Monday, 8 February 2016

Why should we believe what Bhagavan taught us?

In a comment on my previous article, Why do I believe that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate the illusion that we are this ego?, a friend called Maya explained why he was not convinced by what I wrote in it, so this article started off as a reply to some of the ideas he expressed in that comment. However when I began to discuss the logical reasons that Bhagavan gave us to explain why we should believe the fundamental principles of his teachings, this led to a series of reflections on aspects of his teachings that Maya did not refer to, so this article has developed into being more than just a direct reply to what he wrote in his comment.
  1. Why are arguments necessary to enable us to decide rationally what we should believe?
  2. What does ‘according to Bhagavan’ mean?
  3. Our beliefs should be based not just on blind intuition but on clear and coherent reasoning
  4. Why did Bhagavan employ logic when explaining the fundamental principles of his teachings?
  5. We cannot be anything that we do not experience permanently, so ‘I am only I’
  6. Since our ego seems to exist whenever we are aware of other things, we can destroy it only by being aware of ourself alone
  7. Bhagavan’s use of deductive and inductive logic
  8. If Bhagavan’s teachings were not so logical, why should we believe them?
  9. How can we be benefitted by understanding the logic underlying Bhagavan’s teachings?
  10. Belief in God can be beneficial but is not essential
    1. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 7: as a separate entity God is just an illusory fabrication (kalpanā)
    2. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: the concept of God as a separate entity provides a beneficial focus for our love
    3. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: the more we trust God the easier it will be for us to surrender ourself by attending to nothing other than ourself
    4. Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ verse 15: God is ourself, so self-attentiveness is supreme devotion to God
    5. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 8: love for God as nothing other than oneself is best of all
    6. Though potentially beneficial, belief in God is not actually necessary
  11. The karma theory is an auxiliary but not a fundamental principle of Bhagavan’s teachings
    1. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 15: God is untouched by any karma and therefore does not do anything
    2. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 38: karma exists only for the ego
    3. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 19: fate and free will exist only for the ego
    4. Upadēśa Undiyār: liberation is gained not by doing anything but only by just being
    5. How can belief in the karma theory be beneficial?
  12. The relative efficacy of various forms of spiritual practice
1. Why are arguments necessary to enable us to decide rationally what we should believe?

Though he did not explain in detail why any of the teachings of Bhagavan that I cited or any particular arguments that I gave in my previous article did not convince him, Maya generally seemed to underrate the value of any arguments, claiming that no matter how many arguments one may give in support of one’s point of view, whatever one may say is still just an opinion. However in any reasonable discussion arguments are necessary, because an argument is a statement or explanation of the reasons we have for holding a certain belief or opinion, so without any reasonable arguments whatever we may say or write would be just an assertion of our opinions, which would be of little value either to ourself or to anyone else. Only if we give reasonable arguments for our opinions can others assess whether or not our opinions are of any value to them.

Not only are reasonable arguments necessary when we present our beliefs or opinions to others, but they are also necessary for ourself, because our beliefs would be arbitrary and blind if they were not based on careful reasoning. A belief or opinion based on carefully reasoned arguments is not a mere opinion or a blind belief but a well-grounded one.

2. What does ‘according to Bhagavan’ mean?

In my previous article I used the phrase ‘according to Bhagavan’ in several contexts, but in his comment Maya claimed that when I or anyone else uses this phrase what it really means is ‘according to Bhagavan based on [the person’s] understanding’. However what this phrase should mean is not ‘according to my understanding’ or ‘according to my opinion’ but according to what he actually wrote or said, or at least according to what we can reasonably infer from what he actually wrote or said. He expressed the fundamental principles of his teachings in a clear and simple manner in texts such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, so if what we say or write is based upon those fundamental principles and what we can reasonably infer from them, we are perfectly justified in saying ‘according to Bhagavan’, whereas if it is not based on those principles or on any other ideas that he expressed that are consistent with them we should not say ‘according to Bhagavan’.

This is the sense in which I use this phrase, so if ever Maya or anyone else believes I have used it in any particular context without adequate justification, they should question my use of it in that context rather than my use of it in general. I checked my previous article and found that I used the phrase ‘according to Bhagavan’ eight times and similar phrases such as ‘according to what Bhagavan taught us’ or ‘according to both Bhagavan and Sankara’ four times, and in none of these cases does my use of it seem to me to be unjustified, but if anyone wants to question any specific instances of my use of it, I would be happy to explain my justification for using it in each such case.

3. Our beliefs should be based not just on blind intuition but on clear and coherent reasoning

Maya began one of the paragraphs in his comment by saying ‘To me whether the person who proposes a method is realized or not makes a lot of difference and is very important’ and ended it by saying ‘I wouldn’t dismiss this criteria [whether or not a person has experienced what he is talking about] that lightly’, and in between he asked whether we would have so much faith in Bhagavan’s words if we did not believe he was realized. I agree with Maya that one of the reasons why we have faith in what Bhagavan taught us is that we believe that it is based on his experience of himself as what alone is real (which I assume is what Maya meant by saying ‘he was realized’), but why do we believe this?

We may say that we believe it intuitively, but our intuitions can be mistaken, so we should never rely on them entirely. What we believe intuitively is often quite contrary to what other people believe intuitively, so all intuitive beliefs cannot be correct, and hence we need something more reliable than intuition on which to base our beliefs. This becomes particularly important when we consider Bhagavan’s teachings, because he taught us to question many of our most fundamental and deeply rooted intuitive beliefs — such as our beliefs that we are a particular body or person, that this world is real, and that whatever we are currently experiencing is our waking state and not a dream — saying that all such intuitive beliefs are mistaken, being based entirely on our self-ignorance or ajñāna. Therefore intuition is not a reliable guide to what is true. Some of our intuitions may seem to be more or less correct, but according to Bhagavan most of them are totally incorrect.

What we believe intuitively is to a large extent determined by the purity and consequent clarity of our mind (that is, the extent to which our mind is free from impurities in the form of desires for and attachments to anything other than ourself), so if our mind is pure our intuitive beliefs are more likely to be correct than they would be if it were still very impure. However if we proudly think that our intuitive beliefs must be correct because our mind is so pure, that would indicate that our ego is still very strong, and since our ego is our primal impurity and the root of all our other impurities, it would actually show that our mind is extremely impure and that our intuitive beliefs are therefore probably incorrect and delusional. If our mind were really pure, we would have the humility to recognise that our intuitive beliefs could well be mistaken.

Initially we may have been attracted to Bhagavan and his teachings intuitively, but in order to derive full benefit from them we need to go beyond mere intuitive belief in him and whatever he said. We need to consider his teachings deeply and carefully and try to practise them to the best of our ability, because then only will our initial belief develop into a clear, coherent and strongly grounded conviction, which in turn will develop into actual experience of the truth that he taught us. Without a clear, coherent and strongly grounded conviction regarding the fundamental principles of his teachings we will not be able to understand them correctly and hence we will not be adequately motivated to cling firmly to the practice of ātma-vicāra that he taught us, so he did not merely ask us to believe what he taught us, but explained in a clear and logical manner why the fundamental principles of his teachings are necessarily true.

4. Why did Bhagavan employ logic when explaining the fundamental principles of his teachings?

In his comment Maya wrote, ‘Proving logically in science means a lot but in spirituality it doesn’t mean much’, but if logical reasoning is of so little value, why did Bhagavan explain the fundamental principles of his teachings in such a clear and logical manner? Without logical and coherent reasons whatever we believe would be arbitrary and very likely to be mistaken, so until we actually experience what is real and thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego, logical reasoning is the most reliable means that we have to determine what we should believe and what we should doubt.

For those of us who are seeking to know what is real, the simple and clear logic of Bhagavan’s teachings is what is so compellingly attractive about them. We may have been attracted to him initially because we intuitively felt that he is something so much more than the simple and loving person that he seemed to be, but through his teachings he encourages us to go beyond that initial attraction to his outward form by showing us that what we are actually seeking is not anything outside ourself but is only what we ourself actually are, and by explaining that he is nothing other than that.

5. We cannot be anything that we do not experience permanently, so ‘I am only I’

In order to impress firmly on our mind the need for us to turn within to investigate ourself he explained in a clear and logical manner on the basis of a simple and incisive analysis of our own experience of ourself in our three alternating state of waking, dream and sleep why we cannot be the body, mind or person that we now seem to be. That is, in brief, since we experience ourself as one body in waking and as another body in dream, we cannot be either of these bodies, because we cannot be anything that we do not experience permanently. In waking we experience ourself as this body, but in dream we experience ourself without experiencing this body, so it cannot be what we actually are. Likewise in dream we experience ourself as some other body, but in waking we experience ourself without experiencing that dream body, so it cannot be what we actually are.

Though we experience ourself as this ego or mind in both waking and dream, in sleep we experience ourself without experiencing either this ego or this mind, so neither of them can be what we actually are. Each of these three states, waking, dream and sleep, come and go, but the only thing that we experience uninterruptedly throughout all of them is ourself, so we cannot be anything other than ourself — that is, we cannot be any body, mind or other transitory phenomenon, but can only be what we experience permanently, which is our fundamental self-awareness, which remains alone in sleep and on which the awareness of body, mind and other phenomena is superimposed in waking and dream.

Because we cannot be anything other than ourself, Bhagavan taught us that true experience of ourself is not ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ but only ‘I am I’, as he clearly indicated in verse 20 of Upadēśa Undiyār, verse 30 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and verse 2 of Āṉma-Viddai, in each of which he used the phrase ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ), which means ‘I am I’, and also in verse 43 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai and verse 4 of Appaḷa-p-Pāṭṭu, in which he used respectively the phrases ‘தானே தானே’ (tāṉē tāṉē) and ‘தானே தான்’ (tāṉē tāṉ), both of which mean ‘oneself alone is oneself’.

Since it is a basic principle of logic that if anything is true of A but not true of B, A and B cannot the same thing but must be two different things, if we are ever aware of ourself when we are not aware of X, X cannot be what we actually are. Therefore since we are always aware of ourself and since there is nothing other than ourself that we are always aware of, according to this simple principle of logic it is necessarily true that we cannot be anything other than ourself, the fundamental self-awareness that we experience without a break at all times and in all states. Thus Bhagavan pointed out to us a simple and clear logical reason why we cannot be the body, mind or person that we now seem to be.

6. Since our ego seems to exist whenever we are aware of other things, we can destroy it only by being aware of ourself alone

Having diagnosed that the root of all our problems is our illusory experience ‘I am this body’, which is what is called ‘ego’, and having explained this by simple logical arguments, Bhagavan then explained to us that since we can experience ourself as anything other than what we actually are only when we are aware of other things, and since whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself we are aware of ourself as this ego, the only means by which we can destroy the illusion that we are this ego is by trying to be aware of ourself alone.

This is one of the most fundamental principles of his teachings, and it is expressed by him in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he says that our ego is a formless phantom (an insubstantial entity that seems to exist but does not really exist) that comes into existence by grasping forms (that is, by being aware of things other than itself) and that then endures and feeds itself by continuing to grasp forms one after another, thereby expanding and flourishing greatly, but if it turns its attention back on itself seeking to know what it actually is it will ‘take flight’ and disappear. What he implied thereby is that we will experience ourself as this ego so long as we attend to or are aware of anything other than ourself, so the only means by which we can experience ourself as we really are and thereby cease to experience ourself as this ego is by focusing our entire attention only on ourself, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness.

Since what is called ‘ego’ is our awareness of ourself as something separate and finite, and since we inevitably experience ourself as something separate and finite whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself, the fundamental principle that he teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is logically sound and can be inferred by deductive reasoning. That is, in order to be aware of ourself as something separate and finite, we must be aware of other things, and in order to be aware of other things, we must be aware of ourself as something separate and finite. Therefore the seeming existence of other things and the seeming existence of ourself as this ego are logically inseparable: neither can be without the other.

Moreover, if it is true, as he teaches us, that we are not this finite ego but only infinite self-awareness, other than which nothing exists, it logically follows that in order to experience ourself as we actually are we must be aware of ourself alone, in complete isolation from even the slightest awareness of anything else whatsoever. This is why he taught us that ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-attentiveness) is the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby destroy forever the illusion that we are this ego or mind, and why he said, for example, in the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, ‘நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum), which means ‘Only by the investigation who am I will the mind subside [or cease to exist]’, and in eighth paragraph, ‘மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை’ (maṉam aḍaṅguvadaṟku vicāraṇaiyai-t tavira vēṟu tahunda upāyaṅgaḷ-illai), which means ‘For the mind to cease, except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means’.

The fact that we cannot be this finite ego was already proved by his logical argument that we cannot be anything that we are not aware of whenever we are aware of ourself, and hence since we are aware of ourself but not of our ego in sleep, this ego cannot be what we actually are. In sleep we are aware of ourself but not aware of any separation or finitude, so we can infer that it is probable that what we actually are is infinite self-awareness. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable for us to accept (at least tentatively as a working hypothesis) that we are infinite self-awareness, as he teaches us, and that in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are we must be aware of ourself alone.

Though we are aware of ourself alone in sleep, we nevertheless rise again sooner or later as this ego in either waking or dream, so sleep cannot last forever. According to Bhagavan, the reason it does not last forever is that our ego subsides in sleep due to tiredness and not due to being attentively self-aware, so if we are to destroy this ego-illusion for ever, we must make it subside by being attentively self-aware. Since we are always self-aware, and since we are aware of ourself alone in sleep, self-awareness by itself is not sufficient to destroy this ego, so it can only be destroyed by attentive self-awareness.

The reason why self-attentiveness is needed to destroy this ego is that this ego comes into existence due to pramāda, which is self-negligence or self-inattentiveness. Attention is our ability to choose what we wish to be primarily aware of at each moment, so it is a function of our ego, because what is aware of many things is only our ego, so only our ego needs to choose which of those many things it wants to be aware of at each moment. Our ego is self-negligent because it chooses to attend to other things rather than to itself, so since it cannot be destroyed unless it willingly surrenders itself to its own destruction, and since it can surrender itself thus only by trying to be aware of itself alone, it must choose to be aware of itself alone, which means that it must try to attend only to itself. Therefore being self-attentive is surrendering ourself (this ego) to what we actually are, which is pure self-awareness.

This is why Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in self-abidance (ātma-niṣṭhā), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.
So long as we are thinking of or attending to anything other than ourself, we are thereby nourishing and sustaining our ego, so the only way to surrender it entirely is to think of or attend to ourself alone. Therefore Bhagavan’s teaching that we can destroy our ego and thereby experience ourself as we really are only by means of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation) or ātma-cintana (self-attentiveness) is not only based on his own experience but was also explained by him in a perfectly logical manner on the basis of his clear, simple and incisive analysis of our experience of ourself in waking, dream and sleep.

7. Bhagavan’s use of deductive and inductive logic

As we can understand from what he taught us, Bhagavan experienced himself as infinite and indivisible self-awareness, which alone is what actually exists, so he obviously did not need to use any logical reasoning to convince himself of the truth of what he experienced. However, since we currently seem (in the view of ourself as this ego) to be self-ignorant, we do not now experience ourself as the one infinite and indivisible self-awareness that we actually are, so we need to be convinced that this is what we actually are, because only when we are firmly convinced of this will we have sufficiently strong motivation to investigate ourself and thereby to experience ourself as we really are.

Our motivation or love (bhakti) to investigate ourself needs to be overwhelmingly strong, because investigating what we actually are necessarily entails surrendering or giving up everything else, particularly everything that we now seem to be. Since our motivation will be strong only if it is built on a solid foundation of firm conviction, Bhagavan used simple and clear logic to convince us of the truth of what he taught us.

Obviously logic can give us only an intellectual conviction, which is insufficient by itself, but a well-grounded intellectual conviction is necessary, because it provides a firm foundation on which to base our practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), and it is only by persistent practice of self-investigation that we can develop true bhakti (love to experience or be aware of ourself as we actually are) and corresponding vairāgya (freedom from desire to experience or be aware of anything else). Therefore when explaining to us the fundamental principles of his teachings, Bhagavan used both deductive and inductive logic in order to impress upon our mind the truth of those principles.

Since deductive logic is more powerful and compelling than inductive logic, wherever possible he used deductive logic, as he did for example when explaining to us why we cannot be the body, mind or person that we now seem to be, and why we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby annihilate our ego only by being attentively aware of ourself alone. However, not everything can be proved by deductive logic, so whenever deductive logic was inapplicable he used inductive logic, as he did for example when explaining to us why we should consider our present state to be just another kind of dream, and why we should consider that the existence of everything other than ourself depends upon the existence of our ego, which is our illusory experience ‘I am this body’.

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.

As recorded in the third chapter of the second part of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pages 67-8), in reply to someone who questioned him about the reality of the world Bhagavan argued:
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?
The difference between deductive and inductive logic is that whereas the conclusion of a valid deductive argument is necessarily true if its premises are true, the conclusion of an inductive argument is not necessarily true but probably true. The classic example of a deductive argument is: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal. If the two premises in this argument are true, the conclusion is necessarily true, because it is logically entailed in the premises. If the conclusion is not true, then one or more of the premises must be untrue. That is, if Socrates is not mortal, then it logically follows either that he is not a man or that not all men are mortal.

Bhagavan’s argument that we are not a body, a mind or anything else other than simple self-awareness is a deductive argument. If it is true that we are aware of ourself at all times and in all states, and if it is also true that at any time or in any state we are not aware of any body, mind or anything else other than ourself, then it is necessarily true that we are not anything other than simple self-awareness.

Likewise, his argument that we cannot see what we actually are unless we look at ourself — in other words, that we cannot know what we actually are unless we attend to ourself, or that we cannot experience what we actually are unless we investigate ourself — is a deductive argument. If it is true that we cannot see something unless we look at it, or that we cannot know, experience or be aware of something unless we attend to it, then it is necessarily true that we cannot see, know, experience or be aware of ourself as we actually are unless we look at or attend to ourself.

However, his argument that the (seeming) existence of other things depends upon the (seeming) existence of ourself as an ego is not a deductive argument but only an inductive one. One of the classic examples of an inductive argument used to be: Every swan that anyone has ever seen has been white; therefore all swans are white. Since swans native to the northern hemisphere are white, in the past most people in the world were not aware of the existence of any swans that were not white, so they were justified in believing that all swans are white. That is, since every report they had ever heard from people who had seen swans confirmed that no one had ever seen a non-white swan, it seemed probable to them that all swans are white.

In other words, since the premise ‘every swan that anyone has ever seen has been white’ seemed to be true, the inductive inference ‘therefore all swans are white’ was a reasonable one, provided it was understood to mean ‘all swans are probably white’ rather than ‘all swans are certainly white’. An inductive inference (the conclusion of an inductive argument) is never certainly true, but is at best probably true, because it is possible that in future it will be falsified by some new evidence, as happened in the case of the inference ‘all swans are white’. That is, when people started to travel more widely and communication between different parts of the world thereby increased, it became known that in South America there is a species of black-necked swans and in Australia there is a species of black swans, which falsified the premise ‘every swan that anyone has ever seen has been white’, and once this premise was falsified, the inductive inference drawn from it that all swans are white was shown to be mistaken.

Most scientific theories are inductive inferences, so they are not certainly true but just seem to be probably true. This is why they tend to change over time, because older theories are usually falsified sooner or later by new evidence, so they either have to be replaced by entirely new theories or they need to be refined and modified in order to account for the new evidence.

However, some inductive inferences are more probable than others, so in science observations are quantified and statistically analysed in order to estimate how probable are the inferences that one can draw from them. Some inferences are probable but very far from certain, whereas a few may be so probable that they seem almost certainly true, but however probable they may seem, they are not certain, because no inductive inference can ever be certain. For example, every day of our life the sun has risen in the east in the morning, and according to all accounts it has risen in the east every morning for millions of years, and nowadays we believe that the reason it does so is because of the steady momentum of the earth’s spin around its north-south axis. Therefore we can inductively infer that it will almost certainly rise in the east tomorrow morning.

However, though this is almost certain, it is not absolutely certain, because the fact that the sun has risen in the east every morning till now does not logically entail that it will do so tomorrow. All we can logically infer is that it will most probably do so, but for some unforeseen reason it may not do so. Perhaps some hitherto unknown force may cause the rotation of the earth to slow down, stop or even reverse, or it may cause the axis of its rotation to suddenly shift. Or perhaps all this is just a dream, in which case tomorrow we may dream that the sun does not rise, or that it rises in the west, north or south. The prior regularity of a course of events does not make it logically impossible for that regularity to change. It may make such a change seem improbable, but it does not make it impossible. The fact that the sun has supposedly risen in the east every morning in the past for millions of years does not make it logically necessary that it will continue to do so every morning in future.

It is logically necessary that no circle can be square, and that Socrates is mortal if it is true that he is a man and that all men are mortal, because the truth of these statements can be inferred by deduction, but it is not logically necessary that a regular course of past events such as the rising of the sun in the east every morning will continue regularly in future, because we cannot predict such a continuity by means of any deductive inference but only by means of an inductive inference. Whatever can be inferred deductively is certainly true (provided that the premises from which it can be deducted are true), whereas whatever can be inferred only inductively is probably true but not certainly true.

How probable is the inductive inference that Bhagavan asked us to draw from the fact that a world seems to exist whenever our mind seems to exist, as in waking and dream, and that no world seems to exist whenever our mind does not seem to exist, as in sleep? Is its probability comparable to the probability that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, or to the probability that all swans are white if no reports about the sighting of any non-white were known about? If we did not know about the existence of black swans, would we consider it more likely that all swans are white or that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning? I think we would all agree that the existence of black or coloured swans would seem less improbable than the sun not rising in the east tomorrow morning. But what about the probability that any world exists when our mind does not exist?

If we consider the evidence impartially, since no world has ever seemed to exist when our mind does not seem to exist, and since a world has always seemed to exist whenever our mind seems to exist, this invariable concomitance suggests very powerfully that the existence of any world depends upon the existence of our mind. If we consider the fact that the sun has risen in the east every morning in the past to be powerful evidence that it will rise in the east tomorrow morning, the fact that in the past a world has seemed to exist only when we have experienced ourself as this mind and as a body in that world is equally powerful evidence that the seeming existence of any world is dependent on our experience of ourself as a body and mind.

Therefore when Bhagavan asked in the passage of Maharshi’s Gospel that I cited above, ‘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?’, what he implied was that according to the principles of inductive logic we have a very strong reason to infer that no world exists independent of our experience of it.

Some people object to this conclusion by arguing that we are not conscious or aware while we are asleep, so this world does not seem to us to exist then simply because we are not aware of it. However, their premise that we are not aware in sleep is false, because we are aware of our own existence then, so if this world exists then we should be aware of it also. All that exists in our awareness in sleep is ourself, so since no body or world exists in our awareness then, we can inductively infer that they do not exist at all when we are asleep.

Another argument that people give in objection to this conclusion is that the reason why we are not aware of this world while we are asleep is that our senses are not functioning then. But this is a flawed objection, because our senses are part of this body, which is a part of this world, so when we question whether any world exists when we are not aware of it, we are also questioning whether any body or senses exist when we are not aware of them.

How are we aware of a world while we are dreaming? Just as we now experience a body as ourself and through the senses of this body perceive a world, in dream we likewise experience a body as ourself and through the senses of that body perceive a world. Now we believe that the body, senses and world that we experienced in any dream were a creation of our own mind and therefore do not exist independent of it, but while dreaming we seemed to be awake, so the body, senses and world that we were then experiencing seemed at that time to be real and not just a creation of our mind, just as our present body, its senses and this world now seem to us to be real and not just a creation of our mind.

Therefore if we consider and compare the evidence of our experience in waking and dream impartially, there is no evidence that the body, senses and world that we now experience are not just a creation of our mind like those that we experienced in any dream, or that our present state is not just another dream. In dream we do not experience this body and world but some other body and world, so if this body and world exist then why do we not experience them? We do not believe that our dream body and world exist now, because we do not believe that they exist independent of our experience of them, so why should we believe that this body and world exist while we are dreaming, or that they exist independent of our experience of them?

In sleep (that is, in dreamless sleep) we do not experience any body, senses or world, but we are aware that we exist then. If either this body and world or any dream body and world exist then, why are we not aware of them? We exist then, so we are aware of ourself, but we are not aware of anything else, which suggests that nothing else exists then. So long as we are aware, we should be aware of whatever exists in our proximity, so if our body exists then, we should be aware of it at least, but we are not aware of it, and hence we can infer that it does not actually exist.

Therefore if we apply inductive logic to what we actually experience (rather than to whatever we assume to be the case), it strongly suggests that our present body and world do not exist either when we are dreaming or when we are asleep. We are habituated to believing in our present state that this body and world exist independent of our experience of them, so we assume that they exist even when we do not experience them, as in dream and sleep, but we do not actually have any evidence that they exist when we do not experience them, so this assumption of ours is totally ungrounded.

Most inductive inferences are liable to be falsified by new evidence, just as the inference that all swans are white was falsified by the discovery of black swans, or just as the inference that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning would be falsified if it did not do so, but some inductive inferences are immune to falsification, because it is impossible either logically or in practice for us to find any countervailing evidence. However, being immune to falsification does not mean that an inductive inference is necessarily true, but only that there is no means by which we could ever show it to be false.

An example of an inductive inference that is definitely immune to falsification is the inference that Bhagavan asks us to draw from the fact that other things seem to exist only when we seem to be this ego or mind, namely the inference that the seeming existence of other things depends upon the seeming existence of ourself as this ego. The reason why this inference is immune to falsification is that whenever we experience the existence of anything other than ourself we necessarily experience ourself as something separate from those other things, because without such a sense of separation the other things would not appear to be other than ourself, and experiencing ourself as any separate thing is what is called ego.

Moreover, since we are only one and not many, we can experience ourself as we really are only when we experience oneness and not when we experience manyness. Whenever we experience manyness we experience ourself as if we were one among those many things, so experiencing manyness or otherness necessarily entails experiencing ourself as an ego, because what this term ‘ego’ means is the experience or awareness of ourself as something that is separate and hence finite. Therefore according to the principles of deductive logic we cannot experience the existence of anything other than ourself unless we experience ourself as an ego, so as long as we experience ourself as this ego we cannot know whether or not anything else exists when we do not experience ourself as this ego.

Being unable to experience the existence of anything else when we do not experience ourself as this ego, as in sleep, we cannot know for certain whether or not other things depend for their existence upon the seeming existence of ourself as this ego. Though other things seem to exist now, we do not know whether they actually exist, because they could all be just a creation of our own mind, like all the other things that we experience in a dream, in which case they would not actually exist even when they seem to exist. Therefore their actual existence is doubtful at all times, even when they seem to exist, and their seeming existence is doubtful whenever we do not experience it. Hence as Bhagavan says, since other things seem to exist only when we seem to be this ego, according to the principles of inductive logic we can infer that the existence of other things depend upon the existence of our ego.

This inductive inference can never be falsified because we can never experience the existence of anything else when we do not experience ourself as this ego. However, because it is an inductive inference we can also never verify it, or at least we cannot do so as long as we experience ourself as this ego. According to Bhagavan, the only way to verify that nothing else exists when our ego does not exist is to experience ourself as we actually are, because only when we experience ourself as we actually are will we experience the truth that we alone exist — that is, that we are the one infinite and indivisible reality, other than which nothing can ever actually exist or even seem to exist.

Logical reasoning obviously has its limits, because it is a function of our mind, which is an expansion of our ego, so it cannot determine what exists beyond the limits of our ego and its mind-mediated knowledge. Therefore though logical reasoning is the best available guide to what is true so long as we experience ourself as this ego, it cannot by itself enable us to experience what we actually are. However, it can enable us to understand not only that we cannot be this ego, mind or body, but also what the means must be to experience ourself as we actually are.

We experience other things only because we attend to them, and so long as we are experiencing anything other than ourself we are experiencing ourself as this ego, so we cannot experience ourself as we actually are so long as we attend to and are therefore aware of anything other than ourself. Hence we can logically infer that the only means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are is by attending to and thereby being aware of ourself alone.

The need for us to draw this simple logical inference from a clear analysis of our experience of ourself in our three alternating states of waking, dream and sleep, and from the fact that we are aware of other things whenever we experience ourself as a body, as we do in waking and dream, but not when we do not experience ourself as a body, as in sleep, was repeatedly explained to us by Bhagavan. Therefore if we ignore the compelling logic of his teachings and the clear and coherent manner in which he applied that logic, we will fail to understand the unique power of his teachings and the reason why self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is the only means by which we can experience what we actually are.

Other spiritual practices may help to purify our mind and thereby lead us to the point where we are willing to accept the simple logic of this fundamental principle taught by Bhagavan, namely that we cannot experience ourself as we actually are unless we investigate ourself by trying to attend to and thereby be aware of ourself alone, but once we are willing to accept and be convinced by his simple logic, self-investigation will become the focal point and central aim of whatever spiritual practice we may do.

8. If Bhagavan’s teachings were not so logical, why should we believe them?

Bhagavan’s teachings are in many respects counterintuitive, because (as I mentioned in section 3) they challenge and prompt us to question all our most fundamental intuitive beliefs — such as our beliefs that we are this body or person, that this world is real, that whatever we are currently experiencing is not a dream, and that we derive happiness from external phenomena — so if we consider his teaching deeply and seriously, we would not believe them unless we had very strong grounds for doing so. This is why Bhagavan explained their fundamental principles in such a clear, logical and coherent manner based on a simple but deep analysis of our experience of ourself in our three states of waking, dream and sleep.

If he had not done so, what reason would we have to believe them? There are so many different beliefs that people hold about the world, the existence and nature of God and what we ourself actually are, so when we decide what we should believe, particularly with regard to metaphysical issues, it is not immediately obvious which of the many competing and conflicting systems of metaphysical belief we should choose (particularly since the nature of ourself as an ego or mind is to be metaphysically ignorant).

There are several major religions that are prevalent in the present-day world, each with their own sacred texts and millions of followers, and within each religion there are numerous different sects, each of which interpret their sacred texts in their own way and hold other ancillary beliefs of their own, so which of the numerous conflicting beliefs taught by these religions and sects should we believe, or should we believe none of them? In addition to the diverse beliefs taught by religious sects there are other popular systems of belief such as atheism, which is generally based on the metaphysical view known as physicalism or materialism, according to which what is real is only physical things, so everything including our mind can ultimately be explained in terms of physics. Physicalism tends to be the dominant metaphysical view among present-day academic philosophers, and they hold this view so strongly that they expend a huge amount of mental effort trying to find some way to satisfactorily explain the mind and all mental phenomena in purely physical terms.

In the past most people were born and lived in a particular culture in which one particular religion or system of metaphysical belief prevailed, so they tended to believe whatever religion or philosophy was believed by their family or social group. Nowadays, however, most of us live in multicultural societies and we all have exposure to a much wider range of religions and other systems of metaphysical belief, so if we want to decide for ourself what we should believe we have numerous options to choose between. Given so much choice, then, why should we choose to believe Bhagavan’s teachings rather than any other system of metaphysical belief?

