Saturday, 18 July 2015

Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings, a friend called Sanjay wrote, ‘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’, and this triggered a long discussion, with some other friends defending the path of dualistic devotion against what was perceived to be criticism of it by those who are more attracted to Bhagavan’s non-dualistic path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). This article is written partly in response to that discussion.

However, I actually began to write this article before that discussion started, and I did so in response to a comment on one of my earlier articles, What is unique about the teachings of Sri Ramana?, in which a friend called Viswanathan wrote:
[...] I feel that if one continues with total faith in whatever path one goes in, be it Bakthi Margam or Jnana Margam, the destination will be the same — realization of self. [...] it appears to me that it might be just an illusory divide in one’s mind that the two paths are different or that one path is circuitous and the other path is shorter.
Though there is some truth in what he wrote, we cannot simply say that the path of devotion (bhakti mārga) and the path of knowledge (jñāna mārga) are not different without analysing what is meant by the term bhakti mārga or ‘the path of devotion’, because bhakti mārga encompasses a wide range of practices, of which only the ultimate one is the same as self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which is the practice of jñāna mārga.
  1. The diversity within bhakti mārga, the path of devotion
  2. The distinction between kāmya bhakti and niṣkāmya bhakti
  3. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 2: no action or karma can give liberation
  4. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 3: niṣkāmya karma done with love for God will show the way to liberation
  5. Why is purification of mind necessary?
    1. Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam verse 3: only by a pure mind can we know what we really are
    2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 18: our ego is the root of all our mental impurities
  6. We can free ourself from our ego only by self-investigation
    1. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: by attending to anything other than ourself we are sustaining our ego
    2. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: by attending to ourself we are surrendering ourself to God
    3. Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ verse 15: self-investigation is supreme devotion to God
    4. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham verse 14: self-investigation is karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna
  7. The relative efficacy of niṣkāmya karmas done by body, speech and mind
    1. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 4: dhyāna is more effective than japa, which is more effective than pūjā
    2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 5: anything can be worshipped as God
    3. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 6: the relative efficacy of different modes of japa
    4. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 7: uninterrupted meditation is superior to interrupted meditation
  8. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 8: meditating on nothing other than ourself is ‘the best among all’
  9. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 9: by meditating on ourself we will subside in our real state of being
  10. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 10: subsiding and being in our source is karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna
  11. Analysis of the various types of bhakti
    1. Sadhu Om’s analysis of bhakti
    2. Anya bhakti and ananya bhakti can be mutually supportive practices
    3. What is prayer?
    4. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 12: we must without fail follow the path taught by our guru
  12. Is self-surrender an alternative to self-investigation?
    1. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: we cannot surrender our ego so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself
    2. Partial surrender will gradually lead to complete surrender
    3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: the significance of the last three sentences
  13. Conclusion
1. The diversity within bhakti mārga, the path of devotion

In the context of the teachings of Sri Ramana, the term jñāna mārga or ‘the path of knowledge’ means only the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which entails trying to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else, in order to experience ourself as we actually are, so there is no ambiguity about the meaning of this term. However, the meaning of the term bhakti mārga is not so clear-cut or unambiguous, because whereas there is only one correct practice of jñāna mārga, there are a range of different practices and stages in bhakti mārga, so we need to analyse these practices and stages in order to decide whether or not any of them are the same as the practice of jñāna mārga or will lead directly to the same goal.

Jñāna means knowledge and bhakti means devotion or love. Though jñāna can mean knowledge of any kind or knowledge of anything, in the context of jñāna mārga it means specifically ātma-jñāna, knowledge or experience of oneself, so what we are seeking to know or experience correctly when we follow jñāna mārga is only ourself. However, in the case of bhakti mārga the goal is not so clear or obvious, because bhakti can mean devotion to a variety of things. Generally it is understood to mean devotion to God, but devotees do not all share the same concept of God or beliefs about him, her or it, so the term bhakti mārga covers a much wider range of beliefs, practices and aspirations than the term jñāna mārga. Therefore when we analyse what is meant by the term bhakti mārga, the first thing we need to consider is what each devotee is devoted to and what he or she aims to achieve.

2. The distinction between kāmya bhakti and niṣkāmya bhakti

The first clear distinction we need to make when analysing the meaning of bhakti is between kāmya bhakti, which is devotion practised for achieving some desired objective or objectives, and niṣkāmya bhakti, which is devotion practised for no ulterior motive but only for the love of God. Kāmya bhakti is not real bhakti or devotion to God, but is only devotion to whatever we seek to achieve from him. That is, if we worship God or pray to him for health, wealth or any other benefit that we may desire, we are using him just as a means to our end, so we are devoted to him only insofar as he gives us whatever we desire. If he does not answer our prayers or give us what we want, we become disappointed or angry with him, because he is not doing what we expect him to do for us. Therefore kāmya bhakti is not a spiritual path (though it may be a preparatory stage leading to niṣkāmya bhakti), and hence it is not what is meant by the term bhakti mārga. Only when our devotion evolves from being kāmya bhakti to being niṣkāmya bhakti does the real bhakti mārga begin.

3. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 2: no action or karma can give liberation

As we saw in the previous section, real bhakti begins only when we worship or practise devotion to God for no purpose other than our love for him. During the early stages of such bhakti we still consider God to be something other than ourself, and hence we feel that we can express our devotion to him only by certain actions done by our body, speech or mind, and such actions or karmas are what Bhagavan briefly outlines in verses 4 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār. However, no action can enable us to reach God or to merge in him, so such practices are only a means to purify our mind and not an adequate means to experience God as he really is, as Bhagavan makes clear in verses 2 and 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār. In verse 2 he says:
வினையின் விளைவு விளிவுற்று வித்தாய்
வினைக்கடல் வீழ்த்திடு முந்தீபற
      வீடு தரலிலை யுந்தீபற.

viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivuṯṟu vittāy
viṉaikkaḍal vīṙttiḍu mundīpaṟa
      vīḍu taralilai yundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினையின் விளைவு விளிவு உற்று வித்து ஆய் வினை கடல் வீழ்த்திடும். வீடு தரல் இலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivu uṯṟu vittu āy viṉai-kaḍal vīṙttiḍum. vīḍu taral ilai.

English translation: The fruit of action having perished, as seed causes to fall in the ocean of action. Giving liberation is not.

Paraphrased translation: The fruit of action having perished [remains] as seed [and thereby] causes [one] to fall in the ocean of action. [Therefore action] does not give liberation.
The results of our actions are compared here to the fruit and seeds of a tree. If we eat an apple, for example, it ceases to exist as such as soon as we eat it, but its seeds remain, and given favourable circumstances they will sprout and grow into new apple trees, which will produce more apples and seeds. Likewise, the fruit or moral consequence of each action that we do perishes as soon as we experience it, but the seed (the propensity or vāsanā) generated by that action remains, and given favourable circumstances it will sprout, prompting us to do the same kind of action again. Thus, even after we have experienced the moral consequence of any of our past actions, we will still have an inclination, propensity or vāsanā to do such an action again, so actions (karmas) are self-perpetuating, and hence Bhagavan says that doing any action ‘causes [us] to fall [or sink] in the ocean of action’ (வினை கடல் வீழ்த்திடும்: viṉai-kaḍal vīṙttiḍum). Therefore he concludes this verse by saying that action or karma ‘is not liberation-giving’ or ‘does not give liberation’ (வீடு தரல் இலை: vīḍu taral ilai).

When he translated this verse into Sanskrit, the poetic metre in which he wrote it was too short for him to include in it the crucial words வித்து ஆய் (vittu āy), which mean ‘as seed’, but he expressed the idea in the final clause even more strongly than in Tamil by saying not merely that action does not give liberation but that it actually obstructs liberation (गति निरोधकम्: gati nirōdhakam):
कृतिम होदधौ पतन कारणम् ।
फलम शाश्वतं गतिनि रोधकम् ॥

kṛtima hōdadhau patana kāraṇam
phalama śāśvataṁ gatini rōdhakam
.

पदच्छेद: कृति महा उदध्औ पतन कारणम्. फलम् अशाश्वतं. गति निरोधकम्.

Padacchēda (word-separation): kṛti mahā udadhau patana kāraṇam. phalam aśāśvataṁ. gati nirōdhakam.

English translation: [Action is] the cause of falling in the great ocean of action. [Its] fruit is impermanent. [It is] liberation-obstructing.
What he says in this verse applies to morally good actions as much as to morally bad ones or morally neutral ones, because whatever action we may do will create or strengthen our tendency to do the same kind of action again. Good actions yield good fruit, in the sense that whatever moral consequences they cause us to experience will be pleasant, whereas bad actions yield bad or unpleasant fruit, but whether actions happen to be morally good, bad or neutral, they will always create karma-vāsanās (inclinations or tendencies to do such actions), which are the seeds that immerse us in the vast ocean of action. Therefore by doing action we can never be liberated from the bondage of action or the illusion that we are doing action.

4. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 3: niṣkāmya karma done with love for God will show the way to liberation

However in the next verse Bhagavan makes a concession by pointing out the only way in which action can lead to liberation, albeit only indirectly. That is, if we do actions without desire for any kind of personal gain but for the love of God alone, such actions will purify our mind, in the sense that they will weaken our desires and attachments and increase our love for God. Of course we cannot do action without any desire whatsoever so long as we experience ourself as this ego, but at least to a limited extent we can do actions motivated by love for God rather than desire for any personal benefit. Such actions are called niṣkāmya karmas, and by purifying our mind they enable us to recognise that the only way to liberate ourself from our ego and all its actions is to investigate ourself and thereby experience what we really are. This is what Bhagavan indicates in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
கருத்தனுக் காக்குநிட் காமிய கன்மங்
கருத்தைத் திருத்தியஃ துந்தீபற
      கதிவழி காண்பிக்கு முந்தீபற.

karuttaṉuk kākkuniṭ kāmiya kaṉmaṅ
karuttait tiruttiyaḵ dundīpaṟa
      gativaṙi kāṇbikku mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும் நிட்காமிய கன்மம் கருத்தை திருத்தி, அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): karuttaṉukku ākkum niṭkāmiya kaṉmam karuttai tirutti, aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum.

English translation: Niṣkāmya karma done [with love] for God purifies the mind and [thereby] it will show the path to liberation.
The first line of this verse, ‘கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும் நிட்காமிய கன்மம்’ (karuttaṉukku ākkum niṭkāmiya kaṉmam) literally means ‘niṣkāmya karma [desireless or unmotivated action] done to [or for] God’. In this context கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும் (karuttaṉukku ākkum), ‘done to [or for] God’, could be interpreted to mean ‘done for [the sake of] God’, ‘done for [the love of] God’, ‘done [with love] for God’ or ‘done [offering the fruit] to God’. Generally it is interpreted in the latter sense, because in the Sanskrit version of this verse Bhagavan translated this first line as ‘ईश्वर अर्पितम् न इच्छया कृतम्’ (īśvara arpitam na icchayā kṛtam), which literally means ‘what is done not with desire [but] offered [entrusted or transferred] to God’. However in the Malayalam version (which he wrote in a longer poetic metre, enabling him to elaborate what he wrote in Tamil and other languages) he translated it as ‘ഈശ്വര പ്രീതിയിനായ് ഫലം ഏല്പിച്ച് ഒരു ഇച്ഛ എന്നി ചെയ് നിഷ്കാമ്യ കര്മം’ (īśvara prītiyināy phalaṃ ēlpiccŭ oru icchā enni cey niṣkāmya karmaṁ), which means ‘niṣkāmya karma done without any desire [but] for love of God, offering [its] fruit [to him]’. Here the words ‘ഈശ്വര പ്രീതിയിനായ്’ (īśvara prītiyināy), which mean ‘for love of God’, are significant because they indicate the motivation with which niṣkāmya karma is to be done, and we can infer from them that what Bhagavan meant in Tamil by the words ‘கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும்’ (karuttaṉukku ākkum) is not only ‘done [offering the fruit] to God’ but also ‘done [with love] for God’.

Thus from this third verse of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan begins to discuss not only the path of niṣkāmya karma but also the path of bhakti, and by doing so he indicates that the path of niṣkāmya karma is not a separate path but an integral part of the early stages of the path of bhakti. As he implies in later verses, particularly in verses 8 and 9, in its more advanced stages the path of bhakti goes beyond all karma, but those more advanced stages are generally reached through the devotional practices of niṣkāmya karma such as puja, japa and dhyāna, as we shall see while discussing verses 4 to 7.

The words ‘கருத்தை திருத்தி’ (karuttai tirutti) are usually interpreted as ‘purifying the mind’, because this is what they imply in this context, and because it is the meaning of the equivalent words used by Bhagavan in his Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam translations. For example, in Sanskrit he translated கருத்தை திருத்தி (karuttai tirutti) as चित्त शोधकम् (citta śōdhakam), which means purifying, cleansing or rectifying the mind or will. However in Tamil கருத்தை திருத்தி (karuttai tirutti) has various shades of meaning besides ‘purifying the mind’, such as rectifying, correcting or elevating desire or intention, because கருத்தை (karuttai) is the accusative case form of கருத்து (karuttu), which means not only mind but also intention, desire or will, and திருத்தி (tirutti) is a verbal participle that means not only cleaning or polishing but also correcting, rectifying, reforming, repairing, mending, improving or elevating.

One question that we need to consider in this context is how niṣkāmya karma done with love for God purifies the mind. Is it the karma itself that purifies the mind, or is it only the love with which the karma is done that purifies it? Since the nature of karma is to sow seeds in the form of karma-vāsanās (inclinations to do similar actions again and again), doing any karma will tend to bind the mind to the habit of doing karma, so what purifies our mind is not niṣkāmya karma itself but only the love with which we do it. Since love is the very nature of our real self, and since God is an outward manifestation of the love that we as our real self have for ourself, having heartfelt love for God will tend to purify our mind, cleansing it of at least the grosser forms of its desires and attachments.

The final clause of this verse, ‘அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்’ (aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum), contains its only finite verb, so it is its main clause, to which all its other clauses are subsidiary. That is, whereas ஆக்கும் (ākkum) is a relative participle (meaning ‘done’ or ‘which is done’) and திருத்தி (tirutti) is a verbal participle (meaning ‘cleansing’, ‘purifying’ or ‘rectifying), காண்பிக்கும் (kāṇbikkum) is a finite verb meaning ‘will show’ or ‘will cause to see’. Thus the grammatical structure of this verse indicates that the principal benefit to be gained from doing niṣkāmya karma with love for God is being made to see, discern or recognise the path by which we can ultimately attain liberation, and that we are enabled to see it as a result of the purification of our mind. In other words, the purifying of our mind is an intermediate benefit of doing niṣkāmya karma with love for God, but its ultimate benefit is that we will thereby be able to discern what the only means to attain liberation actually is.

In this final clause, அஃது (aḵdu) is a poetic form of அது (adu), which is a pronoun that means ‘it’ or ‘that’, and that in this context refers to niṣkāmya karma done with love for God; கதி (gati) is a word of Sanskrit origin that has various meanings, but in this context means mukti or liberation in the sense of the final destination or ultimate refuge; வழி (vaṙi, which is often transcribed in English as vazhi) means way, path or means; and காண்பிக்கும் (kāṇbikkum) is the third person singular future (or rather predictive) form of காண்பி (kāṇbi), the causal form of காண் (kāṇ), which means to see, perceive, discern, discover, experience or know, so காண்பிக்கும் (kāṇbikkum) means ‘it will cause to see’ or ‘it will show’, in the sense that it will enable one to see or recognise. Thus this final clause means ‘it will show the path to liberation’ and implies that doing niṣkāmya karma with love for God will enable one to see, discern or recognise what the correct path to liberation is.

5. Why is purification of mind necessary?

How niṣkāmya karma done with love for God enables us to recognise the path to liberation is by purifying our mind. So long as our mind is clouded with impurities in the form of strong desires and attachments, it will not have sufficient clarity or vivēka to discern what the correct path to liberation is, so purifying our mind at least to a certain extent is a necessary prerequisite to being able to appreciate that liberation is only the annihilation of our own ego, that our ego is merely an illusory experience of ourself, and that therefore the only means by which we can attain liberation is by investigating ourself and thereby experiencing ourself as we actually are.

If we are convinced by Bhagavan’s teaching that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is the only way to annihilate our ego and thereby to attain liberation, that indicates that our mind is already sufficiently purified for this purpose, so we need not practise any of the forms of niṣkāmya karma outlined by him in verses 4 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār, but can instead concentrate all our interest, effort and attention on practising only self-investigation. However, if we are not yet convinced by his teaching that self-investigation is the only way to attain liberation, then we should continue our practices of niṣkāmya bhakti until our mind is sufficiently pure for us to clearly understand that ultimately we can attain liberation only by investigating ourself, this ego who is seeking to attain it.

However, a word of warning: just because we are convinced by Bhagavan’s teachings and are therefore trying our best to practise self-investigation as much as possible, we should not conclude that our mind is therefore more pure than the minds of others who have not yet been given to understand that self-investigation is the only way to attain liberation and are therefore still practising various forms of dualistic devotion. Bhagavan did not intend us to use verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār as a yardstick for assessing the purity either of our own mind or of the minds of others. In our case we have been fortunate that he has appeared in our life as our guru and has enabled us to understand his teachings at least to a certain extent, but this does not mean that our mind is any more pure than anyone else’s. If we have been firmly convinced by him that self-investigation is the only way to attain liberation, we should consider that to be entirely due to his unbounded and uncaused grace.

In some cases grace allows a person to progress very far along the path of dualistic devotion before eventually turning their mind inwards to experience God as their own self, so we cannot reliably judge by anyone’s outward actions how pure their mind actually is. Literature in India abounds with stories of people who outwardly appeared to be simple devotees but actually had extraordinarily intense devotion in their heart, so the minds of such devotees are probably far more pure than our own.

If grace allows a person to develop extremely intense devotion to God as if he were something other than themself, it will eventually become relatively easy for that person to turn their mind inwards and surrender themself to him in their heart, whereas if grace has appeared to us in the form of Bhagavan Ramana and thereby shown us relatively early in our spiritual development that self-investigation is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, it may be necessary for us to persevere with much difficulty and for a long time in trying to practise self-investigation before we are eventually able to surrender ourself entirely.

All we can say with certainty is that whatever other spiritual path anyone may follow, eventually we must each turn our mind inwards to investigate ourself, because that is the only means by which any of us can experience what we actually are, and that if we are fortunate to have been shown this path of self-investigation early on in our spiritual development, it serves as a shortcut by which we can attain liberation much quicker and more easily than we could if we were to follow any other path. If our mind is pure enough to understand and accept the teachings of Bhagavan Ramana but not yet pure enough to practise self-investigation without much difficulty, the quickest, most effective and most reliable way for us to purify it further is to persevere in trying to practise self-investigation to the best of our ability.

Whatever effort we are able to make in this path will be far more effective and beneficial than the same amount of effort made in any other path, so Bhagavan often used to say that if we can make even a little effort to do any other form of spiritual practice, such as puja, japa, dhyāna or prāṇāyāma, we can make the same amount of effort to practise self-investigation, and by doing so we will derive much greater benefit and much faster than we could by expending our effort in doing any other form of spiritual practice. As we shall see later, this is what he clearly implies when he says in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār that ananya bhāva (meditation on what is not other), which is an alternative way of describing the practice of self-investigation, is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), ‘the best among all’, in which அனைத்தினும் (aṉaittiṉum), ‘among all’, means both among all practices of bhakti and among all forms of meditation, and உத்தமம் (uttamam), ‘the best’, ‘the highest’ or ‘the most excellent’, means the most efficacious in purifying our mind.

Though niṣkāmya karma done with love for God can purify our mind, what we need to consider is how quickly, effectively and reliably and to what extent it can do so. This obviously depends to a large extent upon the intensity and depth of our love for God, but according to Bhagavan it also depends upon the nature of the niṣkāmya karma that we do, as he explains in verses 4 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār. Since our body, speech and mind are the three instruments through which we do karma, and since they are in this order progressively more subtle and hence more powerful instruments, niṣkāmya karma done by speech is more efficacious than that done by body, and that done by mind is more efficacious than that done by speech. However niṣkāmya karma done even by mind cannot purify our mind as quickly, effectively or reliably or to the same extent as self-investigation. Therefore the sooner we start investigating what we really are, the quicker and more reliably we will make progress towards our ultimate goal of liberation or true self-knowledge.

In one of his comments on In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings, a friend called Sivanarul wrote in response to someone else’s comment, ‘[...] It saddens me to read that dualistic forms of worship “just” purify our mind and having it attributed to Bhagavan. [...] If anyone knew of Kannappa Nayanar’s life and his devotion, they would never, even in their dream, say that dualistic form just purifies the mind to a certain extent’. Though I appreciate the sentiment with which Sivanarul wrote this, his use of the word ‘just’ to qualify ‘purify our mind’ suggests that he believes that others look down upon purification of the mind as a trivial benefit, which perhaps some people do, so in this context it is necessary for us to carefully consider and understand the importance and value of purifying our mind.
    5a. Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam verse 3: only by a pure mind can we know what we really are
A certain degree of purity of mind is required not only to recognise that self-investigation is the only means by which we can free ourself from this ego, but also to practise self-investigation, and to be able to experience ourself as we really are we need an extremely pure mind, as Bhagavan indicates in verse 3 of Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam:
அகமுகமா ரந்த வமலமதி தன்னா
லகமிதுதா னெங்கெழுமென் றாய்ந்தே — யகவுருவை
நன்கறிந்து முந்நீர் நதிபோலு மோயுமே
யுன்கணரு ணாசலனே யோர்.

ahamukhamā randa vamalamati taṉṉā
lakamidudā ṉeṅkeṙumeṉ ḏṟāyndē — yahavuruvai
naṉgaṟindu munnīr nadipōlu mōyumē
yuṉgaṇaru ṇācalaṉē yōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகமுகம் ஆர் அந்த அமல மதி தன்னால் அகம் இது தான் எங்கு எழும் என்று ஆய்ந்தே, அக உருவை நன்கு அறிந்து, முந்நீர் நதி போலும் ஓயுமே உன்கண் அருணாசலனே. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahamukham ār anda amala mati-taṉṉāl aham idu-tāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu āyndē, aha-v-uruvai naṉgu aṟindu, munnīr nadi pōlum ōyumē uṉkaṇ aruṇācalaṉē. ōr.

English translation: By that immaculate mind which is completely ahamukham [inward facing, selfward-facing or self-attentive] investigating where this ‘I’ itself rises and [thereby] clearly knowing the [real] form of ‘I’, one will certainly cease in you, Arunachala, like a river in the ocean. Know.
மதி தன்னால் (mati-taṉṉāl) is an instrumental case form of மதி (mati), which means mind, so the first line of this verse describes the instrument by which self-investigation can be done successfully, and it specifies two conditions that the mind must be in, one of which is a short-term condition and the other of which is a long-term one. The long-term condition is described by the adjective அமல (amala), which is a word of Sanskrit origin that means free of mala (dirt or impurity), clean, stainless, blemishless, immaculate or pure. In the Sanskrit original of this verse Bhagavan intensified the meaning of amala by prefixing to it the adverb ati, which means extremely or exceedingly. Having an extremely pure mind is a necessary condition because an impure mind will be too strongly attached to external things and experiences to be willing to let go of everything and surrender itself entirely to the experience of pure and infinite self-awareness.

However, having an extremely pure mind is not a sufficient condition, because such a mind also needs to be turned inwards in order to experience what it really is or the source from which it arises. This is what is described by the other condition specified in the first line, namely அகமுகம் ஆர் (ahamukham ār). அகமுகம் (ahamukham) is a compound of two words: அகம் (aham), which is both a pure Tamil word that means ‘inside’ or ‘within’ and a word of Sanskrit origin that means ‘I’, and முகம் (mukham), which is a word of Sanskrit origin that means either ‘face’ or ‘facing’, ‘turning towards’ or ‘turned towards’, so அகமுகம் (ahamukham) means ‘inward facing’, ‘turned towards I’, ‘selfward facing’ or ‘self-attentive’. ஆர் (ār) is a verb that has several meaning such as to become full or complete, to spread, to be satisfied, to abide or to experience, but it is here used is the sense of its relative participle, ஆரும் (ārum), so அகமுகம் ஆர் (ahamukham ār) means ‘which is completely inward facing [selfward-facing or self-attentive]’.

I described being amala or immaculate as a long-term condition because the degree of our mind’s purity does not fluctuate but changes only gradually over a prolonged period of time, and I described being ahamukham or self-attentive as a short-term condition because we can quickly switch between being ahamukham (inward facing or self-attentive) and being bahirmukham (outward facing or turned towards things other than ourself). When we are trying to practise self-investigation, our mind fluctuates between being at least partially ahamukham and again lapsing into being bahirmukham. However, if we once succeed in being completely ahamukham, it will become our permanent condition, because by being so even for a moment we will experience ourself as we really are, and thus our ego and mind will be destroyed forever.

Both of these conditions, being immaculately pure and being completely self-attentive, are necessary, so neither is sufficient without the other. Until our mind is purified to a great extent, we will not be able to be completely self-attentive, and however pure our mind may be, we will not be able to experience what we actually are until we turn our mind inwards to experience ourself alone. However, though we will not manage to be completely self-attentive until our mind is purified to a great extent, the most effective and reliable way to purify it is to try repeatedly and persistently to be self-attentive, so we need not wait till our mind is extremely pure before trying to be completely self-attentive. However impure our mind may be, if we have even an iota of love to experience ourself as we really are, we should try our best to be self-attentive as much as possible.

By persevering in our attempts to be self-attentive, we will eventually reach a point where our mind has been purified sufficiently for us to become completely self-attentive, and what will then happen is described by Bhagavan in the last three lines of this verse. In the second line the clause ‘அகம் இது தான் எங்கு எழும் என்று ஆய்ந்தே’ (aham idu-tāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu āyndē), which means, ‘investigating where this I itself rises’, is an alternative way of describing the practise of trying to be ahamukham or self-attentive, because the source from which this ‘I’ (our ego) rises is only ourself, and investigating ourself entails only being self-attentive.

In the next clause he says ‘அகவுருவை நன்கு அறிந்து’ (aha-v-uruvai naṉgu aṟindu), which literally means ‘knowing the I-form well [thoroughly or clearly]’. அகவுருவை (aha-v-uruvai) literally means the ‘inner form’ or ‘form of I’, so it is more or less equivalent in meaning to the Sanskrit term ātma-svarūpa, which means the ‘own form of oneself’ and which Bhagavan often used to denote what we really are — our real or essential self. In the Sanskrit original of this verse the equivalent term he used was स्वंरूपम् (svaṁrūpam), which is a poetic variant of svarūpa, which means ‘one’s own form’, so like அகவுருவை (aha-v-uruvai) it means ourself as we really are.

When we clearly know or experience ourself as we really are, we will cease to experience ourself as the ego or mind that we now seem to be, and will therefore merge back into our source, which is what we really are. This is described by Bhagavan poetically in the final clause, ‘முந்நீர் நதி போலும் ஓயுமே உன்கண் அருணாசலனே’ (munnīr nadi pōlum ōyumē uṉkaṇ aruṇācalaṉē), which means, ‘one will certainly cease in you, Arunachala, like a river in the ocean’. Here the verb ஓயுமே (ōyumē) is an intensified form of ஓயும் (ōyum), which means ‘will cease’, ‘will come to an end’, ‘will perish’ or ‘will rest’, and in this context it implies that we will certainly merge and come to rest in Arunachala (our own real self) like a river that merges in the ocean.

Only when we thus merge in the one infinite reality, which is what Bhagavan calls Arunachala, will we become absolutely pure. Until then, we will continue to experience ourself as this finite ego, so however pure our mind may be, it is still only a state of relative purity, not one of absolute purity, because the very nature of our mind is to be more or less impure. A perfectly pure mind is not a mind at all, but only the one infinite reality itself, which is what we always actually are.
    5b. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 18: our ego is the root of all our mental impurities
What are the impurities in our mind, and how do they prevent us from seeing or recognising the path to liberation? To answer this, we first need to consider what exactly is meant by the term ‘mind’. As Bhagavan says in verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
எண்ணங்க ளேமனம் யாவினு நானெனு
மெண்ணமே மூலமா முந்தீபற
      யானா மனமென லுந்தீபற.

eṇṇaṅga ḷēmaṉam yāviṉu nāṉeṉu
meṇṇamē mūlamā mundīpaṟa
      yāṉā maṉameṉa lundīpaṟa
.

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

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

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

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

English translation: Thoughts alone are mind. Of all, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the root. What is called mind is ‘I’.

Elaborated translation: Thoughts alone are mind [or the mind is only thoughts]. Of all [thoughts], the thought called ‘I’ alone is the mūla [the root, base, foundation, origin, source or cause]. [Therefore] what is called mind is [essentially just] ‘I’ [the ego or root-thought called ‘I’].
As he explains here, there are two senses in which the term ‘mind’ can be used. It is generally used as a collective name for all thoughts or mental phenomena, but since the root of all thoughts is only the ego, our primal thought called ‘I’, what the mind essentially is is just this ego. In other words, the term ‘mind’ can refer either to our ego alone or to our ego and all its other thoughts. Since our ego is an erroneous experience of ourself, it is the first and most harmful impurity in our mind, and it is the root of all our other mental impurities. Therefore if we could remove this primal impurity, our ego, what would remain is only a perfectly clear experience of ourself as we really are, so in this sense an absolutely pure mind is nothing but ourself as we really are, and hence the ultimate aim of all forms of spiritual practice should be only to remove this root-impurity, our ego.

To what extent can doing any niṣkāmya karma with love for God purify our mind? Can it remove its fundamental impurity, our ego? The implication in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār is that it cannot, because if it could there would have been no need for Bhagavan to say, ‘அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்’ (aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum), ‘it will show the way to liberation’. These concluding words imply that doing any niṣkāmya karma with love for God will purify our mind only to a certain extent, and that beyond a certain extent we need some other வழி (vaṙi), means, path or way, in order to reach our final கதி (gati), destination or goal, which is liberation or the state of absolute egolessness.

If niṣkāmya karma done with love for God cannot remove our ego, which is the fundamental impurity in our mind, what other impurities can it remove? What are the impurities that help to sustain our ego and keep it firmly bound to doing karma or action? The answer is obviously our karma-vāsanās (the desires or inclinations that impel us to do actions), and also the power that motivates them, which is our viṣaya-vāsanās (our desires or inclinations to experience things other than ourself). In other words, the impurities that we first need to reduce are our desires for and attachments to anything other than ourself.

So long as our ego survives, its desires and attachments will remain, at least in some form and to some extent, so doing any niṣkāmya karma with love for God can only remove our desires and attachments to a certain extent. Removing our desires and attachments by any means other than self-investigation is like cutting the leaves and branches off a dense bush. We need to cut the leaves and branches to a certain extent in order to be able to cut the root that they are surrounding and protecting, but if we continue trying to cut the leaves and branches without ever trying to cut their root, they will continue sprouting again and again. Therefore as soon as we have cut them sufficiently for us to be able to see their root, we should concentrate on trying to cut that root, because only when it has been cut will the leaves and branches finally stop sprouting.

Likewise, we need to remove our desires and attachments to a certain extent in order to see that their root is only our own ego and that therefore we cannot get rid of them entirely until we root out this ego, which we can do only by investigating it. That is, so long as our desires and attachments remain, they will surround and protect their root, our ego, so we do need to destroy them to a certain extent in order to be able to destroy this ego. However, if we continue trying to destroy our desires and attachments without ever trying to destroy their root, they will continue sprouting again and again. Therefore as soon as we have destroyed them sufficiently for us to be able to see that their root is only our own ego, we should concentrate on trying to destroy this root, because only when it has been destroyed will its desires and attachments finally stop sprouting.

6. We can free ourself from our ego only by self-investigation

Like any other karma (action), niṣkāmya karma (desireless action) is done only by ourself as this ego, so by doing any niṣkāmya karma we are sustaining the illusion that we are this ego, and hence we cannot free ourself from this ego by doing niṣkāmya karma. This is why Bhagavan said in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār that karma ‘does not give liberation’ (வீடு தரல் இலை: vīḍu taral ilai).

Attending to anything other than ourself is an action or karma, because it entails a movement of our attention away from ourself towards that other thing, so we cannot attain liberation by attending to anything other than ourself. Therefore, since any form of spiritual practice other than self-investigation entails attending to something other than ourself, it is a karma, and hence it will not destroy our ego, or even allow it to be destroyed. Therefore our ego can be destroyed only when we give up all other forms of spiritual practice and try to investigate ourself alone.

Since self-investigation entails no movement of our attention away from ourself, it is not an action or karma but only a state of just being. That is, our ego or mind becomes active only by attending to anything other than itself, so when it tries to attend to itself alone, all its activity subsides, and since it cannot stand without grasping something other than itself, it too will subside along with all it activity. Therefore by trying to be self-attentive we are returning to our natural state of just being as we always actually are, and hence self-attentiveness is the only means by which we can free ourself from our ego.
    6a. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: by attending to anything other than ourself we are sustaining our ego
We seem to be this ego only when we experience anything other than ourself, so by attending to anything other than ourself we are sustaining the fundamental illusion that we are this ego. This is why Bhagavan always insisted that we can destroy our ego only by investigating it, as he clearly implies 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 niṟkum; 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 niṟkum; 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 [spreads, expands, increases, rises high or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
Since our ego has no form of its own, he describes it here as a ‘formless phantom’ (உருவற்ற பேய்: uru-v-aṯṟa pēy), and thus he implies that whatever forms it grasps are things other than itself. Therefore when he says, ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṟkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum), which means ‘grasping form it rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly’, what he implies is that it is only by attending to and thereby experiencing anything other than itself that this formless phantom-ego comes into existence, endures and is nourished.

Therefore by doing any spiritual practice that entails attending to anything other than ourself we are nourishing and sustaining our ego, and hence such practices cannot be a means to destroy our ego. The only means by which we can destroy our ego is therefore self-investigation — the practice of trying to attend to ourself alone. This is what Bhagavan indicates in the final sentence of this verse: ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’.

Thus in this verse Bhagavan expresses one of the fundamental principles of his teachings: by attending to anything other than ourself we are nourishing and sustaining our ego, so we can destroy it only by attending to it alone.

Therefore however much we may purify our mind by any other means, we cannot thereby remove its root-impurity, our ego. Hence even the greatest of devotees can finally surrender their ego to God only by turning their attention back within in order to ascertain what this ego actually is. Since it is just a formless phantom, it does not really exist, so when it is investigated ‘it will take flight’ — that is, it will dissolve and disappear.
    6b. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: by attending to ourself we are surrendering ourself to God
Therefore, self-investigation is the culmination and pinnacle of the path of devotion, because as Bhagavan clearly indicated in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? it is the only means by which we can surrender ourself entirely to God:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [thought of oneself or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God.
So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not experiencing ourself as we actually are, but only as a separate entity, this ego, so we cannot give up this ego so long as we continue to think of anything other than ourself. Since we rise as this ego only by grasping things other than ourself, we can subside and merge back into God, who is the source from which we rose, only by trying to grasp (or be aware of) ourself alone. This is why Bhagavan says that abiding firmly as what we actually are by thinking of nothing other than ourself is alone giving or surrendering ourself to God.
    6c. Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ verse 15: self-investigation is supreme devotion to God
This is why Bhagavan often used to say that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is supreme devotion (parabhakti) and is the ultimate practice to which all other devotional practices must eventually lead. For example, in verse 15 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ he says:
ஆன்மாநு சந்தான மஃதுபர மீசபத்தி
ஆன்மாவா யீசனுள னால்.

