Thursday, 24 March 2016

Why is it necessary to make effort to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)?

In two comments on one of my recent articles, Why should we believe what Bhagavan taught us?, a friend who writes under the pseudonym ‘Viveka Vairagya’ quoted extracts from the teachings of HWL Poonja (who is referred to as ‘Papaji’ by his devotees) as recorded on the Satsang with Papaji website, in both of which he expressed ideas that directly contradict the teachings of Bhagavan. In one of these extracts Poonja said regarding sleep, ‘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 contradicts what Bhagavan taught us about sleep, as I explained in the fourteenth and fifteenth sections of my previous article, We are aware of ourself while asleep, so pure self-awareness alone is what we actually are, and in both of these extracts he contradicted in several ways what Bhagavan taught us about the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), as I will explain in this article.
  1. We must practise ātma-vicāra for as long as it takes to destroy all our viṣaya-vāsanās
  2. Persistent effort is required to keep our entire mind fixed firmly and unwaveringly in our pure self-awareness
  3. Being self-attentive entails keeping quiet, and keeping quiet entails being self-attentive
  4. We can free ourself from our viṣaya-vāsanās and bondage only by persistently practising ātma-vicāra
  5. To experience ourself as we actually are is extremely easy, but we must cultivate all-consuming love in order to succeed
  6. Guru Vācaka Kōvai verse 696: ātma-jñāna can be attained only by those who have made the required effort
  7. விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai): resumption of what was left incomplete
1. We must practise ātma-vicāra for as long as it takes to destroy all our viṣaya-vāsanās

The extract that Viveka Vairagya quoted in the first of these two comments was from the Consciousness page of the Satsang with Papaji website, in which it is recorded that Poonja claimed that ātma-vicāra (self-investigation or self-enquiry) ‘is not a long procedure’ and ‘is not a practice’, both of which are confusing and misleading statements. It is true that ātma-vicāra is not necessarily a long procedure, because if we were actually willing to give up our ego and everything else here and now, just a single moment of keenly focused self-attentiveness would be sufficient to destroy our ego instantly, but since most of us are not yet willing to surrender our ego entirely along everything else other than ourself, we need to practise ātma-vicāra for as long as it takes to cleanse our mind of all the desires and attachments that are now making us unwilling to let go of this illusory ego and all its progeny.

Bhagavan often referred to ātma-vicāra as a practice and he consistently emphasised the need for us to practise it persistently and repeatedly until our ego is annihilated. For example, in the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? he wrote:
நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும். நானார் என்னும் நினைவு மற்ற நினைவுகளை யெல்லா மழித்துப் பிணஞ்சுடு தடிபோல் முடிவில் தானு மழியும். 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. [...]

nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum. nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu maṯṟa niṉaivugaḷai y-ellām aṙittu-p piṇañ-cuḍu taḍi-pōl muḍivil tāṉ-um aṙiyum. 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. [...]

Only by the investigation who am I will the mind subside [in the sense of ceasing to exist]. The thought who am I [that is, the attentiveness with which one investigates what one is], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself also in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt completely]. 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. [...]
The word பழக (paṙaga), which Bhagavan repeats in this last sentence, is the infinitive form of பழகு (paṙagu), which means to practise, and it is used here in a conditional sense, so ‘பழகப் பழக’ (paṙaga-p paṙaga) means ‘when one practises and practises’ and therefore implies ‘when one persistently practises’. Therefore it is clear from this passage that ātma-vicāra is a practice and that Bhagavan’s advice is that we practise it persistently so long as thoughts about anything other than ourself continue to rise.

He also clearly implied this in the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைக ளிருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானா ரென்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும். நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். […]

maṉattiṉgaṇ edu-varaiyil viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ irukkiṉḏṟaṉavō, adu-varaiyil nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇai-y-um vēṇḍum. niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum. […]

As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [propensities, inclinations, impulses or desires to experience anything other than oneself] exist in the mind, so long the investigation who am I is necessary. As and when thoughts arise, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [self-investigation] in the very place from which they arise. […]
Unless we have already practised ātma-vicāra for a prolonged period of time, our viṣaya-vāsanās will still be very strong, so whenever we try to be self-attentive they will rise with great force in the form of thoughts, which will constantly distract our attention away from ourself, so the only way to succeed in this practice is to persevere tenaciously, as Bhagavan clearly indicated in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
தொன்றுதொட்டு வருகின்ற விஷயவாசனைகள் அளவற்றனவாய்க் கடலலைகள் போற் றோன்றினும் அவையாவும் சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப அழிந்துவிடும். அத்தனை வாசனைகளு மொடுங்கி, சொரூபமாத்திரமா யிருக்க முடியுமா வென்னும் சந்தேக நினைவுக்கு மிடங்கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும். [...]

toṉḏṟutoṭṭu varugiṉḏṟa viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ aḷavaṯṟaṉavāy-k kaḍal-alaigaḷ pōl tōṉḏṟiṉum avai-yāvum sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba aṙindu-viḍum. attaṉai vāsaṉaigaḷum oḍuṅgi, sorūpa-māttiram-āy irukka muḍiyumā v-eṉṉum sandēha niṉaivukkum iḍam koḍāmal, sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum. [...]

Even though viṣaya-vāsanās, which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts] in countless numbers like ocean-waves, they will all be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness] increases and increases. Without giving room even to the doubting thought ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vāsanās and remain only as svarūpa [my own actual self]?’ it is necessary to cling tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna. [...]
From these passages it is clear that what Bhagavan taught us is that we need to practise ātma-vicāra for as long as it takes to destroy all our viṣaya-vāsanās, so Poonja’s claim that ātma-vicāra ‘is not a long procedure’ and ‘is not a practice’ was obviously contrary to the basic teachings of Bhagavan.

2. Persistent effort is required to keep our entire mind fixed firmly and unwaveringly in our pure self-awareness

Another incorrect idea that Poonja expressed about the practice of ātma-vicāra in the same paragraph was: ‘No effort or thought is involved’. Since ātma-vicāra is the practice of turning our attention back towards ourself, away from all thoughts of anything other than ourself, it obviously does not entail giving any room to such thoughts, but Bhagavan often referred to this practice as ātma-cintanā or ‘thought of oneself’ and in the second sentence of sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (which I cited in the previous section) he described it as ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu), which means ‘the thought who am I’, saying: ‘நானார் என்னும் நினைவு மற்ற நினைவுகளை யெல்லா மழித்துப் பிணஞ்சுடு தடிபோல் முடிவில் தானு மழியும்’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum niṉaivu maṯṟa niṉaivugaḷai y-ellām aṙittu-p piṇañ-cuḍu taḍi-pōl muḍivil tāṉ-um aṙiyum), which means ‘the thought who am I, having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself also in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick’. However, when he described ātma-vicāra as ‘thought of oneself’ in this way, he was using the term ‘thought’ is a special sense to mean just attention or attentiveness, as I explained in one of my recent articles, Thought of oneself will destroy all other thoughts, but usually the term ‘thought’ refers to thoughts about things other than ourself, so if Poonja was using ‘thought’ in this more usual sense he was correct in saying that no thought is involved in ātma-vicāra.

However, he was certainly not correct in saying that no effort is involved in ātma-vicāra, because so long we experience ourself as this ego, our viṣaya-vāsanās will be constantly impelling our attention to go outwards, away from ourself and towards viṣayas (phenomena or things other than ourself), so effort is required in order for us to turn our attention back within and to keep it fixed steadily on ourself. That is, since the nature of our ego or mind is to cling (attend) to things other than itself (as Bhagavan points out in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), and since clinging to other things is what nourishes and sustains it, we can annihilate it only by training it to cling to itself alone, and in order to make it cling only to itself we must make effort to do so.

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

This is a fact that will be obvious to anyone who has seriously tried to practise ātma-vicāra, and it was often confirmed by Bhagavan. For example, in the second chapter of Upadēśa Mañjari it is recorded that in answer to the fourth question, ‘சும்மாவிருக்கை யென்பது முயற்சியுள்ள நிலையா? முயற்சியற்ற நிலையா?’ (summā-v-irukkai y-eṉbadu muyaṟci-y-uḷḷa nilai-y-ā? muyaṟci-y-aṯṟa nilai-y-ā?), which means, ‘Is what is called summā-v-irukkai [just being] a state in which there is effort? [Or] is it a state in which effort has ceased?’, he said:
அது முயற்சியற்றதோர் சோம்பல் நிலை யன்று. வெளிமுகத்தில் முயற்சிகளென்று சொல்லப்படுகிற உலக வ்யவகாரங்க ளவ்வளவும் பரிச்சின்ன மனத்தாலும் இடைவிட்டும் செய்யப்படுகின்றனவே. அகமுகத்தில் சும்மா இருக்கை யென்னும் ஆன்மவ்யவகாரமோ முழு மனத்துடனும் இடையின்றியும் செய்யப்படும் பூர்ண முயற்சியாகும்.

வேறெவ் வகையானும் நாசமாகாத மாயையானது முழுமுயற்சி யென்னும் இம்மோனத்தாற்றான் நாசமாக்கப்படுகிறது.

adu muyaṟci-y-aṯṟadōr sōmbal nilai y-aṉḏṟu. veḷi-mukhattil muyaṟcigaḷ-eṉḏṟu solla-p-paḍugiṟa ulaha vyavahāraṅgaḷ avvaḷavum paricchiṉṉa maṉattāl-um iḍaiviṭṭum seyya-p-paḍugiṉḏṟaṉavē. aha-mukhattil summā irukkai y-eṉṉum āṉma-vyavahāram-ō muṙu maṉattuḍaṉ-um iḍai-y-iṉḏṟi-y-um seyya-p-paḍum pūrṇa muyaṟci-y-āhum.

vēṟev vahaiyāṉum nāśam-āhāda māyai-y-āṉadu muṙu-muyaṟci y-eṉṉum i-m-mōṉattāṯṟāṉ nāśam-ākka-p-paḍugiṟadu
.

That is not a state of sōmbal [idleness, lethargy, drowsiness or dullness], one in which effort has ceased. The entire extent of worldly activities, which are described as efforts in facing outwards, are only done intermittently and by paricchinna maṉam [a divided mind or limited part of the mind]. In contrast, the ātma-vyavahāra [spiritual practice] called aha-mukhattil summā irukkai [just being in facing inwards or selfwards] is a full effort done with the entire mind and without interruption.

What is māyā, which cannot be destroyed by any other means, is destroyed only by this mauna [silence], which is called complete effort.
The Tamil noun முயற்சி (muyaṟci), which Bhagavan used four times in this answer, means effort, exertion or perseverance, being derived from the verb முயல், which means to practise, persevere or make persistent effort, so from this answer it is clear that according to Bhagavan it is necessary for us to make persistent effort to be self-attentive and thereby to just be.

However, as I explained in another article, Just being (summā irukkai) is not an activity but a state of perfect stillness, in Spiritual Instructions, which is the most widely available English translation of Upadēśa Mañjari and which is included in all or most editions of The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, three of the four instances of முயற்சி (muyaṟci) in this answer were translated as ‘activity’ instead of ‘effort’, which is misleading, because though முயற்சி (muyaṟci) can mean ‘activity’ (since most efforts that we make are efforts to do something), this is obviously not the sense in which Bhagavan used it here, because just being (summā irukkai) is obviously not an activity but a state completely devoid of activity.

A similar inappropriate translation occurs in the first chapter of the second part of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, page 50), where is it recorded that Bhagavan said that ātma-vicāra ‘involves an intense activity of the entire mind to keep it steadily poised in pure Self-awareness’. Since in Spiritual Instructions the terms பூர்ண முயற்சி (pūrṇa muyaṟci) and முழுமுயற்சி (muṙu-muyaṟci), both of which mean full or complete effort, were both translated as ‘intense activity’ (The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, a recent undated edition, page 56), I suspect that the term used by Bhagavan that was translated here in Maharshi’s Gospel as ‘intense activity’ might have been one of these two terms, or perhaps some other term that included முயற்சி (muyaṟci) used in the sense of ‘persistent effort’.

In Maharṣi Vāymoṙi (2004 edition, page 53), the Tamil version of this sentence from Maharshi’s Gospel is ‘இது சுத்தமாம் தன்னறிவில் முழு மனத்தையும் அசைவின்றி நிலைநிற்கச் செய்கிற நிதித்தியாஸனமே’ (idu śuddham-ām taṉ-ṉ-aṟivil muṙu maṉattaiyum asaiviṉḏṟi nilai-niṟka-c ceygiṟa nididdhiyāsaṉamē), which means ‘This is only nididhyāsana [deep, intent and persistent contemplation or meditation] done to make the entire mind stand motionlessly firm [or constant] in pure self-awareness’. Though there is no word in this sentence that means either ‘persistent effort’ or ‘intense activity’, intense and persistent effort is implied by the term nididhyāsana, because it means profound and persistent contemplation, which obviously requires effort on our part in order for us to keep our entire mind or attention fixed firmly and unwaveringly in pure self-awareness.

However, though Bhagavan generally answered questions only in Tamil (or occasionally in Telugu or Malayalam), and though Maharṣi Vāymoṙi was published during the lifetime of his body, the dialogues in it were not originally recorded in Tamil, but were recorded in English (as they appear in Maharshi’s Gospel) and later translated back into Tamil, so we should not assume that the answers published in it are the exact words that Bhagavan spoke. In many cases Maharṣi Vāymoṙi gives us a clearer idea of what he meant than Maharshi’s Gospel, and the wording in Maharṣi Vāymoṙi is in most (but by no means all) cases similar to the type of words that he generally used, but since it is a translation of a translation, it is less reliable than it would have been if it had been recorded directly in Tamil. However Maharṣi Vāymoṙi and Maharshi’s Gospel are both useful books and in most cases give us a reasonably clear idea of what Bhagavan meant, even though not his actual words.

