Thursday, 10 December 2015

Thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts

In a comment on my previous article, Is there more than one way in which we can investigate and know ourself?, a friend called Venkat wrote:
Given that the ego/mind is non-existent, and just a thought that pass across the screen of consciousness, what is it that choose to be attentively self-aware? Pure consciousness just is, and the body/mind/world are just thoughts/perceptions that flow across that screen. So the thought to be attentively self-aware is just another thought on that screen. I am struggling what is it that then directs attention. Apologies if I’m not being very clear.
When I read this comment, I noted it as one that I should reply to, but it soon led to a thread of more than thirty comments in which other friends responded to and discussed what he had written, so in this article (which has eventually grown into an extremely long one) I will reply both to this comment and to a few of the ideas expressed in other comments in that thread, and also to many later comments on that article that were not directly connected to what Venkat had written but that are nevertheless relevant to this crucial subject of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).
  1. Only our ego can be and need be attentively self-aware
  2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 17: Avoiding self-negligence (pramāda) is the only means to destroy our ego
  3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 6: what does Bhagavan mean by ‘the thought who am I’, which will destroy all thoughts, including itself?
  4. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, including their root, our primal thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’
  5. Why is self-attentiveness or ‘thought of oneself’ necessary, and why is mere self-awareness insufficient?
  6. How can we choose to attend to one thing rather than another?
  7. Our ego and its dream creation do not exist in the clear view of our actual self
  8. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 7: the world seems to exist only because it is perceived by our ego
  9. Mere belief in ajāta or anything else is not an adequate means to free ourself from this ego illusion
  10. What is actually real?
  11. Why is it so important to distinguish what is actually real from what merely seems to be real?
  12. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: why does Bhagavan say that if our ego does not exist, nothing else exists?
  13. A thought is anything fabricated by our ego or mind, so everything other than ourself is a thought
  14. Birth and death are both mere thoughts, as is any kind of body that we may experience as ourself
  15. Is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) a ‘method’ or just a simple and direct means?
  16. Since Bhagavan says ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’, we would be wise to follow it from the outset
  17. Is there any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’?
  18. Is analysis of any use or relevance to self-investigation?
  19. Bhagavan’s teachings and ātma-vicāra are the sharpest of all razors, comparable to Ockham’s razor in their aim and effect
  20. Is ātma-vicāra an exclusive or inclusive practice?
  21. Does explaining the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra imply that we are ‘putting down’ all other kind of spiritual practice?
  22. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: why is ēkāgratā (one-pointedness) considered so necessary?
  23. What skill is required to practise ātma-vicāra?
  24. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 40: annihilating our ego by means of ātma-vicāra is fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma
1. Only our ego can be and need be attentively self-aware

Though our ego is actually non-existent, it does seem to exist, and it is only because it seems to exist that everything else seems to exist, and that effort to be self-attentive is therefore necessary. Paradoxically, however, this ego and everything else that it experiences seem to exist only in its own view, so it is a non-existent thing that seems to exist only in its own view. This is why it is called māyā (that which is not), which is rightly said to be anirvacanīya (inexplicable).

When it is said that this ego seems to exist, what is it that seems to be this ego? It is only ourself. Therefore, because we seem to be this ego, we seem to suffer all its limitations, so in order to be free from all suffering and limitation, we need to experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego.

Bhagavan has taught us that the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy this ego is by trying to be attentively self-aware. Attention is our ability to choose what to be aware of, or what to focus our awareness upon, so since only this ego is aware of more than one thing that it could choose to focus upon, attention is a function only of this ego and not of ourself as we really are, because as we really are we are not and cannot be aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore what must choose to be attentively self-aware, and what must therefore direct its attention back towards itself alone, away from all other things, is only ourself as this ego.

As we actually are, we are always aware only of ourself and of nothing else whatsoever, because we alone are what actually exists, and in the view of what actually exists nothing else even seems to exist. Therefore as our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) we can never be aware of anything other than ourself, so our actual self cannot be and need not be attentively self-aware. Only what is now negligently or inattentively self-aware needs to be attentively self-aware, and that is only our ego.

2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 17: Avoiding self-negligence (pramāda) is the only means to destroy our ego

Whenever we as this ego attend to or are aware of anything other than ourself, we are thereby neglecting to attend to ourself, and this negligence is what is called pramāda, which is said to be the only real death (because due to our pramāda we now seem to be dead to or unaware of the immortal reality that we actually are), and which is the root cause of all our problems. Since our ego comes into seeming existence and endures only by being aware of other things, its very nature is pramāda, so pramāda and our ego are not two separate things but only two ways of describing the same single illusion. Therefore, since pramāda is the root of all our other problems, including death, the solution to all our problems can only be apramāda or non-negligence, and since negligence means non-attentiveness, apramāda means attentiveness.

Of course as this ego we are always attending to something, because attention means having something in the foreground of one’s awareness, so to speak, and something or other is always in the foreground, at least to a greater or lesser extent, while other things are relatively speaking in the background. Therefore our ego is always being attentive, but it is usually attentive only to something other than itself — that is, to something other than its own essential self-awareness. However, though pramāda literally means ‘negligence’ or ‘inattentiveness’, in the context of advaita philosophy it is used as a technical term that specifically means self-negligence or not being self-attentive, so apramāda specifically means self-attentiveness.

These two terms, pramāda and apramāda, are used most famously in a verse of an ancient text called Sanatsujātīyam, which is part of the Mahābhārata, in which it is said, ‘[…] pramādaṃ vai mṛtyum […] sadāpramādam amṛtatvaṃ […]’ (Sanatsujātīyam 1.4; Mahābhārata 5.42.4), which means ‘[…] pramāda indeed is death […] perpetual apramāda is deathlessness [or immortality] […]’, and which is a statement that is also quoted or referred to in many other texts, such as in verse 321 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi. Birth and death seem to exist only in the view of our ego, which comes into existence and endures only because of its pramāda (self-negligence), so the only means by which we can regain our natural state of immortality is by persistently trying to cling firmly to apramāda (being attentively self-aware), as Bhagavan implies in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
மனத்தி னுருவை மறவா துசாவ
மனமென வொன்றிலை யுந்தீபற
      மார்க்கநே ரார்க்குமி துந்தீபற.

maṉatti ṉuruvai maṟavā dusāva
maṉameṉa voṉḏṟilai yundīpaṟa
      mārgganē rārkkumi dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. mārggam nēr ārkkum idu.

அன்வயம்: மறவாது மனத்தின் உருவை உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. இது ஆர்க்கும் நேர் மார்க்கம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṟavādu maṉattiṉ uruvai usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. idu ārkkum nēr mārggam.

English translation: When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting], anything called ‘mind’ will not exist. This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone.
Being a negative participle of the verb மற (maṟa), which means to forget, neglect, ignore or disregard, மறவாது (maṟavādu) means ‘not forgetting’ or ‘not neglecting’, so in this context it implies not succumbing to self-negligence (pramāda). Thus in this verse Bhagavan implies that we will succeed in our self-investigation and thereby discover that this ego or mind does not exist at all only if we cling firmly and vigilantly to apramāda, the state of being attentively self-aware.

However, since investigating ourself, who are the real nature or ‘form’ of this ego or mind, entails nothing other than being attentively self-aware, by including this participle மறவாது (maṟavādu) along with the conditional verb உசாவ (usāva), which means ‘when one investigates [examines or scrutinises]’, Bhagavan is in effect using a tautology in order to emphasise with greater force the imperative need for us to be attentively self-aware. Therefore what he implies by saying in the first line of this verse, ‘மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ’ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva), which means ‘when one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting]’, is that we need to be so attentively or vigilantly self-aware that we never succumb to even the slightest pramāda or self-negligence.

Our choice and effort to be attentively self-aware are as real as this ego, which makes this choice and effort. Therefore when by making this effort we manage to experience ourself as we really are, we will discover not only that this ego was non-existent, but so too were its choice and effort to be attentively self-aware. However, though they are all ultimately non-existent, so long as we experience ourself as this ego, we do need to make this choice and effort. Indeed, the very nature of our ego is to choose and make effort, so rather than choosing or making effort in any other direction, we should choose and make effort only to be attentively self-aware.

3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 6: what does Bhagavan mean by ‘the thought who am I’, which will destroy all thoughts, including itself?

Venkat says that this ego, mind, body and world are just thoughts or perceptions that flow or pass across the screen of consciousness, but in whose view do they flow or pass by? Only in the view of this ego, which is itself the first thought that appears on the screen. This screen of consciousness is our own pure self-awareness, which is what we really are, so it is unaware of and unaffected by any thoughts or perceptions that may appear on it in the view of this ego, because in its view this ego and its progeny do not exist or even seem to exist at all.

Venkat also says, ‘So the thought to be attentively self-aware is just another thought on that screen’, which is true, because according to Bhagavan everything other than our actual self is just a thought. However, as he often used to say, destroying all thoughts by thinking only of ourself (which is another way of saying by being attentively self-aware) is like using one thorn to remove another thorn that is embedded in one’s foot.

Not only will thinking of or attending to our essential and ever-present self-awareness root out all other thoughts, including our primal thought, this ego, but in doing so it will also destroy itself, as Bhagavan said in the second sentence of the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
நானார் என்னும் நினைவு மற்ற நினைவுகளை யெல்லா மழித்துப் பிணஞ்சுடு தடிபோல் முடிவில் தானு மழியும்.

nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu maṯṟa niṉaivugaḷai y-ellām aṙittu-p piṇañ-cuḍu taḍi-pōl muḍivil tāṉ-um aṙiyum.

The thought who am I [that is, the attentiveness used to investigate what one is], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself also in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt completely].
The attentiveness that we use in order to be attentively self-aware is what Bhagavan refers to here as ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu), which means ‘the thought who am I’ or ‘the thought called who am I’.

That is, it is the nature of our ego to attend to one thing or another, and generally it attends only to things other than itself. This attention that it directs towards anything other than itself is what is called ‘thought’, and by thinking thus of other things it nourishes and sustains itself. Therefore if, instead of thinking or directing its attention towards any other thing, it directs it towards itself, it will be depriving itself of nourishment, and hence it will subside and disappear, and along with it all its thoughts will also cease.

4. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, including their root, our primal thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’

Directing our attention towards ourself is not literally a thought in the usual sense of this word, but it is sometimes referred to as a ‘thought’ metaphorically, as Bhagavan did for example when he described self-attentiveness as ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu) or ‘the thought who am I’ in the above-cited sentence of Nāṉ Yār? or as ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனை’ (āṉma-cintaṉai), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit term ātma-cintana, which literally means self-thought or thought of oneself, in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in self-abidance (ātma-niṣṭhā), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.
What he means here by the term ‘giving oneself to God’ is giving up one’s own ego, which is our primal thought called ‘I’, so thought of oneself will destroy not only all thoughts about other things but also this primal thought called ‘I’, which is the root of all our other thoughts. Therefore, since ātma-cintana or ‘thought of oneself’ means self-attentiveness, and since attention is a function of ourself as this ego and not of ourself as we really are, when this ego is destroyed by its own self-attentiveness, its self-attentiveness will be destroyed along with it, and all that will then remain is pure self-awareness, which is what we always actually are. This is why he compared self-attentiveness to the stick used to stir a funeral pyre, because like that stick it will be burnt completely along with everything else in the intense fire of pure self-awareness.

5. Why is self-attentiveness or ‘thought of oneself’ necessary, and why is mere self-awareness insufficient?

However, though the intense fire of pure self-awareness will eventually burn everything, in order to do so it needs to be constantly stirred by the stick of self-attentiveness. Why? Because since we are always self-aware, and continue to be self-aware even when our attention is preoccupied with thinking thoughts about other things, self-awareness as such is not sufficient to destroy other thoughts, let alone our first thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’. Since our first thought, which is the root of all other thoughts, feeds and nourishes itself only by attending to its other thoughts (which include all phenomena of any kind whatsoever, or in other words, everything other than ourself), it can deprive itself of its required nourishment and thereby undermine the illusion of its own existence only by directing all its attention only back towards itself. Therefore, though being self-aware is not by itself sufficient to destroy any thoughts, being attentively self-aware is sufficient to destroy all thoughts, including their root, our original thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’.

Stirring the fire of pure self-awareness with the stick of self-attentiveness is a metaphorical way of saying that we must constantly remember or keep our attention fixed firmly upon our own essential self-awareness. This is what Bhagavan implied when he said in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, ‘சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும்’ (sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum), which means ‘it is necessary to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna)’, and in the eleventh paragraph, ‘ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும்’ (oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum), which means ‘If one clings fast to uninterrupted self-remembrance (svarūpa-smaraṇa) until one attains svarūpa [one’s own actual self], that alone will be sufficient’.

As he clearly indicates in these two sentences, constantly remembering, thinking of or meditating upon ourself is both necessary and sufficient to destroy our ego, which implies that there is no other way to do so, because so long as we allow ourself to attend to anything other than ourself (even to the slightest extent) we are thereby feeding and nourishing our ego, and hence can never destroy it until we train ourself to attend only to ourself.

As I mentioned earlier, attention or attentiveness is a function only of our ego, because it is our ability to choose what to focus or centre our awareness upon at each moment, and only our ego has this ability, since in the clear view of our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) there is nothing other than ourself that we could be aware of. Therefore as a function of our ego, attentiveness to anything, including ourself, can be called a ‘thought’ in the broadest sense of this term. This is why Bhagavan sometimes referred to or described self-attentiveness as ‘thought of oneself’, ‘meditation upon oneself’, ‘remembrance of oneself’ or ‘the thought who am I’, using terms such as ஆன்மசிந்தனை (āṉma-cintaṉai or ātma-cintana), சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāṉam or svarūpa-dhyāna), சொரூபஸ்மரணை (sorūpa-smaraṇai or svarūpa-smaraṇa) or நானார் என்னும் நினைவு (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu), and also why in some older texts it is described as ātma-vṛtti (which means ‘thought of oneself’) or ātmākāra-vṛtti (which means ‘thought in the form of oneself’), in which the term vṛtti means a thought or mental function, which in this case implies the basic mental function of attention or attentiveness.

As I mentioned in Our ego can be destroyed only by vṛtti-jñāna (self-attentiveness) and in Being attentively self-aware is what is called vṛtti-jñāna, Bhagavan sometimes used to explain that the term vṛtti-jñāna, which is used in many older texts and commentaries, means ātma-vṛtti or ātmākāra-vṛtti, and that the reason why it is said in such texts that jñāna by itself is insufficient to destroy our ego along with its ajñāna (self-ignorance) and that vṛtti-jñāna is therefore necessary is that jñāna in this context means pure self-awareness, which alone actually exists and which is therefore always present, so it is the fundamental reality without which our ego and its ajñāna could not even seem to exist, and hence something more than mere self-awareness (jñāna) is needed to destroy our illusion that we are this ego. The required extra ingredient is what is called vṛtti-jñāna or ātmākāra-vṛtti, which simply means self-attentiveness or being attentively self-aware.

6. How can we choose to attend to one thing rather than another?

In his second comment, which he wrote in reply to some friends who had responded to his first one, Venkat asked: ‘As you say, “only our ego can choose to be attentive”. But our ego is non-existent, illusory; it is just a thought. How can a thought CHOOSE to be attentive? The choice to be attentive implies some entity that can control attention. But we all know and accept that there is no entity in the first place. Or are we saying that the I-thought can in some way control the flow of other thoughts?’

As I explained earlier, though our ego does not actually exist, it does seem to exist, so we need a means to free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego. Who experiences this illusion and therefore needs to be free of it? What we really are never experiences anything other than itself, so in its view there is no illusion and hence no need to free itself from it. Therefore what experiences this illusion is only ourself as this ego, so as this ego we need to free ourself from the illusory condition in which we now find ourself, because what we now seem to be is not what we actually are.

Since it is not what we actually are, this ego is just a thought, but it is also the thinker and experiencer of all other thoughts, so it does have control over them. However, it seems to us that our control over our thoughts is limited, because though we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts, we cannot control all of them. Other than our essential self-awareness, everything that we experience is just a thought, because even the physical world that we seem to perceive as if it exists outside ourself is just a series of mental impressions, and all kinds of mental impressions or phenomena are what Bhagavan calls ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideas’: நினைவுகள் (niṉaivugaḷ) or எண்ணங்கள் (eṇṇaṅgaḷ). Therefore though we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts, we do not seem to be able to control all of them, because we cannot, for example, decide to stop all the wars, terrorism and other sufferings that we see happening in the world around us.

Why is this? The reason is that though these phenomena are all merely our own thoughts, just like everything that we experience in a dream, when we create all these phenomena we also create ourself as if we were a person in this world, so since we seem to be part of this creation, it does not seem to us to be something that we have created and can therefore control. After we wake up from a dream, we realise that everything we experienced in that dream was our own creation or mental fabrication, but so long as we were dreaming we seemed to be just a person in that dream world, and as such we had no control over the way that world seemed to us to be. Likewise, because we now seem to be just a small and insignificant person in this vast world, we seem to be powerless to change it at will, even though it is actually just our own creation or mental fabrication. In other words, because the creator seems to have become a creature in its own creation, as a creature it can no longer control what it created.

However, though we cannot control many of the thoughts we have created, we can to a very great extent control our attention, which is the instrument by which we have created everything. So long as we direct our attention away from ourself, we seem to be able to control some of our thoughts but not others, but if we direct our attention back towards ourself alone, we will be able to stop the very act of creation.

Now we experience ourself as if we were this ego, and being attentive to something or other is the very nature of this ego. Why is this? The reason is that we seem to become this ego only by creating a body, which we then experience as if it were ourself, and through the senses of that body we project a seemingly vast world, so by becoming this ego we have created the illusion of many other things, and we obviously cannot be fully aware of each and every thing that we have created. In order to operate in this ego-created world of multiple phenomena, we need at each given moment to be more aware of some things than we are of others, so we have this ability to focus our awareness on one or more selected things at a time, and this ability is what we call attention.

Since as this ego we need to operate in the rapidly changing environment of our own mind and of the world that we have created for ourself, we need to be able to move our attention rapidly from one thing to another, and we often need to give a certain degree of attention to more than one thing at a time. Therefore the extent to which we are giving attention to any particular thing is variable, so our attention is somewhat like our eyesight: just as we can be seeing many things at the same time, but some of those things are in the centre or foreground of our vision while others are to a greater or lesser extent off to one side or in the periphery of our vision, so we can be aware of many things at the same time, but some of those things are in the centre or foreground of our attention while other things are to a greater or lesser extent off to one side or in the background of our attention. Much of the time our attention or awareness is not focused sharply only any one particular thing, because it is rapidly moving from one thing to another, but we can and often do choose to focus it keenly on something, and to the extent that we focus it on one thing we exclude other things from our awareness.

As we each know from our own experience, we are to a large extent free and able to choose what we attend to at each moment, and also the extent to which we focus our attention on any one thing, but Venkat asks, ‘How can a thought CHOOSE to be attentive?’ Obviously no thought other than our ego can choose to attend to anything, because no other thought is aware either of itself or of any other thing. Since our ego is the only thought that is aware of anything, and since it is aware both of itself and of other things, it can choose to be attentive to whatever particular thing or things it wants to be predominantly aware at each moment. Sometimes its attention may seem to be forcibly drawn away to some other thing, such as the sound of an unexpected explosion, but our attention is drawn away to such things only because at that moment we choose to turn our attention towards them.

Venkat also says, ‘The choice to be attentive implies some entity that can control attention. But we all know and accept that there is no entity in the first place’, which is a point that I have already answered earlier in this article. Now we experience ourself as an ego, and because we experience ourself thus we also experience many other things, so even though Bhagavan teaches us that this ego does not actually exist, to us it does seem to exist and to be ourself.

He sometimes said that there is actually no ignorance (ajñāna), because there is no one who is ignorant, and that no teachings are therefore necessary, but he also explained that though this is the ajāta viewpoint, which is the ultimate truth (pāramārthika satya), it is not a suitable basis for any teachings, because teachings seem to be necessary only so long as we seem to be a self-ignorant ego. Therefore, though he said that his experience is ajāta, for the purposes of teaching us he adopted the vivarta viewpoint, according to which this ego and everything that it experiences other than its own self-awareness are just an illusory appearance (vivarta).

That is, for our benefit he conceded that in our view this ego does seem to exist, albeit just as an illusory appearance, and therefore he taught us that the means by which we can free ourself from our illusion that we are this ego is by trying to be attentively self-aware. He also taught us that so long as we seem to be this ego, we do have the freedom and ability to choose and to try to be attentively self-aware, so since this freedom and ability are the only means by which we can free ourself from this ego and all the encumbrances that it entails, if we are wise we will make proper use of them by persistently trying to be attentively self-aware.

7. Our ego and its dream creation do not exist in the clear view of our actual self

In his third comment, which he also wrote in reply to another friend, Venkat asked: ‘So under eka jiva vada, what is it that has the thought of turning attention on itself, given the ego is part of the dream? Or is the thought of turning attention on itself, also just part of the play which consciousness is watching — and there is in fact nothing to be done and no one doing this turning?’

The ego is the ēka jīva, the ‘one soul’ or sole experiencer, and it is part of the dream because it experiences it not as an uninvolved spectator but as a participant, since it experiences it only by experiencing itself as a person in its own dream world. It is also that which alone thinks and which alone possesses the function and capability of attention, so it alone is what ‘has the thought of turning attention on itself’. It generally uses its attention to focus on things other than itself, but since it can attend to anything that is within the range or scope of its awareness, it is able to (and should) attend to itself instead of to anything else.

There could be no turning of the attention if there were ‘no one doing this turning’, because there obviously could not be any action without something that is doing it, nor any experience without something that is experiencing it. Our ego, which is the sole actor and experiencer in this dream, is ‘no one’ in the sense that it does not actually exist, but so long as it seems to exist it seems to be someone, so it is this seeming someone who must try to turn its attention back towards itself to see whether it is actually what it seems to be. If it does so, its seeming existence as an ego will dissolve, and what will then remain is what it actually is, which is the one infinite and indivisible space of pure self-awareness, which alone actually exists and which therefore is never aware of anything other than itself.

When Venkat asks whether the thought of turning attention on itself is ‘just part of the play which consciousness is watching’, I assume that what he means by ‘consciousness’ in this context is not our ego but what we actually are. However, what we actually are is only pure self-awareness, which is a consciousness that is not aware of anything other than itself, because in its clear view nothing other than itself exists, so there is nothing other than itself for it to watch. What is aware of our ego and each one of its dreams is not our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) but only our ego itself, so other than this ego there is no consciousness that is watching it and its play.

Our ego and its dream creation do not exist or even seem to exist in the view of anything other than itself, because in the clear view of our actual self nothing other than our own pure self-awareness exists, has ever existed or ever could exist. Therefore though Bhagavan sometimes said that this ego and all the phenomena it experiences are just like pictures appearing on the screen of pure consciousness or self-awareness, he did not mean that these pictures appear in the view of our pure consciousness but only that they appear in the view of ourself as this ego.

Being aware of otherness or multiplicity is not real knowledge but only ignorance, as Bhagavan says in verse 11 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘அறிவு உறும் தன்னை அறியாது அயலை அறிவது அறியாமை’ (aṟivu-uṟum taṉṉai aṟiyādu ayalai aṟivadu aṟiyāmai), which means ‘not knowing oneself, who knows, knowing other things is ignorance’, and also in verse 13, ‘நானாவாம் ஞானம் அஞ்ஞானம் ஆம்’ (nāṉā-v-ām ñāṉam aññāṉam ām), which means ‘knowledge that is many [or knowledge of multiplicity] is ignorance (ajñāna)’. Therefore, since ignorance can be an attribute only of our ego and not of our actual self, what we actually are can never be aware of anything other than itself, nor can it ever be aware of itself as many different things.

8. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 7: the world seems to exist only because it is perceived by our ego

In his fourth comment Venkat referred to what another friend had written and asked, ‘You say “we limit our consciousness . . . we can choose to cling” but WHO is this “we”?’ What we actually are never undergoes any kind of change, so it never limits itself or clings to anything. Therefore the ‘we’ who have limited our consciousness and therefore choose to cling is only our ego and not our actual self.

We rise and endure as this ego only by grasping or clinging to things other than ourself, as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, so as long as we choose to continue clinging to anything other than ourself we will thereby be perpetuating the illusion that we are this ego. Therefore, if we wish to free ourself (the one who now seems to be this ego) from this illusion, we must choose to cling only to ourself.

In the same comment Venkat also wrote: ‘When Bhagavan talks about chit-jada-granthi, I understand it to mean that in our dream we see a set of perceptions that are closely and continuously linked with a particular point in space-time (“my body”), as distinct from the rest of the world. As a result an I-thought arises which identifies with this particular set of perceptions and seeks to protect and enhance itself relative to the rest of the perceptions (“the world”) that is seen. Hence begins the false idea of separation’.

As Bhagavan indicated in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the term cit-jaḍa-granthi (the knot that binds the conscious and the non-conscious together as if they were one) is another name for our ego, which is what he also called ‘the thought called I’ (or ‘I-thought’, as Venkat referred to it), so it is wrong to consider it to be the result of any perception, because we can only perceive anything other than ourself when we rise as this ego. Perceptions appear as soon as this ego appears, so they are an inseparable pair, but though they appear and disappear together, the ego is the cause and its perceptions are its effects, as Bhagavan implied in verse 7 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உலகறிவு மொன்றா யுதித்தொடுங்கு மேனு
முலகறிவு தன்னா லொளிரும் […]

ulahaṟivu moṉḏṟā yudittoḍuṅgu mēṉu
mulahaṟivu taṉṉā loḷirum
[…]

பதச்சேதம்: உலகு அறிவும் ஒன்றாய் உதித்து ஒடுங்கும் ஏனும், உலகு அறிவு தன்னால் ஒளிரும். […]

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ulahu aṟivum oṉḏṟāy udittu oḍuṅgum ēṉum, ulahu aṟivu-taṉṉāl oḷirum. […]

English translation: Though the world and mind arise and subside simultaneously, the world shines by the mind. […]
உலகு (ulahu) is a Tamil word derived from the Sanskrit word लोक (lōka), or rather from its older Vedic form, उलोक (ulōka), which means ‘world’ or ‘universe’, but which etymologically means ‘what is seen’, so in this context the world means the sum total of all perceptions (since there is no world other than our perceptions). அறிவு (aṟivu) is a Tamil word that means knowledge or awareness, but since the only awareness that rises and subsides is our ego or mind, in this context it means our ego or mind. The Tamil verb ஒளிரும் (oḷirum) literally means ‘shines’, but in this context it is used metaphorically to mean ‘seems to exist’, ‘is known’ or ‘is cognised’, so when Bhagavan says, ‘உலகு அறிவு தன்னால் ஒளிரும்’ (ulahu aṟivu-taṉṉāl oḷirum), which means ‘the world shines by the mind’, what he implies is that it seems to exist only because it is known or cognised by our ego or mind.

When Venkat writes, ‘in our dream we see a set of perceptions […] As a result an I-thought arises which identifies with this particular set of perceptions’, he implies that perceptions arise first and the ego or ‘I-thought’ arises as a result of those perceptions, but that cannot be the case, because perceptions arise only when we experience them, and we who experience them are what is called the ego, ‘I-thought’ or cit-jaḍa-granthi. Therefore what arises first is our ego, and as it arises it simultaneously brings perceptions into seeming existence, because just as perceptions cannot exist without our ego, who is their perceiver, our ego cannot exist without perceiving or being aware of something other than itself.

This ego rises by projecting and attaching itself to a body, through the five senses of which it projects and perceives a world. Therefore, since we are fundamentally just pure self-awareness, which is consciousness (cit), and since we seem to rise as this ego only by projecting and experiencing ourself as a body, which is non-conscious (jaḍa), as this ego we are a confused and conflated mixture of cit and jaḍa, so we are called cit-jaḍa-granthi.

9. Mere belief in ajāta or anything else is not an adequate means to free ourself from this ego illusion

In his seventh comment Venkat wrote: ‘I have to say that the logic of advaita, and ajata vada, inevitably has to mean that there can be no method, no cause, no effect, no one bound, no one to be liberated. We hear it, we say we believe it … but then we want to realise it — which is clearly contradictory’.

We may believe ajāta vāda, but it is contrary to our experience (as I explain in We can believe vivarta vāda directly but not ajāta vāda), because we now experience ourself as a finite ego and hence we perceive a world in which cause and effect operate, and as this ego we are bound by limitations from which we wish to be liberated. Therefore believing ajāta vāda is of little use to us unless we strive to experience it, and Bhagavan has taught us that the only means by which we can experience it is by investigating ourself to see whether we are really this ego that we seem to be.

Belief is a function of our mind, so we can believe ajāta vāda or anything else only so long as we experience ourself as this mind. In sleep we do not believe anything, because we are then free of the illusion that we are this ego or mind. Therefore mere belief in anything cannot be an adequate means to free ourself permanently from the limitations we impose on ourself by experiencing ourself as this mind. Ajāta is not merely a vāda (an argument or philosophical contention), but is a description of what we will experience if we investigate ourself thoroughly, so if we claim to believe ajāta we should try to investigate or scrutinise ourself in order to find out what we actually are.

As I explained earlier (in the sixth section above), though Bhagavan’s experience was ajāta, he based his teachings primarily on the vivarta viewpoint, because the ajāta viewpoint denies that there is any ego, or that an ego even seems to exist, so by itself it cannot provide us with a solution to the problem we now face, which is that we now seem to be this ego. According to the vivarta viewpoint, on the other hand, this ego does seem to exist, but is just an illusory appearance (vivarta), like a seeming snake that is actually just a rope, so we can get rid of it by investigating ourself and thereby discovering that we are not actually this finite entity called ego but are only infinite self-awareness, other than which nothing exists.

In the same comment Venkat also wrote: ‘Bhagavan’s is the simplest and most elegant ‘method’, fulfilling Occam’s razor, without adding any frills or further concepts: look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched. In a way, it doesn’t matter if you ‘realise’ or not (except perhaps to reduce suffering in the present) — since in any event the dream will end with ‘physical’ death’.

There are two points of confusion in this statement. Firstly, Bhagavan’s teaching was not ‘look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched’, because the watcher is nothing other than our ego (since what is aware of anything other than itself is only this ego and not our actual self), so the aim of self-investigation is not to see that we are the watcher but is only to see that we have never watched or been aware of anything other than ourself.

Moreover, is it actually possible for us to watch this ego? We can try to do so, and should try to do so, but we will never succeed in actually seeing this ego, because it does not actually exist. Though it may seem to us that when we try to be self-attentive we are watching the watching ego, we can never actually watch it, because as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, thereby implying that if we try to see it, it disappears, because it does not actually exist.

That is, we seem to be this ego only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, but if we turn our attention back to see the ego that we seem to be, it will disappear, because it has no real existence. It is just an ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy) or ‘formless phantom’ — something that seems to exist so long as one does not look at it directly, but that vanishes as soon as one does look at it directly. Therefore watching this ego is like trying to look carefully at an illusory snake: just as we seem to be looking at a snake only so long as we are not looking at it carefully enough, but find that what we were actually looking at was only a rope when we look at it with sufficient care, we seem to be watching a finite ego or ‘I-thought’ only so long as we are not watching it carefully enough, but find that what we were actually watching was only pure and infinite self-awareness (which is what we always actually are) when we watch it sufficiently keenly and vigilantly.

Secondly, though it is obviously true that our present dream will end with the death our present body, the benefit we gain thereby will be no more lasting than the benefit we gain by falling asleep. Just as sleep provides us with only a temporary respite from our ego, physical death is also only a temporary respite, because until we destroy the basic illusion that we are this ego by trying to be attentively self-aware, this ego will continue rising and projecting one dream after another.

The dreamer of every dream is our ego, so as long as this ego endures, whenever one of its dreams comes to an end it will sooner or later begin to dream another dream, so the ending of any dream, including this dream of our present bodily life, is not a real solution to all the problems that we as this ego face or are liable to face. Our present dream may now seem to be a relatively pleasant and comfortable one, but there is no guarantee either that it will continue to be so pleasant or that our next dream will be so pleasant, so contrary to what Venkat wrote, it does matter if we ‘realise’ or not.

In this context ‘realise’ obviously means ‘experience what we actually are’, so in this sense ‘realising’ is the only thing that really matters. Of course it does not matter to our actual self, because as our actually self we always experience ourself as we actually are, but it does matter to us as this ego, because as this ego we are always liable to suffer in numerous ways, and even when we are experiencing a relatively pleasant dream, we are still suffering the limitation of being a seemingly finite entity, so even the most pleasant dream is a state of suffering in comparison to the infinite peace and joy of experiencing ourself as we actually are.

10. What is actually real?

In two comments that he wrote in reply to Venkat’s second comment (to which I replied in the sixth section above), another friend called Sivanarul wrote two comments about what can be considered real. In the first of these comments he wrote: ‘Just like the dream is real as long as one is dreaming, the ego is real as long as the dream of life is happening’.

If Sivanarul intended the words ‘is real’ to be understood literally, what he wrote in that sentence in not correct, because neither the ego nor any of its dreams is ever real. However, though they are not real, they seem to be real so long as we are experiencing them, so if what he meant by ‘is real’ is ‘seems to be real’, then it is correct to say: ‘Just as a dream seems real as long as one seems to be dreaming, the ego seems real as long as the dream of life seems to be happening’.

When something is said to be real, that means that it actually exists and is actually what it seems to be, because whatever does not actually exist cannot be real, even if it seems to exist, and whatever is not what it seems to be is not real as the thing it seems to be but only as the thing that it actually is. Therefore to be real, a thing must not merely seem to exist but must actually exist, so ‘real’ means ‘actually existent’.

Our ego does not actually exist, even though it seems to exist, so it is not real, even though it seems to be real. Likewise phenomena do not actually exist, even though they seem to exist, so they are not real, even though they seem to be real, because all phenomena are just an illusion created by our ego, so they seem to exist only so long as our ego seems to exist, as Bhagavan clearly implied when he wrote in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’.

Since any dream is just a series of phenomena experienced by our ego, it is as unreal as our ego, and it seems to be real only when we seem to be the ego who experiences it. And since our present state, which seems to be a state of waking so long as we experience it, is also just a series of phenomena experienced by our ego, it is just another dream, so it is likewise as unreal as our ego.

According to Bhagavan what actually exists is only ourself, as he clearly and emphatically states in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே.

yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē.

What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self].
Since we alone actually exist, whatever else seems to exist does not actually exist, so nothing other than ourself is real. Everything else is just a kalpanā (a fabrication, imagination or idea created by our mind or ego), like the imaginary silver seen in a shell, as he says in the second sentence of the same paragraph. And since everything other than ourself is experienced only by our ego, our ego is the first kalpanā and the root and cause of all other kalpanas. That is, since our ego is not what we actually are but only what we seem to be, it is not real but is just a kalpanā or illusory fabrication.

The fact that only what actually exists can be considered real is also indicated by Bhagavan in the first few sentences of the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
சுகமென்பது ஆத்மாவின் சொரூபமே; சுகமும் ஆத்மசொரூபமும் வேறன்று. ஆத்மசுகம் ஒன்றே யுள்ளது; அதுவே ஸத்யம்.

sukham-eṉbadu ātmāviṉ sorūpamē; sukhamum ātma-sorūpamum vēṟaṉḏṟu. ātmasukham oṉḏṟē y-uḷḷadu; aduvē satyam.

What is called happiness is only the svarūpa of ātmā [the ‘own form’ or actual nature of oneself]; happiness and ātma-svarūpa [one’s own actual self] are not different. Ātma-sukha [the happiness of oneself] alone exists; that alone is real.
Bhagavan used to define reality by saying that what is real must be eternal, unchanging and self-shining (as he explains, for example, in a dialogue recorded in the third chapter of the second book of Maharshi’s Gospel: 2002 edition, pages 67-8). It must be eternal, because whatever does not exist always is confined within the limits of time, and time is not real, since it exists only in the view of our ego (as we can infer from the fact that we experience time only in waking and dream, when we seem to be this ego, but not in sleep, when we are not aware of any ego). It must be unchanging, because whatever changes is not exactly the same thing at all times, since what it was before each change is different to what it is after that change, so each thing that it changes into is confined within the limits of time. And most importantly, it must be self-shining (that is, it must illumine or make itself known without the aid of any other thing, which means it must be self-aware), because whatever does not illumine and know itself must depend upon something other than itself in order to be known, so whether it is real or not would depend upon whether that thing that illumines or knows it is real, and hence it would not be independently real.

What then is real according to this standard? No phenomenon is eternal, unchanging or self-shining, because phenomena seem to exist only when they are experienced by our ego, and our ego itself is just a temporary phenomenon that appears in waking and dream and disappears in sleep. Because it is temporary, our ego is not eternal, and because it has no form of its own it depends for its seeming existence upon whatever form it attaches itself to, and because it attaches itself to different forms at different times (that is, to one body in waking and another body in dream), it is not unchanging. Though it may seem to be self-shining, because it is aware of its own existence, our ego does not actually shine by the light of its own awareness but only by the light of awareness that it borrows from our actual self (ātma-svarūpa), as we can infer from the fact that we continue to be self-aware in sleep even though we are then not aware of ourself as this ego.

Therefore the only thing that is eternal, unchanging and self-shining is ourself, so we alone are real. We are eternal, because we have never and could never experience a moment when we did not exist. We are unchanging, because whatever changes we may seem to experience are not changes that happen to ourself but only to other things, since we always remain essentially the same ‘we’ or ‘I’. And we are self-shining, because we are always aware of ourself, and our awareness of ourself does not depend on anything else, since we continue to be self-aware whether other things seem to exist (as in waking an dream) or not (as in sleep). Therefore according to Bhagavan and to this standard of reality that he defined, what is real is only ourself and nothing else whatsoever.

In the second of Sivanarul’s two comments that I referred to above he wrote, ‘Advaita accepts three orders of reality’, and then he explain that these ‘three orders of reality’ are pāramārthika satya, vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya. Though these three terms are used in advaita texts and commentaries, it is wrong to assume that advaita accepts more than one reality, because ‘advaita’ means non-duality, so it is the name given to a philosophy that does not accept that more than one thing is real.

What is real is only ourself, so the reality of ourself is called pāramārthika satya, which means the ultimate truth or reality. The other two terms, vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya, are each a description of what seems to be real but is not actually real. Vyāvahārika satya means ‘transactional reality’, the seeming reality of worldly affairs, business and activity, whereas prātibhāsika satya means ‘seeming reality’ or ‘illusory reality’. In some texts a distinction is made between vyāvahārika satya and prātibhāsika satya, and what we experience in the waking state is said to be vyāvahārika satya, whereas what we experience in dream is said to be prātibhāsika satya, but according to Bhagavan this waking state is just another dream, so vyāvahārika satya (transactional reality) is actually just prātibhāsika satya (seeming reality). In other words, other than our real self, whatever seems to be real is not actually real but only seemingly real.

11. Why is it so important to distinguish what is actually real from what merely seems to be real?

In section 11 of my previous article, Is there more than one way in which we can investigate and know ourself?, I had quoted verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Bhagavan says, ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’, and in section 9 of the article prior to that, Sleep is our natural state of pure self-awareness, I had quoted verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in which he said, ‘மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை’ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai), which means ‘When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [or neglecting], anything called ‘mind’ will not exist’. Since he explained in the next verse of Upadēśa Undiyār that the mind is in essence just our ego or root-thought called ‘I’, I drew from verse 17 the obvious inference, ‘our ego or mind does not actually exist at all, even now’.

This prompted a friend called Rudraksha to write a comment in which he asked whether what Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is not contrary to what he says in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār. However, there is actually no contradiction between these two verses, because though our ego or mind does not actually exist, it does seem to exist, and it will persist in seeming to exist until we investigate what it actually is.

When a rope is mistaken to be a snake, there is actually no snake there at all, but there does seem to be a snake, and so long as it seems to exist the snake is liable to cause fear. Likewise, we now mistake ourself to be this ego, even though this is not what we actually are, so though there is actually no ego, it seems to exist, and so long as it seems to exist it creates all sorts of problems for us. Just as the only way to free ourself from the fear caused by the illusory snake is to look carefully at what seems to be a snake, because then only will we see that there is no snake but only a harmless rope, so the only way to free ourself from all the problems caused by this illusory ego is to look carefully at ourself, who are what seems to be this ego, because then only will we see that there is no ego but only our own infinite self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

Therefore we should be careful not to mistake our ego to be real, even though it seems to be real, because it is not actually real and hence is not what we actually are. So long as we believe it and everything that it experiences to be real, it will continue deluding us and causing us endless problems and suffering, so Bhagavan advises us to doubt its reality and therefore to investigate it to see whether or not it is actually real, as it now seems to be.

This is why it is so important for us to distinguish what actually exists and is therefore actually real from what merely seems to exist and therefore merely seems to be real. What actually exists and is real is only our own simple self-awareness, which we experience without a break in waking, dream and sleep, because everything else, beginning with our own ego or mind, does not actually exist even though it seems to exist and to be real. To know this from our own experience, all we need do is to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are, rather than as we now seem to be.

12. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 26: why does Bhagavan say that if our ego does not exist, nothing else exists?

