Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Why do I believe that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate the illusion that we are this ego?

In a comment on my previous article, Thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, an anonymous friend asked me ‘a couple of blunt and direct questions’, so this article is my response to those questions and also to some of the other comments on that article.
  1. Questioning is the means to develop clarity of understanding and depth of conviction
  2. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 33: it is ridiculous to say either ‘I do not know myself’ or ‘I have known myself’
  3. Which kind of sat-saṅga is more efficacious: physical or mental?
  4. Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai verse 44: to see ourself, we must turn back and look at ourself
  5. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 22: unless we turn within to look at ourself, how can we see what we actually are?
  6. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we seem to be this ego
  7. Distinguishing what is necessarily true from what is contingently true
  8. Will ātma-vicāra work for everyone?
  9. Ātma-vicāra is a guaranteed means to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and eventually annihilate our ego
  10. What Bhagavan said about the English terms ‘realise’ and ‘realisation’
  11. How I became convinced about the imperative need for ātma-vicāra
  12. How can we curtail and eventually destroy all desire for praise?
  13. Why do I consider it necessary to repudiate ideas that deviate from Bhagavan’s actual teachings?
  14. How can we practise ātma-vicāra in the midst of other activities?
  15. Why did Bhagavan teach us that manōlaya is not a spiritually beneficial state?
1. Questioning is the means to develop clarity of understanding and depth of conviction

Before asking his questions, this anonymous friend (whom I will henceforth refer to as Maya, since this is the pseudonym that he used in many of his later comments, and whom I will assume to be male, since for some reason most of the friends writing comments on this blog happen to be so) prefaced them with some introductory remarks, one of which was that he had been trying to practise self-enquiry for the past few years, and another of which was to assure me that his intention in asking his questions was not to be presumptuous or disrespectful, to which he added: ‘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’.

Since I do not expect or deserve any particular respect to be shown to me (other than the normal level of respect that I believe we should show to everyone, no matter how much we may disagree with them or consider their behaviour to be wrong), I generally do not consider any questions that I am asked to be presumptuous or disrespectful. Provided that they are asked with a genuine intention to learn or at least to impartially consider alternative points of view, I am happy to try to answer any questions related to Bhagavan’s teachings that anyone likes to ask me.

During the years I spent in Sadhu Om’s company, I used to question him relentlessly about every aspect of Bhagavan’s teachings in order to understand more clearly what he had meant and why he had said so. Sadhu Om sometimes told me that none of his Indian friends would question him in such a way, and that though they were too polite to say so, some of them felt that constantly questioning Bhagavan’s teachings as I did was presumptuous and disrespectful, because they had been brought up in a culture in which the teachings of a sage like Bhagavan are generally accepted with unquestioning faith, but that he was happy that I asked so many questions, because that is the way to do manana (deep reflection on the guru’s teachings) and thereby to gain clarity of understanding and depth of conviction.

Of course to gain clarity of understanding and depth of conviction we need to ask questions not only outwardly to others but also inwardly to ourself (which is where real manana must be constantly going on), and above all we need to try as much as possible to practise what Bhagavan has taught us, because abundant clarity is always available within us as our own pure self-awareness, so by being self-attentive we are imbibing clarity directly from its original source. However, until we succeed in melting and merging entirely in the absolute clarity of pure self-awareness, we can continue to nourish our inward development of clarity and conviction by constantly considering and reflecting deeply on his teachings with an enquiring attitude of mind. On the level of manana our enquiry must take the form of deep questioning of the meaning, import and implications of his teachings, whereas on the level of nididhyāsana (contemplation) it must take the form of keen self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which is the practice of being vigilantly self-attentive.

2. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 33: it is ridiculous to say either ‘I do not know myself’ or ‘I have known myself’

Another introductory remark with which Maya prefaced his question was: ‘I don’t know if you have realized your self. If you have, […] my questions are a moot point’. I understand why he made this remark in the context of the questions he later asked me, but it does seem to imply that only those who claim to have ‘realized’ or experienced what they actually are qualified to make any claims about the means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are. If this were the case, it would then be necessary for us to ask how we can know whether or not any other person has actually experienced what they actually are.

Since there are no outward signs by which we could know for certain what any other person’s inward experience of themself is, we would presumably have to depend on whatever they may claim to be their experience, but according to Bhagavan if any person claims to have experienced what they actually are, that is a ‘ground for ridicule’, as he says in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
என்னை யறியேனா னென்னை யறிந்தேனா
னென்ன னகைப்புக் கிடனாகு — மென்னை
தனைவிடய மாக்கவிரு தானுண்டோ வொன்றா
யனைவரனு பூதியுண்மை யால்.

eṉṉai yaṟiyēṉā ṉeṉṉai yaṟindēṉā
ṉeṉṉa ṉahaippuk kiḍaṉāhu — meṉṉai
taṉaiviḍaya mākkaviru tāṉuṇḍō voṉḏṟā
yaṉaivaraṉu bhūtiyuṇmai yāl
.

பதச்சேதம்: ‘என்னை அறியேன் நான்’, ‘என்னை அறிந்தேன் நான்’ என்னல் நகைப்புக்கு இடன் ஆகும். என்னை? தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘eṉṉai aṟiyēṉ nāṉ’, ‘eṉṉai aṟindēṉ nāṉ’ eṉṉal nahaippukku iḍaṉ āhum. eṉṉai? taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl.

அன்வயம்: ‘நான் என்னை அறியேன்’, ‘நான் என்னை அறிந்தேன்’ என்னல் நகைப்புக்கு இடன் ஆகும். என்னை? தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஒன்றாய்; ஆல்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ‘nāṉ eṉṉai aṟiyēṉ’, ‘nāṉ eṉṉai aṟindēṉ’ eṉṉal nahaippukku iḍaṉ āhum. eṉṉai? taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai oṉḏṟu āy; āl.

English translation: Saying ‘I do not know myself’ [or] ‘I have known myself’ is ground for ridicule [or derision]. Why? To make oneself an object known, are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience.
What Bhagavan clearly implies in this verse is that if anyone says ‘I have known myself’ or ‘I have realised myself’, they are displaying their self-ignorance no less than others who say ‘I do not know myself’. In fact, anyone who claims ‘I have realised myself’ is arguably more self-deluded than those who have the humility to admit ‘I have not realised myself’, because what can make any claim such as ‘I have realised myself’ is only an ego and not what we really are (our actual self), since in the view of what we really are what exists in only ourself.

The reason why it is ridiculous to say either ‘I do not know myself’ or ‘I have known myself’ is explained by Bhagavan in the second half of this verse. Since we are only one, we can never become a விடயம் (viḍayam) — a viṣaya or object — known by ourself, so what is called ātma-jñāna (self-knowledge or ‘self-realisation’) is simply self-awareness, and hence since we are always aware of ourself, we always know ourself. Therefore self-knowledge is not something that we can ever newly attain or attain only in future, but is what we always experience.

However, though we always experience self-awareness or self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna), we are now aware of ourself as a body and consequently as a person, and this awareness of ourself as a body is what is called ‘ego’. Since this ego is a temporary phenomenon that we experience only in waking and dream but not in sleep, it is not what we actually are, so as long as we are aware of ourself as this ego we are not aware of ourself as we actually are. Therefore to be aware of ourself as we actually are we need to eradicate this illusion that we are this ego, and since this ego is a confused awareness of ourself (an awareness of ourself confused with a body), we can eradicate it only by being aware of ourself as we actually are, in complete isolation from even the slightest awareness of a body or anything else other than ourself alone.

Therefore when we know, experience or ‘realise’ ourself as we actually are, we will not be aware of anything other than ourself (as Bhagavan says in verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), so there will then be no separate ‘I’ to say ‘I have known myself’ or ‘I have realised myself’, nor will there be any other person to whom we could say this. Therefore if any person claims ‘I have realised myself’, they are demonstrating their self-ignorance, because in the view of our actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which alone experiences ourself as we actually are, nothing other pure self-awareness or self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) has ever existed or ever could exist.

The ātma-jñāni is nothing other than ātma-jñāna itself, which alone actually exists, so in the view of the ātma-jñāni there is no such thing as ajñāna or self-ignorance, nor are there any others who could be self-ignorant. This is why when a devotee once praised Bhagavan saying his realisation was unparalleled in the spiritual history of the world, he replied: ‘What is real in me is real in you and in everyone else. Where is the room for any difference or distinction?’

Therefore, since the ātma-jñāni will not say ‘I have realised myself’, how are we to recognise who is an ātma-jñāni? So long as we are unable to recognise the ātma-jñāna that always shines within us as our own self, we will not be able to recognise ātma-jñāna in anyone else, so there is no infallible means by which we can recognise who is or is not an ātma-jñāni. This is clearly explained by Sadhu Om in his poem யார் ஞானி? (yār jñāni?: Who is a Jñāni?), a translation of which I gave in one of my earlier articles, Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person? (in which I also cited verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār, verses 13, 26, 31 and 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and verses 31 and 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham).

When devotees asked Bhagavan how one can recognise who is an ātma-jñāni, he would sometimes reply: ‘There is only one ātma-jñāni, and that is you’ (alluding to the mahāvākya or great statement ‘tat tvam asi’, which mean ‘that is you’). He would also explain that unless one can recognise oneself as the ātma-jñāni, one cannot recognise any one else as an ātma-jñāni, and that when one does recognise oneself as the ātma-jñāni, one will find that there are no others, because what actually exists is only oneself.

Does this mean then that so long as we seem to be self-ignorant there is no way in which we can recognise who is an ātma-jñāni? Are we therefore not justified in believing that Bhagavan himself is an ātma-jñāni? Obviously there is no infallible means by which we can know who is an ātma-jñāni, but there is one means by which we can infer that someone like Bhagavan is an ātma-jñāni, and that is from his or her teachings. When we read Bhagavan’s teachings, many of us are convinced very quickly that he had experienced all that he taught and was therefore an ātma-jñāni, and when we study his teachings more deeply and try to practise them our conviction becomes progressively stronger, leaving us in no doubt whatsoever that at least he is an ātma-jñāni and hence a perfectly reliable guru whose teachings we can follow with complete confidence.

If he had never given any teachings, either orally or in writing, most of us would never have heard of him, and even if we had heard of him, all we would know was that he was a kind and gentle person who lived a saintly life. From that we could not infer reliably that he was an ātma-jñāni, because being kind and gentle and living a saintly life does not necessarily mean that one is an ātma-jñāni, since even an ajñāni (a self-ignorant person) can be kind and gentle and live a saintly life. Therefore it is only because of his teachings that we are able to be reasonably sure that Bhagavan is an ātma-jñāni.

However Maya was not questioning whether or not Bhagavan is an ātma-jñāni, but whether or not I am. Though I may be able to write about his teachings and explain them reasonably clearly (whether or not others agree with my explanations), this obviously does not mean that I am an ātma-jñāni, because what I explain is based largely upon what I have learnt by studying his teachings, reflecting on them and trying to practise them.

Whenever anyone asks me whether I am self-realised, or say that they believe I am self-realised, I do not hesitate to tell them that I am just an ordinary aspirant trying to follow Bhagavan’s teachings as much as I can, and that just because I am to some extent able to explain his teachings, no one should infer that I am any more advanced in my practice than anyone else who is likewise trying to follow his teachings. I also admit that I still seem to have very strong viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or desires to experience things other than myself), so I do not yet have sufficient love or bhakti to hold firmly on to being attentively self-aware as much as I should, and hence like most other aspirants I am struggling to apply effectively all that I have learnt from Bhagavan’s teachings. This does not mean that I am not trying (albeit not hard enough), but only that I have not yet succeeded in surrendering myself entirely, and I have no idea when sufficient love will rise in me to do so.

Admitting that — from the perspective of myself as this ego that I now seem to be — I have not yet experienced what I actually am is no doubt ‘நகைப்புக்கு இடன்’ (nahaippukku iḍaṉ) or a ‘ground for ridicule [or derision]’, as Bhagavan says in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I cited above at the beginning of this section), but faced with the choice between being either honestly ridiculous by admitting ‘I do not know myself’ or dishonestly ridiculous by claiming ‘I have known myself’, I prefer to be ridiculed for being honest. I am sufficiently self-deluded and dishonest already, because as an ego I am a self-deluded fraud (an imposter pretending to be what I am not), so I do not want to be even more self-deluded and dishonest by claiming ‘I am self-realised’.

If admitting my self-ignorance disqualifies me from making any claims about the unique efficacy of the path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) that Bhagavan has taught us, as Maya seems to think, so be it. However, as I will explain in more detail later in reply to his first question (in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sections), I believe that I am justified in claiming that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate the illusion that we are this ego, not only because this is what Bhagavan has taught us, but also because he has explained to us in clear, simple and impeccably logical terms why it is so. Therefore unless any of us can find fault with his logic, which I certainly cannot do, there does not seem to be any alternative but to accept what he taught us in this regard.

3. Which kind of sat-saṅga is more efficacious: physical or mental?

Since I have been discussing the subject of how one can recognise who is an ātma-jñāni, in this context I would like to mention one other related subject that has been discussed in the comments on my previous article, namely the power of the presence of an ātma-jñāni (which is generally understood to mean their physical presence rather than just their eternal presence within us as our own real self) and sat-saṅga more generally. Many comments referred either directly or indirectly to the efficacy of being in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni (as can be found by searching that article for the word ‘presence’), and in several comments it was implied that being in such a presence is a more effective means to annihilate one’s ego than practising self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

In reply to one such comment a friend called Sanjay wrote a comment in which he said that he had once asked David Godman, ‘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?’, to which David replied, ‘Unfortunately I do not know any jnani who is willing to meet people’. If the physical presence of a jñāni is required to annihilate one’s ego, or if it is at least a powerful aid, one would expect that any real jñāni — being egoless and hence an embodiment of infinite and unconditional love — would be willing to meet anyone at any time, as Bhagavan always was, so it seems strange that any person who is unwilling to meet people is nevertheless considered to be an ātma-jñāni.

Sanjay ended his comment saying, ‘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’, to which the anonymous friend to whom he had replied wrote another comment saying that Bhagavan is a rarity, so we should not generalise from his case. I therefore wrote the following comment in reply to both of the comments written by this anonymous friend:
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 replied to this in another comment, to which I replied:
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 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 [destiny or fate] 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.
If any devotee of Bhagavan feels the need for a physical form of sat-saṅga, he has clearly indicated that such sat-saṅga is always available to us in the physical presence of Arunachala, and for those of us who are not able to be in that presence, he has also indicated (through many of the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam and elsewhere) that thinking of Arunachala is an even more powerful aid in our effort to annihilate our ego than just being in its physical presence. Since he referred to Arunachala explicitly as the form of his guru (in verse 19 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai), and since (in verse 10 of Śrī Aruṇācala Padikam) he explained how it works in the mind of those who have thought of it even once to draw them inwards to face itself (who exists within each of us as our own real self), thereby consuming their ego as a sacrificial offering, if we trust his words, understanding them to be an expression of his own experience, we need not doubt the tremendous potency of Arunachala, and we should not imagine that being in the physical presence of Arunachala is in any way less efficacious than being the physical presence of Bhagavan himself.

While talking about the unique power of Arunachala to turn our mind inwards and thereby annihilate our ego, Bhagavan often used to quote one of the verses of Tirujnanasambandhar in which he praises Arunachala as ‘ஞானத் திரளாய் நின்ற பெருமான்’ (ñāṉa-t-tiraḷāy niṉḏṟa perumāṉ), which means ‘the great Lord who stands as a dense mass of jñāna’, so if we feel the need to be in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni, we need search no further than Arunachala, who is jñāna-svarūpa (the ‘own form’ or embodiment of jñāna) itself. If instead we believe that being in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni in human form is in some way more efficacious than being in the physical presence of Arunachala, we would be faced with the problem of having no reliable means by which we can recognise who is actually an ātma-jñāni.

There are many people who claim to be an ātma-jñāni, including several who also claim to be disciples of Bhagavan, but according to what Bhagavan taught us in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I cited and discussed the previous section) claiming oneself to be an ātma-jñāni is ‘நகைப்புக்கு இடன்’ (nahaippukku iḍaṉ), a ‘ground for ridicule [or derision]’. As a Tamil proverb says, ‘கண்டவர் விண்டில்லை; விண்டவர் கண்டில்லை’ (kaṇḍavar viṇḍillai; viṇḍavar kaṇḍillai), which means ‘those who have seen do not say [or open their mouth]; those who say [or open their mouth] have not seen’. Therefore we should be sceptical about anyone who claims ‘I have known [or realised] myself’.

How then can we reliably ascertain who is an ātma-jñāni? If we should not trust anyone who claims themself to be an ātma-jñāni, can we trust anyone who claims that someone else is an ātma-jñāni? In the view of the ātma-jñāni there is no such thing as ajñāna (self-ignorance) and hence there are no ajñānis (people who are self-ignorant), so an ātma-jñāni would not say, ‘This person is an ātma-jñāni, and those people are ajñānis’. Therefore anyone who claims that someone else is an ātma-jñāni is presumably an ajñāni, because only ajñānis see any difference between an ajñāni and an ātma-jñāni. Hence, since no other ajñāni can have any better means than we have to recognise who is actually an ātma-jñāni, we obviously cannot trust anyone who claims that someone else is an ātma-jñāni.

Therefore if we begin speculating about who is or is not an ātma-jñāni, we would be entering very uncertain territory, and hence we would be liable to delude and mislead ourself. Though being in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni can be very beneficial, it is very rare to find an ātma-jñāni like Bhagavan about whose ātma-jñāna there is little scope for doubt. As I argued in the previous section, a certain unique and original quality about his teachings is a compelling reason for us to believe that he had experienced the essence of all that he taught us and that he is therefore an ātma-jñāni, but it is very rare to find an ātma-jñāni whose teachings have such a quality and whose ātma-jñāna we therefore have such a compelling reason to believe.

There are no doubt many others who may perhaps be ātma-jñānis, but we have no means of knowing for certain that they are actually ātma-jñānis. Therefore even if we believe in the efficacy of being in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni, any belief that we may have that a certain person is an ātma-jñāni will generally not be very reliable and could therefore be incorrect. Hence, if we want to be in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni, the safest and surest option would be to spend time in the physical presence of Arunachala and the shrine where Bhagavan’s human form is interred.

However, as I argued above, being in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni such as Arunachala or Bhagavan is not the only form of sat-saṅga that is available to us. सत् (sat) means being, existing, existence, what exists, what is real, reality or truth, and संग (saṁga) or सङ्ग (saṅga) means clinging to, joining, contacting, contact, association or attachment, so सत्संग (sat-saṁga) or सत्सङ्ग (sat-saṅga) means clinging to or contact with what actually exists or what is real. Since what actually exists is only our own self (ātma-svarūpa), as Bhagavan says in the first sentence of seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (‘யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே’ (yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē): ‘what actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa’), the best and most direct form of sat-saṅga is only ātma-saṅga, which means clinging to oneself or being tenaciously self-attentive.

However, since an ātma-jñāni such as Bhagavan is a person who has merged in and become one with ātma-svarūpa, thereby ceasing to be a person (even though still seeming to be a person in the self-ignorant view of an ajñāni), he or she is not actually the human form that they seem to be but is only sat itself, and hence their human form is an embodiment of sat. Therefore associating or having contact in any way with such an ātma-jñāni is also an indirect form of sat-saṅga. Likewise, since Arunachala is an embodiment of sat in the form of a hill, associating or having contact in any way with Arunachala is another form of sat-saṅga.

Association or contact with Arunachala or with an ātma-jñāni in human form such as Bhagavan can either be mental or physical. Therefore being in the physical presence of Arunachala or an ātma-jñāni is a physical form of sat-saṅga, whereas thinking of them or of the teachings that they have given us is a mental form of sat-saṅga. Of these two forms of form of sat-saṅga, which is the most efficacious? As Bhagavan indicated in verse 4 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and as he indicated still more directly in his reply to the lady who lamented that she had not been able to see him for several days, mental sat-saṅga is more efficacious than physical sat-saṅga, because we can be in the physical presence of Arunachala or an ātma-jñāni but our mind can be dwelling on other matters, so as he said to that lady, it is better to be away from his physical presence but thinking of him than it would be to be in his physical presence but thinking of other things unrelated to him or what he has taught us.

Some people imagine that it is necessary to be in the physical presence of a ‘living guru’ or ātma-jñāni in human form, because only then can he or she transmit their grace by means of their silence, look or touch, but this is a mistaken belief, because the grace, power and silence of an ātma-jñāni is in no way limited to the lifetime of his or her body or to his or her physical presence, look or touch, since the ātma-jñāni is not just the body that it temporarily seems to be but the one eternal and infinite reality, which always exists and shines within us as our own actual self. Therefore we can never actually be away from the presence of the ātma-jñāni, and its grace, power and silence are never unavailable to us. What seems to separate us from the ātma-jñāni, who is our own self or ātma-svarūpa, is only the out-going attention of our mind, and our mind can be (and almost certainly will be) out-going even in the physical presence of an ātma-jñāni in human form, so to avail ourself fully of the silence and grace of the ātma-jñāni we need to turn our attention back within, towards ourself alone, because only by meditating on ourself are we meditating the true form of the ātma-jñāni and thereby bathing in the real look of its silent grace.

If ever or whenever it would be beneficial for us to be in the physical presence of Arunachala or an ātma-jñāni Bhagavan will provide for that need in our destiny (prārabdha), which he has allotted according to whatever will be most beneficial for our spiritual development. In the note that he wrote for his mother in December 1898 he said:
அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன். என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று.

avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ. eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu. iduvē tiṇṇam. āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu.

According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to act [that is, according to the destiny (prārabdha) of each person, he who is for that (namely God or guru, who ordains their destiny) being in the heart of each of them will make them act]. 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.
Since we cannot alter what Bhagavan has destined for us to experience in this life, we cannot choose whether or for how long we will have the opportunity to be in the physical presence of Arunachala or an ātma-jñāni, so as a general rule we should not concern ourself with such matters, but should instead focus all our interest and attention on trying to be self-attentive (which is what he meant in this note by ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai): ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’) or at least thinking about him and his teachings as much as possible. If we spend as much time as we can either trying to be self-attentive or thinking about him and his teachings, we would be having as much sat-saṅga as we need, so we need not dissipate our energy and attention seeking sat-saṅga elsewhere or speculating (with no guarantee of judging correctly) about who is or is not an ātma-jñāni in whose physical presence we could derive the benefit of physical sat-saṅga.

4. Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai verse 44: to see ourself, we must turn back and look at ourself

After this digression I will now begin to answer the ‘blunt and direct questions’ that I was asked by Maya (the anonymous friend whose comment I referred to at the beginning of this article). His first question was: ‘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?’

The claim that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is the direct path for everyone was made not by me but by Bhagavan himself in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in the last line of which he declared, ‘மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது’ (mārggam nēr ārkkum idu), which means ‘This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone’. Likewise the claim that it is the best and most effective of all paths was made not by me but by Bhagavan himself in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in the last line of which he declared that it is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), which means ‘the best [foremost, highest, greatest or most excellent] among all’.

Similar unequivocal claims about the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra were made by Adi Sankara. For example, in verses 11 to 13 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi he explained that actions (karmas) are only a means to purify one’s mind and not to attain (knowledge of) the vastu (the real substance, which is only our own self), which can be attained only by means of vicāra (investigating, examining, inspecting or keenly observing that vastu), just as the fear caused by an illusory snake can be obliterated only by inspecting it and thereby seeing that it is just a rope. He also implied the same in verses 31 and 32, in which he said that among all the means to mōkṣa (liberation) bhakti (love or devotion) alone is the foremost, and that what is called bhakti is self-investigation (svasvarūpānusandhānam) or investigating the truth of oneself (svātma-tattvānusandhānam).

However, though we may not yet have experienced the full benefit of ātma-vicāra, in order to accept what Bhagavan and Sankara taught us about it and to confidently reiterate what they claimed about its directness and unique efficacy we do not have to depend on mere faith in their words, because Bhagavan has explained to us in clear and logical terms why such claims must be true. In this and the next few sections I will point out and discuss several of the compelling explanations that we can understand from studying his teachings.

One of the simplest and most compelling explanations that he gave us is this: unless we look at ourself directly, we will not be able to see what we actually are. This is an expression of a general principle that we can all understand both from our own experience and from simple logic: in order to see anything, we must look at it.

For example, though I have seen many pictures of the Statue of Liberty, I have never seen the statue itself, because I have never been in New York. Even if I were in New York within sight of it, I would not be able to see it unless I looked at it. If I were looking elsewhere, or if I had my eyes closed, I would not see it.

Being within sight of the Statue of Liberty is like being self-aware. Though we are always self-aware, we cannot see what we actually are unless we look at ourself attentively. Looking elsewhere instead of at the statue is like our usual condition in waking or dream: though we are aware of ourself, we generally do not look at or attend to ourself, because we are more interested in being aware of other things, so we spend most of our time looking at or attending to whatever else we are interested in. Facing the statue but with my eyes closed is like our condition in sleep or any other state of manōlaya (temporary dissolution or subsidence of mind): though we are still aware of ourself, we are not looking at ourself attentively, because our mind’s eye (our attention or mental gaze) is then closed. In order to see what we actually are, we must turn our gaze towards ourself in waking or dream, when our mind’s eye is wide open.

Another example is that though I have often been out in the open under the midday tropical sun, I have never seen it directly, because I have never looked at it directly. I may have seen it obliquely, out of the corner of my eye, such as when looking up at a bird flying in the sky, but I have not seen it directly and clearly, because I have always averted my eyes away from it. Likewise, I have never seen myself directly, because I have always averted my mind’s eye away from myself. I have often tried to look at myself, but I have always done so more or less obliquely, because I have never looked at myself so intently that I have been aware only of myself and of nothing else whatsoever.

If I had once looked at the midday tropical sun directly and intently, I would have been blinded by its intensely bright light and would never have been able to see anything else again. Likewise, if I had once looked at myself directly and intently, my mind’s eye would have been blinded by the intensely bright light of pure self-awareness, and thus I would have dissolved in it and would never again rise as an ego (and hence would never be able to see anything other than myself again).

So long as we continue to avert our gaze (our mind’s eye or attention) away from ourself, we will not be able to see what we actually are, and hence we will continue to suffer under the illusion that we are this ego. Whatever other type of spiritual practice we may do, we will still be maintaining this illusion, because every type of spiritual practice other than ātma-vicāra entails attending to something other than ourself, and therefore it requires an ego (a separate ‘I’) to attend to that other thing. An ego is also required to practise ātma-vicāra, but whereas in ātma-vicāra we are trying to attend intently only to ourself and are thereby undermining the very foundation of our ego (since this ego can stand only on the foundation of being aware of anything other than itself), in any other type of spiritual practice we are attending to something other than ourself and are thereby sustaining our ego (since the illusion that we are this ego will remain so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, and will dissolve only when we are attentively aware of ourself alone).

This is not to say that practising other types of spiritual practice is of no use. There are no doubt many benefits that we can gain from doing such practices, such as purification of our mind (that is, cleansing it to some extent of its grosser desires and attachments), but ultimately we must try to look at ourself alone, because only by looking at ourself directly, intently and exclusively will we be able to see what we actually are and thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego. This is why Adi Sankara said in verse 11 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi that actions (karmas) are only a means to purify one’s mind, and that not by any amount of action but only by vicāra can one experience what is real, and why Bhagavan said in verses 2 and 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār that karma will not give liberation, but if done for the love of God without desire for any personal gain it will purify one’s mind and thereby show (or enable one to recognise) the way, path or means to liberation (which he elsewhere explained is only ātma-vicāra).

The more keenly and intently we attend to ourself, the more our ego and mind will subside, since they can rise and be active only by attending to anything other than ourself, so ātma-vicāra is not an activity or action (karma) but only a cessation or subsidence of all activity. Attending to anything other than ourself, on the other hand, is an activity or action (karma), because it entails a movement of our attention or mind away from ourself towards some other thing. Therefore, since any kind of spiritual practice other than ātma-vicāra entails attending to something other than ourself, all such practices are karmas, either of mind, speech or body, and hence according to both Bhagavan and Sankara they may be a means to purify one’s mind and thereby to prepare one for the practice of ātma-vicāra, but none of them can be a direct means by which we can see what we actually are.

To see what we actually are, we just need to look at ourself, and looking at ourself is what is called ātma-vicāra: self-investigation or self-attentiveness. If our mind has been thoroughly prepared, either by persistently trying to practise ātma-vicāra or by means of any other mind-purifying spiritual practice, such as bhakti in the form of one-pointed devotion to God, we will be able to see what we actually are by looking at ourself intently for just a single moment, as Bhagavan did when he was overcome with an intense fear of death at the age of sixteen and therefore turned his gaze inwards to see whether he was something that would die with the inevitable death of the body.

Having experienced what he actually is by means of a single moment of intense ātma-vicāra, Bhagavan knew that it is the ‘direct path for everyone’ and that it alone is sufficient, and hence he taught us that if we persistently try to practise ātma-vicāra no other spiritual practice is necessary. Therefore, though he never discouraged anyone from practising any other kind of spiritual practice that they felt drawn towards, he gently encouraged everyone who asked him about such matters to practise ātma-vicāra, and he explained in numerous ways that it is the only direct means by which we can see what we actually are, and hence that whatever other spiritual practice we may do we must sooner or later practise ātma-vicāra by turning our attention back towards ourself alone.

In verse 44 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai Bhagavan expressed what he had been taught in silence by his own guru, Arunachala, and the words he used to express this are: ‘திரும்பி அகம் தனை தினம் அகக்கண் காண்; தெரியும்’ (tirumbi aham taṉai diṉam aha-k-kaṇ kāṇ; ṭeriyum), which literally means ‘Turning back inside, see yourself daily with the inner eye [or an inward look]; it will be known’, and which implies that in order to see ourself, we must turn back and look at ourself persistently until we see what we actually are.

திரும்பி (tirumbi) means turning or turning back, and in this context implies turning one’s inner gaze or attention. அகம் (aham) has two meanings, either of which can be appropriate in this context, because it is both a word of Tamil origin that means inside or within and a word of Sanskrit origin that means ‘I’. If we take it to mean inside or within, திரும்பி அகம் (tirumbi aham) is an adverbial clause meaning ‘turning within’ or ‘turning back inside’, whereas if we take it to mean ‘I’, it is joined to the next word, தனை (taṉai), to form a compound word, அகந்தனை (ahandaṉai), in which the suffix தனை (taṉai) serves as an accusative case maker, so அகந்தனை (ahandaṉai) would be an accusative case form of ‘I’, and would therefore grammatically stand as the direct object of the imperative verb காண் (kāṇ), which means ‘see’ or ‘look at’.

As we have seen, if it is joined to அகம் (aham), தனை (taṉai) is an accusative case maker, but if அகம் (aham) is taken to be a separate word meaning inside or within, தனை (taṉai) is an accusative case form of தான் (tāṉ), which is a generic pronoun meaning ‘oneself’ or in this context ‘yourself’, since it would then be the direct object of the imperative verb காண் (kāṇ). Therefore, just as ‘அகந்தனை காண்’ (ahandaṉai kāṇ) means ‘look at [or see] I’, ‘தனை காண்’ (taṉai kāṇ) means ‘look at [or see] yourself’, so the sense in which we interpret அகம் (aham) and தனை (taṉai) — whether as two separate words or a single compound word — does not in any way alter the meaning clearly intended by Bhagavan, namely that we should look at and see ourself or our ‘I’, because the first person pronoun ‘I’ refers only to ourself.

The next word, தினம் (diṉam), is in this context an adverb that literally means ‘daily’, but which here implies incessantly or perpetually, because in order to succeed in seeing what we actually are we must try persistently to look at ourself or be self-attentive. அகக்கண் (aha-k-kaṇ) means ‘inner eye’ or ‘mind’s eye’, so it implies ‘attention’, and thus in this context it indicates that our inner eye or attention is the instrument by which we must look at and see ourself. In his explanatory paraphrase (poṙippurai) of this verse Sri Muruganar interprets அகக்கண் (aha-k-kaṇ) as ‘அகமுகப் பார்வையால்’ (ahamukha-p-pārvaiyāl), which means ‘by an inward [or ‘I’-ward] facing look’, which is an appropriate interpretation because our inner eye or attention must obviously be facing towards ourself in order for us to see what we actually are.

Thus ‘திரும்பி அகம் தனை தினம் அகக்கண் காண்’ (tirumbi aham taṉai diṉam aha-k-kaṇ kāṇ) means ‘turning within [or turning back inside], look at [or see] yourself [or your ‘I’] daily [or incessantly] with [your] inner eye [your attention or your inward-facing look]’, and to this imperative statement Bhagavan adds an assurance, using the single-word clause ‘தெரியும்’ (ṭeriyum), which means ‘it will be known’, ‘it will be seen’ or ‘it will be clearly cognised’, thereby implying that by persistently turning within and trying to look at ourself we will eventually come to see what we actually are.

Since what we aim to see, know or experience directly is only ourself as we actually are, simple logic demands that the only direct means by which we can thus see ourself is by persistently attempting to look at ourself until we succeed in seeing clearly what we actually are. If instead we look in any other direction, we may derive certain other benefits such as the purification of our mind, but we will not be able to see ourself directly until and unless we look at ourself directly, so Bhagavan very kindly and compassionately advised us that rather than practising looking in any other direction, we should instead practise looking directly at ourself from the very outset.

Being an embodiment of infinite love and compassion (karuṇā), he did not force this advice on anyone who did not want to listen to it, but to all who were willing to listen he repeated this advice frequently (as we can see by reading any of the books that more or less accurately record conversations that he had with devotees and visitors, such as Maharshi’s Gospel, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan), and in his own original writings such as Nāṉ Yār?, Upadēśa Undiyār, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and many of his other verses, including some in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, he not only expressed this advice in numerous ways but also clearly explained why he gave such advice.

Having closely studied his original writings and most of the available records of what he taught orally, and having considered them all carefully and deeply for many years while also trying my feeble best to practise what he advised, I am so firmly convinced by his clear and impeccably logical explanations that I consider myself justified in claiming that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can see or experience what we actually are. In claiming this, I do not mean to imply that no other kind of spiritual practice is in any way beneficial, and I have certainly never said so, but though I accept that one can derive many important benefits by doing other forms of spiritual practice, I firmly believe and therefore claim that all such real benefits can be derived equally well by practising ātma-vicāra (as Bhagavan points out, for example, in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār and in verse 14 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham), and that the ultimate benefit of practising ātma-vicāra (namely seeing what we ourself actually are) cannot be attained directly by any other means, because in order to see what we are we must sooner or later look intently at ourself.

5. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 22: unless we turn within to look at ourself, how can we see what we actually are?

