Saturday, 15 August 2015

Trying to distinguish ourself from our ego is what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)

In a comment on one of my earlier articles, Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?, a friend called Shiba wrote about the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) as if it consists of two distinct stages, saying that to ‘concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage’ and that the next stage is ‘real atma-vichara’, which begins ‘when our minds are fixed in Self’. In reply to this I wrote a comment in which I 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.
In reply to this Shiba wrote another comment in which he quoted a question and answer recorded in the ‘Talks’ section of Sat-Darshana Bhashaya, explained what he understood Bhagavan’s answer to mean and asked, ‘Is it not easy to understand the process of atma vichara if it is divided into two stages for the purpose of illustration?’. The question and answer he quoted from Sat-Darshana Bhashya are from the sixth section of the ‘Talks’ section (4th edition, 1953, page ix):
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 already off the mental movement, the thought-waves.
In the 1953 edition the term ‘yourself’ is for some reason separated into two words, but the ‘self’ has a lower case ‘s’, whereas Shiba quoted it with a capital ‘s’, so in some later editions this ‘s’ may have been capitalised. However, before referring to my copy of the 1953 edition I replied to Shiba in another comment as follows:
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 Bhashya 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.
In reply to this Shiba wrote two more comments, the general tone of which indicated that he was unconvinced by my replies, and perhaps did not entirely understand what I meant. For example, in the first of these two comments he wrote ‘I think in the stage of sadhaka, we should make distinction [between] ego and Self’ and ‘I believe that to say there are two stages is not opposed to Bhagavan’s teaching’. Therefore the rest of this article is a further reply to these two contentions:
  1. Self-investigation is a single seamless process with no distinct stages
  2. What seems to be this ego is only our true self
  3. Distinguishing ourself from the ego we seem to be
1. Self-investigation is a single seamless process with no distinct stages

Shiba, what exactly are the two stages of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) of which you speak? From what you have written earlier, it seems that what you mean by the first or preliminary stage is investigating or attending to our ego or thought called ‘I’ (‘To concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage’, as you wrote in your first comment), whereas what you mean by the second stage (or ‘real atma-vichara’ as you also call it) is investigating or attending to our real self (‘Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self’, as you wrote in the same comment). Am I correct in understanding that this is what you mean by the two stages?

If so, this would be like saying that there are two stages to inspecting whatever it is that is lying on the ground looking like a snake: the first stage is to inspect the snake, and the second stage is to inspect the rope. Would it not be absurd to say this? The snake and the rope are not two different things. The rope is not a snake, but what seems to be a snake is only the rope. Therefore when we are inspecting what seems to be a snake, what we are actually inspecting is only a rope, as we will discover if we inspect it closely and carefully enough. We need to inspect it only so long as it seems to be a snake. Once we see that it is only a rope, we no longer need to inspect it, because we then already know what it is. Therefore the only stage of inspection that is necessary is to inspect what seems to be a snake, because this one stage alone will enable us to see that it is actually only a rope.

Likewise, our ego and our real self are not two different things. Our real self is not this ego, but what seems to be this ego is only our real self. Therefore when we are inspecting what seems to be an ego, what we are actually inspecting is only our real self, as we will discover if we inspect ourself (this ego) closely and carefully enough. We need to inspect ourself only so long as we seem to be an ego. Once we see that we are only our real self, we no longer need to inspect ourself, because we then already know what we are. Therefore the only stage of inspection or investigation that is necessary is for us to inspect what seems to be an ego (namely ourself), because this one stage alone will enable us to see that we are actually only our real self.

2. What seems to be this ego is only our true self

In another earlier comment you wrote: ‘for me to focus on true Self from the beginning is impossible. So, I have to turn my attention [to] ego-I’. This is the same for all of us. So long as we experience ourself as this ego, we cannot focus on our true self (ourself as we actually are) alone, because this ego is a confused mixture of our true self and various adjuncts that we now mistake to be ourself, so all we can do now is to try to focus our attention on this ego that we currently seem to be.

However, since it is only our true self that seems to be this ego, when we are focusing our attention on what now seems to be this ego, what we are actually attending to is our true self, albeit seemingly obscured or veiled by the illusion that we are this ego (just as when we are inspecting what seems to be a snake, what we are actually looking at is a rope, albeit seemingly obscured or veiled by the illusion that it is a snake). Since this ego is essentially just our true self, all we need do is to inspect it very carefully, because only by inspecting it carefully will we be able to experience our true self as it really is.

3. Distinguishing ourself from the ego we seem to be

Regarding what you write about the need to ‘make distinction [between] ego and Self’ or ‘between ego-I and true I’, obviously we do need to distinguish what we actually are (our real self) from what we now seem to be (our ego), and this is what ātma-vicāra is all about. In other words, ātma-vicāra is a process of trying to distinguish what we actually are from what we now seem to be. Now we seem to be this ego, so we need to look at ourself very carefully in order to distinguish what we actually are. What we actually are seems at present to be mixed and confused with a body and all the other adjuncts that now seem to be ourself, and this confused mixture is what is called our ego, so it is from this ego that we now need to distinguish and extract ourself as we actually are.

In this sense distinguishing ourself from our ego is not merely an intellectual exercise and does not merely entail making a distinction between two concepts. Indeed in order to distinguish ourself from our ego we need to set aside all concepts, including the concepts of ‘ego’ and ‘real self’, and focus our entire attention only on ourself. This alone is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), and it is the only means by which we can experientially distinguish ourself as we really are from this ego that we now seem to be.

However, when the practice of self-investigation is described in this way, we should not imagine that distinguishing what we actually are (our real self) from what we now seem to be (our ego) entails anything more than simply being vigilantly self-attentive. If we mistake a rope to be a snake, how can we distinguish the real rope from the illusory snake? Only by looking very carefully at what seems to be a snake in order to see what it really is. Likewise, the only means by which we can distinguish ourself as we really are from this illusory ego is to look very carefully at what seems to be this ego in order to see what it really is. Therefore it is only by trying to be attentively self-aware as much as possible that we can experientially distinguish ourself from our ego.

When you talk about making a distinction between ‘ego and Self’ or between ‘ego-I and true I’, you seem to imply that we need to distinguish two things conceptually, but this is very different to distinguishing our real self experientially. Making a conceptual distinction is necessary in many contexts while trying to understand the theory that underpins the practice of ātma-vicāra, but not while trying to put that theory into practice by actually investigating who or what we really are. So long as our mind is dwelling on any concept, we are not trying to focus our entire attention on ourself, as we need to do when practising ātma-vicāra.

The theory that Bhagavan has taught us is that what we actually are is pure self-awareness — awareness of nothing other than ourself alone — but that when we experience our self-awareness mixed with awareness of anything else, the resulting contaminated self-awareness is what is called ego. In other words, our ego is a mixture of self-awareness and various adjuncts, each adjunct being an awareness of something else that we experience as if it were ourself, such as our body. Therefore in order to experience ourself as we actually are we need to try to experience pure self-awareness alone, without any adjuncts.

Therefore from this adjunct-mixed self-awareness called ego (which is what Bhagavan also referred to as the ‘thought called I’) we need to distinguish its essence, which is the pure self-awareness that we actually are. In order to do so, the only practical means is to try to attend only to ourself, thereby isolating ourself in our experience from all the adjuncts with which we have now confused ourself.