If we overlook the confusion that could be caused by the use of the term ‘intense activity’ in this context and assume that Bhagavan actually used a Tamil term that either meant or implied intense and persistent effort, as he almost certainly would have done, it is clear from this sentence in Maharshi’s Gospel and Maharṣi Vāymoṙi, particularly when read in conjunction with his above-cited answer recorded in Upadēśa Mañjari, that he was affirming that ātma-vicāra entails intense and persistent effort to keep our entire mind or attention fixed firmly and unwaveringly in pure self-awareness. Therefore we should be in no doubt that when Poonja said that no effort is involved in ātma-vicāra he was directly contradicting one of Bhagavan’s important and consistent teachings.

3. Being self-attentive entails keeping quiet, and keeping quiet entails being self-attentive

Later in the same paragraph Poonja said, ‘After having made this inquiry, keep quiet’, which is again misleading, firstly because it implies that practising ātma-vicāra and keeping quiet are two distinct practices or conditions, and secondly because it implies that we should keep quiet only after doing ātma-vicāra rather than while doing it. Keeping quiet is what Bhagavan calls ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’ (which is a term that he used in the final sentence of the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898), and also ‘சும்மா விருக்கை’ (summā-v-irukkai) or ‘சும்மா விருப்பது’ (summā-v-iruppadu), both of which mean ‘just being’, ‘being without activity’ or ‘being still’. Since the noise of mental activity arises whenever our ego rises, and since it persists so long as our ego endures, we cannot keep quiet or just be unless we make our ego subside, and the only effective means to make it subside is ātma-vicāra, so ātma-vicāra and keeping quiet are in effect synonymous.

That is, our ego rises and endures only by attending to phenomena (things other than ourself), and attending to any phenomenon is a mental activity, which is the antithesis of keeping quiet or just being. Therefore, since our ego will endure so long as we attend to anything other than ourself, the only adequate means to make it subside and thereby to keep quiet is to attend to ourself alone. As soon we turn our attention back towards ourself, our ego begins to subside, so subsiding and thereby keeping quiet is an automatic and instantaneous effect of being self-attentive, and is therefore not some further condition that we should try to achieve after being self-attentive. In other words, we cannot practise ātma-vicāra without keeping quiet, and we cannot effectively keep quiet without practising ātma-vicāra, because they are in practice one and the same thing.

Though we are keeping quiet while sleeping, our ego subsides into sleep due to exhaustion, not due to our being self-attentive. However, while either being awake or dreaming we can make our ego subside and thereby keep quiet only by being self-attentive, because so long as we attend to anything else our ego is active and hence creating mental noise. Therefore just as being self-attentive entails keeping quiet, keeping quiet in waking or dream entails being self-attentive.

Moreover, though we subside into sleep without being self-attentive, what we are actually aware of while sleeping is only ourself, so whenever we are actually keeping quiet, whether in waking, dream or sleep, we are so only due to being aware of nothing other than ourself. In sleep our ego has subsided entirely, so we cannot be aware of anything other than ourself, and hence there is no need or scope for us to be self-attentive, but in waking and dream our ego is not entirely subsided, so we are liable to be aware of other things, and hence in order to keep quiet we must try to attend to ourself alone.

When we manage in waking or dream to be so keenly self-attentive that we are aware of absolutely nothing other than ourself, we will thereby experience ourself as we really are, and thus our ego will be annihilated. Until then we are never completely unaware of all other things in waking or dream, so we are not entirely keeping quiet, but to the extent that we manage to focus our attention only on ourself we are also managing to keep quiet.

4. We can free ourself from our viṣaya-vāsanās and bondage only by persistently practising ātma-vicāra

In the second of the two comments by Viveka Vairagya that I referred to at the beginning of this article he quoted an extract from another page on the Satsang with Papaji website, namely Just to Pluck a Rose Petal, in which it is recorded that Poonja said, ‘If you abandon vasanas right now you can be free 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. […] So simple just to pluck a rose petal, just to give up the notion that you are bound’, and went on to claim flippantly that attaining freedom has nothing to do with any sādhana (spiritual practice) or effort and that ‘The notion that you are bound has been dumped on your head by your parents, by your priest, by your society’.

As Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘bondage’ (bandha) is another name for our ego, so it is not something imposed on us by parents, priests, society or anything else external to ourself. Everything other than ourself, including our parents, priests and society, seem to exist only because we have risen as this ego, so since this ego itself is bondage, this bondage is the cause for the illusory appearance of everything other than ourself, as we can infer from what he teaches us in verses 24 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Of course we can drop the notion ‘I am bound’, as Poonja suggests, and replace it with the notion ‘I am free’, but by thus replacing one idea with another we cannot actually become free, because the ‘I’ who has any idea, including ideas such as ‘I am bound’ or ‘I am free’, is our ego, which is what now seems to bind us. Therefore we cannot free ourself from bondage merely by dropping the notion ‘I am bound’, but only by investigating this ego and thereby experiencing ourself as we really are, as Bhagavan clearly explains in a sentence in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:
பந்தத்தி லிருக்கும் தான் யாரென்று விசாரித்து தன் யதார்த்த சொரூபத்தைத் தெரிந்துகொள்வதே முக்தி.

bandhattil irukkum tāṉ yār eṉḏṟu vicārittu taṉ yathārtha sorūpattai-t terindu-koḷvadē mukti.

[By] investigating who is oneself who is in bondage, knowing one’s yathārtha svarūpa [own actual self] alone is mukti [liberation].
In order to succeed in experiencing our actual self by investigating what this ego actually is we need to have what Bhagavan described in verses 23 and 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu as a ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) or ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), which means a mind or power of discernment that is subtle, refined, attenuated, sharp, keen, acute, pointed, precise, piercing, penetrating and discriminating, and we can develop such a subtlety, refinement, keenness and acuity of mind only by polishing and purifying it by persistently practising ātma-vicāra for as long as it takes to enable us to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of everything else. Then only will we be able to experience what we actually are and thereby free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego, which is bound by all sorts of limitations.

The dirt or impurity that we need to cleanse from our mind by persistent practice of ātma-vicāra is our viṣaya-vāsanās, our propensities, inclinations, impulses, likings or desires to experience anything other than oneself. Since these vāsanās are deeply engrained in our mind and are the fuel that sustains and perpetuates it, we cannot abandon them or free ourself from them unless we persistently practise ātma-vicāra, as Bhagavan clearly implied in the tenth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār? (relevant extracts from which I cited above in the first section).

The root of all our viṣaya-vāsanās is only our ego, so as long as this ego survives it will continue trying to nourish and sustain its viṣaya-vāsanās by feeding them with the food of viṣayas, which are everything other than ourself. So long as we allow our attention to dwell of anything other than ourself we are thereby nourishing and strengthening our viṣaya-vāsanās, so the only way to weaken and eventually destroy them all along with their root, our ego, is to starve them by persistently trying to attend to ourself alone. Therefore abandoning all our vāsanās is not ‘as easy as plucking a petal from a rose flower’, as Poonja so flippantly claims, but requires persistent effort to be self-attentive as much as possible until we eventually manage thereby to annihilate our ego.

If we could actually abandon all our vāsanās here and now, we would thereby in effect fall asleep instantly and never wake up again, because all the phenomena that we experience in waking and dream are just a projection of our own viṣaya-vāsanās, so in the absence of all viṣaya-vāsanās there would be no waking or dream states. However, the sleep that we would experience as a result of the extinction of all our vāsanās is different in one important respect from the sleep that we experience in the gaps between states of waking or dream, because whereas that sleep seems to be temporary, this sleep is eternal, because it is our natural state of pure self-awareness. This difference, however, is only a seeming difference, because it is only in the view of our ego that sleep seems to be a temporary state, whereas in the view of our actual self it is our eternal state, because there is no such thing as an ego and hence no one to possess any vāsanās or to project and experience them as waking or dream.

Poonja’s claim that attaining freedom has nothing to do with any sādhana or effort is true only in the sense that when by persistent practice of ātma-vicāra we eventually free ourself from the illusion that we are this ego, we will find that this ego is entirely non-existent — that is, that it has never actually existed or even seemed to exist — so we were never actually bound by it and have therefore always been free. Therefore, since freedom is our eternal state, and since we alone actually exist, our freedom is not caused by any effort or sādhana done by this non-existent ego.

This ultimate experience is what is called ajāta, which means non-born, non-engendered, non-originated, non-arisen or non-happened, but though Bhagavan said that this was his actual experience, he also explained that it would not be useful to give any teachings from this standpoint, because in ajāta there is no ego, no bondage, no one to attain liberation, nothing from which to be liberated, and hence no need for any teachings or any means (sādhana) by which to attain liberation, so the teachings he gave were from the standpoint of vivarta, which means illusion or unreal appearance. That is, for the purposes of teaching us how we can free ourself from the primal illusion that we are this ego, Bhagavan conceded that this ego seems to exist in our perspective, and hence he based his teachings upon this concession.

Though the ultimate truth is ajāta, thinking that there is no ego or bondage and that we are eternally free is not of much use to us so long as we seem to be bound by experiencing ourself as this ego. Since we now experience all the limitations imposed on us by this ego, and since everything else that we are aware of seems to exist only because we experience ourself as this ego, we need some means (sādhana) by which we can free ourself from this illusion (vivarta), so Bhagavan concedes that in our view this illusion seems to exist, but he says that the root of it all is only this ego that we now seem to be, and that if we investigate this ego sufficiently keenly we will find that it is not actually the finite person that it seems to be but is only the infinite and indivisible space of pure self-awareness, other than which nothing exists.

Though the term sādhana is often translated in the context of spiritual philosophy as ‘spiritual practice’, what it actually means is a means for accomplishing some aim, so since we need a means by which to free ourself from this ego-illusion, Bhagavan taught us that since this ego does not actually exist, even though it seems to exist, the only means (sādhana) to annihilate it is to investigate what it actually is. If we do not investigate it by trying to be persistently self-attentive, we will never be able to free ourself from it, so from our present perspective as this ego the attainment of freedom or liberation (mukti or mōkṣa) has everything to do with this sādhana of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) and the effort we make to practise it.

Bhagavan made it abundantly clear both in his own writings and in numerous dialogues that have been recorded in various books such as Maharshi’s Gospel, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan that persistent practice and effort to be self-attentive are required in order for us to free ourself from our ego and all its viṣaya-vāsanās, so when Poonja trivialises what is required and pretends that it is possible for us to abandon all our vāsanās and free ourself from bondage without any spiritual practice or effort, and that doing so ‘doesn’t take time’ and ‘is as easy as plucking a petal from a rose flower’, he is clearly contradicting Bhagavan’s teachings.

5. To experience ourself as we actually are is extremely easy, but we must cultivate all-consuming love in order to succeed

Though in the previous section I criticised Poonja’s claim that becoming free ‘is as easy as plucking a petal from a rose flower’, it could be argued that he was justified in claiming this because Bhagavan himself sang in Āṉma-Viddai that ātma-vidyā (the science of self) is ‘அதி சுலபம்’ (ati sulabham), extremely easy. However, there is an important difference between this teaching of Bhagavan and what Poonja claimed, because unlike Poonja Bhagavan never said or even implied that because it is so easy no effort or practice is required.

Experiencing ourself as we actually are is extremely easy, but we can experience ourself thus only if we have overwhelming love to be aware of ourself alone, as Bhagavan implied in the final verse of Āṉma-Viddai by concluding ‘அருளும் வேணுமே; அன்பு பூணுமே; இன்பு தோணுமே’ (aruḷum vēṇumē; aṉbu pūṇamē; iṉbu tōṇumē), which means ‘Grace is also needed; become possessed of love; bliss will appear’. If we lack sufficient love, experiencing what we actually are will seem to be difficult, because our viṣaya-vāsanās (our desires to experience other things) will be constantly dragging our mind outwards, away from ourself.

Therefore in order to cultivate the required love (bhakti) and desirelessness (vairāgya), we need to persevere in making effort to draw our attention back to ourself, away from everything else, for as long as it takes for us to achieve so much bhakti and vairāgya that we want nothing other than to be eternally aware of ourself alone. This was made abundantly clear by Bhagavan both in his original writings and in the replies that he gave to questions that he was asked, so when he taught us that knowing ourself is extremely easy, he did not mean to imply that persistent effort to practise ātma-vicāra is not necessary.

6. Guru Vācaka Kōvai verse 696: ātma-jñāna can be attained only by those who have made the required effort

Though Bhagavan was able to experience ātma-jñāna by investigating himself for just a moment with little or no previous practice or effort in his current life, he sometimes explained that if anyone has succeeded thus they must have made all the necessary effort to do the required practice in previous lives. One such explanation given by him was recorded by Sri Muruganar in verse 696 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai:
ஈசனருட் பூட்கையா லெம்முயல்வு மின்றியே
மாசறுமார்ச் சால மரபினாற் — பாசமற
இம்மையிலே ஞானசித்தி யெய்தினோர் மர்க்கடம்போ
லம்மையிலே யாட்செய் தவர்.

īśaṉaruṭ pūṭkaiyā lemmuyalvu miṉḏṟiyē
māsaṟumārj jāla marapiṉāṟ — pāśamaṟa
immaiyilē ñāṉasiddhi yeydiṉōr markkaṭambō
lammaiyilē yāṭcey tavar
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஈசன் அருள் பூட்கையால் எம்முயல்வும் இன்றியே மாசு அறு மார்ச்சால மரபினால் பாசம் அற இம்மையிலே ஞான சித்தி எய்தினோர் மர்க்கடம் போல் அம்மையிலே ஆள் செய்தவர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): īśaṉ aruḷ pūṭkaiyāl e-m-muyalvum iṉḏṟiyē māsu aṟu mārjjāla marapiṉāl pāśam aṟa immaiyilē ñāṉa siddhi eydiṉōr markkaṭam pōl ammaiyilē āḷ seydavar.