As I mentioned in each of the previous two sections, in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan says: ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego alone is everything’. Since I had cited this verse in section 11 of my previous article, in a recent comment on that article a friend called Algeciras referred to the second sentence of it, ‘if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist’, and remarked, ‘That clause we obviously cannot take literally (word for word)’. He then explained, ‘For example, when I am sleeping the ego does not exist. But can we really say that then nothing does exist?’, and after elaborating on this argument he concluded by asking: ‘Could you please explain, in what sense we should understand this verse correctly?’

Bhagavan did intend us to take what he wrote in this verse literally, but it is difficult for us to accept that everything that we experience depends for its seeming existence upon the seeming existence of our ego unless we are willing to accept that our present so-called waking state is actually just another dream. The arguments that Algeciras gave are based on the assumption the world we now experience is not just a mental projection, like everything that we experience in a dream, but according to Bhagavan it is just a mental projection, so it seems to exist only so long as we are aware of its seeming existence, and we are aware of it only when we experience ourself as this ego.

Because we are attached to our present life and to the person that we now seem to be, we are naturally reluctant to accept that this is all just a creation of our ego and therefore no more real than any other dream that we experience. However, if we want to experience what is actually real, we need to doubt the reality of everything that we now experience. The only thing that must necessarily exist is ourself, because whether everything else is real or just an illusion, we must exist in order to be aware of it. As Descartes argued, ‘I think, therefore I am’, though his argument would have been simpler and more robust if he had instead argued, ‘I am aware, therefore I am’, or ‘I experience, therefore I am’.

Other than ourself, there is nothing that certainly exists or is certainly real, because everything else that we perceive or experience could be just an illusion, like everything that we perceive or experience in a dream. While we are dreaming, we seem to be awake, so everything that we experience in a dream seems to be real so long as we are dreaming, and is found to be just a mental creation and hence unreal only after we wake up. Therefore just because we now seem to be awake and not dreaming does not mean that we are actually not dreaming, because we could be just dreaming that we are awake.

Algeciras argued that the ‘fact’ that the world exists in the absence of the ego in sleep ‘would be easily proved by a film camera which would film all the scene’, but whatever may be filmed would not prove anything, unless we could watch the film while sleeping, which we obviously cannot. If someone were to argue with us in a dream that the world exists while we are asleep, and if they were to show us a film of our body sleeping in our bed, would that prove anything? No, it obviously would not, because the film we were shown was part of our dream, the whole of which was just a creation of our ego. Likewise, even if we now watch a film of our body sleeping in our bed, that would not prove that our body or the world existed while we were asleep, because if our present state is just a dream, that film would just be part of this dream.

Another argument in support of Algeciras’s view was offered by a friend called Samarender Reddy in a later comment, namely that we could watch the body of a friend while he is asleep, so since we ‘know for a certain fact’ that ‘his body and the world existed when he slept’, we ‘can certainly extrapolate and infer (which is a reasonably good inference given that I am not different from him) that pretty much the same thing would happen if I were to go to sleep and he sat in watch by my bedside’. This argument is again based of the assumption that our present state is not a dream, because though we may see the body of a sleeping friend in a dream, we would not consider it reasonable to infer from this in our present state that our dream body and dream world exist even when we are asleep, since we now know that the body of our sleeping friend that we saw in our dream was just a creation of our own ego or mind. Therefore if our present state is also just a dream, all the friends we see in this dream are likewise just creations of our own ego, so they and the rest of this world do not exist or even seem to exist except when we are perceiving them in this dream.

Unless we can prove that we are not now dreaming, we cannot prove that any of the things that we now perceive exist while we are asleep. Since there is no means by which we can prove — either to ourself or to anyone else — that our present experience is not just a dream, there is no means by which we can prove that anything other than ourself exists while we are asleep.

We could argue that just as we cannot be sure that we are not now dreaming or that anything other than ourself exists while we are asleep, we equally well cannot be sure of the opposite, namely that we are now dreaming or that nothing other than ourself exists while we are asleep. That would be a perfectly reasonable argument, but it would show that we should at least doubt whether anything exists independent of our awareness of it, and that we should admit the possibility that everything that we experience other than ourself could be just our ego’s dream creation.

However, since Bhagavan has shown us that we cannot be the body or person that we now seem to be (since we experience ourself even when we do not experience either this body or this person), and since everything else that we experience seems to exist only when we seem to be a body and person, it is reasonable for us to believe him when he says that everything else seems to exist only when this ego (our illusory awareness of ourself as a body) seems to exist, and that whenever this ego does not seem to exist nothing else exists. However, in order to ascertain from our own experience whether or not this is actually the case, he says that we need to investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we really are.

Believing what he taught us (particularly in verses such as 25 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) can certainly help us in our self-investigation, but it is not an adequate substitute for self-investigation, because all his most essential teachings were given to us in order to convince us that we need to investigate what we ourself actually are. As he often used to say, we cannot know the reality of anything else until and unless we know our own reality, and to know our own reality we must investigate what we actually are.

13. A thought is anything fabricated by our ego or mind, so everything other than ourself is a thought

In an earlier comment on my previous article, a friend called Amrita quoted some portions from section 11 of that article and asked, ‘In order to understand the above statements in their complete significance could you please give a more detailed description what a thought is’.

The word that Bhagavan generally used in Tamil to mean ‘thought’ or ‘idea’ was நினைவு (niṉaivu), but in verses he sometimes used எண்ணம் (eṇṇam) instead, and occasionally he would use a word of Sanskrit origin such as சிந்தனை (cintaṉai, which is a Tamil form of cintana) or விருத்தி (virutti, which is a Tamil form of vṛtti). However, whichever word he used to mean ‘thought’, what he meant by it was generally anything produced or fabricated by our ego or mind, so all types of mental phenomena were included in what he called ‘thought’, and since according to his teachings all phenomena (including those that seem to us to be physical) are actually mental (because they are created only by our mind and are experienced within it), he taught us that everything other than our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) is just a thought.

As he often said, the first thought and root of all other thoughts is only the thought called ‘I’, which is our ego, so without this thought no other thought can arise, because every other thought is produced and experienced only by this first thought, ‘I’. Since our mind is nothing but a collection of thoughts, and since no thought could seem to exist if it were not experienced by our ego, what our mind essentially is is just this ego, our primal thought called ‘I’. Other thoughts come and go and are constantly changing, but so long as our mind is active this first thought called ‘I’ endures, so our mind cannot exist in the absence of this thought.

The reason why Bhagavan describes our ego as a thought is that it is not what we actually are, but only what we seem to be, and we seem to be this ego only when we experience ourself as a body. Therefore our ego is a confused mixture of pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are, and awareness of a body, so since any body (or our awareness of it) is just a thought, our ego is itself just a thought. That is, as a mixture of what is real (namely our pure self-awareness) and a thought (namely our body-awareness), our ego is a thought.

Since our ego is the illusory experience ‘I am this body’, it cannot seem to exist without experiencing itself as a body, so as soon as it rises it projects a body and experiences it as itself, and then through the five senses of that body it projects and experiences a world. Since this happens in both waking and dream, Bhagavan said that this so-called waking state is just another dream. Just as everything that we experience in a dream (including the body that we then experience as ourself, and the seemingly external world that we experience through the senses of that body) is just a mental fabrication, and hence just a collection or series of thoughts, so everything that we experience in this so-called waking state is likewise just a mental fabrication, and hence just a collection or series of thoughts.

Since our ego cannot rise or endure without projecting and experiencing other thoughts, beginning with whichever body it currently experiences as itself, it is sustained and nourished by experiencing other thoughts, and it could not even seem to exist if it was not aware of them. This is what Bhagavan implies in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and hence he says in the same verse, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, and which implies that if we try to be aware only of our ego, it will subside and disappear, and along with it all its other thoughts will also cease to exist.

This is the vital clue that he gives us in order to enable us to free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego. That is, we seem to be this ego only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, so when we try to be aware of ourself alone, our ego will dissolve and vanish, and what will then remain is only pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

Since the production and experiencing of any other thought entails directing our attention away from ourself, attention is the instrument by which our ego produces and experiences thoughts. Therefore, since the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails directing our attention back towards ourself, Bhagavan sometimes described it as ‘thought of oneself’ or ‘thinking of oneself’, as I explained in the early sections of this article.

However, though he thus described self-attentiveness as ‘thought of oneself’, it is a ‘thought’ quite unlike any other thought, because whereas other thoughts feed and nourish our ego, this thought of ourself undermines and dissolves our ego, and along with this ego it also dissolves all its other thoughts. Therefore self-attentiveness it is a ‘thought’ that will destroy both its parent, namely our ego or primal thought called ‘I’, and all its siblings, namely all our other thoughts.

This therefore is all that we need to know about thoughts and their nature. They are all unreal, being mere apparitions, but of all of them, the one unreal thought that will destroy all other unreal thoughts is only this ‘thought of oneself’, which is the simple practice of trying to be attentively self-aware.

14. Birth and death are both mere thoughts, as is any kind of body that we may experience as ourself

In another comment, a friend called Tirich Mir wrote, ‘We often see bodily weakness, frailty of old age, disease and death of the body. Let us assume that many of us seekers are or will be not able to give up everything and to destroy this ego for ever before physical death. Therefore knowing ourself might include to know whether the ego will grasp any other subtle form of body after leaving the physical body because of death’, and then asked several questions about what we may experience after death.

Before answering his questions I will start by saying two things in reply to his opening remarks. Firstly, why should we assume that we ‘will be not able to give up everything and to destroy this ego for ever before physical death’? If we assume that, we would thereby be setting an unnecessary limitation upon ourself, so it is best not to assume anything about when we may destroy our ego. If we really want to, we can destroy it here and now, so if we do not do so, that is only because we do not yet want to be free of it more than we want anything else. In other words, we are still attached to our finite life as this ego, so we are not yet ready to let go of it.

How close we are to being ready to let go of it is something that we cannot know, because we cannot see how deeply our attachments are still rooted. It may seem to us that our attachments are still very strong, and hence we constantly resist our own attempts to be calmly self-attentive, but perhaps our present resistance is just the last desperate struggle of our ego to survive, in which case we may finally surrender ourself much sooner than we now expect. Trying to know how close or how far we now are from finally giving up everything is a futile effort, so we would make better use of our time and effort trying to see who it is who now seems to be resisting so strongly.

Our love to surrender ourself completely may now seem to be very feeble, but we have taken refuge in Bhagavan and his teachings, so since he is the sole reality, whereas our ego is merely an illusory apparition with no substantial existence, we should trust in his power to save us in spite of our present lack of true wholehearted love to merge in him. Now we may feel ourself to be too weak to effectively wield the supreme weapon (brahmāstra) of self-attentiveness (who am I?) that he has given us, but as Sadhu Om once assured me when I said this, he who has given us this weapon will also surely give us the strength to wield it effectively. Therefore let us just persevere in making our feeble attempts to be attentively self-aware with complete faith in the assurance that Bhagavan gave us in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, namely that we are now like the prey is the jaws of a tiger, so all we have to do is to avoid resisting by persistently following the path of self-investigation that he has shown us.

Secondly it is not correct to say ‘knowing ourself might include to know whether the ego will grasp any other subtle form of body after leaving the physical body because of death’, because this ego is not what we actually are, so knowing what forms it may assume in future has nothing to do with knowing ourself as we actually are. In order to know what we actually are we must investigate ourself and thereby discover that we are not and never have been this ego that we now seem to be.

Tirich Mir’s first four questions were about what we may experience at the moment of physical death and thereafter, what kind of body our ego may grasp or what kind of thought it may have then, whether there is a life as an astral body, what influence such a life may have on a future physical body, and whether there is any ‘world on the opposite side of the river called (physical) life’. According to Bhagavan our present so-called ‘physical’ life is just a dream, so whatever we experience after this dream will either be a temporary sleep or another dream, and as we all know from experience, in a dream we can experience just about anything, so we could dream that we are in heaven or in hell, wandering as a ghost or born again in another world very similar to the one we now seem to be in, or in any other condition that we may imagine. However, all we need to know about any possible future condition of this ego is that whatever body or world we may experience will just be a dream and will therefore be no more real than the present condition of our ego.

Regarding ‘astral’, mental or physical bodies, there is really no significant difference between such things, because though whatever body we experience as ourself in a dream is actually just a mental fabrication (a thought or idea), while we are dreaming it seems to us to be a physical body, and the same applies to the body that we now experience as ourself. As I mentioned in the previous section, all phenomena — including those that seem to us to be physical — are actually just mental phenomena, so though whichever body we are currently experiencing as ourself (whether in this dream or in any other one) seems to us to be physical, it is actually just a thought or idea fabricated by our own mind, and hence even if we experience ourself being in heaven or hell, the body we would then experience as ourself would likewise be just a mental creation, as also would be the heaven or hell in which we then find ourself.

Regarding death, we will only experience ourself as this body so long as it is alive, so the moment it dies will be like the ending of any other dream. Either we will temporarily subside into a state like sleep, or we will immediately start to dream another dream. During the last few hours, minutes or seconds of the life of our present body we may struggle to hold on to it, as one can often see happening if one is by the bedside of a dying person, but once this body is actually dead, this dream will be over. In some cases one may then experience the sort of condition described by some people who have had a near-death experience, such as seeing one’s body lying in bed and people surrounding it crying, but that would be just another dream, because one would then experience oneself not as the dead body but as another body that is seeing it.

The bottom line is that whatever we may experience other than ourself, whether before death, while dying or after death, is only a dream, so it is not real and hence is not worth thinking about. If we are wise, we should try to direct all our attention only towards ourself, because that is the only means by which we will be able to experience ourself as we really are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego.

Since everything other than ourself is just a thought, whatever body we may experience as ourself is likewise just a thought, and so too is both its birth and its death. Neither birth nor death is real, because they are just the beginning and ending of a dream, and every dream is unreal. What is real is only ourself, so the only truly worthwhile endeavour is to try to experience what we ourself actually are.

In his fifth and sixth questions Tirich Mir asked whether Bhagavan ever answered questions such as the previous four that he had asked, or whether he always advised the questioner ‘only to seek the source of the ‘I’-thought in the now’. Bhagavan adapted the answers he gave to any question according to the need of the person asking it, so he did not always answer the same question in the same way, but generally he did try to divert people away from asking useless questions by directing their attention back towards themself, the ego who was asking those questions.

As he often said in reply to questions such as the first four asked by Tirich Mir, when we do not know what we ourself actually are at this present moment, how can we know what we will be in future. Whatever we actually are is ever unchanging, so to know what we will actually be in future, all we need do is to find out what we actually are here and now. Whatever we may now believe about what we will be in future cannot be true, because what we now experience ourself to be is not true. Even now we are not this ego that we seem to be, so we will not be anything that this ego may seem to become in future. Therefore we should give up enquiring about the past or future, and should instead investigate what we actually are now, at this precise present moment.

15. Is self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) a ‘method’ or just a simple and direct means?

In several comments, beginning with this one, an anonymous friend repeatedly asserted that ‘methods’ do not work, and in support of this questionable assertion he did not offer either any evidence or any logical arguments but only other equally questionable assertions, or ones that either did not support his primary contention or that directly contradicted it. Therefore I do not think it is worth spending time trying to repudiate each of his false, questionable or merely superficial assertions, but there is one implication in what he wrote that is worth discussing, namely the implication that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is just one among many methods, none of which can enable us to experience what we actually are.

Bhagavan taught us that self-investigation is the simple and direct means by which we can experience ourself as we really are, but is it correct to call it a ‘method’? Looking at something is definitely the means to see it, because if we do not look at it we will not be able to see it, but would we say that looking is a method to see? Most of us would not, because looking is too simple and also too essential to be called a method to see. Generally the term ‘method’ means a contrived or elaborate means to accomplish something, so a simple, natural and indispensable means such as looking is not considered to be a method. It could be part of a method (just as, for example, looking at evidence can be part of a method of scientific research), but it is not a method by itself.

Just as looking is the simple, natural and indispensable means to see something, or just as listening is the simple, natural and indispensable means to hear something, so being self-attentive is the simple, natural and indispensable means to experience or be aware of ourself as we actually are. Therefore, since self-investigation entails nothing but simply being attentively self-aware, it is not a method, even though it is the direct means to experience what we really are and thereby to dissolve the illusion that we are this ego.

A method is necessary only when no simple and straightforward means is available or would be sufficient to accomplish something, so to accomplish our aim of knowing what we really are, no method is required, because all that we need do is to investigate ourself by simply looking at, observing, attending to or being attentively aware of ourself. This is the simplest and most straightforward of all means, it is sufficient by itself, and it is also indispensable, because we cannot know what we actually are unless we examine or scrutinise ourself in this way. Therefore self-investigation is just the simple, direct and obvious means to know ourself, but it is too simple and straightforward to be called a method.

Regarding the efficacy of self-investigation, that is, whether or not it will ‘work’ as a means to accomplish its aim, simple logic demands that it must be effective. Just as looking carefully at an illusory snake is the only effective means to see that it is actually just a harmless rope, so looking carefully at ourself, who now seem to be this ego, is the only effective means to see what we actually are. If we do not look carefully at the ‘snake’ we will never actually see that it is only a rope, and likewise if we do not look carefully at ourself we will never actually see what we really are. Therefore investigating ourself by looking at ourself carefully is logically the only effective means to know ourself as we really are, and hence it is indispensable, as Bhagavan repeatedly explained to us.

16. Since Bhagavan says ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’, we would be wise to follow it from the outset

In one of the comments he wrote on my previous article Sivanarul said, ‘I am a firm believer that the ocean can be reached by various rivers following various paths, even if the last 10 feet is a single path. I consider Vichara as that last 10 feet and not the only path from beginning to end that all rivers must follow’. This is an apt analogy. All other paths are like tributaries that must sooner or later merge in the river of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), because as Bhagavan taught us, ultimately self-investigation is the only path that can destroy our ego and thereby discharge us into the infinite ocean of joy that always exists within us as our own real self.

Though on at least the last ten feet of our journey, so to speak, we must travel along the royal highway of self-investigation, we need not wait for that metaphorical final ten feet before joining this path. As Bhagavan used to say, since this is the quickest and most direct path from wherever we may now be standing, if we are truly intent upon freeing ourself from our ego we should start trying to practise self-investigation from the moment we are given to understand that this is the only means by which our ego can ultimately be destroyed. This is why he ended verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār (which I cited in full in the second section of this article) by declaring, ‘மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது’ (mārggam nēr ārkkum idu), which means ‘This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone’.

In this final sentence of verse 17, மார்க்கம் (mārggam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word मार्ग (mārga), which means way, road, path or means; நேர் (nēr) means straight, direct, appropriate, suitable, proper or correct; ஆர்க்கும் (ārkkum) literally means ‘for whomever’, so it implies ‘for anyone’ or ‘for everyone’; and இது (idu) means ‘this’, referring to the practice of self-investigation described in the first sentence of this verse. Thus in this sentence Bhagavan affirms that this path is suitable not only for certain people but for everyone who truly wishes to surrender themself completely by giving up the illusion that they are this ego or mind. Therefore none of us need wait or delay our progress till we have gained greater purity of mind or spiritual maturity by following any other path before we begin trying to practise this simple path of self-investigation, nor is it necessary for us to practise anything else if we are sincerely trying our best to follow this path.

This is clearly illustrated by what Bhagavan said during the following incident. Once a group of villagers came to him and asked what is the best way to attain liberation (mukti), and he replied explaining in simple terms that all one need do to attain liberation is to investigate who is oneself, who seeks to attain it. After the villagers left he went out for his usual walk, whereupon Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri, who had been present while he was talking with them, turned to his followers and remarked:
Why does Bhagavan always recommend his path of ātma-vicāra to everyone, even to such ignorant villagers? His path may be the best one for some people, but it is suitable only for those who are learned, so how can these villagers understand or practice it? Even for a very learned person like me it is difficult to follow it, so how can he expect that such unlearned people would be able to do so? Surely it would have been more useful to them if he had advised them to do a simple practice like japa. Or if he does not like to teach japa, he could have directed them to me, knowing that I would teach them mantra-japa.
When Bhagavan returned from his walk, someone told him what Kavyakantha had said in his absence, to which he replied:
What to do? I can only teach what I know. I do not know anything about any mantras or tantras, because I have never been attracted to learn about such things or to practice them. What I know is that liberation means being free from the ego, and in order to be free from it we must know who we really are, and we can know who we really are only by investigating ourself. This is why I advise anyone who asks how to attain liberation to try to find out who they are.

This is the easiest and most simple path, so it can be practised by anyone, and in order to practise it there is no need to be learned. In fact it can be easier for an unlearned person to practise it than for a learned person, because the minds of learned people tend to be full of unnecessary thoughts and counterarguments, which confuse them and distract their attention away from themself, making it more difficult for them to simply turn their attention back towards themself.

I know that if I were to advise anyone to practise japa or any path other than ātma-vicāra, I would sooner or later have to tell them that such practices are not sufficient, because ultimately the only way to destroy one’s ego is to investigate oneself and thereby to experience oneself as one actually is. Therefore why should I recommend any path knowing that I would later have to say that it is not enough? I would be cheating people if I were to do so. Since everyone must ultimately practise ātma-vicāra in order to annihilate their ego, it is best to advise them to practise it from the very beginning.

Not only is ātma-vicāra sufficient from the outset and necessary at the end, but it is also the simplest, easiest and quickest path from wherever one may begin. If some people want to practise other paths, let them do so, but if anyone really wants to be free from their ego, I can only advise them to practise this simple and easy path of self-investigation and complete self-surrender. When an aeroplane is available and is the quickest means to reach our destination, why should I advise anyone to travel by any slower means such as a bullock cart or a train?
These are not the exact words that Bhagavan spoke, but they are the gist of what I have been told he said on that occasion. I first heard this story from Kunju Swami, and later it was confirmed to me by Swami Natananandar and others who were present at the time, and it was also recorded more briefly by Joan and Matthew Greenblatt on page 74 of their book Bhagavan Sri Ramana: A Pictorial Biography, which was published by Ramanasramam in 1981 as one of their special publications to commemorate Bhagavan’s birth centenary. Kunju Swami also referred to this incident rather obliquely in the final paragraph of his reminiscences as presented by David Godman in Part Two of The Power of the Presence (2005, pp. 95-6), and in a footnote David quoted his fuller account of it as recorded in the Pictorial Biography.

17. Is there any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’?

Another friend called Viswanathan wrote a comment in which he quoted something that David Godman wrote recently (in his reply to a comment on his video on self-enquiry, in which someone called James Austin had asked him about two sentences from the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that he had quoted in his comment on verse 389 of Guru Vācaka Kovai), namely:
Though Bhagavan defines self-enquiry as ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ in ‘Who am I?’, I think that this is an advanced level of the practice that most people aspire to rather than experience. Until that is possible, attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self.
This implies that attending to the sense of ‘I’ is in some way different to ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’, which is an idea that could cause confusion in the minds of those who wish to practise what Bhagavan taught us, because if the ‘self’ we are trying to know is something other than the ‘I’ who is trying to know it, that would mean that we have more than one ‘I’ or self, which obviously cannot be the case. Therefore to clarify what the practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) actually is and to remove any confusion that could arise from this statement by David, let us carefully consider the meaning of the words he used here in order to try to understand whether there is actually any difference between attending to ourself and attending to our sense of ‘I’.

The sentence in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?) that David referred to when he wrote that Bhagavan defines self-enquiry as ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ is the one I cited and discussed in the first section of my previous article, where I explained that the words ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu) used by Bhagavan in that sentence literally mean ‘putting [placing, keeping or fixing] the mind in [or on] oneself (ātmā)’, which is an idiomatic way of saying attending to oneself, so what he clearly implied in that sentence is that the term ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) means only the simple practice of keeping our attention fixed firmly on ourself.

Though the word ஆத்மா (ātmā), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word आत्मन् (ātman), is often used to refer specifically to our actual self (which in English is often referred to as ‘the Self’, meaning ourself as we actually are), it is actually just a generic pronoun, the basic meaning of which is ‘oneself’, and which depending on the context can therefore mean myself, yourself, herself, himself or itself. In this context we can take it to mean either our actual self or ourself in general, without making any distinction between our actual self and our ego, because what seems to be this ego is only our actual self, so when we seem to be attending to our ego what we are actually attending to is our actual self, just as in the case of an illusory snake when we seem to be looking at a snake what we are actually looking at is only a rope. Therefore it makes no difference in practice whether we interpret ஆத்மா (ātmā) in that sentence to mean our actual self or ourself in general, because in either case what Bhagavan clearly implies in that sentence is that the term ātma-vicāra refers only to the practice of being self-attentive.

What then does David mean by attending to the sense of ‘I’? In this context ‘sense’ presumably means awareness, and ‘I’ is obviously a pronoun referring to ourself, so the sense of ‘I’ must simply mean our awareness of ourself. Since self-awareness is our very nature, attending to our self-awareness means exactly the same as attending to ourself. Therefore it is hard to see what difference there could possibly be between attending to the sense of ‘I’ and keeping one’s mind fixed on oneself. These are simply two different ways of describing the simple practice of being self-attentive.

When using this term ‘the sense of I’ in this context David may have meant specifically our ego, but since our ego is merely what we now seem to be, when we attend to our ego we are attending to ourself (as I explained in more detail in an earlier article, By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself), and if we attend to ourself (this ego or sense of ‘I’) sufficiently keenly, we will discover that what we actually are is only our real self, which is not this finite ego but only the one infinite space of pure self-awareness. Just as an illusory snake and the rope that seems to be that snake are not two different things, this illusory ego and our actual self are not two different things, because our ego is merely what our actual self seems (in the view of this ego) to be.

This is why in that sentence of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan said:
சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்.

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

The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] keeping the mind [one’s attention] always on oneself.
In this sentence தான் (tāṉ) is used as an intensifying suffix, which can mean ‘itself’, ‘only’ or ‘definitely’, but which in this context it clearly implies ‘only’, so the clear implication of this sentence is that the term ‘ātma-vicāra’ means nothing other than ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu), ‘keeping the mind on oneself’ or ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’. In other words, what Bhagavan asserts here is that ātma-vicāra is only the simple practice of being self-attentive. Therefore keeping one’s mind or attention fixed on oneself (or at least trying to do so) is not merely ‘an advanced level of the practice’ (as David wrote) but is the only practice from beginning to end.

Since keeping one’s mind on oneself means being self-attentive, it is in no way different to the practice of attending to one’s sense of ‘I’, so David is correct in saying that ‘attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self’. His only mistake lies in thinking that this is in any way different to what Bhagavan described as ‘மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பது’ (maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadu), which means ‘keeping the mind on oneself’ or ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’.

The phrase ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ can be interpreted as something other than simply attending to one’s sense of ‘I’ only if one takes the term ‘the Self’ to mean something other than oneself. But how could ‘the Self’ refer to anything other than oneself, because we obviously do not have more than one self? In this context the term ‘self’ or ‘the Self’ must refer only to ourself, because there cannot be any self other than whosesoever self it is. I and myself are not two different things, just as a table and itself are not two different thing, because nothing can ever be different to itself. Therefore we have no ‘self’ or ‘Self’ other than ourself, so ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self’ can only mean keeping one’s mind on oneself.

Moreover, in Tamil and Sanskrit scripts there are no capital letters, nor is there any equivalent in such languages to the English article ‘the’, so the word ஆத்மா (ātmā) used by Bhagavan in this context simply means ‘self’ or ‘oneself’, so it makes no distinction between oneself and ‘the Self’. Therefore ‘keeping the mind on ātmā’ simply means keeping one’s attention on oneself or being self-attentive, so it means exactly the same as attending to one’s sense of ‘I’, because one’s sense of ‘I’ is simply one’s awareness of oneself. Since self-awareness is our very nature, there is no difference between ourself and our awareness of ourself, so attending to our awareness of ourself is the same as attending to ourself.

Bhagavan used many different terms to describe the practice of ātma-vicāra, but whatever terms he used were terms that mean simply being self-attentive. For example, in Nāṉ Yār? he used terms such as ஆன்மசிந்தனை (āṉma-cintaṉai or ātma-cintana) or ‘thought of oneself’, நானார் என்னும் நினைவு (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu) or ‘the thought called who am I’, சொரூபத்யானம் (sorūpa-dhyāṉam or svarūpa-dhyāna) or ‘meditation on oneself’, and சொரூபஸ்மரணை (sorūpa-smaraṇai or svarūpa-smaraṇa) or ‘self-remembrance’, but all such terms mean only being self-attentive. Likewise, when he described ātma-vicāra as looking at oneself, turning towards oneself, facing oneself, investigating the ego, investigating from where it rose, or investigating its source, birthplace or rising-place, these were all just alternative ways of describing this one simple practice of scrutinising ourself by being keenly self-attentive. Therefore he neatly summarised the essential meaning of all these various descriptions by writing in this sentence: ‘சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்’ (sadā-kālam-um maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadaṟku-t tāṉ ‘ātma-vicāram’ eṉḏṟu peyar), which means ‘The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always on oneself’.

In his comment that I referred to at the beginning of this section, after quoting what David had written about this sentence, Viswanathan then quoted another sentence that David had written to him when he asked him about it, namely ‘Self is what remains when the one that directs attention disappears’. This is correct, because the one who directs attention is only our ego, and when this ego directs its entire attention back towards itself instead of towards anything else, it will subside and disappear, and what will then remain is what we actually are.

An important word in this sentence is the verb ‘remains’, because when something is said to remain, that implies that it was already present. Our actual self remains when our ego disappears because it is what always is and has always been present. It is not something that we are not already aware of, but is only ourself, the only thing that we are always aware of. However, though we are always aware of ourself, we now mistake ourself to be this ego, which is not what we actually are but only what we seem to be whenever we attend to anything other than ourself. Therefore when we attend only to ourself, this illusory ego will disappear, and what will then remain is what we essentially are, which is just pure self-awareness.

Therefore, though David had written that ‘attention to the sense of ‘I’ and a concomitant rejection of all thoughts that try to attach themselves to it is the Bhagavan-prescribed route back to the Self’, he was presumably using the term ‘route back to the Self’ in a metaphorical sense rather than a literal one, because ‘the Self’ is what we always are, so it is not something that we need to literally return to or reach. What is meant by returning to or reaching ourself is simply remaining as we actually are instead of rising as this ego.

As Bhagavan repeatedly emphasised, the only means by which we can remain as we actually are is by trying to be self-attentive, because so long as we attend to anything other than ourself we are nourishing and sustaining our ego, which comes into existence, stands and thrives only by attending to or ‘grasping’ anything other than ourself (as he taught us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu). Since attending to anything other than ourself sustains our fundamental illusion that we are this ego, we can free ourself from it and thereby remain as we actually are only by attending exclusively to ourself.

This is why Bhagavan sometimes described this practice of being self-attentive as சும்மா விருப்பது (summā-v-iruppadu), which means ‘just being’, ‘silently being’, ‘being without activity’ or ‘being still’. So long as we attend to anything other than ourself, our ego and mind are active, but when we try to attend only to ourself, they subside and become inactive, so being self-attentive is the only means by which we can just be as we actually are, which is eternally motionless (acala) and hence inactive self-awareness (as the term acala in the name aruṇācala or ‘Arunachala’ signifies).

Therefore though in a passage from an interview with David that Viswanathan quoted in a later comment David said that ‘summa iru’ (‘be quiet’ or ‘be still’) was Bhagavan’s ‘primary advice’, but that ‘he knew that most people couldn’t naturally stay quiet. If such people asked for a method, a technique, he would often recommend a practice known as self-inquiry’, and though some people may mistake this to mean that being quiet (summā iruppadu) and self-enquiry (ātma-vicāra) are two distinct practices (as another friend called Steve remarked in one comment that it seems to imply), I assume that is not what David meant, because according to Bhagavan ātma-vicāra is the practice of being self-attentive, which is the only means by which we can subside in our natural state of just being, which is what is denoted by the term ‘summā iruppadu’.

18. Is analysis of any use or relevance to self-investigation?

Towards the end of the same comment that I referred to at the beginning of the previous section Viswanathan wrote that when he asked David some further questions about the practice of self-investigation, David replied, ‘Too many words and too much hair-splitting. Self-enquiry is not something you analyse like this. It is something you do to keep the mind away from pointless busyness such as this’.

Obviously most analysis that people do is about things other than ourself and the means by which we can experience what we really are, so such analysis would distract our mind away from the necessary task of investigating ourself, and hence engaging in it would be ‘pointless busyness’ for those of us who want to experience ourself as we really are. Even analysis of ourself and the practice of self-investigation can be a distraction if it is not done properly, because confused or misguided analysis can lead to further confusion. Therefore when we analyse this practice or any other aspect of Bhagavan’s teachings, we should take care to be guided by his words and should try to avoid misinterpreting them.

However, not all analysis is harmful, and if done in the right way and for the right purpose it can be beneficial, because the aim of analysis is (or at least should be) to simplify and clarify one’s understanding and thereby to free one from confusion and misunderstanding. Each one of us has come to Bhagavan because we are confused about what we actually are. Our confusion is more than just an intellectual or conceptual confusion, because it is a deeply rooted experiential confusion, since what we experience as ourself is not what we actually are. Therefore to help us remove our confusion Bhagavan begins by teaching us that we are not what we now seem to be, and he explains this by teaching us to analyse our experience of ourself in each of our three states of waking, dream and sleep.

This analysis of our experience of ourself in these three states is the conceptual foundation of his teachings. Since we are always aware of ourself, we cannot be anything that we are not always aware of, so since we are aware of ourself as one body in waking, another body in dream and no body at all in sleep, we cannot be any body that we temporarily experience as ourself. Likewise, since we are aware of ourself as a finite ego or mind in waking and dream but not in sleep, this ego or mind cannot be what we actually are. Therefore Bhagavan advises us to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are.

Though he taught us that the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is simply being self-attentive, and though there could not be anything simpler than just being attentively self-aware, our mind is used to dealing with complexity and it hankers for and thrives on it, because it cannot survive without experiencing things other than itself, which inevitably leads to complexity. Therefore though the practice of ātma-vicāra is extremely simple, our mind is complex, and since the very simplicity of ātma-vicāra threatens the seeming existence of our mind, our mind tends to make it seem much more complicated than it actually is.

For many people the idea of trying to be self-attentive seems completely baffling, so they ask how to attend to oneself and what is the ‘self’ or ‘I’ that one should attend to. Other people get confused even by the very simple words that Bhagavan uses to explain this practice, so they ask questions such as whether the ‘I’ they should attend to is the ego or the Self, as if there were more than one ‘I’ or ‘self’ that they could attend to. Another common confusion is that when Bhagavan advises us to investigate who am I or to investigate to whom thoughts occur, many people mistake ‘investigate’ to mean ‘enquire’ in the sense of asking a question, so they assume that he meant that we should constantly ask ourself ‘who am I?’ or should wait for the next thought to rise in order to pop the question ‘to whom is this thought?’ Even when it is explained to people that enquiring or investigating who am I simply means observing oneself or being self-attentive, it is hard for many people to believe that it could really be as simple as that, so they begin to imagine that there are different stages to this practice, and that though the ‘I’ that they are now trying to observe or attend to is only their ego, at a later stage they will find something called sphuraṇa or they will experience a new and wonderful state called nirvikalpa samādhi.

In these and so many other ways people become confused about this simplest of practices, so in order to remove such confusion and to prevent further confusion arising, it is necessary for most of us to repeatedly reflect on what Bhagavan has taught us and to carefully analyse his words in order to be sure that we have not misinterpreted them or failed to understand their full implication. Such reflection and analysis, which is what is called manana, is obviously not a substitute for actual practice, but it is nevertheless necessary to prevent us from misinterpreting his teachings and to ensure that we are practising them correctly.

When we first read Bhagavan teachings, our understanding of them is relatively superficial, but as we go deeper into the practice of them, we are able to see fresh depth of meaning in his simple words, so until our ego has been completely annihilated, we should not imagine that we have understood his teachings perfectly and that there is therefore no longer any need for us to read them or to reflect upon them. Whenever our mind in not deeply engaged in being self-attentive, we should be reading or reflecting on his teachings, because they constantly remind us of the need to be self-attentive and they encourage us in so many ways, besides providing subtle clues to help us practise most effectively.

Of course we should avoid engaging in hair-splitting about any unnecessary or irrelevant subjects, but if done properly ‘hair-splitting’ in the sense of making fine distinctions with regard to the practice of self-investigation is necessary, because self-investigation entails making the finest distinction of all, since it entails splitting the ego, which is far finer and more subtle than even the finest hair, and we can split it only by distinguishing our pure self-awareness from all the adjuncts with which we are now confusing it. If we are not able to grasp correctly at a conceptual level what we need to distinguish from what while practising ātma-vicāra, we will not be able to distinguish it in practice. Therefore having a subtle and finely nuanced understanding of the practice is absolutely necessary, and such an understanding comes from persistent practice supported by careful reflection on and analysis of Bhagavan’s own words about this practice.

Bhagavan’s words, particularly as written by him in his own original works, have tremendous power to convey clarity, so reading them and thinking about them carefully, deeply and repeatedly can help us greatly in our attempt to practise self-investigation and self-surrender correctly and persistently. Therefore we should not disparage any attempt by our fellow aspirants to analyse and try to understand what he taught us, nor should we discourage them from doing so. Of course if any of them ask us any questions or talk to us about his teachings in a way that shows that they are analysing them incorrectly or have formed a confused understanding of them, we should gently point out to them where and why we think they have gone wrong, but we should not discourage them from trying to understand them correctly.

The important point to bear in mind is that Bhagavan’s teachings and the practice he recommended are extremely simple, albeit also very subtle and abstract, so to comprehend and practise them correctly our understanding of them needs to be equally simple and subtle. Therefore when we analyse what he has taught us about the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender our aim should be to simplify and thereby clarify our understanding of them. If our analysis leads to any complication or confusion, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them incorrectly, whereas if our analysis leads to simplicity and clarity, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them correctly.

19. Bhagavan’s teachings and ātma-vicāra are the sharpest of all razors, comparable to Ockham’s razor in their aim and effect

In the comment by Venkat that I discussed in the ninth section he wrote, ‘Bhagavan’s is the simplest and most elegant ‘method’, fulfilling Occam’s razor, without adding any frills or further concepts’. This is correct, because the practice of self-investigation and Bhagavan’s teachings in general conform perfectly with the principle of parsimony, popularly known as Ockham’s (or Occam’s) razor, which is the principle that plurality or complexity should be kept to an absolute minimum, or that no complexity should be accepted unless absolutely necessary. Since the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails nothing other than being self-attentive or attentively self-aware, and since self-awareness is our very nature (that is, what we essentially are), this practice entails only one entity, namely ourself being aware of ourself, and hence it is the simplest or most parsimonious state possible.

The principle of parsimony is called Ockham’s razor because William of Ockham (a fourteenth century monk and philosopher) used it so frequently and effectively to shave off all unnecessary complexity and thereby to keep philosophical, theological and scientific theories as simple as possible. Not only does the philosophical basis of Bhagavan’s teachings likewise shave off all unnecessary complexity (which exists in abundance in many of the traditional accounts of advaita and vēdānta philosophy), thereby keeping his explanations as simple as possible, but the actual practice of self-investigation that he taught also shaves off our awareness of anything other than ourself. Therefore we should use the sharp razor of his teachings to shave away all our unnecessarily complex ideas and resulting confusion in order to arrive at a simple and clear understanding, and we should use the even sharper and most deadly razor of self-investigation to shave away our awareness of anything other than ourself. The former requires careful analysis to determine which ideas are necessary and synthesis to connect those necessary ideas together into a coherent yet simple understanding, while the latter requires keen discrimination (vivēka) to distinguish and isolate ourself from everything else.

20. Is ātma-vicāra an exclusive or inclusive practice?

In one of his more recent comments Sivanarul appealed to me ‘to please try to reduce the “appearance” of putting down other Sadhana’ and referred to some of his earlier comments, in one of which he wrote, ‘It is my honest belief, that aspirants will serve themselves and Bhagavan better, if they are more inclusive of all paths, just like Bhagavan himself was’, and in another of which he explained what he meant by an exclusive way of promoting ātma-vicāra and by an inclusive way of promoting it, before finally writing: ‘Many of us are really turned away by the exclusive promotion and we would greatly benefit if the “appearance” becomes more inclusive. There has to be a way by which the importance of Vichara can be stressed without appearing to put down other Sadhana’.

Before answering his appeal directly, I would first like to mention that there is a sense in which ātma-vicāra is all-exclusive and another sense in which it is all-inclusive. It is all-exclusive in the sense that it entails trying to focus one’s entire attention on oneself alone, thereby excluding everything else from one’s awareness. The reason why it is necessary to exclude everything else from our awareness is that what is aware of anything other than ourself is only our ego, so as long as we are aware of anything other than ourself we are not experiencing ourself as we actually are but only as this ego, which is what we seem to be and not what we actually are, and hence in order to experience ourself as we actually are we must be aware of nothing other than ourself.

This is why the state of liberation (mukti, mōkṣa or nirvāṇa) is often called kaivalya, which means isolation, solitude or aloneness. Since perfect isolation or aloneness entails excluding everything other than oneself, liberation is an all-exclusive state in which oneself alone exists, and since our goal therefore excludes everything other than ourself, the means to attain it must also exclude everything other than ourself. In other words, exclusive isolation or kaivalya is not only our goal but also the only means by which we can ultimately experience it.