Another way in which Bhagavan explained this is to say that our ego is the thought or experience ‘I am this body’, in which ‘I am’ represents the pure self-awareness that we actually are and ‘this body’ represents whatever body and other associated adjuncts we currently experience as if they were ourself. Since the term ‘I am’ refers to what is conscious or aware, it is called cit or consciousness, and since the term ‘this body’ refers to what is physical or phenomenal and hence not conscious, it is called jaḍa or non-conscious. Therefore this ego, our illusory experience ‘I am this body’, is also called cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) that binds ourself (who are cit) and a body (which is jaḍa) together as if we were one.

As Bhagavan often explained (as recorded, for example, in the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel, in a passage that I quoted and discussed in We cannot look at our ego without actually looking at ourself), when we investigate our ego what we are trying to attend to exclusively is only its essential cit or self-awareness portion, because the more we succeed in doing so the more we will thereby be ignoring all its adjuncts, which are its inessential jaḍa portion, and thus we will eventually experience ourself in complete isolation (kaivalya) from everything else. Experiencing ourself thus is experiencing ourself as we actually are, so it will immediately destroy forever the illusion that we are this ego. Therefore it is only by experientially distinguishing our actual self, which is the essential cit aspect of our ego, from all the rest of it, which is all its inessential jaḍa adjuncts, that we can experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy our ego.

The relevant words recorded in that passage in the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 89) are: ‘In your investigation into the source of ahaṁ-vṛtti [the I-thought or ego], you take the essential cit aspect of the ego’. These are not the exact words that Bhagavan said, because he would have said this in Tamil, but I believe that they probably convey quite accurately the idea that he expressed. What then is meant by taking ‘the essential cit aspect of the ego’? As we have seen, our ego is a confused mixture of our fundamental self-awareness (which is its essential cit or conscious aspect) and our temporary body-awareness (which is its inessential jaḍa or non-conscious aspect), but since body-awareness comes and goes, it cannot be what we really are. Therefore in order to experience what we really are we need to ignore our body-awareness and try to experience only our essential self-awareness, which is what Bhagavan calls ‘the essential cit aspect of the ego’ and which is what we really are.

Therefore when he says that we should ‘take the essential cit aspect of the ego’, what he means is that we should try to attend only to our essential self-awareness, thereby ignoring our body-awareness and all the other adjuncts that are currently mixed with our self-awareness. This is how we can in practice distinguish and isolate ourself (our essential self-awareness) from the rest of our ego (all its adjuncts or inessential jaḍa aspects), and it is only by doing so that we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this formless phantom called ego.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Arunachala Venba, verse 63 :
"Arunachala puts an end to all the habitual extroversion of the mind by eliminating its impure vasanas and makes it turn inward by the habit of Self attention and eventually sinks it in the ocean of the Heart, where It ever shines as the imperishable 'I', 'I' Consciousness, ceasing to be an external object apart from the Self."

Even a "not so fresh tanslation" is tasty, isn't it ?

shiba said...

Mr. Micheal James

About "1. Self-investigation is a single seamless process with no distinct stages"

>whereas what you mean by the second stage (or ‘real atma-vichara’ as you also call it) is investigating or attending to our real self (‘Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self’,

Guru Vachaka Kovai

389. Restraining the mind from going outside [through the senses], and fixing it always in its Source, Self, which is known as the Heart, so that the vain ‘I’-thought will not rise again, is the Atma-Vichara [Self-enquiry].

Sadhu Om: Refer to Who am I? where it is said, “… Always keeping the mind fixed in Self – that alone is Atma-Vichara …”

What I said "Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self" is totally same above 389 verse.

snake-rope example don't fit to explain the second stage, because in the second stage, there is no relationship of subject-object as that of inspector-rope.

391. Self, which shines within the five sheaths, should be "attended to" within the Heart. Instead of doing so, to enquire for It in the scriptures is only scriptural enquiry – how can it be Self-enquiry

You question the expression "attend to Self", but above your translation , such expression is used. But you don't seem to feel any problem about it.

In second stage, I-thought, ego temporary disappear and real-I is revealed. But till this condition become sahaja, some effort seem to be needed not to fail to "attend to" Self. We can question though we become Self in the second stage , where is the room to make effort. I don't know. It may means when we fall back to ego-conciousness, to regain Self- consiousness is termed effort.

About 2 and 3 , I have no objection. I have same opinion as you.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

You may recall I have been into some discussion with Shiba in your earlier posts. It is clear what Shiba calls as his second stage when he says, "In second stage, I-thought, ego temporary disappear and real-I is revealed. But till this condition become sahaja, some effort seem to be needed not to fail to "attend to" Self".

Now, according to verse 13 of Upadesa Undiyar, it is clear that the subsidence of ego is of two kinds: laya and nasa. Bhagavan does not talk about states other than this as far disappearance of ego is concerned. That being so, the temporary disappearance of ego in the second stage of Shiba should be called laya, as the ego is not completely destroyed.

There is also another reason why ego in laya is not conducive for nasa. In many places, including Talks, Bhagavan has said that the I-thought (ego)is located in the vijnannamaya kosa. However, in laya, as we are in anandamaya kosa, how can the ego be destroyed? This, I believe is the reason why Bhagavan urges us to remain wide awake and not to get into laya and lose track of ego.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

I found further evidence for my statement that atma vichara cannot take place while the ego temporarily disappears in the commentary for verse 14 of Upadesa Undiyar by Sri Sadhu Om, where he says, "சாதனைக் கவசியமான அறிவு விளக்கம் விழிப்பு நிலையில்தான் உண்டு". We may translate this as, "The clarity of self awareness required for sadhana exists only in the waking state" [bold emphasis mine].

The multi-stage atma vichara model reveals only the hidden desire of yogis who want to get their nirvikalpa samadhi validated through Sri Ramana. The temporary disappearance of the ego in the multi-stage practice (which is pseudo-atma vichara, if one may call so just for the sake of discussion) is nothing but laya.

Blind faith said...

Wittgenstein,
often it is said that the only difference of the waking state and the dream state is the longer duration of the waking state.
The sentence you have given translated "The clarity of self-awareness required for sadhana exists only in the waking state" thus reveals a further difference between waking and dream state.

who? said...

Wittgenstein, in my opinion, there are two categories of people who advocate the two-stage atma-vichara model (and other similar conceptual ideas):

1. Those who have deep attachment to ego-self and are consequently unwilling to accept the truth that annihilation of ego is the culmination of spiritual practice and of all efforts.

2. Those who reify 'the Self' and thus are genuinely unable to accept to immanence of self in their very being.

Those whom you refer to as yogis fall under the first category.
The rest fall under second category.

Liz Faren said...

In investigating the 'I' is it possible to simply be aware of Arunachala as Self?

Adigalar said...

In my experience it is the most difficult task to ignore my body-awareness particularly my sexual desires. If I manage it to ignore that powerful thought- energy hundred times the next time it cannot be ignored. To treat this mighty affliction/burden seems to be a special millstone round my neck (prarabda karma). Probably I am fortunate and Arunachala's grace will finally eliminate that daemonic forces. But I do not see any alternative than to cross that raging torrent.

