tell you that more than likely Bhagavan was Arunachala itself ?
How did reports come to you that someone cannot understand silent teaching ?
Did Arunachala itself tell you that it took the human form of Bhagavan ?

I do beg your pardon, but you seem to like to chat this and that.

Sivanarul said...

Alhambra,
I gave two reasons why Bhagavan is very likely Arunachala itself and I am reproducing them below:
“It is worth remembering that as soon as Bhagavan heard the word “Arunachala” he had a strong reaction in him. Also at Bhagavan’s mahanirvana, a shooting star (seen as far as Bombay), settled itself behind Arunachala signifying absorption from where it arose from.”

I said “For the sake of us who cannot understand teachings via silence” where “us” is those who cannot understand silent teachings. If you can understand silent teachings, then you are not one of “us” and I salute you, for you are way ahead towards awakening.

With respect to your comment “you seem to chat this and that”, what is wrong in chatting this and that? You are also welcome to do that. Freedom of expression is a good thing in both material and spiritual pursuits. You can always ignore my chatting this and that. What prompted your rather sharp response? Did I offend you in any way? Are you offended by my equating Bhagavan with Arunachala?

R Viswanathan said...

'How devotees must have felt when Bhagavan left his body while they were signing 'பைங்கொடி யாநான் பற்றின்றி வாடாமற் பற்றுக்கோ டாய்க்கா வருணாசலா'!I believe the appearance of the meteor disappearing behind Arunachala was intended as a sign that he is always here in the form of Arunachala.'

'Yes, Bhagavan and Arunachala are always one, so for him there was never any merging, because there was never any separation. So the meteor was just a message reminding us of their oneness."

The above statements are from Sri Michael James in his communications to me through personal email. These are quite consistent with the statements of Sivanarul in his most recent comment.

Alhambra said...

It is all right, dear Sivanarul.
Oh, in no way I took offence by your comment.
Sorry, in that very moment I felt your comment like cackling. In my opinion we generally should not be contented to receive from second hand but to keep a lookout for own deeper experience. Repeating from books about Arunachala-Ramana is surely quite interesting but seldom imparts direct insight.

Alhambra said...

R Viswanathan,
I doubt neither the identity of Arunachala and Sri Ramana nor the appearance of the meteor at Bhagavan's mahanirvana on 14 April 1950.

Sivanarul said...

Alhambra,
Glad to know that you were not offended. I agree 100% that our own deeper experience and direct insight is better than second hand information. What to do, beginners like me have to do the preparatory steps and during that period, we tend to have opinions and debates. By the way the information I wrote about Bhagavan and Arunachala was my opinion formed based on observing the 2 facts that I mentioned earlier. It was not taken from any books.

I agree that books seldom impart direct insight. Their purpose is to provide conviction to the beginner that he/she is on the right path and refocus the beginner again and again to the pursuit. There is a stage where books are helpful and there is a stage where books are a hindrance. Based on your reply, it looks like you are at the stage where books and forums are a hindrance. Kindly ignore any of my future writings as incoherent ramblings :-). I can honestly say that my chatting this and that has helped me go further along and may be (just may be) helped one or two others.

Tiberias said...

R Viswanathan,
would you please translate what devotees were signing (or have you meant singing)when Bhagavan left his body in Tiruvannamalai(14-04-1950.

Sivanarul said...

Tiberias,

The song quoted by Viswanathan is from Aksharamanamalai, 72'nd verse. Aksharamanamalai was composed by Bhagavan towards Arunachala and contains 108 verses. The meaning of that 72'nd verse from Collected works is:

72. Be Thou my stay and my support lest I droop helpless
like a tender creeper, Oh Arunachala!

Josef Bruckner said...

Thanks Sivanarul for translation of the song verse which is probably composed in Tamil.

R Viswanathan said...

Tiberias:
I referred to verse 72 of Aksharamana Malai in my email to Sri Michael James with the following message:

"There was a short video which Sri David Godman did on Mahanirvanam of Bhagavan. It was very touching indeed, his description - he sitting in the Mahanirvanam room and explaining Bhagavan's last days. I looked into the verse 72 of Aksharamana malai which he said was the verse that was being sung when Bhagavan breathed his last (according to Sri Sadhu Om). The meaning was very apt - that Bhagavan praying to Arunachala that he being a tender creeper will require a support lest he would wilt away. That many saw the meteor like light merging into Arunachala leads me to think that the plea of Bhagavan through verse 72 indeed was kindly and promptly responded to by Arunachala."

And the clarifying reply of Sri Michael James for this (correcting my inference actually) is that I gave in my previous comment. I reproduce that here again for clarity:
'How devotees must have felt when Bhagavan left his body while they were signing 'பைங்கொடி யாநான் பற்றின்றி வாடாமற் பற்றுக்கோ டாய்க்கா வருணாசலா'!I believe the appearance of the meteor disappearing behind Arunachala was intended as a sign that he is always here in the form of Arunachala.'