āṉmānu sandhāṉa maḵdupara mīśabhatti
āṉmāvā yīśaṉuḷa ṉāl
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஆன்ம அநுசந்தானம் அஃது பரம் ஈச பத்தி, ஆன்மாவாய் ஈசன் உளனால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): āṉma-anusandhāṉam aḵdu param īśa-bhatti, āṉmā-v-āy īśaṉ uḷaṉāl.

அன்வயம்: ஈசன் ஆன்மாவாய் உளனால், ஆன்ம அநுசந்தானம் அஃது பரம் ஈச பத்தி.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): īśaṉ āṉmā-v-āy uḷaṉāl, āṉma-anusandhāṉam aḵdu param īśa-bhatti.

English translation: Self-investigation (ātma-anusaṁdhāna) is supreme devotion to God (para īśa-bhakti), because God exists as oneself (ātman).
அநுசந்தானம் (anusandhāṉam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word अनुसंधान (anusaṁdhāna), which means investigation, examination, scrutiny or close inspection, so ஆன்மாநுசந்தானம் (āṉmānusandhāṉam or āṉma-anusandhāṉam) means investigating or closely inspecting oneself. Since God is nothing other than ourself, Bhagavan says that investigating ourself is supreme devotion to him.
    6d. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham verse 14: self-investigation is karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna
Whereas other devotional practices can help to remove other defects in our mind, only self-investigation can remove our ego, which is the root of all those defects, because only when we investigate this ego by looking at it very carefully will we discover that it does not actually exist, and that what seemed to be this ego is only ourself as we really are. Therefore no other spiritual practice can be complete on its own without self-investigation, and hence in verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham Bhagavan says:
வினையும் விபத்தி வியோகமஞ் ஞான
மினையவையார்க் கென்றாய்ந் திடலே — வினைபத்தி
யோகமுணர் வாய்ந்திடநா னின்றியவை யென்றுமிறா
னாகமன லேயுண்மை யாம்.

viṉaiyum vibhatti viyōgamañ ñāṉa
miṉaiyavaiyārk keṉḏṟāyn diḍalē — viṉaibhatti
yōgamuṇar vāyndiḍanā ṉiṉḏṟiyavai yeṉḏṟumiṟā
ṉāhamaṉa lēyuṇmai yām
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினையும், விபத்தி, வியோகம், அஞ்ஞானம் இணையவை யார்க்கு என்று ஆய்ந்திடலே வினை, பத்தி, யோகம், உணர்வு. ஆய்ந்திட, ‘நான்’ இன்றி அவை என்றும் இல். தானாக மனலே உண்மை ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉai-y-um, vibhatti, viyōgam, aññāṉam iṉaiyavai yārkku eṉḏṟu āyndiḍal-ē viṉai, bhatti, yōgam, uṇarvu. āyndiḍa, ‘nāṉ’ iṉḏṟi avai eṉḏṟum il. tāṉ-āha maṉal-ē uṇmai ām.

English translation: Investigating to whom are these, karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna, is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. When [one] investigates, without ‘I’ [the ego] they [karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna] never exist. Only being permanently as oneself is true.
In the first line of this verse வினை (viṉai) means action or karma; விபத்தி (vibhatti) means vibhakti, but in the special sense of ‘lack of devotion’ rather than its usual sense of ‘separation’; வியோகம் (viyōgam) mean ‘separation’; and அஞ்ஞானம் (aññāṉam) means ajñāna or ‘ignorance’ in the sense of ‘self-ignorance’. Since these are issues only for our ego, and since investigating this ego will reveal that it does not actually exist, Bhagavan says that investigating to whom or for whom these defects seem to exist is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna, by which he implies that if we investigate our ego none of the other practices of niṣkāmya karma, bhakti, yōga or jñāna are necessary, because as he says in the next sentence these defects cannot ever exist without this ego. Therefore if we investigate this ego sufficiently diligently, it will no longer seem to exist, and thus we will discover that what is true or real is only that we are always ourself and nothing but ourself.

7. The relative efficacy of niṣkāmya karmas done by body, speech and mind

Any devotional practice other than self-investigation is an action done by our ego, so such practises seem necessary only when we do not investigate this ego. Though such practises can help to purify our mind and thereby to enable us to see that the path of self-investigation is the only means by which we can be liberated from this ego, their efficacy in doing so depends upon whether they are actions done by our body, speech or mind, as Bhagavan briefly outlines in verses 4 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār.
    7a. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 4: dhyāna is more effective than japa, which is more effective than pūjā
In verse 4 he discusses the three types of niṣkāmya karma that we can do by body, speech and mind respectively, namely pūjā (worship), japa (verbal repetition) and dhyāna (meditation):
திடமிது பூசை செபமுந் தியான
முடல்வாக் குளத்தொழி லுந்தீபற
     வுயர்வாகு மொன்றிலொன் றுந்தீபற.

diḍamidu pūjai jepamun dhiyāṉa
muḍalvāk kuḷattoṙi lundīpaṟa
     vuyarvāhu moṉḏṟiloṉ ḏṟundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: திடம் இது: பூசை செபமும் தியானம் உடல் வாக்கு உள தொழில். உயர்வு ஆகும் ஒன்றில் ஒன்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): diḍam idu: pūjai jepam-um dhiyāṉam uḍal vākku uḷa toṙil. uyarvu āhum oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu.

அன்வயம்: பூசை செபமும் தியானம் உடல் வாக்கு உள தொழில். ஒன்றில் ஒன்று உயர்வு ஆகும். இது திடம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): pūjai jepam-um dhiyāṉam uḍal vākku uḷa toṙil. oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu uyarvu āhum. idu diḍam.

English translation: This is certain: pūjā, japa and dhyāna are actions of body, speech and mind. One than one is superior.
உயர்வு (uyarvu) means high, lofty, elevated, exalted or superior, being a noun derived from the verb உயர் (uyar), which means to rise, ascend, grow, increase or expand, or to be high, lofty, elevated, exalted or superior. ‘உயர்வு ஆகும் ஒன்றில் ஒன்று’ (uyarvu āhum oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu) literally means ‘one than one is superior’, which in this context implies that each successive one is superior to the preceding one, so the meaning of this verse can be paraphrased as follows:
This is certain: pūjā, japa and dhyāna are [respectively] actions of body, speech and mind, [and hence in this order each successive] one is superior to [the preceding] one.
Since this verse comes immediately after verse 3, in which Bhagavan said, ‘Niṣkāmya karma done [with love] for God purifies the mind and [thereby] it will show the path to liberation’, in this context the terms pūjā, japa and dhyāna imply only niṣkāmya pūjā, japa and dhyāna done with love for God, so this verse is not referring to any form of kāmya pūjā, japa or dhyāna (that is, pūjā, japa or dhyāna done for the fulfilment of any personal desires).

When he says that each one of these is superior to the preceding one, what he implies by the term உயர்வு (uyarvu) or ‘superior’ is more effective and reliable in purifying the mind and thereby showing the path to liberation. The reason why each successive one is superior in this way is implied by the words ‘உடல் வாக்கு உள தொழில்’ (uḍal vākku uḷa toṙil), which mean ‘actions of body, speech and mind’. That is, body, speech and mind are the three instruments by which we as this ego do actions or karmas, but since in this order each successive one of these instruments is more subtle than the preceding one, whatever actions we do by speech are potentially more powerful and effective than any action we could do by our body, and whatever actions we do by our mind are potentially more powerful and effective than any action we could do by our speech.

Since pūjā (any physical act of worship) is an action done by our body, whatever actions or materials are involved in doing it are liable to distract our mind away from God, at least partially, so it is a less effective and reliable way of focusing our love on him. In this respect japa (repeating a name of God), which is an action done by our speech, is superior to pūjā, because it is a simpler and more subtle action, and hence it will tend to distract our attention away from God less. Therefore generally speaking japa is a more effective way of focusing our love on God than pūjā, and hence it is a more effective and reliable means of purifying our mind.

However, even while doing japa we can easily fail to notice when our attention becomes distracted by other thoughts, because japa can continue mechanically while we are thinking of other matters, thereby creating an illusion that we are doing japa when our mind is in fact dwelling on other thoughts. In this respect dhyāna (meditation, which in this context means meditation upon a name or form of God) is superior to japa, because it is an action done by our mind and hence we can notice more easily when our attention is distracted by any other thoughts, since we cannot continue meditating on God when we are thinking about anything else. Therefore generally speaking dhyāna is a more effective way of focusing our love on God than doing japa vocally, and hence it is a more effective and reliable means of purifying our mind.

Hence Bhagavan says in this verse that it is certain that dhyāna is superior to japa, and japa is superior to pūjā. Then in the next three verses he discusses each of these three kinds of niṣkāmya karma in more detail.
    7b. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 5: anything can be worshipped as God
In verse 5 he explains what he means by pūjā or ‘worship’ in this context:
எண்ணுரு யாவு மிறையுரு வாமென
வெண்ணி வழிபட லுந்தீபற
     வீசனற் பூசனை யுந்தீபற.

eṇṇuru yāvu miṟaiyuru vāmeṉa
veṇṇi vaṙipaḍa lundīpaṟa
     vīśaṉaṯ pūjaṉai yundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: எண் உரு யாவும் இறை உரு ஆம் என எண்ணி வழிபடல் ஈசன் நல் பூசனை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): eṇ uru yāvum iṟai uru ām eṉa eṇṇi vaṙipaḍal īśaṉ nal pūjaṉai.

English translation: Worshipping thinking that all eight forms are forms of God is good pūjā of God.

Paraphrased translation: Worshipping [anything] thinking that all things [in this entire universe], [which is composed of] eight forms, are forms of God, is good worship of God.
The word எண் (eṇ) is both an adjectival form of eight and a noun that has several meanings such as thought, imagination or mind, so எண்ணுரு (eṇ-ṇ-uru) can mean either ‘eight forms’ or ‘thought-forms’, and hence in this context எண்ணுரு யாவும் (eṇ-ṇ-uru yāvum) can be interpreted to mean either ‘all eight forms’ or ‘all thought-forms’. According to Bhagavan all phenomena, whether mental or seemingly physical, are merely thoughts, ideas or imaginations, and hence in the fourth and fourteenth paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār? he says:
[...] நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை. [...]

[...] niṉaivugaḷai-t tavirttu jagam-eṉḏṟōr poruḷ aṉṉiyam-āy illai. [...]

[...] Excluding thoughts [or ideas], there is not separately any such thing as ‘world’. [...]

[...] ஜக மென்பது நினைவே. [...]

[...] jagam eṉbadu niṉaivē. [...]

[...] What is called the world is only thought. [...]
Therefore if we interpret எண்ணுரு யாவும் (eṇ-ṇ-uru yāvum) as meaning ‘all thought-forms’, it denotes all phenomena, including all the phenomena that comprise this or any other world. However எண்ணுரு யாவும் (eṇ-ṇ-uru yāvum) is generally interpreted as meaning ‘all eight forms’, because अष्टमूर्ति (aṣṭa-mūrti) or the ‘eight-formed’ is a name of Siva and because in the Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam versions of this verse Bhagavan translated எண்ணுரு (eṇ-ṇ-uru) as aṣṭa-mūrti, but even if we interpret it in this sense, it still denotes all the phenomena that comprise this or any other world, because the ‘eight forms’ of Siva are believed to be the constituents that make up this entire universe. Various texts innumerate these ‘eight forms’ in different ways, but they invariably include the five elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and space, plus three other things such as mind, ego and prakṛti (the primordial form of all phenomena), the sun, the moon and the sacrificing priest, or the sun, moon and jīvas (souls or sentient beings), but in this context it is most appropriate to take them to be the five elements, sun, moon and jīvas, because these are all forms that can be worshipped.

Therefore whether we take this phrase எண்ணுரு யாவும் (eṇ-ṇ-uru yāvum) to mean ‘all thought-forms’ or ‘all eight forms’, it denotes anything and everything, so what Bhagavan implies in this verse is that if we consider everything to be a form of God, worshipping anything is ‘ஈசன் நல் பூசனை’ (īśaṉ nal pūjaṉai), ‘good worship of God’. Here நல் பூசனை (nal pūjaṉai) or ‘good worship’ can mean either appropriate worship or worship that is effective in purifying our mind. The rationale behind this idea that worshipping anything considering it to be a form of God is appropriate worship of him and will therefore purify our mind is that God is the one infinite reality, other than which nothing exists, so everything that seems to exist is just God himself appearing in that form, and hence it is appropriate for us to respect everything as God.

வழிபடல் (vaṙipaḍal) means following, adhering to, worshipping, adoring or treating with reverence, and in this context can mean either worshipping ritually or rendering appropriate service. However rendering appropriate service can be applicable only to jīvas (sentient beings) and not to any of the other seven forms, so if we want to worship God in any other form such as the sun, the moon, any of the five elements or anything composed of such elements, we can do so only ritually. In the case of jīvas, we can worship them either ritually or by rendering appropriate service to them, such as by alleviating whatever suffering we can or by adhering strictly to the principle of ahiṁsa (avoiding causing harm to any sentient being). Thus in this verse Bhagavan gives us a very broad and inclusive definition of ‘good worship of God’.
    7c. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 6: the relative efficacy of different modes of japa
In verse 6 he explains the different ways in which japa can be done and the relative efficacy of doing it in each way:
வழுத்தலில் வாக்குச்ச வாய்க்குட் செபத்தில்
விழுப்பமா மானத முந்தீபற
     விளம்புந் தியானமி துந்தீபற.

vaṙuttalil vākkucca vāykkuṭ jepattil
viṙuppamā māṉata mundīpaṟa
     viḷambun dhiyāṉami dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வழுத்தலில், வாக்கு உச்ச, வாய்க்குள் செபத்தில் விழுப்பம் ஆம் மானதம். விளம்பும் தியானம் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): vaṙuttalil, vākku ucca, vāykkuḷ jepattil viṙuppam ām māṉatam. viḷambum dhiyāṉam idu.

அன்வயம்: வழுத்தலில், உச்ச வாக்கு, வாய்க்குள் செபத்தில் மானதம் விழுப்பம் ஆம். இது தியானம் விளம்பும்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): vaṙuttalil, ucca vākku, vāykkuḷ jepattil māṉatam viṙuppam ām. idu dhiyāṉam viḷambum.

English translation: Rather than praising, [japa] in a loud voice, rather than japa within the mouth, mental [japa] is beneficial. This is called dhyāna.
In this verse Bhagavan compares four modes of vocal worship or japa and implies that each successive one is more beneficial or effective than the preceding ones, but he does so in an extremely terse manner, reminiscent of the style in which ancient sages expressed their ideas in aphoristic sutras, and similar to the way in which people used to convey information in telegrams or that nowadays we do so in text messages.

He expresses the first mode by the word வழுத்தலில் (vaṙuttalil), which is a locative case form of the verbal noun வழுத்தல் (vaṙuttal), which means ‘praising’ or ‘chanting’. In this case the locative case is used in a comparative sense, so it conveys the same meaning as ‘than’, ‘rather than’ or ‘in comparison with’, so I translated வழுத்தலில் (vaṙuttalil) as ‘rather than praising’, but it implies ‘in comparison with praising God by chanting hymns’. What praising or chanting is compared with is not explicitly stated, but in the context of the whole verse the implication is that it is compared with japa in general (that is, with all the three modes of japa that Bhagavan mentions here), meaning that in comparison with praising God by chanting hymns japa in general is விழுப்பம் (viṙuppam), which means good, beneficial, excellent, eminent or superior.

Whereas வழுத்தல் (vaṙuttal) means ‘praising’ or ‘chanting’ and is therefore a form of vocal worship but not japa as such, the other three modes that Bhagavan discusses here are each a form of japa. He expresses the second mode by the words வாக்கு உச்ச (vākku ucca), in which வாக்கு (vākku) means ‘voice’ and உச்ச (ucca) means ‘high’ or ‘loud’. Though the locative case-ending is not appended to வாக்கு உச்ச (vākku ucca), in the context of this verse it is implied, so the implication of these two words, வாக்கு உச்ச (vākku ucca) or ‘loud voice’, is that in comparison with japa done in a loud voice the subsequent two modes of japa that Bhagavan mentions here are விழுப்பம் (viṙuppam), ‘beneficial’ or ‘superior’.

The third mode that Bhagavan mentions here is expressed by the words வாய்க்குள் செபத்தில் (vāykkuḷ jepattil), in which வாய்க்குள் (vāykkuḷ) or வாய்க்கு உள் (vāykku-uḷ) means ‘within the mouth’ or ‘inside to the mouth’ and செபத்தில் (jepattil) is a locative case form of செபம் (jepam), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word जप (japa), which means ‘repeating’. Therefore I translated வாய்க்குள் செபத்தில் (vāykkuḷ jepattil) as ‘rather than japa within the mouth’, but what it implies is ‘rather than [or in comparison with] japa [whispered faintly] within the mouth’. What such japa is compared with is the fourth and final mode, which Bhagavan expresses by the word மானதம் (māṉatam), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word मानसिक (mānasika), which means ‘mental’ or ‘what is done by mind’. Thus the main clause of this first sentence is ‘வாய்க்குள் செபத்தில் மானதம் விழுப்பம் ஆம்’ (vāykkuḷ jepattil māṉatam viṙuppam ām), which means ‘in comparison with japa [whispered faintly] within the mouth, what is done by mind is beneficial’.

The second and final sentence of this verse is ‘விளம்பும் தியானம் இது’ (viḷambum dhiyāṉam idu), which is a poetic way of saying ‘இது தியானம் விளம்பும்’ (idu dhiyāṉam viḷambum), which means ‘this is called dhyāna’, in which இது (idu) or ‘this’ refers to mental repetition or mānasika japa and தியானம் (dhiyāṉam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word ध्यान (dhyāna), which means ‘meditation’. Thus the meaning of this entire verse can be paraphrased as follows:
Rather than praising [God by chanting hymns], [japa or repetition of his name is beneficial]; [rather than japa done in] a loud voice, [japa whispered faintly within the mouth is beneficial]; [and] rather than japa within the mouth, that which is done by mind is beneficial. This [mental repetition or mānasika japa] is called dhyāna [meditation].
In this context japa, ‘repeating’ or ‘repetition’, means specifically niṣkāmya nāma-japa or repeating a name of God with love and without desire for any personal gain. Therefore, since in this context மானதம் (māṉatam) or ‘mental’ means मानसिक जप (mānasika japa) or ‘mentally repeating’, the implied meaning of the final sentence is that mentally repeating a name of God with love for him is a form of dhyāna or meditation on God. However this final sentence is not intended to imply that doing mānasika japa of a name of God is the only way of meditating upon him, because so long as we consider God to be other than ourself we can meditate upon him either by mentally repeating his name or by doing mūrti-dhyāna, which mean meditation upon any one of the numerous forms that can be attributed to him. Therefore what Bhagavan says in the next verse about meditation applies both to mānasika japa of a name of God and to meditation upon any of his forms.
    7d. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 7: uninterrupted meditation is superior to interrupted meditation
In verse 7 he implies that continuous meditation is more effective in purifying our mind than meditation that is frequently interrupted by other thoughts:
விட்டுக் கருதலி னாறுநெய் வீழ்ச்சிபோல்
விட்டிடா துன்னலே யுந்தீபற
     விசேடமா முன்னவே யுந்தீபற.

viṭṭuk karudali ṉāṟuney vīṙccipōl
viṭṭiḍā duṉṉalē yundīpaṟa
     viśēḍamā muṉṉavē yundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: விட்டு கருதலின் ஆறு நெய் வீழ்ச்சி போல் விட்டிடாது உன்னலே விசேடம் ஆம் உன்னவே.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṭṭu karudaliṉ āṟu ney vīṙcci pōl viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal-ē viśēḍam ām uṉṉa-v-ē.

அன்வயம்: விட்டு கருதலின் ஆறு நெய் வீழ்ச்சி போல் விட்டிடாது உன்னலே உன்னவே விசேடம் ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): viṭṭu karudaliṉ āṟu ney vīṙcci pōl viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal-ē uṉṉa-v-ē viśēḍam ām.

English translation: Rather than leaving and meditating, meditating without leaving, like a river or the falling of ghee, is indeed superior to meditate.

Alternative translation: Rather than meditating discontinuously, meditating without discontinuing, like a river or the falling of ghee, is indeed superior to meditate [or is indeed superior, when considered].
Since this verse continues the theme of the previous four verses, which are about the various kinds of niṣkāmya karma that we can do with love for God, ‘meditating’ here means meditating on God with love and without any desire for achieving anything else. As I mentioned in the final paragraph of the previous subsection, so long as we consider God to be other than ourself we can meditate upon him either by mentally repeating his name (which is called mānasika japa) or by meditating upon any one of the numerous forms that can be attributed to him (which is called mūrti-dhyāna), so what Bhagavan says in this verse applies to either of these two forms of meditation.

In this verse Bhagavan contrasts two modes of meditation, which he describes as விட்டு கருதல் (viṭṭu karudal) and விட்டிடாது உன்னல் (viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal). விட்டு (viṭṭu) is a verbal participle that means leaving, quitting, abandoning, forsaking, letting go of or discontinuing, and விட்டிடாது (viṭṭiḍādu) is a negative form of the same verbal participle, so it means without leaving, abandoning or discontinuing. கருதல் (karudal) and உன்னல் (uṉṉal) are both verbal nouns that mean thinking, considering, imagining, pondering, meditating or meditation. Therefore விட்டு கருதல் (viṭṭu karudal) literally means ‘leaving [and] meditating’, but implies ‘meditating discontinuously’, ‘meditating [but then] abandoning [one’s meditation]’ or ‘meditating interruptedly’, whereas விட்டிடாது உன்னல் (viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal) literally means ‘not leaving [and] meditating’, but implies ‘meditating without leaving’, ‘meditating without discontinuing’, ‘meditating without abandoning’ or ‘meditating uninterruptedly’.

To show that he is contrasting these two modes of meditation, to விட்டு கருதல் (viṭṭu karudal) Bhagavan suffixed the particle இன் (iṉ), which in this case implies ‘than’, ‘rather than’ or ‘in contrast to’, and to விட்டிடாது உன்னல் (viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal) he suffixed the intensifying particle ஏ (ē), which in this case implies ‘indeed’ or ‘certainly’.

Bhagavan gives two analogies to emphasise the continuous nature of விட்டிடாது உன்னல் (viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal) or ‘meditating uninterruptedly’, namely ஆறு (āṟu), which means ‘river’ and which in this context implies the steady and unbroken flow of a river, and நெய் வீழ்ச்சி (ney vīṙcci), which means ‘falling of ghee’ and which suggests the continuous flow of ghee (clarified butter) or any other viscous oil when it is poured. He says that in contrast to meditating discontinuously, meditating uninterruptedly in such a steady manner is விசேடம் (viśēḍam), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word विशेष (viśēṣa), which in this context means special, distinguished, excellent or superior.

Like உயர்வு (uyarvu) or ‘superior’ in verse 4, நல் (nal) or ‘good’ in verse 5, விழுப்பம் (viṙuppam), ‘beneficial’ or ‘superior’, in verse 6, and உத்தமம் (uttamam), ‘the best’, ‘the highest’ or ‘the most excellent’, in verse 8, in this verse விசேடம் (viśēḍam) or ‘superior’ means more efficacious in purifying our mind and thereby giving us the clarity to understand that the only way to attain liberation is to turn our mind inwards to experience ourself alone.

The final word in this verse, உன்னவே (uṉṉavē), is an intensified form of உன்ன (uṉṉa), the infinitive form of the verb உன்னு (uṉṉu), which means to think, consider, ponder or meditate, and which is the verb from which the verbal noun உன்னல் (uṉṉal) is derived. Since in Tamil the infinitive can be used either in the same sense as the infinitive in English or in a conditional sense similar to that conveyed by ‘when’ in English, in this context உன்னவே (uṉṉavē) can mean either ‘to meditate’ or ‘when considered’. Thus the main clause of this verse, ‘விட்டிடாது உன்னலே விசேடம் ஆம் உன்னவே’ (viṭṭiḍādu uṉṉal-ē viśēḍam ām uṉṉa-v-ē), can be interpreted to mean either ‘meditating without discontinuing is certainly superior to meditate’ (which implies that it is a superior manner in which to meditate, or simply that it is a superior mode of meditation) or ‘meditating without discontinuing is certainly superior, when considered’.

Therefore the meaning of this verse can be paraphrased as follows:
Rather than meditating [upon God] [but then] abandoning [one’s thought of him by allowing one’s attention to be distracted by other thoughts], meditating [upon him] without letting go [of one’s thought of him], like [the uninterrupted flow of] a river or the falling of ghee, is indeed [a] superior [manner in which] to meditate [or is indeed superior, when considered].
Why does Bhagavan say that uninterrupted meditation is superior to meditation that is frequently interrupted by other thoughts, thereby implying in the context of this series of verses that it is more effective in purifying our mind and thereby showing us the way to liberation? To answer this we need to consider why our attention tends to get distracted by other thoughts. Whenever we let go of the thought of God in order to think of some other thing, we do so because we are more interested in or concerned with that other thing than we are with God. If our love for him was greater than our desire or concern for anything else, we would not be distracted but would continue thinking of him alone. Therefore the extent to which our meditation on God is uninterrupted by any thought of anything else is an indication of the intensity of our love for him.

Therefore the implied meaning of this is that meditation upon God is effective to the extent that we have unwavering love for him. The more we love him, the less our meditation upon him will be interrupted by other thoughts, and hence the more effective our meditation will be in purifying our mind and giving us the inner clarity to understand that God is actually our own real self, so we can experience him as he actually is only by turning our mind inwards to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from all thoughts of anything else.

Meditating on ourself alone in this manner, without thinking of anything else, is what Bhagavan describes in the next verse of Upadēśa Undiyār as அனனிய பாவம் (ananya-bhāvam) or ‘otherless meditation’, which he says is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), which means ‘the best among all’, implying thereby that it is the best among all forms of meditation and the best among all practices of bhakti or devotion. As he says in verse 15 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (which we considered above in section 6c), investigating or meditating on ourself alone is parabhakti or supreme devotion to God, and as he says in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (which we considered in section 6b), thinking of nothing other than ourself is alone surrendering ourself entirely to God.

Earlier in this subsection I said that what Bhagavan says about meditation in this present verse of Upadēśa Undiyār (verse 7) applies to either of the two ways in which we can meditate upon God as if he were other than ourself, namely mānasika japa (mentally repeating any name we may choose to give him) or mūrti-dhyāna (meditating upon any form we may choose to attribute to him), but it can apply equally well to ananya-bhāvam (meditating upon him as nothing other than oneself), because the more intense is our love for him as ourself, the more uninterrupted our self-attentiveness will be, and hence the more rapidly and effectively all our mental impurities in the form of viṣaya-vāsanās (desires or inclinations to experience things other than ourself) will be eradicated.

8. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 8: meditating on nothing other than ourself is ‘the best among all’

All the forms of niṣkāmya karma that we can practise with love for God, as discussed by Bhagavan verses 4 to 7 Upadēśa Undiyār, are based on the assumption that God is something other than ourself. Whether we were to worship him bodily by doing any form of pūjā as described in verse 5, or worship him vocally by chanting hymns of praise or doing japa as described in verse 6, or worship him mentally by meditating upon any name or form of his as uninterruptedly as we can, as described in verse 7, we would be doing so as if he were something other than ourself. However according to Bhagavan God is actually nothing other than ourself, so the best way to meditate upon him is to meditate on ourself alone. In this way our love is not divided between ourself and God, but is focused wholly upon him as ourself.

If God were anything other than ourself, he would thereby be limited, and hence would not be the one infinite reality that he actually is. As Bhagavan once said in reply to a Christian missionary who asked him whether it is not blasphemy to say that we are God, the greatest blasphemy of all would be to say that we are anything separate from God, because we would thereby be implying that he is not infinite but only something finite, as we seem to be so long as we experience ourself as anything other than him. By saying this he implied that the worst apacāra (offence or disrespect) to God that we can commit is to rise as an ego, as if we were anything other than him. Therefore if we have true love for God, we should not consider ourself to be anything other than him, and hence we should try to subside back into him, which we can do only by meditating upon nothing other than ourself.

Therefore in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan says:
அனியபா வத்தி னவனக மாகு
மனனிய பாவமே யுந்தீபற
     வனைத்தினு முத்தம முந்தீபற.

aṉiyabhā vatti ṉavaṉaha māhu
maṉaṉiya bhāvamē yundīpaṟa
     vaṉaittiṉu muttama mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: அனிய பாவத்தின் அவன் அகம் ஆகும் அனனிய பாவமே அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aṉiya-bhāvattiṉ avaṉ aham āhum aṉaṉiya-bhāvam-ē aṉaittiṉ-um uttamam.

English translation: Rather than anya-bhāva, ananya-bhāva, in which he is I, certainly is the best among all.
அனிய (aṉiya) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word अन्य (anya), which means what is other, different or separate, and அனனிய (aṉaṉiya) means the opposite of that, namely what is not other, different or separate. பாவம் (bhāvam) is likewise a word of Sanskrit origin, but one that has a very wide range of meanings, such as being, becoming, state, condition, state of being, true condition, truth, reality, nature, temperament, feeling, emotion, devotion, love, thought, idea, meditation, contemplation, attitude, mental disposition, state of mind and so on, so its meaning in each case is determined by the context in which it is used. In this present context it means meditation or bhāvana, so அனியபாவம் (aṉiya-bhāvam) means ‘meditation on what is other’ and implies meditation upon God considering him to be other than oneself, whereas அனனியபாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam) means ‘meditation on what is not other’ and implies meditation upon God as nothing other than oneself, which means meditation on oneself alone. Thus அனனியபாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam) is simply an alternative description of svarūpa-dhyāna or ātma-cintanā, self-contemplation or self-attentiveness, and is therefore a synonym for ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.

That is, any form of meditation other than simple self-attentiveness must be meditation on something other than ourself, so it is a variety of anya-bhāva, whereas self-attentiveness is meditation on nothing other than ourself, so it alone is ananya-bhāva. Thus in this verse Bhagavan is highlighting the fundamental difference between self-attentiveness and every other kind of meditation. In every other kind of meditation there is a distinction between the meditator and what is meditated upon, whereas in self-attentiveness there is no such distinction. Therefore every other kind of meditation entails duality in the form of the fundamental distinction between subject and object, whereas self-attentiveness entails absolutely no duality whatsoever, because what we are meditating upon when we are trying to be exclusively self-attentive is not any object but only ourself, the subject who is meditating or attending.

பாவத்தின் (bhāvattiṉ) is a locative case form of பாவம் (bhāvam) and is used here in a comparative sense, so அனிய பாவத்தின் (aṉiya-bhāvattiṉ) means ‘rather than anya-bhāva’ or ‘in contrast to anya-bhāva’. பாவமே (bhāvamē) is an intensified form of பாவம் (bhāvam), so in this context அனனிய பாவமே (aṉaṉiya-bhāvamē) means ‘ananya-bhāva certainly’ or ‘ananya-bhāva alone’. Thus the grammatical structure of these two phrases, அனிய பாவத்தின் (aṉiya-bhāvattiṉ) and அனனிய பாவமே (aṉaṉiya-bhāvamē), strongly emphasises the contrast between them, indicating that what is said about the latter, namely that it is ‘the best among all’, is certainly true of it and it alone.

‘அவன் அகம் ஆகும்’ (avaṉ aham āhum) is a relative clause that in this context means ‘in which he is I’ and that therefore confirms or clarifies the meaning of அனனிய பாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam). That is, ‘அவன் அகம் ஆகும் அனனிய பாவம்’ (avaṉ aham āhum aṉaṉiya-bhāvam) means ‘otherless meditation, in which he is I’, so it indicates that what Bhagavan means by ananya-bhāva (‘otherless meditation’ or ‘meditation what is not other’) is only meditation on nothing other than ‘I’, ourself, since what is called ‘God’ or ‘he’ is actually only ‘I’.

However some people misinterpret the meaning of ‘அவன் அகம் ஆகும் அனனிய பாவம்’ (avaṉ aham āhum aṉaṉiya-bhāvam) by claiming that these words refer to sōham bhāvana, the practice of meditating on the idea ‘he is I’. Though in his Sanskrit translation of this verse Bhagavan translated ‘அவன் அகம் ஆகும்’ (avaṉ aham āhum) as ‘सोहम् इति’ (sōham iti), which means ‘in the manner he is I’ or ‘thus he is I’, he did not mean to imply that we should meditate on the idea ‘he is I’ or sōham (which a compound of saḥ, which means ‘he’, and aham, which means ‘I’), because like any other idea this idea is anya — something that is alien, other, different or separate from ourself.

Whatever we experience only temporarily cannot be ourself, so it is anya or other than ourself, and hence since we do not experience any thought or idea permanently, meditating on any thought or idea is not ananya-bhāva but only anya-bhāva. Even meditating on the thought of God or brahman is only anya-bhāva, because though the words ‘God’ and ‘brahman’ both refer to what we actually are, as words or ideas they are temporary phenomena, so they are anya or alien to ourself. Since the only thing that is not other than ourself is ourself, ananya-bhāva or ‘meditation on what is not other’ can only mean meditation on ourself alone and not on anything else whatsoever.

Therefore we should understand that in this context the words ‘அவன் அகம் ஆகும்’ (avaṉ aham āhum) in Tamil and ‘सोहम् इति’ (sōham iti) in Sanskrit are not intended to imply that ananya-bhāva means meditation on any idea such as ‘he is I’, but are only intended to indicate the conviction with which we should meditate upon nothing other than ourself, namely the conviction that God (who is what is denoted by the word ‘he’) is only ourself (who are what is denoted by the word ‘I’).

Since anything other than ourself can be experienced by us only in waking or dream, in which we experience ourself as this ego or mind, it is merely a phenomenon created by our mind, and hence it cannot be what is actually denoted by words such as ‘God’ or ‘brahman’, which refer to the one infinite and eternal reality from which our ego and all its creations have arisen and into which they must all eventually subside, so meditating on anything other than ourself cannot be meditation upon God as he actually is. Since God is the sole source and substance of our ego and everything else, he must be what we actually are, so meditating on ourself alone is the only way in which we can meditate upon God as he actually is. This is why Bhagavan asserts in this verse that ananya-bhāva (meditation on nothing other than ourself) is certainly ‘the best among all’.

