Sunday, 28 February 2016

The role of logic in developing a clear, coherent and uncomplicated understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings

In my previous article, Why should we believe what Bhagavan taught us?, particularly in the first nine sections, I discussed the logic that he used in order to explain to us why we should believe the fundamental principles of his teachings, which prompted several friends to write comments asking for further clarification or expressing their own views about this subject. Therefore in this article I will start in the first five sections by reproducing and expanding upon the replies that I wrote to such comments written by a friend called Wittgenstein, and then in the next seven sections I will reply to two of the comments written by another friend called Venkat.
  1. The rising of ourself as an ego causes the appearance of other things in our awareness
  2. Why must our ego be the cause and other things its effects?
  3. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verses 23 and 28: we need a subtle and sharp mind in order to discern what we actually are
  4. Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam verse 5: we must purify our mind by polishing it on itself
  5. Why we should not be averse to understanding the logic of Bhagavan’s teachings
  6. The premises of the deductive inference that we are not a body or mind are not inferred inductively
  7. We can infer deductively that the world appears in our awareness only because we have risen as this ego
  8. Since all thoughts and perceptions appear only in our ego’s awareness, this ego is the sole cause for their appearance
  9. Though all deductive inferences are tautologies, they can nevertheless be extremely significant and valuable
  10. Why must we conclude that our ego is the cause of the world-appearance?
  11. Does any world exist independent of our ego or mind?
  12. How can we recognise clearly that we are aware of ourself while asleep?
1. The rising of ourself as an ego causes the appearance of other things in our awareness

In the seventh section of my previous article, Bhagavan’s use of deductive and inductive logic, I had written:
Since everything that we experience other than ourself seems to exist only in waking and dream, when we experience ourself as a body, and since we experience nothing else when we do not experience ourself as a body, as in sleep, it is reasonable for us to suppose that there is a causal connection between our experience ‘I am this body’ and the appearance of anything else in our awareness, so when Bhagavan teaches us that this is the case, he is confirming something that is not necessarily true but highly probable, because though we cannot infer it by deductive logic, we can infer it by inductive logic.
In his first comment Wittgenstein quoted this and asked, “I am unable to see how we can reasonably suppose (or infer by inductive logic) a causal connection. The experience ‘I am this body’ and everything else appear simultaneously [upon waking from sleep] in our awareness and therefore we cannot suppose any causal connection here. A causal connection would entail a ‘before’ [cause] and an ‘after’ [effect]. The only reasonable supposition that can be made (according to me) is that the experience ‘I am this body’ and the appearance of anything else in our awareness are strongly correlated”. In reply to this I wrote a comment in which I explained:
Wittgenstein, a cause need not necessarily precede its effect, because in some cases a cause and its effect happen simultaneously. For example, when a moving billiard ball collides with a stationary one, the stationary one begins to move immediately. In this case the collision is the cause and the transfer of momentum from the moving billiard ball to the stationary one is the effect. As soon as the collision occurs, a certain amount of the momentum is transferred.

Likewise, as soon as we rise as this ego (our adjunct-mixed form of self-awareness, ‘I am this body’), we become aware of other things, and as soon as this ego subsides we cease being aware of anything else. Since this happens every time, and since we have never experienced ourself as this ego without simultaneously being aware of other things, nor have we ever been aware of anything else without experiencing ourself as this ego, we can inductively infer a causal connection between this ego (our experience ‘I am this body’) and the appearance of anything else in our awareness.

Whenever we observe that two things always occur simultaneously, and that one never occurs without the other, we naturally infer a causal connection between them. Because this is an inductive inference, it may be incorrect. The fact that we have always observed these two things occurring simultaneously, and have never observed one of them occurring without the other, could be a mere coincidence, but the more frequently we observe this, the less likely it becomes that this is just a coincidence. If we once observe one of them occurring without the other, we would have to deduce that one does not cause the other, but until or unless we observe this we would have strong grounds for believing that they are in some way causally connected.

A causal connection between two things can be either of two types. That is, either one causes the other, or both are effects of the same cause. In the latter case, both effects may always occur together, or they may sometimes occur together and sometimes occur separately. If they can sometimes occur separately, the causal connection between them is relatively weak, whereas if they must always occur together, it is relatively strong.

In the case of our ego and awareness of other things, they must always occur together, for the simple reason that I explained in the third paragraph of section six of this article, namely because what is called ‘ego’ is our awareness of ourself as something separate and finite, and in order to be aware of ourself as something separate and finite, we must be aware of other things, and likewise, in order to be aware of other things, we must be aware of ourself as something separate and finite. The causal connection between these two things is therefore very obvious and can actually be inferred not only by inductive logic but also by deductive logic.

Though I wrote at the end of the passage you quoted, ‘though we cannot infer it by deductive logic, we can infer it by inductive logic’, I did so while following a particular line of argument, but when we consider the argument I have just summarised, we can actually see that the causal connection between our ego and our awareness of other things can also be inferred by deductive logic.

That is, as Bhagavan often explained, what is aware of other things is only ourself as this ego, so we can logically infer that we are aware of other things only because we have risen as this ego. Since we could not be aware of anything other than ourself unless we had risen as this ego, it is necessarily true that the rising of ourself as this ego is the root cause for our awareness of other things. Therefore this is more than just a strong correlation, because the fact that it is a case of cause and effect is very clear and obvious.
2. Why must our ego be the cause and other things its effects?

In reply to this Wittgenstein wrote another comment, to which I replied:
Regarding what you write in your latest comment about simultaneous causality, in any case of physical causality such as the example I gave of billiard balls, the causal chain of events and the associated circumstances are usually complex, so many factors need to be considered when deciding what causes what. In the case of the billiard balls, the immediate cause for the transfer of momentum is the collision, and the momentum of the moving ball, the path in which it was moving and the position of the stationary ball were all circumstances that gave rise to that collision. If any of these circumstances had been otherwise, the collision would not have occurred, so the combined circumstances were the cause of it. However, as far as the immediate cause (the collision) and its immediate effect (the transfer of momentum) are concerned, they occur simultaneously.

Likewise, in the case of the arising of duality, multiplicity and otherness, the immediate cause is the rising of ourself as this ego, and its effects are everything else that we are now aware of. As soon as we rise as this ego, we become aware of other things, so this is also a case of simultaneous causality.

Regarding the question of which of these two simultaneous events (our rising as this ego and our becoming aware of other things) is the cause and which is the effect, it seems clear to me that our rising as this ego is the cause, because our ego alone is what is aware of other things, so in order to be aware of other things we must rise as this ego (just as in order for momentum to be transferred from a moving billiard ball to a stationary one a collision must occur). Though these two events occur simultaneously, our rising as this ego is prerequisite for our becoming aware of other things (just as the collision is prerequisite for the transfer of momentum).

Here ‘prerequisite’ does not mean prior in time but prior in the chain of cause and effect. In fact all causes and effects (and also the very concepts of time and of cause and effect) begin only with the rising of ourself as this ego, so this ego is the primal cause of everything, as Bhagavan explains in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Another reason why our ego must be the cause and our awareness of other things the effect is that our ego is the experiencer whereas other things are phenomena that it experiences. Without an experiencer, there could be no experience, so causally (though not necessarily in time) our ego must precede each one of its experiences (that is, each of the phenomena that it experiences).

Another reason can be understood by considering this: if we investigate ourself and thereby experience what we actually are, the illusion that we are this ego will be destroyed, and along with its destruction our awareness of other things will cease. In other words, by annihilating our ego we will cease being aware of anything other than ourself. However, we cannot annihilate our ego merely by ceasing to be aware of any other thing, because we cease being aware of anything else whenever we fall asleep, but our ego is not thereby annihilated. Because our ego is the cause of our awareness of other things, when it is destroyed our awareness of other things is simultaneously destroyed, whereas the cessation of our awareness of other things cannot by itself destroy our ego but will only result in sleep or some other similar state of manōlaya.

Regarding what you wrote in your final paragraph about why Bhagavan asked the questioner in Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pages 67-8) to use inductive logic, when I replied to you yesterday I did so in a bit of a rush, so I did not allow myself sufficient time to think carefully enough about what I was writing. Therefore I need to clarify what I wrote in that reply [which I have reproduced above in section one], particularly in the second last paragraph of it.

What we can infer deductively (following the reasoning that I explained in the third paragraph of section six of this article and that I summarised in the third last paragraph of my previous reply to you) is that our awareness of other things is dependent upon our being aware of ourself as this ego (that is, as something that is separate and finite), but what we cannot infer deductively is that the existence of other things is dependent upon our being aware of ourself as this ego.

According to Bhagavan existence and awareness are one and the same thing, so nothing exists unless we are aware of it. However, our being aware of something does not mean that that thing actually exists but only that it seems to exist (just as the things we are aware of in a dream do not actually exist even though they seem to exist). The only thing that must actually exist is ourself, because in order to be aware of anything, whether real or illusory, we must exist. Therefore whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself, we should consider the question whether those other things actually exist or merely seem to exist. This is the problem we are faced with when we consider the existence or reality of the world. Does its existence depend upon our awareness of it, in which case it merely seems to exist, or does it not depend upon our awareness of it, in which case it would actually exist?

We cannot know for certain the answer to this question so long as we do not know what we ourself actually are, but according to Bhagavan (as he implied, for example, in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār) when we know what we actually are we will know that we are infinite and indivisible self-awareness, other than which nothing can exist, so everything else that we are now aware of does not actually exist even though it seems to exist in the self-ignorant view of our ego.

However, so long as we experience ourself as this ego, we can only infer by inductive logic that since we are aware of this world only when we experience ourself as this particular body, and since we are aware of some other world when we experience ourself as some other body in dream, and since we are aware of no world when we do not experience ourself as any body in sleep, the seeming existence of any world is dependent upon our illusory adjunct-mixed form of self-awareness, ‘I am this body’, which is our ego. By deductive logic we cannot infer that no world actually exists when we do not experience ourself as a body, but we can infer this by inductive logic, which is the point that Bhagavan was making in that passage recorded in Maharshi’s Gospel.
3. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verses 23 and 28: we need a subtle and sharp mind in order to discern what we actually are

Before replying to my first reply to him Wittgenstein had written two other comments, to which I replied:
Wittgenstein, I agree with almost everything that you write in the first two of your latest three comments, particularly about the need for us to simplify and refine our beliefs and concepts, which entails progressively discarding all unnecessary and redundant ones, guided by the ‘minimalist approach’ that Bhagavan teaches us in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and other works, and thereby to develop a subtle, refined, attenuated and sharp mind (which is what he describes as ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), a sharp, keen, acute and penetrating intellect, in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and as ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati), a subtle, refined, sharp, acute, precise and discriminating intellect, in verse 23), because this is the instrument that we require in order to effectively investigate and discern what we actually are. This is why he used to say that in this path what is required is not to learn anything new but to unlearn everything that we have learnt in the past.

As you say, some people may be already endowed with such a clear and sharp intellect, even if they are illiterate, in which case they would be able to recognise intuitively the truth in all the subtle points that Bhagavan teaches us in works such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, but most of us need to do repeated śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana in order to refine, attenuate and sharpen our mind to the extent required to succeed in our self-investigation. And as you also imply, the more subtle, refined and hence clear our understanding becomes, the more clearly we will be able to recognise the infallibility of the clue given to us by him, namely our own self-awareness, ‘I am’. Even if we have not yet experienced ourself as we actually are, we will be as sure as a dog following its human companion’s scent that by attending to our simple self-awareness we will be led infallibly to our goal.
What Bhagavan wrote in verse 23 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu about the need for ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati), a subtle and sharp mind or intellect, is:
நானென்றித் தேக நவிலா துறக்கத்து
நானின்றென் றாரு நவில்வதிலை — நானொன்
றெழுந்தபி னெல்லா மெழுமிந்த நானெங்
கெழுமென்று நுண்மதியா லெண்.

nāṉeṉḏṟid dēha navilā duṟakkattu
nāṉiṉḏṟeṉ ḏṟāru navilvadilai — nāṉoṉ
ḏṟeṙundapi ṉellā meṙuminda nāṉeṅ
geṙumeṉḏṟu nuṇmatiyā leṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: ‘நான்’ என்று இத் தேகம் நவிலாது. ‘உறக்கத்தும் நான் இன்று’ என்று ஆரும் நவில்வது இலை. ‘நான்’ ஒன்று எழுந்த பின், எல்லாம் எழும். இந்த ‘நான்’ எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘nāṉ’ eṉḏṟu id-dēham navilādu. ‘uṟakkattum nāṉ iṉḏṟu’ eṉḏṟu ārum navilvadu ilai. ‘nāṉ’ oṉḏṟu eṙunda piṉ, ellām eṙum. inda ‘nāṉ’ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇ.

அன்வயம்: இத் தேகம் ‘நான்’ என்று நவிலாது. ‘உறக்கத்தும் நான் இன்று’ என்று ஆரும் நவில்வது இலை. ‘நான்’ ஒன்று எழுந்த பின், எல்லாம் எழும். இந்த ‘நான்’ எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): id-dēham ‘nāṉ’ eṉḏṟu navilādu. ‘uṟakkattum nāṉ iṉḏṟu’ eṉḏṟu ārum navilvadu ilai. ‘nāṉ’ oṉḏṟu eṙunda piṉ, ellām eṙum. inda ‘nāṉ’ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇ.

English translation: This body does not declare [itself as] ‘I’. No one declares ‘In sleep I did not exist’. After one ‘I’ rises, everything rises. Investigate [consider, determine or find out] with a subtle mind where this ‘I’ rises.
The last word of this verse, எண் (eṇ), is an imperative form of a verb that means think, consider, ponder, meditate, determine or ascertain, and in this context it is used in the sense of investigate, so this final sentence is an instruction to investigate and ascertain where this ‘I’ rises. However when Bhagavan added some extra syllables to the end of each verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu in order to link them all together as a single kaliveṇbā verse, he changed எண் (eṇ) to எண்ண (eṇṇa), which is its infinitive form and which is used to express a condition, meaning in this context ‘when one investigates’, and added the word நழுவும் (naṙuvum), which means ‘it will slip away’, so this final sentence thus became: ‘இந்த நான் எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்ண, நழுவும்’ (inda nāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇṇa, naṙuvum), which means ‘When one investigates with a subtle mind where this ‘I’ rises, it will slip away’.

Here ‘this I’ refers to our ego, after whose rising or appearance everything else rises or appears, and where it rises is our actual self, which is the source from which it appears. Therefore ‘இந்த நான் எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்’ (inda nāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇ) means ‘Investigate with a subtle mind where this ‘I’ rises’ and implies that we should carefully observe or meditate upon ourself, the source from which we have risen as this ego.

The instrument by which we must thus investigate ourself is expressed by the phrase ‘நுண் மதியால்’ (nuṇ matiyāl), which is an instrumental case form of ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) and which therefore means ‘by a subtle mind’ or ‘with a subtle mind’. நுண் (nuṇ) means subtle, refined, minute, slender, sharp, acute, precise and discriminating, and மதி (mati) is a word of Sanskrit origin that in this context means mind, intellect, understanding, perspicacity or power of discernment.

The meaning of ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) is very close to that of ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), which is a term that Bhagavan used in a similar context in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
எழும்பு மகந்தை யெழுமிடத்தை நீரில்
விழுந்த பொருள்காண வேண்டி — முழுகுதல்போற்
கூர்ந்தமதி யாற்பேச்சு மூச்சடக்கிக் கொண்டுள்ளே
யாழ்ந்தறிய வேண்டு மறி.

eṙumbu mahandai yeṙumiḍattai nīril
viṙunda poruḷkāṇa vēṇḍi — muṙuhudalpōṯ
kūrndamati yāṯpēccu mūccaḍakkik koṇḍuḷḷē
yāṙndaṟiya vēṇḍu maṟi
.

பதச்சேதம்: எழும்பும் அகந்தை எழும் இடத்தை, நீரில் விழுந்த பொருள் காண வேண்டி முழுகுதல் போல், கூர்ந்த மதியால் பேச்சு மூச்சு அடக்கிக் கொண்டு உள்ளே ஆழ்ந்து அறிய வேண்டும். அறி.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): eṙumbum ahandai eṙum iḍattai, nīril viṙunda poruḷ kāṇa vēṇḍi muṙuhudal pōl, kūrnda matiyāl pēccu mūccu aḍakki-k koṇḍu uḷḷē āṙndu aṟiya vēṇḍum. aṟi.

அன்வயம்: நீரில் விழுந்த பொருள் காண வேண்டி [பேச்சு மூச்சு அடக்கிக் கொண்டு] முழுகுதல் போல், எழும்பும் அகந்தை எழும் இடத்தை கூர்ந்த மதியால் பேச்சு மூச்சு அடக்கிக் கொண்டு உள்ளே ஆழ்ந்து அறிய வேண்டும். அறி.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): nīril viṙunda poruḷ kāṇa vēṇḍi [pēccu mūccu aḍakki-k koṇḍu] muṙuhudal pōl, eṙumbum ahandai eṙum iḍattai kūrnda matiyāl pēccu mūccu aḍakki-k koṇḍu uḷḷē āṙndu aṟiya vēṇḍum. aṟi.

English translation: Like sinking in order to see an object that has fallen into water, diving within restraining speech and breath by a sharp mind it is necessary to know the place where the rising ego rises. Know.
‘எழும்பும் அகந்தை எழும் இடத்தை’ (eṙumbum ahandai eṙum iḍattai) literally means ‘the place where the rising ego rises’ or ‘the rising-place of the rising ego’, because இடத்தை (iḍattai) is the accusative case form of இடம் (iḍam), which means place, space or location, but which Bhagavan often used as a metaphor to refer to ourself, the source from which we have arisen as this ego. Therefore what he implies in this verse is that we should sink or penetrate deep within ourself in order to know or experience ourself as we actually are.

The instrument by which we must thus know ourself is expressed by the phrase ‘கூர்ந்த மதியால்’ (kūrnda matiyāl), which is an instrumental case form of ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati) and which therefore means ‘by a sharp mind’ or ‘with a sharp mind’. கூர்ந்த (kūrnda) is the past relative participle of the verb கூர் (kūr), which means to be sharp, keen, acute, pointed, piercing or penetrating, so கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) means a mind, intellect or power of discernment that has become sharp, keen, acute and penetrating.

கூர்ந்த (kūrnda) is often used as an adjective to describe an intellect that is subtle, sharp, acute and keenly perceptive, but what is implied by it in this context includes more than just an ability to use logical reasoning in an acute, clear and perceptive manner, because what we require in order to discern what we actually are is a deep inner clarity of perception that goes far beyond the mere ability to reason clearly and logically. Though clear and subtle reasoning can help us to recognise the means by which we can discern what we actually are, it cannot by itself enable us to discern our actual self, because to do so we need to turn our entire attention back towards ourself alone, thereby leaving all reasoning behind.

If we have developed the deep, subtle and acute inner clarity of self-awareness that Bhagavan implies by the terms நுண் மதி (nuṇ mati) and கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati), we will naturally be able to reason in a clear, coherent, logical and keenly perceptive manner, but being able to reason clearly, coherently and logically does not necessarily mean that one has the sharp and subtle clarity of perception that one requires in order to focus one’s entire attention on oneself alone and thereby experience oneself as one actually is. Many people who have brilliant intellects, which they can apply fruitfully in philosophy, mathematics, science and other such outwardly directed intellectual pursuits, would not be able to turn their entire attention within and thereby merge back in the source from which they arose, and they may not even be able to understand the subtle philosophy taught by Bhagavan, particularly if they are unable to recognise the crucial fact that we are always aware of ourself, even when we are aware of nothing else whatsoever, as in sleep.

4. Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam verse 5: we must purify our mind by polishing it on itself

The most effective means to develop the subtlety and acuity of mind that Bhagavan describes as ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) and ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), which he implies is necessary in order for us to experience ourself as we actually are, is to try to practise ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-attentiveness) as much as possible. How this practice of being self-attentive purifies our mind and makes it clear, subtle and acute is beautifully expressed by Bhagavan in verse 5 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam:
மணிகளிற் சரடென வுயிர்தொறு நானா
      மதந்தொறு மொருவனா மருவினை நீதான்
மணிகடைந் தெனமன மனமெனுங் கல்லின்
      மறுவறக் கடையநின் னருளொளி மேவும்
மணியொளி யெனப்பிறி தொருபொருட் பற்று
      மருவுற லிலைநிழற் படிதகட் டின்விண்
மணியொளி படநிழல் பதியுமோ வுன்னின்
      மறுபொரு ளருணநல் லொளிமலை யுண்டோ.

maṇigaḷiṯ caraḍeṉa vuyirdoṟu nāṉā
      matandoṟu moruvaṉā maruviṉai nīdāṉ
maṇigaḍain deṉamaṉa maṉameṉuṅ galliṉ
      maṟuvaṟak kaḍaiyaniṉ ṉaruḷoḷi mēvum
maṇiyoḷi yeṉappiṟi doruporuṭ paṯṟu
      maruvuṟa lilainiṙaṟ paḍidakaṭ ṭiṉviṇ
maṇiyoḷi paḍaniṙal padiyumō vuṉṉiṉ
      maṟuporu ḷaruṇanal loḷimalai yuṇḍō
.

பதச்சேதம்: மணிகளில் சரடு என உயிர்தொறும் நானா மதந்தொறும் ஒருவனா மருவினை நீ தான். மணி கடைந்து என மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் மறு அற கடைய நின் அருள் ஒளி மேவும். மணி ஒளி என பிறிது ஒரு பொருள் பற்றும் மரு உறல் இலை. நிழல் படி தகட்டின் விண்மணி ஒளி பட நிழல் பதியுமோ? உன்னின் மறு பொருள் அருண நல் ஒளி மலை உண்டோ?

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṇigaḷil caraḍu eṉa uyirdoṟum nāṉā matandoṟum oruvaṉā maruviṉai nī tāṉ. maṇi kaḍaindu eṉa maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil maṟu aṟa kaḍaiya niṉ aruḷ oḷi mēvum. maṇi oḷi eṉa piṟidu oru poruḷ paṯṟum maru uṟal ilai. niṙal paḍi takaṭṭiṉ viṇmaṇi oḷi paḍa niṙal padiyumō? uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ aruṇa nal oḷi malai uṇḍō?

அன்வயம்: மணிகளில் சரடு என உயிர்தொறும் நானா மதந்தொறும் நீ தான் ஒருவனா மருவினை. மணி கடைந்து என மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் மறு அற கடைய நின் அருள் ஒளி மேவும். மணி ஒளி என பிறிது ஒரு பொருள் பற்றும் மரு உறல் இலை. நிழல் படி தகட்டின் விண்மணி ஒளி பட நிழல் பதியுமோ? அருண நல் ஒளி மலை, உன்னின் மறு பொருள் உண்டோ?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṇigaḷil caraḍu eṉa uyirdoṟum nāṉā matandoṟum nī tāṉ oruvaṉā maruviṉai. maṇi kaḍaindu eṉa maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil maṟu aṟa kaḍaiya niṉ aruḷ oḷi mēvum. maṇi oḷi eṉa piṟidu oru poruḷ paṯṟum maru uṟal ilai. niṙal paḍi takaṭṭiṉ viṇmaṇi oḷi paḍa niṙal padiyumō? aruṇa nal oḷi malai, uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ uṇḍō?

English translation: Like the thread in [a string of] gems, you alone shine as the one [real substance] in every soul and every mata [philosophy, religion or system of belief]. Like polishing a gem, when the mind is polished on the stone called mind to remove [its] blemishes, the light of your grace will shine forth. Like the light of a gem [whose brightness and colour are unaffected by nearby objects], attachment to any other thing will not occur [in a mind that has thus been polished]. After sunlight has fallen on a photographic film, can any shadow [or image] be imprinted on it? Aruna, hill of intense light, is there anything other than you?
Just as a gem is polished by rubbing it on a special kind of grindstone to remove all its blemishes and thereby make it shine brightly, we must polish our mind, and the grindstone on which we can polish it most effectively is only itself, as Bhagavan implies by saying ‘மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் மறு அற கடைய’ (maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil maṟu aṟa kaḍaiya), which means ‘when the mind is polished on the stone called mind to remove [its] blemishes [or impurities]’. In other words, to remove all our mind’s blemishes in the form of its desires for or attachments to anything other than ourself we must polish it by making it attend only to itself, the ‘மனம் எனும் கல்’ (maṉam eṉum kal) or ‘stone called mind’.

What is meant by ‘mind’ in this context is not any of the other thoughts that constitute it but just its original and only essential thought, namely the one called ‘I’ or ‘ego’. By attending to any other thoughts we are nourishing and sustaining our attachment to them, whereas by attending to this ego we are severing our attachment to everything other than ourself, so we cannot polish our mind perfectly by attending to any thought other than this ego. Therefore when Bhagavan says that we should polish our mind on the stone called mind, what he implies is that we should attend only to our primal thought, ‘I’, which is the root of all our other thoughts.