However ātma-vicāra is also all-inclusive in the sense that it can be practised by anyone, whatever their religion may be or whether they believe in any religion or not, because everyone is self-aware, so investigating or attending to one’s own self-awareness in order to observe whether or not one is what one seems to be does not conflict with any religion, philosophy or science. It is also all-inclusive in the sense that one can practise it at any time or in any circumstances, because it does not require any outward restrictions or observances, and in the sense that one can practise it either as one’s sole spiritual practice or alongside any other spiritual practice that one may like to do.

It is particularly compatible with any devotional practices, and is especially suitable for devotees who believe that God or guru is essentially one’s own actual self and is therefore most intimately and immediately present and accessible to one as oneself, which is a belief that must logically be held by anyone who truly believes that God is infinite, because if he is infinite nothing can be other than him, since if we or anything else were other than him, he would thereby be limited and hence not infinite. Therefore for any devotee who firmly believes that God alone is real and that as a seemingly separate entity (this ego) we are therefore nothing, it should be obvious that the most pressing and imperative need is for one to look within oneself to see past the illusion of one’s separate self and thereby to recognise experientially that what actually exists within oneself as one’s own real self is only God.

This is why Bhagavan ended his discussion of the relative efficacy of each of the various kinds of devotional practice such as pūja (physical or bodily worship of God), japa (repetition of a name of God, whether done aloud, softly or mentally) and dhyāna (meditation on God) in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār by saying in verse 8 that rather than அனியபாவம் (aṉiya-bhāvam or anya-bhāva), which means ‘meditation on what-is-other’ and which in this context implies meditation on God or devotion to him as if he were something other than oneself, அனனியபாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam or ananya-bhāva), which means ‘meditation on what-is-not-other’ and which in this context implies meditation upon God as nothing other than oneself, is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), which means ‘the best of all’ or ‘the best among all’ and which in this context implies the best, foremost, highest, greatest or most excellent among all practices of devotion (bhakti) and all forms or varieties of meditation.

If we understand the full implication of the principle that God is not other than oneself, which is one of the most fundamental principles of both advaita philosophy and the teachings of Bhagavan, ananya-bhāva or meditation upon God as not other than oneself means not merely meditating on the thought ‘I am God’ (sōham, śivōham or ahaṁ brahmāsmi), because such a thought is something other than oneself, but means only meditating on oneself alone, so it is just an alternative way of describing the practice of ātma-vicāra. Therefore in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan clearly implies that ātma-vicāra is the best among all practices of devotion (bhakti).

In saying this, he did not intend to ‘put down’ other practices (as Sivanarul and another anonymous friend seem to think anyone is doing if they try to explain why he taught us that ātma-vicāra is such a special and efficacious practice), but merely intended to teach us the relative efficacy of each kind of practice and thereby to show them all in a clear perspective. He never disparaged or intended to disparage any devotional practice or any other practice that was done for the love of God or for attaining liberation, but for those of us who want to know what is the best and most efficacious devotional practice or means to free ourself from our ego, he never hesitated to explain why ātma-vicāra is அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம் (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the best among all.

He also taught us through the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and through the example of his own devotion to Arunachala and many of his oral teachings that practices of dualistic devotion are not incompatible with the practice of ātma-vicāra, but are in fact complementary to it, so if we choose we can combine other devotional practices with it. The reason for this is that most of us do not yet have sufficient bhakti to keep our attention always immersed only in ourself, so for much of the time our attention is flowing out towards other things, and hence whenever we are not trying to be exclusively self-attentive we can instead be praying to Bhagavan to give us more love to be self-attentive or doing any other devotional practice that may appeal to us at that moment, such as aruṇācala-pradakṣiṇa (reverentially walking around Arunachala). Such a blend of seemingly dualistic devotion and love to be self-attentive is beautifully expressed in so many verses Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and also in numerous heart-melting verses sung by devotees such as Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om, who were both staunch and uncompromising advocates of the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra.

Another sense in which ātma-vicāra is all-inclusive is expressed by Bhagavan in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār and verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham. After saying in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār that ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness the best among all practices, in verse 9 he says that by பாவ பலம் (bhāva-balam), the strength of bhāva (meaning the strength, power, intensity or firmness of ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness), being in sat-bhāva (the ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’), which transcends bhāvana (thinking, thought, imagination or meditation), is பரபத்தி தத்துவம் (parabhatti-tattuvam or parabhakti-tattva), the real essence or true state of supreme devotion, and then in verse 10 he says:
உதித்த விடத்தி லொடுங்கி யிருத்த
லதுகன்மம் பத்தியு முந்தீபற
     வதுயோக ஞானமு முந்தீபற.

uditta viḍatti loḍuṅgi irutta
ladukaṉmam bhattiyu mundīpaṟa
     vaduyōga jñāṉamu mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

English translation: Subsiding and being in the place from which one rose: that is karma and bhakti; that is yōga and jñāna.
What Bhagavan describes here as ‘உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்’ (uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal) , which means ‘subsiding and being in the place from which one rose’ or ‘being having subsided in the place from which one rose’, is the same state of just being that he described in the previous verse as ‘பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), which means ‘only being in sat-bhāva [one’s real state of being], which transcends bhāvana [thinking or meditation]’, so in the context of verses 8 to 10 what he implies by ‘உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்’ (uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal) in this verse is remaining in (and as) oneself, the source from which one arose, having subsided there by the intensity or firmness of one’s ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness. Therefore what he implies in this verse is that subsiding and abiding in oneself by intensely focused self-attentiveness amounts to practising perfectly all the four kinds of spiritual practice, namely karma (niṣkāmya karma or desireless action), bhakti (love or devotion), yōga (a set of practices that include prāṇāyāma and various kinds of meditation) and jñāna (knowledge, which entails self-investigation).

That is, since the ultimate aim of each of these four kinds of spiritual practice is the removal of one’s ego, and since this ego can be completely and effectively removed only by means of ātma-vicāra, practising ātma-vicāra and thereby merging back into one’s actual self, which is the source from which one rose as this ego, is itself the culmination and pinnacle of karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. Likewise in verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham he implied much the same thing:
வினையும் விபத்தி வியோகமஞ் ஞான
மினையவையார்க் கென்றாய்ந் திடலே — வினைபத்தி
யோகமுணர் வாய்ந்திடநா னின்றியவை யென்றுமிறா
னாகமன லேயுண்மை யாம்.

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

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

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

English translation: Investigating to [or for] whom are these, karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna, is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. When one investigates, without ‘I’ [the ego] they [karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna] never exist. Only being permanently as oneself is true.
In the first line of this verse வினை (viṉai) means action or karma; விபத்தி (vibhatti) means vibhakti, but in the special sense of ‘lack of devotion’ rather than its usual sense of ‘separation’; வியோகம் (viyōgam) mean ‘separation’; and அஞ்ஞானம் (aññāṉam) means ajñāna or ‘ignorance’ in the sense of self-ignorance. Since these defects seem to exist only so long as our ego seems to exist, and since they are defects that are inherent in our ego, we can get rid of them entirely only by getting rid of our ego. Therefore, since these defects cannot exist without this ego (as he says in the next sentence), and since investigating this ego will reveal that it does not actually exist, Bhagavan says that investigating to whom or for whom these defects seem to exist is itself karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna. Hence the simple practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) includes within itself all the benefits of practising every other kind of spiritual practice, so in this sense it is all-inclusive.

21. Does explaining the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra imply that we are ‘putting down’ all other kind of spiritual practice?

However, I appreciate that Sivanarul’s appeal to me was not directly concerned with the question of whether ātma-vicāra itself is inclusive or exclusive, but was rather concerned with what he perceives as an ‘appearance’ that my presentation of it seems to ‘put down’ other practices and hence to be insufficiently inclusive, so I will now address his appeal more directly. Paradoxically, one of the reasons why I tend almost exclusively to promote ātma-vicāra rather than any other practice in my writings is precisely because I am so firmly convinced by Bhagavan’s teachings that it includes within itself all the benefits of practising every other kind of spiritual practice, so I feel I would not be true to my understanding of his teachings if I were to promote any other practice instead of ātma-vicāra.

However, this is not the only way in which I can explain why I focus so much on what I perceive to be the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra as taught by Bhagavan, so I shall try to explain this in several other ways. Firstly, ātma-vicāra is concerned primarily with investigating and experiencing what we ourself actually are, so since ourself is what is dearest and of greatest concern to each one of us, logically ātma-vicāra should appeal to all of us, particularly if we believe Bhagavan when he says that what we actually are is infinite happiness, and that we seem to suffer only because we do not experience ourself as we actually are. This is beautifully expressed by him in the first paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, which was not part of any answer that he gave to Sivaprakasam Pillai but was added by him when he rewrote the questions and answers recorded by Pillai in the form of an essay, and which was largely a summary of what he had written earlier in the first sentence of his introduction (avatārikai) to his Tamil translation of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi (a translation of which I give towards the end of the first chapter of Happiness and the Art of Being).

However, though we should each logically want to experience ourself as we actually are and should therefore be attracted to the practice of ātma-vicāra, in fact most of us are not, because we are reluctant to let go of all the illusions we have about ourself and everything else. Since ātma-vicāra is a direct threat to all our dearly held illusions, most people would take no interest in it at all even if they heard about it, and even among those of us who have heard about it and the central importance Bhagavan attached to it, most of us shy away from it and find one excuse of another not to practise it.

Some people like me recognise why Bhagavan recommended it so strongly and therefore acknowledge that we should practise it, yet due to our lingering attachments to our illusions about ourself and everything else we find ourself reluctant to be self-attentive as much as we could be and know that we should be, so our attempts to practise ātma-vicāra face tremendous internal resistance, which can be overcome only by patient persistence. Others who face similar internal resistance prefer to believe that since Bhagavan did not try to dissuade anyone who preferred to practise any other kind of spiritual practice, he considered all kinds of spiritual practice to be equally efficacious, or that he at least considered that though ātma-vicāra is the quickest and most efficacious practice, it is suited only to certain people, so others can reach the same goal by other means.

When it is pointed out to such people that in Nāṉ Yār? he explicitly taught that other practices such as prāṇāyāma (breath-restraint), mūrti-dhyāna (meditation on a form of God) or mantra-japa (repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God) are only aids but will not bring about manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind), and that other than ātma-vicāra there is no adequate means by which we can eradicate our ego and mind, and also that this message is repeated and further explained by him in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, Upadēśa Undiyār and other texts, they are reluctant to accept that these texts are the truest and purest expressions of his fundamental teachings, and they argue that in his day-to-day conduct and in so many answers that he gave to devotees’ questions recorded in books such as Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan he showed that he was far more inclusive and accepted that one can attain liberation by following any spiritual path that may appeal to one. If we feel inclined to accept such a view of his teachings and are therefore willing to dismiss or attach less importance to the clear, explicit and unequivocal teachings that he wrote in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Upadēśa Undiyār and Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and if we therefore believe that those devotees who attach central importance to these texts are thereby excluding those who do not accept that ātma-vicāra is uniquely efficacious and is ultimately the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby liberate ourself from the clutches of our ego, we should perhaps consider what motivates us to take such a view, rather than deploring those who are not willing to agree with our view.

The only reason why we seem to be unable to experience ourself as we actually are here and now, and why we therefore find it difficult to practise ātma-vicāra, is that we are still too strongly attached to all our illusions about ourself and everything else, so if we prefer to believe that ātma-vicāra is not ultimately the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are or that it is not uniquely efficacious, and that we can attain liberation by other means also, in the final analysis the reason for this preference would seem to be simply that we are reluctant to surrender all our illusions about ourself and everything else, or even to acknowledge this reluctance is ultimately the sole obstacle that we all face, no matter what spiritual path we may choose to follow. Since all our illusions are embodied in our ego, which is their sole root and foundation, the fundamental difference between ātma-vicāra and every other kind of spiritual practice is that ātma-vicāra tackles this root directly by giving it absolutely no room to rise its ugly head, whereas other spiritual practices tackle it more indirectly, allowing it room to endure but endeavouring to keep it in check.

Not only has Bhagavan explicitly stated that ātma-vicāra is the only means by which we can give up or surrender our ego entirely, but he has also explained clearly and logically why this is so. As he pointed out to us in so many ways, what is aware of anything other than ourself alone is only our ego, and it cannot rise or endure even for a moment without being aware of anything other than ourself, so being aware of other things is the means by which it nourishes itself and survives. This is a simple and inviolable law of nature (and unlike other laws of nature, such as the laws of physics, which are laws that hold in some dreams but not necessarily in all dreams, this is a law that necessarily holds in every dream, because it is the fundamantal law upon which the very appearance of any dream is based), and it is therefore one of the fundamental principles of his teachings, which is expressed by him clearly in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he uses the phrase ‘உரு பற்றி’ (uru paṯṟi) or ‘grasping form’ to mean grasping or being aware of anything other than oneself, who is உருவற்ற (uru-v-aṯṟa) or formless. Therefore, since being aware of anything other than ourself nourishes and sustains our fundamental illusion that we are this ego, logically the only means by which we can destroy this illusion is by trying to be aware of ourself alone. This is why he says in the same verse: ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it [this ego] will take flight’.

Trying to be aware of ourself alone entails trying to focus our entire attention only on ourself, so this simple practice of trying to be attentively self-aware is the only way in which we can investigate ourself and thereby experience what we actually are. Therefore since every kind of spiritual practice other than self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails attending to or being aware of something other than ourself, no such practice can be a direct means to annihilate our ego and thereby to establish us firmly in our natural state of absolutely pure self-awareness, which alone is the state of true liberation.

This is not to say that other practices are of no use. As Bhagavan said, they can be aids to achieving liberation, but none of them can be a direct means to achieve it, so they must all eventually lead one to the simple practice of self-attentiveness, which alone will ultimately liberate us from our ego.

I make no apology for repeating this again and again when answering questions that I am asked about Bhagavan’s teachings or when writing on this blog, even if it does make it appear to some friends that I am promoting ātma-vicāra too exclusively and ‘putting down’ other practices, because if I did not emphasise this explicitly and unequivocally, I would not be true to my understanding of what I believe Bhagavan taught us no less explicitly or unequivocally. This practice of self-attentiveness is taught more or less explicitly in numerous ancient texts (such as in Bhagavad Gītā 6.25-6), but as far as I know no one before Bhagavan had ever emphasised it so strongly or explained its unique efficacy so clearly as he did, so in this important respect his teachings are very special, and this is what has attracted many of us to him and encouraged us to try to practise ātma-vicāra.

Of course he did not attempt to compel anyone to practise being self-attentive unless they were willing to try, so whenever anyone was clearly not willing even to try to be self-attentive, he would encourage them to continue doing whatever spiritual practice they wanted to do. To practise being self-attentive requires sincere bhakti or love to experience what is real, so he knew it would be futile to try to compel anyone to practise it, but when he was asked questions he would not hesitate to encourage people at least to try little by little to be attentively self-aware in order to find out who or what they actually are.

22. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: why is ēkāgratā (one-pointedness) considered so necessary?

One quality that is considered to be of utmost importance in any kind of yōga or spiritual practice is ēkāgratā, which means ‘one-pointedness’ and which implies single-minded devotion to the pursuit of one goal by one means. The reason why it is considered so necessary is explained by Bhagavan in the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்.

maṉam aḷaviṟanda niṉaivugaḷ-āy virigiṉḏṟapaḍiyāl ovvoru niṉaivum adi-bala-v-īṉam-āha-p pōgiṉḏṟadu. niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum.

Because of the mind spreading out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. When thoughts [progressively] reduce and reduce, for the mind which has gained strength by [thereby] achieving ēkāgratā [one-pointedness] ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished.
If we habitually allow our mind to scatter in many directions, it will lack the power to remain focused for any length of time on just one thing, so such a mind will be a poor instrument for practising either ātma-vicāra or any other type of yōga or spiritual practice. Therefore in order to successfully pursue any form of spiritual practice it is necessary to train one’s mind to be one-pointed in its pursuit, and hence in every form of yōga one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) is considered to be absolutely necessary.

If we want to dabble in doing various kinds of spiritual practice, such as a little bit of ātma-vicāra together with some bhakti and some raja yōga, and perhaps also some vipassanā as well as some Tibetan Buddhist and Zen meditation, and also throw in some Sufi practices and Christian prayers for good measure, that would be OK, because engaging in such practices is no doubt better than engaging in many other kinds of more worldly activity that we could be doing instead, but spreading our energy, effort and interest out in many different directions like this would not enable us to go deep into any of these practices. Therefore if we want to make significant progress in any spiritual path, we should decide to focus primarily on just one path leading to one clearly defined goal.

The term ēkāgratā and the synonymous term ēkāgratva are each a compound of two words and a suffix: ēka means one, single or only; agra means first, foremost, summit, tip, point, aim, goal or climax; and the suffixes and tva are both equivalent to the English suffix ‘-ness’. Therefore ēkāgratā and ēkāgratva both mean ‘one-pointedness’ or having a single aim or focal point, both in the sense focusing one’s attention on just one thing and in the sense of having just one goal. Hence in order to develop ēkāgratā or one-pointedness we must first choose a single goal towards which we wish to work and then choose a single means by which we can achieve that goal.

As Bhagavan implied in the two sentences of Nāṉ Yār? cited above, we can gain the bala (strength, power or ability) required to achieve our goal only if we seek it one-pointedly rather than allowing our energy and attention to be scattered in many different directions. Hence if we take him as our guru and therefore wholeheartedly accept that the only goal that we should seek to achieve is the annihilation of our ego, which is what is also called complete self-surrender, we should try to focus all our interest, effort and attention on one-pointedly practising ātma-vicāra, which he has taught us is the only direct means by which we can achieve this goal.

Focusing one-pointedly on a single path leading to a single goal does not mean that we are putting down all other kinds of spiritual practices. We can single-mindedly take interest in and try to practise only our chosen path while at the same time recognising and acknowledging that other people have chosen other paths because those other paths are better suited to their particular beliefs, interests, aims and aspirations.

Not everyone is ready yet to accept that annihilation of one’s own ego is the best goal to seek, and even among those who accept this, not everyone is ready yet to accept that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means to achieve this goal. For example, in some bhakti traditions merging completely in God (which is an alternative way of describing the annihilation or complete surrender of one’s ego) is not considered to be the goal, because they argue that God is like honey, so it is better to be a bee drinking the honey than to be one that falls in it and drowns. Therefore in such traditions liberation (mukti) is not considered to be a state of absolute oneness with God, but a state in which one perpetually loves him and worships him as someone other than oneself. For devotees who believe this, dancing and singing in praise of God will naturally seem to be a better path than ātma-vicāra (even though they may be devotees of Sri Krishna, who taught the practice of ātma-vicāra in Bhagavad Gītā 6.25-6).

Though Bhagavan taught us that the honey analogy used by such devotees is not an appropriate one (because God is not insentient like honey, so if we become one with him by drowning in him and thereby losing our ego, we will enjoy the infinite happiness that is him as our own self), if any such devotee came to him, he would encourage them to continue one-pointedly practising their chosen path of devotion, knowing that just as a bee drinking from a bowl of honey would eventually become so intoxicated with it that it would fall into it and drown, any devotee who practises dualistic bhakti with one-pointed love will eventually become so intoxicated with love of God that his or her mind will turn within and drown in God, who is always shining within each one of us as our own self.

However, for those of us who have come to him seeking to know the simplest and most direct means to achieve the perfect happiness that we are all seeking in one way or another, he taught that the simplest, quickest and most direct means is ātma-vicāra, so if we are convinced by his teachings we should try one-pointedly to practise ātma-vicāra. One-pointedly trying to practise ātma-vicāra does not mean that we should not seek the aid of his grace whenever our mind is dragged outwards by our old attachments and viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or desires to experience things other than ourself), or that we should not express our yearning for his grace through dualistic practices of devotion towards his human form or his form as Arunachala, but ātma-vicāra should be the focal point of all our practises, and if we pray to Bhagavan or Arunachala we should pray only for him to give us the love to practise ātma-vicāra as he has taught us.

In Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and elsewhere Bhagavan has clearly indicated that the purpose of worshipping Arunachala is the same as the purpose of practising ātma-vicāra, namely the annihilation of our ego. One of the traditional beliefs about Arunachala is that mere thought of Arunachala will bestow liberation (mukti), and since Bhagavan has taught us that Arunachala is our own real self, the ‘thought of Arunachala’ is a metaphorical way of describing thought of oneself (ātma-cintana) or self-attentiveness. This is clearly indicated by Bhagavan in the first verse of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai:
அருணா சலமென வகமே நினைப்பவ
      ரகத்தைவே ரறுப்பா யருணாசலா.

aruṇā calameṉa vahamē niṉaippava
      rahattaivē raṟuppā yaruṇācalā
.

பதச்சேதம்: அருணாசலம் என அகமே நினைப்பவர் அகத்தை வேர் அறுப்பாய் அருணாசலா.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aruṇācalam eṉa ahamē niṉaippavar ahattai vēr aṟuppāy aruṇācalā.

English translation: Arunachala, you root out the ego of those who think at heart ‘Arunachalam’.
Since அகம் (aham) is both a Tamil word that means inside, within, heart or mind, and a Sanskrit word that means ‘I’ or ego, அகமே (ahamē) in the first line of this verse can either mean within, at heart, in heart or in one’s mind, or it can mean ‘only I’. Therefore an alternative interpretation of this verse, which was emphasised by Sri Muruganar in his commentary, is:
Arunachala, you root out the ego of those who think that Arunachalam is only ‘I’.
Thus, as in many other verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, in this verse Bhagavan has given room for us to interpret what he sang as a reference to Arunachala as the outward form of a hill or as our own real self, and by doing so he has beautifully and significantly blended seemingly dualistic devotion with devotion to what we ourself actually are, because until we root out our ego and thereby remain as we actually are, these two forms of devotion are like two wings that together will enable us to fly to our destination, or like two oars that will enable us to row to liberation, the shore of this ocean of saṁsāra. However, the use that we make of these two wings should be one-pointed in their aim, namely to root out our ego.

When the need for us to one-pointedly follow the path that Bhagavan has shown us is explained to people, some of them argue that this does not necessarily mean that we should practise only ātma-vicāra, because when he explained the need for one-pointedness in the two sentences of the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that I cited at the beginning of this section he did so in the context of explaining how both mūrti-dhyāna (meditation on a form of God) and mantra-japa (repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God) are aids to restrain the mind. However, though he said that the mind will gain one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) by both mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa, he clearly indicated that the resulting one-pointedness should then be used to practise ātma-vicāra, because mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa are only aids but will not bring about manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind), which can be achieved only by ātma-vicāra.

In order to succeed in annihilating our ego by ātma-vicāra (which is what he meant by the words ‘ஆத்மவிசாரம் சித்திக்கும்’ (ātma-vicāram siddhikkum) or ‘ātma-vicāra will be accomplished’ in the second of the two sentences cited at the beginning of this section) we obviously need to develop one-pointedness, but rather than developing it by any other means, it is best to develop it by trying one-pointedly to practise ātma-vicāra from the outset. Sadhu Om used to explain this by the following analogy:

Let us suppose that we are in Tiruvannamalai and we need to reach Vellore, which is a town to the north of it, as quickly as possible, and that the fastest available mode of transport is a bicycle, but we have not till then learnt to ride a bicycle. Obviously the quickest way to reach Vellore would be to start learning to cycle on the road to Vellore, because by the time we have become proficient in cycling we would already be well on the way to reaching Vellore. We could of course start to learn to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, which is a town to the south of Tiruvannamalai, but by the time we have become proficient in cycling we would be further from our destination than we were when we started, so we would then have to turn back to cycle to Tiruvannamalai before preceding from there to Vellore.

Likewise, since the one-pointedness we need to succeed in reaching the goal of ātma-vicāra is a one-pointed focus on ourself alone, the best way to gain that one-pointedness is by trying to focus our attention only on ourself. This is like learning to cycle on the road to Vellore. If instead we try to gain one-pointedness by focusing our attention on a mūrti (a form of God) or a mantra (a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God), that would be like learning to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, because by the time we have gained a one-pointed focus on our chosen mūrti or mantra, we would then have to turn around and try instead to gain a one-pointed focus on ourself alone. Since the one-pointed focus we need is on ourself alone, it is logical to try to cultivate one-pointedness by focusing on ourself from the moment we understand that this is our aim.

In the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan’s aim was to explain how mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa can each be an indirect aid to ātma-vicāra, but this does not mean that he was recommending that we should practise either mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa. Since he made it clear in other paragraphs that ātma-vicāra is the only direct and adequate means by which our ego can be annihilated, we can infer that the best way to gain the one-pointedness required to accomplish the aim of ātma-vicāra (namely to experience ourself as we actually are) is to practise only ātma-vicāra from the outset by trying to be attentively aware of ourself alone.

Therefore my answer to Sivanarul’s appeal to me to present ātma-vicāra in a more inclusive manner and ‘to reduce the “appearance” of putting down other Sadhana’ is that since this blog is intended to be primarily about Bhagavan’s teachings and his unique path of ātma-vicāra, and since one-pointedness is required for any of us to derive the full benefit of this path, I believe it would be doing a disservice if I did not focus so one-pointedly and single-mindedly on the need for ātma-vicāra and the efficacy and benefit of practising it one-pointedly. My aim is not to ‘put down’ any other sādhana or spiritual path, but is only to explain what is so special and unique about the efficacy and benefit of this path, in order to encourage myself and others to cling one-pointedly and tenaciously to this simple practice of being attentively self-aware.

23. What skill is required to practise ātma-vicāra?

In one of his comments Sivanarul wrote, ‘We all know Vichara was close to Bhagavan’s heart and some of us are highly skilled in that practice, while others struggle with it’, and in a later one he wrote:
Let us take our worldly skills as an example. Isn’t it obvious that each one of us is highly skilled in certain things and is really bad in certain others? People with great artistic skills usually are very poor in analytical skills and people who have great analytical skills are poor with artistic skills. It is well established in science, different parts of the brain is involved in different skills.

Spiritual skills/practices are no different. The brain is still being used and some of us have devotional predisposition and some of us have analytical predisposition.
If any of us were highly skilled in the practice of ātma-vicāra, we would be able to dissolve very quickly the illusion that we are this ego, because our ego is just a spurious entity, so as Bhagavan taught us it cannot stand in the clear light of vigilant and unwavering self-attentiveness. As he said in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’.

The reason our ego has not yet taken flight and disappeared forever is precisely because we are not yet highly skilled in the practice of ātma-vicāra. However ‘skill’ is perhaps not the most appropriate word to use in this context, because skill is required to do anything complex or difficult, whereas being attentively self-aware is the simplest and easiest of all things. The only ‘skill’ we require to be self-attentiveness is a sincere liking or love to be so. As I wrote in an earlier comment on the same article in reply to a question asked by another friend:
Perseverance in this practice of being attentively self-aware is the only means by which we can cultivate the necessary love (bhakti) to be aware of ourself alone, and this love will give us the ability or skill to keep our entire attention fixed firmly on ourself without allowing it to be distracted away towards anything else.
Other kinds of spiritual practice may require a particular skill, because they may involve doing something complex or difficult, but ātma-vicāra requires absolutely no skill other than the love to be self-attentive and hence aware of oneself alone. It does not entail using the brain in any particular way, because the brain may be needed for doing anything, whereas being attentively self-aware does not entail doing anything, since it is simply a state of just being (summā iruppadu). Nor does it require an analytical predisposition rather than a devotional one. In fact quite the opposite: though an analytical predisposition may help us to understand the practice and its simple theoretical basis more clearly, to put it into actual practice requires a strong devotional predisposition, because without single-minded devotion or love to be aware of oneself alone it is not possible to hold firmly on to being attentively self-aware.

24. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 40: annihilating our ego by means of ātma-vicāra is fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma

In many of his comments Sivanarul referred to sanātana dharma, which means the ‘eternal dharma’ and which is a term that generally refers to the Hindu religion or those parts of the dharmic family of religions, philosophies, beliefs and practices (which includes all the various forms of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) that in one way or another revere the Vēdas. For example, in one comment he wrote that sanātana dharma ‘does not exclude any religion, spiritual practice or even materialism. It articulated all 4 (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha) as attainments open for all of mankind and maintains that Artha and Kama when practiced with Dharma, will ultimately lead to Moksha. Bhagavan was one of the greatest exponents of Sanatana Dharma’.

Though it is true that Bhagavan was one of the greatest exponents of sanātana dharma, he did not teach all aspects of it, nor does every aspect of it represent his teachings, because sanātana dharma is an extremely broad church, so to speak, in that it encompasses a wide range of very different and often conflicting philosophies, aims, beliefs and practices. For example, as Sivanarul says, sanātana dharma is said to recognise four puruṣārthas or legitimate goals of human life, namely dharma (righteous conduct), artha (prosperity or material wealth), kāma (sensual pleasures) and mōkṣa (liberation), but though Bhagavan obviously did not condone any behaviour that did not conform to dharma (in the broad sense of being righteous, ethical and not causing harm), and though he would not have condoned seeking artha or kāma by any means that did not conform to dharma, he did not recommend any of these three as being a worthy goal of life, because he made it clear that the only truly worthwhile goal that we should seek is mōkṣa (as indicated by Sri Muruganar in verses 8 and 1204 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai).

However, though all forms of sanātana dharma generally acknowledge that mōkṣa is the ultimate goal of human life, within sanātana dharma there are many different conceptions of what mōkṣa actually entails, whereas Bhagavan did not accept that there is more than one kind of real liberation, as he made clear in verse 40 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருவ மருவ முருவருவ மூன்றா
முறுமுத்தி யென்னி லுரைப்ப — னுருவ
மருவ முருவருவ மாயு மகந்தை
யுருவழிதன் முத்தி யுணர்.

uruva maruva muruvaruva mūṉḏṟā
muṟumutti yeṉṉi luraippa — ṉuruva
maruva muruvaruva māyu mahandai
yuruvaṙitaṉ mutti yuṇar
.

பதச்சேதம்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம், மூன்று ஆம் உறும் முத்தி என்னில், உரைப்பன்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம் ஆயும் அகந்தை உரு அழிதல் முத்தி. உணர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam, mūṉḏṟu ām uṟum mutti eṉṉil, uraippaṉ: uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam āyum ahandai uru aṙidal mutti. uṇar.

அன்வயம்: உறும் முத்தி உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம், மூன்று ஆம் என்னில், உரைப்பன்: உருவம், அருவம், உருவருவம் ஆயும் அகந்தை உரு அழிதல் முத்தி. உணர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uṟum mutti uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam, mūṉḏṟu ām eṉṉil, uraippaṉ: uruvam, aruvam, uru-v-aruvam āyum ahandai uru aṙidal mutti. uṇar.

English translation: If it is said that mukti one will experience is three, form, formless, or form or formless, I will say: know that the destruction of the ego-form, which distinguishes form, formless, and form or formless, is mukti.

Paraphrased translation: If it is said that mukti [liberation] one will experience is of three kinds, with form, without form, or either with form or without form [that is, a state in which one can alternate back and forth between being a form or being formless], I will say: know that the destruction of the ego-form, which distinguishes [these three kinds of liberation], with form, without form, or either with form or without form, is [alone real] mukti.
As Bhagavan made clear in this verse, in his view the only real liberation is the destruction of our ego, so this is the only true puruṣārtha, goal or purpose of human life. Then why is liberation described in so many other ways by sages and in sacred texts? The answer to this was given by Bhagavan in the words he added before this verse to link it to the previous one when he composed the kalivenbā version of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, namely ‘மனத்துக்கு ஒத்தாங்கு’ (maṉattukku ottāṅgu), which means ‘so as to suit the mind’, and which implies ‘in order to suit the different beliefs, desires and aspirations of various minds’.

Sanātana dharma consists of an extremely broad range of different philosophies, goals, beliefs and practices because it is intended to cater for the needs of all people before ultimately leading them to the final goal of life, which is only the annihilation of our fundamental illusion that we are a finite ego, whereas Bhagavan’s teachings are intended to cater specifically for the needs of those of us who want to finish this long journey as quickly as possible. Thus sanātana dharma is like the legendary ocean of milk and Bhagavan’s teachings are like the amṛta (the ambrosia or nectar of immortality) that was churned from it. Therefore having been blessed to receive this amṛta, let us be intent on drinking it fully rather than concerning ourself with any of the other contents of the vast ocean of sanātana dharma.

Most of the beliefs and practices prescribed in sanātana dharma are there for the sake of those who are not yet ready to embark on the final stage of the long journey of the soul or ego towards its own annihilation, whereas Bhagavan’s teachings have been given to us to enable us to complete this final state as directly and as quickly as possible. Let us therefore not confuse other parts of sanātana dharma with his teachings, because they are a preparation for his teachings but not his teachings themselves. By following his teachings single-mindedly we are fulfilling the ultimate purpose of sanātana dharma, so we are not thereby showing any disrespect to it, even though to complete our journey we need to ignore the bulk of it.

429 comments:

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Anonymous said...

This essay says: "In several comments, beginning with this one, an anonymous friend repeatedly asserted that ‘methods’ do not work, and in support of this questionable assertion he did not offer either any evidence or any logical arguments but only other equally questionable assertions, or ones that either did not support his primary contention or that directly contradicted it."

I made that comment.

In fact it is not me that needs to prove anything; It is the person who says a method will work who needs to prove it.

If you are releasing a new medicine to the public, you will be required to do a test that is statistically significant, with control group to prove the efficiency of your medicine. If you cannot do that, the conclusion is that the new medicine does nothing.

Can you have two groups (with statistically significant sample sizes), one who practices the "method" and one who doesn't and prove that this "method" works? If not, the conclusion is that the method does not work.

All "realized" people have one thing in common: uncontrollable desire to know God. Ramakrishna saw Kaali when he got so desperate and tried to kill himself because he couldn't see her. Ramakrishna gives the example of a drowning man's desperation for air. When you have that much desperation, you will see God. Nisarga Datta says, if you are sincere it is easy; if you are not then it is very difficult. That kind of sincerity/desperation cannot be manufactured by methods. When you are that desperate, God will reveal himself to you, method or no method. Even the "method" given by Sri Ramana is for people who couldn't naturally "realize" in his presence.

This cannot be put in any more simpler words. I certainly understand that in general people need methods to keep them occupied. That is fine, but we cannot make claims when the effectiveness is not proven.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, the scientific method you refer to is suitable in some contexts but not in others. For example, if you boil a pot of rice, do you need to test two random samples of grains to know whether or not the rice is cooked? No, because as anyone who has boiled rice can tell you, you need to test only one grain, and if that one grain is fully cooked, that is sufficient evidence to conclude that every grain in the pot is cooked.

Bhagavan tested self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) and experienced its result, and according to his testimony (which he repeated on numerous occasions, both orally and in his writings) it is a perfectly reliable means — and the only direct one — by which we can experience what we actually are. Like many of people, I trust his testimony, but it is up to you whether or not you want to trust it.

You may argue that many other people have also tried to experience what they actually are by means of ātma-vicāra, but they have not yet succeeded. However, that does not prove that ātma-vicāra is not a reliable means, because as Bhagavan explained to us, how long we need to practise it in order to experience what we actually are depends on the strength of our love to experience ourself alone and the corresponding weakness of our desires to experience anything else. So long as we desire to experience other things, we will not be willingly to let go of the illusion that we are the ego that we now seem to be.

Moreover, as I explained in section 15 of this article, in which I replied to your comments on my previous article, we know from experience that to see anything we must look at it, or to know what something is we must observe it carefully, so simple logic demands that ātma-vicāra must be the only means by which we can experience what we actually are, because ātma-vicāra is simply the practice of observing or keenly attending to ourself. If we do not look at ourself in this manner, we will not be able to see what we actually are.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thank you very much for taking so much time, effort and energy in writing such a long article with such clarification. It will take me months to respond :-) I will just learn to ignore the “Only” keywords in your future articles. But thanks really for the clarification.

The Saiva Siddantha tradition that I identify myself with (along with Bhagavan), also without any doubt declares that the Lord (I am I) can be only found by searching within.

In Appar’s thevaram it is very clear that the search has to done within:

“தேடிக் கண்டுகொண்டேன் - திருமாலொடு நான்முகனுந்
தேடித் தேடொணாத் தேவனை என்னுளே
தேடிக் கண்டுகொண்டேன்.

I searched and found the lord, whom Vishnu and Brahma could not find (since they searched outside), by searching within me.”

The only difference is for some of us, searching within means temple worship, Parayana, Japa, Meditation on OM/Breath and Vichara. It may not be Occam’s Razor to do all these things in parallel, but it turns us away from the world, and for now, that itself is a huge progress in the right direction.

Your articles are a constant reminder to search within. Thanks again.

Sivanarul said...

Just to comment on section 22 of the article (Sri Sadhu OM’s bicycle analogy):

“We could of course start to learn to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, which is a town to the south of Tiruvannamalai, but by the time we have become proficient in cycling we would be further from our destination than we were when we started, so we would then have to turn back to cycle to Tiruvannamalai before preceding from there to Vellore.
Likewise, since the one-pointedness we need to succeed in reaching the goal of ātma-vicāra is a one-pointed focus on ourself alone, the best way to gain that one-pointedness is by trying to focus our attention only on ourself. This is like learning to cycle on the road to Vellore. If instead we try to gain one-pointedness by focusing our attention on a mūrti (a form of God) or a mantra (a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God), that would be like learning to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur, because by the time we have gained a one-pointed focus on our chosen mūrti or mantra, we would then have to turn around and try instead to gain a one-pointed focus on ourself alone. Since the one-pointed focus we need is on ourself alone, it is logical to try to cultivate one-pointedness by focusing on ourself from the moment we understand that this is our aim.”

With all due respect to both Sri Sadhu OM and Sri Michael, the conclusion that other practices would be like travelling in the opposite direction is without merit or evidence. Let’ say a sadhaka is at point A. Let’s also say that the road towards left of A is taking sadhaka towards worldly (materialistic) things and the road towards right of A is taking sadhaka towards the spirit (I, God). Once the sadhaka has turned right towards the spirit (through any spiritual practice), he has begun travel in the “right” direction. If he switches to Vichara after long travel (in the right direction), there is no turning around. Due to those practices, his mind has attained manolaya and if Vichara is done by such a mind, why would that be turning around (instead of resulting in manonasa). It is more than likely that Sri Sadhu OM and Sri Michael in some previous dream (point A) decided to turn right and did one or more spiritual practices for a long time. In this dream they decided to speed track it via Vichara alone. Did all those practices in previous dreams really result in them having to turn around?

Continued on next comment:

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment:

Why is mantra dhyana (such as OM) even considered as other than ourself, when the mantra OM is regarded as representation of Brahman itself by none other than Sri Gaudapada in his karika on Mandukya Upanishad.

“Aum is verily the Lower Brahman. It is also stated to be the Higher Brahman. Aum is beginningless and unique. There is nothing outside it. It is unrelated to any effect and is immutable. Aum is, indeed, the beginning, middle, and end of all things. He who has realized Aum as immutable immediately attains the Supreme Reality. Know Aum to be Isvara, ever present in the hearts of all. The calm soul, contemplating Aum as all-pervading, does not grieve. One who knows Aum, which is soundless and also endowed with infinite sounds, which is all good and the negation of duality, is a real sage, and none other. (GK 1.24-29)”

What does Murthi Dhyana really mean? There is a substratum (Murthi) that is the essence of the Jiva. The Jiva, who so far, was looking at the world as his substratum, having been duly instructed by the Guru that his real substratum is the Murthi, now turns the focus as much as he can on the Murthi (whom he sees within himself and as well as in temples and in all life forms). Once the focus becomes “uncontrollable desire to know God” as anonymous put it, the murthi facilitates the merging of the jiva with the Murthi.

The worst one can say about Murthi Dhyana is that it does not fit Occam’s razor because there is an I and a murthi during the focus period. But to say that Murthi Dhyana amounts to turning around is without merit and evidence.

But there is plenty of evidence for Murthi Dhyana resulting in the outpouring of grace. The other famous saint of Arunachala, saint Arunagirinathar did Murthi Dhyana (along with other practices) and was graced by the lord from initial upadesha to final liberation. I will end this with a song from Kandar Alangaram where Sri Arunagirinathar tries to convey in words that which cannot be conveyed in words that resulted by the grace of Lord Muruga.

“ஔiயில் விளைந்த வுயர்ஞான பூதரத் துச்சியின்மேல்
அளியில் விளைந்ததொரா நந்தத் தேனை யநாதியிலே
வௌiயில் விளைந்த வெறும்பாழைப் பெற்ற வெறுந்தனியைத்
தௌiய விளம்பிய வா.. முகமாறுடைத்தேசிகனே.”

Anonymous said...

From : https://www.facebook.com/RamanaHridayam

Excerpts from Kanakamma's talk at Arunachala Ashrama in New York City on May 12, 1991.

ONE of the devotees brought with him a tape recorder to Sri Ramanasramam with a view to record Bhagavan's voice. Until the visitor actually took the recorder into the hall he was all along apprehensive that Bhagavan, or someone, might not permit him to do it. He entered the hall, set the recorder in front of Bhagavan, did his usual pranams (prostrations), and sought his permission to record.

To the devotee's surprise, Bhagavan started putting questions, eliciting some technical information on the mechanism of operation. While giving the required information, the devotee felt relieved at the comfortable thought that Bhagavan was interested and was agreeable to having his voice recorded.