The final words in this verse, ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), mean ‘the best of all’ or ‘the best among all’, because அனைத்தினும் (aṉaittiṉum) means ‘of all’ or ‘among all’, particularly in the sense of ‘among all things of its kind’, and உத்தமம் (uttamam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word उत्तम (uttama), which means best, foremost, highest, greatest or most excellent. In this context ‘the best among all’ implies both the best among all practices of bhakti and the best among all forms or varieties of meditation. Thus the meaning of this verse can be expressed more elaborately as follows:
Rather than anya-bhāva [meditation in which God is considered to be other than I], ananya-bhāva, in which he is [considered to be none other than] I, is certainly the best among all [practices of bhakti and forms or varieties of meditation].
Why or in what respect is ananya-bhāva certainly the best among all? It is best not only because it is the only way in which we can meditate upon God as he actually is, since he is actually nothing other than ourself, but also because it is more effective in purifying our mind than any other form of meditation or spiritual practice (all of which entail attending to something other than ourself alone). This latter implication is confirmed by Bhagavan in his Sanskrit version of this verse, in which he translated அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம் (aṉaittiṉum uttamam) as ‘पावनी मता’ (pāvanī matā), which means ‘considered cleansing’, ‘considered purifying’ or ‘considered purificatory’.

However, another important respect in which ananya-bhāva is certainly the best among all practices of bhakti and all other forms of spiritual practice is that whereas all other practices are actions or karmas, ananya-bhāva is not an action but a cessation or subsidence of all action along with its doer, our ego. All other practices are actions because they entail a movement of our mind or attention away from ourself towards something else, and by doing so they help to sustain the illusion that we are this ego, who is the agent or doer of all actions. Since ananya-bhāva is the only practice that does not entail any movement of our mind or attention away from ourself, it is the only practice that is not an action or karma, so it alone is the means to free ourself from all action, and hence it is the கதி வழி (gati vaṙi) — the way, path or means to liberation that Bhagavan referred to in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār.

Every kind of action or karma entails anya-attention (attention to something other than ourself), because if we did not experience anything other than ourself we could not either do or experience any action. In ananya-attention (attention to nothing other than ourself) there is only ourself and no other thing, so there is absolutely no room for action of any kind to occur, because action requires space in which to happen, and there is no space between us and ourself. The space in which actions can occur or be done is created only when our attention moves away from ourself towards anything else, so anya-attention is not only an action but also what gives rise to all other actions. Therefore if we want to bring about a cessation of all activity or karma, we must abandon all anya-attention and cling fast only to ananya-attention.

In advaita philosophy activity is called pravṛtti, which is a term that also means rising, going out, going forwards, advancing, continuing, exerting, appearance or manifestation, whereas inactivity is called nivṛtti, which also means returning, coming back, withdrawing, refraining, discontinuing, terminating, ceasing, cessation or disappearance. In order to do any action we must rise and go outwards, away from ourself, and hence all action is directed towards something other than ourself. No action can be directed towards ourself as we really are, because as soon as we turn the direction or flow of our attention back towards ourself, away from all other things, we begin to subside back into ourself and thus all activity ceases. Therefore any form of anya-attention is a pravṛtti because it leads us away from ourself into the ocean of ceaseless activity, whereas ananya-attention is nivṛtti because it leads us back to ourself, away from all activity.

Therefore ananya-bhāva (meditation on nothing other than ourself) is the culmination and pinnacle of all practices of bhakti and all other forms of spiritual practice (as Bhagavan clearly implies in verse 10), so other practices are useful and beneficial only to the extent that they help to lead us to this ultimate practice of simple self-attentiveness or meditation on ourself alone. No matter how intense our devotion to God may be, and no matter how much we may diligently do any other kind of spiritual practice, we will not be able to attain the ultimate goal of liberation or merging back into the source from which we rose as this ego until and unless we turn our entire attention back within to meditate on ourself alone, because whatever else we may do is done by us as this ego or mind, so it will sustain our illusion that this ego or mind is ourself.

Though ananya-bhāva or turning our entire attention back within to meditate on ourself alone is initiated by us as this ego, as soon as we attend to ourself we as this ego begin to subside and dissolve back into ourself as we really are, so as Bhagavan wrote in the first sentences of the sixth and eighth paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār?:
நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்.

nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum.

Only by the investigation who am I will the mind subside [or cease to exist].

மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை. மற்ற உபாயங்களினால் அடக்கினால் மனம் அடங்கினாற்போ லிருந்து, மறுபடியும் கிளம்பிவிடும்.

maṉam aḍaṅguvadaṟku vicāraṇaiyai-t tavira vēṟu tahunda upāyaṅgaḷ-illai. maṯṟa upāyaṅgaḷiṉāl aḍakkiṉāl maṉam aḍaṅgiṉāl-pōl irundu, maṟupaḍiyum kiḷambi-viḍum.

For the mind to subside [permanently], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means. If made to subside by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided, [but] will emerge again.
Therefore knowing this from his own experience Bhagavan was able to confidently assert that ananya-bhāva is certainly the best among all practices of bhakti and all other forms of spiritual practice. Whatever else we may do out of our love for God is a karma, so we need to do it without kāmyatā or any sense of desire for its fruit, and hence we need to have the attitude that its fruit is an offering to God, but since ananya-bhāva or ātma-vicāra is not a karma and therefore has no fruit, we need have not have any such attitude while practising it. All we need to do is simply attend to ourself alone, because by doing so we are entrusting ourself entirely to God, the one reality from which we emerged as this ego and into which we are now subsiding back.

The fact that ananya-bhāva is not an action or karma but just a complete subsidence not only of all our karma but also of ourself as this ego who rose to do karma is clearly indicated by Bhagavan in the next two verses of Upadēśa Undiyār.

9. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 9: by meditating on ourself we will subside in our real state of being

In verse 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan clearly implies that by meditating on nothing other than ourself we will subside back into our real state of being, which transcend all thought or mental activity, and he declares that being in this state is alone supreme devotion or parabhakti:
பாவ பலத்தினாற் பாவனா தீதசற்
பாவத் திருத்தலே யுந்தீபற
     பரபத்தி தத்துவ முந்தீபற.

bhāva balattiṉāṯ bhāvaṉā tītasaṯ
bhāvat tiruttalē yundīpaṟa
     parabhatti tattuva mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: பாவ பலத்தினால் பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே பரபத்தி தத்துவம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): bhāva balattiṉāl bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttal-ē para-bhatti tattuvam.

English translation: By the strength of meditation, being in sat-bhāva, which transcends bhāvana, is certainly parabhakti tattva.
பலத்தினால் (balattiṉāl) is an instrumental case form of பலம் (balam), which is a word of Sanskrit origin that means power, strength, force, vigour, intensity, firmness or stability, so பலத்தினால் (balattiṉāl) means by the power, strength, intensity, firmness or stability. In this context பாவ பலத்தினால் (bhāva balattiṉāl) means ‘by the strength of meditation’ and implies by the strength, intensity or firmness of the meditation extolled in the previous verse, namely ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness.

பாவனாதீத (bhāvaṉātīta) means ‘bhāvana-transcending’ or ‘which transcends bhāvana’, and in this context bhāvana means thinking, thought, imagination or meditation. Since சத் (sat) means being, existence, truth or reality and பாவம் (bhāvam) means being or state, சற்பாவம் (saṯbhāvam) or சத் பாவம் (sat-bhāvam) can mean either ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’, but though either of these two meanings would be appropriate in this context, it generally means ‘state of being’. பாவத்து (bhāvattu) is an inflexional base of பாவம் (bhāvam), but is used here to represent its locative case form, so பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu) means ‘in the state of being, which transcends bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation]’.

இருத்தலே (iruttalē) is an intensified form of இருத்தல் (iruttal), which is a verbal noun that means being, existing, remaining, abiding, sitting down, resting or sinking, so இருத்தலே (iruttalē) means ‘being certainly’ or ‘being only’. பரபத்தி (parabhatti) is a Tamil form of परभक्ति (parabhakti), which means ‘supreme devotion’, and தத்துவம் (tattuvam) is a Tamil form of तत्त्व (tattva), which literally means ‘itness’ or ‘thatness’ but which is used in a wide variety of senses such as truth, reality, true state, essential nature, real essence or any true or fundamental principle, so பரபத்தி தத்துவம் (parabhatti tattuvam) means the real essence or true state of supreme devotion. Thus the meaning of this verse can be expressed more elaborately as follows:
By the strength [intensity, firmness or stability] of [such] meditation [ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness], being in sat-bhāva [our ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’], which transcends [all] bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation], is certainly [or is alone] parabhakti tattva [the real essence or true state of supreme devotion].
As Bhagavan explains in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which we considered above in section 6a), we rise, stand, feed and flourish as this ego only by ‘grasping form’, which implies by anya-attention — that is, by attending to or being aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore our natural state of just being seems to be disturbed and all action or karma begins only as a result of our attending to anything other than ourself. When we abide in our sat-bhāva or real state of being without rising as an ego, nothing other than ourself seems to exist, but as soon as we rise as this ego we project and become aware of other things, and thus our attention begins to move away from ourself towards those other things.

The first action is therefore the rising of ourself as this ego, and this primal action is always accompanied by a movement of our attention away from ourself, which is likewise an action, and which leads to its further movement ceaselessly from one thing to another. Therefore so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself we are entangled in mental activity, which in turn gives rise to actions of our speech and body. This is why Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that our ego or mind is what is called saṁsāra, which means moving, flowing, wandering or revolving (being a noun derived from the verb saṃsṛ, an intensified form of sṛ, meaning to go, move, flow, wander or revolve thoroughly), and which therefore implies perpetual motion or restless activity.

Therefore we cannot remain still so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, so any form of anya-bhāva (meditation on anything other than ourself) entails movement or activity of our mind, whereas ananya-bhāva (meditation on nothing other than ourself) entails subsidence of our mind and all its activity. The more intense, firm and steady our ananya-bhāva becomes, the more we will subside within ourself, as Bhagavan implies in this verse by saying ‘பாவ பலத்தினால் பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (bhāva balattiṉāl bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), which means ‘only being in the thought-transcending state of being by the strength of [ananya] bhāva’.

Here பாவ பலத்தினால் (bhāva balattiṉāl), ‘by the strength of meditation’, implies by the intensity or steadiness of our self-attentiveness; சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே (sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), ‘only being in the state of being’, implies subsiding and abiding firmly in our true state of being, which is the source from which we rose as this ego; and பாவனாதீத (bhāvaṉātīta), ‘thought-transcending’, implies that our true state of being is completely devoid of any thinking or imagining. In this context bhāvana means thinking, imagining or meditation in the sense of thinking about or attending to anything other than ourself, so it indirectly refers to any form of anya-bhāva.

When we first start trying to be self-attentive, it may seem that we are trying to make ourself the object of our attention, but we soon discover that we cannot attend to ourself in the same way that we attend to other things, because we are the subject and can therefore never be an object of our experience. However, though we are not an object, we can attend to ourself in a certain sense, albeit non-objectively, because we are always aware of ourself, so we can choose either to be attentively self-aware or negligently self-aware. As this ego we are generally negligently self-aware, because we are more interested in experiencing other things than in experiencing ourself alone, so we allow our attention to be diverted away from ourself towards other things.

When we investigate ourself by trying to observe or attend to ourself alone, what we are actually trying to do is to be attentively self-aware as much as possible. Therefore what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), meditation on ourself (svarūpa-dhyāna), meditation on what is not other (ananya-bhāva), thinking of ourself (ātma-cintanā), self-remembrance (svarūpa-smaraṇa), facing ourself (ahamukham), self-observation, self-attention, self-attentiveness and so on is just being attentively self-aware.

Being aware of anything other than ourself is an action, because it entails a movement of our attention away from ourself towards whatever we are aware of, whereas being self-aware is not an action, both because it entails no movement of our attention away from ourself, and because being self-aware is our very nature. Therefore all that being attentively self-aware entails is withdrawing our attention away from everything else and bringing it back to rest in and as ourself. Once we have withdrawn our attention from other things and allowed it to rest in ourself as pure self-awareness, we are being in our sat-bhāva or true state of being, as Bhagavan describes it in this verse.

Therefore what Bhagavan calls ‘சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (sat-bhāvattu iruttalē) or ‘only being in the state of being’ entails nothing other than being attentively self-aware — that is, aware of nothing other than ourself alone. Hence the more steady and intense our ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness becomes, the more we are just being in our sat-bhāva, which is our natural state of being aware of nothing other than ourself.

By practising any form of anya-bhāva we are perpetuating karma, whereas by practising ananya-bhāva we are refraining from doing any karma and thus we are arresting all karma in its tracks, so to speak. Since our real nature is just action-free being, we cannot experience ourself as we really are by doing any karma (as Bhagavan unequivocally asserted in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār), so we can experience ourself as we really are only by just being as we really are, and we can just be as we really are only by the strength, firmness or stability of our ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness.

By practising any form of anya-bhāva we are perpetuating not only karma but also our ego, which is the root of all karma, because we can be aware of anything that is anya or other than ourself only when we experience ourself as this ego. That is, when we experience ourself as we really are we will clearly know that we alone exist, so we cannot be aware of anything other than ourself — not even the seeming existence of any other thing. Therefore ananya-bhāva (being aware of nothing other than ourself alone) is the only means by which we can be liberated from both karma and its root, our illusion that we are this ego.

Hence ananya-bhāva is the only means by which we can surrender our ego entirely, as Bhagavan clearly implied in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation or ‘thought of oneself’], alone is giving oneself to God.
When we attend to nothing other than ourself, our ego subsides back into our natural state of being or sat-bhāva, so what Bhagavan describes in this verse as ‘பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttalē) or ‘only being in the thought-transcending state of being’ is the state of complete self-surrender, and hence he says that it is பரபத்தி தத்துவம் (parabhatti tattuvam), the real essence or true state of supreme devotion.

10. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 10: subsiding and being in our source is karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna

Subsiding and being in our thought-transcending sat-bhāva or true state of being, which is the source from which we rose as this ego, our primal thought called ‘I’, which is the root of all other thoughts, is not only parabhakti (supreme devotion) but also the culmination and ultimate goal of all the other three mārgas or spiritual paths, namely karma mārga (the path of niṣkāmya karma discussed in verses 3 to 7), yōga mārga (the path of yōga discussed in verses 11 to 14) and jñāna mārga (the path of knowledge discussed in verses 15 to 30), as Bhagavan says in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
உதித்த விடத்தி லொடுங்கி யிருத்த
லதுகன்மம் பத்தியு முந்தீபற
     வதுயோக ஞானமு முந்தீபற.

uditta viḍatti loḍuṅgi irutta
ladukaṉmam bhattiyu mundīpaṟa
     vaduyōga jñāṉamu mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்: அது கன்மம் பத்தியும்; அது யோகம் ஞானமும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal: adu kaṉmam bhatti-y-um; adu yōgam jñāṉam-um.

English translation: Subsiding and being in the place from which [one] rose: that is karma and bhakti; that is yōga and jñāna.
உதித்த (uditta) is a past relative participle of உதி (udi), which is a verb of Sanskrit origin that means to rise, come into existence, appear, spring up, originate, begin or ascend, so உதித்த (uditta) means ‘which rose’ or in this case ‘from which [one] rose’. இடத்தில் (iḍattil) is a locative case form of இடம் (iḍam), which means ‘place’ but which in this case is used in a metaphorical sense to mean source or origin, so உதித்த இடத்தில் (uditta iḍattil) means ‘in the place from which [one] rose’ and implies ‘in ourself, who are the source from which we rose as this ego’.

ஒடுங்கி (oḍuṅgi) is a verbal participle that means subsiding, sinking, settling or ceasing, and இருத்தல் (iruttal) is a verbal noun that means being, existing, remaining or abiding, so ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல் (oḍuṅgi iruttal) means ‘subsiding and being’ (in the sense of first subsiding and then being) or ‘being having subsided’. Since we cannot have arisen or originated as this ego from any place other than ourself, this phrase உதித்த இடம் (uditta iḍam) refers only to ourself, as also does the phrase சத் பாவம் (sat-bhāvam) used in the previous verse, so ‘உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்’ (uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal), ‘subsiding and being in the place from which [one] rose’, means the same as ‘சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), ‘only being in the state of being’, namely being in and as what we always actually are.

As Bhagavan indicated in the previous verse, the only means by which we can thus be as we actually are is by intense, firm and stable ananya-bhāva — being attentively aware of nothing other than ourself. Thus the overall implication of verses 8, 9 and 10 is that ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness is the best among all forms of spiritual practice because it is the only means by which we can subside back into and be firmly established as ourself, the source from which we seemed to have arisen as this ego. Subsiding by the intensity of our self-attentiveness and being thereby firmly established in our true state of being is the culmination and ultimate goal of all the four paths or varieties of spiritual practice, namely karma mārga, bhakti mārga, yōga mārga and jñāna mārga, and is also the state of absolute self-surrender, which is called parabhakti or supreme devotion.

11. Analysis of various types of bhakti

Having carefully studied the overview of the various practices of bhakti mārga and the relative efficacy of each given by Bhagavan in verses 3 to 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār, let us now consider how this can be applied to the comment by Viswanathan in response to which I began to write this article, namely ‘I feel that if one continues with total faith in whatever path one goes in, be it Bakthi Margam or Jnana Margam, the destination will be the same — realization of self. [...] it appears to me that it might be just an illusory divide in one’s mind that the two paths are different or that one path is circuitous and the other path is shorter’.

As we saw in the second section above, all the practices done in the name of bhakti can be divided into two broad categories, namely kāmya bhakti (devotion practised for achieving some desired objective) and niṣkāmya bhakti (devotion practised for no ulterior motive but only for the love of God), and only practices of the latter kind belong to bhakti mārga proper, because they are motivated by true love of God himself, whereas practices of the former kind are motived not by love of God but only by love of whatever one hopes to gain from him. Then as indicated by Bhagavan in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, the practices of niṣkāmya bhakti can be further subdivided into two types, anya bhakti (devotion to God as if he were something other than ourself) and ananya bhakti (devotion to God as none other than ourself).

The various practices of anya bhakti each entail doing some action or karma by our body, speech or mind, as outlined by Bhagavan in verses 4 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and hence none of them is a direct means to liberation, but is a means by which our mind can be purified to a certain extent and can thereby be enabled to see what the direct means to liberation actually is. Therefore though such practices do lead us indirectly towards the same goal as self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), they are clearly distinct from it, because they entail attending to something other than ourself, whereas self-investigation entails attending to nothing other than ourself.

Only the practice of ananya bhakti is actually the same as the practice of ātma-vicāra, because they both entail absolutely no action of our body, speech or mind but only attention to nothing other than ourself. Therefore Viswanathan’s idea that ‘it might be just an illusory divide in one’s mind that the two paths are different or that one path is circuitous and the other path is shorter’ is true with regard to the practice of ananya bhakti but not with regard to any of the practices of anya bhakti.
    11a. Sadhu Om’s analysis of bhakti
In accordance with what Bhagavan taught us in verses 2 to 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār, so far in this article I have distinguished firstly kāmya bhakti from true niṣkāmya bhakti, and secondly the practices of anya bhakti from the more efficacious practice of ananya bhakti. This simple analysis of bhakti is sufficient for the purpose of this article, but a more detailed and very useful analysis of bhakti has been given by Sri Sadhu Om in the second chapter of the supplementary part of The Path of Sri Ramana, so I will give a brief overview of his analysis here and explain how it relates to my more simple one.

Sadhu Om explains his analysis in terms of an analogy, namely the different standards, grades or forms through which a child progresses in school, and he therefore refers to his analytical framework as the school of bhakti, which has five standards, the third of which is divided into two distinct stages. Each of these standards represents a certain type of religious or spiritual devotion that characterises a particular stage in an individual’s spiritual development through the course of many lives.

The first standard is characterised by faith in ritualistic actions — a faith that attaches so much importance to such actions that it overlooks God, the real power that ordains the fruit of action. This is the type of faith that was personified by the so-called ṛṣis (rishis) or ‘ascetics’ living in the Daruka forest, whose story formed the context in which Bhagavan composed Upadēśa Undiyār, and whose belief that there is no God except karma was therefore emphatically repudiated by him in the first verse.

The second standard is characterised by faith in many different deities (such as the many names and forms in which God is worshipped in the Hindu religion, or the many saints to whom a devout Catholic or Orthodox Christian might pray), each of whom is supposed to have some particular power to fulfil a particular type of desire or to ward off a particular type of evil.

The third standard is characterised by faith in and single-minded devotion to only one particular name and form of God. However, this third standard is divided into two stages, standard 3(a) and 3(b), because it is in this third standard that the most significant change of heart takes place within each person.

That is, in standards 1, 2 and 3(a), a person’s devotion is not real devotion to God, but is only devotion to the material and other personal benefits that they hope to achieve from their ritualistic actions, worship or prayers. In other words, it is kāmya bhakti — devotion practised only for the fulfilment of personal desires. This is the spirit of devotion with which most religious people practise their respective religions.

However, when we practise such kāmya bhakti for many lives, our mind gradually gains spiritual maturity — the clarity of mind that enables us to discriminate and understand that true happiness does not lie in the mere fulfilment of our personal desires — until in the final stages of standard 3(a) we come to understand that the real source of our happiness is not any of the benefits that we seek to gain from God, but only God himself, who has so much love for us that he grants our prayers and wishes. Thus we progress from the kāmya bhakti of standard 3(a) to the niṣkāmya bhakti of standard 3(b) — that is, to true devotion to God, not for the sake of anything that we may gain from him, but for his own sake alone.

It is at a suitable point in this stage in our spiritual development that God appears in our life in the form of guru to teach us the truth that happiness does not exist outside ourself — not even in the all-loving God whom we imagine to be other than ourself — but only in ourself, as ourself. Thus in the form of guru God teaches us that his true form is only our own essential self, and therefore directs us to turn our mind back within to experience ourself alone. If we have already gained sufficient purity of mind as a result of our dualistic love for God, as soon as we hear this teaching we will turn our attention inwards and merge in ourself as we really are, but most of us do not yet have sufficient purity of mind, so rather than merging immediately in ourself, we redirect our former love for an outward form of God towards the outward form of our guru and his teachings. This love for our guru and his teachings is guru-bhakti, which is the fourth standard in this school of bhakti.

However, to the extent that we have real love for our guru and his teachings, we will not be content just with practising any form of dualistic devotion towards him but will also try to put his teachings into practice by attempting to be self-attentive as much as possible. Thus in this fourth standard we will gradually progress from dualistic love (anya bhakti) to non-dualistic love (ananya bhakti), until eventually as a result of the intensity of our persistent practice of self-investigation and self-surrender our love for our guru will finally blossom into pure ananya bhakti or svātma-bhakti (love for our own self), which is the pinnacle of love. This otherless love for God and guru as our own self is the fifth and final standard in the school of bhakti, and is what Bhagavan described as parabhakti tattva (the real essence of supreme devotion), the state of just being in and as bhāvanātīta sat-bhāva (the state of being, which transcends all thought).
    11b. Anya bhakti and ananya bhakti can be mutually supportive practices
Though there is a clear distinction both between kāmya bhakti and niṣkāmya bhakti and between anya bhakti and ananya bhakti, our progress first from kāmya bhakti to niṣkāmya bhakti (in the third standard) and later from anya bhakti to ananya bhakti (in the fourth standard) generally does not happen instantaneously but only gradually. For example, if we are in the third standard of the school of bhakti and our devotion to God is beginning to develop from being kāmya bhakti (standard 3(a)) into being niṣkāmya bhakti (standard 3(b)), our devotion will probably oscillate between the two for a while. Though we know that we should pray to God for nothing other than ever-increasing love for him and though we want to do so, when we are faced with any particularly severe difficulties in our life we will still tend to revert back to our old habit of praying to him to alleviate our difficulties or provide a solution to our problems.

Likewise for most of us in the fourth standard our progress from anya bhakti to ananya bhakti will be a gradual process. We would like to be able to be vigilantly and unceasingly self-attentive, but the strength of our deeply rooted viṣaya-vāsanās (our desires or inclinations to experience things other than ourself) keeps on pulling our mind out towards other things, so we struggle in our effort to be self-attentive at least for a moment or two as frequently as possible. In such a predicament, whenever we feel we are failing in our efforts, we naturally turn to Bhagavan in his outward form as guru, praying to him to give us ever-increasing love for being self-attentive and thereby to free us from our out-going vāsanās. When we manage to be self-attentive, we are practising ananya bhakti, and when we resort to praying to Bhagavan for his help we are practising anya bhakti.

If whatever we pray to Bhagavan for is essentially just the love to turn inwards and merge in him as ourself, our anya bhakti is supporting our attempt to cultivate true ananya bhakti. Likewise, when we try to be self-attentive, our ananya bhakti is in effect thereby supporting our anya bhakti, because the more intensely we try to be self-attentive, the more our yearning to be so will increase, and thus the more intensely we will pray to Bhagavan for his help whenever we find ourself failing in our attempts. Thus in our present state of guru-bhakti (the fourth standard), our anya and ananya bhakti are not necessarily mutually exclusive but can instead be mutually supportive.

This is well illustrated by all the prayers that Bhagavan wrote in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, and reading the verses in this set of his writings we can see how beautifully, naturally and seamlessly he blended dualistic and non-dualistic forms of bhakti together. A similar blending can also be seen in the thousands of verses that devotees such as Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om wrote praying to him. Though they expressed their prayers in so many different words, what they were essentially praying for was only the love to turn within and drown forever in him, the one infinite self-awareness, other than which nothing actually exists. For example in verse 138 of Śrī Ramaṇa Sahasram (a poem of a thousand verses praying for jñāna) Sadhu Om prayed:
அந்தர்முக மன்றிவர மாயிரநான் கேட்டாலு
மெந்த பிறவரங்க ளென்னையுள்ளே — யுந்தியிழுத்
தோய்வுதரச் சற்று முதவா திடையூறா
யாவதோவஃ தீயா தருள்.

antarmukha maṉḏṟivara māyiranāṉ kēṭṭālu
menda piṟavaraṅga ḷeṉṉaiyuḷḷē — yundiyiṙut
tōyvudarac caṯṟu mudavā diḍaiyūṟā
yāvadōvaḵ dīyā daruḷ
.

பதச்சேதம்: அந்தர்முகம் அன்றி வரம் ஆயிரம் நான் கேட்டாலும், எந்த பிற வரங்கள் என்னை உள்ளே உந்தி இழுத்து ஓய்வு தர சற்றும் உதவாது இடையூறாய் ஆவதோ, அஃது ஈயாது அருள்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): antarmukham aṉḏṟi varam āyiram nāṉ kēṭṭālum, enda piṟa varaṅgaḷ eṉṉai uḷḷē undi iṙuttu ōyvu tara caṯṟum udavādu iḍaiyūṟāy āvadō, aḵdu īyādu aruḷ.

English translation: Even if I ask for a thousand boons other than antarmukham [facing inwards], whatever other boons would become impediments, not helping even a little to give rest [cessation or termination] by pushing and pulling me inwards, please do not give that.
Of course our anya bhakti in the form of praying to Bhagavan for his help or repeating his name or thinking of his form with yearning for his grace is not an adequate substitute for trying to be self-attentive, so it is essential that along with praying to him we should also try as much as possible to be self-attentive. If we really want his help, we should do whatever we can to help ourself by trying to be self-attentive, because unless we ourself try sincerely and earnestly to be self-attentive, there is no use in asking him to help us. The most effective way of praying for his help is to try as much as we can to be self-attentive. Only then will our dualistic activity of praying to him externally for his help be genuine, intense and heart-felt.

Whatever else we may do as an expression of our love for our guru, Bhagavan Ramana, our principal and central practice should be trying to be self-attentive, because it is only by the intensity of our self-attentiveness (which is what he called bhāva balam in verse 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār) that we can subside within ourself, the source from which we rose, and thereby be in our bhāvanātīta sat-bhāva (state of being, which transcends all thought). All our prayers and other devotional activities are useful only to the extent that they help us in our effort to be ever more steadfastly self-attentive.

The extent to which we each include prayer or any other devotional activities in our spiritual practice may vary from time to time, and for some of us such activities may play a more important role than for others. What is essential, however, is only that we try as much as possible to be self-attentive, so prayer or other devotional activities are an optional extra, which may be more appealing to some of us than to others. There are no hard and fast rules in this respect. Some aspirants may find that their mind is not drawn to such activities, in which case it is sufficient if they just persevere in trying to be self-attentive, whereas other aspirants may find that praying or doing other devotional activities is a very important and necessary support for them in their attempts to be self-attentive.
    11c. What is prayer?
The term ‘prayer’ is generally understood to mean requesting God in words, either vocally or mentally, to do whatever we want him to do either for ourself or for others, but what prayer essentially is is just a desire, wish or yearning for anything, so it need not necessarily be expressed in words. If we have intense yearning to turn within and subside in the innermost depth of ourself, that yearning is a prayer, whether or not we express it either vocally or mentally in words. This is why I wrote in the previous subsection, ‘The most effective way of praying for his help is to try as much as we can to be self-attentive’, and why in reply to someone who asked him, ‘If I surrender myself, is no prayer to God necessary?’, Bhagavan said, ‘Surrender itself is a mighty prayer’ (as recorded in Maharshi’s Gospel, Book 2, chapter 2: 2002 edition, page 56).

Poets like Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om have expressed their prayers in beautiful and heart-melting verses, and thereby they have taught us what we should yearn for, but this does not mean that we need to express our own yearning in words. Sometimes reading or reciting their verses of prayer may help us to channel our own longing in the right direction or may help us to express our own longing in words, and at other times we may spontaneously turn to Bhagavan in prayer, which we may either express in words or feel wordlessly in our heart, but whether or not we use words as a vehicle for our prayers, what prayer essentially is (if it is prayer for what he teaches us we should pray for) is just the longing we feel to turn away from everything else and merge forever in our heart — that is, in what we actually are.

Since Bhagavan defined surrender as the merging of our ego within ourself, and since he taught us that our ego will subside and merge within ourself only to the extent that we attend exclusively to ourself, when he said that ‘surrender itself is a mighty prayer’, what he implied is that trying to be self-attentive is the most effective way in which we can pray to God or guru to help us be forever attentively and exclusively self-aware. Asking him in words for his help may support us in our attempts to be self-attentive, but the best way to ask for his help is just to persevere patiently and persistently in trying to be aware of ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of everything else.
    11d. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 12: we must without fail follow the path taught by our guru
As we saw in the fourth section above, in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan says that niṣkāmya karma done with love for God will purify our mind and thereby show the way to liberation, so from this we can infer that if we are truly convinced by his teachings and have therefore accepted him as our guru we need not practise any of the niṣkāmya karmas that he outlines in verses 4 to 7, because he has already shown us that the way to liberation is only self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). Therefore once he and his teachings have entered our life we should carefully consider all that he has taught us in his original writings, particularly in his three most crucial texts, Nāṉ Yār?, Upadēśa Undiyār and Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and should thereby understand that all we need do is to investigate who or what we actually are, because then only will we be following the path taught by him, as he indicates we must do in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
கடவுளும் குருவும் உண்மையில் வேறல்லர். புலிவாயிற் பட்டது எவ்வாறு திரும்பாதோ, அவ்வாறே குருவினருட்பார்வையிற் பட்டவர்கள் அவரால் ரக்ஷிக்கப்படுவரே யன்றி யொருக்காலும் கைவிடப்படார்; எனினும், குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்.

kaḍavuḷ-um guru-v-um uṇmaiyil vēṟallar. puli-vāyil paṭṭadu evvāṟu tirumbādō, avvāṟē guruviṉ-aruḷ-pārvaiyil paṭṭavargaḷ avarāl rakṣikka-p-paḍuvarē y-aṉḏṟi y-oru-k-kāl-um kaiviḍa-p-paḍār; eṉiṉum, guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum.

God and guru are in truth not different. Just as what 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; nevertheless, it is necessary to walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown.
In the final clause of this paragraph, ‘குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்’ (guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum), ‘it is necessary to walk unfailingly along [or according to] the path that guru has shown’, Bhagavan clearly implies that it is essential for us to follow without fail the path of self-investigation that he has shown us. If we fail to do so (that is, if we do not even try to be self-attentive), our love for him is not genuine guru-bhakti (the bhakti of the fourth standard) but is at best only dēva-bhakti (love for him as God, which is bhakti of the third standard, if we take him as our only God, or bhakti of the second standard, if we take him to be just one among many Gods that we worship).

The measure of our guru-bhakti is the extent to which we try to follow the path of self-investigation that he has taught us. Even if we seem to fail in our attempts it does not matter, so long as we persistently try, because our effort to be self-attentive indicates the love that we have to ‘walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown’. If we do our bit by trying to walk his path, he will give us all the help and support we require, both from within and from outside, and thereby we will surely be saved by him. As he says in verse 965 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai:
தன்னைநினைத் தோரடிநீ சார்ந்தா லதற்கீடா
வன்னையினு மிக்கவவ் வாண்டானும் — உன்னை
நினைத்துத்தா னொன்பதடி நீளவந் தேற்பா
னனைத்துக்கா ணன்னோ னருள்.

taṉṉainiṉait tōraḍinī sārndā ladaṟkīḍā
vaṉṉaiyiṉu mikkavav vāṇḍāṉum — uṉṉai
niṉaittuttā ṉoṉbadaḍi nīḷavan dēṟpā
ṉaṉaittukkā ṇaṉṉō ṉaruḷ
.

பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை நினைத்து ஓர் அடி நீ சார்ந்தால், அதற்கு ஈடா அன்னையினும் மிக்க அவ் ஆண்டானும் உன்னை நினைத்து தான் ஒன்பது அடி நீள வந்து ஏற்பான். அனைத்து காண் அன்னோன் அருள்!

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai niṉaittu ōr aḍi nī sārndāl, adaṟku īḍā aṉṉaiyiṉum mikka a-vv-āṇḍāṉum uṉṉai niṉaittu tāṉ oṉbadu aḍi nīḷa vandu ēṟpāṉ. aṉaittu kāṇ aṉṉōṉ aruḷ!

அன்வயம்: தன்னை நினைத்து நீ ஓர் அடி சார்ந்தால், அதற்கு ஈடா அன்னையினும் மிக்க அவ் ஆண்டானும் உன்னை நினைத்து தான் ஒன்பது அடி நீள வந்து ஏற்பான். அன்னோன் அருள் அனைத்து காண்!

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): taṉṉai niṉaittu nī ōr aḍi sārndāl, adaṟku īḍā aṉṉaiyiṉum mikka a-vv-āṇḍāṉum uṉṉai niṉaittu tāṉ oṉbadu aḍi nīḷa vandu ēṟpāṉ. aṉṉōṉ aruḷ aṉaittu kāṇ!

English translation: Thinking of him, if you approach one step, as an appropriate response to that, more [lovingly] than even a mother that Lord [God or guru] thinking of you will himself come nine steps and receive [you]. See, so great is his grace!
However, though he repeatedly emphasised the need for us to follow this path of self-investigation by trying to be self-attentive as much as possible, he also indicated in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and elsewhere that we can draw help and support from him by praying to him and by practising devotion to his outward name and form (or to the outward name and form of Arunachala, which he indicated is himself). Therefore though trying to be self-attentive is the one essential practice of guru-bhakti, praying to him and expressing our love for him in whatever way appeals to us is also effective as a supplementary practice of guru-bhakti.

