Monday, 12 October 2015

Why is it necessary to be attentively self-aware, rather than just not aware of anything else?

A friend recently wrote to me asking:
I have a question if attention has to be drawn (intentionally) to the self, or is it enough if I just remain as I am, surrendering the filthy ego to God? No “fixing the mind into self”, nor “looking for the source” or “I-thought”, but just remaining?
I wrote a brief reply, and he replied asking some further questions, so this article is adapted from the two replies I wrote to him.
  1. The oneness of self-attentiveness, self-abidance and self-surrender
  2. Merely giving up being aware of anything other than ourself will not destroy our ego
  3. We can dissolve our ego only by trying to be attentively self-aware
  4. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 16: we must attentively observe our own self-awareness
1. The oneness of self-attentiveness, self-abidance and self-surrender

In reply to his first email I wrote:

How can you ‘just remain’ if you do not attend only to yourself? So long as we attend to or are aware of anything other than ourself, our attention is directed away from ourself towards that other thing, and directing our attention away from ourself is an action or karma.

As Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, our ego comes into existence by grasping form, it endures by grasping form, and it is nourished and grows strong by grasping form, and what he means by ‘grasping form’ is being aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore the only way to avoid rising as this ego is to try to be aware of ourself alone.

We are always self-aware, but we are generally not attentively self-aware, because we are more interested in experiencing other things than in experiencing ourself alone. Therefore in order to remain as we really are and thereby surrender this filthy ego we must try to be attentively self-aware.

The more we are attentively self-aware, the less we will be aware of anything else, and hence the more our ego will subside back into ourself, the source from which it rose. Therefore being attentively self-aware and abiding as ourself are one and the same thing.

The fact that being attentively self-aware is the only means both to surrender ourself (this filthy ego) entirely and to abide as we really are is neatly and emphatically expressed by Bhagavan in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
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. [...]
2. Merely giving up being aware of anything other than ourself will not destroy our ego

My friend replied to this asking:
So it is a matter of losing attention to non-self? If attention to objects is lost, it becomes “fixed in the self”? So “attention” is not actually an activity, but our natural state, free from thoughts?
I replied to this:

It is not quite as simple as that. Merely giving up attending to or being aware of anything else is not sufficient, because even in sleep we cease being aware of anything else, but our ego is not thereby destroyed, so something more than just giving up being aware of anything else is required.

As I wrote yesterday, we are always self-aware, but we are generally not attentively self-aware. In waking and dream we are aware of ourself and of other things, whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself alone. Why does being aware of ourself alone in sleep not destroy our ego or mind? This can be explained in various ways.

One way is to say that we need to become aware of ourself alone before our ego has subsided completely, because then only can the resulting clarity of self-awareness destroy our ego. Pure self-awareness is like the shining of the sun, whereas our ego is like a mist that obscures but does not completely conceal the sunlight. In order to be dissolved by the bright light of the sun mist must be present. If a morning mist vanishes before the sun rises, the shining of the sun obviously cannot dissolve it, whereas if it is still present when the sun rises, it will be dissolved by its bright light. In the case of sleep, we experience the clarity of pure self-awareness because our ego has already subsided as a result of exhaustion, so the pure self-awareness that we experience then is like the sun rising after the mist has already vanished. Therefore during waking or dream, while our ego is still present, we need to experience the pure self-awareness that we experienced in sleep, because if we manage to experience that pure self-awareness before our ego has subsided completely, it will annihilate our ego instantaneously.

In other words, our ego subsides in sleep as a result of exhaustion, and we then experience pure self-awareness as a result of its subsidence, whereas what is required is that it should subside as a result of experiencing pure self-awareness. The horse must go before the cart in order for them to reach their destination. If the cart is placed before the horse, they will not go anywhere. In this case the horse is like the experience of pure self-awareness, which must come first, and the cart is like the subsidence of the ego, which must happen as a result of the experience of pure self-awareness.

3. We can dissolve our ego only by trying to be attentively self-aware

We can experience pure self-awareness in the waking or dream state only by trying to be attentively self-aware. We are never not self-aware, because self-awareness is the very nature of ourself, but so long as we are aware of anything else, our self-awareness is like the sunlight filtering through a dense mist, so we need to try to be aware of ourself alone. This attempt to be aware of ourself alone is what is called ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.

You wrote ‘So “attention” is not actually an activity, but our natural state, free from thoughts?’ but that is not actually the case. Self-attention is not actually an activity, but attention directed towards anything else is an activity. What exactly does this word ‘attention’ mean? During waking and dream numerous phenomena are presented to us (or rather are projected by us), but we cannot be aware of all the phenomena that are available to us at each moment, so we select to be aware of some in preference to others. This ability to select what we are aware of is what is called attention.

Generally we are more interested in experiencing phenomena (which are things other than ourself) than we are in experiencing ourself, so throughout most of our waking and dream life we attend to phenomena rather than to ourself. This habit of ours needs to be changed, and we can change it only by persistently trying to be aware of ourself alone in preference to being aware of anything else. This is why I said that it is necessary for us to be attentively self-aware. It is not sufficient just to be self-aware, because we are always self-aware, whether or not we are also aware of anything else, so in order to be aware of ourself alone and thereby to destroy our ego we need to be attentively self-aware.

In sleep we cannot be attentively self-aware, because attention is a function of our ego, which is not present in sleep. The reason why attention is a function of our ego is that only our ego is aware of many things, so it alone needs to select which of those things it is to attend to and be aware of at each moment. As we really are, we are aware of nothing other than ourself (as we are in sleep), so we cannot select to be aware of anything else, and hence for our real self there is no such thing as attention. There is only pure self-awareness.