Whereas in verse 44 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai Bhagavan assures us that if we persistently try to turn within and look at ourself with our inner eye we will see or know what we actually are, in verse 22 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he asks rhetorically how we can know our actual self (whom he describes as the Lord who shines within our mind giving it light) except by turning our mind back within and immersing it in ourself, thereby implying that we will not be able to see what we actually are unless we turn back and look at ourself. In other words, if we read these two verses together, we can see that he not only assures us that by persistently trying to turn within to look at ourself we will eventually see what we actually are, but also implies that we cannot see what we actually are by any means other than turning within to look at ourself, thereby dissolving our ego in our real self like ice in water or a salt doll in the ocean.

What he says in verse 22 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is :
மதிக்கொளி தந்தம் மதிக்கு ளொளிரு
மதியினை யுள்ளே மடக்கிப் — பதியிற்
பதித்திடுத லன்றிப் பதியை மதியான்
மதித்திடுக லெங்ஙன் மதி.

matikkoḷi tandam matikku ḷoḷiru
matiyiṉai yuḷḷē maḍakkip — patiyiṯ
padittiḍuda laṉḏṟip patiyai matiyāṉ
matittiḍuda leṅṅaṉ mati
.

பதச்சேதம்: மதிக்கு ஒளி தந்து, அம் மதிக்குள் ஒளிரும் மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி பதியில் பதித்திடுதல் அன்றி, பதியை மதியால் மதித்திடுதல் எங்ஙன்? மதி.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): matikku oḷi tandu, am-matikkuḷ oḷirum matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki patiyil padittiḍudal aṉḏṟi, patiyai matiyāl matittiḍudal eṅṅaṉ? mati.

அன்வயம்: மதிக்கு ஒளி தந்து, அம் மதிக்குள் ஒளிரும் பதியில் மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி பதித்திடுதல் அன்றி, பதியை மதியால் மதித்திடுதல் எங்ஙன்? மதி.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): matikku oḷi tandu, am-matikkuḷ oḷirum patiyil matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki padittiḍudal aṉḏṟi, patiyai matiyāl matittiḍudal eṅṅaṉ? mati.

English translation: Consider, except by turning the mind back within [and thereby] completely immersing it in God, who shines within that mind giving light to the mind, how to know God by the mind?
மதி (mati) means ‘mind’ and பதி (pati) in this context literally means ‘Lord’ or ‘God’, but since Bhagavan describes it using the relative clause ‘மதிக்கு ஒளி தந்து, அம் மதிக்குள் ஒளிரும்’ (matikku oḷi tandu, am-matikkuḷ oḷirum), which means ‘who shines within that mind giving light to the mind’, the clear implication is that பதி (pati) is our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa) or pure self-awareness, which shines within our mind as ‘I’ and thus illumines it with the light of awareness, thereby enabling it to be aware both of itself and of other things. So long as we as this mind are aware of anything other than ourself, we are facing outwards, away from ourself, and hence we cannot know what we actually are. In order to know what we actually are, we must turn our attention back within to face ourself alone.

This turning of our mind or attention back within to face ourself alone is what Bhagavan describes here as ‘மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி’ (matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki), which means ‘turning the mind back within’. மடக்கி (maḍakki) is a participle form of மடக்கு (maḍakku), which means to bend, fold, turn around or turn back, and which is also sometimes used in the sense of subdue, conquer, restrain, tame, stop or destroy, so in this context மடக்கி (maḍakki) not only means turning around but also implies subduing, restraining and stopping the outward-going tendency of our mind. By turning our mind back within we will make it subside, sink, plunge or be immersed in ourself, which Bhagavan expresses by the phrase ‘பதியில் பதித்திடுதல்’ (patiyil padittiḍudal), which means ‘immersing [it] in God’. பதியில் (patiyil) is a locative case form of பதி (pati), so it means ‘in the Lord’ or ‘in God’ (implying in one’s own actual self), and பதித்திடுதல் (padittiḍudal) is a verbal noun formed from an intensified form of the causative verb பதி (padi), which means to cause to sink, plunge, descend, penetrate, insert, plant, fix, immerse or be absorbed or engrossed in, so it implies making one’s mind or attention so completely absorbed or engrossed in one’s own actual self that it sinks, penetrates and becomes firmly established in oneself as oneself.

Since மடக்கி (maḍakki) is a verbal participle (meaning ‘turning back’) and பதித்திடுதல் (padittiḍudal) is a verbal noun (meaning ‘immersing completely’), the former is subordinate to the latter, so the implication is that it is by turning one’s mind back within that one will make it subside and be immersed in God, who shines within one as one’s own actual self. Thus this entire clause, ‘மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி பதியில் பதித்திடுதல்’ (matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki patiyil padittiḍudal), means ‘turning the mind back within [and thereby] completely immersing it in God’ or ‘completely immersing the mind in God [by] turning it back within’.

The next word, அன்றி (aṉḏṟi), is a subordinating conjunction that means ‘except’ or in this case ‘except by’, so it subordinates the previous clause, ‘மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி பதியில் பதித்திடுதல்’ (matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki patiyil padittiḍudal), ‘turning the mind back within [and thereby] completely immersing it in God’, to the interrogative clause that follows it, namely ‘பதியை மதியால் மதித்திடுதல் எங்ஙன்?’ (patiyai matiyāl matittiḍudal eṅṅaṉ?), which means, ‘how to know God by the mind?’ Like பதித்திடுதல் (padittiḍudal), மதித்திடுதல் (madittiḍudal) is a verbal noun formed from an intensified form of a verb, namely மதி (madi), which means to measure, fathom, ascertain or know, so ‘மதித்திடுதல் எங்ஙன்?’ (matittiḍudal eṅṅaṉ) means ‘how to completely fathom or thoroughly know?’.

Thus in conjunction these two clauses, ‘மதியினை உள்ளே மடக்கி பதியில் பதித்திடுதல் அன்றி, பதியை மதியால் மதித்திடுதல் எங்ஙன்?’ (matiyiṉai uḷḷē maḍakki patiyil padittiḍudal aṉḏṟi, patiyai matiyāl matittiḍudal eṅṅaṉ?), mean ‘except by turning the mind back within [and thereby] completely immersing it in God, how to know God by the mind?’ This is obviously a rhetorical question, the clear implication of which is that we cannot know God (who is our own actual self or ātma-svarūpa) except by turning our mind or attention back within and thereby dissolving it entirely in him.

Therefore in this verse Bhagavan emphatically and unequivocally teaches us that we can experience what we actually are only by turning our attention back within and thereby dissolving our mind entirely in our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa). In other words, we can ultimately attain true self-knowledge only by means of ātma-vicāra.

As we saw in the previous section, this is not only a perfectly reasonable claim but is actually affirming what is logically necessary, namely that to see ourself we must look at ourself. If we do not turn our attention or mental gaze back within to face ourself alone, how can we directly see what we actually are? Therefore whatever other spiritual practices we may do, we must sooner or later turn our attention back towards ourself alone, because until we do so we will not be able to experience ourself as we really are.

6. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we seem to be this ego

Closely related to what we have been considering in the previous two sections is another logically compelling reason that Bhagavan gave us in order to explain why we must attend to ourself alone in order to experience ourself as we actually are, namely that whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself we are aware of ourself as if we were a separate finite entity, and being aware of ourself thus is what is called ‘ego’, so we cannot be aware of ourself as we actually are so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself.

Besides the fact that this is our experience, because whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself (as we are in both waking and dream) we are aware of ourself as this ego, and whenever we are not aware of anything other than ourself (as we are in sleep) we are not aware of ourself as this ego, it is also a logical necessity and therefore could not be otherwise, because we obviously cannot be aware of anything other than ourself without being aware of ourself as something that is separate from those other things (among other reasons because we are one and they are many, and because we exist and are aware of ourself whether they appear or disappear), and so long as we seem to be separate from any other thing we seem thereby to be limited and hence not infinite, so unless we are actually this finite ego (which we cannot be, because we exist and are aware of ourself whether we are aware of ourself as this ego or not) we cannot experience what we actually are so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore in order to ascertain from our own experience (rather than from mere logical analysis, or from mere faith in Bhagavan’s words) whether or not we are this finite ego that we now seem to be, we need to investigate ourself by trying to be aware of ourself alone, without even the slightest awareness of anything else, and hence we need to try to focus our entire attention on ourself alone.

This fundamental principle was often explained by Bhagavan, and it is expressed by him clearly in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

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

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

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

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

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

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows [spreads, expands, increases, rises high or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
In this context உரு (uru) or ‘form’ means any phenomenon (whether seemingly physical or obviously mental), and the reason why Bhagavan describes phenomena as ‘forms’ is that each phenomenon is formed and characterised by certain features that distinguish it both from other phenomena and from the ego that is aware of it. Since he describes the ego as an ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy) or ‘formless phantom’, he clearly implies that what he refers to here as உரு (uru) or ‘form’ is anything other than this ego.

உரு பற்றி (uru paṯṟi) means ‘grasping [catching, holding, embracing, clinging to, adhering to, sticking to or attaching itself to] form’, but since the ego is formless and therefore has no hands or limbs by which it could grasp anything, in this context பற்றி (paṯṟi) means ‘grasping’ in the metaphorical sense of attending to and being aware of. That is, being formless, this ego is something that is just aware, so it grasps forms or phenomena by grasping them in its awareness, and the instrument or limb by which it grasps them is its attention. Therefore உரு பற்றி (uru paṯṟi) or ‘grasping form’ means attending to anything other than ourself, who now seem to be this ego.

The forms that this ego grasps do not exist independent of it, as Bhagavan makes clear in the next verse, in which he says ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandaiyē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything’. Therefore, since no form can exist unless our ego exists, our ego is able to grasp any form only by creating or projecting it and simultaneously attending to it. In fact attention is not only the means by which our ego grasps forms but also the means by which it creates or projects them, because creation and grasping are one and the same process, since our ego creates forms only by becoming aware of them, so when it ceases to be aware of any form that form ceases to exist.

The first finite clause of this verse, ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām), means ‘grasping form it rises into being [or comes into existence]’, and in this case the உரு (uru) or ‘form’ that it grasps is a body, because as Bhagavan often explained and as we each experience, we seem to be this ego only when we grasp a body and experience it as ourself, so we rise as this ego only by grasping a body as if it were ourself. The body that we thus grasp is not always the same body, as we know from our experience in any dream, when we grasp and experience ourself as a body that is other than the body that we currently experience as ourself. However, like every other form that we as this ego grasp, whatever body we may grasp as ourself is something that we ourself have created and projected from within ourself (just as in dream we project a body from within ourself and simultaneously experience it as if it were ourself), so though this ego is always dependent on whatever body it is currently grasping as itself, it need not always depend on the same body, because whenever it rises into existence it does so by simultaneously projecting and grasping a body as itself.

Therefore, though the ego itself is உருவற்ற (uru-v-aṯṟa) or ‘formless’, as soon as it rises it projects and grasps the form of a body as itself, so it always experiences itself as if it were a form. It is only by thus grasping the form of a body as itself that our ego is then able to be grasp or be aware of any other forms, as Bhagavan clearly explains in verse 4 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he says, ‘உருவம் தான் ஆயின், உலகு பரம் அற்று ஆம்; உருவம் தான் அன்றேல், உவற்றின் உருவத்தை கண் உறுதல் யாவன்? எவன்? கண் அலால் காட்சி உண்டோ?’ (uruvam tāṉ āyiṉ, ulahu param aṯṟu ām; uruvam tāṉ aṉḏṟēl, uvaṯṟiṉ uruvattai kaṇ uṟudal yāvaṉ? evaṉ? kaṇ alāl kāṭci uṇḍō?), which means, ‘If oneself is a form, the world and God will be likewise; if oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how [to do so]? Can what is seen [or cognised] be otherwise [in nature] than the eye [the awareness that sees or cognises it]?’

Having projected and grasped the form of a body as itself, the ego then projects and grasps other forms, including both phenomena that seem to exist only in its own mind and phenomena that it projects and grasps through the media of the five senses of that body, which therefore seem to be physical phenomena that exist outside and independent of itself. However, though physical phenomena seem to exist outside and independent of ourself, we actually experience them only inside our own mind or awareness, so they are actually just mental phenomena and hence their seeming existence is entirely dependent on the seeming existence of ourself as this ego, who are what alone perceives or experiences them.

Just as the seeming existence of all phenomena is entirely dependent on the seeming existence of ourself as this ego, our seeming existence as this ego is likewise entirely dependent on the seeming existence of whatever phenomena we are currently aware of, and we become aware of them only by projecting and grasping them. This is why Bhagavan said in fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?: ‘மனம் எப்போதும் ஒரு ஸ்தூலத்தை யனுசரித்தே நிற்கும்; தனியாய் நில்லாது’ (maṉam eppōdum oru sthūlattai y-aṉusarittē niṟkum; taṉiyāy nillādu), which means ‘The mind stands only by always going after [grasping or attaching itself to] a gross object; solitarily it does not stand’. In this context the term ‘மனம்’ (maṉam) or ‘mind’ implies the ego, which is the only essential aspect of the mind and the root from which all its other aspects sprout, and ‘ஒரு ஸ்தூலத்தை’, which means ‘a gross thing [or object]’, implies any form or phenomenon, since in comparison with the subtle ego or mind all phenomena are relatively gross.

What Bhagavan expresses in these two sentences of Nāṉ Yār? is expressed by him even more succinctly in the second finite clause of this verse, namely ‘உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām), means ‘grasping form it stands [or endures]’. That is, not only does this ego come into existence only by grasping the form of a body as itself, but it also stands or endures only by continuing to hold on to that body as itself and by simultaneously grasping other forms. Since he says here that it stands by grasping forms, he indirectly implies what he stated explicitly in the second of these two sentences of Nāṉ Yār?, namely ‘தனியாய் நில்லாது’ (taṉiyāy nillādu), which means ‘solitarily [separately, alone, on its own, in solitude or in isolation] it does not stand’.

This implication is the logical reason why what he says in the concluding sentence of this verse, namely ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’, must necessarily be true. That is, since this ego can rise and stand only by grasping forms (anything other than itself), and since it cannot stand alone, it logically follows that if this ego tries to grasp, see, attend to or be aware of nothing other than itself alone, it will subside and disappear. It seems to be a form only when it grasps the form of a body as itself, but when it separates or isolates itself from that body and all other forms by trying to be attentively aware of itself alone, it is formless, and hence it cannot stand as a separate entity, so it subsides and merges back into our actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which is the formless source from which it originally rose.

Therefore the fact that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can destroy or permanently dissolve this ego-illusion and thereby experience ourself as we actually are was not only Bhagavan’s own experience, but is also what must necessarily be true, as he clearly explained with impeccable logic both in this verse and in numerous other ways. Hence, even if we have not yet succeeded in attending to ourself keenly enough to isolate our self-awareness completely from even the slightest awareness of anything else and thereby to be aware of ourself as we actually are, we can nevertheless be perfectly confident that trying to attend to ourself so keenly is the only direct means by which we can destroy this ego, which we must do in order to experience what we really are. In order to have this confidence, we do not even need to have complete faith in Bhagavan’s own testimony, because he has explained to us so clearly and logically why what he taught in this regard must necessarily be the case. Unless we can find fault with either his premises or his logic, which I do not believe any of us can do, we can have no rational reason to dispute, doubt or not believe the simple arguments that he gave us to demonstrate the necessary truth of what he taught us.

The logical connection between the first two sentences of this verse and the conclusion expressed in its final sentence is also reinforced in its third and fourth sentences. In the third sentence Bhagavan says, ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum), which means ‘grasping and feeding on form it grows [spreads, expands, increases, rises high or flourishes] abundantly’, and which therefore reinforces what he said in the second sentence. That is, by grasping forms not only does the ego rise and endure but it is also nourished and grows strong. Grasping form by attending to anything other than ourself is the means by which our ego nourishes and sustains itself, so as long as we continue to feed it in this way we will not be able to destroy it. To free ourself from it entirely, we need to starve it into submission, which we can do thoroughly only by trying to attend to ourself alone.

Other kinds of spiritual practice (all of which entail attending to something other than ourself) may be effective means by which we can partially starve our ego and thereby weaken its hold on other things, but in order to starve it completely and thereby sever its hold on everything we must sooner or later try to attend to ourself alone. However, when we talk of starving our ego, we should not imagine that we need to starve it for a prolonged period of time. So long as our desire for and attachment to experiencing other things is strong, we do need to try persistently and for as long as it takes to weaken its desires and attachments by starving it as much as we can, but once its desires and attachments are sufficiently weakened (whether by practising ātma-vicāra alone or by means of any other kind of spiritual practice), just a single moment of perfectly one-pointed self-attentiveness is sufficient to starve it completely and thereby annihilate it forever.

Though we may have been trying to practise self-attentiveness for a long time, if we have not yet succeeded in destroying our ego, that means that till now we have only been looking at ourself obliquely, so to speak, and have not yet looked at ourself directly, with our entire attention focused keenly on ourself alone. According to the principle that Bhagavan expressed in the concluding sentence of this verse, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), ‘If sought, it will take flight’, the more directly and closely we look at our ego the more it will subside and dissolve, but in order to make it subside and merge completely in our real self, we need to look at it in an absolutely direct manner, thereby giving not even the slightest room for anything else to appear in our awareness. In order to look at ourself so directly, we need to have overwhelming bhakti or love to be aware of ourself alone, and we will gain such love only to the extent that our liking to be aware of anything else is weakened by persistent practice of self-attentiveness (or more indirectly by means of other forms of spiritual practice that wean us away from most of our grosser attachments to other things).

In the fourth sentence of this verse Bhagavan says, ‘உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்’ (uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum), which means ‘leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form’, and which again reinforces what he said in the second sentence, namely that it can stand only by grasping form. Throughout any state of waking or dream our ego is constantly shifting its attention from one thing to another, so this is one way in which we can see it leaving one form and grasping another one. Likewise, when any period of waking or dream comes to an end, our ego leaves whatever body it was then grasping as itself, and then it either grasps another body as itself immediately by jumping into another state of waking or dream, or else it does so after having a brief rest in sleep. In the same way, when the life of its current body comes to an end at the time of death, it will leave that body and either grasp another body as itself immediately by jumping into another state of dream (in which it may either experience itself as more or less the same person, as it generally does in any dream that it has each day, or in which it may have forgotten its previous life as that person and may therefore resume a new life as another person), or else it will do so after resting for a while in a sleep-like state.

In the concluding sentence of this verse, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), தேடினால் (tēḍiṉāl) is a conditional form of the verb தேடு (tēḍu), which means to seek or search for, so தேடினால் (tēḍiṉāl) literally means ‘if sought’ or ‘if one seeks’, and in this context it implies ‘if one tries to see one’s ego’; ஓட்டம் (ōṭṭam) is a verbal noun that means ‘running’ or ‘flight’ in the sense of ‘fleeing’, and பிடிக்கும் (piḍikkum) means ‘it will catch [seize, grasp or take hold of]’, so ‘ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (ōṭṭam piḍikkum) is an idiom that means exactly the same as the English idiom ‘it will take flight’, and hence it means ‘it will flee’ or ‘it will run away’. That is, since we seem to be this ego (and hence it seems to exist) only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, if we try intently to see what it is (in other words, if we try to be aware of ourself alone), it will vanish, because it is just an illusion, like a ghost that seems to exist in the shadows only when we do not look at it directly.

Though we can and should try to see, watch, attend to or observe this ego, we will never be able to see it clearly, because like a ghost that seems to be lurking in the shadows or like an illusory snake that is in fact just a rope, it does not actually exist, and hence it seems to exist and creates fear only when we do not look at it sufficiently carefully. If we look at it carefully, it will begin to subside and dissolve, like a tropical morning mist in front of the rising sun, and if we look at it carefully enough, it will vanish altogether, leaving us alone as pure self-awareness, which is the only thing that actually exists.

Therefore the conclusion of this verse is that whenever this ego rises and stands, it does so only by ‘grasping form’ or attending to things other than itself, and that by doing so it nourishes and sustains itself, so whenever it leaves one form it will either grasp another one immediately or else it will subside into sleep or some other similar state of manōlaya (temporary dissolution or abeyance), from which it will sooner or later rise again by grasping another form, and hence the only means by which we can banish it forever is by attending only to ourself. The more we try to attend only to ourself, who now seem to be this ego, the more we will subside back into what we actually are, until eventually we will succeed in focusing our entire attention only on ourself, whereupon this ego will ‘take flight’ and vanish forever, and what will then remain is only ourself as we always actually are.

7. Distinguishing what is necessarily true from what is contingently true

After asking his first question, namely ‘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?’, which I referred to at the beginning of the fourth section and which I attempted to answer in that and the next two sections, Maya wrote, ‘No one would doubt your knowledge of self inquiry and its practice. So if in spite 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’.

I do say that I believe and have faith in Bhagavan’s words, but my faith in his words is not just a blind belief, because as I explain above (in the previous three sections) he has given us compellingly logical arguments that demonstrate that what he taught us about the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra must necessarily be true. The arguments that I explained in the previous three sections are by no means the only compelling ones that he gave us in this regard, but I hope they are sufficient to explain to Maya and other readers why I believe I am justified in reiterating the claims that he made about ātma-vicāra, and for anyone who wants to understand many of the other arguments that he gave in this regard, as well as his various background arguments (such as those that explain why we cannot be what we now seem to be, and why it is therefore necessary for us to try to experience ourself as we actually are), I have written extensively about them in numerous other articles in this blog.

Regarding Maya’s question about why ātma-vicāra has not been effective in my case, though I freely admit that I have not yet succeeded in experiencing what I actually am, which is the ultimate benefit to be gained from ātma-vicāra, I have never said that it has not been effective at all, because as I make faltering attempts to be attentively self-aware, I become more and more firmly convinced of the efficacy of this path, and though it is difficult to express in thoughts or words what benefits I have gained from it, I would definitely say it has given me a certain inner clarity of self-awareness, so though I often neglect or overlook such clarity, it is available whenever I have sufficient liking to attend to it.

If Maya meant to ask me why if ātma-vicāra is so efficacious I have not yet succeeded in experiencing what I actually am in spite of trying to practise it for such a long time, the simple answer is that I do not yet have sufficient love to succeed — that is, I do not yet have all-consuming love to be aware of myself alone, which is all that is required to succeed in this path. However I am confident that as Bhagavan often said if we persevere in trying to practise ātma-vicāra as much as we can we will thereby definitely cultivate and nurture that love in our heart, until one day we will eventually be ready to surrender ourself (this ego) entirely and thereby to dissolve effortlessly in our own real self.

To illustrate what he meant when he wrote, ‘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’, Maya added: ‘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’.

Science is a collective endeavour, because no scientist can personally test and verify all scientific observations and theories, so each scientist has to believe the current consensus of the scientific community regarding all theories except those related to the specific field that he or she has specialised in investigating, and hence science is built largely on trust and faith. This is because science is primarily concerned with contingent truth (that is, what happens to be the case) rather than necessary truth (that is, what is necessarily the case). Philosophy, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with what is necessarily true rather than with what is just contingently true.

For example, the fact that water expands when it freezes (whereas most other liquids contract when they solidify) is a contingent truth but not a necessary one. There is no logically necessary reason why water expands when it freezes, but this just happens to be the case (and the fact that it is the case makes life as we know it possible on this planet, because if it contracted like other liquids, ice would sink in water, in which case the surface water in cold regions would be continuously freezing and sinking, until eventually all the oceans would be frozen, thereby lowering the temperature of the entire surface of this plant). Since there is no logical reason why water should expand when it freezes, we can know that it does so only by observation.

However not all truths are contingent, because some are necessary. For example, the fact the there are no square circles is not just contingently true but necessarily true, so we do not need to observe all circles (or any circles at all) in order to know that none of them are square, because simple logic demands that no circle can be square. The respective definitions of the two terms ‘square’ and ‘circle’ makes it necessarily true that no square can be a circle and no circle can be a square.

If we were to challenge someone who claims that there are no square circles, saying that they have not seen all circles and are therefore not justified in making such a claim, they could easily defeat our challenge by explaining why it is necessarily true that no circle can be square. Likewise, if we challenge anyone who claims that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are, saying that they are not justified in making such a claim unless they themself have experienced what they actually are by means of ātma-vicāra, they could easily defeat our challenge by explaining why it is necessarily true that we cannot see what we actually are unless we look at ourself, or by explaining any of the other logical reasons Bhagavan has given us to show that ātma-vicāra must necessarily be the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are.

Whereas observation or experience is required to know what is contingently true, no observation or experience is required to know what is necessarily true, because what is necessarily true can be known simply by logical reasoning. The benefits that one may derive from other kinds of spiritual practice may be contingently true without being necessarily true, in which case they can be known only by observation or experience and not merely by logical reasoning, whereas the fact that we cannot experience ourself as we actually are without attending to ourself is necessarily true, so it requires no observation or experience but only logical reasoning for us to recognise that it must necessarily be true.

Though logic alone obviously cannot enable us to experience ourself as we really are, it can enable us to know that the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we really are must necessarily be ātma-vicāra, because ‘ātma-vicāra’ is the name given to the practice of keenly observing, looking at, attending to or being attentively aware of oneself alone, thereby excluding everything else from one’s awareness, and unless we are attentively aware of ourself alone we cannot dissolve the illusion that we are this ego (which arises whenever we become aware of anything other than ourself, and endures until we cease being aware of anything else) and thereby experience ourself as we actually are.

When we understand why it is necessarily true that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are, it will seem obvious to us that it is true, but a necessary truth such as this will not necessarily seem obvious to everyone, because it becomes obvious to us only after we have carefully considered the reasons why it is necessarily true. Like the various arguments that Bhagavan has given us in order to convince us that this unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra is necessarily true, he has given us many other arguments to convince us that that other related aspects of his teachings are also necessarily true: for example, he has given us many logically compelling arguments to convince us that we cannot be the ego, mind or body that we now seem to be, and that we should therefore try to experience ourself as we actually are. Therefore one of my principal aims when replying to questions I am asked about his teachings or when writing articles for this blog is to explain how many of the arguments he has given us (which he often expressed just in the form of a seed or outline, like a sūtra or aphorism, such as the one he gave in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) show that particular aspects of his teachings are necessarily true, because only when we clearly understand why they are necessarily true will they seem obvious to us and will we therefore be firmly convinced by them.

Being firmly convinced by his teachings and understanding clearly why the most important aspects of them are necessarily true will not only encourage us to try to practise them more diligently and one-pointedly but will also help us to prevent our mind from being diverted away in any other direction. This is why deep and careful reflection (manana) on his teachings is so important, and why all the most important principles that he taught us in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār should always be fresh and clear in our mind.

8. Will ātma-vicāra work for everyone?

Maya concluded the paragraph in which he wrote his first question (which I replied to in sections 4 to 6) and the passages I replied to in section 7 by saying ‘even if I were to realize my self using this method [ātma-vicāra], I know every one of us is different and just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it works for everyone’. However, since Bhagavan has assured us in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār that ātma-vicāra is ‘the direct path for everyone’ (மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும்: mārggam nēr ārkkum), he implied that it is the direct means — and will therefore ‘work’ — for everyone who genuinely and wholeheartedly wants to experience what they actually are and thereby to annihilate their ego.

It is true that ‘every one of us is different’, as Maya says, but though we are each different in certain respects, there are some respects in which we are not different at all. One such respect is that we are each an ego, so we are bound by the fundamental nature of any ego, which is to rise, stand and be nourished by ‘grasping form’ (that is, by attending to or being aware of anything other than ourself) and to subside and vanish by attending to ourself alone, as Bhagavan explains in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, so if any one of us actually attends only to ourself (which is all that the practice of ātma-vicāra entails), our ego will certainly ‘take flight’ by dissolving forever in our own real self.

However, one respect in which we are different is that we each have different desires, aspirations and aims, so most of us do not yet want to surrender our ego entirely, and hence we are not currently willing to attend to ourself alone. Therefore none of us will be willing even to try practising ātma-vicāra until we have at least understood that we should try to free ourself from this ego, but so long as our desires to experience anything other than ourself are still strong, we will not be able to surrender our ego entirely and thereby experience what we actually are, so we need to persevere in our practice of ātma-vicāra until our desires and attachments are weakened sufficiently for us finally to surrender our ego entirely in the perfectly clear light of pure self-awareness.

According to Bhagavan, the most effective means by which we can purify our mind (which means weakening all its outward-going desires and attachments) is only ātma-vicāra (as he clearly indicated in verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār), but there are also other less effective means by which we can purify it to a certain extent, so if anyone felt more inclined to practise some means other than ātma-vicāra, he would encourage them do so, but to anyone who was willing to follow his advice he would explain why ātma-vicāra is not only ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the most effective of all means to purify the mind, but also the only direct means to annihilate it altogether. He also made it clear that whatever other path one may follow and however much one may purify one’s mind thereby, it will not be annihilated by any means other than ātma-vicāra — that is, turning it inwards to attend to oneself alone and thereby drowning it the light of pure self-awareness.

9. Ātma-vicāra is a guaranteed means to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and eventually annihilate our ego

The second ‘blunt and direct question’ that Maya asked me was in his next paragraph, in which he wrote: ‘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?’

There are several points of confusion here. Firstly, grace is not just another factor but the one and only essential factor, because according to Bhagavan grace is simply the love that we have for our own self, so without such grace no one would even begin to practise ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry). The highest manifestation of grace in a person is their practising ātma-vicāra by being keenly self-attentive, and the ultimate fruition of grace is the experience of true self-knowledge, which is what remains after the ego has been completely dissolved and annihilated by such self-attentiveness. Therefore ātma-vicāra is inseparable from grace. It is driven only by grace, and it results in the experience that grace alone exists, because grace is what we actually are.

Secondly, if one’s viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or desires to experience things other than oneself) are so strong that one does not experience oneself as one actually is even after many years of trying to practise ātma-vicāra, that does not mean that ātma-vicāra is having no effect, because according to Bhagavan every small attempt we make to be self-attentive will surely weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās to a proportionate extent, so if we persevere in trying to be self-attentive as much as we can, we will thereby gradually weaken them and eventually destroy them altogether along with their root, our ego. Moreover, we will be able to maintain steady and intent self-attentiveness (and to return to it frequently whenever we are distracted away by other thoughts) only to the extent that our viṣaya-vāsanās have been weakened, so when our viṣaya-vāsanās are still very strong, we will only be able to practise ātma-vicāra falteringly and unsteadily, and each attempt we make to be self-attentive will be less intent and precise than it would be if our viṣaya-vāsanās were less strong.

In other words, the tenacity and precision of our self-attentiveness will inevitably be inversely proportional to the strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās, so it will increase to the extent that they are weakened by persistent practice. This does not mean that a person such as myself whose viṣaya-vāsanās are still very strong cannot practise ātma-vicāra, but only that their progress will initially be very slow and it will take many years (or perhaps even lifetimes) for them to succeed in eventually annihilating their ego.

Moreover, according to Bhagavan, no matter how strong our viṣaya-vāsanās may be, the quickest and most effective means to weaken them is ātma-vicāra, so we should not lose heart and imagine that because our viṣaya-vāsanās are so strong we should begin by practising other kinds of spiritual practice. If by his grace we have been attracted to this path and if we are firmly convinced by all that he has taught us about its unique efficacy, we should just persevere in trying our best to be self-attentive as much as possible, because there is no other effort by which we could weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās more effectively or quickly.

Therefore the answer to Maya’s question, ‘does that not mean that the technique alone is no guarantee?’, is simply ‘no, it does not mean this’. According to Bhagavan not only is ātma-vicāra the most effective and quickest means to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās, no matter how strong they may be, but it is also the only means by which we can eventually annihilate our ego altogether. Other means may weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās to some extent, but they cannot annihilate our ego, which is the root and possessor of all viṣaya-vāsanās, and hence they cannot destroy our viṣaya-vāsanās entirely, nor can they weaken them as effectively or as quickly as ātma-vicāra does.

Bhagavan has assured us that if we persevere in trying to practise ātma-vicāra, the weakening of our viṣaya-vāsanās and the eventual annihilation of our ego is guaranteed, just as if we were to persevere in trying to look directly and intently at the midday sun in a clear tropical sky the blinding of our eyes would be guaranteed. Just we cannot look directly and intently at the sun under such conditions without being blinded thereby, we cannot look directly and intently at ourself without our ego being annihilated. Therefore if our ego had not yet been annihilated in spite of our tying to look at ourself directly and intently, that simply indicates that we have not yet managed to look at ourself sufficiently directly or intently.

That is, just as we would naturally shy away from looking at the midday sun too directly or intently unless we have an overwhelming love to be blinded and thereby never see anything again, so long as our viṣaya-vāsanās (our desires to experience other things) are strong, we naturally shy away from looking at ourself too directly and intently, because we do not yet have sufficient love to annihilate our ego and thereby never experience anything other than ourself again. Therefore just because we are not yet willing to look at ourself directly and intently enough to annihilate our ego does not mean that looking at ourself directly and intently enough is not guaranteed to annihilate our ego.

Maya inferred that since my viṣaya-vāsanās are still too strong for me to be willing to look at myself directly and intently enough to annihilate my ego, in spite of the fact that for many years I have been trying to look at myself thus, that means that looking at oneself directly and intently enough is not a guaranteed means to annihilate one’s ego, whereas what he should have inferred is simply that I have been trying too half-heartedly, because I do not yet want to annihilate my ego more than I want to experience any other thing. If I actually had the requisite love to annihilate my ego, I could do so here and now, at this very instance, because all I would need to do is to look at myself directly and intently enough. However, I do not yet have the requisite love, because my viṣaya-vāsanās are still too strong, so I need to persevere in trying to look at myself until they are thereby sufficiently weakened and correspondingly my love to experience myself alone forever is sufficiently strengthened.

Suppose that we were to tell someone that the only means by which they can see what is behind them is to turn around and look, if they were to argue that that is not a guaranteed means because they may not want to turn around and look or they may be too weak to do so, that argument of theirs would obviously not be a good one, because the fact that they do not want to or are too weak to turn around and look does not mean that they would not be guaranteed to see what is behind them if they did turn around and look. Likewise, Maya’s argument that ātma-vicāra is not a guaranteed means to annihilate one’s ego because other factors such as one’s viṣaya-vāsanās may be an obstacle is obviously not be a good one, because viṣaya-vāsanās are just one’s own desires to experience viṣayas (things other than oneself), and so long as one has such desires one obviously will not be willing to look at oneself directly and intently enough to annihilate one’s ego.