When a gem has been perfectly polished, its brightness and colour will not be obscured or overshadowed by any nearby objects. Likewise, when our mind has been perfectly polished by persistent self-attentiveness, we will shine free of adjuncts as pure self-awareness, so no desires for or attachments to anything else will arise in us, because we will be aware of nothing other than ourself.

To make this point still more clear Bhagavan also gave another analogy. More than a hundred years ago, when he composed Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam, an image recorded on a photographic plate or film was produced by different shades of light and darkness, so if a film was exposed to bright sunlight before it had been developed, any image recorded on it would be erased, and no other image could later be imprinted upon it. Likewise, when our mind has been polished sufficiently by self-attentiveness, the clear light of pure self-awareness (which he describes here as ‘நின் அருள் ஒளி’ (niṉ aruḷ oḷi), ‘the light of your grace’) will shine forth from within us, consuming and thereby erasing forever the impressions of all other things, so our mind will then be like an undeveloped photographic film that has been exposed to sunlight. That is, all past impressions will be erased from it, and no further impression can be made on it, so it will then shine as nothing other than the clear light of pure self-awareness itself. Our experience will then be that this clear and intense light of pure self-awareness alone exists, as implied by Bhagavan in the final sentence of this verse: ‘அருண நல் ஒளி மலை, உன்னின் மறு பொருள் உண்டோ?’ (aruṇa nal oḷi malai, uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ uṇḍō?), ‘Aruna, hill of intense light, is there anything other than you?’

However, like the polishing of a gem, the polishing of our mind on the stone called mind is a process that takes some time and therefore requires patience and perseverance. Therefore we should be willing to continue polishing it by calm and persistent self-attentiveness until the all-consuming light of pure self-awareness shines forth from within us, destroying our ego entirely.

During this process, the more our mind is polished the more refined, attenuated, subtle, sharp and clear it will become, and this refinement, subtlety, acuity and clarity of mind is what Bhagavan referred to when he used the terms ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) in verse 23 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati) in verse 28. When our mind becomes sufficiently refined, sharp and clear in this way, we will thereby be able to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, and thus we will experience ourself as we actually are.

Until then, the subtlety, sharpness and clarity that we progressively develop by practising self-attentiveness will enable us to recognise and comprehend with increasing clarity the simple logic and truth in all that Bhagavan taught us. The logic underlying his teachings and holding them together as a coherent whole is so simple that it does not require any particular talent, training, scholarship or exceptional intelligence for us to understand it, but it does require a certain degree of inner clarity, so the more we persevere in being self-attentive and thereby purifying our mind, the more clearly we will be able to comprehend the simple but subtle truth in his teachings.

5. Why we should not be averse to understanding the logic of Bhagavan’s teachings

Some devotees are put off when Bhagavan’s teachings are explained or discussed in a logical manner, but simple logic should not put any of us off, because we all constantly use logic in one form or another to navigate our way through our day-to-day lives. Every decision we make, even about the smallest of matters, is guided to a greater or lesser extent by logic, though we often allow our emotions (our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, hopes, fears and so on) to influence or even overrule our logic.

Most of the logic we use is fairly simple and straightforward, because for most purposes complex or abstruse logic is unnecessary, so we are all capable of using simple logic. For some purposes, such as understanding and applying advanced mathematics, more complex and abstruse logic may be required, so most of us cannot understand such logic unless we have trained our mind to do so.

However, the logic required to understand Bhagavan’s teachings coherently and comprehensively is actually very simple, so the only reason it may be difficult for some people to understand it clearly is that it is extremely subtle and may seem from an outward looking perspective to be too simple or too abstract, and some of its basic premises require a certain degree of subtlety and clarity of mind to be understood. If our mind is strongly inclined to be outward going or is constantly concerned only with external affairs, we will probably lack sufficient subtlety and clarity of mind to understand the basic premises of his teachings (such as that we are always aware of ourself, even when we are not aware of anything else, as in sleep), in which case the simplicity and clarity of his logic will be lost on us, whereas if we are more inclined to be inward looking and are concerned about the impurity of our own mind, we will probably have sufficient subtlety and clarity of mind to understand his basic premises, in which case we will be able to appreciate the simplicity and clarity of his logic.

To understand the premises and the clear and simple logic of his teachings we do not need to exercise our mind to a great extent, but rather we need to consider them with a calm and clear mind, because then only will we be able to see and fully appreciate the logical connections between the various ideas he expressed and our own experience. As Wittgenstein pointed out in a recent series of four comments, the logic of Bhagavan’s teachings is not divergent but entirely convergent in the sense that it does not encourage our mind to branch out, scatter and dissipate itself in the form of numerous and ever-multiplying thoughts but instead prompts it only to look within to observe the one root of all thoughts, namely our own ego. By simplifying our understanding both of ourself and of the appearance of all other things, his clear logic helps us to reduce our thoughts and focus them entirely on the single task of trying to be attentively aware of ourself alone.

What logical reasoning basically entails is just being able to see logical connections and implications — that is, the various ways in which certain ideas are logically connected, and why or how certain premises either necessitate a certain conclusion or make it seem probable, improbable, possible or impossible. To understand simple logic therefore requires nothing more than clarity of mind, so for a mind that has been polished and clarified by persistent practice of self-attentiveness, thinking logically and understanding the logical reasons why Bhagavan’s teachings must be true come naturally and effortlessly.

A logical argument is simply a means by which we help either ourself or others to see why depending on certain conditions a certain conclusion is either necessarily true, probably true or just possibly true. Logic and logical arguments are therefore aids that enable us to discern what is true in a relative sense — that is, in the sphere of mind-mediated experience — but they cannot by themselves enable us to discern what is absolutely true, because that extends beyond the finite limits of our mind or intellect. However, as used by Bhagavan logic and logical arguments can enable us to understand that the means to discern what is absolutely true is to turn our mind back within itself by focusing our entire attention on ourself alone and thereby to merge in our actual self, which is the absolute truth and hence the sole source and substance of our mind and all that it experiences.

6. The premises of the deductive inference that we are not a body or mind are not inferred inductively

In reply to what Wittgenstein and I wrote in our respective comments another friend called Venkat wrote two comments, which I will now reply to. Since this and the remaining sections of this article are what I began to write as a comment in reply to Venkat, but which then became too long even for a series of comments, they are addressed to him, so in them I will refer to him in the second person.

Venkat, regarding your first comment, you are correct in saying that some or all of the premises of most deductive inferences are inductive inferences, so the soundness of such deductive inferences depends upon whether or not their inductively inferred premises are true. However not all deductive inferences depend upon inductively inferred premises. For example, the contention that there are no square circles (or that there are no circular squares) can be deductively inferred from the definitions of the terms ‘square’ and ‘circle’, so no inductively inferred premises are entailed in this deductive inference.

More relevant to our subject, we can deductively infer that we are not a body, mind or anything else other than ourself from the fact that we are aware of ourself in sleep, when we are not aware of anything else. Our awareness of ourself and of nothing else in sleep is not an inductively inferred premise, but is our own direct experience, so this is a deductive inference that does not depend on any inductively inferred premise.

In addition to being our own direct experience, the fact that we are always self-aware can be deduced by considering the meaning of the word ‘I’. ‘I’ is a pronoun that by definition refers only to oneself, the first person, and in order for one to refer to oneself one must be aware of oneself. Therefore self-awareness is implied in the word ‘I’, because ‘I’ can only refer to something that is aware of itself. (Of course a computer could be programmed to refer to itself as ‘I’, and people whom we meet in a dream refer to themselves as ‘I’, but both the computer and those people refer to themselves as ‘I’ only in our view, so they are not consciously referring to themselves as ‘I’, and hence their doing so is quite different to the subject we are discussing, which is the fact that we refer to ourself as ‘I’, and since we do so in our own view, we do so only because we are self-aware.) Therefore when we say or remember ‘I slept’ or ‘I was asleep’, we are implying that we were aware of ourself in sleep — that is, that we were aware of ourself being in a state in which we were aware of nothing other than ourself.

Moreover, if we were not aware of ourself while asleep, we would not be aware that we had slept at all, or that between consecutive periods of waking or dream there was any gap in which we were not aware of any mind, body or world. The fact that we are aware of having been in a state in which we were not aware of anything else clearly and indubitably implies that we were aware of ourself being in that state. Therefore when we carefully and self-attentively consider our experience of sleep, it should be very clear to us that we were actually aware of ourself while asleep and that we can now remember being aware of ourself even though we were then aware of nothing else whatsoever.

Therefore the crucial premise on which Bhagavan based his argument that we cannot be any body or mind because we are aware of ourself even when we are not aware of either of these things, as in sleep, namely the premise that we are always aware of ourself whether or not we are aware of anything else, is not something that we need to infer inductively, because it is our actual experience, and also because we can infer it deductively from the fact that we remember having been asleep and have been aware of nothing else then.

7. We can infer deductively that the world appears in our awareness only because we have risen as this ego

Regarding your contention that we cannot deductively assert that the rising of our ego causes the world to appear, it seems clear to me that if we are talking about the appearance of the world in our view (that is, in our own awareness), we can deductively infer that it appears only because we arise as this ego. Since our ego (in the sense in which Bhagavan uses this term) is by definition our experience of ourself as something that is separate and hence finite, we can deductively infer that unless we experience ourself as an ego we could not be aware of anything else, so the rising of our ego is the cause for the appearance of other things in our awareness, and those other things are what are collectively called ‘the world’.

As I explained in one of my replies to Wittgenstein (which I reproduced in the second section above), what we can infer deductively is that our awareness of the world (and hence the appearance of it) is caused by our being aware of ourself as this ego, but what we cannot infer deductively is that the existence of the world is caused by our being aware of ourself as this ego. However, since we are never aware of any world when we are not aware of ourself as this ego, and since we have no adequate evidence or reason to believe that any world exists when we are not aware of it, we can infer inductively that the existence of the world is caused by the seeming existence of ourself as this ego.

Since this is not a deductive inference but only an inductive one, it is not certainly true but only probably true. By logical reasoning this is all we can know so long as we experience ourself as this ego, but according to Bhagavan if we investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we really are, we will find that what actually exists is only ourself, and that what we actually are is infinite and indivisible self-awareness, other than which nothing exists.

8. Since all thoughts and perceptions appear only in our ego’s awareness, this ego is the sole cause for their appearance

Regarding the final paragraph of your first comment, in which you ask whether it is valid to consider that ‘On the rope that is awareness / consciousness, arises the illusory thoughts/perceptions of a snake (that is the mind-body-universe). The silence of sahaja samadhi is the non-arising of such thoughts’, to whom do the illusory thoughts/perceptions appear? Obviously only to ourself as this ego. Therefore this ego is the cause for their appearance or arising, and without it they could not arise. This is why Bhagavan taught us that our ego is the first thought and the root of all other thoughts or perceptions.

All other thoughts or perceptions are jaḍa (non-conscious), and the original source and substance of all these things, which is our real self, is cit (pure consciousness or self-awareness), whereas our ego is a confused mixture of both cit and jaḍa, so it is called cit-jaḍa-granthi (the knot that seemingly binds together the conscious and the non-conscious as if they were one). According to Bhagavan, sat (what exists) is cit (what is aware) and cit is sat, so whatever is jaḍa or even partially jaḍa does not actually exist, and hence what actually exists is only cit, which is what we really are.

Whatever is jaḍa seems to exist only when we do not attend only to ourself, so when we succeed in attending to ourself alone, the illusory appearance of our ego and everything else will dissolve and disappear, being wholly non-existent. Therefore, since everything else seems to exist only in the view of ourself as this ego, this ego is the sole cause for the appearance and seeming existence of everything else.

As you say, the perfect silence of sahaja samādhi, which is our own real nature, is what remains when all thoughts cease, and since the root of all thoughts is only this ego, which is our first thought, the one we call ‘I’, we cannot experience that silence until we annihilate this ego by vigilant self-attentiveness.

9. Though all deductive inferences are tautologies, they can nevertheless be extremely significant and valuable

Regarding your second comment, it is true that in a certain sense all deductive inferences are tautologies, because the truth of any deductive conclusion is entailed in the truth of its premises, so if one states a deductive inference after stating its premises, one is stating what has already been implied. However, this does not mean that every deductive inference is necessarily trivial, because though a deductive inference is implicit in its premises, not all such implications are immediately obvious, so a deductive argument can be philosophically significant and valuable if it brings to light an implication that would not otherwise have been obvious or noticed by us.

For example, the conclusion of the deductive argument given by Bhagavan to show that we cannot be this body or mind because in sleep we are aware of ourself but not of either of these things seems obvious when we understand it and accept the premise that we are self-aware even in sleep, but it does not seem obvious to people who have not considered the argument carefully enough or who do not have sufficient mental clarity to recognise that our self-awareness persists even when we are aware of nothing else whatsoever. Therefore for those of us who have understood and been firmly convinced by this argument its conclusion is extremely significant and of great value, because it fundamentally changes our entire view about what we are and therefore about the reality of all that we as this body and mind experience.

Another example of a philosophically significant deductive inference is the one I used in the third paragraph of section six of my previous article (which I also referred to in sections one, two and seven of this article) to explain why we should believe what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, namely that since the ego is our awareness of ourself as something that is separate and finite, and since we can be aware of ourself as such only when we are aware of other things from which we are separate and which therefore limit the extent of what seems to be ourself, we can infer that our ego and our awareness of other things are inseparable, so we can never have one without the other. Though this deductive inference is obviously a tautology, as you say, because it is implied in the definition of the term ego, it is still philosophically significant and valuable, because it seems obvious only when it has been pointed out to us.

Many people have not understood the simple deductive logic from which this inference can be so easily drawn, or else they have not considered it carefully enough, and this is why they tend to form wrong beliefs such as that an ātma-jñāni is aware of the world. In order to be aware of the world, one must be aware of oneself as something that is separate from it or from all of it except one part, and whatever is separate from anything is thereby limited and hence finite. If anyone objects to this by claiming that jñānis are aware of the whole world as themself, that would mean that they are aware of themself as many things, not as one thing, which would be contrary to what Bhagavan points out to us in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, namely ‘ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை’ (oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai), which means ‘being one is the truth of everyone’s experience’. Thus deductive reasoning can help us to keep our understanding of his teachings clear, simple and free from confusion.

Therefore you are not correct in saying, ‘The problem with deductive reasoning is that the conclusion is implicit in the premises, and does not lead to any significant new knowledge’. Nor are you correct in then saying, ‘Only inductive logic is capable of this’, because any inductive inference could be mistaken, so inductive logic cannot give any definite knowledge, but can at best only give good grounds for forming certain tentative beliefs. That is, though the beliefs that we derive from sound inductive reasoning seem likely to be true, they could be mistaken, so they can only be called ‘knowledge’ in a loose sense of the term — that is, in the loose sense in which we often casually refer to our beliefs as knowledge.

The problem with thus referring to our beliefs as knowledge is that it implies that what we believe is true, and thus it tends to make us overlook the fallibility of our beliefs, which is a trap that many people fall into when they refer, for example, to their religious beliefs or scientific beliefs as knowledge. Most religious and scientific beliefs are derived at best from inductive reasoning, but more often just from blind faith in some kind of perceived authority (such as that of religious texts, scientific textbooks or the generally accepted beliefs of one’s community), so they are all fallible and hence do not qualify to be called ‘knowledge’ in a strict sense of the term.

10. Why must we conclude that our ego is the cause of the world-appearance?

Regarding your remark that “all that we really know through experience is that the arising of the ego is simultaneous and concomitant with the arising of the world. I don’t think we can be certain from our experience or through even inductive logic, that the former CAUSES the latter, apart from Bhagavan’s and Gaudapada’s testimony”, we need to consider what we mean both by ‘the arising of the world’ and by the term ‘cause’. The ‘arising of the world’ can either mean its appearance in our awareness or its coming into existence, but since we do not know whether it exists independent of its appearance in our awareness, let us first consider its appearance in our awareness. Since as a noun ‘cause’ means something (whether a condition, an action or any other kind of thing) that gives rise to or produces an effect, and as a verb it means to make something happen, give rise to it or produce it, we need to consider whether the arising of the ego gives rise to the appearance of the world in our awareness. It seems clear to me that it does, because the world does not appear in our awareness except when we experience ourself as this ego, and whenever we do experience ourself as this ego we are aware of either this world or some other world in a dream.

Since a world always appears in our awareness whenever we experience ourself as this ego, and since no world ever appears in our awareness when we do not experience ourself as this ego, this suggests very strongly that the arising of this ego gives rise to the appearance of a world in our awareness, so we are justified in concluding that our ego is almost certainly the cause of the world-appearance. Presenting the argument in this way is expressing it as an inductive inference, which means that it is probably true but not certainly true, but if we consider the argument I referred to earlier (in sections one, two, seven and nine) about the ego being our awareness of ourself as something separate and finite, we can turn this inductive inference into a deductive one, which means that it is certainly true. That is, rising as something that seems to be separate and finite entails creating the appearance of something else from which it is separate and which therefore limits its extent, making it finite, so since the term ‘ego’ refers to ourself as a separate entity and the term ‘world’ is a collective name for everything that we experience as other than ourself, we can deductively infer that our rising as this ego necessarily causes the appearance of a world.

However, since the rising of ourself as this ego and the appearance of the world occur simultaneously, some people may ask why we should not conclude that the latter causes the former rather than vice versa. The answer to this is that the world is jaḍa (non-conscious) whereas the ego is a confused mixture of cit and jaḍa, so though the world appears in the view (or awareness) of the ego, the ego does not appear in the view of the world, because the world has no view or awareness in which anything could appear. Therefore, since the world seems to exist only in the view of the ego, it cannot be the cause of the ego, any more than a dream could be the cause of whoever is dreaming it.

In the view of the dreamer, dreams come and go, so though each dream is different, the dreamer remains the same. Likewise, in the view of our ego, worlds come and go, so though the world seen by our ego in each of its dreams is different, our ego remains the same. Therefore just as any dream is created by the dreamer, in whose view alone it appears, the appearance of any world is created by our ego, in whose view alone it seems to exist.

On careful consideration, therefore, it is clear that the rising of ourself as this ego is what causes the appearance of a world in our awareness, so since a world seems to exist only when it appears in our awareness, we can confidently conclude that the seeming existence of the world is caused by our rising as this ego. The seeming existence of the world and its appearance in our awareness are one and the same thing, because it seems to exist only because we are aware of it.

Some people may dispute this conclusion by arguing that even when we are not aware of the world other people are aware of it, so it then seems to exist in their view even though not in ours, but this argument is flawed, because those other people are part of the world whose seeming existence we are discussing. If any world actually exists, the other people in it may be aware of it in the same way that we are, but if it only seems to exist, the other people in it cannot actually be aware of it, just as the other people we see in a dream are not actually aware of the dream world even though they seem to be so long as we are dreaming that dream, because those other people are part of a world that seems to exist only in our view. Therefore when we consider whether this or any other world seems to exist when we are not aware of it, we can legitimately consider only its seeming existence in our own view, because unless we can establish that any world actually exists independent of our awareness of it — which we have no adequate means of doing — we cannot know whether there is actually anyone else in whose view it could seem to exist.

11. Does any world exist independent of our ego or mind?

Having established that the appearance of a world in our awareness and consequently its seeming existence are caused by the rising of ourself as this ego, the question that we must now consider is whether it actually exists or just seems to exist — in other words, whether it exists independent of its appearance in our awareness or not. If this world does not actually exist but merely seems to exist in our view, like any world that we perceive in a dream, then we can conclude that it does not exist except when we rise as this ego, in which case our ego is the sole cause and creator of the world.

However, so long as we experience ourself as this ego, our view is very limited, so we cannot judge whether or not this or any other world exists outside our awareness. All we can do now is to conclude that since a world seems to exist only when we are aware of it, and since we are aware of any world only when we seem to be this ego, we have no adequate reason to assume that any world exists independent of our ego or mind. Since we are aware of ourself but of nothing else in sleep, when we do not seem to be this ego, we have strong though not conclusive grounds for believing that no world exists independent of our ego, because if any world did actually exist independent of our ego, there would be no obvious reason why we are not aware of it when we are asleep (as I discussed in more detail in the seventh section of my previous article, particularly when repudiating the counterargument that the reason why we are not aware of this world while we are asleep is that our senses are not functioning then). This is what Bhagavan implied when he said (as recorded in the third chapter of the second part of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pages 67-8)):
Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In sleep there is neither mind nor world. When awake there is the mind and there is the world. What does this invariable concomitance mean? You are familiar with the principles of inductive logic, which are considered the very basis of scientific investigation. Why do you not decide this question of the reality of the world in the light of those accepted principles of logic?
Though we can deductively infer that no world could seem to exist if we did not rise as this ego or mind, we can infer only inductively that no world actually exists whenever we do not rise as this ego. Since one world or another always seems to exist whenever we experience ourself as this ego, and since no world seems to exist whenever we do not experience ourself as this ego, so long as we experience ourself as this ego we cannot know for certain whether or not any world actually exists independent of it.

When we do not even know what we ourself actually are, we cannot know what this world actually is — whether it is just a creation of our own mind, like any world that we experience in a dream, or whether it exists independent of our mind. For want of any evidence that it exists independent of our mind we can assume that it does not, but the only means by which we can ascertain from our own experience whether or not this assumption is correct is to investigate ourself in order to experience what we actually are, because only then will we be able to judge whether anything actually exists independent of our ego, in whose view alone all other things seem to exist.

The invariable concomitance that Bhagavan refers to in the above-cited passage recorded in Maharshi’s Gospel was also referred to by him in the following portion of the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, in which he unequivocally teaches us that any world that we perceive is just a collection of thoughts or ideas projected by our own mind, and that therefore no world will seem to exist when we experience ourself as we really are:
நினைவுகளை யெல்லாம் நீக்கிப் பார்க்கின்றபோது, தனியாய் மனமென்றோர் பொருளில்லை; ஆகையால் நினைவே மனதின் சொரூபம். நினைவுகளைத் தவிர்த்து ஜகமென்றோர் பொருள் அன்னியமா யில்லை. தூக்கத்தில் நினைவுகளில்லை, ஜகமுமில்லை; ஜாக்ர சொப்பனங்களில் நினைவுகளுள, ஜகமும் உண்டு. சிலந்திப்பூச்சி எப்படித் தன்னிடமிருந்து வெளியில் நூலை நூற்று மறுபடியும் தன்னுள் இழுத்துக் கொள்ளுகிறதோ, அப்படியே மனமும் தன்னிடத்திலிருந்து ஜகத்தைத் தோற்றுவித்து மறுபடியும் தன்னிடமே ஒடுக்கிக்கொள்ளுகிறது. மனம் ஆத்ம சொரூபத்தினின்று வெளிப்படும்போது ஜகம் தோன்றும். ஆகையால், ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது சொரூபம் தோன்றாது; சொரூபம் தோன்றும் (பிரகாசிக்கும்) போது ஜகம் தோன்றாது.

niṉaivugaḷai y-ellām nīkki-p pārkkiṉḏṟa-pōdu, taṉiyāy maṉam-eṉḏṟōr poruḷ illai; āhaiyāl niṉaivē maṉadiṉ sorūpam. niṉaivugaḷai-t tavirttu jagam-eṉḏṟōr poruḷ aṉṉiyamāy illai. tūkkattil niṉaivugaḷ illai, jagam-um illai; jāgra-soppaṉaṅgaḷil niṉaivugaḷ uḷa, jagam-um uṇḍu. silandi-p-pūcci eppaḍi-t taṉṉiḍamirundu veḷiyil nūlai nūṯṟu maṟupaḍiyum taṉṉuḷ iṙuttu-k-koḷḷugiṟadō, appaḍiyē maṉam-um taṉṉiḍattilirundu jagattai-t tōṯṟuvittu maṟupaḍiyum taṉṉiḍamē oḍukki-k-koḷḷugiṟadu. maṉam ātma sorūpattiṉiṉḏṟu veḷippaḍum-pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟum. āhaiyāl, jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu sorūpam tōṉḏṟādu; sorūpam tōṉḏṟum (pirakāśikkum) pōdu jagam tōṉḏṟādu.

When one sets aside all thoughts and sees, solitarily there is no such thing as ‘mind’; therefore thought alone is the svarūpa [the ‘own form’ or fundamental nature] of the mind. Excluding thoughts [or ideas], there is not separately any such thing as ‘world’. In sleep there are no thoughts, and [consequently] there is also no world; in waking and dream there are thoughts, and [consequently] there is also a world. Just as a spider spins out thread from within itself and again draws it back into itself, so the mind projects the world from within itself and again dissolves it back into itself. When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa, the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or actual self] does not appear [as it really is]; when svarūpa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear.
12. How can we recognise clearly that we are aware of ourself while asleep?