Since pure self-awareness is our very nature, it is identical to our being. It is what is (uḷḷadu), which is why Bhagavan says in verse 23 of Upadēśa Undiyār that what is is awareness (uṇarvu), meaning that it is self-awareness, because there is nothing other than it (ourself) for it to be aware of. Therefore if we want to just be as we actually are, we need to just be aware of ourself and nothing else whatsoever. In order to be permanently aware of ourself alone, we need to dissolve our ego, and we can dissolve it only by trying to be attentively self-aware.

4. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 16: we must attentively observe our own self-awareness

The fact that it is necessary to be attentively self-aware and not sufficient just to cease being aware of anything else is clearly indicated by Bhagavan in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in which he says:
வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

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

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

English translation: Leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena], the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real knowledge [or knowledge of reality].
விட்டு (viṭṭu), which means leaving, leaving aside or giving up, is a verbal participle, so வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu), which means ‘leaving aside external phenomena’, is an adverbial clause, and hence it is subsidiary to the main clause, because it is obviously necessary for us to give up being aware of anything else in order to be aware of ourself alone. On the other hand, ஓர்தல் (ōrdal), which means knowing, investigating or observing attentively, is a verbal noun, and together with its suffix, ஏ (ē), which is an intensifier that means certainly, only or alone, it is the head of the noun phrase ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), which means ‘the mind knowing its own form of light alone’ and which is the subject of the main clause. Thus the syntactic structure of this verse clearly indicates that what is most important is that the mind should attentively observe and know its own form of light.

In this context ‘its own form of light’ (தன் ஒளி உரு: taṉ oḷi-uru) means our own pure self-awareness, ‘I am’, so the main clause ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē uṇmai uṇarcci ām), which means ‘the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real knowledge [or knowledge of reality]’, implies that we can experience true self-knowledge and thereby annihilate our ego only by investigating or attentively observing our own pure self-awareness.

Therefore what is required is not just to give up being aware of anything else, but also to make the positive effort to be attentively aware of ourself alone. By being attentively aware of ourself alone we automatically give up being aware of anything else, but by merely giving up being aware of anything else we do not become attentively self-aware, because unless we try to be attentively self-aware we will subside in sleep or a sleep-like state, which is not manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind) but only manōlaya (temporary dissolution or suspension of the mind). Therefore the only means by which we can achieve manōnāśa is by being attentively self-aware.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
In Sadhu Om 's comment on Sri Arunachala Pancharatna (http://www.davidgodman.org/rteach/Arunachala%20Pancharatnam%202007-10-2.pdf), it is said : "Withdrawing the attention from second and third persons is called antarmukham or introversion, whereas focusing the attention on ‘I’ is called ahamukham or facing selfward."
In your translation of Nan yar ?, it is said : "Only to [this state of] retaining the mind in the heart without letting it go outwards [does] the name ‘ahamukham’ [‘I-facing’ or self-attentiveness] or ‘antarmukham’ [‘inward-facing’, introspection or introversion] [refer]."
It seems that in Nan yar ?, Bhagavan gives to ahamukham and antarmukham the "same meaning", whereas Sadhu OM says in his comment that they are two different thing, could you clarify this ?
Thanks.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in this article:

In other words, our ego subsides in sleep as a result of exhaustion, and we then experience pure self-awareness as a result of its subsidence, whereas what is required is that it should subside as a result of experiencing pure self-awareness. The horse must go before the cart in order for them to reach their destination. If the cart is placed before the horse, they will not go anywhere. In this case the horse is like the experience of pure self-awareness, which must come first, and the cart is like the subsidence of the ego, which must happen as a result of the experience of pure self-awareness.

I had thought that the subsidence of the our ego and our experience of pure self-awareness happens simultaneously, but you are saying here that the experience of pure self-awareness must come first, and this would result in the subsidence of our ego. Is it wrong understanding if we believe that these two happen simultaneously?

Thanking you and pranams.

Jnanagni said...

Michael,
I do not understand why giving up being aware of anything other than ourself should not mean the same as to be what we really are.
When being only aware of ourself (alone) how can there be left any "outstanding dual object of any world" disturbing our awareness of ourself alone ?
Can anything stand outside of consciousness ?
Is it not said that the world is in us and that we are not different from the world ?
I do remember also the saying that the world inversely is not different from us.

Please Michael do point out any misunderstanding.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, yes, the experience of pure self-awareness and the destruction of our ego do occur simultaneously (which is why I ended the previous paragraph by saying ‘if we manage to experience that pure self-awareness before our ego has subsided completely, it will annihilate our ego instantaneously’), but the experience of pure self-awareness can destroy our ego only if our ego has not already subsided.

In verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār, which I cited in this article, Bhagavan says ‘the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real knowledge’, but as soon as the mind (which in this context means the ego) experiences its own form of light (which is pure self-awareness) it ceases to be a mind or ego and shines instead as pure self-awareness itself. We (this ego) cannot see the sun (pure self-awareness) for a moment without being blinded (completely annihilated), but we must look at the sun in order to be blinded by it. If we fall asleep before it rises, we will not see it and hence will not be blinded by it.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes sir, it is clear, or at least it seems to be clear. These things can be absolutely clear only when we manage to experience ourself alone.

As you say:

We (this ego) cannot see the sun (pure self-awareness) for a moment without being blinded (completely annihilated), but we must look at the sun in order to be blinded by it. If we fall asleep before it rises, we will not see it and hence will not be blinded by it.