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

Blind faith,

You are right, there is no substantial difference between waking and dream. However, duration of two states cannot be compared. What is longer or shorter in one state may be different in others (and in sleep there is no time). As far the mechanism of arising and expansion of ego is concerned, it is the same in waking and dream. I think that is the sense in which they are said to be not different from each other. Other features may vary, such as the idea that we see the same world in the waking while the dream world changes everytime we dream etc. These superficial differences depend on to what thoughts the ego gets attached and how strongly it gets attached.

Why should one engage in vichara in the waking state? Because there is unhappiness and we would like to put a full stop to this unhappiness and what prevents us in putting that full stop is our strength of attachment to this waking body. Even if unhappiness arises in dream (as in a nightmare), we wake up (we do not self-investigate in the dream), as we are more strongly attached to the waking body. I remember reading somewhere Bhagavan urging us to be self-attentive throughout our waking hours, as it is not possible to be self-attentive while dreaming.

Wittgenstein said...

who?,

Well said!

Wittgenstein said...

Blind faith,

When you say, "often it is said that the only difference of the waking state and the dream state is the longer duration of the waking state. The sentence you have given translated "The clarity of self-awareness required for sadhana exists only in the waking state" thus reveals a further difference between waking and dream state", shall I rephrase it as, "Since the waking and dream state do not differ except for duration, how come the clarity of self-awareness required for sadhana exists only in the waking state?". If you accept my rephrasing, there is a much succint answer provided in Maha Yoga: "[...] if in the dream the dreamer doubts the reality of what he sees and tries to find out the truth, he always concludes, not that he is dreaming, but that he is wide awake".

I tried to map this to my answer. 'Doubting of reality' could be due to various reasons (like unhappiness, impermenance, etc.), 'trying to find out the truth' may be intrepreted as becoming self-attentive, 'concluding that one is wide awake' may be interpreted as reverting (or being pulled back) to waking state upon such attempt to become self-attentive, due to strong attachment to waking body. My understanding is very poor compared to Lakshmana Sarma's, so my of way putting things are very crude and primitive.

who? said...

Wittgenstein, in your comment you quote Lakshmana Sarma as follows:

if in the dream the dreamer doubts the reality of what he sees and tries to find out the truth, he always concludes, not that he is dreaming, but that he is wide awake

In that paragraph on pg 65 of Maha Yoga, he actually says:

That the mind has this power of self-deception, itself creating a world and being deceived by it, is what we see in actual experience. We have just now seen that this power is the cause of dreams. The dream-world appears real while the dream lasts; if in the dream the dreamer doubts the reality of what he sees and tries to find out the truth, he always concludes, not that he is dreaming, but that he is wide awake. In fact Nature never allows any one to go on dreaming and at the same time know that he is dreaming.

According to the author, the dreamer tries to find out the truth of the world by an extroversion of attention away from himself; thus he is deceived by maya/mind and persists in taking himself to be the dream body, and consequently concluding the dream world to be real. Hence he believes himself to be wide awake; only when he finally wakes up from the dream can he realize that all that was a dream.

In this context, Sri Lakshmana Sarma was not specifically talking about self-attention; he was merely pointing out the truth that 'Nature never allows any one to go on dreaming and at the same time know that he is dreaming'.

In the very next paragraph he illustrates the power of self-deception by taking examples of waking state activities: witnessing a well-executed play, reading an engrossing novel. When we are engrossed in the fictitious novel-world, we are unaware of our current body-world; only when we turn our attention towards our current body-world do we recognize that that novel-world is unreal.

We can take this illustration to its logical conclusion: when we finally turn our complete attention away from any body-world by turning it towards ourself, only then we will experience that everything other than ourself is unreal, and that we alone exist.





Mouna said...


Dear Who,

'Nature never allows any one to go on dreaming and at the same time know that he is dreaming’.

That is a very interesting statement, because there are proved instances (actually it happened to me a couple times) where there is the unmistakable feeling that, while dreaming, you “know” you are dreaming. One knows that actually one is in the dream state while having the understanding that it is not the waking state, it gives you a strange “feeling” of being able to “do” things in the dream while knowing that you are dreaming. Of course the memory of it would be in the waking state but that is the same with all memories. Some people even do certain practices to bring this experience about, I believe it’s called “lucid dreaming”.

Actually, from the traditional vedantic point of view, this “knowing that it’s a dream” and we are not “of it” would be what a jivanmukta “experiences" in relation to the “waking state” when self-realization or manonasa happens. In this case we would say we awaken “to” the dream.

According to what I understand this is at odds with the ajata concept, that stipulates that nothing was ever created (ego doesn’t exist) so there is no self-realization (and has never been) since there is no ignorance either. In this instance self-realization would mean awakening “from” the dream, the illusion of dream (perception, world, God, etc…) vanishes completely because never there.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Bob - P said...

I use to have lucid dreams in the past.
It further reinforces that both waking & dream are just projections of the mind.
However I admit I am still dreamimg.
So back to investigating the dreamer (lol)!!!
Bob

who? said...

Dear Carlos

According to our experience, 'knowing that i am dreaming' is very different from 'knowing that that was a dream'.

In the first instance, while we are dreaming, we have an idea that 'it is just a dream', and consequently we are able to do many kinds of karma. However, the illusion that the body-world exists (as something other than ourself) still persists.

In the second instance, when we awake from that dream, we no longer take that dream-body as ourself, so we know that that body-world is non-existent, and consequently so is everything we did in that non-existent world.

Thus, we can safely conclude that, though lucid dreams may be a different kind of experience, it is nevertheless still same as waking and dream, in the sense that it is also a product of maya/mind caused due to pramada.

The traditional vedantic view about jivanmukta is an explanation given to us to satiate our desire to understand the paradoxical state of a jnani. This view is suitable for some aspirants, but a more dispassionate manana would lead us to doubt this theory as well, and seek for a more consistent explanation.

As you rightly say, ajata is the experiential truth and is paramarthika, and which we each have to verify for ourself.

Mouna said...

Dear Who?,

Very well put:"...the illusion that the body-world exists (as something other than ourself) still persists."
That common feature is usually overlooked when we fix our attention on duration (the waking state is longer than the dream state) rather than on the idea of separation.
Pratibashika and vyavaharika are still ego trips (ergo non-real) no matter how much control we think we have "in" them.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

Wittgenstein said...

To: Who?
Cc: Blind faith

You are right that Sarma indeed means extroversion as the tool used by the dreamer for his reality check. I was wrong in concluding that it was introversion.

Since both in waking and dream he feels he is wide awake, the distinction between the two states blurs. Therefore, as you imply, in the awareness, ‘I am the body’, ‘the body’ can be taken to be a generic body, irrespective of the state. As to the question raised by Blind faith, I should then say that he/she is indeed right about doubting the necessity of such artificial distinction.

Naturally, the ‘waking state’ in the commentary of Sri Sadhu Om could then mean dream state also. If that is so, as to the question of the possibility of self-attention, it should be possible in both states.