Regarding what you wrote in the final paragraph of your second comment, namely “I struggle with the deductive argument based on the premise that if we are aware of ourselves in all 3 states, and if in any one state we are not aware of the body/mind/other, then we can’t be anything other than simple self-awareness. In deep sleep, I am not aware of anything, or alternatively, I am aware of nothing but existence. In my present stage, I can’t differentiate between these”, if I have understood you correctly, the difficulty you have with this argument is not with its logic, which is quite simple and straightforward, but with its premise that we are aware of ourself while asleep.

This premise is fundamental to all that Bhagavan taught us, so it is very important for us to clearly recognise the truth of it. Therefore to help us grasp and accept it he gave various arguments (such as the ones I outlined above in section six), but in order to be firmly convinced by such arguments we need to consider them very carefully and self-attentively. Though all the arguments he gave in this regard are logically very simple, they are concerning an extremely subtle subject, so they can be clearly and firmly grasped only by a mind that is sufficiently subtle, sharp, clear and self-discerning (the type of mind that he described as நுண் மதி (nuṇ mati) in verse 23 and as கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu).

As I explained in section five, understanding logic entails being able to simply see or recognise logical implications and connections, so since in this case the logic is concerning our awareness of ourself in its most fundamental form (that is, stripped of all awareness of anything else), we will be convinced by it only to the extent that we are able to distinguish our awareness of ourself from our awareness of our mind, body and all other things. Therefore the more we practise trying to be self-attentive and thereby become familiar with being aware of ourself in isolation from awareness of other things, the more clearly we will be able to recognise that we are always aware of ourself, whether or not we are also aware of any other thing, and that what we experience in sleep is therefore only our own simple self-awareness stripped bare of even the slightest awareness of anything else.

This may seem to be like the question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg, because in order to practise self-attentiveness effectively we need to recognise that we are aware of ourself even when we are aware of nothing else at all, as in sleep, and in order to recognise this we need to practise being self-attentive. The answer to this is that just as every chicken comes from a chicken-egg and every chicken-egg comes from a chicken, the more clearly we are able to recognise that we are always aware of ourself and that our self-awareness is quite distinct from any awareness of anything else, the easier it will be for us to attend precisely to ourself, and likewise the more we attend only to ourself, the more clearly we will be able to distinguish our permanent self-awareness from the transient awareness of anything else, including our body and mind.

This is why śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana (studying Bhagavan’s teachings, reflecting on them and practising self-attentiveness) should be a single seamless process, with each reinforcing and feeding into the other two. Śravaṇa (hearing or reading) and manana (reflection) are the foundation on which our nididhyāsana (self-attentiveness) rests, and the more we practise being self-attentive the more clearly we will be able to understand what we read and the deeper and clearer our reflection will become. While reading his teachings we should be reflecting on them, and while reflecting on them we should practise them by trying to be self-attentive.

If you have difficulty recognising that you are aware of yourself while asleep, the only solution is more manana and nididhyāsana — that is, to consider Bhagavan’s arguments more carefully and deeply and to investigate yourself more keenly and attentively. By doing so repeatedly and persistently you will gradually develop sufficient clarity of self-awareness to be able to recognise that you are always self-aware, even when you are aware of nothing else whatsoever.

As Wittgenstein mentioned in one of his recent comments, at the end of section 596 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, page 569) it is recorded that when Bhagavan was asked ‘Is an intellectual understanding of the Truth necessary?’ he replied:
Yes. Otherwise why does not the person realise God or the Self at once, i.e., as soon as he is told that God is all or the Self is all? That shows some wavering on his part. He must argue with himself and gradually convince himself of the Truth before his faith becomes firm.
Arguing with ourself in this way is manana, but manana is most effective when it is done alongside nididhyāsana. Therefore we should not merely consider deeply and repeatedly all the arguments that Bhagavan has given us and that we ourself can think up to convince ourself that we are always aware of ourself, even while we are asleep, but should accompany our reflection with repeated attempts to be calmly and keenly self-attentive in order to be more clearly aware of ourself at this very moment.

Regarding your remark, ‘In deep sleep, I am not aware of anything, or alternatively, I am aware of nothing but existence. In my present stage, I can’t differentiate between these’, what we are not aware of while asleep is any ‘form’ (that is, any phenomenon or anything with features), but since we remember having been aware of no such thing, we must have been aware then, because we would have no memory of having been aware of no phenomena if we had not been aware of being thus.

A normally sighted person can distinguish darkness from light, whereas a completely blind person cannot, because when there is no light a normally sighted person can see that it is dark, whereas a completely blind person can never see darkness. If we were completely unaware while asleep, we would not even be aware that we were not aware of anything, so our condition then would have been like that of a completely blind person in a dark room, who cannot see that it is dark. However, since we are aware that we were not aware of any phenomena in sleep, we must have been aware then, so our condition was like that of a normally sighted person in a dark room, who can see that it is dark.

Just as a normally sighted person can distinguish darkness from light, we can distinguish sleep from waking and dream, because just as a normally sighted person can see whether there is light or no light, we are aware of whether there are any phenomena or no phenomena in our awareness. In waking and in dream we are aware of the presence of phenomena in our awareness, whereas in sleep we are aware of their absence, so in order to be thus aware of their presence or absence we must be aware in each of these three states.

What distinguishes waking and dream from sleep is that in waking and dream we are aware of both ourself and other things whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself but no other things. If our mind is habituated to constantly dwelling on other things throughout waking and dream, it will be difficult for us to distinguish our self-awareness from our awareness of our body and mind, so the absence of any body or mind in sleep will make it seem to us as if sleep were a state in which we are not even aware of ourself. However, if we think carefully and introspectively about our experience in sleep, and if we also begin trying to turn our attention back towards ourself in order to distinguish our self-awareness from our awareness of body, mind and all other things, it will become increasingly clear to us that in sleep we do not actually cease being aware of ourself even though we cease being aware of any other thing.

When you say that you are not able to differentiate between not being aware of anything and being aware of nothing but existence, what exactly do you mean by ‘nothing but existence’? Whose existence are we aware of in sleep? The term ‘existence’ implies the existence of something, because there could be no existence without something that exists, so when we think or talk about existence, we should be clear in our mind regarding whose existence we are considering. Since we are not aware of anything other than ourself in sleep, the only existence we can be aware of then is our own existence — not the existence of our ego, mind or body, but only the existence of our actual self.

If we were not aware of anything — even of ourself — in sleep, we would not be aware of having slept at all, so since we are aware that we were asleep and that we regularly go into sleep and come out of it again, it should be clear to us that we were aware of ourself in sleep. That is, we were aware of ourself being in a state in which we were not aware of anything else whatsoever.

Of course while asleep we do not think that we are not aware of anything else, because we do not think at all, but in spite of the absence of all thoughts and all awareness of other things, we are nevertheless still aware of ourself, because simple self-awareness is our very nature — what we most essentially are. Awareness of other things comes and goes, and we are aware not only of its presence (in both waking and dream) but also of its absence (in sleep), so in order to be aware of both its presence and its absence we must be aware not only when it is present but also when it is absent. Being aware entails being self-aware, because we cannot be aware without being aware that we are aware, so even a little bit of simple logical reflection on our experience of waking, dream and sleep should be sufficient to convince us that we are aware of ourself in sleep, even though we are not aware of anything else then.

We have never been and could never be aware of any time or state in which we were not aware of ourself, so we have no reason to suppose that we could ever not be aware of ourself. In fact logically we could never not be aware of ourself, because if we were not aware of ourself we would not exist at all, because what we essentially are is only self-awareness. We cannot actually be anything other than self-awareness, because our awareness of all other things (including our ego, our mind, this or any other body and this or any other world) comes and goes, so the only thing we are always aware of is ourself, the one who is aware of ourself, and hence this self-awareness alone is what we actually are.

What you wrote in your next sentence, namely ‘But I think that I am right in saying that through atma vichara, the awareness will become increasingly subtle and self-focused, such that it is aware of itself in deep sleep’, requires some clarification. What becomes increasingly subtle and self-focused as a result of our practice of ātma-vicāra is our mind, not our fundamental awareness, because our fundamental awareness is our actual self, which is always infinitely subtle and entirely self-focused, since in its view it alone actually exists.

Moreover, what is aware of itself in deep sleep is not ourself as this mind but ourself as we actually are. We seem to be this mind only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, so to the extent that we become aware of ourself alone we will cease to be this mind, and in sleep, when we are not aware of anything other than ourself, we are not this mind at all but only our actual self. As recorded in two passages in Day by Day with Bhagavan, Bhagavan said: ‘The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world’ (11-1-46: 2002 edition, page 106), and ‘The mind, turned outwards, results in thoughts and objects. Turned inwards, it becomes itself the Self’ (8-11-45: 2002 edition, page 37).

Whether we have practised ātma-vicāra or not, we are always aware of ourself while asleep, as we are during waking and dream, so awareness of ourself in sleep is not something that results from the practice of ātma-vicāra. What does result from this practice is that as our mind thereby becomes increasingly subtle and self-focused, we are able to recognise increasingly clearly that we are always aware of ourself, even when we are aware of nothing else, as in sleep. In other words, ātma-vicāra does not produce anything that does not always exist, but it does enable us to recognise or discern what always exists. Initially it enables us to recognise with increasing clarity that we are always aware of ourself, even when we are engrossed in attending to other things (as we usually are in waking and dream) and when we are not aware of anything else (as we always are in sleep), and eventually it will enable us to recognise with absolute clarity that we are never actually aware of anything other than ourself, because nothing other than ourself actually exists.

148 comments:

Anonymous said...

In states of coma or general anesthesia (when essentially the brain shuts down completely) it could be argued that you are completely unaware of being aware. You wake after two weeks and it seems like it is literally the next moment. The awareness only comes usually after a few moments, often much longer.

'In fact logically we could never not be aware of ourself, because if we were not aware of ourself we would not exist at all, because what we essentially are is only self-awareness.'

I leave it up to the analytic philosophers on this site to decide on the ultimate validity of this statement. It seems to me there might be some issues here around that old bugbear word 'existence.'

Having said all this, I am very prepared to believe that continued and focused practice of atma vichara could bring about all the answers to a question that the intellect is unable to finally comprehend at all.

Bob - P said...


Thank you Michael for writing this article.

It was very helpful in reinforcing my understanding of Bhagavan's teaching.

Like for example what you wrote below:

{Moreover, what is aware of itself in deep sleep is not ourself as this mind but ourself as we actually are. We seem to be this mind only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, so to the extent that we become aware of ourself alone we will cease to be this mind, and in sleep, when we are not aware of anything other than ourself, we are not this mind at all but only our actual self.}

Thank you Michael
Bob

Viveka Vairagya said...

Destiny and Mind

Ramana Maharshi says, "Everything is predetermined . . . It [the body] is designed for doing the various things marked out for execution in this life. The whole programme is chalked out. "Not an atom moves except by His Will" expresses the same truth, whether you say "Does not move except by His Will" or "Does not move except by karma". As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities." (Day by day with Bhagavan, Fifth Reprint, 2002, 4-1-46 Afternoon, p. 92)

If everything is predetermined and the body moves not except by Ishwara's will, then what role is the mind playing? Are its thoughts also predetermined? Are only some thoughts relevant for the predetermined actions of the body predetermined, with the rest of the thoughts being mere white noise? It would seem that the mind per se is redundant as far as bodily actions are concerned going by Bhagavan's remarks. So, can I stop thinking altogether without any detriment to the course of events or will I be forced to think the "necessary" thoughts consonant with the preordained actions of the body?

Would Michael or anyone else care to comment on my above doubts?

Viveka Vairagya said...

With Reference to My Above Comment

Some thoughts are not predetermined because Bhagavan says, "As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body". But given that usually thoughts and often a great deal of planning precedes bodily action, I wonder what freedom we have with regard to thoughts because if such thoughts and planning bring about certain bodily movements and those bodily movements are predetermined, then those thoughts and planning which brought about the bodily movements must also be predetermined, right? It is confusing, isn't it. Care to comment?

Sivanarul said...

Viveka Vairagya,

With respect to freedom from thoughts, there does not seem to be any. It is common experience for everyone that thoughts popup in our heads from nowhere. If someone says “do not think about a pink elephant”, the image of an elephant appears in our mind.

Thoughts are a precursor to action (for unawakened jiva’s). This is where Jiva’s supposed free will comes into play. The jiva can choose not to act upon the thought. For example, on a warm day, the thought of a nice butter pecan ice-cream pop’s up in our head. One cannot stop this thought from popping up. But if one is diabetic, one takes action, not to eat the ice-cream.

Now what Bhagavan says is that the action of eating the ice-cream or not has already been predetermined and it happens as per Ishvara’s will. My take on this is that, the Jiva does not know what Ishvara’s will is. All he knows is that he seems to have freewill and the knowledge that eating ice cream will raise his blood sugar, so he uses his freewill to not eat the ice-cream. Isvhara’s will in this is the “will behind the seeming freewill of the Jiva”. It is Ishvara’s will that has allowed him to exercise his freewill at that moment and had given him the knowledge that eating ice-cream is not good for his body.

For those of us for whom, Surrender to Ishvara is the key sadhana we follow, the teaching of Bhagavan on this is vital. “Not an atom moves except by His Will” is a powerful teaching that we need to do constant manana on, and let it sink in deeply. When the Jiva takes credit, for an achievement, it needs to be reminded that Ishvara was the force behind it (Ara Karunai / Rewarding Grace). When the Jiva undergoes pain and suffering, it needs to be reminded that Ishvara was the force behind it (Mara Karunai / Testing Grace).

Practically what does it all mean? One cannot violate Dharma and claim that it is as per Ishvara’s will. If one slips into Rajas and Tamas, then it is one’s freewill that made the slip happen. Yes, it is Ishvara’s will behind that freewill that made the slip happen. But Ishvara’s ultimate will is for the Jiva to awaken and dissolve in him. With that in mind, one acknowledges that one has slipped by one’s own ignorance and takes hold of Sattva and proceeds in the journey.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Sivanarul. It is helpful to read your comments.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, as I explained in section 11 of my previous article, The karma theory is an auxiliary but not a fundamental principle of Bhagavan’s teachings, karma exists only for our ego or mind, so it is not real, even though it seems to be real so long as we experience ourself as this ego. Therefore we need not spend too much time or effort trying to understand it.

All that we need to understand about it is explained by Bhagavan in just a few verses and other passages in his original writings, such as verses 38 and 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the first three and some other verses of Upadēśa Undiyār (as I explained in Upadēśa Undiyār: liberation is gained not by doing anything but only by just being) and most importantly in the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898, which means:

‘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.’

As we can infer from this, destiny (prārabdha) is not the only force impelling us to act through mind, speech and body, because if it were Bhagavan would not have said, ‘What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does’. That is, when he says, ‘whatever effort one makes’ and ‘whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does’, he implies that we are free to try both to experience what is not destined and to avoid experiencing what is destined, but no matter how much we may try we will not succeed in achieving either of these aims. However, the fact that we can want and try to change whatever we are destined to experience means that our actions are driven not only by our destiny or fate but also by our free will.

By using our free will to do any action we cannot alter whatever we are destined to experience, but we are thereby doing āgāmya (action impelled by free will rather than by fate), the fruit of which will be stored in our sañcita, from which it may at any time in future be selected to form part of our prārabdha in a later life. Therefore, since we cannot attain liberation by doing any action, doing any āgāmya is a foolish misuse of our free will.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Viveka Vairagya:

The only wise and truly beneficial way to use our free will is as advised by Bhagavan in the final sentence of this note: ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’. In order to silently be, we must avoid rising as this ego, so since this ego rises by attending to things other than itself, we must try to attend to ourself alone.

Attending to anything other than ourself is an action (karma), whereas attending to ourself alone brings about an immediate cessation of all action, because it dissolves our ego, which is the root and doer of all action. Attending to ourself alone is not only self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) but also self-surrender, because it causes our ego to subside, so it is the only effective means by which we can just silently be.

This summarises all that we actually need to understand about the karma theory.

Regarding the passage that you cited from Day by Day with Bhagavan, 4-1-46 Afternoon (2002 edition, page 92), we can never be sure how accurately what Bhagavan said was recorded in such books, but this passage does not seem to contain any ideas that conflict with what he usually explained in answer to such questions. However, since the question he was answering was, ‘Then what responsibility, what free will has man?’, I suspect that he would probably have explained about free will more clearly and in more detail.

For example, it is recorded that he said that a person ‘is always free not to identify himself with the body’, but he would probably have clarified that the only means by which we can give up our body-identification is by investigating our ego and thereby surrendering it entirely. Moreover he would also probably have explained that if we do not surrender our ego in this way, we will inevitably continue to misuse our free will by doing āgāmya while experiencing our prārabdha.

Regarding your question ‘So, can I stop thinking altogether without any detriment to the course of events or will I be forced to think the “necessary” thoughts consonant with the preordained actions of the body?’, we cannot stop thinking altogether except by investigating our ego and thereby surrendering it entirely. If we do so, there will be no body or mind to do any action or to experience any prārabdha, because all such things seem to exist only so long as we experience ourself as this ego. However, if we do not surrender our ego entirely but instead manage to surrender partially, to the extent that we surrender our own will to the will of God we will refrain from doing any āgāmya, so most of the actions that we do by mind, speech or body will then be driven only by our prārabdha without any interference from our free will.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Michael. There is much clarity in what you write. I particularly liked your explanation of how agamya is created.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael, I just finished reading section 11 of your previous article. I must say that it is a monumental explication of Bhagavan's yeachings on karma. Wouldn't it be a good idea to collect all such gems from your blog and arrange them thematically into a book?

Wittgenstein said...

Viveka Vairagya,

With reference to your questions on 5 March 2016 at 11:13 and at 11:46, Michael has answered in a very clear way. I attempted to understand your question in my own way and here are some of my thoughts I wanted to share with you.

If I understand your question adequately, you seem to start with the idea of mind-body duality, that is, existence of mind and all that its activities on one side and body and all its activities on the other side. Further, you seem to think of them as independent entities, nevertheless interacting with each other. If that is so, your question would be, how can the body (and its activities) are bound while mind (and its thoughts) can have freedom (at least to some limited extend)? The freedom of the latter you seem to derive from the idea of freedom mentioned by Bhagavan (freedom of not identifying with the body).

Bhagavan says mind [or ego, which is the essence of mind] creates or causes everything [Ulladu Narpadu, verses 14 and 26]and by ‘everything’ he means the world and everything in it. The way in which it does is given in detail in Naan Yaar?, paragraph 4. Further, ‘everything’ would also mean fate-freewill pair, whose origin is the ego [Ulladu Narpadu, verse 19]. In short, everything created by the ego is as real as the ego. This is unlike the traditional accounts of non-duality wherein God is the creator. According to Bhagavan, ego is the creator. If we push this further and ask how God enters into the picture, Bhagavan does not hesitate to say God is also created by the ego, as in Ulladu Narpadu, verse 20. However, in Upadesa Undiyar, verses 24 and 25 God is dealt in a different way. It would be a digression to go into that now.

If we read the teachings of Bhagavan, we have two choices. (1) If we are convinced by what he says in Ulladu Narpadu, we may get interested into investigating the existential status of the ego, which is the origin of everything. (2) If we are not convinced by what he says in Ulladu Narpadu, it would reveal we take the mind-body as ultimately real and as long as we hold such view, we would require a detailed theory of karma, God and a practice based on this assumption, using the activities of mind and body.

If we go by choice (1) above and still think freedom lies in the domain of thoughts (in the sense of using thoughts not to identify with the body etc.), it would be a very inconsistent with our choice and an exercise in self-deception. Therefore, the ‘freedom of not identifying with the body’ Bhagavan talks about is never in and through the mind. I believe he is talking about atma vichara, which is not a thought activity.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Wittgenstein. You offer an interesting perspective in that it all depends on what theoretical/ontological stance one is adopting. If I understand you correctly, if mind/ego creates the world, then it obviously also creates the body, and body-mind dualism would fall apart because the body is merely an extension of the mind and not an entity independent of it. And in a way, since ego creates God, it is the ego ultimately that is the locus standi of fate-free will pair. So, it would all seem like a scripted play. I wonder wherefrom the freedom to take up self-enquiry comes from. Or is that also predetermined? For instance, if Bhagavan's body was already predetermined at the time of his birth to spend the greater part of its life near Arunachala, and that, too, mostly silently, as also its utterances in speech, then his self-realization at age 16 was also predetermined. Is our liberation also predetermined including the sadhana that we will put forth to achieve such liberation? Of course, I realize that this is all intellectual doubting, and whatever the truth of the matter of such doubts, I perhaps am better off shutting off my mind (which is the source of doubts) and hold on to the doubter as Bhagavan advises somehwere.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, predetermination pertains only to karma (which in this context means actions done by mind, speech and body, and also the fruits of such actions — the pleasures and pains that we experience as prārabdha, which are the moral consequences of āgāmya that we have done in the past), so since liberation is neither an action nor the fruit of any action, it cannot be predetermined, but is entirely a matter of our own free will. If we truly want to be liberated — that is, if our love (bhakti) to be aware of ourself alone is so strong that it completely overwhelms all our viṣaya-vāsanās (our inclinations or desires to experience anything other than ourself) — we can turn within and merge forever in our actual self here and now, and no power in heaven or on earth could stop us (because heaven, earth and everything else is just an illusion fabricated by our ego, which rises only due to our liking to experience things other than ourself).

Actions and their fruits seem to exist only when we rise as this ego, and we rise as this ego only by allowing our attention to leave ourself and go out towards other things. Therefore we seem to be bound by the three karmas (āgāmya, sañcita and prārabdha) only so long as our attention is directed outwards, and hence we can be liberated from them only by directing our attention back within, towards ourself alone. Directing our attention outwards is a karma (and the root of all karmas), because it entails a movement of our mind away from ourself, whereas directing our attention back within is not a karma but a subsidence or cessation of all karma, because it entails subsidence of our mind back into ourself.

Therefore Bhagavan often used to explain that karma and destiny bind and affect our ego or mind only when it is turned outwards, so they can never obstruct or restrict our freedom to turn back within. What seems to obstruct or restrict our freedom to turn within is only our viṣaya-vāsanās, which are our own desires to experience what can be experienced only by turning our mind outwards. Therefore the choice is ours: do we want to turn outwards and be bound by karma and predetermination, or to turn within and be liberated from them?

We are free to make this choice at each moment, but because our viṣaya-vāsanās are still strong, the love (bhakti) and desirelessness (vairāgya) that we require in order to make the right choice are correspondingly weak. However, every moment that we choose to try to turn inwards to be aware of ourself alone we are weakening our viṣaya-vāsanās and strengthening our bhakti and vairāgya, so it is only by persistent practice of ātma-vicāra that we can purify our mind (cleaning out the dirt of viṣaya-vāsanās) and thereby cultivate the clarity of discrimination (vivēka) and consequent bhakti and vairāgya that we need in order to eventually make the final choice to surrender our ego entirely by merging forever in our actual self, the source from which we have arisen as this ego.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael, thanks for the explanation. But a doubt still persists. You write, "predetermination pertains only to ... actions done by mind, speech and body". But the actions so done if they are predetermined, then if I am predetermined to do "x" with my mind, speech or body at time t1, then if I exercise my free will to realize the Self at time t0, then my actions at time t1 with mind, speech or body would be far different than if I had not exercised my freedom at time t0 because the way the mind, speech and body act after realization will be different than without self-realization. So, it would seem that if all the actions of mind, speech and body are predetermined at birth, then there would be little scope for exercising my freedom after birth to realize the Self because realizing the Self should alter the course of actions of the mind, speech and body unless the Self-realization at time t0 is predetermined so that other predetermined actions at time t1 can be consonant with such realization. I hope my doubt is clear.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael, let me explain myself from a different angle. Let us call time at birth as tb. At tb, Bhagavan says it is already predetermined at time tb what the body will do from time t1 to t100. Now, let us suppose self-realization is not predetermined and it depends solely on my efforts during time t1 to t100. Let us then say that I exercise my freedom at time t52 and realize the Self. Then this could not have been taken into account at time tb if self-realization was not predetermined. So, bodily actions at time t53 predetermined at time tb could not have anticipated that self-realization would occur at time t52 because it was not predetermined. But the bodily actions after self-realization would be far different than if such realization has not occurred, so this uncertainty as to which action of the body would happen is introduced into the system because of my freedom at time t52 to exert myself to realize the self or not, so either actions by the body at time t53 are not predetermined at time tb if I have freedom to realize the self at time t52, or if the actions of the body at time t53 are predetermined at time tb (which is what Bhagavan says), so self-realization or not at time t52 is already predetermined. Right?