This is a very apt analogy and illustrates the importance of remaining alert in our practice of self-investigation. We should look at the sun (ourself) eye to eye, without batting an eyelid. (I hope it is a correct idiom). That means, we should try and not fall asleep while vigilantly attending to ourself alone. Only in one of such alert moments will our ego be annihilated forever. I hope I have understood it correctly.

Thanking you and pranams.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael your above comment helped answer a question I had which was similar to Sanjay's. question. Thank you Sanjay for asking it.
In appreciation.
Bob

Jnanagni said...

Michael,
in a previous article (22 September 2015) you write in Section 5.titled
'Emptiness requires the existence of something that is empty':
[..., because what is empty of everything else must be full of itself, and what is full of itself must be empty of everything else].
Is not the state of "Giving up being aware of anything other than ourself", as I wrote on 13 October 2015 in a comment at 17:52 to the topic of this article of 12 October 2015, very analogous to the statement above "what is empty of everything else must be full of itself ...?

Michael James said...

Anonymous, I am sorry I could not reply to your question about antarmukham and ahamukham earlier, because I know you had asked the same question last month in an earlier comment on another article.

Many words in any language do not have a single fixed meaning, so the exact meaning of a particular word is often determined by the context in which it is used. Antarmukham is one such word: in some contexts it means the same as ahamukham while in other contexts it can mean something slightly different. Antarmukha is a Sanskrit word and is a compound of two words, namely antar, which has a range of meanings including inside, within, interior and internal, and mukha, which also has a range of meanings including mouth, face, direction, facing, turning towards or turned towards, so antarmukha in Sanskrit and antarmukham in Tamil means ‘facing inwards’, ‘turned inwards’ or ‘introversion’.

However since the meaning of terms such as ‘inside’ and ‘inwards’ is relative, depending on whether it means inside our body, inside our mind or inside ourself, what exactly is meant by antarmukham or ‘facing inwards’ depends on what is considered to be inside. Some yōgis could take meditation on cakras to be antarmukham, because cakras are inside the body, while others could take meditating on a particular thought to be antarmukham, because thoughts are inside the mind, but according to Bhagavan the body, mind and all other phenomena are external to ourself, so meditating on anything other than ourself is bahirmukham or ‘facing outwards’.

Ahamukham is a Tamil word that in many contexts means the same as antarmukham, because it is likewise a compound of two words, namely aham and mukham, and aham is a Tamil word that means inside. However aham is also a Sanskrit pronoun that means ‘I’, and since Sanskrit words are often used and widely understood in Tamil, particularly in literary Tamil, ahamukham means not only ‘facing inwards’ but also ‘facing I’ or ‘facing selfwards’, so Bhagavan often used it to mean self-attentiveness, and hence in this sense it is synonymous with ātma-vicāra.

Therefore depending on the context and the meaning that is attributed to each word, antarmukham and ahamukham can either mean the same thing or slightly different things. In the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan used them as synonyms, but that does not mean that they are always synonymous, because in other contexts they can be used in different senses.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Anonymous:

In his commentary on verse 4 of Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam (p. 17) Sadhu Om used antarmukham in a different sense to ahamukham, because whereas in verse 3 Bhagavan used the term ahamukham to describe the practice of ātma-vicāra, in verse 4 his aim was to indicate indirectly that even if one is able to withdraw one’s attention from all external phenomena (that is, from everything other than oneself) by means of prāṇāyāma, one can attain self-knowledge (or ‘see the light’) only by means of ātma-vicāra (which he describes there as ‘meditating on you [Arunēsa, our real self] in the heart’). In yōga the withdrawing of one’s attention from external phenomena by means of prāṇāyāma is often described as antarmukham, so in this context Sadhu Om explains that that type of antarmukham is not the same as what Bhagavan means by ahamukham, namely ‘facing I’ or attending to oneself alone. This is why he wrote there:

“Withdrawing the attention from second and third persons is called antarmukham or introversion, whereas focusing the attention on ‘I’ is called ahamukham or facing selfward. Though ahamukham includes in itself antarmukham, antarmukham does not necessarily include ahamukham.”

Michael James said...

Jnanagni, the central question around which all the questions in your comment revolve is precisely the question I tried to answer in this article, namely why is our ego or mind not destroyed when we cease being aware of anything other than ourself?

When we fall asleep we cease being aware of anything other than ourself, so while asleep we are aware of ourself alone, but our ego is not thereby destroyed, so sooner or later we rise again as this ego either in waking or in dream. As I explained in this article, the reason why our ego is not destroyed in sleep, even though we are then aware of ourself alone, is that when we fall asleep our ego subsides due to exhaustion, not due to our being aware of ourself alone, so our being aware of ourself alone is a result of our ego subsiding and not the cause of it subsiding. In order for our ego to be destroyed, it must subside as a result of our being aware of ourself alone, not as an effect of it.

Therefore before our ego subsides (that is, while we are still awake or dreaming) we must try to be aware of ourself alone, and in order to be aware of ourself alone in either of these states we must try to be attentively self-aware. We are always self-aware, but by itself self-awareness does not destroy our ego, because our ego is a confused mixture of self-awareness and body-awareness. We must therefore separate and isolate our self-awareness from our body-awareness and from awareness of anything else whatsoever, which we can do only by trying to be attentively self-aware while we are awake or dreaming.

If we merely succeed in withdrawing our attention from everything else without being attentively self-aware, our ego will subside in sleep or in some other similar state of manōlaya (temporary suspension of mind or ego), from which it will sooner or later rise again unscathed. Therefore, since self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails only being attentively self-aware, Bhagavan repeatedly insisted that it is the only means by which our ego or mind can be destroyed.