After the explanations were over, the devotee went around and instructed all those present to keep quiet. Bhagavan was keenly watching all that was going on. The devotee then placed the microphone near Bhagavan and switched on the recorder. He quietly moved to a little distance. From then on silence fell . . . . Only the whizzing sound of the revolving reel on the recorder could be heard. Ten or fifteen minutes passed thus, in near absolute silence.

Disappointed, and not knowing what to do next, the devotee went near Bhagavan, switched off the recorder, and in a subdued tone asked Bhagavan why he did not speak. He added, that unless he talked his voice could not be recorded.

Bhagavan replied: "Why do you think so? My voice, indeed, has been recorded. My language is that of silence, and that has been recorded. Is it not so?"
On hearing this the devotee stood baffled.

Sri Muruganar, one of the resident devotees, was in the gathering. He addressed the devotee and said: "Why did you switch off the recorder before asking these questions ? If you had not, there would have been, at least, the recording of Bhagavan's latest explanation of his own voice." Now the devotee was all the more perplexed.

— Translated by Professor S. RamanSource : http://www.arunachala.org/newsletters/1991/jul-aug#article.6

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding your comment about Sri Sadhu Om’s bicycle analogy that I mentioned in section 22, he did not mean that learning to cycle on the road to Tirukoilur would set us back in our progress, but only that it would be better to learn to cycle on the road to Vellore, since Vellore is our destination. Suppose that by the time we master the art of cycling, we have travelled five miles towards Tirukoilur, we would then in one sense (distantwise) be further from Vellore, but in another more important sense (timewise) be nearer to it, because having become proficient in cycling, we could then travel to Vellore much faster than we could if we had tried walking there from Tiruvannamalai.

Likewise, if we train ourself to focus our love and attention one-pointedly on a name or form of God (anya-bhāva), and if we then try to turn our attention back towards ourself (ananya-bhāva) with firm faith that our beloved God is ourself, we would have to face a slight delay in order to reaccustom our mind to being self-attentive instead attentive to an external (anya) name or form (which would be comparable to the slight delay entailed in cycling back the five-mile distance to Tiruvannamalai), but overall we would be able to master the art of one-pointed self-attentiveness much faster than we would if we had not already cultivated one-pointed love for God. This is what Bhagavan meant by saying ‘ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்’ (ātma-vicāram sulabhamāy siddhikkum), ‘ātma-vicāra will easily be accomplished’, in the second sentence I cited from the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sivanarul:

In order to fully appreciate Sadhu Om’s strong advocacy of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) it is necessary to understand where he was coming from. We obviously do not know about his previous lives (dreams), which you speculated about, but in his life as Sadhu Om he did far more intense nāma-rūpa upāsana (worship and adoration of God or guru in name and form) than the vast majority of devotees, both before and after coming to Bhagavan, and he composed numerous songs and verses expressing his heart-melting love for Bhagavan.

In July 1955, when he faced the worst emotional crisis of his life, he had an intense longing to see Bhagavan again in human form, and this longing prompted him to begin composing ஸ்ரீ ரமண வருகை (Śrī Ramaṇa Varuhai), which consists of hundreds of verses praying to Bhagavan to come to him, and when he completed verse 361 Bhagavan appeared and said to him: ‘Why are you asking me to come to you? Why do you not come to me?’

After that Sadhu Om left Tanjavur, where he had been living since Bhagavan left his body in 1950, and returned to Tiruvannamalai, where he lived for the remaining thirty years of his life. Though he never said so explicitly, I had a hunch that when Bhagavan appeared to him in response to Śrī Ramaṇa Varuhai, he gave him darśana (sight) not only of his human form but also thereby of his svarūpa (his ‘own form’ or real self), so I once asked him whether when Bhagavan asked him ‘Why do you not come to me?’ he took it to mean coming to his physical abode in Tiruvannamalai or to his real abode within, to which he replied with a smile, ‘Both’.

During his final thirty years in Tiruvannamalai Sadhu Om continued to compose and sing songs and verses of devotion to Bhagavan and Arunachala, and every week he would do giri-pradakṣiṇa about three times, prostrating on the road towards Arunachala at many points (such as in front of the aṣṭa-liṅgas and at pañcamukham). The last thing he did was giri-pradakṣiṇa (on a day that happened to be the first of paṅguṉi month), and that night he had a severe stroke while sleeping and left his body two days later.

If you read his devotional songs and verses, or listen to him singing them, you will understand what a great devotee he was and how intense his love was for the name and form of Bhagavan and Arunachala, and you will thereby appreciate that when he explained and extolled the unique efficacy and value of ātma-vicāra, he did not intend in any way to ‘put down’ any other devotional practices.

For him devotion to Bhagavan and devotion to ātma-vicāra were inseparable, and he often used to say that we cannot (and should not try to) separate him from his teachings, because to give us his teachings was the very purpose for which he appeared in our dream as guru in human form (like a lion appearing in the dream of an elephant in order to awaken it).

Bob - P said...

Michael thank you very much for your latest article, I shall definately be rereading it again.
Also your reply to Sivanarul about your friend Sadhu Om I found very touching, it was wonderful to read.
In appreciation as always Michael
Bob

Wittgenstein said...

Sivanarul, after reading the article I had a feeling that Michael had answered you adequately. However, after seeing your comment about Sri Sadhu Om’s bicycle analogy, I thought you were still reading with the ‘belittling’ lens. Now comes that reply from our Michael. He never minds what is said of him. Sri Sadhu Om means a lot to him - as is evident from the reply. I read that and could not control crying. For one last time, I want to say something to you about what you read, although I don’t have any right to interfere with your opinions.

Sri Sadhu Om says, “it is logical to try to cultivate one-pointedness by focusing on ourself from the moment we understand that this is our aim”. It is clear he mentions about the ‘moment’ we understand the aim. He never says if we do not understand this, we are inferior. He never says if such understanding happens atma vichara would instantaneously come to an end. Let us say you follow a path and the mind gets sufficiently attenuated and after that this ‘moment of understanding’ comes and also immediately everything (ego) comes to an end. He never denies this possibility in any of his writings. I do not see any hidden messages of belittlement.

Sivanarul, please continue whatever your heart says. It is just between you and Bhagavan. Why bring in others (even Sri Sadhu Om and Michael)? When nobody is belittling us and if we keep thinking that we are belittled, it is actually belittling Bhagavan, as it clearly shows lack of faith in him.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thanks much for the really touching story of Sadhu OM.

“but in his life as Sadhu Om he did far more intense nāma-rūpa upāsana (worship and adoration of God or guru in name and form) than the vast majority of devotees, both before and after coming to Bhagavan,”

I did not know that and that information pretty much validates what I was trying to convey. So even for Sri Sadhu OM to become a strong advocate of Vichara, he first needed in this life to do intense nama-rupa upasana (even after coming to Bhagavan). It is that nama-rupa upasana that provided him the clear mental clarity and strength to begin intense Vichara. That is exactly what I have been trying to convey through my comments that those spiritual practices does NOT take one to Tirukoilur. Instead such practices do take one to Vellore from the very beginning. In my opinion, the analogy used by Sri Sadhu OM does not really apply to Sadhana and instead comes across that those practices are unnecessary (in spite of him obviously getting benefited from it).

Rupert Spira, appears to dismiss all other Sadhana as unnecessary. Papaji and many others also do the same. What is the commonality here? Rupert Spira did 20 years of Mantra Japa to enable him to dismiss all other Sadhana. Papaji was a great Krishna devotee and had many visions of Krishna before he could dismiss those as unnecessary. Sri Sadhu OM has done intense nama-rupa upasana for more than a decade before he can become a strong advocate of Vichara.

Continued in next comment....

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment….

If one looks at all of these, isn’t it clear that all of those used a step by step ladder to climb to the top and then once at the top, when looking down at other climbers, they are saying that you don’t have to take the step by step approach. Instead simply come up via an adjacent fast elevator (even though the elevator was available to them, but they did not or could not use it until the last few steps.).

Please do not take this as being disrespectful of Sri Sadhu OM. I don’t think he was belittling other Sadhana. I think it is simply being an over protective parent. An overprotective parent wishes that their child could somehow not go through the typical learning process (as they did), but instead simply learn from their wisdom and fast track growing up. While children do and should learn from the parent’s wisdom, can a child truly grow up without a typical learning process? If a child does grow up like that, will that really last an entire lifetime?

As serious spiritual aspirants, we have undertaken a life altering journey that changes the purpose, context and outlook of life itself. With such an undertaking, can the aspirant really avoid the step by step learning process of performing various Sadhana and maturing? The few rare people, who appear to avoid the steps, must have gone through a learning phase in an earlier dream.

Sivanarul said...

Wittgenstein,

Thank you for your kind comment. Please read my reply to Michael where you will find that I have changed my ‘belittling lens’ to ‘overprotective lens’ :-) All kidding aside, you certainly understand the step by step approach that aspirants need to take. So I have nothing further to comment on that, but I will address some of your thoughts that seem to come across as concerns.

First of all, to begin with, any of these exchanges are not meant to disrespect Sri Sadhu OM or Sri Michael. As I have said before, I treat them with utmost admiration and respect, for anyone who has walked the spiritual path for 30+ years with their level of sincerity is way above my pay grade. So when I question an analogy used by Sri Sadhu OM, it is only meant to facilitate discussion among fellow aspirants and to help other aspirants not to get discouraged. For example if someone was getting discouraged, now reading that Sri Sadhu OM did a decade plus of nama-rupa upasana convinces them they don’t have to be discouraged and instead continue whatever practice they are doing with the full faith that Ishvara will guide them to the next step at the appropriate time.

“Now comes that reply from our Michael. He never minds what is said of him. Sri Sadhu Om means a lot to him - as is evident from the reply. I read that and could not control crying.”

A devotee who worships Isvhara goes through the exact same thing you ascribe to Michael. The devotee does not mind things said about him. But when he hears or reads things that Ishvara is an illusion or unnecessary from fellow seekers (who themselves are fully caught in the trap of Maya), the devotee cringes and cries because Ishvara means a lot to the devotee.

Continued on next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment….

“Sivanarul, please continue whatever your heart says. It is just between you and Bhagavan. Why bring in others (even Sri Sadhu Om and Michael)?”

I only bring in Sri Sadhu OM and Sri Michael, because I admire and respect them and I honestly believe that their writings will receive and benefit a much wider aspirant audience if the message is crafted and presented that any sincere sadhana is a step in the right direction with Vichara being the culminatory step. Michael has clarified through the article that that would amount to diluting Bhagavan’s unique teachings. I respectfully disagree and think that it actually enhances Bhagavan’s teachings. But as I have said before, this is Michael’s blog and he gets to decide how he wants to present Bhagavan’s teachings. May be some day he will reconsider.

Now coming back to facilitate discussion, I would like someone who thinks that Mantra Dhyana on OM to be straying from not focusing on ‘I’, to please explain why OM is not considered as the real ‘I’, when the mantra OM is regarded as representation of Brahman itself by none other than Sri Guadapada in his karika on Mandukya Upanishad.

If OM is Brahman, isn’t focusing on OM the same as self-attention? What is the Self, if not for Brahman? If it is seen this way then meditation on OM is really swarupa Dhyana. I seriously am perplexed why it is not seen this way and would appreciate some light thrown on it.

Hopefully this addresses some of your concerns. Your comment on Eka Jiva a few months back was really insightful (though I could not agree :-))

Michal Borkowski said...

These stories are pure gold! Thank you Michael. Could you share more of these intimate and inspiring stories? Ever thought of writing a book/biography about Sadhu Om?

Wittgenstein said...

Sivanarul,

Many thanks for your reply. You clarified your position on this discussion of Sir Sadhu Om’s analogy by saying this:

“[…] when I question an analogy used by Sri Sadhu OM, it is only meant to facilitate discussion among fellow aspirants and to help other aspirants not to get discouraged”.

I was looking for probable signs of discouragement and found again what I found earlier.

“Since the one-pointed focus we need is on ourself alone, it is logical to try to cultivate one-pointedness by focusing on ourself from the moment we understand that this is our aim”.

Actually, he qualifies his statement by, ‘the moment we understand that this is our aim’. Therefore, clearly, he was talking about this to people who have gained this insight. This might discourage others, as you say, because they may equate lack of such understanding to being inferior [having taken up a slow and round about path]. So feelings of ‘belittlement’ enters this way, through what our backyard (why consider others’ home as our own backyard is something we should consider). However, no such things can be inferred from this statement. Therefore, unlike an overprotective parent, this appears to be the case of an oversensitive child.

Michael says something similar to the previous quote in the present article:

“As Bhagavan used to say, since this is the quickest and most direct path from wherever we may now be standing, if we are truly intent upon freeing ourself from our ego we should start trying to practise self-investigation from the moment we are given to understand that this is the only means by which our ego can ultimately be destroyed.” [Second paragraph, section 16]

Again, ‘moment of understanding’! But, again, if there is no ‘moment of understanding’ it cannot be equated to discouragement for being in slow and indirect path. This is very, very important. We have all the right to ask these gentlemen when exactly the ‘moment of understanding’ comes or who gives it to us.

Even more important is the definition of ‘quick’. Is it (a) relative to another ego in some other path at the same time? or (b) relative to a particular ego going in many paths (of course not at the same time)? Clearly, it is case (b) from both the above statements. This can be elaborated as follows.

Let us say, an individual ego, called S (short for Sivanarul), is moving along path J (short for japa) towards its destination. At the moment of understanding, it shifts to path V (short for vichara), of course towards the same destination (how can destination change?) and eventually reaches the destination. Now the claim is, had S moved along J, it would have taken longer time to reach the destination. It makes no claim about when the moment of understanding would come. If it does not come, probably S would move along J. Neither does it compare the journey with another ego.

As you say, eka jiva vada is not your cup of tea. That is fine. But probably you would agree with me if I said Michael and Sri Sadhu Om would believe in that. If so, how can they put another ego in another track and make a comparison? Also, when investigating the ego, we are also implicitly investigating time (and allied concepts like quick, slow,etc.), as ego spits out time.

venkat said...

Dear Michael
Thank you very much for taking the time to write this article and clarify the various questions that have arisen.

For me, the crux of my confusion has been pointed out clearly by you:
"Bhagavan’s teaching was not ‘look at yourself and keep doing so until you see that you are the watcher, and not the ego that is being watched’, because the watcher is nothing other than our ego (since what is aware of anything other than itself is only this ego and not our actual self), so the aim of self-investigation is not to see that we are the watcher but is only to see that we have never watched or been aware of anything other than ourself."

I'm not sure that I have fully understood it yet - I still struggle to see how a thought (ego) can be aware of other thoughts. Awareness can be aware of an I-thought and other thoughts. I will seek to enquire into it.

Thank you also for (finally) allowing us to contribute to express our appreciation for your tireless work.

With best wishes,
venkat

venkat said...

Sivanarul,

"If OM is Brahman, isn’t focusing on OM the same as self-attention? What is the Self, if not for Brahman? If it is seen this way then meditation on OM is really swarupa Dhyana. I seriously am perplexed why it is not seen this way and would appreciate some light thrown on it."

My attempt from my understanding . . .
Gaudapada in mandukyakarika uses OM to explicate and link A-U-M to the waking - dream - sleep states; and to go on thereafter to point out that the soundless sound at the end (and beginning) of chanting AUM is the underlying substratum, the turiya/atman/brahman. So the chanting of AUM is to bring the mind back to this soundless sound, the substratum.

The way you express "focusing on OM" implies focusing on something other than yourself, rather than the awareness, the soundless-sound that you are. It seems to be setting up a series of concepts that 'I am Brahman' and 'Brahman is OM', therefore focusing on the chanting of OM, takes me back to myself. But that is just setting up more ('external', objective) concepts, rather than focusing on the primary, originating factor of experience: yourself, your awareness.

Bob - P said...

**[Thank you also for (finally) allowing us to contribute to express our appreciation for your tireless work} ***

I couldn't agree more Venkat
Bob

Eleusis said...

Venkat,
you need not to struggle: the 'I'thought(ego) is also awareness and can think many other thoughts too.

Sivanarul said...

Wittgenstein,

Thanks for your reply. After reading your reply that I may be an oversensitive child, my first reaction was that can’t be true, since there were several aspirants who have expressed similar opinions in the last 6 months. But I decided to see whether there can be any truth to your statement.

I have the 4 volumes of Sri Sadhu OM’s Ramana Vazhi in Tamil. I have read a few things here and there, but couldn’t read further since it came across as too much stressing on Vichara. I decided to read a few things again from those books. I first picked up Volume 3 and for some reason immediately put it back. Then I picked up Volume 4 and randomly opened a page. The page that opened was Chapter 24 (page 154) titled “Bhaktha and Vichari”. I was startled by the synchronicity of that, since that was exactly what I wanted to find out (How does Sri Sadhu OM view a Bhaktha and Vichari).

Taken really surprised by the synchronicity, I read that chapter. It was only 2 pages. He describes how a true Bhaktha surrenders all the things that happens in his life as the will of Isvhara and abides as per Isvhara’s will. Then he describes how a true Vichari rejects all things that he sees around and as well as his ego as an illusion. In this way both Bhaktha and Vichari come to the same conclusion that the ego ‘I’ is not the one that is doing things.

Now here is the final surprise. He concludes that both the trains that Bhaktha and Vichari travel finally end up in the same destination of Moksha. The surprising part is that he does not even say that there must be a last 10 feet of Vichara before Moksha.

It almost feels like Sri Sadhu OM was following this comment trail and decided to change my opinion of him and decided to instruct me that his writings can really be useful to me. He first, through Michael’s reply to me, reveals his devotional side “his life as Sadhu Om he did far more intense nāma-rūpa upāsana (worship and adoration of God or guru in name and form)”. Next through the synchronicity he confirms my long end belief that the train of Bhakthi can lead all the way to Moksha.

So I have to say, I stand corrected and am really taken aback by what I now view as a direct intervention of Sri Sadhu OM itself using Michael and you as a medium. Thanks again.

Sivanarul said...

**[Thank you also for (finally) allowing us to contribute to express our appreciation for your tireless work} ***

I join Venkat and Bob in thanking Michael for finally allowing us to contribute to express our appreciation.

I was really moved by his statement on the main page:

“because ultimately it is up to Bhagavan to decide how (or if) he wants to provide for my material needs, and I am sure he will take care of me in one way or another (whether or not I like the way he chooses).”

I wish and pray that in time, I will develop such surrender to Ishvara.

Steve said...

"I still struggle to see how a thought (ego) can be aware of other thoughts."

Venkat, as Eleusis just alluded to, the thing to remember is that the ego is not just another thought. It is the knot between consciousness and the unconscious, the real and the unreal (cit-jada-granthi).

Read in reverse, I like to think of the following as the real 'Big Bang', if you will:

'The world does not exist apart from the body; the body does not exist apart from the mind; the mind does not exist apart from consciousness, and consciousness does not exist apart from Self, which is existence.' (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 99)

As the knot between reality and illusion, if my attention goes one way I am this body, and from there the world (and beyond). When my attention goes the other way, to the complete exclusion of body, world, and beyond, I am pure self-conscious existence (sat-cit-ananda).

Atma-vicara is the practice of trying to keep my attention in the right place.

Steve said...

By the way, I didn't know what Venkat, Bob, and Sivanarul were referring to when they thanked Michael for allowing us to contribute. There is now a 'Donate' button in the left-hand column of this blog. My thanks, as well.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael says in the section 15 of this article: 'self-investigation is just is the simple, direct and obvious means to know ourself, but it is too simple and straightforward to be called a method'. Yes, on due reflection what he writes here seems very true, though I had thought earlier that self-investigation has a method. Yes, as Michael says, 'it is too simple and straightforward to be called a method'.

Again Michael writes in the section 23: The reason our ego has not yet taken flight and disappeared forever is precisely because we are not yet highly skilled in the practice of ātma-vicāra. However ‘skill’ is perhaps not the most appropriate word to use in this context, because skill is required to do anything complex or difficult, whereas being attentively self-aware is the simplest and easiest of all things.

Again what writes here seems true, though I had earlier thought that we do not need skill to investigate ourself, but in fact we need more love and perhaps very little skill to investigate ourself. We just need to understand what we should not do in the name of our practice, like repeatedly mentally questioning oneself 'Who am I?, or like attending to a point on the right side of our chest etc.

Therefore our practice of self-investigation has very little to do with method and skill, and has a lot to do with love and practice. Regards.


Michael James said...

Sivanarul, in reply to some of your recent comments, particularly this one, before coming to Bhagavan Sadhu Om did not know that ātma-vicāra is the direct means to attain liberation, so at that time his nāma-rūpa upāsana (by which term I mean any kind of devotional practice other than ātma-vicāra) was motivated by a general (but nevertheless intense) longing for grace, ever-increasing devotion and liberation, but after coming to Bhagavan he came to know that ātma-vicāra is the direct means, so his nāma-rūpa upāsana was then directed towards Bhagavan and became a supplement to his attempts to practise ātma-vicāra. That is, what he was then praying for became more focused and defined, because he understood that what he needed was overwhelming love to be constantly self-attentive and thereby to surrender himself entirely to Bhagavan. As I wrote at the end of my previous reply to you, for him devotion to Bhagavan and devotion to ātma-vicāra were inseparable, so whatever nāma-rūpa upāsana he did was not a substitute for ātma-vicāra but an aid to it.

Moreover, having practised so much nāma-rūpa upāsana as well as ātma-vicāra, he knew from his own experience their relative efficacy, and that is why he emphasised so strongly that whatever other devotional practices we may do or not do, our primary focus should be on the simple practice of ātma-vicāra, which alone is the direct means to dissolve our ego. In doing so, he was not being over-protective but simply realistic. He never criticised any practice that was motivated by genuine love or devotion, but he knew from his own experience as well as from what Bhagavan had taught us that no practice other than ātma-vicāra was adequate by itself, because ātma-vicāra ‘alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists’ (in the words of Bhagavan as recorded in the first chapter of book two of Maharshi’s Gospel: 2002 edition, page 51).

To what extent we each choose to combine some other form or forms of devotional practice with our ātma-vicāra depends upon our personal inclinations, but whether or not we are inclined to do any other devotional practice Bhagavan would advise us at least to begin to try investigating who does or does not feel inclined to do such practices (which is what Sadhu Om meant by saying that we should allow at least the camel’s nose to enter our tent). In Bhagavad Gītā when describing the practice of ātma-vicāra Sri Krishna begins 6.25 with the words शनैः शनैर् (śanaiḥ śanair), which Bhagavan translated into Tamil (in verse 27 of Bhagavad Gītā Sāram) as மெல்ல மெல்ல (mella mella) and which means ‘slowly slowly’, ‘softly softly’, ‘gently gently’, ‘quietly quietly’ or ‘gradually gradually’, which indicates that we have to take a gentle but persistent approach to this practice, so let us each gradually introduce this practice into our life, beginning gently but persevering steadily.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding what you wrote about meditation on om, you need to be clear in your own mind what exactly you mean by ‘meditation on om’. Do you mean meditation on the word ‘om’, on the sound ‘om’, or on what this word and sound refer to or represent?

In one place you say ‘the mantra OM is regarded as representation of Brahman itself’, and then you ask ‘If OM is Brahman, isn’t focusing on OM the same as self-attention?’ If om is a representation of brahman, it is not brahman itself, so meditating on the representation is not directly meditating on what it represents.

For example, the word ‘I’ refers only to oneself, so it represents oneself, but is not oneself as such. If I meditate on the word ‘I’, that may help to draw my attention back towards myself, but so long as my attention is on the word ‘I’, it is not exclusively on myself, because though this word represents myself, it is not what I actually am. I can exist without being aware of the word ‘I’, but I cannot exist without being aware of myself, so I and this word ‘I’ are two clearly distinct things. Likewise the word or sound ‘om’ is clearly distinct from brahman itself, even though brahman is what it represents.

Therefore when you talk of ‘meditation on om’, if you mean meditation on the word or sound ‘om’, that is not meditation on oneself alone, because even though the word or sound ‘om’ does represent brahman, which is oneself, it is not oneself as such. However, if what you mean by ‘meditation on om’ is meditation on what ‘om’ represents or refers to, that is only oneself, so in that sense the term ‘meditation on om’ is an indirect way of saying meditation on oneself alone.

ॐ or ஓம் (om) is generally considered to be the first and foremost name of brahman, but Bhagavan said that actually ‘I’ (or its equivalent in whatever language one is familiar with) is the first and foremost name of brahman, and even ‘om’ is second to it, because the first person pronoun ‘I’ is the most natural name by which we each refer to ourself. Therefore Bhagavan said that rather than meditating on the word ‘om’, meditating on the word ‘I’ is a more natural and direct means to bring our attention back towards ourself.

However, in order to be exclusively self-attentive, we need to be aware of nothing other than ourself, so since any word is other than ourself, in order to go deep into being self-attentive (in other words, in order to focus one-pointedly on ourself alone) we need to leave even words such as ‘I’ or ‘om’ behind us. Like meditation on the word ‘I’, meditation on the word ‘om’ can be an aid to being self-attentive (provided of course that we understand that the word ‘om’ refers only to ourself), but to immerse ourself deeply in being attentively aware of ourself alone we need to go beyond all such aids.

Eleusis said...

Michael,
your clarification about meditation on the word 'I' and the word 'om' in reply to Sivanarul is a profound illumination. Thank you.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,
Thanks much for the very clear clarification regarding Meditation on OM and thanks also for the clarification on Sri Sadhu OM. As I wrote to Wittgenstein, it almost feels like Sri Sadhu OM himself through the synchronicity I explained before, corrected my opinion of him.

Sanjay Lohia said...

As usual, Michael's two comments dated 12/Dec/2015 addressed to Sivanarul were very illuminating and helpful. Though Bhagavan Ramana did not appoint his spiritual successor (in the age-old Indian tradition of sampradaya), we (many of us) can clearly see our guru's lineage in the clear and expanded explanations by Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Michael James. As we sing in our Ramana shrine, vande guru parampara.... (homage and obeisance to our sadguru).

In this article, Michael quotes Bhagavan Ramana as saying something to the effect: When an aeroplane is available and is the quickest means to reach our destination, why should I advise anyone to travel by any slower means such as a bullock cart or a train? Yes, suppose we want to go from Mumbai to New Delhi, will we not fly in an aeroplane if we can afford its ticket price? Our practice of self-investigation is similar to this. Practices other than atma-vichara is like taking a train or a bus to New Delhi. If we read and reflect on Bhagavan's words this fact will be crystal clear. Regards.

Anonymous said...

"When an aeroplane is available and is the quickest means to reach our destination, why should I advise anyone to travel by any slower means such as a bullock cart or a train?"

Yes, to each one his method is the fastest but seems to me that no one seems to be getting anywhere except parroting this over and over again. If self inquiry were so effective, it should keep one away from all such talk but seems to me it's only increasing that.

In "Autobiography of a Yogi", this is said by a disciple in the lineage of Mahavatar Babaji (Swami Kebalananda) who gave the technique of Kriya.
/**
“I myself consider KRIYA the most effective device of salvation through self−effort ever to be evolved in man's search for the Infinite.”
**/

If you listen to Swami Ramdas or Papa Ramdas, he would say that Nama Japa is the fastest.

Sivanarul,

Give up the fight man. You are not going to get anywhere :-)

venkat said...

Eleusis, Steve, thanks for your responses - you are quite right

Michael a long time ago made this point to me, which I have overlooked. I'll copy it here, in case it helps others:


The practice of self-enquiry is extremely simple, but our confused minds tend to make it seem complicated.

The awareness that is aware of everything else (thoughts, feelings and the world) is what we experience as 'I', and Bhagavan describes this 'I' as a thought because it is not the pure and original form of consciousness, but only a distorted form of it that comes into being when we imagine ourself to be a body.

The thought 'I' is the thinker and experiencer of everything other than itself, so whatever we may think or experience, we should try to turn our attention back towards that which is thinking or experiencing it.

Though we now experience 'I' (our essential awareness or consciousness) in a distorted form, it is actually always only one. There is not more than one 'I' or one awareness, so we do not have to look for some awareness that is aware of the awareness that is aware of the awareness that is aware of ... All we have to do is to attend to what we now experience as 'I'.

Since this thought 'I' is a mixture of our pure consciousness of being, 'I am', and various adjuncts (upadhis) such as this body, and since in self-enquiry we are trying to be clearly conscious only of its essential consciousness aspect, the more keenly we do so the more all such adjuncts will drop off or disappear (since we are not attending to them) and the more clearly we will thus be conscious of 'I' as it really is.

Any thought or feeling that is not solid and changes is not 'I', because 'I' is the ever unchanging and 'solid' consciousness that underlies all experiences, so if we are aware of something changing or appearing unsolid, we should try to turn our attention towards the 'I' that is conscious of such change or non-solidity.

We can go on explaining this for ever, but we can really understand it only by persistent practice. The more we practise, the more clearly we will come to understand what the correct practice is. As the word vicara (investigation or enquiry) implies, the practice is a process of investigation, so we can learn it only by actually investigating it.

The truth is that we will understand the practice correctly and perfectly only when we know what we really are, because we are really only pure self-consciousness, and the practice is also only pure self-consciousness. The nature of the path is not other than that of the goal. We start of with experiencing self-consciousness imperfectly (not absolutely clearly), and we end only when we experience it perfectly (absolutely clearly).

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous,

Not only is that, for each one, their method is the fastest but the interpretation of literature is also as per their liking. Each school, under Sanatana Dharma, derives from the Vedas but interprets it according to how it likes. Nowhere is this more visible than the interpretation of Sri Bhagavad Gita.

Each school (Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga. Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga) selects the Gita verses that are favorable to its position and declares unequivocally that the Gita really upholds its position and the other verses are for those who cannot accept the highest teaching of the Lord.

To me personally, claiming anything is faster or slower misses the 800 pound gorilla in the room (as a figure of speech) named Grace. Let’s say liberation is a million mile journey. The Jiva at most walks one mile. The result 999,999 miles is walked by Grace, which does not care of the path you have chosen. Even the pace of that one mile that the Jiva walks, is highly influenced by past Samsakaras. So the path the Jiva uses, in the grand scheme of things, seems utterly trivial. The most important thing that a Jiva can do is to start walking by any path it can. Just start walking now.

There are no wrong steps. Nothing is slower nothing is faster. It is a joyous journey back to the Kingdom of Heaven. Sing Hallelujah happily as the journey has started.

“ஐம்புல வேடரின் அயர்ந்தனை வளர்ந்து எனத்
தம்முதல் குருவுமாய்த் தவத்தினில் உணர்த்தவிட்டு
அன்னியம் இன்மையின் அரன்கழல் செலுமே

The Jiva who was captured by the 5 Senses was brought up by them and fully associated himself with them. Ishvara took the form of Guru and instructed the Jiva that he does not belong to the 5 senses but he belongs to Ishvara himself. Having deeply realized this instruction, the Jiva begins the journey of disassociating from the senses and associating with Ishvara (or I, if Ishvara is not part of your Sadhana).”

Continued in next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment….

If one has deeply understood the above 8’th sutra of SivaJnanaBotham of Sri MeyKandar and has started the journey, a certain joy arises deeply within oneself as it realizes that it is leaving behind its samsaric captors and is approaching its rightful place with Ishvara. The joy is pulsating, throbbing and can be felt easily. Now if such joy happens by leaving the samsaric captors just a little, one can only imagine what it would be like, if one fully lets them go.

This journey can be traveled by taking everything as an illusion or by taking everything as very real and loving manifestation of Ishvara. This journey can be travelled by waking up the Kundalini from Muladara to Sahashara. This journey can be travelled by loving Bhakthi towards Ishvara both internally and externally in temples. This journey can be travelled by wonderful service to humanity (Thank you, Mother Theresa, for your wonderful service to the poor and destitute. I fully trust that you are one with Christ and the father in heaven).

We need Vichari’s, Bhakthi Yogis, Kriya Yogis and Karma Yogis. I will gladly concede that the Vichari’s are the coveted medical doctors who we definitely need when we are sick. But imagine a world just full of Doctor’s alone. That world will get all sickness cured . Who will produce the rice that is needed for the good Doctor to stay alive? Who will build his house? Who will fix his bathroom? Who will build his car? Who will build the Internet? Who will produce movies for his entertainment?

Lord Krishna is the smartest cookie in the universe and beyond :-). He planted different verses in the Gita on purpose to support all schools so that they can claim he really is one of “them”. He wanted diversity of spiritual practices because when the one appeared as the many, diversity was its game. Why should the return of many to one be any different other than via diversity?

Anonymous said...

Sivanarul,

I had pasted this(see below) in the last article by Michael but I paste it again. Here notable thing is how Swami Krishnananda himself says how even Sankara was stumped when discussing how love of god comes and conceded that its by Grace. Even among Bhagavan's devotees, Lakshmana swamy did sadhana for 7 years almost and the majority of the period he did only nama japam, pranayama as an aid to still his mind and classical meditation on Raja Yoga and only in the last few months resorted to self inquiry and realized his self in Bhagavan's presence. Annamalai swamy on the other hand practiced only self inquiry for more than a couple of decades and realized his self so it clearly proves that the method is secondary. INfact Bhagavan for the first 12 years did not allow Annamalai swamy to even meditate but made him do ashram construction work? why? isn't that karma yoga? If Bhagavan had thought self inquiry more effective why did he not advice annamalai swamy to dedicate all his time to self inquiry which he did only 12 years later. Its very simple, there were impurities in his mind which could be removed only after his mind was purified by other means, here karma yoga. Bhagavan probably knew that only then Annamalai swamy will even be able to do self inquiry with some amount of quiet. There is no such thing as a generic medicine. The medicine depends on the patient and the disease. Anyway, i think its just a waste of time mentioning all this :-)

Here is Swami Krishnananda (Swami Sivananda's disciple) from one of his discourses
/**
Whole-souled love of God cannot come by human effort. Human effort is inadequate for the purpose, because it would be something like attempting to carry burning coals with a piece of straw. We cannot do it. Even the great master Acharya Sankara did not properly answer this question when he himself raised this point in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. How does knowledge arise in the jiva? It is not by human effort, because effort towards knowledge is possible only when there is knowledge, and we are asking how knowledge arises. How can the love of God arise in a person? It cannot arise by effort, because who can have the energy to put forth such effort as to invoke the power of God which can rouse such a feeling for God? So, the great Advaitin Sankara himself says—apparently contrary to his own doctrine, we may say—that it is Ishvara-anugraha. Īśvarānugrahādeva puṁsām advaitavāsanā (Avadhuta Gita 1.1), says Dattatreya in his Avadhuta Gita: The feeling for the unity of things arises due to the grace of God. Īśvarānugrahādeva—only by that, and by no other way. It is very difficult to understand what all this means.

Thus, while from one side it looks as though hard effort is necessary, on the other side it appears that we have to be passively receptive to the ingress of divine grace, always awaiting the call, and yearning for that light and blessing which can come upon us at any time. Whatever be the means by which such a love of God can rise in ourselves, this is indispensable and there is no other alternative. Nānyaḥ panthā vidyat’yanāya (Svet. Up. 3.8): There is no other alternative for us. No other path can be seen; there is no other way out. This is a must for each and every person. When that intensity of feeling arises, miraculous experiences automatically follow, which is the glorious consummation of yoga.
***/

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous,

“INfact Bhagavan for the first 12 years did not allow Annamalai swamy to even meditate but made him do ashram construction work? why? isn't that karma yoga? If Bhagavan had thought self inquiry more effective why did he not advice annamalai swamy to dedicate all his time to self inquiry which he did only 12 years later. Its very simple, there were impurities in his mind which could be removed only after his mind was purified by other means, here karma yoga. Bhagavan probably knew that only then Annamalai swamy will even be able to do self inquiry with some amount of quiet.”

That is a good observation. There is a system of thought that says that doing self-enquiry is the way to gain ability to do self-inquiry. It looks like in the case of Annamalai swami, Bhagavan did not apply that thought. I think this is why the need for a Guru is stressed so much in Sadhana because the Guru can look within you and prescribe the correct medicine for your current state. In the absence of such Guru, one has to look towards Ishvara within to provide that guidance and act accordingly.

“Anyway, i think its just a waste of time mentioning all this :-)”

Please don’t think it is waste of time. I certainly welcome it :-) Each of us is at various levels in our progress towards the absolute. While what you say may not be useful to some, it will certainly be useful to others. There are many of us (like me) who requires a very strong push and pull from all sides to leave the samsaric captors behind. For us, it is very critical that we remain open to all paths of Yoga, follow the guidance given by Ishvara and progress along the path.

As the Zen saying says, one needs to keep the cup empty, if one wants tea (Grace) to be poured. If we decide to fill the cup based on what worked for others, then Grace looks at us and says, “why are you getting in my way? Don’t I know what will work for you? You are NOT the same as others. Empty the cup and wait for me to fill it.”

Sivanarul said...

Ok, time for some humor and to honor all Karma Yogis of the world. Please read this with a sense of humor.

Four friends named Jnana Yogi, Bhakthi Yoga, Raja Yogi and Karma Yogi were travelling in 4 separate automatic boats in close proximity with each other. Each yogi, except the Karma Yogi, was trash talking each other. Most of the insults landed on the Karma Yogi and it was something to the tune of how the Karma Yogi was wasting his time on helping mundane things of the world. They told him, how many people have come and solved problems of the world. As soon as one is solved, new ones get created. They told him, he is on the slowest path and took great pity on him. The Karma yogi sat silently and was focused on the journey.

Suddenly turbulence hit the water and the boat started wobbling. Jnani yogi shouted on top his lungs, “This is all an illusion. Sivoham, Sivoham”. Bhakti Yogi shouted “I surrender to Ishvara. It is not my problem”. Raja Yogi shouted “I am going to raise my Kundalini and unite her in Sahasara. Heck with the wobbling”. Karma Yogi took manual control of the boat, because he was skilled in practical things being a Karma Yogi.

After a while due to heavy turbulence, all boats capsized except the boat of Karma Yogi who was skillfully maneuvering it. The others shouted the same slogans for a second but once fear of death hit them, all slogans changed to “Our dear friend, Karma Yogi. Please, please help us. We do not know swimming and it does not look like Sivoham or Ishvara or Kundalini is going to help us now. You are now Real, our Ishvara and Kundalini all rolled into one for us. Please save us”
The Karma Yogi, whose mission is to help others (even those who insult him), jumped into the water saved the other three and brought them to his boat and steered them all safely to the shore.

I salute all Karma Yogi’s of the world who help the world to be a better place and indirectly help the other yogi’s to practice their chosen path.

Anonymous said...

Sivanarul,

Sometime back I wrote to David Godman that although I practice self inquiry, I no longer think the method we practice is that important compared to other intangibles especially being with a Jnani or a guru, our vasanas etc etc and here is what he wrote to me. Even before he wrote to me just by reading the works of other Jnanis' and their disciples including Bhagavan's, I was convinced that a living guru's presence has no comparison. But in his reply David sums up well the criteria for meeting him as well.

/**
I think that being in the presence of a true Guru far outweighs any practice one might perform although, of course, effort is also required at some point. One tunes into the power and grace of Sri Ramana each time one attempts to follow his teachings, but for me it is indisputable that one look from a powerful jnani can do more for you than years of solitary practice. Unfortunately, it is not the destiny of most people to have that association or that divine look transmitted in their direction.

Papaji used to say that through intense meditation one earns the right to sit in the Sadguru's presence. I agree with this and think that no effort is wasted. It makes us quieter and more peaceful, it lessens the vasanas, and ultimately it earns us the right to sit with someone who can exterminate them completely.
***/

Michael James said...

Michal, in reply to your comment asking whether I have ever ‘thought of writing a book/biography about Sadhu Om’, several other friends have suggested this to me before (as you also did in a recent comment on another article, which some other friends seconded in their subsequent comments), but I must confess that I have never felt inclined to do so, because for me he is so much more than just the story of his outward life, and I know I could never do justice to him by merely writing his biography or stories about him. If anyone wants to have a clearer picture of him, they should read all his writings, both in poetry and in prose, because his writings give us a glimpse into his inner life, which was where and how he really lived.

Unfortunately most of his poetry has never been translated into English or any other language, and even his prose writings have not yet been translated satisfactorily, but though I would like to make more accurate translations of his writings, I never seem to have time to do so, because most of my time is spent answering emails and comments in which I am asked questions about Bhagavan’s teachings, so it seems to me that this is the work that Bhagavan has assigned to me, at least for the time being. Whenever he wants better and more complete translations of Sadhu Om’s writings to be made available, he will find suitable people to do such work.

Sadhu Om often used to say that Bhagavan did not come to this world just to be the subject of a story, but to give us teachings that we should follow, and I feel the same about Sadhu Om: he did not live just to be the subject of a story, but to help us to understand Bhagavan’s teachings more clearly and correctly, so this is what I learnt from him, and what I hope I am sharing with others through this blog and all the answers I give in reply to questions asked by fellow devotees following this path that Bhagavan has taught us.

Sometimes in connection with answering questions about Bhagavan’s teachings a relevant story from his life or from the lives of his devotees such as Muruganar or Sadhu Om may come to my mind, in which case I will narrate it (as I did in one of my recent replies to Sivanarul), but outside the context of discussing Bhagavan’s teachings I never think of narrating any stories.