Thanks to Sivanarul for the translation of the verse. Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan has given the English translation of Akshamana Malai:
http://sergeyrubtsov.com/books/english/arunachala_siva.pdf

For those interested in the recent videos on Bhagavan, all so very divine, being released by Sri David Godman:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBcqQGNwcSEwlv6gJXP-U9A/playlists

Tiberias said...

Thank you Sri R Viswanathan
for your information about Sri Ramana Maharishi's Tamil-song - composition Aksharamanamalai and the appearance and disappearance of a meteor-like light after Bhagavan's last breath.
I too believe that the mountain Arunachala there in Tiruvannamalai cannot be an ordinary hill but a powerful magnetic one.

Sivanarul said...

Josef,

Yes, the song is composed in Tamil. The song fuses Bhakthi and Jnana together and if listened has the power to provide manolaya (even for beginners for at least a few seconds, if not more). That is my experience anyway. This is Bhagavan's gift for those of us who are predisposed to Bhakthi more than Jnana.

The entire 108 verses with detailed english translation is available from Ramanashram website for free. The link is:

http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/five_hymns.pdf

Tiberias said...

Thank you Sivanarul for the given translation and explanation about verse 72 of Aksharamanamalai, quoted by R Viswanathan.

Josef Bruckner said...

Thanks Sivanarul for your advice regarding Aksharamanamalai.

Sivanarul said...

To add to what Viswanathan wrote, Bhagavan asks in the 96'nd verse that he not forget arunachala at the time of death (and of course he doesn't forget).

96.
It would be terrible if I let you go (if I forget you) at the
moment of death. Bless me, so that I may give up my life
without giving you up, O Arunachala.

Tiberias said...

Sri Sivanarul,
I express my thanks to you for your replies.

Michael James said...

Venkat, I have replied to your second comment above in the fourth and subsequent sections of another article that I have just posted here, Dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka: distinguishing the seer from the seen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael James, I have been listening to your audio and reading your books. I have read for the last seven years, books from various authors and over time I came to the conclusion that reading less is better. But your beautiful explanation that self awareness is primary and awareness of all that we can objectify is the rising of Ego and the feeding of Ego is the most beautiful and clear explanation. It brings absolute clarity to the practice. I think things can get very verbose and people get lost in words but I have to say that today is the first day I understood Ego clearly although i read about Ego from various spiritual books. Thank you so much for your efforts Michael James. Thank you for your books and work.
-Shankar Venkataraman

Tiberias said...

Yes, anonymus-oh, with name Shankar Venkataraman, even although somtetimes the comments may degenerate in verbiage, to understand mentally the nature and function of the ego puts you inestimably on the unshakeable ground of the right comprehension of what you really are. So I wish you many happy returns of your today's discovery.

Tiberias said...

Shankar Venkataraman,
I wish you many returns of your today's discovery.
Do not hurt about the fact that sometimes the comments may degenerate in verbiage.

Michael James said...

Samsari, in reply to your first comment, we are always one, so each of the words you ask about refer to essentially the same thing. However, though we are essentially one, there is a distinction between ourself as we actually are and ourself as we seem to be (in the same sense that there is a distinction between a rope as it actually is and the same rope as the snake that it seems to be).

The ego is not ourself as we actually are but only ourself as we seem to be. It is not a different self or a different ‘we’ (or ‘I’), but is only our same self appearing as if it were something that it is not. Therefore, though the ego is not ourself as we actually are, it is not actually anything other than ourself as we actually are (just as though the snake is not the rope as it actually is, it is not actually anything other than that rope).

Regarding the particular part of a sentence that you are asking about, ‘the only means by which we can dissolve and free ourself from this ego and all its baggage is to investigate ourself by trying to attend to and experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else’, the ‘we’ who seek to ‘dissolve and free ourself from this ego and all its baggage’ is not ourself as we actually are (because as we actually are we are unaffected by this ego, its baggage or anything else), but is only ourself as the ego that we now seem to be.

Though it may seem paradoxical to say that the ego is seeking to free itself from the ego (as you mentioned in your second comment), it would perhaps seem less paradoxical if we were to express the idea more precisely by saying that we as the ego that we now seem to be are seeking to free ourself from the illusion that this ego is what we actually are. We obviously cannot free ourself from what we actually are, but we can free ourself from what we seem to be.

Since what we really are is never bound by the illusion that we are this ego, the ‘ourself’ whom we seek to free from this ego is again only ourself as this ego that we now seem to be. Because we now seem to be bound by the illusion that we are this ego, we seek to be free from this illusion, and we can free ourself from it by experiencing ourself as we really are.