Regarding your other questions, firstly, when we are asleep we are aware of ourself alone, so there is no object there disturbing our self-awareness, but our ego’s self-ignorance (which is its very nature) is not thereby destroyed, because it had already subsided temporarily before we became aware of ourself alone.

Secondly, nothing can stand outside consciousness, but other things appear only in the consciousness of our ego and not in the consciousness of our actual self. This is why we are aware of other things only in waking or dream, when our ego has risen. When it subsides in sleep, we cease being aware of anything else.

Thirdly, yes, it is said that the world is in us, but it is in us when we rise as this ego, so it is merely an expansion of our ego, and hence it will not cease appearing until our ego is completely destroyed.

Michael James said...

Jnanagni, regarding the question you ask in your second comment, I hope you will be able to understand the answer to it from the reply I just wrote to your earlier comment, but in case the answer is not sufficiently clear to you now: yes, just as what is empty of everything else must be full of itself, when we cease being aware of anything other than ourself we are aware of ourself alone.

However, as I explained in my earlier reply, this happens every day when we fall asleep, but our ego is not thereby destroyed. In order to destroy our ego, we must not only be aware of ourself alone, but must be attentively aware of ourself alone, because then only will the subsidence of our ego be the result of our being aware of ourself alone rather than the cause of it.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael writes in one his recent comments addressed to Jnanagni, 'If we merely succeed in withdrawing our attention from everything else without being attentively self-aware, our ego will subside in sleep or in some other similar state of manōlaya (temporary suspension of mind or ego), from which it will sooner or later rise again unscathed. Therefore, since self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails only being attentively self-aware, Bhagavan repeatedly insisted that it is the only means by which our ego or mind can be destroyed'.

Michael had explained in one of his videos as to why our ego does not die in sleep. He had said that our ego hides itself, as it were, undercover in sleep, and as and when we wake up it pops out its head again and projects as this phenomena.

It can also be described that when we go to deep-sleep our ego hides in a dark corner in the cave of heart. Thus it protects not only itself but also all its vasanas. It is only when this ego comes out of this hiding in waking and dream, that it and all its vasanas become active. Thus these can only be annihilated when they are in an active state. When they hide themselves in sleep they are well protected, thus cannot be destroyed. Therefore we should remain attentively self-aware in our waking and dream states to destroy our ego. There is no other way of its annihilation. Regards.

Hill Top said...

Michael,

If there is only Self, does an individual (jiva) has any control on his thoughts? ie his so called "free-will" is an illusion, right? thoughts get kind-of downloaded/streamed into this jiva moment by moment.

So whether a jiva does self-enquiry or not is not in jiva's control. So is it even just an illusion that an ego is doing saadhana?

So what is the point of telling a jiva to do self-enquiry? if it's in the destiny of the jiva to do so, he/she will do it, right?

thanks.

Hill Top said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sanjay Lohia said...

Hill Top, you have asked a few questions addressed to Michael. I will try answering it here as per my understanding. I am sure Michael will answer these more accurately, whenever he feels like responding to your queries.

You ask, 'If there is only Self, does an individual (jiva) has any control on his thoughts? ie his so called "free-will" is an illusion, right? thoughts get kind-of downloaded/streamed into this jiva moment by moment'.

Yes, Bhagavan has confirmed that there is only one 'Self' or only one atma-svarupa, and also that there is only one ego who is projecting this dream in which we experience multiplicity. As long as we experience ourself as a jiva or ego, we cannot help experiencing certain thoughts which are necessary to bring about the pre-destined events in our life, but this does not mean that all our thoughts are fixed. We definitely can control our thoughts which we may be compelled to think because of our visaya-vasanas, and we may also control our thoughts which are based on our original free-will.

You also ask, 'So whether a jiva does self-enquiry or not is not in jiva's control. So is it even just an illusion that an ego is doing saadhana? So what is the point of telling a jiva to do self-enquiry? if it's in the destiny of the jiva to do so, he/she will do it, right?'

No, it is very much in jiva's control whether or not he or she decides to do self-enquiry or not. Self-enquiry or self-investigation is not a karma, therefore no destiny can force us not to do it or to do it. Only our prarabdha-karmas are fixed, but we are free to attend to our thoughts or destiny, or remain attentively self-aware. Though ultimately we will realise that our ego is an illusion, and therefore all its free-will and destiny are also just an illusion, but until we experience ourself as this ego our free-will and destiny is effectively true and real for us. Therefore we should direct our free-will to attend to ourself alone, ignoring our thought world. Regards.


Hill Top said...

Hi Sanjay Lohia,
Thanks for your insights.

I still can't see how a jiva can choose or control his [or her] thoughts. You say

"
As long as we experience ourself as a jiva or ego, we cannot help experiencing certain thoughts which are necessary to bring about the pre-destined events in our life, but this does not mean that all our thoughts are fixed."

Which teaching of Bhagavan says we can control or choose our thoughts? He says once you investigate our thoughts/mind/origin-of-thoughts, the thoughts may/will disappear [may be starting with a lower rate of thoughts.. progressively going to stopping/manonasa]

Just like what the 5 senses experience is based on prarabdha, can't we extrapolate them to the thoughts too [ie consider it's like a 6th sense or a port in a computer where packets are arriving]. Because from my experience, I have no clue why I think about say mangoes in the morning and apples in the afternoon. I don't see any freewill or control I have on which thought pops up in my inner space. So it only seems rational to assume, thoughts get bombarded on me and I have no power except may be to witness them [I also assume, I have no control on my reaction -- ie how my egress senses work .. like what I say, or even writing this now or how I move my limbs etc]. And this witnessing subject I assume is the I-I

You say 'original free-will'? what is this? is it of God's? does that mean God/Self has free-will?