To simplify the concepts, we may address both these states as ‘ego activity’. Therefore, as long as ego is active, self-attention is possible. The natural corollary is that self-attention is impossible in sleep or in any state/stage where ego is temporarily inactive (such as nirvikalpa samadhi and the second stage of two-stage pseudo atma vichara). In the real, one and only atma vichara as taught by Bhagavan, the ego activity progressively gets attenuated due to self-attention and it is active till the last trace of thought to which it is attached to and finally, when all thoughts drop off, disappears as it cannot stand alone. Therefore, ego activity is necessary for self-attention. Self-attention should continue till ego activity remains. This is so simple and beautiful!

Many thanks for helping me see my errors. I should say the benefit is mine.

who? said...

Wittgenstein

An extract from your comment:

In the real, one and only atma vichara as taught by Bhagavan, the ego activity progressively gets attenuated due to self-attention and it is active till the last trace of thought to which it is attached to and finally, when all thoughts drop off, disappears as it cannot stand alone. Therefore, ego activity is necessary for self-attention. Self-attention should continue till ego activity remains. This is so simple and beautiful!

You conclusion is that 'self-attention should continue till ego activity remains'. There is nothing wrong in your conclusion; however, it is more useful from the point of view of atma-vichara to conclude by saying that 'self-attention should continue till we experience ourself as we really are'.

After all, atma-vichara entails trying to isolate and experience pure self-consciousness; cessation of ego activity is only a by-product. By focusing on the by-product, we are susceptible to losing track of the primary objective.

Anonymous said...

Sadhanaï Saram, 201 :
"To the extent in which the conviction grows stronger in us that all the extroverted activity of the mind is only misery, to that extent the desire and
love to turn within will also increase. And to the extent to which the strength
to attend to Self alone increases in us, to that extent the conviction will grow
that attending to anything other than Self is useless. Thus, each one of these two (namely vairagya or desirelessness towards external objects and bhakti or the love to attend to Self) is an aid to increase the other."

Eldorado said...

Anonymus,
what you have quoted from Sadhanai Saram is surely excellent.
But tell me how to get the mentioned desirelessness and bakti.

Adigalar said...

Dragos Nicolae,
Thanks for your well-meaning comment and well-meant advice which you have deleted in the meantime.
The problem is :
While I am catched by the power of sexual desire I am allowing myself to be torn hither and tither by my desires. In that very moment I lose control of my free will. Not with the best will in the world then I am not at all able to enquire with keen vigilance. Then I seem to be in complete isolation from self-awareness portion(essential cit portion) and instead of this to be the inessential jada portion. In the mentioned moment the illusion that I am an ego has a great triumph and the phenomenal non-conscious jada reigns over me. In that position I cannot at all ignore my body awareness and attend only to my essential self-awareness.
Sometimes the best way to overcome such a predicament is to act quickly and find immediate some satisfaction of the sexual desire through onanism because I cannot finance a visit in brothel.
That is the big dilemma I am faced with in practice.
Thank heavens, when I stay nearly every year for five weeks in Sri Ramanasramam/Tiruvannamalai I do not at all have serious sexual desire.
But after coming back to Europe the fight starts again.

Wittgenstein said...

who?,

When I said the ego activity progressively gets attenuated due to self-attention, the attenuation of ego was already meant as a by-product. If attenuation of ego is the by-product, we may call the extinction of mind as the 'grand by-product'. Of course we cannot take the by-product as our main objective.

Actually, as long as the ego is active, it acts as a trigger for atma vichara and I concluded only in that sense. As you see, here both vairagya and jnana are involved. The ideas about vairagya and jnana and their equivalence are given in Nan Yar, which I presume a person like you (with very good understanding, as is clearly evident in your writings) would already know.

'Cessation of ego (thought) activity' sounds very yogic to my ears and you know (from these exchanges) I don't quite like it!

Blind faith said...

Wittgenstein,
I did not say that there is no substantial difference between waking and dream.
I only said "often it is said that the only difference ...".
It is not my experience that "the dream world changes everytime we dream".
In my dream world often very similar sceneneries and constellations do appear.

who? said...

Wittgenstein,

I now now stand corrected about the sense in which you wrote that comment; i was mistaken about it earlier when i wrote that reply.

Here is a conclusion of our discussion:

'Self-attention should continue till ego activity remains' is vairagya.
'Self-attention should continue till we experience ourself as we really are' is bhakti.
These two are mutually supportive and ultimately non-different.

'Cessation of ego activity' happens everyday in deep sleep; obviously we agree that it is not by itself a worthy goal to strive for.

Your high opinion of me is unwarranted; i would rather it be attributed to Sri Michael James and Sri Lakshmana Sarma; the little i have learnt is mostly due to the writings/translations/memoirs/comments of these exemplary devotees of Sri Bhagavan.

Blind faith said...

who?,
also according to my experience it is a considerable difference between 'knowing that I am just dreaming' and remembering 'that that was a dream'.
While dreaming the dream-body seems to me very diffus and unclear. Unlike the dream/dream-experience itself is sometime experienced to the full.

Michael James said...

Shiba, in your comment there seem to be three points that require an answer:

Firstly you write, ‘snake-rope example don’t fit to explain the second stage, because in the second stage, there is no relationship of subject-object as that of inspector-rope’. Yes, obviously in self-attentiveness there is no subject-object relationship, because there is only the subject being attentively aware of itself (as I explained in an earlier article, Being attentively self-aware does not entail any subject-object relationship), but when you conclude from this that the analogy of the rope that seems to be a snake does not fit, you show that you have not understood the reason why I used this analogy in this context. We should not expect an analogy to fit in every respect, but should try to understand in what relevant respect it is analogous to whatever is being discussed.

Why I used this analogy in this article was to illustrate the difference between what we really are (our actual self) and what we seem to be (our ego). Our ego is like the illusory snake in that it is not what we really are but only what we seem to be (just as the snake is not what the rope really is but only what the rope seems to be), and our actual self is like the rope in that it alone is what seems to be our ego (just as the rope alone is what seems to be the snake). Therefore the difference between our actual self and our ego is not a difference in substance but only a difference in appearance, because they are actually one and the same thing, even though the ego seems to be something other than what we actually are (just as the rope and the snake are actually one and the same thing, even though the snake seems to be something other than a rope).

Hence when we attentively observe our ego, what we are actually looking at is only our real self, even though it seems to be our ego (just as when we look carefully at the snake, what we are actually looking at is only a rope, even though it seems to be a snake). Therefore attending to our ego and attending to our actual self are not two different stages of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) but are one and the same practice. Bhagavan sometimes described this practice as attending to our actual self, and at other times he described it as attending to our ego, and he also described it in various other ways, such as investigating what is the rising-place, birthplace or source of our ego, but he made it clear that however he described it, what he was describing was only the same practice of ātma-vicāra. This is why I argued that it is ‘a single seamless process with no distinct stages’.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Shiba:

Secondly, when you write, ‘In second stage, I-thought, ego temporary disappear and real-I is revealed’, you are showing a fundamental misunderstanding of what Bhagavan taught. Our real self is revealed as it is only when our ego is destroyed and not when it temporarily disappears. That is, whenever we experience ourself as we really are, our ego will be destroyed instantly and forever, just as when we recognise that what seems to be a snake is only a rope, the illusion that it is a snake will be destroyed instantly and forever. Having once seen that what is lying on the ground is only a rope, we can no longer make the mistake of believing that it is a snake. Likewise, having once experienced what we actually are, we can no longer make the mistake of experiencing ourself as an ego.