A certain medicine may be a guaranteed means to cure our disease, but in order to cure it we need to swallow that medicine entirely. Likewise, though ātma-vicāra is a guaranteed means to annihilate our ego, we need to practise it persistently and intently enough to annihilate our ego. Therefore if in my case it has not yet annihilated my ego, that is simply because I have not yet practised it persistently and intently enough.

Another point of confusion in what Maya wrote in this paragraph is his claim that ‘there have been many following other paths who have realized the self faster’. I assume that what he means by saying that they ‘have realized the self’ is that they have experienced themself as they actually are and have thereby annihilated their ego, but in order to experience what they actually are they must have turned their attention back towards themself, because if they had not done so they would not have been able to see what they actually are. In other words, whatever other path they may have followed in order to weaken their viṣaya-vāsanās, they must have eventually practised ātma-vicāra for at least a moment, because ātma-vicāra is simply the practice of turning one’s attention back to see oneself, and unless one does so one obviously cannot see what one actually is.

Moreover using the word ‘faster’ as he did in this context makes it sound as if spiritual practice is a race between people to see who can reach the finishing line first. In a race, if one person starts two metres from the finishing line and crawls slowly towards it, they may reach much ‘faster’ (or rather sooner) than another person who starts ten kilometres away and runs as fast as they can. In the case of spiritual practice, we do not know either where each person has started from nor what they have actually practised inwardly, and we cannot even know who has actually crossed the finishing line, so we cannot judge the relative efficacy or speed of different practices merely on the basis of whom we believe has crossed the line soonest by following which practice.

When I write that ātma-vicāra is the most effective and quickest means to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās, I am not making any comparison between different people but only between the different means that each of us can choose to adopt in order to weaken them. According to Bhagavan, no matter how strong our viṣaya-vāsanās may currently be, if we want to weaken them the most effective and quickest means to do so is to try to be self-attentive as much as we can.

There are other means by which we can do so, but none of them will be as effective or as quick as trying earnestly and persistently to be self-attentive. This is what Bhagavan indicated clearly and unequivocally in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in which he outlines the various means by which we can purify our mind (which means weakening our viṣaya-vāsanās) in ascending order of efficacy, and in verse 8 he declares explicitly that அனனியபாவம் (aṉaṉiya-bhāvam) — which means ‘otherless meditation’ or ‘meditation on what is not other [than oneself]’ and which is therefore an alternative description of ātma-vicāra — is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), which means ‘the best of all’ or ‘the best among all’, thereby implying in the context of the preceding verses that it is the most effective means to purify one’s mind.

(I suggest to Maya in particular that he should read this series of verses from Upadēśa Undiyār carefully and then reconsider the opinion that he expressed in a later comment, namely ‘But I still stick to my opinion that all methods are equally effective’, because this opinion is clearly opposed to what Bhagavan taught us in these verses.)

Comparing the relative efficacy of the various kinds of spiritual practice, as Bhagavan does in these verses, is useful to us because it helps us to decide by which means we should try to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby purify our mind. However one thing any of us as spiritual aspirants should avoid doing is comparing ourself in any way with other people or making any kind of comparison between whatever we might believe about the spiritual state of others, such as what they have inwardly practised or how fast or how far they have progressed. Since we do not even know what we ourself actually are, we definitely cannot know what anyone else’s inner state may be or what they may have inwardly practised, so making such comparisons is futile and can only lead to conclusions that will most probably be wildly mistaken.

Moreover according to what Bhagavan has taught us, it is a fallacy to believe that anyone has experienced what they actually are by any means other than ātma-vicāra, because we cannot see what we actually are unless we look directly and intently at ourself, and we cannot annihilate our ego by attending to anything other than ourself. Therefore no matter what other path any of us may follow, we will not be able to experience ourself as we actually are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego until and unless we practise ātma-vicāra — that is, until and unless we turn our attention or mental gaze back towards ourself in order to look at ourself directly and intently.

10. What Bhagavan said about the English terms ‘realise’ and ‘realisation’

In the comment in which he asked his ‘blunt and direct questions’ Maya used the word ‘realize’ and variations of it several times to mean knowing or experiencing oneself as one actually is. Though ‘realise’ and ‘realisation’ are often used in this sense in books about Bhagavan’s teachings, he sometimes pointed out that it is not actually an appropriate term to use in this context, because it is ambiguous and can create confusion in our understanding of what we should aim to experience.

Though he generally did not speak English, he understood enough to know the meaning of ‘realise’. Therefore, since its basic meaning is to make real (or to make as if real), he used to say jokingly but with serious intent that we are always real, so we do not need to be realised, and that the only problem is that we have now realised what is actually unreal, the root and essence of which is our ego, so what we need to do is not to realise ourself but only to unrealise our ego and all the other unreal things that it experiences as if they were real.

He understood of course that ‘realise’ also means to understand clearly or to become aware of something, but he noticed that the way in which it is often used in the context of his teachings is confusing and misleading, because its meaning is ambiguous and too imprecise. For example, in English the term ātma-jñāni is often translated as a ‘self-realised person’, which is misleading because it implies that a person can know or experience ātman as it really is, whereas in fact ātma-jñāna is the state in which the person who attempted to know ātman has ceased to exist. What this term ātma-jñāni actually means is ‘self-knower’ in the sense of what experiences itself as it actually is, so he often used to say that the only ātma-jñāni is ātman itself, because ātman (our actual self) cannot be known or experienced as it really is by anything other than itself.

Another reason why the term ‘self-realisation’ is potentially so misleading is that in psychology, popular usage and most English dictionaries it has a completely different and even quite opposite meaning to ātma-jñāna, because it is used in the sense of realising one’s full personal potential or ‘fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality’ (as can be seen in this Wikipedia article, particularly in the Western understanding section), and this popular usage of the term is often confused with the sense in which it is used English books about Eastern spirituality.

In his comment Maya referred to the question of whether or not I have realised myself, thereby implying that the person called Michael may or may not be ‘self-realised’, but ‘Michael’ is the name given to a certain person or ego, so Michael can never be self-realised, because if he were self-realised he would have ceased to be Michael. No ego or person can ever ‘realise’ or experience itself as it really is, because when any of us experience what we actually are, we will realise that we are not and have never been an ego or person. It is only in the view of ourself as this ego that we now seem to be this ego, but since this ego is just an unreal apparition, we have never actually been and could ever be this ego or anything other than what we really are.

11. How I became convinced about the imperative need for ātma-vicāra

In two of his later anonymous comments (namely this one and this one) Maya suggested that it would be helpful to him and to others, ‘primarily as a motivation’, if I were to write about my personal experience regarding the practice of ātma-vicāra, how exactly I took to it, whether it appealed to me the moment I read about it or whether I was searching in other directions before I became convinced about the power of ātma-vicāra, and how I came to take spirituality as my goal. Another friend called Sivanarul made a similar request in one of his comments, asking in particular how practising ātma-vicāra for so many years has affected me.

About my actual experience of ātma-vicāra I cannot write anything, because when practising ātma-vicāra we are trying to experience or be aware of ourself alone, so since self-awareness is something we are all familiar with but none of us could ever describe in words, nothing can be written about it. Of course, when trying to be attentively aware of myself alone I struggle to be so, because my attention tends to be quickly distracted away by other interests and thoughts, but if I were to write anything about such struggles I would not be writing about ātma-vicāra (which is just self-attentiveness) but only about my repeated failures in my attempts to practise it. We have all no doubt experienced such failures and consequent struggles, but as Bhagavan has taught us the only way to succeed is to persevere in trying, turning our attention back towards ourself whenever it slips away towards anything else.

However, what Maya and Sivanarul asked me was not about my experience of ātma-vicāra itself but rather about the context in which I practise it, how I was drawn to it and how it has affected me. Generally I do not consider it useful to write anything about my personal experience, because the entire purpose of ātma-vicāra is to see that the person or ego we now seem to be is not what we actually are and is wholly unreal, so from this perspective personal experiences are completely irrelevant and taking interest in them will only help to perpetuate our illusion that we are whatever person we now seem to be. However, I will try to say a few things that might be useful in this regard.

Firstly in reply to Maya’s questions about how I was drawn to this practice, I think I was always of a somewhat spiritual bent of mind, because I remember as a very small child wondering whether this was all just a dream and how one could know whether or not one was dreaming. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and spent ten years in Catholic boarding schools, and though I was quite religious or interested in religious matters when I was young, as I grew up I started asking more and more questions, such as why one should believe all that one is asked to believe by such a religion, particularly about God (not that I did not want to believe it, but I wanted any belief I held to be based on sound reasons), and the only answer that any of the monks in my school could give me was that one just has to have faith, which did not seem to me to be a very satisfactory answer, so as a teenager I became increasingly disillusioned with that kind of unquestioning faith-based religion.

Therefore soon after leaving school I travelled to India with a vague idea that it was a country with a rich spiritual tradition and may therefore be a place where I could find some useful answers to my questions about life. I knew almost nothing about Hinduism or Buddhism before coming to India, but while there I travelled around visiting temples and holy places, particularly in the Himalayas, I read all the spiritual books I could find, I talked with sādhus and other people with similar interests, and I did a vipassanā meditation course before eventually coming to Tiruvannamalai.

I came there because I had heard about Bhagavan while in Sri Lanka and I had read an account of his death experience in Madurai, so I was curious to know more, but I actually began to read his teachings only after I came there. One of the first books I read was a translation of Nāṉ Yār?, and as soon as I read it I felt this is it — this is what I have been looking for. It just seemed so obvious to me when I read it that ‘I’ is the centre and foundation of all that we experience or know, so unless we know what this ‘I’ is we cannot really know anything else for certain.

We cannot know how strong a building is unless we know how strong its foundations are. It may look very strong, but if its foundations are weak it may collapse at any time. Likewise, though all that we experience, know or believe seems to be very real, if the ‘I’ on which it is all built is not real or is not what it seems to be, it could all be just an illusion, like a dream. Therefore after reading Nāṉ Yār? it seemed so obvious to me that the most important and urgent thing to do was to try to know what this ‘I’ actually is, and now nearly forty years later this seems more obvious to me than ever.

After reading Nāṉ Yār? I wanted to understand all I could about the practice of ātma-vicāra, so I began reading other books about his teachings, but I found that many of them seemed to give very confusing and unconvincing explanations about it, such as Osborne’s view that it entails meditating on the right-hand side of one’s chest. Fortunately after I had been in Tiruvannamalai for just a week or two someone lend me a copy of The Path of Sri Ramana by Sadhu Om, and reading his explanation that ātma-vicāra is simply the practice of self-attention convinced me, so I asked the friend who had leant me the book whether I could meet Sadhu Om, and he offered to take me to him. When I met him I found that he was the same sādhu I had met one early morning the previous week at Kubera Lingam while doing giri-pradakṣiṇa. After that I used to visit him whenever I had any questions to ask about Bhagavan’s teachings, and about six months later, since I had asked him about some of the translations of Guru Vācaka Kōvai that I had read in The Mountain Path, he suggested to me that we should start to make a fresh translation of it, which gave me a priceless opportunity to begin studying Bhagavan’s teachings in depth under his clear guidance.

That is really all there is to know about how Bhagavan drew me to the path of ātma-vicāra and convinced me that it is the most important thing that we need do, because it is the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby free ourself from the illusion that we are this finite and transient ego. What he has given to me and to each one of us in the form of his teachings about ātma-vicāra is a boon and treasure of immeasurable worth, so though we are unworthy to receive such a boon, we must do our best to derive the full benefit that he wants us to derive from it.

Regarding Sivanarul’s question about how practising ātma-vicāra for so many years has affected me, it is difficult to say, partly because I do not know how I would have been if I had not practised it, partly because I could not imagine my life without it, and most importantly because we cannot really measure or know what progress we are making when following this or any other spiritual path. All I can say is that it has transformed my entire outlook on life, and trying to practise it reminds me constantly of how little genuine love I have to be aware of myself alone and how strong my outward-going desires still are. However, though I know I still lack sufficient love to surrender my ego entirely to Bhagavan (who is our own real self), I also know that having been drawn to this path by his uncaused grace (kāraṇam-illāda karuṇai) I cannot now leave it.

12. How can we curtail and eventually destroy all desire for praise?

After Maya wrote his ‘couple of blunt and direct questions’ in an anonymous comment, another anonymous friend wrote some more ‘blunt and direct questions’ in a couple of comments, but whereas Maya’s questions were regarding the views that I express in this blog, asking in effect how I am justified in claiming that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and the most effective means to purify our mind, the other anonymous friend’s questions were regarding my personal motivations for expressing such views. Whereas I was able to answers Maya’s questions by explaining the logical reasons that Bhagavan gave us for the claims he made about the directness and efficacy of ātma-vicāra and how those logical reasons justify not only my firm belief in what he claimed but also my confident reiteration of his claims, I obviously cannot give such logically convincing answers to the other anonymous friend’s questions about my motivations, but I will try to answer them as well as I can and in a way that may be of some use.

This other anonymous friend asked six main questions, three that he labelled (a) to (c) in his first comment and another three that he labelled (d) to (f) in his second comment, so far the sake of clarity I will label my replies to each of them likewise.

a) This anonymous friend wrote: ‘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 […] Are you addicted to praise?’

So long as our ego survives, none of us can claim to be impervious to desire for praise or appreciation, and since any praise or appreciation that we may receive feeds and strengthens our ego, this is a desire that we need to be vigilant to keep in check, so I appreciate this warning from our anonymous friend. However, as far as I am aware desire for praise is not my primary motivation for answering the questions I am asked or for writing this blog, nor am I aware that that desire is particularly strong in me, so it does not seem to me that I am addicted to praise, though I am well aware of how deceptive our ego and its desires can be.

Since it is possible that my desire for praise is stronger than it seems to me to be, I could avoid answering questions or writing this blog in order to avoid the danger of being praised and thereby having my ego boosted, but doing so would not destroy my desire, and it may even make me less aware of it. We cannot free ourself from any desire merely by avoiding circumstances that are liable to make it manifest, but only by being inwardly vigilant to keep it in check under all circumstances, especially those that are liable to give rise to it. Moreover, since the root of all desires is only our ego, and since we can keep our ego in check only by watching it vigilantly, trying to be self-attentive under all circumstances is the most effective way to keep our ego together with all its desires in check.

When this anonymous friend writes, ‘I have never seen anybody stumping you. You are always very clever’, he make it sound as if discussing Bhagavan’s teachings was intended to be a competition to see who is clever enough to stump whom. This is not at all the spirit in which his teachings should be discussed or in which they are discussed in this blog. Those who read and comment on this blog do so to understand his teachings more clearly and to participate in a serious discussion about them, and this is the sole purpose for which I write these articles. We all aspire to follow his teachings as well as we can, and as far as I am aware none of us are in the least interested in seeing anyone display their cleverness or stump anyone.

b) This anonymous friend then wrote: ‘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. […] The time spent on this would be more valuable if you got into the ‘autobiography’ mode I was suggesting […]’.

I do not believe any readers of this blog or any other friends who write to me intend to recycle any questions, but simply ask about aspects of Bhagavan’s teachings that they do not understand or are unsure about, and they do so because they are trying to practise what he taught us. The questions they ask may be similar to questions that I have been asked before, but they are each asking such questions from their own unique perspective, so I do my best to answer them in a way that I hope will be helpful to them.

Since his teachings are essentially very simple, the answers I write may be similar to ones I have written before, but they are never exactly the same, and even if I have answered similar questions before, I cannot remember all the answers I have written previously or where I have where them. Each question that I answer prompts me to think about his teachings from a fresh and different perspective and helps me to keep my mind dwelling upon them, which helps me in my own practice. This is (or should be) the sole purpose of any discussion about his teachings, and this discussion would soon come to an end if instead of writing a fresh answer to each question I simply referred to what I had written elsewhere.

Moreover, I do not believe I am serving everything on a platter, because to most questions I give carefully reasoned answers based largely on Bhagavan’s own original writings, so the aim of my answers is to prompt the questioner and other readers to think more carefully about his teachings for themselves. My own understanding of his teachings is derived from studying them, thinking carefully about them and their implications, and trying my best to practise them, so the aim of the answers I write is to encourage and help others to develop their own understanding in a similar way.

I do not expect anyone to accept my arguments unquestioningly, but to think about them critically and judge for themselves whether or not (or to what extent) what I write accurately reflects what Bhagavan intended us to understand from his writings and other teachings. As can be seen by anyone who reads all the comments here, not everyone does agree entirely with my views about what he meant or intended, but I welcome such disagreement if it helps each reader to think more critically about his teachings and whatever I or anyone else may write about them.

Our anonymous friend ended this paragraph by suggesting that the time I spend writing answers to other friends’ questions would be spent more valuably if I got into ‘autobiography’ mode, which seems to imply that he thinks it would be more useful if I spent my time writing about myself as a person instead of about Bhagavan’s teachings. I have to disagree with this, because there is nothing interesting about me that I could write, and because writing about myself would be liable to boost my ego more than writing about his teachings. I write only about his teachings because they are my principal interest, and because doing so is beneficial to me and perhaps to others also, whereas neither I nor anyone else would be benefitted in the least if I were to spend my time writing instead about myself or my life as a person.

The primary contention behind the first two of this anonymous friend’s questions, which I have been answering in this section, is that I am addicted to praise and hence motivated by a secret desire for it. Therefore for the sake of argument let us suppose that this is the case. If I am addicted to praise and driven by desire for it, that is my problem and one that I alone can overcome. My addiction and desire is not a problem that any of the readers of this blog need concern themselves with, because it is not one that they can do anything to enable me to overcome, except perhaps by pointing out to me that I seem to be afflicted by this addiction and desire, as our anonymous friend has done. If I were able to recognise I am so afflicted and therefore responded by trying to curtail this desire, having it pointed out to me would be beneficial and would help to subdue my ego.

Beyond this, however, my personal motivations need be of no concern to anyone reading this blog, because what they need be concerned about is only whether what I write accurately reflects what Bhagavan intended to teach us and explains it in a correct manner. Since what I write is based mainly on his own original writings and since I clearly explain the reasons why I believe they imply what I claim they imply, it is up to each reader to judge for themself whether or not what I write is correct and useful to them in their own manana on and practice of what he taught.

13. Why do I consider it necessary to repudiate ideas that deviate from Bhagavan’s actual teachings?

The next three of this anonymous friend’s ‘blunt and direct questions’ were concerning the fact that in this blog I sometimes critique and repudiate certain ideas that have been expressed publicly by other devotees but that I believe deviate from what Bhagavan actually intended to teach us, so in this section I will try to explain why I consider it necessary to do so. Anyone who has carefully and thoughtfully read a range of the various books and other published writings about his teachings would have noticed that each writer has understood and interpreted his teachings in a way that is very different and often contrary to many of the other writers, and that all such conflicting views and interpretations cannot be correct, so we each have to use our own judgement in order to decide what Bhagavan actually intended us to understand and therefore which interpretations are correct and which are incorrect.

However, in the midst of all the conflicting interpretations it can be difficult for us to judge this, particularly if we have to rely solely upon translations of his writings and records of his oral teachings that may also be inaccurate, so whenever I consider it necessary I try to explain why I consider certain prevalent interpretations or explanations to be incorrect. Since the various books and other published sources abound in conflicting and hence dubious translations, interpretations and explanations, I obviously cannot critique all of them, but sometimes when an interpretation or explanation that I consider to be misleading is quoted in any of the comments on this blog or is otherwise brought to my notice, I consider it necessary or appropriate to repudiate it and to explain clearly why I do so, particularly if it is concerning the actual practice of Bhagavan’s teachings and/or if it has been written or expressed by a prominent devotee whose views are widely accepted and therefore tend to spread widely.

c) In the final question that this anonymous friend wrote in his first comment he asked: ‘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 [sic] 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’.

Bhagavan was certainly not partial to anyone, but he understood that whatever he wrote or said, it would be understood by each person in their own way, and not everyone would understand it as he intended, so he left it to each of us to understand his teachings according to the relative clarity of our own power of comprehension. This is illustrated by what he once said to Lakshmana Sarma.

As Lakshmana Sarma wrote in the first two of a series of articles that he wrote in 1954 for The Call Divine (namely in volume two, June 1954 issue pages 495-8 and August 1954 issue pages 572-6), he had translated Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu into Sanskrit with the help and guidance of Bhagavan, and having completed it he continued to revise it, because this gave him the opportunity to study Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu repeatedly and in depth and to check his understanding of each verse with Bhagavan, who corrected him whenever any of his attempted translations of each verse failed to convey the intended meaning. However, while he was revising it Kapali Sastri visited Ramanasramam and came to know about it, so he suggested that it should be shown to Kavyakantha, who was then living in Sirsi, and hence a copy of it was made and given to Kapali Sastri to take to Kavyakantha. Instead of revising Lakshmana Sarma’s translation, Kavyakantha wrote a new translation of his own and sent it to Bhagavan with a letter requesting that the manager of Ramanasramam should not print it until Kapali Sastri had completed his commentary on it.

When Lakshmana Sarma read Kavyakantha’s translation he was initially enchanted by the beauty of its poetical style, but Bhagavan asked him to begin writing a new translation in a longer metre, and explained to him how Kavyakantha had deliberately omitted or distorted in his translation many important ideas in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that he did not like. Bhagavan also explained why Kavyakantha had done so, saying that he hated advaita like poison, and narrating various incidents that illustrated this.

All that Bhagavan explained to him about the intention of Kavyakantha and his close followers was confirmed to Lakshmana Sarma soon after that when he read Kapali Sastri’s commentary, Sat-Darshana Bhashya, in which he saw that Kapali Sastri had endeavoured to distort and misrepresent Bhagavan’s teachings in numerous ways, and even directly contradicted them in many places. For example, in his introduction (Bhoomika) to the Bhashya Kapali Sastri wrote, ‘It is evident then that it is both futile and false to affirm that the substantial truth alone of the world-being, Brahman, is real and that the formal aspect of Brahman as the world is unreal’ (1953 edition, pp. 6-7) , thereby implying that Bhagavan’s teaching that our actual self (which is brahman, the only true substance or vastu) alone is real and that the world is merely an unreal appearance is ‘both futile and false’.

However, though Bhagavan had explained in detail to Lakshmana Sarma and others the intention behind both Kavyakantha’s translation and Kapali Sastri’s commentary on it (as was confirmed to me by several other devotees who were present at that time, including Swami Natananandar), he did not object to the fact that Sat-Darshana Bhashya was unquestioningly published by the management of Ramanasramam in Sanskrit, Tamil and English, so Lakshmana Sarma asked to him prayerfully, ‘If your teachings are misinterpreted like this in your very lifetime, what will become of them in future? Will not people think that you have approved this book? Should not such a wrong interpretation be openly condemned?’ However, Bhagavan just smiled and replied, ‘According to the purity of the mind (antaḥkaraṇa) of each person, the same teaching is reflected in different ways. If you think you can expound the teachings more faithfully, you may write your own commentary’. (This reply given by Bhagavan is recorded in the preface to Maha Yoga (2002 edition, pages v-vi), and was reproduced by David Godman in Part Three of The Power of the Presence (2002 edition, page 169).)

I assume that the reason why Bhagavan did not object to the publication of Sat-Darshana Bhashya, even though he knew better than anyone that it grossly misrepresented his teachings, and also why more generally he allowed each devotee freedom to understand his teachings in their own way and to write about them accordingly, was that he knew that those who are willing and able to understand them clearly and correctly will do so, in spite of any amount of misinterpretation or misrepresentation, and that those who are not willing or capable to understand them clearly or correctly will understand them in a confused manner no matter how carefully and correctly they may be explained. In saying this, I do not mean to imply that there is a clear dividing line between understanding them correctly and understanding them wrongly, because none of us can understand them perfectly so long as we experience ourself as an ego, so there is a broad spectrum between understanding them perfectly and misunderstanding them completely. Therefore the understanding of each one of us stands somewhere on that spectrum, and if we sincerely want to follow what he taught us we should always be trying to improve and refine our own understanding by repeated study (śravaṇa), deep and careful reflection (manana) and practice of self-attentiveness (nididhyāsana).

Our anonymous friend wrote, ‘According to you everybody has got it wrong’, implying that I believe that my own understanding alone is correct and everyone else’s is wrong, but I have never written, said or implied any such thing. I do not think that my own understanding is perfect, so I am always trying to improve and refine it, and I do not think that anyone else’s understanding is always entirely wrong. Except for those who have surrendered their ego entirely and thereby merged forever in the absolutely clear light of pure self-awareness, which is what Bhagavan really is and what his teachings are pointing us towards, none of us have understood them perfectly, and we all no doubt fail to understand certain aspects of them adequately.

What seems to have given our anonymous friend the wrong impression that I consider everyone else’s understanding to be wrong is that sometimes when friends cite in their comments certain views expressed by others that I consider to be incorrect, I explain why I think such views are contrary to what Bhagavan taught us and intended us to understand. I do not simply say that I consider a particular view or interpretation to be wrong, but offer detailed arguments based on Bhagavan’s own original writings to explain why I consider it to be wrong, so that each reader can consider my arguments alongside the view or interpretation in question and decide for themself which they consider to be correct. In each case some readers may agree with my arguments whereas others may disagree with them, and those who disagree with them may either agree with the view or interpretation that I have argued against or form their own independent view.

If I disagree with a particular view expressed by some other devotee, that does not mean I disagree with all their views. I may agree with them in many other respects, but not with regard to the particular view that I happen to be arguing against. Moreover, if I happen to critique a particular view held by another devotee, that does not mean that I am criticising that devotee as a person. When discussing Bhagavan’s teachings, we will each naturally disagree with certain points of view expressed by others, but if we explain why we disagree with that particular point of view, our explanation should not be taken to be criticism of any person who holds that view.

If anyone takes a well-reasoned discussion about the pros and cons of certain views to be personal criticism, that would be a very childish attitude to take towards a serious discussion, and would be a wholly inappropriate response to a discussion among spiritual aspirants who are seeking to understand Bhagavan’s teachings more clearly and correctly. David Godman and I, for example, have been friends for nearly forty years, and from the time we first met in 1976 we often used to discuss Bhagavan’s teachings, and in some respects we agreed with each other while in other respects we disagreed, but neither of us have ever taken our disagreements personally, and we have both respected each other’s right to hold a different point of view, so our friendship has endured all these years in spite of the fact that we both know that we disagree with each other regarding certain aspects of his teachings. Whenever we have discussed points that we disagree about, we have always done so amicably, and we have each tried to understand the other’s point of view, which is, I believe, how any spiritual aspirants should discuss such matters.

In a later comment this anonymous friend wrote that I hurt people when I explain why I disagree with certain views expressed by David or other devotees, and he implied that I hurt them because they are ‘fans’ of such devotees, but someone could be hurt by my explanations only if they mistake a critique of certain specific ideas to be personal criticism of whoever happens to have expressed those ideas. When we discuss Bhagavan’s teachings among ourselves, we naturally have to consider whatever points of view happen to be expressed or cited during our discussion, and often these will be points of view expressed by other devotees who are well-known because they have written books or given talks on his teachings. If we each had to refrain from disagreeing with any point of view expressed by any such well-known devotee for fear that we may hurt the feelings of their fans, our discussion of Bhagavan’s teachings would thereby be severely curtailed, because we would not be able to explain why we consider certain views to be a misinterpretation or misrepresentation of his teachings, or to clarify what we believe he actually intended us to understand.

If anyone prefers to be a fan of one or more devotees of Bhagavan rather than trying impartially to understand what he intended to teach us in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, they are free to do so, and I do not think any of the rest of us would want to disturb them from their personal admiration for whichever devotees they choose to be a fan of, but if they feel hurt whenever anyone disagrees with any view expressed by those whom they admire and if they do not want to feel hurt in this way, they should stay away from this blog and any other place where other aspirants choose to discuss freely and impartially a range of views expressed in books or online about Bhagavan’s teachings in order to decide what they individually believe he intended us to understand.

The main aim of this blog is only to discuss Bhagavan’s teachings, but while discussing them the views that others have expressed about them will inevitably be raised, so it is only in such contexts that we discuss such views. Since I like to be clear in my own mind about what he actually meant and implied in his writings and oral teachings, and since most of the readers of this blog have a similar aim, whenever I read any views expressed here that I believe misrepresent what he meant or implied, I do not hesitate to explain why I believe such views to be mistaken and what I think he actually intended us to understand. I do not seek to impose my own views on others, but just offer them with carefully reasoned arguments that explain (primarily on the basis of his original writings, and sometimes also on the basis of other more or less accurate and reliable records of his oral teachings) why I believe each such view accurately represents what he meant. It is then up to each reader to decide for themself whether or not my views are adequately supported by the sources I cite and the arguments I give.

When Bhagavan said to Lakshmana Sarma, ‘According to the purity of the mind of each person, the same teaching is reflected in different ways’, he acknowledged the fact that each one of us will inevitably understand his teachings according to our own willingness and ability to comprehend them, so there will always be differences of opinion with regard to them. Having thought carefully and deeply about most aspects of them, I am reasonably confident that my understanding of them is more or less correct, but just because in some cases I believe certain other views are incorrect, I do not suppose that this is because my own mind is any purer than devotees whose views are different to mine. I have the advantage of having studied his principal writings in the original under the clear guidance of Sadhu Om, who prompted me to think about them deeply and critically in order to understand them correctly, and I have a naturally philosophical mind, which makes me question everything, including my own understanding and beliefs, in order to decide what I can or cannot justifiably believe, so I have probably done manana more carefully, critically and deeply than many other devotees, and hence in spite of my lack of real purity of mind I believe my understanding of his teachings is in most respects reasonably correct. Whether others agree with me or not is up to them to decide, because whatever views I express I try to back up with clear arguments, which should enable each other person to judge them critically.

As I indicated when writing above about Sat-Darshana Bhashya, from all I have read and heard from devotees who were with Bhagavan, particular prior to the early 1930s, I believe that Kavyakantha and Kapali Sastri misrepresented Bhagavan’s teachings with deliberate intent, because they did not like the fundamental principles of his teachings or of advaita philosophy more generally, since those principles contradicted many of their most cherished beliefs and were incompatible with their own personal aims and ambitions. However, except for them and a few of their closest followers, I have no reason to believe that any other devotees either past or present have intended in such a way to misrepresent his teachings, so if ever some of them did misrepresent them, that was probably due to a lack of clear understanding rather than any wish to do so. Therefore whenever I critique or repudiate any views expressed by other devotees that I disagree with, my only concern is to explain why I believe that such views misrepresent Bhagavan’s teachings and what I believe he actually meant, so I do not intend my explanations to be taken as personal criticism of anyone, and I hope that no impartial reader will find in what I write any grounds for supposing that my criticisms extend any further than the particular ideas or confusions that I happen to be examining and arguing against.

d) In his second comment our anonymous friend wrote: ‘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?’

I have never written about Annamalai Swami because though I knew him personally I never discussed Bhagavan’s teachings with him, so I do not know much about his views or understanding. My not mentioning him has got nothing to do with any ‘pedigree’, by which term I assume this anonymous friend means a lineage or sampradāya, because Bhagavan never intended to establish a sampradāya, and I do not believe that the concept of a sampradāya or lineage of gurus has any relevance to his teachings. As both Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om used to say to anyone who wanted to take either of them as guru, Bhagavan alone is the guru of all of us, and he does not need any intermediaries between himself and any of his followers or devotees.

e) Our anonymous friend then wrote: ‘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? […]’.

The comments on this blog form a discussion, primarily about what I have written in each respective article, but also about other more or less closely related matters, and as I explained above, when views are expressed in such a discussion, if I believe any of those views do not represent Bhagavan’s teachings correctly, I sometimes decide that it would be appropriate to explain why I believe that such views are not what Bhagavan intended us to understand. If all the participants in a discussion felt constrained to a reply to any view only if it was expressed in the form of a question, it would not be a real discussion.

In some cases my opinion may not have been specifically asked for, but that does not mean that I should not attempt to correct any views expressed here that I consider to be misleading. Moreover, I do not just express my own opinions, but try to explain what Bhagavan actually meant, and I cite his own words and give reasonable arguments to support whatever views I express. If our anonymous friend or anyone else disagrees with my views or the arguments I give, they are free to offer counterarguments, which I would be happy to consider and reply to, but instead of offering any reasonable arguments against any particular views that I have expressed, he seems to be criticising me simply for expressing any views that are contrary to those expressed by any other well-known devotees.

Regarding what our anonymous friend wrote about me waking Cohen up from his coffin and thrashing him badly, I did no such thing, and implying that I did so seems to be a very perverse way of interpreting what I actually wrote. What he is referring to is an article I wrote a few months ago, What is meditation on the heart?, in which I discussed Cohen’s interpretation of a particular passage in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Though I explained why I consider his interpretation of it to be wrong, I did not write anything again Cohen personally, and to make this clear I wrote explicitly in that article, ‘I do not suppose that he was deliberately misinterpreting what is recorded in this passage of Talks, but his understanding of it was certainly very confused’.

I have no reason to doubt Cohen’s sincerity, but being a sincere devotee does not necessarily mean that his understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings was always correct. Obviously he wanted to understand his teachings correctly and to help other to understand them, and that is why he wrote the book in question, Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Since this was his aim, and since he seemed to be an honest and humble devotee, I assume he would not have minded anyone pointing out any errors or confusion that may happen to be in his interpretation.

Moreover, since he published his interpretations in a book for all to read, he knew that he was exposing his ideas to public scrutiny, so though he knew that some people may disagree with his ideas, he was sufficiently confident about them to share them and to accept responsibility for them, and hence he would have been ready to face any criticism that they may receive. Therefore the fact that he died long ago does not mean that his published views should not now be evaluated or that any errors or confusion in them should not be pointed out. People still read his book, so they are still liable to be confused or misled by any of his ideas or interpretations that misrepresent Bhagavan’s teachings, and hence I considered it necessary to point out that what he had written about that particular passage in Talks was confused and misleading.

If our aim is to follow what Bhagavan taught us, we obviously need to understand his teachings as clearly and correctly as possible, but when we read all the published records and interpretations of what he wrote and said, it is clear that the various writers have understood and interpreted his teachings in very different ways, so it is easy for any of us to be confused by so many different views and interpretations. Fortunately, however, Bhagavan wrote his most essential and fundamental teachings in a clear manner in a few texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, so if we want to be sure what he actually intended to teach us, we should rely on such texts and take them to be the primary source from which we can derive a clear and correct understanding of his teachings.