Basically doesn't prarabdha-karma control our thoughts too? like someone is pushed to think all the time about say cricket and he becomes a great cricket player. Someone else is pushed to think all the time about happiness/pain and he becomes a so called spiritual person (following self-enquiry).

I do agree with your final two sentences that free-will/destiny etc are illusion (for the jiva from Self's point of view) .. I am just seeing it's kind of odd to ask a blind-man to see when he can't [ie if a jiva's thoughts don't tell him to do xyz, he is not going to do xyz]

Thanks

Sanjay Lohia said...

Hill Top, you ask, 'Which teaching of Bhagavan says we can control or choose our thoughts?'

Bhagavan says in the sixth paragraph of Nan Yar?: If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? As soon as each thought appears, if [one] vigilantly investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear that [it is] to me. If [one thus] investigates who am I, the mind will return to its birthplace [the innermost core of one’s being, which is the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought which had risen will also subside.

Therefore we are free to be carried away by our thoughts, or we can choose to investigate to whom these thoughts appears, thus making our thoughts subside. Our visaya-vasanas (our liking to experience things other than ourself) compel us to act, and we have a choice either to act as per its dictates or immediately turn our attention on ourself, thereby nipping the thoughts in its bud.

In the beginning (that is, when we supposedly arose as this ego for the first time), there were supposedly no visaya-vasanas or prarabdha-karmas for us, therefore how did we start all our actions? We have to admit that this free-will is there with us from our original state. We first rise as this imaginary ego, and by our seeming free-will we start all our actions. These actions create vasanas within us, and they also decide our destiny as per Isvara's will.

As I had written in my earlier comment addressed to you, our praraddha-karma does control some our thoughts, but not all. It does not control our thoughts based on our visaya-vasanas, or our original free-will.

As Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, it is difficult to understand the workings of karma and free-will until we experience ourself as this ego. Therefore we just have to investigate and find out to whom (or for whom) is this destiny, free-will, thoughts which we can control, thoughts which cannot control, etc. Only by this way can our ego be annihilated, otherwise there is not much use in just analysing these things.

I hope Michael corrects me wherever I am wrong. Regards.

Hill Top said...

Thanks Sanjay for the details.

Again where do we have the freedom to control the content of the thoughts?
What Bhagavan is saying is how you can handle the onslaught; He doesn't say if you can choose what is hitting you or at what rate it is hitting you.

It's like you are going out in rain/hail/snow and He is suggesting to use an umbrella -- you can't control if it's heavy rain or a drizzle or a hail storm.

So who is doing this turning the attention? it can't be thoughts [as it is object not subject]. So it must be I-I which is already turning the attention right? So I don't see any place where ego/jiva is acting with volition.

Yes, I do agree these are hard to grasp; I just want that one clarification if thoughts/contents of thoughts/rate of thoughts are totally outside the scope/control of the jiva (at any given moment). Basically the jiva is a puppet all along [fooled into thinking he is doing saadhana, coming out etc].

thanks.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Hill Top, we cannot choose what thoughts are hitting us or at what rate it is hitting us, because these are controlled or determined by the strength, intensity and firmness of our particular visaya-vasanas. As spiritual aspirants we have to humbly admit that many thoughts (with various intensity) are hitting us, and the most powerful weapon to destroy all out thoughts and its root, our ego, is only by remaining attentively self-aware. All other methods are insufficient and inadequate to deal effectively or permanently with this onslaught of thoughts, or our self created problems.

You ask 'So who is doing this turning the attention?' This turning of our attention towards any thoughts or objects, or towards ourself only is done only by our ego or our thought called 'I'. You say 'So it must be I-I which is already turning the attention right?' 'I-I' means in the context of Bhagavan's teachings only 'I am I' or 'I am only I'. Therefore this term is synonymous with our pure self-awareness. Though this pure self-awareness is self-aware, but it has no instrument to direct its attention to any particular object. Therefore, as Michael has explained us, attention is only the function of our ego.

Our ego is an illusory entity, therefore first it fools itself that it exists, and only then it fools itself that it is doing sadhana, or doing this or that. But once this ego comes into seeming existence, we have to admit that it has a free-will, and that the most wise use of this free-will is to attend to ourself alone. If this free-will was not there, all talk of sadhana or any other effort would have been meaningless. Regards.

Hill Top said...

Thanks Sanjay. What you say in the first paragraph is in agreement with my understanding. The only question is who is doing this "remaining attentively self-aware"

In your second paragraph, you say
This turning of our attention towards any thoughts or objects, or towards ourself only is done only by our ego or our thought called 'I'.


I assume ego is just a label to a collection of thoughts which sustain/encourage a separate entity/doer called I (same as "I am this body" idea/thought). And I assume thoughts arrive/arise one at a time. How can one thought watch/observe another thought? or watch/attend anything? Thought cannot be a witnessing subject right? it is sadam/insentient [as said in upadesa undiyar song 22 (udal pori ullam uyir irul ellam asathu sadam aadhaalal) - taking ullam to cover thoughts also].

As we agreed, contents of thoughts is outside the jiva's control. So take the following thoughts.
t1 = I have free-will and so I am the doer
t2 = I have no free-will and so I am not the doer

If t2 is continuously streamed into the jiva, the witnessing entity I-I [Yes by I-I, I do mean the pure Awareness] can see/understand that the ego has no free-will. If t1 is continuously streamed [by continuous, I mean with sufficient frequency to believe/understand that is true], I-I may be fooled to think it is the ego and it has free-will.