English translation: Those who, when attachment has ceased, have attained jñāna-siddhi [accomplishment of self-knowledge] in this very life by the power of God’s grace without any effort by the blemishless cat principle, will have strived in former lives like a monkey.
The ‘cat principle’ or mārjāla nyāya is the principle of depending upon, yearning for and yielding oneself to the power of divine grace for salvation, like a kitten who makes no effort to move to safety but passively allows itself to be carried by its mother, whereas the ‘monkey principle’ or markaṭa nyāya is the principle of striving to cling firmly to God, like a baby monkey who clings firmly to its mother for safety. These are two analogies that are used to describe two alternative forms of devotion (bhakti), but in terms of Bhagavan’s teachings the mārjāla nyāya represents the final stage of the path of complete self-surrender, which is the culmination of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), whereas the markaṭa nyāya represents the effort that we need to make to cling firmly to self-attentiveness. As Bhagavan teaches us in this verse, those who are able to succeed in surrendering themselves effortlessly, as he did, would have previously strived with intense effort to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness, because only by striving thus can we attain the bhakti (love) and vairāgya (freedom from attachment) that is required in order for us to be able to surrender ourself entirely.

This was also implied by him in the following answer recorded in Day by Day with Bhagavan (11-1-46 Afternoon: 2002 edition, page 104):
Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain it or be in that state, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age-long vasanas carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that, effort is necessary for most people. Of course everybody, every book says, “சும்மா இரு” [summā iru: just be] i.e., “Be quiet or still”. But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find one who has at once achieved the mauna [silence] or Supreme state indicated by “சும்மா இரு” [summā iru], you may take it that the effort necessary has already been finished in a previous life.
Likewise in section 398 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, page 384) it is recorded that he said, ‘No one succeeds without effort. Mind control is not one’s birthright. The successful few owe their success to their perseverance’, and in section 28 (page 30) it is recorded that he said, ‘Your effort is a sine qua non. It is you who should see the sun. Can spectacles and the sun see for you? You yourself have to see your true nature’.

7. விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai): resumption of what was left incomplete

Regarding his own experience, when Bhagavan was asked how he took to ātma-vicāra so spontaneously and succeeded so instantaneously, he replied ‘ஏதோ விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை ஒட்டிக்கொண்டது போலும். எப்போதும் மூலத்திலேயே நாட்டமுற்றிருக்கும்’ (ēdō viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai oṭṭikkoṇḍadu pōlum. eppōdum mūlattil-ē-y-ē nāṭṭam-uṯṟirukkum), which means ‘It was as if some viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai was adhering. Always the attention was dwelling only in [or on] the source’. ‘விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை’ (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai) is a Tamil idiom that is difficult to translate precisely in English, but it basically means resumption of what was left incomplete in previous lives.

குறை (kuṟai) has many meanings, but in this context it means 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 resumed. 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 just to be), which is what is also called svātma-bhakti (love to be aware of oneself alone).

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.

By referring to ‘விட்டகுறை தொட்டகுறை’ (viṭṭakuṟai toṭṭakuṟai), resumption of what was left incomplete in previous lives, and by implying that as a result of it his attention was constantly dwelling in or on its source, Bhagavan clearly implied that he succeeded so spontaneously and effortlessly to experience what he actually is only because of his practice of self-attentiveness in previous lives. However in this respect Bhagavan’s case was very rare indeed, because generally even those who have already advanced far along the path in previous lives have to make some effort in their final life to practise either ātma-vicāra or some other form of sādhana that culminates in ātma-vicāra before they can experience true self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna).

How much effort we need to make and how long we need to practise ātma-vicāra depends upon the extent to which our mind had been purified by making effort to practise appropriate sādhana in the past. However, no matter to what extent our mind has been purified, Poonja’s advice that no effort, practice or sādhana is necessary cannot help us to progress any closer to the ultimate goal of freedom from our ego. If we had already made all the necessary effort to practise the required sādhana, we would not need to be told that no further effort or practice is necessary, because our mind would be so pure, clear, subtle and sharp that we would effortlessly turn it inwards to focus on ourself alone and would thereby experience ourself as we actually are. On the other hand, if our mind has not yet been purified to such an extent, we have not yet practised enough sādhana, so we still need to persevere in making effort to practise ātma-vicāra or some other appropriate sādhana until our mind is sufficiently purified, in which case for us the advice given by Poonja would be impractical and misleading.

161 comments:

Noob said...

Bhagavad Gita 6-25, 6-26, 6-35, 6-36 outlines the same advice as Bhagavan.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Since this article deals with some of the utterances or writings of HWL Poonja (Papaji), and how he twisted or misrepresented Bhagavan's teachings, though claiming to be his devotee. I mention below one example of this:

I remember watching a video of one of his satsangs. He was asked from the audience, 'Should I do always do self-enquiry?' Poonja replied to the effect, 'No, only once'. What did he mean by 'No, only once' is still not clear to me. Did he mean that we will experience ourself as we really are by just attending once to ourself? Or did he mean that when we practise self-investigation we should mentally formulate the question 'who am I?' only once, and henceforth stay rooted attending to ourself? Whatever Poonja meant, certainly his answer, 'No, only once', was very confusing and misleading. Regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

On the topic of HWL Poonja, in February 2013 I had emailed Michael and asked his opinion about the following quote of Poonja:

Once you stop pushing you will feel the power of the pull. Pushing in is not very effective. It is like a whirlpool that pulls you into itself and allows you to sink down. Keep Quiet - the rest will be done for you.

I mention below some of the extracts of Michael's email to me in response to my email:

When Poonja says, 'Once you stop pushing you will feel the power of the pull. Pushing in is not very effective', I really do not know what he means. The nature of the 'pushing' involved in atma-vicara (which is simply being lovingly self-attentive) is not such that we have to stop it in order to feel the pull of grace. Quite the contrary, only when we are 'pushing' (loving attending to self alone) can we really feel the pull. Therefore it seems to me that Poonja is creating a false dichotomy here.

He says 'Keep quiet', as if the requisite 'pushing' were anything other that just keep quite. Being lovingly self-attentive is the state of being perfectly quiet, because noise is nothing but attending to anything other than self.

The more we 'push' (i.e. the more we are just lovingly self-attentive) the more we are yielding to the pull of grace (i.e. the more we are letting go of our desire to attend to or experience anything other than self).

What Bhagavan has taught us is so simple and clear, but sometimes these 'gurus' who claim to be his disciples confuse the simple truth with such seemingly profound (but actually empty) metaphorical pronouncements.

Regards.



jacques franck said...

...
As Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘bondage’ (bandha) is another name for our ego, so it is not something imposed on us by parents, priests, society or anything else external to ourself. Everything other than ourself, including our parents, priests and society, seem to exist only because we have risen as this ego, so since this ego itself is bondage, this bondage is the cause for the illusory appearance of everything other than ourself, as we can infer from what he teaches us in verses 24 and 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Of course we can drop the notion ‘I am bound’, as Poonja suggests, and replace it with the notion ‘I am free’, but by thus replacing one idea with another we cannot actually become free, because the ‘I’ who has any idea, including ideas such as ‘I am bound’ or ‘I am free’, is our ego, which is what now seems to bind us. Therefore we cannot free ourself from bondage merely by dropping the notion ‘I am bound’, but only by investigating this ego and thereby experiencing ourself as we really are ...

GREAT!!!! Thank for this simple logic.... :)

venkat said...

Michael, in the context of effort and practice, what are your thoughts on Bhagavan's other 'method' of self-surrender, where presumably no effort or practice is possible?

sigh of relief said...

Sanjay Lohia and Jacques Franck,
so since we all at last got to know what primarily is to do we can start eventually practising self-investigation.
Great !!!
Otherwise we may discover still a thousand times that with Bhagavan we have hit the jackpot.

Mouna said...

Besides names and forms, ego is a vulture also, it feeds itself with dead meat...

M

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Sense of Doership

“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.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 503)

“Take for instance, the figure in a gopuram (temple tower), where it is made to appear to bear the burden of the tower on its shoulders. Its posture and look are a picture of great strain while bearing the very heavy burden of the tower. But think. The tower is built on the earth and it rests on its foundations. The figure (like Atlas bearing the earth) is a part of the tower, but is made to look as if it bore the tower. Is it not funny? So is the man who takes on himself the sense of doing.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 63)

“The sense of doership is the bondage and not the actions themselves.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 354)

“Give up the sense of doership. Karma will go on automatically. Or Karma will drop away from you. If Karma be your lot according to prarabdha, it will surely be done whether you will it or not; if Karma be not your lot, it will not be done even if you intently engage in it.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 41)

“In order to give up the sense of doership one must seek to find out who the doer is. Enquire within; the sense of doership will vanish. Vichara (enquiry) is the method.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 429)

Bob - P said...

*** [the sleep that we would experience as a result of the extinction of all our vāsanās is different in one important respect from the sleep that we experience in the gaps between states of waking or dream, because whereas that sleep seems to be temporary, this sleep is eternal, because it is our natural state of pure self-awareness. This difference, however, is only a seeming difference, because it is only in the view of our ego that sleep seems to be a temporary state, whereas in the view of our actual self it is our eternal state, because there is no such thing as an ego and hence no one to possess any vāsanās or to project and experience them as waking or dream.] **

Very helpful thank you Michael


**[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.]**

This is very reassuring thank you Michael

Bob

Michael James said...

Venkat, regarding your question ‘what are your thoughts on Bhagavan’s other ‘method’ of self-surrender, where presumably no effort or practice is possible?’, self-surrender is not actually another method, because though Bhagavan sometimes offered it as if it were an alternative to ātma-vicāra, he was actually offering the same product in a different packaging.

As he often explained, what we need to surrender is our own ego, and since this ego rises, stands and flourishes by ‘grasping form’, which means attending to or being aware of anything other than itself, it will subside and disappear only by trying to grasp itself — that is, by trying to be attentively aware of itself alone. This is why he said 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 one who is steadily fixed in oneself (ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ), 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 describes here as ‘ātma-cintana’ or ‘thought of oneself’ is self-attentiveness, which is the practice of ātma-vicāra, so what he clearly implied in this definition of self-surrender is that we can surrender ourself completely to God only by persistently practising ātma-vicāra. Therefore, since persistent practice of ātma-vicāra requires effort, we cannot surrender ourself without making the required effort to practise being perpetually self-attentive.

This was also implied by him in the final sentence of verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘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’.

However, though we need to make effort to be attentively self-aware, by being so our ego will subside, and along with it its effort will also subside, so the final moment when our self-surrender become complete is also the moment when all effort ceases. This is what is implied by Bhagavan in verse 696 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, which I cited in the sixth section of this article. Though we must follow the markaṭa nyāya or ‘monkey principle’ throughout most of our spiritual journey, as we approach closer to our final destination the effort entailed in following this principle will subside along with our ego, so eventually we will reach our destination only by letting go of everything — including our ego and its effort — in accordance with the mārjāla nyāya or ‘cat principle’.

However, until we are able to give up our ego entirely, we should not give up our persistent effort to be attentively aware of ourself alone, because we will not succeed in surrendering ourself entirely without such persistent effort.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Venkat, though Michael has answered your question ‘what are your thoughts on Bhagavan’s other ‘method’ of self-surrender, where presumably no effort or practice is possible?’ comprehensively and clearly, I would like to share my reflection on this topic.

First of all we have to be clear in our mind, who surrenders, what, and to whom? It should be obvious that we surrender ourself to God. So what is this 'we'? This 'we' has to be our 'ego', since our true self has no need for any surrender. How does this ego surrender itself to God? It has to surrender itself by merging or dissolving in God? And what or where is God? Bhagavan has made it abundantly clear that God, our true self and Guru are one and the same, and this God is only in the core of our being. Therefore it should be clear that we can surrender our ego to God only attending to God and merging in him, and this can only be done by vigilant and persistent self-attentiveness.

If a fly wants to surrender or be consumed by fire, how does it do this? Obviously it has to come near the fire, then enter the fire willingly and have itself killed. Same principle holds true when we want to surrender to God. I am using the term 'God' here because we are talking about 'surrender', and surrender is usually associated with surrender to the supreme power or God.

Michael has outlined a fresh and new perspective in this article, and reiterated the same in the comment addressed to you, when he explains the terms markata nyaya or 'monkey principle' and marjala nyaya or 'cat principle'. I have heard and read about these terms before but nobody has explained these terms in the context of Bhagavan's teaching of surrender, which of course is another name for the practice of self-investigation.

Basically we have to progress or graduate from the 'monkey principle' towards the 'cat principle'. That is, we have to put our maximum possible efforts as a 'monkey' to cling to God (ourself), and when our ego has subsided to a great extent we should enjoy the fruits of our efforts by just being like a 'cat'. In other words only our maximum efforts will take us to the state of effortlessness.

I suspect most of us are in the 'monkey principle' stage, at least I am in this stage. Therefore whether we call it surrender or self-investigation we have to persevere in attending to ourself alone. By Bhagavan's grace we are sure to progress from being a 'monkey' to being a 'cat', and eventually we will leave this 'monkey' and 'cat' behind, and merge in Bhagavan (who is none other than our true self) forever. Regards.



Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

In your comment addressed to Venkat, you say, “I have heard and read about these terms [cat and monkey principle] before but nobody has explained these terms in the context of Bhagavan's teaching of surrender, which of course is another name for the practice of self-investigation.” I thought I will share with you the following verses from a very sincere devotee of Sri Ramana, Lakshmana Sarma. It is from his book Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad.

[225] Devotion is taught as being of two kinds, according to the degree of ripeness of the devotee; in the beginning it is devotion like that of the baby monkey, and afterwards devotion like that of the kitten.

Sarma’s comment: The baby monkey keeps hold of its mother by its own effort, whereas the kitten makes no effort, but relies entirely on the mother cat. The unripe devotee is like the former and the ripe one is like the latter; the former has his egoism rampant; the egoism of the latter is greatly subdued, and hence he is the recipient of more abundant grace, and reaches the goal much sooner.

[226] After practising devotion like that of the baby monkey through a great many lives, in the end, when his egoism is greatly reduced, he practises devotion like the kitten.

[227] The devotion that is like the kitten’s is the same as taking refuge at the feet of God and surrendering to Him. This devotion, becoming further purified by the refinement of the mind, becomes equal to right awareness in course of time.

By ‘right awareness’, Sarma means ‘pure awareness’, as most of us can guess.

I too am a ‘monkey’, in this context and in comparison with the restless activities of my mind.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, yes, no doubt Lakshmana Sarma was a sincere devotee, who tried to understand Bhagavan's teachings in depth.