In this context there is an interesting verse composed by Sri Muruganar in Śrī Ramaṇa Sannidhi Muṟai that David Godman pointed out to me recently, namely verse 1545. What David wrote about it was:
I came across this Ramana Sannidhi Murai (1545) verse for the first time a few days ago:
Why did Venkata, the primal one, declare a primary text for the sake of the scholars whose head was Ganapathy? If he had not declared the primary text, the consciousness of those ripe scholars would have branched out more and more in many different ways.
I am assuming the primary text is Ulladu Narpadu, and that Muruganar is claiming that one reason Bhagavan composed it was to make a statement of what his true teachings were so that Ganapati Muni and his followers couldn’t claim they were something else. That might be one reason he made Lakshman Sarma put so much work into his Sanskrit rendering of the work.
I agree with David that what Muruganar refers to in this verse as ‘ஓர் முதனூல்’ (ōr mudaṉūl), which means ‘one primary text’ (because mudaṉūl is a compound of two words, namely mudal, which means first, foremost, primary, best, root or fundamental, and nūl, which means text, and it is a term used specifically to refer to a fundamental text that is considered to be of divine origin), is Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, because if any one text deserves to be called the primary or most fundamental text of Bhagavan’s teachings, it is Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. The term in this verse that has been translated as ‘ripe scholars’ is மூதறிஞர் (mūdaṟiñar), which does not refer to spiritual ripeness but to ripeness of learning or scholarship, because Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri and some of his closest followers, such as Kapali Sastri, were people of vast learning whose minds were liable to branch out in many different ways. Thus the implication of this verse is that though Bhagavan composed Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu in answer to Muruganar’s prayerful request, ‘Reveal to us the nature of reality and the means to attain it so that we may be saved’, he also did so for the benefit of scholars like Kavyakantha and all of us whose minds are liable to be confused and distracted by numerous other ideas, which would draw our attention away from the one thing we need to investigate and know, namely ourself.

Therefore if we want to keep the fundamental teachings of Bhagavan fresh and clear in our mind and thereby avoid being confused by numerous other ideas that abound in the various other books about his teachings, we should constantly refer back to Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and other texts written by Bhagavan himself to verify whether or not whatever we may read elsewhere is actually in accordance with the fundamental principles that he expressed so clearly in his primary texts. It is only with this intention that I sometimes decide it is appropriate to point out and explain how some of the ideas expressed by other devotees deviate from his actual teachings as expressed in such texts.

14. How can we practise ātma-vicāra in the midst of other activities?

The final ‘blunt and direct question’ that this anonymous friend wrote in his second comment was the one he labelled (f), namely: ‘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. […]’.

What our anonymous friend seems to imply here is that if I or anyone else spends our time doing any other work, we will have no time to practise ātma-vicāra. This may be true if we spend all our time busily attending to things other than ourself, but most of our activities do not require all our attention, so even while doing other activities we can try repeatedly to bring our attention back and to fix it at least partially on ourself. Even in the midst of other activities, much of our attention is normally taken up with thinking unnecessary thoughts, so if instead of dwelling on such thoughts we try to dwell only on our own fundamental self-awareness, we will end each day having devoted much of our attention to ourself.

Moreover, when I am replying to questions about Bhagavan’s teachings or writing anything for this blog, I am doing manana on them, and manana on his teachings is the one activity that keeps our attention closest to ourself and constantly reminds us of the need to try to hold on to self-attentiveness. Therefore if done correctly manana is an aid and support to our practice and not an obstacle to it.

If instead of thinking about his teachings in this way I were to sit with closed eyes trying to be constantly self-attentive, my attention would be frequently distracted by other thoughts, so I would not actually be self-attentive most of the time. This is why Bhagavan never prescribed any particular routine for practising ātma-vicāra, nor did he ever say that we need to give up all other activities. Instead he left it to each of us to find out for ourself how best to practise ātma-vicāra in the midst of whatever other activities we may be doing.

He also taught us that whatever outward activities we are destined to do we will be made to do (as he wrote, for example, in his December 1898 note for his mother, which I cited above at the end of the third section), so we should not concern ourself with whatever activities we are made to do but should instead just try to be silently self-attentive in the midst of such activities. Whatever activity we may be doing, we are always self-aware, so we are always free to choose whether to attend to our self-awareness or to other things, and all that ātma-vicāra entails is choosing to attend to our self-awareness rather than to other things.

Our anonymous friend writes, ‘Most questions here are repetitions. So are the answers’, but repetition is precisely what we need to succeed in this path. We need to repeatedly think about Bhagavan’s fundamental teachings in order to keep them ever fresh and clear in our mind, and we need to repeatedly try to practise what we have understood from his teachings, which is that we should try to be self-attentive as much as possible. Therefore anyone who is passionately interested in practising what he taught us will welcome repetition of this kind.

15. Why did Bhagavan teach us that manōlaya is not a spiritually beneficial state?

In several comments on my previous article one of our friends, Sivanarul, referred to manōlaya as if it were a spiritually beneficial state and one that an aspirant needs to attain before manōnāśa. For example, in one comment he wrote, ‘The mind needs [...] to first attain manolaya before it can even fathom manonasa’, and in another one he wrote, ‘How can manolaya obtained by other practices become an obstacle is beyond me’.

According to Bhagavan, the goal we should seek to attain is only manōnāśa, which means destruction or annihilation of the mind (and which implies annihilation of our ego, since our ego is the root and essence of our mind), because our ego or mind is the root cause of all our problems and is what prevents us from experiencing ourself as we really are, since it is a false or illusory experience of ourself. Whereas manōnāśa is the state of permanent subsidence of our mind, manōlaya is only a state of temporary subsidence of it, such as sleep.

The reason why the subsidence of the mind in manōnāśa is permanent is that our ego or mind is just an illusion that seems to exist only because of our being negligently or inattentively self-aware due to our liking to attend to and thereby be aware of other things, so it can be permanently vanquished only by our being attentively self-aware (and hence aware of nothing else whatsoever), as I explained in the second section of my previous article, Upadēśa Undiyār verse 17: Avoiding self-negligence (pramāda) is the only means to destroy our ego. Therefore, since manōnāśa is a subsidence of our ego that is attained as a result of our being attentively self-aware, it is permanent, whereas subsidence of it attained by any other means is only temporary.

Any temporary state of subsidence of our ego and mind is called manōlaya, so the sleep that we experience every day is a state of manōlaya, and no other state of manōlaya is any more beneficial spiritually than sleep. To illustrate and emphasise this Bhagavan used to tell a story about a yōgi who was practising prāṇāyāma and other techniques of rāja yōga on the banks of the Ganga and who was so proficient in such practices that he was thereby able to immerse himself for increasingly long periods in nirvikalpa samādhi, which is generally considered to be the most exalted form of manōlaya. On one occasion when he awoke from his nirvikalpa samādhi he felt thirsty, so he asked his disciple to bring him some water from the Ganga, but before his disciple had time to bring it he again subsided into nirvikalpa samādhi and did not wake up again for three hundred years. However, as soon as he woke up his first thought was about the water he had asked for, so he again asked angrily why he had not yet been given any.

As Bhagavan explained, this story illustrates that no spiritual benefit can be gained from any state of manōlaya, because the fact that the thought of water, which was the last thought in the yōgi’s mind before he subsided into laya, was the first thought that rose in him as soon as he awoke from laya shows that not even a single vāsanā (propensity, inclination, impulse or desire) is destroyed or even weakened in such a state, no matter how long it may last. Therefore, since all vāsanās can be destroyed entirely along with their root, the ego, only by means of ātma-vicāra or self-attentiveness, he used to advise anyone who was practising prāṇāyāma or any other technique of rāja yōga that they should not allow their mind to subside in laya but should use the relative calmness or quiescence of mind achieved by such practices as a favourable condition in which to try to turn their attention back towards themself alone.

Since manōlaya is by definition a state in which the mind (and hence the ego, which is its essential form and root) has subsided temporarily but completely, as it does in sleep, it is not a state in which one can do any form of spiritual practice or make any effort whatsoever, and hence it cannot be a spiritually fruitful state. Whereas our ego subsides temporarily in sleep due to exhaustion, and whereas it may subside temporarily in a coma due to brain damage or general anaesthesia, it can subside temporarily in nirvikalpa samādhi as a result of various practices such as prāṇāyāma, but whatever may cause it to subside in any such temporary state, the net result is the same, namely manōlaya, which is a state in which the ego and mind are rendered temporarily inactive and therefore incapable of doing anything until they rise again in either waking or dream.

Being in manōlaya is not an obstacle to spiritual progress, any more than being asleep is, but it is like a temporary stop on one’s journey, such as when a train travelling a long distance stops at various stations en route. We need to rest in sleep for several hours each day in order to recuperate our energy, so such rests in manōlaya are necessary and unavoidable, but if we wish to make progress in our spiritual journey we should avoid spending more time in manōlaya than is actually necessary, so we should not try to achieve nirvikalpa samādhi or any other such state of manōlaya by artificial means such as prāṇāyāma or any other yōgic practices, but should aim only to achieve manōnāśa by means of vigilant self-attentiveness.

Though being in manōlaya is not an obstacle but just a delay, making any effort to be in manōlaya would be an obstacle, because manōlaya is a temporary state and hence is something other than ourself, so seeking to achieve it is seeking to achieve something other than ourself. Moreover, in order to achieve manōlaya by any artificial means we would need to direct our attention towards something other than ourself, and if we manage to achieve it by any yōgic practices, we would be liable to become attached to such practices and to the resulting state of manōlaya, as was the yōgi on the banks of the Ganga in the story narrated by Bhagavan. Therefore Bhagavan never recommended seeking manōlaya for any reason at all, except of course the daily quota of sleep that we require in order for our mind to be fresh and clear enough to practise being vigilantly self-attentive while we are awake or in dream.

In order to annihilate our ego or mind the instrument we must use is its own power of attention, so since neither our ego nor its power of attention exists in sleep or in any other state of manōlaya, being in such a state cannot help us to annihilate our ego and mind. Likewise, to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās (outward-going inclinations, desires or attachments), we need to use our ego’s free will to choose to attend to ourself (or to a thought of God, if we are following a path of more dualistic devotion) rather than to any other thought or viṣaya (object of perception or anything other than oneself), so since neither our ego nor its free will exists in any state of manōlaya, being in such a state cannot help us to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās.

That is, since viṣaya-vāsanās are our desires or liking to experience anything other than ourself, they are the icchā (will or volition) aspect of our ego (which is a reflection of the priya or ānanda nature of our real self), so they can be weakened and removed only by means of an alternative use of our will. So long as we choose to allow our mind to dwell on viṣayas or things other than oneself, we are nourishing, sustaining and strengthening our viṣaya-vāsanās, so to weaken them we must choose to try to attend to ourself alone (or at least to a thought of God). At each moment we are free to choose either to attend to ourself or to other things, so it is the choice that we make at each moment that will either weaken or strengthen our viṣaya-vāsanās. This is why we need to passionately love to be self-attentive (or to think of God), because it is only by such love that we can weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and strengthen our sat-vāsanā (our love just to be, which is also called svātma-bhakti or love for our own real self, whose nature is sat or being).

Since we can choose to be self-attentive (or to think of God) only when our ego is active, as it is in waking and dream, and not when it is subsided in sleep or any other state of manōlaya, we can weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās only in waking and dream and not in any state of manōlaya. This is why Bhagavan taught us that manōlaya is not a spiritually beneficial state and is therefore not a state that we should try to achieve. We should obviously sleep as much as we need to, but while awake or in dream we should direct all our interest and effort to being self-attentive (or to lovingly thinking of God, or of the teachings of our guru, Bhagavan Ramana). This is the only means by which we can weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby eventually eradicate the illusion that we are this ego.

260 comments:

1 – 200 of 260   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

SRI RAMANA EXPERIENCE
By Sri Muruganar

233. He forgave me my misdeeds
and made good my imperfections.
Through the Grace of the Self
which shines within the Heart,
cleansing it of its fundamental corruption,
he gave me the gift of a greater Life lived in the Real.
He is the Lord to whom I cling as my True support,
abandoning all other attachments.

Anonymous said...

SRI RAMANA EXPERIENCE
By Sri Muruganar

137. The Holy state of Grace has become established
within my Heart.
The false ‘I’ of my personal self,
which arises through lack of attention,
has vanished.
And as the deadly ocean of wicked desires was drained,
I entered that state of clear Awareness,
which is to be one with
the auspicious one who destroys illusion.

ekatma-vastu said...

It is surely no accident that Sri Muruganar of all people had the good fortune to meet Sri Ramana Arunachala and get the 'gift of a greater Life lived in the Real'.
Abandoning all other attachments than clinging to the Lord we need the Grace of the Self.

fire stirrer said...

Arunachala, would you not want to become established within my Heart too and herewith drain the deadly ocean of my wicked desires ?
I too am longing for entering the Holy state of clear Awareness and to be one with the auspicious one who destroys the false 'I' of my personal self which arises only through lack of attention. Do not fail to achieve your purpose to root out the ego of those who think in the heart of you.

shooting star said...

Arunachala,
let us be able to apprehend fully the always present anugraham (Grace)of Bhagavan.
Oh Hill of my refuge, it is for you to cure the ills of recurring births.
Arunachala, chase away the illusory appearance of my ego as an individual soul and let it merge into the supreme self.
Annamalai, therefore shake me out of my apathy and have the watch over my steady and continuous investigation into the mind's nature of rising and jumping out through the senses. Too long I have identified myself with the body and the brain/senses.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael I look forward very much to reading your latest article over the next few days, they are like presents.
In appreictaion.
Bob

Mouna said...

Dear Michael and Friends,
One of the most important contributions we can give each other in the realm of ideas is not only our personal and subjective views in relation to various topic of discussion, but also and most valuable a direction on how to guide our thinking so it becomes the most efficient tool to support our aims in life.

I believe this is what you succeeded in doing with this last posting of yours Michael.
I am not praising the man, or the person behind, I am pointing out to something that transcends both.

Such an article reveals a "way of thinking", an approach of and to investigation not only of ideas but of life and of meaning itself.
It is a big lesson on how to think, not only in a dispassionate way but also in a very rational, human and loving one.
Echoes what Bhagavan always tried to convey through his teachings (and actions): the most clear, simple, direct, loving yet firm way of discovering oneself. How it is received and digested will depend on the receiver.

This article, as many before, goes beyond the simple Michael James' views and thinking and shows an attitude behind the words, which I consider the "real" force behind those very words.
That is why it is not personal, although requires an instrument to be transmitted, in this case what we call Michael James.

To me, is a very short article (that requires to be read many times and slowly though!). Because what is transmitted could be summarized in a few words, or even better, with silence.

Thanks Michael,
Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Noob said...

I hope that the knowledge about Bhagavan's teachings came into my deluded outlook because the ego became weak enough and hopefully this outlook will change into inlook in its due time. What can be more natural than to know oneself?

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vanakkam.

“I believe this is what you succeeded in doing with this last posting of yours Michael.
I am not praising the man, or the person behind, I am pointing out to something that transcends both.”

Let’s praise the man and the person behind also. :-) He has earned that, at the least for taking so much time to write such a long article. Besides, if we don’t praise him, he will never get a chance to practice level headedness midst intense praise. So we will really be helping Michael’s Sadhana by showering praise :-)

So here is the praise Michael. I don’t think there exists anyone in the world today with this commitment to writing articles with such clarity, breadth and depth (I disagree with some of the things that is written, but that is a different story). Your blog is a very big treat both for people who always agree with you and for people like me who disagree with you a lot :-)

On a separate note, I want to comment on the manolaya and the yogi waking up from Samadhi and asking for water story. I don’t have time now and will do so over the weekend. But in brief, that story seems to trivialize Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi (I am aware Bhagavan said that story). It is like all the stories that are said to children that ends with “They lived happily everafter”. What happens next is untold. In the Yogi story, the yogi asks for water and then turns around and does intense Vichara with intense determination, one-pointedness and force derived from repeated experiences of Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Guess what, his Vichara gets over in one minute and he realizes himself as he really is.

Dare I speculate that Bhagavan was that yogi in previous life. He woke up asked for water (a simile for his childhood), did intense Vichara and realized the Self.

Silk weaver said...

Mouna,
your comment hits the nail on the head.

Flight-taker said...

Sivanarul,
are you sure if there is at all any man or person behind Michael James ?
How can you call Arunachala a man or a person ?

Gavin said...

Excellent article. You write,

"If anyone prefers to be a fan of one or more devotees of Bhagavan rather than trying impartially to understand what he intended to teach us in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, they are free to do so, and I do not think any of the rest of us would want to disturb them from their personal admiration for whichever devotees they choose to be a fan of, but if they feel hurt whenever anyone disagrees with any view expressed by those whom they admire and if they do not want to feel hurt in this way, they should stay away from this blog and any other place where other aspirants choose to discuss freely and impartially a range of views expressed in books or online about Bhagavan’s teachings in order to decide what they individually believe he intended us to understand."

While not wanting to further drive home the point as there is no need for that, I agree completely with the above.

Anonymous said...

Once, while I (Annamalai Swamy) was sitting in the hall, someone complained to
Bhagavan about one of the devotees who was sitting there: 'He is not meditating here, he is just sleeping.' 'How can you know that?' retorted Bhagavan. 'Only because you yourself gave up your meditation to look at him! First see yourself and don't concern yourself with other people's habits.'

Peanuts are so good !

Anonymous said...

From "No mind I am the self"


Swamy: The Self is ever-present; there is no question of realising it.

You can neither reach it nor attain it because you are the Self even

now. It is said that the mind prevents one from being aware of the

Self, but the mind is non-existent. The Self alone exists, and one

who knows this knows that there is no birth, no death, no mind, no

time and no question of enlightenment. This is the final truth.

If you think, 'This is not my experience' or 'How shall I realise the

Self?', then the mind will appear to exist. All such thoughts and

doubts arise in the mind. Deprive the mind of such thoughts and mind

itself will disappears. Be quiet end still and all thoughts will

disappear. Self-enquiry and surrender are only techniques which bring

one to the state of inner stillness and quietness. The ultimate

instruction is therefore , 'Be still and quiet; stabilise in this

state and the Self will be revealed'. This instruction, 'Be quiet and

still' is likely to be misunderstood by ordinary people, and so it is

only given to ripe devotees.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Hi Michael, regarding the question "14. How can we practise ātma-vicāra in the midst of other activities?" I had been trying it for many a days but in vain. For example, even while writing this comment now, my awareness and attention is only on writing, seeing the words in screen. If I try to practice atma-vichara, it is like I need to take a pause, be aware of the one who is thinking and look at myself and after few moments continue writing. But doing self enquiry while simultaneously writing (or for that matter any other work that involves mind activity like reading, daily office work) is difficult. While walking, commuting, waiting in the station etc where the mind activity is not necessary, yes we can practice. But while doing mental activity related work, doing atma vichara side by side, I'm not able to do.

Anonymous said...

Palaniappan,
How do you know "I'm not able to" ? Seek!

who? said...

Paliniappan, i try to answer your concerns based upon my limited understanding of atma-vichara.

Firstly, it is not really necessary or useful to be worried about practicing atma-vichara in the midst of any activity which seems to us be important enough to warrant most of our attention. If any activity has this level of priority, it is better to be done away with it and consequently, as pressing thoughts regarding that activity subside, try to pay complete undivided attention to our own being.

However, it is recommended that we try to pay at least a little attention to our own being even while engaged in other activities, especially in those that do not demand our complete undivided attention. As an analogy, we may have experienced our attention drifting while attending a boring lecture in college; though we do superficially register what is being taught, at least some of our attention is free to wander in other avenues which we find more interesting than the lecture. Thus, we know from our own experience that it is possible to pay attention to other things even while engaged in mental activities, so it is completely possible to attend to our being at least to a limited extent. We always have complete freedom in regards to where we direct our attention.

You write 'If I try to practice atma-vichara, it is like I need to take a pause, be aware of the one who is thinking and look at myself and after few moments continue writing', but what you have expressed here is just a conceptual description about the ego looking at an object that it imagines to be itself. Atma-vichara only implies self-attention; the more our attention stays in its source, the less it is diverted outwards towards any activity that we may be engaged in. It is better (to continue with your example of a person engaged in writing something) to either try to direct some attention to ourself simultaneously, or if it seems futile, to finish off with writing, and then try atma-vichara with keen attention.

Sleepwalker said...

Palaniappan Chidambaram,
why not letting do the mind its "mental activity related work" ?
You only need not to lose the awareness of mind at work. So long you are conscious of the minds work you are witnessing it.
That would be at least a similar kind of vichara.
Michael may or will surely answer and clear your problem.

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, when you write in your comment ‘while writing this comment now, my awareness and attention is only on writing, seeing the words in screen’ the important word to notice is ‘my’, because it indicates that you are aware of yourself even while you are aware of writing and seeing words on the screen. Whatever else we may be aware of, we must also be aware of ourself, so even when most of our attention is occupied with whatever activity we are currently doing, we can try to hold at least part of our attention back on ourself, the attender.

Obviously when our attention is divided in this way our self-attentiveness will not be as deep or intense as it can be at other times when fewer or no other things require our attention, but training ourself to hold on to at least a tenuous current of self-attentiveness even in the midst of other activities is a very beneficial practice and will help us to go deeper within at other times. As you say, it is easier to be self-attentive while walking or engaged in other physical activities than it is to be while engaged in mental activities, so we should first try to cultivate the habit of being self-attentive to a greater or lesser extent while engaged in physical activities, but we should also gradually try to extend this practice into times when we are engaged in work that requires more of our attention.

If we do not succeed in such efforts, or if our success is only partial, we should not worry about it, but we also should not give up trying. Moreover some work may require so much of our attention that we forget about self-attentiveness, but as soon as such work is over we should try to remember to resume our inward practice.

Most of us will repeatedly fail in such attempts, but even trying is an important achievement, so we should not worry about our failures, no matter how often they may occur. It is better to try and fail than not to try at all, because trying is an indication of our love for self-attentiveness, and it is only by such love that we will eventually succeed in annihilating our ego.

Michael James said...

Sleepwalker, in your comment you write, ‘So long you are conscious of the minds work you are witnessing it. That would be at least a similar kind of vichara’, but this is not actually correct, because the mind consists of two aspects, namely the ego (which is our primal thought called ‘I’, the root of all our other thoughts) and all other thoughts or mental phenomena, and the only aspect we should be attending to or ‘witnessing’ is this ego. Attending to anything other than our ego is how we nourish and sustain the illusion that this ego is ourself, so only when we try to attend to our ego itself will it begin to dissolve and subside.

Attending to anything other than ourself is anātma-vicāra (investigating what is not ourself), whereas attending to ourself, who now seem to be this ego, is ātma-vicāra, so the latter is the only kind of vicāra that we should try to do. Therefore it is very important to understand clearly the distinction between attending to our ego or root thought called ‘I’ and attending to any other thought, such as whatever physical or mental activity we may seem to be doing.

As far as possible we should try to withdraw our attention from all other thoughts and focus it only on ourself, this primal thought called ‘I’, which is an adjunct-mixed form of our original self-awareness. Even when trying thus to attend to this thought called ‘I’ or ‘ego’, the portion of it that we should try to attend to is only its essential aspect, which is pure self-awareness and which is what we actually are, because by doing so we will separate and isolate ourself from its non-essential aspect, which is all its adjuncts (beginning with whatever body we currently experience as ourself).

Obviously while engaged in activity we cannot focus all of our attention on our self-awareness alone, but the more we manage to do so the more we will separate ourself from all the illusory phenomena that feed and nourish our ego, and eventually when we thereby develop sufficient love to be aware of ourself alone, we will be able to focus our entire attention on ourself, whereupon this illusory ego and all the phenomena it was aware of will dissolve forever in the absolute clarity of pristine self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

Sleepwalker said...

Michael,
thank you for exposing my incorrect point of view what we should be attending to or witnessing and for clearly emphasizing again the serious difference between anatma –vicara and atma-vicara. When you entrust us with the importance of cloudless understanding and discernment of that distinction between attending to our ego or root thought called 'I' and attending to any other thought, we should take that to our heart. As you explicitly expound nothing is more imperative than developing sufficient love to be aware of ourself alone and through it focussing our entire attention on ourself. So let us never forget to separate ourself from the illusory phenomena that feed and nourish our ego. Therefore we should urgently try to withdraw our attention from all other thoughts and focus it only on ourself, this primal thought called 'I', which is an adjunct-mixed form of our original self-awareness.
Thank you for remembering that the mind consists of two aspects, namely the ego which is our primal thought called 'I' and all other thoughts or mental phenomena.
As you elucidate we should try to attend only to the ego’s essential aspect because by doing so we will isolate ourself from its non-essential aspect with all its adjuncts. We have to take our courage in both hands to dissolve this illusory ego and all the phenomena it was aware of forever in the bright light of pristine self-awareness. Whole-heartedly we should stop nourishing and sustaining the illusion that this ego is ourself.

Sivanarul said...

“In several comments on my previous article one of our friends, Sivanarul, referred to manōlaya as if it were a spiritually beneficial state and one that an aspirant needs to attain before manōnāśa. For example, in one comment he wrote, ‘The mind needs [...] to first attain manolaya before it can even fathom manonasa’, and in another one he wrote, ‘How can manolaya obtained by other practices become an obstacle is beyond me’.”

Thanks Michael for such an in depth explanation in Section 15 of the article. My comment that one first needs to attain manolaya, was to convey that one needs to get the spiritual maturity (that manolaya indicates) before one can fathom manonasa. It was not meant to say that one should aim and stay in manolaya for a long duration or that manolaya is spiritually beneficial.

The highest form of manolaya, as you explain, is experienced in Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi (KNS). If one has an experience of KNS, then according to yoga sutras, one has to have a mastery of yama, niyama, pratayhara, dharana and dhyana. My point was without a mastery of these, how can one even fathom manonasa?

I have already commented a few days ago on the “yogi asking water story” and I won’t repeat it again. But briefly, if a yogi can stay in KNS for 300 years, as per that story, that yogi must have developed such a power of attention. All he has to do is to turn that attention on himself and he immediately will become an Atma-Jnani.

As Saint Arunagirinathar wrote in his thirupugazh song 216 (with sadhakas in mind),

“சரண கமலாலயத்தை அரைநிமிஷ நேர மட்டில்
தவமுறை தியானம் வைக்க ...... அறியாத”

“I could not even meditate on your holy feet in absorption for just 30 seconds “

Many of us who do any kind of sadhana are in the above state of unable to attain deep absorption for any reasonable duration. A yogi who can stay in KNS for 300 years is light years advanced and right at the periphery of truth.

So big pranams to that yogi and may that yogi bless me.

Continued in next comment….

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment….

While Bhagavan did tell the story, that is not all he did. He also has told how he himself had used KSN as quoted below:

https://www.facebook.com/RamanaHridayam/posts/701103016665853

(The Power of the Presence, part one, pp. 172-3) (as per the above link)

“Bhagavan: The mukta purusha [liberated being] does not need his body once he has realised the Self. However, so long as he stays alive, he has the power to drain off devotees’ illnesses into his own body. That is why his body suffers for the time being. That is what is meant by the answer ‘yes’.

If he retires into the solitude of a quiet corner and remains in kevala nirvikalpa samadhi, completely oblivious of the body-world complex, the disease received in the body gets dissipated. When he returns to his body consciousness the body is cured and restored to its original health. The duration of that samadhi should be in adequate proportion to the seriousness of the disease concerned.

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, who attained Self-realisation at a very young age with a very healthy and strong body, was engaged in ceaseless activity in the state of sahaja samadhi. Out of his infinite mercy he gave relief to hosts of suffering people who came to him with all sorts of serious diseases. He was continuously active, day and night, and never cared to recoup his health by retiring into the solitude of kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. As a result he gave up his body while he was in his early thirties. “

So there is no point in dismissing KNS as nothing more than a deep sleep state. There apparently is a huge difference as explained above.

Sivanarul said...

As a tribute to all the yogis of the world, especially the 300 years in Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi yogi, from a sadhaka who cannot hold his mind steady for 30 seconds.

Thayumanavar songs on Samadhi

Bliss That Is Perfect Full (6/10)

The Maya into which the elements subside
Is the origin of all, so some say.
The Substance into which the sense organs merge
Is the reality, so some say.
Where the cognitive organs, the karanas end,
Is the finite reality, so some say.
Where the gunas find their home
Is the Reality ultimate, so some say *
Nadam it is, some say
Bindu it is, others say *
The Self it is, yet others say
Formed it is, some say.
Formless it is, if you search deeper, so some say
The state where jiva merges losing identity in full
Is the reality, so some say .
Divine Grace is the finite reality, so some say .
The Void that neither beginning nor end has
Is the reality final so some say .

And thus and thus yet other things they say.
By all these, except that my mind sore troubled,
Reaches a mercurial state.

Will I ever attain
The bliss of Transcendental Samadhi?

Oh! Thou who filleth all visible space
In unbroken continuity!
Thou, the Bliss that is Perfect Full!

Sivanarul said...

Ocean of Bliss (9/12)

The warring faiths contradict one another.
The Maunis great, having attained nirvakalpa samadhi *[1]
Do not speak at all.
The Three Eyed God that teaches,
Talks straight to awareness
With gesture of the hand (chin mudra).

Siva That is Truth-Knowledge-Bliss (7/11)

Of the findings of the Vedagamas,
So palpable as the amla fruit on hand
Is Purusarta *[1].
Of these, if mukti exalted is considered,
Based on inference, intuition and experience,
There is nothing higher
Than transcendent samadhi.


Siva's Will (7/10)

Even this worldy life paved with sins
I crave for,
If only, I get the holy opportunity
To serve Thy devotees true.
If not, I seek the renunciation pure
That leads to the samadhi trance.

If as a Mauni, Thou granteth me the goodly Grace,
Then even to be born again
Is what I would devoutly wish for.
For, I might then attain the state
Which those who have annihilated the I and mine have reached.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thanks much for taking to time to write Section 11 of the article. ( How I became convinced about the imperative need for ātma-vicāra)

“Firstly in reply to Maya’s questions about how I was drawn to this practice, I think I was always of a somewhat spiritual bent of mind, because I remember as a very small child wondering whether this was all just a dream and how one could know whether or not one was dreaming.

That pretty much explains your strong advocacy of Vichara and World is an illusion. To have that thinking, as a very small child, indicates very strong samskaras in that direction. No wonder, you immediately fell for Bhagavan’s teachings and it became a match made in heaven :-)

The above validates my understanding that we are all primed by samskaras to adopt a particular Sadhana or set of Sadhanas, as influenced by those samskaras. We simply look for a teaching that reflects what we are already primed to follow and that teaching becomes a validation of what we wanted to do anyway.

“when I was young, as I grew up I started asking more and more questions, such as why one should believe all that one is asked to believe by such a religion”

That explains your deeply analytical nature and your Ph.D level of thesis on every aspect of Bhagavan’s teachings.

“and I did a vipassanā meditation course before eventually coming to Tiruvannamalai.”

Dare I speculate that the vipassana mediation course became the foundation for your 40+ Vichara years and you owe some gratitude to that vipassana meditation :-) Just kidding!, although you have to admit that Vipassana is some form of Vichara.

“Regarding Sivanarul’s question about how practising ātma-vicāra for so many years has affected me, it is difficult to say, partly because I do not know how I would have been if I had not practised it, partly because I could not imagine my life without it, and most importantly because we cannot really measure or know what progress we are making when following this or any other spiritual path.”

I was hoping that you would provide some insight into the inner transformation that has happened due to the practice of vichara all these years. In the west, there have been numerous fMRI studies on Buddhist monks who have 10,000+ hours of mindfulness meditation. It simply goes without saying that there will be a transformation of some sort, irrespective of the Sadhana one does.

Thanks again. At some point in the future, it would be helpful, if you write how you coped with the financial insecurities that would have arisen due to the reclusive lifestyle you have adopted. Have you had to starve on some days? How have you really supported yourself all these years? Have you had a part-time job?

shiba said...

About 13

Look at "R、38、Ramana's Teachings by TKS" of "Article wise Index" in "the Call Divine "(http://www.sriramana.org/calldivine/img.php?pat=vol2/557.jpg) at Sri Ramanashramam HP.

All criticisms to Ganapati Muni seems to come from Lakshmana Sarma... Can we believe all that Sarma said is correct and fair? Bhagavan was good at finding good points even in "bad" person. Why can we believe persons who don't follow what Bhagavan practiced really? Who is the one who boldly think have right to "repudiate ideas that deviate from Bhagavan’s actual teachings"? Did Bhagavan asked him to do so? Is he "Bhagavan's tool"? Who can know "Bhagavan's actual teachings" except Jnanis?

Lakshmana Sarma's "Ulladu Narpadu" is best,as Bhagavan said", but it is solely due to Bhagavan's supervision, and not to his skill. I don't find that his other works about Bhagavan's teaching is very good at presenting his teaching.

venkat said...

Michael, thanks for a wonderful article demonstrating logical, rational and impersonal analysis - both in Bhagavan's teachings and your attempt to convey them.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding the comment in which you write, ‘if a yogi can stay in KNS [kēvala nirvikalpa samādhi] for 300 years, as per that story, that yogi must have developed such a power of attention. All he has to do is to turn that attention on himself and he immediately will become an Atma-Jnani’, we cannot assume that this is necessarily the case, because whatever motivates a person to develop the ability to remain so long in such a state of manōlaya may not be blemishless love to surrender themself entirely, which is what is required in order for one to be able to attend to oneself so keenly that one merges forever in pure self-awareness, which is ātma-jñāna. For example, a person who has a strong desire to be praised and revered as a great yōgi might be driven by such a desire to develop the ability to remain for long periods in kēvala nirvikalpa samādhi, but having such a strong desire would prevent them turning their mind inwards (that is, selfwards or ahamukham) to attend to themself alone.

All that any of us need to do in order to merge instantly in ātma-jñāna is only to turn our entire attention back on ourself, but in order to do so we need to have all-consuming love to surrender ourself entirely. No amount of practice of any techniques of rāja yōga can be guaranteed to cultivate such love in one’s heart, because one’s practice of such methods may be motivated by ego-driven desires, whereas persistent practice of ātma-vicāra or self-attentiveness is guaranteed to do so, because this is one practice that one cannot do unless motivated by at least some love to surrender and be free of one’s ego. This is why Bhagavan advocated this practice above all others.

Regarding the verses of Tayumanavar that you quote in some of your subsequent comments, when he sings about the greatness of samādhi I believe we can safely assume that he was not referring to manōlaya but only to manōnāśa. Bhagavan often used to say that the only samādhi we should seek is not ordinary nirvikalpa samādhi, which is just a form of manōlaya, but only sahaja nirvikalpa samādhi, which is manōnāśa, our natural and eternal state of pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna).

Though he generally used the term sahaja samādhi or sahaja nirvikalpa samādhi to refer to the state of ātma-jñāna, he also sometimes used it to refer to the practice leading to that state, as he did for example in the introduction (avatārikai) that he wrote to his Tamil translation of Dṛg-Dṛśya-Vivēka:

[...] தன்னையே பாஹ்யாந்தர திருஷ்டிபேதமின்றி எப்போதும் நாடும் சஹஜசமாதிப் பழக்கத்தால் அவ்வாவரணம் நீங்கவே, அத்விதீயப் பிரஹ்மாத்ம சொரூபமாத்திரம் மிஞ்சிப் பிரகாசிக்கும் [...]