Trying to be self-attentive is the one essential practice of guru-bhakti because it is both necessary and sufficient. It is necessary because until and unless we try to experience ourself alone we will never be able to experience ourself as we really are, and it is sufficient because if we try to experience ourself alone no other practice is necessary. As Bhagavan says in the sixth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār?:
நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்.

nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum.

Only by the investigation who am I will the mind subside [or cease to exist].

ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும்.

oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum.

If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own essential self], that alone will be sufficient.
On the other hand, prayer and other devotional practices are supplementary practices of guru-bhakti because strictly speaking they are neither necessary nor sufficient. They are not necessary because self-investigation is sufficient by itself, and they are not sufficient because until and unless we turn our attention back towards ourself alone no amount of prayer or anya bhakti can enable us to experience what we actually are.

12. Is self-surrender an alternative to self-investigation?

Bhagavan often said that we should either investigate who we are or surrender ourself completely to God, so some people interpret this to mean that self-investigation and self-surrender are two alternative paths. However he also often said that we can surrender ourself completely to God only by investigating ourself, and he implied this very clearly in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [thought of oneself], alone is giving oneself to God.
Why then did he sometimes speak of self-surrender as if it were an alternative path? He did so because some people find the idea of surrendering oneself to God more appealing than the idea of investigating who or what one actually is. Though we can actually surrender ourself completely to God only by investigating ourself, and though we cannot investigate ourself without surrendering the ego or mind that now seems to be ourself, self-investigation and self-surrender are two alternative ways of conceptualising and describing this single practice.

Self-surrender means surrendering ourself, so what is this ‘self’ that we are to surrender? We obviously cannot surrender or give up what we actually are, because we can never cease to be what we actually are, nor can we ever separate ourself in any way from what we actually are, so self-surrender must mean surrendering only what we seem to be. In other words, self-surrender means surrendering our ego, the false ‘self’ that we now seem to.
    12a. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: we cannot surrender our ego so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself
How can we surrender this ego? Since this ego is just an erroneous and illusory experience of ourself — that is, an experience of ourself as if we were something that is not actually ourself — we can surrender it or give it up only by experiencing ourself as we actually are. So long as we experience ourself as anything other than what we actually are, that false experience of ourself is what is called ‘ego’, so we can get rid of this false experience only by experiencing ourself as we actually are. Therefore in order to surrender our ego effectively, we must try to experience what we actually are, and in order to experience what we actually are we must investigate ourself by trying to experience ourself in complete isolation from everything else. In other words, we must try to be exclusively aware of ourself alone.

This is why Bhagavan emphatically stated in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that self-surrender entails ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல்’ (āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal), ‘not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [thought of oneself or self-attentiveness]’. Since according to the sense in which he used the term ‘thought’ any awareness of anything other than ourself is a thought, ‘not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than thought of oneself’ means not being aware of anything other than ourself, so what he clearly implies in this sentence is that we cannot give ourself entirely to God unless we avoid being aware of anything other than ourself.

Why is this so? Because according to what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, we rise, stand and flourish as this ‘formless phantom ego’ (உருவற்ற பேய் அகந்தை: uru-v-aṯṟa pēy ahandai) only by ‘grasping form’ (உரு பற்றி: uru paṯṟi) — that is, by being aware of anything other than our formless self. What we really are is never aware of anything other than ourself as we really are, so whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are but only as this ego. Therefore we seem to be this ego only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, so we cannot experience ourself as we really are and thereby give up our ego so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself. This is why Bhagavan said in the third and fourth paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār?:
[...] கற்பித ஸர்ப்ப ஞானம் போனா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான ரஜ்ஜு ஞானம் உண்டாகாதது போல, கற்பிதமான ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கினா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான சொரூப தர்சன முண்டாகாது.

[...] kaṯpita sarppa-jñāṉam pōṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa rajju-jñāṉam uṇḍāhādadu pōla, kaṯpitamāṉa jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgiṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa sorūpa darśaṉam uṇḍāhādu.

[...] Just as unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, knowledge of the rope, which is the adhiṣṭhāna [the base that underlies and supports the illusory appearance of the snake], will not arise, unless perception of the world, which is a kalpita [a fabrication, mental creation or figment of our imagination], ceases, svarūpa-darśana [experience of our own essential self], which is the adhiṣṭhāna [the base or foundation that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise.

[...] நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை. [...] மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தினின்று வெளிப்படும்போது ஜகம் தோன்றும். ஆகையால், ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது; சொரூபம் தோன்றும் (பிரகாசிக்கும்) போது ஜகம் தோன்றாது. [...]

[...] niṉaivugaḷai-t tavirttu jagam-eṉḏṟōr poruḷ aṉṉiyamāy illai. [...] maṉam ātma sorūpattiṉiṉḏṟu veḷippaḍum-pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟum. āhaiyāl, jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu sorūpam tōṉḏṟādu; sorūpam tōṉḏṟum (pirakāśikkum) pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟādu. [...]

[...] Excluding thoughts [or ideas], there is not separately any such thing as ‘world’. [...] When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa, the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or essential self] does not appear [as it really is]; when svarūpa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear. [...]
As he states unequivocally in these passages, awareness of the world (which includes awareness of anything other than ourself) is incompatible with awareness of ourself as we really are. Therefore we have to choose between being aware of the world or anything other than ourself and being aware of ourself as we really are. So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we cannot be aware of ourself as we really are, and hence we cannot cease experiencing ourself as this ego. Therefore in order to surrender our ego entirely, we must give up being aware of anything other than ourself. As Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

ahandaiyuṇ ḍāyi ṉaṉaittumuṇ ḍāhu
mahandaiyiṉ ḏṟēliṉ ḏṟaṉaittu — mahandaiyē
yāvumā mādalāl yādideṉḏṟu nādalē
yōvudal yāvumeṉa vōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr.

அன்வயம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், அனைத்தும் இன்று. யாவும் அகந்தையே ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே யாவும் ஓவுதல் என ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, aṉaittum iṉḏṟu. yāvum ahandai-y-ē ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē yāvum ōvudal eṉa ōr.

English translation: If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything.
We cannot give up our ego without giving up everything else along with it, and as Bhagavan clearly implies in this verse, the only way in which we can give up both our ego and everything else is by investigating what this ego actually is. Since this ego is nothing but ourself seeming to be something other than what we actually are, when we investigate what it is by focusing our entire attention upon it (thereby withdrawing our attention from everything else) we will find that what seemed to be this ego is actually just ourself as we really are. Therefore self-investigation is the only effective means by which we can give up or surrender our ego entirely.
    12b. Partial surrender will gradually lead to complete surrender
However, though our self-surrender can be complete only when we investigate ourself by trying to be aware of ourself alone, the path of devotion (bhakti mārga) is a means by which we can gradually come to the point where we are ready to give up everything else and attend to ourself alone, with the firm conviction that what shines within us as ‘I’ is essentially nothing other than God himself. In other words, bhakti mārga provides a gentle and gradual approach to self-surrender — an approach that will eventually culminate in self-investigation, which is the only means by which our self-surrender can become complete.

Therefore whenever Bhagavan said that we should either investigate who we are or surrender ourself completely to God, the reason why he mentioned surrender as if it were an alternative to self-investigation is that for some people the more gentle and gradual approach of bhakti mārga is the most suitable way to come to the path of self-investigation, and in bhakti mārga surrender evolves from being partial to eventually becoming complete. This is why whenever anyone complained to him that self-surrender does not seem to be possible, he would say either that if we cannot surrender ourself we should try instead to investigate ourself, or that even if complete self-surrender is not possible initially, at least partial surrender is possible for everyone, and partial surrender will eventually lead to complete surrender (as he is recorded to have said on one occasion in section 244 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi: 2006 edition, page 203).

What exactly did he mean by partial surrender? Obviously we cannot partially give up our ego, because we experience ourself either as we really or as this ego, so we cannot experience ourself partially as we really are and partially as this ego. Therefore surrender of our ego is an all or nothing state, so partial surrender must mean surrender of something other than our ego. What most devotees mean when they talk about surrender is not surrender of ‘I’ (the ego) but only surrender of ‘mine’ (everything that the ego normally claims as its own), so partial surrender means a gradual giving up of everything that seems to be ‘mine’.

Even in the stage of kāmya bhakti devotees give up certain things that they consider to be ‘mine’, either by giving donations to a temple, church, mosque, synagogue, gurudwara or some other charity, or by abstaining from some particular worldly pleasure, but they do so only because they hope to gain something from God in return for their sacrifice. However, after they progress beyond such kāmya bhakti to niṣkāmya bhakti, they continue making similar sacrifices, but do so just for the love of God and without any expectation of receiving anything in return. This is the stage at which partial surrender really begins.

Worshipping God in any way by body, speech or mind without expecting anything in return is itself a form of partial surrender, because we are offering to God the fruits of our actions instead of desiring them for ourself. In this way our mind is gradually purified or cleansed of its grosser forms of desire and attachment, as Bhagavan says in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and this gradual shedding of our desires and attachments is further progress on the path of partial surrender.

However, so long as we are worshipping God as anything other than ourself, we are still clinging to our false experience of ourself as a seemingly separate ego or soul, so we cannot surrender anything more than ‘mine’. However much of ‘mine’ we may manage to surrender to God, vestiges of ‘mine’ will remain in one form or another and fresh forms of ‘mine’ (such as more subtle desires or attachments) will continue sprouting so long as we do not surrender their root, our separate ‘I’ or ego. Therefore in order to surrender not just ‘mine’ but this ‘I’ itself we must give up our idea that we are anything separate from God, and we can give up this idea only by meditating upon him as nothing other than ourself, as Bhagavan indicates that we should do in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār.

That is, it is only when our devotion evolves from anya bhakti (devotion to God as something other than ourself) into ananya bhakti (devotion to him as nothing other than ourself) that we go beyond surrendering only ‘mine’ (partial surrender of things other than ourself) and begin to face the challenge of actually surrendering ‘I’ (complete surrender of ourself and everything else). In this way by progressing through the various stages and practices of bhakti we will eventually reach the point to which all those stages and practices are intended to lead, namely the complete surrender of ourself, the ‘I’ or ego, the false entity who claims that anything is ‘mine’.

In order to surrender ourself, we obviously need to surrender all our attachments to everything else, so the gradual training in surrendering our attachments to other things that we receive while following the path of anya bhakti is a necessary prerequisite to surrendering ourself entirely. However, once we have understood that the only way to surrender our ego and thereby surrender everything else along with it is to investigate or meditate upon ourself alone, we no longer need to practise any form of anya bhakti, because we can shed all our attachments more quickly, effectively and reliably by trying to be self-attentive than we could by any other means whatsoever.
    12c. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: the significance of the last three sentences
We have already considered the importance of the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? several times in this article (such as in section 6b), so let us now consider the rest of that paragraph. However before we do so, it is worth noting the significance of the fact that it was immediately after saying in the final sentence of the twelfth paragraph that ‘it is necessary to walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown’ (குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்: guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum) that Bhagavan began this paragraph by indicating that being exclusively self-attentive (‘not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than thought of oneself’) is that only means by which we can surrender ourself to God. By doing so, he emphasised that whether we think of the path shown by him in terms of either self-investigation or self-surrender, what it entails is trying to be aware of nothing other than ourself. Therefore whether we aspire to follow the path of self-investigation or the path of self-surrender, what we need to do is to try to think of nothing but ourself.

What he says in the entire the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? is as follows:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம். ஈசன்பேரில் எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும், அவ்வளவையும் அவர் வகித்துக்கொள்ளுகிறார். சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்? புகை வண்டி சகல பாரங்களையும் தாங்கிக்கொண்டு போவது தெரிந்திருந்தும், அதி லேறிக்கொண்டு போகும் நாம் நம்முடைய சிறிய மூட்டையையு மதிற் போட்டுவிட்டு சுகமா யிராமல், அதை நமது தலையிற் றாங்கிக்கொண்டு ஏன் கஷ்டப்படவேண்டும்?

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām. īśaṉpēril e-vv-aḷavu bhārattai-p pōṭṭālum, a-vv-aḷavai-y-um avar vakittu-k-koḷḷugiṟār. sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl, nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cinti-p-padēṉ? puhai vaṇḍi sakala bhāraṅgaḷaiyum tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu pōvadu terindirundum, adil ēṟi-k-koṇḍu pōhum nām nammuḍaiya siṟiya mūṭṭaiyaiyum adil pōṭṭu-viṭṭu sukhamāy irāmal, adai namadu talaiyil tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu ēṉ kaṣṭa-p-paḍa-vēṇḍum?

Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintanā [thought of oneself], alone is giving oneself to God. Even though we place whatever amount of burden upon God, that entire amount he will bear. Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all activities [everything that happens in this world], instead of yielding to it why should we always think, ‘it is necessary to act in this way; it is necessary to act in that way’? Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it suffer bearing our small luggage on our head instead of remaining happily leaving it placed on that [train]?
For many devotees, particularly those who are strongly attached to anya bhakti, firmly believing that God is something separate from or other than themselves, the definition of self-surrender that Bhagavan gives in the first sentence of this paragraph may seem strange or unfamiliar, and may even appear to be threatening to their idea of devotion and surrender, whereas what he says in the next three sentences will appear familiar and comforting. Does this mean, then, that he is describing two different types or concepts of surrender here? No, because if we understand the reason why he defines self-surrender as he does in the first sentence, it will be clear that what he says in the next three sentences is intended to help us to put into practice what he says in the first one.

That is, since he says in the first sentence that we can surrender ourself completely to God only by thinking of nothing other than ourself, what he says in the later three sentences is intended to encourage us not to be distracted by any other thoughts. So long as we think we are responsible for anything that is happening in this world, or that we must bear the burden of worldly concerns and responsibilities, we will not be able to free ourself from endless thoughts about such things. If we are to think of nothing other than ourself, knowing and being confident that the one supreme ruling power (paramēśvara śakti) is taking care of everything else and that we can therefore yield all our own cares and concerns to it without thinking about them even a little will help us greatly to avoid being distracted by thoughts of anything other than ourself.

If we have strong faith in God, and if we firmly believe him to be all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful, what need is there for us to think about anything? Whatever we or anyone else need is known to him, and since he is omnipotent and loves each one of us as himself, he will surely provide what is best for each of us, so there is no need for us to pray to him or even to think about anything. All we need do is to surrender ourself and all our seeming burdens to him by silently subsiding back into the source from which we arose (as he urges us to do in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and which we can do only by the strength and firmness of our ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness, as he implies in verses 8 and 9).

We may not yet have sufficient love for him or trust in him to be able to yield everything to him and subside back into ourself, the source from which we arose, but the quickest and most effective way to cultivate such love and trust is to persevere patiently in our effort to be self-attentive as much as we can. As he used to say, sooner or later we will each have to begin trying to turn our attention back within in order to subside in the infinite reality that we really are, so rather than waiting till later, we should begin as soon as possible by trying at this very moment, and should continue trying as much as we can until we finally succeed.

13. Conclusion

So what is the final answer to the question that this article has been considering: can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)? The simple answer is obviously yes, but how directly we can experience what we actually are depends upon how close we have come to the final stage of this path, namely the stage at which we focus all our love and effort on trying to surrender our ego entirely to God by being vigilantly self-attentive.

As we have seen, the bhakti mārga includes a wide range of beliefs and practices, some of which are more advanced and beneficial than others, but where all such beliefs and practices must eventually lead is to ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness, which is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), ‘the best among all’, and by the strength or firmness of which alone we will subside back into the source from we rose. Therefore the conclusion we can draw from studying Upadēśa Undiyār, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Nāṉ Yār? carefully and in depth is that the ultimate and best practice of bhakti mārga is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), because it is the only means by which we can surrender ourself entirely to God, the one infinite reality, which alone is what we actually are.

159 comments:

R Viswanathan said...

Thanks so much Sri Michael James for such a wonderful article. Surely, you would have spent considerable time and effort for this - all these for the benefit of all of us. Thanks once again.

However, I need to point out here that just as you mentioned that there are different practices in Bakthi Marga, there are different views on what Bhagavan really meant by Atma Vichara. For instance, Sri David Godman who I respect as much as I respect you and Sri Nochur Venkataraman for imparting Bhagavan's teachings into me has this to say as a response to a comment:

"In your extract from Sadhu Om's writings he says:

In this question, ‘Who am I?’, ‘I am’ denotes Self and ‘who’ stands for the enquiry.

This is not, in my opinion, what Bhagavan said and taught. Bhagavan taught that the 'I' we are enquiring into is the individual 'I', not the Self. When you do the enquiry, you hold onto the feeling of 'I', which is the subjective awareness of individual identity. If the practice is done well, the individual 'I' subsides and disappears, leaving Self alone.

I spoke to Sadhu Om about this in the early 1980s and he defended his views by saying, 'There is only one "I", and that is the Self'. The implication seemed to be that holding on to the Self constituted self-enquiry or self-attention.

I didn't agree then and I don't agree now. One cannot hold onto the Self without first removing the obstacle to a direct awareness of it - that is the 'I'-thought. By questioning its nature, by looking for its origin, or simply by being aware of it continuously, one causes it to subside and vanish.

Bhagavan said that the Self does not need to be enquired into. All that is required is to remove its coverings through an enquiry into the nature and origin of the false entity that is covering it up."

The article itself, titled (The qualifications needed to do self-enquiry) is so very wonderful and beneficial as your present article. Those interested in this article by Sri David Godman may access this link: http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2010/07/qualifications-needed-to-do-self.html

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
Thanks much for a really long and well balanced article that brings more spiritual practices (puja, japa, meditation, and different forms of Bhakthi) under Bhagavan’s tent with Vichara being at the pinnacle. The article accommodates aspirants at many levels and in my opinion is more in tune with Bhagavan’s actions. Those who are attracted to Bhagavan’s teachings are at various maturity levels, although typically one would expect only advanced seekers to be attracted to Bhagavan. “Vichara Only” in the beginning is a non-starter for seekers like I and this article very nicely elucidates how other practices can be combined with Vichara.

Sri Sekkizyar writes about para bhaktas as, “They look upon stone and gold as one. They view fortune and misfortune as the same. They do not even ask for Moksha from God”. This is termed as Para Bhakthi. Appar swamigal writes “Can I attain salvation, if I forget you even for a second?”

Your quote below unites aspirants with a Bhakthi slant and aspirants with Vichara slant with grace itself being the great uniter and highlights the key role grace plays irrespective of whatever particular Sadhana one may follow.

“If grace allows a person to develop extremely intense devotion to God as if he were something other than themself, it will eventually become relatively easy for that person to turn their mind inwards and surrender themself to him in their heart, whereas if grace has appeared to us in the form of Bhagavan Ramana and thereby shown us relatively early in our spiritual development that self-investigation is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, it may be necessary for us to persevere with much difficulty and for a long time in trying to practise self-investigation before we are eventually able to surrender ourself entirely.”

Thanks again.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, I have not read the article by David that you refer to in your comment, but I found his comment on it that you quote, and reading it I see that his views in this respect have not changed since about 1977, when he and I first discussed this matter. At that time I tried to explain to him that what seems to be our ego is only ourself as we actually are, just as what seems to be a snake is only the rope that it actually is, so when we investigate or look at our ego what we are actually investigating or looking at is only ourself as we really are, just as when we look at the snake what we are actually looking at is only a rope.

I could never understand why he could not understand this simple and obvious fact, but however much I tried to explain it to him he continued to insist that in some book or books it is recorded that when someone asked Bhagavan whether what we should investigate is our real self or our ego, he replied that it is our ego. In reply to this I tried to explain to him that whoever asked such a question was obviously not able to understand that we ourself are only one, so it is only our one self that we now experience as if it were this ego, and hence Bhagavan replied in this way knowing that if he were to say to such a person that they should investigate what they really are, they would say that they do not know what they really are, so it would be more helpful to tell them that it is sufficient if they investigate their ego, because if we investigate our ego we will eventually find that what we mistook to be this ego is only ourself as we really are.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Viswanathan:

In the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan defined ātma-vicāra or self-investigation as follows:

“சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்.”

sadā-kālam-um maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadaṟku-t tāṉ ‘ātma-vicāram’ eṉḏṟu peyar.”

“The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always in [or on] ātmā [oneself].”

In this definition he does not specify or even imply that what he meant by the term ஆத்மா (ātmā) is only our ego and not ourself. Generally when he used this term of Sanskrit origin rather than the equivalent Tamil term தான் (tāṉ), he meant it to refer to ourself as we really are (our real self or ‘the Self’ as David usually calls it) rather than ourself as we seem to be (our ego), but in this case we can interpret it as referring simply to ourself in general rather than specifically to ourself either as we really are or as we seem to be, because whether we experience ourself as we really are or as this ego that we now seem to be, we are always the same one self, and there is no self other than this one self.

In certain contexts it is useful to distinguish our ego (which is ourself as we now seem to be) from our real self (ourself as we actually are), but in many contexts it is not useful to do so, and in some cases it is confusing to do so. In the context of self-investigation or ātma-vicāra, it is not necessary to specify whether the ‘self’ or ‘ātman’ we are investigating or attending to is ourself as we actually are or ourself as we seem to be, because we experience only one self or ‘I’ and what we are trying to find out and experience is what this one self or ‘I’ actually is.

The Sanskrit term आत्मन् (ātman) and Tamil term தான் (tāṉ) are both generic pronouns that in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings are best translated in most cases simply as ‘oneself’, ‘myself’ or ‘ourself’, because as Bhagavan often used to say, we are only one self, so we ourself are the only self that we need to investigate and know as we actually are. For example in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says: ‘இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்’ (iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl), which means, ‘are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience’.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
I am not sure what you disagree with David on this quote you linked:

“This is not, in my opinion, what Bhagavan said and taught. Bhagavan taught that the 'I' we are enquiring into is the individual 'I', not the Self. When you do the enquiry, you hold onto the feeling of 'I', which is the subjective awareness of individual identity. If the practice is done well, the individual 'I' subsides and disappears, leaving Self alone.”

I thought David’s comment above was an accurate expression of Bhagavan’s teaching. We are only aware of this ego as ‘I’ and the feeling of ‘I’. Didn’t Bhagavan use ‘I-I’ to denote the Self (real ‘I’)? So during enquiry aren’t we working with the ego ‘I’ and as David says, if the practice is done well, it will subside leaving ‘I-I’?

In the waking state, since the ego is our medium of all experiences and since Sadhana can be done (initially at least) only in the waking state, isn't the ego all we got to work with? Although the Self and ego will not be two different things upon awakening, as of now they feel like two different things and ego is the only thing visible (in waking state).

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, I do not disagree with David when he says that self-enquiry entails investigating or attending to our ego, but I do disagree with him when he infers from this that it therefore does not entail investigating or attending to what we actually are (our real self), because as I explained in the first part of my reply to Viswanathan, what seems to be our ego is only what we actually are, just as what seems to be a snake is only the rope that it actually is.

When David writes, ‘One cannot hold onto the Self without first removing the obstacle to a direct awareness of it — that is the ‘I’-thought’, he seems to imply that we are not now directly aware of ourself, which is obviously not correct. Self-awareness is our very nature, so we can never be not aware of ourself, but we now mistake ourself to be a body, which is not what we actually are, so the resulting awareness of ourself mixed with awareness of a body is what called the ego, the thought called ‘I’ or the cit-jaḍa-granthi.

In this cit-jaḍa-granthi, the cit or conscious portion is what we actually are (our real self) whereas the jaḍa or non-conscious portion is our body, which is what we now seem to be. Therefore when Bhagavan said (as recorded in the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel, 2002 edition, p. 89), ‘In your investigation into the source of aham-vritti [the thought called ‘I’, the ego], you take the essential chit [consciousness] aspect of the ego; and for this reason the enquiry must lead to the realization of the pure consciousness of the Self’, what he implied is that what we must investigate or attend to is only ‘the essential cit aspect of the ego’, which is ourself as we actually are (our real self), and not its jaḍa aspect, which is our body and all the other adjuncts that we now mistake to be ourself.

Our ego (our primal thought called ‘I’) does not completely obstruct our awareness of ourself as we really are, but only obscures it, making it seem to be something other than what it actually is. Therefore when our ego eventually subsides and dissolves in ourself, the source from which it arose, we will not experience anything other than what we have always experienced, namely ourself, but will just experience ourself without any of the obscuring adjuncts that we now experience as if they were ourself. This is why Bhagavan often said that ātma-jñāna is not a new knowledge that we are to acquire, but is only the removal of ignorance that now seems to obscure the ātma-jñāna that is always shining within us as ourself.

Regarding David’s comment that ‘Bhagavan said that the Self does not need to be enquired into’, this seems to me to be a subtle distortion or misrepresentation of what Bhagavan meant. What we actually are (our real self) does not need anything, so we as we actually are do not need either to be investigated or to investigate anything, because we as we actually are always experience ourself as we actually are. However, that is all true only from the perspective of ourself as we actually are, whereas from the perspective of ourself as we now seem to be (namely this ego), we do need to investigate what we actually are in order to experience ourself as we actually are. This is why Bhagavan used to say that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) needs to be done only by and for the sake of our ego, and not by or for the sake of our real self.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sivanarul:

Regarding your question, ‘Didn’t Bhagavan use ‘I-I’ to denote the Self (real ‘I’)?’, please read what I wrote about this term ‘I-I’ in நான் நான் (nāṉ nāṉ) means ‘I am I’, not ‘I-I’. In some contexts Bhagavan did refer to our experience of ourself as we really are as ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ), which means ‘I am I’, but we obviously should not infer from this that whenever he used the term ‘நான்’ (nāṉ) or ‘I’ he was referring only to the ego. ‘I’ refers only to ourself, whether we experience ourself as we actually are or as this ego, and in verse 21 of Upadēśa Undiyār he says:

நானெனுஞ் சொற்பொரு ளாமது நாளுமே
நானற்ற தூக்கத்து முந்தீபற
     நமதின்மை நீக்கத்தா லுந்தீபற.

nāṉeṉuñ coṯporu ḷāmadu nāḷumē
nāṉaṯṟa tūkkattu mundīpaṟa
     namadiṉmai nīkkattā lundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: நான் எனும் சொல் பொருள் ஆம் அது நாளுமே, நான் அற்ற தூக்கத்தும் நமது இன்மை நீக்கத்தால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): nāṉ eṉum sol poruḷ ām adu nāḷ-um-ē, nāṉ aṯṟa tūkkattu-[u]m namadu iṉmai nīkkattāl.

அன்வயம்: நான் அற்ற தூக்கத்தும் நமது இன்மை நீக்கத்தால், நான் எனும் சொல் பொருள் நாளுமே அது ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): nāṉ aṯṟa tūkkattum namadu iṉmai nīkkattāl, nāṉ eṉum sol poruḷ nāḷ-um-ē adu ām.

English translation: That is at all times the import of the word called ‘I’, because of the absence of our non-existence even in sleep, which is devoid of ‘I’ [the ego].

Here what he refers to as ‘அது’ (adu) or ‘that’ is the one whole or infinite reality that in the previous verse he said will appear spontaneously as ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ) or ‘I am I’ where our ego merges, so what he clearly implies in this verse is that our real self is always the true import of the term ‘நான்’ (nāṉ) or ‘I’.

Sivanarul said...

With respect to Niskamya Bhakthi that Michael referred to in his article, it is in general, understood to be as per what Michael wrote (Not asking for anything other than love and grace). However when observing actions by Saints (including Bhagavan), there are certain exceptions. These exceptions are, asking for relief from hunger and asking for relief (for ourselves or for humanity at large) from physical pain or disease. Such asking still falls under Niskamya Bhakthi and not under Kamya Bhakthi.

This can be readily observed in the lives of Nayanmars. When ThiruJnanaSambandar was hungry, at 3 years old, he cried looking at the temple gopuram, essentially asking the lord to feed him. When Appar swamigal had several stomach pain, he composed his first song asking God to relieve his pain. When Sundarar lost eyesight in both of his eyes, as punishment, for breaking the promise he made, he prayed to the Lord to forgive him and restore his sight. Of course, all three prayers were granted.

It is well known that Bhagavan himself asked Arunachala to cure his mother’s illness. In Michael’s latest video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzf9koiPxLo), a question is asked regarding that, at 24:53 to Michael and Michael responded that Bhagavan wrote it in such a way it can be interpreted as physical fever or the fever of birth and death. Bhagavan could have composed that song anytime during the 50+ years he was at Arunachala. The fact that he composed it when his mother was gravely ill from typhoid, is enough to reasonably conclude that he did mean physical fever (along with fever of birth and death). So Bhagavan did ask Arunachala to cure his mother’s ailment, in spite of his famous saying to his mother, “whatever is destined to happen will happen….”.

The reason I write this is, many of us become serious spiritual aspirants because the dream is not satisfying anymore or has become a nightmare or we see physical death approaching soon etc. If the dream is pleasant, there is no incentive to really wake up. So many of us have one or more troubles in the dream and prayer to God or Guru or Grace or Bhagavan or Arunachala is a powerful remedy to alleviate or lessen the impact. The placebo effect is well documented in modern medicine. So for followers of Niskamya Bhakthi, it is helpful to remember that asking for relief from the exceptions noted above is not a violation of Niskamya Bhakthi. Those are very different from asking for material gains such as wealth, job promotion etc. (which do belong in Kamya Bhakthi).

When the saints above, including Bhagavan, in spite of being in Para Bhakthi and Jnana, has prayed for relief, shouldn’t we who are still dreaming, not make use of that, in case of dire situations?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you very much for this most comprehensive article on bhakti. Certain of its portions are more insightful and helpful in my view, like when you write in its section 5:

Bhagavan did not intend us to use verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār as a yardstick for assessing the purity either of our own mind or of the minds of others. In our case we have been fortunate that he has appeared in our life as our guru and has enabled us to understand his teachings at least to a certain extent, but this does not mean that our mind is any more pure than anyone else’s. If we have been firmly convinced by him that self-investigation is the only way to attain liberation, we should consider that to be entirely due to his unbounded and uncaused grace.

Yes, sometimes I do have a high or exaggerated onion of myself and feel that though I have understood that self-investigation is the most purifying and the most direct path, others have not understood this very clear teaching of Bhagavan. But as you have written, we should consider this understanding of ours to be purely due to Bhagavan's 'unbound and uncaused grace'.

You write in section 7d, last paragraph:

[...]the more intense is our love for him as ourself, the more uninterrupted our self-attentiveness will be, and hence the more rapidly and effectively all our mental impurities in the form of viṣaya-vāsanās (desires or inclinations to experience things other than ourself) will be eradicated.

Therefore each moment of our self-investigation is important to eradicate our visaya-vasanas and to bring us closer to our goal.

You have in the section 11b (quoting Sri Sadhu Om):

Even if I ask for a thousand boons other than antarmukham [facing inwards], whatever other boons would become impediments, not helping even a little to give rest [cessation or termination] by pushing and pulling me inwards, please do not give that.

Therefore we should not ask or pray for anything to Bhagavan. If at all we want to pray it should be only for the destruction of our ego or for gaining the state of atma-jnana.

Thanking you and pranams.

David Godman said...

With regard to whether self-enquiry comprises attention to the individual 'I' or to the Self was addressed by Muruganar in his commentary on verse 44 of Akasharamanamalai:

tirumpi yakantaṉait tiṉamakak kaṇkāṇ
ṭeriyumeṉ ṟaṉaiyeṉ ṉaruṇācalā.

Word-for Word translation:

aruṇācalā – Arunachala!
eṉṟaṉai – You said
akam tirumpi – ‘Turning within...’
tiṉam aka kaṇ taṉai kāṇ – ‘know the Self constantly'
ṭeriyum – '[Then] it will be known [to you],’
eṉ – What a wonder is this!

Muruganar’s paraphrase:

[Arunachala!] Turning towards the Heart and away from external phenomena through detachment (vairagya), ceaselessly and one-pointedly examine and know the Self through the self, with the inward-turned vision which is of the form of the enquiry “Who am I?” Then shall you (yourself) clearly know (as your very own nature, the truth of the words,“You yourself, You alone, are the essence of the Real.”). Thus did you instruct me. What a wonder is this!

Muruganar’s commentary:

akam tirumpal – ‘turning within’ means ‘ceasing to pay attention to external objects’. The elimination of thoughts [about them] in the mind is also implied here. Through observing oneself with the inner eye, the veil of illusion is destroyed and the knowledge of the Real arises. When we speak of the self as the object of enquiry, we are referring only to the jiva, which is of the form of the ego, not the Self, the true nature of the ‘I’. Why so? Firstly because the suffering of birth, which arises from ignorance, and the consequent need for enquiry as a means to remove that suffering, appertain to the jiva only, which is bound by delusion and bewildered, not to the supreme Self, which is eternally present, pure, aware and free. Secondly because – when the ego, which is the obstacle to the realisation of the Self, is destroyed through the means of enquiry – that Self can only be known to the jiva by its experiencing that Self as its own nature in perfect peace (śānta vṛtti). It can never, in any way, shape or form whatsoever, be (or become) the object of the practice of enquiry. Since the world with its cycles of birth and death (saṁsāra) does not actually exist in the supreme Reality, but arises through a lack of awareness (pramāda), which is the true death, unremitting enquiry is indispensable until such time as the ego-knot, which lies at the root of it, is permanently severed. Therefore Arunachala through his grace instructed, ‘Constantly observe [the “I”] with the inner eye.’ [The meaning of] akamukam – inward turned [is] ‘to establish the mind in the Heart, its source, without letting it stray amongst external phenomena.’

Translation by Robert Butler.

I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum.

Wittgenstein said...

In the on-going discussion of whether attending to ego or the self constitutes atma-vichara, I thought I would like to share my opinion, which comes from my very limited understanding.

I would like to take the analogy of a ray of sun light entering into a dark cave through a small slit, lighting up the objects in the cave (as it appears in The Path of Sri Ramana – Part one). This ray of light is the ‘I am’ (the chit aspect) in the ego, which has the form ‘I am the body’, while ‘the body’ is the objects in the cave. Therefore, the ego does not completely block the self, although it seems to constrict the light. What one does in atma-vichara is the overlooking of objects in the cave and looking at this ray of light, which eventually leads to the sun itself. I tend to think, together with you, that the light is the same, the very light of the sun. Light, constricted or otherwise is still light and there is no need to distinguish it by any means. Practically speaking, we have to work with what we have (that’s the only thing we can do!), namely the light ‘I am’, without naming it as the ego or the self. In this dispute, surprisingly, everyone is doing atma-vichara, though the way in which they interpret it is different. When we do experience ourselves as we are, there will not be anyone left to work with anything anymore, only the unconstricted light will be left; no cave and no objects.

Wittgenstein said...

Sorry, in the above comment, when I said, 'I tend to think, together with you ...', I meant Michael.

Sanjay Lohia said...

David Godman, greetings! Sorry, I do not agree with you. The practice of self-enquiry or self-investigation entails trying to attend to ourself alone, to the exclusion of everything else. It is not important to specify whether this 'ourself' means our ego or our true self, because essentially they are non-different. Our ego without upadhis or attributes is our true self. Yes, the ego starts this self-investigation, but what it is attending to is essentially the non-dual self only.