Wittgenstein said...

Viveka Vairagya,

From your answer to me, I would say (and as Michael has pointed out) only the outward bound mind is subjected to karma, according to Bhagavan. Atma vichara involves only inward (or self-ward, to be more precise) facing mind.

In your recent replies to Michael, your argument is based on the premise, “[...]realizing the Self should alter the course of actions of the mind, speech and body” and "[...] the bodily actions after self-realization would be far different than if such realization has not occurred". By ‘realizing the Self’ if it is meant remaining as we are, then it is not an event and is timeless and therefore is ever present and not causally bound to anything related to mind, speech and body. Therefore, it cannot influence anything in a causal chain of events at various times. Neither can the chain itself influence such realization in any manner. ‘Realizing the Self’ in such case results in the disappearance of the causal chain itself along with the mind, speech and body, as Bhagavan meant by the term mano nasa.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Aw, shucks, I give up. Wittgenstein, there is perhaps something in what you and Michael are saying that I am not understanding. But in a way it does not matter because I do seem to have the free will to do self-enquiry or not. No one is putting a gun to my head and preventing me from doing self-enquiry. So, I will exercise that freedom and realize the Self, which is when all these seemingly insoluble quandaries and paradoxes will be resolved.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, the problem you write about in two of your recent comments would perhaps be a real problem if the ego and all its progeny were real, but if we investigate this ego sufficiently keenly we will find that what actually exists is only ourself, so no ego or anything else has ever actually existed at all.

Karma seems to exist only so long as this ego seems to exist, so the entire karma theory (including all ideas about predetermination, fate, free will and so on) presupposes the existence of the ego. Therefore if we investigate this ego and thereby find that it does not actually exist, the karma theory would no longer apply.

The karma theory is useful only to the extent that it actually convinces us of the need to turn inwards and dissuades us from making any effort to change whatever we are destined to experience so long as we allow our mind to turn outwards, as it should do if we understand it correctly in the context of Bhagavan’s fundamental teachings. If we have understood it thus, we should act on it by turning within and should not give any further thought to it, because by thinking about it we are again allowing our mind to go outwards, away from ourself. In other words, we should think about the karma theory only to the minimum extent required to clearly understand it and its implications.

When you write, ‘the way the mind, speech and body act after realization will be different than without self-realization’, ‘because realizing the Self should alter the course of actions of the mind, speech and body’ and ‘the bodily actions after self-realization would be far different than if such realization has not occurred’, you seem to imply that our mind, speech, body and their actions will continue to exist even after our ego has been destroyed by self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna), but this is not the case, because all these phenomena are progeny of our ego and seem to exist only in its view, so without it they would not seem to exist at all. As Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:

அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

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

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

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

English translation: If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything.

Therefore if we turn within to investigate what this ego is, not only will this ego cease to exist but along with it everything else (including our mind, speech, body and all their actions and destiny) will also cease to exist, so what will then remain is only our eternally motionless, actionless and immutable self.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael, OK what you say makes sense that "Therefore if we turn within to investigate what this ego is, not only will this ego cease to exist but along with it everything else (including our mind, speech, body and all their actions and destiny) will also cease to exist, so what will then remain is only our eternally motionless, actionless and immutable self." That would be more or less quite an adequate resolution to my doubt. The further question "what about the body of a jnani" is perhaps mute because that is only from the viewpoint of the onlookers and not from the jnani's perspective as he ever revels in the Self without cognizance of the body. That is why perhaps Bhagavan says at one point that there is no prarabdha for a jnani because when the husband dies, all three wives (the three karmas) are widowed. Thanks, Michael. Much appreciation for taking the time to answer my doubts.

Steve said...

The monk Malunkyaputta is troubled by Gautama Buddha's silence on the fourteen unanswerable questions, which include queries about the nature of the cosmos and life after the death of a Buddha. Malunkyaputta then meets with Gautama Buddha and asks him for the answers to these questions, he says that if he fails to respond, Malunkya will renounce his teachings. Gautama responds by first stating that he never promised to reveal ultimate metaphysical truths such as those and then uses the story of a man who has been shot with a poisoned arrow to illustrate that those questions are irrelevant to his teachings:

It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him

Bob - P said...

* [If we have understood it thus, we should act on it by turning within and should not give any further thought to it, because by thinking about it we are again allowing our mind to go outwards, away from ourself.} *

Thank you Michael
Bob

Sivanarul said...

Viveka Vairagya,

Here is another point of view regarding karma theory. I have written this a few times before, but you probably would not have read it. This is what I follow now and it has been very helpful to me.

Karma theory has been written extensively in Sanatana Dharma, Bhagavan and Buddhist literature. Since it has such mighty advocates, my position is to not take it as either true or false, but simply NOT to focus on it. To me, a “focus” on Karma is a violation of ahimsa and self-compassion. It is a violation of ahimsa, because it is used typically in the context of blaming the sufferer’s past actions for his current predicament. It is a violation of self-compassion because again one typically uses it to blame oneself for predicaments. Even in the search for truth, it is still used in the context that progress is not happening due to past actions.

For those who follow the path of surrender and bhakthi, a “focus” on karma is totally unnecessary. All happens as per the will of Ishvara. Ishvara in his infinite wisdom (Akandakara Arivu), provids us the circumstances that are best for our spiritual progress. Our finite mind, probably does not like it. That’s ok, we don’t have to like what Ishvara has provided us. We just need the firm conviction that it is as per Ishvara’s will and it will all work out in the end. If the predicament or questions of liberation perturb us, we always have the right to petition Ishvara himself for relief.

While Bhagavan wrote in Ulladu Narpadu that ego creates god and his famous statement about whatever destined not to happen will not happen, he ignored his own writings and saying and made a passionate plea to Arunachala to cure BOTH his mother’s bodily ill and samsaric ill, thereby clearly instructing us that that in times of deep desperation, we retain the right to petition Ishvara. But this right is supposed to be used in extreme duress and not for trivial matters.

Karma is Jada and it is an unnecessary middle man between the Jiva and Ishvara. If one cut’s off this link, the bond between Jiva and Ishvara will grow strongly by several manifold. This is my experience. Give it a try and see whether this is true in your experience also.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Sivanarul, you have an interesting take on karma. You seem to be abandoning it in favour of God's will. Bhagavan equates God's will with karma when he says in the quote I first gave in this series of exchanges, ""Not an atom moves except by His Will" expresses the same truth, whether you say "Does not move except by His Will" or "Does not move except by karma"." But you seem to be saying that it is God's own sweet will not bound by karma that gives us what we get in life. This perspective deserves serious consideration because it has certain merits. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Sivanarul said...

Regarding Wittgenstein’s excellent comment:

“If we read the teachings of Bhagavan, we have two choices. (1) If we are convinced by what he says in Ulladu Narpadu, we may get interested into investigating the existential status of the ego, which is the origin of everything. (2) If we are not convinced by what he says in Ulladu Narpadu, it would reveal we take the mind-body as ultimately real and as long as we hold such view, we would require a detailed theory of karma, God and a practice based on this assumption, using the activities of mind and body.”

There is a third choice (probably more).

(3) We are convinced that what he says in Ulladu Narpadu are truths that need to be “realized” and will become true upon such realization. In the meantime, we take the mind-body as a fleeting phenomenon that is “real” in the here and now. It is also unreal in the sense it is very temporary and fleeting (Bubble in water, as per Thaymumanavar). We do not require any theory of Karma at all. We believe all happens as per Ishvara’s will and have absolutely no need for Karma. We use the activities of mind and body in adherence to ahimsa, dharma and compassion to the best of our abilities. We fail repeatedly in such adherence, but we get back every time and move forward in adherence again. As Saint Manikkavasagar said in his famous saying, “He made me as Siva himself”, we believe ultimately we will merge in Ishvara and become one with him. But we do not put the cart before the horse, during Sadhana.

Sivanarul said...

Viveka Vairagya,

Karma is unnecessarily given way too much power and attention, in Santana Dharma, than it needs to be. It presupposes God to be an impartial judge who simply hands out judgment based on evidence (Karma) presented. To the devotee, God is not an impartial judge. He is the be all and end all. Ishvara is very partial, and he better be, since the devotee is trying to discard everything away other than Ishvara in his life.

There comes a point in the journey where Karma is a useless middle man (whether that be Sanchita, Agamiya or Pararatha).

Whatever happens in life, the devotee takes it to be the will of Ishvara. He does not need any explanation for it. He does not need to understand it. He does not need to intellectualize or philosophize it. He is content in not knowing the reason for it. The devotee tries, as best as he can, to emulate Christ’s statement “Not my will, but thy will be done”.

If you get freed from the bondage of focusing on Karma and liberate yourself to having firm conviction in Ishvara’s will, you will arrive at considerably more peace and joy than you have now. This does not mean you should stop praying to Ishvara for relief. As I wrote in my last comment, Bhagavan demonstrated by action, that we retain the right to petition Ishvara in times of extreme duress or mental disturbance. The key is to use that right wisely and only in situations of duress.

Sivanarul said...

Viveka Vairagya,

“But you seem to be saying that it is God's own sweet will not bound by karma that gives us what we get in life.”

Yes. Ishvara by his direct sweet will decides what we get in life. To say he is bounded by Karma in doing that, is to say that he is bounded by Karma on what he can do. Karma being Jada and Ishvara being Sentient and absolute reality who is boundless, how can he be limited by Karma? It also presupposes that Karma is more powerful than Ishvara. How can that be? Intellectually one can provide many arguments against what I wrote.This conviction is not based on intellectual conviction but rather a conviction based on bhakthi and faith in Ishvara.

If we like what we get in this life we call it as benevolent grace (Ara Karunai). If we don’t like, we call it as testing grace (Mara Karunai). It is the same grace and will, it just called differently based on our liking.

If you truly let go of the need to seek explanations based on Karma and ascribe all that you got to the direct sweet will of Ishvara, you will start seeing significant changes in your life. Test it out. Validate it for yourself.

Wittgenstein said...

Viveka Vairagya,

Bhagavan has said in many places the self is always realized. According to him, self and its awareness are not two different things. Self-awareness can never be switched off. It endures all the time. That is why he says it is always realized. In sleep what remains is pure [formless] self-awareness. In waking and dream it is gets mixed [in the form of body-mind] with the awareness of other things. We cannot deny self-awareness anytime. What is in doubt is its form. All questions about why or how the form arose assume that such a form actually exists. It would be better to question this assumption first, if it is recognized as an assumption. If not, forms will be taken for granted and we will be lured into some fairly tale versions of ‘self-realization’. People have imagined [as we read in books] 'self-realization' as some jolt, transforming the body-mind into something subtle and changing their course of action forever. While fairly tales are recognized for what they are instantly, spiritual fairly tales are not recognized for what they are so easily.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, yes, as you wrote in your reply to my previous comment, the body and mind of an ātma-jñāni seem to exist only in the deluded view of others, who are ajñānis, because the ātma-jñāni is nothing other than the one infinite and indivisible self-awareness, in whose clear view nothing else exists or even seems to exist.

Regarding Bhagavan’s analogy of all three wives being widowed when their husband dies, he used it in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham:

சஞ்சிதவா காமியங்கள் சாராவா ஞானிக்கூழ்
விஞ்சுமெனல் வேற்றார்கேள் விக்குவிளம் — புஞ்சொல்லாம்
பர்த்தாபோய்க் கைம்மையுறாப் பத்தினியெஞ் சாததுபோற்
கர்த்தாபோ மூவினையுங் காண்.

sañcitavā gāmiyaṅgaḷ sārāvā ñāṉikkūṙ
viñcumeṉal vēṯṟārkēḷ vikkuviḷam — buñcollām
parttāpōyk kaimmaiyuṟāp pattiṉiyeñ jādadupōṟ
karttāpō mūviṉaiyuṅ gāṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: ‘சஞ்சித ஆகாமியங்கள் சாராவாம் ஞானிக்கு; ஊழ் விஞ்சும்’ எனல் வேற்றார் கேள்விக்கு விளம்பும் சொல் ஆம். பர்த்தா போய் கைம்மை உறா பத்தினி எஞ்சாதது போல், கர்த்தா [போய்] போம் மூவினையும். காண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ‘sañcita āgāmiyaṅgaḷ sārāvām ñāṉikku; ūṙ viñcum’ eṉal vēṯṟār kēḷvikku viḷambum sol ām. parttā pōy kaimmai uṟā pattiṉi eñjādadu pōl, karttā [pōy] pōm mūviṉaiyum. kāṇ.

அன்வயம்: ‘ஞானிக்கு சஞ்சித ஆகாமியங்கள் சாராவாம்; ஊழ் விஞ்சும்’ எனல் வேற்றார் கேள்விக்கு விளம்பும் சொல் ஆம். பர்த்தா போய் கைம்மை உறா பத்தினி எஞ்சாதது போல், கர்த்தா [போய்] மூவினையும் போம். காண்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ‘ñāṉikku sañcita āgāmiyaṅgaḷ sārāvām; ūṙ viñcum’ eṉal vēṯṟār kēḷvikku viḷambum sol ām. parttā pōy kaimmai uṟā pattiṉi eñjādadu pōl, karttā [pōy] mūviṉaiyum pōm. kāṇ.

English translation: Saying that saṁcita and āgāmya do not adhere to the jñāni [but] prārabdha does remain is a reply said to the questions of others. Just as [any of] the wives do not remain unwidowed when the husband has died, know that [when] the doer [has died] all the three karmas cease.

‘வேற்றார் கேள்விக்கு விளம்பும் சொல்’ (vēṯṟār kēḷvikku viḷambum sol) means ‘a reply said to the questions of others’, which is how he often used to describe any of his replies that were not consistent with his fundamental teachings. That is, when answering questions asked by people who were unwilling or unable to grasp his actual teachings, he often had to dilute the truth in order to give them a reply that they could understand and would be willing to accept, so he would sometimes later explain to those who understood and accepted his actual teachings that what he had said was suited to the needs of such questioners, whom he referred to as ‘others’, implying that they were not yet ready to accept and follow his real teachings.

For example, since many of his devotees mistook him to be the body and mind that he seemed to be, they were not ready to accept his teaching that he is not aware of anything other than himself, so when such devotees asked him questions about his state, he would reply to them as if he was actually aware of his body, his mind and this world, and hence he would say that though a jñāni does no āgāmya and has no saṁcita, his prārabdha remains to be experienced by him until his body dies. Therefore in this verse he clarified that this was only ‘a reply said to the questions of others’, because prārabdha cannot remain when there is no ego to experience it.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Viveka Vairagya:

The import of this verse was also clearly implied by him in the second sentence of verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி தனை அறிய, கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும்’ (viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi taṉai aṟiya, karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum), which means ‘When one knows oneself by investigating who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three karmas [āgāmya, saṁcita and prārabdha] will slip off’.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

Prārabdha has a beautiful Tamil equivalent (ஊழ், ūṙ). What about saṁcita and āgāmya? They sound Sanskrit, atleast to my ears.

Sivanarul said...

Wittgenstein,

Prarartham, Agamiyam and Sanchitham in Tamil highlighted in bold.

• கன்மமாவன யாவை?
ஆன்மாக்கள் மனம், வாக்கு, காயம் என்னும் மூன்றினாலே செய்த புண்ணிய பாவங்கள், இவை எடுத்த பிறப்பிலே செய்யப்பட்ட பொழுது, ஆகாமியம் (Agamiyam) எனப் பெயர் பெறும். பிறவி தோறும் இப்படி ஈட்டப்பட்டுப் பக்குவப்படும் வரையும் புத்தி தத்துவம் பற்றுக்கோடாக மாயையிலே கிடக்கும் பொழுது சஞ்சிதம் (Sanchitham)எனப் பெயர் பெறும். இச்சஞ்சித, கன்மங்களுக்குள்ளே பக்குவப்பட்டவை, மேல் எடுக்கும் உடம்பையும் அது கொண்டு அனுபவிக்கப்படும் இன்ப துன்பங்களையும் தந்து பயன்படும் பொழுது, பிராரத்தம் (Prarartham) எனப் பெயர் பெறும்.

http://www.shaivam.org/siddhanta/shp_vinavidai.htm#ttthalai

Viveka Vairagya said...

David Frawley on Self-Inquiry
(from www.swamij.com/frawley-self-inquiry.htm)

The process of Self-inquiry is so simple that it can be explained in a few words. To practice it you need only trace the root of your thoughts back to the I-thought, from which all other thoughts arise. This is initiated by the question "Who am I?". By asking, "Who am I?" our thought current naturally gets focused on the search for the true Self and we forget about all other concerns and worries of the mind.

All our thoughts are based directly or indirectly on the thought of the self. Thoughts such as "Where am I going?" or "What will I do tomorrow?" are based directly on the self. Thoughts like "What will happen to my family?" or "Who will win the next election?" are based indirectly on the thought of the self because they refer ultimately to our own concerns.

Our thoughts consist of two components. The first is a subjective factor--I, me or mine. The second is an objective factor--a state, condition or object with which the I is involved, particularly the activities of our own body and mind. The habit of the mind is to get caught in the object portion and never look within to recognize the true Self apart from external concerns.

The result is that the pure I or the I-in-itself is unknown to us. What we call ourselves is but a conglomerate of "I am this" or "this is mine," in which the subject is confused with an object, quality or condition. Self-inquiry consists of discarding the object portion in order to discover the pure Subject. This requires withdrawing our attention from the objects of sensation, emotion and thought by discriminating these from the formless Self or seer that observes them.

The truth is that we don't know who we really are. What we call our Self is but some thought, emotion or sensation that we are temporarily identified with and that is constantly changing. Our lives are shrouded in ignorance about our true nature, springing from the most basic feelings that we have, especially our bodily identity. We are not the body. Rather, the body is a vehicle or vesture in which our true Self is obscured. As long as we don't question this process of self-identification we must come to sorrow and remain in darkness and confusion.

However, Self-inquiry does not consist of merely repeating the question "Who am I?" over and over again in our minds, which is only a tiring mental exercise. It means holding to the search for the true Self in all that one does. It requires that we have a real and fundamental doubt about who we are, through which we can reject all outer identifications. It is as if one had amnesia and didn't know who one was and had to give full attention to the matter before anything else could be done.

Self-inquiry, moreover, is not merely an intellectual or psychological inquiry but an inquiry with one's entire energy and attention. It requires a full and one-pointed concentration, not interrupted by the intrusion of other thoughts. The thought current naturally moves back to the Self to the extent that we do not preoccupy our minds with outside stimulation. The problem is that the senses present us with so many distractions that it is difficult to look within. Self-inquiry means to constantly question and reverse this process of extroversion by seeking out the origin of our awareness and energy in the heart.

True Self-inquiry is not just questioning the limitation of our outer identity, like our family, political or religious affiliation--whether one is a wife, a father, a Christian, a Hindu or an atheist. It questions our entire identity as an embodied being. It does not stop short with some general identity as a human, cosmic or spiritual being but rejects any formation of thought as our true nature. It directs us back to the pure "I" that is not identified with any form of objectivity, physical or mental.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, yes, ஊழ் (ūṙ) in the sense of ‘blossoming’ and hence ‘decaying’ is a beautiful term for prārabdha. संचित (saṁcita) is a Sanskrit word that means heaped up, hoarded or accumulated, and the Tamil form of it is சஞ்சிதம் (sañcitam). Likewise, आगामि (āgāmi) or आगाम्य (āgāmya) is a Sanskrit word that means commencing, coming, impending or future, and the Tamil form of it is ஆகாமியம் (āgāmiyam). As far as I know there are no other commonly used words in Tamil to mean either saṁcita or āgāmya.

Wittgenstein said...

Sivanarul and Michael,

Thanks for your replies. I have always wondered why Bhagavan used chaste Tamil words in some works like the ever-fascinating Ulladu Narpadu and in the heart-melting Arunachala Aksharamanamalai but not in some other works like Naan Yaar? where there is a liberal use of Sanskrit words.

Wittgenstein said...

Viveka Vairagya,

I don’t know who David Frawley is. But when he says, “This [self-enquiry] requires withdrawing our attention from the objects of sensation, emotion and thought by discriminating these from the formless Self or seer that observes them”, it is clear that he is treating the ‘formless self’ as a seer [or observer] of objects. The formless self does not observe [or is aware of] objects, that is, it is only self-aware. In other words, it is pure self-awareness, as taught by Sri Ramana. I doubt anyone who is keen on learning atma vichara gets any direction from the statements of Mr. Frawley. You may very kindly contrast this with a statement like, “Fixing [keeping] the mind [attention] always in atma [self-awareness] alone is called atma vichara”, which appears in Naan Yaar? and very helpful for anyone keen on getting into atma vichara. This statement by Bhagavan says it all about atma vichara without fancy and misleading words. I am not saying you should not read Mr. Frawley. You may exercise some caution, especially as many sources of information are nowadays available on the internet related to Bhagavan’s teachings.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, generally Sanskrit words are used quite liberally in Tamil, particularly in a spiritual context, so it is quite normal in Tamil to find Sanskrit terms used abundantly in speech and prose writing about this subject. I think the main reason why poets like Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om tend to use Tamil equivalents more in their poetry than in their prose is simply that in poetry making use of a wider choice of words gives more freedom of expression.

I agree with what you wrote about David Frawley’s understanding of ātma-vicāra. Though he is reputed to be a erudite Vedic scholar, mere erudition is not sufficient to enable one to understand the subtleties and depth of Bhagavan’s teachings, and his expertise in Sanskrit does not give him access to most of Bhagavan’s original writings, which are in Tamil. Therefore his knowledge of Bhagavan’s teachings is presumably derived mainly from Sanskrit texts (of which some such as Śrī Ramaṇa Gītā and Sat-Darśana are very unreliable and give a distorted picture of his teachings) and from English books, so his understanding of ātma-vicāra is unsurprisingly similar to that of many other less learned devotees.

venkat said...

Wittgenstein

This point about pure self-awareness not aware of any other objects, and yet the instruction of atma vichara being to fix one's mind on self-awareness, is difficult to understand. It is like the illusory snake being asked to fix its attention on the real rope!

youme said...

"Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation." - Rumi

There is no need to translate what is already understood. What is needed is only to listen. - youme

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

What is currently experienced is a mixture of self- and other-awareness. In this mixture, if the proportion of other-awareness is predominant, then it effectively masks self-awareness but it cannot mask it completely. In atma vichara, attempt is made to fix the attention on self-awareness alone, however feebly it is experienced, while neglecting the other-awareness. While this is done, the proportion of other-awareness steadily keeps decreasing and the clarity of self-awareness keeps increasing, eventually when other-awareness completely disappears and pure self-awareness remains as it always was.

For most of us, atma vichara is holding on to self-awareness amidst other-awareness, in whatever proportion it is present. In some rare cases, as soon as the attempt is made to put the attention on self-awareness, atma vichara comes to an end, as the other-awareness is extremely feeble and on the verge of breaking down permanently. Therefore, when pure self-awareness alone remains, there is no need for atma vichara (it cannot happen, to be more precise). As a consequence, there is no ‘observation’ (in the sense of attention to other-awareness) for such pure self-awareness.

In the snake-rope analogy you gave, this can be mapped as follows: the snake suspects something wrong with itself, as it sees few strands of jute sticking out of its body and thinks, "Oh! Perphaps I am not a snake as I think now!" and starts looking at those strands intently while the skin peels off and only strands (real rope, as you call it) remain. When real rope alone remains, looking intently cannot happen, as there is no snake. For looking intently, both snake and atleast a few strands (a feeble self-awareness) are required. Bhagavan once said, "You are hazily aware of the self. Pursue it. When the effort ceases the self shines forth." [Talk 240].

Viveka Vairagya said...

Wittgenstein,

You write, "Bhagavan once said, "You are hazily aware of the self. Pursue it. When the effort ceases the self shines forth." [Talk 240]."

How is one now "hazily aware of the self"? What does such awareness consist of?

Michael James said...

Venkat, Wittgenstein has already given a good answer to your comment, explaining what is happening in the background, as it were, but Bhagavan would often give a simpler answer to such questions, saying in effect that the illusory snake need not try to fix its attention on the real rope, because all it need do is to fix its attention on itself, since it will thereby find that it is actually just a rope. In other words, it is sufficient if we as this ego just observe ourself, who now seem to be this ego, because by doing so we will find that we are not what we seem to be but only infinite self-awareness.