[...] taṉṉaiyē bāhyāntara diruṣṭi-bhēdam-iṉḏṟi eppōdum nāḍum sahaja-samādhi-p paṙakkattāl a-vv-āvaraṇam nīṅga-v-ē, advitīya-b brahmātma sorūpa-māttiram miñci-p pirakāśikkum [...]

[...] when that āvaraṇa [the veiling power of māyā, which obscures one’s natural clarity of pure self-awareness] is removed by the practice of sahaja samādhi, which is always scrutinising oneself alone without bāhyāntara-dṛṣṭi-bhēda [any difference or distinction between seeing what seems to be external or what seems to be internal], only advitīya brahmātma-svarūpa [our own actual self, which is brahman, the ‘one without a second’] will remain and shine [...]

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

Thanks for your latest comment. I know you are not a fan of Raja Yoga and my aim was not to convince you :-) The point I was trying to make was. even if a Yogi stays in KNS for pride and subsequently becomes a Yoga bhrasta, Lord Krishna in the Gita vouches that such a yogi will be born again and will continue his sadhana with more vigor than before. Basically Lord Krishna assures that one who has taken to the Spiritual path will ultimately be saved. I was simply trying to emphasize the point that most of the sadhakas cannot even hold their mind steady for 30 seconds compared to the yogi who can hold steady for 300 years. Let’s leave it at that.

On another topic, you had replied to Palaniappan that while working, try to keep a little awareness on the ‘I’ that is working. In the Buddhist mindfulness tradition, a key Sadhana is to do things mindfully with 100% attention. There is even a grape eating sadhana done very slowly, deliberately with 100% attention to develop the skill of Mindfulness.

While mindfulness is not fully compatible with Vichara, I thought the idea behind mindfulness was rock solid. Do one thing at a time with 100% focus and do it well. Wouldn’t it be better when we do Vichara to just do Vichara and if we work then just work. Isn’t that a better way to develop the power of attention than allowing it to be scattered between ‘I’ and the object? In other others, wouldn’t it be better, if one is working, to take 2 mins off from work and do Vichara and then fully focus on work?

Steve said...

'[Bhagavan] knew that those who are willing and able to understand [his teachings] clearly and correctly will do so, in spite of any amount of misinterpretation or misrepresentation'

Yep.

'and that those who are not willing or capable to understand them clearly or correctly will understand them in a confused manner no matter how carefully and correctly they may be explained.'

And yep.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Thanks people again for your comments...In one of the comments "who" mentioned -- "but what you have expressed here is just a conceptual description about the ego looking at an object that it imagines to be itself"

I have always have this question in the back of the mind. "Am I attending to myself or am I looking at an object (very subtle) and imagining that I'm attending to myself." I understand this is very subjective to each one of us. But is there any indication to know if I'm attending to myself rightly? Even in last blog I had the same question and many had suggestions. Sorry if I'm repeating the question in a different way. But like how "Who" said I keep wondering if am attending to myself or imagining some object as myself.

Anonymous said...

Palaniappan,
Who is asking "Am I attending to myself or am I looking at an object" ?
You will NEVER see yourself, you can ONLY be yourself. If you try to make yourself an object, you create a false "I am". You are "I am", you don't need to create it or to pay attention to it. BE "I AM". Don't identify with what can be seen. To think "I am attending to myself" is delusion. To think "I am not attending to myself" is delusion. The feeling "I am meditating well" is ignorance, to feel "I have understand Bhagavan's teachings" is ignorance. BE. Don't try to see something, but remain as yourself.

Bhagavan said...

who? said...

Paliniappan, till the last moment when we see what it really is, the rope will continue to look like a snake in our deluded outlook. So, we will have to persist in doubting our present outlook while looking keenly at what seems to be a snake, until at the last moment we see what it really is.

Apart from the clarity of our self-awareness, which we are seeking to know exclusively, there is nothing that indicates that we attending to ourself correctly. Anything that is an indication of something is necessarily seperate from the thing it is an indication of. Thus it follows that anything which seems to indicate that we are attending to ourself correctly is different from our self-awareness, and consequently is no indication at all.

And to the 'comment' by Bhagavan - Silence is indeed the highest teaching.

venkat said...

Sivanarul

I'm not sure you will find mindfulness in any of the core teachings of Buddha or the ancient masters that followed him. It is a technique that has developed to encourage people not to dwell on thoughts of the past or the future, but to be in the present. So it is an aid to quietening the mind, since the majority of our thoughts relate to past regrets / excitements projected into future desires / fears.

The self-development industry and corporates in the West have picked it up as a tool to make you more productive. Seriously, being aware of yourself eating a grape . . . I was in such a session last year with my company; absolutely pointless. Its just another self-help fad that HR development people have picked up and are marketing, without any idea of the deeper meaning and intention that Buddhist teaching had.

Whatever we may be doing, most of us are egos 'doing' it; i.e. action driven by desires and fears. Therefore keeping in mind that you are the witness of the ego and its activities should ultimately lead to niskamya karma.

venkat said...

Sorry, I should have added . . . And be the most potent opportunity for attending to the 'I'.

If you think about it, the false 'I', the ego, is most active when it is in relationship with others - and consequently this is when it is perhaps easiest to become aware of, and be attentive to.

Anonymous said...

THE GARLAND OF GURU'S SAYINGS
Guru Vachaka Kovai

Bhagavan's quotes put into verse by Muruganar,
edited by Bhagavan and translated by Prof Swaminathan

132. Why do people call me learned?
What is the mark of real learning?
Learning that all collected knowledge of things is empty ignorance,
and that true knowledge is the search for the Knower.

133. He, who by questing inward for the Knower,
has destroyed the ego and transcended so-called knowledge, abides as the Self.
He alone is a true Knower, not one who has not seen the Self
and therefore is an ego still.

144. Unless by one means or another mind dies out
and certitude from true Self-recognition comes,
the knowledge which mere learning brings, is like the horse’s horn, unreal.

328. Sensible people shun the company of empty talkers
who are not content to humbly tread the path of righteousness,
and uphold in practice life’s ideals,
who instead proudly mouth vain words.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, regarding your latest comment, every ego or mind has the power of attention, because we are all able to attend to something or other, so what I assume you mean by ‘the power of attention’ when you talk of developing it is the power of concentration, the ability to focus and hold one’s attention on one thing for a prolonged period, which is what is also called the power of one-pointedness (ēkāgratā). This is a power that can be developed by practising techniques of rāja yōga or by cultivating one-pointed love for a particular name or form of God, but to succeed in ātma-vicāra having this power is necessary but not sufficient, because it is a power that can be developed by anyone who has a strong desire to achieve any one aim, whether a worldly one or a spiritual one.

To succeed in ātma-vicāra what is both necessary and sufficient is love to surrender or give up one’s ego forever and thereby to experience oneself as one actually is. To the extent that we have such love, we will automatically have the power or ability to focus our entire attention one-pointedly on ourself, because one-pointedness on anything is a direct result of either love or desire, since no one would focus one-pointedly on anything unless they want to do so.

This is why I am a ‘fan’ (as you put it) of bhakti much more than I am of rāja yōga, because in bhakti mārga one is developing the love to surrender oneself whereas in rāja yōga one is only developing the power of one-pointed concentration, so any niṣkāmya practice of bhakti will naturally and smoothly blossom into ātma-vicāra (which is what Bhagavan refers to as அனனியபாவம் (ananya-bhāva: otherless meditation or otherless love) in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār), whereas any practice of rāja yōga will help one to succeed in ātma-vicāra (which he refers to as ஓர் வழி (ōr vaṙi: the investigating path or one path) in verse 14 of Upadēśa Undiyār) only if one happens to have the love to send one’s mind in that direction (which not all practitioners of rāja yōga have, no matter how advanced they may be in such practices).

Regarding what you write about mindfulness and vicāra, ātma-vicāra is not just attention to anything but only attention to oneself. The more we attend to whatever action we may be doing, the less we will be attending to ourself, the one is aware of that action, and the less we attend to ourself the more we are submitting ourself to pramāda (self-negligence), which is the opposite of self-attentiveness or ātma-vicāra. Therefore, since we cannot attend wholly to ourself when we need to give some of our attention to whatever work we may be doing, we should at least try to attend partially to ourself, because the more we practise being attentively self-aware even in the midst of other activities the more we will develop the ability to ward off pramāda, which is the root of all evil (the ‘original sin’).

Steve said...

'I keep wondering if am attending to myself or imagining some object as myself.'

How many of us have not done this? I know I have. This wondering is noise, and to stop this noise our attention must be directed to silence, which is ourself.

Anonymous says 'BE "I AM"', but there is no being without the knowing of being. They are one and the same, just as knowing and attention are one and the same. "I AM" is nothing other than knowing-being (sat-cit), and knowing-being is nothing other than self-attention. The means and the end are one and the same.

What we really are - 'I am' - is perfect silence, and the only way to perfection is through persistent practice.

Michael James said...

Sivanarul, when I wrote in my latest reply to you, ‘To the extent that we have such love [to surrender our ego forever], we will automatically have the power or ability to focus our entire attention one-pointedly on ourself, because one-pointedness on anything is a direct result of either love or desire, since no one would focus one-pointedly on anything unless they want to do so’, what I meant by ‘unless they want to do so’ was ‘unless they were strongly motivated to do so’, so it would probably have been more effective if I had worded it thus.

A very bad devotee said...

AWARENESS WATCHING AWARENESS

Looking outward brings suffering, death and futility. Watching thoughts is not looking inward. .Watching feelings is not looking inward. Watching breathing is not looking inward. Only turning the attention away from the observed and towards the observer
is looking inward. Only awareness watching awareness is looking inward.

Looking inward is liberation. Looking inward is eternal life. Looking inward is eternal awareness. Looking inward is eternal peace. Looking inward is eternal joy. Looking inward is eternal Love that is absolutely perfect and free of all forms of sorrow and misery.

That joy, that perfection is your awareness. Because you always looked outward, you never experienced it. To change this long habit of looking outward you need to practice everyday. Spend as many hours everyday practicing as you can. If you only practice awareness watching awareness for 30 minutes per day and
spend the other 23 and a half hours looking outward, you will not progress very quickly.

If you want rapid results, drop all your unnecessary activities to create the maximum amount of time you can spare to practice for many hours per day, everyday.

Maybe once per week on one of your days off from work you can devote the whole day (8 to 12 hours) to practicing the Awareness Watching Awareness.

To come to know, experience and live in Infinite-Eternal-Awareness-Love-Bliss is definitely worth the time spent practicing.

- Michael Langford

gargoyle said...

taken directly from The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss...it appears to be

Ah yes, I read that book at least 25 times and probably more...the book that started my journey

Is that really you John Wayne?

Chimborazo said...

Bhagavan,
of course, you did not want make any sound.
Nevertheless thank you for your loud and forceful appeal to try to be firmly established in our natural state of silent consciousness.

Annamalaiyar said...

Bhagavan,
many thanks for your powerful comment which should remind us that keeping our mind in silence is our priority task.
Arunachala, please do not withhold your attention from us.

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, regarding your latest comment, in which you say that the question you always have in the back of your mind is ‘Am I attending to myself or am I looking at an object (very subtle) and imagining that I’m attending to myself’, the whole purpose of ātma-vicāra is to ascertain what we ourself actually are.

What we now experience as ourself is our ego, which is a mixture of ourself, who are pure self-awareness (cit), and various adjuncts, all of which are objects and hence unaware (jaḍa), so what we are trying to be attentively aware of when we practise ātma-vicāra is only ourself. If we succeed in focusing our entire attention on our own self-awareness in this manner, we will thereby separate and isolate ourself from all our adjuncts and everything else (all of which seem to exist only when we experience ourself mixed with adjuncts), and thus we will sever our ego, the cit-jaḍa-granthi or knot that was till then binding cit (our pure self-awareness) and jaḍa (our unaware adjuncts) together as if they were one.

Until we manage to be attentively aware of ourself alone and thereby to isolate ourself from everything else, we will continue to experience ourself as this ego, which is an adjunct-mixed form of our pure self-awareness, so we need to persevere in trying to be attentively aware of ourself alone as much as we can. This attempt to simply be attentively self-aware is the practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.

You ask whether there is any indication by which you can know whether you are attending to yourself rightly, but what do you mean by ‘rightly’? If you mean perfectly correctly, when our self-attentiveness is perfectly correct (that is, when we manage to be attentively aware of nothing other than ourself) our ego will dissolve forever in the absolute clarity of pure self-awareness, so there will then be no one to doubt whether we are aware of ourself as actually are, and hence no external indication will then be necessary. Until then, the only indication that we are attending to ourself more or less correctly is the clarity of our self-awareness, but what exactly is meant by the term ‘clarity of self-awareness’ cannot be expressed in words or conceived by the mind, because it is the light that illumines the mind itself.

We are all self-aware, so we each understand what is meant by ‘self-awareness’, but at present the clarity of our self-awareness is clouded to a greater or lesser extent by all the adjuncts with which we are now mixing and confusing ourself. Therefore in order to experience a greater clarity of self-awareness we need to try to be attentively self-aware as much as possible, because the more we pay attention to our self-awareness the clearer it will become.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Palaniappan:

Though our self-awareness is now mixed with adjuncts such as our body and mind, which are all objective phenomena, our self-awareness itself is not an object. When we use these terms ‘self-awareness’ and ‘object’ we understand the difference between what is denoted by each of them, so when trying to attend only to our self-awareness (which is ourself) we can distinguish our self-awareness at least to a certain extent from objects, and the more we practise being self-attentive the more we will refine and sharpen our ability to distinguish our self-awareness from all the objects with which it is now mixed and confused.

The doubt ‘Am I attending to myself correctly?’ is just one among the many distracting thoughts that tend to rise when we are trying to be self-attentive, so rather than dwelling on any such thought we should just try to be calmly and silently self-attentive. The more we practise trying to be self-attentive without allowing our attention to be distracted by any other thoughts the clearer the way will become.

As Bhagavan used to say, we are the light that illumines all other lights, so when we attend to ourself we are attending to the original light, the source of all other lights, and hence by attending to ourself (albeit rather imperfectly) we cannot go wrong. The only error we can make in this path is not persevering in our attempts to be self-attentive as much and as perfectly as we can be.

Sivanarul said...

Michael,

In regards to Raja Yoga, I agree that if it is practiced without Bhakthi and/or Jnana, it will not lead to higher spiritual goals. Both Saint Thirumoolar and Sri Patanjali advocated Raja Yoga only with Bhakthi and Jnana as body guards.

In the yoga sutras:

I.23. īśvara praṇidhānād vā
Or, the state of yoga is attained by complete, instant, dynamic, energetic and vigilant surrender of the ego-principle to the omnipresent ever-existent reality or god. This is instant realisation of God as the only reality, when the (ego’s?) quest of self-knowledge meets its counterpart, ignorance, and stands bewildered in choiceless encounter, and when the ego-ignorance phantom instantly collapses.

In Thirumanthiram of Thirumoolar:

2457
என்னை அறிய இசைவித்த என்நந்தி
என்னை அறிந்து அறி யாத இடத்துய்த்துப்
பின்னை ஒளியிற் சொரூபம் புறப்பட்டுத்
தன்னை அளித்தான் தற்பர மாகவே.

2457 After Self-Realization is the Light Where No Self is
"Realize the Self,"
--So taught my Nandi;
When I realized the Self,
He placed me in place where the Self is unknown;
There the Light-Form arose,
And He granted me Himself

It is very clear that both Sri Thirumoolar and Sri Patanjali prescribed Raja Yoga as a means for final liberation / kaivalya and not to get caught up in siddhis and higher powers. Sri Patanjali after listing all the major and minor siddhis, sternly warns the sadhakas not to get caught up in those as they will not lead to liberation.

Hurdy-gurdy said...

Bhagavan,
Lord of Jnana,
let me cross the ocean of relativity and lead me to true self-understanding.
Supreme Silence, let my soul which has not a correct picture of itself be drowned and fully soaked in the light of the blissful Supreme Shiva.

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

I am not that knowledgeable in Buddhist literature, but I think mindfulness is described in the Satipatthana Sutra and is believed to be a key technique prescribed by the Buddha. Also in the Anapana sati, Buddha stressed watching the breath as a key sadhana.

The current mindfulness trend in the west, is a secularized version, like you say, aims for better health, productivity etc. It is also a scientifically validated tool for pain management. As long as it helps people to combat pain and suffering, it is a good thing. Don’t you agree?

My own take on the techniques. whether it be Vichara, Meditation, Mindfulness, Bhakthi etc is that, it does not have that much importance in the early and middle stages of Sadhana. In the early stages, the sadhaka having developed a firm conviction that samsara will not cut it for him/her anymore, has decided in earnest to walk the spiritual path. However maya/senses will not let the sadhaka out that easily. Again and again the sadhaka will fall back into samsara. By the time he realizes he had a fall, several days/weeks or months would have passed by. He again begins the pursuit in earnestness. It repeats as a cycle until his sadhana becomes intense.

At this point, grace will show the best path for him and is working at full force to get him out of samsara. As Michael wrote in one of his latest replies, it is the earnestness to get out of samsara that is the key ingredient. Getting out intensity needs to be like the one, one will have when he searches for water if his head catches fire. How many of us have that kind of intensity. I certainly don’t have it.

venkat said...

Hi Sivanarul

I am a bit cynical about any current management fad that corporations adopt, and my experience of how mindfulness is being taught is at a very superficial level. It is being used as a plaster to try to address the more fundamental issues of increasing alienation, stress and fatigue in the workplace. Our 'civilisation' is heading for the cliff, with ridiculous wealth inequality, job insecurity, perpetual wars, resource shortages and accelerating climate change. Also, I read somewhere in the newspaper that mindfulness, without the context in which Buddhism teaches it, can be quite disconcerting for people who just dive into it. People are taught to think critically and holistically about the important philosophical questions of life, and instead are taught to watch a grape in the mouth, as if that will solve the existential angst.

I agree with you about having the earnestness to get out of samsara. I too have that shortcoming. My diagnosis of myself, for what it is worth, is that whilst the idea of liberation is very appealing, I haven't come to terms with the need for the total abandonment of the ego, and all of its desires. We kind of think that we can practice some sadhana, and [without giving up too many of our egoic attachments], suddenly the light will dawn and we will be on the other shore in bliss. But look at Bhagavan, Murugunar, Sadhu Om, Maurice Frdyman and others. They literally abandoned all possessions, all of their striving for career, position, wealth, family and went from there.

This preparedness to abandon everything seems to be the earnestness that is talked of - and logically speaking it must be right, since as Bhagavan always says, liberation is nothing but the complete elimination of the ego. And clearly, if you don't have an ego, what possessions, what career, what attachments can you have? And, if you no longer have these attachments, then there is nothing left to distract you from abiding in the Self.

I think this is the difficulty I face. I can keep on complaining that I can't seem to make enough effort to be wholly self-attentive, or that I can't do it at work or wonder whether I am doing it correctly. But ultimately, am I prepared to give up my life (and attachments) as I know it, and as the Bhagavad Gita put it, "live by what comes to me by chance"?

venkat said...

These quotes from Nisaragadatta sum it up:

"When there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, present and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, life dawns full of love and beauty; then the guru is not important for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation."

"Nothings stops you from being a jnani here and now, except fear. You are afraid of being impersonal, of impersonal being. It is all quite simple. Turn away from your desires and fears and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state."

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Venkat, what Nisaragadatta says is true but not very clear. He says, 'Turn away from your desires and fears and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state'.

Yes, we should turn away from our desires and fears, in fact we should turn away from all our thoughts, as he rightly says, by focusing all our attention on ourself alone. This focusing our attention on ourself alone is not very clear in this quote of Nisargadatta. Regards.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, regarding the comment in which you say, ‘You will NEVER see yourself, you can ONLY be yourself’, how can we consciously be what we actually are unless we see what we actually are?

We are always what we actually are, but we now seem to be this ego, which is not what we actually are but only a confused mixture of ourself and various adjuncts beginning with whichever body we currently experience as ourself. Therefore we are now seeing (experiencing) ourself as an object, this body, so to remove this erroneous seeing of ourself we need to see ourself as we actually are. In order to see ourself as we actually are we need to look at ourself very carefully, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness. Trying to look at ourself thus is what is called ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.

In this context ‘seeing’ is used metaphorically to mean experiencing or being aware of, and since what we are trying to see is only ourself, it has got nothing to do with seeing any object. Seeing ourself means being aware of ourself as we actually are. When we see ourself as we actually are we will not see ourself as an object but only as pure non-dual self-awareness, which is devoid of even the slightest otherness, difference, distinction or division.

Therefore we can only see ourself by just being ourself, as Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār: ‘தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால்’ (tāṉāy iruttalē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl), ‘Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is not two’. In other words, since we are single and indivisible, being ourself alone is seeing ourself, and seeing ourself alone is being ourself.

So long as we see anything other than ourself, we are not seeing ourself as the one infinite and indivisible whole that we actually are, so in order to see ourself as we actually are we need to see ourself alone. This is why Bhagavan taught us that the only means by which we can be as we really are is by being attentively aware of ourself alone, and the effort that we make to be attentively aware of ourself alone is what he called ātma-vicāra.

Achaimenes said...

Michael,
what you write in your recent comment:
"In other words, since we are single and indivisible, being ourself alone...".
Because the word "single" means also "isolated" I do hardly understand that statement.
Could you please explain the exact meaning of "single" in this context ?

Michael James said...

Achaimenes, ‘single’ means only one, not two or more. We are only one self, not two or more selves, so we cannot be an object known by ourself. We can know ourself only by being ourself, because being self-aware is our very nature — what we actually are.

That is, since we are self-aware, we know ourself simply by being ourself, so there is never a moment when we do not know ourself. However, though we always know ourself, we now seem to know ourself as if we were this body, so our knowledge of ourself is confused by this illusory knowledge ‘I am this body’, which is what is called ‘ego’. Therefore, to know ourself as we actually are, we need to be aware of ourself alone, in complete isolation from even the slightest awareness of anything else, and the only means by which we can thus be aware of ourself alone is by trying to focus our entire attention on ourself, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness.

Anonymous said...

"We are only one self, not two or more selves, so we cannot be an object known by ourself. We can know ourself only by being ourself, because being self-aware is our very nature — what we actually are." From Michael James' blog

Mouna said...

Dear Michael,
I know that language is a very limited tool when it comes to describe what lies beyond its scope and the way to attend it, but I think that I can completely understand our friend Anonymous when he (assuming it's a man who wrote) responds to our friend Palaniappan: "You will NEVER see yourself, you can ONLY be yourself".
He did so because the doubt in itself was about 'seeing' oneself as an object or not. As we all know, it is not (an object). So as far as I understand, was the right tool to use by Anonymous, the act of seeing in this specific case was understood as completely dualistic (Palaniappan asking "Am I attending to myself or am I looking at an object?").
As you clearly mentioned in your response, seeing has to be taken 'metaphorically' in most of the cases as a synonym of 'knowing', but I believe there are some instances where it should be noted that we cannot see (or for that matter 'know') self because is what we are. Maybe in those cases is more appropriate to point to "abidance in our sense of awareness" or "feeling of I".

If we take the snake analogy, for example, we all know that one of its shortcomings is that there is an outside observer having the experience of seeing a snake where there is none. In that case is appropriate to say "let's investigate and take a good look" at what is lying there by throwing some light to see if there is any snake or something else that we take as a snake. Once light is made the observer "sees" the rope and the error is understood.
If we, instead, consider ourselves the rope (bending poetically our mind) then the analogy becomes much more clear. What is happening right now (following this analogy) is that we consider ourselves a snake, that actually IS NOT SEPARATE from the rope, and also there will be no way of 'seeing' the rope (ourself) because we ARE IT. In this case investigating 'who am I?' or 'Am I a snake'? Is the appropriate method and the turning of the attention towards the feeling of snakeness will unveil our rope nature.

I know it is all snake semantics, I just wanted to point out that in "seeing oneself alone separate from everything else" may carry some connotations that may create some confusion in some cases.

Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

GVK said...

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

Michael James said...

Mouna, I agree with you that language is a very limited tool and inadequate for describing what is beyond the range of our mind and its finite experience, so in a certain sense it is true to say that we cannot see ourself, because unlike everything else that we see or know, our self-awareness is non-dual and indivisible, so we ‘see’ ourself just by being ourself — that is, just by being the self-awareness that we actually are.

However, it seemed to me that our anonymous friend was saying more than that in his comment, because he also wrote that we do not need to pay attention to ‘I am’ and he ended by saying ‘Don’t try to see something’. We obviously should not try to see anything other than ourself, ‘I am’, but according to Bhagavan we should try to see ourself, because the root-cause of our self-ignorance is our pramāda (self-negligence or lack of self-attentiveness), so the only cure for it is apramāda or self-attentiveness.

Perhaps our anonymous friend did mean what you understood him to mean, but if so I think he overstated his case, because what he wrote could easily mislead anyone who is not thoroughly grounded in the basic principles of Bhagavan’s teachings. Though Bhagavan often said that we need not do anything but should just be (summā iru), he also made it clear that we cannot just be unless we are vigilantly self-attentive, because if we allow ourself to be aware of anything other than ourself we are thereby sustaining the illusion that we are this ego, the false ‘I’ that rises and acts (the doing ‘I’) as opposed the real ‘I’ that just is (the being ‘I’).

Mouna said...

Michael, agreed on all clarifying points.
Thanks.
Yours,
M

Steve said...

Michael already alluded to this in his comment to Anonymous, and has made it very clear in numerous other articles, but I would just emphasize that rather than saying 'we can NEVER see ourself', the truth is we can ONLY see ourself - either mistakenly as an individual body, or as the infinite reality we actually are.

Achaimenes said...

Michael,
thank you for clarifying which sense is being dealt with the word "single".
Further I am grateful that you again place great emphasis on the only means by which we can be aware of ourself alone namely by trying to focus our entire attention on ourself, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness.

Anonymous said...

Ramana says:

If we see ourselves with this limited eye made of flesh
We see ourselves as limited 'I'
If we see ourselves with the unlimited eye devoid of flesh
We see ourselves as unlimited 'I'

Ephraim said...

Anonymous,
did Ramana also say how to keep out oneself from seeing with this limited eye made of flesh ?
Anonymous, will Ramana help us to escape the mighty stranglehold of carnal sensory perception and sexual desire ?
Sometimes I feel that the burden of sexual craving and the thereby exerted irrestible pressure to satisfy it seem to be stronger than my longing to be free of it.
Only after allowing of some tempering of desire by having an orgasm I am able to stay "devoid of (the captivity/enslavement by) flesh".
Perhaps/presumably this fight is imposed on me as a kind of punishment by my prarabda-karma.

miserable shepherd said...

Michael,
section 11. How I became convinced about the imperative need for atma-vicara
You say in the last but one paragraph:"What he has given to me ...is a boon and treasure of immeasurable worth, so though we are unworthy to receive such a boon...". I allow myself the remark that though my mind is currently still not sufficiently purified and has desires to experience visayas(things other than oneself) I consider myself quite perfectly worthy to receive the highest teachings, for the simple reason that in defiance of my outrageous ignorance I am essentially nothing but eternal consciousness. That is why I place my trust in Arunachala.

Anonymous said...

In the limitless space
Where no eyes watch
Stripped of all bodies
Enter into eternal orgasm;
For the one who is in such orgasm,
What is the use of this fleshy orgasm?

Ephraim said...

Anonymous,
your poetical ejaculation is not actually an answer to my question but messing around with me. Telling the magnificence and glory of heavenly spheres of the limitless space where "no eyes watch" and "stripped of all bodies" (we)"enter into eternal orgasm" is not a useful advice. To prompt the question about the "use of this fleshy orgasm" does not come to my assistance. Therefore your recommendation of "being in such (an eternal) orgasm" is of little help for somebody who is looking round for help in the awkward matter of curbing and controlling one's body and mind.
So I wish you a glorious dwelling on the limitless space-free from fleshy orgasm.

Steve said...

Ephraim, try this:

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/self-investigation-and-sexual-restraint.html

Ephraim said...

Steve,
thanks for recommending a thorough relevant article of Michael James to me.

SUNDARARAMAN said...

THANK YOU MICHAEL FOR SUCH A COMPREHENSIVE EXPLANATION OF BHAGAWAN'S TEACHINGS.
IT IS DUE ENTIRELY TO BHAGAWAN'S GRACE THAT WE HAVE YOU TODAY TO LUCIDLY EXPLAIN SHRI BHAGAWAN'S TEACHINGS.THANKS A ZILLION.


NAMASKARAMS
SUNDARARAMAN

e-go said...

STAYING RESTRICTED IN THE CONCEPTUAL

Even if one manages to find the Direct Path, the ego will distort the Direct Path by interpreting what is written or said in a way that supports the ego or by focusing on that which is not essential.

One of the tricks that the ego uses most commonly with spiritual aspirants is to confuse intellectual “spirituality” with authentic spirituality.

Most people only have an intellectual interest in spiritual concepts and do not wish to end the ego.
Most people are just enjoying learning about the concepts.
There are some people who realize that their interest is only intellectual.

There are other people who believe that they have an interest in ending the ego, who do not really have an interest in ending the ego.
Almost all of the people who are on a spiritual path that claims to have as its aim the ending of the ego illusion, have very little desire to actually end the ego.

The way to end all of the ego’s preservation strategies is to increase the desire for liberation.
There are a few very condensed Direct Path teachings that can be a great help on the Direct Path.

However, to go on and on reading books and discussing spiritual teachings is an ego preservation strategy to keep you in the realm of thought instead of practice.

- Michael Langford, Awareness Watching Awareness

Mouna said...

e-go,

you quoted: "However, to go on and on reading books and discussing spiritual teachings is an ego preservation strategy to keep you in the realm of thought instead of practice."

Not necessarily when it comes to manana, that actually is a way to "increase the desire for liberation" in most cases.
Possibly true when it overrides nididhyasana.

But again, all is relative.

M

e-go said...

Mouna,
You say : "Not necessarily when it comes to manana"... THIS IS A TYPICAL "EGO PRESERVATION STRATEGY TO KEEP YOU IN THE REALM OF THOUGHT INSTEAD OF PRACTICE", but at the moment, you are not aware of it. But one day you will realize that manana is an ego activity !
See you not soon.

Mouna said...

e-go,

(quote)"THIS IS A TYPICAL "EGO PRESERVATION STRATEGY TO KEEP YOU IN THE REALM OF THOUGHT INSTEAD OF PRACTICE""

What do you think "practice" is in the realm of?...


(quote)"but at the moment, you are not aware of it. But one day you will realize that manana is an ego activity !"

Thank you Master, wish that day will come sooner than later... Maybe I should start attending your satsangs? Send me the address. :-)

My dear friend, let us not take ourselves so seriously.
m.

Steve said...

Another typical preservation strategy of the ego is its concern about the strategies of 'other egos'. Ego's got a million of 'em!

ropedancer said...

Steve,
your remark made about consideration of the strategies of 'other egos' as a typical strategy of ego-preservation/nourishment/sustenance is well accurately and appropriately.

Sivanarul said...

Time for some advaita humor and some neo-advaita wisdom :-) to the conversation between e-go, Mouna and Steve.

Three friends named Traditional Advaitin (TA), Ramana Advaitin (RA) and Neo Advaitin (NA) got together for a chat.

TA: What’s up guys? I have been busy doing Sravana, Manana and Niddyasana. Hope to leave avidya in the dust and get the knowledge of Brahman.

RA: That’s good. But you don’t “get knowledge”. It is achieved by manonasa.

TA: You RA guys have it all wrong. How can the mind be destroyed? Knowledge of Brahman is a special kind of knowledge that registers in the intellect. That is what traditional shastras say.

RA: Not according to Bhagavan. Let’s agree to disagree.

NA: You guy’s. Don’t you see what is happening? You are Brahman. You not accepting it, is avidya. Once you accept it, you leave avidya in the dust and transform instantaneously to your pristine state.

TA,RA: No, No, No. Sadhana is required to for attainment of Brahma Jnana.
NA: Sadhana is what is preventing you from the attainment. You guys often use the rope/snake analogy. Having understood you are the rope, why do you keep on thinking you are the snake.

TA, RA: If we stop sadhana, we will we do with our lives?

NA: You guys don’t “have” a life. You are life itself.

TA, RA: Ok, what do we “do”? Ok, you will say just “be”, right?

NA: Wrong! What is there to “be”. There is nothing to do or be.

TA, RA: So what is the difference between us and folks who are knee deep in samsara?

NA: Not much, honestly. They are after materialism. You are after sadhana and a non-existent ego.

TA, RA: But surely we have some advantages right?

NA: Sure. They do not know the rope/snake analogy and you do. But what is the use? Having clearly seen that the snake does not exist, you insist on destroying the snake.

Sivanarul said...

TA, RA: How do dualists fare?

NA: They are far far better. For them ignorance is real, Ishvara is real and Jiva is real. So they are required to do sadhana to remove ignorance and merge in Ishvara.
TA, RA: What about us?

NA: Remember folks, for us, Ishvara is an illusion created by us. Avidya is also an illusion created by us and the Jiva as Jiva does not really exist.

TA, RA: Ok, Yoda. The Shastras and Bhagavan cannot be wrong.

NA: Doesn’t Shastras and Bhagavan say that they are a lion in an elephant’s dream? Since they are your dream projections, why can’t they be wrong? Haven’t you ever had wrong dreams?

TA, RA: Ok, what is your final wisdom?

NA: Listen folks. You need Sadhana only up to the point until you clearly understand rope/snake analogy. Once you have understood that and read ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ and ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, you are done. After that your sadhana itself is the bottleneck that is preventing you from what you already are.

TA, RA: Is that all?

NA: There is a reason why we are called “neo” advaita. We represent the 21’st century advaita. You guys are lost in ancient times. More importantly you are lost in wrong interpretation of ancient times. The Vedas said 2 words, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and went silent. Folks who loved to do sadhana, came by and wrote commentaries after commentaries and made you a Sadhana slave. Neo-Advaita is simply taking advaita back to its roots: Aham Brahmasmi.

TA, RA: Ok, we have decided to convert. We are dropping all Sadhana now. When will we realize?

NA: Who is there to realize? Remember, Brahman is always realized and ego never existed.

TA, RA: Thank you Yoda. It is all clear now.

Seeming waking said...

Mouna,
you said "...all is relative".
Would you maintain that statement also about the absolute ?

Mouna said...