Any state in which our ego temporarily disappears is a state of manōlaya, which is a state of sleep or a state like sleep, so we obviously cannot investigate ourself in such a state. Only when our ego rises and seems to be ourself, as in waking or dream, can we investigate ourself, so self-investigation is necessary and possible only when we experience ourself as this ego.

Therefore at no stage during our practice of ātma-vicāra do we cease experiencing ourself as ego and begin experiencing ourself as we really are until the very final moment, after which no further ātma-vicāra is necessary or possible. During our practice our self-awareness is gradually refined and purified, but it completely ceases to be mixed with adjuncts only when we finally experience ourself as we really are. In other words, our ego is gradually dissolved during (and by) our practice, but its complete dissolution (or destruction) occurs only when we experience ourself as we really are.

Thirdly, referring to the translation by Sadhu Om and me of Guru Vācaka Kōvai you point out that in it we used terms such as ‘attend to Self’ and ask why I now question such terminology. Our translation has not been revised since we first drafted it in the 1970s, and since then I have refined the way in which I express what Bhagavan said and implied in Tamil. Sadhu Om’s knowledge of English was limited, so he tended to use the same terminology in English that he had read in other English books, so I am responsible for any inadequacy in the terminology we used in our translations.

Even in those early days I had understood that referring to what we really are as ‘the Self’ seems to objectify or reify ourself, so with his agreement we had started to write ‘Self’ instead of ‘the Self’. Later I understood that capitalising the initial ‘s’ in ‘self’ tends to perpetuate a dualistic way of thinking about ourself, so towards the end of his bodily life we decided to write ‘self’ instead of ‘Self’, and wherever necessary to write ‘our real self’ when it was referring specifically to what we really are. However, more recently I understood that in most cases Tamil terms such as தான் (tāṉ) and ஆத்மா (ātmā) as they were used by Bhagavan can be translated most accurately in English as ‘oneself’ or ‘ourself’ rather than as ‘self’ (as I explain in Our ego is distinct from our real self only to a limited extent and The terms ‘the self’ and ‘the Self’ are an indirect and confusing way to refer to ourself).

Michael James said...

Liz, when you ask “In investigating the ‘I’ is it possible to simply be aware of Arunachala as Self?” what exactly do you mean by ‘simply be aware of Arunachala as Self’? This is a question you need not answer to me but do need to consider for yourself.

Being aware of Arunachala as ourself is one way of describing the goal we are seeking, and in order to be aware of Arunachala as ourself we obviously need to cease being aware of ourself as this ego, a person called ‘Liz’, ‘Michael’ or whatever. Merely thinking ‘Arunachala is myself’ will not destroy our ego, because it is only our ego that can think this, and thinking of anything other than ourself alone is what nourishes and sustains our ego.

The means by which we can actually become aware of Arunachala as ourself was taught by Bhagavan in verses 43 and 44 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai (which I discussed in detail in Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai verse 44: reconsidering the meaning of Muruganar’s explanation). In verse 43 Bhagavan prays to Arunachala to show him the truth expressed by the words ‘தானே தானே தத்துவம்’ (tāṉē tāṉē tattuvam), which is a very emphatic statement that means ‘only oneself oneself certainly is what is real’, and in verse 44 he says what Arunachala then taught him in silence, namely: ‘திரும்பி அகம் தனை தினம் அகக்கண் காண்; தெரியும்’ (tirumbi aham taṉai diṉam aha-k-kaṇ kāṇ; ṭeriyum), which means ‘Turning back inside, see yourself daily with the inner eye [or an inward look]; it will be known’.

In other words, it is only by persistently trying to be aware of ourself alone that we can become aware of ourself as the one infinite reality, which is what is called ‘Arunachala’.

Michael James said...

Adigalar, in reply to your first and second comments, unless we are blessed to be one of the relatively rare people who are more or less asexual, sexual desire is something that troubles (and sometimes even torments) all of us to a greater or lesser extent, and it is a fire that cannot be adequately or effectively abated either by temporarily gratifying it or by trying to suppress it. So long as our ego survives and we therefore experience ourself as an animal body, this desire will continue to be deeply embedded in us and may rise and try to bring us under its sway at any time and on the slightest or even no provocation. Even when our body grows older, this fire smouldering within us does not seem to abate.

Therefore the only effective way to free ourself from this demon of sexual desire is to destroy its root, our ego, and as you know Bhagavan has taught us that we can destroy our ego (which is the root of all our desires) only by persistently trying to be attentively self-aware as much as possible. Yes, we will fail time and time again in our efforts to be self-attentive, but the only way to succeed is to continue patiently trying as much as we can.

As Nicolae implied in his reply to you (which he unfortunately decided to delete), like any other desire sexual desire is a vāsanā [propensity, inclination or impulse] that we cannot get rid of by trying to tackle it or fight with it directly, because the more we try to fight it the more we will be attending to it, and by attending to it we are nourishing and strengthening it. Therefore the only way to get rid of this and all other desires is to deal with their root, our ego, which is what we now experience ourself to be.

Fortunately for us, Bhagavan has taught us a very simple and infallible way to deal with this ego. That is, he has taught us (in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and elsewhere) that this ego rises, endures and is nourished only by our attending to anything other than ourself (any ‘form’, appearance or phenomenon), so it will subside and dissolve back into ourself, its source, only by our attending to ourself alone. Therefore it is a devil that we can defeat only by simply watching or attentively observing it.

What could be more simple than this: just attentively observing ourself, who now seem to be this ego? As he said, this is truly the simplest, easiest and by far and away the most effective spiritual practice. It seems to us to be difficult only because we have so much desire to experience things other than ourself alone, but it is the only way to free ourself from all our desires, so as he often said, we can succeed only by perseverance — that is, by patiently persisting in our effort to be attentively self-aware as much as we can.

Adigalar said...

Thank you Michael James,
I could not agree more with all what you say in your reply about the vasana of sexual desire. I am in unanimous agreement also with your statement about the only effective way to get rid of all desires: to deal with their root, our ego. And as you say the infallible way to deal with this ego is to dissolve it back into ourself by attending to ourself alone.
But while standing under the sway of sexual desire I just cannot at all attentively observe myself. To defeat that devil only by simply watching it or attentively observing ourself, who now seem to be this ego, especially just that prevents the stranglehold of that devil. From my view there can be no question of "the simplest and easiest spiritual practice". Ramana was surely asexual. Therefore in his last "incarnation (1879 till 1950)" he did never suffer that kind of troubles from own experience. But I can understand that we can succeed - as you remark closing - only by perseverance-that is, by patiently persisting in our effort to be attentively self-aware as much as we can.

shiba said...

Mr. Micheal James,

I will go my way which is based on my " a fundamental misunderstanding of what Bhagavan taught":-).