So long as we experience ourself as this ego, our self-awareness seems to be finite — limited in time and space to the extent of this body — so we cannot fix our attention on the infinite self-awareness that we actually are. However, if we fix our attention on this finite self-awareness that we now experience as ourself, that is sufficient, because its limitations seem to exist only so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, and hence when we manage to be aware of ourself alone, we will find that this same self-awareness that now seems to be finite is actually infinite — devoid of all limitations — and hence what alone really exists.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, ‘hazily aware of the self’ is probably not a very accurate translation of whatever Bhagavan said in Tamil, but I think what he meant is that though we are aware of ourself, our self-awareness is not sufficiently clear, because though we are clearly aware that we are, we are not clearly aware what we are (since we are now aware of ourself as this finite adjunct-mixed ego). However, if we ‘pursue’ (that is, keenly and persistently observe) our present self-awareness, it will shine increasingly clearly, until eventually it will dissolve our ego entirely (like the rising sun dissolving a tropical morning mist) and remain shining alone in all its full splendour, which is what Bhagavan meant by saying that oneself ‘shines forth’.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Michael. That is helpful. So, basically we need to hold on to our sense of "I" or Being without thinking any other thoughts, right?

Michael James said...

Yes, Viveka Vairagya, that is all. We just need to hold on to being attentive to ourself as we are now aware of ourself, and thereby what we actually are will become clear.

Wittgenstein said...

Viveka Vairagya,

Our self-awareness is mixed with other-awareness, while the latter masks [or appears to mask] the clarity of the former. Because of this mask and reduced clarity, we are 'hazily' aware of it. It does not consist of anything. It is just the ordinary, everyday self-awareness we all experience every moment.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks for the clarification, Wittgenstein.

Mouna said...

"We just need to hold on to being attentive to ourself as we are now aware of ourself, and thereby what we actually are will become clear."

Michael,
Throughout these years I always felt a little bit uncomfortable with your statement: "...because though we are clearly aware "that" we are, we are not clearly aware "what" we are".
It might be simply semantics or my limitations of the english language (not being a native english speaker) but although I understand what the intention of a phrase like this could point to or imply, it might in the end create more confusion to an untrained mind like mine.

To be clearly (or even not so clearly) aware of "what" we are (or of anything for that matter) implies some-thing to be aware of (ergo an observer of that). So from one point of view, and in this context, we will never be aware of what we are, we can only know that we are and by abiding in that knowledge, then we are "being" it (since knowledge equals being like Bhagavan's Ulladu Narpadu first mangalam states).
When ego disappears, either apparently for some time (deep sleep, swoon, anesthesia) or dies (manonasa), there is or shouldn't be any-one to know any "what", there is simply being. Being and knowledge, but pure knowledge, not the objectified one which or who will know "what" that being is.

Complete extinction or disappearance of the ego would be the key here, rather than clarity of "what" we are. (Although I assume that is what is meant by clarity of what we are, correct?)

Thank you.
(note: I use quote/unquote on some words because I don't know how to italisize them)

Josef Johann said...

"The thought who [what] am I [that is, the urge to investigate oneself], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt entirely]".

-Nāṉ Yār?, Paragraph Six

When it (the Reality) surges forth and appears (as ‘I-I’), for Him (the Jnani) who enjoys the bliss of Self, which has (thus) risen by destroying the (individual) self (the ego), what single thing exists to do? He does not know anything other than Self (which shines as the one reality); (therefore) how to (or who can) conceive what His state is?

-Ulladu Narpadu, verse 31

Besides that, saying (either), “I do not know myself”, (or), “I have known myself”, is a wide ground for ridicule. Why? To make oneself an object known, are there two selves (one of which can be known by the other)? Because, being one is the truth of everyone’s experience (that is, whether they be a Jnani or an ajnani, everyone experiences the truth
‘I am one’).

-Ulladu Narpadu, verse 33

Sivanarul said...

சிவேபாகசாரம்
SIVA – BHOGA – SARAM
THE ESSENCE OF BLISSFUL EXPERIENCE

என்ைன அறிெவன்றான் என் அறிவில் ஆனந்தந்
தன்ைனச் சிவெமன்றான் சந்ததமும் – என்ைனஉன்னிப்
பாரா மைறத்ததுெவ பாசெமன்றான் இம்மூன்றும்
ஆராயந் தவர்முத்த ராம். 26
Intelligence, He called me.
The joy within my intelligence, He called Sivam.
What constantly hid Thee from me, He called Pasam.
Whoever have understood these three
They are the liberated. 26

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

ே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

Michael James said...

Mouna, because of the inherent limitations of language, whatever is said about this subject is liable to create confusion if the intended meaning is not clearly understood, and this is particularly the case with the issue you have raised in your comment.

As you say, there is actually nothing more for us to know about ourself than ‘I am’ (the awareness that we are), which is what we know already, and this is why Bhagavan often used to say that ātma-jñāna is not a new knowledge that we must attain in future, because what is to be known is known already. The problem is not that we do not know ‘I am’, but that we know more than just ‘I am’, so what we need is not to gain any new knowledge but only to shed all knowledge other than ‘I am’.

Therefore the reason why Bhagavan concedes that we are not clearly aware what we are is not that we need to know anything more than just ‘I am’, but that we now have a wrong knowledge about ‘I am’ (a deluded awareness of what we are), because we are aware of ourself as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ (that is, ‘I am this ego, mind, body and so on’), so what is meant by ‘being clearly aware what we are’ is simply being aware that we are without the superimposition of any adjuncts such as this ego, mind or body. Therefore you are correct in saying, ‘Complete extinction or disappearance of the ego would be the key here, rather than clarity of what we are’, but as you also add, ‘that is what is meant by clarity of what we are’.

This is a simple way of answering your implied question, but it actually deserves to be answered still more carefully, which can best be done in terms of the distinction between transitive awareness (or suṭṭaṟivu, as Bhagavan generally called it) and intransitive awareness, which is the real awareness that we actually are, so since this is a subject that I am discussing in some depth in the article I am now writing about our awareness in sleep, I will give a more detailed reply to this comment of yours in that article.

(Regarding the means to italicise words in comments, you simply need to enclose whatever word or words you want to italicise between the opening tag <i> and the closing tag </i>. Likewise, to make any word bold, the opening and closing tags are <b> and </b> respectively, and to make a hyperlink, they are <a href=""> and </a>, with the URL placed between the straight (not curly) quotation marks, "". For example:

<i>suṭṭaṟivu</i> displays as suṭṭaṟivu;
<b>Ramana</b> displays as Ramana;
<a href="http://www.happinessofbeing.com/nan_yar.html">Nāṉ Yār?</a> displays as Nāṉ Yār?.

You can also use tags within other tags, so for example <a href="http://www.happinessofbeing.com/nan_yar.html"><i>Nāṉ Yār?</i></a> displays as Nāṉ Yār?.)

venkat said...

Dear Wittgenstein and Michael

Thank you for your perspectives to my snake in rope question. Funny how different views yield different insights into a problem.

Best wishes,
venkat

Viveka Vairagya said...

Doubts on My Practice of Self-Enquiry

These days when I sit for self-enquiry, I reach a point where I am aware that I am aware, without any thoughts occurring. Is that a desirable state to be in? Should I just allow that awareness to deepen? Is it the be-all and end-all of self-enquiry with nothing more to do except continue in the practice of being aware without thoughts? Bhagavan does say somewhere that thought-free consciousness is the goal. What sort of signs of progress can I expect as the self-awareness deepens for me to know that I am doing it correctly? I also wonder if self-enquiry is this simple in a manner of speaking?

I would appreciate it very much if Michael or anyone else answers these doubts of mine.

Mouna said...

Thank you Michael for your insight and the technical information about formatting.
Yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, your question whether you are ‘doing it correctly’ is difficult to answer, because what we should be trying to experience while practising ātma-vicāra cannot be adequately described in words. Words are at best only pointers or indicators. However, considering what you have written, I will try to give you an answer that may be of some use to you.

Firstly, your statement ‘I reach a point where I am aware that I am aware’ is ambiguous, because we are always aware, and we could not be aware without being aware that we are aware. The question is what we are aware of. We are always self-aware, but during waking and dream we are generally also aware of other things, and we are aware of ourself as this body and mind, so being aware that we are aware of all these things is not ātma-vicāra. When practising ātma-vicāra what we should be trying to be aware of is ourself alone.

You then say that you are aware ‘without any thoughts occurring’, but I suspect this is not entirely accurate, because the first and root of all our thoughts is our ego, and this ego cannot exist without being aware of other thoughts. Therefore we are actually without any thoughts only in states of manōlaya, such as sleep, and manōnāśa, which is our ultimate aim. What Bhagavan means by the term ‘thought’ is not just the chatter that is normally going on in our mind but awareness of any phenomena whatsoever, no matter how subtle or abstract it may be.

When we try to focus our entire attention only on ourself, our awareness of phenomena begins to recede into the background, but it does not cease entirely until our ego subsides completely. The closer we come to succeeding in focusing only on ourself, the more our ego subsides, but it will be destroyed entirely only when our power of attention is sufficiently refined by this practice to be able to focus on ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of any awareness of even the slightest or most subtle phenomena.

Therefore until we succeed in being attentively aware of ourself alone, in complete isolation from any awareness of anything else, we must persevere in trying to be attentively self-aware as must as possible. When we do eventually succeed in this effort, the illusion that we are this ego will be dissolved forever, and only then will there be no possibility of ever again being aware of any phenomena.

Therefore trying to be attentively self-aware is the be-all and end-all of self-investigation. It really is that simple. However, terms such as ‘being self-attentive’ or ‘being attentively self-aware’ are just pointers, but if we try to follow them the state that they are indicating will become increasingly clear to us. We have now set out on this journey of ātma-vicāra, which is a voyage of self-discovery, so as we proceed along the path it will reveal itself to us, and thus the true meaning and depth of the words of Bhagavan that set us on this journey will become increasingly clear.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Michael.

maya said...

If one were to be truly aware of oneself, it would mean that one would instantly realize the self. But obviously we are not able to do that because of ignorance, ego, vasanas, impurities or whatever you call it. When one does self inquiry and tries to focus on the "I am feeling", there is a lot of verbal assertions or auto suggestions involved, where one says to oneself that "you are not this body, thoughts etc etc" and tries simultaneously to bring ones attention on the "I am feeling". This is similar to asking the question, "who has the thoughts or who am i", and all of this is done just to get one's attention to the "I am" feeling. This process and the auto suggestions vary from person to person and is highly subjective as what works for one may not be effective for another. The goal however is to bring one's attention to the "I am" feeling and then keep it glued to it as frequently and as long as possible not giving rise to a thought and until the "I" vanishes due to grace. Atleast this is my understanding. This, I believe is what Annamalai swami also often says that in addition to focussing on the "I am feeling", to tell oneself i'm not this, not that.. in conjuction. All of this is actually trying to describe the process in words and not just the ultimate state. Both the words used for talking to oneself and the effort to focus attention inwards with are part of the same process and happens almost intuitively.

While in theory it may be simple and as Michael puts it, "its just being aware of oneself", in practice all these auto suggestions are needed just to keep one's attention on the "I am" feeling as our vasanas will not allow us to do it in the initial stages.
But here is my point: When David Frawley says this
"“This [self-enquiry] requires withdrawing our attention from the objects of sensation, emotion and thought by discriminating these from the formless Self or seer that observes them”

he is probably describing this whole process and not just the ultimate objective. I use the phrase "probably describing" in my previous sentence because that signifies how difficult it is to read another's mind and the person's subjective experience. But often Michael's attitude is that, almost everyone else doesn't know what they are talking about unless and until they describe it precisely with the words Michael uses or in the sense, he uses. So, to just dismiss another person's opinion saying that he has not understood self inquiry or Bhagavan's teachings properly and only Michael has understood it precisely is just ego. And please don't give me this nonsense that Michael gives logical reasons as to why he refutes another's statement. Two people can very easily understand the same truth but when it comes out in words, can project an entirely different meaning which might make sense to only a few set of people in each case. So it doesn't matter how many logical reasons one gives. A subjective experience can never be described in words. Period. It can neither be understood by another nor dismissed as nonsense by another just because the words don't tally with one's own description and conception. After all, whatever Michael says, no matter how logical it "seems" is also from his own mind and conception. It is as true or as false as Frawley's description or anyone else's depending on who's reading it.


will continue....

maya said...

continued...

Then again that brings us to another point which I have said earlier. Lets say for argument sake that David Frawley has no clue as to what he is talking about. He has read all the wrong books like Talks, Sat darsanam etc and what not and Michael on the other hand has logically understood everything precisely and has read all the right books like Ulladu Narpadu etc, why is it that Michael who has been expounding this for 30 odd years in excruciating detail, still not realized his self? Do we know that David Frawley has not realized his self? After all if all this writing, discussion and refuting other's is considered "manana", not many would have done as much "shravana", manana, like Michael for more than 3 decades. Michael has this very sophisticated way of dismissing others and pretends to do it with great humilty as if he is the only one who has understood Bhagavan's teachings while everyone else seem to be missing something or the other in their understanding. In addition he even corrects others. And yet why then has Michael not realized his self? When I started reading this blog I was truly interested in reading more about Bhagavan's teachings but now, like another "Anonymous" indicated sometime back, feel that Michael is not humble but has a great ego and thinks that there is only way to describe and understand Bhagavan's teachings. I read a quote of Swami Vivekananda sometime back, "Mock humility is worse than haughtiness" and I think Michael's humility is just mock humility. A person who is truly humble would probably say, "I understand it differently. He also probably has understood it but just uses different words and descriptions" or simply that "I don't understand his point of view" and gives the other person the benefit of doubt instead of dismissing his understanding and saying that "he has read the wrong books etc etc"

Also before anyone jumps on me with the usual refrains, "pot calling the kettle black", "judging other's spirituality and wasting my time", I will say it upfront. The moment one writes, reads and comments on opinions in a public blog, he has done all that himself, so lets not go down that track. I very much have an ego and I may be a "pot calling the kettle black" but I won't deny it pretending some moral uprightness. There are different ways to truth and all are equally valid. There are different interpretations of Bhagavan's teachings and all are valid to that particular person.

will continue..

maya said...

Here is Ramana Maharshi's Grand nephew, V.Ganesan from the book "Ramana Periya Puranam" (see link below) which has the story of 75 of Bhagavan's devotees
http://www.aham.com/RamanaPeriyaPuranam/

"In the early days of my life as a resident of the Ashram in the 1960s, I realised by dint of my study of Sri Bhagavan's books on 'Self--Enquiry' ; and, thanks to my association with the direct disciples of Sri Bhagavan, the uniqueness of His ' Direct Teaching' of 'Self--Enquiry. However, in my youthful fervour and enthusiasm, I began to think poorly of the efficacy of other less direct paths, such as 'Bhakti ', 'Karma ' and 'Yoga '. Little did it occur to me that Sri Bhagavan Himself has often spoken in praise of such systems, though He always taught that they ultimately merge in 'Self--Enquiry' ! The watchful and caring eyes of my teacher T.K. Sundaresa Iyer, did not miss all this. He came to me, one night, and gave me an Ashram Library book :" The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa " by his 'Eastern and Western Devotees' [ 400 and odd pages ] and insisted that I read it. By the time I had read 50 pages, my whole being bowed down before this Great Saint of Dakshineshwar ; and, my spiritual life attained a new dimension ! From then on, Sri Bhagavan's "Vachanamrutam" [ "Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi" ] and Sri Ramakrishna's "Kathamrutam" [ "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" ] became my supreme spiritual guides. During my spiritual Inner Journey, I could meet with nearly thirty Mahatmas, who opened one inner window after the other in me ! I understood the immense wisdom and importance of what Sri Bhagavan once declared : "What I preach is 'devotional enquiry' !" and " The absence of thoughts is ' Bhakti ' . It is also ' Mukti '. The ' Jnana ' method is said to be ' Vichara ' (Enquiry ). That is nothing but 'Supreme Devotion' ( 'Para Bhakti' ). The difference is in words only." -- [ "Talks " No.650 ] "

He says that "Talks with Ramana Maharshi" became his supreme guide. But I know whats coming. According to Michael, V.Ganesan has revered the wrong book, that most recorded conversations are unreliable and only the works recommended by Michael and described precisely as he has done using his impeccable logic is reliable. Rest of it is hearsay and those devotees just made up stuff or something short of that. But I would think that V.Ganesan cannot be entirely ignorant of Bhagavan's teachings and not just because he is related to Bhagavan or he probably lived with Bhagavan for sometime but also knew many of Ramana's immediate disciples who were self realized, apart from Sadhu Om who is often the benchmark here completely ignoring the words of many other great devotees of Bhagavan as well, and spent a lot of time with them. Then again that begs the question, assuming Ganesan has also read the wrong books. Michael has read all the right books, so why is he not self realized? It really doesnt mean much as to how many intellectual arguments you've lined up, how many "Right" books of Bhagavan you have read when you dismiss other's understanding blatantly but in a sophisticated way. Fact is you have not realized your self and you are in the same place as David Frawley is assuming Frawley is not realized.

While there is nothing wrong or strange in not understanding or not agreeing with another's point of view which is quite normal, it is indeed ego and conceit when one dismisses anothers understanding completely especially when the other person may have spent as much time contemplating on the same teachings as Michael. For some people few days of Talks with Ramana or even Naan Yaar may be enough but for others 3 decades of dissecting Bhagavan's Ulladu Narpadu every which way possible may still not be enough!



Wittgenstein said...

maya,

Regarding what you have written about David Frawley, I made a comment when Viveka Vairagya quoted David Frawley. I wrote David Frawley said something in contrast with Bhagavan’s teaching. I began that comment by saying I did not know who David Frawley was. When Michael replied to me, he told he agreed with what I pointed out as a contrast and explained to me who David Frawley was and where he came from. Actually after reading Michael’s comment I felt I should be tolerant with David Frawley since with the kind of sources Frawley presumably had to learn from, it was not surprising he told something that was in contrast to Bhagavan’s teachings. The discussion about David Frawley was initiated by me. I am not writing this to defend anyone. If you wanted to be impartial and wanted to express your displeasure about how David Frawley was discussed, you could have included me in your list.

maya said...

V.Ganesan on Kavyakanta Ganapathi, from "Ramana Periya Puranam"

"When I came back to Ramanasramam, some people for whom I had a lot of respect often spoke ill of Kavyakantha. They claimed that his accounts were figments of his imagination. I was influenced by their views. I approached Munagala Venkataramaiah, a great scholar and one of the recorders of the talks with Bhagavan. Munagala had not seen Kavyakantha and was therefore neutral about him. “Why do people pull down Kavyakantha so much?” I enquired, listing out all the transgressions he was rumoured to have made. “Ganesan, stop!” he exclaimed. “How did you know all this?” I revealed the names of the people who told me this. He replied, “They have given an opinion and you have received it. Are you sure it is the truth?” I was puzzled. “How can we know which opinion is correct?” I asked. Munagala then said, “Ganesan, don‟t you know the secret? Whatever Bhagavan says is correct. Whatever everyone else says is an opinion.

” I was still not satisfied. I had read an argument that Kavyakantha was not a Self realized soul because he had so many sankalpas. His detractors often quoted this and I was convinced by this logic. I put forth my argument to Munagala. He told me, “I asked Bhagavan the same thing - how come it is written in such and such a book that Kavyakantha was not Self realised. Bhagavan told me, „That is not what I said but what the recorder must have expected me to say.‟” Munagala then advised me, “Go by whatever Bhagavan has said and you will be near the truth. Do not go by opinions, particularly if they divide people - whether about saints or anyone else. Do not pay heed to them. Seekers should never be carried away by negative statements made about any saint. In order to progress, this is the first rule to remember. What detractors say are just opinions and if we believe them we fall victim to the mind.”

maya said...

V.Ganesan on Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkatramaiah and Annamalai Swami from "Ramana Periya Puranam" Page 142

"There is some controversy surrounding Paul Brunton, Munagala Venkataramiah and Chinna Swami which I would like to clear. It is recorded that Chinna Swami rudely stopped Paul Brunton from recording conversations in the hall. He is said to have done the same thing to Munagala Venkataramiah who recorded the talks which are now compiled in Talks with Ramana Maharshi, a must read for all devotees. It is true that Paul Brunton was stopped by Chinna Swami. This was because Brunton had started taking notes in Bhagavan‟s presence and was selling them without even mentioning Bhagavan‟s name. He even made statements that Bhagavan was popular because of his book. When Chinna Swami got to know of this, he marched straight to the hall where Paul Brunton was seated and told him point blank, “Stop it. You do not carry the right to do this anymore.” Brunton was furious and he turned indignantly to Bhagavan and asked, “Is this the view of Bhagavan also?” Bhagavan was silent.

Similarly, when Munagala Venkataramiah took down Bhagavan‟s talks in a notebook, he would gather a group outside the ashram and try to impress them. When this came to Chinna Swami‟s notice he came into the hall and stopped him in Bhagavan‟s presence. Munagala Venkataramiah was deeply hurt on being insulted in the glare of public eye. Later, when Munagala was with Bhagavan, still feeling slighted, Bhagavan said, “The greatest form of ego for an individual is to present himself as a teacher and become a guru.” Understanding that this message was for him, Munagala immediately prostrated before Bhagavan and begged him for his forgiveness. Bhagavan saved him and Munagala himself later said, “When a true seeker becomes a teacher, the first casualty is his own advancement in sadhana.”

I was in touch with Brunton and he admitted that he went to Bhagavan and apologized. How beautifully Bhagavan corrected them and nudged them back into their sadhana! Both Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkataramiah attained Self realization in their later years, because this was Bhagavan‟s purpose. Horizontal expansion took place when Munagala Venkataramiah and Brunton popularized Bhagavan‟s teachings and Bhagavan gave them vertical expansion. For this, Chinna Swami was used like a rough, washerman‟s stone to beat away their flaws. This is something that Munagala himself told me, “He used Chinna Swami as a washerman‟s stone. We all blamed Chinna Swami, but it was Bhagavan saving us through him.”

There are so many instances I could share, but one concerning Annamalai Swami is especially important. Annamalai Swami was responsible for masonry at the ashram but could construct only ordinary buildings. When Chinna Swami began the construction of a temple, specialists were brought in from all over South India. After the construction started, there was a technical difficulty which Annamalai Swami could not resolve. But, he still wanted things done his way. The temple specialists and Chinna Swami did not agree with him and he was told to leave. This is what Annamalai Swami shared with me later, “For all outward purposes, it is true that Chinna Swami quarreled with me and dispensed with me. But I realized later that I needed this treatment. Otherwise I would have been an eternal builder inside the ashram all my life. Recognizing this, Bhagavan commanded me not to come within the ashram premises any more. The fact that it was not a reprimand from Bhagavan was proved when Bhagavan visited me almost every day at my residence in Palaakothu and encouraged me in my austere living, sadhana and seclusion. What a blessing it was to have Bhagavan personally instructing me alone in my cottage! All this, I can honestly say, I owe to Chinna Swami for firing me. I plunged inwards and had the inner vision that our Bhagavan is truly the „I AM‟.”

Viveka Vairagya said...

Robert Adams on Self-Enquiry

Now, what does jnana marga teach? We teach simply this: not to accept anything unless you can demonstrate it. Not to believe anything unless you can use it for yourself, and you can see it’s true. To do affirmations, mantras, yoga exercises and so forth, will not awaken you. You start from the beginning. You simply admit to yourself that you exist. This is the truth. You do exist, don’t you? So you say to yourself, ‘I exist. I know that for sure. I exist. I exist. That’s all I know. I’m ignorant of everything else, but I do know that I exist because here I am.’

And, as you keep saying this to yourself, ‘I exist’, you begin to put more space between ‘I’ and ‘exist’. ‘I ... exist’. Say that to yourselves: ‘I ... exist..., I ... exist’.

If you’re doing this correctly, you’ll soon find that ‘I’ and ‘exist’ are two separate words. In other words you’ll come to the conclusion that you exist as ‘I’.

You’ll have to ask yourself, ponder, ‘Who is this “I” that exists? What is I?’

You never answer. It will come to you of its own accord. When you sleep and you awaken, you say, ‘I slept’. When you dream you say, ‘I had a dream’. And when you’re awake, of course, you say, ‘I am awake’. But that ‘I’ is always there.

You start to enquire within yourself, ‘What is this “I” that exists at all times? It exists when I’m asleep, when I’m awake, when I dream. Who is this “I”?’

And now the enquiry starts. ‘Where does this “I” come from? From whence cometh the “I”?’

You ask yourself. The answers are within yourself. And you keep asking yourself over, and over, and over again, ‘From whence cometh the I? Where does the I come from?’ Or, ‘Who am I?’

And you wait a little while, and you repeat the same question, ‘Where does the “I” come from?’

While you’re doing that, you follow the ‘I’ deep, deep within. You keep following the ‘I’. You go deeper and deeper into the ‘I’.

‘Where does this “I” come from? Who is this “I”?

Whatever answer comes to you is the wrong answer. Do not accept it but do not deny it. You simply put it aside. And you continue with the self-enquiry. ‘Who am I?’