If he had not given us logically compelling reasons to believe his teachings, how could we justify our belief in them to ourself (or to anyone else who may ask us to do so)? Would not our belief in them be arbitrary and no more reliable or likely to be true than any of the numerous other beliefs that we could hold instead?

Some of us may have been born in Hindu families, in which case his teachings may not seem to be so alien to the beliefs we were brought up with, but even then why should we choose his particular teachings? Hinduism is not a single system of metaphysical belief or of religious or spiritual practice, but is a very broad and diverse family of such beliefs and practices, and within this family the different philosophies contradict one another with regard to many of their fundamental beliefs, as also do the advocates of different forms of spiritual practice. Though most of the philosophies and sects within Hinduism say that liberation (mukti or mōkṣa) is the ultimate goal, they each have their own concept of liberation and therefore disagree with other concepts of it.

Moreover, as with individuals in any other religions or systems of beliefs, each Hindu has their own personal beliefs, desires and aspirations, so even among Hindus the majority would not naturally be attracted by Bhagavan’s teachings. Many Hindus may be attracted to him as a saintly person and may therefore be willing to worship him as a God, but that does not mean that they would be willing to understand — let alone to practise — what he taught.

Many of his devotees accept his teachings superficially without seriously or deeply considering their implications or the logical reasons for believing them. Such devotees accept his teachings on the basis of simple religious faith, but their understanding of them is superficial and fragmented, because they have not carefully considered and fully imbibed the logical reasons that he gave for each of the fundamental principles of his teachings, or the logical connections between each of those fundamental principles.

Most of us who have been drawn to his teachings did not understand them fully when we first became acquainted with them, but we were nevertheless attracted by them. Each of us would have initially been attracted by some particular aspect or aspects of them, such as their focus on the fundamental question ‘Who am I?’ or their devotional dimension and focus on the need for complete self-surrender. However, since all such aspects are deeply and inextricably connected, if we have considered his teachings as a whole and have thereby been firmly convinced by them, we will now feel attracted to all their various aspects and dimensions.

Though initially our understanding would have been superficial and partial, it is likely that what attracted us to his teachings was the obvious logic that unless we know what we ourself (this ‘I’) actually are, whatever else we may seem to know could be illusory and may therefore not be true or real, and that knowing ourself should therefore be our primary aim. If we were initially attracted by such simple and obvious logic, we would later have been attracted by the deeper logic of his teachings that we would have discovered as we studied and thought about them more deeply and thoroughly.

Those who are willing to surrender themself completely as readily as Bhagavan was when he confronted the sudden fear of death that rose in him when he was sixteen are very rare indeed, so for most of us it takes time and diligent practice to prepare ourself to surrender ourself entirely in the clear and all-consuming light of pure self-awareness. Therefore in order to have sufficient love to motivate ourself to commence and patiently persevere in the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) we need to have very strong conviction that this is the only means by which we can attain the perfect knowledge and infinite happiness that we are seeking.

So long as we have the slightest doubt or uncertainty about this path of self-investigation that he has taught us and advised us to follow we will lack the strength of conviction that is required to practise it with patience and perseverance, so it is imperative that we clearly understand and are firmly convinced by the powerfully logical reasons that he gave to show us why we should believe all the fundamental principles on which this practice is based.

9. How can we be benefitted by understanding the logic underlying Bhagavan’s teachings?

If we clearly understand the logic underlying, supporting and holding together as a coherent whole all the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings, it will not only increase and stabilise our conviction that those principles are true, but it will also help to ensure that we have understood them correctly, completely and coherently, thereby protecting us from the danger of understanding them only partially or in a fragmented manner, or worse still, misunderstanding them or being misled by any of the numerous wrong interpretations of them.

If we read all the various books that record more or less accurately some of the conversations that took place between Bhagavan and his devotees or casual visitors, and also some of the other books and writings in which devotees have discussed and tried to explain his teachings, we will be able to see that people have understood and interpreted his teachings in many different ways, so in order to decide for ourself what he actually intended to teach us we need to carefully study his own original writings, particularly the three central texts in which he expressed the fundamental principles of his teachings in a systematic manner, namely Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, and we need to think carefully about them in order to understand and fully imbibe the logic with which he expressed and explained those fundamental principles.

Therefore though nididhyāsana (the practice of trying to be self-attentive as much as possible) is essential, we should not underrate the value of śravaṇa (careful study of Bhagavan’s teachings) and manana (deep and thoughtful reflection on them), because repeated study and reflection will keep his teachings fresh and clear in our mind and will thereby help to support and maintain our motivation and steady perseverance in this practice.

Many people who have understood his teachings only superficially believe that they are more or less the same as the teachings of many other gurus or religious sects, but the similarities that such people see between his teachings and others are generally only superficial. What distinguishes his teachings from almost all other spiritual teachings is the deep yet very simple and clear logic with which he explained them, so if we have fully understood that logic, we will not so readily confuse what he taught us with other teachings that are not so logically well grounded.

For example, many gurus nowadays claim that by watching or witnessing one’s thoughts or the activities of one’s mind one can detach oneself from them, and some people believe that such a practice is similar to the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) that Bhagavan taught us, whereas it is actually quite contrary to the basic logic of his teachings. According to him, we are aware of our thoughts or mental activities only because we attend to them, and by attending to them we not only attach ourself to them but also nourish and strengthen them, and thereby we simultaneously nourish and strengthen the illusion that we are this ego or mind (as he clearly implied in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu).

Since watching or witnessing one’s thoughts means attending to them, according to the clear logic of the fundamental principle expressed by Bhagavan in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu it is a means to nourish our ego and strengthen its attachment — not a means to weaken its attachment or to destroy it. According to Bhagavan the direct means to weaken all our attachments and thereby eventually destroy our ego is to turn our attention back towards ourself and thus away from all thoughts, as he clearly indicated, for example, in the sixth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār?:
பிற வெண்ணங்க ளெழுந்தா லவற்றைப் பூர்த்தி பண்ணுவதற்கு எத்தனியாமல் அவை யாருக் குண்டாயின என்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டும். எத்தனை எண்ணங்க ளெழினு மென்ன? ஜாக்கிரதையாய் ஒவ்வோ ரெண்ணமும் கிளம்பும்போதே இது யாருக்குண்டாயிற்று என்று விசாரித்தால் எனக்கென்று தோன்றும். நானார் என்று விசாரித்தால் மனம் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற்குத் திரும்பிவிடும்; எழுந்த வெண்ணமு மடங்கிவிடும். இப்படிப் பழகப் பழக மனத்திற்குத் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற் றங்கி நிற்கும் சக்தி யதிகரிக்கின்றது.

piṟa v-eṇṇaṅgaḷ eṙundāl avaṯṟai-p pūrtti paṇṇuvadaṟku ettaṉiyāmal avai yārukku uṇḍāyiṉa eṉḏṟu vicārikka vēṇḍum. ettaṉai eṇṇaṅgaḷ eṙiṉum eṉṉa? jāggiratai-y-āy ovvōr eṇṇamum kiḷambum-pōdē idu yārukkuṇḍāyiṯṟu eṉḏṟu vicārittāl eṉakkeṉḏṟu tōṉḏṟum. nāṉ-ār eṉḏṟu vicārittāl maṉam taṉ piṟappiḍattiṟku-t tirumbi-viḍum; eṙunda v-eṇṇamum aḍaṅgi-viḍum. ippaḍi-p paṙaga-p paṙaga maṉattiṟku-t taṉ piṟappiḍattil taṅgi niṯgum śakti y-adhikarikkiṉḏṟadu.

If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? As soon as each thought appears, if one vigilantly investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear that [it is] to me. If one [thus] investigates who am I, the mind will turn back [or return] to its birthplace [oneself]; the thought which had risen will also subside. When one practises and practises in this manner, for the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace will increase.

நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை; தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் ஞானம். உண்மையி லிரண்டு மொன்றே.

niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum. aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal vairāggiyam alladu nirāśai; taṉṉai viḍādiruttal jñāṉam. uṇmaiyil iraṇḍum oṉḏṟē.

As and when thoughts arise, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [self-investigation or vigilant self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. Not attending to [anything] other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; not leaving [or letting go of] oneself is jñāna [true knowledge]. In truth [these] two [vairāgya and jñāna] are only one.
The practice of persistent self-attentiveness that Bhagavan describes in these two passages is the only direct and also the most effective means by which we can weaken and eventually destroy all our viṣaya-vāsanās, which are our desires or inclinations to cling to the experience of viṣayas (anything other than ourself). The logical reason for this is that our ego or mind can come into existence, endure and nourish itself only by clinging or attending to anything other than itself, so it can destroy itself only by attending to itself alone, as Bhagavan explains in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

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

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

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

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

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

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows [spreads, expands, increases, rises high or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
What Bhagavan teaches us in this verse is one of the most fundamental principles of his teachings, and if we clearly understand and are convinced by the logic of this principle, we will not be misled by those who claim that watching or witnessing one’s thoughts or anything other than oneself is a means to detach oneself from such things or from one’s ego. Since the seeming existence of everything else depends upon the seeming existence of ourself as this ego, and since this ego is nourished and sustained by attending to anything other than itself, the only means by which we can detach ourself from it and from everything else is by attending to ourself alone. This is what Bhagavan implies in the final sentence of this verse: ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’.

Therefore understanding the logical reasons for the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings, such as this one, and also the logical connections between each of those principles, will help us to remain steadfast in our adherence to the practice of ātma-vicāra and to avoid being misled by any ideas that are contrary to them, whether expressed by other gurus, other devotees of Bhagavan or anyone else.

10. Belief in God can be beneficial but is not essential

The reason why we should believe each of the most fundamental and essential principles of his teachings was explained by Bhagavan in a clear and logical manner, but there are some aspects or features of his teachings that are not so fundamental or essential, and the reason for believing such features cannot in every case be explained so directly or logically. One such feature is the concept of God.

In his teachings Bhagavan used the concept of God in a fluid, flexible and nuanced manner, so what he meant by the term ‘God’ in one context is not necessarily the same as what he meant by it in other contexts. Therefore the exact meaning of this term in his teachings is context-sensitive, so each time it occurs we should understand its meaning according to the particular context in which it is used. Sometimes he used this term to refer to the concept of God as a separate entity, whereas at other times he used it to refer to the one infinite and absolute reality, which is nothing other than our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa). Therefore in some contexts he said that God (meaning God as a separate entity) is only as real as our ego and whatever world this ego may experience, whereas in other contexts he said that God (meaning God as our own actual self) is the sole reality, other than which nothing exists.
    10a. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 7: as a separate entity God is just an illusory fabrication (kalpanā)
For example, when he said in the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? that God is just a கற்பனை (kaṟpaṉai or kalpanā: a fabrication, imagination, mental creation, illusion or illusory superimposition), he was obviously referring to God as a separate entity, on a par with our ego and this world. However, though he said that the ego, world and God are all just mental fabrications, like the illusory silver seen in a shell, he also indicated that (just as what appears as a snake is only a rope) what appears as each of these three is only our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which alone is what really exists.

What he said in this seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? is:
யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே. ஜக ஜீவ ஈச்வரர்கள், சிப்பியில் வெள்ளிபோல் அதிற் கற்பனைகள். இவை மூன்றும் ஏககாலத்தில் தோன்றி ஏககாலத்தில் மறைகின்றன. சொரூபமே ஜகம்; சொரூபமே நான்; சொரூபமே ஈச்வரன்; எல்லாம் சிவ சொரூபமாம்.

yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē. jaga-jīva-īśvarargaḷ, śippiyil veḷḷi pōl adil kaṟpaṉaigaḷ. ivai mūṉḏṟum ēka-kālattil tōṉḏṟi ēka-kālattil maṟaigiṉḏṟaṉa. sorūpam-ē jagam; sorūpam-ē nāṉ; sorūpam-ē īśvaraṉ; ellām śiva sorūpam ām.

What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own real self]. The world, soul and God are fabrications (kaṟpaṉaigaḷ) in it, like silver in a shell. These three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously. Svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or actual self] alone is the world; svarūpa alone is ‘I’ [the ego or soul]; svarūpa alone is God; everything is śiva-svarūpa [our actual self, which is śiva, the one infinite and absolute reality].
However, though he taught us that as a separate entity God is just an imagination or illusory fabrication (kalpanā), he clearly indicated that so long as we experience ourself as this ego the concept of such a God is a useful one, and he justified the use of this concept by explaining that God is actually our own infinite self, but that so long as we experience ourself as this finite ego, we have seemingly separated ourself from the infinite reality that is God, so in our view he seems to be a separate entity — something other than ourself.
    10b. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 9: the concept of God as a separate entity provides a beneficial focus for our love
The reason why the concept of God as a separate entity is useful is that whenever we are not able to keep our attention fixed on ourself, which is the true form of God, the idea that he also exists outside ourself as the one supreme power that governs whatever happens in this world, that ordains whatever we are to experience, and that loves us as itself and therefore seeks to guide and draw us back to itself provides a beneficial focus for our love. In other words, since God is actually our own infinite self, cultivating love for him even as a separate entity makes our love one-pointed and relatively unselfish, so when that love is redirected from the anya form of God (that is, the form of God that seems to be anya or other than ourself) towards his real ananya form (that is, his real form, which is ananya or not other than ourself) it will make it relatively easy for us to surrender ourself entirely and thereby merge back into our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which what God actually is.

This is what Bhagavan indicated in the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? when he explained the benefit of meditating with one-pointed love on a name or form of God, saying:
மூர்த்தித்தியானத்தாலும், மந்திரஜபத்தாலும் மனம் ஏகாக்கிரத்தை யடைகிறது. […] மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்.

mūrtti-d-dhiyāṉattālum, mantira-japattālum maṉam ēkāggirattai y-aḍaikiṟadu. […] maṉam aḷaviṟanda niṉaivugaḷ-āy virigiṉḏṟapaḍiyāl ovvoru niṉaivum adi-bala-v-īṉam-āha-p pōgiṉḏṟadu. niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum.

Both by mūrti-dhyāna [meditation upon a form of God] and by mantra-japa [repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God] the mind gains ēkāgratā [one-pointedness or concentration]. […] Because the mind spreads out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. When thoughts reduce and reduce, for the mind which has gained strength by [thus] achieving ēkāgra-taṉmai [one-pointedness] ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished.
    10c. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 13: the more we trust God the easier it will be for us to surrender ourself by attending to nothing other than ourself
Another way in which we can explain the benefit in cultivating love for God even as a separate entity is as follows: Since we can rise and stand as this ego only by attending to and thereby experiencing things other than ourself, when we turn our attention back towards ourself in order to investigate what we actually are, our ego will begin to subside and disappear, so practising self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) necessarily entails surrendering our ego, and since we can experience other things only when we experience ourself as this ego, it also entails surrendering everything else. This is why in the final sentence of verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan said ‘ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்’ (ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr), which means ‘Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything’.

Therefore the practice of self-investigation is also the practice of complete self-surrender, as Bhagavan explained clearly in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being completely absorbed in self-abidance (ātma-niṣṭhā), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.
What he means by the term ‘God’ (īśaṉ) in this sentence is obviously God as our own actual self, because God seems to be a separate entity only in the limited view of our ego, so when we surrender our ego entirely by attending to or thinking of ourself alone, he will no longer seem to be a separate entity but will shine as our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which is what he actually is. However, until we surrender ourself to him entirely, we cannot actually experience him as our own self, so whenever we are not attending exclusively to ourself he will still seem to be something other than ourself.

In order to surrender ourself entirely, we need to have all-consuming love for what is real, so while we are preparing ourself to make the ultimate sacrifice of ourself our love for what is real may at times be directed exclusively towards ourself in the form of steadfast self-attentiveness, whereas at other times it may be directed more towards God in the form of heart-melting devotion to him. Though devotion to self-attentiveness and devotion to God may seem to be two quite different forms of devotion, one being directed towards ourself and the other being seemingly directed away from ourself, they are in practice not as different as they may seem. In fact they are complementary, because the God whom we seem to be clinging to externally is actually nothing other than our own self, and the love with which we are clinging to him arises from deep within ourself, being (at least during advanced stages of surrender) a very pure form of the fundamental love that we each have for our own self.

Until we surrender ourself entirely, we will not be able to be exclusively self-attentive (although we should try to be), so though at times we may come close to being exclusively self-attentive, at other times our mind will need to be engaged at least to some extent in external affairs, so at such times we need to restrain the outward-going tendencies of our mind as much as possible, which we can do by minimising our concern with anything external. In order to minimise our concern with anything other than our own self-awareness, maintaining an attitude of surrender to the will of God, knowing that whatever happens externally is ordained by him and is therefore according to his will for our own benefit, is extremely helpful. This is why in the remaining three sentences of this thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan said:
ஈசன்பேரில் எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும், அவ்வளவையும் அவர் வகித்துக்கொள்ளுகிறார். சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்? புகை வண்டி சகல பாரங்களையும் தாங்கிக்கொண்டு போவது தெரிந்திருந்தும், அதி லேறிக்கொண்டு போகும் நாம் நம்முடைய சிறிய மூட்டையையு மதிற் போட்டுவிட்டு சுகமா யிராமல், அதை நமது தலையிற் றாங்கிக்கொண்டு ஏன் கஷ்டப்படவேண்டும்?

īśaṉpēril e-vv-aḷavu bhārattai-p pōṭṭālum, a-vv-aḷavai-y-um avar vakittu-k-koḷḷugiṟār. sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl, nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cinti-p-padēṉ? puhai vaṇḍi sakala bhāraṅgaḷaiyum tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu pōvadu terindirundum, adil ēṟi-k-koṇḍu pōhum nām nammuḍaiya siṟiya mūṭṭaiyaiyum adil pōṭṭu-viṭṭu sukhamāy irāmal, adai namadu talaiyil tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu ēṉ kaṣṭa-p-paḍa-vēṇḍum?

Even though one places whatever amount of burden upon God, that entire amount he will bear. Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all activities [everything that happens in this world], instead of yielding to it why should we always think, ‘it is necessary to act in this way; it is necessary to act in that way’? Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it suffer bearing our small luggage on our head instead of remaining happily leaving it placed on that [train]?
The more we trust God to take care of everything, the less we will be concerned about external affairs or anything that may or may not happen in our outward life, and the less we are concerned about such things the easier it will be for us to turn our mind inwards to be attentively aware of ourself alone. The love we have for God and the consequent trust we have in him is called bhakti, while the non-concern we have for anything other than ourself is called vairāgya. To the extent that we have genuine bhakti, to that extent we will also have genuine vairāgya, and vice versa, because bhakti is the power of love that draws our attention back towards ourself, whereas vairāgya is freedom from desires that draw our attention away from ourself towards anything else.

Since the purest form of bhakti is love to be aware of oneself alone, the direct, quickest and most effective way to cultivate the bhakti and vairāgya that are required to keep one’s attention fixed firmly on oneself and thereby to merge eventually in the clear and all-consuming light of pure self-awareness is trying to be self-attentive as much as possible. However, having love for God and therefore entrusting all one’s cares and concerns to him is a powerful aid to the practice of self-attentiveness, because it helps to free one’s mind from the desires and attachments that would otherwise tend to drag one’s attention away from oneself whenever one tries to be self-attentive.

Since what God actually is is only our own real self (ātma-svarūpa), the more we attend to ourself the more our love for him will deepen and intensify, and the more our love for him thereby deepens and intensifies, the firmer and stronger our vairāgya will become, which will in turn enable us to be more exclusively self-attentive. Thus love for God and the practice of self-attentiveness are complementary, each reinforcing the other.
    10d. Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ verse 15: God is ourself, so self-attentiveness is supreme devotion to God
Not only does the practice of self-attentiveness complement and reinforce our love for God, but it is also the purest expression of such love, as Bhagavan states unequivocally in verse 15 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ:
ஆன்மாநு சந்தான மஃதுபர மீசபத்தி
ஆன்மாவா யீசனுள னால்.

āṉmānu sandhāṉa maḵdupara mīśabhatti
āṉmāvā yīśaṉuḷa ṉāl
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஆன்ம அநுசந்தானம் அஃது பரம் ஈச பத்தி, ஆன்மாவாய் ஈசன் உளனால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): āṉma-anusandhāṉam aḵdu param īśa-bhatti, āṉmā-v-āy īśaṉ uḷaṉāl.

அன்வயம்: ஈசன் ஆன்மாவாய் உளனால், ஆன்ம அநுசந்தானம் அஃது பரம் ஈச பத்தி.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): īśaṉ āṉmā-v-āy uḷaṉāl, āṉma-anusandhāṉam aḵdu param īśa-bhatti.

English translation: Self-investigation (ātma-anusaṁdhāna) is supreme devotion to God (para īśa-bhakti), because God exists as oneself (ātman).
    10e. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 8: love for God as nothing other than oneself is best of all
Most devotees of God consider him to be something other than themself, but the more their love for him deepens and intensifies the closer to themself they will feel him to be, until eventually it will become clear to them that he is nothing other than their own actual self, because other than him they are nothing. In this way love for God matures from being anya bhakti (love for him as if he were something other than oneself) to being ananya bhakti (love for him as nothing other than oneself), which is the most perfect form of bhakti, as Bhagavan implies in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
அனியபா வத்தி னவனக மாகு
மனனிய பாவமே யுந்தீபற
     வனைத்தினு முத்தம முந்தீபற.

aṉiyabhā vatti ṉavaṉaha māhu
maṉaṉiya bhāvamē yundīpaṟa
     vaṉaittiṉu muttama mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: அனிய பாவத்தின் அவன் அகம் ஆகும் அனனிய பாவமே அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aṉiya bhāvattiṉ avaṉ aham āhum aṉaṉiya bhāvam-ē aṉaittiṉ-um uttamam.

English translation: Rather than anya bhāva, ananya bhāva, in which he is I, is certainly the best among all [practices of bhakti and forms or varieties of meditation].
In the context in which Bhagavan wrote this verse the primary meaning of bhāva is meditation or contemplation, so anya bhāva means meditation upon God as anya or other than oneself, whereas ananya bhāva means meditation upon him as ananya or not other than oneself. However bhāva also means love, and since love for God is the driving force that motivates one to meditate on him, we can interpret bhāva in this verse to mean both meditation and love. Therefore what Bhagavan implies here is that having love for God as oneself is the best among all forms of bhakti, and that meditating on oneself alone is therefore the best among all forms of meditation.

Moreover, since in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan was explaining the relative efficacy of the various practices of bhakti in purifying one’s mind, when he says in this verse that ananya bhāva is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best among all’, he implies that meditating on oneself alone is the most effective means to purify one’s mind — that is, to cleanse it of its outward-going desires or viṣaya-vāsanās.

Thus in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan explains how the various practice of anya bhakti will eventually lead one to the practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-attentiveness), which is the true expression of ananya bhakti. This is why he taught us that though God is not actually anything other than ourself, the concept of him as something other than oneself is nevertheless very useful, because it provides an effective means by which we can draw our mind to the path of self-investigation, which is the only means by which we can destroy our ego and thereby experience ourself as we really are.

Devotion to God can therefore be a bridge that enables us to cross over from being preoccupied with cares and concerns about external matters to being preoccupied with trying to surrender ourself entirely by means of self-investigation, and once we have embarked on the journey of self-investigation it provides an invaluable support, helping us to ward off numerous distractions by entrusting all our cares and concerns to him, and thereby enabling us to keep our love focussed one-pointedly on trying to experience our own pure self-awareness, which is his true form.
    10f. Though potentially beneficial, belief in God is not actually necessary
However, not everyone is attracted to the path of devotion to God as an external entity, and those who come either from an atheist background or from the background of a religion or system of spiritual belief such as Buddhism, Jainism or rāja yōga that gives little or no importance to the concept of God may ask whether it is actually necessary for us to believe in him. The answer to this question is no, it is not necessary, even though it can be very beneficial, because in order to practise self-investigation all that we need to believe is that we exist and are aware, which none of us can reasonably not believe.

We can reasonably doubt the existence or reality of everything other than ourself, because everything else could be (and according to Bhagavan is) just an illusory creation of our own mind, like everything that we experience in a dream, but we cannot reasonably doubt our own existence, because if we did not exist we could not be aware of anything, whether real or illusory. Since we are aware both of ourself and of other things, we must actually exist, but though it is clear and certain that we are, it is not yet clear or certain what we are, because we now experience ourself as if we were temporary phenomena such as our ego and this body. Since we are aware of ourself in sleep but are not then aware of this ego, body or anything else, these transitory phenomena that we now seem to be cannot be what we actually are, so we need to investigate ourself in order to experience ourself as we actually are.

Therefore belief in God or anything else other than ourself is not necessary, so Bhagavan never tried to compel anyone to believe in God unless they felt inclined to do so, as is illustrated by a reply of his recorded in the second chapter of the second part of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, page 56):
If you believe that God will do for you all the things you want Him to do, then surrender yourself to Him. Otherwise let God alone and know yourself.
If anyone did not feel inclined to believe in God or anything else that they did not know for certain, he would encourage them to doubt everything, including the doubter, their own ego, so he showed that just as wholehearted faith in God can be a bridge that enables one to cross over from worldly concerns to concern with knowing oneself, radical scepticism about everything can be an alternative bridge leading to the same point, namely one-pointed focus on trying to experience what one actually is.

Though devotion to God can be a very beneficial aid and support in one’s practice of self-investigation, it is suitable only for those who feel naturally inclined to believe in him. For anyone who is not inclined in such a way, belief in him is not necessary, and they need not feel concerned about their lack of belief in him, because to practise self-investigation and thereby experience ourself as we actually are we do not need to believe anything that we do not know for certain from our own experience, and the only thing we know for certain is that we exist and are aware. Therefore Bhagavan advised such people to investigate the only thing whose existence is beyond all scope for doubt, namely oneself.

However in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings scepticism and faith are not mutually exclusive, because we can be radically sceptical about the existence of everything other than ourself but at the same time have faith in God for the sake of the practical benefits we can derive thereby. Saying that we can be sceptical about everything yet have faith in God may seem illogical, but it is not, as can be seen from the following illustration:

Even if we are sceptical about the reality of everything that we are now experiencing, suspecting that it is all just a dream, we can nevertheless believe that within this dream the laws of physics apply, so for example because of our belief in gravity we would not step off the top of a tall building. If this is all just a dream, gravity and the other laws of physics are not actually real, but they nevertheless seem to be real, because they are as real as our ego and as everything else that we experience in this dream. Likewise, though we may believe that nothing other than ourself is actually real, we can nevertheless believe that so long as we experience ourself as this ego God and his omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolent love and grace are as real as this ego and as everything else that we now experience, just as the laws of physics are as real as everything else that we experience in whatever dream they seem to apply.

We cannot logically prove the existence of God as a separate entity, and we need not try to do so, because if we are inclined to believe in him all we need know is how such believe can be beneficial to us in achieving our ultimate goal, which is to surrender our ego entirely and thereby to experience ourself as we actually are. Bhagavan has explained this to us in a clear and logical manner, showing how devotion to God can help us not only to focus our love on trying to experience ourself as we actually are, but also to free our mind from all the cares and concerns that would otherwise distract our attention away from ourself.

According to Bhagavan God does not actually exist as a separate entity, because he seems to be anya (something that is separate or other than oneself) only in the view of the ego, which itself does not actually exist but merely seems to exist in its own view. There is only one thing that actually exists, and that is ourself, so if God is the one infinite reality that he is believed to be, he cannot be anything other than our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa). However, though he does not actually exist as anything other than ourself, we can nevertheless be benefited by believing that he exists as something that seems to be other than ourself, namely an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being, because if we believe in him as such and therefore entrust all our personal needs and concerns to his care, we will thereby be free of them and will therefore be able to focus all our interest, care, attention and effort on investigating ourself by trying to be attentively aware of ourself alone.

11. The karma theory is an auxiliary but not a fundamental principle of Bhagavan’s teachings

Like the concept of God, the karma theory is not an essential or fundamental principle of Bhagavan’s teachings, but believing it can be beneficial, so we can consider it to be an auxiliary principle of his teachings. Moreover, just as we cannot logically prove that God exists as a separate entity, we cannot logically prove that the karma theory is true, so if we are willing to believe it we can do so only on the basis of faith.

If we have been firmly convinced by all the logical reasons that Bhagavan has given us to show why we should believe each of the fundamental principles of his teachings, it should be relatively easy for us to believe other less essential aspects of his teachings such as the karma theory, even if there is no logical reason why we should believe them. However, it is not actually quite correct to say that there is no logical reason why we should believe the karma theory, because though the truth of this theory cannot be proved by any logical reasoning, the benefit that we can derive from believing it can be explained in a clear and logical manner, so for pragmatic purposes we would have good reasons to believe it even if it were not true.

However, before considering the benefits that we can derive from believing the karma theory, let us first consider whether or not it is an essential or fundamental aspect of his teachings. The reason why I said that it is not an essential or fundamental principle but only an auxiliary principle of his teachings is that we do not need to believe this theory in order to be convinced that we should try to experience what we actually are by investigating ourself.

All the most fundamental and essential principles of his teachings are centred around the nature of our ego and the effects of its seeming existence, because this ego is what seemingly prevents us from experiencing ourself as we really are, since all the other obstacles that we face are rooted in this ego and would not exist without it. Therefore in order to experience ourself as we actually are all we need to do is to annihilate this ego, which is the illusion that we are anything other than what we actually are, so understanding how this ego seems to exist (or rather how we seem to be this ego) and how it can be annihilated is all that we actually need to know in order to understand why and how we should investigate ourself.

The karma theory presupposes the existence of the ego, because without an ego there would be no one to do any action (karma) or to experience the consequences of any action. Therefore, since Bhagavan advised us to investigate whether we are actually the ego that we now seem to be, and since he taught us that if we investigate ourself sufficiently thoroughly we will find that this ego does not actually exist and is therefore just an illusory appearance, we can infer that the karma theory is not actually true, even though it may seem to be true so long as we experience ourself as this ego. This is why he taught us that the karma theory is not absolutely true, even though relative to the seeming existence of ourself as this ego it is seemingly true.

When we think of the karma theory as if it were true, we must think of ourself as if we were this ego, so though it may be beneficial for us to believe that the karma theory is true in a relative sense, we should remember that it seems to be true only so long as we seem to be this ego, so if we investigate ourself and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego, we will also thereby destroy the illusion that we are bound within the constraints of karma and its consequences. Therefore, since destroying our ego by self-investigation is the central aim of Bhagavan’s teachings, the karma theory has only a peripheral and inessential role to play in his teachings.