Dear Seeming waking, greetings

(quote) "Would you maintain that statement also about the absolute?"

As long as we are discussing it in the vyavaharic/relative/functional plane, yes, I would because "the absolute" is another concept of the waking state. There is no such thing as relative and absolute... in the absolute.

M

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, Vannakkam

Were you an "enfant terrible" when you were a small child?

Cause if you were, you didn't loose that.
and if you weren't, you certainly learnt how to become one! :-)

Yours in Him,
m

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

I was actually very nice during my childhood and even now I think I am nice :-)

You have to admit, that Neo advaita is very compelling and convincing since it perfectly aligns with the "final" conclusions of both TA and RA.

My friend, you should start attending some NA satsangs. This is the season of star wars, and the force is very strong on the dark side :-)

Mouna said...

Vannakkam, S-Ji

My family must think I'm nuts laughing at my monitor, but I couldn't stop while reading your posting.

Actually I really like NA extremists (I won't produce names cause trouble will be forecoming), after all dear friend, is there any more extreme-non-common/sensical position than the Ajata Vada one? where there is no dvaita neither advaita? let's figure that out!

Actually Bhagavan DID figure!

Yours in Him,
m

(and please keep being "nice" this way, as some poet once said : "humour is the only thing that has to be taken seriously")

Steve said...

My humor, like my comments, tends to be brief:

Two Advaitins walk into a bar.....

By the way, Sivanarul, have you read the article (in five parts) I referred to Ephraim? It's a condensed version of an interview Michael did with Non-Duality Magazine, and I think you might find it interesting (not that you'll be convinced, of course). It covers a lot of ground, including Michael's answer to a question about raja yoga, along with the question about sexual restraint and the practice of atma-vicara, which I no longer have a problem with. I solved it by getting old.

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2014/03/self-investigation-and-sexual-restraint.html

silencer said...

Mouna,
"absolute" is the antonym of "relative".
Therefore regardless of waking state-concepts linguistically and logically the absolute can never be relative.

Sivanarul said...

e-go,

Saint Thiruvalluvar addressed the concern raised by you (that sadhakas are wasting time in reading rather than practicing) 2000 years ago:

““குறள் 350
பற்றுக பற்றற்றான் பற்றினை அப்பற்றைப்
பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு “
Couplet 350
Cling thou to that which He, to Whom nought clings, hath bid thee cling,
Cling to that bond, to get thee free from every clinging thing
Explanation
Desire the desire of Him who is without desire; in order to renounce desire, desire that desire”

Any clinging to Ishvara/grace by any form (reading,prayer,vichara,meditation) means that you are clinging to the one that has no clinging and that clinging will remove your every other clinging and lead to liberation.

Unlike materialistic goals, where you can set a goal, work on it and are guaranteed a favorable result (if you work hard and smart), spiritual goals (if it can be called that) work very differently. There are no guarantees of any kind. It is a progressive realization that "you" are not running the show and a patient waiting for grace to descend while fulfilling your dharma to the very best of your abilities.

“One” simply cannot “will” their way to liberation by Sadhana. Try “willing” your way. Take up a 10 day challenge of doing absolutely nothing (not even vichara), except eating food and drinking water, and simply be. See how long you last.

Grace has to provide that will. In the case of Pamban Swamigal, that is what happened. Grace provided that will and he sat in 6 feet burial ground in Samadhi for 30 days (6 days he was trying, for a total of 36 days) at the end of which he was graced with a Vision of the Lord that led to his final liberation.

Many of us are fledgling sadhakas, who are having a hard time even practicing pratyahara (at least me) and I would consider this life a great success if I were able to achieve just that. Let's just say I have very low expectation of myself :-)

Mouna said...

silencer, greetings

"linguistically and logically the absolute can never be relative."
I see your point I agree with you! 100 percent, but only linguistically and logically.

But my point was that the "concept" of absolute is relative, and you confirmed that by saying that is "in relation" (relative) to the concept of "relative" by being its antonym. And in the waking state we ONLY have concepts or thoughts (I am including here as concepts/thoughts also sensations, perceptions, feelings and thoughts).
Take an example, in deep sleep there is no absolute, although "here" in waking we can say that deep sleep is absolute... but that it's just a concept to validate something that is not... relative. In the "absolute" there is no relative neither absolute.

But I have to confess my friend, I am not a philosopher, you can beat me really fast when it comes to semantics. I'm saying all this very intuitively.

m

ragged Stoic said...

Mouna,
greetings my friend,
how can the absolute be only a concept ?
how can you know if "in deep sleep there is no absolute" ?
Why should in the "absolute" be no absolute ?

Mouna said...

ragged Stoic, greetings to you,

(if you are the same person that changes names they are getting very creative and interesting each time!)

(quote)"how can the absolute be only a concept ?"
Look around, do you see any absolute around you?

(quote)"how can you know if "in deep sleep there is no absolute"?"
Becasue in deep sleep there are no thoughts, and according to the idea that the absolute is just a waking state thought/concept, it can't exist in deep sleep.

(quote)"Why should in the "absolute" be no absolute ?"
Because it IS absolute. (I'm not playing with words here)

m

Sivanarul said...

Steve,

I have read Michael’s interview that you referred to and I have also watched/listened to many of his presentations to the Ramana satsang in UK and his interview to Batgap and I have been following his blog for 4+ years and Bhagavan for 10+ years.

As I have told previously, at heart, by upbringing, I am a Saivaite and Saiva Siddantin and take Ishvara/Lord Siva to be the ending of my search. Ishvara is both Ishvara and Brahman to me. Instead of Ishvara merging in ‘I’, I believe that ‘I’ will be merge in Ishvara.

The teaching of Bhagavan, I try to adhere to is : “Surrender, for the ego to be struck down”.

Of all works of Bhagavan, the one I love most is Aksharamanamalai.

My fondest verse from that is the 72’nd verse :

Let me not like an unsupported tender creeper droop and
fade. Be a strong staff for me, hold me up and guard me.

Arunachala is not the Self to me. Arunachala is Lord Siva, who in is infinite compassion, took a form that can be seen by human eyes.

Continued in next post…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous post….

It is very hard to understand Bhakthi Yoga without a childhood upbringing. It kinda works like arranged marriage in India. In arranged marriage, the groom and bride look at each other for say 30 minutes. Provided there is enough physical chemistry between the bride and groom and provided both the families are happy with the alliance, the marriage is conducted.

In the beginning there is only sensuality between husband and wife and there is barely any love, since they are complete strangers who are now husband and wife. As years roll up, love begins to blossom. As decades roll by, this love matures into deep love and it becomes the driving force behind the relationship. What started as physical chemistry turns into deep human love (with the limitations that are part of any human love).

In a similar way, Ishvara is introduced to the child/sadhaka by the family as part of the child’s upbringing. At this point the relationship with Ishvara is purely materialistic/sensual. The child prays to Ishvara asking him to fulfill his materialistic needs. Years roll by and the relationship matures slowly into love. Decades roll by and the relationship matures into deep love and the sadhaka now loves Ishvara and prays to him for his help in ending Samsara. At this point if Ishvara provides wealth and health, they are considered a bonus :-) Further decades go by and the love now matures to a point where the sadhaka does not even want liberation anymore. He loves Ishvara for love’s sake alone. If it be Ishvara’s will that he be born again and suffer, then so be it.

With regards to Raja Yoga, I believe those who practice raising Kundalini will also attain liberation, provided the practice includes Bhakthi and Jnana. Saint Thirumoolar and Sri Patanjali advocated practice only in that manner.

Given the above, you can see why Michael has not convinced me. It is not him but me that is the problem :-)

I highly respect Michael for his lifelong dedication to the search for truth and his complete surrender to Bhagavan for even his basic needs.

All is not lost. I do occasional Vichara :-)


Steve said...

Sivanarul, yes, given what you wrote I can understand why Michael hasn't convinced you. But, I think maybe you keep hanging around because somewhere inside you want to be convinced. :)

Batgap? Don't get me started. I was always taking heat there for quoting Bhagavan and Michael too much, and finally got kicked off! I know I won't get kicked off for that here so I'll leave you with one more:

"Everything comes right in the end."

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, Vannakkam

You have the ability to makes us laugh and now you proved to have the ability, at least for me, to move me to tears with your description of how you understand bhakti:
"In a similar way, Ishvara is introduced to the child/sadhaka... ...He loves Ishvara for love’s sake alone."

And my friend:
"...why Michael has not convinced me. It is not him but me that is the problem."
Ab-so-lu-tely nothing wrong with you and you are not the problem because there IS NO problem with your "approach!" (I know, you might have been joking, but even then) on the contrary, I wish many of us had the same drive and love you seem to have, even imperfect as you might think you have it.

Besides, as some NAs used to say: "Where is the problem when you don't think about it?"

Bowing to your understanding,
yours in Bhagavan,
m

maya said...

Sivanarul,
I don't think you have to be convinced of anyone's view and i'm guessing inwardly you know that :-) In one way I was the one who prompted Michael to write his latest article to a set of questions along with the other anonymous. I thought long and hard whether to respond in detail to the article but decided against it as I realized it would serve no further purpose at all except increasing the unnecessary arguments and debates. Though i'm thankful to Michael for taking his time and responding, in short nothing Michael wrote was new to me nor did it answer my question. Again, I can explain in detail why but I won't and instead just say a few final points

a) I have never before said that in my opinion, as all of these are just opinions based on our best intellectual conviction, that the "I" should not go. So that was neither the point of my contention nor did I have any reasons to believe that atma vichara did not do that. I believe that the I has to go which is what all Jnanis say but I persist with the opinion that many methods can lead us to the point where the destruction of "I" can happen in a second where self inquiry spontaneously happens. One doesn't necessarily gain an advantage by following, say 10 years of atma vichara compared to say 10 years of japam. As I said there are a lot of other factors involved like ones vasanas, ripeness etc etc.

b) When Michael or anyone including myself use the phrase "According to Bhagavan", it really means "According to Bhagavan based on [the person's] understanding", really, so no matter how many intellectual towers of arguments one uses to support, it is still an opinion until one has realized the self. But if one wants to say that one method is direct and is the best way, the least one should be able to say that, that method atleast worked for that person. Because in essence there are many masters, e.g. of some I quoted before, who have said the same of their methods. Also, to say that only one's own understanding is correct, no matter how many reason one provides to support that does not mean much in spirituality simply because it is not in the realm of senses, mind and intellect and we all know it cannot be described in words, so its highly likely that another person though he is not able to communicate the same idea with intellectual arguments may have actually experienced and cannot be dismissed just because he cannot reason well. Proving logically in science means a lot but in spirituality it doesn't mean much nor does it prove that one's intellectual understanding is even remotely close to the actual experience. I say all this just to say that we cannot dismiss other's understanding of Bhagavan's teaching just because we can provide more intellectual props.

c) To me whether the person who proposes a method is realized or not makes a lot of difference and is very important. While its true that there is no way I can figure out if a person is realized or not, i will ask a simple question. Would we really have this much faith in Bhagavan's word if we did not believe he was realized and if many did not have that experience in his presence in a varying magnitude. If Bhagavan was just a very good person with a good behaviour would we have trusted his words so much. There are many such morally upright men following ahmisa, Gandhi for e.g. Granted there are many quacks out there saying they are Gurus, still we would believe in someone's words only if atleast have a basic belief that the person has experienced what he is talking about. I wouldn't dismiss this criteria that lightly.

d) Finally all of this depends on our past samskaras.

Will continue..

Anonymous said...

Continued..

In the words of Swami Vivekananda below. Pretty much says what I want to
/**
There are truths that are true only in a certain line, in a certain direction, under certain circumstances, and for certain times - those that are founded on the institutions of the times. There are other truths which are based on the nature of man himself, and which must endure so long as man himself endures.
The idea of the cosmos which all sects of Vedantists had to take for granted, the psychology which has formed the common basis of all the Indian schools of thought, had there been worked out already and presented before the world. I whould like to explain the sense in which I use the word Vedanta.

Unfortunately there is the mistaken notion in modern India that the word Vedanta has reference only to the Advaita system; but you must always remember that in modern India the three Prasthanas are considered equally important in the study of all the systems of religion. First of all there are the Revelations, the Shrutis, by which I mean the Upanishads. Secondly, among our philosophies, the Sutras of Vyasa have the greatest prominence on account of their being the consummation of all the preceding systems of philosophy. These systems are not contradictory to one another, but one is based on another, and there is a gradual unfolding of the theme which culminates in the Sutras of Vyasa. Then, between the Upanishads and the Sutras, which are the systematising of the marvellous truths of the Vedanta, comes in the Gita, the divine commentary of the Vedanta.

The Upanishads, the Vyasa-Sutras, and the Gita, therefore, have been taken up by every sect in India that wants to claim authority for orthodoxy, whether dualist, or Vishishtadvaitist, or Advaitist; the authorities of each of these are the three Prasthanas. We find that a Shankaracharya, or a Ramanuja, or a Madhvacharya, or a Vallabhacharya, or a Chaitanya - any one who wanted to propound a new sect -had to take up these three systems and write only a new commentary on them. Therefore it would be wrong to confine the word Vedanta only to one system which has arisen out of the Upanishads. All these are covered by the word Vedanta. The Vishishtadvaitist has as much right to be called a Vedantist as the Advaitist; in fact I will go a little further and say that what we really mean by the word Hindu is really the same as Vedantist. I want you to note that these three systems have been current in India almost from time immemorial; for you must not believe that Shankara was the inventor of the Advaita system. It existed ages before Shankara was born; he was one of its last representatives. So with the Vishishtadvaita system: it had existed ages before Ramanuja appeared, as we already know from the commentaries he has written; so with the dualistic systems that have existed side by side with the others. And with my little knowledge, I have come to the conclusion that they do not contradict each other.

Will continue...

maya said...

Continued...

Just as in the case of the six Darshanas, we find they are a gradual unfolding of the grand principles whose music beginning far back in the soft low notes, ends in the triumphant blast of the Advaita, so also in these three systems we find the gradual working up of the human mind towards higher and higher ideals till everything is merged in that wonderful unity which is reached in the Advaita system. Therefore these three are not contradictory. On the other hand I am bound to tell you that this has been a mistake committed by not a few. We find that an Advaitist teacher keeps intact those texts which especially teach Advaitism, and tries to interpret the dualistic or qualified non-dualistic texts into his own meaning. Similarly we find dualistic teachers trying to read their dualistic meaning into Advaitic texts. Our Gurus were great men, yet there is a saying, "Even the faults of a Guru must be told". I am of Opinion that in this only they were mistaken. We need not go into text-torturing, we need not go into any sort of religious dishonesty, we need not go into any sort of grammatical twaddle, we need not go about trying to put our own ideas into texts which were never meant for them, but the work is plain and becomes easier, once you understand the marvellous doctrine of Adhikarabheda.
It is true that the Upanishads have this one theme before them: कस्मिन्नु भगवो विज्ञाते सर्वमिदं विज्ञातं भवति। - "What is that knowing which we know everything else?" In modern language, the theme of the Upanishads is to find an ultimate unity of things. Knowledge is nothing but finding unity in the midst of diversity. Every science is based upon this; all human knowledge is based upon the finding of unity in the midst of diversity; and if it is the task of small fragments of human knowledge, which we call our sciences, to find unity in the midst of a few different phenomena, the task becomes stupendous when the theme before us is to find unity in the midst of this marvellously diversified universe, where prevail unnumbered differences in name and form, in matter and spirit - each thought differing from every other thought, each form differing from every other form. Yet, to harmonise these many planes and unending Lokas, in the midst of this infinite variety to find unity, is the theme of the Upanishads. On the other hand, the old idea of Arundhati Nyaya applies. To show a man the fine star Arundhati, one takes the big and brilliant nearest to it, upon which he is asked to fix his eyes first, and then it becomes quite easy to direct his sight to Arundhati. This is the task before us, and to prove my idea I have simply to show you the Upanishads, and you will see it. Nearly every chapter begins with dualistic teaching, Upasana. God is first taught as some one who is the Creator of this universe, its Preserver, and unto whom everything goes at last. He is one to be worshipped, the Ruler, the Guide of nature, external and internal, yet appearing as if He were outside of nature and external. One step further, and we find the same teacher teaching that this God is not outside of nature, but immanent in nature. And at last both ideas are discarded, and whatever is real is He; there is no difference. तत्त्वमसि श्वेतकेतो - "Shvetaketu, That thou art."
Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.
Swami Vivekananda-The Vedanta
**/

Joseph Hudson said...

Sivanarul,

Regarding the earnestness to get out of samsara, I believe that Michael and Ramana Maharshi have got it wrong. Bhakti will never allow the fire to be extinguished. The only way, for those who are ready, is the way of dispassion and disenchantment. Rightly understood, Theravada Buddhism is about taking what you got, categorized as the five aggregates (i.e. you and the world), seeing that it is all aflame (not peace), seeing that intention/volition adds the sticks and grass and keeps the fire going, and, with no effort needed, no longer feeding the fire and letting it burn out. This has many parallels to Ramana Maharshi's Ulladu Narpadu verse 25 as expounded in part six of Michael's blog entry above. The ego corresponds exactly to the five aggregates of existence. Feeding on form, just like fire feeds on fuel. In Theravada, you basically beat yourself over the head with Samsara in the attentive framework of the five aggregates, see them also through the truth of their threefold nature (annicca, duhkka, annatta) and letting go as one would let go poison after finding out it was poison. Morality, concentration, and wisdom, all part of samsara, are a raft to get you out (or wake you up). I believe Ramana Maharshi was either fully enlightened or near enlightened. The positive road is not the way. As J. Krishnamurti never tired of saying, it is only by negation. Negation at the most profound and extreme level. If you are not truly at the end of your road, you will not do this. Suffering is the key to the door of dispassion/disenchantment. Nibbana is utter ending with no remainder. Unless you really want that, why even bother playing around. It seems most religious people are confusing literary enjoyment for something that is truly hardcore.

still wet behind the ears said...

Joseph Hudson,
yes, that is a brilliant idea: let us teach Ramana Maharshi and Michael the correct understanding of the truth. That sort of ignorance and wrong comprehension is annoying,of course. We should not tolerate their lack of knowledge and naivety but inflict well-deserved punishment on them: the penalty for cheating (us) is disqualification and instant dismissal. Because this uninformed unaware inexperienced Ramana Maharshi and his blind heedless inattentive devotee Michael James spoil our good mood, they should do penance.

ragged Stoic said...

Mouna,
greetings from the name-changer,
what I called "the absolute" is nothing but full awareness of what we really are.
Because there is nothing but our absolute awareness, therefore is no state in which it is not.
From that above statement you seriously cannot derive your given example saying that "in deep sleep there is no absolute".
What you finally 'very intuitively' say, although claiming not to be a philosopher, :"Because the absolute IS absolute" meets with my approval because the absolute will not change even if circumstances change. But what you wrote in reply to silencer:"In the 'absolute' there is no relative neither absolute" is an illogical remark because just the very absoluteness is surely the full essence of the absolute.

Sivanarul said...

Steve,

I keep hanging around, because Michael’s writings and comments in the blog has actually increased my clinging to Ishvara by several manifold. That might seem odd, since Michael’s writings is mostly all about Vichara and investigating the ‘I’ and Ishvara or Aksharamanamalai is rarely mentioned, and even if mentioned, it is in the context of Vichara. It seemed odd to me too, but after some contemplation the reason was very clear.

In the Saivite tradition, the jiva/ego cannot stand on its own, but needs to cling to something for its very existence. In its uncaused and ever-present ignorant state, it clings to Avidya/AnavaMalam. This is described by Saint Thayumanavar as a blind child that has been living in a dark room forever. In this state of Avidya/AnavaMalam, the jiva is in ignorance, but more importantly it DOES NOT KNOW that it is in ignorance.
Ishvara, due to his infinite compassion, introduces Maya to help the Jiva. This is the state of Samsara and the ego in this state clings deeply to samsara. In this state, Jiva is still in ignorance but very importantly it KNOWS that it is in ignorance. Due to repeated suffering, the jiva eventually figures out that samsara is not working and will never work, starts seeking relief and begins the journey towards Ishvara. When that journey completes the ego/jiva is said to be in Mukthi/liberated state merging/dissolving/clinging in Ishvara as salt in water (according to Sri Meykandar school). According to Thirumoolar and Thayumanavar, the dissolving is like camphor in fire leaving no trace of the ego (in alignment with advaita).

So the ego either clings to Avidya/AnavaMalam, Samsara/Maya or Ishvara at any given time. What Michael’s writings does is, it repeatedly reminds of the unreality of the world (I translate it to impermanence and suffering). Such repeated exposure weakens the ego’s clinging to samsara. But since the ego needs to client to something for its existence, it starts clinging more tightly to Ishvara, who is the only one it can cling to now.

So following Bhagavan’s teachings and Michael’s blog will either increase the amount of Vichara we do or increase our clinging to Ishvara.

As you say, “"Everything comes right in the end."

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakkam.

Thank you for your kind words. I take it as a token of your kindness towards fellow sadhaka, though I don’t deserve it, as I don’t even have admission in the Bhakthi school. I will pass on your kindness to the illustrious Bhakthas in the Bhakthi tradition. Let me explain.

For those of us who have read Periya puranam and know the story of Kannappa Nayanar, know how high the mountain of true Bhakthi is. Periya puranam was very close to Bhagavan’s heart for a very good reason. The 63 Nayanmar’s stories are heart melting exhibitions of what true Bhakthi is.

Manikkavasagar, the author of Thiruvasagam (considered the peak of all saivite texts), writes that there are 2 people who do not have an equal. One is Kannapa Nayanar and other his him. Kannapa Nayanar does not have an equal in his love for Ishvara. He (Manikkavasagar) does not have an equal in his non-love for Ishvara. Sri Shankara, the great advaitin, sings profusely the greatness of Kannapa Nayanar and asks is there anything that Bhakthi can’t do?

The pinnacle of Kannappa Nayanar’s love was revealed when he plucked his own eye and used it to stop the bleeding of the eye in Sivalinga. When the next eye of the Sivalinga started to bleed, he went on to pluck his second eye, at which point the divine Mother (Shakti) within Siva, intervenes and says “Stop, Kannappa, Stop Kannappa, my dearest devotee, stop Kannappa”. Kannappa Nayanar was 16 when this happened. How can such maturity in Bhakthi come? Kannapa Nayanar in his previous life, was Arjuna. Due to hearing Bhagavad Gita from dear Lord Krishna himself, Arjuna gained the necessary spiritual maturity.

The mountain of Bhakthi is indeed very high and adorned by illustrious Bhakthas like Kannapa Nayanar, Bhagavan, Manikkavasagar Sundarar, Sambandar, Appar and thousands of such saints.

To even gain admission to the Bhakthi school, one requires a very high degree of spiritual maturity and several lifetimes of exposure to Jnana (as in keen and repeated discrimination between the real and unreal). I have neither. All I can do, is take the Bhakthi entrance test repeatedly for admission. After a million failures the admission committee may take pity and say, ok let him in. After that point, real sadhana in Bhakthi begins.

Sivanarul said...

In case any devotees reading this get depressed on how high the mountain is stacked, there is some good news. It is best explained by a simile. Let’s say there is a brilliant and very successful attorney who has a 100% success rate. For that high competence, he charges $5,000 an hour. Obviously with that high rate, only millionaires and above can afford him. The attorney is very happy with his practice, his clients and life in general. But he is also a very compassionate man by nature and he realizes that his billing rate is not affordable to 99% of the people. Due to his compassion, he does pro bono work and takes up cases of people living in utter poverty without charging them a penny. He successfully represents them and grants them freedom even though he knows those clients do not deserve it (in terms of unable to pay for it).

Similarly Ishvara charges ego as the price for granting liberation/freedom. He is very happy with his illustrious list of clients that include all the saints listed earlier who happily paid the high price of ego. But Ishvara, due to his compassion, looks at poor devotees like us, who do not have the money (sufficient courage) to offer the ego as price. He realizes that we, even in a million years are never going to attain the spiritual maturity sung in Aksharamanamalai. He decides to take a few of us on pro bono basis, even though we are not willing the give up the ego and grant us liberation/freedom.

To win the lotto, you need just a dollar and a dream. Similarly to win liberation you need Ishvara and pro bono together. Ok, I know that is a pipe dream. But someone does win the lotto every week, so why can’t Ishvara take us on a pro bono basis? :-)

Sivanarul said...

Maya,

Please always feel free to respond in how much ever detail you see fit. Bhagavan, in spite of stressing Vichara, was open to all Sadhanas and was compassionate to highly mature sadhaka (like mastan swami) and to beginner devotees alike. Your quotes from various saints are always welcome.

We all share the same common goal of breaking free from samsara. The difference lies in our maturity and our sadhana. Let the differences not separate us from the common goal we share.

Sivanarul said...

Joseph Hudson,

I am not sure how much exposure you have in the Bhakthi tradition. Without such exposure, it is easy to come to the same conclusion that you did that Bhakthi will never allow the fire to be extinguished. The Bhakthi tradition is built on a rock solid foundation with 3000+ years of history and contains thousands of liberated saints. So I would think twice before coming to any final judgement on it.

I readily agree with you that the way is of dispassion and disenchantment. I am not sure what makes you think that the Bhakthi tradition does not have it. To have true love for Ishvara one needs to be full of dispassion and disenchantment towards samsara. Oherwise it is only considered partial surrender/love, which is acceptable as a beginner, but not so as one matures.

Saint Pattinathar, a revered saint and bhaktha was a billionaire (by today’s standards). At his prime youth, with wealth and health, just like Buddha, he renounced the world in search of truth. Saint Thayumanavar declares that it is very hard to indeed to renounce the world as Pattinathar did. Pattinathar was one of the greatest bhakthas who was the very embodiment of the dispassion and disenchantment you state.

Pamban swamigal was another great bhakta who lived in the last century. His dispassion and disenchantment was to such an extent that he did not even attend his son’s funeral and he ate one meal a day at 12:00 noon sharp. If he missed that meal, he ate the next day only.

I love Buddha’s teachings (all traditions, including Theravada, Mayahana, Zen etc) and 100% agree that suffering is a primary catalyst that enables the desire to end samsara. I don’t know whether you listen to Ajahn Brahm talks. I love Ajahn Braham and his gentle way of imparting the Dharma through many jokes (silly as some of them may be). If you haven’t listened, consider listening to his talks.

I don’t know what you mean by the positive road. If you mean that to be, as love for Ishvara, and say that is not the way, remember that Buddha was only silent on Ishvara and did not deny Ishvara. I am guessing he figured that once all the suffering ending, Ishvara will automatically be realized in nibbana.

To your last statement that unless one really wants nibbana, one should not play with it (or no use playing with it, I am assuming you really want nibbana. Did you always want it right from your early childhood? Wasn’t there a time you just learned about it, dabbled in it for a while and then slowly matured to only wanting it? Don’t you think fellow sadhakas would have to follow the same path as you did? Just because you have finished college now, would you look at a 5’th grader and say, that he should not study anymore since he does not study hard like a college student.

Religious people are not confusing anything. What starts as literary enjoyment slowly blossoms into hardcode, as you describe. Even the great Buddha, who was hardcore in the life he got liberated, had many lives where he was a religious person with just literary enjoyment.

Joseph Hudson said...

No to anything of the senses. No to feelings of pleasure or pain that arise from contact. No to the recognition of anything. No to all the stuff that makes up mental space narrative. No to the awareness of all of the stuff just mentioned. A great big cosmic no. No questions, no answers, no volition, no direction. What's left? Just impersonal impermanence, agitative suffering, no abiding thingness or core of a being.

I think that the only alternative to negation is to be a champion sleeper like Ramana Maharshi and enter a state of wakeful sleep. I will never be able to do that as I have a debilitating level of insomnia due to a nearly unmanagable level of physical illness. To be aware of nothing but atman, the senses and the mind, all mental and physical phenomenon, have to be in a profound abeyance. How can bhakti ever lead to this? How can you die to the world so profoundly unless your spiritual practice focuses on what you got and what you know as beyond obvious. Ramana Maharshi had no need to categorize or see samsara within any frameworks to develop dispassion. Why analyze the trash? But, he was a champion sleeper. I'm a champion at suffering physically and mentally and being aware of it. Suffering and the awareness of suffering is my day and night spiritual practice.

Mouna said...

ragged Stoic, greetings back!

Although I like the gymnastics of it (believe me, I do like it) I don't feel qualified to have a semantic and/or philosophical discussion about the topic in question.
I'm not trying to display false modesty, I just don't have the intellectual ability to deal in a rational way with this kind of debates (but I wish I had it!)
Someone like Michael James might be superiorly qualified to do so.

But before I throw my towel in the middle of the ring, I would like just to point out that the two examples you give which you don't agree with me (although in those examples I agree with you) I believe we are speaking maybe of different things.
For me, the word “absolute”, no matter what the dictionary or the different spiritual traditions define it as, is a concept of the mind that is not present neither in the “absolute” neither in deep sleep, AS a concept, for the simple reason that there is no mind “there”.
I can’t explain it further, not only due to my intellectual limitations but also the limitations that language presents when trying to speak about the unspeakable.

m

Steve said...

Sivanarul, to summarize what you're saying (if my understanding is correct):

The ego, in its 'uncaused and ever-present ignorant state', does not even know it is in this state of ignorance - it exists, but is ignorant of even its own existence. Ishvara then introduces maya/samsara; the ego now knows that it exists, but in a state of ignorance (of Ishvara?) and suffering, until it is liberated from this suffering and merges in Ishvara.

First there is no rope, then there is a rope which sees itself as a snake, then the rope knows itself as a rope.

So, I would ask, when have you ever not known of your existence, albeit, now a mistaken existence as an ego, 'a snake'? If we cling to this knowing of our existence alone (Bhagavan's simple and direct path of self-attention), we will see that we have never been anything other than this existence alone - there is no trace left of the ego because there has never actually been an ego.

There has never been a snake, but there has always been a rope.

Steve said...

Sivanarul, let me just add that I do not mean to deter you from your path. I'm still quite sure that 'everything comes right in the end'.

Steve said...

'Existence' is a word, a thought.

Existence is, with or without the word 'existence', and we are that. Is is = I am I.

This is what is meant by 'sooner or later we have to come to atma-vicara'. Sooner or later we have to see ourself as we are.

And we are the grace that brings us and shows us to ourself.

Sivanarul said...

Joseph Hudson,

“To be aware of nothing but atman, the senses and the mind, all mental and physical phenomenon, have to be in a profound abeyance. How can bhakti ever lead to this?”

It has already led thousands of illustrious saints in the Bhakthi tradition to that you describe. To know how it can lead to it, one has to walk the path of Bhakthi. It cannot be intellectually understood. As I wrote earlier, Bhakthi is not something that clicks in a day (unless one has previous samskaras). It is a marriage between Jiva and Ishvara that has a beginning in sensuality/materialism and blossoms into complete surrender to Ishvara where all phenomenon disappear and the Jiva merges in Ishvara either as salt in water or camphor in fire.

“How can you die to the world so profoundly unless your spiritual practice focuses on what you got and what you know as beyond obvious. Ramana Maharshi had no need to categorize or see samsara within any frameworks to develop dispassion. Why analyze the trash?”

Bhagavan was a born muktha who had already completed all prerequisites in earlier dreams. There was no need for him to categorize and see samasara within any framework, since there was no need for him for any Sadhana other than that 1 minute Vichara he did. Most of us do not have the maturity anywhere even remotely close to Bhagavan.

Dying to the world so profoundly happens due to the realization of Jiva that nothing other than Ishvara is permanent and has everlasting value. Again if your practice does not have any elements of Bhakthi tradition, it is hard to understand.

“I'm a champion at suffering physically and mentally and being aware of it. Suffering and the awareness of suffering is my day and night spiritual practice.”

There is no other spiritual teacher or practice greater than suffering, since there is nothing other than suffering that can crush the ego so fast and can focus attention in the here and now so well. You have the best teacher and practice. Please get whatever help you can from modern medicine, to alleviate your physical suffering to the extent possible.

venkat said...

Dear Sivanarul

"Most of us do not have the maturity anywhere even remotely close to Bhagavan"

How do you think Bhagavan would have responded to such a comment?

ragged Stoic said...

Mouna,
when you say "for me, the word "absolute"...is a concept of the mind..." you should not forget that yet this 'I' (for whom the word 'absolute' is a concept) is also only a concept of the mind itself.
So let us finish our fruitless gymnastical boxing match and both hang our towel of ignorance round the referee's(Ishvara's) neck.
Instead of this mulling that unspeakable we should keep the mind in silence.

Mouna said...

ragged Stoic,

Agree on all counts.

Best,
m

PS: (quote) "you should not forget that yet this 'I' (for whom the word 'absolute' is a concept) is also only a concept of the mind itself."
This is what I try to remember every minute I can of my waking life by investigation. Well put.

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

"Most of us do not have the maturity anywhere even remotely close to Bhagavan
How do you think Bhagavan would have responded to such a comment?”

Bhagavan would have responded to investigate who the ‘I’ is that thinks that it does not have maturity close to Bhagavan’s or he would have said, “Never mind about the maturity. Surrender to Ishvara and abide by his will”.

I am not sure where you are going with this though. My response was in the context, that beginner sadhakas cannot apply the same rules that Bhagavan applied, since the sadhaka is still under the influence of Maya whereas Bhagavan shines as Ishvara.

Sivanarul said...

Steve,

In the state of utter ignorance (Kevala Thasai), the ego is still aware of its existence. What it is not aware of, is that it is ignorant. In all 3 states, existence is there. In other words, it is the difference between “I don’t know that I don’t know” versus “I know that I don’t know”. Let me explain with a simile.

A beggar has been living in a very small thatched hut for 2 decades. One fine day an archeologist comes along and tells him that he has a huge treasure in the underground space of his hut. It takes 1 decade for the begger to get enough resources to dig underground and check whether the treasure is really there. After digging, he finds the treasure and instantaneously is transformed from poverty to richness.

The first 2 decades of his life, he certainly knew he existed. But he was ignorant that he was ignorant of the treasure underneath. In the next decade, he is still ignorant of the treasure (since he does not really know whether it exists or not), but he is not ignorant of being ignorant. He is now aware of the possibility that a treasure can exist. That archeologist is Sakthinipata (grace descended) who has revealed his true nature of richness in Ishvara. Through grace and Sadhana, in that decade he finally uncovers the treasure and merges with Ishvara.

Note that this is Siddhanta philosophy for which rope/snake analogy is not applicable. While the path of Siddhanta has lot of commonality with advaita, they are not the same.