1. When we watch a movie in a theatre or even watch T.V., what do we really attend to - the movie screen or the T.V. screen, or the moving pictures on the screen? Yes, superficially we can say that we are attending to the moving pictures, but actually can we ever attend to the pictures without actually looking at the screen? Likewise, in our self-investigation we are actually attending to our true self, which is the substratum of our ego.
2. When Bhagavan writes in Nan Yar?, 'The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always in [or on] ātmā [oneself]', what according to you does Bhagavan mean by the term 'atma'? Atma is a well known Sanskrit word for our essential, true, non-dual self.
3. When our ego tries to attend to itself alone, it starts dissolving and we more and more start attending to the core of our being. Would you stop your self-investigating merely because you are presenting attending mainly to the true self (because according to you this is not self-enquiry)?
4. Are there two I's, one 'I' attending to another 'I'? Obviously not! our experience is that we are one. Please refer to your book GVK, verse 579:

Because of the eternal Atma-swarua has the glory of being non-dual, and because, other than the Self, there is no final goal that exists as a worthy attainment, with regard to that Self, both the means and the goal should be that one and only Self, and not different.

How do you interpret this verse? You have also added Bhagavan's words below this verse in your book, namely: Vichara is the process and the goal also. I AM is the goal and the final reality. To hold to it with effort is vichara. When spontaneous and natural, it is realisation (Talks, - no. 390). Regards.




Steve said...

When we have turned within and have stopped thinking about what we are attending to, what are we then attending to?

R Viswanathan said...

I feel it as a great fortune that the two of the three living authorities who I look upon to (Sri Nochur Venkataraman, Sri David Godman, and Sri Michael James) for understanding and assimilating Bhagavan's teachings are participating in the discussion on what one can pay attention on.

Since both of them are expressing their experience and not just stating what they read and understood, I sum it up their experiences thus:

Sri Michael James turns his attention on the self (perhaps on the ego as well) where as Sri David Godman turns his attention only on the ego (and never on the self) - when each does self investigation or self enquiry.

A question rises in me now: if the attention is turned on the self (180 degrees selfwards to term it more correctly), will the mind not simply abide there without ever getting distracted again? I can understand that if the attention is turned on the ego, there is a distinct possibility that the ego has not disappeared completely and hence one can or will have to turn the attention on the ego again and again to be able to eventually reach the self.

Or if I have to word it differently, if the mind remains distracted even occasionally, does it not mean that one has not been successful in turning the attention on the self? In that case, is a statement that the attention can be turned on the self still an experiential one?




Mouna said...

In the same vein as Steven's posting, it will be very useful if the parties involved in this discussion could explain what would be, practically speaking, the advantages or disadvantages (if any) to "know" beforehand if vichara is on the ego/I-thought, the real self/Self or the mixture of both?
Is it not an academic question only?

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, you write in your above comment:

A question rises in me now: if the attention is turned on the self (180 degrees selfwards to term it more correctly), will the mind not simply abide there without ever getting distracted again? I can understand that if the attention is turned on the ego, there is a distinct possibility that the ego has not disappeared completely and hence one can or will have to turn the attention on the ego again and again to be able to eventually reach the self.


Yes, according to Sadhu Om and Michael, if we manage to turn our attention 180 degrees towards ourself alone, we will cease to exist as this ego, hence we will abide in and as ourself alone without getting distracted ever again. In other words we will simply remain as pure being without producing or experiencing any thoughts.

However it is not clear to me what exactly do you mean when you write, 'I can understand that if the attention is turned on the ego, there is a distinct possibility that the ego has not disappeared completely and hence one can or will have to turn the attention on the ego again and again to be able to eventually reach the self'? How can one turn his or her attention towards the ego without simultaneously turning one's attention towards one's true self (atma), is beyond my comprehension. If we are turning our attention towards this ego or thought called 'I', we are invariably also attending to the base or the substratum of the ego, our true changeless self. Can one ever attend to the illusory snake without actually attending to its underlying reality, the rope? It is an impossibility!

Yes, until our investigation is not sufficiently deep enough we cannot destroy our ego and experience ourself as we really are. In such a case we will necessarily have to turn our attention towards ourself alone, repeatedly and for a prolonged period of time, until eventually when our ego is annihilated in our clear and exclusive self-knowledge.

R Viswanathan said...

"How can one turn his or her attention towards the ego without simultaneously turning one's attention towards one's true self (atma), is beyond my comprehension. If we are turning our attention towards this ego or thought called 'I', we are invariably also attending to the base or the substratum of the ego, our true changeless self. Can one ever attend to the illusory snake without actually attending to its underlying reality, the rope? It is an impossibility!"

Although the analogies may not adequately clarify a concept, the questions that arose in me are equivalent to this: If one had looked at an object which appeared like a snake, and after a careful look at it (that is, after some careful investigation) found out that it was only a rope, would he or she have to look at it or investigate it again?; also before finding out that it is only a rope, would he or she make a statement that he or she is looking only at the rope?.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael for this wonderful article and to everyone who commented on it.
In appreciation

Noob said...

"Although the analogies may not adequately clarify a concept, the questions that arose in me are equivalent to this: If one had looked at an object which appeared like a snake, and after a careful look at it (that is, after some careful investigation) found out that it was only a rope, would he or she have to look at it or investigate it again?; also before finding out that it is only a rope, would he or she make a statement that he or she is looking only at the rope?"
When anyone clearly sees that it is a rope , there is no way he can again imagine it to be a snake. If he is still unsure, then he must move "closer" to this "snake" until the illusion is gone. But rope-snake analogy has a defect - there is an object and a subject relationship, but when we try to look at "Self" , we must seek out who is the one who tries to see if it is an ego or is it "The Self", trying to turn the power of attention to its source.

Wittgenstein said...

“Before opening your coffers and finding your assets, do not begin to wail unnecessarily, proclaiming, ‘I am a penniless beggar’. First set about to open your box; then only, after seeing, can you speak about it. Similarly, before you enquire and know who you really are do not unnecessarily make the wrong estimate about yourself that you are a limited and petty individual soul (jiva). First set about to enquire and know yourself, and after knowing yourself, if ‘you are still in need of anything (God, liberation, happiness, etc.), let us look to it then’, advises Sri Bhagavan”.
-Sri Sadhu Om, ‘The Path of Sri Ramana – Part One’

“[…] it is not necessary for sincere aspirants even to name before-hand the feeling ‘I’ either as ego or as Self, for, are there two persons in the aspirant, the ego and Self? This is said because, since everyone of us has the experience ‘I am one only and not two’, we should not give room to an imaginary dual feeling – one ‘I’ seeking for another ‘I’ – by differentiating ego and Self as ‘lower self’ and higher-self’. […]Thus it is sufficient if we cling to the feeling ‘I’ uninterruptedly till the very end. Such attention to the feeling ‘I’, the common daily experience of everyone, is what is meant by Self-attention.”
-Sri Sadhu Om, ‘The Path of Sri Ramana – Part One’

Why would we decide to look at the snake at all? Because we suspect something is wrong. We suspect it may not be snake after all. So begins the investigation. Following these beautiful words of Sri Sadhu Om, it stands to reason that we also cannot conclude a priori what we are going to find at the end of the investigation. The only sensible course of action is to follow a lead or a clue in an investigation – otherwise, how can we proceed with the investigation? Therefore, in the second quotation, he says the unnamed clue is the ‘feeling ‘I’’, which is our ‘common daily experience’ and to follow this clue till the very end of the investigation.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, you have written:

Although the analogies may not adequately clarify a concept, the questions that arose in me are equivalent to this: If one had looked at an object which appeared like a snake, and after a careful look at it (that is, after some careful investigation) found out that it was only a rope, would he or she have to look at it or investigate it again?; also before finding out that it is only a rope, would he or she make a statement that he or she is looking only at the rope?

You have asked two questions here. Your first question has been answered by Noob. Therefore I will try and answer your second question, namely, 'also before finding out that it is only a rope, would he or she make a statement that he or she is looking only at the rope?'

Yes, if we are totally ignorant of the underlying reality of the snake, we cannot make a statement that what we looking at is only a rope, and will be afraid that it is a snake. But somehow grace in the form of Bhagavan Ramana has revealed to us that whenever we seem to be looking at ourself, the individual 'I', what we are actually looking at is only ourself as we really are (our atma). As Bhagavan says in the seventh paragraph of Nan Yar?:

That which actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]. The world, soul and God are kalpanaigal [imaginations, mental creations or fabrications] in it [our essential self], like [the imaginary] silver [that we see] in a shell. These three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously. Svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or essential self] alone is the world; svarūpa alone is ‘I’ [our ego, soul or individual self]; svarūpa alone is God; everything is śiva-svarūpa [our essential self, which is śiva, the absolute and only truly existing reality].

Bhagavan says, 'That which actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]'. Therefore Bhagavan has given us this intellectual clarity (at least to a certain extent) that what we attend to is only our atma, even when we feel that we are attending to our ego. When only atma exists, how can we attend to the 'formless ghost ego' when it does not even exist? Our ego is 'like the imaginary silver that we see in the shell'. This exists only in our deluded imagination.

(I will continue this in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

(continued from my previous reply to Viswanathan)

Our true, absolute, infinite consciousness, awareness or existence is never completely hidden but is just obscured, and we call this faded or obscured consciousness as 'ego' or 'individual - I'. The bright afternoon sun is never completely hidden by even a thick layer of cloud over the sun. The sunlight can be seen as light in the world. When we are reading the words in a book we overlook the paper, but can we say that we are not looking at the paper when we are attending to the words? It is an impossibility! The paper is available for our attention, even when we are looking at the words. Likewise, our true self is never fully hidden. Therefore in our self-investigation we are essentially attending to our true self, or at least we should try and attend to the chit aspect our ego. This is what Bhagavan advises us to do.

As Wittgenstein says, 'Why would we decide to look at the snake at all? Because we suspect something is wrong'. Yes, Bhagavan just asks us to 'suspect that something is wrong', or what we take to be ourself could be something else. It is because of this doubt only that we can really investigate ourself. The truth, our true nature has to reveal itself if we persevere in our self-investigation. Grace will ensure this.

Anonymous said...

An extract from this comment written by Michael is as follows :

In certain contexts it is useful to distinguish our ego (which is ourself as we now seem to be) from our real self (ourself as we actually are), but in many contexts it is not useful to do so, and in some cases it is confusing to do so. In the context of self-investigation or ātma-vicāra, it is not necessary to specify whether the ‘self’ or ‘ātman’ we are investigating or attending to is ourself as we actually are or ourself as we seem to be, because we experience only one self or ‘I’ and what we are trying to find out and experience is what this one self or ‘I’ actually is.

The Sanskrit term आत्मन् (ātman) and Tamil term தான் (tāṉ) are both generic pronouns that in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings are best translated in most cases simply as ‘oneself’, ‘myself’ or ‘ourself’, because as Bhagavan often used to say, we are only one self, so we ourself are the only self that we need to investigate and know as we actually are. For example in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says: ‘இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்’ (iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl), which means, ‘are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience’.


I find this clarification of his sufficiently clear. After all, what ambiguity can exist in understanding what is meant by the term atma-vichara? It can only mean attending to oneself (atma), the consciousness of our own being.

Wittgenstein said...

“The ignorance does not hinder the awareness of ‘I am’. It hinders only the awareness, ‘I am pure consciousness’. Everyone is aware of his own existence. But no one is aware of himself as distinct from the veiling sheaths”.
-Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad, Verse 368

“You are hazily aware of the Self. Pursue it”.
-Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 240

If we were not even hazily aware of the self (which is the awareness of our own existence, which we cannot deny), then it would not even occur to us there is something ambiguous about our identity. Further, if a sage talks about the self, we will not be able to grasp his teachings. Ultimately, the practice of atma vichara would altogether become impossible, as we will not be able to pursue any clue.

To refine the analogy of the snake and the rope, it is as if the snake is looking at itself and starts seeing some jute fibres on its skin, which makes it look at itself more and more intently and ultimately find that it is indeed a rope. Being hazily aware of the fibres allows it to doubt its identity – ‘Perhaps I am not a snake as I currently appear to be’ – and pursue investigating its own identity.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Wittgenstein, the implication is very clear. when Bhagavan says:

“You are hazily aware of the Self. Pursue it”.
-Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 240

He is clearly indicating that we are never out of this awareness or knowledge of our true awareness or consciousness. It may be hazy now, but if we go on attending to this hazy awareness of ourself with full interest and attention, we will surely reach the absolutely clear self-awareness. This absolutely clear awareness is our true nature, and the only existing reality.

Sivanarul said...

Thanks everyone for a great discussion.

Wittgenstein wrote:
“You are hazily aware of the Self. Pursue it”.
-Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 240

“If we were not even hazily aware of the self (which is the awareness of our own existence, which we cannot deny), then it would not even occur to us there is something ambiguous about our identity. Further, if a sage talks about the self, we will not be able to grasp his teachings. Ultimately, the practice of atma vichara would altogether become impossible, as we will not be able to pursue any clue.”

I can’t see how we are hazily aware of the Self, if the Self is taken to be that without any adjuncts (i.e. Absolute Reality or Brahman). The only thing I am aware of (in waking) is ‘I’ or ‘I am’ and that I Exist and I am conscious (Sat and Chit). The Guru and the scriptures say that this ‘I’ will ultimately be found to be none other than Brahman, once atma vichara is successful. This I take it on faith.

I am with David Godman on this. He wrote:

“I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum.”

I don’t know of the Self as the substratum (other than as an article of faith). But I am aware of individual ‘I’ without the need for faith or any confirmation from anyone else. So putting attention on this individual ‘I’ thought to the exclusion of everything else seems to be what could be done as a matter of experience. The dog now smells a scent (‘I’). Whether this scent will lead to its master or not is not known at this time. It can only follow the scent that it smells.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul,

My two cents.
“I-thought'.
The “I” part of this statement is Sat (reality, being) + Chit (consciousness, awareness), (let’s leave anandam aside for the moment), in other words Brahman/real self/Self/scent of the Master by his dog...
The “thought” part is ego/mind/samsara/maya/jiva/dog, which seemingly existing, projects the world/universe/god, etc, in fact every-thing else, outwards and which gives the illusion of being the “middle man” or “knot" between the “I” and its own projection.

Turning the attention to this “I” feeling you cannot not notice this “I” as substratum of everything else, because if “I” wasn't there, there would be no-things; faith has nothing to do with it. So far so good?

I think both Michael, David, Sadhu Om and of course Muruganar are all right in their perspective, the only difference is that they are aiming at different parts of the same whole.

Turning our attention inwards means investigating the I-thought (or ego), of course, but this I-thought as we saw before is already a combination of conscious and apparent insentient phenomena, so regardless of the different constituent parts we are investigating “into”, we will be turning our attention towards BOTH Self and ego (apparent “snake" and rope), BUT since SELF is NOT AN OBJECT (or in other words cant be objectified), that is when and why ego starts dissolving since inexistent and only Self prevails.

In any case, once turned inwards, what does it matter the name of that we are investigating into?

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Sivanarul said...

Carlosji,

Thanks for the reply and clarification. You equated the ‘I’ thought as ego. I equated ‘I’ (awareness) as ego. I could certainly see from the ‘I’ thought that ‘I’ awareness is the substratum. But if the discussion is about Brahman/Self to be the substratum, that is what I cannot see, and I take it on faith from guru and scriptures, that it is as they say it is.

I think the terminology being used makes it difficult to sync up. But I agree that it doesn’t matter, as long as the attention is turned on I (whether I as a thought, awareness or Self).

Best wishes to your Sadhana.

Purple haze said...

Sivanarul,
if you are not sure what is going on,you have various opportunities:
please enter the phenomenal complex of buildings several stories high and
ask the I
ask the ego
ask the awareness
ask the 'I' thought
ask the Brahman
ask the Self
ask the substratum
ask the guru
ask the scriptures

Best wishes to your sadhana !

Sivanarul said...

Purple haze,

Thanks for the reply. I am certainly asking, but asking doesn't dissolve the dream that easily. Having climbed the mountain and from the top, Bhagavan declared that awakening is the easiest thing there is. I am sure from the top it does sound easy. But from the bottom, it is one heck of a journey :-)

Bob - P said...

{In any case, once turned inwards, what does it matter the name of that we are investigating into?}

I think the above from Carlos was very helpful. Thank you.
I agree not that it matters (lol)!!
Speaking from my own perspective, all I know is "I" all I can do is investigate it as much and as deeply as possible.

Back to investigating who is writing this comment and the one who has all these opinions (lol)!

In appreciation everyone.
Bob

Purple haze said...

Sivanarul,
yes, it is the same heck of journey to me. But as you write: as long as the attention is turned towards the reality of I you cannot go wrong.
While reading your terminological discussion with Mouna I found me in the joking mood to make fun about that.
It is not wrong to climb the mountain from the bottom because we cannot stay all on the top at the same time. Bear the crowd in mind ! Smile !

Noob said...

Moreover, we should not let these pity arguments distract our attention from persistently looking inwards. Look what happened with all the religions that tried to assign names and forms and then argued about them for eternity. The way was lost.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Purple haze, there is a current discussion on this blog about the difficulties or otherwise of our sadhana of self-investigation. I write my views on this:

Yes, this practice seems difficult, but this is because of our endless karma-vasanas or endless vishaya-vasanas. It is only our desires, attachments and fears etc. which makes inhering in oneself difficult. These are constantly taking us away from ourself, and this is the prime difficulty.

Bhagavan says this sadhana of self-investigation is extremely easy. As he repeatedly sings in Atma-Vidya-Kirtanam, 'so very easy is the science of Self! Ah! So very easy!'

Suppose if are at Sri Ramanasramam, how difficult will it be to just stay there? It will not be very difficult, if we have a intense longing to stay there and if we are permitted by the asram management to stay there. Suppose if we are permitted by the management to stay there, and if we complain, 'O, it is very difficult to stay here', whose fault will it be? Our trying to remain silent by attending to ourself alone is something like this. We are most welcome by Bhagavan, the innermost core of our being, to stay in and as ourself, but it is only our desire for objective experiences which makes us rise as an ego and move out of this safe sanctuary of atma-svarupa.

Whose fault is it if we residing under the cool shade of a tree, constantly try to move into the scorching sun? It is obviously our weakness and immaturity. Let us read to what Bhagavan writes in verse four of Atma-Vidya-Kirtam:

To unfasten the bonds of action (karma) and so on and to
bring about the destruction of birth and so on, rather than
any (other) path, this path (of self-enquiry) is extremely easy!
When one merely remains still, without the least action of
speech, mind and body, ah (what a wonder it will be)! The
light of Self in the heart will be the eternal experience, fear
will not exist, and the ocean of bliss alone (will remain
shining). (Therefore, so very easy is the science of Self! Ah!
So very easy!)

shiba said...

I am not Mr. David Godman but I somehow want to answer to the questions by Sanjay Lohia. I am sorry I don't read the whole article and all the comments. For me to read English is very hard work.

>1. When we watch a movie in a theatre or even watch T.V., what do we really attend to - the movie screen or the T.V. screen, or the moving pictures on the screen? Yes, superficially we can say that we are attending to the moving pictures, but actually can we ever attend to the pictures without actually looking at the screen? Likewise, in our self-investigation we are actually attending to our true self, which is the substratum of our ego.

Yes.

2. When Bhagavan writes in Nan Yar?, 'The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always in [or on] ātmā [oneself]', what according to you does Bhagavan mean by the term 'atma'? Atma is a well known Sanskrit word for our essential, true, non-dual self.

Atma is true Self. To fix attention on I-thought leads to Atma. Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self. I-thought is best clue to reach Atma and begin real atma-vichara. To concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage and when other thoughts disappear and I-thought go back to the source(Atma), the next stage, real atma-vichara begin. I think those who can graduate form the preliminary stage are rare. I don't know when I can graduate from the preliminary stage...

3. When our ego tries to attend to itself alone, it starts dissolving and we more and more start attending to the core of our being. Would you stop your self-investigating merely because you are presenting attending mainly to the true self (because according to you this is not self-enquiry)?

The first half of the sentences are ture, but I can't understand what you want to say the second half of it.

4. Are there two I's, one 'I' attending to another 'I'? Obviously not! our experience is that we are one. Please refer to your book GVK, verse 579

'I(ego)' is attenting to the same ' I(ego)', drawing attention form external objects. In fact there are no two I's(Self and ego) . Ego don't exist first of all, but it can be understood only when we know the truth. So ignorant 'I' have to start from I- thought and to the Self , as if there were two I's(Self and ego).

Almost all my comments are from Bhagavan's words and not from my experience.

P.S.
I discussed Mr. Micheal James about something before in this blog, I got somehow excited and didn't take polite attitude enough. So I apologize to Mr. Micheal James for that.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Shiba, I thank you for your reply to my questions posed to David Godman. Regarding your answer number two, according to my understanding, there is only one stage or one step in our practice of self-investigation. That one simple step is turning our attention towards ourself alone, away from all our thoughts and objective attention.

You have written in your comment that it is not clear to you what I meant when I wrote, 'Would you stop your self-investigating [sorry, I meant to write 'self-investigation'] merely because you are presenting attending mainly to the true self (because according to you this is not self-enquiry)?' This was in reply to David Godman's contention that 'I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum'.

Actually when we start attending to our ego or the thought called 'I', our attention to it makes it subside and we actually attend to ourself (our true self) alone. It was to state this point that I wrote to David, 'Would you stop your self-investigating merely because you are presenting attending mainly to the true self (because according to you this is not self-enquiry)?' Obviously we should continue attending our ouself even when we feel that we are presently attending to our true self.

Yes, as you imply, there are no two I's, one 'I' attending to another 'I'. That is why Michael calls this practice 'self-investigation' or 'self-attentiveness'. It is only ourself attending to ourself. Whether we take 'ourself' to mean 'our ego' or 'our true self' is not very important. Essentially our this practice is a non-dual practice, and only this practice can destroy our ego once and for all.

shiba said...

Well, for me to focus on true Self from the beginning is impossible. So, I have to turn my attention ego-I like mantra or some form. Whether Self-enquiry or other sadhana, there is need to put all other thoughts end by focusing on the objects(mantra, form) or subject(I).

I think that when we are practicing sadhana, at that stage, to make distinction between ego-I and ture I has meaning to avoid confusion. If someone ask me ' though I am attending to self, why I don't feel happiness?", I can answer 'now you are attending to ego-I, not true self, and that practice must lead you to true self, which is happiness'.

And this distinction may help us to avoid the misunderstanding that, when we am merely focusing on ego-I, I am already experiencing true self and I am a great person.

I think that Bhagavan usually made distinction between ego-I and true I, though he sometimes made no distinction between the two by talking from the standpoint of the ultimate truth like 'All is Self', 'there is no two I's' ' ego is not'.

The opinions may differ between us, but the actual practice don't differ. So, the differences of opinion may not be important.

Wittgenstein said...

Many of us think Bhagavan said that there are no two selves from the absolute stand point. In Ulladu Narpadu verse 33 he says, “இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்” (as Michael points out in his comment to this post on 19 July 2015 at 14:30) emphasizing that the self is one in everyone’s experience.

Anonymous said...

Guru Vachaka Kovai :

641. Even though in truth one ever remains as Self, one’s efforts to seek Self as if one were something else and to attain Self, is to subside finally by knowing that the Self [‘I’] shining in anyone, though it now seems to be different from oneself, is not different from oneself.

642. One’s thinking that Self, which [in reality] is not other than oneself, is other and toiling very much to attain It through one’s own effort [through sadhanas], is just like one’s running after one’s own shadow to catch it.

Noob said...

886. If that unequalled state which is to be experienced in
future through tapas in the form of [the six steps of]
sama and so on is a real state, it should exist [and be
experienced] even now as much as then.

Noob said...

892. After understanding theoretically [through sravana
and manana] that Self is non-dual, and after
staggering again and again in one’s efforts to attain
[through nididhyasana] the practical experience of the
real Self, when, [finally and with great dejection] all
one’s mental efforts subside, the knowledge which
then shines in the heart is the nature of that reality.

R Viswanathan said...

I give below an extract from the book 'Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi' by Sri S.S. Cohen who is said to have been present at the time 'Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi' was recorded. It is also said that he listened intently to the teachings he heard and dedicated his life to their fulfilment, under the guidance of his Guru. I found this to be pertinent to the discussion that is presently going on here. It would be to our great benefit if Sri Michael James and Sri David Godman would explain how and whether this passage is in accordance with the practice of self enquiry they followed and follow.

Bhagavan: “The One Infinite Unbroken Whole becomes aware of itself as ‘I’. This is its original name. All other names, e.g., OM, etc., are later growths. Liberation means only to remain aware of the Self. The Mahavakya ‘I am Brahman’ is its authority. Though the ‘I’ is always experienced, yet one’s attention has to be drawn to it. Then only knowledge dawns. Hence is the need for the teaching of the Upanishads and the Sages.”

Note by S.S. Cohen for the above text: Bhagavan takes us here to the genesis of the ‘I’, which
is the very first self-awareness of the “Unbroken whole”. It is the name the Self gave to itself and precedes all other names of the Absolute. When it is realised as such by direct
experience, Liberation is said to have been achieved. Yoga Vasishta calls this first self-awareness by the Absolute as the first stir of thinking in Brahman, like the first wave of a calm ocean from within itself.

There are two ways of being self-aware: objectively and subjectively. If I stand on one side and on the other stand others and the world — I in opposition to you — then the ‘I’ is the objective body: a part of the world of multiplicity. But if I am aware of myself as pure awareness, it is subjective self-awareness, when the world is totally absent. The former
‘I’ being objective, is a mere thought — an ‘I’-thought — and should be destroyed, like all other thoughts, in order that the ‘I’ may cease to be a thought and may turn upon
itself as the one who is aware of the thought, through the help of the Guru or Scriptures. This is the meaning of “one’s attention has to be drawn to it”. In other words, the ‘I’ will
cease to be a thought, and will remain only the Consciousness ‘I am’, which is the Mahavakya to which the text refers. This is Liberation itself.

Purple haze said...

Michael,
Wittgenstein,
Reading Michael's comments of 19 July 2015: Bhagavan’s definition of atma-vicara or self-investigation proves to be necessary to clarify who is keeping the mind always in or on atma [oneself]. It may be true that we are always the same one self, whether we experience ourself as we really are or as this ego that we now seem to be.
It may be true that there is no self other than this one self.
It may be true that in many contexts it is not useful to distinguish our ego from our real self.
Although it may be also true that we experience only one self or 'I' and what we are trying to find out and experience is what this one self or 'I' actually is:
In my opinion just in the context of self-investigation it is certainly necessary to specify whether the 'self' or 'atman' we are investigating or attending to is ourself as we really are or ourself as we seem to be.
Also we should consider that the verb investigate is both transitive and intransitive.
We should avoid on the one hand beating about the bush
and on the other hand splitting hair.
Bhagavan did rightly understand that it wood be more helpful to tell
the people who are obviously not able to understand that we ourself are only one and that it is only our one self that we now experience as if it were this ego, that it is sufficient if they investigate their ego.
Therefore - as Michael says - only our ego - will find after investigation of its own nature that what we {as the ego} mistook to be this ego is only ourself as we {as the ego} really are.
We must not overlook that the truth of everyone's experience of being one is found out only after successful investigation and not before.
Remember the meaning of the preposition 'after':
If something happens after a particular event, it happens during the period of time that follows that event.

R Viswanathan said...

I read again and again very intensely Sri Michael James' previous three articles on Self attentiveness with the hope that I could find out a reason why Sri David Godman would state that you cannot pay attention on the self.

In the article (http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2008/12/self-attentiveness-intensity-and.html) I find that Sri Michael James write this:

"When our self-consciousness is not mixed with even the slightest degree of either drowsiness or thought, the illusion of our mind will be swallowed and disappear forever in the absolute clarity of pure unadulterated self-consciousness, which is the one real state known as ātma-jñāna or true self-knowledge. But until we experience such absolute clarity (intensity), the degree of our self-attentiveness is less than perfect, because it is mixed at least to some extent with either drowsiness or thought."

If the degree of self attentiveness is going to be less than perfect until atma jnana is revealed, I would infer that it amounts to admission that attention cannot be solely on the self until that time, which perhaps is how Sri David Godman also infers. I understand from Sri Michael James' other article on 'What is self attentiveness' that perfect self attentiveness is when one is vigilant, not asleep, and bereft of all thoughts. The question is vigilant of what? Vigilant of absolute consciousness and not of relative consciousness. As long as visaya vasanas exist, it might be relative consciousness one is vigilant of, and if one persists on and on, the visaya vasanas will slowly evaporate out, and the absolute consciousness will be experienced or perfect self attentiveness will result.

Based on the above analysis, it appears to me now that the views of both Sri Michael James and Sri David Godman who have spent four decades of their life almost continuously on Bhagavan's teachings are practically the same with regard to self investigation or self enquiry.





Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, you write:

[...] The question is vigilant of what? Vigilant of absolute consciousness and not of relative consciousness. As long as visaya vasanas exist, it might be relative consciousness one is vigilant of, and if one persists on and on, the visaya vasanas will slowly evaporate out, and the absolute consciousness will be experienced or perfect self attentiveness will result.

Based on the above analysis, it appears to me now that the views of both Sri Michael James and Sri David Godman who have spent four decades of their life almost continuously on Bhagavan's teachings are practically the same with regard to self investigation or self enquiry.


When we attend to our consciousness, that consciousness is the only consciousness which exists or can ever exist. Therefore the names 'absolute consciousness' and 'relative consciousness' are just names given by us from our mental perspective, but from the perspective of our only consciousness, there is only one consciousness. When we are vigilantly trying to attend to ourself alone, we are attending to this only consciousness or awareness. In the book Guru Vachaka Kovai, translated by Dr T.V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman and edited and annotated by David Godman, it is written in verse 1094:

Being-consciousness, which is authentic bliss, and which is shining in the Heart, should be taken to be target of your attention at all times. Through one-pointed buddhi-yoga [merging of the mind] worship it in the heart, without any forgetfulness, and thereby abide steadfastly as That. This alone is the consummation of your life.

When Muruganar says 'Being-consciousness, which is authentic bliss', he surely means only our true, absolute consciousness. Therefore this consciousness alone is the target of our attention in our practice of self-investigation. Therefore how can David write that 'I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum'?

According to my understanding when we attend to ourself alone, our illusory, relative consciousness subsides and we basically or essentially attend to our absolute consciousness alone.

Wittgenstein said...

Before, during or after investigation, the self is one. That is everyone’s experience. That is what Ulladu Narpadu, Verse 33 says.

In the awareness ‘I am I’ and ‘I am the body’, the common factor is ‘I am’ (self). Therefore, the self is the same, except that the former awareness is limitless and the latter is limited. It is one and the same self that seemingly got limited. Bhagavan never said we will experience an altogether new or transformed self on a later date. To strive for such that thing would be futile, according to him. The self is the same always, except that how we experience this self could be different. In the former awareness, we are aware of ourselves as we are while in the latter we are aware of ourselves as the body. In either way, it is one and the same self. The way taught by Sri Ramana to experience ‘I am I’ (that is, to experience ourselves as we are) is to be attentive to the ‘I am’ (the self, which no one can deny), by neglecting ‘the body’ in the current awareness ‘I am the body’. The term ‘the body’ applies to all that is other than the self. I think it cannot be simpler than that.

As to the credentials of David and the decades of experience he has, everyone is aware that he is a world- renowned authority on Sri Ramana’s life and teachings. When David says one has to investigate the ego (the 'I am' part of it), Michael did not deny that. However, Michael said that it by default means attending to the self. That was not accepted by David (probably he thinks 'I am' part of the ego is something different - I am just guessing). If David explains to us what he means by 'I-thought' it would be of great value to us. What David calls as atma vichara is still counted as atma vichara by Michael. Now, if we started the whole thing by saying there are various schools of atma vichara, such as David school and Michael school (just like there are various ways of bakthi marga) and now conclude that they are in fact practically the same, well, that was what Michael was telling us all these days!

Wittgenstein said...

Actually, the self is timeless and this is also evident in our experience of sleep. In sleep we do not experience any time and space and they come in waking and dream while the mind is working, clearly indicating that they are creations of the mind. Therefore, the terms 'before', 'during' etc. do not stand in relation to the self.

There are no schools of atma vichara, except the ones that we imagine. However, the atma vichara as taught by Sri Ramana is one and only one.

Purple haze said...

Wittgenstein,
according the wise men the self is undoubtedly always one and the same. The self does not need any investigation for its own use by us seeming individuals.
As an intermediate host the investigating ego is doing the work of investigation - not the self.
In my opinion: Therefore as long as this limited awareness is working as our tool, it is not the same subject as our unlimited awareness though it has risen from the same essential source.
If we want to experience ourself as we really are we will be well-advised to realize this considerable difference. To make no distinction between ego and self in mind and instead to refer to the ego's unlimited source is only a cunning trick of the ego.
We as the seeming ego have to learn that despite the fact that we as the phantom-ego are not substantial different from self, for the purpose of our contentious proceedings we should not push that temporary difference to the back of our mind.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, this is in reply to your recent posts. You write:

Bhagavan never said we will experience an altogether new or transformed self on a later date. To strive for such that thing would be futile, according to him.

I do not entirely agree you here. We will definitely experience an altogether seemingly new and transformed self at a later date. We are now experiencing ourself as this ego, this confused mixture of chit and jada, this body-mind complex. We are told that on attaining atma-jnana we will experience only pure Chit or pure 'I am', without any awareness of any body or mind. You also write:

When David says one has to investigate the ego (the 'I am' part of it), Michael did not deny that.

What David wrote is as follows, 'I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum'? Therefore David never wrote that we have to investigate the 'I am' part of the ego. If he had written this, he would have described the practice correctly. Bhagavan has said in the book Spiritual Instructions that we should attend to the chit or consciousness aspect of the ego.

When David writes, 'I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum'?, he is making a confusing statement, and is in fact contradicting Bhagavan's teachings. If he says, 'Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought', he is not making it clear that we should focus on 'I am' or consciousness aspect of the ego, because the ego also includes our body and mind. Should we attend to the mind and mind aspect of our ego? When he says, 'enquiry is done [...] not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum', he is very obviously contradicting Bhagavan. According to Bhagavan whether we feel we are attending to our ego or attending to our true self, we should try to attend to only our true self or self-awareness or self-consciousness, ignoring our body-mind awareness.

Wittgenstein said...

Hi Sanjay,

I agree with you when you say, “We are told that on attaining atma-jnana we will experience only pure Chit or pure 'I am', without any awareness of any body or mind”, although atma-jnana is not something that can be attained (I would take it that you were figuratively speaking there). My contention is that whether it is ‘I am the body’ or the ‘I am I’ awareness, ‘I am’ (which refers to the self) is common in either case and it does not undergo any transformation. A jnani cannot feel/be aware of an altogether seemingly new and transformed self. Bhagavan time and again insists that self is not something newly acquired.

Thanks for pointing out that David never wrote that we have to investigate the 'I am' part of the ego. That was my mistake. However, I did say that David must make it clear what he means by ‘I-thought’, because the ‘I am’ part and ‘body/mind’ part of the ego is what you and me are saying, while we do not know if David means any such aspects of the ego, as he does not define ‘I-thought’. So, I think the more appropriate question would be to request him for a definition of ‘I-thought’.