In the karma theory as taught by Bhagavan, God has an essential role to play, because (as he explains in the first verse of Upadēśa Undiyār) karma is jaḍa (devoid of any consciousness or awareness), so it cannot determine which ‘fruit’ or moral consequence each karma should produce, nor can it determine when each such consequence should be experienced. Therefore in order to believe the karma theory we have to believe in the existence not only of ourself as this ego but also of God as something separate from ourself, because in the view of God as our actual self there is no such thing as an ego or any karma, so what ordains the fruit of each karma and when it is to be experienced is not our actual self but only God as a seemingly separate entity. Therefore the karma theory would be true only if it were true that we are this ego and that God is therefore something other than ourself.

The fact that the karma theory has only a peripheral role in Bhagavan’s teachings can also be understood by considering the extent to which it features in Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, which are the three texts in which he expressed the fundamental principles of his teachings in a systematic manner.
    11a. Nāṉ Yār? paragraph 15: God is untouched by any karma and therefore does not do anything
In Nāṉ Yār? Bhagavan does not directly mention the karma theory at all, but refers to it very obliquely only in the fifteenth paragraph, in which he explains the nature and role of God, reconciling the seeming gulf between the concept of God as a separate being, who has a specific role or function, and the reality of God as our own actual self, which never does anything but just is. That is, though five actions or functions (pañcakṛtya) are generally attributed to God, namely sṛṣṭi (creation or projection of the universe), sthiti (sustenance or maintenance of it), saṁhāra (destruction, dissolution or withdrawal of it), tirodhāna (covering, veiling or concealing of what is real) and anugraha (grace or kindness, particularly in the sense of revealing what is real), in this paragraph Bhagavan says that these all happen by ‘ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரம்’ (īśaṉ saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttiram), which means ‘only the distinctive nature of the presence of God’, and that God is ‘ஸங்கல்ப ரகிதர்’ (saṅkalpa-rahitar), which means ‘someone who is devoid of saṁkalpa [volition, intension or desire]’, so no action (karma) sticks or adheres to him. Thus he implies that since God is our own infinite self, he does not actually do anything, but everything that seems to happen or be done happens only by the power of his mere presence. In addition to saying in effect that God is untouched by any karma and therefore does not do anything, he also says that jīvas (living beings) act and subside in accordance with their respective karmas, which is the closest he comes to referring to the karma theory in the whole of Nāṉ Yār?.
    11b. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 38: karma exists only for the ego
In Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he refers to the karma theory somewhat more directly in verse 38, but his aim in this verse is not to attribute reality to this theory but is only to explain that we seem to be bound by karma and its effects only so long as we experience ourself as this ego, which alone is what does karma and experiences its fruit or moral consequences, so if we investigate ourself and thereby dissolve the illusion that we are this ego, karma and its effects will cease to exist, and thus we will be free or liberated from them:
வினைமுதனா மாயின் விளைபயன் றுய்ப்போம்
வினைமுதலா ரென்று வினவித் — தனையறியக்
கர்த்தத் துவம்போய்க் கருமமூன் றுங்கழலு
நித்தமா முத்தி நிலை.

viṉaimudaṉā māyiṉ viḷaipayaṉ ḏṟuyppōm
viṉaimudalā reṉḏṟu viṉavit — taṉaiyaṟiyak
karttat tuvampōyk karumamūṉ ḏṟuṅkaṙalu
nittamā mutti nilai
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம். வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி தனை அறிய, கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும். நித்தமாம் முத்தி நிலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm. viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi taṉai aṟiya, karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum. nittam-ām mutti nilai.

English translation: If we are the doer of actions, we will experience the resulting fruit. [However] when we know ourself by investigating who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three karmas will slip off. [This is] the state of liberation, which is eternal.
வினைமுதல் (viṉai-mudal) literally means the origin, cause, root, foundation or base of action, but in grammar it is a term used to mean the subject of a clause or sentence, and in the context of this verse it means the doer of any action or karma. We experience ourself as the doer of any action only when we experience ourself as a body or mind, which alone are the instruments by which any action is done, and we likewise experience ourself as the experiencer of the fruit of our actions only when we experience ourself as this ego or mind, which alone is what experiences anything other than itself. In other words, the subject or doer of any action and the experiencer of its fruit is only our ego, because our ego is what experiences itself as a body and mind.

Therefore the karma theory is conditional, and the condition on which it depends is that we experience ourself as this ego, which is the finite ‘I’ that seems to do actions through mind, speech and body, and that consequently experiences the fruit of its actions. That is, as this ego we experience ourself as a body and mind, so when these instruments do any actions or experience the consequences of any actions, our experience is ‘I am doing these actions’ and ‘I am experiencing these consequences’.

So long as we experience ourself as the doer of any actions, we will also experience ourself as the experiencer of the fruit of our actions. Without such a sense of doership and experiencership, we could not do any āgāmya (action done by our free will or volition) or experience any prārabdha (destiny or fate, which is the fruit of some of the āgāmya that we have done in the past), and hence there would be no sañcita (store of the fruit of all the āgāmya that we have done in the past and that we have not yet experienced). Hence all these three karmas (āgāmya, sañcita and prārabdha) seem to exist only so long as we seem to be this ego — the doer of āgāmya and the experiencer of prārabdha. Therefore Bhagavan says that if we know ourself by investigating who am I, this ego who seems to do action, our sense of doership (and of experiencership) will cease, and hence along with it all the three karmas will also cease to exist.

The liberation that we will then experience is eternal, because when we investigate ourself and thereby see through the illusion that we are this ego, we will recognise that we have never been this ego and have therefore always been free or liberated. Therefore though Bhagavan says ‘கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும்’ (karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum), ‘doership will depart and all the three karmas will slip off’, he implies that when they vanish along with our ego we will find that they never actually existed at all. Thus in this verse he teaches us that karma is wholly unreal — as is its root, our ego — and that it seems to be real only because we seem to be this ego.
    11c. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 19: fate and free will exist only for the ego
The only other verse in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu in which Bhagavan refers indirectly to the karma theory is verse 19:
விதிமதி மூல விவேக மிலார்க்கே
விதிமதி வெல்லும் விவாதம் — விதிமதிகட்
கோர்முதலாந் தன்னை யுணர்ந்தா ரவைதணந்தார்
சார்வரோ பின்னுமவை சாற்று.

vidhimati mūla vivēka milārkkē
vidhimati vellum vivādam — vidhimatigaṭ
kōrmudalān taṉṉai yuṇarndā ravaitaṇandār
sārvarō piṉṉumavai sāṯṟu
.

பதச்சேதம்: விதி மதி மூல விவேகம் இலார்க்கே விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம். விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை உணர்ந்தார் அவை தணந்தார்; சார்வரோ பின்னும் அவை? சாற்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): vidhi mati mūla vivēkam ilārkkē vidhi mati vellum vivādam. vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai uṇarndār avai taṇandār; sārvarō piṉṉum avai? sāṯṟu.

அன்வயம்: விதி மதி மூல விவேகம் இலார்க்கே விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம். விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை உணர்ந்தார் அவை தணந்தார்; பின்னும் அவை சார்வரோ? சாற்று.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): vidhi mati mūla vivēkam ilārkkē vidhi mati vellum vivādam. vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai uṇarndār avai taṇandār; piṉṉum avai sārvarō? sāṯṟu.

English translation: Only for those who do not have discernment (vivēka) of the root of fate (vidhi) and free will (mati) is there dispute about which prevails, fate or free will. Those who have known themself, who is the one origin for fate and free will, have [thereby] discarded them. Say, will they thereafter be associated with them?
விதி (vidhi) means fate or destiny, so it is the same as prārabdha, and in this context மதி (mati) means will or volition, so it is the free will by which we do āgāmya, the fruit of which we will later experience as prārabdha. The terms ‘விதி மதி மூலம்’ (vidhi mati mūlam), which means ‘the root [base, origin or source] of fate and free will’, and ‘விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை’ (vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai), which means ‘oneself, who is the one origin [cause, root, foundation or base] for fate and free will’, both refer to our ego, which alone uses its free will to do āgāmya and consequently experiences prārabdha.

In some translations these two terms are interpreted as referring to our actual self, but this is obviously a misinterpretation, because our actual self does not use its free will to do anything nor does it experience any fate. Of course our actual self is the source and base of our ego, so as such it is the ultimate source and base of everything else, including fate and free will, but the intention of Bhagavan in this verse and many of the other verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is to explain that everything other than ourself depends for its seeming existence upon the seeming existence of ourself as this ego, because by emphasising this he was able to explain that the simple and direct means to free oneself from everything else is to free oneself from this ego by investigating what it actually is.

In the translations that misinterpret these two terms as referring to our actual self (such as the one in Truth Revealed: Sad-Vidya, which influenced Chadwick’s versified rendering and which was included in many older editions of The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and also the one in Ramana Maharshi and his Philosophy of Existence), other verses are misinterpreted in a similar way. For example, in verse 9 Bhagavan says that dyads (pairs of opposites such as knowledge and ignorance, existence and non-existence, birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, likes and dislikes, pleasure and pain, and bondage and liberation) and triads (the three factors of objective knowledge: knower, knowledge (or knowing) and known, seer, sight and seen, or perceiver, perception and perceived) exist clinging to ஒன்று (oṉḏṟu), which means ‘one’ and which implies the ego, because dyads and triads seem to exist only in the view of our ego, but in such translations ஒன்று (oṉḏṟu) has been interpreted as referring to our actual self.

Likewise in verse 10 when Bhagavan says, ‘அந்த அறிவும் அறியாமையும் ஆர்க்கு என்று அம் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை அறியும் அறிவே அறிவு’ (anda aṟivum aṟiyāmaiyum ārkku eṉḏṟu a-m-mudal ām taṉṉai aṟiyum aṟivē aṟivu), which means ‘Only the knowledge that knows oneself, who is the first, [by investigating] to whom are that knowledge and ignorance, is [true] knowledge’, what he implies by தன்னை (taṉṉai), which means ‘oneself’, is the ego, which is what rises first, because knowledge and ignorance (which in this context implies knowledge and ignorance about anything other than oneself) exist only in the view of our ego and not in the view of our actual self, but in such translations it has been interpreted as referring to our actual self. When he says in verse 11 ‘அறிவுறும் தன்னை’ (aṟivuṟum taṉṉai), which means ‘oneself who knows’, and ‘அறிவு அயற்கு ஆதார தன்னை அறிய, அறிவு அறியாமை அறும்’ (aṟivu ayaṟku ādhāra taṉṉai aṟiya, aṟivu aṟiyāmai aṟum), which means ‘when one knows oneself, the basis for knowledge and the other [ignorance], knowledge and ignorance will cease’, what he implies in both cases by தன்னை (taṉṉai), which means ‘oneself’, is the ego, because what knows anything other than ourself is only our ego (which is why he says in verse 12 ‘அறியும் அது உண்மை அறிவு ஆகாது’ (aṟiyum adu uṇmai aṟivu āhādu), which means ‘That which knows is not true knowledge’), so our ego alone is the basis (ādhāra) for knowledge and ignorance, but in some of these translations it has been interpreted as referring to our actual self.

The translators and commentators who have interpreted such passages as referring to our actual self rather than our ego did so because they failed to understand that one of Bhagavan’s principle aims in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu was to explain that everything other than ourself seems to exist only because we experience ourself as this ego (or mind, of which this ego is the root), as he indicated not only in these verses but in other ones such as verse 2, in which he uses the word முதல் (mudal) to mean a first thing or fundamental principle and says that contending that only one mudal (namely our actual self) stands as three mudal (namely the soul, world and God) or that these three mudal are always three mudal is possible only so long as the ego exists; verse 4, in which he explains that only if one is a form (that is, if one is the ego, which alone experiences itself as the form of a body) will the world and God seem to be forms (that is, things other than oneself); verse 6, in which he asks whether there is any world besides the mind, since it is the one mind that perceives the world by way of the five senses, thereby implying that the world does not exist independent of the mind or ego that perceives it; verse 7, in which he says ‘உலகு அறிவும் ஒன்றாய் உதித்து ஒடுங்கும் ஏனும், உலகு அறிவு தன்னால் ஒளிரும்’ (ulahu aṟivum oṉḏṟāy udittu oḍuṅgum ēṉum, ulahu aṟivu-taṉṉāl oḷirum), which means ‘Though the world and mind arise and subside simultaneously, the world shines by the mind’, implying once again that the world seems to exist only because it is perceived by our mind or ego; verse 14, in which he says that if the first person (our ego) exists, second and third persons (whatever seems to be other than ourself) will exist, and that if the first person ceases to exist because of our investigating the truth of it, second and third persons will also come to an end; verse 16, in which he says that if we are a body we will be ensnared in time and place, thereby implying that time and place seem to exist only because of our ego, which is the illusory adjunct-bound form of self-awareness ‘I am this body’; verse 23, in which he says ‘நான் ஒன்று எழுந்த பின், எல்லாம் எழும்’ (nāṉ oṉḏṟu eṙunda piṉ, ellām eṙum), which means ‘After one ‘I’ rises, everything rises’, thereby implying that the rising of our ego is the cause for the appearance of everything else; and verse 26, in which he says ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything’.

What he expresses in all these verses is one of the most fundamental and essential principles of his teachings, namely that everything other than our own pure self-awareness seems to exist only because we experience ourself as this ego, which is an illusory and unreal adjunct-mixed form of our self-awareness. Though the ultimate source and base of everything is our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), which alone is what really exists, the immediate source and base of everything else is our ego, because only when we seem to be this ego do other things seem to exist.

Understanding that our own actual self is the ultimate source and base of everything may be interesting philosophically, but it is of little practical value to us, because it does not enable us to understand how we can free ourself from the illusory appearance of other things. In contrast, understanding that our ego is the immediate source and base of everything else is of great practical value to us, because it enables us to understand that in order to free ourself from the illusory appearance of other things we must free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego, which we can do only by investigating ourself in order to experience what we actually are.

Therefore if we consider the import and implication of all these verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (namely 2, 4, 6, 7, 14, 16, 23 and 26), it should be clear to us that what Bhagavan meant by ஒன்று (oṉḏṟu) or ‘one’ in verse 9, by தன்னை (taṉṉai) or ‘oneself’ in verses 10 and 11, and by ‘விதி மதி மூலம்’ (vidhi mati mūlam), ‘the root of fate and free will’, and ‘விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை’ (vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai), ‘oneself, who is the one origin [or base] for fate and free will’, in verse 19 is not our actual self but only our ego.

Since ‘விதி மதி மூலம்’ (vidhi mati mūlam), ‘the root of fate and free will’, is our ego, ‘விதி மதி மூல விவேகம்’ (vidhi mati mūla vivēkam), ‘discernment of the root of fate and free will’, means discernment or discriminating knowledge of our ego, which implies discerning its non-existence, because according to Bhagavan this ego does not actually exist but merely seems to exist, and it seems to exist only because we have not yet thoroughly investigated what it is. விவேகம் (vivēkam) means discernment or discrimination in the sense of distinguishing one thing from another, so vivēkam concerning the ego is the ability to distinguish oneself from the ego, and since the ego seems to exist only when we experience it as ourself, when we distinguish ourself from our ego we will discover that we alone exist, and that our ego and everything experienced by it, including its free will and fate, are therefore non-existent and have never actually existed at all.

Since free will and fate seem to exist only so long as the ego seems to exist, and since the ego will not seem to exist when we investigate ourself and thereby discern that we alone exist, no dispute can then arise about which prevails, free will and fate. Therefore such a dispute can arise only for self-ignorant people (ajñānis), who have not yet discerned the non-existence of the ego, as Bhagavan implies in the first sentence of this verse: ‘விதி மதி மூல விவேகம் இலார்க்கே விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம்’ (vidhi mati mūla vivēkam ilārkkē vidhi mati vellum vivādam), which means ‘Only for those who do not have discernment of the root of fate and free will is there dispute about which prevails, fate or free will’.

When we investigate ourself and thereby discern that we alone exist, our ego will no longer seem to exist, and thus we will have discarded or separated ourself from both fate and free will, so we will no longer be entangled with them or with any dispute about them, as Bhagavan implies in the final two sentences of this verse: ‘விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை உணர்ந்தார் அவை தணந்தார்; சார்வரோ பின்னும் அவை? சாற்று’ (vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai uṇarndār avai taṇandār; sārvarō piṉṉum avai? sāṯṟu), which mean ‘Those who have known themself, who is the one origin [or base] for fate and free will, have [thereby] discarded them. Say, will they thereafter be associated with them?’ In this context ‘தன்னை உணர்ந்தார்’ (taṉṉai uṇarndār), which means ‘those who have known themself’, implies those who have known the non-existence of the ego, which alone is the origin and base for both fate and free will.
    11d. Upadēśa Undiyār: liberation is gained not by doing anything but only by just being
Though Bhagavan does not refer to the karma theory directly in Nāṉ Yār? and though in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he indicated that karma (action) seems to exist only in the view of our ego and is therefore dependent upon it, some people may argue that in Upadēśa Undiyār he seems to attach more importance to it, because he discusses it in the first three verses. However the reason why he mentions karma in those verses is because of the context in which he composed Upadēśa Undiyār, because he wrote it in response to Muruganar’s request to summarise the teachings that Lord Siva gave to the so-called ‘rishis’ (ṛṣis) who were performing ritualistic karmas in the Daruka forest for the fulfilment of their desires. Since those ritualists were so proud of the supposed power of their karmas that they believed that there is no God except karma, in the first verse of Upadēśa Undiyār he repudiated this idea of theirs, explaining that karma cannot be God because it is jaḍa (insentient or non-conscious):
கன்மம் பயன்றரல் கர்த்தன தாணையாற்
கன்மங் கடவுளோ வுந்தீபற
      கன்மஞ் சடமதா லுந்தீபற.

kaṉmam payaṉḏṟaral karttaṉa dāṇaiyāl
kaṉmaṅ kaḍavuḷō vundīpaṟa
      kaṉmañ jaḍamadā lundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: கன்மம் பயன் தரல் கர்த்தனது ஆணையால். கன்மம் கடவுளோ? கன்மம் சடம் அதால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): kaṉmam payaṉ taral karttaṉadu āṇaiyāl. kaṉmam kaḍavuḷ-ō? kaṉmam jaḍam adāl.

அன்வயம்: கன்மம் பயன் தரல் கர்த்தனது ஆணையால். கன்மம் சடம் அதால், கன்மம் கடவுளோ?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): kaṉmam payaṉ taral karttaṉadu āṇaiyāl. kaṉmam jaḍam adāl, kaṉmam kaḍavuḷ-ō?

English translation: Karma giving fruit is by the ordainment of God. Since karma is jaḍa, can karma be God?
What Bhagavan implied when he pointed out that karma is jaḍa (devoid of consciousness or awareness) is not only that it therefore cannot be God, but also that karma can operate in the way that the karma theory contends only if it is governed by something that is conscious. That is, according to the karma theory each āgāmya (action motivated by one’s free will or volition) produces an appropriate fruit or moral consequence, which is added to one’s sañcita (the store of all such fruit that one is yet to experience), from which an appropriate selection will be experienced by one as the prārabdha (destiny or fate) that one is to experience in each life, so such a system could not work unless it were governed by something that is conscious, because being non-conscious karma could not decide what fruit it should give or when each of the countless pending fruit of past karmas should be experienced.

This is why Bhagavan says in the first sentence of this verse, ‘கன்மம் பயன் தரல் கர்த்தனது ஆணையால்’ (kaṉmam payaṉ taral karttaṉadu āṇaiyāl), which means ‘Karma giving fruit is by the ordainment of God’. The term that he uses here to denote God is கர்த்தன் (karttaṉ), which is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word कर्ता (kartā), the masculine nominative singular form of कर्तृ (kartṛ), which literally means an agent or doer, and which in this context refers to God as the ordainer of the fruit of action. In this sense it means the same as the word அதற்கானவன் (adaṟkāṉavaṉ), which literally means ‘he who is for that’ and which is the term that Bhagavan used to refer to God in the first sentence of the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898.

However, though he refers to God here as கர்த்தன் (karttaṉ), the ‘doer’ or ‘ordainer’, in the fifteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (which I discussed in section 11a) he explains that God does not actually do anything, nor does he need to do anything, because all the functions that are generally attributed to him happen by the power of his mere presence. God does not do anything because he is our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), whose nature is just perfectly silent being and who is therefore completely non-active and motionless (acala).

However, God is not only pure being (sat) or what is (uḷḷadu) but is also perfectly self-aware — that is, aware of nothing other than himself — because as our own actual self his nature is pure self-awareness, so he is what is known as cit-śakti, the power of consciousness. Cit-śakti is not a power that does anything, because real consciousness (cit) is not awareness of anything other than itself (which is ourself), but it is the source and base of all other forms of power, because no other power could seem to exist or to operate if we were not aware of it, and we would not be aware of anything if we were not aware of ourself. Therefore just as self-awareness is the basis of any other form of awareness, the power of self-awareness (cit-śakti) is the basis of any other form of power.

Therefore when Bhagavan says that ‘karma giving fruit is by the ordainment of God’ he implies that each karma gives appropriate fruit and its fruit is experienced at an appropriate time and in appropriate circumstances because of the mere presence of cit-śakti, the power of our own self-awareness, which is God. And when he says that karma cannot be God because it is jaḍa (non-conscious) he implies that God is the cit-śakti without which karma could not operate.

Therefore though Bhagavan refers to karma in the very first verse of Upadēśa Undiyār, he does not imply that it is real but only shows that even when it seems to be real it is subservient to God, whose nature is consciousness or pure self-awareness. Then in the second verse he explains that karma is self-perpetuating, so it does not give liberation:
வினையின் விளைவு விளிவுற்று வித்தாய்
வினைக்கடல் வீழ்த்திடு முந்தீபற
      வீடு தரலிலை யுந்தீபற.

viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivuṯṟu vittāy
viṉaikkaḍal vīṙttiḍu mundīpaṟa
      vīḍu taralilai yundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினையின் விளைவு விளிவு உற்று வித்தாய் வினை கடல் வீழ்த்திடும். வீடு தரல் இலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivu uṯṟu vittāy viṉai-kaḍal vīṙttiḍum. vīḍu taral ilai.

English translation: The fruit of action having perished, as seed causes to fall in the ocean of action. Giving liberation is not.

Paraphrased translation: The fruit of action having perished [remains] as seed [and thereby] causes [one] to fall in the ocean of action. [Therefore action] does not give liberation.
When a fruit is consumed, it ceases to exist, but its seeds remain, and if left in the soil they will sprout as new plants that bear the same kind of fruit. Likewise, when the fruit of any action is experienced, it ceases to exist, but its seed remains within us and when conditions are suitable it will sprout as the same kind of action. Therefore what Bhagavan refers to here as வித்து (vittu) or ‘seed’ is a karma-vāsanā, a propensity, tendency or inclination to do the same kind of action repeatedly.

Therefore karmas tend to be self-perpetuating, so the more one does karma the more one will sink in an ocean of endless karmas, and hence doing any karma is not a means by which one can be liberated from one’s ego and its karma-vāsanās. In the Tamil original of this verse Bhagavan concluded by saying ‘வீடு தரல் இலை’ (vīḍu taral ilai), which literally means ‘giving liberation is not’ and which implies that karma will not give liberation, but in his Sanskrit translation he went even further by saying ‘गति निरोधकम्’ (gati nirōdhakam), which means that it obstructs liberation.

Saying that karma will not give liberation or will obstruct it implies that we cannot attain liberation by doing anything, so how can we attain it? According to Bhagavan we cannot attain it by doing anything but only by just being (summā iruppadu), because the nature of our real self is not doing but just being, so we cannot experience what we actually are and thereby liberate ourself from this ego except by just being.

How then can we just be? According to Bhagavan what we actually are is not only being (sat) but also awareness (cit), because we are aware that we are, so what is aware of our being is nothing other than our being itself, as he indicates in verse 23 of Upadēśa Undiyār. Therefore since self-awareness is the very nature of our being, and since what we actually are is never aware of anything other than ourself, we can just be as we actually are only by being aware of nothing other than ourself.

This is why he says in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār, ‘தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால்’ (tāṉ-āy iruttal-ē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl), which means ‘Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is not two’, and which implies that we can be as we actually are only by being aware of ourself as we actually are. Therefore since what we actually are just is and does not do anything, and since being aware of anything other than ourself is an action (karma), because it entails a movement of our mind or attention away from ourself towards that other thing, we can experience ourself as we actually are only by being aware of ourself alone and thereby doing nothing at all. Hence since trying to be aware of ourself alone is the practice that Bhagavan called ātma-vicāra (self-investigation), what he implies in these verses is that ātma-vicāra is the only means by which we can just be and thereby liberate ourself from the illusion that we are this ego.

Though he says in verse 2 that karma will not give liberation but will only obstruct it, in verse 3 he explains how karma can indirectly help us to attain liberation:
கருத்தனுக் காக்குநிட் காமிய கன்மங்
கருத்தைத் திருத்தியஃ துந்தீபற
      கதிவழி காண்பிக்கு முந்தீபற.

karuttaṉuk kākkuniṭ kāmiya kaṉmaṅ
karuttait tiruttiyaḵ dundīpaṟa
      gativaṙi kāṇbikku mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும் நிட்காமிய கன்மம் கருத்தை திருத்தி, அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): karuttaṉukku ākkum niṭkāmiya kaṉmam karuttai tirutti, aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum.

English translation: Niṣkāmya karma done [with love] for God purifies the mind and [thereby] it will show the path to liberation.
The Sanskrit term kāmya means volitional or done with desire (kāma), so any action that is done for the fulfilment of any desire is called a kāmya karma, and hence a niṣkāmya karma is any action that is not motivated by desire. So long as our ego exists, it will have desires of one kind or another, so whatever actions it does of its own free will will inevitably be motivated to a greater or lesser extent by its desires. Therefore no action done by our ego can be perfectly niṣkāmya (which is why Bhagavan often said that only an ātma-jñāni can be a perfect karma-yōgi, as recorded for example near the end of the third chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, page 22)). However, our actions can be niṣkāmya to the extent that they are motivated by love of God and are therefore done for his sake rather than for the sake of anything we hope to gain thereby.

Doing action in such a niṣkāmya spirit for the love of God will purify our mind in the sense that it will weaken our desires for and attachment to anything other than God, and to the extent that our mind is thereby purified we will have the clarity to recognise that the only way to attain liberation is to surrender ourself entirely to him, and that since we cannot surrender ourself entirely to him so long as we consider ourself to be anything separate from or other than him, in order to surrender ourself completely we must turn our attention within and thereby experience him as our own self. In other words, when our mind is sufficiently purified we will be able to understand that the கதி வழி (gati vaṙi), the ‘path [way or means] to liberation’, is ultimately only the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which is what Bhagavan describes in verse 8 as ananya bhāva (meditation upon God as ananya or not other than oneself) and which he says is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best among all’, thereby implying that it is the most effective of all means to purify one’s mind.

However, when Bhagavan says that doing niṣkāmya karma with love for God will purify the mind, we should understand that what purifies the mind is not the karma itself but only the love and relative desirelessness with which we do it. By itself whatever action (karma) we may do will only plunge us further into the ocean of karma and will therefore obstruct any effort that we might make to attain liberation, as he say in verse 2, so it is only our bhakti (love for God) and vairāgya (freedom from desire for anything else) that will purify our mind and thereby enable us to recognise that ātma-vicāra is ultimately the only கதி வழி (gati vaṙi) or means to liberation.

Therefore though Bhagavan does refer to karma in the first three verses of Upadēśa Undiyār, the reason he did so was not to imply that karma is real or that it is a means to liberation, but was only to lay the foundation for the subsequent verses, in which he shows us how we can go beyond karma to reach the state of pure being, which alone is liberation. In fact if we consider Upadēśa Undiyār as a whole, we should be able to see that it is a repudiation of karma (action or doing) and an affirmation that being is both the means and the goal — the only means by which we can attain liberation and the goal of liberation itself.

After saying in verse 3 that niṣkāmya karma done with love for God will purify the mind and thereby show the way to liberation, in verses 4 to 7 he explains the relative efficacy of the various kind of niṣkāmya karma that we can do with love for God, saying essentially that any action done by mind, such as meditation (dhyāna), will purify one’s mind more effectively than any action done by speech, such as repetition (japa), which will purify one’s mind more effectively than any action done by body, such as worship (pūja). Then in verse 8 he says that rather than anya bhāva (meditation upon God as other than oneself), ananya bhāva (meditation upon him as not other than oneself) is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best among all’, implying that it is the most effective means to purify one’s mind.

Whereas anya bhāva is an action (karma), because it entails a movement of one’s mind away from oneself towards one’s conception of God as something other than oneself, ananya bhāva is not an action, because it entails no movement of one’s mind away from oneself, so it is a state of just being (summā iruppadu). This is confirmed by Bhagavan in verse 9, in which he says:
பாவ பலத்தினாற் பாவனா தீதசற்
பாவத் திருத்தலே யுந்தீபற
     பரபத்தி தத்துவ முந்தீபற.

bhāva balattiṉāṯ bhāvaṉā tītasaṯ
bhāvat tiruttalē yundīpaṟa
     parabhatti tattuva mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: பாவ பலத்தினால் பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே பரபத்தி தத்துவம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): bhāva balattiṉāl bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttal-ē para-bhatti tattuvam.

English translation: By the strength of meditation, being in sat-bhāva, which transcends bhāvana, is certainly para-bhakti tattva.

Elaborated translation: By the strength [intensity, firmness or stability] of [such] meditation [ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness], being in sat-bhāva [one’s ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’], which transcends [all] bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation], is certainly [or is alone] para-bhakti tattva [the real essence or true state of supreme devotion].
பாவ பலத்தினால் (bhāva balattiṉāl) means ‘by the strength [intensity, firmness or stability] of meditation’, so in this context it implies by the intensity of ananya bhāva or self-attentiveness. By such intensity one gives not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintana (thought of oneself or self-attentiveness), so one thereby remains in one’s real state of being (sat-bhāva), which transcends all kinds of mental activity. That is, since we rise as (or seem to be) an ego only by being aware of anything other than ourself, if we use our power of attention to be aware of ourself alone, we will cease rising as (or seeming to be) this ego, and thus we will remain as we really are, which is what Bhagavan describes here as ‘சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே’ (sat-bhāvattu iruttalē), which means ‘being in sat-bhāva [one’s ‘state of being’ or ‘real being’]’.

Since ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே’ (āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉāy iruppadē) or ‘only being completely absorbed in self-abidance, not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintana [thought of oneself or self-attentiveness]’ is surrendering oneself entirely to God, as Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, and since ātma-cintana means the same as ananya bhāva, namely attending to nothing other than oneself, in this verse he says that only being in sat-bhāva (the real state of being) by the intensity of ananya bhāva is ‘பரபத்தி தத்துவம்’ (parabhatti tattuvam), which is a Tamil spelling of parabhakti tattva, which means the thatness, truth or real essence of supreme devotion.