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, regarding the sentence from Sadhu Om’s Tamil commentary on Upadēśa Undiyār that you quote in one of your comments, namely ‘சாதனைக் கவசியமான அறிவு விளக்கம் விழிப்பு நிலையில்தான் உண்டு’ (sādhaṉaikku avaśiyam-āṉa aṟivu viḷakkam viṙippu nilaiyil-dāṉ uṇḍu), which means ‘The clarity of awareness that is necessary for sādhana [spiritual practice] exists only in the waking state’, I do not think that he intended this to exclude the possibility of our investigating ourself in dream, because whenever we are dreaming we seem to be awake, and because (as you mention in a later comment) Bhagavan has taught us that there is no substantial difference between waking and dream.

However, this dream that we currently take to be our waking state is generally more stable than many of our other dreams, because we are more strongly attached to our present body than we are to whatever bodies we experience as ourself in many of our other dreams, and this stability makes it possible or at least easier for us to go deeper in our self-attentiveness than we can usually go in other dreams. What generally happens if we try to be self-attentive in any of our less stable dreams is that we immediately wake up, because our weak attachment to our dream-body in such dreams is easily broken by even a relatively slight effort to be self-attentive.

The same occurs whenever we experience any intense fear, shock or other intense experience (such as sexual gratification or even some slighter sexual excitement) in any less stable dream. The intensity of such an experience drives our mind inwards and results in our immediately waking up. Therefore just as any pleasure, pain or other experience can be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in a correspondingly stable state (that is, a state in which our attachment to our then current body is relatively strong), so our self-attentiveness can likewise be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in such a relatively stable state.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Wittgenstein:

Therefore though we can try to be self-attentive in any other dream just as much as we can try in this dream we now call ‘waking’ (as you rightly infer in another one of your later comments), as a general rule trying to be self-attentive in this dream is more efficacious than trying to be self-attentive in other less stable dreams. However this does not mean, of course, that it is not worth trying to be self-attentive in any less stable dream, because it is necessary for us to try to investigate ourself whenever we experience ourself as this ego.

This is clearly implied by Bhagavan in verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (which is a summary of verses 957 and 958 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai):

நனவிற் சுழுத்தி நடையென்றுந் தன்னை
வினவு முசாவால் விளையும் — நனவிற்
கனவிற் சுழுத்தி கலந்தொளிருங் காறும்
அனவரத மவ்வுசா வாற்று.

naṉaviṯ cuṙutti naḍaiyeṉḏṟun taṉṉai
viṉavu musāvāl viḷaiyum — naṉaviṟ
kaṉaviṯ cuṙutti kalandoḷiruṅ gāṟum
aṉavarata mavvusā vāṯṟu
.

பதச்சேதம்: நனவில் சுழுத்தி நடை என்றும் தன்னை வினவும் உசாவால் விளையும். நனவில் கனவில் சுழுத்தி கலந்து ஒளிரும் காறும், அனவரதம் அவ் உசா ஆற்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): naṉavil suṙutti naḍai eṉḏṟum taṉṉai viṉavum usāvāl viḷaiyum. naṉavil kaṉavil suṙutti kalandu oḷirum kāṟum, aṉavaratam a-vv-usā āṯṟu.

அன்வயம்: என்றும் தன்னை வினவும் உசாவால் நனவில் சுழுத்தி நடை விளையும். நனவில் கனவில் சுழுத்தி கலந்து ஒளிரும் காறும், அனவரதம் அவ் உசா ஆற்று.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): eṉḏṟum taṉṉai viṉavum usāvāl naṉavil suṙutti naḍai viḷaiyum. naṉavil kaṉavil suṙutti kalandu oḷirum kāṟum, aṉavaratam a-vv-usā āṯṟu.

English translation: The state of sleep in waking will result by subtle investigation, which is always examining [or attending to] oneself. Until sleep shines blending in waking [and] in dream, incessantly perform that subtle investigation.

Blind faith said...

Michael, regarding your last comments to Wittgenstein,
without further explanation I cannot understand the terms "The state of sleep in waking" and "Until sleep shines blending in waking and in dream".
Could you please give some examination about them ?

Michael James said...

Blind faith, what Bhagavan refers to in verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ as நனவில் சுழுத்தி (naṉavil suṙutti) or ‘sleep in waking’ is what is generally called jāgrat-suṣupti, which means ‘waking-sleep’ and which is a metaphorical description of the state of pure self-awareness, in which we are awake to ourself and asleep to everything else (that is, in which we are clearly aware of ourself alone and unaware of anything else whatsoever).

The context in which Bhagavan wrote this verse was that he was asked by someone how such a ‘sleep’ could be experienced in dream, to which he replied that if we are able to experience such a ‘sleep’ in waking by persistently practising self-investigation, we will automatically experience it in dream also, so until we experience it permanently in both waking and dream we should persevere in our practice of investigating ourself. What he implied thereby is that until we experience pure self-awareness uninterrupted by either waking or dream we should not cease trying to be aware of ourself alone.

This answer of his was recorded by Muruganar in verses 957 and 958 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, and when Muruganar showed him these two verses, he summarised their meaning in the verse I quoted in my previous comment, which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse B19 and in Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ as verse 16.

Blind faith said...

Thank you, Michael, for your clearing explanation.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

Many thanks for your comments.

The blending of sleep in waking and dream states is nicely brought about by the Upadesa Thanipakkal verse you quoted, the culmination of which is the end of investigation. As a related point, I would like to note that the dream state being less stable, sleep dissolves it more quickly than the waking state, as a result of self-investigation. With increasing intensity of investigation, the deep peace of sleep lingers in waking state and dreams become less frequent and less intense. If one could extrapolate this, sleep eventually swallows dream and waking states and real 'sleep' will be experienced by us, as you have pointed out in your reply to Blind faith. This is another way of understanding the process of atma vichara.

When you say, "[...] our self-attentiveness can likewise be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in such a relatively stable state", I am not sure if the clarity of our self-awareness grows to a large extent (when we manage to turn inwards by, say 175 degrees or so), waking state itself would become more unstable (due to its dissolution to a very large degree) and self-attentiveness would become less intense.

nightingale said...

Michael,
When you say in the last paragraph of section 1:
„Likewise, our ego and our real self are not two different things. Our real self is not this ego, but what seems to be this ego is only our real self.“
However, herewith you imply/observe that the true self appears behind the image /mask/facade of the ego. The use of two different conceptual terms (ego and real self) in this sentence linguistically indicates just different things.
The false appearance of the true self by false pretences in the costume of the ego cannot be in no way ident with the true self.
The usually application of the metaphor of the snake and rope is not applicable /does not fit here because it refers only to objective sensory perception.

nightingale said...

Michael,
regarding section 2."What seems to be this ego is only our true self" some thoughts arise:
The (wording of the) above heading sentence holds the danger to express an unlogical statement.
According my English Dictionary we use ‚seem‘ to say that someone or something gives the impression of having a particular quality, or of happening in the way we describe.
First we need clearly examine who is the apparent subject, the ego or the real self.
In my opinion a 'seeming existence' can classified as belonging to something only to the ego.