Since we saw whether a jiva is going to get t1 or t2 is beyond jiva's control [getting t2 is probably what is defined as grace], the ego never had any free-will at any time.

The fundamental point I want to confirm is, a jiva cannot pull himself/herself out of the maya using any amount of effort or volition -- because he/she does not have that power. Only God's grace can free a jiva. Bhagavan's teachings seems to only tell the story of how a jiva will be free'd (ie it's like narrating after the story has been manifested); ie when I-I engages to free a jiva, what can go thru'. At no point, jiva has done any effort or work. [Manikkavasakar I believe says this in 'un arulaal un thaal vananginean' -- ie (only) with Your grace I bowed/prayed/paid-obeisance to your feet]

Of course Bhagavan has said Surrender is the ultimate path; and I think Self-enquiry leads one to complete surrender.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Hill Top, Michael writes in his article: Self-attentiveness and self-awareness, as follows:

Attention is awareness used selectively. That is, it is our ability to select or choose what we want to be aware of, and consequently to focus our awareness on one thing rather than another.

You ask, 'The only question is who is doing this "remaining attentively self-aware"'. Who has asked this question? It is a person (an ego) called Hill Top. The same ego supposedly decides whether it wants to write a comment on this blog, or read a newspaper, or perhaps watch a movie. Therefore this ability to choose and focus its attention on any particular thing belongs only to our ego, this person called 'Sanjay' or 'Hill Top'. Likewise, instead of attending to objects, this ego can choose to attend to itself alone. This is the practice of atma-vichara.

Our ego is not a collection of thoughts, but is the thinker which thinks all thoughts. Ego is also described as chit-jada-granthi by Bhagavan, that means, our ego is an imaginary but confused mixture of our pure-awareness and all its jada (insentient) adjuncts, starting with our body. Therefore our ego (also called this thought called 'I') is the conscious subject, whereas all our other thoughts are insentient objects. Ego knows itself as a body, and is aware of other things. All our other thoughts are neither aware of itself nor are aware of other thoughts. For example, it is only when I (this ego) think of a computer that it appears in my awareness, by itself this computer cannot be aware of itself.

Yes, only God's grace can ultimately free this jiva, but Bhagavan has clearly said in the twelfth paragraph of Nan Yar?: [...] it is necessary to proceed [behave or act] unfailingly according to the path that guru has shown. What is the primary and direct path that our sadguru has shown us? Bhagavan says in the first paragraph of Nan Yar?: ...jnana-vichara [scrutinising our consciousness to know] 'who am I' alone the principal means. Only this jnana-vichara or vigilant self-investigation will enable us know ourself as we really are, and only this knowledge will remove all our misery and establish us in supreme-bliss. Regards.

Hill Top said...

Thanks Sanjay.

I do have my doubts on if the ego is the thinker. What does that mean? does ego have a choice to choose thoughts? We already saw, the thoughts arrive/arise spontaneously outside the ego/jiva's control.

In your first paragraph, you say the same ego (Hill Top) can choose to do other activities like watching a movie. I believe the ego cannot choose. Because we already saw it has no control over what thoughts are being presented/sent to it.

I don't see any Bhagavan's teaching which confirm if the ego can choose. Even the 12th paragraph of nan-yar? which you quote, it only says what needs to be done -- not on who is doing it. It's like saying to make an omelette, egg should be broken. No details on who does the breaking.

I mean Bhagavan's teachings look more like a journal of I-I on It's journey to free a jiva and not a guide-book to jiva which he can follow on his own volition (which he has none).

I'm looking for his exact teaching [words/quotes] that can confirm or deny the above. Our mind as we know, can build up a lot of imaginary stories/assumptions which can lead us deeper into the jungle.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Hill Top, since I am not able to answer your questions to your satisfaction, I will request Michael to try and answer your questions. I have tried my best to answer them, but as my understanding of Bhagavan's teaching is limited, I believe I have not been able to answer your questions. Regards.

Sivanarul said...

Hill Top,

“I mean Bhagavan's teachings look more like a journal of I-I on It's journey to free a jiva and not a guide-book to jiva which he can follow on his own volition (which he has none).”

Very nice observation. I have never seen Bhagavan’s teachings put like that before. Thank you very much for writing that. If ‘I-I’ is substituted with Siva, it is 100% in agreement with the Saivite/Bhakthi traditions teachings.

Your Manikkavasakar’s quote was very apt. “[Manikkavasakar I believe says this in 'un arulaal un thaal vananginean' -- ie (only) with Your grace I bowed/prayed/paid-obeisance to your feet]”. I recite Sivapuranam as often as I can, and I still remember the day when I understood what those quote meant. It was an eye opener, which certified the path of surrender for me.

I enjoyed reading all your other comments also. Thank you.

Hill Top said...

Thanks Sanjay.

Sivanarul, Nice to know you could relate and about your experience. Thanks for the comments.

Jnanagni said...

Michael,
thanks for your reply and pointing out my fundamental misunderstanding..
I thought that giving up being aware of anything other than ourself is the same thing as abiding as ourself and therefore of equal value to be attentively self-aware. At least in linguistic usage is no significant difference. Therefore I thought equating both would be not wrong. Hence I thought that withdrawing our attention from everything else is to be equated with being attentively self-aware.
But I must concede to be a complete novice in this subject of practising atma-vichara.
I thought because there is only one undivided consciousness other things cannot be or appear to be.
Till now I do not grasp the serious difference between attentive self-awareness and „usual/normal/customary“ awareness.

Sivanarul said...