However, when we experience ourself as we really are, we will discover that we have never actually been bound by this ego, and hence we will remain free from all ideas about bondage and liberation (as Bhagavan indicates in both verse 39 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and verse 29 of Upadēśa Undiyār). Freedom or liberation seems to be necessary only so long as we seem to be in bondage, so it will become a meaningless idea once we experience ourself as we really are, because we have never actually been bound by anything.

However until then we do need to seek to free ourself from this illusory ego, so Bhagavan has explained the means to do so in very simple terms in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

[…] பந்தத்தி லிருக்கும் தான் யாரென்று விசாரித்து தன் யதார்த்த சொரூபத்தைத் தெரிந்துகொள்வதே முக்தி. […]

[…] bandhattil irukkum tāṉ yār eṉḏṟu vicārittu taṉ yathārtha sorūpattai-t terindu-koḷvadē mukti. […]

[…] Knowing one’s own actual self [by] investigating who is oneself who is in bondage, alone is liberation. […]

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Samsari:

Returning to what you were asking about, it does not matter whether we consider the ‘ourself’ whom we must investigate to be ourself as we really are or ourself as we seem to be, because we are only one self, and hence we ourself are the only self we can investigate. From one perspective we can say that this ‘ourself’ whom we must investigate is ourself as the ego that we now seem to be, because the ‘we’ who are investigating ourself are what now seems to be this ego. However, from another perspective we can say that this ‘ourself’ whom we must investigate is ourself as we really are, because we can investigate ourself only by trying to experience ourself as we really are.

When we mistake a rope to be a snake, we must look at it carefully to see what it really is, but what is that ‘it’ that we must look at carefully? Whether we consider it to be the rope or the snake, what we are looking at carefully is in either case the same thing, because the rope and the snake are not two different things. Likewise, whether we consider the ‘ourself’ whom we must investigate to be ourself as we really are or ourself as the ego that we now seem to be, what we are investigating is in either case the same thing, because in spite of what it seems to be our ego is not actually anything other than ourself as we really are. That is, it is just ourself as we really are seeming to be something other than what we really are. Therefore if we look sufficiently carefully at this ego that we now seem to be, we will see that what we are actually looking at is only ourself as we really are.

Therefore though the ‘ourself alone’ whom we are now trying to attend to may seem to be this ego, when we actually experience it in complete isolation from everything else, we will discover that it not actually the ego that we seemed to be till then but is only what we always really are, because ourself as we really are is the only thing that actually exists.

Michael James said...

Hatschepsut, I will reply to your question in a separate article, which I hope to complete and post here within the next few days.

Michael James said...

Orontes, in reply to your questions, though we need to find the correct answers to metaphysical questions, doing so is not easy, and even if we cannot at present find a correct or certain answer to each of them, such questions are nevertheless of great value because they show us that many things that we normally take for granted are not actually as certain as we assume them to be. Take for example the simple question: who am I? We normally assume that we know who we are, but when we consider this question carefully it becomes clear that we do not actually know what we really are, and when we understand this it becomes obvious that we need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are.

Regarding the first of the two metaphysical questions you refer to, ‘What is it that appears as this ego?’, this is one that we can answer at least to some extent, because it is obvious that it is ourself that appears as this ego. However, it is not obvious what we ourself are, so the real meaning of this question is: what am I, who now seem to be this ego? This is not such a simple question to answer, because at present our experience of ourself is mixed and confused with our experience of other things. By rational analysis we can understand what we are not, but to experience what we actually are we have to leave all rational analysis behind and try instead to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from all the other things that we now mistake to be ourself.

Regarding the second metaphysical question you refer to, ‘Does anything that this ego experiences exist independent of it?’, this is one that no amount of rational analysis or logical deliberation can answer, except to say that we simply do not know, and hence this is a question that (in one form or another) philosophers have been debating for thousands of years without coming to any convincing conclusion. According to the testimony of Bhagavan, nothing that this ego experiences exists independent of it, and the only means by which we can verify this for ourself is by investigating and experiencing what we ourself are.

Other things seem to exist only when we experience ourself as this ego, so their seeming existence cannot be any more real that the ego to whom they seem to exist. If this ego is an illusion, everything that it experiences must also be an illusion, so to determine whether other things are real or illusory, we must first investigate our ego to see whether it is real. According to Bhagavan, if we investigate it we will find that it does not actually exist, and hence whatever it seemed to experience likewise does not actually exist.

However, merely believing Bhagavan’s words is not sufficient, because our belief is just a superficial idea in our mind — one among numerous such ideas. Merely replacing the idea that the world is real with the alternative idea that it is unreal does not actually change our experience, so this is why Bhagavan insisted that we each need to investigate ourself in order to experience for ourself what we actually are.