Wittgenstein said...

Hi Purple haze, what is the exact difference between the self and the ego, according to you?

Purple haze said...

Hi Wittgenstein,
remembering only a few prominent differences:
1. The ego is unreal and the self is real.
2. The ego rises and subsides every day. The self does neither rise nor subside.
3. The ego is unhappy. The self is perfect peace.
4. The ego likes sense pleasures. The self remains always in eternal bliss.

If the above list does not sufficiently satisfy your thirst for knowledge you might find further hints to this subject in the wide spectrum of primary Ramana-literature.

Good evening from Central-Europe.

Purple haze said...

Wittgenstein,
regarding your question put to me about my assessment the "exact difference between the self and the ego"
I am just reading some lines at the end in section 7d.Ulladu Narpadu verse 20 of Michael's article, Thursday, 18 June 2015 "Pranayama is just an aid to restrain the mind but will not bring about its annihilation":
...the only way in which we can 'see' or experience God as he really is is by seeing ourself as we really are, because in the absence of our ego we are nothing other than God. Therefore so long as we experience ourself as this ego, we cannot see God as he really is...
...Therefore so long as we meditate on any form or name of God, we are maintaining our ego, and hence we we cannot experience God as he really is.

From the above mentioned sentences you may also infer some characteristic differences between the self and the ego.

Wittgenstein said...

Purple haze, in your comment at 25 July 22:06, the quote on pranayama is off the context. Similarly, 'seeing ourself as we really are' is far fetched, as 'self' itself is not clarified yet.

So, going to the list of differences you have given at 25 July 19:49, how do you know that self is real, does not rise or subside, perfect peace and is always in eternal bliss? Is this what you remember, as you say? Is this 'self' present in your experience or have you looked into this list from Ramana literature? Further, how does the unreal ego get to know the real self? Is it possible? And finally, what is 'real', really?

I am asking all these because you said we need to differentiate between the self and the ego to proceed with the discussion.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, you have written: 'I agree with you when you say, “We are told that on attaining atma-jnana we will experience only pure Chit or pure 'I am', without any awareness of any body or mind”, although atma-jnana is not something that can be attained (I would take it that you were figuratively speaking there)'.

Yes, I agree with you. Atma-jnana is not something that can be 'attained' by the ego, but it is not wrong to say that we will attain atma-jnana by our practice of prolonged self-investigation. When we say this we are speaking from the perspective of our ego. This ego is self-ignorant now, so it looks at the goal of atma-jnana, which will come at a later date and time, as an apparent 'attainment' or 'achievement'. I wrote, 'We are told that on attaining atma-jnana we will experience only pure Chit or pure 'I am', without any awareness of any body or mind', but I think I could have simply written 'We are told that when our ego subsides permanently and just remains as pure being (which is the state of atma-jnana), we will experience only pure chit or 'I am', without any awareness of any body and mind'. Writing 'on attaining atma-jnana' does seem to smack of arrogance of the ego which claims such 'attainment' It has to not remain for this atma-jnana to happen. You have also written:

My contention is that whether it is ‘I am the body’ or the ‘I am I’ awareness, ‘I am’ (which refers to the self) is common in either case and it does not undergo any transformation. A jnani cannot feel/be aware of an altogether seemingly new and transformed self. Bhagavan time and again insists that self is not something newly acquired.

Yes, the awareness of 'I am' is common, whether we experience ourself as this ego or experience ourself as we really are. Yes, it does undergo any transformation. But when you write 'A jnani cannot feel/be aware of an altogether seemingly new and transformed self. Bhagavan time and again insists that self is not something newly acquired', this may not be quite true. When we are looking at a snake, and discover later that it was not a snake but only a rope, we will experience a new and transformed snake. Of course ultimately this new or fresh experience will subside when we will understand that there was never a snake at the first place. Likewise when we experience ourself as we really are with absolute clarity, it will seem like a new and fresh experience. Bhagavan calls this aham-sphurana or clear and new shining of ourself as we really are. Of course eventually this newness of aham-shurana will subside, and we will understand that we were always this non-dual, infinite, unbroken being, consciousness and bliss, and nothing exists (even seemingly) other than ourself.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, I wrote, 'Yes, the awareness of 'I am' is common, whether we experience ourself as this ego or experience ourself as we really are. Yes, it does undergo any transformation'.

Sorry, what I meant to write was 'Yes, it does not undergo any transformation'.

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

Of course I knew you were only figuratively speaking about the 'attainment', from the perspective of the ego. Thanks for the clarification.

I do remember having participated in the discussion on aham sphurana with you, Michael and others. As you say the newness of this will subside (as there is no new and old to the self).

I have also dug little bit deeper into the David-Michael issue and have posted my views in the next comment.

Wittgenstein said...

To: Sanjay
Cc: David, Michael, Viswanathan

In his book ‘Be as you are’, David says in the chapter on ‘Self enquiry – theory’ that , “[…]if attention is focused on the subjective feeling of `I' or `I am' with such intensity that the thoughts `I am this' or `I am that' do not arise, then the individual `I' will be unable to connect with objects”. As to the practice of atma vichara, that is keeping the attention on ‘I’ or ‘I am’, David is in agreement with Michael. However, towards the end, as you may note, he says, the individual ‘I’ (the ego, as I understand here) will be unable to connect with objects. Therefore, according to David, the individual 'I' (the ego) comes in two flavors: associated or dissociated with objects. The latter flavor has some interesting consequences.

Further, he says that, “If this awareness of `I' is sustained, the individual `I' (the `I'-thought) will disappear and in its place there will be a direct experience of the Self”. That is, there will come a stage in practice (according to David) when the ego will be dissociated from all objects and still stands alone, not yet dissolved in to the Self. If the awareness of this dissociated individual ‘I’ is maintained, then it disappears into the Self. I can also gather that Sri Ramana sometimes spoke of ‘transitional-I’, which is dissociated-I, yet not the Self, which we can find in book like Talks (see for example, Talk 314 where there is discussion of this). I have a feeling that David endorses this.

On the other hand, in the writings of Sri Sadhu Om and Michael I have never come across this dissociated-I or transitional-I. In books where the core teachings of Bhagavan appear (Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesa Undiyar and Nan Yar), it is stated clearly that the ‘I’ cannot stand alone dissociated. In such a case, it would, in a split second dissolve in the self. That is why Sri Sadhu Om says, “Death is a matter of a split second! The leaving off of sleep is a matter of a split second! Likewise,the removal of the delusion ‘I am an individual soul (jiva)’ is also a matter of a split second!”, in his Sadhanai Saram. This is also in agreement with his famous 180 degree turn.

There is a deeper implication. In David’s view, as the awareness of ‘dissociated-I’ can be maintained for long, there is a scope for nirvikalpa samadhi whereas that is not possible in the ‘split second’ view of Sri Sadhu Om. In Sri Sadhu Om’s view, one drops the delusion directly from the waking state, without spending time in intermediate states (however pure of dissociated they may be).

My practice has not evolved to such a level where I can say anything about this. At least this gave me an opportunity to discover the deeper differences in the view points of David and Michael. Most of these are my own deductions. Michael and David can clarify this further, if they wish to.

Wittgenstein said...

The dissociated-I (which is not yet the Self) makes David say atma vichara is attention to the ego.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, regarding your comment of 25 July 2015 at 18:04, in which you say it would be more appropriate to ask David for a definition of ‘I-thought’, I do not know how he would define this term, but Bhagavan clearly used it simply as a synonym for our ego. For example, in the eighth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? he says ‘நினைவே மனத்தின் சொரூபம். நானென்னும் நினைவே மனத்தின் முதல் நினைவு; அதுவே யகங்காரம்’ (niṉaivē maṉattiṉ sorūpam. nāṉ-eṉṉum niṉaivē maṉattiṉ mudal niṉaivu; aduvē y-ahaṅkāram), which means ‘Thought alone is the svarūpa [or ‘own form’] of the mind. The thought called ‘I’ alone is the first thought of the mind; it alone is the ego’.

Being nothing but the ego, this thought called ‘I’ is what Bhagavan also described as the false experience ‘I am this body’ (or simply as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’). In other words it is ourself (‘I am’) mixed with adjuncts, so when its adjuncts are removed (that is, when we separate ourself from them by trying to be aware of ourself alone) it ceases to exist as a thought and remains instead as the pure ‘I am’, which is what we really are.

Regarding your two more recent comments in which you raise a doubt about the idea of a ‘dissociated individual I’ that is ‘yet not the Self’ (in other words, that the ego or individual ‘I’ can stand alone, being ‘unable to connect with objects’), as you rightly say, though this sort of vague and confusing idea seems to be expressed sometimes in books such as Talks, it is clearly in conflict with the teachings that Bhagavan expressed more precisely in his own original writings, such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār. For example, in the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? he says ‘மனம் எப்போதும் ஒரு ஸ்தூலத்தை யனுசரித்தே நிற்கும்; தனியாய் நில்லாது’ (maṉam eppōdum oru sthūlattai y-aṉusarittē niṟkum; taṉiyāy nillādu), which means ‘The mind stands only by always going after [or attaching itself to] a gross object; solitarily it does not stand’.

Like your practice, my practice has not yet evolved to the level in which I experience myself (the pure ‘I am’) alone without being mixed with any adjuncts whatsoever, so until we experience this we have to rely upon what Bhagavan has taught us in this regard. However, if we understand his basic principle that our ego or mind (the primal thought called ‘I’) is just ourself mixed with adjuncts, whereas ourself isolated from all adjuncts is what we actually are (our real self), it should be obvious to us that when we experience ourself without any adjuncts we will be experiencing ourself as we actually are, and hence the illusion that we are this ego will be instantly and permanently annihilated. Therefore what Bhagavan us teaches in this regard in Nāṉ Yār? is logically perfectly consistent with the basic and simple principles of his teachings.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael, many thanks for your comments.

Based on these clarifications, I would like to share with the readers of this blog about the differences in atma vichara, as it is found in the works of David and Sri Sadhu Om/Michael. Actually, this difference is much deeper than the one discussed in this blog so far (‘attention to ego or self’ debate). This post is a summary of my attempts to understand this difference.

David says atma vichara begins by paying attention to the feeling ‘I am’. However, he soon diverts to saying that this results in the dissociation of ‘I am’ from its adjuncts and it becomes dissociated-I or unattached-I. There upon, he says, the practice consists of following this unattached-I until it gets dissolved in the Self. I have furnished evidence for his outlook in my previous comments. One additional evidence can be found in one of his interviews which can be found at http://davidgodman.org/interviews/al1.shtml, wherein he says, “Following the unattached 'I' will take you home, back to the place where no individual 'I' has ever existed”.

In the atma vichara as described in the writings of Sri Sadhu Om and Michael, they too say it begins by putting the attention on the feeling ‘I am’. However, for them, it is the beginning and the end. There are no further stages. According to them, if there is a complete dissociation of ‘I am’ from its adjuncts, it would immediately dissolve in the self. However, partial dissociation keeps happening as the mind steadily keeps getting attenuated.

The evidence for David’s version is not be found in the core teachings of Sri Ramana, whereas for Sri Sadhu Om and Michael, there is good evidence. An example is the one quoted by Michael from Nan Yar. Another one would be the correct understanding of Ulladu Narpadu, verse 25.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, what Michael has written is an important clarification.

‘The mind stands only by always going after [or attaching itself to] a gross object; solitarily it does not stand’. - fourth paragraph of Nan Yar?

Like this concept of a "disassociated individual 'I' that is yet not the Self", there is similar concept or belief that aham-sphurana is a throb and is something which is not pure-awareness nor is it the ego and its thoughts, but is something which is between these two. Obviously this is also a wrong interpretation of Bhagavan's teachings. As Michael has clarified, aham-shpurana is just the new and fresh shinning or clarity of our self-experience.

There is only ourself as we really are, from it arises an illusory ego (the chit-jada granthi), and this ego comes into seeming existence along with thoughts which it produces and experiences. This world is nothing but thoughts, or projection and expansion of thoughts. This is the basic theoretical framework of Bhagavan's teachings.

Wittgenstein said...

Another subtle and important point related to atma vichara in the writings of Sri Sadhu Om and Michael is that when we begin it and till the end, there can never be a perfect attention to ‘I am’. Therefore, during the practice, we are always trying to be attentive to ourselves. Real atma vichara happens only once. Just one perfect attention to ‘I am’ and the illusion is over forever. This is evident in the case of Sri Ramana, when the attempt was only once and as Sri Sadhu Om puts it, it happened in ‘split second’. Therefore, our atma vichara is a long preparation for that one perfect moment (moment, only figuratively speaking, as self is timeless). There is nothing like getting confirmation on the way if we are doing it right. Nobody is doing it right, if they did, the illusion is over in split second. Nobody can teach it how to do right and it is not even necessary to do so. However, it is necessary and sufficient to try to be attentive to ourselves, the rest is assured by Sri Ramana, as he says it Nan Yar. The fact that we are trying itself shows we are prey in tiger’s jaw.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Wittgensein, it should be clear by logic also that both the subject (ego or the individual 'I') and its object (its thought) rise and subside together. How can the subject exist without an object? If at all the subject exists, it can only exist as the eternal base or the substratum of the subject and object. Therefore logically also this belief or concept of this disassociated individual 'I' or unattached 'I' seems dubious.

Yes, it could be a relatively unattached ego that David may be indicating, but in that case it is still an ego, albeit will very few desires and attachments. We do need such an unattached ego for it be finally annihilated, but in such a case its ego nature is not lost till it is finally destroyed in our clear self-experience.

R Viswanathan said...

"Being-consciousness, which is authentic bliss, and which is shining in the Heart, should be taken to be target of your attention at all times."

Absolutely no difference of opinion on this - that is, the target is the self. The point I was trying to make while referring to a section of Sri Michael James' article in which he admits that the attention on this target (the self) is partial and and not perfect until that moment of self-realization is that if the attention were going to be termed only as partial until that moment, a statement to the effect that the attention can be only on the I-thought until the moment of self-realization is also not inconsistent with Bhagavan's teachings.

Sivanarul said...

It has been a great discussion on the intricacies and minutia of vichara and how Michael’s interpretation and David’s interpretation are both supported by Bhagavan’s teachings. It is not at all surprising that different interpretations exists, since almost all philosophical systems (Hindu based) of ancient India are different interpretations of the Upanishads. In my opinion, the “correct” interpretation is what one feels will help him/her in Sadhana.

Much of the spiritual work is done in the purification/preparatory steps. As Wittgenstein alluded to in his last comment, the long preparation is for that one moment of perfect clarity or event where Jiva dissolves in Siva (or I experiencing itself without any adjuncts, as Michael put it). During this purification stage, one clearly comes across the immense power of the ego and the differences between the ego and the attributes assigned to Self (peace, bliss etc) is clearly seen (Purple haze mentioned some of the diffs). To Wittgenstein’s question, how do you know the self is perfect peace, it is a working hypothesis based on scriptural authority. To realize it experientially is why Sadhana is being done. I think what Purple haze tried to convey, with the need to recognize this difference between the ego and self, is more in tune with the work that needs to be done in the purification/preparatory steps where we work with the ego.

It is worth remembering the encounter between Sri Shankara and the Chandala (outcaste in those days). It is said that Sri Shankara along with his discples was walking in a street in Kashi when a Chandala with four dogs appeared before him. Sri Shankara, in spite of being one of the greatest exponents of advaita, was taken over by ‘I am the Body’ illusion for a second, and asked the Chandala to move. The Chandala (who is said to be Lord Siva in disguise) replied something like

“who are you asking to move? This body is as impure as yours, cannot move by itself. And if you are asking the pure consciouness, which I am made up of, that too cannot move aside. Now, who are you asking to clear the way and for whom?”

Sri Shankara realized his folly and prostrated before the Chandala. If a Jnani like Sri Shankara who sang “Chitananda Roopam Sivoham Sivoham” and who has already awakened, can be subject to Maya and “I am the Body” illusion (even though it was just a second), what can be said of many of us who are still dreaming?

R Viswanathan said...

This article being on Bakthi Margam and many of the comments hitherto being on Jnana Margam, especially Atma Vichara, and with Sri Sivanarul also mentioning about Sri Sankara, I would like to bring to the attention of those interested - the recently published book, Atmatirtham - Life and Teachings of Sri Sankaracharya Hardcover – 2014 by Brahmasri Nochur Venkataraman (Author). Both Jnana Margam and Bakthi Margam so beautifully interwoven in this book by Sri Nochur Venkataraman. Frequent reference to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings in perfect resonance with Sri Sankara's teachings can be found in this book.

Sivanarul said...

Sri Shankara's Nirvana Shatakam is a very powerful advaitic meditation sloka and can bring a state of stillness very quickly. You can be your own judge.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AHBSi2_Dpc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzPH2m6XTbw

Nirvana Shatakam
mano buddhi ahankara chittani naaham
na cha shrotravjihve na cha ghraana netre
na cha vyoma bhumir na tejo na vaayuhu
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory,
I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes,
I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na cha prana sangyo na vai pancha vayuhu
na va sapta dhatur na va pancha koshah
na vak pani-padam na chopastha payu
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am not the breath, nor the five elements,
I am not matter, nor the 5 sheaths of conciousness
Nor am I the speech, the hands, or the feet,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na me dvesha ragau na me lobha mohau
na me vai mado naiva matsarya bhavaha
na dharmo na chartho na kamo na mokshaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

There is no like or dislike in me, no greed or delusion,
I know not pride or jealousy,
I have no duty, no desire for wealth, lust or liberation,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na punyam na papam na saukhyam na duhkham
na mantro na tirtham na veda na yajnah
aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

Continued in next...

Sivanarul said...

No virtue or vice, no pleasure or pain,
I need no mantras, no pilgrimage, no scriptures or rituals,
I am not the experienced, nor the experience itself,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na me mrtyu shanka na mejati bhedaha
pita naiva me naiva mataa na janmaha
na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I have no fear of death, no caste or creed,
I have no father, no mother, for I was never born,
I am not a relative, nor a friend, nor a teacher nor a student,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo
vibhut vatcha sarvatra sarvendriyanam
na cha sangatham naiva muktir na meyaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am devoid of duality, my form is formlessness,
I exist everywhere, pervading all senses,
I am neither attached, neither free nor captive,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

Sivanarul said...

In the spirit of writing about purification/preparatory steps, I must admit that in my youthful years, I never subscribed to advaitic sayings like ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ or the Nirvana Shatakam that I just posted. I never could fathom that I, who had all kinds of youthful desires and ambitions could ever be Brahman. In fact, Bhagavan’s teaching attracted me deeply mainly because Bhagavan effectively said, “Forget about what the end result is. You know ‘I’. Trace this ‘I’. Never mind ‘Aham Brahmasmi”.

I have started seeing immense value in slokas such as Nirvana Shatakam as a big help in purifying the mind. The ‘I’ needs to be reminded of its essential nature again and again so that it starts to make the 180 degrees turn that Sri Sadhu OM and Michael write about. This is also clearly indicated in verse 8 of Siva Jnana Botham (Saiva Siddhanta text), where Saint Meykandar the author describes the scene as follows:

The son of a King (jiva, son of Siva) gets stolen as soon as he was born, by 5 thieves (5 senses) who are hunters by profession. The prince thus is brought up by the 5 hunters and thinks he is a hunter and practices hunting and lives the life of a poor person. When the prince turns 16 (attains spiritual maturity), the King’s commander tracks down the prince (Guru finds the Jiva) and instructs him that he is the son of the King (Guru instructs Jiva is son of Siva). The prince now is caught up in dual identity. His 16 years of association with the hunters (Vasanas) does not let him of the hook that easily. The 5 thieves hold such a strong grip on him that in spite of hearing the truth, he simply cannot let go of the association. He also cannot let go of the truth that he heard, that he is the prince.

Slokas like the Nirvana Shatakam reminds us of the princely nature and purifies our mind and provides the inner strength to let go of the 5 Thieves (senses) and reach the Kingdom we are entitled to.

Purple haze said...

Wittgenstein,
Concerning 'seeing ourself as we really are' what would you call near fetched?
What you describe with " 'self' itself is not clarified yet" you point out that 'clarifying self itself' is our all lifelong task.
Regarding to the 'list of differences':
In reply to your question how I know the mentioned characteristics of the self
I may refer you to the last paragraph of Michael James’s comment of 26 July at 09:41. I too rely upon what Bhagavan has taught to us in this regard.
But to a certain degree anyway some intuitive conviction about the truth of the nature of self was granted to me. Also to a certain degree this 'self' is present in my experience. To enumerate the four fairly well-known qualities of our real self no special enquiry in Ramana literature was made. What I called "remembering" was meant as "thinking of".
The unreal ego never gets to know the real self. Only when we as the ego have completely subsided in our source we remain as self alone. That maybe called knowledge of the self.
To answer your final question what really is 'real', above all you are destined and obliged.
In order to answer that question you just have to extinguish the asking ego ('I'-thought). According to Bhagavan Ramana then no such question will remain unsolved.
Sorry, in my previous comment of 25 July 2015 at 14:31 I made a serious translation mistake: Instead of "…for the purpose of our 'contentious proceedings'…"
I wanted to write "…for the purpose of our consciousness-raising"…
Actually I did not intend to "proceed with the discussion".

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, regarding your comment of 26 July 2015 at 13:56, in which you write about what you perceive to be a much deeper difference between the understanding of David and that of Sadhu Om and myself regarding the practice of ātma-vicāra, I think we should be as charitable as possible to David and give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that what he means by the dissociated or unattached ‘I’ is our ego in a state of relative detachment or non-association with objects rather than absolute detachment or non-association. As I see it, the difference between David’s understanding and ours is that there seems to be a certain lack of nuance in his understanding, which causes him to see things in black and white terms, such as ‘the ego’ or ‘the Self’ and ‘the attached I’ and ‘the non-attached I’, and I think it is this that leads him to disagree with Sadhu Om and to write that “Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the ‘I’-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum”.

Incidentally I have almost finished writing a long article on the subject of the sense in which ātma-vicāra entails attending only to ourself as ego and the sense in which it also entails attending to ourself as we actually are (which is the sole reality underlying the illusory appearance of this ego), so I hope to complete it and post it here within the next few days. In it I have carefully retranslated and discussed in detail what Sri Muruganar wrote in his commentary on verse 44 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai, and when doing so I found that what he actually wrote is significantly different to the meaning conveyed by Robert in his translation. Though I think Robert’s translations are generally fairly good, particularly considering how subtle and difficult this subject can be, in this case he seems to have failed to understand (or at least to convey) the logical connections between the various ideas that Muruganar expressed (particularly in one relatively long and complex sentence) and the way in which he qualified what he wrote, so Muruganar was actually writing in a far more nuanced manner than David seems to have assumed.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael, as you say, David could have meant relatively detached 'I'.

David quotes verse 44 of Akasharamanamalai and gives Butler’s translation of Muruganar’s commentary where it is said, “It [the Self] can never, in any way, shape or form whatsoever, be (or become) the object of the practice of enquiry”. After this, when David concludes, “I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum”, it gives an impression that David is happy with an object oriented meditation by thinking ‘I’ as an object and the Self as non-object. What he intends to convey does not become clear. I do not think David is so naive to leave readers guessing this way. Anyway, you are writing an article on this verse. I am looking forward to it.

Chimborazo said...

Michael,
I too am looking forward to read about the enquiry done by the 'I'-thought focusing (putting attention) on the Self that is the substratum of that very 'I'-thought. Quite certainly your article will be a reflection on the practice of attentive heedful alert diligent self-attention.

Athos said...

Michael,
in my experience atma-vicara surely entails both attending only to ourself as ego and also to ourself as we really are. In both cases the enquiry/ attention is done by the ego. Your coming article will treat a crucial point of Sri Ramana's teaching.

Anonymous said...

Verses from Atma Vichara Patikam (Sadhu Om) :

8. Attending to any second or third person instead of turning and attending to this “I,” the first person feeling that is always experienced by every-one, is only ignorance (ajnana). If you ask, “The ego (the feeling ‘I am so-and-so’) is only a product of ignorance, so attending to the ego is also ignorance, is it not? Why then should we attend to this ‘I’?” Listen to what is said below:

9. Why is the ego destroyed when we scrutinize “What am I”? Because this “I”-thought (aham-vritti) is a reflected ray of Self-consciousness; and thus unlike other thoughts, which are devoid of consciousness, it is always directly connected with its source. Therefore, when our attention dives deeper and deeper within by following this reflected ray “I,” the length of this reflected ray “I” will diminish until finally it has shrunk to nothing. When the ego, the feeling “I am so-and-so,” thus disappears, the consciousness that will remain shining as “I am I” is the true knowledge of Self.

Nilakantha said...

Anonymus,
in verse 9 you quoted it is being said that aham-vritti is a reflected ray of Self-consciousness and always directly connected with its source.

What/Which medium is reflecting that ray of Self-consciousness ?
How is the Self-consciousness radiating a/that ray ?
Presumably is the source of that ray that very Self-consciousness.
If not what else ?

Would you please shed light on my ignorance and give some illumination about that
subject ?

Anonymous said...

Dear Nilakantha,
The purpose of spiritual verses is to put in practice, not to think to much about them. But if after reading something, there is a question or a doubt, the question is : to whom is this doubt ?
My friend, you ask some questions, but you will have THE answer only if you find out who rises those questions.
Nilakantha, this is you who asks questions, not me.
Bye!


Sanjay Lohia said...

Nilakantha, can I try answering your questions? I may not be correct.

You ask: 'What/Which medium is reflecting that ray of Self-consciousness?' My answer to this is that it is being reflected in or on our illusory chittakasa or manokasa. This thought called 'I' or ego or chit-jada granthi is the first reflected in this chittakasa or manakasa.

You ask: 'How is the Self-consciousness radiating a/that ray ?' My answer to this is, our true, infinite, self-consciousness just is, and by its mere power of its presence maya or our power of self-delusion makes it appear that the self-consciousness is radiating this ray of consciousness. But in fact no such radiation ever takes place.

You are: 'Presumably is the source of that ray that very Self-consciousness.
If not what else?' My answer to this is, yes, in our sadhana stage we have to assume that the source of the reflected ray (ego) is only our absolute self-consciousness, but actually only this our absolute, infinite, self-consciousness exists. Therefore it has no source. It is the only existence, therefore it itself is its source and substance.

I am sure others or Michael will correct me, because whatever I have answered is only from my limited theoretical understanding.

Nilakantha said...

Anonymus,
many thanks for your really illuminating answer.
I am really a fool. It serves me right. In my utter ignorance I forgot first to dissolve the questioning ego.

Anonymous said...

You are welcome Nila...
If you feel disappointed (it is very googd indeed !), then you have something to investigate : who is disappointed ?
I wish you an happy new year !
Bye !

Mouna said...

Ha!…
It’s easy to quote sages (anonymously of course) and then when prompted to give a clarification or explanation about it, retort saying that “after reading something, there is a question or doubt, the question is: to whom is this doubt?” (again anonymously of course).
Two possibilities here (maybe more): either we are beyond words or… we simply don’t know how to answer.

Fortunately Bhagavan didn’t use this tool very often otherwise we wouldn’t have any of his teachings, that were all prompted by questions (Nan-Yar, Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesa Undiyar, etc…) to guide us now…

Dear Sanjay,
You did a great job answering those questions posted by Nilakantha (according also to my “limited theoretical understanding!!).

Dear Nilakantha,
I wouldn’t consider myself a fool because of a question asked, but rather the opposite, if I didn’t ask it!!

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Nilakantha said...

Sanjay Lohia,
thanks for your reply which you gave to the best of your ability.
If Michael would find time to say something to the asked questions I would be glad. At least the quoted verses are allegedly from Sadhu Om.

Nilakantha said...

Mouna,
our anonymus friend is quite right. But I could not suppress a slighty touch of irony in my answer to him.

Mouna said...

Nilakantha,
Agree on both statements!

Nilakantha said...

Dear Anonymus,
best wishes also to you for a Happy Easter, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year and in the years to come.
Take care and get well soon.
Yours faithfully
Nilakantha

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nila!
I will leave this place, I wish you to stop thinking and to abide as you are : this is "atma-vicara" !
Farewell !

Nilakantha said...

Anonymus,
yes, abiding as the adjunctless and thought-free consciousness is our happiness.
The almighty Sri Ramana-Arunachala may help us to achieve the necessary clarity of mind.
So I too take my leave of you.

R Viswanathan said...

I want to give below an extract from an interview given by Sri David Godman (DG) for Integral Yoga Magazine (IYG) for the benefit of those who genuinely want to know or understand how he describes the method of self enquiry. The link is:http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/05/interview-with-integral-yoga-magazine.html

IYM: Many associate the question, ‘Who am I?’ with Sri Ramana’s teachings. Was this the main teaching?

DG: He always maintained that his primary and most effective teaching was the silence that radiated from him on account of his Self-abidance. It stilled the minds of the people who were fortunate enough to be with him and, on occasion, it even gave them a taste of the direct experience that he himself was experiencing all the time. The words, the spoken teachings and the various methods he advocated were for those people who were unable to attune themselves to these silent emanations.

I would say that self-enquiry, telling people to ask themselves, ‘Who am I?’, was his most distinctive teaching insofar as it was a new and innovative path that no one else had taught before, but I would not even say that it was his main verbal teaching.

He spent a lot of time telling people, ‘You are the Self. The Self is already realised. Just be it,’ but of course no one believed him. Instead, they would say, ‘Yes, but that’s not my experience. What do I do to attain it?’ When people spoke to him like this, he would often ask them to do self-enquiry.

IYM: Can you explain the technique of self-enquiry?

DG: The key to understanding self-enquiry is Sri Ramana’s assertion that the individual ‘I’ can only exist in association with the thoughts and perceptions that it latches onto. In ‘I am angry,’ ‘I see a tree,’ ‘I am a lawyer,’ there is a subject ‘I’ who is associating with an object of thought or perception. Sri Ramana taught that, when these associations cease completely, ‘I’ itself disappears. He said that if one could put one’s attention exclusively and continuously on the subject ‘I’, without being distracted by any extraneous thoughts, this ‘I’, the sense of individuality, would subside into its source and vanish, leaving an awareness of the Self that is unmediated by any sense of being an individual person.

It’s all about redirecting attention. When you become aware that your mind is directing itself to other thoughts, objects that are not the ‘I’, he suggested asking, ‘To whom do these thoughts or things appear?’ The answer is, of course, ‘To me’. Then, having switched attention from objects of thought to the perceiver or thinker of them, Sri Ramana says, ‘Ask yourself, “Who am I?” or, “Where does this ‘I’ come from?”’ This process, done repeatedly, de-conditions the ‘I’ from its habit of always looking for and associating with external perceptions, thoughts and ideas. Eventually, when the ‘I’ no longer feels impelled to catch hold of stray thoughts and indulge in them, it simply vanishes since it cannot exist free of associations. If I may summarise: The practice of self-enquiry is unremitting attention to one’s inner feeling of ‘I’.

(continued in my next comment)

R Viswanathan said...

(continued from the previous comment - interview of Sri David Godman (DG) with Integral Yoga Magazine (IYG)):

IYM: For those who may find this challenging or a bit abstract, are there any helpful hints you could share?

DG: Sri Ramana had a very appropriate analogy for this process. Imagine that you have a bull, and that you keep it in a stable. If you leave the door open, the bull will wander out, looking for food. It may find food, but a lot of the time it will get into trouble by grazing in cultivated fields. This is an Indian story. Here, there are no boundary fences, so cattle can wander anywhere in search of food. The owners of the fields our bull wanders into will beat it with sticks and throw stones at it to chase it away, but it will come back again and again, and suffer repeatedly, because it doesn’t understand the notion of field boundaries. It is just programmed to look for food and to eat it wherever it finds something edible.

The bull is the mind, the stable is the Self where it arises and to where it returns, and the grazing in the fields represents the mind’s painful addiction to seeking pleasure in outside objects. Sri Ramana said that most mind-control techniques forcibly restrain the bull to stop it from moving around but they don’t do anything about the bull’s fundamental desire to wander and get itself into trouble. You can tie up the mind temporarily with japa (repetition of sacred names) or pranayama (breath control), but when these restraints are loosened, the mind just wanders off again, gets involved in more mischief and suffers again. You can tie up a bull, but it won’t like it. You will just end up with an angry, cantankerous bull that will probably be looking for a chance to commit some act of violence on you.

Sri Ramana likened self-enquiry to holding a bunch of fresh grass under the bull’s nose. As the bull approaches it, you move away in the direction of the stable door and the bull follows you. You lead it back into the stable, and it voluntarily follows you because it wants the pleasure of eating the grass that you are holding in front of it. Once it is inside the stable, you allow it to eat the abundant grass that is always stored there. In this way you train it to stay home. The door of the stable is always left open, and the bull is free to leave and roam about at any time. There is no punishment or restraint. The bull will go out repeatedly, because it is the nature of such animals to wander in search of food, but every time you notice that your bull–mind has wandered out, tempt it back into its stable with the same technique. Don’t try to beat it into submission or you may be attacked, and don’t try to solve the problem forcibly by locking it up. Sooner or later even the dimmest of bulls will understand that, since there is a perpetual supply of tasty food in the stable, there is no point wandering around outside, because that always leads to suffering and punishments. Even though the stable door is always open, the bull will eventually stay inside and enjoy the food that is always there.

IYM: What can we do if the mind continues to wander?

DG: Whenever you find the mind wandering around in external objects and sense perceptions, take it back to its stable, which is the heart, the Self, the source from which it rises and to which it returns. In that place it can enjoy the peace and bliss of the Self. When it wanders around outside, looking for pleasure and happiness, it just gets into trouble – but when it stays at home in the heart, it enjoys peace and silence. Eventually, even though the stable door is always open, the mind will choose to stay at home and not wander about. Sri Ramana said that the way of restraint was the way of the yogi. Yogis try to achieve restraint by forcing the mind to be still. Self-enquiry gives the mind the option of wandering wherever it wants to, and it achieves its success by gently persuading the mind that it will always be happier staying at home.

Wittgenstein said...

David says the following about enquiry [atma vichara] (as quote by Viswanathan in his comment on 28 July 2015 at 00:57):

“Whenever you find the mind wandering around in external objects and sense perceptions, take it back to its stable, which is the heart, the Self, the source from which it rises and to which it returns.”

David also says the following in his comment (after quoting Sri Muruganar’s commentary on verse 44 of Akasharamanamalai, translated by Robert Butler) on 20 July 2015 at 02:30:

“I think Muruganar unequivocally backs up my contention that Bhagavan taught that enquiry is done by putting attention on the 'I'-thought, and not by focusing on the Self that is its substratum.”

The rest of us here can decide what can be inferred from these statements.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Nilakantha, I had written in a comment addressed to you, 'You ask: 'What/Which medium is reflecting that ray of Self-consciousness?' My answer to this is that it is being reflected in or on our illusory chittakasa or manokasa. This thought called 'I' or ego or chit-jada granthi is the first reflected in this chittakasa or manakasa'.