Yes, whatever Lakshmana Sarma writes and which you quote here are more or less correct, but I feel it lacks absolute clarity; clarity as to how this 'baby monkey principle' and the 'kitten principle' applies to the practice of self-investigation. Michael is more clear and specific when he writes:

...in terms of Bhagavan’s teachings the mārjāla nyāya represents the final stage of the path of complete self-surrender, which is the culmination of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), whereas the markaṭa nyāya represents the effort that we need to make to cling firmly to self-attentiveness. As Bhagavan teaches us in this verse, those who are able to succeed in surrendering themselves effortlessly, as he did, would have previously strived with intense effort to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness, because only by striving thus can we attain the bhakti (love) and vairāgya (freedom from attachment) that is required in order for us to be able to surrender ourself entirely.

Lakshmana Sarma says 'The baby monkey keeps hold of its mother by its own effort', meaning that we should keep hold of God with effort, but he does not specify (at least in the extracts you have quoted), what sort of effort is required to hold on to God. Michael is more clear and specific, he writes very clearly that the effort required by our 'monkey-mind' is 'to cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness'.

I wrote in my last comment: I have heard and read about these terms before but nobody has explained these terms in the context of Bhagavan's teaching of surrender, which of course is another name for the practice of self-investigation.

I have not changed my opinion on whatever I wrote in previous comment. You can see for yourself, if you again read the section seven of this article. Michael is more clear and specific, and explains this 'monkey' and 'kitten' analogy beautifully in the context of our practice of self-investigation or self-surrender. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

It's ok, Sanjay. I just shared what someone else said about it before, but was not anxious to change your opinion.

Sandhya said...

Michael , by rereading some of the comments , i get more questions again. I am now starting to get convinced that when i say 'i was asleep' that i refers to the 'pure i' since pure i is the continuing substance . But now regarding doership, who is the real doer? Doing happens through ego. So when i say i am doing , then that statement should be absolutely right , but we are always taught to believe that 'i am not the doer and remove the sense of doer-ship when actually doing etc' . What are your thoughts on it ? I am not able to relate the essence of both these teachings.

Sandhya said...

The reason i am asking the question is 'sense of doership' is a major component os 'i feeling' . Do we take effort to remove that ?

Gurla Mandhata said...

Michael,
without regard to the above article about making effort to practice atma-vicara
I want to ask if you could explain the true meaning of Sri Chakra Meru, installed in the garbagriha of Sri Matrubhuteswara Temple at Sri Ramanasramam.
What means the annual Sri Vidya Havan really ?
What means the Sri Yantra, blessed by Bhagavan's hands ?
Is understanding of the ritual of Sri Vidya Homa in depth important also for western devotees at their practice of vic(h)ara ?
Obviously only the Ashram priests are allowed to enter/worship that sanctum sanctorum - presumably to avoid polluting or besmirching the divine power of Mother's light of grace.

Sandhya said...

Michael,
I got the answer for my own quesion:) being self attentive will remove 'i am doer' thought also.

Steve D said...

So in reading this particular thread and some of the comments on it, there seems to be an general attitude of hostility and disregard for Papaji and his teachings that I don't really feel is either appropriate or justified. I would like to gently point out a few things if I may, and I hope that they are taken in a loving spirit and not as an attack on anyone or as fuel for an open argument.

To begin with, the particular comments attributed to Papaji that were actually the inspiration for this thread, should be taken in the context of who he was speaking with, what the original question was and with an understanding that the answers that were given were most likely at the level that the questioner could understand the best and would help him the most with his or her sadhana at that time. I would like to point out that there are plenty of quotes attributed to Bhagavan in books such as "Talks" for example, that if looked at in the broader context of his teachings in Nan Yaar, Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar, would not tally. Now granted, as Michael has pointed out on numerous occasions, some of the quotes may not have been recorded verbatim so there could be some ambiguity in how accurately they represent what he actually said, but there are plenty of comments he is said to have made concerning all sorts of topics from chakras, kundalini, the heart center on the right of the chest, creation theory etc that do not actually tally with his own essential teachings, but were in response to a question that was asked of him, and they should be viewed in that light. Similarly, I don't see why the same courtesy should not be extended to Papaji given similar circumstances.

To get more to the point, the comment that Papaji made about sleep, 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’, was quite obviously made with respect to the point of view of the ego. Papaji has stated elsewhere, "You are the space in which the waking, sleeping and dream states are rising and falling in. You are That which is fully conscious even in the sleep state. All of these states and everything in them are projections on a clear and immaculate screen. You are this screen. This screen has no objects or subjects." It is quite evident from this statement that Papaji's point of view on the matter is that there is full awareness in sleep, and since this thread seems to be "Let's see if Papaji's teachings tally with Bhagavan's", in this instance they clearly do. Incidentally, this quote is from the book "The Truth Is" as will be the other quotes which I will subsequently post.

Steve D said...

So next is this business of atma vichar and effort. The statement that Papaji made which is posted above in the article should also be taken in context. He is quoted as having said that atma vichara is "not a long procedure" and "not a practice" and in certain instances this is absolutely true. Case in point Bhagavan and Papaji himself. Now before everyone jumps down my throat for putting them both in the same sentence, allow me to just clarify a few things. First of all, in the vast majority of cases, a tremendous effort is necessary and a long, persistent practice is the only thing that will ultimately attenuate the ego to the point that the Self finally annihilates it, a fact that Papjai has acknowledged on many occasions. Papaji has also said, "Vichar should continue every moment of your life, naturally like the act of breathing, until your last breath. 'Enquire until there is no one left to enquire.' The habits of the mind are very hard to break, and so it must be continued. You have been ignorant for years, so when you know the Truth you must stay As Such for some time. What else is important? You have to be very strong. Question the mind unceasingly." And elsewhere, "There must be a tremendously strong effort and decision to not be washed away by the past and by thought, or the mind will slip back into impurity and mischief. There is nothing without this self-effort. This tremendous effort is easy because it is no effort. When the circumstances of the vasanas arise the dormant vasanas will also arise. So totally devote yourself to intense self effort. Divine faith will help you so jump into the ocean and you will get help from within." Also, "Give up your preoccupation with "other things" i.e. objects and you will see it."

Once again this teaching tallies with Bhagavan 100%. As I mentioned earlier, context is important. So back to the idea of vichara being "easy" and not a long process. Michael already acknowledged in his article that from a certain point of view this is, in fact, true. But to quote Papaji himself on this topic, " It is so easy because you don’t have to work for it. It is so easy because you don’t have to go anywhere to get it. All you have to do is keep quiet. Attaining freedom is therefore a very easy thing. People say that it is difficult only because their minds are always engaged with something else. Freedom itself is not difficult. It is giving up the attachment to other things that is difficult. Disengaging yourself from attachments may be difficult. You have to make a decision to do it. You can decide now or put it off till your next life." And on the actual process of atma vichara, "[Do it] only once. If you do it properly, you only need to ask once. If you do it properly, it will strike at the right place. When you ask ‘Who am I?’ don’t expect any answer. You must get rid of the expectation that you will get an answer. You must not do the enquiry with the intention of getting somewhere, of getting an answer. The purpose of this question is not to get an answer. Rather it is to merge, in the same way that a river merges into the ocean. It doesn’t go to the ocean to remain a river, it goes there to lose itself. In the enquiry ‘Who am I?’, there is a merging into the divinity, into the Self, emptiness itself. Just keep quiet and see what happens." Again, I would say this is certainly not opposed to Bhagavan's own teaching on the matter.

Steve D said...

And just a little biographical information on Papaji. Maybe people in general should do a little more research before posting comments without having adequate knowledge about a particular teacher or his or her teachings. All of what I am about to write is well documented in David Godman's biography of Papaji, "Nothing Ever Happened." For those who are not aware, Papaji was an intense Krishna bhakta all his life. So intense was his sadhana, as well as his love, faith and devotion, that not only would Krishna actually appear before him in physical form that Papaji could register with the senses, but other gods would as well. Now just to put this in perspective, Papaji worked out that he would take roughly 50,000 breaths in a given day, and coordinated his mantra japa of Krishna with each breath so that he would also be doing 50,000 repetitions a day of Krishna's name/mantra. I challenge anybody who posts on this blog to do their own sadhana with such intensity, one pointedness and devotion and keep it up every day for over 20 years like Papaji did, until he finally came face to face with Bhagavan, at which point Bhagavan told him to turn his attention within and "find the seer". With Papaji's level of intensity, love and devotion, it's no wonder he only had to make the enquiry "Who am I?" one time and immediately his ego was annihilated leaving only the Self and the sahaja state, in which he abided effortlessly henceforth. There are other well documented cases of saints whose god intoxication was so intense that they were literally having physical darshan of those gods on a regular basis. Ramakrishna comes to mind with his visions of Kali.

So again, in context, for someone as mature as Papaji was, whose ego was already so attenuated from an entire lifetime of such intense sadhana and bhakti, yes, I'm sure that vichara is not a process and as Papaji says, one only has to do it once and the result will be absolute and permanent. Honestly these people like Papaji, Ramakrishna, Tukaram etc whose faith and devotion is so intense that God is literally manifesting before their eyes, should be a source of absolute inspiration for us all. Unfortunately I see a lot of disrespectful and disparaging remarks about Papaji instead, and I do have to say it is quite disturbing, especially given the fact that if people had done a little more research about what his teachings actually are and were, they might have an entirely different opinion of him. And in line with that very thought, here is another quote of Papaji,"There is no future, there are no people, there is no earth, there is no one seeking Enlightenment. This is the final truth. Time is just a concept, and if you do not think about it, it does not exist. This earth is also your concept. If you keep quiet then there is no existence, and no one ever existed and there is no time. Time is mind. When there is no time, there is no mind. When you sleep there is no time and no world. This is up to you. Mind is a thought, mind is past, mind is everything. If you do not stir a single thought from the source tell me what you see and what there is. Even you do not exist." Again, this tallies absolutely with Bhagavan's teaching and is a perfect expression of ajata, which Papaji claimed, as did Bhagavan, was his personal experience. And finally, "The essence of my teaching is this: I teach about That which cannot be attained by any teaching. My teaching cannot be taught. I have no teaching for the Essence from where all teachings arise. This Essence doesn't need any teaching or non-teaching for it is beyond everything. It is from where all words rise."

Steve D said...

So as a side note, I can only suspect that a lot of the animus for Papaji comes from misplaced and misdirected anger towards all the clowns who claim to be his devotees and subsequently claim to be enlightened, give satsang and generally behave like fools. But this does not and should not in any way reflect on Papaji as a teacher or as a saint of the highest caliber. I distinctly remember reading one account in the Ramana literature where someone once commented to Bhagavan that many of the inmates at the ashram seemed to be getting worse the longer they spent there rather than better. Bhagavan responded by giving an analogy of milk being boiled in a pot on an open flame. Those who came to him with relatively weak vasanas and a very pure mind were like a pot with only a little bit of milk in it. It evaporated quickly and they got the experience they came for. On the other hand, those whose minds were still very impure and had a lot of vasanas were like a pot half full with milk on the open flame. It boils over and makes a mess before finally burning off and settling down. So it seems even Bhagavan had these types of characters around him, and we certainly don't judge Bhagavan based on the behavior of a few foolish and deluded devotees. I think Papaji should be afforded the same respect, especially if he was in fact, a Self-realized jnani, which in my heart of hearts, do believe that he was.

I hope this post helped clear up some of the doubts and misgivings people have had up until this point had about Papaji and proved beyond any doubt that his teaching is absolutely right in line with Bhagavan's, and is not a "twisted misrepresentation" of Bhagavan's teaching as Sanjay Lohia suggested, but an absolute and clear expression of the divine sahaja state that he himself was experiencing, and it is for this reason that it tallies undeniably with Bhagavan's own teachings.

And to Michael James, I absolutely adore you and this blog. You have been a tremendous help to me on my own journey and a huge inspiration in terms of being able to understand more clearly the essence and subtlety of Bhagavan's teachings. I thank you a thousand times and hope some of the information I shared in this post might help change your view of Papaji.

With love, respect and gratitude.

Steve

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, I had written in one of my recent comments addressed to you:

I have not changed my opinion on whatever I wrote in previous comment. You can see for yourself, if you again read the section seven of this article. Michael is more clear and specific, and explains this 'monkey' and 'kitten' analogy beautifully in the context of our practice of self-investigation or self-surrender.

I wrote here, 'You can see for yourself, if you again read the section seven of this article'. It is not actually section seven, but it is section six in which the principles of marjala nyaya and markata nyaya are discussed. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

If a boy wants to learn bicycle and asks his father when he will be able to ride it, it would be reasonable if the father said he will do so whenever the balance (while pedalling) is achieved. Suppose the boy tried and fell down. The only thing it indicates is that he should try more. Instead, if the father says it should be done only once, it would be unreasonable. The boy would get discouraged. We do not talk about the time taken to do this here.

In the same way, if sufficient vairagya is there, atma vichara is finished in the very first attempt. If this does not happen, there is no sufficient vairagya. A reasonable second question would be how vairagya can be developed. Sri Ramana would say by doing atma vichara again, reminding us that it is both the process and the goal. This is very reasonable. He does not blame I am incapable or creating excuses. If that were so, we would not even be talking about atma vichara here. This is neatly illustrated in Talk 263, quoted Venkat. Sivanarul says Bhagavan helps us starting from our condition, not from his condition, which is very true. Talk of ajata will put all of us off and a guru talking just that should be rejected.

If we like, we can have a ‘two-step’ model of atma vichara now:

(a) Do atma vichara till sufficient vairagya is developed.

(b) Do atma vichara only once with sufficient vairagya and annihilate the ego.

[We may note that step (a) may come through routes other than atma vichara]

Steve D has quoted Poonja where he talks about the first step, which is reasonable. However, ‘misrepresentation’ can happen only when someone doing it derives some benefit out of it and it is a deliberate act (I can recall only one case, which is not related to Poonja). Barring that, in most cases, it is the misunderstanding in the case of (a) someone claiming to be Sri Ramana’s disciple or (b) someone quoting him or (c) both. It so happens that sometimes when our friends quote statements from someone, it is done in a hurry. When the discussion is centered around that particular statement without treating it as a misrepresentation, it would be good for everyone. What Steve D and Venkat are doing is the clarification of misunderstanding in good spirit.