Hill Top,

I was inspired by your mention of Sivapuranam to check whether there is a line by line detailed explanation/speech of it, as each line is infused with deep Bhakthi and can be used as source for silent contemplation. I found the following excellent detailed explanation. I have listened to 7/19, so far, and felt blessed to hear it. Passing it on, in case you are interested to hear some of it.

Arival Sivamagiya Manikkavasagar Thiruvadi Pottri.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WKpusclv8Y&list=PLJ2vctmep0cBCTGLrZTWSmGDXlvBJXcMH&index=1

Hill Top said...

Thanks Sivanarul. That's a very nice explanation -- just listened to part of first video. I have always been on the self-enquiry path.. only recently explored the bhakthi marga. And seems to confirm the saying all paths finally merge into one. A year or so ago a friend of mine gave me a small thiruvasagam book; I just kept it near pooja place and couldn't find the inclination to read it. Even though I had a desire to know what is said in it. Of course I'm aware of a few lines [like the one I quoted -- may be with God's grace those important lines which matter to me were revealed to me]. Nice to know this video which is much easier to follow. Thanks for the link.

Sivanarul said...

Hill Top,

Glad to know that you liked it. Tamil diaspora, who either had a Saivite/Vaishnavite upbringing or at least aware of key literature of those traditions, have access to some of the most profound devotional literature, in their native language, that can be a huge help along the spiritual path irrespective of whether they follow Self-Enquiry, Meditation, Japa or other practices.

Thiruvasagam is considered to be among the peak of such key literature and has a saying “Those who could not melt for Thiruvasagam will not melt for anything else”. That Thiruvasagam that came to your pooja place, from your friend, will soon enter your heart. As you wrote earlier, let the ‘I-I’ do its act of grace. We the Jiva’s can rest in complete surrender to it.

R Viswanathan said...

"Merely giving up attending to or being aware of anything else is not sufficient"

In accord with the above statement of Sri Michael James, Sri David Godman clarified to me when I met him in person during my recent visit to Arunachala as follows:

I asked him, too, as to whether the awareness with certainty that I am thought-free or that my attention is not on any external object can be considered as equivalent to attending to the primary I-thought, he answered that awareness of absence of external thoughts is just another thought and hence it cannot be considered as equivalent to attending to the primary I-thought.

Apasthamba said...

R Viswanathan,
If you would with acute vigilance enquire immediately as and when your memory of your receiving of David Godman's answer arises to whom it has occured, you would find it is to 'me'. If then you enquire 'Who am I ?' the mind gets introverted and the rising thought also subsides.
This way the primary I-thought is the focus of your attention - if I am not wrong there.

R Viswanathan said...


".. you would find it is to 'me'. If then you enquire 'Who am I ?' the mind gets introverted and the rising thought also subsides. This way the primary I-thought is the focus of your attention - if I am not wrong there."

I fully agree. Yes, if, immediately after becoming aware of having immersed in any kind of thought (including that of absence of thoughts) one eqnuires 'to whom did the thought occur?', it could lead one to attend to the primary I-thought. Having said this, I would like to mention about Sri Sadhu Om remarking in his Tamil book Sri Ramana Vazhi (p 128-129) that one should hold on to the resulting I-feeling or I-sense (from such an enquiry) and dive inwards further and further, and desist from the practice of expecting the arrival of the next thought so that one can get an opportunity to begin to enquire again "to whom the thought has come".

Apasthamba said...

R Viswanathan,
desisting from expecting the next thought is not inevitably a thought.
So the opportunity you got now is to continue enquiring 'Who am I' ?-which is devoid/free of thoughts.

R Viswanathan said...

"So the opportunity you got now is to continue enquiring 'Who am I' ?-which is devoid/free of thoughts. "

Thanks. I would try my best to use the opportunity I am bestowed with - to do self enquiry.

Matthew L said...

These dialogues are pointless. The idea is to read the materials provided about the Maharshi and form your own perspective. His prescription, if you will, for self inquiry is quite simple. He also pointed out, by the way, that those less influenced by intellectual concerns, have a better chance of attaining to their own self realization than those plagued by intellectual and often debative thoughts.

MDL

Matthew L said...

Its trial and error with meditative methods, consistently returning to question who it is that questions, followed by who am I. The Maharshi himself said that the rest will be revealed in its due process and time.

MDL

daisilui said...

Matthew L
you touched on a sore point for me. Yes, true- dialogues and words are pointless and would not lead to realizing the Self but why then do i [and you, and others here] choose to leave experiencing the silence of our deep being which we realize is the only valid position to take to any question arising in the mind. If i look at it carefully i can say that because of the game the ego plays by rising and hiding over and over again.

There are times when the impulse to get to such a blog or other spiritual activities [reading something, watching, listening to spiritual stuff] is strong, i.e. ego is strong. Ego seems to be more persistent in coming back to grasping forms than in abiding in investigating itself. It feels like the choice of perseverance the ego makes one direction is countered by the choice of persevering on the other direction. It looks like a battle between the ego that wants and the one who doesn't. The ego that wants hopes that by persevering in looking at itself only would one day vanish for good but then loses faith and need to come back to words/dialogues to get a new motivation for persevering. So from this perspective these dialogues are not pointless. With this i guess i got my fill [or spill] in the craving for words, now back to silence...

ordale said...

daisilui,
regarding the up-and-down motions of our impulses/impetus/initiatives to abide in self-investigation most of us have to fight permanently against the suction of our tendencies being not really beneficial for us. After sever disappointments of our hopes we regularly come back with new motivation for persevering in looking carefully at ourself.

Ken said...