And you wait. And you ask again, ‘Who am I?’ It is not a mantra.

‘Where did the “I” come from? How did it get there? Who gave it birth? What is the source of the “I”?’
You continue to abide in the ‘I’.

As you continue this process someday something will happen. To some people it comes like an explosion within, where all your thoughts are wiped away. For you see, ‘I’ is the first pronoun, and every thought that you have in the world is attached to the ‘I’. They are secondary. Think about that. Whatever you have to say about yourself has ‘I’ in it. Everything in the world is about yourself.

‘I’ am going to the movies. ‘I’ am going bowling. ‘I’ feel like crying. ‘I’ feel terrible. ‘I’ feel wonderful. ‘I’ feel sick. ‘I’ feel well. There’s always an ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. What is this ‘I’, and what is it all about? Everything is attached to the ‘I’. Subsequently, when the ‘I’ is wiped out, everything else is wiped out and the troubles are over. All thoughts go with the ‘I’.

Now, there’s no answer to ‘Who am I?’ When you get to the answer there will be emptiness, a void. You will be of the unborn. But it is not a void like you think. It is not emptiness like you think. For want of a better word you can call it godliness, nirvana, sat-chit-ananda, bliss, consciousness, absolute reality. It doesn’t matter what name you give it. You will become that, and there will be no explanation. You will just become that, and you will feel a profound peace that you have never felt before. You will feel a bliss that is unqualified. You will try to explain it to yourself and to your friends, but you cannot. For the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. There are no words.

That’s the method you use. Self-enquiry. You follow the ‘I’ thought to its source. How long does it take? It depends on yourself. How sincere you are, what else you’re doing with your life.

Dr. Phil said...

And, as you keep saying this to yourself, ‘I exist’, you begin to put more space between ‘I’ and ‘exist’. ‘I ... exist’. Say that to yourselves: ‘I ... exist..., I ... exist’.

If you’re doing this correctly, you’ll soon find that ‘I’ and ‘exist’ are two separate words. In other words you’ll come to the conclusion that you exist as ‘I’.


Thank you, Robert Adams, for giving me this incredibly transcendent insight that 'I' and 'exists' are two seperate words. Incredible indeed is my ignorance.



[..] It doesn’t matter what name you give it. You will become that, and there will be no explanation. You will just become that, and you will feel a profound peace that you have never felt before. You will feel a bliss that is unqualified. You will try to explain it to yourself and to your friends, but you cannot. For the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. There are no words.

Dear Robert Adams, what you describe is exactly how I feel after taking marijuana. Does this mean that weed is what I really am?



That’s the method you use. Self-enquiry. You follow the ‘I’ thought to its source. How long does it take? It depends on yourself. How sincere you are, what else you’re doing with your life.

Dear Robert Adams, I will sincerely and with full devotion smoke weed throughout the day. This will definitely ensure that I will experience what I really am with complete clarity, and thereby destroy the illusion that I am a finite ego.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael writes in his comment addressed to Viveka Vairagya, dated 9 March 2016 at 09:59:

Trying to be attentively self-aware is the be-all and end-all of self-investigation. It really is that simple.

We have to emphasise this again and again to ourself (in our manana), otherwise it is very easy to confuse this practice with something complicated like repeatedly questioning oneself, 'to whom are these thoughts?'; 'who am I?' and so on. Why I say this is because this is how this simple practice of self-investigation is or has been described by most of the writers and speakers on Ramana's teachings. Almost nobody wants to understand or state that this repeated questioning is not self-enquiry. It is almost treated like a sacrilege by many of Bhagavan's devotees, if somebody tries to point out that such questioning is not actual self-investigation.

Why it is so? There can be three reasons. First could be that they have not done enough sravana of Bhagavan's direct teachings like Nan Yar?, Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar. Other more important reason could be that they have not done deep and prolonged manana of Bhagavan's direct teachings. Of course the main reason for this confusion and wrong understanding has to be their lack of sufficient practice of self-investigation.

Therefore we should not be mislead by anybody trying to teach us that self-enquiry is repeatedly questioning oneself 'who am I?' This is an absolutely unessential part of self-investigation. If we are using such questioning, we should try and discard this practice as soon as possible because:

Trying to be attentively self-aware is the be-all and end-all of self-investigation. It really is that simple.

Regards.

Sivanarul said...

Is Bhagavan’s teaching a singular one that applies to all of his devotees or is it multiple versions tailored to suit each and every one of his devotees? Those who take his teaching to be a singular one, base it on Naan Yaar or Ulladu Narpadu. Those who take it to be tailored to suit the individual devotee, base it on Talks and Day by Day. Here is an example of Bhagavan’s teaching tailored to the individual devotee.

From Day By Day Page 170

Question: My practice has been a continuous japa of the names of God with the incoming breath and the name of Baba (i.e., Upasani Baba or Sai Baba) with the outgoing breath. Simultaneously with this I see the form of Baba always. Even in Bhagavan, I see Baba. The external appearances are also much alike. Bhagavan is thin. Baba was a little stout. Now, should I continue this or change the method, as something from within says that if I stick to the name and form I shall never go above name and form? But I can’t understand what further to do after giving up name and form.Will Bhagavan please enlighten me on the point?

Bhagavan: You may continue in your present method. When the japa becomes continuous, all other thoughts cease and one is in one’s real nature, which is japa or dhyana. We turn our mind outwards on things of the world and are therefore not aware of our real nature being always japa. When by conscious effort or japa or dhyana as we call it, we prevent our mind from thinking of other things, then what remains is our real nature, which is japa.
So long as you think you are name and form, you can’t escape name and form in japa also. When you realise you are not name and form, then name and form will drop off themselves. No other effort is necessary. Japa or dhyana will naturally and as a matter of course lead to it. . What is now regarded as the means ,japa, will then be found to be the goal. Name and God are not different. See the teaching of Nama Dev on the significance of God’s name, extracted in the September, 1937, issue of the Vision.(This was read out in the hall).Bhagavan also quoted the Bible, ‘In the beginning was he Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’

Sivanarul said...

Regarding the discussion about David Frawley:

David Frawley is a well-respected Vedic scholar who is highly knowledgeable in various schools of Sanatana Dharma, including the teachings of Bhagavan. He prescribes an integral approach to Self enquiry that includes Bhakthi Yoga and Raja Yoga that includes Pranayama, Pratyahara and Meditation.

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

““This [self-enquiry] requires withdrawing our attention from the objects of sensation, emotion and thought by discriminating these from the formless Self or seer that observes them””

What he is saying here is from an integral approach that is suitable for many beginner and mid-level sadhakas, who are not fully detached yet. He is very clear that this may not be the approach for the highly advanced Sadhakas.

Here is the quote from the article linked above:

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

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

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

Actually all yogic practices done rightly are forms of vichara or inquiry into our true nature. Whether it is asana, pranayama, mantra or meditation, all prescribed to gain knowledge of the Atman or Purusha, which is the goal of Yoga as stated in theYoga Sutras (I.3) as “abidance in the Self-nature of the Seer.” Whatever yogic practices one does should be performed out of an attitude of inner inquiry or observation. In this way they all contribute to Self-inquiry and broaden its practice to encompass all aspects of our life.”

Mouna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, addendum.

I completely agree with you that Bhagavan had different levels of teachings.

M

Michael James said...

Mouna, after composing Upadēśa Undiyār in Tamil, Bhagavan later composed translations of it in Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam under the title Upadēśa Sāram, so all three versions of Upadēśa Sāram are reliable texts. Since they were all written in poetry, the restrictions of the respective metres in which Bhagavan composed them means that none of them are an exact translation of Upadēśa Undiyār. Since the Telugu and Sanskrit were each composed in a relatively short metre, some important ideas in Upadēśa Undiyār are not clearly conveyed in them, but they nevertheless convey most of the meaning of Upadēśa Undiyār, and they do not distort Bhagavan’s teachings in any way.

What Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri composed was a Sanskrit translation not of Upadēśa Undiyār but of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, and his Sanskrit translation of it, Sat-Darśanam, does seriously distort the meaning of it and carefully omits many important ideas in it that were not to Kavyakantha’s liking. Unfortunately this is a text that many teachers of vēdānta such as Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda rely upon and expound as if it were a correct version of Bhagavan’s teachings. Therefore what you wrote in your comment on this subject would have been correct if you had referred to Sat-Darśanam instead of Upadēśa Sāram.

jacques franck said...

There is also : Revelation - Sri Ramana Hridayam by Lakshmana Sarma the ulladu Narpadu in sanskrit, is it a reliable one?

And what about the book of Lakshmana Sarma Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad ?

Thanks

Mouna said...

Michael,
You are absolutely right, of course.
Thank you for the correction, it is the second time in your blog that I have been corrected about this error of mine mixing these two works.
It's very strange, something keeps mixing them up in my intellect when I am not careful enough at the moment of writing, and although I know the works well (I also read the commentaries of the different swamis), the titles keep switching in my head. Strange.

Thank you.
M

Mouna said...

Sivanarulji, namaste (edited posting)

In the article you mention, there is a paragraph that reads:
"In this article we will examine various yogic practices in the light of Self-inquiry. We will approach these issues in a simple and succinct manner. For more detail please examine the works of Ramana Maharshi like Upadesha Saram or Ramana Gita. Ganapati Muni, perhaps the Maharshi’s chief disciple, taught many of these additional practices."

To say that Ganapati Muni was "perhaps the Maharshi’s chief disciple" denotes a lack of information about Sri Ramana's entourage (I am thinking about Muruganar and Lakshmana Sharma to start with).

In many vedantic courses of well known vedantic teachers (like Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Dayanada, Swami Paramarthanada, to name a few of the most well know teachers of our time) there is often a study/commentary of Upadesa Saram, since it describes the comprehensive vedantic practices in a step by step manner. And also of Ganapati Muni’s Sat Darshanam (Upadesa Untiyar) interpreting this work according to their specific philosophy, although having some flws in relation to Bhagavan's teachings.

For some modern vedantins Bhagavan was only a yogi. He might have been ALSO that but let's not forget that at the core of his teachings, he was an ajatavadin.

M

venkat said...

Mouna

I find Swami Dayananda and Paramarthananda's teaching around Bhagavan highly contradictory. They teach and comment on Sat Darshanam and say that Bhagavan is a great Acharya, and at the same time they ridicule self enquiry (and mouna upadesa), saying that liberation only comes through knowledge, which can only come through reading and assimilating sruti under the guidance of a teacher. They then seek to square this circle by saying that those devotees of Bhagavan who say that self-enquiry is his primary teaching are "cultists" and misguided, and have not understood Sat Darshanam properly. They manage to wholly ignore the fact that Bhagavan wrote a work entitled "Who am I".

Rather strange. I can only come to the conclusion that given the popularity of Bhagavan, they do not want to directly dispute his teaching, which might lessen their credibility.

Swami Chinmayananda seems to be different - he met him first when he was young, and he writes movingly about the impact his silent presence had on him, and how he was the 'cream of the upanishads'

Mouna said...

Venkat, pranams

I completely agree with you.
At one point in the past (before Bhagavan's teachings got a hold on me) I used to hear Swami Paramarthananda's lectures all day long. I think I went through (or they went through me) hundreds of hours about the Upanishads and other shastras and smritis. He is a brilliant mind and one of the best vedantic teachers I know. His lectures on the Gita are really incredible.
But as you said, when it comes to Bhagavan something strange happens, and is interesting the lack of information, or wrong information that circulates in those circles of highly advanced teachers, both in terms of Bhagavan teachings and even his life.
Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Tapovan Maharaj his teacher both wrote highly emotional accounts of their meeting Bhagavan.

Michael James said...

Jacques, Revelation is Lakshmana Sarma’s English treanslation of Śrī Ramaṇa Hṛdayam, which is his own Sanskrit translation of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. Śrī Ramaṇa Hṛdayam is certainly a much more accurate and reliable translation than Sat-Darśanam, because he translated it and revised it many times with the help and guidance of Bhagavan, who explained to him in detail the meaning of each verse. Since it is written in verse, it is not an exact translation, but it does generally convey the correct meaning of each verse.

It is many years since I read Śrī Ramaṇa Paravidyōpaniṣad, but as far as I can remember it does seem to convey an accurate picture of Bhagavan’s teachings, and it records some interesting sayings of his that have not been recorded elsewhere.

I believe generally that everything that Lakshmana Sarma wrote on Bhagavan’s teachings is more or less reliable, because Bhagavan had explained his teachings to him in great details and he sincerely tried to understand them correctly. I do not think his explanations of the actual practice of ātma-vicāra are particularly clear or deep, and generally his explanations of Bhagavan’s teachings are not as deep or as useful as Sadhu Om’s explanations, but they are certainly much better than those of most other devotees who have written books on Bhagavan and his teachings.

Sandhya said...

Michael,
In another post I had asked a question about sleep. Not sure if you read it. But I have another question on 'love' . A person with ego loves something and jnanis are also full of love. The feeling of love - is it similar in nature in both the cases? So I am curious to know when self is realized, the state one attains, is that a familiar state?

jacques franck said...

Thank you _/\_

Michael James said...

Sandhya, I replied to the questions you asked about sleep in this series of two comments.

Regarding love, according to Bhagavan love is our real nature, because we are infinite and indivisible self-awareness, whose nature is to always have infinite love for itself. Pure love is therefore only this infinite love for ourself as we actually are, because nothing other than ourself actually exists. Therefore, since the ātma-jñāni is nothing but our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), the love of the jñāni is only this pure and infinite self-love (svātma-priya).

Since we see the jñāni as a person who sees this world as we do, in our view the jñāni seems to have love for all, but in the actual view of the jñāni there is nothing other than ātma-svarūpa, so what we see as all this world the jñāni sees as the one infinite and indivisible ātma-svarūpa.

Since we experience ourself as a finite person who is aware of many other things, our infinite self-love is experienced by us as a finite love for ourself as this person and for whatever other people or things we believe contribute to our happiness. This limited and distorted form of our original self-love is what is called desire. Therefore the love or desire that we experience as an ego is just a distorted reflection of the infinite self-love that we actually are.

Hence the answer to your question whether love is similar in both cases (that is, in the case of both the love experienced by us as an ego and the love experienced by the ātma-jñāni) is that in essence they are the same love, but that in the former case the one real love is experienced in a limited and distorted form.

Regarding your other question about whether the state of true self-experience (ātma-jñāna) is familiar, the answer is yes, because it is the same state of pure self-awareness (self-awareness devoid of even the slightest trace of any awareness of anything else) that we experience every day in sleep. The only difference is that whereas we seem to periodically come out of sleep whenever we rise as an ego to experience waking or dream, when our ego is destroyed by ātma-jñāna we will never again seem to rise out of the eternal state of sleep, because it is our real and natural state.

Bob - P said...

Dear Sandhya

Michael said:

[Regarding your other question about whether the state of true self-experience (ātma-jñāna) is familiar, the answer is yes, because it is the same state of pure self-awareness (self-awareness devoid of even the slightest trace of any awareness of anything else) that we experience every day in sleep. The only difference is that whereas we seem to periodically come out of sleep whenever we rise as an ego to experience waking or dream, when our ego is destroyed by ātma-jñāna we will never again seem to rise out of the eternal state of sleep, because it is our real and natural state.]

So simple but Priceless !!

Thank you Michael for reinforcing my understanding too.
Thank you Sandhya for asking the question.
Bob

Sandhya Devulkar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandhya said...

Thanks Michael and Bob P. I asked this question based on a experience I had few years ago, where I saw everyone acting out of that beautiful love/wisdom/intelligence and 'I' was not fully present at that time . Hence I Had that experience. But during that moment noone were realising that something else is responsible for their talking, walking etc.. And that experience lasted for only few seconds. In essence reality became dream and dream became a reality for that few seconds. I asked david godman regarding this. He said since I saw forms, it is not true experience of the self. Hence I asked this question. Ever since i experienced that , i have gotten more curious to know the real self but i have an extreme fear to lose myself again.

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji, Vannakam.

“To say that Ganapati Muni was "perhaps the Maharshi’s chief disciple" denotes a lack of information about Sri Ramana's entourage (I am thinking about Muruganar and Lakshmana Sharma to start with).”

It does not necessarily mean a lack of information on Bhagavan’s entourage. Sri Ganapati Muni is considered a key disciple of Bhagavan by a sizeable portion of current devotees. One simply has to look at Muni’s picture and it sparkles with Tejas that shines out of a highly advanced Sadhaka (at least to my eyes, it appears that way). Moreover Muni followed an integral approach to Sadhana, same as what David Frawley prescribes. Since birds of the same feather flock together, that probably also influenced calling him chief disciple (he also qualified it with perhaps).

“Various sages like Bhagavan’s great disciple Ganapati Muni saw Ramana as an incarnation of Lord Skanda, the son of Shiva and the Goddess, who represents the power of direct insight.”

In the same article, he also references Muni as “great” disciple. So I wouldn’t base Frawley’s information on Bhagavan based on a single indicator of “chief disciple” which he qualified with “perhaps”. What Frawley writes above is very true. Till this day, many devotees of Bhagavan do consider him as an incarnation of Lord Skanda in the lineage of Thiru Jnana Sambandar (who is also considered an incarnation of Lord Skanda). Thiru Jnana Sambandar emphasized Bhakthi in Jnana. Bhagavan emphasized Jnana in Bhakthi (two sides of the same coin, looking it in different ways).

Michael James said...

Sandhya, as David explained to you, so long as we are aware of any forms or phenomena, we are not experiencing ourself as we really are, because what is aware of forms is only our ego. However, sometimes when our ego subsides partially, our experience of forms is somehow transformed, making it easier for us to recognise that their appearance is just a dream. This is perhaps what happened in your case.

However, such temporary experiences are useful only to the extent that they motivate us to try to experience ourself as we really are, which we can do only by turning our attention back within to be aware of ourself alone.

Regarding the fear you mention, that is natural, because so long as our ego survives it will be reluctant to surrender itself entirely. However, by persistently practising self-attentiveness we can gradually weaken all our attachments and increase our love to be aware of ourself alone, and thereby we will eventually be consumed by that love and thus become willing to surrender ourself entirely.

Sandhya said...

Thanks Michael. You explained very nicely about my experience. After that experience, I could not meditate, since whenever i close my eyes (not when sleeping), some weird activity would take place in the head and my head would start feeling heavy. I used to still do it.. But i never experienced peace or happiness during meditation. And that tingling feeling in middle of eyebrows were distracting too. So i stopped all these practices , thought thinking of enlightened person would help me, but again i have to force myself to get that love for a living enlightened person, which i feel is not worthy. I feel love naturally only for Ramana Maharshi. Then i started thinking about understanding 'who am i' method, came across your blog. Have never tried to practice self-attentiveness. Quite scared about me going insane in that process:). But will try to do it.

Wittgenstein said...

Regarding Michael’s reply to Jacques in connection with Lakshmana Sarma’s books, I would like to share some of my thoughts.

Lakshmana Sarma’s books are no doubt good; especially it will appeal to a philosophically oriented person before getting into atma vichara. That is to say, one can gather the need for atma vichara and cannot proceed from there. As far his writing style is concerned, he creates his own terminology (in addition to Bhagavan’s), which could be sometimes confusing. He was a learned man as is evident in his references to many philosophers. He largely relies on Ulladu Narpadu and the arrangements of topics follow a uniform order in all his books.

For atma vichara and to reinforce the need for it, we have only two reliable sources: Sri Sadhu Om and Michael.

Sri Sadhu Om does not create his own terminology. However, he creates his own analogies (very apt ones) and uses a much simpler language that can be comprehended in a smooth flow, even for someone who is not philosophically oriented. If we read him again and again it is not because things were told with less clarity or depth but because we do not fathom the depth in one instance. There are no any references to philosophers. He is very good in quoting references from Bhagavan’s other works or works related to him, not just Ulladu Narpadu. For example, he pulls out quotes from Vichara Sangraham and Maharishi Vaimozhi (Maharshi’s Gospel, in English). The former is the only reference even Michael used for discussions on aham sphurana (no Ulladu Narpadu here) and the latter is useful for all discussions related to aham vritti, its functions and their central place in atma vichara (‘We should take the chit aspect alone in chit-jada granthi for investigation’ etc.). The way in which atma vichara gets described in the opening of Vichara Sangraham is strikingly similar to Ulladu Narpadu description, sans sphurana. This brings the most important point that certain aspects of atma vichara need to be understood from sources other than Ulladu Narpadu but one should be careful about the sources, as Sri Sadhu Om and Michael do.

Of all the books Sri Sadhu Om has written, in my view, the best one is Sri Ramana Vazhi which appears translated in English as The Path of Sri Ramana. Somehow the translation does not create the same feeling as the original, at least in me. Other very useful books are commentaries on Ulladu Narpadu (in Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai) and Upadesa Undiyar, with a heavy focus on practice. Unfortunately there are no English translations of these books. I pray to Bhagavan they may appear one day (very good ones), for the benefit of all those interested in atma vichara. To compensate for this, we have the book by Michael (Happiness and the Art of Being) and the collection of articles in this blog.

I will continue in the next comment.

Wittgenstein said...

Contd …

Both Sri Sadhu Om and Michael, unlike Sarma, are very helpful till the very end. For example, Sri Sadhu Om says, “Death is a matter of a split second! The leaving off of sleep is a matter of a split second! Likewise, the removal of the delusion ‘I am an individual soul (jiva)’ is also a matter of a split second! The dawn of true knowledge is not such that glimpses of it will be gained once and then lost! If an aspirant feels that it appears and disappears, it is only the stage of practice (sadhana); he cannot be said to have attained true knowledge (jnana). The perfect dawn of knowledge is a happening of a split second; its attainment is not a prolonged process. All the age long practices are meant only for attaining maturity. Let us give an example it takes a long time to prepare a temple cannon-blast, first putting the gunpowder into the barrel, giving the wick, adding some stones and then ramming it, but when ignited it explodes as a thunder in a split second. Similarly, after an age long period of listening and reading (sravana), reflecting (manana), practising (nididhyasana) and weeping put in prayer (because of the inability to put what is heard into practice), when the mind is thus perfectly purified, then and then only does the dawn of self-knowledge suddenly break forth in a split second as ‘I am that I am’! Since, as soon as this dawn breaks, the space of Self-consciousness is found, through the clear knowledge of the Reality, to be beginningless, natural and eternal, even the effort of attending to Self ceases then! To abide thus, having nothing more to do and nothing further to achieve, is alone the real and supreme state.” [Bold emphasis mine, to show there are no stages in the investigation and an authentic statement about how the investigation starts, proceeds and ends - very apt analogy here]

An example from Michael can also be given for illustrating this ‘help till the very end’, from what he wrote to me as a reply to one of my comments in this blog. I fail to trace that reply now and I just quote from my memory: “Like a terminally ill man holding on to his life is nevertheless dying, one holds on to the idea ‘I am the body-world’ till the very end in atma vichara, while the desires attached to that idea are continuously lost”.

From the above quotes, it is evident that both Michael’s and Sri Sadhu Om’s words will be helpful to someone serious about atma vichara till the very end. One difference that I notice is that while Sri Sadhu Om talks about all background processes in atma vichara from beginning to end (as in the above quote and in many places in the book), Michael is very keen on turning the readers to understand the need for atma vichara and giving clear instructions to do it – but no background processes as in Sri Sadhu Om. For example, Michael is fond of quoting Bhagavan in saying it is like the interior of our own home and hence directions need not be (or cannot be, to be more precise) given. If given, it may not be adequately explained in language as it is distorted by the mind and hence may create some wrong expectations. This attitude is very clear when he replied recently to Viveka Vairagya recently where he framed his replies following some caution. Similarly, he has reservations about ‘watching the breath’ while Sri Sadhu Om is quite free in devoting one whole section in his Sadhanai Saram on this (even Bhagavan does this in one verse in Upadesa Undiyar - anyway, it contains other practices too, variously graded) and finally he tells how to divert the attention at the right junction to self-awareness, especially for those who cannot get into atma vichara right from the beginning. Michael appears to say there is no need for it, as self-awareness can be attended right from the beginning.

Michael James said...

Sandhya, if you naturally feel love for Bhagavan, that is sufficient, so there is certainly no need for you to try to force yourself to love any so-called ‘living enlightened person’.

Regarding your fear that you may become insane by practising self-attentiveness as taught by Bhagavan, there is no insanity worse than the delusion that we are a finite person and consequently aware of things other than ourself, because this is the root and foundation of all other forms of insanity. To cure this primal insanity the only effective medicine is self-attentiveness, because by trying to be self-attentive we are turning our mind back to the original light, which alone can clear the fog of our delusion.