Since complete self-surrender, which alone is supreme devotion, is the only means by which we can be liberated from our ego and from everything else, which seems to exist only as a result of the rising of this ego, and since supreme devotion or complete self-surrender is only being as we really are by being so intensely self-attentive that we give not even the slightest room to the rising of awareness of anything other than ourself, Bhagavan frequently said that we cannot attain liberation by doing anything (that is, by any action or karma whatsoever) but only by just being as we really are (that is, by being pure self-awareness, which is devoid of thought and hence bhāvanātīta, transcending all meditation or thinking).

Thus what he teaches us in this verse is closely related to what he teaches us in the first maṅgalam verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, particularly in the last two lines:
உள்ளபொரு ளுள்ளலெவ னுள்ளத்தே யுள்ளபடி
யுள்ளதே யுள்ள லுணர்.

uḷḷaporu ḷuḷḷaleva ṉuḷḷattē yuḷḷapaḍi
yuḷḷadē yuḷḷa luṇar
.

பதச்சேதம்: உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் எவன்? உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே உள்ளல். உணர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal evaṉ? uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē uḷḷal. uṇar.

English translation: How to [or who can] think of the existing substance? Being in heart as it is alone is meditating [upon it]. Experience [this].
உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ) means ‘existing substance’ or ‘substance that is’, so it denotes the one thing that alone actually exists, which is what he refers to in the first line of this verse as உள்ளது (uḷḷadu), which means ‘what is’. The fact that this உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ) or உள்ளது (uḷḷadu) is our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa) is indicated by the final clause of the second line, ‘உள்ளம் எனும்’ (uḷḷam eṉum), which is a relative clause that means ‘which is called heart’. In this context உள்ளம் (uḷḷam) means ‘heart’ in the sense of our actual self, because our actual self is the heart or core of what we now seem to be.

உள்ளம் (uḷḷam) is also a rarely used literary form of உள்ளோம் (uḷḷōm), which is the first person plural form of the tenseless verb உள் (uḷ), which means to be, so உள்ளம் (uḷḷam) also means ‘[we] are’. However since Bhagavan often used the inclusive first person plural pronoun நாம் (nām), which means ‘we’ including whoever is being addressed (as opposed to நாங்கள் (nāṅgaḷ), which means ‘we’ excluding whoever is being addressed), as a singular generic pronoun (equivalent to the generic pronoun ‘one’ in English) or as an inclusive form of the first person singular pronoun நான் (nāṉ), which means ‘I’, உள்ளம் (uḷḷam) can be considered to be an inclusive form of the first person singular verb உள்ளேன் (uḷḷēṉ), which means ‘am’. Therefore whether we interpret ‘உள்ளம் எனும்’ (uḷḷam eṉum) to mean ‘which is called heart’ or ‘which is called ‘we are’ [or ‘I am’]’, it clearly indicates that what Bhagavan meant by the term ‘உள்ளபொருள்’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ) or ‘existing substance’ is our own actual self, ‘I am’, which alone is உள்ளது (uḷḷadu) or ‘what is’.

When Bhagavan first composed this verse, he wrote only these last two lines, but a few days later he added the two first lines, so what he wrote in the first two lines is intended to clarify the import of these last two lines, in which he begins by asking ‘உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் எவன்?’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal evaṉ?), which means ‘How to [or who can] think of the existing substance?’. உள்ளல் (uḷḷal) means ‘thinking’ (or ‘meditating’) and எவன் (evaṉ) is an interrogative pronoun that can mean either ‘how’ or ‘which person’, so what Bhagavan implies by this question is that no one can conceive or mentally grasp உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ), the substance or thing that actually exists.

The reason why no one can mentally grasp it is explained by him in a clause that he added in the first two lines, ‘உள்ளபொருள் உள்ளல் அற உள்ளத்தே உள்ளதால்’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal-aṟa uḷḷattē uḷḷadāl), which means ‘since the existing substance exists in the heart without thought [or without thinking]’, and which therefore implies that the existing substance exists beyond the range of thought or thinking. From this we can infer that the உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ) or existing substance is what Bhagavan described in verse 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār as ‘பாவனாதீத சத் பாவம்’ (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāva), the ‘state of being, which transcends bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation]’. Since it is beyond thought, who can think of it, or how can one think of it?

Thus Bhagavan implies that no one can meditate upon what actually exists by trying to think of it, because it cannot be grasped by thought. Therefore, since it is our own self, the only means by which we can meditate upon it is by just being as it is, which means being as we really are. This is why he answers his own question ‘உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் எவன்?’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal evaṉ?), ‘How to [or who can] think of the existing substance?’, by saying ‘உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே உள்ளல்’ (uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē uḷḷal), which means ‘Being in the heart as it is [or as one is] alone is meditating [upon it]’.

What does he imply in this sentence by the first word, உள்ளத்தே (uḷḷattē), which is a locative case form of உள்ளம் (uḷḷam) and therefore means ‘in the heart’? Since உள்ளம் (uḷḷam), the heart, is our own actual self, ‘உள்ளத்தே உள்ளது’ (uḷḷattē uḷḷadu) or ‘being in the heart’ implies not rising as an ego or mind by allowing our attention to move away from ourself towards anything else. As soon as we allow our attention to move away from ourself even to the slightest extent, we thereby rise as this ego, going out (metaphorically speaking) from ourself, and since this ego is the first thought and the root of all other thoughts, as soon as it rises it expands as numerous other thoughts. Since we rise as this ego whenever our attention moves away towards anything else, the only way to avoid rising as this ego and thereby to remain in our actual self, the heart, is to be vigilantly self-attentive.

And what does he imply by the adverb உள்ளபடி (uḷḷapaḍi), which means ‘as it is’ or ‘as one is’? Since the existing substance, which is our actual self, exists in the heart without thought, being in the heart as it is means being without thought or thinking. It also means being aware of our own existence in a clear and attentive manner, because the existing substance itself is what is aware of its own existence, as Bhagavan implies in the first sentence of this verse, ‘உள்ளது அலது உள்ள உணர்வு உள்ளதோ?’ (uḷḷadu aladu uḷḷa-v-uṇarvu uḷḷadō?), which means ‘Except as uḷḷadu [what is], does existing awareness [or awareness of what is] exist?’ Therefore what he implies by ‘உள்ளபடி உள்ளது’ (uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadu), ‘being as it is’ or ‘being as one is’, is that we should simply be as the pure thought-free self-awareness that we actually are.

Thus what he implies by both உள்ளத்தே (uḷḷattē), ‘in the heart’, and உள்ளபடி (uḷḷapaḍi), ‘as it is’ or ‘as one is’, is essentially the same, namely that we should be without thought by being attentively aware of ourself alone. Therefore the import of this verse is that the only way to meditate on what is real is to be as it is — that is, to be aware of oneself alone without being distracted by any thought. So long as we are aware of any thought or anything other than ourself, we are not being in the heart or being as we actually are, so the only way to be in the heart as we actually are is to be aware of ourself alone, and the only way to be aware of ourself alone in such a way that no thought can arise is to be vigilantly self-attentive.

Since உள்ளம் (uḷḷam), the heart, is what we actually are, ‘உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளது’ (uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadu) or ‘being in the heart as it is’ implies being in our actual self as our actual self. Therefore the locative form உள்ளத்தே (uḷḷattē), ‘in the heart’, is used here in a metaphorical sense — not in the literal sense of one thing being in another thing — so ‘being in the heart’ implies being as the heart, which is what is also implied by ‘being as it is’. Since what Bhagavan implied by உள்ளபடி (uḷḷapaḍi) or ‘as it is’ is the essentially same as what he implied by உள்ளத்தே (uḷḷattē) or ‘in the heart’, we can infer that he used both of these terms in order to emphasise that we should just be what we actually are without rising and going outwards as this ego or mind.

After he added the first two lines to this verse, its complete form is now:
உள்ளதல துள்ளவுணர் வுள்ளதோ வுள்ளபொரு
ளுள்ளலற வுள்ளத்தே யுள்ளதா — லுள்ளமெனு
முள்ளபொரு ளுள்ளலெவ னுள்ளத்தே யுள்ளபடி
யுள்ளதே யுள்ள லுணர்.

uḷḷadala duḷḷavuṇar vuḷḷadō vuḷḷaporu
ḷuḷḷalaṟa vuḷḷattē yuḷḷadā — luḷḷameṉu
muḷḷaporu ḷuḷḷaleva ṉuḷḷattē yuḷḷapaḍi
yuḷḷadē yuḷḷa luṇar
.

பதச்சேதம்: உள்ளது அலது உள்ள உணர்வு உள்ளதோ? உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் அற உள்ளத்தே உள்ளதால், உள்ளம் எனும் உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் எவன்? உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே உள்ளல். உணர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uḷḷadu aladu uḷḷa-v-uṇarvu uḷḷadō? uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal-aṟa uḷḷattē uḷḷadāl, uḷḷam eṉum uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal evaṉ? uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē uḷḷal. uṇar.

அன்வயம்: உள்ளது அலது உள்ள உணர்வு உள்ளதோ? உள்ள பொருள் உள்ளல் அற உள்ளத்தே உள்ளதால், உள்ளம் எனும் உள்ள பொருள் எவன் உள்ளல்? உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே உள்ளல்; உணர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uḷḷadu aladu uḷḷa-v-uṇarvu uḷḷadō? uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal-aṟa uḷḷattē uḷḷadāl, uḷḷam eṉum uḷḷa-poruḷ evaṉ uḷḷal? uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē uḷḷal; uṇar.

English translation: Except as uḷḷadu [what is], does existing awareness [or awareness of what is] exist? Since the existing substance [which is uḷḷadu] is in the heart without thought, how to [or who can] think of the existing substance, which is called ‘heart’? Being in the heart as it is alone is meditating [upon it]. Experience [this].
By saying this in the very first maṅgalam or benedictory verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan indicated that the central theme of the entire text is ‘உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே’ (uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē), ‘only being in the heart as it is’. Therefore since being in the heart as it is entails not rising as this ego, in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he explains in a clear and detailed manner the nature of the ego, how it rises, the effects of its rising and the means to prevent it rising, and he summarises all this most clearly in verses 25 and 26. In verse 25 he explains that the ego rises by ‘grasping form’ or attending to things other than itself, and that it will therefore subside and disappear only when it tries to grasp, investigate or attend to itself alone, and in verse 26 he explains that when the ego rises everything rises, and when it does not rise nothing else exists, so the ego itself is everything, and hence investigating what it is is giving up everything.

Just as the principle aim of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu is to teach us how to ‘be in the heart as it is’, the principle aim of Upadēśa Undiyār is likewise to teach us how to be thus. This is why Bhagavan starts Upadēśa Undiyār by saying in verse 2 that action (karma) will not give liberation, and then explains in verse 3 to 9 how we must progress from the state of karma, which entails attending to things that are anya or other than oneself, to the state of being (sat-bhāva), which is beyond thought (bhāvaṉātīta), and which we can therefore be in only by the strength or intensity of ananya bhāva, which means ‘meditation on what is not other’ and which hence implies being exclusively self-attentive, thereby giving no room to the rising of any thought about anything other than ourself.

After saying in verse 9 that being in bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāva (the state of being, which is beyond thought) by the intensity of ananya bhāva (being attentive to nothing other than oneself) is the real essence of supreme devotion, in verse 10 Bhagavan summarises the import of the previous nine verses and also of the subsequent four verses (in which he explains that prāṇāyāma (which is one of the principal practices of rāja yōga, and by which he therefore implies any practice of rāja yōga) can help one to attain the final goal of manōnāśa (annihilation of the mind) only if one uses the relative calmness of mind achieved thereby to send one’s mind on the one path of self-investigation):
உதித்த விடத்தி லொடுங்கி யிருத்த
லதுகன்மம் பத்தியு முந்தீபற
     வதுயோக ஞானமு முந்தீபற.

uditta viḍatti loḍuṅgi irutta
ladukaṉmam bhattiyu mundīpaṟa
     vaduyōga jñāṉamu mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

English translation: Subsiding and being in the place from which one rose: that is karma and bhakti; that is yōga and jñāna.
உதித்த இடம் (uditta iḍam) means ‘the place from which one rose’, so it implies our actual self, which is the source from which we have risen as this ego. Thus it is what Bhagavan referred to in the previous verse as சத் பாவம் (sat-bhāvam), the ‘state of being’, and in the first maṅgalam verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu as உள்ளது (uḷḷadu), ‘what is’, உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ), the ‘existing substance’ or ‘thing that is’, and உள்ளம் (uḷḷam), the ‘heart’.

In order to be in this place from which we rose we must subside, as Bhagavan indicates by the verbal participle ஒடுங்கி (oḍuṅgi), which means subsiding, calming down, becoming tranquil, shrinking, dissolving, closing or ceasing, and which implies ceasing to rise as this ego. Since this ego is the doer of all actions (karmas), when it subsides in the place from which it arose all actions cease, and hence what remains is only our natural state of being, in which we just are and do not do anything, as Bhagavan indicates by the verbal noun இருத்தல் (iruttal), which means ‘being’.

Being thus in the source from which we rose, having subsided and ceased to be this ego, is the aim and culmination of all the four yōgas or varieties of spiritual practice, namely the paths of niṣkāmya karma (action not motivated by desire), bhakti (devotion), rāja yōga (practices such as prāṇāyāma done in order to restrain citta-vṛtti or mental activity) and jñāna (the practice of self-investigation, which is the direct means to attain self-knowledge).

This verse therefore summarises the aim and purpose of the whole of Upadēśa Undiyār, indicating that it is to show us how to subside and be in the source from which we rose as this ego. As Bhagavan implied in verse 3, niṣkāmya karma can indirectly help us to subside in our source only if it is motivated by bhakti (love for God), and as he implied in verses 4 to 8 the various practices of niṣkāmya bhakti can indirectly help us to subside in our source only by purifying our mind and thereby developing from being anya bhakti (devotion to God as something other than oneself) to being ananya bhakti (devotion to him as nothing other than oneself), the practice of which is ananya bhāva (being attentive to nothing other than oneself). Thus in verses 3 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan teaches us that the various practices of niṣkāmya karma and bhakti are beneficial only to the extent that they lead us to the path of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-attentiveness), and in verse 9 he teaches us that by the intensity of our ātma-vicāra we will subside and be in bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāva (the state of being, which is beyond thought), which is our own actual self, the source from which we rose as this ego.

In verses 11 to 14 he implies that practices of rāja yōga such as prāṇāyāma can indirectly help us to subside permanently in our source only if we use the relative calmness of mind achieved by such practices to direct our attention on the path of ātma-vicāra, and in verse 15 he says that when the mind has been annihilated by ātma-vicāra there will be no ‘doing’ or action (karma). Thus in the first fifteen verses of Upadēśa Undiyār he teaches us that all karma must eventually cease along with our mind or ego in the actionless state of being, which is our real nature.

He then devotes the final fifteen verses of Upadēśa Undiyār to the path of jñāna and the nature of the ultimate goal that we will achieve thereby. In verse 17, for example, he says that ātma-vicāra is ‘மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும்’ (mārggam nēr ārkkum), ‘the direct path of everyone’, because it will reveal that there is no such thing as mind or ego at all, and in verse 26 he says ‘தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால்’ (tāṉ-āy iruttal-ē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl), which means ‘Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is not two’, thereby implying that the only way to be what we actually are is to attend to ourself, because as he explains in verse 23 to know uḷḷadu (what is) there is no awareness other than it, so it is itself awareness, and since we alone are what is, we ourself are the awareness that knows ourself, and hence being ourself entails being aware of ourself. Thus he repeatedly affirms the oneness of being and self-awareness, thereby implying that being aware of ourself alone is being what we actually are, which is consistent with his teaching that by being aware of anything other than ourself we rise as this ego, which is not what we actually are, and that the only means to prevent the rising of our ego is to focus our entire attention on ourself alone.
    11e. How can belief in the karma theory be beneficial?
Thus if we carefully consider all that Bhagavan has taught us in Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, it should be clear to us that karma is not real, and that we seem to be bound by the laws of karma only because we experience ourself as this ego, which is the doer of karma and the experiencer of its fruit. Therefore the karma theory is not one of the fundamental principles of his teachings, but it is an auxiliary principle, because he often referred to it, particularly when explaining to us why we should not be concerned about anything that we have to experience in our outward life as a person.

Thus he implied that like belief in God, belief in the karma theory can be beneficial, even though there is no way we can prove either logically or in practice that it is true. Therefore beside faith in his teachings, the only logical reason we have to believe in the karma theory is the benefit we can derive from believing it (whether it is true or not) if we understand it correctly. What then is the benefit we can derive from believing it?

The clearest and most reliable record we have of the karma theory as expressed by Bhagavan is the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898:
அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன். என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று.

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

According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to act [that is, according to the destiny (prārabdha) of each person, he who is for that (namely God or guru, who ordains their destiny) being in the heart of each of them will make them act]. What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]. This indeed is certain. Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good.
What he wrote in this note explains why he said on another occasion (as recorded in the first chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pages 4-5), and also at the end of section 268 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, page 235):
Make no effort either to work or to renounce; your effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen. If you are destined not to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it; if you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it; you will be forced to engage yourself in it. So, leave it to the higher power.
From what he wrote in his note for his mother (and also to a lesser extent from what he is recorded to have said in the above passage from Maharshi’s Gospel) we can infer several important ideas that he wanted us to understand about the karma theory: Firstly, we will be made to do whatever we need to do in order to experience our preordained destiny or fate (prārabdha), from which we can infer that we need not concern ourself with questions about we should do in order to provide for the material needs of our body or of anyone else who seems to be dependent upon us, because we will be made to do whatever we are destined to do, and anything we may try to do in addition to what we are destined to do will not change anything that we or anyone else is destined to experience.

The latter is the second important inference that we should draw from what Bhagavan wrote in this note. That is, we cannot in any way change what we are destined to experience, so we cannot experience anything that we are not destined to experience, nor can we avoid experiencing whatever we are destined to experience.

However, though we cannot change what we are destined to experience, we are free to want to change it and to try to change it, as he implies by saying, ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu), which means ‘what is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes’, and ‘நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது’ (naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu), which means ‘what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does’. If we were not free to want to change what we are destined to experience or to try to change it, we would not be responsible for anything that we do, and none of our actions would be āgāmya (actions done by our own free will), in which case the karma theory would not stand, because according to it the only karma that can give fruit is āgāmya, since it is the only karma for which we are personally responsible.

By doing any āgāmya we cannot change what we are destined to experience, but we are creating fruit that we are liable to experience as part of our prārabdha in some future life (that is, in some dream other than the dream of this life that we are now experiencing), and we are also nourishing and strengthening our karma-vāsanās (propensities, tendencies or inclinations to do the same kind of actions in future), which are the seeds that prompt us to do further āgāmya, so by doing any āgāmya we are causing ourself to sink deeper in the great ocean of karma, as Bhagavan says in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār. Therefore doing any āgāmya is a foolish misuse of our free will.

How then can we use our free will in a way that will be beneficial? Using our free will to do any action by mind, speech or body is āgāmya, so we should not use it to do anything, but just to be. This is what Bhagavan implied in the final sentence of this note to his mother: ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), which means ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’.

In this concluding sentence of his note Bhagavan explains all that we ultimately need to infer from the karma theory. The purpose of the karma theory is not to make us waste our time and effort on trying to determine which of our actions are driven by our fate and which are driven by our free will, or to what extent each of our actions is driven either by one or both of these, because so long as we experience ourself as this ego we cannot determine such things, and even if we could there would be no benefit in doing so. The only benefit we can gain from the karma theory is to understand that we should focus all our interest, love, effort and attention on trying to just silently be.

In order to silently be, we must avoid using our free will to do anything other than surrendering all our cares and concerns about our outward life as a person and about whatever karmas we as this person may do or experience, and in order to surrender all such cares and concerns completely we must surrender our ego, which is the root of all cares, concerns and karmas. And as Bhagavan often explained, the only way to surrender our ego and thereby just silently be is by ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பது’ (āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadu), ‘being completely absorbed in self-abidance, giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than thought of oneself ’, as he stated explicitly in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?. In other words, clinging firmly to ātma-cintana (thought of oneself) or ātma-vicāra (self-attentiveness) is the only means by which we can surrender our ego and thereby just silently be.

If we have understood this, we have understood all that we need to understand about the karma theory. Therefore understanding and believing the karma theory is beneficial only to the extent that it motivates us to give up all our cares and concerns by clinging vigilantly and tenaciously to self-attentiveness.

12. The relative efficacy of various forms of spiritual practice

In his comment that I refer to at the beginning of this article Maya wrote: ‘I persist with the opinion that many methods can lead us to the point where the destruction of “I” can happen in a second where self inquiry spontaneously happens. One doesn’t necessarily gain an advantage by following, say 10 years of atma vichara compared to say 10 years of japam. As I said there are a lot of other factors involved like ones vasanas, ripeness etc etc.’.

In the first half of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan teaches us that the various practices of niṣkāmya karma, bhakti and rāja yōga can lead one eventually to the path of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry), which alone is the direct means to destroy the ego, so if this is what Maya meant by what he wrote in the first of these three sentences, his opinion does not conflict with Bhagavan’s teachings in this regard. However what he wrote in the next sentence does seem to conflict what Bhagavan taught us in verses 4 to 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in which he explains the relative efficacy of various practices of niṣkāmya bhakti, beginning by saying in verse 4 that pūjā, japa and dhyāna are actions of body, speech and mind, and that in this order each is superior to the preceding one (implying in the context of the previous verse that japa is more effective in purifying one’s mind than pūjā, and dhyāna is more effective than japa), and concluding by saying in verse 8 that ananya bhāva (meditation on nothing other than oneself) is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best among all’.

Since ananya means ‘not other’, ananya bhāva means meditation on what is not other than oneself, so the lakṣyārtha or intended meaning of this term is clearly self-attentiveness, and hence it is an alternative description of ātma-vicāra. Thus what Bhagavan implies in verse 8 is that ātma-vicāra is the most effective means to purify one’s mind.

Even if what Maya meant when he referred to japa was mānasika japa (japa done mentally rather than orally), which is a form of meditation (dhyāna), it is still less efficacious than ātma-vicāra, because it entails attending to something other than oneself, whereas ātma-vicāra entails attending to nothing other than oneself. This is why Bhagavan repeatedly emphasised that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can experience what we actually are and thereby destroy our ego, because it leads us straight to this goal, whereas all other practices are at best only indirect means, because they do not lead us straight to our goal, so they can enable us to experience ourself as we actually are only if they lead us to the practice of ātma-vicāra, which is the only means that will actually reveal the truth that this ego really exist at all.

In Padamalai (the English translation by TV Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman of selected verses from Sri Muruganar’s Pādamālai) David quotes on pages 200-1 a passage from page 176 of the 1984 edition of Conscious Immortality, in which it is recorded that Bhagavan said:
This path [attention to the ‘I’] is the direct path; all others are indirect ways. The first leads to the Self, the others elsewhere. And even if the latter do arrive at the Self it is only because they lead at the end to first path which ultimately carries them to the goal. So, in the end, the aspirants must adopt the first path. Why not do so now? Why waste time?
This may not be an exact translation of whatever Bhagavan said, because it was recorded by Paul Brunton, who did not know Tamil, so it would have been translated for him by someone else. However what he recorded in this passage is consistent with the fundamental principles taught by Bhagavan in works such as Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār, and also with many similar ideas that I have read or heard that he said, so I do not believe there is any reason for us to doubt whether he would have said something to this effect.

If he did say ‘Why waste time?’ or something else to that effect in this context, he obviously did not mean that following any other path is a complete waste of time, provided that it does lead us to the path of ātma-vicāra, but only that it is a relative waste of time, because we could use that time more effectively by practising ātma-vicāra instead from the outset. In other words, what he would have meant by implying that following any other path is a waste of time is similar to saying that travelling to one’s destination by a roundabout route in a bullock cart is a waste of time when one could reach there much sooner by travelling on a fast train that will take one there by a direct route.

If what Maya meant by ‘10 years’ when he wrote ‘One doesn’t necessarily gain an advantage by following, say 10 years of atma vichara compared to say 10 years of japam’ was exactly the same amount of time, what he wrote clearly conflicts with what Bhagavan taught us, because Bhagavan often used to say that even a moment spent attending to oneself is more beneficial than many hours spent doing any other practice. When we do any practice other than ātma-vicāra, such as japa, we are attending to something other than ourself, and when we attend to anything other than ourself we are thereby sustaining the illusion that we are this ego, because we seem to be this ego whenever we are aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore ātma-vicāra is the only spiritual practice that can dissolve the illusion that we are this ego, because the ego begins to disappear as soon as we begin to look at it, and if we look at it sufficiently keenly or carefully it will disappear entirely, because it does not actually exist.

Hence when we practise ātma-vicāra we are not only weakening our viṣaya-vāsanās (our desires or inclinations to experience anything other than ourself) one by one but are cutting away at the very root of all of them, namely our ego, whereas when we do any other practice such as japa we are merely cutting away at our viṣaya-vāsanās one by one while retaining their root intact (like cutting the leaves and branches off a bush while leaving its root intact). Therefore each moment that we spend attending to ourself is more beneficial than spending many hours doing japa or any other practice that entails attending to something other than ourself.

Maya wrote, ‘As I said there are a lot of other factors involved like ones vasanas, ripeness etc etc.’, but all the other factors he refers to boil down to just two, namely bhakti and vairāgya, which are actually inseparable, being like the two sides of a single sheet of paper. Bhakti in this context means love to experience ourself alone, whereas vairāgya is freedom from desire to experience anything other than ourself. Therefore the strength of one’s vāsanās (desires to experience other things) is inversely proportional to the strength of one’s bhakti and vairāgya, and pakvatā, which means spiritual ripeness or maturity, is a measure of the strength of one’s bhakti and vairāgya. Likewise citta-śuddhi, which means purity, cleanness or clarity of mind, is the extent to which one’s mind has been cleansed of its outgoing desires or vāsanās, so the strength of one’s bhakti and vairāgya is directly proportional to one’s citta-śuddhi. The stronger our bhakti and vairāgya become, the weaker our vāsanās become, the purer our mind thus becomes, and hence the more pakva or ripe we become.

Therefore if we have sufficient bhakti and vairāgya, no other factors can prevent us experiencing what we actually are here and now, so if we have not yet experienced ourself as we actually are that simply means that our bhakti and vairāgya are not yet sufficient. According to Bhagavan, the quickest and most effective means to increase our bhakti and vairāgya is to try to attend only to ourself as much as possible. Therefore no matter how much or how little bhakti and vairāgya we now have, the direct and quickest means to increase them and thereby to eventually annihilate our ego is the simple practice of ātma-vicāra — self-investigation or self-attentiveness.

This is the essence of all that Bhagavan has taught us, and he has explained to us in a clear and logical manner why and how ātma-vicāra is both the only direct means and the quickest and most effective means by which we can not only annihilate our ego but also cultivate the bhakti and vairāgya that are required to do so. If he had not explained his teachings to us in such a logical and coherent manner based on a simple, clear and incisive analysis of our experience of both ourself and other things in our three alternating states, waking, dream and sleep, we would have reason to doubt them, but since he has explained them in such a logically sound and convincing way, we have more than enough good reasons to believe them, even if we have not yet experienced the ultimate goal towards which they are pointing and to which they will unfailingly lead us if we persevere in following them to the best of our current ability — that is, to the extent of our current bhakti and vairāgya.

150 comments:

maya said...

Michael,
You say, "A belief or opinion based on carefully reasoned arguments is not a mere opinion or a blind belief but a well-grounded one." To me unless and until you have realized your self no matter how many props of reason you provide, it is still a belief. You can call it belief, blind belief, well grounded one and what not but the question is this: has all this reasoning given you the experience? If not its still a belief, only its supported by tons of reason. And again even within the realm of reason, each one's reasoning ability and intellect varies. What may be reasonable to you may be proven inconsistent by someone whose reasoning ability is more superior than you. I may not be that person blessed with that intellect but there could be someone more knowledgeable than you.

My point is not that you have not understood Bhagavan's teachings w.r.t self inquiry but sheer intellectual conviction means nothing if it hasn't taken you close to realization. Verbal statements of reality no matter how reasonable cannot be reality, so how much intellectual conviction is enough. Because we all know that realization is beyond the mind, intellect and reason. Are you more convinced in Bhagavan's teaching now than you were 5 years back or 10 years back and if that extra conviction hasn't still helped you realize the self what is the point in providing so much props. On the other other hand someone who had a simple faith in Bhagavan's words and practiced self inquiry could and not bothered about such reason may already have realized his self.

So my point being that just providing ample logic doesn't mean much and this is precisely what I meant by my statement ‘Proving logically in science means a lot but in spirituality it doesn’t mean much’.

You say, "so if what we say or write is based upon those fundamental principles and what we can reasonably infer from them, we are perfectly justified in saying ‘according to Bhagavan’, whereas if it is not based on those principles or on any other ideas that he expressed that are consistent with them we should not say ‘according to Bhagavan’."

will continue...

maya said...

continued..

I never said that using the phrase according to Bhagavan is wrong and that you should not use it. All I said is that anyone can use that phrase based on the limits or their understanding. In fact in the above sentence that I have quoted the phrase that you use, " what we can reasonably infer from them" is exactly my point. What one can "reasonably" infer can vary from person to person because the limits of "reasoning" varies from person to person as I said in my previous point. I'm sure you can provide lots of reasons, based on your intellectual knowledge of Bhagavan's teachings. I never doubted that nor do I doubt your understanding of self inquiry.

Also, I never ever doubted Bhagavan's teaching that one has to experience oneself as he is nor did I doubt your own understanding w.r.t that. My point is about the interpretations of Bhagavan's teachings in general and trying to box it in one box called self inquiry. There is ample proof that Bhagavan recommended different ways for different people and not only that, there is also proof that many of his own disciples who did not take to self inquiry realized their self by other methods and when they were ripe self inquiry spontaneously occurred. Again reiterating my point the umpteenth time, my assertions were only the following

a) One can attain realization through any path as its based on many other factors and there is no necessary guarantee that by adopting self inquiry, the process is any faster and again at the risk of repeating there are countless e.g. including Bhagavan himself who was so mature that self inquiry spontaneously occurred in a second. I have already quoted many e.g.

b) If one says that self inquiry is better than other or even more direct, the least one should be able to prove is that it atleast worked for him. Otherwise its just a statement and nothing else. And this is what I meant when I said that sheer intellectual understanding and the ability to defeat other arguments means nothing at all in the spiritual realm because at the end of the day, has all these verbal assertions and intellectual superiority helped you realize the self and how much longer do you need to keep convincing yourself intellectually?