Daisilui,

Ramana Maharshi stated:

"It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is always. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the agelong samskaras [innate tendencies] which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone."

In the world of Advaita Vedanta students, one constantly hears "The ego wants to ... " and "The ego struggles mightily to preserve itself... ". (One recent self-appointed teacher who quotes various departed Advaita sages, bases his entire "teaching" on these concepts.) That is not only nonsense, it is impossible.

Why? Because the ego does not exist. James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Luke Skywalker cannot want anything or do anything, because none of them exist.

"Q: One has to sublimate the ego-self into the true Self.

Ramana: The ego-self does not exist at all.

Q: Why does it give us trouble?

Ramana: To whom is the trouble? The trouble also is imagined.

Q: How did the ego arise?

Ramana: Ego is not. Otherwise do you admit of two selves?"

The following teaching of Ramana may be helpful to clarify the situation:

"Q: It is cruel of God’s leela [play] to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.

Ramana: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your ‘I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is its cruelty? Because of this denial of the Self by people the sastras speak of maya, leela, etc."

It's worth noting that Ramana says in the above (and many other places) that the insentient body cannot know the Self. The insentient body includes ALL of these:

* Thoughts (including any memories and anything verbal)
* Sense Perceptions
* Feelings of all types, including emotions and intuitions

ordale said...

Ken,
the adjective "insentient" means usually: imperceptible, unconscious, unaware, deprived of sensation, emotionless, incapable of feeling or understanding things, without one's mental faculties, inanimate.
Why should then the insentient body include all of thoughts, memories, sense perceptions, feelings of all types, including emotions and intuitions ?

Ken said...

Ordale -

The answer to your question is what Advaita Vedanta is about.

For example:

Suppose there is a mouse and a bunch of grapes sitting on the grass lawn.

If one has not eaten recently, one will have a feeling of appetite directed at the grapes.

Your cat will have a feeling of appetite directed at the mouse.

A cow walking up will have a feeling of appetite directed at the grass.

Thus, those feelings are generated by the physical body.

Almost all human beings have an instinctive fear of snakes and spiders. This emotion of fear is in our genes. The cat next to us has no such fear of spiders.

Similarly, the thoughts in our head are in whatever language was taught to us by our parents. For that reason, some read this site in English, while others use Google Translate. They think of something to post, write it down and then have it translated, since this site is in English.

When the body dies, it is the same cells, but suddenly has no sentience. When you look at a corpse, you can see that it is insentient. So, the "sentience" is something that is no longer there.

ordale said...

Ken,
your mentioned examples may be an entertaining digression into the world of zoology, but ignore my question about the meaning of the "insentient body" in the sense as Sri Ramana has used this term. No matter. Regards.

daisilui said...

Ken:
"It's worth noting that Ramana says in the above (and many other places) that the insentient body cannot know the Self."
as you probably know, Ramana said the above in many other places, as you mention but not in one place, i.e. he tailored his speech to the needs and level of understanding of each of the disciple; he only spoke from the point of view of the absolute to those who had the capacity and maturity to understand it.
Indeed it is false to speak of ego and of realization; in the end is false to speak of anything- as i said, words lead nowhere but when we chose to get entangled in words than you cannot at the same time say 'nothing exist, there's nothing to do'. This is even falser... as long as there is a seeker, there is an ego, a world and a body and there's stuff to do. And part of that 'to do' stuff is getting a mind shift in understanding all this at an intellectual level in parallel with persevering in the practice of silence. That is what my reply to Matthew [and clarification to myself as why i choose to get entangled in words from time to time] was all about.

Ken said...

Daisilui -

I think you are mixing levels.

On the relative level, the ego does not actually exist. It is just a concept, a mistake.

That is what the "tenth man" story is all about.

You say;

"as long as there is a seeker, there is an ego, a world and a body and there's stuff to do."

and that is not the Advaita Vedanta viewpoint, even on the relative level (at least about there being an ego).

Like the tenth man, the Self is there right now, part of every moment of your life.

Ramana agreed that "be still" was another way to state the teaching.

The Neo-Advaita statement 'nothing exists, there's nothing to do' is not stated by Ramana or Shankara. It's a misunderstanding that does involve mixing the Absolute and Relative. But Ramana does not do that, and the Self is always there for everyone on the relative level, and the ego is actually not.

In fact, the ego is actually the mistake of thinking that the Self is not there on the relative level.

cidakasa said...

Ken,
on the "relative level" - you are considering obviously the "level" of this ego in relation to the self - the ego seems to exist pretty well, albeit it does not actually exist.

daisilui said...

Ken,
how can you preach the absolute truth while being engaged in this dialogue?! Doesn't this feel false to you? Aren't you grasping form when your mind is in this dogmatic mood of reproducing quotes and the 'letter' of Advaita? Isn't that ego? As Matthew wondered- what purpose do this kind of debates serve/ what are they doing for you other than exciting the mind in proving right from wrong and doing so, strengthening the ego?! Sorry, if you don't see this but i am not interested in engaging in theory and fruitless debates more than necessary. To me this is not leading to the stillness you bring into discussion, quoting Ramana...

Ken said...

Daisilui,

You yourself wrote:
"And part of that 'to do' stuff is getting a mind shift in understanding all this at an intellectual level in parallel with persevering in the practice of silence."

I'm not sure what you mean by "a mind shift", but I would say that without intellectual understanding, one would not do Self-Enquiry at all.

And again, I am not talking on the Absolute level.

The ego is actually the mistake of thinking that the Self is not there on the relative level (as explained by the Foolish Tenth Man analogy, or the Triangular Room analogy, or the analogy of someone trying to find his sunglasses that are on top of his head).