By trying to be self-attentive we can only clear our confusion and can never become more insane, as Bhagavan assures us in verse 745 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai:

ஞான சொரூபான்ம நம்பனைப் பற்றியுளத்
தூனமறு நிட்டை யுறப்பயின்றே — தானறிவு
மத்த முறக்கலங்கி மாழ்கலமு துண்டொருவன்
செத்தொழித லேயாந் தெரி.

ñāṉa sorūpāṉma nambaṉaip paṯṟiyuḷat
tūṉamaṟu niṭṭhai yuṟappayiṉḏṟē — tāṉaṟivu
matta muṟakkalaṅgi māṙgalamu tuṇḍoruvaṉ
settoṙida lēyān teri
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஞான சொரூப ஆன்ம நம்பனை பற்றி உளத்து ஊனம் அறு நிட்டை உற பயின்றே தான் அறிவு மத்தம் உற கலங்கி மாழ்கல் அமுது உண்டு ஒருவன் செத்து ஒழிதலே ஆம் தெரி.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ñāṉa-sorūpa-āṉma-nambaṉai paṯṟi uḷattu ūṉam aṟu niṭṭhai uṟa payiṉḏṟē tāṉ aṟivu mattam uṟa kalaṅgi māṙgal amudu uṇḍu oruvaṉ settu oṙidalē ām teri.

English translation: Know that [saying that by] just practising clinging to jñāṉa-svarūpa-ātma-nambaṉ [God, who is oneself, the form of awareness] in the heart to experience blemishless niṣṭhā [steady fixity in oneself] one became mentally deranged, confused and lost is like [saying that by] drinking amṛta [ambrosia, the nectar of immortality] someone died.

Sandhya said...

Thank you Michael :)

who? said...

Apropos the comments by Sri Michael James and Wittgenstein about the writings of Sri Lakshmana Sharma, in response to Jacques, here are my reflections.

Sharma was a scholar of Sanksrit and was reasonably proficient in writing verses in the different meters in that language. Moreover, he translated most of his Sanskrit works into English himself. These works include Sri Ramana Hridayam, Maha Yoga, and Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad.

Despite my current fairly rudimentary understanding of Sanksrit, I can still appreciate the profundity and beauty of his writings. For those more knowledgeable in Sanskrit, reading Sharma's work in original Sanskrit would be useful.

When it comes to his English translations, then I have to concur that the use of capitilization and prefixing with the definite article 'the' which Sharma employs when he translates 'atma' (ourself) into English as 'The Self'/'The Real Self', and the repeated capitalization of the initial letters in words that describe ourself, such as 'Supreme Being', 'Right Awareness', 'Pure Consciousness', 'Egoless State', and suchlike, does detract his works from a being a finer and more nuanced presentation which they would have otherwise been. However, one cannot be misled into objectifying oneself based upon these choice of words, because he repeatedly and unambiguously clarified the unity of 'Real Self' with ourself in many places throughout his works. Therefore, one can benefit from reading his works in English as well, though it would be better to read them with a discerning eye (this applies to reading any work related to spirituality).

I agree with Wittgenstein that Sharma writes in a flow which present the topics under discussion in a coherent and comprehensive, though somewhat philosophical and complexly worded way, and also with Michael in that Sharma has recorded some saying of Bhagavan which are both insightful and not recorded elsewhere. This is especially true of his works Maha Yoga and Sri Ramana Paravidyopnishad, both of which neatly and logically analyze, compare, and summarize the Upanishadic teachings with reference to those of Bhagavan. Contrary to what Wittgenstein, I do not accuse Sharma of being guilty of creating his own terminologies; he merely employs words and ideas which are prevalent in the Upanishadic literature, and clarifies them in the light of Bhagavan's clear teachings.

Will continue in next comment.

who? said...

With reference to atma-vichara, which he refers to as 'Quest for the Self' in his English translations, Sharma records Bhagavan as saying:

“The ego cannot be subjugated by one that takes it to be real. It is just like one’s own shadow. Imagine a man who does not know the truth of his shadow. He sees it following him persistently, and wants to get rid of it. He tries to run away from it, but it still follows him. He digs a deep pit and tries to bury it, filling up the pit; but the shadow comes to the top and again follows him. He can get rid of it only by looking away from it, at himself, the original of the shadow. Then the shadow will not worry him. The seekers of Deliverance are like the man in this parable. They fail to see that the ego is but a shadow of the Self. What they have to do is to turn away from it, towards the Self, of which it is the shadow."
-Maha Yoga, chapter 9

If we take 'the Self' to mean 'ourself', then this illustration is useful and appropriate, and summarizes both the need for atma-vichara (man wanting to get rid of his shadow/ego), and the one and only means of doing it (man looking away from his shadow towards himself).

After carefully reading his works, one can conclude that Sharma does not emphasize the practice in relatively simple and sufficient terms like 'attention to oneself' and its variants. Moreover, 'self-attention' is a more useful translation of atma-vichara than 'Quest for the Self'. In this way, one can find Michael James's translations and writings to be more useful.

Other topics and questions relating to devotion, karma, the world, and various others have also been dealt with summarily in Sri Sharma's characteristic way, and interspersed with and supported by Bhagavan's sayings and poetry. I've found Sri Sharma's works to be useful and insightful in their own way.

Wittgenstein said...

who?,

I did not accuse Sarma for being guilty of the terminology. That was not the tone in my comment. If it meant such a thing to you, I am extremely sorry.

As you say, there is some amount of discernment needed to understand any spiritual work. However, I should confess to you that the level of discernment required is at a quite low level in me. Hence, I would take ‘the Self’ to be ‘ourself’ only in retrospect, after having read Michael several times, who is solely responsible for having hammered such things into my brain.

Things could sometimes become very difficult for me even with Michael around. For example, the definition of atma vichara that appears in paragraph sixteen of Naan Yaar? is translated by our Michael as, “The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [oneself]”. This was very difficult for me - I could not understand ‘oneself’. I contrast the same with Sri Sadhu Om’s introduction of Sri Ramana Vazhi (which has gone missing in its translated version) and find something like this: “Keeping the mind [attention] fixed in atma [self-awareness] alone is atma vichara”. The moment I read this, it was clear to me that the attention should be on self-awareness, not on some ‘atma-awareness’, as the word used in Tamil was tannunarvu. This word is used consistently in his book. This is the reason I say Sri Sadhu Om is even for people with low discernment levels like me. Only with this kind of training can I understand what Sarma says with regard to the practice.

When I was desperate to learn the ‘technique’, this clicked for me. Of all the descriptions, I find this very useful because it helped without requiring much discernment from my side. My predicament was same as that of Michael Langford just before his ‘discovery of awareness watching awareness method’.

I have lot of respect for Sarma and it has remained so even after two decades (when I first read his Maha Yoga). To end this comment on a positive note, I would like to translate a line Sarma wrote in his Tamil commentary of Ulladu Narpadu, verse 28 for you.

“Indha saadhanathukku matror upamanamum bhagavanal koorapattadu. ‘Naai ondru than ejamananai vittu pirindhu, avanai thirumbavum sera vendi, avan kaaaladigalin moppathai patrikondu avanirukkum idathaiye seruvathupol, sathaganum aanmavin sitroliyana ‘naan’ yennum unarvaiye patrikkondu aanmavai adaivan’ yenbadu adhu.” [Another analogy for this sadhana was given by Bhagavan. ‘Like a dog which is separated from its master and wanting to reach his place does so by catching hold of the scent of his feet, so too the sadhaka catches hold of the little light of his atma in the form of self-awareness and reaches atma’ is the analogy].

It is clear here that ‘naan yennum unarvu’ is ‘tannunarvu’. This appears only here in his writings, unlike how it is hammered almost in every page of Sri Sadhu Om. Before I close, I would like to repeat that I did not accuse Sarma of anything.

Sivanarul said...

Thirumoolar Thirumanthiram

884: The One-Letter Mantra of Our Lord
I praise, I laud Jnana that is our Refuge;
I adore Holy Feet of Lord, Constant in my thought;
I expound Siva Yoga;Hearken you!!
I chant the One Letter, OM, Dear to our Lord.
884. போற்றுகின் றேன்புகழ்ந் தும்புகல் ஞானத்தைத்
தேற்றுகின் றேன்சிந்தை நாயகன் சேவடி
சாற்றுகின் றேன்அறை யோசிவ யோகத்தை
ஏற்றுகின் றேன்நம் பிரான்ஓர் எழுத்தே.
1452: True Worship is Worship Within
You may adore Him with sandal, fragrance exceeding,
That grows on peaks atop in forests interior,
You may worship Him with flowers rare,
That bloom in Heaven's gardens
Unless you shed your fleshly attachments
And realize Him in the depths of your heart
You shall never reach His Holy Feet
That is unto flowers that shed honey dew.
1452. கானுறு கோடி கடிகமழ் சந்தனம்
வானுறு மாமல ரிட்டு வணங்கினும்
ஊனினை நீக்கி உண்பவர்க் கல்லது
தேனமர் பூங்கழல் சேரவொண் ணாதே
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.
1800 அருளில் பிறந்திட்டு அருளில் வளர்ந்திட்டு
அருளில் அழிந்துஇளைப் பாறி மறைந்திட்டு
அருளான ஆனந்தத்து ஆரமுது ஊட்டி
அருளால் என்நந்தி அகம்புகுந் தானே.

Sivanarul said...

SivaBhogaSaram

To the wise, free from delusion,
Is there any foe except the body?
Is there any help except the Grace
Of the Lord, the One Unknown to the two Gods? 114
ஆகம் பைகயாவ தன்றிப் பைகயுண்ேடா
ேமாகந் தவிர்ந்த முனிேவார்க்கிங்(கு) – ஏகன்
இருவர் அறியாத ஈசனருள் அல்லால்
ஒருவர் துைண உண்ேடா உைர.

What though they get at limitless wealth
And achieve limitless powers in the body
And study limitless forms of art?
They are not the Happy.
They alone are the Happy
Who are immersed in Siva’s bliss.
அளவிலாச் ெசல்வத் தைடந்தாலும் ஆகத்
தளவிலாச் சித்திகளுண் டாயும் – அளவில்கைல
ஆய்ந்தாலும் என்ைனசுக ரல்லார் சிவானந்தந்
ேதாய்ந்தார்கள் அன்ேறா சுகர்.

Except the support of the Grace of the Lord
All other supports do not endure.
Not realizing their unreality,
To consider such supports as real in this world,
And fret about them, is all futile, O heart. 119
அதிட்டானம் ஈசன் அருளன்றி மற்ைற
அதிட்டானம் எல்லாம் அநித்த்ம் – அதிட்டானம்
ெபாய்ெயன் றறியாமல் பூதலத்து ெநஞ்சேம
ெமய்ெயன் றுழல்வெதல்லாம் வீண். 119

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

Wittgenstein said...

If we consider the works of Lakshmana Sarma more carefully, we may be in a position to find out certain things which are direct without analogies nevertheless requiring some reflection on the part of the reader. For example, in Chapter 5, Maha Yoga, he says:

“Whether in dream or in waking, if one turns aside from the world and tries to see him that sees that world, the world and its seer would vanish together, and the Self alone would remain.”

Sarma says this in the context of the ‘illusiveness of the sense of externality of the world’, and the reader may not recognize that this is in fact the practice of atma vichara. At least I did not recognize this as practice when I read it in the beginning. By ‘seeing the one who sees’, Sarma obviously means the ego is being investigated, nevertheless giving a subtle impression that there is something else called ‘the Self’. Of course if we replace ‘the Self’ with ‘ourself’, then it indeed is not confusing. This can be recognized only in retrospect, after gaining some insight into the practice through knowledge from other sources and our own manana.

In Chapter 9 of the same book, he says:

“The ego has an element of reality mixed up in it, namely the light of Consciousness, manifest as ‘I am’. This ‘I am’, we know, is real, because it is the part that is constant and unchanging. We need to reject the unreal part, the sheaths or bodies, and take the remainder, the pure ‘I am’. This ‘I am’ is a clue to the finding of the real Self. By holding on to this clue, the Sage tells us, we can surely find the Self. He once compared the seeker of the Self to a dog seeking his master, from whom he had been parted. The dog has something to guide him, namely the master’s scent. By following the scent, leaving everything else, he ultimately finds his master. The ‘I am’ in the ego-sense is just like the master’s scent for the dog. It is the only clue the seeker has for finding the Self. But it is an infallible clue. He must get and keep hold of it, fix his mind on it to the exclusion of all other things. It will then surely take his mind to the Self, the source of the ‘I am’.” [Bold emphasis mine]

Unlike what I quoted in the previous comment, here he does not make a distinction between ‘light’ and ‘little light’, which could be roughly taken up of ‘original/pure’ and ‘reflected’ consciousness. When we are asked to take the pure ‘I’, we may ask, like how our friend Venkat asked sometime back, ‘How to attend to pure ‘I’?’, or in other words, how to attend to ‘pure rope’, in a snake-rope? A clarification would in that case be required. Further, by the words ‘getting and keeping pure ‘I’’ would immediately put the reader into some confusion and he may ask, ‘How do I first get pure ‘I’’?

Is it not simple to say we need to put our attention on ‘little light’ or ‘reflected light’ or even more directly, without assuming anything on the part of the reader as, “Try to keep the attention on self-awareness (not Self-awareness), the very self-awareness that you are experiencing right here and now to the exclusion of others”?

It is not about blaming a person for using a particular terminology. It is just about simplicity, clarity and depth despite any terminology.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, regarding what you write in the final paragraph of one of your recent comments about the inadequacy of the present English translation of ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி (Śrī Ramaṇa Vaṙi), The Path of Sri Ramana, and about the unfortunate lack of any English translation of other important books by Sri Sadhu Om, such as உபதேச வுந்தியார் – விளக்கவுரை (Upadēśa-v-Undiyār – Viḷakkavurai) and ஸ்ரீ ரமணோபதேச நூன்மாலை – விளக்கவுரை (Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai – Viḷakkavurai), since you expressed a hope (which I share) that very good English translations of each of these books will become available in future, may I suggest that you might be the most suitable person to translate them.

To translate such books well, three qualifications are required: the first two are a good understanding of and feel for both Tamil and English, and the third is a clear understanding of and feel for Bhagavan’s teachings and how best they can be expressed in English. It seems to me that you have all these qualifications, to an extent that is rare to find, and I hope that you would agree with me that translating such books would be a tremendously rewarding experience for you.

I have been hoping for many years that one day I would have time to translate each of these books, beginning with ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி (Śrī Ramaṇa Vaṙi), but I am a painfully slow translator, partly because my understanding of and feel for Tamil is barely adequate (so even when I understand a Tamil passage, I need to check the meaning of many of the words in the Tamil Lexicon to make sure that I have understood their meaning correctly in the context and have found the most suitable English equivalent, and even then I am often not entirely satisfied with the meanings I find in the Lexicon), and partly because I am too much of a perfectionist, so I am never quite satisfied with what I translate. Though Tamil verses are more difficult to understand than prose, when I am able to understand the meaning of a verse I find it easier to translate it than to translate prose, because I feel justified in making the translation of a verse as literal as possible, whereas with prose a very literal translation can be too awkward and not actually satisfactory, because the correct meaning and spirit can often be conveyed more clearly and effectively by a less literal translation, so as a perfectionist I find it difficult to strike the right balance. Therefore in terms of understanding Tamil well, I believe that you are probably better qualified than I am.

If you would like to undertake this service, you should of course proceed at whatever pace suits you, because such work should not be rushed but should be done carefully and contemplatively. Do you have the latest edition (5th edition, 2012) of ஸ்ரீ ரமண வழி? If not, I suggest you get hold of a copy of it, because it is the only edition in which all the changes planned by Sri Sadhu Om during the final months of his bodily life have been incorporated.

I would of course be willing to help you in whatever way I can, offering advice and suggestions wherever you feel you need them, and checking what you have translated after you complete each chapter or section of any of the books.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Wittgenstein, what is the "I am" that Lakshmana Sarma is referring to? If I have to locate it in my current experience, how do I go about it?

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, you yourself are the ‘I am’ that Lakshmana Sarma is referring to, but now you are experiencing yourself mixed with adjuncts such as this body and mind, so instead of experiencing only ‘I am’ you are experiencing ‘I am this’. Therefore to experience the essential ‘I am’ (our own actual self) in its original state of purity, we need to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, thereby excluding all awareness of adjuncts and other phenomena.

When you ask, ‘If I have to locate it in my current experience, how do I go about it?’, the ‘I’ in both halves of this sentence is where it is located. However, the ‘I’ who asked this question is your ego, which is a confused mixture of the pure ‘I am’ and whatever adjuncts you currently mistake to be yourself, so you need to distinguish ‘I am’ (your pure self-awareness) from all the adjuncts and other phenomena that you are now aware of.

In other words, the ‘I am’ that Lakshmana Sarma is referring to is your essential self-awareness bereft of all adjuncts, whereas your ego is ‘I am this’, the same essential self-awareness but mixed with adjuncts. The practise of distinguishing our essential self-awareness from everything else by trying to focus on our essential self-awareness alone is what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

who? said...

Wittgenstein, firstly I wish to apologize for using the word 'accuse' in my comment; this word was unjustified in that context. It would be more appropriate to use the word 'claim' instead.

I agree that Sri Michael and Sri Sadhu Om employ simple and sufficient terms like 'attention to oneself', 'self-attention', 'self-investigation', and the like to describe atma-vichara in their writings. The terminology involved is indeed the simplest I've come across or possibly will ever come across, and most other people might agree on this as well.

In my case, I first read Sharma's works after being acquainted with Michael's website and blog, and through them his English translations of Bhagavan's writings. I find Sharma's style of expression in English to be somewhat complex, though he does deal with almost all possible questions, arguments, and counter-arguments that I have while reading about the teachings that he presents in his published works. Maybe his Sanskrit works offer more clarity; this I can be sure of only after reading them carefully.

To conclude, Sri Sharma's writings may not be sufficient in themselves for most of us, yet for those who are still inclined to study them, they may serve as a supplement to other works explaining atma-vichara more clearly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michael. But, how do I "distinguish ‘I am’ (pure self-awareness) from all the adjuncts and other phenomena" that I am now aware of? If I succeed in so distinguishing, how can I tell the difference?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Sorry, the above comment is by me. I clicked on the wrong identity.

Bob - P said...

I personally find Douglas Hardings work very helpful in helping me put my attention on the 1st person. More of a practacal approach so to speak.
However not all his ideas are compatible with Bhagavan's. I just use what is to help me to attend to myself.
His experiments "could / may" be helpful in understanding what attending to self / investigating the 1st person is.

But I fully appreciate we all have our own way and understanding.

I think Bhagavan has said "You don't need to be shown the way into your own house" In fairness I may of mis quoted him? So understanding how to actually do what he says could be hard to understand.

Douglas hardings work may be of some use or prove helpful if that is the case.

In appreciation.
Bob

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, the questions you now ask cannot be answered adequately in words, so you can find the answer to them only within yourself by trying to be self-attentive. The more we try to attend only to our simple self-awareness the more our mind will be refined, purified and clarified, so the clearer our self-awareness will thereby become. There are no shortcuts or alternative routes, so patient and persistent practice is required. If we follow the path, it will reveal itself to us as we go along.

The clarity that we can get just by reading and reflecting on Bhagavan’s teachings is limited, because real clarity can come only by persistently trying to be attentively self-aware, but the more we practise trying to be attentively self-aware the clearer the intended meaning of his words will become to us, so all our reading and reflection can really bear fruit only when they are accompanied by persistent practice of self-attentiveness.

Viveka Vairagya said...

OK, Michael, I will try and do that. Thanks.

Viveka Vairagya said...

More on "I Am"

Michael, in the below extract taken from www.albigen.com/uarelove/awa_discovery.htm, about "Awareness watching Awareness", presumably by Michael Langford, it seems to be saying that if one's ordinary awareness watches that very awareness to the exclusion of other thoughts about body and the world, it is the same as paying attention to the "I Am". Is that correct? So, also, self-attention would be nothing but my awareness paying attention to itself to the exclusion of everything else. If so, this way of putting it works for me because I have always been mystified by the "I Am".

I wondered is “I am” the “I-thought” or is “I am” just my present awareness? If “I AM” is this present awareness, just the awareness that is now looking at this room, then paying attention to the I AM is just:

My awareness watching my awareness.

This was like a revelation to me! Instead of having some vague practice where I am told to pay attention to a feeling I AM, without ever being sure what exactly “I AM” means and feels like, here I had an absolutely clear instruction:

My present awareness watching my present awareness.

Awareness watching awareness.

Not some unknown awareness labeled the Infinite Self.

I asked Sri Ganesan, “Is awareness watching awareness, as described by Sri Muruganar, the same as practicing paying attention to the I AM, as Sri Nisargadatta taught?”

Sri Ganesan said yes. Sri Ganesan says he likes to call it “attention attending to attention.”

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, there are many ways in which we can describe this extremely simple practice, and ‘awareness watching awareness’ is one of them. However, like any other words, these words can be understood differently by different people, so what is important is not the words themselves but what we understand from them. Reading what Michael Langford wrote in that page about his former perplexity, it was all clearly caused by his failing to understand what was indicated by the words he had read. Some people can understand the intended meaning of whatever words are used to describe this practice, whereas others are not able to understand any of them, and some like Michael Langford fail to grasp the import of many descriptions but then suddenly grasp the import of one particular description.

No matter how this practice may be described, what is important to understand is that it entails attending to or being aware of ourself alone and not anything else. What we essentially are is only awareness — not awareness of any other thing but only pure self-awareness — so when we are self-attentive or attentively aware of ourself alone, our essential awareness is being aware only of itself, so this practice self-attentiveness can be described as ‘awareness watching awareness’. However, we have to be careful not to objectify the meaning of ‘awareness’ in any way, because the awareness that is watching and the awareness that is being watched are both only ourself, the one fundamental awareness, which alone actually exists.

If we are not careful, we can objectify the meaning of any words. For example, the term ‘the Self’, which is used so frequently in English books as a translation of Sanskrit terms such as ātman or svarūpa or the Tamil term tāṉ, seem to imply something other than oneself, whereas what these terms actually mean is only ‘oneself’. Likewise when you or Michael Langford refer to “the ‘I am’”, the addition of the article ‘the’ before ‘I am’ seems to objectify it, whereas what the term ‘I am’ actually refers to is not any object but only ourself. In the same way some people may objectify the meaning of ‘awareness’ (which is anyway quite an ambiguous term, since it is commonly used in various different senses in different contexts), so to such people the term ‘awareness watching awareness’ may seem to imply us watching something other than ourself.

Since we are not an object or an objective phenomenon, no words can adequately describe the simple non-dual experience of being self-attentive, so we have to see beyond whatever words may be used to describe it in order to understand what they are intended to indicate. For that we require a certain clarity of mind, which we can gradually gain only by persistently trying to be self-attentive — that is, attentively aware of the fundamental awareness that we actually are.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks for the clarification, Michael.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

Regarding what you wrote to me on 14 March 2016 at 08:40, I was bit surprised. Even now I cannot believe what you suggested as I don’t see myself having the qualifications you described. However, I would certainly agree with you that if I take up this project, I will be tremendously rewarded, as a result of the process. With this selfish aim of gaining deeper insights into Bhagavan’s teachings and more particularly due to the help you offered by way of advice and suggestions in the process, I will be more than willing to take up this enterprise. I will get in touch with you via email with the rest of the details.

Bob - P said...

Best of luck with your project Wittgenstein, I hope it goes very well.
In appreciation.
Bob

Michael James said...

Thanks, Wittgenstein. As Bob says, I hope it goes well and produces results that will benefit many of us, including you.

Regarding your qualifications, are any of us really qualified to write about Bhagavan or his teachings? If you feel foolish or presumptuous to undertake this task, you are certainly no more foolish and presumptuous than I am for writing this blog. In front of Bhagavan our little personal selves are of course nothing, but if he wants to get any work done, he can use a mere straw to do so and yet do it perfectly well. Anyway it is all a dream that will eventually dissolve along with the dreamer, but until then let us take every opportunity to dwell on the precious teachings that he has given us in order to remind ourselves of the need to persistently turn back within.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Nisargadatta Maharaj on Books
(from I Am Unborn, ebook, p. 87)

Visitor: Do books replace a Guru?
Nisargadatta Maharaj: Yes, books can replace a Guru. At one stage you yourself become a Guru; then you find out that books are of no use anymore. The Guru is one, who knows the beginning, continuity and the end of his life and understands the mind on which the environment has so much impact.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, thank you on behalf of many of us for expressing your willingness to translate Sri Ramana Vari in English under the guidance of Michael. We look forward to this translation which I sure will be almost a joint work of yourself and Michael, hence it will be of immense value to many of us. Regards.

Sivanarul said...