Noob said...

Just a few nights ago I saw a dream in which mine inductive logic caused me to worry about some potential consequences from my actions. How relieved was I when the dream started to fade away and I grew aware of its unreality. This moment will come and the prison of desires/dislikes/causes/effects will be broken.

Bob - P said...

Thank you for posting this article Michael I look forward to reading it.
All the best
Bob

Anonymous said...

So I should not pay any attention to thoughts (mental images, feelings, sensations, any kind of 'seeing' or phenomena no matter how subtle) but try to find out WHO SEES THEM?

If this is correct, how is 'attend to yourself' the same thing? They seem different approaches. In the first one you focus very keenly to see who is 'behind' every thought (no matter how subtle) and if you do this very attentively the 'I' (ego, mind, the consciousness that pervades the body and who by this very fact becomes mixed with adjuncts... etc) it will subside in the Self and be destroyed and what is called Self Realization will occur.

In the second approach you simply focus on yourself directly... but on what more specifically? on the consciousness that pervades the body, right?! Or the 'I', ego, mind, pure awareness mixed with adjuncts or thought, whatever label we want to put on it.

The reason I wrote this is because I am so annoyed and frustrated that my mind does not want to stick to a single approach only. Sometimes it tries to see who sees the thoughts, sometimes it does not want to follow that instruction and it all becomes a mess. Then,at other times, it spontaneously focuses on the 'I' and it feels the right thing. Then after a while it refuses to follow this clue.

I hope I made myself understood, as far as words can convey it, I am simply greatly annoyed and frustrated that my mind does not want to stick to the same instruction or pointer, and it feels like it all becomes a mess when it switches to a different approach.

For example Bhagavan gave the instruction to Humpreys to try to SEE THAT WHICH SEES. He didn't say 'try to see that which sees thoughts' and at other times see to whom thoughts arise, or focus directly on yourself.

Now you might say it's all the same practice cuz there is only one 'I', but it definitely doesn't feel like that to me. Sometimes is next to impossible to focus directly on myself, but at that very same time I may try to see who is seeing those thoughts, or firmly ask 'to whom do these thoughts arise? and suddenly the resistance lessens and I have a 'good attempt' at attending to myself.

Yet i am greatly annoyed and the whole practice feels like a mess because I cannot use one single approach only all the time... I hope is somewhat clear. Thank you...

Steve said...

'...you simply focus on yourself directly... but on what more specifically?'

Anonymous, there is nothing more specific than yourself! You are taking what you yourself call simple and making it very complicated. Who sees every thought? I do. Who is behind every thought? I am. Who is annoyed and frustrated? I am.

Just keep coming back to simple. Keep coming back to yourself!

Michael James said...

Anonymous, though it may be conceived or described in various different ways, there is only one correct ‘approach’ to self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), namely to try to be self-attentive or attentively self-aware — that is, to try to attend only to oneself, the ego or ‘I’, who is the one who sees, attends, knows, thinks or is aware.

It is so very simple, and if it seems at all complicated that is due to too many confused and complicated thoughts in our mind. Therefore we need to keep our understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings very simple and clear. There is only one self or ‘I’, namely ourself, and we ourself alone are what thinks, perceives, experiences and is aware of everything, including both ourself and all other things. We alone are the centre of everything, the source from which it all appears and into which it all subsequently disappears. Therefore instead of attending to anything else we should try to attend only to ourself.

What exactly do you mean when you speak of seeing who is ‘behind’ every thought? In this context using the word ‘behind’ is potentially confusing, because its meaning is ambiguous. For example, if you want to see what is behind a tree, you must move from where you now stand, whereas to see ourself (the one who is aware of every thought) we do not need to move anywhere, but just need to withdraw our attention from all thoughts back to ourself. Moreover, what is behind a tree is further away from us than the tree, so by implication what is ‘behind’ each thought is further away from us than that thought, whereas what we need to see is only ourself, which is no distance away. Therefore we should not be peering to see what is behind each thought, but should simply ignore every thought by trying to see ourself, to whom each thought has appeared.

And what do you mean by ‘the consciousness that pervades the body’? What is conscious or aware is only ourself, so consciousness seems to pervade the body only when we experience that body as ourself. Because we now seem to pervade this particular body, we think that consciousness pervades it, whereas in fact we exist independent of this body, as we can understand from the fact that we experience ourself not only in waking but also in dream and in sleep, and in neither dream nor sleep are we aware of this body. Therefore this body is not ourself, so we should ignore it, which we can do only by trying to attend only to ourself, the one who is always self-aware, whether or not any body appears in our awareness.

Though we now seem to pervade this body, we do not actually pervade anything, because nothing other than ourself actually exists. A body and other things seem to exist only when we rise as this ego, and we rise as this ego only because we have allowed our attention to drift away from ourself. If we can manage to attend only to ourself, we will experience ourself as we actually are, and thus we will find that we alone actually exist, so there will then be no question of pervading anything other than ourself.

The reason our mind does not want to stick to the single ‘approach’ of just being self-attentive is that we are not yet ready to let go of our ego and everything else. In order to be attentively aware of ourself alone we must be willing to give up everything else, which we are not yet willing to do. Therefore we must patiently persevere in trying to be self-attentive as much as possible, because this is the most effective way to cultivate the required bhakti (love to be aware of ourself alone) and vairāgya (freedom from desire to be aware of anything else).

Until we have sufficient bhakti and vairāgya to be permanently self-attentive, we will be annoyed and frustrated by our repeated failure to cling firmly and unswervingly to self-attentiveness, but the only solution is to continue trying patiently and persistently.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! :)

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

I have a comment related to a point you have written in section 7 of this article. Before quoting Bhagavan from Maharshi’s Gospel you say:

“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 [causal connection] 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.” [Bold emphasis mine]


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.

Michael James said...

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.

Steve said...

'Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being...'

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Noob said...

And an interesting observation may be that it looks like the dreams precede the waking up (or going deeper in the dream world that we call reality), so who knows, maybe the seed is growing into the dream and then into the "real world". In our dreams the ego is still weak, but the stronger it becomes the more detailed dreams become and then "bam" the form is grasped completely and here we are back into the "real" world.

Wittgenstein said...

This article clearly illustrates the need for a thorough analysis of our experience. There is a general disapproving tendency towards such analysis and to brand it as ‘merely intellectual’. That is not the sense in which this whole affair should be understood.

Leaving alone the opinion one has about the spiritual experience Bhagavan talks about, even when we consider the everyday experience, everyone has a belief/opinion about what they experience. In fact, Bhagavan starts with our daily experience of waking, dream and sleep and prompts us to reconsider the opinions we have developed about them, with the view of making us understand the need for atma vichara.

The ‘prompting’ he does is through a series of arguments. However, the intention behind these arguments is unlike the one in science. In science one collects concepts while here one discards concepts. As it is unavoidable to live without concepts till the mind is completely and irreversibly destroyed, a mind that is on the journey of getting completely destroyed [clearly seeing the need for its own destruction] keeps shedding more and more unnecessary and redundant concepts. It tends to align with the ‘minimalist approach’ as in Ulladu Narpadu, which cannot be found even in traditional advaita. The interplay of ‘conceptual refining’ and deepening of the clarity of our fundamental nature are symbiotic processes.

According to Bhagavan (for example, as in Vichara Sangraham, Ch. I, Sec. 2), ignorance cannot completely hide our essential nature. The extent to which it is revealed is directly proportional to the extent to which the baggage of unnecessary and unrefined concepts is dropped and the necessity of atma vichara is deeply understood. Such an attenuated or subtle mind he calls as koornda madhi (as in Ulladu Narpadu, verse 28), and he considers it as necessary for atma vichara. The reason for this is given by him in Vichara Sangraham, Ch. VIII Sec. 3, where he says such a mind is capable of experiencing swarupa ananda [joy of our essential nature, as it is more clearly revealed (‘clearly’ because it is not mistaken to be coming from any object)], which is variously called as atma sphurana, turiya etc. In other places (see for example, Maharshi’s Gospel, Ch. VI) he likens that to the scent of a dog’s master and calls it an infalliable clue. To follow this clue to the very end is the sum and substance of atma vichara.

contd...

Wittgenstein said...

If one is illiterate but finds atma vichara is natural to him, if he is presented with the teachings in Ulladu Narpadu, it will occur to him to be very intuitive while it would be counter-intuitive for someone else. We can safely assume such a person has gone through required attenuation of mind elsewhere. His mind is capable of holding on to atma sphurana and that is all needed to finish the required journey. A subtle mind may be educated or not. Therefore, anyone (illiterate or otherwise, nevertheless with a self-bound attenuated mind) may follow Bhagavan’s path. A scientist may have attenuated mind but it is not helpful (for atma vichara) as it is not self-bound due to lack of understanding of need for being self-bound.

Atma vichara takes place as long as there is ego activity and as long as ego activity is there, there are concepts (gross or refined). As the ego gets continuously attenuated, the concepts keep reducing and become very refined. Till the moment the ego perishes, concepts do remain, the most fundamental of all concepts being the ‘I am the body’, which is the first to come and the last to go.

The subtle mind feels sure of the way, according to Bhagavan, as the clue it holds on to is infalliable. The dog need not have found its master. Nevertheless it feels sure of the way. Similarly, one need not be ‘realized’; yet one may feel sure of the way (Who does not say, ‘I am’, Bhagavan would ask, in his characteristic way). The clue is infallible because the source (our own existence) is the one and only certainty. Therefore, one need not be ‘realized’ in order to speak of ‘realization’, especially if we remember Bhagavan saying atma vichara is both the process and goal and there is nothing new to be ‘realized’.

The meaning of ‘realization’ might vary from one faith to another. According to Bhagavan, in sleep we are as we are and it looks defective only from the point of view of the mind in waking and dreaming. Since mind, which is a bundle of concepts, should permanently disappear in order to enter into permanent sleep, continual loss of unnecessary and redundant concepts in our understanding is necessary. This permanent sleep might be called ‘realization’ and all these concepts are vasanas.

There is a possibility that attenuation to a very great extent without self-bound mind could exist without atma vichara and such a mind might become self-bound at the very end of the journey and in a flash the fundamental ignorance can disappear.

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

What you write in the first paragraph is akin to the example of simultaneous causality given by Immanuel Kant. The cause and effect are not defined clearly here. If momentum of the first ball is the cause and the momentum picked up by the second ball is the effect, then, cause indeed precedes the effect here. What is instantaneous then is the transfer of momentum (or instantaneous collision), which is not the same as cause or effect. In all that followed (second to fourth paragraph), granting there is simultaneous cause-effect, which of the two can be called cause (or effect)[that is, the causal order] is a question that remains.

What you wrote in the fifth paragraph (where still simultaneity prevails and causal order is not very clear to me) prompted me to take a different look at the problem. Since the ego is the very same as the self (as the rope is not different from the snake), the mistaking of the self (‘I’) to be the ego (the very same ‘I’) causes the awareness of other things, clearly as the ‘I’ precedes everything else. Here we drop the idea of simultaneous cause-effect, which could be enigmatic to some of us. To go a bit deeper, ‘everything else’ even includes causality and ordering in time (preceding, succeeding and during) in the final analysis [agandai undayin anaithum undagum]. Therefore, as there can be no time and causality even ‘before’ the notions of time and causality, the ‘mistaking’ [agandai undadal] is causeless. Even though I am tempted to ask if there can be a causeless event, I recollect Bhagavan saying, ‘You are already assuming the existence of that – find out if that really occurred or not’.

I would agree with you in the last two paragraphs the conclusion of ego being the root cause of our awareness of other things. So if deductive logic (which is stronger than inductive logic) could have done the job, why did Bhagavan ask the questioner in Maharshi’s Gospel to use inductive logic? Well, Bhagavan only knows that!

Bob - P said...

Steve - {Which came first, the chicken or the egg?) -

"Bwak Bwak"
"Bwok Bwok"

Steve said...

'...one need not be ‘realized’ in order to speak of ‘realization’, especially if we remember Bhagavan saying atma vichara is both the process and goal...'

It's true that one need not be realized in order to speak of realization, and that a thorough analysis of our experience is necessary, but we also have to remember that atma-vicara begins only when analysis comes to an end (even if repeatedly). Silence doesn't require analysis or understanding. Silence must be met with silence, and only then are the path and the goal the same.

Steve said...

So, Bob, you're saying it's the chicken?

Michael James said...

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.

(I will continue this reply in my next two comments.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Wittgenstein:

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.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Wittgenstein:

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, 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.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi's Wise Counsel

A passenger in a train keeps his load on the head by his own folly. Let him put it down: he will find the load reaches the destination all the same. Similarly, let us not pose as the doers, but resign ourselves to the guiding Power. . . . If you surrender yourself to the Higher Power all is well. That Power sees your affairs through. Only so long as you think that you are the worker you are obliged to reap the fruits of your actions. If on the other hand, you surrender yourself and recognise your individual self as only a tool of the Higher Power, that Power will take over your affairs along with the fruits of actions. You are no longer affected by them and the work goes on unhampered. Whether you recognise the Power or not the scheme of things does not alter. Only there is a change of outlook. Why should you bear your load on the head when you are travelling on a train? It carries you and your load whether the load is on your head or on the floor of the train. You are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on your head but only straining yourself unnecessarily. Similar is the sense of doership in the world by the individuals. (from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 398 and Talk 503)

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

I would like to draw some inferences from this teaching.

The teaching says that we rise as 'I' and project a world just like a dream. It follows logically that to experience our Source (our true self) we have to trace this 'I' (our ego, our our true self mixed with adjuncts) to its Source and we, obviously, can do this only by making it subside which means we have to 'turn back' on it or attend to ourselves. This is, as you put it, a 'law of nature' and you can prove it to yourself only by actually trying. No amount of intellectual analysis will convince you 100% unless you practice.

But since this 'I' projects this world in the manner described by Bhagavan, it follows that it can project just about anything we can imagine. Therefore, it can project a paradise or a hell, blissful regions, some eternal trouble-free state, incomprehensible and powerful states of being with god-like qualities etc.. Therefore, other people, who follow different spiritual goals (say, doing prescribed practices that will ensure one a blissful existence in some realm after leaving the body as revealed by a saint of that particular path), illusory from our point of view, are not really wrong.

So this teaching is really all inclusive not exclusive and sectarian as it might appear. This inference could be compared with karma theory in its helpfulness because we will leave others alone to follow what they may seem fit and we can safely assume that other lokas or whatever other spiritual states that still include a body of some kind exist, although as illusory as our experience right now.

So this teaching includes everything else, although we are after the 'highest' limitless state and we don't bother about other goals.

I believe this is a helpful thought....

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

... one more question...

Once we understand what we should do, we should just try to focus on ourselves as often as we can leaving aside everything else including our doubs...

But for the sake of argument...

I'm 34 right now. Let's say I will keep doing atma vichara all my life. I should not bother if and when I attain my goal, but let's just say I die and I don't.

What guarantee is for me that I will remember to keep doing it after I die. If for example, I die and immediately I experience in another body with full awareness of what happened it will be ok, because I will remember. But this scenario is just an idea.

Another things that could happen would be that I would immediately subside in the Source, like in sleep and then 'come out' in another dream like this one, or another type etc... But what guarantees me that I will remember the practice?! After I die, I could experience an 100 other dreams with no rememberance of atma vichara. This thought is very depressing when I think about it. I ignore it of course and stick to the practice but how can I solve this doubt?

Steve said...

Dragos, the scenarios you describe, including 'all my life', exist only in those thoughts about them - your imagination. Your reality is here and now and no place else, making this the only 'time' or 'place' you can practice atma-vicara. Let the train carry all that baggage! (see 'Ramana Maharshi's Wise Counsel' above)

Sivanarul said...

In regards to the well-known, passenger keeping luggage on his head while travelling in a train, quoted by Viveka Vairagya:

For those whose main practice is surrender to Ishvara/Guru, this is a key teaching and very wise counsel indeed by Bhagavan. But the simile, if taken literally will break down. We never will carry our luggage while travelling on a train. We know that we are passengers and have no control over the path, speed or direction of the train. We have bought our ticket and having boarded the correct train, we place luggage in the overhead bin and we leave all of the other details to the driver (or a software program, if driverless) of the train.

But in the train of life, we get to have a very strong illusion that we can drive the train. So instead of being a passenger, we serve both as driver and passenger on the train. This illusion is strengthened by the fact that at least sometimes; the reaction produced by our action (driving) is exactly how we expected it to be. So the driver illusion is strengthened. We try our very best to see if we change path/speed/direction (carrying luggage on head), whether our pain/suffering/unrest will vanish.

The key change that needs to happen is to put Ishvara as the driver and us to go back and sit in a compartment and travel comfortably with depositing the entire luggage in Ishvara’s compartment. Of course, it is easier said than done. The reason is, we want to avoid pain and suffering at all costs and the spiritual literature shows that Ishvara may not always reduce/eliminate pain and suffering. As Bhagavan said, Ishvara’s will is inscrutable. So what Ishvara may decide for us, may not be to our current liking at all (but will be for the overall progress towards Moksha).

So in order to give Ishvara the Power of Attorney, we need to be able to accept pain and suffering (not seeking it, but accepting it, if it comes our way). This is indeed very very hard. Who will accept pain and suffering? Not me (not yet, at least).

So what is the solution? As Bhagavan said, start with partial surrender. Try to surrender at least in certain aspects of life. Keep the faith in Ishvara steady. Keep following ahimsa and dharma to the best of one’s abilities. If one slips, then get back on the feet and keep going. That is all what one can do, in the earlier stages of the path.

Sivanarul said...

Dragos,

A few thoughts on your excellent musing:

“Therefore, other people, who follow different spiritual goals (say, doing prescribed practices that will ensure one a blissful existence in some realm after leaving the body as revealed by a saint of that particular path), illusory from our point of view, are not really wrong.”

The other people might think that any spiritual goal different from theirs is illusory from their point of view just like you consider theirs to be illusory. My take on this is to be open of what is illusory and what is not. To assume, based on Bhagavan’s teachings, that other things are illusory misses the point that whatever you think to be illusory is only from this outer dream. Who knows what the inner dreams might be and who knows what we might think as illusory in that inner dream.

Siva Yogaswami (a great sage from Sri Lanka who also met Bhagavan and spent an hour or so in complete silence with Bhagavan with no words exchanged) said it best in one of his MahaVakyas (great sayings):

Nām Ariyom: We do not know. We know nothing. With our narrow conditioned minds we are incapable of knowing the Unborn, the Uncreated and the Unconditioned. Our minds are limited instruments that can only comprehend things of a mundane nature. But the mind cannot know God. Besides, we are incapable of understanding the ways of God.

“What guarantee is for me that I will remember to keep doing it after I die. If for example, I die and immediately I experience in another body with full awareness of what happened it will be ok, because I will remember. But this scenario is just an idea.”

What guarantee was there that you would have remembered to have done it in this dream? Yet you are doing it in this life. Again it goes back to Siva Yogaswami’s MahaVakya, Nam Ariyom (we don’t know). The lack of guarantee can increase our sense of urgency. But even with a sense of urgency, as you say, the finish line may not be reached in this dream. This is where faith in Ishvara or Bhagavan comes in. You do the best you can in this dream and leave what happens in the next dream (with respect to your practice) to Ishvara or Bhagavan.

Whatever intellectual convictions we may arrive at, is only brain based, the brain being a vehicle of a dream in a possible chain of dreams (with this dream being anywhere in the chain). Once the dream unwinds, who knows what kind of convictions we might get in the brain created in that dream. In that dream the god-like powerful being may be indeed projecting us, instead of us projecting it (as per advaita teachings in this dream) :-) So I try not to take anything as the absolute gospel.

Sivanarul said...

Sri Yogaswami’s Mahavakyas:

As a wandering ascetic Yogaswami walked the length and breadth of the palm-fringed tropical island, visited many Sri Lankan temples and holy places, and eventually returned to Jaffna. He made a pilgrimage to India during the years 1934 to 1940. Once he visited the renowned saint of Tiruvannamalai --- Ramana Maharshi. Yogaswami remarked that he did not go to this sage with any desire but he simply went and stayed for about an hour in the presence of Ramana who did not speak at all.

Yogaswami remarked that Ramana was a "great hero" (maha viran). The teachings of Yogaswami and Ramana have got a lot in common, especially the spiritual instruction "summa iru" which means "simply be", "let be" or "just be". It denotes the tranquil state of sahaja samadhi of an enlightened person --- the state of awareness that is choiceless and effortless. Translated differently, "summa iru" means "Be still!" To illustrate this instruction or teaching, both Yogaswami and Ramana were fond of quoting the Bible: "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46: 10).

Yogaswami had a set of favourite aphorisms that he loved to repeat when devotees or strangers called on him. It was from his guru Chellappa that Yogaswami had first learnt these lines. These are called the Great Sayings (Mahavakyas). It is generally accepted that these four spiritual truths, which are often quoted nowadays, contain the essence of Yogaswami's teachings:

1. Oru pollappum illai : There is no evil at all, nothing is wrong. "Good" and "evil" are man-made distinctions. From the standpoint of the Absolute there is neither good nor bad. What we call "evil" is part of the Leela or play of the Lord. One cannot understand His ways or decisions. What one considers to be bad or objectionable may in fact have a Divine purpose and may even be a blessing in disguise.

2. Muludum unmai: All is Truth (the whole thing is true). The sage who is fully realised sees the entire universe as a manifestation of God. He is not separate from the universe for He is Himself the universe. What we see as the created universe, the manifest and the unmanifest, are in fact, extensions of the Creator Himself. So the jivanmukta sees God in every tree, in every grain of sand, in every living creature and in every inanimate object. God is not separate from what He created.

3. Nām Ariyom: We do not know. We know nothing. With our narrow conditioned minds we are incapable of knowing the Unborn, the Uncreated and the Unconditioned. Our minds are limited instruments that can only comprehend things of a mundane nature. But the mind cannot know God. Besides, we are incapable of understanding the ways of God.

4. Eppavo Mudintha Karyam: The event was completed long ago. It was all over long ago. Everything has been pre-ordained. Man may like to think that he can determine the course of his life and in a general sense even shape the course of human affairs. It feeds the vanity of man to think that he can shape the future. But man is a mere instrument in the hands of God. It is God alone who controls the past, present and future. Ego-centred man prides in the belief that he has free will when in actuality he is a mere puppet in the hands of an unseen power. One had better accept this fact and surrender oneself to God.

Yuvaraj said...

Wittgenstein,

Always a delight to read your comments. The recent comments (or essay, I should say) have "refined" concepts through out. And thanks for meticulously citing from Bhagavan's works.

At one place you say,

"The dog need not have found its master. Nevertheless it feels sure of the way. Similarly, one need not be ‘realized’; yet one may feel sure of the way (Who does not say, ‘I am’, Bhagavan would ask, in his characteristic way). The clue is infallible because the source (our own existence) is the one and only certainty. Therefore, one need not be ‘realized’ in order to speak of ‘realization’, especially if we remember Bhagavan saying atma vichara is both the process and goal and there is nothing new to be ‘realized’."

The way you have put it across is very well, sir.

It is widely believed that physical guru is a must in the spiritual journey. But there are some who do not think so and hence get discouraged by such a discourse. Before coming across Bhagavan and Sri Nisargadatta's teachings I too felt the same.

Sri Nisargadatta says, "Your own self is your ultimate teacher (sadguru). The outer teacher (guru) is merely a milestone. It is only your inner teacher, that will walk with you to the goal, for he is the goal."

I believe Michael is an outer teacher leading me to the ultimate teacher. Whether he is realised or not never occurred as a criteria. A "rare chance event" got me to him but next and importantly what he wrote answered some of the hard and important questions I had been struggling with...and this continues. While his essays are certainly intellectual in feel but then does it not seem obvious that some of the deep insights he shares have to be experiential only (emerging out of a deep bhakti)? Will quote my favourite -

"Thoughts are like a safety railing fixed along the edge of a cliff, and trying to be self-attentive is like trying to throw ourself off the cliff into the bottomless abyss below. Since we are not yet ready to fall into that abyss of pure self-awareness, whenever we try to throw ourself over the cliff we also try to catch hold of the railing in order to save ourself. If we let go of the railing and did not quickly catch it again, we would fall over the cliff and plunge down to instant annihilation, so till now we have still not plucked up sufficient courage to let go of the railing entirely.

If not for Michael's bhakti and intellectual ability such an experience is very very hard to so clearly articulate, I think.

Best wishes!

venkat said...

Michael, Wittgenstein

Thank you both for the application and discussion of logical analysis in appreciating Bhagavan's minimalist teaching. A couple of thoughts / questions.

Whilst you say that deductive logic is more robust than inductive logic, the underlying premises of deductive logic still have to rely on inductive logic. In the Socrates example, "all men are mortal" is only based on our experience of seeing men die at some point; it may be possible that someone exists in a remote corner who has not died. So surely deductive logic only can be used for negation . . . when the existence of something disproves an assertion put forward by inductive logic.

The 'causality' between the ego arising and the rest of the world appearing, I do not think can be deductively asserted. Surely it is just tautological - the appearance of a separate 'I' necessitates something from which it is separate, 'other'. So isn't tautological rather than causality that we are discussing?

Is it valid to look at this in the following way. 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.

Bob - P said...

Steve - "So, Bob, you're saying it's the chicken?"

No at all Steve it's just an old Zen Joke.

Student - "What came first the chicken or the egg?"

Zen Master = (mimics the sound of a chicken) = Bawk Bawk



Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

All deductive arguments need not have their premises coming from induction. For example, consider the following argument deductive argument which does not have inductive premises.

To earn the degree I need to clear a minimum of 80 credits.
I have cleared 82 credits.
Therefore, I will earn the degree.


However, it is true that if one or more of the premises is false, the conclusion does not hold. In this article the argument given by Michael to show that we are not the body is based on premises that are true. Therefore the conclusion is sound.

Deductive logic need not be used to negate something. Again, in this article Michael has shown that we can use deductive argument to deduce what we are not (negation) and to deduce what we are (which is not a negation).

The causality that you mention about is not inferred by deduction. You are right in that. But it is not a tautology. Consider a tautology as an example.

Either it is going to rain tomorrow or it is not going to rain tomorrow.

Obviously, the truth value of the above statement is fixed as always true (that is how a tautology works). On the other hand, even though the ego and the rest of the world appear simultaneously, the former causes the latter, as inferred by induction. Consider an analogy: let us suppose a bright space in which we have a closed room and being closed, it is dark inside. Let there be slit on one of walls which could open or close and is currently closed. Further, suppose there are objects inside the room. Now, as soon as the slit is opened, the objects will be lit up. That is to say, the appearance of the slit and the objects in the room are simultaneous. Nevertheless, without the slit open, the objects cannot be seen in the dark. Therefore, opening of the slit now becomes the pre-requisite (not in time but causally) for the objects to appear (to be seen). Thus we infer the opening of the slit as the cause for the objects to be seen. If we do this closing and opening of the slit several times (‘n’ times), and if we found this to be true for all the ‘n’ times, then we can be confident to a greater degree that it would happen ‘n+1’th time. To map the analogy to our case: the outside light is the self, the slit is the ego and the objects in the room are the objects in the world.

Wittgenstein said...

continuation of my earlier comment:

Physical laws are inferred this way. If they go wrong in opposition to the expectation, they need a reformulation. Newton’s laws are arrived at inductively. Although they are valid for normal speeds, later experiences at speeds very close to the speed of light were not in agreement with Newton’s laws and they had to reformulated in special theory of relativity. In our case such a thing is less likely to happen. We have exhausted all experiential states (waking, dream and sleep). No more ‘new’ states/experiences are likely to appear. Some people might object to this stating siddhis. Bhagavan would immediately categorize them as dreams (Ulladu Narpadu, verse 35). Others might cite states like nirvikalpa samadhi. Bhagavan would immediately categorize them as laya (Upadesa Undiyar, verse 13). The list can keep going. But there are only three states. Therefore, our inferred causal link is on sound footing and they are far less likely to be in need of reformulation.

In the snake-rope analogy you have given, rope is the substratum. However, we cannot take the rope as the cause of the snake, in much the same way as we cannot take the outside light in the previous analogy as causing the appearance of the objects. Although the outside light is the ultimate cause, the slit is the immediate cause. It would be worthwhile to know why Bhagavan divides the cause into two in this fashion. The ultimate ‘cause’ does not actually enter into causal relationship for the simple reason that the idea of causality itself starts after the arising of the ego (the immediate cause). This is precisely the reason the question as the why the ego arose is an invalid question. Bhagavan does not waste time on such useless questions. This does not mean that the ultimate cause stands aloof, as some traditional advaitins would have us believe. In the first chapter of Vichara Sangraham Bhagavan asserts that the ultimate cause is not completely hidden. It is the only real element in all our experiences, though untouched by experiences. The snake-rope analogy needs to be considered this way.

Steve said...

Student - "What came first the chicken or the egg?"

Zen Master = (mimics the sound of a chicken) = Bawk Bawk

Student: Master, you don't hear the sound of the egg?

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

Here are some more thoughts on tautology. Tautologies and contradictions cannot help in our way as they have fixed truth value where there is no scope for doubt. An investigation (such as atma vichara) can run only when there is a doubt and a deep desire to settle that doubt. Although through inductive reasoning one can ascertain the cause of the world as ego, we are not sure of its existential status. Bhagavan says it is non-existent (in the absolute sense) but we cannot assimilate it now. Therefore we need investigation to experientially settle its existential status. We may object by saying our existence is anyway certain. Although we may be sure of our existence, we are not sure about the form of our existence (Bhagavan says we are formless existence). While the former (certainty) is like the top of a mountain (that we would like to reach) seen through a cloud of mist, the latter (doubts) is the cloud of mist. As we approach the top, its visibility increases.

Wittgenstein said...

Yuvaraj,

As you say, we need not be concerned with the ‘realization’ of someone. That the clarity of our self-awareness acts as the inner guru is also said in Guru Vachaka Kovai. I need to search for it, as I don’t have it in immediate vicinity.

What you quote from Michael’s writing and several other writings by him do indicate what he is doing is not mere intellectual analysis. This we know by induction!

Wittgenstein said...

Michael,

Many thanks for all the three latest replies addressed to me. What I called as 'dog's master' you called as 'dog's human companion' in the first of those three replies. Yes, nobody here is a master or a servant.

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

I wrote a reply to you before my comment on 13 February 2016 at 17:57 which I see has gone missing here. I am including it here:

All deductive arguments need not have their premises coming from induction. For example, consider the following argument deductive argument which does not have inductive premises.


To earn the degree I need to clear a minimum of 80 credits.

I have cleared 82 credits.

Therefore, I will earn the degree.