Wittgenstein said...

The link to Venkat's comment did not work in my previous comment. Here it is:
http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.in/2016/03/we-are-aware-of-ourself-while-asleep-so.html?showComment=1459015909411#c6268275573388782505

venkat said...

Thank you Steve for your eloquent comment.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Transcending the Panchakosas
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 25)

Ask yourself the question. The body (annamaya kosa) and its
functions are not ‘I’.
Going deeper, the mind (manomaya kosa) and its functions are not
‘I’.
The next step takes on to the question. “Wherefrom do these
thoughts arise?” The thoughts are spontaneous, superficial or
analytical. They operate in intellect. Then, who is aware of them?
The existence of thoughts, their clear conceptions and their
operations become evident to the individual. The analysis leads to
the conclusion that the individuality of the person is operative as
the perceiver of the existence of thoughts and of their sequence.
This individuality is the ego, or as people say ‘I’. Vijnanamaya kosa
(intellect) is only the sheath of ‘I’ and not the ‘I’ itself.
Enquiring further the questions arise, “Who is this ‘I’? Wherefrom
does it come?” ‘I’ was not aware in sleep. Simultaneously with its rise
sleep changes to dream or wakefulness. But I am not concerned with
dream just now. Who am I now, in the wakeful state? If I originated
from sleep, then the ‘I’ was covered up with ignorance. Such an
ignorant ‘I’ cannot be what the scriptures say or the wise ones affirm.
‘I’ am beyond even ‘Sleep’; ‘I’ must be now and here and what I
was all along in sleep and dreams also, without the qualities of such
states. ‘I’ must therefore be the unqualified substratum underlying
these three states (anandamaya kosa transcended).
‘I’ is, in brief, beyond the five sheaths. Next, the residuum left over
after discarding all that is not-self is the Self, Sat-Chit-Ananda.

Sanjay Lohia said...

This article is titled: Why is it necessary to make effort to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)?, and it clearly explains that Bhagavan wanted us to make wholehearted and continuous effort to cling to self-attentiveness. We - that it, devotees of Bhagavan had a discussion today after our satsang at the Ramana Shrine on the topic of effort and grace - which of these two is supreme in our sadhana? Since this article is on the imperative need for effort, I thought it will the right place to share some of the points we discussed.

This was the discussion amongst four of us. Out of these, two men stressed that grace is paramount, I stressed that as long as we experience ourself as this ego our effort is equally important - if not more important, and the fourth participant had very little to offer in this discussion.

When one of them said that only grace can take us to our supreme state, I replied that in that case all the living beings should have been jnanis, because grace is available to all and helping all equally. Surely as we can see different levels of spiritual developments amongst different people, this shows that some factor other than grace is needed to make us spiritually mature, and that factor is our effort. I do not think I could convince them fully.

Then one of them said that it is only grace which had made us come to the Ramana Shrine (where we were standing). I said, yes, it is grace which has made us come to the shrine, but was it not a conscious and deliberate decision on our part to come to the shrine. Similarly we have to make a conscious and a deliberate decision to attend to ourself only, and leave the job of grace to grace alone.

Comments on our discussion and more inputs on this topic will be welcome by the participants of this blog. Regards.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Sanjay,

Here is what Bhagavan says on Grace (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 29): "Divine Grace is essential for Realisation. It leads one to God-realisation. But such Grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or a yogin, who has striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom."

So, clearly effort is necessary for grace to become operative.

venkat said...

Michael and friends,

I wonder whether we are setting ourselves an artificially high goal in atma vichara, to experience self-awareness, devoid of any other thing.

In advaita as you know there is a debate as to whether jnana constitutes: (1) intellectual conviction that there is no separate ego; or (2) an experience of objectless reality. Bhagavan's words can be construed either way. His most emphatic message is be quiet, when thoughts arise [which are a symptom of an ego], to eradicate them with self-enquiry.

V.S.Iyer,, who was the philosophical tutor of the early Ramakrishna monks (and whom Paul Brunton studied under) wrote:

"A jnani will see the world and get to know it is only an appearance. He is not blind; he sees every thing or object as it is, but he knows it is only an idea. Just as you see a mirage, the jnani sees the mirage of this world too, but he is not deceived by it . . . the jnani sees every object and person as of the same essence as himself, the Atman."

"The real secret of jnana yoga is that it is the continuous practice of enquiry whereby you try to eliminate all those ideas and objects which constitute the field of awareness, from awareness itself. That element of awareness which is contained in all ideas is what you should seek. It is the unlimited element, not that which is limited to a particular thought or thing."

"You must watch for the I, egoism, in every one of your acts and eliminate it, otherwise Jnan is impossible."


In support of the above strand of reasoning, I'd draw attention to what Sadhu Natanananda wrote in Sri Ramana Darsanam (p.98 et seq) where he differentiates between attainment of jnana, and the further striving thereafter for kevala nirvikalpa samadhi (which is this objectless awareness that we have been talking of as the goal of atma vichara), which he says divides the levels of jnanis. He cites Upadesa Manjari, where Bhagavan is responding to questions:

“2. To which of the seven stages of knowledge (nana bhoomikas) does the sage (jnani) belong?
He belongs to the fourth stage.
3. If that is so why have three more stages superior to it been distinguished?
The marks of the stages four to seven are based upon the experiences of the realized person (jivanmukta). They are not states of knowledge and release. So far as knowledge and release are concerned no distinction whatever is made in these four stages.”

“The seven jnana bhoomikas are:
1. subheccha (the desire for enlightenment).
2. vicharana (enquiry).
3. tanumanasa (tenuous mind).
4. satwapatti (self-realization).
5. asamsakti (non-attachment).
6. padarthabhavana (non-perception of objects).
7. turyaga (transcendence).
Those who have attained the last four bhoomikas are called brahmavit, brahmavidvara, brahmavidvariya and brahmavid varistha respectively.”

As you can see the stage of non-perception of objects, is an advanced level of jnana, yet by us interpreting Bhagavan to be saying that the goal of atma vichara is to experience self-awareness on its own, without anyone other thing, we seem to be aiming at the very highest levels of jnana.

I write this in a spirit of enquiry rather than advocacy - and would really welcome your insights.

Best wishes,
venkat

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Viveka Vairagya, the quotation from Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Talk 29) which you quoted in your comment is very appropriate.

You write, 'So, clearly effort is necessary for grace to become operative'. It may be true in one sense, but I think it will be more correct to say that grace is always operative, as grace is our true self. How can it be operative at one time and inoperative at some other time? However we (this ego) start consciously experiencing more and more of grace as we start merging in grace by attending to ourself alone. I am not sure if I make sense here. Any corrections to my statement will be welcome. Regards.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Sanjay,

What you write is correct that Grace is always operative. Still effort is necessary for us to come under its operation. Take the analogy of sails on a ship. The wind is always blowing on the seas, but unless we unfurl our sails (effort) the wind (Grace) will not come into effect.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Viveka Vairagya, we are in perfect agreement now. The analogy you give is very appropriate, 'The wind is always blowing on the seas, but unless we unfurl our sails (effort) the wind (Grace) will not come into effect'.

Some alternative ways of describing our sadhana could be: 'perfect harmony between grace and effort' or 'a joint venture between grace and effort'. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

Bhagavan has said grace is our fundamental nature, which is pure awareness. You are right in saying that it is eternal. Bodily acts like going to Ramana shrine, having a chat with friends are done by ego and hence bound by karma. However, self-attention is not an act and hence it is always available to us. As you say, with more and more self-attention, more and more of grace will be experienced, which is equivalent to saying that our fundamental nature will be more and more clearly experienced. With more self-attention, the blockage to experiencing grace is removed, although grace is not responsible for this. An example given by Bhagavan is that of the sun, in whose presence several things take place without its involvement (Naan Yaar, fifteenth paragraph). One such thing is burning of a cotton ball with a lens that can focus sunlight (Bhagavan gives this example from Kaivalya Navaneetam, in Talk 624, which is discussed by Michael in this article, section 13). Self-attention is like that. As our power of attention grows more and more subtle, we are moving the lens towards its focal point and in the process increasing the heat energy available to burn the cotton ball. Once it is at the focal point, it burns away completely, according to Bhagavan. Therefore, even though grace (sun) is there, self-attention (focusing with the lens) is absolutely necessary (which is not an act and hence not bound by karma) for the annihilation of ego (cotton ball).

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Wittgenstein, I agree with what you write. The analogy of a cotton ball and a focussing lens you give here is very apt. I would just like to share my views on your following statement:

With more self-attention, the blockage to experiencing grace is removed, although grace is not responsible for this.

I agree with you when you write 'With more self-attention, the blockage to experiencing grace is removed', but I am not in full agreement with you when you write 'although grace is not responsible for this'. No doubt there is effort involved in attending to ourself alone, but it is only the supreme, magnetic power of grace which sustains, or repeatedly attracts us to attend to ourself alone. If there was no bliss in atma-anubhava, I am sure we would not have practised self-attentiveness.

In other words, our inward effort is not possible without grace. Bhagavan has also said: Grace is the beginning; grace in the middle and grace is the end.

The inspiration, support, bliss and the attracting power of grace motivates us to start and continue practising self-investigation, therefore if the blockage to experiencing grace is removed by practising self-attentiveness, we should also give due credit to grace for removing this blockage to experiencing grace, because our practice itself is due to grace. Of course, as you say, our effort to practise self-attentiveness is an indispensable part in removing the blockage to experiencing grace.

I am again not sure if I make sense here. Please share your views. Regards.


Mouna said...

Sanjay and Venkat, pranams

I would like to quote a passage from Sadhu Om (from Appendix 3 of The Path of Sri Ramana Part 1, at the very end) that interestingly enough addresses both of the wonderful threats you both initiated, i.e. Sanjay's comments on the relationship between Grace and effort and Venkat about "setting ourselves an artificially high goal in atma vichara, to experience self-awareness, devoid of any other thing."
I shall not comment but simply reproduce Sadhu Om's passage, except some bold letters that are my doing to emphasize some passages I found relevant to these topics.

"How then can one experience the state of unceasing Self-attention, the state of unswerving Self-abidance? The Guru's Grace will more and more help those aspirants who thus repeatedly practise Self-attention with great love (bhaktl) to know Self. When a glowing fire and a blowing wind join together, they play wonders. Likewise, when the glowing fire of love for Self-knowledge and the blowing wind of the Guru's Grace join together, a great wonder takes place. During one of his fresh attempts, the aspirant will be able to turn his attention a complete 180 degrees towards Self (that is, he will be able to achieve a perfect clarity of Self-awareness, completely uncontaminated by even the least awareness of any second or third person), whereupon he will feel a great change taking place spontaneously and without his effort. His power of attention, which he had pre-viously tried so many times to turn towards Self and which had always slipped back towards second and third persons, will now be caught under the grip of a powerful clutch which will not allow it to turn again towards any second or third person. This clutch is the clutch of Grace. Though Grace has always been helping and guiding one, it is only when one is thus caught by its clutch that one becomes totally a prey to it. If one once turns one's attention a full 180 degrees towards Self, one is sure to be caught by this clutch of Grace, which will then take one as its own and will forever protect one from again turning towards second and third person objects. This state in which the mind is thus caught by the clutch of Grace and is thereby drowned forever in its source, is known as the experience of true knowledge (jnananubhutl), Self-realization (atma-sakshatkaram), liberation (moksha) and so on. This alone can be called the state of unceasing Self-attention."

(Continues in next posting)

Mouna said...

(Continues from previous posting)

"Some people doubt, “If it is so, will the mind then remain drowned forever in samadhi? Will it not be able to come out again and know all the second and third person objects of this world? Is it not a fact that even Bhagavan Sri Ramana spent nearly fifty-four years in the state of Self-realization and that most of that time He was seen to be attending to second and third persons ?” Yes, it is true that though Sri Bhagavan always remained in the state of Self-realization, yet in the outlook of others He was seen to be knowing the world. How can this be accounted for?

To remain with the body and mind completely inert is not the only sign of samadhi. Though after Self-realization some Jnanis spend their entire lifetime completely oblivious of the body and world, not all Jnanis will necessarily remain thus. The return of body-consciousness (and consequently world-consciousness) after the attainment of Self-realization is according to the prarabdha of that body; in the case of some it might never return, while in the case of others it might return within a second or after a few hours or days. But even in such cases where it does return, it will not be experienced as a knowledge of second or third persons! That is to say, the body and world are not experienced by the Jnani as second and third persons – objects other than Himself-but as His own unlimited and undivided Self.

"So long as one is an aspirant one mistakes the limited form of one's body to be oneself, and consequently the remaining portion of one's unlimited real Self is experienced by one as the world-a collection of second and third person, objects. But after attaining Self-realization, since one experiences oneself to be the unlimited Whole, one discovers that all the second and third persons which one was previously feeling to be other than oneself, are truly nothing but one's own Self. Therefore, even while a Jnani is (in the view of onlookers) attending to second and third person objects, He is (in His own view) attending only to Self. Hence, even though He may appear to be engaged in so many activities, both physical and mental, He is in fact ever abiding in the natural state of unceasing Self--attention.

Therefore, unceasing Self-attention is possible only in the state of Self-realization and not in the state of practice (sadhana). What one has to do during the period of sadhana is to cultivate ever-increasing love to attain Self-knowledge and to make intermittent but repeated attempts to turn one's attention a full 180 degrees towards Self. If one once succeeds in doing this, then unceasing Self-attention will be found to be natural and effortless."

Sanjay Lohia said...

Mouna, we thank you for your about two comments, which are extracts from Sri Sadhu Om's The Path of Sri Ramana.

As Michael is our friend and guide, Sadhu Om was a friend and guide to Michael. Therefore whatever Michael is sharing with is influenced by Sadhu Om. It is for this reason that Sadhu Om has a special place in our heart. Regards.