Michal Borkowski said...

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your response.

Michal Borkowski said...

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your response.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous quotes Sri David Godman from an email of his, as follows:

I think that being in the presence of a true Guru far outweighs any practice one might perform although, of course, effort is also required at some point. One tunes into the power and grace of Sri Ramana each time one attempts to follow his teachings, but for me it is indisputable that one look from a powerful jnani can do more for you than years of solitary practice. Unfortunately, it is not the destiny of most people to have that association or that divine look transmitted in their direction.

Papaji used to say that through intense meditation one earns the right to sit in the Sadguru's presence. I agree with this and think that no effort is wasted. It makes us quieter and more peaceful, it lessens the vasanas, and ultimately it earns us the right to sit with someone who can exterminate them completely.


I do not entirely agree with David here, though I agree with him in parts. A few years back I met David at Sriramasramam and asked him, 'You write that a jnani's physical presence is required to annihilate one's ego, therefore do you know any such jnani in whose presence I can go?' He replied to the effect, 'Unfortunately I do not know any jnani who is willing to meet people'. Therefore if only a jnani's presence was required to extinguish our ego, I am sure grace would have made jnanis available in enough numbers to us.

Yes, even Bhagavan speaks of the great benefit of satsanga with jnanis and sadhus in the verses 1 to 6 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, but who is the jnani? Bhagavan has made it abundantly clear that the jnani is nothing but ourself as we really are. Therefore real satsanga with the jnani can only be atma-sanga or self-attentiveness. Michael has also said that if we require an outward association with the jnani's body, Bhagavan will surely arrange for such an association, but this may not be required in all cases.

Association with Bhagavan's teachings, Arunachala hill and with his photographs can be taken as outward form of satsanga, but the real satsanga is only association with our pure-consciousness in our heart. Moreover how did Bhagavan attain the annihilation of his ego? He was surely not in his sadguru's or Arunachala hill's physical presence when he attained atma-jnana. Moreover Bhagavan has never said that the physical presence of a jnani is a must to attain our goal. Regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, please refer to comment addressed to Michal. Yes, most of us are interested in Bhagavan's life story, but very are interested to practise his teachings. Yes, all stories, including Bhagavan's story is false. If his experience was ajata, there was no story of his in his clear non-dual view? Yes, we (this ego) do associate Bhagavan with a body, and have a story of his, but this is only in our ignorant outlook. Regards.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay,

you say, "Moreover how did Bhagavan attain the annihilation of his ego? He was surely not in his sadguru's or Arunachala hill's physical presence when he attained atma-jnana. Moreover Bhagavan has never said that the physical presence of a jnani is a must to attain our goal."

Bhagavan is a rarity. How many cases are there like Bhagavn. Even other Jnanis when asked about this say that Bhagavan is a very rare case. If everyone could attain what Bhagavan did you and I would not be sharing notes and writing page after page in this blog making and refuting arguments. Moreover Bhagavan has himself, when asked this question that he never had a Guru, has said that, he probably did in one of his previous births.

If what you say is true why did many devotees including sadhu om stayed near Bhagavan till the end of his life. Please do not quote a rare occurrence and generalize it. If you are confident of doing it without a Guru, good for you. You must be really an advanced aspirant.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, sat-saṅga is no doubt necessary, but it can take many different forms, which are not all equally efficacious. As Bhagavan indicates in verse 4 of Upadēśa Undiyār, what is done by mind is more efficacious than what is done by body, so we can infer from this (and from many of his other teachings) that any form of mental sat-saṅga is more efficacious than physical sat-saṅga.

In the case of Bhagavan, before his death experience in Madurai he had never had sat-saṅga with Arunachala in a physical sense, but he had in a mental sense, and as he indicated in verse 1 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam, that mental sat-saṅga with Arunachala in his early life had a profound influence on him.

Merely thinking of Arunachala or Bhagavan is one very powerful form of mental sat-saṅga, as is reading and thinking deeply about his teachings, but since sat-svarūpa (the ‘own form’ of sat, which is what actually exists) is only ātma-svarūpa (as Bhagavan states explicitly in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?), the most powerful form of sat-saṅga is only ātma-vicāra, which is self-attentiveness or ‘thought of oneself’.

Therefore the idea that sat-saṅga is more powerful than ātma-vicāra seems very dubious, and does not seem to be in tune with Bhagavan’s teachings. As he stated unequivocally in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār, ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’, which implies that it is the direct and most powerful form of sat-saṅga.

Since Bhagavan taught this path of ātma-vicāra ‘for everyone’ who seeks to root out their ego, let us not be confused or misled by anyone who suggests that any other form of sat-saṅga is more powerful or efficacious than ātma-vicāra. If we take him as our guru and try to follow this path that he has shown us, we should not be disheartened thinking that we have not had his sat-saṅga or that we need to seek sat-saṅga elsewhere. Thinking of him, his teachings and our own self, which he has taught us is our ultimate refuge, is true sat-saṅga and is more than adequate for our needs.

Sanjay Lohia said...

I thank Michael for his comment addressed to anonymous on the topic of sat-sanga. As he writes, 'Merely thinking of Arunachala or Bhagavan is one very powerful form of mental sat-saṅga, [...]'. Many of us are attracted to going regularly to the physical presence of Arunachala, but after reading Michael one can infer that merely thinking about Arunachala could be more efficacious than going to its physical presence. Michael may correct me if I am wrong.

Now I quote from Michael's/Sri Sadhu Om's article: The Paramount Importance of Self-Attention - part one, dated 6th December 1977:

A true aspirant will understand that 'I am' is the guru. If the guru were merely a body, he would disappear as he appeared, and would therefore be useless. To search for a 'living guru' is absurd, because the 'living guru' will sooner or later become a dead guru. If an aspirant has understood the teachings of the guru correctly, he will no longer look for the guru outside, because he will have faith that guru is ever present within himself as 'I am'.

Bhagavan used to say that the body of the guru is a veil covering him in the view of his devotees, because it conceals from them his true form as self. [emphasis mine] What advantage do devotees who were blessed to be in his physical presence have now? All they have is a memory, which is no better than a dream. If they think proudly, 'I have seen Bhagavan', that is just an other opportunity for their ego to rise.

To have come to Bhagavan is a sign of ignorance, but he removes that ignorance by enabling us to understand that his presence is not limited to any place here and there, because it alone exists. He does not allow us to cling to anything external, but makes us discriminate and understand that 'I am' alone is eternal, and that the guru therefore cannot be anything other than that.

Regards.

Mouna said...

We have it all wrong my friends.
We think that life, "our" life, "real" life, is waking with moments of dream and moments of deep sleep.
We have it all wrong. All backwards.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay,

you say "To search for a 'living guru' is absurd, because the 'living guru' will sooner or later become a dead guru. If an aspirant has understood the teachings of the guru correctly, he will no longer look for the guru outside, because he will have faith that guru is ever present within himself as 'I am'."

Very true. Sadhu Om going to Bhagavan and staying with him for 5 years till Bhagavan passed away was absurd not only while he was alive but as Michael mentioned in another anecdote, his asking Bhagavan to come to him after Bhagavan's left his body was even more absurd.

And inspite of staying with him for 5 years even after understanding that "I am" is the guru, looks like he did not understand the teachings of the Guru correctly or did he not understand that even after staying with Bhagavan for 5 years.

Also as for being misguided by what "others" say about being with the Jnanis, those others include not just David Godman, but other Jnanis as well and highly venerated scriptures like the Bhagavatha, Yoga Vasishtha, Tripura Rahasya etc many of which Bhagavan himself had a high regard for.

I can quote from those but that will only be like banging my head against a brick wall, so "summa irru" is better.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, you write, 'Sanjay, you say "To search for a 'living guru' is absurd, because the 'living guru' will sooner or later become a dead guru. If an aspirant has understood the teachings of the guru correctly, he will no longer look for the guru outside, because he will have faith that guru is ever present within himself as 'I am'"'.

I would like to bring to your notice that I did not say this, but I just quoting Sri Sadhu Om. Regards.

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous brings out a key observation regarding Sri Sadhu OM (as a Sadhaka, before awakening).

“A true aspirant will understand that 'I am' is the guru. If the guru were merely a body, he would disappear as he appeared, and would therefore be useless. To search for a 'living guru' is absurd, because the 'living guru' will sooner or later become a dead guru. If an aspirant has understood the teachings of the guru correctly, he will no longer look for the guru outside, because he will have faith that guru is ever present within himself as 'I am'.”

In spite of his own writing above, Sri Sadhu OM had felt an intense longing for human form, as per Michael below:

“In July 1955, when he faced the worst emotional crisis of his life, he had an intense longing to see Bhagavan again in human form”

This is not meant to view Sri Sadhu OM (SSM) with a critical eye but to extrapolate the lessons one can learn from it. I am assuming at this stage in 1955, SSM was still a Sadhaka. So SSM, in spite of 5 years association with a Jnani, having understood Bhagavan’s teachings correctly, still could not let go of the human form. If for SSM himself, this was the case, what can be said of Sadhakas who have only travelled a few steps in the path and who do not have access to a Guru in physical form, as he did?

The point here is for Bhagavan’s devotees who also identify themselves with the broader Sanatana Dharma. Jiva’s identity with form runs very deep within the psyche. Knowing this well is why the rishi’s of Sanatana Dharma has emphasized worship with form. They knew that Sadhaka’s cannot always be with the “ever present within himself” Guru. That is why worship in temples, worship of SivaLinga, chanting of mantras, Meditation on OM (as form and sound) were all prescribed. May be this is why, Bhagavan highly emphasized worship of Arunachala, externally as physical form as the mountain.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vanakkam.

“We have it all wrong my friends.
We think that life, "our" life, "real" life, is waking with moments of dream and moments of deep sleep.
We have it all wrong. All backwards.”

Let’s say we have it all wrong and things are really backwards. Let’s say, deep sleep is “our” life (or Turiya, if you meant it that way), with moments of waking and moments of dream, is the right way.

Since Turiya or deep sleep is not being experienced currently, what would we do differently in “walking state” having it the right way?

Sivanarul said...

I meant "waking state" in the end and not the "walking state"

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, Vanakkam

"Since Turiya or deep sleep is not being experienced currently, what would we do differently in “walking state” having it the right way?"

Very difficult to explain my friend...
Nothing is changed and everything changes.
I guess the best and limited way I can explain it is that Maya becomes really evident as the illusory superimposition IT is, throwing its veil on our true nature, Turiya (that can't and will never be experienced because every experience requires an experiencer) in the form of three superimposed states (waking, dreaming and deep sleep).
Sleep being the "closest" to oneself is the one that "feels" more real (although still a fabrication of ego) and the cause of the other ones, not the other way around.
Not a great answer but is the only one I can provide with the limitations of language.

Be well and may Him send blessings your way,
M

Anonymous said...

Sivanarul,
Few other observations regarding Satsang's immense effectiveness are the following:
a) Bhagavan is supposed to have openly said(or acknowledged) that a person was liberated in only 3 cases. His mother, Mastan and Lakshmi the cow. I have not read anywhere accounts of his mother doing atma vichara or even having the time to do that. Bhagavan said that Mastan was a very advanced soul. I doubt if Lakshmi the cow did atma vichara but it was liberated. Reason is simple. Association with Bhagavan. This probably applied to many ladies who worked in the ashram kitchen. I doubt if they even had the time to atma vichara and some of them are said to have realized their self. The power of satsang cannot be denied at all. Not to mention the crow and the dog which have samadhis at the ashram.
b) Take the case of Seshadri Swami. It is well know that he was a jnani and both he and Bhagavan had immense respect for each other and Bhagavan even went to his Samadhi when Seshadri swami was laid to rest. Well here is seshadri swami's story. He is said to observed only dualistic worship for the most part.
http://www.swamigal.com/goldenhand.htm

I am neither saying here nor said before that one should go in search of a living Guru as opposed to sadhana but I personally have no doubt that the power of a living Guru or a satsang with any Jnani (he need not necessarily be one's guru) is far superior than our own efforts. I know Satsang means abidance in one's own self in the highest form but let me ask honestly. How many of us can keep our mind quiet enough to do self inquiry without being distracted by writing, reading etc even for a few hours let alone abide in the self? The next best option is to be in the presence of a Jnani. Otherwise why should people(includes me) flock to Bhagavan's samadhi frequently? Because it has the capacity to make one's mind quiet with minimal effort for it to do self inquiry or any other sadhana. This is true for any Jnani's samadhi and in our scriptures its true for any places where Jnani's have inhabited. One e.g. I can give you is the Old hall at Ramakrishna mutt in Chennai. It has been inhabited by direct disciples of Ramakrishna as well as Sarada devi all of whom were self realized. And there are quite a few including myself who can vouch for its effect in silencing one's mind. Our scriptures and rishis were not stupid to mention this. If this is the power of samadhi's do we have to doubt the power of Living Jnani's, if we can find one. I know only a Jnani can know another and also there are many fakes who call themselves realized but there are also said to be few who may be genuine and if one has a chance to meet them, i think thats far superior than trying to sit in a chair, do all sorts of acrobatics for hours to do sadhana or self inquiry and end up with a headache :-)
Nochur Venkataraman in one of his discourses mentioned that Tirumoolar has said that the prana (life force) of most men who die leave their body through a part in the body after they die but for Jnanis or self realized men, the prana settles down in their own body and thats why the Jnanis bodies are cremated. It retains the full force and the presence of the Jnani as when he was alive. Otherwise why are people from all over the world coming to a small town in Tiruvannamalai just for a few days when they could be doing self inquiry wherever they are.

Will continue in my next comment---

Anonymous said...

Will continue in my next comment---

Continued from before ---
Infact the great Adavitin Sankara himself has said this in his immortal Bhaja govindam below
/**
satsangatve nissngatvam nissangatve nirmohatvam nirmohatve nishchalatattvam nishcalatattve jiivanmuktih
From Satsanga comes non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, which leads to self-settledness. From self-settledness comes Jivan Mukti (liberation).
***/
The following is said by Krishna to Uddhava in Bhagavata. I believe there is an almost similar statement both in Guru Vachaka Kovai as well as Ulladu Narpadu anubandham
/**
Said the Lord: "O Uddhava, nothing attracts me-neither concentration, knowledge or righteousness nor study of scriptures, austerity or renunciation, nor charity or humanitarian acts like the digging of wells etc, nor observance of rituals, pilgrimage or self-discipline - none of these has the power to destroy all attachments, as does holy association."
**/
I am not against atma vichara as I myself try to practice it and have faith in it because in the absence of a Living guru all one can do is practice what one feels comfortable with but to say that one's own effort in atma vichara alone will lead to realization, to me smacks of ego. It is just another subtle(or direct) form of Ego. Faith in one's guru neither means faith in one's own interpretation of his Guru nor putting down other methods.
Sadhu Om's life, the way he lived and practiced nama rupa (name and form devotion) and his devotion to Bhagavan's name and form has a lot of contrast to what he taught. I would learn more by seeing how he (or any other Jnani) actually lived his life, rather than just go by what they taught. After all what is any Jnani's highest teaching? That you are brahman and what does that get us. We can keep repeating that we are not the go a gazillion times and nothing will happen. Also reading and contemplating Bhagavan's teaching is surely satsang but arguing and refuting arguments is anything but Satsang. It only creates more thoughts and disturbs the mind. If you see Sankara's definition of satsang, he says its should lead to self settledness, he does not say it should lead to relentless arguments or the notion that one's path is superior or the best and other paths are bad.
Sadhu Om says the following in "The path of sri ramana part one"
"Readers should understand that what is pointed out here, in this book, is that for those who want and strive for only Self-attainment, this kind of strength obtained through japa and dhyana is nothing but a hindrance."

If this is not putting down other paths, I don't know what is and it doesn't make any sense especially when he himself followed many of this in his life as Michael said. It completely ignores so many Jnanis who attained realization just by Japa or Meditation. And if self inquiry were so superior, why are we all still discussing about it so much?

Will continue in the next --

Anonymous said...

Continued from before --

This also goes against what Bhagavan adviced Kunju Swami from the "Human Gospel of Ramana" by Bhagavan's grand nephew V.Ganesan
/**
This finally emboldened Kunju Swami. He prostrated before Bhagavan and said, "Bhagavan, I want to go and live in Palakothu and pursue Self- Enquiry, my sadhana." Bhagavan was delighted and exclaimed, "Oh, good!" With a smile he said, "It is enough if the mind is kept one-pointed in vichara, dhyana, japa, and parayana." Vichara is Self-Enquiry, dhyana is meditation, japa is incantation, and parayana is repeatedly singing the works of the Master, without aspiring to anything else.
Then again he prostrated before Bhagavan and pleaded, "Bhagavan, please bless me. I am going to be alone, away from you. Guide me." Bhagavan then said the most beautiful thing; he looked at him graciously and spoke, "Make Self-Enquiry your final aim, but also practice meditation, japa, and parayana. Relentlessly practice them alternately, and if you tire of meditation, take to japa; if you tire of japa, take to Self- Enquiry; if you tire of that, do parayana, i.e., the chanting of verses. Do not have a gap between them. Do not allow the mind to sway from your task. Practice this faithfully, and in the end you will be established in Self- Enquiry and will find culmination in Self-realization." This is an assurance, not just to Kunju Swami but to every listener of this profound statement by the Master. Be assured, Self-Enquiry will establish you in the nonphysical Truth you already are.
**/

Anonymous said...

In my first pasting I said "Jnanis bodies are cremated" instead of "Jnanis bodies are not cremated" by mistake.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding the comment in which you wrote, ‘Many of us are attracted to going regularly to the physical presence of Arunachala, but after reading Michael [in this comment] one can infer that merely thinking about Arunachala could be more efficacious than going to its physical presence’, Bhagavan’s view of the relative efficacy of mental sat-saṅga and physical sat-saṅga is illustrated by the following incident:

A lady devotee who lived in Tiruvannamalai and used to visit Bhagavan every day was at one time not able to come to him for a few days because her relatives had come to stay with her, so she had to spend her time at home cooking for them and attending to their needs. After they left she came to Bhagavan and lamented the fact that she had not been able to see him for several days, to which he replied: ‘It is better that you were at home with your relatives but thinking of me, than it would have been if you had been here but thinking of them’.

From this we can infer that it is better to be far away from Tiruvannamalai but thinking of Arunachala and Bhagavan than to be in Tiruvannamalai but thinking of other worldly concerns. However, this does not mean that spending time in Tiruvannamalai is not beneficial, but just that whether we are able to be there or not, what is most beneficial is to be thinking constantly of Arunachala, Bhagavan and his teachings.

Physical sat-saṅga is certainly beneficial, but it is not an adequate substitute for mental sat-saṅga, and whereas the availability of physical sat-saṅga is dependent upon one’s prārabdha and hence on the will of Bhagavan, mental sat-saṅga is something that we are always free to avail ourself of at any time, so the choice is ours. As Bhagavan used to say, we are always free to attend either to ourself or to the experiences that come according to prārabdha, and the best use we can make of this freedom is to try to attend to ourself as much as possible.

Such self-attentiveness is the most beneficial form of sat-saṅga, but this does not mean that other forms of sat-saṅga are not also beneficial, albeit to a lesser extent, so whenever we have the opportunity to spend time in Tiruvannamalai it is good to avail ourself of it, but while there we should try to spend our time usefully thinking of Arunachala, Bhagavan and his teachings and attempting to be self-attentive rather than thinking of anything else.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, you write 'The power of satsang cannot be denied at all'. Yes, it is true, the power of sat-sanga cannot be denied, and we are not denying it, but what we are emphasising is that the power of atma-sanga (if sat-sanga and atma-sanga are considered different) far outweighs the power of any other form of sat-sanga.

Once a devotee wanted to touch Bhagavan's feet and appealed to Bhagavan somewhat as follows: 'Bhagavan, I want to touch your feet and be blessed. Please permit me'. Bhagavan replied to the effect, 'Bhagavan is inside you as yourself. Touch his feet. If you go after these (pointing towards his feet) you will be disappointed, because this is not the real Bhagavan. If you insist my attendants may prevent you from touching these feet and you may not succeed. Therefore always consider Bhagavan to be within you'.

Bhagavan has repeatedly emphasised that real God or guru is only within, ourself as we really are. Therefore real guru-sanga or deva-sanga can only be self-attentiveness. Regards.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay,

Read the account of TK Sunderesa Iyer where he did not come to Bhagavan for 100 days and then when he came Bhagavan asked him, why he did not come and Bhagavan pointed out to him what he missed without being with Bhagavan. I'm sure you can google the story.

If you can show an anecdote to support your case, I can do it as well to support my case and there in lies the problem. We can keep going on and on. The very nature of spirituality is subjective and its left to individual interpretation and precisely why cannot generalize one aspect as Bhagavan's teaching just because you believe in it.

It is very easy to argue your case by constantly hammering on it completely ignoring all the other e.g.s I have laid out. Its like talking to a wall and there is no point in talking to someone who has made up his mind.

Regards

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you sir for your comments on the relative efficacy of mental sat-sanga and physical sat-sanga. You have put it beautifully when you write:

Physical sat-saṅga is certainly beneficial, but it is not an adequate substitute for mental sat-saṅga, and whereas the availability of physical sat-saṅga is dependent upon one’s prārabdha and hence on the will of Bhagavan, mental sat-saṅga is something that we are always free to avail ourself of at any time, so the choice is ours. As Bhagavan used to say, we are always free to attend either to ourself or to the experiences that come according to prārabdha, and the best use we can make of this freedom is to try to attend to ourself as much as possible.

How deeply engrained is our self-ignorance and our almost infinite variety of visaya-vasanas, that in spite of our relatively long association with Bhagavan and his teachings, we are still struggling to reach the shore (annihilation of our ego). However Bhagavan has assured us that all these will go as we are inside the jaws of a tiger, so we will surely be saved. We just have to proceed unfailingly according to the path that guru has shown us. I am sure everything will come right in the end, as this is Bhagavan's assurance to all of us.

Thanking you and pranams.

Echnaton said...

Michael,
to be thinking constantly of Arunachala Ramana is really most beneficial.
I assume that 'to be thinking' is the same as 'to think'.
It is the ego which tries to prevent thinking constantly/always on Bhagavan and his teachings.
In my experience I have to agree with your view that mental sat-sanga is still more important and beneficial than physical sat-sanga (physical stay in Tiruvannamalai). Nonetheless I look forward with great pleasure and in joyful expectation to my next (tenth) visit on Arunachala in February 2016.
It depends on my prarabda if again I will well arrive there and return from there safe and sound.
You write "…is dependent upon one’s prarabda and hence on the will of Bhagavan…".
Does Bhagavan have a will ?
Michael, could you please explain/light up what are you implying by the term 'Bhagavan’s will' ?.
In which way would the will of Bhagavan influence my freedom to attend either to myself or to prarabda-bound experiences ?
Sometimes you write similar as "it seems to me that this is the work that Bhagavan has assigned to me, at least for the time being".
What exactly does it mean to you ? In which way do /did you give up your freedom to work in favour to Bhagavan’s will ? I hope my question is not addressed too directly/personally to/for you.

who? said...

Michael
As Echnaton has written, you have said something to the effect "it seems to me that this is the work that Bhagavan has assigned to me, at least for the time being".

My question to you is: What is the source of this conviction? In more general terms, which path/course of action should we trust in, and choose with conviction, when faced with choices in our life as an individual?

I guess that this conviction would come from necessity, as opposed to choice. For, given the choice, we do prefer the pleasant over the good. Also, the favorable path would be littered with doubts throughout, making us seek the refuge of God more than reliance on the intellect and capabilities of our own selves and of those whom we consider to be our friends and relatives.

Anonymous said...

I thought a Jnani was supposed to have no will and Bhagavan himself has said in a conversation that a Jnani has no sankalpa or will, so what does Bhagavan's will mean? Obviously here you don't mean Bhagavan's body which means you are referring to the self and even the self has no will when nothing apart from it exists. So what exactly does Bhagavan's will mean?

Illimani said...

Michael,
i)section 10: What is actually real ?
"Therefore the only thing that is eternal, unchanging and self-shining is ourself,
so we alone are real.
We are eternal, because...
We are unchanging, because...
And we are self-shining, because...
Therefore according to Bhagavan ...
A "silly" question arises in me: So who are we ?
ii)section 11:
Generally it is said that we experience our own (simple) self-awareness without a break in waking, dream and sleep. Quite honestly on no account I can confirm that I was self-aware in sleep from own experience. I regret that my awareness seems to be only on the level of a block of wood. So I hope in future I will get a more subtle consciousness to (be able to) comprehend Sri Ramana's teaching.

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the additional observations. I have also experienced the power of Jnani’s Samadhi and can easily relate to it. In Pamban swamigal’s Samadhi in Thiruvanmayur, Chennai and in Bhagavan’s Samadhi (along with other Jnani’s), the atmosphere is charged with a powerful energy which easily quietens the mind. That is why Sanatana Dharma prescribes temple visits, Samadhi visits , parayana of songs etc because each of these is charged with subtle energies which is not available doing Vichara or meditation at home all the time.

The idea that a Sadhaka (in the beginning/middle stages) can just do a single practice (say Vichara or meditation) all the time and by the strength of that practice alone attain Moksha is being a Spiritual Romantic. Unless one is very advanced on the path, it is impractical. Try it for yourself. Take a week off as Vacation. Pick a practice (Vichara or Meditation or Japa) and try to see whether for the full week you can do that practice and that practice only (with small breaks for food and bathroom).

Continued in next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment…

Dr David Frawley, a well-recognized Vedic expert, winner of Padma Bhushan and a very earnest Sadhaka by all means has an excellent article on “Teachings of Ramana Maharishi: An Integral View”.

https://vedanet.com/2012/06/13/the-teachings-of-ramana-maharshi-an-integral-view/

I have pasted some synopsis from that article below. It is well worth reading.

“Ramana Maharshi, perhaps modern India’s greatest sage, recommended Atma-Vichara or Self-inquiry as the best and most direct approach for Self-realization. This has caused some to think that he regarded other yogic practices, like mantra or pranayama, as unimportant or even useless. However, a careful examination of his teachings reveals that he recommended various yogic approaches of devotion, mantra or raja yoga – in fact, he encouraged whatever might aid a person in their sadhana.

The Maharshi did not put much emphasis on the outer formalities of practice for Self-inquiry. This has similarly caused some to think that for Self-inquiry there are no prerequisites – that any one at any stage of life or following any life-style can do it and succeed. Again, a careful examination of his life and teachings shows that he never discountenanced the ethical and ascetic basis for Self-inquiry.

He particularly emphasized a pure vegetarian diet as a crucial aid for clarity of mind. He noted the importance of satsangha or communion with spiritual teachers and aspirants. Pilgrimage to holy sites like Arunachala mountain was very significant to him as well. Daily Vedic chanting went on in his ashram to create an environment suitable for meditation.

Continued in next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment…

Though Bhagavan’s teaching is simple and direct, it is broad and flexible. It accepts all helpful yogic practices, even those that it may not specifically mention. The Maharshi’s path follows the integral approach of Vedic teachings going back thousands of years and, particularly, the Advaitic and yogic approaches taught by Shankaracharya (seventh century) that included devotional practices and raja yoga (as taught in texts like Saundarya Lahiri).

Many people today, particularly in the West, do not understand the interconnectedness of these various yogic disciplines and fail to understand their benefits. Simple formless Self-inquiry is difficult to sustain, except for very advanced aspirants who have well developed powers of attention and extreme dispassion from all external objects starting with the body itself.

Such detachment is, of course, extremely rare in this materialistic and sensate age. Additional practices are usually necessary to build the competence for this effort, which is said to be as daunting as scaling a steep rock face of a high mountain.”

Continued in next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment…

In an interview regarding his Personal Sadhana, he says:

https://vedanet.com/2012/11/13/healing-from-within-an-interview-with-dr-david-frawley-with-the-dalai-lama-foundation-delhi/

Q: What is the direction of your personal sadhana?

A: I take an integral approach – the threefold approach of pranayama, mantra and more formless mediation. I find pranayama is a more important way for internalizing the mind, a kind of pratyahara. It also gives us the internal energy so that when we close our eyes to meditate we don’t fall asleep.

Secondly, the use of mantra. Most of the problems that we have with meditation are that people get eaten up by their subconscious thoughts. If we do regular mantra practice, by changing the sound patterns of the subconscious mind, it becomes our ally in meditation.

From that point meditation is the practice of self-inquiry, particularly that which Ramana Maharshi taught, and the whole process of introspection and examining the meaning of our lives can occur once we have brought our mind into the sattvic state.

The other aspect of meditation is surrender, or the devotional aspect, where we surrender or open up to the divine reality, which is also the same as the higher self. So I try to take that kind of practical and integrated approach a have a number of tools. For example, if my mind gests sleepy than I may do pranayama, or if one mantra appeals tome then I may hold on to it until something comes out of it.

Alternatively, if you fall naturally into a meditative state you just let it be and flow with it. It is like a dance, a tapestry. It is like cultivating a garden and growing flowers. Once you have done that cultivation in the mind and when you open your mind and close your eyes and look within, it is like entering a vast garden in which there are always things growing and developing, as opposed to just looking within and discovering a darkness or blankness within.

Anonymous said...

Michael,
I have a couple of blunt and direct questions for you. I ask these questions neither with the intention to put you down nor insult you. So if you feel like answering, i'd love to hear your answers but if you feel my questions are presumptuous and not answer them, I understand.

For the record I have been trying to practice self inquiry for the past few years and whether you believe it or not, I don't think there is anyone I have read about who explains the process of self inquiry as well as you do or Sadhu Om does and I have learnt a lot about the process itself by reading your description.

I also have a request for others. I'd like to wait to hear from Michael first before others jump on me taking my question as disrespecting Michael. Disagreeing or questioning someone is not disrespect. If that were the case the person who disrespected Ramakrishna the most would have been Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda later in his life said that no one questioned Ramakrishna like he did and for every one of his question, Ramakrishna did much more than answering him.

Before I get to my questions, I don't know if you have realized your self. If you have, I bow to you with respect and my questions are a moot point. I read somewhere that you had mentioned in one of your videos that you had not realized your self yet. I am also very well aware of your responses to this question before saying how would one know if you answer them one way or the other, i.e about you having realized or not, and that makes my questions all the more pertinent because it proves the subjectivity of making a statement about the efficacy of something. I have also read that only a Jnani knows another, so all I can do is trust your answer either way.

My questions are the following:
a) You quite unequivocally say that self inquiry is the most direct and most effective path superior to other paths. But if you have not realized your self even after so many decades of self inquiry, how can you make that claim? No one would doubt your knowledge of self inquiry and its practice. So if inspite of this and after practicing it for so long, why has it not been effective for you and if it has not even worked for you how can you make this claim that its superior to other paths? At the most you can say that you believe Bhagavan words and have faith in it which could be true for a practitioner of any path with regard to any Guru. Even in science we hear of so many scientific constants like gravitation constant, avogadro's number etc and theories but most students of science can at most say that they believe in the words of Newton or Einstein because the majority haven't tested and proven anything themselves. They just trust the words of ones/textbooks that have said it to be true. As for self inquiry, being one who tries to practice it, it makes perfect intellectual sense to me but without realizing my self through it I'd never make any claims and even if I were to realize my self using this method, I know every one of us is different and just because it worked for me doesn't mean it works for everyone.

b) If you tell me that the reason you have not realized your self even after all these years, its because there are several other factors like one's vasanas, samskaras (tendencies), Grace etc, does that not mean that the technique alone is no guarantee? After all there have been many following other paths who have realized the self faster and some of them are Bhagavan's own devotees. And so how can you make that claim if self inquiry is not powerful enough to override your vasanas after decades of practice?

So at the most one can say that one believes its the right method for him and that as of now he has total faith in it and nothing more than that.

Again, if you feel my questions are presumptuous and do not choose to answer, I understand.

Atma-sukha said...

Anonymous,
the self is not (to be) realized by anyone because it is never unrealized.
So your question is put not correctly.
Regards

Anonymous said...

atma-sukha,

Thanks for the your answer straight from the books unless ofcourse you have crossed duality, but I guess, everyone knows what I mean. I can also cut and paste such standard answers from the upanishads, jnanis etc but we are all practicing and reading this blog because we have an ego, ignorance, duality etc. Just by using the right words and sentences, nothing is to be gained. You can keep uttering such statements such eternity and all it will amount to is asking "who am i" to oneself and mistaking it for self inquiry as Sadhu Om puts it.

R Viswanathan said...

There has been some discussion on the power of Guru. One may benefit by watching these two videos:

Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - The Power of the Guru (Part I)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8wDe4ngpDw

Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - The Power of the Guru (Part II)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz-KNGbec30

So much discussion on self enquiry. One may benefit by watching this video:
Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - Self-Enquiry
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDVQC_uHRCI

Finally there was a comment on who or whether one is self realized. One may benefit by watching this video:
Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - Recognising Enlightenment
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBflwS3IzjM

venkat said...

Anonymous

Forget about liberation for a second. If you dispassionately look at the mess in the world, the suffering all around us, and the personal suffering, the inevitable conclusion is that the ego is at the root cause of this.

All religions in their own way point to fact that the end of suffering comes from the removal of the ego - arguably vedanta and buddhism more so than others.

So the question is how can the ego be removed - this is tricky since anything that an ego does to remove itself, is in itself a function of the ego. And any devotional practices, mantras, etc do not in any way challenge the ego; though they may subdue the mind, for as long as the practices continue. Their practice is based on a desire to 'achieve' something - heaven, god, etc.

Karma yoga, by giving up any desire for the fruits of action, more directly tries to attenuate our naturally ego-ful activities.

Bhagavan's self-inquiry is the only practice that directly addresses the ego, and its reality. Not by a simple act of faith in non-duality, or Brahman, or what you will. But by encouraging you, each time a thought arises, to ask who is it that is thinking that thought? In the initial stages that might be through a rationale investigation of the reality of the 'I' apart from all the conditioning that has gone on since birth. As one gets deeper, it would progress to self-abidance, and mouna.

It can only be in this context, that any mantras, devotional practices, etc would serve to reinforce and remind one of self-abidance, rather than being caught up in the world, when self-enquiry isn't always feasible.

That is I think why Bhagavan always emphasised vichara, especially as the final steps that one has to take. As to its efficacy - the conundrum is that as long as there is a 'you' that wants to achieve, then that you clearly have not understood the import. So, I think one can (intellectually) understand the point of egolessness, and use thought, the 'I' mantra and karma yoga to remind oneself of this; and whenever and as much as possible, to practice the self-abidance that Bhagavan talks of.

Anonymous said...

Venkat,

To start with I don't deny whatever you have said and I agree with it.

You say
/**
Bhagavan's self-inquiry is the only practice that directly addresses the ego, and its reality. Not by a simple act of faith in non-duality, or Brahman, or what you will.
**/

Then how would you explain many others who have practiced other practices like Japa, Raja Yoga, other forms of meditation or a combination of these to realize the self including Bhagavan's own devotees like Vilacheri Ranga Iyer, NR Krishnamurthy Iyer, Lakshmana swamy, his disciple Sarada amma (who never did self inquiry, Read David Godman's No mind I'm the self), not to mention Alwars, Nayanmars, disciples of Ramakrishna, Sringeri's Abhinava Vidyateertha swami and I can go on and on. I even agree that at the last moment when these people were ripe self inquiry would have occurred but the above dismisses the premise that Self Inquiry is superior to them. On the other hand there are many who have practiced self inquiry for years or decades with no results.

You say
/**
In the initial stages that might be through a rationale investigation of the reality of the 'I' apart from all the conditioning that has gone on since birth. As one gets deeper, it would progress to self-abidance, and mouna.
**/

Don't take this personally because I myself am intellectually convinced of this and try to practice self inquiry for the most part. But Have you actually realized this yourself yet. And would you not agree that as long as you don't realize the self, this is just a high degree of conviction and intellectual belief. That being the case when you have not realized it yet, how can you claim its efficacy?

Bhagavan said so because he realized his self using this in a second. How can one who has not realized say that with conviction.

No matter how much conviction you have it and no matter how many times you verbally assert it, is it not just an intellectual conviction?

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

“And any devotional practices, mantras, etc do not in any way challenge the ego; though they may subdue the mind, for as long as the practices continue. Their practice is based on a desire to 'achieve' something - heaven, god, etc.”

That is what someone who is naïve about what devotional practices is, would tell. I have read your comments on Advaita UK site, and I know you are far more nuanced. I take it you are not exposed to devotional practices or literature.

The culmination of devotional practices is not to achieve heaven. Our practice is to ‘achieve’ moksha or liberation also. You also ‘desire’ to ‘achieve’ moksha by investigating the ‘I’ and dissolving it in the Self (as a figure of speech). The devotee dissolves his ‘I’ in God/Ishvara. Let’s face it, we both have ‘desire’ to ‘achieve’ moksha. The only difference is the path taken.

I am not sure you are aware or read of Periya Puranam (biography of 63 Saiva Nayanamar saints). Bhagavan was highly influenced by it and it was very close to his heart. Anyone who has read it, will understand what the Bhakthi tradition is all about.You seem to be more kind towards Karma Yoga, so I take that you are more exposed to that.

Please be more thoughtful before passing sweeping judgments on traditions like Bhakti Yoga, that is 3000+ years old and has illustrious saints in it who have achieved Moksha by following it.

who? said...

Anonymous

I feel that your questions addressed to Michael are neither presumptuous nor disrespectful, but express honest doubts about the efficacy of atma-vichara. Michael will most likely answer them when he finds time.

Till then, i recommend to you to contemplate over the following questions.
In question (a) you used the phrase 'realize my self'.
1. What exactly do you mean by that?
2. What can possibly be the means to 'realize my self'?
3. Can there be more than one means to 'realize my self'?

If we are completely honest about our lack of clear self-knowledge and consequent confusion about who we really are, then the phrase 'realize my self' means 'experiencing my self as i really am'. Also, logically it follows that the only single means to do that is to try to experience our self in complete isolation from anything else.

Michael James is not 'making claims' about the unique efficacy of atma-vichara; he is simply reiterating the 'claims' made by Bhagavan. So why does Michael repeatedly reiterate these 'claims'? He answers this question in this article itself.

[...] If we are not able to grasp correctly at a conceptual level what we need to distinguish from what while practising ātma-vicāra, we will not be able to distinguish it in practice. Therefore having a subtle and finely nuanced understanding of the practice is absolutely necessary, and such an understanding comes from persistent practice supported by careful reflection on and analysis of Bhagavan’s own words about this practice.

Since Michael James has tried to practice atma-vichara with ēkāgratā, he has developed the 'subtle and finely nuanced understanding of the practice', which is reflected in the 'intellectual conviction' with which he reiterates the simplicity, immediacy, and efficacy of atma-vichara. And i thank him for sharing his understanding here so that i too can try to have the same clear experience of what that practice entails.

shiba said...

Anonymous

What we say about self-enquiry or other theory is only "intellectual conviction" as you said. It is like someone saying "this is the best movie in the world". That man have't watch all the movies in the world, but he can't say such a thing? He have freedom to say so. And you have freedom to agree or disagree with him. Take it easy.

Michael James said...

Echnaton, regarding your question ‘Does Bhagavan have a will?’ the answer is both yes and no, or rather no and yes.

What Bhagavan actually is is only our own real self (ātma-svarūpa), which alone truly exists and which therefore has absolutely no will, volition or desire other than just to be as it is. However, so long as we experience ourself as this finite ego, he seems to us to be something other than ourself, and in our view he has a role as God or guru, so as such he does have a will, the basic form of which is just his wish or love for us to be as we really are. This fundamental ‘desire’ or will of his is what is called ‘grace’, which is the natural love that we as we really are have for our own self, and which is therefore the power that is constantly working within us to draw us back to what we really are.

Bhagavan’s role as God and guru and his consequent will, grace or love to draw us back to ourself is therefore as real as our ego. So long as we seem to be this ego, he will seem to function as God and guru, whose ultimate will is only that we should merge back into our real self, which is what he actually is.

However, though this is his ultimate will, in order to fulfil this aim of his he has to shape our inward and outward lives in such a way as to enkindle in us the love just to be as we really are, and one of the ways in which he does this is by ordaining our prārabdha (destiny or fate) in each life (that is, in each dream) in whatever way will be most conducive to our spiritual development (that is, the development of our love to be what we really are).

In this role as the ordainer of our prārabdha he is what he described as ‘அதற்கானவன்’ (adaṟkāṉavaṉ), ‘he who is for that’, in his December 1898 note to his mother, and as ‘கர்த்தன்’ (karttaṉ or kartā), the ‘doer’ (in the sense of God as the ordainer), in verse 1 of Upadēśa Undiyār. Therefore whatever we experience according to our prārabdha is his will.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Echnaton:

The fact that from the perspective of ourself as an ego it is correct to consider that God or guru has such a divine ‘will’ is clearly confirmed by Bhagavan in several verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam. For example, in verse 2 of Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam he sings, ‘[...] நின் இட்டம் என் இட்டம்; இன்பு அது எற்கு, என் உயிர் இறையே’ (niṉ iṭṭam eṉ iṭṭam; iṉbu adu eṟku, eṉ uyir iṟaiyē), which means ‘[...] Your will (iṣṭa) is my will; that is happiness for me, Lord of my soul [or life]’, and in verse 7 of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai he sings, ‘[...] எண்ணம் எதுவோ அது செய்வாய்; கண்ணே, உன்றன் கழல் இணையில் காதல் பெருக்கே தருவாயே’ (eṇṇam eduvō adu seyvāy; kaṇṇē, uṉḏṟaṉ kaṙal iṇaiyil kādal perukkē taruvāyē), which means ‘[...] Whatever be [your] thought [intention or wish], do that; [my] beloved [literally ‘eye’, implying what is most dear, and also one’s inner awareness], only give [me perpetual] increase [surge or flood] of love for your pair of feet’.