However, it is true that if one or more of the premises is false, the conclusion does not hold. In this article the argument given by Michael to show that we are not the body is based on premises that are true. Therefore the conclusion is sound.


Deductive logic need not be used to negate something. Again, in this article Michael has shown that we can use deductive argument to deduce what we are not (negation) and to deduce what we are (which is not a negation).


The causality that you mention about is not inferred by deduction. You are right in that. But it is not a tautology. Consider a tautology as an example.


Either it is going to rain tomorrow or it is not going to rain tomorrow.


Obviously, the truth value of the above statement is fixed as always true (that is how a tautology works). On the other hand, even though the ego and the rest of the world appear simultaneously, the former causes the latter, as inferred by induction. Consider an analogy: let us suppose a bright space in which we have a closed room and being closed, it is dark inside. Let there be slit on one of walls which could open or close and is currently closed. Further, suppose there are objects inside the room. Now, as soon as the slit is opened, the objects will be lit up. That is to say, the appearance of the slit and the objects in the room are simultaneous. Nevertheless, without the slit open, the objects cannot be seen in the dark. Therefore, opening of the slit now becomes the pre-requisite (not in time but causally) for the objects to appear (to be seen). Thus we infer the opening of the slit as the cause for the objects to be seen. If we do this closing and opening of the slit several times (‘n’ times), and if we found this to be true for all the ‘n’ times, then we can be confident to a greater degree that it would happen ‘n+1’th time. To map the analogy to our case: the outside light is the self, the slit is the ego and the objects in the room are the objects in the world.

Steve said...

'...what [Michael] is doing is not mere intellectual analysis.'

Oh yes it is. Thoughts pointing to the thoughtless - very helpful indeed, until they become a hindrance, 'a safety railing [barrier] fixed along the edge of a cliff' that 'we have still not plucked up sufficient courage to let go of'.

Bob - P said...

Student - "What came first the chicken or the egg?"

Zen Master = (mimics the sound of a chicken) = Bawk Bawk

Student: Master, you don't hear the sound of the egg?

Zen Master =

venkat said...

Thanks Wittgenstein for taking the time to respond. And you are quite right that all deductive arguments do not need to be based on inductive premises.

The problem with deductive reasoning is that the conclusion is implicit in the premises, and does not lead to any significant new knowledge. Only inductive logic is capable of this.

I understand that Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, proposed that statements that can be deduced by logical deduction are tautological as well as being analytic truths (a statement in natural language that is true solely because of the terms involved). Hence your example of "82 credits" is implicit in the definitions that you used.

So likewise, when we make the following proposition: if we are aware of ourselves as a separate, finite ego . . . then we are aware of the other (world) [as separate and finite], the very arising of awareness of a separate, finite ego here, NECESSITATES a separate, finite, other there. You and Micahel are right to say this is a case of deductive logic, but this truth contained in the definitional terms of the premises.

You draw upon the analogy of the window slit as the ego, as providing casual evidence. But 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.

It is interesting that traditional vedanta uses neti, neti which is a form of deductive reasoning to show that we are not the body, or the other 5 sheaths, as awareness / existence is there even if you discard these.

For me, 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 boyd/mind/other, then we can't be anything other that 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. 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. Though when it gets to this stage, it has turned 180 degrees already even in the waking state.


Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi's Jesus-like Assurance
(from Who Am I, 8th edition, 2010, p. 25)

Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep ‘O! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?’ One should completely renounce the thought ‘I am a sinner’ and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed.

Michael James said...

Dragos, regarding the questions you ask in your second comment, when Bhagavan was asked how he took to ātma-vicāra so spontaneously and succeeded so instantaneously, he replied ‘ஏதோ விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை ஒட்டிக்கொண்டது போலும்’ (ēdō viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai oṭṭikkoṇḍadu pōlum), which means ‘It was as if some viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai was adhering’. ‘விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை’ (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai) is a Tamil idiom that is difficult to translate precisely in English, but it basically means the resumption of what was left incomplete in previous lives.

குறை (kuṟai) has many meanings, but in this context it mean a deficit, shortfall, what is cut off or what remains, and விட்ட (viṭṭa) means ‘left’ whereas தொட்ட (toṭṭa) means ‘touched’, so விட்டகுறை (viṭṭakuṟai) means what was left incomplete and தொட்டகுறை (toṭṭakuṟai) means what was commenced. Usually the term ‘விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை’ (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai) refers to karma left incomplete in previous lives and resumed in the present one due to the continuity of one’s karma-vāsanās (inclinations to do the same kind of actions repeatedly), but in the case of Bhagavan it was not a resumption of any karma-vāsanā but only a resumption of his sat-vāsanā (inclination to just be) or svātma-bhakti (love to be aware of oneself alone).

Applying this to your question, what Bhagavan indicated when he gave this reply is that our vāsanās continue from one life to the next, so if we cultivate our sat-vāsanā by trying to be self-attentive now it will either result in the annihilation of our ego during the lifetime of our present body or will prompt us to resume our efforts to be self-attentive in any future life. The more strongly we are drawn to this path, the more we will attempt to be self-attentive, and the more we attempt to be self-attentive, the stronger our sat-vāsanā will become, until eventually it will overwhelm all our other vāsanās and result in our being able to turn our entire attention back towards ourself, whereupon we will experience ourself as we actually are and thereby our ego will dissolve like a tropical morning mist as soon as the sun rises.

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

When you say, “[...] 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 [...]”, you are very much right.

If not the slit-ego analogy, we may just consider the dream experience. We do know that the dream originated from [or caused by] one single dreamer and terminated with the same dreamer [the ego]. However, this was not evident while we were dreaming. If we accept that dream is not substantially different from waking experience, then it is probably true that even such a mechanism is operative while we are awake. Therefore, what is being done here is that a hypothesis is proposed [otherwise called eka jiva vada, as you may already be aware of]. We cannot be certain about this, as you say, as we are not aware of such a thing [creation process] while we are in dream [or now in the waking state]. That is to say, we were not self-attentive during the dream to catch the ego red-handed while it was in the act of creating/terminating the dream-world or when waking up from sleep or when entering into sleep.

Now, if the above hypothesis is to be tested, we have to remain vigilantly self attentive starting from the waking state, when our attention will become extremely subtle [as you also implied] and we will find the ego eventually disappearing and will find ourself self-attentively in sleep [our natural state termed jagrat-sushupti, which is neither waking nor sleep] as narrated by Bhagavan and Sri Gaudapada. Therefore, according to them, the entire creation and its cause [ego] collapse permanently when we eventually succeed in this hypothesis testing. This ‘hypothesis testing’ is atma vichara as you have called it.

P.S.: As you say, deductive truths are necessarily true and therefore there is nothing ‘new’ in them.

venkat said...

Thanks Wittgenstein. I also find eka jiva vada a compelling hypothesis - it is easy to understand why Bhagavan recommended it.

Best wishes,
venkat

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Thank you Michael! :) It is helpful!

Steve said...

Just for the record - at least as it is written in Maharshi's Gospel - Bhagavan, when asked, also said the following:

Question: Is reincarnation true?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.

What Bhagavan indicated by this response is that we are either drawn towards ignorance or the truth. Whatever the case - as a means to liberation in this life, 'an investment for a future life', or the desire to experience the truth - practicing atma-vicara now is good.

Sivanarul said...

“What Bhagavan indicated by this response is that we are either drawn towards ignorance or the truth”

Off the record, We can also be in ignorance but drawn to the truth (half-heartedly, at least) :-) The wise (Bhagavan, Sri Nisargadatta etc) do say that since incarnation itself does not exist; there is no question of reincarnation. But the wise live in wisdom land and get to say whatever they want. For mere mortals, incarnation and reincarnation are both true, until it is realized as false.

For the typical sadhaka, the honeymoon period of the spiritual path (in which he is deeply inspired and with a firm resolve is overjoyed that he will cross over at the earliest) gets over within a short period. As he gets tossed between Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, he realizes that he is indeed facing an uphill battle. This tossing can very well be due to vasanas/samskaras coming out (as Bhagavan said).

Whatever be the reason, it becomes abundantly clear, crossing the ocean of samsara is more than a herculean task that involves too many factors outside of the Sadhaka’s violition (Vasanas, Grace etc). Hence reincarnation is the lifeboat that promises to “eventually” allow the sadhaka to cross over.

Obviously, reincarnation is not meant to be used as a tool for complacency. As Thayumanavar said, “If I miss this opportunity, when will I get another one and how many lives will that take”.

I think of reincarnation as a life insurance policy. One takes a life insurance policy so that if one loses life due to natural or accidental causes, one’s family is provided financial support. Just because one has taken a life insurance policy, will one eat all kinds of junk food, not exercise or put one self in life threatening situations? Of course, not.

Similarly reincarnation is a life insurance policy. In case if Sadhana does not result in crossing over (due to lack of one pointed effort or Vasanas or Grace not fully shining etc), the sadhaka derives great comfort that he/she will start from where he left over.

This does not mean it gives license to throw away the current opportunity. This opportunity is the only thing we know for sure in the current dream. So to make the best use of it, is the only sane thing to do.

venkat said...

If there is no one born, no one in bondage, and no one liberated, and if there are no parts to Brahman, how can there be any reincarnation? It just does not follow in logic.

We can have no idea what happens after death of the body; all we know is what is now. So why develop a concept of a future reincarnation, rather than tackling our sorrow today. It is just another tactic of the ego, to defer acting now on what we say we believe.

Mouna said...

Venkat,
you said: "So why develop a concept of a future reincarnation, rather than tackling our sorrow today."

I have a question for you.

If we have no doubt that there is no reincarnation, then why even tackle our sorrows today? We just have to wait until the body dies and our problems are over, like going to deep sleep without coming back...

Reincarnation is one of those things that, consciously or unconsciously, fuels our desire to do sadhana, because who wants to die again and again and go through all these illusory erratic miserable rumblings of the ego/maya innumerable times?...

As long as we make efforts, and we believe that they will end our identity problem, we "believe" also in reincarnation, no matter what intellectual position we are taking towards it.

yours in Bhagavan,
Mouna

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

“If there is no one born, no one in bondage, and no one liberated, and if there are no parts to Brahman, how can there be any reincarnation? It just does not follow in logic.”

If that is the case, why do Sadhana in this incarnation? Why not adopt Neo-Advaita and call it a day, since there never was bondage to begin with and there is no one to be liberated.

“We can have no idea what happens after death of the body; all we know is what is now. So why develop a concept of a future reincarnation, rather than tackling our sorrow today”

Why should a future reincarnation prevent us from tackling our sorrow today? In my earlier comment I quoted Saint Thayumanavar who said “If I miss this opportunity, when will I get another one and how many lives will that take”. I also said, “This opportunity is the only thing we know for sure in the current dream. So to make the best use of it, is the only sane thing to do.”

Also why should future reincarnation be a “concept” instead of another reality just like the current one? Why should it be any less real than what we are experiencing right now? There is several anecdotal evidence such as birth marks; past life regressions etc. that indicate it is more than a concept. I recently saw a video of a widely respected Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka named Dhammaruwan who started chanting in pali. a very ancient Buddhist sutra as a very young child (which even elders who have many decades of training struggle with). He said that he learnt that several lifetimes ago. I have included a link, for those who are interested in more details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTc8HpH5hus (Listen from 1:20 – 5:00 then from 15:50 – 19:45)

“It is just another tactic of the ego, to defer acting now on what we say we believe.”

Everything is a tactic of the ego, including posting on this website, which results in deferring action. Working for more than our basic needs, inability to perform really one-pointed sadhana, looking for happiness outside of oneself and so on and so forth are all tactics of the ego which result in deferring action. Why single out future incarnation alone?

One final thing regarding logic: Although logic is critical to functioning in this world, something does not have to be logical to be true. Logic is a function of the brain, and something sounding logical depends on the brain functioning well. If one is diabetic and sugar level gets very high or very low, disorientation will kick in and what was logical just 2 mins ago will be completely illogical at that point. Why should reality that is supposed to transcend time and space always appear logical?

Sivanarul said...

Previous posting did not go through. Reposting in 2 sets. Apologize if it is a duplicate.

Venkat,

“If there is no one born, no one in bondage, and no one liberated, and if there are no parts to Brahman, how can there be any reincarnation? It just does not follow in logic.”

If that is the case, why do Sadhana in this incarnation? Why not adopt Neo-Advaita and call it a day, since there never was bondage to begin with and there is no one to be liberated.

“We can have no idea what happens after death of the body; all we know is what is now. So why develop a concept of a future reincarnation, rather than tackling our sorrow today”

Why should a future reincarnation prevent us from tackling our sorrow today? In my earlier comment I quoted Saint Thayumanavar who said “If I miss this opportunity, when will I get another one and how many lives will that take”. I also said, “This opportunity is the only thing we know for sure in the current dream. So to make the best use of it, is the only sane thing to do.”

Also why should future reincarnation be a “concept” instead of another reality just like the current one? Why should it be any less real that what we are experiencing right now? There is several anecdotal evidence such as birth marks; past life regressions etc. that indicate it is more than a concept. I recently saw a video of a widely respected Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka named Dhammaruwan who started chanting in pali. a very ancient Buddhist sutra as a very young child (which even elders who have many decades of training struggle with). He said that he learnt that several lifetimes ago. I have included a link, for those who are interested in more details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTc8HpH5hus (Listen from 1:20 – 5:00 then from 15:50 – 19:45)

Sivanarul said...

“It is just another tactic of the ego, to defer acting now on what we say we believe.”

Everything is a tactic of the ego, including posting on this website, which results in deferring action. Working for more than our basic needs, inability to perform really one-pointed sadhana, looking for happiness outside of oneself and so on and so forth are all tactics of the ego which result in deferring action. Why single out future incarnation alone?

One final thing regarding logic: Although logic is critical to functioning in this world, something does not have to be logical to be true. Logic is a function of the brain, and something sounding logical depends on the brain functioning well. If one is diabetic and sugar level gets very high or very low, disorientation will kick in and what was logical just 2 mins ago will be completely illogical at that point. Why should reality that is supposed to transcend time and space always appear logical?

Anonymous said...

"Logical reasoning obviously has its limits, because it is a function of our mind, which is an expansion of our ego, so it cannot determine what exists beyond the limits of our ego and its mind-mediated knowledge. Therefore though logical reasoning is the best available guide to what is true so long as we experience ourself as this ego, it cannot by itself enable us to experience what we actually are. However, it can enable us to understand not only that we cannot be this ego, mind or body, but also what the means must be to experience ourself as we actually are."

- Michael James, Part 7 of this article

Steve said...

'If there is no one born, no one in bondage, and no one liberated, and if there are no parts to Brahman, how can there be any reincarnation? It just does not follow in logic.'

Exactly, Venkat. As Bhagavan has told us, and as Michael has made clear through logic, we have not incarnated even now. There is no room in what is infinite, permanent, and unchanging, for incarnating and reincarnating bodies.

'...all we know is what is now.'

And what we know now is that we exist.

'So why develop a concept of a future reincarnation, rather than tackling our sorrow today.'

Because we ignore the truth of our existence rather than attending to it. It's a moment by moment choice.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Dependence on God
(from Who Am I?, 8th Edition, 2010, p. 30)

Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?

Anonymous said...


Paul Brunton in "The Maharshi and his message"

"How small seem those questions which I have asked myself with such frequency? How petty grows the panorama of the last years! I perceive with sudden clarity that intellect creates its own problems and then makes itself miserable trying to solve them. This is indeed a novel concept to enter the mind of one who has hitherto placed such high value upon intellect."

Venkat said...

Mouna, Sivanarul

You both make similar points re: the incentive to do sadhana today.

The reason is we feel the suffering, the misery of life, and we are driven to find out what it all means, what is the purpose. A belief in reincarnation is a bit like belief in a separate God/heaven; it provides some solace and sounds more elegant than just saying "I don't know what happens after death". As Socrates said, I only know that I don't know.

I suggest that if you as an individual could truly give up all concern for this life and the next, that would amount to surrender and therefore moksha. The issue is that our egos aren't prepared to go quietly into the night.

venkat said...

Just to add, as Steve alludes to, Bhagavan has always deferred any metaphysical questions or speculation. He always pointed seekers to first find out who is it that is asking the question . . . the only thing we know for certain is that we exist and are conscious; so attentively abide in this, the only certainty.

Mouna said...

Venkat,

My point is slightly different than what you say. I am not incentivating doing or not doing sadhana.
I said IF one is prone to do sadhana of any kind, one by default "believes" in reincarnation no matter what one says about it (if it exists or not).
Because what is the point of doing any sadhana if you really know that there is no reincarnation? At the end of this body/mind everything will merge into whatever, as in deep sleep...
M

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

“I suggest that if you as an individual could truly give up all concern for this life and the next, that would amount to surrender and therefore moksha. The issue is that our egos aren't prepared to go quietly into the night.”

Agreed, but that is the end state. The discussion was pertinent to sadhakas who are performing sadhana but based on the play of the gunas, realize that the end state may not be reached within this lifetime. To those sadhakas, the solace is that they will continue where they left, if they could not complete the journey.

“Just to add, as Steve alludes to, Bhagavan has always deferred any metaphysical questions or speculation.”

Yes, in general. But to reincarnation he is also on record saying that he already performed sadhana in earlier lives that prepared him to do the intense few seconds enquiry in this life that resulted in awakening.

“the only thing we know for certain is that we exist and are conscious; so attentively abide in this, the only certainty.”

Again, this is the end state. It is only because sadhakas could not attentively abide in that state, is why reincarnation comes into play.

Your suggestions are for the very advanced seekers, for whom the play of gunas is not happening anymore. My suggestions are for those sadhakas who are tossed up in samsara and gunas. We are addressing two very different audiences.

venkat said...

Mouna

"IF one is prone to do sadhana of any kind, one by default "believes" in reincarnation . . . What is the point of doing any sadhana if you really know that there is no reincarnation?"

If you really know that there is no reincarnation, surely you would do sadhana because your recognise that the self-centred lives we lead are selfish and brutish . . . and therefore you want to live a life at peace with our fellow beings (even more so if we recognise that we are non-separate from those fellow beings and the world)? After all, what is sadhana, apart from learning how to live a non-self-centred life?
If you don't believe in non-duality, and you don't believe in heaven/rebirth, sure you may choose to live a life of selfishness and hedonism - which many do - but I wonder if that really gives peace and joy?

Sadhana is not some kind of trade with god, to say I'll give up this in order to gain that. Sadhana arises because of disgust with the life, the rat race, the pettiness, the competitiveness, that we all find ourselves in.

Sivanarul,

There is no other audience, advanced or beginner, for us to worry about apart from ourselves. As Bhagavan used to say, first attend to what you have come here for. Reincarnation, it seems to me, is a story, like heaven, that has been developed to give both a carrot and a stick to the ego to behave itself and not to give up hope.

Mouna said...

Venkat,

If you want to live a moral life like you are depicting, you don't need to investigate who are you, or study Bhagavan's teachings, etc..., just don't do to others what you wouldn't like others do to you. It's that simple.
You don't need to know your real identity to do that. Then, when you go to sleep or die, you'll bathe in That (for a while when asleep, forever when die).

But if you are trying to know "who and/or what you are", it's a different story, that assumes that you don't "know" it "yet", and so, I agree with you, we invent reincarnation to "give us more time".

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

“There is no other audience, advanced or beginner, for us to worry about apart from ourselves. As Bhagavan used to say, first attend to what you have come here for.”

One of the troubles in an advaita discussion is that, at any time, one side can take up the absolute or eka jiva position, and then there is no context to say anything. In the context of where this discussion is happening, from a physical reality, there is an audience of sadhakas who range from beginner to advanced, who read these comments and interpret however they want to.

What Bhagavan said was in the context of people involving themselves in ashram politics when the purpose they came was to do sadhana. What we are discussing here is about reincarnation, a very well established doctrine in Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism. Bhagavan’s saying has no relevance in this context. If you don’t apply a context, I can use Bhagavan’s saying to a person who is working and say, “Why are you working? Is that why you were born? Why don’t you attend to what you came here for?”

“Reincarnation, it seems to me, is a story, like heaven, that has been developed to give both a carrot and a stick to the ego to behave itself and not to give up hope.”

Again, I have already provided anecdotal evidence for why Reincarnation is not a story, but a degree of reality similar to this one. Both Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism support it.

“If you don't believe in non-duality, and you don't believe in heaven/rebirth, sure you may choose to live a life of selfishness and hedonism - which many do - but I wonder if that really gives peace and joy?”

Not necessarily true. A materialist, who 100% believes that matter is the begin all and end all, can live a remarkable life of ethics, love, service and utter selflessness (as understood commonly). There are numerous examples for this.

venkat said...

Mouna, the point is not about trying to live morally vs trying to know your identity. Your initial question was why do sadhana if at death that is the end of you, with no rebirth. And my response was that you do sadhana because you realise the truth in Bhagavan's teaching that the ego is the cause of your (and others) suffering, and the ending of it gives peace, now. I'm not sure why one needs the carrot / stick of reincarnation to prompt one to seek peace in any event?

And if you are just drawn to self-enquiry because you want to know your self-identity (and not because of any suffering), then again, this scientific curiosity will drive you irrespective of reincarnation.

If you come to the point where you have sought and found Bhagavan's teaching, then the likelihood is that you already have a certain distate for, a dissatisfaction with, worldly life. Therefore whether or not you believe death is the end, or just the preamble to rebirth, you will be drawn to the sadhana of giving up the ego, and finding your true identity.

Mouna said...

I see you point Venkat, now that we exchanged a few lines. And I agree with what you said last. I believe we were looking at the same idea from different angles but what we were looking at was the same.
Yours in Bhagavan,
M

Viveka Vairagya said...

Venkat,

You write "you do sadhana because you realise the truth in Bhagavan's teaching that the ego is the cause of your (and others) suffering, and the ending of it gives peace, now. I'm not sure why one needs the carrot / stick of reincarnation to prompt one to seek peace in any event?" But my point is if you do not believe in reincarnation and there is suffering now in your life why wouldn't you commit suicide to end the suffering because without reincarnation/rebirth there would be no repercussions or consequences that you have to face on account of commiting the suicide. Why would you take the tortorous route of sadhana to end the ego when you can end the suffering through the simple act of suicide given that you do not believe in reincarnation/rebirth.

Venkat said...

At one level it doesn't really matter.

But if you've come to the point of contemplating suicide, why not investigate for yourself the truth of nonduality before doing so? If you have understood the msg that the egoic thoughts are the cause of suffering, why not just surrender and let whatever is to be come to be.

For whatever reason, this dream has appeared, so why not let it play out. Easier to do so if you even intellectually understand advaita.

Steve said...

Question: Is reincarnation true?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.

Reincarnation (or incarnation) exists only in IGNORANCE. In TRUTH there is REALLY no reincarnation (or incarnation).

We can come to that conclusion through faith, through reason, or through experience, but it is that simple. And the choice is ours to make - ignorance or truth, illusion or reality. What is the point in ignoring the truth or wasting attention on illusion? Vicara through viveka, vairagya through vicara.

Anonymous said...

"He who gains the wisdom of the eternal here is freed from samsara and he is not born again in ignorance. One may doubt that such unchanging truth may exist! If it does not, one comes to no harm by inquiring into the nature of life; seeking the eternal will soften the pain caused by changes in life. But if it exists, then by knowing it one is freed. The eternal is not attained by rites and rituals, by pilgrimages or by wealth; it is to be attained only by the conquest of one's mind, by the cultivation of wisdom.
Rama, there are four gate keepers at the entrance to the realm of freedom. They are self-control, spirit of enquiry, contentment and good company. The wise seeker should diligently cultivate the friendship of these or at least one of them. Contentment is the supreme gain. Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of inquiry itself is the greatest wisdom. And, self control is supreme happiness. If you are unable to resort to all these four, then practice one; by diligent practice of one of these, the others will also be found in you." -- Yoga Vasishtha

Sivanarul said...

Day By Day, pg 256

G. Mehta: Is there a rebirth?

Bhagavan: If there is birth there must be not only one rebirth
but a whole succession of births. Why and how did you get this
birth? For the same reason and in the same manner you must
have succeeding births.

With respect to Steve’s latest quote on reincarnation, for most quotes of Bhagavan, one can find an opposite quote also, since Bhagavan addressed many degrees of reality.

Steve’s quote is from an absolute position, which is to be realized. Simply saying there is no incarnation or reincarnation, when one is bound by samsara is no use.

Since Brahman alone exists and Ajata is the final truth (as per Bhagavan), we might as well give up Sadhana, join the Neo-Advaita folks , and save us time and trouble of satsang via this website.

Sivanarul said...

To Venkat’s comment:

“For whatever reason, this dream has appeared, so why not let it play out. Easier to do so if you even intellectually understand advaita.”

Intellectually understanding advaita is only another belief. Millions of people who believe materialism as the final truth and who are suffering a lot in life, are already letting it play it out with the knowledge that this life will end in x number of years.

Venkat said...

Sivanarul

You are flipping between positions which makes the argument difficult to follow.

If one is a materialist, and has no interest in advaita, then that is his concern.

We are talking about one who understands advaita, and bhagavans teaching "no one born, no one bound, no seeker" , I would disagree that understanding is just a belief, because science and logic can get you there. As for doing or not doing sadhana, that will depend on whether you are driven to do so; no need to appeal to reincarnation for that, but if that incentives you, fair enough.

Steve said...

'...for most quotes of Bhagavan, one can find an opposite quote also.'

You haven't found it with the quote you posted.

Sivanarul said...

Steve,

Finding it is in the eyes of the beholder. I certainly feel in that quote Bhagavan was clear that if one incarnation has happened, then there is no reason why more incarnations cannot happen.

Sivanarul said...

Venkat,

The point made on materialists was to indicate that if the idea was just to “play it out” to end suffering, then millions are already doing it. Since materialists believe that consciousness is an epiphenomenon that the brain produces, then ending of physical death ends consciousness. So any suffering one might be having will end in a matter of x years by just playing or waiting it out.

I think we have beaten the topic of reincarnation enough. Let me end my final comment on this with the following:

Reincarnation is a bedrock principle of Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism. Adavaita does not reject it but only transcends it, by awakening. If one does not need belief in reincarnation, then that’s fine. But calling it as a concept is not helpful, when there is so much anecdotal evidence to support it.

Steve said...

'IF there is birth...'

'Why and how did you get this birth?

'...only so long as there is ignorance.'

Sivanarul said...

Just want to make a general observation on ONLY taking Bhagavan’s quotes that take the absolute position (as Steve and many others do). Bhagavan’s written teachings and as well as life in general contains sayings that take both absolute and relative positions. The absolute sayings are reminders of the state when ignorance dissolves.

If we take only those sayings, there is not much difference between Bhagavan and a Neo-Advaita Guru. Those who ONLY want to take absolute positions of Bhagavan, will be best served by the hundreds of Neo Advaita Guru’s that are doing an excellent job of teaching Neo Advaita.

Steve said...

'Those who ONLY want to take absolute positions of Bhagavan, will be best served by the hundreds of Neo Advaita Guru’s that are doing an excellent job of teaching Neo Advaita.'

I can only speak for myself, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that when I take Bhagavan's 'absolute positions' (i.e. his teachings), I'm best served by also taking the practice of atma-vicara as the means to experience those 'absolute positions'.

Sivanarul said...

What use is Sadhana to the one who takes absolute positions? Who will be the one to experience those absolute positions? Isn't absolute devoid of all experiences?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Happiness
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 3; & Who Am I?, 8th Edition, 2010, p. 35)

If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness should be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view?
In deep sleep the man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realise his Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.
Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e., when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

Steve said...

What use is Sadhana to the one who takes absolute positions? Who will be the one to experience those absolute positions? Isn't absolute devoid of all experiences?'

Find out for yourself.

Venkat said...

When we talk about relative and absolute positions, let's be clear. The two most important Upanishads - Mandukya and Brhadaranyaka do not mention this; neither does shankara in Thousand Teachings and Vivekachudamani. Neither does Bhagavan.

There is only truth, which is up to us first to understand,and then to put in practice through at a vichara. Relative positions are a concession to those who can't yet accept this truth. But if you even intellectually understand the absolute truth, why not abide there, and simply focus on atma vichara?

As far as neo-advaitins go, they have intellectually understood there is no ego, no doer, and think that that knowledge is it. And so they set themselves as gurus to charges fees to share this knowledge. However they haven't appreciated that there is a major step beyond just intellectual knowledge, which is the actual dissolution of ego / mind, for which atma vichara and surrender are the paths to follow. That is the big difference.

Mouna said...

Venkat,

"As far as neo-advaitins go, they have intellectually understood there is no ego, no doer, and think that that knowledge is it."

I wouldn't judge anybody's understanding and realization except my own. It's a slippery slope.

venkat said...

Absolutely fair point Mouna.

Anonymous said...

It seems like people like to extol Ramana's teaching of atma vichara by talking about it more than actually practicing it. It also looks like people who spout Advaita platitudes like "you are not the ego, you have no birth, you have no ignorance" are the one who write the most displaying their ego etc. I suppose its their ghost which reads this blog, responds to answers.

They seem to be fan's of Bhagavan's teachings rather than followers of Bhagavan's teachings. I doubt if Bhagavan ever asked his disciples to discuss Atma Vichara all day long.

Since there is no ego, no birth, no ignorance just assume that another formless being wrote all this. Please don't waste your time responding to this cause we'd have to wonder if its the ego or the self responding and its already been proved that there is no ego except when one falls and breaks his leg!

Mouna said...

"It seems like people like to extol Ramana's teaching of atma vichara by talking about it more than actually practicing it."

Worrying about "other people's" business pertaining spirituality is one of saddest forms of wasting one's own precious and limited time.

Anonymous said...

"Worrying about "other people's" business pertaining spirituality is one of saddest forms of wasting one's own precious and limited time."

Too bad you don't realize that yourself.

Anonymous said...

From http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.fr/2008/06/robert-adams-again.html


I (Robert Adams) enquired of the devotee who saw him last, ‘What were the last words he (Bhagavan) spoke?’


The devotee said, ‘While he was leaving his body a peacock flew on top of the hall and started screeching. Ramana remarked to his devotee, ‘Has anyone fed the peacock yet?’ Those were the last words he spoke.


Now, let’s talk about you. Think of the problems you believe you have. Think of the nonsense that you go on with everyday. Think how furious you become, how you always want to stick up for your rights, as if you had any. The problem is, you think. If you would only stop thinking.


You say, ‘How can I function if I stop thinking?’


Very well, thank you! As a matter of fact you will function much better than you do now, for you will always be taken care of. The universe loves you. It will always supply you with your needs. Forget about other people, what they do, what they don’t do. Do not listen to malicious gossip. Be yourself. Understand who you really are. You are the absolute reality, unconditioned consciousness. Work from that standpoint. Do not work from your problems. Do not get lost in meaningless gossip. Understand your true reality. Be yourself.