ARUNACHALA AKSHARAMANAMALAI

Arunachala-Siva Arunachala-Siva Arunachala-Siva Arunachala
Arunachala-Siva Arunachala-Siva Arunachala-Siva Arunachala

O Arunachala! Reveal Thy beauty so that the mind, which is by nature roving, may get quiescent seeing Thee uninterruptedly

O Arunachala! When the five senses, the thieves, entered my heart, were Thou not in my heart?

O Arunachala! Ocean of grace in the form of Hill! Graciously bestow Thy grace on me.

O Arunachala! By what strength can I, who am worse than a dog, approach Thee and attain Thee?

O Arunachala! There is no room for mocking at me. I have sought Thee. Adorn me with the ornament of Thy grace.

O Arunachala! When will my thought-waves cease so that I may unite with Thy subtle being in the Heart-ether?

O Arunachala! Bestow Thy grace on me who am a fool without even the knowledge of scriptures, by destroying my delusion.

O Arunachala! Do protect me like a supporting pole so that I may not wither away like a tender creeper that has no support!

O Arunachala! The knot of ignorance whose beginning or end cannot be traced, Thou hast to untie, like a mother. I cannot untie it by myself.

O Arunachala! If I give up (Thy rememberance at the time of death), I shall have trouble (and be born again). Do shower Thy grace that I may die without giving up (remembering Thee).

Seeker said...

Michael: I would like your feedback on the following. I have been doing Atma Vichara (Enquiry) for a little while and find that it naturally falls into two aspects. One is during periods of 'formal meditation' where total focus is possible. As you mention above people have different 'enabling' techniques. Mine is to try to stop all thought momentarily and then try to focus only on that tiny moment of 'I' before a thought arises. Even then it may be necessary to 'adjust' to avoid duality. One can reach a deep state like this, though at first it may only last a few seconds. Eventually these periods will become longer.
The other aspect occurs during all other times when my mind is attending to other things as I go about my daily life. As Bhagavan tells us, we can continue to do Enquiry then, though it cannot be as focused. Here I find questions like "who is thinking this" or "who is seeing that" are useful, as I try to 'subjectivize' my perceptions and thoughts as often as I am able to do so. It is really the same thing - just a milder version of it. Eventually, I imagine, they become one and the same.

Sandhya said...

Michael,

Can this self attentiveness practiced all the time? Say i am sitting idle. Thoughts will keep arising. Do i just pay attention to the 'I' feeling subtly? Is it possible to pay the same attention while talking to others?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sandhya, you have asked a few questions addressed to Michael. I will try and answer these based on my limited understanding. Of course Michael will answer these more accurately.

You ask, 'Can this self attentiveness practiced all the time?' Yes, Bhagavan has advised us to practise it all the time. If it was not possible to practise it all the time, he would not have advised us to do so. Whether or not we are able to do so is another matter altogether. But this much is clear - practising self-investigation all the time should be our aim.

You ask, 'Say i am sitting idle. Thoughts will keep arising. Do i just pay attention to the 'I' feeling subtly?' Yes, that it true. But Michael generally does not use the words 'I feeling' to describe our self-awareness. Whenever our thoughts arise, we should try and ignore these thoughts and try to attend to the one who has these thoughts. The one who has these thoughts is only ourself (not The Self), because when we say 'The Self', we unnecessarily objectively ourself.

You ask, 'Is it possible to pay the same attention while talking to others?' Yes, we can pay attention to ourself while talking to others, but in this case our attention will be divided between ourself and others. In others words, in such a case our self-attentiveness will not be very deep or clear. Regards.

jacques franck said...

Seeker and Sandhya, Why do not you not begin to read Michael's articles on atma vicara. Maybe yes you have them already read .... But I can assure you that this is the key to the practice, Michael demonstrates step by step how to practice this simple technique. You have to read them again and again, every single question is answered... It is my personal experience. I do not say that I have understand everything, but after a while my comprehension, and this simplicity settles down every day....

Michael James said...

Anonymous, I have replied to your comment in sections 7 to 10 of the new article that I have just posted here, We are aware of ourself while asleep, so pure self-awareness alone is what we actually are.

Mouna, as I promised in my initial reply to your comment, I have replied to it more fully in section 12, Upadēśa Undiyār verse 26: being aware what we are is not transitive awareness but just being the intransitive awareness that we actually are, and section 13, Silence is the only intransitive language, so it alone can reveal the true nature of pure intransitive awareness, of this new article.

Sandhya said...

Thanks Sanjay and jacques. I do remember reading past articles (not every line) I also thought to myself that i should read these again to check if my questions are being answered. Somehow I forgot to revisit those articles again before posting the question here. Will read those posts again.

Seeker said...

Jacques Franck. I find your comments dismissive and insulting. You did not even bother to address any of the points that I made. I have read by no means all of Michael's writings, but I have read plenty of them, particularly around the topic of Atma Vichara, which is after all the centerpiece of Bhagavan's teaching. Of course it's a simple technique. But every single person approaches it in a different way. That is why he has devoted a whole blog to its ramifications, which you and I have both enjoyed participating in. So please allow any kind of discussion to happen, even though you might not want it, or approve of it yourself.

jacques franck said...

Sekeer I am very sorry if I have been dismissive it is not my point, but just my experience about read it.... I cannot personnaly respond to yours questions because I am on the way but not arrive to the destination even if the way and destination are the same. I just want to share my own experience and may be the word that I have put are not adequate and sorry about that... just my own experience it is by reading again and again that my comprehension is more profound (so to speak) .... I am sure that Michael will find the exact word to yours questions.... again sorry about that... :)

Sandhya said...

I also found jacques comment little rude , but i didn't want to take it personally since one can never find out the attitude from the writings. And Jacques, i read posts randomly , so all i can say is , i have not come across a post that answered my question. But will try to dig more. There is lot of posts to read.

Wittgenstein said...

Many thanks Bob, Michael and Sanjay.

Michael James said...

Seeker, regarding the feedback you asked for in your first comment, what you describe as ‘two aspects’ of ātma-vicāra are just different degrees of intensity of self-attentiveness, and as you say it is natural that our practice falls into such different degrees, because when we are engaged in other activities our self-attentiveness will not be as intense or keenly focused as it can be when we are able to set aside time to try to attend to ourself alone (which is what you call ‘formal meditation’).

Regarding what you describe as your ‘enabling technique’, whatever means helps you to focus your entire attention on yourself is appropriate. However, it may be useful to you if I share some general reflections on what you describe as ‘stopping all thought momentarily’.

I assume that in this context what you mean by ‘all thought’ is all grosser forms of mental activity, but Bhagavan uses terms that mean ‘thought’ in a much broader sense than this, because according to him every type of mental phenomenon is a thought, and since all physical phenomena are actually just mental phenomena (perceptions), all phenomena of any kind whatsoever are thoughts. In other words, everything that we experience other than our own actual self (our pure self-awareness) is just a thought (or in terms that I used in my latest article, every form of transitive awareness is a thought).

Of all thoughts, the root is our primal thought called ‘I’, which is our ego, and this ego cannot stand without clinging to other thoughts, all of which it has projected. Therefore there is a mutual dependency between our ego and its thoughts: neither can rise or stand without the other. However, whereas every other thought depends upon this ego, this ego does not depend on any particular thought, because whenever it leaves one thought it projects and clings to another one.

Since our ego endures throughout every state of waking or dream, it is always clinging to some thought, no matter how subtle. Therefore so long as this ego endures, we cannot actually stop all thoughts, even momentarily, so what you describe as ‘stopping all thought momentarily’ can only be stopping of certain types of thoughts, not all thoughts entirely.

Moreover, when practising ātma-vicāra our aim should not be to stop all thoughts but only to focus our entire attention on ourself alone. When we fall asleep, we stop all thoughts, but our ego is not thereby annihilated, because we stop thinking then due to tiredness not due to being self-attentive. In order to annihilate our ego its subsidence and the consequent stopping of all its thoughts must happen as the result of our being self-attentive.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Seeker:

If we deliberately try to stop all thoughts, our attention would be on the thoughts we are stopping rather than on ourself, which would be counterproductive, because our attention is the food on which our thoughts depend for their survival, since no thought can exist unless we are aware of it. If however we just try to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, other thoughts will automatically subside because we are no longer attending to them.

Therefore our sole concern when practising ātma-vicāra should be to focus our attention only on ourself, and to do this we need not wait for other thoughts to subside, because whether thoughts appear or disappear we are always aware of ourself, so we can attend to ourself even in the midst of other thoughts, and the more we manage to focus our attention only on ourself the more other thoughts will just recede naturally into the background and eventually disappear. In other words, what you call ‘that tiny moment of ‘I’ before a thought arises’ is present even now and at every other moment, so without concerning yourself with the presence or absence of other thoughts, you should just try to focus only on yourself, this ever-present ‘I’.

Regarding what you write about avoiding duality, all duality is just thoughts, so all that I wrote above applies to avoiding duality as much as to avoiding thoughts. That is, we should not concern ourself with either thoughts or duality, but only with being self-attentive, because the more we succeed in focusing our entire attention on ourself, the more everything else will recede into the background of our awareness, until eventually the clarity of our keenly attentive self-awareness will dissolve our ego along with everything else (all of which are just its thoughts).

Bob - P said...

Very helpful reading this.
Before I found Michael's blog I thought that thoughts were limited to mental chatter that goes on inside my head so reading this reinforces my understanding that the whole world is just thoughts.
In appreciation.
Bob

Michael James said...

Sandhya, the replies that Sanjay wrote to your questions are appropriate, except that it is not quite correct to say, ‘Whenever our thoughts arise, we should try and ignore these thoughts and try to attend to the one who has these thoughts’, because though all thoughts should be ignored, we should not try to ignore them but should only try to attend to ourself. That is, if we try to attend to ourself alone, we will thereby automatically be ignoring all other thoughts, whereas if we try to ignore thoughts, we will be thinking about them and thereby nourishing them with our attention.

As Sanjay says, our aim should be to try to be self-attentive always, but in practice our attention will be frequently distracted by other thoughts, so we should not worry about our inability to be constantly self-attentive. As Bhagavan frequently emphasised, what is required is perseverance. No matter how many times we fail in our efforts to be constantly self-attentive, we should just keep on trying.

We are like a small child learning to walk. Inevitably we will fall down many times, but we should not give up trying. No matter how long it takes us, we should just persevere until our ego is eventually annihilated by perfect clarity of self-attentiveness.

Regarding your final question, ‘Is it possible to pay the same attention while talking to others?’, it is possible, because whatever else we may be doing, we are always aware of ourself, so we can devote at least some of our attention to being self-attentive — that is, attentive to our fundamental self-awareness, which is the permanent background to whatever else we may be aware of. It is all a matter of interest. If we are very interested in watching a film, we will ignore the screen on which it appears, but if we are more interested in seeing the screen, we can ignore the film and be intent on watching the screen instead of whatever pictures appear on it.

Suppose a very dear friend of yours has had a serious accident and is in a critical condition in hospital. The doctors cannot say whether she will die or survive and make a full recovery. In such circumstances, will not the thought of her be constantly in your mind? Even while you are working or talking to other people about other matters, you will be repeatedly remembering her, because you are so concerned about her survival and recovery.

If we were so concerned about being self-attentive, we would likewise be constantly remembering our fundamental self-awareness, even while working or talking to other people. Having so much concern and love to be self-attentive is what is called svātma-bhakti, and it is the key to success in this path. At present most of us do not have so much svātma-bhakti, but by persistent practice we will certainly cultivate it.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I quote below the first paragraph of your recent comment addressed to Sandhya:

Sandhya, the replies that Sanjay wrote to your questions are appropriate, except that it is not quite correct to say, ‘Whenever our thoughts arise, we should try and ignore these thoughts and try to attend to the one who has these thoughts’, because though all thoughts should be ignored, we should not try to ignore them but should only try to attend to ourself. That is, if we try to attend to ourself alone, we will thereby automatically be ignoring all other thoughts, whereas if we try to ignore thoughts, we will be thinking about them and thereby nourishing them with our attention.

I agree with what you write here and thank you for this correction. Actually when I wrote, 'Whenever our thoughts arise, we should try and ignore these thoughts and try to attend to the one who has these thoughts’, what I meant was ''Whenever our thoughts arise, we should try and ignore these thoughts by attending to the one who has these thoughts.’ Does this sound correct? However I agree, whatever I wrote to Sandhya was confusing and not correct.

Thanking you and regards.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, what you originally wrote was not actually so confusing, because most people would have understood what you meant, but I felt it was worth pointing out that we should not try specifically to ignore thoughts, but to only try to attend to ourself. The way you have now corrected what you had written makes this clear.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for your latest comment. The idea of any form sharing of Bhagavan's teachings is to correct each other and refine our understanding about his teachings, therefore any correction by you in whatever we write is most welcome. I hope our friends will also agree. Thanking you and regards.

Seeker said...

Michael: thanks for your considered responses to my questions. Like Sanjay, Sandhya and others I am also only interested in refining my understanding of this technique. I take what you say about stopping thoughts and avoiding dualism. They are, as I describe, only 'enabling techniques' to reach the real thing, then to be cast aside, much like questions such as 'who is thinking' which Bhagavan mentions as being appropriate for some when first approaching atma vichara. But isn't even being attentive to the Self dualism, or as you put it, a form of transitive awareness? There has to be something to be attentive to. Possibly this is the point where words and thinking can be used no more, the step into infinity. But you still have to get there, and for that a process is still needed - right up to the point when you don't need it any more.

Michael James said...

Seeker, regarding your question ‘But isn’t even being attentive to the Self dualism, or as you put it, a form of transitive awareness?’ this is as you say ‘the point where words and thinking can be used no more’. As I explain in section 13 of my latest article, Silence is the only intransitive language, so it alone can reveal the true nature of pure intransitive awareness, all languages other than silence are inherently transitive and hence dualistic, so however we try to describe self-awareness or the practice of being self-attentive will seem to imply transitivity and duality, whereas they are in fact perfectly intransitive and hence non-dual, because we are one and can therefore never be an object known by ourself.

Awareness of or attention to any object is transitive, because it entails a subject (ourself) attending to an object (something other than ourself), whereas self-awareness or self-attentiveness entails no object, because we are attending to nothing other than ourself. Due to the limitations of language we have to say being aware of ourself or attending to ourself, as if ourself were an object of our awareness or attention, whereas in fact we are not an object but the source of both subject (our ego) and object (all the phenomena experienced by this ego).

I hope all this will be more clear to you if you read my latest article, We are aware of ourself while asleep, so pure self-awareness alone is what we actually are, and carefully consider all that I have written in it. As I explain in it, self-awareness is the very nature of awareness, because we cannot be aware without being aware that we are aware, and being aware that we are aware entails being aware of ourself. And because self-awareness does not entail being aware of anything other than ourself, it is absolutely intransitive, so intransitive awareness and self-awareness are one and the same thing.

Since being intransitively aware means just being aware without necessarily being aware of anything other than ourself, and since we could not be transitively aware if we were not intransitively aware, intransitive self-awareness is the fundamental and only essential form of awareness. Therefore when Bhagavan says that we are awareness, he means that we are intransitive awareness.

Transitive awareness appears with our ego in waking and dream and disappears with it in sleep, so it is impermanent and hence not real. The only awareness that endures in all states and at all times, and also beyond the limits of time, is pure intransitive awareness, which is ourself and always self-aware.

Therefore when we try to be self-attentive we are just being attentively aware of the intransitive awareness that we actually are, and thereby we are withdrawing our attention from everything else — that is, from everything of which we are now transitively aware. In other words, we are trying to experience attentively the pure intransitive awareness that we experienced as ourself in sleep.

Sandhya said...

Thanks Michael.

Seeker said...

Yes, Michael, thanks for your answer. I completely get what you are saying. The only quibble I would have is when you say 'try to be self-attentive.' Surely we must only be self-attentive. If we are trying we bring in dualism again. And that begs the question. Can we be it without trying to be it? I don't think you meant to say it. The sentence reads perfectly well without the 'try.' But it does bring up the question of the transition (if any) between finite and infinite.
I'm greatly appreciating having this dialogue with you. It's helping me to go so much deeper into my experience.

Wittgenstein said...

Seeker,

Regarding your comment on 17 March 2016 at 22:44, 'trying' is going to be there till the end (albeit at a reducing rate), as duality is going to be there till atma vichara ends. However, there is a great difference between atma vichara and other methods that are objective. In the latter, mind does not shrink (to the extend it would in atma vichara) while in the former it shrinks. 'Trying' and 'effort' are interpretations of the process by the ever thinning mind that is 'doing' atma vichara. In the beginning there is tremendous effort, then it keeps decreasing as the mind shrinks and effort ceases when mind ceases, as the effor is the by the mind. When effort and mind cease, we can be [what we really are], without trying.

Bob - P said...

{In other words, we are trying to experience attentively the pure intransitive awareness that we experienced as ourself in sleep.}

Thank you Michael so simple but so helpful.
In appreciation.
Bob

Michael James said...

Seeker, while practising ātma-vicāra our aim is of course to be self-attentive, but how can we be self-attentive unless we try? The nature of our ego or mind is to cling (attend) to things other than itself (as Bhagavan points out in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), so in order to cling to itself alone it must make effort to do so.

Clinging to things other than ourself, which is what Bhagavan called சுட்டறிதல் (suṭṭaṟidal) or knowing transitively, is the natural மனப்போக்கு (maṉa-p-pōkku), the flow, current, direction, inclination or propensity of our mind, so being self-attentive is reversing this flow and hence it requires effort on our part. If we were floating in the middle of a swift flowing river and made no effort, we would be swept along with its current, so if we wanted to swim back to its source, we would have to make effort to swim against its current. Likewise, in order to return to the source of our mind (which is our actual self) we must make effort to swim against its current by constantly turning our attention back to ourself and trying to keep it steadily poised as ourself (that is, as pure self-awareness).

I will explain in more detail about the need for effort to practise ātma-vicāra in my next article, which I have begun to draft.

Sanjay Lohia said...

What Michael has written in his last comment addressed to Seeker (18 March 2016 at 11:44) is very helpful, and he has put it beautifully in the second paragraph of his comment as to why our effort is a must to swim against the swift flowing current of our mind, which is constantly taking us in the outward direction.

I think one condition is a must to persevere in this inward effort, and that is - our immense clarity that no other spiritual practice can take us to our goal (at least directly), and our goal is manonasa (destruction of our ego). Many of us do not make this effort of being attentively self-aware as much as possible because they lack sufficient svatma-bhakti, and one important reason for this lack of love for this practice is their lack of clarity about the efficacy of atma-vichara.

This is the reason why the direct words of Bhagavan and his devotees like Muruganar, Sadhu Om and Michael are so important. If we do frequent sravana and manana of their direct words, we will be left with no doubt that this practice of self-investigation is absolutely indispensable to annihilate our ego and experience ourself as we really are.

Since currently we cannot get any fresh reminders from Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om, I feel the articles by Michael and his other writings are our constant fresh reminders about the need to turn within, hence his articles, videos, emails, and his various translations are priceless. These have given me - and I believe to many of our friends - sufficient clarity on this path. This clarity has increased my love to turn back within to experience myself alone, and in turn this love has sustained my practice of self-attentiveness. Regards.

Koundinya said...

Michael,
when you write in your latest comment to Seeker:"...to return to the source of our mind..."
the attributuve clause enclosed in brackets("which is our actual self")
it is surely to observe that the mind is just not our actual self but the source of it. The grammatical word order of the pronoun 'which' could be probably lead to a misunderstanding that it refers to the noun 'mind' only instead to the noun 'source'.

Michael James said...

Koundinya, yes, there is a certain ambiguity there, but I intended ‘which is our actual self’ to refer to the source of our mind rather than to our mind itself. However, even if it were interpreted as referring to our mind, that would not actually be incorrect, because our actual self is both the source and substance of our mind. In other words, what our mind actually is is just our actual self, just as what an illusory snake actually is is just a rope.

We are one, so we do not have two separate selves, an actual self and another self called mind or ego. Our mind is what we now seem to be, but what we actually are is our real self, so if we investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we actually are, we will find that we have never been anything other than that. This is why Bhagavan said that if we investigate our mind (that is, its essential thought called ‘I’, which is our ego), we will find that there is no such thing, because what seemed to be this mind is actually only our real self.

Bob - P said...

{Since currently we cannot get any fresh reminders from Bhagavan, Muruganar and Sadhu Om, I feel the articles by Michael and his other writings are our constant fresh reminders about the need to turn within, hence his articles, videos, emails, and his various translations are priceless.}

I agree whole heartedly Sanjay.
In appreciation.
Bob

Seeker said...

Thank you again Michael - and Wittgenstein - for your responses to my last post. I look forward to the next article about effort, that effort that becomes effortless. And thanks Sanjay for your reminder that svatma bhakti (sorry, I can't find the italics tool here) is absolutely necessary on this path.

Koundinya said...

Michael,
thank you for your reply and admitting there a 'certain ambiguity'. As in the allegory of the illusory snake that illusion disappeares only after looking intensly to it, only after finding that there is no such thing called 'I'- we as the seeming 'I' thoughts - do not have to distinguish between actual self and a separate ego.
Bhagavan used quite intentionally the future form saying that we will find that there is no such thing called 'I'- thought" after sufficiently investigating/scrutinizing our mind. In my view that doesn't matter to be aware of the illusion of the seeming mind until we actually experience us as the real nature of ourself.
On the contrary we have to be on our guard not to fall for our mind's tricks.

Michael James said...

Seeker, as I promised in my reply to one of your comments, I have now completed writing a new article in which I explain in more detail about the need for effort to practise ātma-vicāra: Why is it necessary to make effort to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)?

svatma-bhakti said...

Wittgenstein,
we have to thank you in advance for your readiness to be an instument in repairing the inadequacy of the present English translation of Sri Sadhu Om's Ramana Vari/Vazhi, The Path of Sri Ramana.

guru-simha said...

Michael,
would it be not a good idea to ask some of the Tamil and English speaking residents of Sri Ramanasramam to be helpful at the improvement/new translation of Sri Sadhu Om's book "The Path of Sri Ramana" - additional to Wittgenstein ?

virtuos enterprise said...

Michael,
section 10. Why must we conclude that our ego is the cause of the world-appearance?
in the last sentence is written:
"...we can legitimately consider only its seeming existence in our own view, because unless we can establish that any world actually exists independent of our awareness of it - which we have no adequate means of doing - we cannot know whether there is actually anyone else in whose view it could seem to exist."

In my opinion we on the other hand are equally not able to judge whether anything actually exists. Therefore we do not have adequate reasons/means to believe that there is not actually any world independent of our awareness.

mind-polisher said...

Michael,
section 11. Does any world exist independent of our ego or mind ?
The teaching "that any world that we perceive is just a collection of thoughts or ideas projected by our own mind, and therefore no world will seem to exist when we experience ourself as we really are" seems to me to be extremely exciting, hair-raising, shocking, breathtaking, marvellous,amazing, spectacular and sensational.
How could Bhagavan correlate a spider's spinneret with the mind ? How could he juxtapose spinning a spider - thread to the sense-perception of our perceived vast world or universe ?
How would the mind project for example the guesthouse at Morvi-ground, the trees and birds there, Dakshinamurti Shrine and Sri Ramanasramam on the Chengam Road and Arunachala mountain in the town of Tiruvannamalai from within for instance when I wake up from sleep in the morning and dissolve it back when I fall asleep in the same guesthouse-room at night ?
Could you please give some comprehensive and thorough blow-by-blow description of that evidently gigantic projection-work of the mind as a projector ? What is the screen or surface of that projection ?

atma-vrtti said...

Michael,
section 11. Does any world exist independent of our ego or mind ?

1. "If this world does not actually exist but merely seems to exist in our view,....., then we can conclude that it does not exist except when we rise as this ego, in which case our ego is the sole cause and creator of the world."
2. I share your opinion that the only means by which we can ascertain from our own experience whether or not this world exists independent of our mind is to investigate ourself in order to experience what we actually are. We have neither evidence that it exists independent of our mind nor any of the contrary.
3. Bhagavan "teaches us that any world that we perceive is just a collection of thoughts or ideas projected by our own mind, and that therefore no world will seem to exist when we experience ourself as we really are".
I remember a similar stated view : The world is nothing but sense perceptions.
4. "In sleep there are no thoughts, and consequently there is no world;.....".
That derivative statement can be correct only from the view of the sleeping person.
Otherwise all our sense-perceptions would impart us a misleading picture.
Everybody who is waking while other people are sleeping can confirm that the sleep of a sleeping person does not have any effect of the continued and uninterrupted appearance of the world – at least from the point of view of all waking fellow human beings and animals.
"When the mind comes out from atma-svarupa, the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarupa [our 'own form' or actual self] does not appear[as it really is]; when svarupa appears (shines) [as it really is], the world does not appear."

May I request some clarification of that remarks ? Does not svarupa shine always from its own ?