Because this ego - as a confused mixture of our true self and various adjuncts - logically cannot be simultaneously our true self. The seeming appearance itself may only refer to the mixing procedure as such.
Because we cannot assume that the true self has any type of reason to hide itself in a (seeming) mixture and try to look as anything else , the driving force behind the strange occurrence of veilinging our real self is obviously the ego on its own initiative.
As moreover we know that appearances are deceptive, the idea that the ego as the 'seeming real self' is not different from 'our real (real) self' is in a certain extent problematic.
If we may put the question to whom the seeming/wrong appearance does appear the answer would surely be that it (the wrong/erroneus appearance) appears only to the ego which itself is only an erroneus experience.
Asking to which order and who is mixing the mixture of cit and jada aspects to whom is senseless because the question cannot be answered mentally.
When mixing and dirtying the cit aspects with jada aspects do not the cit aspects lodge a protest against that act of contamination ? I never did hear their howling of outraged indignation or rebellion.
Michael, if you would find time, please tell me if my thoughts are complete nonsense or tomfoolery or at least undecided.

nightingale said...

Michael,
"What seems to be this ego is only our true self. Therefore when we are inspecting what seems to be an ego, what we are actually inspecting is only our real self, [...]".

My sceptical mind starts questioning:

1. Can an ego - a confused mixture (of our true self and various adjuncts that we now seem to be ourself) - really inspect its real self ?
2. Can an ego extract itself as it actually is ?
3. Can the risen ego curb its own rising ?
4. Can an ego attentively observe itself - the source from which it arises or has arisen ?
5. Can an self-deceptive ego really choose to cling firmly to self-attentiveness ?

If it is so, how ?

if 6 was 9 said...

Hey you 'I', ah, you really say 'I' ?!
What, I did allow you to say 'I' ?
I'am ashamed to be seen with you.
From where do you go out ?
Wait, wait...I will explore your rising place and then,then...just you watch it,
then you will be happy to getting dissolved.
Soon, you will get absorbed, you melted butter, you will be completely swallowed up for ever !
You will be eradicated and cease to exist, and I alone as pure self-awareness will remain.
Not even ashes will left behind.

I will not shed any tears over you.

Anonymous said...

To Nightingale

The only useful answer to all of your five questions is : "try it out and see for yourself".

Michael James said...

Adigalar, regarding your latest comment, in which you say, ‘But while standing under the sway of sexual desire I just cannot at all attentively observe myself’, that could be an insurmountable problem only if you were under the sway of sexual desire at all times. In practice, however, though sexual desire can be a very powerful distraction whenever it rises within us, we are fortunately not constantly under its sway. Most of the time our mind is preoccupied with other thoughts and concerns, so even if we cannot attentively observe ourself when we are being distracted by sexual desire, we can at least try to attentively observe ourself at other times.

So long as we experience ourself as this ego, we cannot be self-attentive all the time. We can try repeatedly and persistently, but much of the time we will fail. However that does not matter so long as we persevere in trying as much as possible. Therefore even if we do sometimes succumb to the distracting power of sexual desire, at least at other times we can persevere in trying to be attentively aware of ourself. Hence rather than worrying about the countless times that we fail to attentively observe ourself (whether due to sexual desire or any other distraction), we should concern ourself only with trying to succeed whenever and as much as we can.

Regarding your later remark in the same comment, ‘Ramana was surely asexual. Therefore in his last “incarnation (1879 till 1950)” he did never suffer that kind of troubles from own experience’, his asexuality was quite unlike what is normally called asexuality, because other people who happen to be more or less asexual still experience themself as a finite person composed of body and mind, whereas he did not experience himself as any such thing. Moreover, though he never suffered from sexual desire himself, he understood clearly how this and all other desires arise, because the root of all desires is only the ego, which he had thoroughly investigated and understood completely. Therefore he empathised with our predicament as if it were his own, and his empathy was expressed by him in verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Adigalar:

In an earlier comment in which I cited this verse I wrote the following comment on it:

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

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

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, I understand your point when you write in the final paragraph of your latest comment that if our self-attentiveness can be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in a relatively stable state, that would imply that if an increase in the clarity of our self-awareness causes our waking state to become more unstable, our self-attentiveness would then become less intense. However, though this seems to be a logical inference, it is actually overlooking the number of variables involved, and is therefore extrapolating the point I was making way beyond what I meant.

That is, when I wrote ‘just as any pleasure, pain or other experience can be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in a correspondingly stable state (that is, a state in which our attachment to our then current body is relatively strong), so our self-attentiveness can likewise be relatively intense, stable and enduring only in such a relatively stable state’, I did so with reference to the type of unstable dream that can easily be dissolved because it occurs within another more stable dream in which we are more strongly attached to our body (such as this dream that we currently take to be our waking state). Because such unstable dreams rest upon the substratum of a more stable dream, our ego need not cling so firmly to whatever body it experiences as itself in such a dream.

In this respect our present dream is somewhat different, because we cannot so easily wake up from this dream into another more stable one. Sometimes people who have had a near-death experience report that they had been in a heaven-like state that seemed more real than this state, so that is perhaps what normally happens when this dream comes to an end (unless of course it ends due to our experiencing ourself as we really are). However this does not normally happen when we try to be self-attentive during this dream. During a less stable dream even a single attempt to be self-attentive can result in the dissolution of that dream, whereas repeated and intense attempts to be self-attentive during this dream generally do not result in even its temporary dissolution.

Sometimes an intense attempt to be self-attentive during this dream can bring about a mystical experience in which this world seems to dissolve and one seems to be transported to another more heavenly world or in which one sees divine visions, but such experiences can occur only if we allow our attention to be distracted away from ourself, and even if they do occur we usually return sooner or later to this dream as we normally experience it. However, like any other experience in this or any other dream, such experiences are just tricks played by our mind to distract our attention away from ourself, so we should try to avoid them as far as possible by clinging firmly to our self-attentiveness.

Regarding what you wrote in your final paragraph, another point to consider is this: though the clarity of our self-awareness will increase when we manage to be more self-attentive, this usually does not have any effect on the seeming stability of our present dream, because though our attachment to our body will be gradually weakened by persistent self-attentiveness, we as this ego will continue holding on to this (or some other) body as firmly as we can until our ego is completely dissolved, because we can survive as this ego only by clinging to a body as ourself. This is like a person dying of a terminal illness nevertheless clinging on to their life as firmly as they can until the very end. That is, the more our ego’s attachments are weakened, the more its very existence is threatened, so the more it will continue clinging as firmly as it can in spite of the weakening of its grasp.

Michael James said...

Eldorado, in answer to your question about how to get desirelessness and bhakti, the fact that we are interested in this subject shows that the seed of bhakti (love to experience ourself as we really are) has already begun to take root in our heart, so what we need to do now is to nurture and cultivate it. The primary and most effective way to do so is to try as much as possible to be self-attentive, and our attempts to be self-attentive can be supported by our frequently reading and thinking deeply about Bhagavan’s teachings.

Desirelessness and bhakti go hand-in-hand, like the two sides of a single piece of paper, because the more our love to experience ourself alone increases, the more our desires to experience anything else will diminish. When we are trying to investigate ourself by attentively observing ourself, we are faced at each moment with a choice: whether to try to be aware of ourself alone, or to allow ourself to be aware of other things. Our bhakti will prompt us to choose the former option, whereas our desires will prompt us to choose the latter option. Therefore every moment that we choose the former option we are supporting and strengthening our bhakti (and our corresponding vairāgya or desirelessness), whereas every moment that we choose the latter option we are yielding to our desires and thereby missing another opportunity to strengthen our bhakti.