Let’s leave Siddantha alone. Let me explain why Bhagavan’s teachings and Michael’s writing increases clinging to Ishvara more tightly. The answer is Ulladu Narpadu verse 25, which Michael has written about countless times, where Bhagavan says that the ego cannot exist without attaching itself to something. The ego which previously clinged to samsara tightly, after being repeatedly exposed to Bhagavan’s teachings, loosens its grip on samsara. In a sadhaka with Bhakthi samskaras, this creates a vacuum for the ego since it cannot hold to samsara tightly as before (it still certainly holds to it but the holding is very loose) The only other thing available for ego now is to cling to Ishvara, for the ego has an unshakeable faith and belief in Ishvara, due to previous samskaras.

Steve said...

Thanks, Sivanarul. I'm not a Bhakti so, as you said in your reply to Joseph Hudson, I probably can't fully understand where you're coming from, but one phrase in that reply did catch my attention: '...nothing other than Ishvara is permanent...'. If the word 'Ishvara' is replaced with the word 'existence', and if the 'salt doll' melts in what those words point to, I can see we're headed in the same direction. I'll meet you here. :)

But, if I may, I'd also like to answer Venkat's question: 'How do you think Bhagavan would have responded to [your] comment?', 'Most of us do not have the maturity anywhere even remotely close to Bhagavan'. I think he would have responded as he did:

'You and I are the same. What I have done is surely possible for all. You are the Self now and can never be anything else. Throw your worries to the wind, turn within and find Peace.'

venkat said...

Steve, Sivanarul

Both your comments are spot on.

Sivanarul, I don't think Bhagavan would have countenanced anyone thinking that they are immature, or not yet advanced enough, or not at his level. I suggest that you yourself are limiting yourself by constantly thinking that you are a beginner. It is a pointless thought - just throw it away.

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

There is a big difference between “not thinking one is a beginner” and “not actually being a beginner”. I am a big believer in actions rather than words or thoughts. That is why Bhagavan’s actions are the real Ulladu Narpadu for me. His actions of compassion, caring for his mother, praying for his mother, his devotion towards Arunachala in Aksharamanamalai, his saintliness, his demonstration by example of what abidance in the self looks like etc etc are what Bhagavan means to me. All of this are dismissed as that Bhagavan did not do any of this and that some atma sakthi did it. Well, it is then that Atma sakthi is what I refer to as Bhagavan.

The way one can judge one is a beginner or not is to put oneself to the test. Let us consider a simple test. Take 3 days off (1 vacation day + weekend). Clear everything up from your schedule much earlier to this, for the 3 days. In those 3 days, just be (other than eating, drinking water and toilet). No Vichara, no meditation, no reading spiritual books, no blog, no news, no tv, no nothing. Only simple being. If one can do that, I would say one has progressed from being a beginner. (3 days is an arbitrary number. One can choose any reasonable number that represents a prolonged duration of time. For me, it must be at least 3 days).

I tried to do that for just one day. All I could do it for, was just 2 hours. So clearly, I am a beginner :-)

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarulji, Vannakkam

How would you have felt is you could have sustained your "sadhana" for 8 hours instead of two?

You see, that might seem like a good idea to "test" your limits but actually it was a loose loose situation because ego will recuperate both actions as either "I couldn't do more than two hours" or "Mmm... I did 8 hours of sadhana, that's pretty good." At the very best that proves a lack or a good concentration of attention, not vichara.

Instead, those moments during the day where we catch ourselves turning back the attention to ourself, are the gems of sadhana. Increasing those small efforts throughout our moments are, to my understanding, much more fruitful and bypass our imaginary ego thrive than sadhana marathons. (Unless our prarabdha pushes us to do so like in the case of yogis or renunciants)

Yours in Bhagavan
Mount

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

The “being” test it not about attention. It is simply being with oneself (it is also not vichara as there is no focus turned on the I). The closest description is probably choiceless awareness. Simply be and be aware of whatever is going on in your mind. Other way to describe it is non-doing of any activity other than absolute basic needs like eating, drinking water and toilet. The point of it is not to prove anything, but to let the ego experience non-doing for a prolonged period.

The danger of ego relishing that it achieved 8 hours of non-doing is very less, since it knows that it is an iota of achievement for the final state that is non-doing that transcends time. If we translate “transcending time” as infinity, what is 8 hours when compared to infinity? If anything it is a small pat on the back and get back to work, we have a long way to go.

I agree that small amounts of sadhana is very beneficial. But that agreement is based on the fact that it is what is practical currently. The ego actually has more chance of being highly satisfied that it is doing sadhana all the time (due to small amounts spread out throughout the day) and may decide that, it is all set in the journey.
Marathon sadhanas have value on their own which cannot be found in small amounts. I will give you an example. I have experienced 2 or 3 times, states close to manolaya that was very peaceful and blissful in long meditation sessions once the session crossed about 45 mins. I did not want to end the session at all, since it was the most peace and bliss I have ever experienced. I have never experienced it in shorter sessions that last 20 or 30 mins. Why is experiencing that important? Because to stay focused on the journey and to leave samsara behind, one needs to remind oneself of those carrots.

I have not attended the 10 day Vipassana of Sri Goenka. But I think in that 10 days (10 hours / day), the ego facing itself for such a long duration trains the ego to be with itself.

A very simple way to understand it is the regular weekend of 2 days does not really provide much rest. But if one goes on vacation for 2 weeks and truly rests, there will be a huge difference in recharging the batteries.

Sivanarul said...

Pamban swamigal did mantra japa uninterrupted for 3 days, which kicked off his search to a higher gear.

Pamban swamigal’s marathon sadhana is what helped him in getting Upadesha directly from the lord and actually having a direct darshan of the lord as explained below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamban_Swamigal

In the year 1894 at Peerapan Valasai near Ramanad in Tamil Nadu, Pamban Swami was determined to get upadesam from Lord Kumara Palani Andi himself and from no one else. So he obtained permission from the government officer to dig a pit in the burial ground to the size of 3' x 3' x 3' covered with lock & key for the roof. Before starting meditation he asked his followers to have faith in God. Because this was a burial ground there were a lot of disturbing events that took place. Once a big demon tried to seize Pamban Swami, but by hurling his dandam the demon vanished. On the seventh night a voice commanded Pamban Swami to get up. Pamban Swami replied that unless Lord Palani Andi Himself comes he would not get up, even if he had to die. Once again the voice said, "Your Lord has come to see you. Open your eyes."

Pamban Swami was delighted to see Lord Murugan in the form of Palani Andi with a dandam in one hand and the other hand in chin mudra accompanied by two rishis. With a smiling countenance Palani Andi came forward and gave a "single utterance" (oru mozhi) upadesam in Pamban Swami's right ear. After that they turned back, walked towards the west and vanished. Without getting up on hearing that one word Pamban Swami was very much pleased and continued his meditation for 28 days without food, water or sleep.

On the 35th day once again a voice was heard and commanded him to "Come out of the pit." Once again Pamban Swami replied that only if it is by his Lord he would get out. The voice said "Yes it's me." At once Pamban Swami got out of the pit and saw Citra Poornima full moon in the sky. He had a cloth of one piece cloth like Patanatar or an āndi.

venkat said...

Hi Sivanarul

In some ways your test is interesting, because it highlights to the ego that it has to be doing something, it can't just be.

However, I don't think measuring progress through tests of how long you can sit doing nothing is the point of Bhagavan's teaching. In a way it is a form of coercion against yourself. Whereas Bhagavan just says, when you can, to gently turn your attention inwards and seek the 'I'. And in doing so, you will develop the love naturally to do it more.

In ch'an / zen, there is something wu wei, acting without acting, non-volitional action. It is similar to niskamya karma, acting without desire. All of these are just pointers to say that we all act in the world (even Bhagavan), but we can strive to do so (through awareness) with a minimum of egoic desires. You can easily see how this could be achieved through vichara / self-abidance or bhakti / self-surrender.

The point is though, you are just doing it one day at a time, without worrying about the destination or how soon you will get there. In this, there can be no measurement, no comparison against another, no tests of progress. Those, as you are know, are just playthings of the ego.

Guru Vachaka Kovai said...

802. The Jnani, who has saved himself, alone can do good to others. Others, who have not dispelled the darkness of ignorance, are like the blind to the blind.

"When this four-line verse was shown to Sri Bhagavan, He composed a two-line verse of His own conveying the same meaning, which is given below.

B15. Only one who is saved can save other jivas, whereas others are like the blind leading the blind.

Steve said...

GVK, I get it, but let's at least appreciate the jiva who gave us that translation.

Sivanarul said...

“B15. Only one who is saved can save other jivas, whereas others are like the blind leading the blind.”

I would rephrase B15 as follows:

“B15. Only one who is saved can save other jivas, whereas others are like the blind leading the blind. But if that savior (who is saved) is not available, then it is better that the blind lead the blind than the blind getting stuck with no direction”

three rupees said...

From http://www.happinessofbeing.com/The_Path_of_Sri_Ramana_Part_One.pdf

"Kavya Kanta Ganapati Sastri, who was the foremost poet in Sanskrit among the devotees of Sri Bhagavan and who was good at the tapas of existing upon the least quantity of food, once told Sri Bhagavan, “It seems to me that just three rupees a month are sufficient for us to live.” Quick came Sri Bhagavan’s retort, “When even the body is not necessary for us to live, why then three rupees?”, We must clearly understand the implication underlying this conversation, When Ganapati Sastri
remarked,” for us to live “, he meant only, for the body to live ; 'it is thus clear that his fundamental outlook was’ the body is I’, When Sri Bhagavan retorted, “ for us to live ", He meant, for Self to live’; it is thus clear that His fundamental outlook was that the pure consciousness, which is devoid of the five sheaths, is ‘I’, From this conversation, cannot the reader clearly see what each of them experienced as the knowledge of his existence ? "

quote-ji said...

Q: What is the difference between meditation and Self-enquiry?

M: Meditation is possible only if the ego is retained: there is the ego and the object meditated upon. This method is indirect. However, if we seek the ego-source, the ego disappears and what remains is the Self. This method is the direct one.

- Conscious Immortality p.59

ozhivil odukkam said...

Verse 123:
In those who, wearied by ritual activities, come to him asking for instruction, the illustrious One fosters the bliss of the Self, so that they dwell in silence. He is the true guru. As for the rest, know that, in so far as they cause the slightest movement in the minds of their disciples, they will be like Brahma, the creator of worlds, and the Lord of Death.

incredible back-bencher said...

Michael James,
What quote-ji has quoted as 'the direct method one':
"...if we seek the ego-source, the ego disappears..."
In my experience the disappearance of the ego on the strength of 'seeking' never happened.
However, I must admit that I did not seek the ego's source in the manner of exercising a 'practice'.
I watched only the behaviour of my thinking and feeling. Obviously, that is not sufficient to make the ego disappear.
The stupid thing/fact is that I do not only feel any need of practising any 'practice' like a school subject but also I have an aversion to exercise any 'practice' of trying to be continuously attentively self-aware.
If there would occure no change about my behaviour, it seems to be my predestined way to walk a longer road back home than with the help of atma-vicara which is highly recommended on this website.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said...

Hello all,

I read (and also put into practice) that while doing some kind of work to have some amount of attention to yourself. But this is what I had observed:

When am doing some kind of office work, there are times where I completely get absorbed into the work, into the doing. There is hardly any moment I think about myself, about others, about past or future, about problems, worries etc. There is nothing the thought goes except completely get absorbed in writing. There is not even a sense of I doing the work, while performing.

But when trying to pay attention to Iam while doing some other work, it is like am not completely attentive to work. It is like having more sense of I because attention goes between work and "Iam" partly. It feels so much movement between I and work. So was wondering that while paying attention to Iam during work are we not completely attentive to work and the sense of I is more whereas completely being absorbed in work, there is not much sense of I.

Steve said...

'So was wondering that while paying attention to Iam during work are we not completely attentive to work and the sense of I is more whereas completely being absorbed in work, there is not much sense of I.'

Palaniappan, it looks like Michael answered your same basic question previously, and you kind of answered your own question. I would just add that not being completely attentive to work doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of your attention is on 'I' - it could be on literally anything else. Atma-vicara is an individual practice, but two things are the same for everyone: the fundamental technique of self-attention, and the more we practice, the better our practice becomes, at any time, under any circumstances.

This quote more than any other has been my inspiration from the beginning, and I'll share it with you:

"When we begin to practice ātma-vichāra — self-investigation or self-attentiveness — we are starting a process that will escalate with ever-increasing momentum, like a snowball rolling down a hill, because the more we attend to ‘I am’, the more clearly we will experience it, and the more clearly we experience it, the more brightly the clarity of true vivēka will shine in our heart, thereby enabling us to free ourself from our desires and to love to be self-attentive ever more intensely, until eventually our mind will be swallowed forever in the absolute clarity of pristinely pure self-consciousness." - Michael James

Sivanarul said...


http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/resource_centre/devotional-face-jnana/

AKSHARAMANAMALAI:
The Devotional Face of Jnana By Nadhia Sutara

Nadhia is a Russian devotee who lived inside the Guhainamsivayar temple compound (formerly occupied by Keerai patti) on Arunachala hill for nearly ten years. She was a member of the editorial staff of the Mountain Path from 1989 to 1995. After staying many years in Sri Ramanarsam, she returned to Canada. Recently she came on a visit to the ashram. She is a sincere spiritual seeker deeply connected to Arunachala Hill and we are pleased to share her insights into “Aksharamanamalai” of Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi always maintained that Bhakti (devotion) is Jnana mata meaning Bhakti gives birth to Jnana as a mother gives birth to a child. In His major devotional work, “Aksharamanalai,” Sri Maharshi illustrates how this most elevated form of bhakti presents itself, the variety of moods it reflects, and how it leads unerringly to Self-realization.

Since Swami Vivekananda brought the teachings of Advaita Vedanta to the West, and Sri Ramana Maharshi later incarnated to embody those ideals so completely, a great many misunderstandings have arisen about the nature of advaita and that of bhakti. “Non-dualism,” say some, “means that Brahman alone is real, and everything else is unreal. Therefore you are unreal, I am unreal, and God is unreal. So it is ridiculous for an unreal person to utter unreal prayers to an unreal God. They haven’t a hope of getting anywhere.”

These people err in many respects. First, advaita – non-duality – means NOT TWO; it does not mean one. This is a topic for deep reflection: the Ultimate isn’t two and it isn’t one – it is NOT TWO.

Another misconception has arisen about Bhagavan’s teachings about predetermination, the notion that what is to happen will happen however much you may try to thwart it, and what is not to happen will not happen however much you may try to make it happen. In Bhagavan’s own words, “The best course, therefore, is to be silent.” Without properly digesting this teaching, some people conclude that therefore no effort whatsoever is required to obtain Realization. It will come when it comes, and there’s nothing more to it. Prayer, they say, cannot possibly help the aspirant since the end result is already predetermined. If we take this to its logical conclusion, not only prayer would be fruitless, but also self-enquiry or any other sadhana, for that matter.

Sivanarul said...

This kind of spiritual indigestion not only hinders the aspirant but can actually stall him or her until they see the shallowness of their conceptual understanding. Sri Bhagavan always maintained that it takes a lot of effort to get to non-effort. As He told Kunjuswami, the three stages of sadhana – sravana, (hearing the Teaching), manana (continuously reflecting on it until it is fully digested) and nididhyasana (abiding in what one has digested) must be kept up until full Realization.

Moreover, the same Source that provokes the aspirant to do self-enquiry may provoke an aspirant to pray. “The grace that you seek is also the grace that is seeking,” Sri Bhagavan used to say. After all, the Source is One just as all prayers are directed ultimately to that One. The jivatman is a reflection of the paramatman, inseparable from it so long as the jiva lasts: the self enquires into the Source of itself just as the bhakta prays to the Source of bhakti. Otherwise, why would Sri Bhagavan pray for the cure of His mother’s illness? And why write “Aksharamanamalai”?

Sri Bhagavan often remarked that he was afraid of two devotees, Ramanatha Brahmachari and Mudaliar Pati. He said that they loved him so much that he could not refuse them anything they asked, thus affirming the tenet that devotion is the rope to bind God. If such a statement could come from Sri Bhagavan, an embodiment of the One Supreme, how can we argue that prayer and devotion are useless, foolish or futile?

Sri Bhagavan makes perfectly clear in “Aksharamanalai” that the bhakta who prays is no different than the so-called unreal individual who does self-enquiry. Sri Bhagavan has said that just as the enquirer is like the stick that stirs the funeral pyre and is ultimately burnt in that same pyre, so the bhakta who prays is ultimately absorbed into the Ishtha, that “form” of the Ultimate that is inseparable from it. This is called in Sanskrit ananya bhakti – that highest form of bhakti wherein the individual is completely lost in the Divine Ultimate BEingness.

There is a further side to the issue. Sri Bhagavan and all great jnanis have asserted that non-duality is an inner abidance, a constant dwelling in the perception of the one essential nature of all manifestation. However, so long as one is in the body, bheda bhava (recognition of difference in form) must always be preserved. The essence of a tree is identical with the essence of a human being, but the needs of their forms are different so their forms must be treated differently. Non-difference in essence – and not non-difference in form – is what is meant by non-duality, not-two-ness. A genuine jnani – like Sri Bhagavan – will never treat any form of life as though it were unreal. Look at his treatment of Lakshmi the cow, the deer, the crow, etc. Sri Bhagavan’s solicitousness towards ALL forms was always reverent and deeply caring. An incident is recorded where He came across someone beating a mango tree in order to obtain its fruit. He ordered him to stop beating the tree and scolded him saying, “Take the fruit by all means – that is the desire of the tree. But why must you beat it? Don’t you think it feels the pain as much as if someone were to beat you?”

Sivanarul said...

Now let us look at a few of the slokas of “Aksharamanalai” to see the profound and moving way in which Sri Bhagavan has expressed how this one-pointed bhakti towards Arunachala leads to liberation.

1. (a) Thou dost root out the ego of those who meditate on Thee in the heart, O Arunachala!

28. (a) Let me, Thy prey, surrender unto Thee and be consumed, and so have peace, O Arunachala!

(b) I came to feed on Thee, but Thou hast fed on me; now there is peace, O Arunachala!

44. ‘Look within, ever seeking the Self with the inner eye, then (it) will be found,’ Thus didst Thou direct me, beloved Arunachala!

48. When I took shelter under Thee as my One God, Thou didst destroy me altogether, O Arunachala!

66. With madness for Thee hast Thou freed me from madness (for the world); grant me now the cure of all madness, O Arunachala!

101. As snow in water, let me melt as love in Thee, Who art love itself, O Arunachala!

Thus the moth – the one-pointed devotee – is absorbed, annihilated, and liberated in the flame – the Self – Arunachala.

gemstone smuggler said...

Michael,
in section 4 you say:
"...Looking elsewhere instead of at the statue is like our usual condition in waking or dream: though we are aware of ourself, we generally do not look at or attend to ourself, because we are more interested in being aware of other things, so we spend most of our time looking at or attending to whatever else we are interested in"...

In order to understand the term "other things", Michael, may I please request you the practical issue to enumerate at least ten(10) examples of "other things" which are considered to be detrimental to look(ing) at ourself ? You may start that "black list" with the usual wake up at the morning time.

Anonymous said...

AWARENESS OF AWARENESS

You might think that the majority of humans would rejoice at the discovery of the most rapid and direct means to eternal bliss. Due to the tricks of the ego, the majority of humans will not rejoice at the discovery.

That is why we begin by identifying the imposter, exposing the motivations and tricks of the imposter, showing the importance of, and how to awaken, the extremely intense desire for liberation.

Historically, not even one in a million humans has been dedicated to the Direct Experience of the Eternal Truth that lives within them and is their true Self.

The Awareness Watching Awareness Method is the most rapid and direct means for a human to end suffering and to remain in Infinite-Eternal-Awareness-Love-Bliss.

What happens in all of the religious and spiritual teachings of the past is the ego in the reader or listener co-operates with the ego in the so-called spiritual teacher to produce a teaching that will serve the ego. Then both the teacher and the student call the false teaching a true teaching.

Wittgenstein said...

Palaniappan,

When you say, “There is not even a sense of I doing the work […]”, it is not clear. By ‘sense of I’ you mean self-awareness, then it is always there. How can it go missing?

Papaji said...

"Ignorance gives rise to desires. Desires give rise to the world. When you realise that ignorance itself does not exist, you will discover the illusoriness of your desires. As a result the whole world becomes illusory and non-existent. The world never did exist. If there was no past happening, how then could the desire to have possession of an object arise? If there is no desire, how then could the world be seen as reality? If the desire is ended, you will discover the illusory relationship between the seer and seen. Thus you become the goal where all sufferings end."

(Nothing Ever Happened, vol. 3, p. 221)

babble of voices said...

Papaji,
what does ignorance look like ?
How can a non-existing ignorance give rise to ultimately illusory desires ?
Does/did the world ever tell you that it exists or not ?
How can a never existing world be seen as anything at all ?
Did the world ever care about whether it would be seen as "reality" or not ?
Did the world ever care about whether we will discover any illusory relationship between the seer and seen ?
If there is no world then there is neither a seer, nor seeing and any seen.
We should not attach too much significance to the assertion that "nothing ever happened" because it is only an individual insight gained in a never existing world.

distrustful lizard said...

Michael,
section 4. Sri Arunacala Aksaramanamalai verse 44:
to see ourself, we must turn back and look at ourself.
What exactly is the core meaning of the adverb "back" in the above context ?
According my Dictionary: "back" can mean:
1. in the opposite direction from the one that one is facing or travelling towards
2. so as to return to an earlier or normal position or condition
3. at a place previously left or mentioned

distorted image said...

Michael,
having studied the explanations of section 4. I have considered some thoughts about or mulled over some ideas:
A.)It seems to be frustrating to look at ourself directly.
B.)Why are we more interested in being aware of other things than to look at ourself ?
C.)Because looking at myself is an unrewarding effort I am more interested in being aware of other things.
D.)Because we are aware really always of ourself it seems to be not attractive and very promising to look at ourself (more) intently.
E.)Because we are accustomed to be aware of ourself –like of the force of habit - it seems not very promising to see what we really are or to look at or to attend to ourself.
F.)How can averting our gaze (our mind’s eye or attention) away from ourself seem to us to be a more rich/fertile experience than turning one’s inner gaze or attention towards ourself ?
G.)Why are we not be taken by seeing what we really are by looking at ourself intently ?
H.)Why do we have no strong desire to be aware only of ourself and of nothing whatsoever ?
I.)Is the bright light of pure self-awareness a not exactly exciting but only a stale/empty experience, far from having a look of ecstasy,
not even comparable with the fascinating and enthusiastic feeling when I was still believing in Christ child and happily and exitedly awaiting its arrival as bringer of Christmas gifts ?
J.)I do remember only a few moments of dwelling in exorbitant happiness
after nearly forty years of being facing (not persistently) inwardly.
K.)Because I did not turn my ‚inner eye‘ incessantly towards myself, I cannot at all claim to have succeeded in seeing clearly what I actually am.
L.)Since what we aim to experience directly is only ourself therefore I have to continue to practice looking directly at myself.

Steve said...

L.-Z.)

distorted image said...

Steve,
many thanks for your reply given in great detail.(Smile).

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Ignorance
(from the Talks)

Ignorance - ajnana - is of two kinds:
(1) Forgetfulness of the Self.
(2) Obstruction to the knowledge of the Self.

Aids are meant for eradicating thoughts; these thoughts are the re-manifestations of predispositions remaining in seed-form; they give rise to diversity from which all troubles arise. These aids are: hearing the truth from the master (sravana), etc.

The effects of sravana may be immediate and the disciple realises the truth all at once. This can happen only for the well-advanced disciple.

Otherwise, the disciple feels that he is unable to realise the truth, even after repeatedly hearing it. What is it due to? Impurities in his mind: ignorance, doubt and wrong identity are the obstacles to be removed.
(a) To remove ignorance completely, he has to hear the truth repeatedly, until his knowledge of the subject-matter becomes perfect;
(b) to remove doubts, he must reflect on what he has heard; ultimately his knowledge will be free from doubts of any kind;
(c) to remove the wrong identity of the Self with the non-self (such as the body, the senses, the mind or the intellect) his mind must become one-pointed.

All these things accomplished, the obstacles are at an end and samadhi results, that is, Peace reigns.

Some say that one should never cease to engage in hearing, reflection and one-pointedness. These are not fulfilled by reading books, but only by continued practice to keep the mind withdrawn.

The aspirant may be kritopasaka or akritopasaka. The former is fit to realise the Self, even with the slightest stimulus: only some little doubt stands in his way, it is easily removed if he hears the truth once from the Master. Immediately he gains the samadhi state. It is presumed that he had already completed sravana, reflection, etc. in previous births, they are no more necessary for him.

For the other all these aids are necessary; for him doubts crop up even after repeated hearing; therefore he must not give up aids until he gains the samadhi state.

Sravana removes the illusion of the Self being one with the body, etc. Reflection makes it clear that Knowledge is Self. One-pointedness reveals the Self as being Infinite and Blissful.

distorted image said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thanks for your given explanation(from the Talks). Obviously I am still not what you call a well-advanced disciple.
Redarding the obstacles which are to be removed:
Provided that I do not assess myself wrongly I see my current condition as follows:
a) To remove my ignorance completely I feel myself yet ready.
b) I do not need storing my doubts anywhere. They might take flight immediately/there and then.
c) In order to remove the wrong identification of the body-mind complex, senses and intellect and get the mind one-pointed I only can try it again and again.
d) So I have not accomplished all these things listet above.
e) However, I think (most of the year) my longing for complete annihilation of my ignorance is intense, forceful, violent and fervent enough.
f) (Only) One-pointedness must necessarily be developed, refined and strengthened/intensified or becomer stronger/keener/sharper/more incisive/trenchant/cogent/acute/tapering.
g) Therefore I have to make much(every possible) effort to improve my level for being „well-advanced“.
h) Because I have not to gain any school report I put my trust in the incessant help of Sri Ramana Arunachala.

Viveka Vairagya said...

The Fire Sermon by Buddha

Then The Blessed One, having dwelt in Uruvelâ as long as he wished, proceeded on his wanderings in the direction of Gayâ Head, accompanied by a great congregation of priests, a thousand in number, who had all of them aforetime been monks with matted hair. And there in Gayâ, on Gayâ Head, The Blessed One dwelt, together with the thousand priests.

And there The Blessed One addressed the priests:--

"All things, O priests, are on fire. And what, O priests, are all these things which are on fire?

"The eye, O priests, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, that also is on fire.

"And with what are these on fire?

"With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

"The ear is on fire; sounds are on fire; . . . the nose is on fire; odors are on fire; . . . the tongue is on fire; tastes are on fire; . . . the body is on fire; things tangible are on fire; . . . the mind is on fire; ideas are on fire; . . . mind-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the mind are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, that also is on fire.

"And with what are these on fire?

"With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

"Perceiving this, O priests, the learned and noble disciple conceives an aversion for the eye, conceives an aversion for forms, conceives an aversion for eye-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the eye; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, for that also he conceives an aversion. Conceives an aversion for the ear, conceives an aversion for sounds, . . . conceives an aversion for the nose, conceives an aversion for odors, . . . conceives an aversion for the tongue, conceives an aversion for tastes, . . . conceives an aversion for the body, conceives an aversion for things tangible, . . . conceives an aversion for the mind, conceives an aversion for ideas, conceives an aversion for mind-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the mind; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, for this also he conceives an aversion. And in conceiving this aversion, he becomes divested of passion, and by the absence of passion he becomes free, and when he is free he becomes aware that he is free; and he knows that rebirth is exhausted, that he, has lived the holy life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he is no more for this world."

Now while this exposition was being delivered, the minds of the thousand priests became free from attachment and delivered from the depravities.

Out of focus said...

Michael,
section 6.U.N. v.25: so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we seem to be this ego
"Therefore in order to ascertain from our own experience(...) whether or not we are this finite ego..., we need to investigate ourself by trying to be aware of ourself alone, without even the slightest awareness of anything else, and hence we need to try to focus our entire attention on ourself alone."
That is easy said, but how can I thereby exclude the 'slightest awareness of anything else'? In my experience while trying to focussing my entire attention on myself alone the mysterious thing/phantom called 'anything other' or 'anything else' does not show the slightest willingness to move out of the screen of awareness. Obviously my lens of attention/awareness is currently not clean enough to focus the mind on 'myself alone'.

form grasper said...

Michael,
section 6.,
we should suggest our ego to Oscar Nominations for the best writing ,original screenplay written directly for the screen, best art direction, best film editing, best costume design, best sound effects, best visual effects and so on.
To be able to grasp any form only by creating or projecting it and simultaneously attending to it is a masterly performance/masterpiece/master-stroke. To create forms only by becoming aware of them is surely an unbeatable, record-breaking and genial invention.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on One's True Nature

You create a dream-body for yourself in the dream and act with that dream-body. The same is falsified in the waking state. At present you think that you are this body and not the dream-body. In your dream this body is falsified by the dream-body. So that, you see, neither of these bodies is real. Because each of them is true for a time and false at other times. That which is real must be real for ever. But you say ‘I’. This ‘I’-consciousness is present all through the three states. There is no change in it. That is alone real. The three states are false. They are only for the mind. It is the mind which obstructs your vision of your true nature. Your true nature is that of infinite spirit. That was the case in your sleep. You note the limitations in the other two states. What is the difference due to? There was no mind in sleep, but it exists in the dream and the waking states. The feeling of limitation is the work of the mind. What is mind? Find it. If you search for it, it will vanish by itself. For it has no real existence. It is comprised of thoughts. It disappears with the cessation of thoughts.

svarupa-smarana said...

Viveka Vairagya,
You quote: ...'But you say 'I'.This 'I'-consciousness is present all through the three states. There is no change in it. That alone is real. The three states are false....
Your true nature is that of infinite spirit'...
If my true nature is that of infinite spirit, why should I occupy myself with the mind which 'has no real existence' ? Is it not a wrong conclusion ?
Why should the real one - the infinite spirit- devote a great deal with searching a non-existent mind ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

svarupa-smarana,
You ask "Why should the real one - the infinite spirit- devote a great deal with searching a non-existent mind ?" It is not the infinite spirit or Self that does Self-Enquiry as to "Who am I?", it is the ego or Jiva that does it (and not the infinite spirit) and finds that it does not exist but only the infinite spirit exists. As Bhagavan Ramana says in Day by Day with Bhagavan (Mudaliar, D (comp.) (2002), Day by Day with Bhagavan, 5th reprint, p 43, 21-11-45 Night), "That which makes the enquiry is the ego. The “I” about which the enquiry is made is also the ego. As a result of the enquiry the ego ceases to exist and only the Self is found to exist."

Viveka Vairagya said...

A Conversation with Ramana Maharshi
(from the Talks)

Mr. Jharka, a gentleman from the University of Benares, holding the M.A. and the M.Sc. degrees, said that he was stricken with grief due to bereavement of wife and children. He sought peace of mind and asked how to get it.
Maharshi: It is in the mind that birth and death, pleasure and pain, in short the world and ego exist. If the mind is destroyed all these are destroyed too. Note that it should be annihilated, not just made latent. For the mind is dormant in sleep. It does not know anything. Still, on waking up, you are as you were before. There is no end of grief. But if the mind be destroyed the grief will have no background and will disappear along with the mind.
D.: How to destroy the mind?
Maharshi: Seek the mind. On being sought, it will disappear.
D.: I do not understand.
Maharshi: The mind is only a bundle of thoughts. The thoughts arise because there is the thinker. The thinker is the ego. The ego, if sought, will vanish automatically. The ego and the mind are the same. The ego is the root-thought from which all other thoughts arise.
D.: How to seek the mind?
Maharshi: Dive within. You are now aware that the mind rises up from within. So sink within and seek.
D.: I do not yet understand how it is to be done.
Maharshi: You are practising breath-control. Mechanical breath-control will not lead one to the goal. It is only an aid. While doing it mechanically take care to be alert in mind and remember the ‘I’ thought and seek its source. Then you will find that where breath sinks, there ‘I-thought’ arises. They sink and rise together. The ‘I-thought’ also will sink along with breath. Simultaneously, another luminous and infinite ‘I-I’ will become manifest, which will be continuous and unbroken. That is the goal. It goes by different names - God, Self, Kundalini Sakti, Consciousness, Yoga, Bhakti, Jnana, etc.
D.: Not clear yet.
Maharshi: When the attempt is made, it will of itself take you to the goal.

svarupa-smarana said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thank you for your reply.
Of course it is the ego which makes the enquiry.
Of course the 'I' about which the enquiry is made is also the ego.
But why should 'I' identify myself with this ego ?
Although everybody knows that 'I am' in no way an ego, why should 'I' as the pure self-awareness take on the job of this ego ?
How could 'I' ever annihilate an ego when 'I' never was an ego ?
May we not put our trust in God and the given information by the sages ?
I do not at all nurse the illusion to be this ego. So why should I or we burden or weigh upon myself/ourself with the task of eradicating the illusion that I am or we are this seeming fictitious phenomenal ego ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

svarupa-smarana,
You are right in a way in asking these questions. But consider for a moment who is asking these questions. Who is the "I" who is asking all these questions and having all these doubts? It cannot be the Self for the Self is ever-realized and is not in doubt. So it has to be the ego or jiva or I-thought. Investigate what this ego is and you will find that it is non-existent and only the Self exists, and then all your questions and doubts will be put to rest.

atma-nishta said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thanks for the given excerpt from the Talks.
It imparts the fundamental hint about the meaning of the ident place where breath sinks and 'I'-thought arises. That the 'I'-thought also will sink along with breath is an essential and cardinal clue for any attempt to seek the source of the mind.

svarupa-smarana said...

Viveka Vairagya,
(how) can you be sure that the Self cannot put any question ?
When the Self obviously tolerates all the ignorance of mind-seekers why should it not put any question in an internet blog ?
Please do not look at me appraisingly.
Do not brand me as an ego/jiva/'I'-thought. I do not need find the non-existence of 'this ego'. On the other hand why should the Self has any need to be found as the alone existing being by any ego.
Kind Regards

Viveka Vairagya said...

svarupa-smarana,
You write "When the Self obviously tolerates all the ignorance of mind-seekers why should it not put any question in an internet blog ?" The Self, by definition, and based upon the statements of Jnanis like Ramana Maharshi, is supposedly all there is, all-knowing, lacking any imperfection, having no ignorance, purna, has no need to put any question in an internet blog. If you don't want me to brand you as an ego/jiva/'I'-thought, I will not. But do you thereby realize your identity with the Self? Your very questions and doubts betray your feeling that you have realized the Self. It is one thing to intellectually understand that one is the Self and quite another thing to actually realize that one is the Self. In the former case, doubts and questions such as yours will arise, whereas in the latter case all questions and doubts will be put to rest.

sooner or later said...