Mouna said...


.....

Steve said...

It looks like Robert Adams is discussing the same topic we do here!

Sivanarul said...

To Anonymous’s comments:

“It seems like people like to extol Ramana's teaching of atma vichara by talking about it more than actually practicing it.”

Yes, we all can certainly use a reminder now and then, to practice more than talk about it. For some (like me), talking is the way we come out of Rajas and Tamas, back into Sattva. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, many of us are tossed from Sattva into Rajas and Tamas cyclically. During those times, it is impossible (at least for me) to do any sadhana be it Meditation or Vichara. Talking and participating in Satsang is how the mind comes back into Sattva to resume Sadhana.

“It also looks like people who spout Advaita platitudes like "you are not the ego, you have no birth, you have no ignorance"
“there is no ego except when one falls and breaks his leg!”

I have expressed similar opinion and you are right on the money. I have the deepest respect and admiration for Bhagavan because he walked the talk. He simply served as a witness when his body was ravaged by cancer. If we cannot be like that, there is no point in saying there is no birth, no ignorance etc.

When I was young, advaita had no appeal to me. ‘Aham Brahmasi’ never made sense. How can I, with all the youthful desires ever be THE ONE. Bhagavan was the one who made it palatable (at least a little) for me. Bhagavan said, “Does a man go on repeating I am a man?” More importantly he said, forget about whether you are a jiva or Brahman. You know you exist, but you don’t know who you are apart from the senses. Find that out first. Then the answer to whether you are a jiva separate from Brahman or Brahman will be revealed. Bhagavan was a uniter of all spiritual disciplines and he met the disciple where the disciple was. Thanks Bhagavan.

Please feel free to offer blunt criticisms, if and when necessary. As Michael wrote earlier, if our ego is insulted, it is good for us :-)

R Viswanathan said...

"Therefore being self-attentive is surrendering ourself (this ego) to what we actually are, which is pure self-awareness."

So it appears that 'surrender completely' is the key - whether one calls this 'act' of surrender as Atma Vichara or Bakthi, which are words.

Michael James said...

Viswanathan, you are correct in implying that words as such do not matter, but what does matter is what the words point to.

According to Bhagavan, the key is that in order to surrender ourself completely we must turn our attention back to be aware of ourself alone, and since this entails giving up everything that now seems to be ‘I’ and ‘mine’, it requires overwhelming love. Therefore, since attending to ourself alone is what is called ātma-vicāra, and since the love required to do so is what is called bhakti, complete self-surrender is the culmination of both ātma-vicāra and bhakti.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Peace
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 238)

D.: How to get peace?
Maharshi: That is the natural state. The mind obstructs the innate peace. Our investigation is only in the mind. Investigate the mind; it will disappear. There is no entity by name mind. Because of the emergence of thoughts we surmise something from which they start. That we term mind. When we probe to see what it is, there is nothing like it. After it has vanished, Peace will be found to remain eternal.
...
D.: How to know the Self?
Maharshi: See what the Self is. What you consider to be the Self, is really either the mind or the intellect or the ‘I-thought’. The other thoughts arise only after the ‘I-thought’. So hold on to it. The others will vanish leaving the Self as the residuum.
D.: The difficulty lies in reaching it.
Maharshi: There is no reaching it at all because it is eternal, here and now. If the Self were to be gained anew, it would not be permanent.
D.: How to obtain equanimity or peace or equilibrium of mind? What is the best way?
Maharshi: I have already answered it. Investigate the mind. It is eliminated and you remain over. Let your standpoint become that of wisdom then the world will be found to be God. So the question is one of outlook. You pervade all. See yourself and all are understood. But you have now lost hold of your Self and go about doubting other things.
D.: How to know the Self?
Maharshi: Are there two ‘I’s? How do you know your own existence? Do you see yourself with these eyes? Question yourself. How does this question arise? Do I remain to ask it or not? Can I find my Self as in a mirror? Because your outlook has been outward bent, it has lost sight of the Self and your vision is external. The Self is not found in external objects. Turn your look within and plunge down; you will be the Self.

venkat said...

"They seem to be fan's of Bhagavan's teachings rather than followers of Bhagavan's teachings".

As I read Anonymous' comment my thought process was two-fold. Firstly a case of 'pot calling kettle black' - if Anonymous is so advanced, as is implicit in his words, why does he condescend to both reading this blog and writing his comments, which runs contrary to his own argument. Secondly, to look at whether the substance of his accusative comments on displaying ego are correct.

On reflection, the first set of thoughts are irrelevant and not my concern. The second set are no doubt correct, as the ego is still here.

However I do part company with Anonymous on the basis that the implication of his comments is that we should stop all discussion. I'm not sure about others, but on a day-to-day basis there are very few that I can engage with to explore the nature/truth of reality and the ego. I don't believe Bhagavan advocated pure blind belief in him or his teaching. I think he would have told us to find out for ourself, rather than just follow anyone. Self-investigation, as I think Michael has said, is just that - an investigation into the nature of the self (and of the world). It is the ultimate question that has haunted philosophers and scientists. Hence even Bhagavan and Murugunar wrote Guru Vachaka Kovai that covered a wide remit of such issues.

We are all at different stages of development and understanding; and the way/speed we learn and progress will be very different from one person to another, since we have not all come from identical backgrounds. I think that I (and I assume others?) participate on this blog, because we want to clarify and refine our understanding through the crucible of writing down our thoughts, and subjecting them to challenge. That is the whole point of Sravana-Manana. Undoubtedly though the aim is to progress beyond this to Nididhyasana - self-abidance. So Anonymous' interventions are helpful to not lose sight of this objective.

Anonymous said...

"Firstly a case of 'pot calling kettle black' - if Anonymous is so advanced, as is implicit in his words, why does he condescend to both reading this blog and writing his comments, which runs contrary to his own argument."

Right back at you. You just did that yourself. Also did I ever say anywhere that i'm advanced or don't belong to the same category. I just made a generalized statement and you can feel free to include me in that list. Thats why I told "Mouna", who also accused me of wasting my time by judging others's spirituality when he was precisely doing the same, taking the trouble to read all the comments including mine and respond to it. Anyone who even writes one line in response to anothers comment is doing it including myself. Did I exclude myself anywhere?

Fact of the matter is that my comments were aimed specifically at the Advaita platitudes like "you have no birth, ego, blah blah" that are hurled all over the place by people who very much have an ego, their blood boils at the comments here, makes them respond in a second and these are the ones who are talking about the non existence of ego.

"if Anonymous is so advanced, as is implicit in his words"

Your own assumption. Is there a law that only a person who is advanced can make such an observation because then a person who doesn't know for sure if there is an ego, rebirth etc has right to utter such statements because he is only delving in theories.

Finally Bhagavan himself from "The teachings of Ramana maharshi in his own words" by Arthur Osborne.

"This vivid Realisation, as a direct and immediate experience of the supreme Truth, comes quite naturally, with nothing uncommon about it, to everyone who, remaining just
as he is, enquires introspectively without allowing the mind to become externalised even for a moment or wasting time in mere talk."

I never said i'm following this and if you ask me how then I can make such an observation about others, I ask, how then can one say there is no ego, no ignorance and all that when one is filled to the brim with it.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

... I was thinking that Christ utterances are in perfect agreement with this Teaching when we substitute Chirst's name for "I" or "I am". Even Bhagavan said that "I" is the first name of God. God=Christ="I"... The "I" in all of us...

1. "Nobody comes to the Father except through Me"

Nobody comes to the Self except through "I".
(nobody achieves self realization except by following the thread of I, attending to I.. etc.)

2. "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it"

his life= his present life based on false ego (his ego now). When gone, eternal self awareness will prevail

it becomes...

Whosoever shall seek to save his ego shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his ego shall preserve it.

---> whosoever shall lose his ego shall preserve it. THIS! is exactly the teaching that by attending to our ego we are attending to our Self. and that the ego is but pure self awareness mixed with adjuncts

3. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"

Everyone sees the lack of a strong developed ego in a child, so unless we will loose the ego we will not enter heaven (pure self awareness, the Self)

4. "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God"

Unless one looses the false appearance, the ego, you cannot see the Self. In perfect agreement with Bhagavan who said that we cannot be aware of the world as we see it now and of the Self at the same time. The ego must dissapear to see the "kingdom of God"

5. "The kingdom of God is within you"

You discover the Self by attending to yourself...


6. "Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life"

Whoever follows the thread of "I" will not walk in darkness, but will gain Self Realization


... this feels intuitively true... Exactly the same Teaching! Is it not?! We don't know how accurately the words were recorded in the Gospels but at the very core they point to the same thing and Path...

(PS: If you want to have an intelligent discussion based on arguments not on insults like I see on many pages and comments in these pages you're more than welcome. Thank you! :) )

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...


... the fact that we seem just to "do the talk" like many seem to suggest may not be true, because we cannot know and judge what happens in anyone's mind or how they practice. Discussion with the purpose of removal of doubts, focusing and clarifying the Teaching is highly beneficial and desirable until we can loose the ego.In fact is more than necessary to keep our mind on these Teaching until we loose that mind in pure self awareness. And most probably, by now, many aspirants are at least trying to attend to themselves, to "I" even in the midst of activities they cannot avoid...

... continuing the line of thought above, even Christ advised to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" when asked how to live if we cannot avoid certain things, which means (I feel) that we can attend to "I" even in the midst of wordily life we cannot run from...

So, to conclude, discussion is very necessary in my opinion if we want to keep our mind in the right direction. Yes, we all have times when we feel that words are worthless, when we wonder why so much thinking about such a simple practice etc... But we also have time when we are in mental turmoil and confusion and we dearly need some support. In those times we are more than helped to dwell on such discussion, provided they help us clarify and established good pointers for our practice...

Thank you, I hope is clear what I wrote, English is not my first language...

God bless everyone!

Mouna said...

Dear Dragos,

Thank you for this clear, thoughtful and right to the point posting.

You're in Bhagavan
Mouna

Anonymous said...

A great verse from the Bible:

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

-Matthew 16:24 (KJV)

In this context, Jesus can be taken to be a personification of ourself, and he rightly exhorts us to deny our individual selves and follow him, which will imply self-attention.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...


One last quote I forgot to mention in first post and came to mind now.

7."Me and my Father are One"

"I" and Self are One. This is in perfect agreement with advaitic teaching Atman=Brahman (atman, ego without adjuncts in its pure form is the same substance as God (Self, pure self awareness))

I'm starting to believe this is not just a teaching discovered by Bhagavan but was accessible throughout all the ages for those in the path of Grace. It seems to me genuine religious paths may have different practices/experiences to help purify the mind (prayer, confession in the Christian tradition, pranayama, different yogas in the East etc..) but they all merge in what we call here atma-vichara, self-attention, attention to "I".

Therefore claiming that Michael appear to promote his "exclusivist" view on the subject is not well grounded. It seemed to me also like this when I first started the practice and reading this blog, but only practice can clear your mind and see that the pure understanding is atma-vichara. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) confusion can be cleared to a great extent mostly by practice not necessarily endless arguments.

I believe we should hold beliefs tentatively, because it seems to me it goes the other way around here. In other words the more I practice, the more clear it becomes.

All in all, I really love this blog, because I am pretty sure without Michael explanations it would have taken me a longer time to understand certain things.

God bless,
Dragos

Anonymous said...

In continuation from my previous comment posted anonymously:

In fact, the entire series of verses from 16:24 to 16:26 can be taken to be as subtle though indirect illustrations of the practice of self-attention and the necessity for doing it.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. - Matthew 16:24

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. - Matthew 16:25

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? - Matthew 16:26

As Dragos says about verse 16:25 in his comment, it implies that preserving and perpetuating what we take to be our life (as an ego) is in effect making us lose our life as self; if we lose our life as an ego for the sake of Jesus (whose reality is ourself), we would in effect find our real life again.

Also, verse 16:26 clearly demonstrates the necessity of self-attention: even if we gain all that is there in the world, we will do it at the cost of clear knowledge about our own self. This lack of clarity of self-knowledge would continue to plague the seeming happiness that we derive from the world, and would never allow us the untainted, pristine happiness that we all seek.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

... That was the point I was trying to make, not necessarily mixing Christ words with Bhagavan's...

Have a nice day everyone!

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...



The post above was meant to be after my last post (just when I pressed publish another post had been posted by Anonymous)...

In all the posts on this page I was trying to defend Michael's view that atma-vichara is the only path that leads directly to what we're after if understood properly...

Thank you,
Dragos

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...


I also believe is not healthy to attach ourselves (mentally of course) to certain devotees and start judging (be it Michael, David or any other that are gone now). I believe we should try to form our own conclusions based on practice and see if they agree with what Bhagavan taught. I believe that trusting in Bhagavan's grace and his own primary teachings + assiduous practice is the thing to do.

Each devotee will explain the Teaching based on his own mentality (obviously!). So the fact that one devotee has a more devotional mind will probably make one present his understanding of the teaching in a much more "loving" way.

The fact that Michael's mind has a very philosophical/sharp/argumentative side may appear to some a dry way of presenting the Teaching, that is "dismissing" any other practices that help purify our mind, so one may feel that he is focusing "only on atma-vichara".

We can obviously choose which devotee to read, but we should not rely blindly on what/or the way they or anyone else write.

For example, personally I have, let's say, a 70% devotional side and 30% logical side, so Michael's style is not my "favorite" so-to-speak. But this does not prevent me to read his articles with the "logical side" in mind and at the same time understand that he presents his ideas based on his own mentality. Moreover, what we think we know about Michael is based purely on our own mind. I remember I stumbled by accident on this blog and after reading a few articles I thought to myself this is a too philosophical/argumentative/logical/cold way to present Bhagavan's teaching. But then I saw one video of Michael and was shocked to see that the way he spoke to people was different than the impression I got when I just read the articles.

This made me realize how stupid is to judge someone's style of writing and presenting things when we have no clue what's happening in anyone's mind for that matter. We should be careful about our mind's judgements! just as we should be aware of any kind of judgement in general...

I believe we can add this to our own viveka and manana, trust in Bhagavan's Grace and do the practice as often as we can, because the practice is far more important that any other things, beliefs, likes and dislikes...

I personally read this blog and David's blog and other books by devotees too... but with the thought in mind "Here's a good willing devotee who writes about my Beloved Bhagavan... let's see what he has to say.." and then try to do my own manana and viveka based on careful reflection and practice... In some books I see blatant mistakes, exaggerated and biased interpretations based on one's own mind, some devotees seem to deliberately misinterpret the teachings, others books seem just plain wrong... But I try to understand that each of them was just trying to free himself from the illusory misery we're all and presented the teaching as his mind saw fit at that time, and not judge him in my mind, compare to others and hold grudges in my mind (as far as I can, cuz I'm not free from this either).

We should try to stick together in this and not argue indefinitely, because we don't know how much time we are allowed to have here, and we should make the best use of it not use it to perpetuate our own illusory ego, which already causes us so much misery... At least we should try... I repeat I am in no way free from these things but I realized that the more we practice the better it will be... so let's practice as much as we can and not give in too much to our own mind...

Thank you and happy practice to everyone!,
Dragos

Bob - P said...

{All in all, I really love this blog, because I am pretty sure without Michael explanations it would have taken me a longer time to understand certain things.}

I agree with you Dragos whole heartedly.
Warmest regards
Bob

Sivanarul said...

Excellent posting by Dragos that is very thoughtful and meaningful. Christ being personified as the pure sattvic jiva/ego is a nice metaphor. Christ, to me, epitomizes the path of Surrender to God, the heavenly father who is both within and without. His crucifixion is one of the most terrible pains and suffering a Jiva can be subjected to.

In spite of Christ being pure Sattva and son of God, for a moment, due to extreme pain and suffering, he agonizes, “Why have you foresaken me, my lord”? That agonizing is what makes Christ as Jiva metaphor an excellent one. How many times have we, who follow the path of surrender, have either said or thought to our self the same thing Christ agonized. We often feel the lord has forsaken us. While Christ felt that way, only when subjected to extreme suffering, we tend to feel that way for comparatively trivial things (as compared to crucifixion). But within moments of such agonizing, Christ being pure Sattva and son of god, let’s go of that agony and surrenders completely to God and makes the timeless statement “No my will, but thy will be done”. That statement is what we, who are followers of the path of surrender, aim to achieve. It is obviously not easy and that is the whole point of Sadhana. The ego needs to be chipped away slowly but steadily with each event in life, surrendering to the will of God, to the best of our ability.

For those of us who follow the path of surrender, we don’t have a need to understand anything deeply or intellectually. We understand that reason, logic and intellect are all in the realm of brain which being a very finite instrument can never understand creation and the mind of God (as a metaphor). Philosophers can break their heads with that and have fun :-) We do not blame our Karma for our suffering or pain, because it violates ahimsa and compassion towards our self. Karma also being Jada, is an unnecessary thing between us and God. We attribute whatever happens to us as the direct will of God. We do not know the reason for it, but we trust that God knows the reason for it is God’s plan to return us to his kingdom of heaven. Our Sadhana is then to repeatedly practice surrender to God, amidst repeated failures, to all events that happen in life. Eventually the ego needs to be weakened so much, such that it disappears completely by merging into God.

For the advaiti, Ishvara merges in ‘I’. For us, ‘I’ merges in Ishvara, the one we love, adore and pray to on a daily basis. That Ishvara is within us, shines as Arunachala, is in all temples, churches, synagogues, mosques and all other places of worship. May that Ishvara guide us back from darkness to light, from Samsara to Moksha.

Mouna said...

Dear Sivanarulji, Vannakkam
A couple of thoughts about your touching post on bhakti view through the eyes and sayings of Jesus.

“No my will, but thy will be done” (Luke 22:41-46). Jesus didn't say that at the cross but at the Garden of Olives in Gethsemane. In a brief moment of weakness, he asks his father to take away that "cup" from him... (Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me...) but in the next breath he surrenders and says “Yet not my will, but thy will be done”. The story goes that after this an angel came down to comfort him.

“Why have you foresaken me, my lord” is actually an interesting claim done by Jesus before his last breaths. They are the beginning words of King David's psalms, Psalm 22, and this psalm is known because of its prophetic lines, in which the one singing describes his forecoming sufferings: "For dogs have surrounded Me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me; they pierced My hands and My feet." Making this psalm a visionary prophecy of the messiah.
Very similar in a sense to some verses of Arunachala Aksharamanamalai.

Be well,
Yours in Bhagavan
Mouna

Mouna said...

(addendum)
And let us not forget why Jesus was betrayed, "judged", tortured and eventually crucified. It all started when he committed the "blasphemy" of pronouncing the name of God in front of the priesthood institution (the Sanhedrin), that name of God being "I am that I am" that in short means that one oneself is God, not separate from oneself. In that old tradition that name can't be mentioned by anyone...

M

Bob - P said...

Michael makes a lot of comparisons between the teaching of Christ and Bhagavan's teaching in his wonderful book:

Happiness and the Art of Being

So helpful.
Bob

Sivanarul said...

Mounaji,

Vannakkam. Thanks for clarifying the context in which Jesus said those words. I have not read the Holy Bible and only know his key teachings without the full context in which he said it.

His brief moment of weakness, as you say, is the key strength for followers of the path of surrender. While walking the path, we frequently slip into Rajas and Tamas and have a crisis of faith. Ishvara feels to have slipped away. In those moments, remembering that, saints as great as Christ itself, had those crises of faith, is very comforting and is what, that brings us back to the journey.

Mother Theresa is one of my favorite saints that I adore and respect deeply. Her service to the poor and destitute of Calcutta, is remarkable service to God. During the process of her sainthood, many details of her having crises of faith in God appeared. That, in my view, instead of diminishing her, greatly increased my adoration and respect for her, again for the same reason I explained earlier.

Christ’s teaching can be taken to support Advaita and as well as the traditional path of Bhakthi and Surrender to God (which both Advaita and Bhagavan support also). As Krishna says in the Gita, the supreme reality comes from time to time as Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Bhagavan to guide us back to light from darkness.

Whatever beliefs we are comfortable with and whatever path our mind has a natural tendency to follow, let’s follow that with the firm conviction, that in the end, the Kingdom of Heaven awaits us all, irrespective of the religious or spiritual path that we may follow, whether that be service, prayer, meditation or Vichara.

Do no evil, be kind, bear suffering to the best of one's ability, help oneself and others and trust either in the 'I' and/or Ishvara, sums it all up very well.

Mouna said...

S-ji,

"Do no evil, be kind, bear suffering to the best of one's ability, help oneself and others and trust either in the 'I' and/or Ishvara, sums it all up very well."

Amen.

venkat said...

I just came across this beautiful passage In Vedanta, The Science of Reality:

"The men of Vedic age while they perfected themselves in practice of every virtue and attained to the highest powers of self-suppression, were anxious to pierce the view of mystery in which life was enwrapped and to grasp the Reality behind it. This naturally led to an exclusive devotion to the object of their ambition, a life of penance and meditation, a life free from cares and attachments.

"Their preference therefore for a life in the forest was not dictated by a contempt for the goods of life, nor by a desire to escape from its duties in quest for undisturbed enjoyment. For, great and many were the hardships and privations to which they had to submit in their chase after airy and insubstantial ideals. The impulse that moved them, the constant urge in them, was the determination to rise above the common joys and sorrows of life, to come at a view of Life that included and transcended the change in identity seemingly characterising it, to obtain a peep beyond the inane rotation of petty joys and cares that inevitably terminated in death. . . They felt an irrepressible yearning for the realisation of the principle of all existence - the one Reality that was the real of reals; for they felt that this world, notwithstanding its features of seductive beauty and sublimity, was not the All, nor this life the highest or the ultimate fact, since neither of them can explain itself. How came this world of concepts and percepts into being? How do I find myself put into communication with it? Is there a Reality behind and can I know it?

"The Upanishads contain the conclusions that were reached on all these vital points. We moderns might not agree with them all, but notwithstanding our preeminence in science and art we must confess we have no solutions to show to our credit that can pretend to be more rational, more definite or more soul-satisfying."

Sivanarul said...

SivaBhogaSaram – Surrender exemplified:

கணக்கும் ெபாதிக்கும் எருதுக்கும் தன்னிச்ைச கண்டதுண்ேடா
எனக்கும் உடற்கும் எனதிச்ைச ேயாஇணங் கார்புரத்ைதச்
சினக்குங் கமைலயின் ஞானப்ர காச சிதம்பர இன்(று)
உனக்கிச்ைச எப்படி அப்படி யாக உைரத்தருேள.
Hath anyone ever consulted the bullock’s wish
About the ponderous load he hath to carry?
Is it my wish that matters
About the nature of the body I get?
Thou that wert filled with wrath
Against the cities of Thine enemies!
Kamalai Jnanaprakas! Chidambara!
Whatever be Thy wish to day
Graciously proclaim accordingly.

எல்லாம் உனது ெசயெலன் றறிந்தும் எனதுளத்தில்
ெபால்லாத சங்கற்பம் ஏன்வரு ேமாபுர மூன்ெறரிக்க
வல்லாய் கமைலயின் ஞானப்ர காச வரதஇது
ெசால்லாய் கரண மயக்கமன் ேறாஎன் ெதாழிலல்லேவ.
Knowing that all is Thy deed
Why should this wicked resolve sprout forth in my mind?
Thou Strong One, who destroyed the three cities,
Kamalai Jnanaprakas, Thou bestower of gifts,
Answer this. Is it not of the confusion caused by the karanas?
It is certainly not my deed.

எவ்வுயிருங் காக்கேவார் ஈசனுண்ேடா இல்ைலேயா
அவ்வுயிரில் நாெமாருவர் அல்லேவா – வவ்விப்
ெபாருகுவதும் ெநஞ்ேச புழுங்குவதும் ேவண்டாம்
வருகுவதும் தாேன வரும்.
Is there or not a Lord to protect all beings?
Are we too not of them?
Why covet and wrangle and worry? O heart?
Whatever must come, of itself will come.

Sivanarul said...

அவரவருக் குள்ளபடி ஈசனரு ளாேல
அவரவைரக் ெகாண்டியற்று மானால் – அவரவைர
நல்லார்ெபால் லாெரன்று நாடுவெதன் ெநஞ்சேம
எல்லாம் சிவன்ெசயெலன் ெறண்.
When it is the Lord that doeth all the deeds
Through each as each deserves,
Why judgest than, my heart, the men as good or bad?
Consider all the deeds to be Siva’s own.

ெபால்லாத தீவிைனயிற் ேபாகார்கள் ேபானாலும்
எல்லாஞ் சிவன்ெசயேல என்றிருப்பர் – நல்லார்கள்
நற்றுங் கமைலயில்வாழ் ஞானப்ர காசனருள்
சற்றும் பிரியா தவர்.
Wicked karma will not be their lot.
Even if it be, they will simply say
It is all Siva’s work – they
Who never separate ever so little
From the Grace of Jnanaprakas
Who dwelleth in Kamalai, which attracteth the good.

கூட்டுவதும் கூட்டிப் பிரிப்பதுவும் ஒன்ெறான்ைற
ஆட்டுவதும் ஆட்டி அடக்குவதும் – காட்டுவதும்
காட்டி மைறப்பதுவும் கண்ணுதேலான் முன்னைமத்த
ஏட்டின் படிெயன் றிரு.
Uniting and having united, separating,
Moving and having moved, quieting,
Showing and having shown, hiding,
Think all these to be predetermined
According to the will of the brow-eyed God.

என்னதன்று நிெசயேல என்றறிந்தால் யான்விரும்பி
என்னெவன்று வாய்திறப்ேபன் ஈசேன – இன்னம்இன்னம்
எப்படிேயா நாேயைன ஈேடற்ற ேவண்டும்உனக்(கு)
அப்படிேய ெசய்தருளு வாய்.
When I come to know nothing is mine but all Thy work,
What desire shall I have or what speak forth, O Lord,
Howsoever thou plannest further and further
To redeem me, a dog, so may Thy Will be done.

Sivanarul said...

From the unity of Surrender and Self-Enquiry – By K. Swaminathan:

It is generally assumed that the two paths do not converge until the moment of realisation is
reached. However if Ramana Maharshi’s teachings are correctly interpreted, then it will be seen that the paths of surrender and Self-enquiry merge before Realisation, and that in the higher Ievels of practice, if one follows the path of surrender, then one’s sadhana will be the same as that of someone who has chosen the path of Self-enquiry.

‘Surrender to Him and abide by His will
whether he appears or vanishes;
await His pleasure.
If you ask Him to do as you please,
it is not surrender but command to Him.
You cannot have Him obey you and yet
think that you have surrendered.
He knows what is best and when and
how to do it. Leave everything to Him;
His is the burden, you no longer have any cares.
All your cares are His. Such is surrender.
This is bhakti”.
(Talks, p. 425).

Ramana says:
“If you have surrendered,
you must be able to abide by the will of God
and not make a grievance
out of what may not please you.”
(Talks p.115)

Under Ramana’s strict interpretation of absolute
surrender, the only appeals which might qualify
for approval are those where the devotee approaches
the God or Guru with the attitude “This is
your problem and not mine; please attend to it
in any way you see fit.”

This attitude bears the marks of partial surrender,
for it fulfills the bare minimum requirements of
Ramana’s definition of true surrender. On this
level of surrender, there is no longer any expectation
of a particular solution, there is simply a willingness
to accept whatever happens.

Sivanarul said...

It is interesting to note in this connection that
although Ramana clearly stated that devotees
who wanted their problems solved were not
practicing true surrender, he did admit that surrendering
one’s problems to God or to the Guru
was a legitimate course of action for those who
felt that they could not stick to His absolute
teaching of complete surrender.

He was once asked:
“Is it proper that one prays to God
when one is afflicted by worldly ills?”
and his answer was:
“Undoubtedly.”
(Talks, p. 501).

This admission that the Guru may be approached
with personal problems should be seen as an
extension of, and not a contradiction of his
teachings on absolute and unconditional surrender.
For those who are not ready for complete
surrender, there is this intermediate practice of
surrendering one’s problems to the external
“Higher Power.” It is not a dilution of his notion
that surrender must be complete and total to be
effective, it is more an admission that for some
devotees, such a massive step is impractical without
some lesser intermediate stage.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Papaji on Self-Enquiry
(from www.satsangbhavan.net/main.htm)

‘I’ arises - this is what is called mind. 'I' is not separate from ego. How did it all start? The ego is not separate from the body; the body is not separate from the senses nor their respective objects, nor the entire manifestation with the notion of time - beginning, middle, and end. It all started with 'I'. We got involved in it.

This is the appropriate time to return home. You have to do this here and now by withdrawing the outgoing tendencies of the mind. That is how we meditate: We sit quiet. During meditation the mind is running outwards following its own tendencies, its own desires for respective objects and enjoyments that are deep-rooted in the mind.

During meditation this has to be checked. This is the meaning of meditation: to bring back all the outgoing tendencies of the mind wherever they are going. Check them! Bring them back to 'I'. From here you have to be very vigilant, very attentive. Do not make any effort. Do not become involved in any thinking process. Simply keep quiet. Through incessant vigilance allow it to happen, allow this revelation to take place, without keeping any gain in your mind, without making any effort to become anything else. This is an unfoldment - this is called revelation.

At this point bring everything back, bring all these tendencies back to the 'I' thought. Be very vigilant and find out how this notion of 'I' arises. It is absolutely necessary to keep quiet, to remain without thinking, without making any effort.

I don't think anybody could describe what is going to happen beyond this. It has never been described. It is for you to dive into your own source, to arrive back home. You don't need anyone else to lead you, you don't need any companion. You have to do it alone - without the mind, without the intellect, without the ego, without the body, without the senses, without their objects. Only vigilance is needed, natural vigilance with no effort, without even a thought. That can be had here and now… or never. This is up to you.

Wittgenstein said...

Although this article clarifies how Bhagavan uses logical analysis to clarify his teachings, there are varied opinions on this as it is evident in some of the comments, some even very repulsive towards the word ‘logic’ or ‘philosophy’. How much of logic is enough could be understood from Bhagavan’s own words. It would be very helpful to distinguish between two types of logical analysis - convergent and divergent (Bhagavan does not use this terminology and I use it for the purpose of this comment), favoring only the former.

To begin with, as far the need for logical arguments, in Talk 596, someone asked Bhagavan if an intellectual understanding of the Truth was necessary, to which he is reported to have replied, “Yes. Otherwise why does not the person realize 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.”

Clearly, Bhagavan does not talk about arguments (in the sense of heated, arrogant intellectual debates) with others, but within oneself so that a gradual convergence takes place. Of course, if in a forum arguments take place with these guiding principles of Bhagavan, it would indeed be helpful. As far the divergent analysis is concerned, he gives an example in Talks 332:

“ [...] the author of Vritti Prabhakara claims to have studied 350,000 books before writing this book. What is the use? Can they bring in Realisation of the Self? Vichara Sagara is full of logic and technical terms. Can these ponderous volumes serve any real purpose? However, some people read them and then seek sages only to see if they can meet their questions. To read them, to discover new doubts and to solve them, is a source of pleasure to them. Knowing it to be sheer waste, the sages do not encourage such people. Encourage them once and there will be no end. Only the enquiry into the Self can be of use.”