Therefore bhakti is the power that is driving every effort we make to be self-attentive, and every effort we make to be self-attentive is in turn nourishing and strengthening our bhakti.

Adigalar said...

Many thanks to you ,Michael,
what you have replied to the fellow-sufferer Slow-worm at 21 June 2015 fits well for me. Without ever-increasing love for the feet of Arunachala we will not be able to hold on to vigilant self-attentiveness.
As you write today to Eldorado: Desirelessness and bakti go hand-in-hand.
And as you have answered to Desertfox on 1 June 2015(Article Drg-drsya-viveka, 20 May 2015): Besides it is very fortunate for us "that we can never be separated from Arunachala's real form, which is always shining within us as 'I' ".

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

I do not understand why unstable dreams rest upon the substratum of a more stable dream. When we say that waking and dream are substantially same, don't we mean that their substance/substratum is absolute consciousness?

nightingale said...

Anonymus,thank you for your comment to Nightingale.
Your answer is really useful and pretty damn good. But before trying out my sceptical mind wants to know the answer in advance. Since the questions are mainly of theoretical nature, I do not want make extremely time-consuming efforts which are possibly from the outset absolutely hopeless. Therefore I have to clear the field beforehand.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, in answer to your latest comment, yes, the ultimate substance and substratum of all dreams is absolute consciousness, but generally it is more useful to say that their immediate substance and substratum is only our ego, because dreams arise only after the rising of this ego and they seem to exist only in its view.

However this does not conflict with what I wrote in my previous reply to you about unstable dreams resting upon the substratum of a more stable dream, because there I was using the word ‘substratum’ in a different sense. That is, though we as this ego are the immediate basis of all dreams, within our experience dreams seem to occur within a type of hierarchy, with some dreams seeming to occur within other dreams. I will try to explain what I mean by this:

Now you experience yourself as a person called Wittgenstein, and the entire life of Wittgenstein can be described as a single dream that in temporarily interrupted by periods of sleep and other smaller dreams. In your smaller dreams you still generally experience yourself as a person called Wittgenstein, and though the body and world that you experience in each of those dreams is not identical to the body and world that you now experience, they are generally similar in many respects. Therefore we can say that in a certain sense each of those smaller dreams is based on this larger dream, within which they occur, and this is what I meant when I wrote ‘such unstable dreams rest upon the substratum of a more stable dream’.

However, differences such as ‘more stable dreams’ and ‘less stable dreams’ or ‘larger dreams’ and ‘smaller dreams’ seem true only from a certain perspective and are relevant only to help explain certain things, such as why some dreams are dissolved even by a slight attempt to be self-attentive whereas other dreams are not so easily dissolved. Therefore we should not attach too much importance to such differences, because the only thing that is really important is that we investigate this ego, in whose view alone all dreams and all differences seem to exist.

Michael James said...

Nightingale, in reply to various points that you raise in your comments:

In your first comment you wrote that ‘the metaphor of the snake and rope is not applicable / does not fit here because it refers only to objective sensory perception’, but an analogy need not be analogous in every respect. When an analogy is used, we should try to understand in what relevant respect it is analogous, and should not reject it just because it is not analogous in other respects. In the context in which I used it, the rope and snake analogy is relevant because it is a case of one thing seeming to be or mistaken to be another thing, just as we (our real self) seem to be or are mistaken to be this ego.

The rope and the snake are not two different things, because what seems to be a snake is actually only a rope. In other words, there is actually no snake but only a rope. Likewise, our real self and our ego are not two different things, because what seems to be this ego is actually only our real self. In other words, there is actually no ego but only our real self.

However, so long as there seems to be a snake, we are afraid of it, so we need to investigate it in order to see that it is actually only a harmless rope. Likewise, so long as we seem to be this finite ego, we face endless difficulties, so we need to investigate ourself in order to see that we are actually only our infinite real self, which is devoid of any difficulties.

Regarding your second comment, when a rope seems to be a snake, the rope is neither responsible for nor affected by being seen as a snake. It seems to be a snake only in the view of a person who mistakes it to be such, so only that person is responsible for their mistake and affected by it. Likewise, our real self is neither responsible for nor affected by being seen as an ego, because it seems to be an ego only in the view of the ego itself, so only the ego is responsible for this mistake and affected by it.

You say, ‘this ego — as a confused mixture of our true self and various adjuncts — logically cannot be simultaneously our true self’, but this is like saying ‘this snake — as a confused mixture of a rope and an illusion — logically cannot be simultaneously a rope’. Even when the rope seems to be a snake it is actually just a rope, and likewise even when we seem to be this ego we are actually just our true self, The various adjuncts that we now experience as ourself are just an illusion and hence completely unreal, like an illusory snake, so what is real in this ego is only our true self (just as what is real in the illusory snake is only the rope).

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Nightingale:

Regarding the questions you ask in your third comment:

1. Our ego can inspect itself, and when it inspects itself sufficiently closely it will find itself to be only our true self (and hence not the ego that it now seems to be).

2. Our ego can experience itself as adjuncts, which are jaḍa (non-conscious), only when it is aware of those adjuncts, so if it tries to be aware only of itself (its own essential cit (conscious) element), it will extract and isolate itself (the cit element) from its jaḍa adjuncts, and thus it will experience itself as it really is.

3. The risen ego can curb its own rising only by attending to itself (its cit element) alone, because it can rise and endure only by attending to other things (as Bhagavan teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu).

4. Yes, because it is always aware of itself as ‘I’, our ego can attentively observe itself, and since we ourself are the source from which we have risen as this ego (just as the rope is the source from which the illusory snake arose), by attentively observing our ego we are attentively observing its source.

5. Yes, our freedom to choose to be self-attentive is as real as our ego, so as long as we seem to be this ego it is equally true that we can cling firmly to self-attentiveness.

Eldorado said...

Many thanks Sir Michael James for your exhaustively acquainting reply.
Seen from the ground of my starting position the path of Self-attention obviously will not be a short cut to vairagya.
But we are lucky, as you write:
vairagya/desirelessness and bakti(love to experience ourself as we really are) are powers corresponding to each other and go hand-in-hand.

Josef Bruckner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nightingale said...

Thank you, Michael,
for your detailed reply.
The fact that just illusory and hence completely unreal experiences make the life difficult, does not let me sing joyfully unto the Lord.
However, knowing that our true self is what is real in this ego, does not necessarily make the work (much)easier.

Halabala said...

Michael,
regarding the analogy of the snake and the rope in section 1. Self-investigation is a single seamless process...:
The sentence "The snake and the rope are not two different things" in the second paragraph would read more accurately:
"The seeming snake and the rope are not two different things".
As the reason for it I give that the terms "snake" and "rope" are in priciple
not synonyms of the same thing but two different names for different things.
Also the sentence:
"Likewise, our ego and our real self are not two different things" in the third paragraph for the same reason would read more accurately:
"Likewise, our seeming ego and our real self are not two different things".