Viveka Vairagya,
the Self is always realized. The question if someone has realized the Self is therefore put not correct.
Of course mere intellectual understanding of the truth cannot be called knowing what we really are. By focusing our entire attention only on ourself we will subside back into what we actually are and remain always as that.

Martin Pettet said...

Presumably the point about manolaya applies to Kriya Yoga and Sant Mat techniques also. Whatever means you use, you access divine Light and primal Sound, and while 'in' that experience you practice Enquiry simultaneously.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Spurious 'I'

The Self is Pure Consciousness. Yet the man identifies himself with the body which is itself insentient and does not say “I am the body” of its own accord. Someone else says so. The unlimited Self does not. Who else is he that says so? A spurious ‘I’ arises between the Pure Consciousness and the insentient body and imagines itself limited to the body. Seek this and it will vanish as a phantom. That phantom is the ego, or the mind or the individuality.
All the sastras are based on the rise of this phantom, whose elimination is their purpose. The present state is mere illusion. Disillusionment is the goal and nothing more.

Sivanarul said...

SIVA – BHOGA – SARAM
THE ESSENCE OF BLISSFUL EXPERIENCE

ேதகாதி நானல்ல என்றறிந்தால் சித்தமயல்
ேபாகாத ெதன்ைனேயா புண்ணியா – ேதகாதி
தன்னளேவ அம்மயக்கம் சத்தியமாய் எப்ெபாழுதும்
உன்னளேவ இல்ைல உணர். 36

“Even when it hath been understood
That body and such things are not I
The confusion of the mind goeth not
Why, O, Virtuous one?”
“That confusion extendeth as far as body and such things only.
Know this, verily it never doth reach as far as thee.” 36

ெநருப்ெபன்றால் வாய்சுடுேமா ெநய்பால்ேதன் கட்டி
கருப்ெபன்றால் தித்தியா காணீ – விருப்பமுடன்
நீபிரமம் என்றக்கால் நீபிரமம் ஆயிைனேயா
நீபிரமம் சற்குருவால் நில். 42

Would it burn thy mouth if thou said ‘fire’?
It wouldn’t taste sweet if thou said ‘ghee’,
Milk, honey, candy, jaggery,
Shalt thou become Brahman
If thou sayest thou art Brahman ever so eagerly?
Stand thou as Brahman by the good Guru made. 42

எேதது ெசய்தாலும் எேதது ெசான்னாலும்
எேதது சிந்தித் திருந்தாலும் – மாேதவா
நின்ெசயேல என்று நினதருளா ேலஉணரில்
என்ெசயேல காண்கிேல ேன. 45

Whatever I do, whatever I say
Whatever I remain thinking, Mahadev !
If I but realize, by Thy Grace, all that action to be Thine.
I do not perceive mine. 45

ெவறும்பாழிற் ேபரின்ப ெவட்டெவளி தன்னில்
குறும்பாளர் காணாக் குடிலின் – உறும்பாசம்
ஒட்டிஎைன ைவத்தனேன உற்றபிர பஞ்செமலாம்
ஆட்டியஞா னப்பிரகா சன். 50

In the perfect void, in the utter expanse of great joy,
In the hovel the mischievous thieves can’t find
He placed me having driven the pasam,
Jnanaprakas that moveth all universe. 50

Sivanarul said...

அரணங்கள் தாம்எரித்த அத்தேர என்னுள்
கரணங்கள் ஒட்டும்வைக காட்டீர் – கரணங்கள்
நீஅதுவாய் நில்லாமல் நின்னறிைவக் கண்டருளிற்
ேபாயதுவாய் நின்றுவிடப் ேபாம். 58

‘Father, that hath burnt the fortresses,
Show me the way to drive my karanas away!’
‘If thou shalt not identify thyself with karanas
But perceive thou art intelligence,
Unite thyself with grace and abide as that
They shall depart from thee.’ 58

இன்பசுகத் துள்ேள இருக்கலாம் எப்ேபாதும்
துன்பவிைன உன்ைனத் ெதாடராது – வன்பா
மருட்ேடக மாயடங்கி மாயாமல் ெநஞ்ேச
அருட்ேடக மாயடங்கு வாய். 68

Thou canst dwell in blissful joy;
Never shall painful karma pursue thee, - only
Perish not in identity with the body, the seat of hardy confusion,
Calmly abide, my heart, embodied in grace. 68

என்னதன்று நிெசயேல என்றறிந்தால் யான்விரும்பி
என்னெவன்று வாய்திறப்ேபன் ஈசேன – இன்னம்இன்னம்
எப்படிேயா நாேயைன ஈேடற்ற ேவண்டும்உனக்(கு)
அப்படிேய ெசய்தருளு வாய். 89

When I come to know nothing is mine but all Thy work,
What desire shall I have or what speak forth, O Lord,
Howsoever thou plannest further and further
To redeem me, a dog, so may Thy Will be done. 89

உள்ளதுதான் ேபாேமாமற் றில்லா ததுவருேமா
பள்ளேம ெவள்ளம் பரவாேதா – கள்ளமாய்ப்
பித்துப்ேபா ேலபிதற்றும் ேபைதமட ெநஞ்சேம
ெசத்துப்ேபா னாேன சிவன். 104

Can that which existeth go?
Can what doth not exist come into being?
Will not the flood ever flow into low land?
Roguish, foolish, simple mind that blabbereth as if mad,
Do you think Siva is dead and gone? 104

Sivanarul said...

எத்தைனதான் கற்றாலும் எத்தைனதான் ேகட்டாலும்
எத்தைனசா தித்தாலும் இன்புறா – சித்தேம
ெமய்யாகத் ேதான்றி விடும்உலக வாழ்வைனத்தும்
ெபாய்யாகத் ேதான்றாத ேபாது. 111

However much one may learn,
However much one may hear,
However much one may accomplish,
Joy will not come, O mind,
When all worldly life, that seemeth so real
Is not realized untrue. 111

ஆைசயறாய் பாசம்விடாய் ஆனசிவ பூைசபண்ணாய்
ேநசமுடன் ஐந்ெதழுத்ைத நீ நிைனயாய் – சீ சீ
சினேம தவிராய் திருமுைறகள் ஒதாய்
மனேம உனக்ெகன்ன வாய். 138

Thou dost not cut off the desires
Thou dost not sever the bonds
Thou dost not adore Siva in desirable worship
Thou dost not meditate with love
The holy letters five. Fie on thee!
Thou dost not leave anger
Thou dost not chant the Thirumurais,
O mind, why then this arrogant prate? 138

தாேனா வசத்தல்ல என்றறிந்தால் தாரணியில்
ஏேனா பிதற்றிடுவ ேதைழெநஞ்ேச – தாேன
இறவா ததுதான் இறக்க அருைள
மறவா திருசிவமா ைவ. 135

If thou knowest that thou art not the insentient
Why babblest thou, poor heart?
Forget not the Divine Grace; then
The ignorance that would not perish by itself will be destroyed.
And thou shalt then become Sivam.
அகத்ைத இழந்தருளாய் அவ்விடத்ேத ேதான்றுஞ்
சுகத்தில் அழுந்திவிடச் ெசான்னான் – மகத்தான
சிற்பரனா ரூர்தனில்வாழ் ெசங்கமலப் ெபாற்பாத
தற்பரஞா னப்பிரகா சன். 32

He bade me cast off the ego from me
Sink in the joy that riseth in grace
The Magnificent one transcending all knowledge,
He with golden feet like lotus red, residing in Arur
He that is highest, Jnanaprakas. 32

Anonymous said...

OUT OF COMPASSION ...

Usually answered my queries very patiently, but on one occasion he remarked, 'You have many doubts. You always want me to clear your doubts.

But some people come here, sit before me and silently grasp the sole thing to be known.

Then, without saying anything, they go away.'

'What can I do, Bhagavan? If your son is a dud and a dunce,
you have to speak to him as often as it is necessary to get
information into his fat head.'

Bhagavan smiled but made no reply.

Bhagavan much preferred to sit in silence, without being
bothered by questions, for that was his natural state.
He once remarked to me, 'I am where there is no word'.
Then why do you talk?' I asked.

'Out of compassion,' he replied.

- Rangan, The Power of the Presence, I p 27

maya said...

From the "Path of Self Knowledge" by Arthur Osborne
/**
The story of V. Venkatraman, who has already been referred to, is illustrative. In his youth he was a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, but he felt the need for a living Guru in flesh and blood, so he prayed to him with the fervour of intense longing, “Master, grant me a living Guru no less perfect than yourself.”

Very soon afterwards he heard of Sri Ramana, then but a few years in the Ashram at the foot of the Hill. He went there with an offering of flowers. It so happened (as would always happen when desirable) that there was no one else in the hall when he arrived.

Sri Bhagavan was reclining on the couch, behind him on the wall the portrait of Sri Ramakrishna to which Venkatraman had prayed. Sri Bhagavan cut the garland in half; one half he bade the attendant place upon his portrait and the other on the temple lingam. Venkatraman had a feeling of lightness and ease. He was at home, his purpose achieved. He told the story of his coming. Sri Bhagavan asked him, “You know about Dakshinamurti?”
“I know that he gave silent upadesa,” he replied.
And Sri Bhagavan said, “That is the upadesa you will get here.”

This silent upadesa was in fact very varied. Sri Bhagavan spoke and wrote most about the vichara or Self-enquiry, and therefore the opinion arose that he prescribed only Jnana-marga, the Path of Knowledge, which most people find too sheer in this age. But in fact he was universal and provided guidance for every temperament, by the path of Devotion no less than of Knowledge. Love and devotion to him are a bridge across the
abyss to salvation. He had many devotees for whom he prescribed no other path.

The same Venkatraman grew uneasy after some time at being given no sadhana — that is no practice to perform - and complained.
“And what brought you here?” Sri Bhagavan asked.
“Thinking of you, Swami.”
“Then that is also your sadhana. That is sufficient.” And indeed, the thought or remembrance of Bhagavan began to accompany him everywhere, to become inseparable from him. The path of devotion is the same really as that of submission. The whole burden is cast upon the Guru. This also Sri Bhagavan enjoined. To one devotee he said, “Submit to me and I will strike down the mind.” To another he said, “Only keep quiet, Bhagavan will do the rest.” He told another, Devaraja Mudaliar, “Your business is only to surrender and leave everything to me.” And he often said, “There are two ways: either ask yourself ‘Who am I?’ or surrender to the Guru.”

Will continue...

maya said...

Continued...

And yet, to surrender, to keep the mind still and be fully receptive to the Grace of the Guru, is not easy. It requires constant effort, constant remembering, and only the Grace of the Guru makes it possible. Many used devotional or other practices to
help them in the attempt, and Sri Bhagavan approved and authorised such means, though he seldom actually prescribed them. Most potent, though invisible, was the power of sat sangh. Literally this means ‘association with Being’, but as a means of sadhana it is used to mean ‘association with one who has realized Sat or Being’. Sri Bhagavan spoke of it in the highest terms. The first five of the Supplementary Forty Verses are devoted to its praise. The story of their inclusion is characteristic. The adopted
daughter of Echammal found one of them written in Sanskrit on the paper in which a packet of sweets was wrapped and was so moved by it that she learned it and recited it before Sri Bhagavan, and he, seeing its importance, translated it into Tamil.
At the time when he was compiling the forty supplementary verses, writing some and translating others, and this verse with the four others, also from Sanskrit, were included. The third of them gives association with a Master pre-eminence over all other methods. “If association with Sages is obtained to what purpose are the various methods of self-discipline? Tell me, of what use is a fan when the cool, gentle, southern breeze is blowing?” Association with Sri Bhagavan worked a subtle alchemy,
even though its effects might only become visible years later. He sometimes told devotees explicitly of its value to them. To Ranga Aiyar, the school friend referred to in Chapter Three, he once said, “If you stay with the Jnani he gives you your cloth ready woven,” the implication being that by other methods you are given the thread and have to weave it yourself.
**/

square circles said...

Michael,
as you write : "Therefore in order to ascertain from our own experience (...) whether or not we are this finite ego, we need to investigate ourself by trying to be aware of ourself alone, without even the slightest awareness of any thing else, and hence we need to try to focus our entire attention on our self alone".
Stupidly the most time when I start to try to investigating myself regularly I get tired and instead ob investigation in waking I have to take forty winks/ a nap because I am simply too tired.
Obviously this reaction of the ego is a kind of defence mechanism against any such investigation. Presumabely the ego does not want to surrender to Ramana Arunachala.
So I hope to surmount that kind of sleepiness/drowsiness and run that blockade.
For that divine grace will be necessary, Without grace I will never be able to cast off the ego and herewith stay in the magnificent joy after .

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Jagrat-Sushupti

We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep. “Be still and know that I AM God”. So stillness is the aim of the seeker. Even a single effort to still at least a single thought even for a trice goes a long way to reach the state of quiescence. Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only. There is the effort here: there is awareness also; the thoughts are stilled; so there is the peace of sleep gained. That is the state of the Jnani. It is neither sleep nor waking but intermediate between the two. There is the awareness of the waking state and the stillness of sleep. It is called jagrat-sushupti. Call it wakeful sleep or sleeping wakefulness or sleepless waking or wakeless sleep. It is not the same as sleep or waking separately. It is atijagrat (beyond wakefulness) or atisushupti (beyond sleep). It is the state of perfect awareness and of perfect stillness combined. It lies between sleep and waking; it is also the interval between two successive thoughts. It is the source from which thoughts spring; we see that when we wake up from sleep. In other words thoughts have their origin in the stillness of sleep. The thoughts make all the difference between the stillness of sleep and the turmoil of waking. Go to the root of the thoughts and you reach the stillness of sleep. But you reach it in the full vigour of search, that is, with perfect awareness. That is again jagrat-sushupti spoken of before. It is not dullness; but it is Bliss. It is not transitory but it is eternal. From that the thoughts proceed. What are all our experiences but thoughts? Pleasure and pain are mere thoughts. They are within ourselves. If you are free from thoughts and yet aware, you are That Perfect Being.

frisky squirrel said...

Michael,
„…we need to investigate ourself by trying to be aware of ourself alone,
without even the slightest awareness of anything else, and hence we need to try to focus our entire attention on ourself alone.“
A "quote" of the official website of Sri Ramana Maharshi/Sri Ramanasramam is :
"Atman alone exists and is real.
The threefold reality of world, individual soul, and God is, like the illusory appearance of silver in the mother of pearl, an imaginary creation in the Atman.
They appear and disappear simultaneously. The Self alone is the world, the 'I' and God . All that exists is but the manifestation of the Supreme."
From another "quote":..."Whereas I am all the time that which senses in every body, in every mind. These bodies and minds are only the tools of the 'I', the illimitable Spirit."
If it is true that all that exists is only the manifestation of the Supreme,
why should anything or any action for example writing a comment on your blog and thereby being aware of the room, chair , desk, screen, keyboard and so on damage focusing our entire attention on ourself alone ?

lemon grass said...

Viveka Vairagya,
how can thoughts as a mental movement can have their origin in the stillness of sleep ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

lemon grass,
In as much as thoughts start after you wake up from sleep.

Sivanarul said...

SivaBhogaSaram

கற்கஇடர்ப் பட்டுமிகக் கற்றஎல்லாங் கற்றவர்பால்
தற்கமிட்டு நாய்ேபாலச் சள்ெளனேவா – நற்கருைண
ெவள்ளம் அடங்கும் விரிசைடயார்க் காளாகி
உள்ளம் அடங்கவல்ல ேவா. 128

Is all that has been learnt
With so much of trouble in learning
Simply for barking like a dog
In disputations with the learned?
Is it not that one may become the servant
Of Him with the spreading locks
Which hold the flood of divine grace,
That one may become tranquil in mind? 128

தன்ெபருைம ெயண்ணாைம தற்ேபாத ேமயிறத்தல்
மின்ெபருைம யாஞ்சகத்ைத ேவண்டாைம – தன்பால்
உடைலத் தினம்பழித்தல் ஒங்குசிவத் ேதான்றல்
நடைலப் பிறப்ெபாழியு நாள். 12

Thinking not of one’s own glory, losing self-conceit,
Discarding the world whose glory is that of the lightning flash, so fleeting
Despising one’s own body, day in, day out,
Holding holy communion with the exalted Lord –
The day when these do happen is the day
When painful birth doth cease. 12

அறிவுநீ என்ன அறிந்தறிந்து மாையச்
ெசறிவுநான் என்ெறன்று ேசர்ந்தால் – அறிவு
ெதரிந்திடுேமா இன்பசுகஞ் ேசர்ந்திடுேமா நின்ைனப்
பிரிந்திடுேமா ெசன்மப் பிணி. 57

Thou knowest full well thou art intelligence.
Still if thou join with Maya saying that thou art
Filled with it, would wisdom be found?
Would blissful joy come to thee?
Would the disease of birth leave thee? 57

lemon grass said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thanks for your reply, but you did not answer my question satisfactorily. My question started with the interrogative adverb 'how'. You rather did add an other example.

Viveka Vairagya said...

lemon grass,
I am not sure "how". But I don't think anyone, including Bhagavan, has detailed "how" thoughts arise, let alone from the stillness of sleep. Scientists may be able to tell us "how", but they, too, would detail the process only in terms of brain and neuron chemistry and physiology.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on the Ego

What is the ego? Enquire. The body is insentient and cannot say ‘I’ . The Self is pure consciousness and non-dual. It cannot say ‘I’ . No one says, ‘I’ in sleep. What is the ego then? It is something intermediate between the inert body and the Self. It has no locus standi. If sought for it vanishes like a ghost. You see, a man imagines that there is something by his side in darkness; it may be some dark object. If he looks closely the ghost is not to be seen, but some dark object which he could identify as a tree or a post, etc. If he does not look closely the ghost strikes terror in the person. All that is required is only to look closely and the ghost vanishes. The ghost was never there. So also with the ego. It is an intangible link between the body and Pure Consciousness. It is not real. So long as one does not look closely it continues to give trouble. But when one looks for it, it is found not to exist.
Again, in a Hindu marriage function, the feasts continue five or six days. A stranger was mistaken for the best man by the bride’s party and they therefore treated him with special regard. Seeing him treated with special regard by the bride’s party, the bridegroom’s party considered him to be some man of importance related to the bride’s party and therefore they too showed him special respect. The stranger had altogether a happy time of it. He was also all along aware of the real situation. On one occasion the groom’s party wanted to refer to him on some point. They asked for him. He scented trouble and made himself scarce. So it is with the ego. If looked for, it disappears. If not, it continues to give trouble.

Annamalai Swami said...

ANNAMALAI SWAMI - FINAL TALKS

Bhagavan spoke about turning inwards to face the Self. That is all that is needed. If we look outwards, we become entangled with objects and we lose awareness of the Self shining within us. But when, by repeated practice, we gain the strength to keep our focus on the Self within, we become one with it and the darkness of Self-ignorance vanishes. Then, even though we continue to live in this false and unreal body, we abide in an ocean of bliss that never fades or diminishes.

This is not going to happen in a moment because lifetimes of wrong and ignorant thinking have made it impossible for most of us to focus intently and regularly on the Self within.

If you leave your house and start walking away from it, and if you continue this habit over many lives, you will probably be a long, long way from home when you finally decide that you have had enough and that you want to go back to the place from where you started.

Don't be discouraged by the length of the journey, and don't slacken in your efforts to get home. Turn 180° to face the source of your outward journey, and keep moving back to where you started.

Ignore the pain, the discomfort, and the frustration of seeming not to get anywhere. Keep moving back to your source, and don't let anything distract you on the way. Be like the river on its journey back to the sea. It doesn't stop, take diversions, or decide to flow uphill for a while. It doesn't become distracted. It just moves slowly and steadily back to the place from where its waters originated. And when the river dissolves in the ocean, river is no more – only Ocean remains.

P. 19

lemon grass said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thank you again for your answer.
From my view it is really a pity that we do not know how the 'I'-thought could seemingly arise from its source of silence (or maybe a "pool" of other 'I'-thoughts). So we do not know the seeming place of its origin too.
If we would know that seeming place of origin we would perhaps find our way back to the source much easier.
If we compare (see Annamalai Swami's above comment) our task with the jouney of a river back to the sea the roll of the river seems to be much easier because its waters flow irresistibly without any effort due the drop/gradient of the river bed.

Viveka Vairagya said...

lemon grass,

Bhagavan does say this in the Talks:
The Self is pure consciousness in sleep; it evolves as aham (‘I’) without the idam (‘this’) in the transition stage; and manifests as aham (‘I’) and idam (‘this’) in the waking state. The individual’s experience is by means of aham (‘I’) only. So he must aim at realisation in the way indicated (i.e., by means of the transitional ‘I’). Otherwise the sleep-experience does not matter to him. If the transitional
‘I’ be realised the substratum is found and that leads to the goal.

Somehwere else, he says:
There is an absolute Self from which a spark proceeds as from a fire. The spark is called the ego. In the case of an ignorant man it identifies itself with an object simultaneously with its rise. It cannot remain independent of such association with objects. The association is ajnana or ignorance and its destruction is the object of our efforts. . . . Its true nature can be found when it is out of contact with objects or thoughts.

I hope the above descriptions help you.

Michael James said...

Lemon Grass, the source or place of origin of our ego (the ‘I’-thought) is only ourself (what we actually are), just as the source or place of origin of the illusory snake is only the rope.

The snake is nothing other than the rope, so if we look at it carefully the snake will disappear and only the rope will remain. Likewise, this ego is nothing other than our actual self (ātma-svarūpa), so if we look at ourself carefully to see what we actually are, this ego will disappear and only our actual self will remain as it is.

How the ego arises is explained by Bhagavan in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: that is, it rises, stands and flourishes only by ‘grasping form’, which means by being aware of anything other than itself. It is aware of other things because it attends to them, and to the extent that it attends to any other thing it is neglecting to attend to itself. This self-negligence or self-inattentiveness is called pramāda, and since this is the cause for the seeming existence of our ego, its opposite, which is called apramāda (non-negligence or self-attentiveness), is the only means to destroy it.

This ego (the ‘I’-thought) does not rise from a pool of other ‘I’-thoughts, as you suggest, because anything other than ourself seems to exist only when our ego has arisen, and it ceases to exist as soon as our ego subsides. We know this from our own experience in sleep, because as soon as our ego subsides in sleep everything else vanishes, and as soon as our ego rises again in either waking or dream other things reappear. This is why Bhagavan says 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 itself is everything’.

lemon grass said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thank you for giving the descriptions about how is to be found namely the substratum and our true nature.

lemon grass said...

Michael,
thank you for your clarifying reply with which you emphasize that the source of our ego is only ourself what we really are. I again forgot that the ego is 'nothing other than our actual self' (atma-svarupa). Again you stress that it is necessary to look at ourself carefully to see what we actually are. So if the ego is 'nothing other than our actual self' nothing should be an obstacle to look at ourself with the required quality of carefulness and vigilance.
The ego is aware of other things only by 'grasping form', which means by being aware of anything other than itself. Being aware of other things by attending to them is neglecting to attend to itself. Only this self-negligence (pramada) is the cause for the seeming existence of our ego. Hey ego, how did you get the power of 'form grasping' by 'attending to other things' ? Did atma-svarupa grant you the power of attorney to practice the hair-raising and outrageous (seeming) self-negligence ? Attending to other things than itself rather is hardly to understand and the most incredible thing at all.

As you say the seeming rising of the ego is not really a rising movement in the closer sense of the verbs 'rise'and 'arise'. According Oxford Dictionary of English 'rise' means for instance 'move from a lower position to a higher one; come up; appear above the horizon; have its source; develop and become more intense'. 'Arise' means 'emerge; become apparent; come into being; originate; occur as a result of; get up; stand up'.
In addition understanding our own experience in sleep, waking or dream (vanishing and reappearing of 'everything else') is beyond me/my mind/ mental power.
Therefore we are happy to have apramada (non-negligence or self-attentiveness) as the only means to destroy this dubious suspect pramada (self-negligence or self-inattentiveness).

Viveka Vairagya said...

"In the question ‘Who am I?’, by ‘I’ is meant the ego. Trying to trace it and find
its source, we see it has no separate existence but merges in the real ‘I’." --- Ramana Maharshi

Viveka Vairagya said...

"In the enquiry ‘Who am I?’, ‘I’ is the ego. The question really means, what is the source or origin of this ego?" --- Ramana Maharshi

inconspicious illiterate said...

Viveka Vairagya,
for example, to get to the root of the matter of the source of a rivulet is most likely when we go and see where the water comes out/issues of the rock. So we visit the place where it begins. The water itself is only rainwater. Rain is caused by evaporation. But are we comparable to a rivulet ?

inconspicious illiterate said...

Viveka Vairagya,
where the seeming ego originates remains still enigmatically to me.
Why it at all began to (seemingly) exist I find this impossible to comprehend.
I pin my hopes to trace the river of the ego to its source on the enquiry 'Who am I' ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

inconspicious illiterate,

Perhaps what Bhagavan says here may give you a clue:

The ego's phenomenal existence is transcended when you dive into the source from where the `I'-thought rises. The ego is described as having three bodies, the gross, the subtle and the causal, but that is only for the purpose of analytical exposition. If the method of enquiry were to depend on the ego's form, you may take it that any enquiry would become altogether impossible, because the forms the ego may assume are legion. Therefore, for the purposes of self-enquiry you have to proceed on the basis that the ego has but one form, namely that of aham-vritti ['I'-thought]. Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing his master by his scent. The master may be at some distant unknown place, but that does not stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master's scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature, etc., counts. To that scent the dog holds on undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him.

inconspicious illiterate said...

Viveka Vairagya,
thank you for the given metaphor/allegory of Bhagavan making the ego's phenomenal existence vividly.

Anamalai swamy said...

ANNAMALAI SWAMI - FINAL TALKS

Question: 'All is one' may be the truth, but one can't treat everything in the world equally. In daily life one still has to discriminate and make distinctions.

Annamalai Swami: I once went for a walk near the housing board buildings [government flats that were built in the 1970s about 300 metres from Annamalai Swami's ashram]. There was a sewage trench on one side of the building. I could smell the stench of the sewage even though I was a long way away. I stayed away from it because I didn't want to be nauseated by the bad smell.

In circumstances such as these you don't say, 'All is one.
Everything is the Self,' and paddle through the sewage. The knowledge 'everything is the Self’ may be there, but that doesn't mean that you have to put yourself in dangerous or health-threatening places.

When you have become one with the Self, a great power takes
you over and runs your life for you. It looks after your body; it puts
you in the right place at the right time; it makes you say the right
things to the people you meet. This power takes you over so completely, you no longer have any ability to decide or discriminate.

The ego that thinks, 'I must do this,' or, 'I should not do that,' is no
longer there. The Self simply animates you and makes you do all the things that need to be done. If you are not in this state, then use your discrimination wisely.

You can choose to sit in a flower garden and enjoy the scent of the blooms, or you can go down to that trench I told you about and make yourself sick by inhaling the fumes there.

So, while you still have an ego, and the power of discrimination that goes with it, use it to inhale the fragrance that you find in the presence of an enlightened being. If you spend time in the proximity of a jnani, his peace will sink into you to such an extent that you will find yourself in a state of peace.

If, instead, you choose to spend all your time with people whose minds are always full of bad thoughts, their mental energy and vibrations will start to seep into you.

I tell you regularly, 'You are the Self. Everything is the Self.' If this is not your experience, pretending that 'all is one' may get you
into trouble. Advaita may be the ultimate experience, but it is not something that a mind that still sees distinctions can practice.

Electricity is a useful form of energy, but it is also potentially
harmful. Use it wisely. Don't put your finger in the socket, thinking,
‘All is one.'

You need a body that is in good working order in order to realise the Self. Realizing the Self is the only useful and worthy activity
in this life, so keep the body in good repair till that goal is achieved.

Afterwards, the Self will take care of everything and you won't have to worry about anything any more. In fact, you won't be able to because the mind that previously did the worrying, the choosing and the discriminating will no longer be there. In that state you won't need it and you won't miss it.

daily life said...

Annamalai Swami,
thank you for giving that extraordinary sensible and practicable hints about to understand and handle Bhagavan's teachings in a manner suitable for everyday use.
But why did you change your identity losing one 'n' and replacing an 'i' by an 'y' ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Our Real nature

Our real nature is mukti [liberation]. But we are imagining we are bound and are making various strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the while free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something which we have always been and are. An illustration will make this clear. A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the Asramam and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned after great effort to this hall, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, why being free we imagine we are bound, I answer, “Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea? It is all mind or maya.

Anamalai Swamy said...

daily life,

'n' means 'nothing' ans 'i' is 'identity'. When 'identity' became 'nothing', what remains is a wonderful story of Annamalai Swami !

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on the Intellect

Why is intellect developed? It has a purpose. The purpose is that it should show the way to realise the Self. It must be put to that use. ... The intellect is of use only to see outside things, the outside world. Perfection of the intellect would lead only to seeing the outside world well. But the intellect is of no use at all for seeing within, for turning inwards towards the Self. For that, it has to be killed or extinguished, or in other words it has to merge in the source from which it sprang.

daily life said...

Annamalai Swami,
you seem to be a cunning lad.
Kind regards

sigh of relief said...

Viveka Vairagya,
if we all would comply with Sri Ramana's instructions we would acknowledge our errors and mistakes and serve our purpose of life much easier.

Vain struggle said...

Sigh of relief,
you crafty customer, how can we get the spiritual ripeness if the ego refuses to comply with the recommendations of the sages ?

sigh of relief said...

Vain struggle,
good sense dictates that one has not (always) to be at the ego's command/disposal.
So you can free yourself step by step/gradually from the tyrannical rule of the ego.
Mere bemoaning one's fate does not get you any further.
Put some hard work into holding your ground. Make use of your intelligence and ability to distinguish. Keep your chin up, it is your goal/purpose in life to refuse to submit to your ego's will.

Sivanarul said...

From Thirumanthiram:
1696
சாத்திக னாய்ப்பர தத்துவவந் தானுன்னி
ஆத்திக பேத நெறிதோற்ற மாகியே
ஆர்த்த பிறவியி னஞ்சி யறநெறி
சாத்தவல் லானவன் சற்சீட னாமே.

1696 Attributes of Good Disciple
A sattvic he is;
His thoughts centered on Finite Truth;
His vision clear through conflicting faiths;
Abhorrent of recurring cycle of births;
Straight in Dharma's path he easy walks;
He, sure, is disciple good and true.

1697
சத்தும் அசத்துமெவ் வாறெனத் தானுன்னிச்
சித்தை யுருக்கிக் சிவனருள் கைகாட்டப்
பத்தியின் ஞானம் பெறப்பணிந் தானந்தச்
சத்தியில் இச்சை தகுவோன்சற் சீடனே.

1697 Yet other qualities of Good Disciple
He scans that which divides the Real and the Unreal
He melts in the soul of his being
And with Siva's Grace to guide,
He receives Jnana in devotion true;
And he humbles himself before Lord
And seeks the bliss of His Sakti;
He is the fit one, the disciple good and true.

1800
அருளில் பிறந்திட்டு அருளில் வளர்ந்திட்டு
அருளில் அழிந்துஇளைப் பாறி மறைந்திட்டு
அருளான ஆனந்தத்து ஆரமுது ஊட்டி
அருளால் என்நந்தி அகம்புகுந் தானே.

1800 From Birth to Liberation--All Acts of Grace
In His Grace was I born,
In His Grace I grew up;
In His Grace I rested in death;
In His Grace I was in obfuscation;
In His Grace I tasted of ambrosial bliss;
In His Grace, Nandi, my heart entered.

Sivanarul said...

1802
பாசத்தில் இட்டது அருள்அந்தப் பாசத்தின்
நேசத்தை விட்டது அருள்அந்தநேசத்தில்
கூசற்ற முத்தி அருள்அந்தக் கூட்டத்தின்
நேசத்துத் தோன்றா நிலையரு ளாமே.

1802 Grace Grants Mukti and Beyond

It was His grace that led me into Pasa
It was His Grace that freed me from that Pasa
It was His grace that in divine love granted Mukti
It was His Grace that granted me the love
For the State beyond Mukti.

144.
பண்டம்பெய் கூரை பழகி விழுந்தக்கால்
உண்ட அப் பெண்டிரும் மக்களும் பின்செலார்
கொண்ட விரதமும் ஞானமும் அல்லது
மண்டி அவருடன் வழிநட வாதே.

144: Your Vigil and Wisdom Alone Accompany Departing Soul

This roof of delights, when by use, to pieces falls,
Wife nor children who all enjoyed follow the parting Soul
Only the holy vigils kept and wisdom gained
Remain to save--others dwindle and desert us all.

148.
அடப்பண்ணி வைத்தார் அடிசிலை உண்டார்
மடக்கொடி யாரொடு மந்தணங் கொண்டார்
இடப்பக்க மேஇறை நொந்தது என்றார்
கிடக்கப் படுத்தார் கிடந்தொழிந் தாரே.

148: Death Comes Sudden

The rich repast was laid and he dined and joyed,
With damsels sweet in amorous dalliance toyed;
"A little little pain--on the left" he moaned
And laid himself to rest to be gathered to dust.

Sivanarul said...

151.
கைவிட்டு நாடிக் கருத்தழிந் தச்சற
நெய்யட்டிச் சோறுண்ணும் ஐவரும் போயினார்
மையிட்ட கண்ணாளும் மாடும் இருக்கவே
மெய்விட்டுப் போக விடைகொள்ளு மாறே.

151: Nothing Remains, When Life Departs

The pulse failed, the mind lost its axle-hold,
The senses five, that buttered sweets enjoyed, left their home;
The fair-eyed beloved and dear treasures remained to stay,
But the spark of life for ever quitted
The warm precincts of clay.

179.
தேய்ந்தற் றொழிந்த இளமை கடைமுறை
ஆய்ந்தற்ற பின்னை அரிய கருமங்கள்
பாய்ந்தற்ற கங்கைப் படர்சடை நந்தியை
ஓர்ந்துற்று கொள்ளும் உயிருள்ள போதே.

179: While Life Still Throbs, Fix Your Mind on Lord

When youth had danced its way to palsied age,
Scarce the chance to fill the years with good deeds more and more;
So while life still throbs, fix your mind on Nandi,
Into whose spreading locks
The holy waters of Ganga eternally pour.

187.
தழைக்கின்ற செந்தளிர்த் தண்மலர்க் கொம்பில்
இழைக்கின்றது எல்லாம் இறக்கின்ற கண்டும்
பிழைப்பின்றி எம்பெரு மானடி ஏத்தார்
அழைக்கின்ற போதுஅறி யாரவர் தாமே.

187: The Bud Blossoms and Fades; So is Human Life
They see the sprouting wanton buds on tender twigs
They see how soon they flash their beauty and die;
Yet they seek not the Holy Feet;
Alas they know not when the sure call comes from High.


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