Sandhya said...

Mounaji,

So stages listed by Venkat 4-7 are one and the same?

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay, yes, grace must be given credit for removing the blockage in the same way we give credit for the sun in helping the cotton ball burn.

Mouna said...

Sandhya,

As for myself, the most practical understanding is that there is only one state with no gradations whatsoever, the timeless, limitless and self-aware ourself, and all the "illusory rest" is just mind/ego stuff.
I know it's very simplistic, but it is what works for me and what comes out of investigation.

Mouna said...

I meant comes out from investigation.

Sandhya said...

Thanks Mounaji

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

In the very same chapter of Upadesa Manjari you refer to in your comment, at the end of the chapter, Bhagavan says:

“Even during states similar to swoon [such as deep sleep] when the entire universe, moving and stationary, beginning with earth and ending with the unmanifested (prakriti), does not existent, we exist. Therefore the state of pure being [pure awareness] which is common to all and which is always experienced directly[immediately] by us is our natural state. The conclusion is that all experiences in the enlightened as well as the ignorant state, which may be described by newer and newer words, are opposed to our natural state [pure awareness].” [Bold emphasis mine]

[I found the English translation bit skewed and hence have modified slightly to resonate (not very perfectly) with original Tamil]

A very similar theme occurs in Ulladu Narpadu Anubandam, verse 10 and Upadesa Undiyar, verse 21, strengthening the idea that this should be the core teaching of Bhagavan. In the light of the above statement by Bhagavan, items 4 to 7 in the list in the beginning of the chapter appear to be ‘newer and newer’ words of the ‘enlightened state’ [and on the same footing as ignorant states, which are item numbers 1 to 3], opposed to our natural state.

venkat said...

Hi Mouna, Wittgenstein,

Thanks for your comments.

I guess my point is that only Michael and Sadhu Om have emphasised the need to turn 180 degrees and to experience pure self awareness devoid of any other thing. I have never read this explicitly said by Bhagavan, Murugunar or others - they all say enquire into yourself, stop thoughts arising, hold onto the self, but not as stringently as to exclusion of any other thing. Indeed Bhagavan always said that this is the easiest thing to understand, and yet we make it so complicated: but being aware of only ourself to the exclusion of any other thing as a precondition to jnana, cannot be described by anyone as "easy"!

Now, when Sadhu Om says in your quote, a seeker must "turn his attention a complete 180 degrees towards Self (that is, he will be able to achieve a perfect clarity of Self-awareness, completely uncontaminated by even the least awareness of any second or third person), whereupon he will feel a great change taking place spontaneously and without his effort", this implies more than the simple removal of ignorance through knowledge. He further says that a jnani may not necessarily remain in that state but may return to body consciousness. But this is subject to the same critique that is made of manolaya - that what is Real is ever present, and whatever comes and goes is not real.

Bhagavan himself said:
"What is body consciousness? It is the insentient body plus consciousness. Both of these must lie in another consciousness which is absolute and unaffected and which remains as it always is, with or without the body consciousness. What does it matter whether the body consciousness is lost or retained, provided one is holding on to that pure consciousness? Total absence of body consciousness has the advantage of making the samadhi more intense, although it makes no difference to the knowledge of the supreme."

Now Sadhu Natanananda was a close disciple of Bhagavan's: it was he who was entrusted with the task of thematically ordering the verses of Murugunar's Guru Vachaka Kovai. Indeed, Murugunar wrote verses in praise of Sadhu Natanananda's Sri Ramana Darsanam, calling him a jnani. Therefore when he talks with Bhagavan about levels of jnani, it cannot be lightly dismissed. He seems to be saying that a "stage 4 jnani" has the attitude of seeing non-difference in the world (akin to my V.S.Iyer quote), but that, in his words, "prarabdha that makes even a perfected jnani strive towards nirvikalpa samadhi".

Wittgenstein, in this interpretation, deep sleep is used as a pointer to highlight that the "real Self" is devoid of any adjuncts, and to therefore carry this understanding into the waking state, because it is always the underlying substratum in all these states. This is entirely consistent interpretation with the verses that you mention from Ulladu Narpadu Anubandam and Upadesa Undiyar. And when you quote from Upadesa Manjari:
"The conclusion is that all experiences in the enlightened as well as the ignorant state, which may be described by newer and newer words, are opposed to our natural state [pure awareness]"
that could just mean that we should just be aware that all experiences are not real. Note that the quote itself implies experiences in the enlightened state, not the total absence of any second and third persons. I think it is not really credible to apply "newer and newer words" to the stages of knowledge, because that is clearly not the context in which it was used.

venkat said...

Further to my last comment, here are a couple of other quotes from Sadhu Natanananda's Sri Ramana Darsanam, which point to the eradication of the concepts based on the 'I'-thought:

"The inner meaning of self-enquiry is that consciousness should remain in its natural state as being-consciousness without being distorted into ignorance by becoming thoughts. When consciousness remains in its natural state without the slightest distortion, this truly is the destruction of the ego and the gaining of one's Self"

"The realisation of that which subsists when all trace of 'I' is gone is good tapas - this indeed is Bhagavan's way. Therefore an aspirant should unceasingly examine inside himself whether the I-am-the-body belief is present in each one of his thoughts, words and deeds". Inner attachment is not destroyed by meditation alone. It is possible to destroy the root of ego only by the practice of remaining unceasingly in the witness state in such a way that the ego is not allowed to rise, even in dream"

Considering these quotes together with my earlier ones, they clearly imply that atma vichara is an investigation to remove egoistic thoughts, rather than a meditation that involves trying to be Self-aware devoid of any second and third-person objects.

AS I said earlier, we see to be aiming at an advanced stage of knowledge by adopting the 'turn 180 degree' interpretation of atma vichara?

Mouna said...

Dear Venkat,

I know we are in a discussing forum and exchange of ideas about Bhagavan's teachings and information is a completely valid and most of the times very useful tool here.
I am sure that Michael and Wittgenstein among other friends here will have a better way of dissolving your doubts than my limited knowledge of Bhagavan's teachings.

But at a certain point we need to understand that mind will keep trying to perpetuate itself through questions and doubts of a very subtle and refined nature. That is something that also has to go at one point remembering that all questions of mind will and are eventually answered with a good "moment" of surrender and vichara (or viceversa).

Again, I considered myself an intelectual junkie of first order, reading avidly each post that appears here, but at the same time I am learning little by little to draw the line when and where I have to stop and give God what is to God after giving a little too much to Cesar.

M

venkat said...

Mouna my friend,

This is not meant to be argumentative. And to be clear, I do not have any doubts about Bhagavan, about advaita or about atma vichara. However we do not have access directly to Bhagavan - only his talks and written words, and then the interpretation put on them by others. So viveka requires us to discriminate between what is true and not true in an entirely dispassionate way - that is the whole point of vichara. I've never come across a sentiment in advaita vedanta which says only ask questions up to a point, but don't ask too difficult a set of questions.

If we set up a goal that says that we will only achieve freedom when essentially a nirvikalpa samadhi 'event' occurs (which is essentially what the implication is to be self aware without awareness of anything else), then this means that we are are not free now. But Bhagavan often said that the very thought that you are ignorant, not free is the problem. As per my Bhagavan quote, he himself did not advocate that nirvikalpa samadhi was necessary.

As I have been reflecting over the last couple of days, it seems to me that Bhagavan actually was saying to stop egoistic thoughts whenever they arise, and otherwise just be the stillness that you really are (summa iru). If we earnestly focused on the ego, whenever it arose in our thoughts and actions, one can see how our egoistic thoughts would fall away, and we would be left in stillness, in acting without volition, naiskama karma

However, by setting up a goal of achieving pure self-awareness without awareness of anything else, we - our egos - are essentially setting up a desire to achieve some blissful non dual state, and postponing realising, moment-to-moment, our essential non-separation from all that is. In all of my reading, Bhagavan was not a great advocate of meditation - which is what pure self-awareness without awareness of anything else would entail. He always said act in the world if you have to, but be aware of the substratum that you are - i.e. realise non-difference in difference. This is why Bhagavan I think said atma vichara was the path but also the goal - to, with effort, continually watch for and dissolve egoistic thoughts as they occur.

In a funny way, setting up Nirvikalpa Samadhi as a goal, actually perpetuates the ego, because it can continually try to achieve this state, and explain to itself that it is not yet pure enough . . . rather than at every moment, looking for the I-thought behind all of our thoughts and actions. That very looking makes it dissolve in shame.

Mouna said...

Dear Venkat-Ji, pranams

Some points before we start.
I really don’t mind arguments. And I’ll always be an advocate of “difficult questions” when asked respectfully and which aim to dissolve essential doubts (manana) and promote viveka. The second point is that I don't know!...

I battle for almost three years with the conundrum of what could be the jnani’s state. Asking here and there, reading all the “literature” (Bhagavan and others), and unless I am one (jnani) and don’t know it, I think I’ll never come up with a satisfying answer to myself. There are places in Bhagavan’s teachings that is clear that his intention was to tell us that “everything disappears” and other places where coming a step down (like verses 17 and 18 of Ulladu Narpadu and in some places of Guru Vachaka Korai) where the complete obliteration of senses, feelings, thoughts and perceptions is not so evident, when talking about the “after-realization.” The famous quote “If the ego does not exist, all else will not exist.” also leaves the door open for a lot of interpretations, from the total obliteration to the only the doer disappears kind.

Michael demonstrated many times, and this is the option that I adhere most, that logically, when we study and connect dots in Bhagavan’s teachings, it follows that manonasa not only is the complete obliteration of mind but also of what the mind (ego/samsara/maya, etc..) consist of (sensations, perceptions, feelings emotions, thoughts).
As you rightly pointed out, I’ve been part of advaitic blogs where the “is realization an experience?, knowledge that one is That? or complete disappearance?” kind of discussion gave rise to endless discussions, arguments, counterarguments and they all seemed to have a point! at a certain moment, I had the feeling of pouring nothing into emptiness.

Finally I came to the conclusion that instead someone else (even Bhagavan) telling me what self-realization means, I’ll go for it and find out (if ever will be someone left to find it out!) with Bhagavad’s instructions. At that point is where my thought on “let’s leave the question aside for a moment and let’s take a good look at the one asking it” came handy. And believe it or not, the answer came, but not in the form I expected.

To summarize my point, intuition as ego (yes, I said intuition!!!) told me and keep telling me like a whisper from beyond “Na... nirodho... na.. chotpattir... that as you well know means “There is no creation and no dissolution. There is no bondage, no one doing spiritual practices, no one seeking spiritual liberation, and no one who is liberated.” Should I trust it? I don’t know… at least stung and keep stinging my curiosity.

There is only one way to find out.

Be well my friend.
m

venkat said...

Thank you Mouna-ji and pranams.

"Finally I came to the conclusion that instead of someone else (even Bhagavan) telling me what self-realization means, I’ll go for it and find out (if ever will be someone left to find it out!) with Bhagavan’s instructions."

You are, of course, right.

With love and best wishes to you too.

venkat

Michael James said...

Regarding the discussion about effort and grace that commenced from a comment by Sanjay, grace is the love of ourself for ourself, and our ego’s effort to be self-attentive is the love by which it attunes itself to grace and thereby yields itself to its loving embrace.

Therefore both grace and effort are indispensable, and we cannot attain salvation without both of them. Grace is indispensable in the sense that we can never dispense with it, because it is what is — uḷḷadu, the sole reality, which is what we actually are — whereas effort is indispensable in the sense that without it we could never surrender ourself entirely to the loving and all-consuming embrace of grace.

Sri Ramakrishna gave a very apt analogy to illustrate this, namely that of rain water that runs off a mound but collects in a depression. I cannot remember the exact words in which he expressed this, but the gist of it, slightly adapted by me, is that grace is always pouring down upon us like monsoon rain, but just as rain water will run off mounds or any raised ground and will collect only in depressions or low-lying places, if we allow our ego to rise and be active, grace will run off us like water off a duck’s back, so we will in effect be closing our heart to it, whereas if our ego subsides humbly by being vigilantly and steadily self-attentive, we will be opening our heart to it and allowing it to enter and fill ourself entirely.

Bob - P said...

Michael is it also right to say:

Grace is like the sun shining through a window, when we are not being self-attentive it is like drawing the curtains across the window. The sun (grace) (ourself as we really are) is still always shining on us and avaiable but we are not as receptive to grace compared to when we are self-attentive and have drawn the curtains or veil that was hindering our receptiveness to forever shining grace.

So like you say effort and grace are indispensable.

Not sure if this is a good anaolgy as it may confuse matters in all fairness.
In appreciation

Viveka Vairagya said...

I was wondering if samadhi, say Nirvikalpa samadhi or some such samadhi, a precondition for self-realization? Or can one realize the self without having to go through samadhi state, especially because in some advanced sadhakas mere sravana is supposed to bestow liberation? Any thoughts or comments on this?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Spiritual Progress
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 73)

Does not one find some kind of peace while in meditation? That is the sign of progress. That peace will be deeper and more prolonged with continued practice. It will also lead to the goal.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Sense of Doership
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 78)

D.: Our work-a-day life is not compatible with such efforts [for Self-realization].
M.: Why do you think that you are active? Take the gross example of your arrival here. You left home in a cart, took train, alighted at the Railway Station here, got into a cart there and found yourself in this Asramam. When asked, you say that you travelled here all the way from your town. Is it true? Is it not a fact that you remained as you were and there were movements of conveyances all along the way. Just as those movements are confounded with your own, so also the other activities. They are not your own. They are God’s activities.

Michael James said...

Yes, Bob, the analogy you give of grace being like the sunshine that is always pouring in through our window, and of our effort to be self-attentive being like opening the curtains that would otherwise obscure (but not completely hide) it, is very apt, as also is the analogy given earlier by Viveka Vairagya of grace being like the wind that is always blowing on the seas, and of our effort to be self-attentive being like unfurling our sails in order to allow ourself to be swept home by it.

Rising as this ego by attending to anything other than ourself is like closing our curtains or furling our sails, because it prevents us availing of the help that is always being offered by grace, so in order to subside and surrender ourself to the loving embrace of grace we must open our curtains and unfurl our sails by trying to be self-attentive as much as possible.