What he describes here as ‘உன்றன் கழல் இணையில் காதல்’ (uṉḏṟaṉ kaṙal iṇaiyil kādal) or ‘love for your pair of feet’ is the love to be as we really are by being aware of nothing other than ourself alone, which is precisely what he wants to give us, so by asking Arunachala to do whatever he wishes but only to give him ever-increasing love, Bhagavan was expressing the state of complete self-surrender. Such surrender is born out of all-consuming love for what is real, which is both his nija-svarūpa or original form and our ātma-svarūpa or own self, and such love arises in us only due to his grace, which is his ‘will’ or love for us to be as we really are (the love of our own self for ourself).

Anonymous said...

who,

you said
/**
In question (a) you used the phrase 'realize my self'.
1. What exactly do you mean by that?
2. What can possibly be the means to 'realize my self'?
3. Can there be more than one means to 'realize my self'?
**/

Lets not play with words here. We both know what it means. Why are in this pursuit of truth or whatever you call it. I referred to the same thing as "realizing the self". Whatever is your final goal is what I meant and its not a new term I have created.

Bhagavan used the same term or its equivalent in Tamil. I also know we are already the self, nothing is to be attained, its just ego, ignorance and the whole shebang. But many are missing my main point and keep harping about the benefits of self inquiry.

a) Have I ever said anywhere that self inquiry is a waste of time. On the contrary I have said that I myself practice it. What I contest is this idea that, that is the only method to attain it. I'd even concede that there is no doubt that the 'I' has to go, but that does not have to happen only by self inquiry. It can equally happen with devotion and other methods and one can easily reach a point where one becomes so ripe that self inquiry spontaneously occurs and realizes the self, which is exactly what happen to Papaji, Lakshmana swamy etc. Infact Lakshmanaswamy adviced many a times, his disciple Sarada amma to do self inquiry and she point blank rejected it and only meditated on the name and form of Lakshmana swamy and realized her self in 5 years.

b) I have provided many e.g.s of people who have realized their self by other methods or a combination of other methods. Can anyone here prove empirically that self inquiry is the fastest way. If one person takes to Japa and another self inquiry, can you prove that the one practicing self inquiry will realize his self first? Its impossible to prove one way or the other simply because self realization is not about just a technique. There are so many factors such as Prarabhdha, vasana, purva samaskaras, grace etc.

c) Even if someone were to assert that self inquiry is the direct way, the least that can be expected of him is that it should have atleast worked for him. If it hasn't even worked for him, how can he say that its superior to other methods?

Finally I am well aware of all the theory that we have to know ourselves etc etc, and I say theory because unless you have realized yourself everything that is said is just a theory or a great intellectual conviction.

Do you think in many traditions where they give mantra japa, mantra initiation etc the masters are stupid. These includes renowned masters like Swami Sivananda, Ramakrishna lineage and many more? Just because one is intellectual one should not dismiss it.

Infact Sadhu Om himself seems to have followed all this. Just because you are on the 20th step of a ladder, you cannot dismiss the 19 steps that you have used to climb as useless.

While many here may consider only Bhagavan Ramana as their only Guru, i differ. I have tremendous respect for Bhagavan Ramana but I have equal respect for all saints and take whatever I can from them to enhance my sadhana. A simple e.g. I read that while meditating, if one adopts chin-mudra, joining forefinger to thumb enhances concentration in Swami Sivananda's discourse and I tried it while doing self inquiry and it did increase my focus.

All those ancient sages and saints that came before Bhagavan Ramana were not fools and its not as if this concept was born only after Ramana. I'm finally tired of repeating this over and over so i'm not going to answer these anymore. If Michael chooses to answer me, fine else fine too.

Anonymous said...

Venkat,

You said,
“And any devotional practices, mantras, etc do not in any way challenge the ego; though they may subdue the mind, for as long as the practices continue. Their practice is based on a desire to 'achieve' something - heaven, god, etc.”

I did not read this properly and only saw this after I read Sivanarul's reply. I'll just say one thing. You've got to get out more and see man. You have a very limited view. I don't know where from you got this primitive idea. Swami Sivananda was an advaitin and was a great proponent of Nama samkritan. Guru nanak was self realized and was a proponent of Bhajan and Nama sankirtan. In Ramakrishna Mission they follow all this along with mantra initiation. Do you think they are looking for heaven? Then you have no idea. This is the problem with this Neo Advaita today. It dismisses everything else but just keeps talking.

who? said...

Anonymous

I apologize for commenting on the questions that you explicitly addressed to Michael. I wish to end our current conversation with this.
Regards

Wittgenstein said...

Anonymous,

In the light of what you are writing here (I took the summary of your points from the reply you gave to who?), I went back to read what Michael has written about the efficacy of atma vichara. This is what I found:

“As Bhagavan used to say, since this is the quickest and most direct path from wherever we may now be standing, if we are truly intent upon freeing ourself from our ego we should start trying to practise self-investigation from the moment we are given to understand that this is the only means by which our ego can ultimately be destroyed.”

It depends how we look at this statement before we draw our own conclusions. That I plan to do after comparing with your conclusions first. Now, when I look at what you are saying, one of the points you bring in is the following:

“It [dissolution of ‘I’] can equally happen with devotion and other methods and one can easily reach a point where one becomes so ripe that self inquiry spontaneously occurs and realizes the self.”

I would readily agree with this. As I see this, there are two stages here. One is attenuation of mind [ripening as you call it] and the other one is seeing the necessity of vichara, as the ultimate step. This is what I would also gather from Michael, when he says, ‘the moment we are given to understand that this is the only means by which our ego can ultimately be destroyed.’ Combining your statement and Michael’s statement, I would write the following:

“It [dissolution of ‘I’] can equally happen with devotion and other methods and one can easily reach a point [the moment one is given to understand] where one becomes so ripe that self inquiry spontaneously [ultimately] occurs and realizes the self.”

Next:

“Can anyone here prove empirically that self inquiry is the fastest way. There are so many factors such as Prarabhdha, vasana, purva samaskaras, grace etc.”
You are very right here. Even if the ‘moment one is given to understanding’ that vichara is the ‘ultimate’ way to destroy the ego, if the ego is pretty fat (vasanas), it may take very long time to thin down, even lifetimes. When he says, ‘the moment we are given to understand’, I would take grace gives us this understanding. And vasana prolong things. That is probably why it was snap of a finger with Papaji and lifetimes normally with others, even if they are doing only vichara all those lives. The ‘moment of understanding’ can happen irrespective of ‘wherever we may be standing’. We may be standing with a truck load of vasanas when we start vichara, unlike Papaji. Perfect, your understanding is perfect and you don’t contradict Michael at all.

(contd... in the next comment)

Wittgenstein said...

Next:

“Even if someone were to assert that self inquiry is the direct way, the least that can be expected of him is that it should have atleast worked for him. If it hasn't even worked for him, how can he say that its superior to other methods?”

The keyword here is ‘superior’. I can read ‘quicker’ (and I also understand the context in which it is used: ‘moment […] understanding’, ‘ultimately’,’wherever […] standing’ etc, just to remind myself) in Michael’s statement. Where is ‘superior’?

Finally:

“Finally I am well aware of all the theory that we have to know ourselves etc etc, and I say theory because unless you have realized yourself everything that is said is just a theory or a great intellectual conviction.”

You are very much right: grace gives us understanding at the right moment irrespective of where we stand (with our heavy weight (most of us) or feather weight (Papaji) vasanas). Is not this ‘understanding’ that we are given by grace an intellectual conviction? Without intellectual conviction, how can one practice what he is doing, even if the last step lasts only a nanosecond (intellect is still there in that last nanosecond, as ‘I’ is in the vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual sheath) – Bhagavan says that in Talks, not in Ulladu Narpadu)?

My conclusion: What you are asking Michael is pretty much answered in his statement. Not only in this statement, but also in the statements of this kind he had made in the past.

Now (really) finally:

“I'm finally tired of repeating this over and over so i'm not going to answer these anymore.”

I guess Michael is also equally justified in saying this!

Anonymous said...

Wittgenstein,

Thanks for your methodical reply and i'm happy someone finally atleast saw what I was trying to communicate instead of rejecting it outright.

As you said, "I guess Michael is also equally justified in saying this!". This is true and thats why even in my first poser to Michael, I said that i'd understand if he chooses not to reply. Also when I referred to having to reply constantly, I meant answering others and clarifying my main point.

Also, when I talk about this being an intellectual conviction, what I mean is this. One cannot vouchsafe a technique's (pardon me here, i'm using this for the lack of any other word and i don't want to get into a debate as to why self inquiry is not a technique as opposed say Japa or other forms of meditation and that its being ourselves etc) success unless one atleast gets the realization (not just conviction) himself and until then its just a conviction. Its true that without intellectual conviction one will not even practice this but just seeing a country in a map is not the same as having seen the country. So can you or I say for sure 100% sure that self inquiry is superior unless we have truly felt ourselves looking at the phantom "i am" and the phantom "i am" disappearing.

No matter how much understanding you have(10%, 20% 90% if that even makes sense) and how many words of Bhagavan one quotes its still just intellectual. if you have 100% understanding, then at that point you probably have already realized it.

Anonymous said...

"In fact Sadhu Om himself seems to have followed all this. Just because you are on the 20th step of a ladder, you cannot dismiss the 19 steps that you have used to climb as useless."
Bhagavan taught to keep quiet on the ground (the self), not to climb here or there with the help of a ladder (the mind). As long as you use the ladder you are on the ladder. Only those who want to go here and there use a ladder, but even if you reach a high pick, you will have to go down one day or another... such is the mind. To realize that you are alreday on the ground (the self), you don't need a ladder, or if you use it, you will have to put it down one day or another. Who will be stupid enough to use a ladder to stay on the ground ? That is why our belove Sadhu Om taught that only atma-vicara, that is to keep quiet on the ground, is the way to realize that you are already on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous

"Who will be stupid enough to use a ladder to stay on the ground ? That is why our belove Sadhu Om taught that only atma-vicara, that is to keep quiet on the ground, is the way to realize that you are already on the ground."

I think you need to read this yourself and learn to keep quiet.

Anonymous said...

Wittgenstein,

A crude e.g. i'd give is, as someone practicing self inquiry, if I go to another who practices Japa or another method and tell him that self inquiry is quicker(or better or whatever superlative word), the first thing he'd ask me is "Well, have you realized your self and has it worked for you?" never mind all the convincing theory(again pardon my using this word) behind it.

So at the point when i'm telling someone that its better without actual realization, how does it matter as to how much I know about it intellectually?

I don't mean to prolong this argument nor do I want it to get into meaningless name calling debate by some people without trying to understand what i'm saying, so I will stop here.

Anonymous said...

ANNAMALAI SWAMI REMEMBERED

"My life with Bhagavan taught me the value of faith, obedience and surrender. When I obeyed Bhagavan’s words, or had complete faith that he would look after all my spiritual and physical needs, everything went well. When I tried to mold my own destiny (such as the time I went to live in the cave and the time I ran away to Polur) things went badly. Life’s lessons have thus taught me the value and the necessity of complete surrender. If one surrenders completely to Bhagavan; if one lives by his words, ignoring all others; if one has enough faith in Bhagavan to stop making plans about the future; if one can banish all doubts and worries by having faith in Bhagavan’s omnipotence – then, and only then, Bhagavan will bend and mold one’s circumstances, transforming them in such a way that one’s spiritual and physical needs are always satisfied.

From ‘Living by the Words of Bhagavan’

venkat said...

Anonymous, Sivanarul
My apologies for my off-hand remark on devotion. I went back to Sarada, in 'No mind - I am the Self' and noted that in her final stages she talked about no longer meditating on Lakshmana Swamy, but being in a thoughtless, quiet state. What she had to say about devotion and vichara is interesting.

"Before Self-realisation, I used to think how lucky I was to have a great guru like Swamy, and how lucky I was to feel such devotion towards him. I can now see that this was just another subtle manifestation of the ego"

"Complete surrender or earnest self-enquiry can only be effectively practised by advanced devotees. Even Ramana Maharishi sometimes said that self-enquiry was for ripe souls only. Most people need a long period of purification to get their minds pure enough for total surrender or effective self-enquiry."

"So long as you set up the Self as a goal or target to be reached you will never experience it directly. The harder you try to get to it, the more it will recede away from you. You will only experience the Self, when all desire for it has gone."

"Swamy and I are in your Hear; meditate on us in the Heart, and you will discover that we are not apart from you . . . Meditating in the Heart really means that you should make the mind go back into the Heart so that you can experience the bliss of the Self there. If you are thinking about anything, even mine or Swamy's form, then the mind is still active. If you can give up all thoughts and make the mind completely silent and still, then it will automatically sink into the Heart"

Sarada's suggestion, if I have understood correctly, is to get rid of the ego, get rid of desires, and give up all thoughts, so that the mind is still.

You mentioned Jagadguru Sri Abhivnava Vidyatheertha. He said something equivalent (in Exalting Elucidations) to Sarada:
"He [Sankara] said that devotion is profound meditation on one's true nature. This is the definition of excellent devotion. However, none but a few can have this kind of devotion"
"Jnana alone is the direct means to moksha . . . Jnana arises when the mind becomes pure and devoid of desires".
"Merger with the Supreme, characterised by our realising our true nature, is the goal that we must attain. For this, the paths are those of karma, bhakti and jnana; karma leads to bhakti and bhakti to jnana. After jnana or firm realisation of the Truth is got, what does a person have to do? Nothing. He has no identification with the body and abides in bliss"

Both seem to imply that true devotion must culminate in meditating on one's own Heart. This is no different from Bhagavan, though he said why not adopt vichara directly.

Bhagavan rather beautifully said:
"Vichara is the process and the goal. ‘I am’ is the goal and the final reality. To hold to it with effort is vichara. When spontaneous and natural it is realisation."

Worrying about whether one has achieved realisation or not, or whether one is one the fastest path is irrelevant. If silent, egoless abidance in the 'I am' is the goal, then, as Bhagavan said, vichara is the path and the goal.

Michael is simply dedicating this website to guide us, as best as he can, in this, Bhagavan's quintessential teaching. And I can't see that he's strayed from anything that Bhagavan himself has not written or said.

venkat said...

Just one other point. Ultimately following any path is a matter of intellectual conviction or faith. Because, as you say, one can never know whether it is true or not, until you get there. And once you get there, who knows whether it was the fastest path or not? It doesn't matter - and even if someone tells you they are realised and that their's is the fastest path, then you are still putting your conviction in their statement.

So we all ultimately have to choose to follow a path ourselves, from some form of conviction, however that might be generated. For me, Bhagavan's path has the merit of Occam's razor - and addressing head on the ego, that I can see is the cause of so much misery in the world.

Echnaton said...

Michael,
thank you for your moving response about the meaning of Bhagavan's (grace and) will which leaves me deeply moved. May this emotion "give me perpetual increase of love for Sri Arunachala's pair of feet".

shiba said...


I feel what anonymous says is that why those who have no right to say "this is direct paht or not " can say such irresponsible comments. Yes, you are right. They have no right to say so, strictly speaking. But it is free to say "I think" it is direct and shortest path or so. Just thoughts, just opinions. Though some people have a bad hobbit to omit "I think", it may be due to their identification their intellectual understanding with actual experience...

It is like to say "OH,(I think) it is best food in the world". When you hear your friend say such a "ireeponsible" comment, how do you say to him? Do you say "have you eat all foods in the world?". If so, you may have no friends(lol).

I wrote this just for fun. Don't take it seriously.

Sivanarul said...

I want to thank Anonymous for putting forward a spirited discussion and Wittgenstein’s insightful reply. As anonymous said, Wittgenstein has been one of the very few who really responded to what Anonymous was trying to communicate.

“While many here may consider only Bhagavan Ramana as their only Guru, i differ. I have tremendous respect for Bhagavan Ramana but I have equal respect for all saints and take whatever I can from them to enhance my sadhana.”
There are many devotees of Bhagavan who share the above view of Anonymous (including me and Sri David Godman).

“All those ancient sages and saints that came before Bhagavan Ramana were not fools and it’s not as if this concept was born only after Ramana.”
That view is also shared by many of Bhagavan’s devotees (including me).

I would classify Bhagavan’s devotees into 4 groups:

Group A:

Jiva’s in this group are utterly convinced that Bhagavan’s writings in Ulladu Narpadu and Naan Yaar are the ONE AND ONLY truth in spirituality. Anything else that contradicts those, even if it happens to be Bhagavan’s action itself, it is declared not to be Bhagavan’s teaching and following it is said to fail Occam’s razor.
Even Bhagavan’s direct instruction to individual disciples, if it contracts Ulladu Narpadu, it is dismissed by saying that Bhagavan did not really do anything or he is only a lion in an elephant’s dream. Jiva’s in this group sincerely believe all other practices that have been prescribed for the last 3000+ years are merely an aid and without following Bhagavan’s unique teaching of self-enquiry, liberation is not possible. If pointed out that other sages have attained it, the answer is what those sages have attained may not be “realizing what you really are”. Folks, the word Moksha is clearly defined in Sanatana Dharma and what Bhagavan realized is not any different than what the other sages realized, unless one subscribes to the view Bhagavan realized something that has never been written anywhere in the entire history of Sanatana Dharma.
For Jiva’s in this group, spiritual teachings and spiritual clock start and end with Bhagavan’s lifetime. Also it has to be Self-Enquiry from beginning to end

Continued on next comment....

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment:

Group B:

Jiva’s in this group share some characteristics of Group A and some in Group C, but acknowledge that Self-Enquiry can be the very last step needed for liberation (it may be as little as a second, just like it was for Bhagavan). Jiva’s in this group are also utterly convinced of the teachings of Ulladu Narpadu and Naan Yaar, but do not subscribe to the view that those are the ONE AND ONLY truth in spirituality. They can see how other practices can lead to the same final goal with the very last step being natural and instantaneous self-enquiry.

Group C:

Jiva’s in this group subscribe to the broader Santana Dharma and view Bhagavan’s teaching as one of them. Just like Saint Vallalar said “I am one among the illustrious list of long lineage of saints”, they view Bhagavan to be one among the illustrious list of a long lineage of saints. Jiva’s in this group perform a variety of sadhanas including Parayana, Japa, Meditation, Temple Worship and Vichara etc. They are deeply influenced by Bhagavan, but also by many other illustrious saints. As anonymous said, they choose tips and techniques (like chin mudra during Vichara) from any one of the illustrious list of saints. For Jiva’s in the group, Spiritual clock started with the start of the earliest spiritual teaching (whether that is Sanatana Dharma or not) and has no ending.
Also Jiva’s in this group are open to the idea that any sadhana, if done with sincerity, along with many other factors such as grace, samskaras, previous life practices can lead to liberation at any time. For Jiva’s in this group, Bhagavan’s actions are very important.

Group D:
Jiva’s in this group share many characteristics of Group C, but they do not perform any deep Sadhana. They are deeply influenced by Bhagavan by his saintliness and his compassion and simply look to him for peace and guidance. They also do not care too much about liberation. For Jiva’s in this group, Bhagavan’s actions are very important.

So, Anonymous, what you have written resonates well with Jiva’s in Group B, C and D. So please don’t get discouraged by name calling. Many of Bhagavan’s devotees belong to Group B, C or D and they all can benefit from such spirited discussion. Please continue participating in discussions, as time permits.

Michael does not censure dissent and to his credit he has mellowed down just a little :-). In his last reply to me, he kind of indicated that he understands that not everyone can drop all sadhana’s they feel a natural inclination to and advised me to allow self-enquiry/camel in the tent just a little. I consider Michael as a very dear Spiritual friend, even if I don’t agree with him a lot and I am sure you do the same.

Sivanarul said...

Shiba,

“It is like to say "OH,(I think) it is best food in the world". When you hear your friend say such a "ireeponsible" comment, how do you say to him? Do you say "have you eat all foods in the world?". If so, you may have no friends(lol). I wrote this just for fun. Don't take it seriously.”

I know you wrote it as a joke. But Anonymous is not responding to “It is the best food in the world”. Here is what he is responding to:

“OH,(I think) it is best food in the world. Then the friend turns around and says to you, “What are you eating? Oh that! Well, that may take too long to digest, may not be as tasty as this and if anything is a stepping stone to the best food in the world that I eat.”

To that anonymous is saying, how do you know that? You have not completed eating the food you “think” to be the best. More importantly, you have not tasted the food I am eating. How do you what my food tastes like without eating it. Then anonymous says that there have been tasters that have tasted what you “think” to be the best food and also have tasted what I am eating and have declared that both foods are very tasty and easy to digest (Sri Ramakrishna).

Let me give you another example. Anonymous is not responding to the saying “My son is the best”. He is responding to “My son is the best. There is no way your son can succeed, unless he follows the traits of my son”.

shiba said...

Sivanarul

>Let me give you another example. Anonymous is not responding to the saying “My son is the best”. He is responding to “My son is the best. There is no way your son can succeed, unless he follows the traits of my son”.

I understand. But who said such a foolish thing "There is no way your son can succeed, unless he follows the traits of my son"? I think we have to just ignore such a foolish statement...

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

No need to apologize. From your writings, I know you are more nuanced and I figured it was a freudian slip :-)

“If silent, egoless abidance in the 'I am' is the goal, then, as Bhagavan said, vichara is the path and the goal.”

Note that for all paths, that is the goal, albeit worded differently. The aspirant that follows the broader Sanatana Dharma would reword that as:

“If silent, egoless abidance in Ishvara/God is the goal, then, as Sanatana Dharma said, then practicing any spiritual path (as a loving service to Ishvara) is the path and the goal”

Just because Bhagavan has said something, it does not mean we as aspirants, can take than one thing and declare that because Bhagavan has said it, there is nothing further to discuss. As anonymous pointed out, Bhagavan has said many things to many people sometimes outright contradicting what he wrote.

I will give you an example. Everyone knows Bhagavan’s famous statement of “The Ordainer controls the fate of souls…. Whatever is destined to not to happen will not happen, try as you may….”.

Taking the above statement, one can conclude that since the Ordainer knows and controls everything, there is no use of Prayer. When a person whose natural instinct is prayer, reads the above, if he concludes that prayer is useless and stops praying, he misses a powerful tool in Sadhana.

Given the above statement why did Bhagavan pray to Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill of typhoid along with samaric ill of birth. To say that he was asking only for liberation and it is a figure of speech is not correct, since he composed it right when his Mother was suffering deeply from Typhiod and he explicitly prays to Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill. Didn’t Bhagavan know based on his own writing that whatever is destined to not happen will not happen? Why did he choose to ignore his own writing?

To limit Bhagavan to certain words written in certain texts is like trying to limit the Sun within one’s own room and claim that the Sun’s power is only in one’s room. Bhagavan, as the full Jnana Sun, shines through everywhere and can be tapped by anyone through whatever practice they do.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

"Since Turiya or deep sleep is not being experienced currently, what would we do differently in “walking state” having it the right way?"
Very difficult to explain my friend...
Nothing is changed and everything changes.
I guess the best and limited way I can explain it is that Maya becomes really evident as the illusory superimposition IT is, throwing its veil on our true nature”

You sound like a mystic :-) Either you have awakened or very close to awakening. Whichever it is, I think it would be very useful to the group, if you share a little biography that includes practices and the state you are in, on a moment to moment basis. It is always nice to hear details of someone who is very close or already reached the Promised Land.

The other question is how do you know you have not self-hypnotized/intellectualized yourself that Maya is a illusory superimposition (asking it honestly)? We may soon lose you to Ajata, my friend. Before you go, I think a little biography will be nice.

Anonymous said...

Venkat, Sivanarul
Let me tell you a few of my observations based on my own understanding of the practice of self inquiry and my own limited effort at that. Here is my understanding of self inquiry and correct me if i'm wrong.

Since the "I am" feeling is the source of all other thoughts, if one tries to observe that keenly, and initially since one has body consciousness, it does seem to emanate from somewhere within the body. Where it seems to emanate, I consider that the spiritual heart or the core of my being and even though it is not supposed to be within the body, as long as we are body conscious, it will seem to come from within. If one keenly keeps a hold on that feeling, no other thought would arise. Bhagavan says this is the path and the goal and once one reaches a point where we can hold on to it longer and longer, at some point the Grace of the self intervenes and dissolves the mind and only the self remains. I have seen that as my self inquiry attempts progresses, i'm able to hold onto the "I am" feeling with greater ease, less effort and for longer duration without giving rise to any thought and my body becomes more and more still and I can atleast perceive at a superficial level with greater clarity, that it is that "i am" feeling or life principle or the feeling of being alive or "irukkindren" (feeling in Tamil) or whatever one calls it, that is the real me as opposed to my body, thoughts and intellect. Now this I guess is a very preliminary stage. Bhagavan says that if one keeps this up at some stage Grace will dissolve the "I am" feeling altogether. Also as we know no spiritual practice is linear and I get a better hold on some days and not on others.

Now before I started practicing self inquiry, I dabbled in a few other methods and I will write my observations
a) Vedanta mediatation where one imagines that one is sorrounded by air, sky or water. When one tries this, even if its also in the mind and imagination what I realize is that slowly as you imagine everything around you including your own body to be of a uniform substance, only the "I am" feeling remains and comes to the forefront.
b) Vedanta meditation where you imagine yourself to be consciousness and are walking in a wave of consciousness and all other things to be the same. Here again with a little practice what I realize is that slowly as you imagine everything around you including your own body to be of a uniform substance, only the "I am" feeling remains and comes to the forefront.
c) Japa: When you keep reciting a mantra, slowly the reciter which is again only the "I am" feeling remains and comes to the forefront.

Will continue in my next

Anonymous said...

Later I read in the book about Abhinava Vidya Tirtha swamy "Yoga, enlightenment and perfection" that his Guru Chandrasekhara Bharati had prescribed a) and b) as the later stages of his sadhana and initially he practiced mantra japa and meditation on name and form. He realized his self after 5 years of sadhana at the age of 19.
But during my self inquiry practice I realized, in retrospect, that all my other practices also led to the "I am" feeling which is probably what Bhagavan has been saying. Now the contention here is why not, even to start with, focus on the "I am" feeling and that this should be faster than others. This is the portion I disagree with because lets look at it. Even if one were to directly try to practice self inquiry, our vasanas will never allow us to get a hold on the "I am' feeling. Otherwise, why are we all writing and discussing on this blog? We should have asked, "who wants to write, respond, refute?" and that thought of even wanting to write should have subsided and we should have kept quiet. But are we able to do that? No. So its apparent that there is no guarantee that following self inquiry from the start is any better simply because our baggage of vasanas will not allow us to do it. On the other hand, if one has utter devotion towards a name and form or even other practices, he could very easily overcome this desire and focus on Japa etc and will sense the "I am" with greater clarity as it will keep shining in the forefront and be way ahead. So, to me its the spiritual maturity, ripeness, vasanas etc that matter more rather than whether one follows self inquiry from the beginning or not. Why did Sadhu Om cling to Bhagavan's form even later instead of inquiring, simply because he could not sustain it all the time.

Also before one dismisses other methods as meaningless one should have atleast practiced it a little. Only that is rational and scientific. Just to dismiss something as inferior without even having tried it out is meaningless. Also there is a lot more to the mantra intiation than I have mentioned. When the mantra diksha is given by a realized soul, with certain key syllables, it has a tremendous effect in silencing one's mind. Just because our intellect cannot understand this, we cannot dismiss this. I did not go into all that becaus ethe modern way of thinking is that only if it makes sense to my intellect, its right. One should remember Aurobindo's saying, "What's magic to the finite is logic to the infinite" Otherwise why do you think mantra diksha is followed by RK mission when Ramakrishna taught that the non dual state was the highest. Ramakrishna even adopted tantra methods like writing a syllable on his devotees tongue and they would go into samadhi. There are very less siddhis and miracles in the life of Ramakrishna, even less than that are attributed to Bhagavan Ramana. Ramakrishna was a saint who only emphasized Jnana and said it can be attained througha ny method and why would he adopt such methods if it was meaningless.

There is nothing wrong if one says, "I am happy in my country and I love it" but when you say, "My country is the best" you should be able to substantiate it with proof and even this is bad e.g. because such things are more subjective rather than objective like GDP, unemployment etc etc

shiba said...

Anonymous

You talk straight. So I will talk like you. Though maybe you dont reply me(lol).

>I have seen that as my self inquiry attempts progresses, i'm able to hold onto the "I am" feeling with greater ease, less effort and for longer duration without giving rise to any thought and my body becomes more and more still and I can atleast perceive at a superficial level with greater clarity

If you really progress like that, I think you need not care about what other people say like you do now. Because of your peace of mind, criticism and doubts to other's people or ideas decrease.

>that it is that "i am" feeling or life principle or the feeling of being alive or "irukkindren" (feeling in Tamil) or whatever one calls it, that is the real me as opposed to my body, thoughts and intellect.

I think your "I am" feeling is still ego, not "real you", maybe though it becoming purer by your sadhana. "Real you" must have no doubts whatsoever.

You can't correct all people who say " ・・・ is best or so" without evidence. It is really meaningless.

And I think Venkat or other have already said the objective evidence like GDP of directness of Self-enquiry. I-thought is root thought as you know, and Self-enquiry attend to this fundamental clue, so we can infer its directness if we havent exepeienced Self yet.

Anonymous said...

Shiba,

you said "You can't correct all people who say " ・・・ is best or so" without evidence. It is really meaningless."

Why are you not following your own advice? Why are you trying to correct me instead?

you said "I think your "I am" feeling is still ego, not "real you", maybe though it becoming purer by your sadhana. "Real you" must have no doubts whatsoever."

Read my comment below carefully
/**that it is that "i am" feeling or life principle or the feeling of being alive or "irukkindren" (feeling in Tamil) or whatever one calls it, that is the real me as opposed to my body, thoughts and intellect. Now this I guess is a very preliminary stage. Bhagavan says that if one keeps this up at some stage Grace will dissolve the "I am" feeling altogether. Also as we know no spiritual practice is linear and I get a better hold on some days and not on others.
**/

I clearly say that i'm at a preliminary stage. Did I say anywhere that I don't have doubts. I also say that "Bhagavan says that if one keeps this up at some stage Grace will dissolve the "I am" feeling altogether", which clearly implies that the "i am" feeling I talk about is my ego. Please read my comment carefully before replying. I am not saying this out of anger :-) but many a times I see people taking just one of my statements and blow it out of context.

I have also clearly said that it is our vasana that is preventing us from keeping quiet, so obviously I accept my shortcomings and that I have a lot to overcome.

Anonymous said...

Venkat,

The following is from No Mind I'm the self, a question to lakshmana Swamy

Question: Is concentration on the name and form of the Guru a good practice if one is following the path of love and surrender? Is such a practice enough or should I do something else to increase my devotion?
Swamy: Concentration on name and form is not merely a beginners practice. If it is done with love and devotion, and if the form can be held continuously without any other thought arising, then such a practice can take one all the way to self realization.
Before Sarada realized the self I tried to get her to take up self-enquiry, but she was not interested. She only wanted to hold on to the name and form, and in the end that was enough. By following the method she realized the self in three years.

Anonymous said...

Venkat,

The following is a conversation between Mahendranath Gupta 'M' and Sri Ramakrishna from 'The Gospel of Ramakrishna' where in M criticizes Idol worship and Ramakrishna gives him a superb reply. What many people tend to forget about idol worship or name and form is if it is the consciousness or one principle or brahman or whatever name one gives it, is the one pervading the entire universe and if it is infinite intelligence, will it not be able to figure out what the worshipper is praying to and lead him there? Ramakrishna says that superbly here. Even when one is praying fervently, the core of the feeling comes from "I am" or the core of the being and what is being prayed to also comes from the "i am" if one observes it, so what is wrong with praying to the external form when the principle is the same? As Ramakrishna always pointed out, "God is with form, without form and beyond the form and formless."

/**
God and the clay image
M: "Sir, suppose one believes in God with form. Certainly He is not the clay image!"
MASTER (interrupting): "But why clay? It is an image of Spirit."
M. could not quite understand the significance of this "image of Spirit". "But, sir," he said to the Master, "one should explain to those who worship the clay image that it is not God, and that, while worshipping it, they should have God in view and not the clay image. One should not worship clay."

God the only real teacher
MASTER (sharply): "That's the one hobby of you Calcutta people - giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself. Who are you to teach others?
"He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone. He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon, men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up. The Lord has done so many things - will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher. He is our Inner Guide.
"Suppose there is an error in worshipping the clay image; doesn't God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will he pleased with that very worship. Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself."
This time M. felt that his ego was completely crushed. He now said to himself: "Yes, he has spoken the truth. What need is there for me to teach others? Have I known God? Do I really love Him? 'I haven't room enough for myself in my bed, and I am inviting my friend to share it with me!' I know nothing about God, yet I am trying to teach others. What a shame! How foolish I am! This is not mathematics or history or literature, that one can teach it to others. No, this is the deep mystery of God. What he says appeals to me."
This was M.'s first argument with the Master, and happily his last.
***/

Anonymous said...

Shiba,

You said, "If you really progress like that, I think you need not care about what other people say like you do now. Because of your peace of mind, criticism and doubts to other's people or ideas decrease."

I agree with you 100%. Such arguments only stir and disturb the mind further and that is why I implied in one of my comments before that while reading and contemplating alone is satsang whereas arguments and discussions are not because we keep thinking how to respond to others and lose our peace. But I have to concede that every once in a while the argumentative tendencies do come out and is difficult to control.

Sanjay Lohia said...

There has been a deluge of comments on this blog of late. This is a good sign, as it indicates that many of us are following Michael's website and his articles with interest, and to a smaller or larger extent are benefited and agree with Michael's views. Otherwise why would still many of us stick to following this blog and writing comments on it, in spite of many apparent comments which seem to contradicting Michael's main line of teaching in these writings. Regards.

shiba said...

Anonymous,

I am sorry if I misunderstand what you mean. You said "real me", so I thought it is not ego, because ego is not real.

>Why are you not following your own advice? Why are you trying to correct me instead?

I try to " correct" only you, not all. But my vasana make me do so(lol).

>I have also clearly said that it is our vasana that is preventing us from keeping quiet, so obviously I accept my shortcomings and that I have a lot to overcome.

According to your description of your sadhana, I have the impression that you are succeeding your sadhana without any obstacles. You admit you have a lot of shortcomings to overcome. You are a honest person. I like your honesty. Hope your sadhana progress more and more!

shiba said...

Anonymous

>But I have to concede that every once in a while the argumentative tendencies do come out and is difficult to control.

Me too. It is really one of my bad tendency. But it must weaken and disappear one day like other bad tendencies when sadhana progress more and more. Let's keep our practise if it is intermittent, till it become continuous and natural.

Anonymous said...

shiba,

thanks for your encouragement I wish you too speedy progress in your sadhana.

like i said before "Also as we know no spiritual practice is linear and I get a better hold on some days and not on others."

Consider the last couple days as me having a couple of bad days in my sadhana wasting my time as well your time in making you read my useless observations where the time would be better spent in our respective sadhana and silence. :-)

But on a lighter note, this is probably better than looking up what Brad pitt, angelina jolie and Kim kardashian are upto. lol!

Anonymous said...

CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI

"If you see suffering all around you it is just a reflection of your own inner suffering. If you want to alleviate suffering go to the root cause, which is the suffering inside yourself. Immerse yourself in the Self. End the maya dream and wake up to the real world of jnana.

Your ideas about the world are all wrong because you are misperceiving it. Your mind is processing what you see in such a way that it makes you think that there is a suffering world outside and apart from you.

If you want to get rid of that suffering world you must eliminate the mental processes that make you misperceive it. When you reach the state of jnana there will be no misperceptions. Your vision will be completely clear. You will be aware that there is no suffering and no world. You will be aware that the Self alone exists."

- LWB p 342.

Wittgenstein said...

Anonymous,

There are very good observations in what you have written in various comments. For instance:

“But during my self inquiry practice I realized, in retrospect, that all my other practices also led to the "I am" feeling which is probably what Bhagavan has been saying. Now the contention here is why not, even to start with, focus on the "I am" feeling and that this should be faster than others. This is the portion I disagree with because lets look at it. Even if one were to directly try to practice self inquiry, our vasanas will never allow us to get a hold on the "I am' feeling. […]So its apparent that there is no guarantee that following self inquiry from the start is any better simply because our baggage of vasanas will not allow us to do it. On the other hand, if one has utter devotion towards a name and form or even other practices, he could very easily overcome this desire and focus on Japa etc and will sense the "I am" with greater clarity as it will keep shining in the forefront and be way ahead.”

Yes, to get into atma vichara some amount of attenuation of mind is required, as I have always stated. One may try to attend to ‘I’, by whatever ‘I’ means to the person who is says it and if he persists, the clarity of ‘I’ would seem to emerge. But that may not be possible by all, as you say, due to vasanas. Japa can get one there, sure. Bhagavan suggested one more japa (the japa of ‘I’) in Nan Yar in such cases. I just want to add one more thing. Even after one is into atma vichara, there may be times one would not get this focus. I recall Michael saying that. For example, Michael does japa of Bhagavan’s name during such times.

Another one I liked is your quoting Sri Ramakrishna:

“Even when one is praying fervently, the core of the feeling comes from "I am" or the core of the being and what is being prayed to also comes from the "i am" if one observes it, so what is wrong with praying to the external form when the principle is the same?” [Bold emphasis mine]

In fact Bhagavan said something to that effect to Kavyakanta. He said that in the context of japa Kavayakanta was doing and his expressed interest in migrating to tapas. Bhagavan told if one observes where from japa comes, while doing japa, the mind subsides and that is tapas (this is not the exact wording). This is atma vichara in disguise. And the sage (Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Ramana) suggests this.

What you quoted also says so much about the inclusiveness of atma vichara. For example, we may be in the middle of any act; there is always an ‘I’ in the middle of all acts. And one can attend to that. Since japa/prayer itself is an act, one can attend to ‘I’ in it. Atma vichara is like Bhagavan – totally non-interfering with anything but at the same time present in everything (all inclusive).

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

I agree with what you say in your last comment. Yes, Michael’s blog is of immense use to all the readers. Just one small clarification: is it fine to say, ‘Michael’s main line of teaching’, as Michael himself says he discusses the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana? This, if I am right, somehow gives an impression that Michael has his own line of teachings in addition to Bhagavan’s.

Anonymous said...

Wittgenstein

/**
Another one I liked is your quoting Sri Ramakrishna:

“Even when one is praying fervently, the core of the feeling comes from "I am" or the core of the being and what is being prayed to also comes from the "i am" if one observes it, so what is wrong with praying to the external form when the principle is the same?” [Bold emphasis mine]
**/

Just one small clarification and the mistake is mine. What is said above was my own observation and not Ramakrishna's quote. When I started doing self inquiry and reflected on the times when I have prayed to an idol during my younger days which is the case with many Hindus in India, I felt that depth of feeling really came from the 'I am' feeling. Ramakrishna's comments was enclosed within the /** **/ below. My writing was misleading.

Shiba,

Also just to clarify something that I wrote "You said "real me", so I thought it is not ego, because ego is not real."

When I said the "real me", I meant that at the point when the body becomes still and mind has no thoughts or very few thoughts, the "I am" feeling becomes seemingly "more real" compared to the notion that i'm the body, mind and intellect, which was there to start with. I did not mean the "real me" to be the self. again my mistake. wrong choice of words.

venkat said...

As Anonymous and Sivanarul have rightly pointed out, I don't really know the path of devotion / bhakti, so take the following comments with a heavy pinch of salt!

Interestingly, Bhagavan I think said there are 2 paths to liberation: complete self-surrender or self-enquiry.

It seems to me that the devotion in the souls that you mentioned - including Bhagavan's devotion to Arunachala - arose 'non-volitionally'; it was just a force of love for a guru or an image of God that overwhelmed them. There did not seem to be much of an 'I' that pre-meditated devotion. And it always seems to culminate in one's own Self. So there seems to be a strong element of self-surrender - 'thy will not mine' - which wan't motivated by any desire for one's own liberation; it was just love. Can one practice / cultivate such love, if it does not arise naturally in you?

I also rate many gurus and paths - Ch'an, JK, Nisargadatta, Atmananda. They all provide pointers that made me look at myself - as Socrates said "the unexamined life is not worth living". But once you have an intellectual understanding / grounding of the veracity of what they teach, and are convinced by it, then one has gone a certain way in paroksha jnana (indirect, book knowledge). So how to turn this into aparoksha jnana (a direct experiencing of the truth, living the truth)? All gurus from whatever tradition (except perhaps JK!), seem to point to the necessity of finally following one path, one guru, and putting your entire effort into that, rather than dissipating it into many different paths. I never really understood what was wrong in picking the best out of different viewpoints. But this is still ego-ful. Ultimately you have to find the path / guru that resonates most strongly, that you have most conviction in - and put faith / devotion in that!