Metaphysical questions can point us in the right direction — towards ourself and the need for us to investigate ourself — but they can take us no further than that. Once we have understood that the only way to find the correct and certain answer to any metaphysical question is for us to investigate what we ourself are, we have to apply ourself diligently to investigating ourself.

Michael James said...

Nefertari, in answer to your first comment, the isolation that Bhagavan talks about is not merely isolation of ourself as a person from all the other people in our society, but is only isolation of ourself as pure self-awareness from all the other things that we seem to be aware of. So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not aware of ourself as we really are, because according to Bhagavan nothing other than what we really are actually exists.

This isolation of our essential self from everything else is not an ego trip, because our ego rises and seems to exist only by grasping in its awareness things other than itself. Therefore when we grasp or attend to anything other than ourself, we are thereby feeding and nourishing our ego, whereas when we try to be aware of ourself alone, we are thereby denying our ego, so this is the very antithesis of an ego trip.

Michael James said...

Bujumbura, I hope I have adequately answered your comment about how we as the ego can get rid of this ego in the first half of my reply to Samsari, particularly in the two paragraphs in which I wrote:

Though it may seem paradoxical to say that the ego is seeking to free itself from the ego [...], it would perhaps seem less paradoxical if we were to express the idea more precisely by saying that we as the ego that we now seem to be are seeking to free ourself from the illusion that this ego is what we actually are. We obviously cannot free ourself from what we actually are, but we can free ourself from what we seem to be.

Since what we really are is never bound by the illusion that we are this ego, the ‘ourself’ whom we seek to free from this ego is again only ourself as this ego that we now seem to be. Because we now seem to be bound by the illusion that we are this ego, we seek to be free from this illusion, and we can free ourself from it by experiencing ourself as we really are.

R Viswanathan said...

‘Does anything that this ego experiences exist independent of it?’

No, I would infer - from the understanding of Bhagavan's teachings I gained from Sri Nochur Venkataraman, Sri David Godman, and Sri Michael James: We do not experience other things in deep sleep when mind is absent (or the ego or the 'I'-thought); any expeirence either in dream or upon waking results due to existence of or rise of ego.

Sri Nochur Venkataraman would often state that one loves to lose everything one 'gains' or 'can gain' during waking state - by wanting to go to sleep wherein you are just not what you were in waking (in terms of status or position, gender, place.. etc.)

Bujumbura said...

Thank you Michael,
the questions of Samsari are cast in the same mould.
So your answer in your reply to Samsari about the supposedly paradox is quite enough.
According your more exact analysis the seeming wrong statement is now indicating a higher truth.

Nefertari said...

Thanks Michael,
isolation only of ourself as pure self-awareness from all the other things that we seem to be aware of - that I can now understand easily. So I am able to go home with my mind set at ease.
But to deny our same ego whose essence is pure self-awareness - that racks my brains.

Orontes said...

Thank you Sir Michael James for your substantial and plausible reply about the fundamental significance of diligent self-investigation.
To experience what we actually/really are I agree that we have to leave behind all rational analysis and should try instead to experience ourself alone.

Michael James said...

Nefertari, the essence of our ego is pure self-awareness, which is what we really are, so we cannot deny that. When we deny our ego by trying to be aware of ourself alone, we are not denying our essential self-awareness, but are denying all the inessential adjuncts, which are what makes this ego seem to be something other than what we really are.

Stripped of all its adjuncts, our ego is no longer an ego as such, but is only pure self-awareness, which is what alone is real.

Nefertari said...

Michael,
the lucidity of your last reply drives away my doubts about the ambiguity of the ego's appearance.
So I hope the inessential adjuncts
will grin and bear it and join in the game. For good the suitable most effective treatment of arising spoilsport should be no stumbling block.

Michael James said...

Hatschepsut, as I promised in my interim reply, I have now replied to your question in a new article, The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom. As you can see, it is a long and detailed reply, so I hope it makes your wait for it worthwhile.

Hatschepsut said...

Oh Michael,
many thanks indeed.
Now I have to bury myself in the given long new article.
There is no doubt that I have to carry out studies into that theme.

Zubin said...

I read a lot of Krishnamurti when younger, and I do agree that his approach may have been unnecessarily complicated.

Krishnamurti focused on self-exploration of one's mind. If you are angry, dissect it to find out what is deeper than it, etc. In effect, you would be looking at all the little adjuncts of the ego to see each one as false.

But ultimately, Krishnamurti's main theme was "The Observer is the Observed", which he repeated frequently.

So, in that sense, there is no difference in Krishnamurti's ultimate teaching and Ramana's. When you do self-enquiry you are Self looking at Self. When you are looking at the feeling of I AM, the looker is also that same I AM feeling, or, in other words, the observer is the observed.

Michael James said...

Zubin, I have replied to your comment in a separate article, The observer is the observed only when we observe ourself alone.