Sanjay Lohia said...

On the topic of 'grace and effort', Michael has commented:

...grace is the love of ourself for ourself, and our ego’s effort to be self-attentive is the love by which it attunes itself to grace and thereby yields itself to its loving embrace.

I thank you for explaining it beautifully. I think paragraph one of Nan yar? can be studied here:

Since all living beings desire to be always happy without what is called misery, since for everyone the greatest love is only for oneself, and since happiness alone is the cause of love, [in order] to attain that happiness, which is one’s own [true] nature that is experienced daily in [dreamless] sleep, which is devoid of the mind, oneself knowing oneself is necessary. For that, jñāna-vicāra [knowledge-investigation] ‘who am I’ alone is the principal means.

So we can say that, as Michael says, 'grace is the love of ourself for ourself', and we love ourself (our self-love) because, as Bhagavan says, 'for everyone the greatest love is only for oneself and ... happiness alone is the cause of love'. So it the power of love and happiness, which are one and the same and which is also grace, which attracts ourself to itself.

So the inspiration for our practice of self-investigation is only the attraction or pull of this non-dual, love-happiness which, as Michael says, is - Ulladu, the sole reality, and this Ulladu is grace. We begin our effort at self-investigation as the response to our non dual, love-happiness. Our effort is sustained by the repeated taste of this love-happiness, because without the taste of this love-happiness why should we practise again and again? And eventually it is only this grace which will consume us when our svatma-bhakti and vairagya become almost perfect.

Bob-P, I agree with the analogy when you write, 'Grace is like the sun shining through a window, when we are not being self-attentive it is like drawing the curtains across the window. The sun (grace) (ourself as we really are) is still always shining on us and avaiable but we are not as receptive to grace compared to when we are self-attentive and have drawn the curtains or veil that was hindering our receptiveness to forever shining grace'.

I think Michael has also written on these lines, but fresh reminders are always welcome. Regards.



Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael for your feedback,
I have just read the comment you linked to by Viveka Vairagya, thank you Viveka Vairagya.
Sanjay I found your comment above about grace with respect to paragraph 1 of Nan Yar? very helpful.
In appreciation.
Bob

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viveka Vairagya writes in one of his recent comments:

Ramana Maharshi on Spiritual Progress (from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 73)

Does not one find some kind of peace while in meditation? That is the sign of progress. That peace will be deeper and more prolonged with continued practice. It will also lead to the goal.

I was also reflecting on these lines in my last comment. This 'peace', which I described as 'non-dual, love-happiness' is experienced when try to be attentively self-aware, however imperfect or limited this may be. It is this peace which attracts ourself to itself again and again. The limited or imperfect peace which we experience when we try to practise self-attentiveness will eventually transform into unlimited and perfect peace, which is another way of saying that, as Michael writes, '..our ego’s effort to be self-attentive is the love by which it attunes itself to grace and thereby yields itself to its loving embrace'. Regards.

Viveka Vairagya said...

You are welcome, Bob.

Wittgenstein said...

Venkat,

In your reply to me, you say:

"The conclusion is that all experiences in the enlightened as well as the ignorant state, which may be described by newer and newer words, are opposed to our natural state [pure awareness]" that could just mean that we should just be aware that all experiences are not real. Note that the quote itself implies experiences in the enlightened state, not the total absence of any second and third persons. I think it is not really credible to apply "newer and newer words" to the stages of knowledge, because that is clearly not the context in which it was used.

There will not be much use in just being aware that all experiences are unreal, which is another thought or reminder. The quote does talk about absence of second and third persons, as Bhagavan says, “[…] the state of pure being [pure awareness] which is common to all and which is always experienced directly [immediately] by us is our natural state”. In pure awareness, where are second and third persons? There may be stages of relative knowledge. As far self-knowledge is concerned, there are certainly no stages. If one assumes such things, however subtle be the stage, such stages are still in duality. That is why Bhagavan places them side by side as "enlightened as well as the ignorant state".

Self-awareness, as Bhagavan says, is ‘common to all’ and ‘always experienced directly [immediately]’. Why would we need subtle realms/stages?

To end it:

நான் என்னும் நினைவு கிஞ்சித்து மில்லா விடமே சொரூபமாகும்.

The place [space or state] devoid of even the slightest thought called ‘I’ is our actual self [natural state].

Naan Yaar?, paragraph 6

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thanks Bob-P. I am happy that you found my comment on grace, which included Paragraph one of Nan Yar? helpful.

When we write we are doing manana on Bhagavan's teachings. So whether anyone else is benefited or not, we (the writer) are surely benefitted if we write to understand the subject in depth. So we should thank Michael and this blog for giving us a platform to reflect on Bhagavan's teachings. Regards.

Bob - P said...

I agree Sanjay .. Michael's blog is indeed a treasure.

{If one assumes such things, however subtle be the stage, such stages are still in duality. That is why Bhagavan places them side by side as "enlightened as well as the ignorant state".}

Thank you Wittgenstein .. Yes we will never know the non dual being counciousness whilst duality exists in our view in any shape or form no matter how magnificent it may appear to be.

We won't know when or how close we are to experiencing (ourself as we really are) or how close we are to fully turning 180 degrees because when we do we are gone , cooked , dissolved ... all that remains is ouself the non dual being counciousness.

All we can do is keep attending to ourself as best we can because the more we do the more receptive we are to grace .. and like wise grace will help us be more self attentive. A beautiful self feeding relationship until we dissolve into ourself which has been completely un affacted by the whole thing because it alone is.

We must trust Bhagavan and love him by attending to ourself as he is the core / the heart of our very being ... he is within us.

His love has no limits .. if only we can love him as much as he loves us all.

We are all blessed.

In appreciation
Bob

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Sense of Doership
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 210)

Man owes his movements to another Power, whereas he thinks that he does everything himself - just like a lame man bluffing that, were he helped to stand up, he would fight and chase away the enemy. Action is impelled by desire; desire arises only after the rise of the ego; and this ego owes its origin to a Higher Power on which its existence depends. It cannot remain apart. Why then prattle, “I do, I act, or I function”?

Negev said...

Bob-P,
you write: we are all blessed - inclusive Adolf Hitler and accomplices ?
Are you sure that they received all the limitless love and grace of Bhagavan ???
I think I am failing to see the "Higher Power" in that creatures.
But you write we have to trust to Bhagavan. Or do we completely go round the bend ?
Heavens above, I should like it best if I had never heard of nondual consciousness etc.

Bob - P said...

Hi Negev
Thanks for your feedback about my comment.
When I say we are all blessed I meant friends who write / visit Michael's blog which helps explain Bhagavan's teaching, but of course I don't mean those who don't write or visit Michaels blog are not blessed (lol)!! That wouldn't be a very nice thing to say.
I wasn't refering to Adolf Hitler, I don't think he was a Bhagavan devotee.
I was just expressing my gratitude amongst friends on how blessed we are to have found Bhagavan's teaching Negev.
Iam sorry if it came across in a bad way it was not my intention.
This is just in my view.
Take care Negev
Bob

Chomo Lönzo said...

Negev and Bob-P,
you may consider that the referred crimes against humanity were done and could happen only in agreement with the prarabda karma of victims and culprits.
Otherwise you could call God a devil.
Executing the prarabda karma of millions victims and all those other affected by the second world war therefore Adolf H. could have been really a divine legate and as such a devotee of Bhagavan.

Bob - P said...

Thanks Chomo Lonzo
I was just trying to express my gratitude, Negev's comment has made me realise that my comment may of not of come across in a way that I had intended. Basically I must of put my foot in it (lol)!
All I know is everything I experience apart from myself could be an illusion all I know for sure is me as the subject so I must attend to that. But like wise when I am not attending to myslef I must treat all things I am aware of with great love and compassion and treat them as myself or how I would like to be treated.
It was not my intent to get into a discussion about Adolf Hitler.
I am just grateful for Bhagavan and Michael's blog
All the best
Bob

Chomo Lönzo said...

Bob-P,
so you have recognized now that space ,time and the world do not end at the frame of an internet blog.
But as you have written all what we know for sure is our own existence as consciousness. Therefore the best way to live is to attend to ourself as the real substance carefully.
Kind regards

early bird said...

Michael,
sections 5 and 6, "... extremely easy...",
in the common sense the adjective/adverb 'easy' implies without difficulty or effort.
Cultivating the required all-consuming love(bhakti) and desirelessness(vairagya)
is certainly for most of us obstructed by our age-long desires to experience 'other things's(visaya-vasanas). Drawing our attention back to ourself, away from everything else, needs perseverance in making that effort.
Wanting nothing other than to be eternally aware of ourself alone is naturally only for such devotees who were fallen directly down from heaven - in that case the necessary effort has already been finished in a previous life.
Therefore Bhagavan should play straight with us and tell that to practise atma-vicara implies necessarily persistent effort. Knowing himself is extremely easy only for aces/experts like him. But it is also true: We ourself have to see our true nature - not anybody else.

Noob said...

Do we need to grieve for whatever we experienced/witnessed in our dreams?

Sleepwalker said...

Noob,
turn on the smooth talk and grieve are by turns for a change - like rainy and sunny days. Otherwise waking and dreaming seem to be boring.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Work
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 268)

The feeling “I work” is the hindrance. Enquire, “Who works?” Remember, “Who am I?” The work will not bind you. It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce work. Your effort is the bondage. What is bound to happen will happen.
If you are destined to cease working, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it. If you are destined to work you cannot leave it; you will be forced to engage in it. So leave it to the Higher Power. You cannot renounce or hold as you choose.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes, Viveka Vairagya, you have reproduced a very important teaching of Bhagavan. Most of us are working, and a few of us may be thinking of even quitting working - due to own free-will or forced by our circumstances. For all of us Bhagavan's teaching, 'Make no effort either to work or to renounce work' is priceless.

Yes, our destiny will decide whether we work or not work, therefore why should we worry about our future? Why should we be anxious to continue working infinitely? If one work goes may be Bhagavan will give us some other work or engagement and the work may suit us better, and even if we remain without work it will be Bhagavan's will.

Therefore our only 'work' should be to try and remain attentively self-aware, as long or as frequently as possible. Regards.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Relative Knowledge
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 285)

Relative knowledge pertains to the mind and not to the Self. It is therefore illusory and not permanent. Take a scientist for instance. He formulates a theory that the Earth is round and goes on to prove it and establish it on an incontrovertible basis. When he falls asleep the whole idea vanishes; his mind is left a blank; what does it matter if the world remains round or flat when he is asleep? So you see the futility of all such relative knowledge.
One should go beyond such relative knowledge and abide in the Self. Real knowledge is such experience and not apprehension by the mind.

Michael James said...

Negev, regarding the questions you asked Bob about Hitler and his accomplices, please read the answer that I have written about this subject in a recent comment on an earlier article.

Negev said...

Thanks Michael for your comment. Of course we shall not lean too far out of the window.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Self-Enquiry
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 336)

You are now aware of the body. You were not aware of the body in deep sleep. Still you remained in sleep. After waking up you hold the body and say “I cannot realise the Self”. Did you say so in your sleep? Because you were undivided (akhanda) then, you did not say so. Now that you are contracted within the limits of the body you say “I have not realised”. Why do you limit your Self and then feel miserable? Be of your true nature and happy. You did not say ‘I’ in sleep. You say so now. Why? Because you hold to the body. Find out wherefrom this ‘I’ comes. Then the Self is realised.
The body being insentient cannot say ‘I’. The Self being infinite cannot say ‘I’ either. Who then says ‘I’? Find out where from this ‘I’ arises. Then this ‘I’ will disappear and the infinite Self will remain. This ‘I’ is only the knot between the sentient and the insentient. The body is not ‘I’, the Self is not ‘I’. Who, then, is the ‘I’? Wherefrom does it arise?

smrti said...

Viveka Vairagya,
indeed to be now contracted within the limits of the body and mind instead of being undivided (akhanda) is surely a disaster.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Fulfilment of Desires
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 495)

The visitor said: “One must become satiate with the fulfilment of desires before they are renounced.” Sri Bhagavan smiled and cut in: “Fire might as well be put out by pouring spirit over the flames. (All laugh). The more the desires are fulfilled, the deeper grows the samskara. They must become weaker before they cease to assert themselves. That weakness is brought about by restraining oneself and not by losing oneself in desires.
D.: How can they be rendered weaker?
M.: By knowledge. You know that you are not the mind. The desires are in the mind. Such knowledge helps one to control them.
D.: But they are not controlled in our practical lives.
M.: Every time you attempt satisfaction of a desire the knowledge comes that it is better to desist. Repeated reminders of this kind will in due course weaken the desires. What is your true nature? How can you ever forget it? Waking, dream and sleep are mere phases of the mind. They are not of the Self. You are the witness of these states. Your true nature is found in sleep [when you are devoid of body and mind].

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on the Intellect
(from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 618)

Intellect is only an instrument of the Self. It cannot help you to know what is beyond itself. ... The intellect is the instrument wherewith to know unknown things. But you are already known, being the Self which is itself knowledge; so you do not become the object of knowledge. The intellect makes you see things outside, and not that which is its own source. ... The intellect is useful thus far, it helps you to analyse yourself, and no further. It must then be merged into the ego, and the source of the ego must be sought. If that be done the ego disappears. Remain as that source and then the ego does not arise.

Mouna said...

Understanding Bhagavan's words will eventually make us understand his silence, but most importantly, understanding his silence will eventually eradicate the need for his words.

smrti said...

Mouna,
silence is not an object to be understood.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Killing the Mind or Ego
(from Day by Day with Bhagavan, 24-12-45 Evening)

People are afraid that when ego or mind is killed, the result may be a mere blank and not happiness. What really happens is that the thinker, the object of thought and thinking, all merge in the one Source, which is Consciousness and Bliss itself, and thus that state is neither inert nor blank. I don’t understand why people should be afraid of that state in which all thoughts cease to exist and the mind is killed. They are every day experiencing that state in sleep. There is no mind or thought in sleep. Yet when one rises from sleep one says, ‘I slept happily’. Sleep is so dear to everyone that no one, prince or beggar, can do without it. And when one wants to sleep, nothing however high in the range of all the worldly enjoyments can tempt him from much desired sleep. A king wants to go to sleep, let us say. His queen, dear to him above all other things, comes then and disturbs him. But even her, he then brushes aside and prefers to go to sleep. That is an indication of the supreme happiness that is to be had in that state where all thoughts cease. If one is not afraid of going to sleep, I don’t see why one should be afraid of killing the mind or ego by sadhana.