For me Bhagavan is that final guru, because his teaching is the most simple and directly addresses the root cause.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, you ask 'Just one small clarification: is it fine to say, ‘Michael’s main line of teaching’, as Michael himself says he discusses the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana? This, if I am right, somehow gives an impression that Michael has his own line of teachings in addition to Bhagavan’s'.

Yes, I agree, perhaps it would have been more correct to write 'Bhagavan's main line of teaching', instead of 'Michael's main line of teaching'. I think why I wrote 'Michael's main line of teaching' was that many of the participants on this blog feel that Michael is not representing Bhagavan's teaching properly, and that Bhagavan was more 'inclusive', and that his actions are equally important as his teachings on self-investigation etc.

What I was trying to point out in my last comment was that in spite of feeling that Michael is not representing Bhagavan's teaching properly, if many of them are still participating on this blog, this indicates that they somehow agree with Michael's representation of Bhagavan's teachings, otherwise they would have stopped participating on this blog. Of course all views (whether supporting Michael's writings or opposing his writings) on this blog makes this blog a rich platform, and we are thankful for all the comments here, including Michael's response to these comments.

As Michael has said, all religions, including sanatana dharma, are like legendary ocean of milk, and Bhagavan's teachings are like amrta churned from this milk. Likewise, if I may use the phrase, Michael is trying to convey us only the essence of even this amtra, by concentrating only on the essentials of Bhagavan's teachings. And Bhagavan's essential teachings are in his works Nan Yar?, Upadesa Undiyar, Ulladu Narpadu and his other original writings. I am totally convinced of this, and Michael has played a big role in convincing me of this. Regards.

Anonymous said...

Venkat

You said, "I never really understood what was wrong in picking the best out of different viewpoints."

Same here :-) and I have tried to follow self inquiry after dabbling in a few things only because thats the one I felt comfortable with. This is not to say that, that is the only thing I follow. A lot of times, I simply pray in the old fashioned way.

Finally as Sankara says in Vivekachudamani on the 3 most fortunate things one can have which are, a human birth, a desire for liberation and the grace of a guru. I believe that if one has this intense desire for liberation, the path one follows is secondary and really does not matter. Any path that one is comfortable with will get one there.

Michael James said...

Echnaton, in continuation of the previous pair of comments that I wrote in reply to your first comment, I will now reply to the final part of it, in which you ask about my statement ‘it seems to me that this is the work that Bhagavan has assigned to me, at least for the time being’, which I had written in an earlier comment.

Regarding this you asked, ‘What exactly does it mean to you? In which way do/did you give up your freedom to work in favour to Bhagavan’s will?’ As I said, ‘it seems to me’, and the reason it seems to be to be so is that this seems to be the direction in which I am pushed, both from outside by all the questions I am asked about Bhagavan’s teachings (both through emails and through comments on this blog) and from inside by my strong inclination to understand his teachings more clearly, which prompts me to consider questions about them carefully and to discuss them with whoever else wants to understand them more as clearly as possible. Unfortunately I am asked many more questions than I have time to answer adequately, so the number of emails and comments that I would like to reply to but have not had time to do so is constantly increasing, which further drives me to do my best to answer as many as possible as well as I can.

I do not feel I am giving up any freedom in order to do this work, because apart from trying to practise his teachings as much as I can, there is nothing I like doing more than thinking about them (which is manana) and discussing them with whoever may be interested in them. The benefit in discussing them with other friends is that they express views and ask questions from many perspectives that I may not have thought of myself, so considering their views and answering their questions prompts me to think more carefully and deeply about his teachings, which helps me to clarify my own understanding and thereby to practise them more effectively.

(I will continue to write on this subject in my next comment in reply to ‘who?’.)

Michael James said...

‘who?’, having replied in my previous comment to Echnaton’s questions about my statement ‘it seems to me that this is the work that Bhagavan has assigned to me, at least for the time being’, I will now try to answer your questions about the same statement, namely: ‘What is the source of this conviction? In more general terms, which path/course of action should we trust in, and choose with conviction, when faced with choices in our life as an individual?’

These are not a simple questions to answer, particularly in general terms, but it is perhaps made easier if we accept what Bhagavan wrote in his December 1898 note to his mother, particularly in the first sentence: ‘அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன்’ (avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ), which literally means ‘According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to act’, and which implies ‘According to the prārabdha of each person, he who is for that [namely God or guru] being in the heart of each of them will make them act’.

The verb ஆட்டுவிப்பன் (āṭṭuvippaṉ) means he will move, shake, drive, impel or cause to dance, so it suggests that in the actions that we are impelled to do in order to experience our prārabdha (destiny or fate) we are like puppets and ‘he who is for that’ (namely Bhagavan) is our puppet-master.

Having said this, in the remaining sentences of this note Bhagavan wrote: ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu. iduvē tiṇṇam. āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), which means ‘What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]. This indeed is certain. Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’.

What this clearly implies that that we should just surrender ourself entirely to him (by trying to silently be as we are: clearly self-aware but without the ‘noise’ of any other thought) and ‘go with the flow’, allowing him to direct the actions of our body, speech and mind without any interference on our part. The means by which we can thus surrender entirely to him is explained by him in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in self-abidance (ātma-niṣṭhā), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.

I do not mean to imply that I am yet able to surrender myself completely in this way, but this is what we should all aim to do, and if this becomes our principal aim, questions regarding the choices that we seem to face about how to act in this world will recede into the background, no longer seeming to be relevant (as Bhagavan clearly implied in the remaining sentences of this thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?).

Anonymous said...

Bhagavan put a banana on the table.
David : That's a fruit !
Michael : No, you're wrong, it is yellow !
Sanjay : Hello guys ! You are both wrong, this is food.
Bob : Are you sure it's not a dessert ?
Anonymous : A dessert ? You are stupid my friend, it is obviously something that can be hold by hand.
Steve : Everybody is wrong here ! This is a medecine to cure diarrhea.
While everybody were speaking endlessly, an innocent child came and say : Mmmmmm, so good this stuff ! Thank you Bhagavan !

Sivanarul said...

Anonymous,

Again want to thank you for your latest excellent observations. The writing about the practice of ‘I AM’ feeling is excellent. You have progressed far more in the path, than you credit yourself for, since you are able to hold the ‘I AM’ feeling without other adjuncts, at least for a little while.

Occasional breaks from Sadhana to write these observations are good both for you and a number of other aspirants. It probably clears up some pent up energy for you. For us, it provides observations from viewpoints which we may not have considered before.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment starting with the words 'Bhagavan put a banana on the table', and then you write an imaginary conversation amongst us. It was interesting, humorous and with a deep meaning. Your last line says it all, 'While everybody were speaking endlessly, an innocent child came and say : Mmmmmm, so good this stuff ! Thank you Bhagavan!'

The lesson is very clear. We should practise more, and perhaps avoid unnecessary arguments. Point taken, but it is better to be discussing about Bhagavan's teachings than perhaps doing so many unnecessary things. This discussion is good if it clears our mental cobwebs about Bhagavan's path and if it compels us to practise more, otherwise these are just mental gymnastics. Regards.

Sivanarul said...

To the other Anonymous comment about banana on the table:

Nice sense of humor (I perceive it as humor, not sure your intention). I would rephrase it like below (What I write is definitely for fun, so please don’t take it seriously).

Bhagavan put a banana on the table.

David : That's a fruit !
Michael : No, you're wrong, it is yellow !
Sanjay : David is always wrong. Michael is always right. It is yellow and Ulladu Narpadu says so.

Wittgenstein: It is a fruit and is also yellow!.
Bob : It is all a projection from me. There is no fruit to begin with. I am the only one that exists.
Sivanarul : It is all Ishvara’s will! There is more than one way of calling and eating a fruit.

Mouna: You all got it wrong. Where is the question of fruit in deep sleep?
Steve : Nonesense! Just focus on the ‘I’.

Anonymous: Whether you see it as a fruit or not depends of so many factors other than just your vision.
who? : Let us take a few deep breaths and keenly observe the ‘I’ that is saying it is a fruit.

Everybody spoke like this endlessly, as part of their Sadhana. One fine day, at the culmination of their Sadhana, they became an innocent child and said : Mmmmmm, so good this stuff ! Thank you Bhagavan

Anonymous said...


http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/sadhana.pdf

For those of you who are interested in reading about various aspects of Advaita, the above is a rare discourse (I think in it somewhere it is said that it is the only one) by the Kanchi Sankaracharya Chandrasekharendra saraswati. It is truly a remarkable discourse and you may want to check it out. He was also self realized and highly respected.

Ofcourse most of the folks here may remember that it was he who directed Paul Brunton to Bhagavan Ramana as well as blessed Annamalai Swamy when he was going to Bhagavan Ramana.

An interesting thing to note is that both he an Bhagavan Ramana have never met each other inspite of being just a few 100 kms apart and still he knew that Ramana was a Jnani and directed Paul Brunton to him. Ofourse as the Upanishad saying goes, "The knower of brahman is verily brahman" and so hat do they not know.

There is an interesting anecdote where once when the Kanchi Sankaracharya was visting Tiruvannamalai and doing Giri pradakshina, apparently Bhagavan Ramana was at Skandashramam then and some devotees of Ramana who were also dedicated to the Kanchi pontiff went to Ramana and told him that the pontiff was doing pradakshina and they expected Bhagavan to go and meet him. But Bhagavan just sat down there without a bother and when later they asked if he does not want to talk to the pontiff, Bhagavan laughed and said, "We were already talking, we are currently talking and we will always be talking"

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sivanarul ! You have well improve the original story... To be continued ? Ah ! Humour is so powerful.

The other anonymous.

Anonymous said...

VISHWANATHA SWAMI REMEMBERED

Many of Sri Bhagavan's activities, utterances and reactions were to some degree predictable.

When you live in close proximity to a great being such as Bhagavan, becoming drenched in his presence and teachings, you start to believe that you understand him, at least to a certain extent.

However, once in a while Bhagavan would spontaneously say things that astounded us all, making us realize how little we really knew and understood him. I remember one such statement very well.

Bhagavan once told me, 'All sorts of beings gravitate towards the presence of a jnani- devas [inhabitants of the heavenly realms], rishis [sages], Brahmanishtas [those established in Brahman], siddhas [perfected beings with supernatural powers] and yogis.

'Some come in a normal human form, but others turn up in their subtle, astral bodies. Some of these great beings show up in the guise of beggars or madmen, and some of them even manage to appear in the forms of birds and animals. Among those who show up in a normal human body, and who subsequently stay on and become devotees, there is a huge range of spiritual attainment: complete beginners mix with highly advanced souls. The most advanced are ripe fruits, just waiting to fall. They only have to come into the presence of a jnani in order to plunge into a deep experience of the Self. One such devotee was Mastan.

'He was such a ripe soul, when he came to Virupaksha Cave to see me he would sometimes go into a deep samadhi
before he had even entered the cave. As soon as he touched the railings of the gate, he would have a paralyzing experience of the Self. He would stand, rooted to the spot, unable to move, for six or seven hours.

This happened several times. Usually, these experiences would happen before he had even seen me since I would
be inside the cave, unaware of what was going on at the gate.

'Mastan was in an entirely different category to most of the people who came. He was highly spiritual, although outwardly he looked like an ordinary man. He was a kind generous man who was always looking for an opportunity to help other people. He never showed any self-importance. On the contrary he liked to stay in the background, unnoticed and unappreciated by ordinary people.'

- The Power of the Presence, part 3

Michael James said...

Illimani, in reply to your comment:

Firstly, your ‘silly’ question, ‘So who are we?’, is ‘silly’ only in the sense that a wise jester is a ‘fool’, because it is actually the most wise and important question that we could ever ask. However, no verbal or conceptual answer that may be given to it can be satisfactory, because so long as we do not experience ourself as we really are, whatever answer may be given is just words and ideas, which are not sufficient to remove our self-ignorance. Therefore what we need is an experiential answer, which we can get only by investigating ourself — that is, by keenly observing or being attentively aware of ourself alone.

According to Bhagavan, so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are aware of ourself as something that is separate and hence limited, which is what is called ‘ego’ or ‘mind’. Therefore, in order to be aware of ourself as the one infinite reality that we actually are, we need to be aware of nothing other than ourself, and to be aware of nothing other than ourself we need to focus our entire attention on ourself alone. This is the simple practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) that he has taught us.

Regarding the second part of your comment, in which you say, ‘Quite honestly on no account I can confirm that I was self-aware in sleep from own experience. I regret that my awareness seems to be only on the level of a block of wood’, we do not know what awareness, if any, a block of wood may have, but we do know that we slept, and we can distinguish the difference between being asleep and dreaming. If we were not aware of being asleep (that is, aware that we were in a state in which we were not aware of any dream or anything else other than ourself), we would not be able to distinguish sleep from dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between consecutive states of waking or dream. However, we are aware of such a gap, which we call ‘sleep’, so to be aware of that gap means that we must have been aware while experiencing it.

It seems to us that we were unaware during sleep because we were not then aware of anything other than ourself, and we generally associate awareness with being aware of other things, as we are in waking and dream. Every other thing that we are aware of in either of these two states has certain features, whereas sleep is a featureless experience (a state in which we are aware of no features at all, or at least of no features other than featurelessness), so such featureless awareness seems to us to be no awareness at all.

The word ‘I’ is a pronoun that always refers to oneself, and we are able to refer to ourself only because we are self-aware. Therefore our use of this pronoun ‘I’ (or of any other first person pronoun, such as ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘mine’, ‘myself’, ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘ours’ or ‘ourself’) indicates that we are aware of ourself, so when we say ‘I was asleep’ or ‘I slept’, the ‘I’ in such statements indicates that we were aware of ourself being in that state, even though we were then aware of absolutely nothing else whatsoever.

If we could ever cease to be self-aware, we would cease to be ‘I’, in which case we would not exist at all. Therefore since we know that we did exist while asleep, we were certainly aware of ourself then.

Hence if we think that we were not aware while asleep, that is only because we have not thought carefully enough about this subject. How could we ever be aware of not being aware? The very fact that we are aware of having been in a state in which we seemed to be not aware of anything means that we were aware of being in such a state.

We have never been and could never be aware of not being aware at all, so since we have never experienced such as state, why should we believe that we could ever be not aware? Being aware of ourself is our very nature, so there has never been and could never be any moment or state in which we have not been self-aware.

who? said...

Sir, thanks for the prompt reply.

I understand that the questions that i put forth have no generalized straightforward answer. In your reply, the relation between our individual selves and Bhagavan compared to that between a puppet and puppet-master is simple and forceful in its implications.

Also, i need not have disturbed you by posting that question; the relevant answer was there in para 13 of Nāṉ Yār? all along. I will try to go through the resources already provided by Bhagavan at least one more time whenever i feel the necessity to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Some motivational quotes by Swami Vivekananda
/**
Follow truth wherever it may lead you; carry ideas to their utmost logical conclusions. Do not be cowardly and hypocritical. You must have a great devotion to your ideal, devotion not of the moment, but calm, persevering, and steady devotion, like that of a Châtaka (a kind of bird) which looks into the sky in the midst of thunder and lightning and would drink no water but from the clouds. Perish in the struggle to be holy; a thousand times welcome death. Be not disheartened. When good nectar is unattainable, it is no reason why we should eat poison. There is no escape. This world is as unknown as the other.

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

"All are mad in this world; some are mad after gold, others after women, and some are after God; if drowning is to be the fate of man, it is better to be drowned in an ocean of milk than in a pool of dung"
***/

Michael James said...

Anonymous, I will answer your ‘blunt and direct questions’ (which I certainly do not consider either presumptuous or disrespectful) in a separate article, which I will begin writing soon.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Thanks a lot for your response. Really appreciate that.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thanks for writing the article. If you read this, before finishing the article, please consider including the following in it.

I know you have said in an interview that you have not realized the Self (as we commonly understand it). But that does not imply you are not very close to it. I am sure that you are very close to it. Please consider including a synopsis of “before starting Vichara Michael” and “after starting Vichara Michael”. How has Vichara all these years affected you? I know you consider that unimportant. But as anonymous has said, since you are stressing the need for Vichara over anything else in every article you write, it is very helpful for us to know how that has affected you?

Please please don’t answer that one should practice Vichara under Bhagavan’s authority, irrespective of the impact it has had on you. Bhagavan was an extremely special case who did Vichara for 1 min and basically was done. That is not very helpful for people like me. I would really like to know from a serious aspirant in the trenches who has done the practice for a long time (like you) the effects of Vichara on them.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

I have one other request as well, i.e if you have the time and don't mind talking about it. As an aspirant after the truth or the ultimate goal, it would be very helpful if you write a short portion on how exactly you took to vichara. Did it appeal to you the moment you read about it or were you searching in other directions before you were convinced about Vichara's power? I would also like to know a bit about how you came to spirituality as the goal. I don't want to trouble you asking you to write something which you feel is too personal but but just a short bio, a very short one. The reason I ask this is that it will be very helpful and other aspirants, primarily as a motivation.

I decided that self realization was my goal only 4 or 5 years back and for the past 4 years been trying to practice vichara, but you have been at it for decades and for someone to be at it for this long, undergoing things like financial insecurities and other practical things, takes an enormous amount of faith. Most of us are just halfway, neither willing to go full fledged in the pursuit nor can forsake it. Atleast for me personally I realized probably 7-8 years back the transient nature of life but I did not know then as to what the alternative was and only about 5 years back I started reading works of many Jnanis etc and came to know of this goal and got my conviction.

But as a person who has been at it for years, atleast your brief bio would be encouraging, i.e. if you do not feel its too personal to write.

Thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

Its quite possible that you may not want to make your search to be a big deal but I have always found that the way Jnanis or other devotees lived their life and struggled through to be much more helpful than their teachings. The teachings from the absolute standpoint is usually the same, except they are expressed in different words.

For e.g. one of the reason why a Ramakrishna or a Vivekananda's life fascinates me more is I can see the struggle they went through which gives me the motivation to struggle through, where as with Bhagavan Ramana, it was all over in a second and though his life itself has many teachings, there is this difference.

It helps me more to know how a person lived during the sadhana stage than after he realized his self. Once one has realized his self and knows for sure he is the body, it is tough for me to relate to that because it makes me think, "Well, he knows his true nature, so whats the big deal in anything he does" And this is not to put anyone down, but i'm just talking about which experience would be more helpful for me.

Ofcourse, its upto you, but its just a request.

shiba said...

Anonymous,

and Good morning everyone

I can understand what you say. I also want( rather, wanted) to know how to go through the struggle or overcome the obstacles during sadhana. Because you are seriously tackling your sadhana, you earnestly want to know how other sadhaka overcome such difficulty, especially when you are actually experiencing obstacles.

I think you must have read many articles of Bhagavan's devoteees' experience in e.g. "Face to Face with Bhagavan". Haven't you found your favorite devotees in them, who can give you that motivation.

Sivanarul said...

Shiba,

There is a huge difference between knowing from a devotee who has passed away and from a devotee who is still around and with whom we can communicate. Form and communication are powerful instruments for a Sadhaka to give motivation. So having Michael convey details of his journey are very different from reading other devotee’s from face to face.

Unfortunately no one has been able to convince Michael the power of an autobiography. “Autobiography of a Yogi” of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda is one of the most popular books in the west that launched many aspirants into spirituality. I firmly believe that “Autobiography of Michael James” would be such a book that would inspire thousands of Bhagavan’s devotees.

For those who need to understand Bhagavan’s teachings, Michael has already written hundreds of articles in addition to his book. There is Path of Ramana by Sri Sadhu OM, 4 volumes. What more does one need?

I think the time he would spend on Autobiography would be much more valuable to many aspirants than further articles. Bhagavan would have to convince him via a dream or darshan.

ropedancer said...

Sivanarul,
I cannot agree with your proposal. Although I too would read Michael James's autobiography out of sheer inquisitiveness in my opinion further articles of Michael James are of greater value than his autobiography. Why would you impose your will upon Bhagavan ? I think Bhagavan is enough in an adult way to know what is to do for our own good or in our best interests.
Imaginable is also an article with autobiographical content.

Illimani said...

Michael,
many thanks for your reply which I have still to study now.

Sivanarul said...

ropedancer,

You certainly don't need to agree with my proposal. :-)

How could I impose my will upon Bhagavan? Please read what I said which is "Bhagavan would have to convince him via a dream or darshan". So if Bhagavan wants Michael's autoboigraphy to come out, he will convince him. It has nothing to do with my will.

Writing articles is also an imagination, if you will, and has no more reality than an autobiography.

Anonymous said...

shiba

"I think you must have read many articles of Bhagavan's devoteees' experience in e.g. "Face to Face with Bhagavan". Haven't you found your favorite devotees in them, who can give you that motivation."

I ask Michael for the same reason that many keep reading his articles inspite of knowing the practice of self inquiry. Why do people keep reading his articles about self inquiry several times inspite of knowing how to practice? Its because they want to strengthen their conviction more and more. They get their conviction from reading about self inquiry.

I get my conviction from reading about the people who practice not just self inquiry but any sadhana. Why do you think a scripture like the Bhagavata (or any other scripture of devotees life) so popular even after centuries. Simply because one never gets hearing about a devotees struggle, any devotees struggle. Moreover as Sivanarul pointed out its always good to hear about another's struggle on the path to give you motivation.

Can anyone force anyone to do something like someone hinted? If I could force someone to do what I want, i'd be very happy :-) Unfortunately no one can. It was just a simple suggestion and Michael can either choose to accept it or reject it. That does not change anything else.

Anonymous said...

shiba,

"Simply because one never gets hearing about a devotees struggle, any devotees struggle"

should be "Simply because one never gets tired hearing about a devotees struggle, any devotees struggle"

atleast i don't get bored reading about anyone's Sadhana. Ultimately if you believe in destiny, if its Michael's destiny to write he will, if not he won't. Isn't that also Bhagavan's teaching, that what is meant to happen will happen no matter what?
Sivanarul and I were meant to ask and we will soon know if Michael was meant to write.

shiba said...

Anonymous,

I never intended to criticize you for asking Micheal to write about his experience.


Anonymous said...

shiba,

not to worry. never took it as a criticism. you asked me a question. i answered it, maybe my way of writing seemed to indicate that i took it as criticism. one reason i made this request is i'm always interested how one reconciles the teachings with his own life or what you may call the "practical aspects" of life.

For e.g. If you are in a situation where you lost your job. What would the term "summa irru" mean to you in this context? How would you apply Bhagavan's teaching here?

Obviously "summa irru" does not mean don't look for a new job :-) does it mean you wait for the job you like no matter how much time it takes or do you take the first job?

Such insights can be gained only by looking at other aspirants life or even Jnani's own life prior to their sadhana. Thats the reason i am interested in this.

Anonymous said...

shiba,

To give you another e.g. In the Gita it is said one should work without worrying about the fruits of your action. How would one do it in everyday life when all our decisions from choosing a particular traffic route is based on the result, as to which route will have less traffic. Do you randomly choose a route or choose the route based on some reasoning and then accept what happens.

If one is a Manager in a company and if his team doesn't meet the deadline, one can obviously not tell his team, "Good job guys, keep it up. doesn't matter whether we meet the deadline or not. Just keep up the food work." :-)

How do you act in such situations without a sense of doership when you have an ego and if the ego goes away only on realization? How do you act in the world until your ego goes? One may get insight about such things based on another aspirant's life.

Atleast thats my opinion.

shiba said...

anonymous,

If you don't take my previous comments as criticism to you, it is ok. For me, my personal experience during sadhana or daily life is best teacher who give me valuable insight, especially when it is painful one.



Anonymous said...

Michael,
Since you have decided to answer the blunt and direct questions, here are few more.

My questions are the following:
a) You say you answer questions because it helps you to practise Bhagavan’s teachings more effectively since they ask from many perspectives that you have not thought yourself. I have never seen anybody stumping you. You are always very clever and people only keep thanking you in the end, not the other way round. It appears you have considered all perspectives before. The benefit you presume is just a mask you may be wearing. The secret desire may be a longing for praise, although you might have overcome, ‘women and gold’, as my favorite Sri Ramakrishna would put it. Let’s face it. Are you addicted to praise?

b) The readers keep recycling the same questions for ages. ‘Where to find ‘I’’, grace, ego and the whole shebang. If you are not addicted to praise, why not just refer to the articles you have already written? You are breeding lazy seekers who would not move an inch, search the articles you wrote, read the book you wrote. They want everything on a platter because you are there to feed them, while you are feeding your ego. You have created thorough converts who have in turn become your mouthpiece. The time spent on this would be more valuable if you got into the ‘autobiography’ mode I was suggesting with my friend Sivanarul.

c) According to you everybody has got it wrong. At least it ‘appears’ so. David, Cohen, Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni, Narayana Iyer, Lucy Cornelssen, just to name a few. Do you mean to say these people (except David) were sitting in front of Bhagavan and wailing away their time and Bhagavan really neglected them? You have always blamed these people for misrepresenting/misunderstanding Bhagavan’s teachings. Do you think Bhagavan guided only Sri Sadhu Om in the past and guiding you currently and everyone else got it wrong? In fact this gives an 'appearance' that Bhagavan was very partial to few seekers.

Again, if you feel my questions are presumptuous and do not choose to answer, I understand.

shiba said...

Oh, no. I thought anonymous is one of follower of Micheal, it seems not so... very critical...

> I have never seen anybody stumping you.

I might stump Micheal once about process of Self-enquiry. Though except me I have never seen such a one before you appear.

I agree with Mr.David Godman's view about Self-enquiry. Micheal or others said my method lead to only laya not to mano-nasa. But I can't reach even laya state yet (LOL).

R Viswanathan said...

"If our analysis leads to any complication or confusion, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them incorrectly, whereas if our analysis leads to simplicity and clarity, that is a sign that we are analysing and understanding them correctly."

Sri Guruparanandha explained the concept (in a very simple manner in one of his discourses) as to how the means and the goal can be the same: if we want to reach Kedarnath temple which is on a mountain, the path is also a mountain just as the target is. There is a huge collection of discourses by him given in the website: https://www.poornalayam.org/

If I may extend this simple description of 'means and the goal being the same' a little further, there might be different routes along the mountain but the target and means can still be considered as same.

Mouna said...

It's really funny, even in times of Bhagavan there were also people trying to put him down in so many ways...
At least at that time you could see their faces and know their names, nowadays our sacrosaint internet "anonymity" provides a safe haven to ventilate neurosis on others without the regrets of been recognized.

R Viswanathan said...

"It's really funny, even in times of Bhagavan there were also people trying to put him down in so many ways..."

Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - Patience, Tolerance and Forgiveness
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtN7R8N1nCc

Mouna said...

Agree completely, Viswanathanji.
Regards,
Mouna

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Mouna and Viswanathan, I agree that the comment and 'blunt and direct questions' asked by our anonymous friend (18th December 2015: 3:37) is not in good taste, but I believe Michael's response to these questions will be worth a wait. I think Michael is at his best when he is asked challenging and difficult questions like these. According to me, any question which makes Michael respond is good question. Regards.

Anonymous said...


/**
a) You say you answer questions because it helps you to practise Bhagavan’s teachings more effectively since they ask from many perspectives that you have not thought yourself. I have never seen anybody stumping you. You are always very clever and people only keep thanking you in the end, not the other way round. It appears you have considered all perspectives before. The benefit you presume is just a mask you may be wearing. The secret desire may be a longing for praise, although you might have overcome, ‘women and gold’, as my favorite Sri Ramakrishna would put it. Let’s face it. Are you addicted to praise?
**/

Guys,

just to clarify something. The anonymous who wrote the above comments is not the same anonymous who asked the "blunt and direct" questions which is me.

As for not having good taste in asking them, when Michael is not affected why are you guys affected by it? Not that I care. As I said, Michael has the right to either answer or not, and he has accepted to answer them so i'm not too worried about what others think.

Again, I wanted sincerely to know the answer and not just to disrespect Michael

Anonymous said...

Mouna,

Again same anonymous that asked the blunt and direct questions. Maybe I should change my name. You talk about "anonymity". For a person who talks about Bhagavan's teachings why are you so much bothered about name and form. After all if the same consciousness pervades everything according to your beliefs, how does it matter who asks the question and in what form?

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Again the anonymous who asked you the "blunt and direct" questions.

The following set of questions were not asked by me and I apologize if they give the impression
/**
a) You say you answer questions because it helps you to practise Bhagavan’s teachings more effectively since they ask from many perspectives that you have not thought yourself. I have never seen anybody stumping you. You are always very clever and people only keep thanking you in the end, not the other way round. It appears you have considered all perspectives before. The benefit you presume is just a mask you may be wearing. The secret desire may be a longing for praise, although you might have overcome, ‘women and gold’, as my favorite Sri Ramakrishna would put it. Let’s face it. Are you addicted to praise?
**/

Even if i use a different name, that can be duplicated, words can be cut and paste to give an impression that I asked them. If you choose to, please do not respond to my initial set of questions. I'm sorry I wasted your time and didn't expect such an issue to come up where someone masquerades like this.

Please ignore my "blunt and direct" questions.

I will email you in person with those questions and you can answer me through email. I will stop making comments henceforth because the whole purpose will be defeated if this spirals into accusations based on someone else name.

Again, apologize to all other guys.

Mouna said...

Dear Anonymous of the first "blunt and direct" set of questions (that actually were quite interesting)
Your response just proved my point.
1. We have the right to name ourselves as we want, nothing wrong with it, actually my "real" name is Carlos (as I once wrote in this blog) but since my email keep coming this way, people keep responding to me Mouna.
2. "Behind" your questions was a very different attitude than behind the second set of questions, actually I think everybody noticed that. I thought and felt that it couldn't be the same person.
3. Let's not fall into the trap of because one follows and lives "Advaita" or "ajata " teachings like Bhagavan's, everything goes. This is a different conversation, as when we discuss vegetarianism, ahimsa, even politics.
4. I just wanted to raise my voice (not in the "loud" sense) to demask an attitude that it was hiding behind the mask of "anonymity" and that actually I am glad I did because it prompted you to come forward to clarify the situation. Again, your questions were about the efficacy of atma vichara, right to the point of what is discussed here in this blog.
5. Ultimately, this too shall pass.

Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna
(aka, for the name and form: Carlos Grasso, Bhagavan devotee, live in Ojai, California, native of Argentina, profession artist, 61 years old in 4 days time and father of three)

venkat said...

Anonymous, you asked:
"How do you act in the world until your ego goes? "

I've thought a lot about this point too.

As you know Krishna advised Arjuna to act, doing what is right, not motivated by personal desire for the fruits of the action. I think the operative word is personal. i.e.. You do what is right, without selfish motivation, and without concern for the outcome.

V.S.Iyer, who was the teacher of the Ramakrishna monks, advised: "You must watch for the I, egoism, in every one of your acts and eliminate it, otherwise Jnan is impossible."

Nisargadatta advised:
"A man who knows that he is neither body nor mind cannot be selfish, for he has nothing to be selfish for. Or you may say he is equally "selfish" on behalf of everybody he meets; everybody's welfare is his own. The feeling "I am the world, the world is myself" becomes quite natural; once it is established, there is just no way of being selfish. To be selfish means to covet, acquire, accumulate on behalf of the part against the whole"

Our minds make this so complicated - how can one act as a non-does? We (I included) refuse to face the fact that egolessness is really straightforward. It means don't be selfish. But it is a kind of death, of which we are afraid: 'what will happen to me if I don't look after my interests'.

I think this is why there is a tradition of renunciation within Sankara's system. It is most clearly evident in Bhagavan's life - he dropped everything he possessed in coming to Arunachala. Murugunar and Maurice Frydman took to bhiksha for their daily sustenance, encouraged by Bhagavan. The thing is we are not prepared to give up everything, until we have an assurance that there is something better on the other side! We haven't really been convinced by advaita, whatever we may profess. This I suspect is why 'earnestness' is one of the four-fold qualifications that Sankara prescribed.

The last word has to go to Bhagavan:
"Those alone are good actions which are done lovingly and with a peaceful and pure mind. All those actions which are done with an agitated, desirous and impure mind are to be classed only as evil actions."

Anonymous said...

Mouna,

This is Anonymous of the first "blunt and direct" set of questions. Looks like my name just got a lot longer :-)

As you pointed out I genuinely had those questions and only for that reason since then I also provided my observations and views about different practices to give an idea of where I was coming from. I also followed up with a request of a short bio of Michael regarding his own spiritual path and clearly gave e.g. of why it would be useful to me and maybe many others.

The reason I adopt the "anonymous" name and still do so is simple
a) I thought it was my question that mattered more than my name. I was trying to share my views primarily due to my vasana ":-) and also understand other views. Only now i realize someone would even want to hide behind my questions and do a clever job of cut and paste :-)
b) I could sign up for this blogger, google etc but I don't like having all these accounts and too many use name/passwd with twitter, facebook etc, so I thought the easiest was to use the "anonymous" Tag.

I still don't get why this other guy, had to hide behind my questions. Even if his questions were presumptuous he could have just asked in his own form.

But as you say this too shall pass.

Anonymous said...

Venkat,

You and others may very well be familiar with the famous anecdote in talks where a person said he wanted to leave home and Bhagavan discouraged him and he asked why Bhagavan left. But usually only this portion is mentioned and people portray Bhagavan as being against such things.

But here is the rest of the conversation which comes up in TR Kanakammal's bio "Cherished Memories"
/**
Then he asked, "If that is so, then why did Bhagavan leave Madurai and come to Tiruvannamalai? Was not Madurai a good enough place?"
Bhagavan sat up straight and said, "So! This is what you have in your mind, is it? You were wondering why I should have left home, if one place is really as good as any other place. But you should note one thing. I did not go around asking people, 'Should I stay here or should I go somewhere else?' I just did what I felt like doing. If you also have a strong feeling that you should leave home, why don't you do so? If your conviction is strong enough, you will not feel the need for other people's approval or support." The young man appeared to be at a loss for words. The young man stood silently for a few minutes and left the hall.
After the youth left the place, Bhagavan said to the devotees around. "This boy has no confidence or the courage to face the consequences. He is afraid that, if he were to leave the security of his home, he might not be able to fend for himself. It is only the weak minded people who go around asking for other people's advice. The strong-willed ones just do what their heart says is right. Such strength of character is a God given gift. Total self reliance is not possible without his grace."
***/

It clearly proves that Bhagavan never discouraged such a thing when he knew that a person has actually reached that stage, the "sadhana chatustayam", that Sankara advices.

It looks as if Ramanar discouraged many from leaving home probably because he knew their prarabhdha or he knew they weren't strong enough. There are cases where he fully approved them leaving. In Murgunar's case, inspite of Ramanar asking him to live with his wife, Muruganar did not budge.

Also, I don't believe in acting in a situation based on wondering what Krishna or Bhagavan might have adviced me. Krishna adviced Arjuna to do his duties in the Gita, but in Bhagavatham, he asks Uddhava to renounce everything, so clearly it depends on the maturity of the aspirant and as Bhagavan pointed out a person who is strong minded will not ask others what to do. He will just do it.

So until we have an ego, any answer would come from the ego. In order to something without worrying about the result, one should not have a sense of doership and one cannot get that until one possesses an ego and the ego disappears only after realization, making it a chicken and egg story.

I feel the most one can do is intense sadhana and take their decisions according to their prakirti or nature and with time sadhana will purify one's mind and make the decisions much more clearer. Thats as much as I can figure out.

Will continue....

Bob - P said...

Appreciate I don't post much but when I do I always post as Bob - P. I dont have a blooger account I just choose to use my name which is my real name with my surname abbreaviated. Everyone has the right to post how they want and keep their real names secret if that is their wish. But when lots of people all comment under anonymous and answer each other it can sometimes get a bit confuisng at least for me anyay.

It does seem easier when a name / identity is given for each person commenting even if it isn't your actual name as it helps others know who is asking questions and answering each others comments.

Like my post here.

This just an observation.
In appreciation
Bob - P



Anonymous said...

Venkat,

Here is an interesting perspective from Aurobindo
/**The following quote from Aurobindo's Essays on The Gita pg.32-33 is worth reflecting , of course we must not equate ourselves to Vivakananda , Buddha , Ramakrishna but take the spirit of the message
Quote

An inner situation may even arise, as with the Buddha, in which all duties have to be abandoned, trampled on, flung aside in order to follow the call of the Divine within. I cannot think
that the Gita would solve such an inner situation by sending Buddha back to his wife and father and the government of the Sakya State, or would direct a Ramakrishna to become a Pundit
in a vernacular school and disinterestedly teach little boys their lessons, or bind down a Vivekananda to support his family and for that to follow dispassionately the law or medicine or journalism.
The Gita does not teach the disinterested performance of duties but the following of the divine life, the abandonment of all dharmas, sarvadharmam, to take refuge in the Supreme alone, and the divine activity of a Buddha, a Ramakrishna, a Vivekananda is perfectly in consonance with this teaching. Nay, although the Gita prefers action to inaction, it does not rule out the renunciation of works, but accepts it as one of the ways to the Divine. If that can only be attained by renouncing works and life and all duties and the call is strong within us, then into
the bonfire they must go, and there is no help for it. The call of God is imperative and cannot be weighed against any other considerations.
**/

It is precisely because Gita tries to reconcile one's action in this world along with leading him to the goal, that, as Sivanarul pointed out earlier, there are so many interpretations of it. Nochur venkatraman makes fun of some it saying, that today we have "Gita for personality development" and says if one truly knows the essence of Gita it will erase his personality and says that many have downgraded Moksha shastra.

Not to mention, Krishna himself says this in the Gita
Discrimination about work is very difficult. For that reason Krishna said in the Gita: "Hard to understand is the way of action....Even the wise are perplexed as to what is action and what is inaction." [4.17-- Gita]

In Bhagavatham he says this
"karmayogastu kaminam [Karma Yoga is for those who have desires]" --Bhagavatham
11.20.7

Will continue

Anonymous said...

The following is from a talk by Ramakrishna's direct disciple Swami Turiyananda
/**
The Lord Krishna, while instructing Uddhava in the 11th book of the Bhagavatham, has clearly stated different paths of yoga suitable for different types of persons. I am mentioning this for your information:
"I have spoken of 3 yogas for the welfare of mankind. They are the yogas of knowledge, action and devotion. There is no yoga other than these. Those who have dispassion and no yearning for action should follow the path of knowledge. Those who have not developed dispassion and in whom desires persist should follow the path of action. And those who have innate feelings of love and devotion, who take delight in my word, who are neither attracted to the world nor have complete dispassion for it, should follow the yoga of devotion in order to attain perfection." --Bhagavatham 11.20.6-7
If you carefully reflect on the above passage, you will easily ascertain who is fit for which kind of yoga. There are not many persons whose minds are completely withdrawn from sense objects. Therefore, the followers of the path of knowledge are very few. Those who are very much attached to worldly things cannot remain without doing any work. Hence, those who are in-between--that is to say, who are not completely dispassionate nor too much attached to the world-- those who have faith and devotion to God, if they follow the yoga of devotion they will soon attain knowledge. This yoga of devotion is easy to practise and yields quick results, and it begins with a dualistic attitude. Afterwards, when by the grace of god this attitude has developed, non dualistic awareness dawns by itself.
Desire for God is not considered a desire because the desire for the world binds the soul, and the desire for God releases the soul. As the Master[Ramakrishna] used to say: "Desire for devotion is not counted as desire; hinche[a kind of spinach] is not to be counted as an ordinary green; sugar candy is not to be counted as a sweet; the sour of lemon is not to be counted as sour." [Hinche, sugar candy, and lemon are said to have medicinal value]. In other words, the desire for devotion does not cause bondage. Thus if a person works for God, his work becomes desireless. Truly desireless actions can be performed only by illumined souls, for their desires have been destroyed by knowledge. However as I have already said, actions done with a desire to attain spiritual knowledge are also called desireless.
***/

From Talks with Ramana Maharshi, to a question on Karma Yoga his answer is similar
/**
E.W.: Yes, I see. Sri Krishna said in the Gita, that work must be performed without attachment and such work is better than idleness. Is that Karma Yoga?
B.: What is said is adapted to the temperament of the listener.
***/

Wittgenstein said...

Michael used to have the option of moderating the comments before publishing. For a moment I thought he should go back to that option but I quickly cancelled it – it is not in the right spirit of following Bhagavan. Our Bhagavan used to sit in the open hall all the time and everything was spoken in the open. Nobody was frisked before they entered. There was nothing to hide and no one to be punished. Everything appears and disappears and Bhagavan taught us not to pay attention to appearances.

Michael James said...

Regarding the new set of ‘blunt and direct questions’ asked by another anonymous friend in the comment of 18 December 2015 at 03:37, I will try to answer these also in the article I am now writing.

Regarding the potential confusion caused by anonymous comments, I appreciate that some friends may prefer anonymity, so I respect their right to remain anonymous, but to reduce the chances of confusion it may be easier if such friends were each to use a pseudonym instead (though as one anonymous friend pointed out, anyone who wanted to cause confusion could still do so by using someone else’s pseudonym, but at least there would be less scope for unintended confusion).

maya said...

This is Anonymous of the first "blunt and direct" set of questions. my new adopted name.

venkat said...

Anonymous,

I think we are agreeing? I certainly agree with you that Bhagavan wouldn't recommend renunciation for everyone; you have to be ready for it; anyone who asks if he should renounce is probably not ready. Like my earlier comment on devotion, it seems to be an irrepressible, non-volitional arising.