I am not sure if what I have answered is correct. I think I would like to modify my answer as follows: The medium that reflects our pure self-consciousness is our illusory body or 'I am the body idea'. Due to pramada or inattentiveness to ourself, our pure self-consciousness seems to rise, and simultaneously attaches or identifies itself with a body. This mixture of this chit and jada (chit-jada-granthi) is the reflecting medium of our pure-consciousness. The reflected rays of consciousness arising from our chit-jada-granthi or ego makes our mental space or chittaakasa or manakasa, and this chittakasa in turn holds our physical space or bhutakasa.

If and when Michael has time he may comment on this.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, David says, 'He [Bhagavan] always maintained that his primary and most effective teaching was the silence that radiated from him on account of his Self-abidance. It stilled the minds of the people who were fortunate enough to be with him and, on occasion, it even gave them a taste of the direct experience that he himself was experiencing all the time. The words, the spoken teachings and the various methods he advocated were for those people who were unable to attune themselves to these silent emanations'.

Is David not implying here that Bhagavan is the body by saying, 'He always maintained that his primary and most effective teaching was the silence that radiated from him on account of his Self-abidance. It stilled the minds of the people who were fortunate enough to be with him and, on occasion, it even gave them a taste of the direct experience that he himself was experiencing all the time?' I think there is only atma-svarupa or silence (mouna), and that is his primary and most effective teaching. He can radiate this silence to others only if there really are others in his view. David feels that a living guru or a guru in a body is required for us to permanently subside in ourself alone, because perhaps he feels emanations or radiations of self from the body of a self-realised sage is necessary to make this happen. Michael has repeatedly said that such a guru, who is presently in a body, is not necessary, because he is always present in our heart as ourself.

Also David says, 'It’s all about redirecting attention. When you become aware that your mind is directing itself to other thoughts, objects that are not the ‘I’, he suggested asking, ‘To whom do these thoughts or things appear?’ The answer is, of course, ‘To me’. Then, having switched attention from objects of thought to the perceiver or thinker of them, Sri Ramana says, ‘Ask yourself, “Who am I?” or, “Where does this ‘I’ come from?' Michael and Sadhu Om have made it clear that such mental or vocal questioning is not the essence of self-enquiry or self-attentiveness. One just has to attend to oneself alone, to the exclusion of everything else. Whenever we notice that we are distracted by our thoughts away from ourself, we just have to bring our attention back to ourself alone. This is the practice. Questioning 'who am I?' etc can be used, but it is not the necessary or the essential part of our practice.

R Viswanathan said...

"The rest of us here can decide what can be inferred from these statements."

I for one would infer that Sri David Godman suggests that one can take the mind towards the self by attending to the primary I-thought and not to the other thoughts which the primary I-thought clings to for its survival.

At this point, it would be beneficial to refer to what Anonymous attributed a quote to Sri Sadhu Om: "this “I”-thought (aham-vritti) is a reflected ray of Self-consciousness; and thus unlike other thoughts, which are devoid of consciousness, it is always directly connected with its source."

So, the connection to the source, the self, is effected through the I-thought, which I would infer that Sri Godman also states without leaving anybody to guessing what he means.

Anyway, this is also what Sri David Godman says very often:

"Ultimately, it is the grace or power of the Self that eliminates the final vestiges of the
desire-free mind. The mind cannot eliminate itself, but it can offer itself up as a sacrifice
to the Self. Through effort, through enquiry, one can take the mind back to the Self and
keep it there in a desire-free state. However, mind can’t do anything more than that. In
that final moment it is the power of the Self within that pulls the last remains of the mind
back into itself and eliminates it completely."

Since the objective of everyone who is in this path is self realization, may everyone follow the method which suits him/her best.

Nilakantha said...

Sanjay Lohia,
Thank you very much for your efforts to show the subject in the correct light.
But nevertheless I put my hope on Michael's clarifying comment.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Since this article is on bhakti, I thought that sharing the following incident in Bhagavan's life will be appropriate here. This is taken from the book Commentary on Anuvada Nunmalai (Volume 1) by T R Kanakammal - page 167:

Natesa Iyer (kitchen) was an exemplary devotee of Bhagavan. He was very self-effacing man, always ready to serve the devotees of Bhagavan at all times of day and night.

He did his panchayatana puja (daily worship of five deities) in the area adjacent to the cowshed for a long time and it had become a life-long ritual with him. When Bhagavan would walk by the cowshed every morning Nateas Iyer would invite Bhagavan to inspect his idols to which worship would have just been completed. Bhagavan also would look at them and nod his approval.

One day when as usual Natesa Iyer invited Bhagavan to view the Gods, Bhagavan looked up and asked him, "Are you still doing it?"

Iyer felt a strong quivering sensation fill his body as Bhagavan spoke these words. Realising that Bhagavan wanted him to abandon this practice, he threw the box containing the idols reverentially into the Pali Tirtham and felt no remorse or regrets afterwards.

Nilakantha said...

R Viswanathan,
refering to the quotation of Sadhu Om which Anonymus attributed to us it makes logical sense to me that the 'I'-thought(aham -vritti) is aways directly connected with its source because that source is also its origin or birthplace. Therefore the stated permanent connection of the ego with its source does not come as a surprice.

Regarding what you expressed with your words ... 'may everyone follow the method which suits (us) best' I add the following:
We all have to carry our special individual rucksack/luggage which consists of all (psychological) difficulties according our prarabda karma. Therefore we all are individually handicapped by our specific imposed particular and peculiar burden cut out for us.
Hence we all have no other way/alternative than to follow the method which suits best to our weakness and strong points.

R Viswanathan said...


"We all have to carry our special individual rucksack/luggage which consists of all (psychological) difficulties according our prarabda karma. Therefore we all are individually handicapped by our specific imposed particular and peculiar burden cut out for us.
Hence we all have no other way/alternative than to follow the method which suits best to our weakness and strong points."

Coincidentally, this is what Sri David Godman wrote to me:

"Bhagavan generally adopted the Saiva position when he gave out teachings on the mechanism of rebirth. He said that Iswara allocates karma on a life-by-life basis, choosing a sequence of events for the jiva out of all the vast and pending store of karma .Bhagavan once gave the analogy of a man who goes from village to village giving slideshows. He may have thousands of slides to choose from, but he decides in each village which thirty-six to put in his projector, and in which order. That sequence is the unchangeable prarabdha for that life. Bhagavan said that Iswara chooses the sequence of karma as an act of love rather than punishment since he selects a script, out of all the possibilities, that will give the best opportunity for the jiva to progress spiritually.

None of this has any ultimate reality since Bhagavan has also taught that Iswara also comes into existence with the emergence of the 'I'-thought and disappears when it goes. He has also gone on record as saying that Iswara is the last of the unreal forms to go. While you have an 'I'-thought that creates a world and a seer of it, you also bring into existence Iswara who governs that world. When liberation takes place, Iswara, world and jiva all definitively vanish."

My query to him was this:
"On the death of the physical body also, will the karma vasanas that remained unburnt (and some freshly added) lie dormant (if they were all not burnt by self-realization) on the self so that upon getting another body, the I-thought can rise up again? Since the other physical body is likely to be of another kind, say an animal, what could be the nature of the I-thought in such a case? The objects perceived in such a body will be different, isn't it?

I do realize that all these type of questions come to one who assumes that one is born, dies, and again is re-born. So, any kind of answer also will only give birth to fresh set of questions. I also do realize that only way out is then to do self enquiry as to who gets such questions until such period when no such questions will surface. Despite this realization, this email to you !"

Nilakantha said...

R Viswanathan,
thanks for your comment.
Incidentally:
To avoid creating an additional subject, instead saying "While you have an 'I'-thought ..." I think it would be expressed more accurately :
"While you associate/recognize yourself as an 'I'-thought...".

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, thank you for recommending the book Atmatirtham - Life and Teachings of Sri Sankaracharya by Ramanacharana Tirtha and Nochur Venkataraman. I am at present reading it with interest.

Though Bhagavan Ramana did not belong to any particular sampradaya, nor did he start one, but in another sense we can say that he belonged to the lineage of Sri Dakshinamurti and Sri Sankaracharya. In fact Bhagavan Ramana was a perfect mixture of both, Dakshinamurti and Sankaracharya. Like Dakshinamurti he mainly taught in silence, and like Sankaracharya he also spoke and wrote enough.

We also sing in our local Ramana shrine on these lines. Our stuti means, there was Dakshinamurti in the beginning, then came Shankaracharya in the middle, and now has appeared Ramanacharya; glory to the lineage of gurus, glory to the lineage of gurus!

Vahag Bobloyan said...

Hello Everyone,

I feel everyone who is drawn to the path of Self-Attention can benefit from the following website:

http://www.sadhuom.net/e-books/prayers/book/5-sri-ramana-sahasram/1-prayers.html

Linked above is Sri Sadhu Om's " Sri Ramana Sahasram ". A heart-melting collection of 1000 poetic verses written from the standpoint of a seeker/disciple/devotee/sadhaka.

Reading such works purifies the mind and keeps our attention fixed more strongly on Bhagavan(both his teachings/life/form and the Awareness of our own Being(Self))

Namaskarams

R Viswanathan said...

Sri Sanjay Lohia, I have studied the Atma Thirtham book in Tamil. If you know Tamil, you may want to read 'Swathma Sukhi' by Sri Nochur Venkataraman, a beautiful commentary and explanations of Bhagavan's Ulladhu Narpadhu. Given below is the link of a talk in English by Sri Nochur Venkataraman on Bakthi, the sole purpose of life. Here is the link:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/9qui66cd4s...-2010.MP3?dl=0

Coincident with your reference to Dakshinamurthy, Sri Nochur Venkataraman has given discourses very recently on Dakshinamurthy Sthothram of Bhagavan (Tamil translation of Adhi Sankaracharya's Dakshinamurthy Sthothram) in Chennai. For those who know Tamil, here are the links:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/slqcaiazw5...Part1.zip?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0ch3bzv6bg...Part2.zip?dl=0

Michael James said...

David, thank you for your comment and for sharing in it Robert’s translation of Sri Muruganar’s commentary on verse 44 of Akṣaramaṇamālai, which prompted me to study it carefully and make a fresh translation of it, which I have included in a new article that I have just posted here: By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself.

As I explain in that article, a careful reading of what Muruganar actually wrote in his commentary shows that he does not unequivocally back up your contention, because the ideas he expresses in it are much more nuanced than they seem to be in Robert’s translation.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, regarding the comment in which you write, ‘a statement to the effect that the attention can be only on the I-thought until the moment of self-realization is also not inconsistent with Bhagavan’s teachings’, I do not think any of us have suggested that it is inconsistent, but as I explained in my latest article, By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself, what is inconsistent is to say that when we are attending to this thought called ‘I’ (our ego) we are not attending to our actual self, because that would imply that our ego and our actual self are two entirely different things, rather than just one thing (our actual self) that we now mistake to be something other than what it actually is (our ego or thought called ‘I’).

When we turn our attention towards our ego, we are turning it towards our actual self, but until we succeed in our attempt to experience ourself alone in complete isolation (kaivalya) from everything else, we can only experience our actual self in an obscured form as our ego (like seeing the sun in a partially obscured manner through a curtain, or like seeing a rope as a snake).

Michael James said...

Nilakantha, I have answered the questions you ask in your first comment about the reflected ray of self-consciousness in a separate article: What is cidābhāsa, the reflection of self-awareness?.

Michael James said...

Shiba, when you write in your first comment, “Atma is true Self. To fix attention on I-thought leads to Atma. Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self. I-thought is best clue to reach Atma and begin real atma-vichara. To concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage and when other thoughts disappear and I-thought go back to the source (Atma), the next stage, real atma-vichara begin. I think those who can graduate from the preliminary stage are rare. I don’t know when I can graduate from the preliminary stage...”, you imply that ātma-vicāra consists of two distinct stages, and that only the second of these is ‘real atma-vichara’, but this is not actually the case.

Ātma-vicāra does not consist of any distinct stages, because it is a single process in which our self-attentiveness is progressively refined until we experience nothing other than ourself alone. Moreover ātman is ourself as we really are, whereas our ego or ‘I-thought’ is ourself as we now seem to be, so these are not two distinct things, but only one thing appearing differently. Since what we now experience as ourself is only our ego or ‘I-thought’ (which is a confused mixture of ourself and adjuncts), when we investigate ourself we are investigating ourself in the form of this ego, but as we focus our attention or awareness more and more keenly and exclusively on ourself, our ego subsides more and more, until eventually it will vanish in pure self-awareness, which is ourself as we really are (our real ātman).

Since it is only ātman (ourself as we really are) that now seems to be this ego, the more our ego subsides as a result of our vigilant self-attentiveness the closer we will come to experiencing ātman alone, and when we do eventually experience ātman alone even for a moment our ego will be destroyed forever. Therefore until that final moment, at no stage during our ātma-vicāra do we actually experience ātman alone, so your idea that real ātma-vicāra begins only when we are focused on ātman alone is not correct. When we finally manage to focus on ātman alone, real ātma-vicāra does not begin but actually ends. Even now when we are falteringly trying to focus on our ego we are doing real ātma-vicāra, albeit rather imperfectly.

Therefore you need not feel that you are just at a preliminary stage of ātma-vicāra from which you have to graduate to real ātma-vicāra. So long as you are trying to attend only to yourself (albeit in the form of the ego that you now experience yourself to be), you are on the right track and are doing real ātma-vicāra.

shiba said...

Mr. Micheal James

Thank you very much for your comment.

I think the differences of our opinion about stages of atma vichara is only matter of expression. I described two distinct stages, but I know the two stages are continuous and actually what we should do is only to attend to I-thought.

From "Sat-Darhana Bhashaya and Talks with Maharshi"

D:If I go on rejecting thoughts can I call it Vichara?

M:It may be a stepping stone. But really Vichara begins when you cling to your Self and are alreay off the mental movement, the thought-wave.

For me "a preliminary stage of ātma-vicāra" is a stage before "clinging to my Self" and in which threre is still thought-wave. To dive into the Self, the mind must become pure and one-pointed as Bhagavan said. Bhagavan sometimes limited atma-vichara to " fixing entire mind in Self". At the stage of sadhana, I think we can't help discriminating Self and ego, so I described two distinct stages. Is it not easy to understand the process of atma vichara if it is divided into two stages for the purpose of illustration?

I translated the following article into Japanease today. I will quote the extract of it here.

From "Mountain Path"( 2010 Oct), "How Sri Bhagavan Dragged Me Into His Holy Presence"

"In the evening I practised His method of self enquiry before His Presence very intensively. My mind slowly became thought-free by the incessant enquiry of “Who am I?” and slowly the mind began to meditate on the ‘I’ thought alone subjectively. The plunge started and the mind became introspective going deeper and deeper meditating on the ‘I’ thought. The heart is felt by a soft vibration and the breathing had become very shallow. The mind tried to drag me outward but at that moment suddenly some power pulled me inside completely and as a result of it the ego toppled down. At that very moment the body and world consciousness disappeared totally and in their place there was an expansiveness with the deep ‘I’‘I’-consciousness coupled with an indescribable bliss which cannot be expressed in words. I woke up from that supreme experience by the sound of Sri Bhagavan’s cough."

Anonymous said...

WHEN WILL THIS INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS AND PERSUIT END FOR THE MIND TO QUIETEN AND DISSOLVE!
TRUTH IS MOST SIMPLE.

Michael James said...

Shiba, though you probably meant your question ‘Is it not easy to understand the process of atma vichara if it is divided into two stages for the purpose of illustration?’ to be rhetorical, the correct answer to it may not be what you assume it to be. Dividing the practice into two stages is more likely to lead to misunderstanding than understanding, because as I tried to explain in my previous reply to you ātma-vicāra is a single process in which our self-attentiveness is progressively refined until we experience nothing other than ourself alone.

The answer given by Bhagavan recorded in the passage from the ‘Talks’ section of Sat-Darshana Bhashaya that you quote is probably not recorded very accurately, but it seems that the point that Bhagavan was making is that ātma-vicāra entails clinging (or attending) to ourself, so it is not merely an attempt to reject thoughts. As he often explained, trying to reject thoughts is futile, because the one who tries to reject them is only our ego, which is itself a thought — the primal thought called ‘I’. Even if this ego could reject all other thoughts, it obviously could not reject itself, and in fact it cannot even reject all other thoughts, because it can rise and endure only by projecting and clinging to other thoughts. Therefore attempting directly to reject thoughts is impractical and will only help to sustain our ego.

The only effective means by which we can reject all thoughts — including their root, this ego or primal thought called ‘I’ — is to ignore all other thoughts by trying to attend to ourself alone. Other thoughts can rise only when we attend to them, so if we try to attend to ourself alone they will all subside and will not be able to rise again until we allow ourself to be distracted by them.

By attending to any other thoughts we are nourishing and sustaining our ego, whereas by trying to attend to ourself (whom we now experience as this ego) we are cutting the very root of all thoughts. Whereas other thoughts are nourished by our attention to them, our ego is undermined by our attention to it, because it can rise and stand only by attending to anything other than itself.

The wording in the passage you quote, ‘when you cling to your Self’, seems to imply duality, because the term ‘your Self’ seems to refer to something other than the ‘you’ who is clinging to it. In Tamil there are no capital letters, so the term ‘your Self’ seems to be a misleading translation of whatever term Bhagavan used. In such a context the term he would probably have used in Tamil is simply தன்னை (taṉṉai), the accusative form of தான் (tāṉ), which is a generic pronoun that means ‘oneself’ or in this context ‘yourself’, so a more accurate and less confusing translation of what he probably said would be: ‘ātma-vicāra really begins when you cling to yourself’.

Here the term ‘yourself’ does not imply any distinction between our ego (ourself as we now seem to be) and our real self (ourself as we actually are), because making such a distinction is unnecessary in this context, since we are one and therefore not two separate selves. Our ego is ourself mixed with adjuncts (as we now seem to be) whereas our actual self is ourself uncontaminated with any adjuncts. The more we try to attend to ourself alone, the more our attachments to any adjuncts will be weakened, and thus we will eventually shed all our adjuncts and thereby experience ourself as we actually are.

shiba said...

Mr. Micheal James

From David Godman's blog ”The authenticity of Bhagavans writings and dialogues”
(http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.jp/2008/05/authenticity-of-bhagavans-writings-and.html)

>Next, in order of authenticity and reliability, are the records of conversations that appeared during Bhagavan’s lifetime which were checked and edited by him prior to publication. This list would include Maharshi’s Gospel, Spiritual Instruction, and the talks that precede Sat Darshana Bhashya.

There is a proof copy of the first edition of Maharshi’s Gospel in the Ramanasramam archives which shows that Bhagavan made minor handwritten revisions to the text prior to its publication.

Spiritual Instruction has always appeared in The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, even though it is a record of answers Bhagavan gave out, rather than a written work. All the items that appeared in the Tamil edition of Collected Works have been thoroughly checked by Bhagavan himself.

The dialogues that precede Sat Darshana Bhashya were read to Bhagavan by Kapali Sastri prior to their publication. As he was listening to them, Bhagavan made suggestions that were all incorporated. K. Natesan, who was present in the hall on the day of the reading, told me that Bhagavan asked Kapali Sastri to change one phrase to ‘import of I’ – a nice English phrase – but he couldn’t remember what words it replaced.

I think in the stage of sadhaka, we should make distinction ego and Self. Bhagavan have right to say there is no ego, Self alone is or so, and such word have power because of his actual experience. But if we sadhaka imitate such Bhagavan's words, they may lack power and rather misleading, make us believe " reach without reaching". I believe that to say there are two stages is not opposed to Bhagavan's teaching, and from my experience this will be proved someday more confidently.

shiba said...

>because as I tried to explain in my previous reply to you ātma-vicāra is a single process in which our self-attentiveness is progressively refined until we experience nothing other than ourself alone.

To make distinction of stages don't make the sadhana two ways, as I said. I said what we have to do is to attend to I-thought, and it is same as your opinion. So it is not misleading.

>The wording in the passage you quote, ‘when you cling to your Self’, seems to imply duality, because the term ‘your Self’ seems to refer to something other than the ‘you’ who is clinging to it.・・・

Such expression are admitted by Bhagavan. Please refer to "Maharshi's Gospel", for example. Like before Self-realization , non-Self is talked about, though All is Self after Self-realization, we can use the expression "our Self" or "Self of everything " or so.

Michael James said...

Shiba, I have replied to your latest two comments in a separate article: Trying to distinguish ourself from our ego is what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

Regarding what you write about the authenticity of Sat-Darshana Bhashya, please see what I wrote about it in another comment, and also the correction to that comment that I wrote in a subsequent one. The relevant links that I give there are to the following two parts of a series of articles by K. Lakshmana Sarma (the author of Maha Yoga) entitled ‘Sri Ramana’s Teachings’:

The Call Divine, June 1954, pages 495-8

The Call Divine, August 1954, pages 572-6

As these two articles illustrate, the author of Sat-Darshana Bhashya was a prominent member of a group of devotees who had their own agenda, did not agree with the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teachings and were therefore not committed to the practice of ātma-vicāra, so whatever he or any other members of that group wrote or recorded about his teachings cannot be considered to be a reliable presentation of them.

shiba said...

>As these two articles illustrate, the author of Sat-Darshana Bhashya was a prominent member of a group of devotees who had their own agenda, did not agree with the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teachings and were therefore not committed to the practice of ātma-vicāra,
so whatever he or any other members of that group wrote or recorded about his teachings cannot be considered to be a reliable presentation of them.
Mr. Micheal James


Mr.Godman wrote that the preceding dialogues in "Sat-Darhana Bhashaya and Talks with Maharshi" was checked by Bhagavan himself. Don't you agree with this? Whether recorder of teaching of Bhagavan agree with the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teaching or not, if the dialogues are checked by Bhagavan, it must be authentic.

And why do you think the recorder of the "dialogues" who have different view don't record what Bhgavan said as it is? If he is sincere man, he must record it as it is, irrespective of his opinion.




Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

Kapali Sastry and his guru Kavayakanta Ganapathi Muni had their own agenda while they stayed with Bhagavan. They used Bhagavan’s teachings as a vehicle to propagate their pet ideas. These people willingly and deliberately did that. For example, Kapali Sastry says in the January 1964 edition of The Mountain Path (page 60), “I am a Tantric through and through-to my marrow I was a Tantric”. Naturally, such people would not have liked Bhagavan’s teachings. They were more attracted to occult powers and had their attraction towards Aurobindo Ghose at Pondicherry (Now Puducherry), who was interested in occult powers. No doubt these people twisted the teachings of Bhagavan according to their fancies as in Sat-Dharshanam and its commentary Sat-Dharshana Bhashya. When someone pointed this out to Bhagavan and asked him why they did so, he replied that these people hated advaita as if it were poison. If you can read Tamil, all these information can be found in the preface to the commentary on Upadesa Undiyar by Sri Sadhu Om in Tamil. I am not sure if this is translated to English. So, to answer your question, Kapali Sastry was not a sincere man as far writing about Bhagavan’s teachings.

From the two-step model of atma vichara that you gather from Sat-Dharshana Bhashya, it is clear that these steps are akin to yogic/tantric practice. They like to artificially divide the one and the only self into ‘the self’ and ‘the Self’. The hidden idea here is that they are too much attached to this world and the body (as in ‘the self’) and at the same time curious about the other ‘transcendental world’ (as in ‘the Self’). Therefore, by imagining that at later stages of the practice if one can yoke oneself to ‘the Self’ for hours together and later get disconnected and come back to ‘the self’, they think they can have best of both worlds.

People with yogic tendencies and still like Bhagavan for some reason or other want to get their yogic curiosity satisfied and at the same time want to pose to the world as though they are the devotees of Bhagavan. How do they do it? Very simple, they call their practice atma vichara (with two stages) as they can get their yogic curiosity satisfied while being yoked, as it is akin to their imagination of nirvikalpa samadhi. It is easy to smell this nirvikalpa samadhi entering through the back door, through such phrases as ‘off the mental movements’. It is so reminiscent of yogis who say, ‘You are in the beginning stages. Real yoga begins with nirvikalpa samadhi where you are thoughtless for hours together’, to the much bewildered beginners who are likely to take it up as their ideal. For those who have read Bhagavan’s teachings sincerely, it is very clear that they are talking about sleep. When there are no thoughts, they are either arrested temporarily as in sleep or completely destroyed as in mano nasa. And with mano nasa, there is no one to come back. Michael says it very clearly: “When we finally manage to focus on atman alone, real atma vichara does not begin but actually ends”. And it ends with the destruction of the ego, which is what bewilders the yogis.

Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

As far Talks is concerned, one can find contradictions to Bhagavan’s teachings in it. For example, I have commented on 26 July 2015 at 06:51 (under this article) how ideas of ‘dissociated self’ are presented in such books while they are not in the core teachings of Bhagavan. I doubt what Bhagavan endorsed in this book and I doubt those who claim (including David) Bhagavan endorsed everything in this book. In my comment on 28 July 2015 at 04:03 (under this article), I have given evidence for the contradicting statements presented by David himself on atma vichara. It is up to us to use our discrimination.

R Viswanathan said...

It comes as a surprise for me that the stay of Kavya Kantha Ganapathy Muni with Bhagavan is commented upon in such a manner. I have heard Sri Nochur Venkataraman often speaking so highly of Kavya Kantha Ganapathy Muni. If one does not agree with others' words or inferences, one can surely state about it, but to attribute motives is something which I feel is inconsistent with Bhagavan's teachings.

Michael James said...

Shiba, before posting your reply did you actually read the two articles by Lakshmana Sarma or the earlier comment that I referred to in my previous comment? If you had read them, you would have understood why I wrote that that group (Kavyakantha, Kapali Sastri and their followers) had their own agenda and that anything they wrote or recorded about Bhagavan’s teachings was therefore not reliable, and you would have been able to judge for yourself how ‘sincere’ Kapali Sastri actually was. For example in my earlier comment I wrote:

“[...] 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 [...]. 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 include siddhis, śakti and the location of ‘the Self’ in the body, which were three of the favourite topics that Kavyakantha and 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.”

When Kapali Sastri argues against some of the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teachings in a commentary on them and declares them to be ‘both futile and false’, how can we consider him to be ‘sincere’ and how can we trust anything that he wrote or recorded about his teachings?

There is also plenty of other internal evidence in both Sat-Darshana and its Bhashya that clearly shows that it was a deliberate mistranslation and distortion of the meaning of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and that the Bhashya was a further attempt to obscure, distort and argue against what Bhagavan taught in it. Knowing that this was their agenda, Bhagavan explained to Lakshmana Sarma how vehemently Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri hated his teachings, and illustrated this by telling him that when Kavyakantha was first shown a Telugu translation of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) it made him so angry that he exclaimed, ‘I never expected that Bhagavan would be guilty of partiality. I do not like this at all. Take it away’ (The Call Divine, August 1954, pages 574-5).

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Shiba:

In one of your earlier comments you quoted something that David Godman had written in an article, namely “The dialogues that precede Sat Darshana Bhashya were read to Bhagavan by Kapali Sastri prior to their publication. As he was listening to them, Bhagavan made suggestions that were all incorporated. K. Natesan, who was present in the hall on the day of the reading, told me that Bhagavan asked Kapali Sastri to change one phrase to ‘import of I’ – a nice English phrase – but he couldn’t remember what words it replaced”, and in your latest comment you ask me, ‘Don’t you agree with this?’ Since David wrote that he was told this by K. Natesan, who was an ardent fan of Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri, I would certainly not agree that this is reliable evidence that Kapali’s recording of those dialogues was accurate.

You say, ‘if the dialogues are checked by Bhagavan, it must be authentic’, but that is not the case, because he generally did not correct anyone if they chose to misinterpret or misrepresent his teachings. He never tried to force anyone to believe anything that they did not want to believe, so he gave his real teachings only to those who came to him sincerely wanting to learn from him, and he made no attempt to correct those like Kapali Sastri who were determined to cling to their own preconceived beliefs, ideas and aspirations.

You should be able to understand that this was his attitude if you read what David wrote in the same article about Sri Ramana Gita. Though Bhagavan would have helped with the proofreading of several editions of Sri Ramana Gita and of the Tamil translation of it, and though it is said that on the request of a devotee he even translated it into Malayalam, this does not mean that he considered it to be an authentic or reliable presentation of his teachings, as is clear from what he told Swami Natananandar about it. David has recorded this in that article, but I was told about it several times by Natananandar, and the following is the gist of what I remember him saying:

Even before he composed Sri Ramana Gita, for several years Kavyakantha was in the habit of composing verses spontaneously and claiming that they were from Sri Ramana Gita, which he said would contain the essence of Bhagavan’s teachings. When he did eventually compose and write the whole book, his followers began praising it, so Natananandar felt rather dejected, because he did not know sufficient Sanskrit to understand it. Therefore he said to Bhagavan, ‘Everyone says this is the essence of your teachings, but I cannot read it, so please tell me what you taught in it’. Bhagavan laughed and said:

‘It is nothing, and it certainly does not portray my real teachings, so you are not missing anything. A few years ago they made a concerted effort to get me to agree with their beliefs and ideas, because they wanted to be able to say that their ideas are my teachings. They did not want to learn anything from me, but only to get my approval for their own beliefs. They tried very hard, but I wouldn’t budge. However, though they failed in their attempt to get me to acquiesce to their ideas, they have now written this book, in which they have recorded a few of the answers I gave them. Like a circus acrobat who falls but pretends his fall is part of his feat, they failed but have now tried to make it appear that they had elicited some profound teachings from me.’

shiba said...

Mr.Micheal James

I haven't said that Sat Darshana Bshaya is authentic because it is explanation of the author, but said that the preceding dialogue must be authentic. I have known the position of Ganapati Muni from Mountain Path's article etc. But I don't think Bhagavan's devotee, K. Natesan told a lie, which leads to the disrespect to Bhagavan and even Ganapati Muni, because Muni respected Bhagavan like God. If I can't believe in Bhagavan's devotee, who should I trust?

>You should be able to understand that this was his attitude if you read what David wrote in the same article about Sri Ramana Gita. Though Bhagavan would have helped with the proofreading of several editions of Sri Ramana Gita and of the Tamil translation of it, and though it is said that on the request of a devotee he even translated it into Malayalam, this does not mean that he considered it to be an authentic or reliable presentation of his teachings, as is clear from what he told Swami Natananandar about it.・・・・

Then how do you judge what was wirtten or recorded authenic or not? You can doubt endlessly that way. I am afraid to say but you tend to brand that what you think is not fit to your view "not authentic" and exclude it. And why do you believe Lakshmana Sarma's article are true? They are only one sided opinion. Any objection of the other side? And I read Laksmana Sarma's "Maha Yoga" but I don't think it is best presentation of Bhagavan's teaching and think it is rather rigid and lack of Bhagava's softness and generosity and simplicity. Even Guru Vachaka Kovai, you can doubt it is atuthenic or not. You will say Muruganar is trustworthy, and give many evidences to your opinion, but that is also mere inference, which is based on many asumptions.

You must doubt the authenticity of "Maharshi Gospel" also , but I will quote the following sentence to support my view about "continuous" two stages.

"Self-enquiry is really possible only through intense introversion of the mind"

This introversion of mind is acquired by the practice of preliminary stage of atma-vichara. I can quote more sentences which will support my view from "who am I?" or "Guru Vackaka Kovai" which you may think authentic, but they will not convince you.

who? said...

Then how do you judge what was written or recorded authentic or not?

A very pertinent question, and this has a very simple answer.

The only authority we can reliably submit to is that of the one who has transcended the realm of ignorance that we find ourselves bound to, and from which we desire to get away from.

To sit at the feet of such a one, and to humbly ask from him what his teachings are, and to be ready to discard our own beliefs and doctrines, and to earnestly put into practice their teachings, is the only way to get a solution to our problems. Bhagavan was such a one, and devotees like Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai, Sri Murugunar, and Sri Laksmana Sarma did exactly that.

Bhagavan's own writings are the most authoritative. The written or recorded works of such devotees as enumerated before are next in the order of authority, because those devotees had, to a greater or lesser extent, effaced their own egos, and thus became pure conduits of Bhagavan's teachings.

As for the Kavyakantha camp, they did the opposite. They surreptitiously wanted Bhagavan's approval to their own ideas and aspirations, and took great pains to that end. However, they were doomed to fail in their misguided quest, as Bhagavan did not budge.

To summarize, real authority arises from the pure experience of self, and we each have to decide for ourselves as to who is such a one, and who are very near to achieving that state. Thus, in the last resort, everyone is their own authority, as Laksmana Sarma says in chapter 4 of his book 'Maha Yoga'.

Urubamba said...

These kind of skirmish is the reason why I put my trust only in me and my "intuition" instead in anyone other. We never can come to have full confidence in somebody else because everybody - and I'm no exception - naturally has special fondness to and dislikes for certain opinions and behaviour. For this sometimes I have to accept walking in a roundabout way.

Wittgenstein said...

Viswanathan,
From the comment of Michael on 16 August 2015 at 20:06, it is clear (especially from the last paragraph) what the agenda/motive of Kavyakanta was. I do not understand how by deciphering the motives of others we are doing something inconsistent with Bhagavan's teachings.
My reading is very limited and I do not have the inside information as Michael has in these matters. However, I know at least from the way verse 13 of Ulladu Narpadu gets interpreted by this group (with deliberate skipping of key words that state the unreality of the world), there certainly was a hidden agenda.
Shiba asks Michael: "[...] how do you judge what was wirtten or recorded authenic or not? You can doubt endlessly that way.[...] You will say Muruganar is trustworthy, and give many evidences to your opinion, but that is also mere inference [...]". Further, Urubamba says, "[...] These kind of skirmish is the reason why I put my trust only in me and my "intuition" instead in anyone other". The key words in these are inference and intuition. Nothing based on these can be certain, as they are functions of mind. Although it is inevitable for all of us here to form some opinion or other as long as this mind lasts (based on intuition or inference), the only way to consistently practice Bhagavan's teaching is to try to attend to what is immediate and leave intuition and inferene alone. And, attending to what is immediate is in no way a two-step process, at least in my opinion!

Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

I am so sorry to intervene here.

You say two things: (1) Self-enquiry is really possible only through intense introversion of the mind and (2) there are "continuous" two stages in Self-enquiry . You say statement (2) is the conclusion drawn from premise (1). How can intense introversion of mind entail two continuous stages in the process? I am certainly at a loss here.

R Viswanathan said...


"the only way to consistently practice Bhagavan's teaching is to try to attend to what is immediate and leave intuition and inference alone"

Probably the above statement conveys how it is inconsistent with Bhagavan's teachings if we keep deciphering others' motives. Surely of one like Kavya Kantha Ganapathi Muni who I learn was instrumental in helping all of us have "Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi".

Wittgenstein said...

Viswanathan, as you have very correctly implied, I have not properly followed what Bhagavan has taught. I have not succeeded to turn the attention towards myself even to some appreciable degree, as my mind drifts quite often.

Wittgenstein said...