Thus a diverging mind with endless logic is not entertained by Bhagavan.

Contd...

Wittgenstein said...

He goes further to give reasons as to why such a mind is not favorable.

“Those familiar with logic, Vritti Prabhakara, Vichara Sagara or Sutra Bhashya, or similar large works, cannot relish small works like Truth Revealed dealing only with the Self and that pointedly too, because they have accumulated vasanas. Only those whose minds are less muddy, or are pure, can relish small and purposeful works.”

A diverging mind is therefore a scattering center and seldom absorbs the central teachings due to being very ‘muddy.’ ‘Truch Revealed’ is Ulladu Narpadu. The converging mind, does not get sedated by logic but uses logic, by reversing it, with the powerful aid of Ulladu Narpadu (subdued and guided by it, so to say) to get rid of divergence.

One example to illustrate this reversing process is the understanding of the origin of causality, as in verse 26 of Ulladu Narpadu. If causality is accepted by a naive and diverging mind as a necessary truth (a mind that believes there is an independent external reality is bound to do so), it diverges without any control and tries to manipulate causality itself via fate-free will and branches into karma. However, by learning from the above verse even causality arises only when ego arises, not in the sense of causal priority (that would be absurd) but in the sense of existential priority, the diverging mind is subdued, if the intended insight is gained by Bhagavan’s grace. That is to say, interest in fate-free will and karma would now take a back seat. Convergence can occur only by swallowing divergence, that is, by understanding, assimilating their pointlessness and eventually discarding them.

How this convergence occurs is given in Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad, p. 261 (as narrated by R. Narayana Iyer):

“You know Ulladu Narpadu [Truth in Forty Verses]. It imparts Pure Truth, deals with it and explains it. Go on reading it verse by verse. The words of the verses will in course of time vanish and Pure Truth (sat) alone will shine, like the snake relinquishing its skin and coming out shining.”

It should not be taken that we can experience ourself as we really are just by reading Ulladu Narpadu verse by verse. That, a diverging mind would do.

contd...

Wittgenstein said...

Michael wrote in a recent article (happinessofbeing.blogspot.in/2016/01/why-do-i-believe-that-atma-vicara-is.html) how Ulladu Narpadu guides a diverging mind by quoting from Ramana Sannidhi Murai, Verse 1545:

“Why did Venkata, the primal one, declare a primary text for the sake of the scholars whose head was Ganapathy? If he had not declared the primary text, the consciousness of those ripe scholars would have branched out more and more in many different ways.”

As Michael says in that article, the primary text is Ulladu Narpadu and this ‘consciousness branching out more and more in different ways’ is typical of any divergent mind (not only Ganapathy’s). Venkata is Sri Ramana.

An example of one such Ganapathy is the western philosopher Descartes. He had an interesting problem (a doubt, to begin with): there is no any ‘sure sign’ that tells me I am not dreaming right now. Bhagavan also says this and guides one from this. However, Descartes had his consciousness branching in different ways. He thought there could be a demon consistently misleading him thinking everything is real (Bhagavan simply says mind itself creates and deceives but traditional advaita creates a sizable theory out of this). If so, he wonders, what is certain? He answers it is his own existence (Bhagavan also says this), but unguided and lost in many branches, he concludes he is sure of his existence through his thinking (which Bhagavan does not say). This is a classic example where one comes close but misses the point due to lack of guidance.

To a mind which does not even doubt what Descartes doubted, which is deeply into believing in an independent external world, this doubt itself will be found very repulsive. Instead of pushing the way Descartes did, it would go diverging, creating counter arguments by exclaiming, “Ah! World is a dream? That can’t be. What about the beggar on the street?” and so on, which was not the point of Sri Ramana. Such a mind would be happy to know the status of the beggar through a theory of karma and call ‘world is a dream’ as self-centered (which is true in a way) and callous (which it is not). Needless to say, such a mind cannot get into atma vichara as long as it thinks this way. When it is ‘given to understanding’ the existential priority of the ego due to the grace of Bhagavan (which attenuates outgoing tendencies), it would enter into atma vichara, as the self-awareness would be unmistakably clear.

contd...

contd...

Wittgenstein said...

The questioner in Maharshi’s Gospel (Book II, Chapter III) seems to have this tendency to scatter the teaching ‘The world is a dream’ missing the sense in which it was conveyed. Therefore, Bhagavan reiterates thus:

“[…] the dream as a dream does not permit you to doubt its reality. Even so, you are unable to doubt the reality of the world of your wakeful experience. How can the mind which has itself created the world accept it as unreal? That is the significance of the comparison made between the world of wakeful experience and the dream world. Both are but creations of the mind and so long as the mind is engrossed in either, it finds itself unable to deny the reality of the dream world while dreaming and of the waking world while awake.”

To summarize: logical analysis in the sense encouraged by Bhagavan brings one to the path of atma vichara and this analysis should not be confused with mere philosophizing and should not even be taken as philosophy in the conventional sense. Neither does it refer to any sort of intellectual arrogance.

(concluded)

who? said...

Wittgenstein, i agree with what you write about 'convergent logic' as opposed to 'divergent logic', the former of which is amply employed in the teachings of Bhagavan as it appears in his original works, and also as translated and explained by Sri Michael James in his writings in English.

What i have found is that the logical analysis employed here is the most minimalist and fundamental, eschewing inessential concepts and digressions that can be found in various other books and teachings, to achieve remarkably lucid purity. Logic is employed exclusively in the form of discrimination between
1. Real vs seemingly real
2. Necessary truth vs contingent truth

This minimalism assists in concentrating our attention on what is real, and hence converges into self-attention.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Papaji on the Thought 'I'
(from www.satsangbhavan.net/main.htm)

There is one prime thought that becomes the mind, that becomes the ego, body, senses, manifestation and time. All these millions of universes are hanging like dust particles in one thought. Give rise to the thought - 'I' - and everything arises. In this one thought exists the past, present, millions of universes, hells and heavens, and gods and creators, preservers and destroyers. How can this 'I' be arrested? If this 'I' ceases, everything ceases. When 'I' arises, everything arises in front of you. Now everything has arisen because you use the word 'I', but when there is no 'I' there is nothing.

When you enter into the deep sleep state without even any dreams you do not see any object, you do not see any subject, you do not see any manifestation - no creator nor creation. This is a dull state because there is no awareness at all so you may not recognize it. In deep sleep you forget yourself completely. There is no body, there are no senses, there are no objects. Nothing is there because there is no 'I' thought there. When you wake up in the morning the first thought to arise is the thought 'I'. You think, "I am so-and-so", and instantly the whole world arises before you. How is this thought to be checked?

There is a fire in this inquiry; if you simply inquire, "Who am I?” This is a fire which will burn everything: all the modifications of the mind, past, present and future. Just these three words: "Who....am....I.....?" are a fire which will burn everything, as the fire we talked of earlier. After having burnt past, present, and future, they will also burn the memory. And this inquiry will also be burnt as wood burns completely in a fire. The 'I' thought which went to inquire into its own nature is no longer to be found, and in this your true nature is revealed.

This inquiry can be conducted in this very instant. It is not a long procedure, it is not a practice. You do not have to do anything for this inquiry. You simply need to investigate, to inquire without thinking about anything and without performing any kind of practice. No effort or thought is involved. This is the inquiry that I speak about: to find out what this 'I' is which has created this manifestation. After having made this inquiry, keep quiet. If you do not think, and do not make any kind of effort that which you have never heard described, that which cannot be achieved or attained will reveal itself. It will reveal itself once you have conducted this inquiry and given up all kinds of thought and effort.

This auspiciousness is your own swarupam, your own Self, your own atman, your own Brahman. It is that which is everywhere. This is very simple for those who can hear innocently, without working the thinking process and the memory. You can postpone this, but sooner or later you will have to return home; and whenever this happens it will be this very second. You can postpone this second endlessly and endless universes will arise. It is up to you. Decide now. You can end it in this very second or you can create more universes. This very second is out of time because 'I' is time, mind is time. When you inquire into this 'I' it is gone. What happens is a revelation which does not take place in time at all. It transcends time, ego and everything.

Simply keep quiet and do not do anything at all.

Anonymous said...

From https://www.facebook.com/sri.muruganar/

Here are five more verses from The Shining of my Lord on the nature of swarupa. ‘Swa’ means ‘one’s own’ and ‘rupa’, while generally designating ‘form’, occasionally has a wider implication of ‘nature’ or ‘reality’. Swarupa (one's own real nature) is one of the many terms that both Bhagavan and Muruganar use to denote the Self.


1.1244 What great sufferings people undergo to attain liberation, the swarupa that shines if one remains still!


8.1220 This is the nature of the sun of swarupa that shines in the heart. Being beyond the mind, it does not fall into the categories of ‘is’ and ‘is not’. Being the real import of the term ‘I’, and not different from oneself, it has never been seen by anyone as an object perceived by the senses. It abides uniformly as the supreme of supremes, having never, at any time, undergone any change.


1.957 Know that one’s own swarupa is the true God which shines, transcending all the gods.


7.157 The liberation I have discovered and attained existed all the time in the past as my own nature, even before I discovered it. What actually happened was that the proliferating delusion of mind completely ceased. It was not that my real nature suddenly merged with me as something new.


6.1385 Even before the body leaves me for good I have obtained the perfect attainment of liberation, the supreme state of the Transcendental Being. The peace of swarupa, shining without any sorrow, faultlessly exists forever in my heart as a flood of bliss.

R Viswanathan said...

"Therefore, since attending to ourself alone is what is called ātma-vicāra, and since the love required to do so is what is called bhakti, complete self-surrender is the culmination of both ātma-vicāra and bhakti."

Thanks so much, Sri Michael James, for the above clarification. This is quite consistent with what Sri Nochur Venkataraman often used to state: "one who knows would surrender and one who surrenders would know."

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Trapped Bird / Jiva
(from www.arunachala.org/newsletters/2016/mar-apr#article.5)

In the hall where Bhagavan used to give darshan there was a chimney. The chimney was closed on all sides with steel mesh, except at the bottom. One day, a beautiful small bird somehow entered it and became trapped inside this chimney.

The bird found itself trapped in conditions diametrically opposed to its natural environment: the vast space where it could fly freely. From the moment it entered the chimney, it was frantically struggling to escape, but all its efforts proved futile. Why? Because, forgetting the way it came, it was repeatedly trying to escape through all the closed routes. Sri Bhagavan took this opportunity to reveal a great truth:

“The bird has given up the all-pervasive space, its natural place of residence. It has been caught in this limited space which is opposed to its nature. Not knowing how to escape from this prison, it is agitated and afraid. Like the bird, jivas also give up their natural place of residence, the vast space of consciousness. Through the delusion of ignorance they have become trapped in the prison of the body. Without knowing how to escape, they are tormented by various afflictions. The ceaseless efforts of this bird to reach its natural place of residence are unsuccessful because they are directed upwards, the way of bondage, instead of downwards, the way it came. Similarly, the reason why the jivas’ ceaseless effort to attain freedom are unsuccessful is because they too are directed outwards, the way of bondage, instead of inwards, the way they came. The natural tendency of the bird to go upwards asserts itself even in its attempt for freedom. Likewise, the natural tendency of jivas to roam outwards asserts itself even in their attempts at liberation. This is the jivas’ natural tendency. If, through true discrimination and awareness, the jiva is made to turn back from the outward-directed sight to inward sight, and if it remains fixed there, it is certain that it would attain liberation in an instant.”

Sivanarul said...

The Human Route

Coming empty-handed,
going empty-handed.
that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?

Life is like a floating cloud
which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud
which disappears.
The floating cloud itself
Originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going,
are also like that.

But there is one thing
which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear,
not depending on life and death.
Then what is the one
pure and clear thing?


--Ancient Zen poem

gargoyle said...

In Sivapuranam, verse 49 I read "Possessor of the five colors"

I'm stumped and wondered if this pertains to the primary colors?

I have done some internet searching but not found it yet, so thought I would ask the experts.

This ignorant jiva can't figure it out...not that I need to figure it out but since I enjoy reading these these verses I keep wondering.

Yes, I realize I should be practicing my atma vichara instead of asking this, and I do often, quite often. My wife keeps telling me I meditate too much...which brings a smile to my face.

cheers

Sivanarul said...

Rumi sayings:

“silence is the language of god,
all else is poor translation.”

“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
“Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.”

“Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you've been given the door will open.”

“Try something different. Surrender.”

“My friend, you thought you lost Him;
that all your life you've been separated from Him.
Filled with wonder, you've always looked outside for Him,
and haven't searched within your own house.”

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

“A wealth you cannot imagine flows through you.
Do not consider what strangers say.
Be secluded in your secret heart-house, that bowl of silence.”

“Let go of your mind and then be mindful. Close your ears and listen!”

“Peaceful is the one who's not concerned with having more or less.
Unbound by name and fame, he is free from sorrow from the world and mostly from himself.”

“Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found Everyone, Myself as well.”

“Do you pay regular visits to yourself? Don't argue or answer rationally. Let us die, and dying, reply.”

Sivanarul said...

Continuation of Rumi Sayings:

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don't plant anything but love.”

“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek & find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

“This place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn, and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.
But there's a difference with this dream. Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world, all that does not fade away at the death-waking.
It stays, and it must be interpreted.”

“At a distance you only see my light...
Come closer and Know that I am You”

“Death is our wedding with eternity.”

“Choose to love the one who does not die”

“Childhood, youth, and maturity, and now old age.
Every guest agrees to stay three days, no more.
Master, you told me to remind you. Time to go.”

“God is the only Friend for the Soul on the Way to God.”

“Oh soul, you worry too much. Your arms are heavy with treasures of all kinds.”

“Go find yourself first so you can also find me.”

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom”

“Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

“In fact, my soul and yours are the same, You appear in me, I in you, We hide in each other.”

“I am merely a guest born in this world, to know the secrets that lie beyond it.”

Sivanarul said...

Gargoyle,
“நிறங்கள் ஓர் ஐந்து உடையாய்” verse 49

“In Sivapuranam, verse 49 I read "Possessor of the five colors"

The translation from tamil is that he has colors of the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space). In other words he permeates all five elements being one with them, yet not of them.

Sivapuranam is one of the best Bhakthi and Jnana literature ever written and was very close to Bhagavan’s heart. Don’t feel that you are straying from Sadhana by pondering on it. That is Sadhana too.

Anonymous said...

I am rather bored with all this logical discourse and would rather just practice Atma Vichara but there is one statement or proposition in Michael's original formulation of Bhagavan's teaching that isn't at all clear to me and I would like discussed; namely that we are "aware" (though not "attentively aware") of ourselves in deep sleep. Are we really?? I for one am not sure that I would say that. And if we claim that we are somehow aware of time passing, what about coma or general anaesthesia. In the latter state there is very definitely no awareness of time passing, hence surely no awareness of o(0)urselves at all. This question has a very large impact obviously on the entire argument

Viveka Vairagya said...

Papaji on Freedom, Happiness, Peace, and Love
(from www.satsangbhavan.net/main.htm)

Freedom, Love and Peace will be attained instantly as soon as you abandon vasanas - the impressions of the past that you have stored in your memory. If you abandon vasanas right now you can be free and happy, you can be in peace and love.

You can live well without vasanas, without desires, just as when you take off your hat or your coat you can live well and nothing is lost. Likewise, if you renounce vasanas - if you renounce the tendencies of the past - you will be well and happy. No time is needed, it is as easy as plucking a petal from a rose flower. It doesn't take time. You can attain freedom, light and wisdom now - instantly you can be free. You do not need to toil endlessly. Penance, austerities, even meditations - just abandon them. This notion that, “I am bound.” has to be dropped and instantly you will be free and happy.

This teaching is so simple that it is not a teaching at all. So simple just to pluck a rose petal, just to give up the notion that you are bound, that you have to search for freedom in caves or mountains or monasteries. Freedom is revealed within yourself.

A crow sat on a coconut tree and the coconut fell. This does not create a relationship between the coconut and the crow. You may attribute freedom to meditation, sadhanas and effort; but when the coconut fell it fell on its own accord, not because the crow sat on the tree. When you get it you may attribute it to some sadhana, to staying with the teacher, to going to the Himalayas for years of contemplation or to long austerities and meditations, but it has nothing to do with these things. It is simply a question of keeping quiet. Keep quiet just for a moment, for this instant of time, and allow it to happen. Don't interfere. Just keep quiet and watch what happens.

This is a very simple way to freedom. You are free. The notion that you are bound has been dumped on your head by your parents, by your priest, by your society. If you get rid of all these instantly you will find that you are what you have always been. If you give up all that you have read, heard, seen, touched or tasted, freeing yourself from all past notions - what will be left? You alone will remain - that which you have always been, what you will always be, and what you are now. The exercise or sadhana or way is not something to be borrowed from the outside. Just keep quiet, keep silent, and you will know freedom from sorrow and suffering. I wish everyone would try this and see.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Nisargadatta Maharaj on Liberation
(from http://realization.org/page/doc1/doc100a.htm)

If you really want to understand this, you must give up your identification with the body. By all means, make use of the body, but don't consider yourself to be the body while acting in this world. Identify yourself with the consciousness, which dwells in the body; with that identity, you should act in the world. Will it be possible?

So long as you identify yourself as the body, your experience of pain and sorrow will increase day by day. That is why you must give up this identification, and you should take yourself as the consciousness. If you take yourself as the body, it means you have forgotten your true Self, which is the atman. And sorrow results for the one who forgets himself. When the body falls, the principle which always remains is You. If you identify yourself with the body, you will feel that you are dying, but in reality there is no death because you are not the body. Let the body be there or not be there, your existence is always there; it is eternal.

Now who or what has heard my talk? It is not the ear, not the physical body, but that knowledge which is in the body; that has heard me. So identify yourself with that knowledge, that consciousness. Whatever happiness we enjoy in this world is only imaginary. The real happiness is to know your existence, which is apart from the body. You should never forget the real identity that you possess. Consider a patient on his deathbed, certain to die. Now when he first comes to know of his disease, say cancer, he gets such a shock that it is permanently engraved in his memory. Like that, you should never forget your true nature — the true identity I have told you about.

A patient who is suffering from cancer is, as it were, all the time silently chanting "I'm dying from cancer"; and that chant proceeds without any efforts. Similarly, in your case: Take up that chant "I am consciousness." That chant, too, should go on without any effort. One who is constantly awake in his true nature — having this knowledge about himself — is liberated.

A patient suffering from terminal cancer always remembers his state and ultimately undergoes that very end; so much is certain. Similarly, one who remembers that he is the knowledge, that he is the consciousness, has that end, he becomes the Parabrahman.

Michael James said...

Venkat, I have replied to your first two comments (this one and this) in the last seven sections of a new article, The role of logic in developing a clear, coherent and uncomplicated understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings, and in the earlier sections of it I elaborated on the comments that I wrote in reply to Wittgenstein.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, regarding the comment in which you say that Bhagavan’s premise that we are aware of ourself in deep sleep is not at all clear to you, I have discussed this in more detail in my latest article, The role of logic in developing a clear, coherent and uncomplicated understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings, particularly in sections six (The premises of the deductive inference that we are not a body or mind are not inferred inductively) and twelve (How can we recognise clearly that we are aware of ourself while asleep?), but since recognising the truth of this premise is so crucial to correctly understanding all that he taught us, including the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), I will discuss it further in my next article, in which I will address some of the points in your comment (including clarifying that being aware of ourself while asleep does not entail being aware of time) and also an idea regarding sleep expressed by Poonja in a passage quoted in another comment by ‘Viveka Vairagya’, namely ‘This is a dull state because there is no awareness at all so you may not recognize it. In deep sleep you forget yourself completely’, which is quite contrary to this fundamental principle taught by Bhagavan.

venkat said...

Michael, thanks so much for taking the time to write this latest article. Best wishes, venkat

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, regarding your latest comment, I do not know whether the passage you quote in it accurately records what Nisargadatta said, but in the clear light of Bhagavan’s teachings the advice that Nisargadatta is supposed to have given in that passage is very confusing and completely impractical for several reasons, some of which I will explain here.

Firstly he says ‘you must give up your identification with the body’, which is correct, but then he contradicts himself by adding, ‘By all means, make use of the body’. Unless we experience a body as ourself, how can we make use of it? Just as a dream and everything in it seems to exist only when we experience ourself as a body in that dream, this world and everything in it seems to exist only when we experience ourself as a body in it, so whenever we do not experience ourself as this body (such as in sleep or while we are dreaming any other dream), we are not aware of it and hence we cannot make use of it.

According to Bhagavan the ego is our illusory adjunct-mixed form of self-awareness, ‘I am this body’, so the very nature of this ego is to experience itself as a body. Whenever we rise as this ego, we project a body, experience it as ourself, and then through its senses we project a world, so this body, its senses and the world we experience through it are all a creation of our ego, and without our ego they do not seem to exist at all, as he clearly implies in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, which means:

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

As he repeatedly emphasised, everything other than ourself, including any body or world that we experience in this or any other dream, is just a collection of thoughts or ideas, and the root of all these thoughts is this ego, our primal thought ‘I am this body’, so if we destroy this ego by investigating it, this body, world and all our other thoughts will cease to exist, as he stated unequivocally in verse 2 of Āṉma-Viddai, which means:

“Since the thought ‘this body composed of flesh itself is I’ alone is the one thread on which [all] the various thoughts are strung, if [one] goes within [investigating] what is the place from which ‘I’ spreads, thoughts will cease, and in the cave [of one’s heart] ātma-jñāna [self-knowledge] will shine spontaneously as ‘I am I’. This is silence, the one space [of pure self-awareness], the abode of bliss.”

As he implied in this verse, the only way to free ourself from the false identification ‘I am this body’ is to turn within and investigate ourself, the source from which this primal thought has arisen, because when we do so sufficiently keenly, we will experience ourself as ‘I am only I’, whereupon this root thought and all other thoughts will cease forever. Therefore when we actually give up our body-identification all bodies and everything else will cease to exist and only the infinite and silent space of pure self-awareness will remain, so there will then be no body for us to make use of.

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

Michael James said...

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

In the next sentence of this passage Nisargadatta says, ‘Identify yourself with the consciousness, which dwells in the body; with that identity, you should act in the world’, but the consciousness that dwells in the body is not our pure self-awareness (which is what we really are and which does not dwell in anything, because it alone actually exists) but only our ego or mind, the spurious adjunct-mixed awareness ‘I am this body’, so we cannot identify ourself with this body-confined consciousness without also identifying ourself with the body within which it seems to dwell. Our mind is the subtle form of any body that we experience as ourself, and any such body is a gross form of our mind, so no body can exist without this mind, and this mind cannot exist without a body. Therefore it is not possible for us to switch our identification from our body to our mind (the consciousness that dwells within it), because we cannot identify with either of these without simultaneously identifying ourself with the other.

We can give up our identification with both body and mind only by experiencing ourself as ourself alone (which is what Bhagavan means by the term ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ) or ‘I am I’), and when we experience ourself thus there will be no one to act and no world in which to act. Therefore in the clear light of Bhagavan’s teachings if we carefully consider the advice given by Nisargadatta in the first paragraph of the passage you quoted, it should be clear to us that what he advises is simply not possible.

Though many people who have understood Bhagavan’s teachings only superficially believe that Nisargadatta’s teachings are the same as his, if we consider their respective teachings more carefully and deeply it will be clear that there are many very significant differences between them, and in some cases what Nisargadatta teaches is diametrically opposed to the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings. What Nisargadatta advised in this first paragraph of the passage you quoted is just one example of this, but I have discussed other examples elsewhere in this blog, such as in The teachings of Sri Ramana and Nisargadatta are significantly different.

From the pseudonym you use, ‘Viveka Vairagya’, I assume you understand the important of vivēka (the ability to clearly distinguish one thing from another, particularly what is actually real from what seems to be real), but in order to apply vivēka effectively in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings we need to discern and understand clearly, comprehensively and coherently all the basic principles that he taught us. For most of us, such an understanding can be developed only by careful and persistent śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana (reading, reflection and self-attentiveness), and when you develop it sufficiently you will be able to clearly distinguish the subtle but significant differences between the teachings of Bhagavan and those of Nisargadatta.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Dear Michael,

Fair enough, in the light of reasons you give I admit that what Nisargadatta Maharaj is advocating may not be doable.

Yuvaraj said...

Michael,

I learnt much from Sri Nisargadatta's teachings and it prepared me for Bhagavan's teachings. But having then arrived at Bhagavan's teachings I did see that some of Sri Nisargadatta's teachings conflicted. For example, across Sri Nisargadatta's teachings there is regular use of the term "witness" which interfered with my understanding of Bhagavan's teachings.

Yuvaraj

Michael James said...

Yuvaraj, in some of my other articles, particularly in Witnessing or being aware of anything other than ourself nourishes our ego and thereby reinforces our attachments and also in The teachings of Sri Ramana and Nisargadatta are significantly different, I have discussed what Nisargadatta teaches about the practice of ‘witnessing’ thoughts or events.

Michael James said...

Anonymous, as I promised in the comment I wrote in reply to your comment asking about Bhagavan’s teaching that we are aware of ourself in sleep, I have replied to it more fully in a 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. This entire article is intended to be a reply to your doubt, but I replied specifically to your comment in section 5, The importance of distinguishing our permanent self-awareness from our temporary awareness of adjuncts, and section 6, Pure self-awareness is a timeless experience, so we are not aware of time while asleep.

In section 14, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 13: real awareness is ourself, whereas awareness of other things is ignorance, and section 15, We can never forget ourself completely, because though as this ego we have forgotten what we are, we are always aware that we are, I have replied to some ideas expressed by Poonja in a passage quoted by Viveka Vairagya in one of his comments, and in other sections I have replied to some of the comments on one of my other recent articles, The role of logic in developing a clear, coherent and uncomplicated understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings, including the first comment, which may have been written by you, in sections 7 to 10.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, I have just posted a new article, Why is it necessary to make effort to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)?, in which I address some of the very confusing and misleading ideas expressed by Poonja (‘Papaji’) about the practice of ātma-vicāra in the extracts from the Satsang with Papaji website that you quoted in two of your comments, this one and this one.

What I wrote in this new article also applies to a lesser extent to what Poonja said in another extract that you quoted in an earlier comment, in which he seemed to contradict himself by saying that incessant vigilance is needed but that one should not make effort, because we obviously cannot be incessantly vigilant unless we make effort to be so.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Michael. I appreciate your efforts to be true to Bhagavan's teachings. It is really admirable and worth learning from. I tend to be less critical than you, but I guess that is only due to my intellectual laziness.

invariable concomitance said...

Michael,
section 7. Bhagavan’s use of deductive and inductive logic
Indisputably I do not now experience myself as the one infinite and indivisible self-awareness that according to Bhagavan I actually am.
So I need to be convinced that this self-awareness is what I actually are.
I am quite fond to get/be convinced by/of that ‚truth/reality‘.
As you say I feel that my motivation (bakti) to investigate myself needs to be overwhelmingly strong. Therefore my bakti should be built on a solid well-grounded foundation of firm conviction. In order to get sufficiently strong motivated to investigate myself and thereby to experience myself as I really am I reflecting the following:
It seems to be true that we can develop true bakti and vairagya (freedom from desire to experience or be aware of anything else) only by persistent practice of self-investigation. According to Bhagavan we should consider that the existence of everything other than ourself depends upon the existence of our ego, which is our illusory experience 'I am the body'. 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.
How probable is the inductive inference that Bhagavan asked us to draw from the fact that a world seems to exist whenever our mind seems to exist, as in waking and dream, and that no world seems to exist whenever our mind does not seem to exist, as in sleep ? But what about the probability that any world exists when our mind does not exist ? The mentioned invariable concomitance suggests very well the mutual dependence/interdependence.
Regarding the questioned reality of the world admittedly according to Bhagavan the world was never seen without the aid of the mind. Accordingly there is some reason to infer inductively that no world exists independent of our experience of it. But that inference is not flawless. In contrast (against) to that daring conclusion I have to make an objection which is not at all "flawed". It becomes clear that we cannot a priori be aware of this world while we are asleep because our senses are not functioning then. On the contrary : if it is true that in deep sleep is no/ (we are not aware of any) body, mind or a world (anything else other than ourself) and we therefore are not anything other than simple self-awareness, then consequently we cannot expect of our then mind-free self-awareness to be aware of any world or/and everything other than ourself. The fact that no body or world is perceived by our awareness in deep sleep does not at all compel to infer that then any body or world exists in waking and dream state. Rather no conclusion is permitted to be drawn from that evidence alone.
Bhagavan surely had not to rely on logic conclusion because he might have seen/known the reality by virtue of his direct all-embracing/comprehensive consciousness(omniscience), so he did not need to use any logical reasoning to convince himself of the truth of what he experienced.
On the other hand can we not from the daily experience of the sense-perception of the body and the world in waking and dreaming conclude or reasonable suppose that the body/world experience is side by side also real as our simple self-awareness ? We may thereby consider that sense-perception is only possible with the help of our self-awareness.

invariable concomitance said...

Michael,
sorry about error:
I wanted to write:
...does not at all compel to infer that then any body or world does not exist in waking and dream state.

invariable concomitance said...

Michael,
section 7. Bhagavan's use of deductive and inductive logic

I give the subject into further consideration,

"How probable is the inductive inference …, and that no world seems to exist whenever our mind does not seem to exist, as in sleep ?"
"But what about the probability that any world exists when our mind does not exist ?"
"…this invariable concomitance suggests very powerfully that the existence of any world depends upon the existence of our mind."
" …what he implied was that according to the principles of inductive logic we have a very strong reason to infer that no world exists independent of our experience of it."

That logical inference is surely correct.

"However, their premise that we are not aware in sleep is false, because we are aware of our own existence then, so if this world exists then we should be aware of it also. All that exists in our awareness in sleep is ourself, so since no body or world exists in our awareness then, we can inductively infer that they do not exist at all when we are asleep."
At this point that inductive inference seems to be inappropriate.
First we have to examine if the two premises
a.) 'All that exists in our awareness in sleep is ourself' and
b.) 'so since no body or world exists in our awareness then'
are correct or there is some mistake :
It is our all experience in sleep that we are not aware of any body or world.
But why should we (can) conclude that no body or no world exists at all in our awareness then ? Why should be the awareness of anything the same as the existence of that (anything) ? Where has the body/mind/world gone or how could it has been dissolved or how else has lost its existence at the very occurence of sleep ?
Before going further we should have evidence of the correctness of that above assertion/statement.