It is noteworthy that all the gurus that we admire seem to possess little - Ramakrishna, Nisargadatta, Vivekananda, etc. And certainly all the close devotees of Bhagavan (vide Michael).

Karma yoga is proposed for those who have not yet got rid of their desire and attachments. So it is said to dedicate the fruits of action to god; to do your acts in the world without concern for the fruits; and finally to act without any concept of doer. Thereby the mind becomes purified, the ego attenuated sufficiently, to be able to understand the truth of advaita.

Devotion gets to the same point by self-surrender, effacing the ego, in favour of god. The following passage from Meister Eckhart is interesting:

"If someone were to ask me now what a poor man is who wants nothing, I would answer by saying that as long as a man still somehow has the will to fulfill the very dear will of God, that man does not have the poverty we are talking about; for this man still wills to satisfy God's will, and this is not true poverty. For, if a man has true poverty, then he must be as free of his own will now, as a creature, as he was before he was created. For I am telling you by the eternal truth, as long as you have the will to fulfill God's will and are longing for eternity and for God, you are not truly poor. For only one who wills nothing and desires nothing is a poor man."

In any event your question was "how should one act in the world until the ego goes". Raphael, another advaitin, suggested:
"If you feel the impulse “to act”, ask yourself the reason for this action. If you feel an incentive to speak, ask yourself the reason for your words."

Complementary to this, I would suggest remembering Bhagavan's words:
"Those alone are good actions which are done lovingly and with a peaceful and pure mind. All those actions which are done with an agitated, desirous and impure mind are to be classed only as evil actions."

Easier said that done, but words to try to live by, whatever your belief.

venkat said...

I should also add, to "whatever your belief", whatever your stage of sadhana. These questions can only be asked of oneself, and needs to be honestly faced and answered by oneself. It seems to me that no one else's actions can be a guide in this regard.

And clearly if you are advanced in your absorption is self-abidance, summa irruttal, then the necessity to questions one's actions becomes moot.

maya said...

Venkat,

I will just mention a personal experience with regard to this topic. I met a sanyasi(monk) sometime back. He had been associated with the Kanchi Sankaracharya (Paramacharya) for almost 25 years, was an engineer and then became a sanyasi.

I asked him how to overcome insecurities like financial insecurities and other such ones. He said as long as you are trying to protect something or someone, you will always be insecure. He then gave me an advice. he said if I do intense sadhana, I will realize 2 things slowly
a) The fact that i'm not the doer will dawn slowly and that things are occurring because of a higher power.
b) As one's sadhana gets intense one will see that even some of their smallest desires get fulfilled miraculously without their intervention. Now these are not the big materialistic desires but maybe small ones like an urge to eat something and someone brings it. You want to visit a pilgrimage place perhaps and an opportunity arises, things like that.

He said the above will increase your faith and you will let go of things more and more.

Nisargadatta's disciple (translator) Ramesh Balasekhar also advices the following. At the end of each day, ponder upon things that occurred and analyze how many of these was in your control. You will realize that they just occurred. Even in cases, say i decide on a Tuesday to go to the bank on wednesday and think it was my decision, if you really think, what led you to make that decision on Tuesday. It would have had its cause prior. Likewise one thing has led to another as if its been orchestrated. I found this interesting. another way to get the conviction that we are not the doer.

Based on this, another thing that occurred to me then was. If I wanted to buy a thing, say at a walmart, i would say that I wanted to buy so my freewill made me go there and buy that. But if I think about it, any number of things could have prevented me from going there and buying the item, like I could have fallen sick, i could have had an accident, an emergency could have come up preventing me, the item simply was out of stock etc etc. So the only reason I was successful in buying was because everything that could have prevented me from doing so did not and my wanting to buy the item was just one parameter among many.

People who believe in fate and a higher power will say, it was my destiny to buy and those who don't believe in all that will say, it was just luck that I bought the item. Either was one thing is clear. I had no control over the outcome.

Interestingly in the book "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" (read it decades back so my memory is not that strong), at one point it is said that even Einstein was puzzled as to why an idea must be placed in one's consciousness only at a certain time.

Ramesh Balasekhar also says that if we don't know what our next thought is going to be and if thought leads to action how can we say that we have control over our actions.

I guess intellectually all this makes perfect sense to me but in practice the ego crops up again, so all this intellectual jugglery is of no help and the only help i suppose is that sanyasi's advice, intense sadhana.

Echnaton said...

Michael,
thank you for yesterday's revealing continuation of your previous comments - also in reply to 'who?'.
Yes, being completely absorbed in atma-nistha and giving only room to atma-cintana - giving oneself to God - should be our principal aim.
That is : Allowing him to direct the actions of our body, speech and mind without any interference on our part.

Mouna said...

Dear Maya (aka "Anonymous of the first "blunt and direct" set of questions")

You chose a perfect name, absolutely in tune of everything that is happening here... :-)

Yours in Bhagavan,
M

Sivanarul said...

With regards to the set of “really” blunt set of questions asked by the other Anonymous (not maya):

My first reaction was certainly “OMG”. But pretty soon I got over it, and starting seeing it as fair, very blunt and not disrespectful. This reminds me of reading that someone asked a very blunt question to Bhagavan.

One day when there were sizable amount of people in the room, one of them suddenly out of the blue, asked Bhagavan, “Do you have wet dreams”? Everyone around was horrified and disgusted with the questionnaire, that such a personal question was being asked in public, to such a saintly person as Bhagavan. But Bhagavan stayed as cool as a cucumber and replied, “Yes, So what?”

Let’s be honest with our self. Regarding question C of the questionanaire, there are several articles that makes look other Bhagavan’s devotees in a poor light as to their understanding and it upsets other devotees who are affectionate towards them. Recently the article and comment on Sri Kavyakantha Muni, upset Sri Viswanathan (as could be easily inferred by his comment). ‘Hunting the I ‘is one of my favorite books and the technique that Lucy Cornelson suggested in the book, was shown as a very poor understanding, in one of the articles. Lucy Ma (as she is affectionately called by many devotees) is such an inspiration to many of us, and I have to say, I was a little upset reading that article.

Yes, I know the answer is to investigate who is the ‘I’ that got upset and question why is Sri Viswanathan so attached to Sri Kavyakantha Muni and why am I so attached to Lucy Ma? Well, Duh, the answer is simple, that is why we are still labelled “aspirants”.

I knew Michael will not shy away from answering those questions just like Bhagavan did not shy away from such a blunt question as ‘wet dream’. I would not expect anything else from a devotee who has followed Bhagavan's path for 30+ years.

I look forward to his article and his reply for question c. whatever may be his reply, I respect him for the time he puts into this (even if it is for spiritual pride) and admire him for staying on the path for 40+ years living a recluse lifestyle. Thank you Michael.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

Not sure you saw my earlier question to you. Just wanted to repost, in case you didn't see it. If you don't answer, I will understand, you don't want to provide any details of your mystic life :-)

"Since Turiya or deep sleep is not being experienced currently, what would we do differently in “walking state” having it the right way?"
Very difficult to explain my friend...
Nothing is changed and everything changes.
I guess the best and limited way I can explain it is that Maya becomes really evident as the illusory superimposition IT is, throwing its veil on our true nature”

You sound like a mystic :-) Either you have awakened or very close to awakening. Whichever it is, I think it would be very useful to the group, if you share a little biography that includes practices and the state you are in, on a moment to moment basis. It is always nice to hear details of someone who is very close or already reached the Promised Land.

The other question is how do you know you have not self-hypnotized/intellectualized yourself that Maya is a illusory superimposition (asking it honestly)? We may soon lose you to Ajata, my friend. Before you go, I think a little biography will be nice.

maya said...

Regarding blunt questions, especially the one that Sivanrul mentioned was asked to Bhagavan, let me recount one about Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna always warned people to stay away from lust and gold and since most of his devotees were men when the "Gospel of Ramakrishna" was recorded, he said "women and gold". But to women he said "men and gold", so the bottomline is "lust and gold".

But one of his direct disciples Swami Yogananda who married due to pressure from his mother always stayed away from his wife as Ramakrishna taught to stay away from lust and moreover he got married against his wishes and was not at all pleased. One night when he was visiting Ramakrishna, he did not find Ramakrishna in his hall or room. He suddenly had a doubt whether Ramakrishna had gone to meet Sarada Devi, who was living nearby in small tower room called "Nahabat" and was wonderin if Ramakrishna gave this advice to stay away from women to others and he himself was having a tryst with his wife. So he slowly left towards Nahabat and as he was nearing the place he suddenly saw Ramakrishna come from another direction altogether and surprised at seeing Yogananda there he asked what he was doing and Yogananda was out of words. Ramakrishna immediately guessed the reason, smiled and told Yogananda. "That is how thoroughly one should test one's guru".

But the same Ramakrishna said that once one has faith in his guru
/**
'Even if my Guru is one who frequents the toddy shop, I will not superimpose any blemish on him. Why? Because I know that he is not going to lose his Guru-nature simply because of that. I have taken refuge in him not for examining and investigating his external life. That also is not my duty. Therefore, whatever happens, he alone is my Guru.'
**/

So all this depends on what stage of faith one is at. People who have a higher level of faith on someone obviously will feel insulted if others question their guru so I guess all this is part of the spiritual pursuit.

ropedancer said...

maya,
one who puts blunt and direct questions should make himself ready to accept blunt and direct answers. Prepare yourself for receiving a genuine and unalterated response.

maya said...

Venkat,

Here is another e.g. of faith and insecurity from david Godman's life from an interview.

/**
RS: How have you supported yourself in India all these years?

DG: I didn't. Grace supported me. I have found that if you give all your time to God and his work, then he looks after you. I came here with $500 in 1976. I didn't earn money for twenty years, but I always had enough to live on. Until I left Lucknow I gave the proceeds from all my books to the various organisations that supported me while I was writing them.

When I first came to Arunachala I fell in love with the place and wanted to stay as long as I could. I knew I didn't have much money, but I wanted to make it last as long as possible. There was a meter ticking away in my head: I have so much money, I am spending so much per day, and that means I have so many more days here. Those numbers, those equations were there all the time. Then, one day, as I was doing pradakshina of Arunachala, it all dropped away. It wasn't a mental decision. I stopped walking, turned, and faced the hill. I knew in that moment that whatever power had brought me here would keep me here until its purpose was finished, and that when it was time to go, it wouldn't matter if I was a millionaire or not, I would have to leave. From then on I stopped caring about money. In the period that I was worrying about money, all I did was spend. When I stopped caring, complete strangers would come up to me and give me money. Whenever I needed money, money just appeared out of nowhere.

RS: Can you give me an example of how this worked?

DG: When I volunteered to look after Lakshmana Swamy's land in the late 80s, I had about $20 to my name. Somebody in Canada whom I had spoken to for about ten minutes two years before got out of bed and suddenly felt that he should give me some money. He sent me $1,000, which was enough to get the garden going. I lived like that for years. When you work for Gurus, God pays the bills. That's my experience anyway.

It was Papaji who encouraged me to start working for myself. He himself was a householder who spent decades supporting his family. He generally wouldn't let anyone give up his or her worldly life until retirement age, which in India is around 55. When I started work on Nothing Ever Happened, I assumed that all the proceeds would go to him, or to some organization that was promoting his teachings. At some point during the research though, he let me know that he wanted me to accept royalties from the sale of the book.

Nowadays, I am not supported by any institution, so I publish my own books and live off the proceeds, which I have to say are minimal. I can live fairly comfortably in a third world country such as India, but if I tried to live in America on what I earn from my books, I would be several thousand dollars a year below the poverty line.
**/

When I met David Godman in 2012, I asked him if that faith or conviction he got during Giri Pradakshina about his assurance of financial security changed after that, he said, that conviction has never changed. But then it also shows his own faith.

maya said...

ropedancer,

thanks for your advice. I can handle bluntness well. You don't have to get all heated up as Michael himself seems to be handling it coolly. Good luck with your sadhana.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarulji, Vannakkam

I did read your post at the time you sent it, thanks. I am giving myself time to think about it, specially the second question about self-hypnotism/intellectualization of spiritual ideas, that not only is a very good question but also one of the tools the mind utilizes to perpetuate itself in this seeming samsaric universe. Worth investigating into.
Apologies for not telling you before about the delay.

Yours in Him,
M.

ropedancer said...

maya,
thanks for your advice as well. I can handle heat well.
Good luck and be wary of waffle and talkativeness.

maya said...

ropedancer,

Just posting comments alone is not talkativeness. Taking the time to read all this is no different from this. i'm talking outside. your are talking inside. If you don't like talkativeness feel free to ignore my comment and not respond.

Mouna said...

Wittgenstein, hello

In your last posting you said: "Everything appears and disappears and Bhagavan taught us not to pay attention to appearances.”

Although in complete agreement of the first part of the sentence, there is something about the second part (“...not to pay attention to appearances.") that makes me uncomfortable and although true in a sense it can’t be generalize in the transactional world.

Sri Bhagavan Guru (I’m not talking about inner Bhagavan sadguru here although they are both the same) wasn’t a lump of insentient flesh looking all the time into the timeless. In many occassions he spoke out when an injustice came about, or saying that one has to fulfill one’s role to the best of one's abilities, or even if one see a woman or child being abused in the street one can’t think of it as “appearances”, one should take action…

I understand what you meant, don’t read me wrong, and agre on it, but every occasion calls for different attitudes, as when Bhagavan stayed impassible when people were taking his brother by force out of the ashram threatening him (his brother).

What happens in maya’s lila is completely determined by the different psychologies already establish in the script of the different characters at play. As long as we understand the different levels of conversation keeping the gaze in what is our main priority, then we are good for the ride.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Anonymous said...

Michael,
I like you very much. You don’t make money by selling Bhagavan’s teachings. Your work is of very great use to many people around, beyond what you imagine. Nobody needs to advise you on these things. We need only to learn from that. But you need to look at other things honestly. If you do that, people will benefit more. I don’t like sycophancy. I use fewer words and write rarely. I am your friend and would like to come straight to the point, which are expansions of previous ones, just to make myself very clear.

d)I know what you think about ‘traditional advaitins’ and their view of Bhagavan not falling into any pedigree. That’s not my concern. But are you not falling into another kind of ‘traditional advaitin’ trap? You have built your own pedigree – Bhagavan, Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om and perhaps you. There are subtle clues about that. You have appreciated Michael Langford (the ‘awareness watching awareness’ guy) for including nice things about Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om in his website. Have you not noticed he has included Annamalai Swami? You never utter a word about it. Is he falling out of the pedigree? Did he get it all wrong? Is his understanding only so-so?

e)There are subtle ways you do the above. You say you answer questions. Let me add – you answer them unasked. Let us say someone shared some views of David in a comment, which he got via his personal communication with David. He is not asking your opinion. David is not asking your opinion. Other people are not asking your opinion. You pounce on that for the second time. It is enough since you did it once. You say it is our duty to correct. Who assigned the duty? The one who assigned it also has assigned duties to others. David is not ripping you apart, as far I know. He keeps quiet. You did the same for Cohen. Cohen is dead. Why wake him up from his coffin and thrash him badly? People interested in sycophancy are telling we have to be tolerant. That’s preaching. Are you following it? According to you other people can not get into the pedigree.

f)You write a lot. Talk a lot. You say you still practise self enquiry. Where is the time for your practice? By your activities it is clear you are most of the time hooked on to the computer and internet. You know basic physics. One can attend to only one thing at a time. Others can do that. If you do that and say Bhagavan asks us to be attentively self-aware all the time, few eyebrows will rise. Most questions here are repetitions. So are the answers. You have written a wonderful book. Everything is there. Let people find out. Let them run around a while. Self enquiry does not come on a platter. Did it come to you that way? Let them have the joy of discovery. If really tricky things come around, mark them. Go for the next edition of your book and include them. Let me assure you, there will be minimal inclusions. The time saved can go to, say, improving the sloppy translation of Sri Sadhu Om’s book. People will be benefitted. You are in a sense making them lazy.

Rattlesnake said...

Anonymous,
why do you wthhold from us the points a) till c) of your odd comment ?

Anonymous said...

The stage is set. All are listening. Listen without bias.
There is this thing going on about books like ‘Talks’. The contention is that the contents should be taken with a pinch of salt. Ramana is quoted when Munagala was absent one day and Mudaliar took notes - “Ah! My words were recorded exactly today!” or something to that effect. We have good laugh at Munagala and say his book is not reliable. So we should go to Ulladu Narpadu. Observe carefully. Is Ramana laughing at Munagala? No, you are laughing. Have you asked why?
I am here to tell you a little story. When Ramana comes (or appears) or any such event happens any time in the world, he comes with a set of devotees around him. He gets the work done through them. Mungala was one such. The work is not important. It is what is behind it that is important. Ramana is so careful he brings a prototype for every possible type of seeker. Kavyakanta, Munagala, Mudaliar, Lakshmana Sarma, Arthur, just to name a few. Just think of them. Is not everyone with a unique character? Now, one day they all are gone. Or so we think. History gets repeated. Minus Ramana in physical form. That is to say, even today we have Kavyakanta, Munagala, Mudaliar, Lakshmana Sarma, Arthur with us. When we read the names of these very carefully, which one strikes a chord in us? That is the prototype we represent. It is not fixed. Our resonance can move from Munagala to Sarma to Muruganar. How swiftly it will happen is not in our hands.
So, the works of these prototypes are not important. All are Ramana’s work. So he is there in all. Can one learn self enquiry from Talks? Perfectly possible. Ulladu Narpadu is cryptic in chaste poetic Tamil. Everyone can not have access to it. Even with commentary, it is not possible in the beginning. As one gets into Ramana a majority will get into Talks than Ulladu Narpadu. When we are made to read Talks, a few sections will strike us. We will pause there and get a feel for self enquiry. We will be made to try it out. We will be guided from within. We will be assured through various signs we got it right. But we may not be able to put forth in flowery language. Just from Talks. Munagala is not guiding you. Ramana guides Munagala. He is now guiding you through Mungala, figuratively. He does not need another person in between. It is enough you are made to pick Talks or Ulladu Narpadu, whichever he thinks is best for you at the moment. You feel the connection. Talks and Ulladu Narpadu are just names and they have the form of books. Behind them and in them is Ramana. That is how guidance comes. All the talk about Talks here in this blog is nonsense.
So what happens to Munagala? He will be taken care. He is a business class passenger. He will be taken care very well. Ramana would have said something about him either directly or indirectly. He can judge (or seem to). We can not. Period. Similar things can be said of Kavyakanta et al.
Or Ramana will shift gear and take you to other books. Your collection of books will grow or shrink just to Ulladu Narpadu. Ramana knows it all.

Anonymous said...

At some point Ramana enters into someone’s life – the one who he picks. Actually, long before someone realizes, he had already entered. The devotee just becomes aware of this at some point. Camel entering into tent and prey in tiger’s jaw hold even for these very early stages. He might have made you go to other gurus, in case you could be handled there. Even after he enters there may be other gurus, through them he clarifies some points. When the purpose is done, it is pretty neat, the previous stage imperceptibly disappears. It slowly grows, reaches some level and slowly shrinks. One day, there will be just Ramana (you got most of what he is saying), other gurus having slowly disappeared and the book shelf with just one slim copy of Ulladu Narpadu (without commentary) and on another day even that goes. When self enquiry has gathers momentum, there is more of an increased inner momentum of guidance, most external supports having surprisingly disappeared. Here is the point – as self enquiry picks up, if that is the only thing you are doing, if Ramana alone has pervaded everything for you, all the talk and repeated reading and writing too will disappear. If one says he is reading and writing 24X7 and still self enquiry is the only thing for him, how can that be so? That is addiction to reading and writing.
Now, when Ramana chooses someone, there cannot be any more person in between. He will guide you. Ramana does not need support. He does not need mouthpieces. So much reading writing and spoon feeding is not necessary. One million words we write and someone does not get it. In one millionth of a second, he can make that guy get it. Let’s face it. He kept his works short and simple. When asked he spoke little. Someone advancing in the path would tend to become like that. It is not the length of the essay. It is the power behind it that counts. Whatever we write, it is written by him, although at our spiritual level, colored by it. If the ego is thick, words will confuse. If it is slim, words will be powerful. If no ego, it will be most powerful of all. Books and essays are baits to get you. Color of the bait (contents of the book) does not matter. It is enough you are caught.
Everybody is in deep shit. He has already pulled us out of it. He is now wiping us clean and soon he is going to swallow us. There is no superior and inferior in the level of shit. One on the surface is no better than one deep below. Everything is shit. Talks are as good as Ulladu Narpadu- depends who is reading. Context matters. Text does not matter. Talks count, talking about it for hours together does not count. With the standard logical ruler of ‘attentively self-aware’ if one searches, one will find nothing there. We will be deceived. A simpleton looking at the photo of Ramana with love is sometimes better than a sophisticated one with Maha Yoga in his hand.

Anonymous said...

Ulladu Narpadu – Muruganar - Sadhu Om – Michael is a small and narrow world and narrow perspective. And uninteresting pedigree. Ramana does not work that way. I know it for sure. Everyone counts, Kavyankanta et al. Everything and everyone has a purpose in Ramana’s world. Everyone whom he has touched (spiritually) is saved. There is no quicker or slower here. Again that is a narrow view.
I hate writing. That sucks. This is my third and last post. I will not write anymore. And that is my promise.
There is this dude, Sivanarul. He is good.
Good bye guys.

maya said...

Anonymous,
You got my attention. Whatever I was struggling to convey along with Sivanarul over a period of 4 days, you got it in 4 or 5 paras. Thanks for waking me up.
All,
My own thoughts:
a) This is Michael's blog, no doubt and he has the right to write what he feels is right but there is a small caveat. The title of the blog says, "the teachings of Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi" and not "The teachings of Sadhu Om or Michael James" and Bhagavan being a universal figure and the blog being open to the public, many of us cannot agree that only Sadhu Om's or Michael James view is correct. The teachings of Bhagavan cannot be put in a water tight compartment.

b) Books like Talks, day by day and even ulladu narpadu probably represent 4 or 5 years of Bhagavan's teachings in his stay of 51 years at Arunachala. Do we even know how many people he taught in a second like Anonymous alluded? But I completely agree with anonymous that these books cannot be dismissed. they all play a role. A person who is really ripe, for him, "naan Yaar" may be enough.

c) Many here boast that mental satsang is better. Thats true when we don't have access to a Jnani. But arguing relentlessly is neither satsang nor understanding Bhagavan's teachings. We can keep arguing about the nuances of self inquiry for years and think we have a greater intellectual grasp but we would not have gotten anywhere as what we are striving for is beyond the intellect and can obtained only is silence and inquiry or contemplating Bhagavan's work in silence. An athiest comes to Bhagavan, falls at his feet and in an instant is transformed. Such instances galore not just in Bhagavan's life but Ramakrishna's, Chandrasekhara Bharati and many others. And here we are, saying that this kind of arguing is mental satsang. satsang should make us quiet, not just give us a temporary intellectual boost and satisfaction and stir our thoughts. Hence David Godman is right, that a look from a Jnani is far powerful than hours of self inquiry. This is not just david's view but I have listed other venerated scriptures as well before.

d) Many a times here the understanding of even well respected Jnanis like Nisargadatta, Robert adams, Lakshmana swamy have been mercilessly dismissed as not having understood anything and that only sadhu Om has got it right. that is not understanding, that is ego. Also remember that when you dismiss teachings of those other jnanis, you are also insulting them. Its not just one way.

e) Michael's understanding is no doubt great but to assume that all others like David have not understood this is only ego. I have rarely seen an occassion where Michael has conceded that another person like David is right. The truth is many might have got it but when they express it first gets distorted by their mind and a second time when another mind tries to understand it. It is not without reason that Ramakrishna said that "Brahman is not the only thing that has not been defiled by the mouth"

Finally, what anonymous wrote, I felt Ramana himself wrote it through him and he has hammered the good sense finally after a few days of disturbing vasana that made me post relentlessly, that nothing beats sadhana. So this is going to my last post as well. The technique of self inquiry is simple. Sitting and practicing it (or any sadhana) for 5 minutes is much more worth than writing millions of pages.

Verbal statments of reality, no matter how abstruse and indepth it is, cannot convey reality. Finally its all just talk.

Sanjay Lohia said...

This refers to the last four comments of our anonymous friend, who seems to firing indiscriminately at our friend, philosopher and guide Michael. I am writing my thoughts on these comments.

If there are a few like this anonymous friend, there are hundreds like me who revere Michael and have been greatly benefited by his writings, that is - his translations of Bhagavan's works, his articles, his e-mails, his comments on his blog, his videos etc. These are absolutely invaluable and priceless.

Why does he sometimes differ with people like David Godman, Kavyakantha, Cohen and others? These may be essential to share the correct understanding of Bhagavan's teachings. Our anonymous friend implies that these people could be the instruments of Bhagavan, therefore have to right. By this argument Michael could be another instrument of Bhagavan to convey his teachings to us in all its purity. He could be a chosen instrument to correct the mistakes made by others. How can this be ruled out?

Michael just does not merely correct others, but logically argues by quoting appropriately from Bhagavan's writings, why their understanding could be flawed in certain cases. Why does David Godman keeps quiet when Michael sometimes correct him? He is prolific writer, why does he not use his words to counter Michael's claims? In fact Michael will be doing a disservice to Bhagavan's devotees if he does nor correct people like David, because David Godman is a respected and established writer on Bhagavan's teachings, and one could be liable to believe him even if his interpretation of Bhagavan's teachings are wrong (in some cases).

Our friend writes, 'You have built your own pedigree – Bhagavan, Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om and perhaps you'. Yes, I sincerely believe that if one has to understand Bhagavan's teachings in all its purity, one could gain a lot from this pedigree, especially if one is trying to practise atma-vichara.

An Englishman (Michael) spends twenty years in Tiruvannamalai, learns Tamil, associates with Sri Sadhu Om, translates all the major works of Bhagavan Ramana, starts a website and a blog writing exclusively on Bhagavan Ramana's core teachings, makes this website free for all. We can even download his book HAB from his website for free. At least I do not doubt his love and understanding of Bhagavan's teachings.

Therefore it is my strong conviction that Bhagavan is guiding me, and many like me, through the instrument called Michael James, and we absolutely treasure this guidance. Regards.

who? said...

The comment stream of our anonymous friend and also of Maya have deepened my love and respect for Acharya Michael James.

In contrast to the didactic assertions of the former two, Michael James listens patiently to what others have said/are saying, and then tries to answer them on the honest basis of whatever he has understood about the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana as a whole. One can feel him gently prodding us towards the simple import of the essence of those teachings in his writings. And perhaps this is the reason most people end up thanking him after their correspondence with him here in this blog.

Apart from the silent teaching of Bhagavan, it is Michael James and his quiet, unassuming dedication to clarify and simplify the vast mire of ideas which abound under the proud name of spirituality or metaphysics, which has indeed assisted me to simplify and clarify my own understanding.

While Anonymous barely managed to touch my nerve, Acharya Michael has touched my heart. And i thank him once again for that.

R Viswanathan said...


"In fact Michael will be doing a disservice to Bhagavan's devotees if he does nor correct people like David, because David Godman is a respected and established writer on Bhagavan's teachings, and one could be liable to believe him even if his interpretation of Bhagavan's teachings are wrong (in some cases)."

Very sorry to see such a statement from Sri Sanjay Lohia. It appears that I need to copy paste my previous comment here:
"It's really funny, even in times of Bhagavan there were also people trying to put him down in so many ways..."
Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman - Patience, Tolerance and Forgiveness
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtN7R8N1nCc

venkat said...

Anonymous, Maya

If I may say so, you are projecting your own prejudices, preferences and need to be 'right' onto Michael.

Michael has not set himself up as a guru, or claimed to be realised. He does say the blog is his OWN musings on Bhagavan's philosophy, based on what he learned from Sadhu Om:
"This blog is a growing archive of articles that I have written from time to time containing my translations of verses and other passages from the writings of Sri Ramana and his closest disciples, particularly Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om, my recordings of some of the explanations that I heard from Sri Sadhu Om, and my own musings about the philosophy, science and art of true self-knowledge as taught by Sri Ramana."

He has disagreed with me (among others) about whether JK and Nisargadatta were saying the same thing as Bhagavan. He never actually commented on whether they were enlightened or not; he simply commented, qualified by what little he had read of them, that they were saying something that was different, or even opposite to what Bhagavan said, and backed up his assertion with quotes from Bhagavan. Similarly with David Godman, he points out why he thinks David has misinterpreted Bhagavan (as David himself says about Sadhu Om) and tries to provide Bhagavan's words to back up his assertion. I have not read Michael use the accusatory language on David or Nisargadatta, that anonymous seems to use on Michael.

My sadhana and self-realisation is up to me and me alone. It is up to me to use my detachment and discrimination to try to understand the reality of the world, myself and its sufferings. I come across Advaita and someone called Ramana, and they articulate a philosophy that makes sense. Then I come across a Michael who tries to explain the nuances of what Ramana taught. Again, I have to use my detachment and discrimination to try to figure out what is true or not, and practice whatever path seems to work / appeal. There are no guarantees. But a blog like this, and a conversation between fellow travellers, even if argumentative in appearance, can help clarify and elucidate, as long as personalities are not involved.

Yes, people maybe lazy by asking questions rather than going back through prior articles to find an answer themselves. And yes, Michael maybe spoon-feeding. So what? Who are you to criticise? If you have reached a stage in your sadhana, that you do not need to read or write - good for you - why impose your preference and views on others, some of whom maybe only starting their journey?

Wittgenstein said...

Mouna,

Many thanks for your comment. I said Bhagavan taught us not to pay attention to appearances. However, I did not say I faithfully follow it. If that teaching is carried out to the fullest extent the on-going investigation would be finished. Since it is not finished, and since investigation and action go hand in hand, action is inevitable till investigation lasts.
I agree with you every occasion calls for different action from our part. So our action is context dependent and our vasana is of course included in that context. In the first context, in the case of the first anonymous friend (now called maya), I did take action, if you have noticed. I went into a very detailed reply and he/she appreciated it. However, what I was trying to express there, I still feel was not really appreciated. I was trying to reconcile his/her statements with that of Michael and trying to show how the superlatives like ‘fastest’ should be read within a context.

In the second context (second anonymous), just like you, I too had a very different feeling and guessed that it was unlike the first. However, I was not abrupt in concluding anything as I was not sure of the exact attitude behind such action. I thought I would wait. Now from the recent comments it is becoming clear to me that he/she does not have disrespect for our Michael. Also, the tone changed from questions to that of imposing his/her own ideas on the guidance during atma vichara, where books and people writing them are relegated to the background and Bhagavan’s grace being brought to the forefront. Although if there is some merit in this argument, we should see that our friend’s arguments can be defeated by his/her own logic. If Bhagavan uses books and people, is it not clear Michael himself, by that logic, an instrument of Bhagavan? If there are many ways, and all ways are correct, then, Michaels’s way is also correct.

Another aspect is the long list of people and their role the second anonymous writes. It should be noted that Michael personally did not go and pick the statement of those people. It is due to some of our friends bringing it here. Naturally, as discussion starts in the blog, as it is run by Michael, he has something to say and he did it, again, as an instrument of Bhagavan. Ultimately, if anonymous understood his/her own logic, he/she should conclude it is much ado about nothing. If nothing, why there was so much excitement and why very particularly Michael is targeted are questions I have. Of course, these are the ones that cannot be asked, as it is like asking thief to catch a policeman. However, the second one did not appear to be in hearing mood, unlike the first one. So, nothing can be said about that.

To summarize, the action is context dependent. In the first case, action was taken. It was partly effective. In the second case, the action was passive. It was internal, in the form of my own manana in understanding the situation. Now my opinions are open, the second anonymous could read my ‘internal’ action.

Mouna said...

Wittgenstein,
Thank you for this clear explanation.

Mouna

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, 'Who?', Michael is our 'Acharya Michael James' and will remain so.

I also agree with Wittgenstein when he writes, 'If Bhagavan uses books and people, is it not clear Michael himself, by that logic, an instrument of Bhagavan? If there are many ways, and all ways are correct, then, Michaels’s way is also correct'. I had also stated this in my earlier comment. Bhagavan has been surely using our Michael to clarify Bhagavan's path and teachings, and in this process if he finds Bhagavan's teachings misinterpreted by others, he just points them out.

Surely he is not fighting an election, in which he has to satisfy all sections of the society. He is conveying to us Bhagavan's teachings, passing on the benefit of his decades of manana, and reading and reflecting on Sri Sadhu Om's and Sri Muruganar's writings/sayings. One should have love for Bhagavan and his path of self-investigation to fully appreciate Michael. Otherwise we may always find fault in his writings. I believe we are too close to Acharya Michael's time to appreciate his worth fully. To me his contribution is no less than a Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Muruganar or Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai (the recorder of Nan Yar?. Regards.

maya said...

I did say that my last post would be my last but as I was sitting, I thought I had to say a few things to Michael since I was the one who started this and some to others
Michael,
a) Even after this tirade if you do choose to write a response, i should atleast have to be courteous enough to read your view after having made you waste your time in responding.
b) I have to thank you for being tolerant enough to allow comments that are seen by many not to be in good tase or disrespectful. You could have easily deleted my comments as well as the ones by Anonymous but you were gracious enough to allow them. I may not always agree with your viewpoints about other practices and other opinions but as far as following self inquiry is concerned, I cannot be more thankful to you and Sadhu Om for explaining it and surprisingly I never had as many questions about the process and always had complete faith in Bhagavan's words that it will lead to the goal in some birth, hopefulyy in this one because I don't want to get into such arguments again ever :-) But I still stick to my opinion that all methods are equally effective.

Venkat,
You said "If I may say so, you are projecting your own prejudices, preferences and need to be 'right' onto Michael. "
Can you show me one person in this blog not having prejudice? If that were true, if indeed no one was filled with doubts or prejudice, not a single line would be written on this blog. At the end of the day and sorry to say a crude saying, "Opinions are like ###holes. Everyone has one" :-) I could equally turn back your accusation against anonymous and me and say you are prejudiced and this could go on and on. But all this is not the purpose.

You said, " I have not read Michael use the accusatory language on David or Nisargadatta, that anonymous seems to use on Michael."
The word "accusatory" depends on the eye of the beholder. Many innocent questions against Michael have been taken as accusatory by some in this blog. It all depends on who's reading. I felt it was accusatory so I said that. Honestly I can go back and find such statements but that is neither my goal at this point nor useful.
You said, "And yes, Michael maybe spoon-feeding. So what? Who are you to criticise?"
Same can be said of you with regard to Anonymous. We had our questions so we asked, so why should it bother you? and again that infinite loop into which it will go on.
You said "My sadhana and self-realisation is up to me and me alone. It is up to me to use my detachment and discrimination to try to understand the reality of the world, myself and its sufferings."

"If you have reached a stage in your sadhana, that you do not need to read or write - good for you - why impose your preference and views on others, some of whom maybe only starting their journey? "
Agree 100%. I have a lot of flaws. I always avoid readin the comments section on the blog and I read only one or two for precisely this reason that my argumentative tendencies will come out but this time I got carried away.

Wittgenstein,
You said, "If Bhagavan uses books and people, is it not clear Michael himself, by that logic, an instrument of Bhagavan? If there are many ways, and all ways are correct, then, Michaels’s way is also correct."
Agreed. It applies to Anonymous's comment as well and he was also Ramana's instrument to open our minds (whether you agree or not or whether its evident immediately or not")

Sivanarul,
I reserve my last reply to you because you are the only one with whom I seem to have more in common even if the paths we have adopted are different, me-self inquiry and devotion and you-devotion.

Will continue

maya said...

Continued...

Finally my biggest takeaway from anonymous personally (again this applies only to me) is emphasizing that I follow Bhagavan's two most famous dictums "Summa irru" and "Vandha velaiya paarru (Attend to the work for which you have come). I hope I don't ever get into such meaningless arguments and instead spend my time in sadhana. Infact everytime I wanted to respond to an argument, had I asked myself, "who wants to respond?" and kept quiet, that would have been the biggest service to Bhagavan.
Good luck with your Sadhana Guys. Hope we all get out of this illusion soon and never meet in another life :-)

Sivanarul said...

With respect to Anonymous latest postings:

“As one gets into Ramana a majority will get into Talks than Ulladu Narpadu. When we are made to read Talks, a few sections will strike us.”

I am one among that majority and value Talks very highly. There are sections in Talks and Day and Day that feels as if Bhagavan is talking directly to me addressing my current concern and spiritual maturity. I have never felt that connection from Ulladu Narpadu, which I look at as sayings from the mountaintop whose truth will become self-evident after one awakens. During Sadhana stage, for a majority of Bhagavan’s devotees, who are in the beginning or middle stage in the path, I found the following as most helpful: Talks, Day by Day, Bhagavan’s actions, Stories of all devotees of Bhagavan that spent time with him, including Lucy Ma, Cohen, Osbourne, Annamalai Swami, Muruganar, Sadhu OM, Kavya Muni, Devaraja Mudaliar and hundreds of others (in no particular order). Can one who had been exposed to fire, escape from being burnt? All these devotees came in close contact to the Jnana Fire of Bhagavan? Can any one of them have really escaped from being burnt/absorbed by Bhagavan?

“He might have made you go to other gurus, in case you could be handled there. Even after he enters there may be other gurus, through them he clarifies some points.”

This is very true in the life of many Bhagavan’s devotees. Sri David Godman followed this and has reported as being very helpful to him. It is very true in my life also. Though I have been exposed to religion and spirituality from early childhood, it is only after knowing Bhagavan, that those understanding matured and sincere Sadhana began. It is my firm belief that there is only one Reality/Guru that guides us at different stages of our maturity to different Guru teachings. It is that one reality that teaches us as Bhagavan, Patanjali, Swami Sivananda, Sri Ramakrisha, Swami Vivekananda, 63 Nayanmar saints, 12 alwars, Vallalar, Pattinathar, Arunagirinathar, Pamban Swamigal, Thayumana Swamigal and thousands of others. When we turn our attention to any of these teachings, we are not letting our attention scattered in all directions. In the beginning and middle, egaGrata means turning away from the world from all unnecessary things. If one or more of these teachings helps us towards that, then it is egaGrata.

Sivanarul said...

It is unfortunate that much of the feedback to what Anonymous and Maya wrote, is being taken as disrespectful to Michael. I don’t think it is. It is very blunt, for sure. All of us value and respect Michael’s lifelong commitment to Bhagavan and his singular aim to help explain Bhagavan’s teachings and as anonymous said without making any money from it. If we can look through the bluntness of Anonymous and Maya, what we will find is a keen desire to make Michael’s writings to be available to many more readers that it is currently serving. Many of Bhagavan’s devotees are very fond of David Godman and other devotees that lived during Bhagavan’s times. Any disparaging comments on them, even if meant in the right spirit, really turns many people off and reduces the value of Michael’s main message of focusing on the ‘I’.

The spiritual path is very different than materialistic path, in that it requires very high degree of tolerance, forgiveness and compassion. If one expert on the path criticizes another expert on the path publicly for minor different interpretations, then it reflects poorly on the expert who criticizes. I am not saying that one should completely ignore misleading interpretations, but a very high degree of latitude needs to be given before criticism. The same logic can be applied to other spiritual paths as well. If one is going to discredit Patanjali Yoga which is a rock solid system for Moksha, one needs to give a very high degree of latitude before criticism because Patajali is none other than Bhagavan (as that one reality).

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

The paths we adopted are very similar. I also practice self-enquiry (very very less though). But at this stage of sadhana, I feel I need to work on Prathayara first. I am at the stage of SivaJanaBotham 8’th sutra where the guru has come and instructed that I do not belong to the senses but to Ishvara. However due to long association of ‘I’ with the senses, it is not easy to withdraw the mind from the senses. So my practice (other than Parayana and Meditation) has been to slowly but steadily withdraw the mind from everything other than work, family, friends and sadhana (I consider writing on this blog to be part of Sadhana).

Please reconsider your decision about not posting anymore. I think Summa Iru happens naturally at a very advanced stage. If you are already there, then that’s fine. If you are not there, I think participating in the blog is very helpful to some of us. Your quotes from various saints is very helpful. The mind needs to hear the message repeatedly quoted in different ways to first attain manolaya before it can even fathom manonasa. I think Bhagavan’s message of “do the work you came for” was made in the context of being involved in ashram politics than Sadhana. It does not apply to discussions of Spirituality. We cannot be sitting in Sadhana the whole day, unless the practice has advanced to a very high level.

Wittgenstein said...

Maya,

You are right in saying everyone has prejudice. Yes, as long as ego persists it is bound to be there. May be in someone like Michael it is at insignificant level, compared to most of us. You are also right when you say my argument could be turned around by anonymous in his/her (I will stick to he/his for convenience) favour.

In view of the above considerations, if I try to minimize my prejudices and break the vicious circle at me without passing it on to anonymous, I would say he has a couple of points. It appears to me he learnt atma vichara by reading Talks (and hence according to him books and people are secondary as his emphasis is heavily on Bhagavan’s grace) and thinks once the technique is learnt, all time should be invested in to the practice keeping all reading and discussions to nil (or at least to as minimum as possible). Both these can be accepted as possibilities in someone’s experience, although it may not be in most of the cases.

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