The story behind 'Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi'

Michael writes in his book, 'Happiness and the Art of Being':

"[...] one of his [Bhagavan's] devotees, who was a Sanskrit poet and Vedic scholar, announced that he should be called ‘Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’, and somehow this became the name by which he was generally known thereafter.". [Bold emphasis mine]

The name 'Kavyakanta' seems to be delibrately avoided here, since he feels it is not necessary for his readers to know who this Sanskrit poet and Vedic scholar is. And it is not mentioned anywhere else in this book. The word 'announced' can be taken to mean 'uncalled for' and the tone of the word 'somehow' is apologetic. Why so? The reason is given as we proceed.

Little later, he says:

"However those who are close to him seldom use the title ‘Maharshi’ when referring to him. In Indian history and mythology, the term ṛṣi originally denoted one of the inspired poets or ‘seers’ who ‘saw’ and wrote down the hymns of the Vēdas, or any person who was adept in the performance of Vedic rituals and had thereby attained psychic or supernatural powers, but in later times it was used more generally to denote an ascetic or saint who was considered to have achieved some degree of spiritual attainment. The term ṛṣi has therefore never specifically meant a person who has ‘seen’ or attained true self-knowledge, and nor has the term maharṣi (maha-ṛṣi). The few ṛṣis, such as Vasishtha, and later Viswamitra, who did attain true knowledge of brahman, the absolute reality or God, were called not merely maha-ṛṣis but brahma-ṛṣis, a term that denotes a ṛṣi of the highest order. Hence many people feel that it is not particularly appropriate to apply the title ‘Maharshi’ to Sri Ramana, who had attained true knowledge of brahman, and who therefore can be accurately described as being nothing less than a brahma-ṛṣi. Besides being not particularly appropriate, the title ‘Maharshi’ sounds rather cold and distant when applied to Sri Ramana, so rather than referring to him as ‘the Maharshi’, his disciples and devotees usually prefer to refer to him by the more affectionate and respectful title ‘Bhagavan’. Therefore, if I were writing this book for people who are already his followers, in accordance with the usual custom I would refer to him as ‘Bhagavan’ or ‘Sri Bhagavan’. However, since I am writing it for a wider audience, and particularly for people who have no previous acquaintance with his teachings, I will refer to him by his personal name as ‘Sri Ramana’ or ‘Bhagavan Ramana’. " [Bold emphasis mine]

shiba said...

Mr. Wittgenstein,

>You say two things: (1) Self-enquiry is really possible only through intense introversion of the mind and (2) there are "continuous" two stages in Self-enquiry . You say statement (2) is the conclusion drawn from premise (1). How can intense introversion of mind entail two continuous stages in the process? I am certainly at a loss here.

I can say "Self-enquiry consisits of two continuous stages" or "Before real Self-enquiry begin, there is a preliminary stage." In the latter expression, preliminary stage is not included in Self-enquiry itself, but the two stages are continuous.

(2) is the standpoint of the former. I haven't clearly distinguished the former from the latter, because the difference is only matter of expression. But I think the latter is more appropriate to Bhagavan's teaching.

And "introversion of mind" itself is result of the first stage. By the practice of attending to I-thought, "introversion of mind" will be gradually developed. It is same as Vairagya. When "introversion of mind" fully developed, the second stage, absorption into the Self begins.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, from what Bhagavan told Swami Natananandar and later Lakshmana Sarma when warning them about the misrepresentation of his teachings in Sri Ramana Gita and still more seriously in Sat-Darshana and Sat-Darshana Bhashya it is clear that he himself attributed what Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri wrote in such books to their dislike of his real teachings, so I do not understand why you say that attributing motives in this way is inconsistent with his teachings. I do not think that any of us here ‘keep deciphering others’ motives’, as you imply, and I agree with you that doing so would be inappropriate in most cases, but in this case Bhagavan himself considered it appropriate and even necessary to do so on certain occasions.

It seems to me that the reason he did so is very clear, particularly in the case of Sat-Darshana and Sat-Darshana Bhashya. Not only is Sat-Darshana a very poor and inaccurate translation of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, but in the case of many verses it omits or obscures ideas that were particularly disliked by Kavyakantha, and in the Bhashya Kapali Sastri repeatedly tries to misrepresent and even argue against the meaning of the original verses in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, so reading it will arouse suspicion about their motives in the heart of anyone who has understood Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu or Bhagavan’s teachings more generally.

In the two articles by Lakshmana Sarma that I referred to he explains that why Bhagavan warned him in detail about the motives of Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri was that when he first saw their new version of Sat-Darshana he was enchanted by the beauty of Kavyakantha’s poetry and therefore wanted to use his version for daily study. Therefore, knowing that Lakshmana Sarma sincerely wanted to understand his teachings, Bhagavan warned him about their motives in order to safeguard him from making the mistake of trusting their version (and perhaps through him to safeguard us from making any such mistake).

Likewise, Swami Natananandar made it clear that the reason why Bhagavan warned him about the motives behind the questions recorded in Sri Ramana Gita and about Kavyakantha’s motive for recording them was to protect him against believing the claims made by many of Kavyakantha’s followers that Sri Ramana Gita contains the essence of his teachings.

Bhagavan did not of course tell everyone about the motives of Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri, but he did on many occasions warn about their motives in this way to devotees who were sincerely committed to trying to understand and practise his real teachings. This is a fact that I heard corroborated by many devotees who had personally heard him warning or talking about their motives. Therefore in certain contexts, particularly when discussing the reliability of texts such as Sri Ramana Gita and Sat-Darshana Bhashya, it is appropriate for us to tell our fellow devotees what he said about their motives.

When we thus point out that whatever Kavyakantha or Kapali Sastri translated or wrote about Bhagavan’s teachings is not reliable because they were motivated by their strong attachment to an ideology that is quite opposed to his teachings, we are not motivated by any malice towards them but only by a concern to safeguard our fellow devotees from being misled by their misrepresentations of his teachings.

shiba said...

From Ramanasharamam's online bookstore

http://bookstore.sriramanamaharshi.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=168_177&products_id=6381

・Sat-Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Ramana

Sat Darshana is Vasistha Ganapati Muni's inspired Sanskrit translation of Sri Ramana's Tamil "Ulladu Narpadu" (Forty verses on Reality). Kapali Sastri, a close disciple of the Muni, has elucidated with clarity and profundity the meaning of these verses in his Sanskrit Bhasya (commentary). This book also contains Sastri's recorded conversations with Sri Bhagavan. These "Talks" cover the full range of the Maharshi's teaching and prepare the ground for cultivating a deep insight into Sri Bhagavan's seminal teaching in the form of forty verses. pp.180

Why such a harmful book which mislead devotees by misrepresentaions of Bhagavan's teaching are still being sold in ashram's online bookstore? Isn't your view is a little extream?

Mouna said...

Dear Shiba,

You wrote: "Why such a harmful book which mislead devotees by misrepresentations of Bhagavan's teaching are still being sold in ashram's online bookstore?"

That is a wonderful question! But I don't think that Michael is the one that should be answering it, if you know what I mean...

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

R Viswanathan said...

"Disputations deepen the ignorance and not infrequently lead to acrimony, anger, hatred, and jealousy among the disputants, not to speak of the vanity and arrogance they create in the hearts of the winners. They should thus be shunned by seekers of Truth and of Peace everlasting."

The above passage is from the commentary by Sri S.S. Cohen (Truth Revealed - Reality of Forty verses) which is very apt that concerns discussion about Bhagavan's devotees, whoever it may be. If one is a genuinely sincere devotee of Bhagavan, I feel that there is no way that he or she can ever be misled. As Sri Nochur Venkataraman used to say - the antharyami will put the shutter down at the appropriate time.

Sivanarul said...

To Viswanathan’s comment above, as S.S.Cohen says, disputations can lead to all those things written above. But they don’t have to, if the motivation behind the disputation, however heated it may be, is to clarify each other’s interpretation. I fully agree that “If one is a genuinely sincere devotee of Bhagavan, I feel that there is no way that he or she can ever be misled”. I would say that applies even to a semi-sincere generic spiritual seeker and not only to Bhagavan’s devotees.

To Urubamba’s comment of “For this sometimes I have to accept walking in a roundabout way. “, it will be only be a roundabout way from the point of an observer who has travelled the path more straightforward. Since spiritual progress is not dependent on any third party observer and the path taken by the aspirant is chosen by Ishvara/Grace itself, the aspirant really only walks in a straight line, since that is the path that is best suited for him/her.

Many of Bhagavan’s teachings or advaitic teachings in general, even after hearing it many times and reflecting on it, we may not be in agreement with it. For example, the teaching that waking state is no different than dream state (except it appears long), is a key advaitic teaching. I was watching a video of the life of the current guru of Sringeri mutt and how Sringeri mutt is one of the four original mutt’s established by Sri Shankara. Since Sri Shankara already awakened to reality, and the waking state is a mere dream to him, why did he create the 4 mutt’s for dream characters? If I awaken from my dream, I can’t see why I would be bothered to do anything to characters that appeared in my dream.

Same with Bhagavan’s planning (will and trust) to make sure that ashram runs smoothly in the future for the sake of future devotees. But if we were all in his dream, why bother about us, his dream characters? The answer given is there was no ‘I’ that did it, but the Self. But then it is also said that the Self cannot know anything other than itself, so there are no others for the Self to plan.

May be one day, in the Now, of course, the ‘I’ that simply cannot understand the teachings will disappear :-):

Wittgenstein said...

Viswanathan,

In verse 13 of Ulladu Narpadu, Bhagavan says, “naanavam jnanam anjnanam” and in Nan Yar he asks the aspirants to consider this world as a dream. Someone who is not ready to take up these ideas may do so due to lack of understanding or in some cases, with the hidden idea of misrepresenting Bhagavan’s teachings. Kavyakanta falls in the latter category.

Whenever I said something, I wanted to make sure that I provided some evidence. I want to make it clear that I do not hate Kavyakanta. I also do not hate David – his case is different; he has written some conflicting statements due to misunderstanding (as I have shown in my comments) and it is not deliberate. Therefore, I have never talked about his motives. He is a nice person and I like him.

I have not made comments where I am not sure of something. For example, I have not read Nochur or Robert Adams or Nisargadatta and therefore have never said anything about them. I wrote all this because you are around here for quite some time and you were quite familiar. I have a feeling you don’t look at me that way. So, I will not say a word related to what you say in this blog.

Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

It is not clear how introversion (ahamukam) can take one to two stages. Everything in atma vichara is an attempt to turn towards ourselves. When we really succeed in doing so, the investigation ends. Where are two stages in this process? I think you are not convinced even after reading Michael's article.

Regarding what Ramanasramam prints, as Carlos says, one has to ask them. I have a feeling that you have not read the two articles by Lakshmana Sarma (as Michael cited it). It is clear that in the article, even during the Bhagavan's times, sarvadhikari decided things about what is to be printed and Bhagavan never interrupted in anything. Only exceptional case is when he entered into the office of the sarvadikari to suggest printing Sarma's commentary on Ulladu Narpadu in Tamil, when the latter showed some reluctance. Bhagavan never forced his teachings down someone's throat. I see that you repeat many questions for which answers were already given. It is very difficult to convince you.

shiba said...

Mr.Wittgenstein

I didn't say "introversion (ahamukam) can take one to two stages". I said introversion can take one to "second" stage.

>Everything in atma vichara is an attempt to turn towards ourselves. When we really succeed in doing so, the investigation ends. Where are two stages in this process?

Because now you are ego, there is the second stage ego sink into the real Self. You should distinguish ego from the Self. And it take some time ego dissolve in the Self entirely(sahaja). All I said in not new, novel idea, but the idea that everyone who read Bhagavan's teaching easily know.

If you say that ego is really Self and attending to ego mean attnding to Self, attnding to PC before me also attending to Self, because ALL is Self. You should not mix ego with Self, when you are in the position of sadhaka. You should make clear what is "ourselves" you said.

>Regarding what Ramanasramam prints, as Carlos says, one has to ask them .

I never think these books are harmful to devotees so there is no need for me to ask any question to ashram .

> I see that you repeat many questions for which answers were already given.

I don't.

venkat said...

Sivanarul

This idea of the waking state is as much of a dream as the the dream state, is really only best explained by eka jiva vada (which was posted on by Michael previously). To recap, this is the theory that there is only one jiva (you) who projects all the world. Therefore Sankara, Bhagavan and all the people posting on this website, are just in your projection. They never actually existed. Consequently Sankara setting up mutts, Bhagavan's life and teaching, etc are all part of that elaborate projection of your one jiva. Arguably it arises in your projection, in order to help you wake up from the dream.

It is important to realise that the jiva is also part of the dream, that is in actually a projection by Brahman / atman. Consequently, Bhagavan could logically say turn inwards and see the illusoriness of the jiva/ego, and as it dissolves, so will the world appearance, and the triads, leaving only Brahman.

shiba said...

About Kavyakanta ganapathi Muni

The account of Sri Ganesan from "The Human Gospel of Sri Ramana Maqharshi"
(http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/index.php?topic=6273.msg70487;topicseen#msg70487)

>When I went to Ramanashram some people, for whom I had respect, often spoke ill of Kavyakantha. They claimed that his accounts were figments of his imagination. I was influenced by their views on the genius. Even today there is a lot of literature that portrays Kavyakantha in a poor light. I approached Munagala Venkataramaia, a distinguished scholar and one of the recorders of the talks with Bhagavan. Now, Munagala had not seen Kavyakantha and was therefore neutral about him. ―Why do people pull down Kavyakantha so much?‖ I enquired, listing out all the transgressions he is rumored to have made. ―Ganesan, stop!‖ he exclaimed. ―How did you know all this?‖ I revealed the names of the people who told me this. He replied, ―They have given an opinion and you have received it. Are you sure it is the Truth?‖ I was puzzled. ―How can we know which opinion is correct?‖ I asked. Munagala then said, ―Whatever Bhagavan says is trustworthy.‖
I was still not satisfied. I had read a tiff that Kavyakantha was not a Self-realized soul because he had so many sankalpas. His detractors often quoted this too, and I was convinced by this logic. I put forth my argument to Munagala. He told me, ―I asked Bhagavan the same thing?how come it is written in such and such a book that Kavyakantha was not Self-realized. Bhagavan told me, ‗That is not what I said, but what the recorder must have expected me to say.‖ Munagala then advised me, ―Go by whatever Bhagavan has said, and you will be near the Truth. Do not go by opinions, particularly if they divide people?whether saints or anyone else. Do not pay heed to them. Aspirants should never be carried away by negative statements made about any sage or saint. In order to progress, this is the first guideline to remember. What detractors say are just opinions and if we believe them, we fall victim to the mind.‖

I asked if the two articles by Lakshmana Sarma are one-sided or not. To be fair, we should hear opposite opinions. Which do you believe?

Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

When you say, “You should distinguish ego from the Self”, I think things related to this have already been discussed by Michael in his article, “By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself”, on 31 July 2015. That was why I had the feeling you were repeating your questions when they have been adequately answered.

I never said ego is really our [essential] self, as the self does not undergo any real transformation.

Attending to the PC before me is not attending to the self, as Bhagavan says in the current awareness of ‘I am the body’, we need to take the chit aspect alone [‘I am’] for investigation. As the body and world rise and sink together, ‘the body-world’ is in the jada part of ‘I am the body’ idea/thought. When we say world, everything in the world is included in it, that is, the people (it may even be Shankaracharya, just to taken an example by Sivanarul) and things in it (e.g. mutts established by Shankaracharya, the PC in front of me, etc). Therefore, attending to things do not qualify as atma vichara.

Ego is not mixed with the self. On the other hand, a jada (the body) is mixed with the self. This is an unreal mixture and it is called the ego.

Therefore, as a sadhaka, when Bhagavan says we should attend to ourselves, I would take it that he is asking us to take up the chit aspect of the ego for investigation.

Wittgenstein said...

Dear Shiba,

I think it would be best to drop Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni's discussion, as it does not help in our spiritual progress.

As far the two-stage atma vichara is concerned, well, we'll go ahead and get introverted and compare notes if we get to the second stage. Atleast, there is some agreement that there should be introversion of mind to begin with. As you have mentioned, I gather you have not got into the second stage. Therefore, talking about it also does not lead us anywhere.

shiba said...

Mr.Wittgenstein

>When you say, “You should distinguish ego from the Self”, I think things related to this have already been discussed by Michael in his article, “By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself”, on 31 July 2015. That was why I had the feeling you were repeating your questions when they have been adequately answer.

I haven't ask any question about ego and Self to anyone. The objections were raised by Mr.James and you, so I answered for these objections. How dare you say "I am repeating qestions".

And what about the topic of two stages? I haven't ask you to reproduce Mr.James's explanation.



shiba said...

Mr.Wittgenstein

>I think it would be best to drop Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni's discussion, as it does not help in our spiritual progress.

I didn't intend to mention about Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni in the first place. Mr.James said what Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni and his followers wrote are not trustworthy and what I quote is not authentic or so. Then you come and backed up Mr.James's view. And then, after I found and quoted the opposite view, you say let's drop the topic. How fair it is! But I agree with your proposal if you wish.

>As far the two-stage atma vichara is concerned, well, we'll go ahead and get introverted and compare notes if we get to the second stage. Atleast, there is some agreement that there should be introversion of mind to begin with. As you have mentioned, I gather you have not got into the second stage. Therefore, talking about it also does not lead us anywhere.

Truly I am in the first stage, and here also though you asked me about two stages first, you say let's drop the topic. But I agree with your proposal again if you wish.

Wittgenstein said...

Shiba,

Atma vichara is a dynamic process - everything required in the process is given by Bhagavan as we persevere. You seem to be very motivated and certainly Bhagavan's grace will see you through. I wish you good luck with your preliminary stage. Good bye.

Nilakantha said...

Thanks Michael for writing a separate answer-article regarding my questions about the reflected ray of self-consciousness(Tuesday, 11 August 2015).

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

The discussion about the presumed stages in atma vichara took unexpected turns due to the mentioning of the source related to KGM. I just wanted to keep aside all emotions involved here from our friends and look at the problem in a reasonable manner.

I thought if KGM learnt atma vichara from Bhagavan as a two stage process and if it is recorded somewhere [especially by someone close to KGM or better still by KGM himself to avoid suspecting Lakshmana Sarma], it could be of great value. Consequently, I stumbled upon one such source (http://kavyakantha.arunachala.org/KNatesan.htm) where KGM's devotee, Natesan, writes how KGM learnt tapas from Bhagavan (I am sure you know this). He goes to quote how Bhagavan taught KGM: "If one watches where the notion of 'I' springs, the mind will be absorbed into that. That is tapas". Now, it is clear that the notion 'I' springs from me (from where else can it spring?) and if I have to watch it, it is equivalent to saying that I have watch myself (or equivalently, my source, the place from where 'I' springs). That is, Bhagavan is teaching here self-attention or atma vichara , although he calls it tapas. Further, as a result of it, he says the mind will be aborbed into the very same place from where it springs. However, he never divides this into two or more stages. Therefore, it stands clear that Bhagavan instructed KGM into atma vichara without dividing it into stages. Since your understanding is far better than mine, please do correct me if I have drawn any wrong conclusions.

Nilakantha said...

Michael,
please hear Wittgenstein's request/plea and do clarify that current KGM-discussion.
Without your concluding comment the fruitless disputation will not be brought to a quick end.

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

Thanks for the reply. The problem with Eka Jiva vada is that, the dream characters that promulgated it did not show it by action to match what they wrote. Let me explain.

Let’s take 3 dream characters that are in my dream namely Sri Shankara, Bhagavan and Kannudaiya Vallalar (author of Ozhivil Odukkam). All 3 dream characters are telling me that Eka Jiva vada is the truth (forget Ajata for this discussion). When I ask them, how do you know?, the answer I get is, that they themselves woke from their dream into reality and Eka Jiva Vada is their direct experience (again, forget Ajata). Ok, fair enough. Then I study their behavior of how they treated the dream characters that appeared in their dream and what I find is that they treated them as real characters and not dream characters. Examples include Sri Shankara installing 4 mutts for his dream characters, Bhagavan carefully planning will and trust for future dream characters, and Kannudaiya Vallar profusely thanking his dream character (his Guru Jnana Sambandar) for helping him to wake up (as lion in an elephant’s dream).

I wake up in the morning from my dream. Let’s say, I dreamt of a Dad, Mom and disciple. I also dreamt that I was a King who is responsible for millions of my citizens. The first seconds, after I wake up, the dream is very clear. I remember those characters clearly and I think, “Wow, all those were only a dream”. After that few seconds, I do not give any thought or attention to those dream characters that had appeared in my dream. I do not make elaborate plans to help my dream citizens.

As an answer to the above thoughts, it is said that Eka Jiva vada should only be taken as an inner attitude and should not be applied to the outer world. It is also said that the purpose of such attitude is to help wean one’s interest towards worldly objects. Now if there is no other way to wean one’s interest other than Eka Jiva vada or by considering waking state like a dream, then that’s fine. But there is another way, where there is no conflict between inner and outer, and that is by recognizing that Samara is suffering (Buddha’s first noble truth) and reflecting upon impermanence. Both of these can be validated directly through life’s experience and both of these help oneself to wean away from worldly objects.

Continued in next comment...

Sivanarul said...

Continuation...

Another answer to the above thoughts is, since they are all my projections and dream characters, I should not take into account what they did. The problem is these dream characters are supposed to help me wake up and I cannot find even a single dream character who demonstrated by action the truth of Eka Jiva Vada.

Another answer provided is, forget about actions and focus on the teaching/writings. Since the writings uphold Eka Jiva Vada, it can be taken to be true. The problem is that in both materalism and spirituality things are validated by actions and not by words. A person may be hired by a very impressive resume and interview (words), but if the action does not match words, he/she will be fired within 90 days. A guru can write that he is in constant bliss of the Self and the sense experiences are trivial, but if his actions show that he is a glutton and engages in sense pleasures all the time, then how does the writing matter?

I have no problem in accepting teachings that match action. Bhagavan taught that he is not the body. That was matched by his action where he clumped up all food together and ate it as one lump (showing no care for taste). It was also matched by action when he paid no attention to his body ravaged by cancer. Bhagavan taught that the one Self resides in all people. He matched it by action by treating prince and pauper the same, humans and animals the same.

The good news is belief in Eka Jiva Vada or considering waking to be like a dream is not necessary for Sadhana whether it is Vichara, Meditation or Mantra Japa.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul, Vanakam.

One element that you keep forgetting (or not taking into account) in your equation of "your" dream or other's dream is that "you" yourself Sivanarul are also part or the one dream, there are no millions of I-thought or egos, there is only one (only one snake), the thing is, when there will be Self-Realization (according to what I understood so far from Bhagavan) there won't be "someone" thinking about the other characters of the dream (Sivanarul will be long gone) or that someone realizing that he/she was having a dream with others, there will only be...

I'll leave it there.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Sivanarul said...

Carlosji, Vanakkam and thanks for the reply.

Hope your Sadhana is progressing well.

“there are no millions of I-thought or egos, there is only one (only one snake), the thing is, when there will be Self-Realization (according to what I understood so far from Bhagavan) there won't be "someone" thinking about the other characters of the dream (Sivanarul will be long gone) or that someone realizing that he/she was having a dream with others”

That is my understanding also and I look towards the actions of the three people I mentioned. There was a boy named Venkataraman and a boy named Shankara. Both of them are believed to be Self-Realized. Hence as you say, there was no “someone” left to think about other characters of the dream (Venkataraman was gone at 16). But Bhagavan did not let go of Venkataraman’s mother. Neither did Shankara let go from cremating his mother. If it is the Self that did all of this, the Self is not aware of anything other than itself, so how could it know of mothers?

I can take your saying as Shraddha (faith) as long as there is someone who demonstrates this in action. I cannot find anyone who demonstrated by action the truth of Eka Jiva Vada or treating waking state as a dream. If it is only for the purpose of helping my Sadhana, Buddha’s first noble truth and impermanence can easily be verified and demonstrated that serves the same purpose of helping my Sadhana.

I see millions of egos around me (direct sensory experience). I read teachings that say that is not true and there is only one ego. But the teachers do not demonstrate it by action. They work explicitly to grant liberation to multiple egos (Mother, Cow Lakshmi , 3’rd person don’t remember the name).

shiba said...

Mr.Sivanarul

I can understand what you say. Eka-jiva vada or other vada which altogether contrary to actual experience, and even logical thinking are very difficult to accept. You said-

>The good news is belief in Eka Jiva Vada or considering waking to be like a dream is not necessary for Sadhana whether it is Vichara, Meditation or Mantra Japa.

Yes. It is really good news. And about vichara, any assumption isn't needed. Even what I said about two stages or so isn't nessesary at all.

But if I say something to defend eka-jiva vada, what you said is only your view , that is ego's view. Bhagavan said Jnani is not body. Jnani realized that he is imortal conciousness, and he actually never concious of body and the world(jagrat-sushputi), it is said so. If the jnani's body don't act according to eka jiva vada, does it mean it is inconsistent to eka-jiva vada?

But I am not the follower of ela-jiva vada and there must arise many questions about what I said above. First of all, if Bhagvan is eka-jiva , why does his dream seem to exist till now? Well this is also the question from ego's viewpoint, but why do so many egos seem to exist still after fundamental ego disappears? I can't answer.

You seem to like buddha teaching. I like it too. Buddha's practicality is quite similar to Bhagavan.

Mouna said...

Dear SIVAnarulji, vanakkam again..

(I have the feeling that if we were discussing these topics in front of a cup of tea, we would be having more fun, since there is some nice connection here between intellects)

Anyhow, back to the real world (or should I say the dream one? :-)

You said: "That is my understanding also and I look towards the actions of the three people I mentioned. There was a boy named Venkataraman and a boy named Shankara.” There lies the problem.

If you investigate (very closely) what’s happening when you are typing such statement you might realize that what is really happening is that a concept in the form of a story “…there was a boy named Venkataraman…” suddenly appeared in the contents of “mind” (I would call it the contents of ego also. Mind that because of ignorance/identification you will call “MY mind”.

A second later (or fraction of it) that concept developed into another one appearing, and another one, and yet another until a sensation arrives that prompts you to go drink a glass of water, and then another emotion/thought,/perception appears that takes “you” in another direction.

The sages of lore say that this is all happening without “me” having any control of it, BUT… since veiling/ignorance/ego is our fictitious “identity” we do believe that “WE” interact with this external world, that after all, according to Bhagavan, is just a projection of that same ego.

In that regard, Sivanarul is a character in The Dream of Life (sometimes it helps to consider it a play, like Lila) thinking about conceptual people that used to take care of things although they were supposed to be jnanis and encountering other people that do not behave like jnanis that are supposed to behave in a certain way if they believe that there is only one ego!! And WHY is that????

BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING YOURSELF TO BE A REAL BODY AMONGST OTHER BODIES LIVING IN A REAL WORLD HAVING REAL MEMORIES!!!
(I’m not shouting, don’t worry)

The understandable problem is that any kind of solution is still in EGO, any kind of description of what a jnani should or shouldn’t be is also EGO. There is no way out… unless we investigate these matters deeply turning the attention to the source of the conundrum, because it should be one right? Bhagavan, says everything will be fine once we do that with perseverance, detachment and specially surrender to whatever we might find at the bottom of the bottomless pit.

Since I’m not there yet, I for one have “faith” (a better word would be confidence) in him and what he says, because if I “look” around and inside, it’s a mess.

Thank you my friend for being so patient if you read until here.
And hope your sadhana also is progressing the way it should...

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

(by the way, in my deepest sleep there is not a Bhagavan or a Sankara, are they in yours?) :-)

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarul
Forgot to add in my last post that Maya (dream) in its non-existence has a structure. In that structure there are jnanis (some take care of their mothers some maybe not), robbers, artists, objects of all kind and thoughts/feelings/perceptions about all the above. In that structure Carlos is writing to Sivanarul who is reading it and many non-Carloses and non-Sivanaruls are reading this .... word.

Silence...

Yours in Sri Bhagavan
Carlos

Sivanarul said...

Shiba & Carlosji,

Thanks for the replies. I have accepted those of Bhagavan’s teachings that I can agree with. Rest, I have put it in suspended animation, with the possibility that they may be accepted in the future, upon further progress in the path. Bhagavan’s compassion recognized this very well and that is why he accepted everyone that came to him, as they are. Any disagreements were dealt with his standard answer, “First trace back “I” to its source, then see if there are any disagreements left. Why worry about disagreements now”. His standard answer is how I reconcile my disagreements.

Wittgenstein said...

Sivanarul,

You say, "The good news is belief in Eka Jiva Vada or considering waking to be like a dream is not necessary for Sadhana whether it is Vichara, Meditation or Mantra Japa". This is probably true for meditation or mantra japa. However, for atma vichara, eka jiva vada is very crucial.

If we read Ulladu Narpadu carefully, Bhagavan starts his teaching by saying, "நாம் உலகம் காண்டலால்" [because we see the world], giving priority to the eka jiva that sees the world and people in it, as the latter two appear only to the former. Thus he develops the theme based on eka jiva vada and gives a summary of the viveka he imparted (before going to talk about he practice of atma vichara) in verse 25 by saying, "அகந்தை உண் டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண் டாகும்" [when the eka jiva rises, everything (the world, people and things in it) rises]. Therefore, the theme used for upadesa is eka jiva vada, because that is the one conducive for the practice of atma vichara.

Further, in Nan Yar he says, "பிரபஞ்சத்தை ஒரு சொப்பனத்தைப்போ லெண்ணிக்கொள்ள வேண்டும்" [we should consider the world like a dream]. Now, the practice of atma vichara consists of investigating who this eka jiva is, in whom all other jivas appear and disappear.

If, on the other hand, we consider other jivas to be independent of us, then, we are taking their existence/reality for granted. However, the whole spirit of atma vichara is to investigate the reality of this eka jiva, since by doing so, we are in fact investigating the reality of eveything else [as they appear only after this eka jiva appears].

shiba said...

Mr. Sivanarul

Your attitude toward sadhana, your way of thinking are very similar to me. I am happy to meet you here(:-)). It it clear that from verse.3 of Ulladu Narpadu and Laksmana Sarma's commentary of verse 3 which was checked by Bhagavan, any theory is unnecessary to practice atma-vichara.

And Bhagavan himself didn't know any theory when he completed atma-vichara at 16. He didn't even know the word Brahman and Atman. His simple and practical way of teaching accords with his experience at 16.

What use is it discussing if the world
Be real or unreal, pleasure-ground or not,
               A concept of the mind or otherwise?
               Transcending it and realizing Self,
               Freed from diversity and unity,
               And killing ego, reach the common goal

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, prompted by your comment of 18 August 2015 at 17:46 I have written an article in which I discuss in detail the two teachings that Bhagavan gave to Kavyakantha on 18th November 1907: ‘That alone is tapas’: the first teachings that Sri Ramana gave to Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri.

Krishna said...

Dear Sri James and other devotees,

I have been a so called devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishee from 2010. I come back to this beautiful blog and its teachings from time to time.

My primary source of Maharishee's teachings are David Godman's books.

I have few humble observations and requests to all accomplished sadhaks who regularly post comments here.

Whenever I come and read any extract here in this blog, the immediate first hand feeling I get is that we are trying to over intellectualize the whole process of self enquiry. Because of my mind addiction to Bhagavan Sri Ramana's various website resources, I do come back again and again, but everytime because of the over complication of the terms, arguments and counter arguments, clarifications over clarifications, examples over examples etc. I only go back with my buddhi totally confused.

Our Bhagavan's teachings in the small booklet Naan Yaar, his replies in Sri Ramana Gita , his answers to Gambiram Seshayer in Vichara manai mala are quite sufficient for sadhaka to know his teachings.

And I have observed this in this blog -- there is an artificial endeavor to justify only Self Enquiry and that even the path of devotion is equated to Self Enquiry by proving point by point as if in a theorem or thesis.

Our Bhagavan has very clearly adored the physical form of Arunachala and wrote the pearl like Akshara Manamalai to give a free flow to his devotion to Arunachala Shiva who is none other than the three eyed Maheshwara.

His reverence to Thiruvasakam and Thevaram are un-disputable -- which speak only dualistic devotion.

Now what are we trying to gain by only advocating Self Enquiry and disproving everything else as indirect path?

What are we going to achieve by writing misinterpretations of Sri Kavyakanta?

Have we first interpreted everything correctly?

Someone here beautifully negated the Eka Jiva Vada which our Bhagavan spoke of, by beautiful theorems of logic. But does that give Shanthi?

Self Enquiry is bit like a cycling -- David Godman would say. We better practice it and learn by ourselves rather than posting question after question, question on an answer, answer on a question -- the endless cycle.

Infact the Upadesa Undiyar and Ulladhu Narpadhu are solely meant by Bhagavan to silently chant and get Shanthi and the grace filled in those words without over analyzing.

The traditional vedantist schools do this over analysis on beautiful works of Shankara like Druk Drushya Vivekha etc. The same we should not apply now.

You all may not like what I have told here . In fact you all know more than me but my only request is ,let us spend lot of time on sadhana rather than this over complication.

Also some people like me are naturally devoted to the external form of Lord Shiva and I take turns with Self Enquiry and Nama Japa and Hearing about Arunachala Shiva tamil songs. There is nothing wrong in this approach. And let us not unnecessarily distract the already feeble seekers like me by proving like 'Time spent in Self Enquiry is better than any other Sadhana etc."

Really speaking , there are no fellow travellers or fellow paths here. You are the only traveller. All else including me are objects appearing in your mind. And let us not forget that Ishwara even though appears to us, he appears in Spontaneous creation, immediately with the I raises Ishwara, subsides with the same I. Not after a fraction of second gap between I arising and Ishwara. So as long as you are in Vyavaaharika or Prathibhasika (both are dreams only), Ishwara is undisputable.

So devotees let us not over complicate , instead read little bit from original verses , ponder over it, do self enquiry, do some nama japa and get shanthi.

Regards,
Krishna

gautam said...

Jai Ma.

There is something to be said for adhikAra, the state at which the aspirant is or asking a question to continue on his quest. The most poignant expression of this is the holy rishi, Valmiki, who is asked to begin with the OSTENSIBLY viparita 'marA' : marA marA marA caiva!

Here is an interesting excerpt from a group who are ostensibly dead set against "mayavadis" and should be carefully scrutinized!!

The essence of Srila Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji's instructions:

"The Divine Name of Krishna offers the one and only shelter. One should never try to remember Radha-Damodara's transcendental pastimes by artificial methods. Constant chanting of the Divine Names will purify the heart. By chanting Hari Nama the syllables of the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare) will gradually reveal the spiritual form, qualities, pastimes of Sri Krish­na. Then you will realize your own eternal spiritual form, service, and the eleven particulars of your spiritual identity." http://www.stephen-knapp.com/gaurakishore_das_babaji.htm

"Your own spiritual form" and the "11 particulars of your spiritual identity" have a bearing on the topic under discussion.

Actually, personal experience puts paid to endless discussion, and should be the goal. As was discussed in the post of partial vs. full surrender, these are aspects personal evolution, continuous and seamless. Constant, in fact. The Gopi prema or the internal intensity of the linga svabhava can be the very same thing but such is not possible to be publicly expressed, described, or made much of. Increasing inability to express in words and the unwillingness to do so, is perhaps best describes why the Lord is named Mukesh.

Namaskar.