Mouna said...

Smrti,

"Silence is not an object to be understood"

I appreciate your thought but let us give ourselves a little room for poetic license in this life...

Be well,
M

smrti said...

Mouna,
strictly said : poetic license should on no account distort the real facts.

Mouna said...

Smriti,
That's the whole point of poetic license!

But it's ok, I'm dropping the ball here.
Be well,
M

smrti said...

Mouna, be well and set the ball rolling.

Pachaiamman said...

Michael,
Section 1. We must practise atma-vicara for as long as it takes to destroy all our visaya-vasanas
May I give a short description what happens in my poor experience of practising self-investigation in the following passage:
The attentiveness with which one investigates what one is has to be accomplished by the ego. The ego is a bundle of thoughts. So attentiveness is also a thought. The attentive thought ‚who am I‘ is entrusted to try to extinguish/erase other rising thoughts and simultanously or after that to investigate to whom they have occurred. It is clear that it is to me. By further investigation ‚ who am I‘, I do not clearly recognize if the mind subsided or returned to its birthplace, that is myself. Because the same (my) attentiveness has to manage to refuse the spreading/developing of other thoughts ( without giving room[ place/field] to other thoughts) and rather eliminate them, other thoughts are on my mind well waiting for refusal of their completition. Thus I am far away from grabing the opportunity that the thought ‚who am I‘ itself is destroyed in the end (like the fire-stir-stick).
What is wrong in my strategy or where I am on the wrong track ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Qualification for Self-Enquiry
(from Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Self-Enquiry, p. 19)

The means that make one qualified for enquiry are meditation, yoga, etc. One should gain proficiency in these through graded practice, and thus secure a stream of mental modes that is natural and helpful. When the mind that has become ripe in this manner, hears about this enquiry, it will at once realize its true nature which is the Self, and remain in perfect peace, without deviating from that state. To a mind which has not become ripe, immediate realization and peace are hard to gain through hearing about the enquiry. Yet, if one practises the means for mind control for some time, peace of mind can be obtained eventually.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Freedom
(from Day by Day with Bhagavan, 3-1-46 Afternoon)

It is true that the work meant to be done by us will be done by us. But it is open to us to be free from the joys or pains, pleasant or unpleasant consequences of the work, by not identifying ourselves with the body or that which does the work. If you realise your true nature and know that it is not you that does any work, you will be unaffected by the consequences of whatever work the body may be engaged in according to destiny or past karma or divine plan, however you may call it. You are always free and there is no limitation of that freedom.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Ramana Maharshi on Different Paths to Self-Realization
(from Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 5th Revised Edition, 2006, p. 347)

Enquiry is not the only way. If one does spiritual practice (sadhana) with name and form,repetition of holy names (japa), or any of these methods with grim determination and perseverance, one becomes THAT. According to the capacity of each individual, one spiritual practice is said to be better than another and several shades and variations of them have been given. Some people are a long way from Tiruvannamalai, some are very near; some are in Tiruvannamalai, while some get into Bhagavan’s hall itself. For those who come into the hall, it is enough, if they are told as they step in, ‘Here is the Maharshi’, and they realize him immediately. For others they have to be told which route to take, which trains to catch, where to change, which road to turn into. In like manner, the particular path to be taken must be prescribed according to the capacity of the practiser (sadhaka). These spiritual practices are not for knowing one’s own Self, which is all-pervading, but only for getting rid of the objects of desire. When all these are discarded, one remains as one IS. That which is always in existence is the Self — all things are born out of the Self. That will be known only when one realizes one’s own Self.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viveka Vairagya quotes from the book Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 5th Revised Edition, 2006, p.347) on the topic: Ramana Maharshi on Different Paths to Self-Realization.

In the first paragraph of this passage Bhagavan is quoted to have said, 'Enquiry is not the only way. If one does spiritual practice (sadhana) with name and form, repetition of holy names (japa), or any of these methods with grim determination and perseverance, one becomes THAT'. This may give us an impression that one can reach That or God by following any path like japa, puja and so on, and that self-investigation is not the only way.

Now let us read another sentence from almost the end of this passage, 'These spiritual practices are not for knowing one’s own Self, which is all-pervading, but only for getting rid of the objects of desire'. If we compare this sentence with the portion mentioned before, we will find a contradiction in what Bhagavan seems to be indicating, therefore it is clear that the first part where he says that all path leads to That is either an inaccurate recording of his teaching or he has diluted his teaching to suit the listener .

When Bhagavan says, 'These spiritual practices [practices other thyan self-investigation] are not for knowing one’s own Self, which is all-pervading, but only for getting rid of the objects of desire', this can be taken as more accurate representation of his teaching. He teaches us the same thing in
Upadesa Undiyar
also. Regards.

dr.sundaram said...

dear sir
"Yes, everything is predetermined. … As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities.”
—Sri Ramana Maharshi (Day by day with Bhagavan, 4-1-46 Afternoon)"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
referring to the above
in fact the points that is lingering in me since so many years and i stand always confused to understand what precisely is freedom and free wills. example: if i am predetermined that i will not get mukti or will not be self realised in this birth how i stand to be benefitted by my earnest athma vichara process if the predetermined order on me is opposite. there are so many learned projecting so many views on this hard core topic.
would feel much obliged for enlightening me the fate of my individual efforts vis a vis the predetermined factors i am born with, which i dont know like any one.
awaiting to hearing from you
thanks
om namo bhagavathe ramanaya
i am yet to know what is free will and what is that we should or can do having taken birth

what is ideal & practical and suggested way as per sastras for me to do to justify our birth and thus fulfill our obligations to oneself

Sanjay Lohia said...

dr. sundaram, I share my reflections on your comment typed above. This is not a substitute to Michael's reply to your queries.

"Yes, everything is predetermined. … As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities.”
—Sri Ramana Maharshi (Day by day with Bhagavan, 4-1-46 Afternoon)"

This saying of Bhagavan should be read along with his advice to his mother. I write this advice in my words. He advises his mother that the predestined events in our lives cannot be avoided or changed, and that therefore we should not try changing it. The best course is to remain silent. Silence here means that we should remain in atma-chintana.

Therefore whatever is recorded in Day by Day and whatever he advises to his mother are almost similar. What can we infer from these two statements? We can infer that the events in our live are predestined but we have the freedom to try and changes these events. Of course we will not succeed in changing these events. Secondly, the more important freedom which we have is the freedom to attend to ourself alone and attain mukti. Since this practice of self-attentiveness is not a karma> or action as this is the state of just being, this practice is not bound by our destiny. Only our actions are bound by destiny.

You ask, 'what is ideal & practical and suggested way as per sastras for me to do to justify our birth and thus fulfill our obligations to oneself'.

As per Bhagavan's core teachings which for us is much more that a sastra, our real birth is when our ego comes into seeming existence (Ego here means the 'I am the body idea'). And our real death is when our ego is annihilated by the practice of self-attentiveness. As for obligation to ourself, we have only one real obligation and that is to investigate ourself and wake up from this dream of samsara. Regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I was watching your video dated 2015-09-12. Almost at the beginning of this video (after about 10 minutes) you say the following (These may not be your exact words):

If this is a dream, there is only one person experiencing this dream. [you then correct yourself] Let us not say 'one person' but 'one ego'. There is a distinction between the ego and the person we take ourself to be. The ego is that which attaches itself and takes that person to be 'I'. The person which I take to be myself (Michael) I can say is my objective self, whereas ego is my subjective self. The ego is the one who is experiencing all this. So there is only one ego. As real is Michael so are all the other people in the world, therefore we cannot say that only Michael is real and all others are unreal.

What you say here is not exactly clear to me. Ego as we experience it is a seeming mixture of our pure consciousness and our insentient body. Therefore this mixture is the person (Sanjay or Michael) that we take take ourself to be, because without an insentient body how can our ego manifest itself or how can we experience our ego? If we say that our subjective ego is just the formless ego, then this subjective ego is not experienced by us until and unless this this ego attaches itself to an objective ego. Therefore this subjective ego seems to be just like a ghost, a formless entity and without attaching itself to a body it does not even exist seemingly.

What exactly is this subjective ego? How is our subjective ego really different from our objective ego or person? Could you please expand on what had said in your video? Thanking you and pranams.


Sanjay Lohia said...

In my recent comment addressed to dr. sundaram, I had written: As for obligation to ourself, we have only one real obligation and that is to investigate ourself and wake up from this dream of samsara.

I would like to correct this sentence and mention is more clearly. My corrected version is: As for obligation, we have only one real obligation and that is to investigate ourself till we experience ourself as we really are and thereby wake up from this dream of samsara.

Our obligation is not merely to investigate ourself but to investigate ourself till we experience ourself as we really are, which is another way of saying that till our ego is annihilated. Therefore self-investigation is not our goal or aim, but it is the only means to our end, and our end or goal is atma-jnana. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

This is something from an earlier article of Michael:

“[…] in the last two lines of verse 579 of Guru Vachaka Kovai Sri Ramana teaches us clearly and emphatically, ‘உபேயமும் தானே உபாயமும் தானே; அபேதமாக் காண்க அவை’ (upēyamum tāṉē upāyamum tāṉē; abhēdamāk kāṇka avai), which means, ‘the upēya[our true aim or goal] is only self and the upāya [the means or path by which we can attain it] is only self; know them to be non-different’.”

You seem to be saying:

“[…] self-investigation is not our goal or aim, but it is the only means to our end, and our end or goal is atma-jnana”.

There seems to be some contradiction here. Or probably I am missing what you are saying.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, I think there is a nuanced (but not significant) difference between what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 579 of GVK, and what I have written as quoted by you.

Bhagavan says, 'the upēya[our true aim or goal] is only self and the upāya [the means or path by which we can attain it] is only self; know them to be non-different'. Obviously when Bhagavan says that our true aim or goal is only self, he is taking about our final goal of atma-jnana which is an effortless state of just being, and when he says that the means or path by which we can attain this self is only self, Bhagavan is taking about our state of practice of just being which has to be maintained by effort. Obviously there is a difference between holding on to ourself with effort which is upaya, and our ego merging in ourself and we remaining in an effortless state of atma-anubhava which is upeya. Difference is in the clarity of self awareness. When we are practising its clarity is relatively less.

I wrote, '[…] self-investigation is not our goal or aim, but it is the only means to our end, and our end or goal is atma-jnana'. Why do we investigate? We investigate ourself to clearly experience who am I? We will not investigate ourself once we attain our goal, therefore self-investigation is a means in this sense. Though we are trying to attend to the same self as our means, and to reach the same self as our goal, when we are trying to attend to ourself with effort it is a means, and when we manage to attend to ourself alone the same means turns seamlessly as our gaol, which is pure self-knowledge.

Of course what Bhagavan teaches us verse 579 of GVK is a much simpler way of understanding this, but I feel what I was trying to convey may not be wrong. Anybody is free to correct me, including yourself and Michael. Regards.

Rattlesnake said...

Sanjay,
if something is the only means to reach our goal so it is surely in a further sense the aim and goal. Hair-splitting for dispelling one's boredom on the other hand cannot be our goal.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, in continuation to our discussion, I think I was trying to say almost the same thing as what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 579 of GVK. What I said in effect was that if we try and attend or investigate ourself alone, we will ultimately experience ourself as we really are. Therefore basically our path and goal is non-different. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

Your last two comments have made it clear. Self-abidance is the path (with effort) and the goal (effortless).

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thanks Wittgenstein. Regards.

Michael James said...

Pachaiamman, I have replied to your comment in a separate article: Self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails nothing more than just being persistently and tenaciously self-attentive.

Sundaram and Sanjay, I cannot reply to your questions immediately, but will do so later, because for the past two weeks my work has been impeded due to the failure of my PC. After several attempts to repair it, the local technicians have said it is beyond repair, so they have transferred my hard drive to a refurbished PC, but it is now facing compatibility issues, so next week they will have to find a more compatible PC to fix it in. As a result I have been relying on intermittent use of a borrowed PC, and hence I now have a lot of urgent work that I need to catch up on. I therefore apologise to you and others who are waiting for replies from me.

Pachaiamman said...

Michael, many thanks for your reply in the new today article.
I hope you can solve your PC-problems. Do keep calm - do not decide or act overhastily. We all take time to wait patiently for your replies.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, sorry to know about the malfunctioning of your PC. You need not apologise to us, rather we should apologise to you for asking you so many questions, thereby increasing the load of both - yourself and your PC. We are in no hurry to receive your reply, therefore please answer absolutely at your convenience. Thanking you and regards.

Bob - P said...

Sorry to hear you are having P.C problems Michael hope you get it back working properly again.
Bob

Sanjay Lohia said...

Wittgenstein, some time back we were discussing, in the context of Bhagavan's teachings, our true aim or goal and the means or path by which we can attain it, and how they are same. On this topic I found an article by Michael James, titled Demystifying the Term 'Shpurana' Part two. If appears in the ashram publication Mountain Path April June 2016 issue. I quote below a portion from this article:

When we practise atma-vichara (self-investigation) what we are seeking to experience is greater and greater clarity of self-awareness until such clarity becomes absolute, and the only way to experience such clarity is to be keenly and vigilantly self-attentive. Therefore, just as clarity is our goal, so it is also the only means by which we can reach that goal, and hence, since it is just clarity of self-awareness, aham-shurana is both our goal and path to it.

What Michael writes here makes even more clear as to what Bhagavan was trying to teach us in verse 579 of GVK. Greater and greater clarity of self-awareness is our means, and the same clarity when it becomes absolute is our goal. In other words attending to this clarity of self-awareness is both our means and the goal. The only difference in the means and the goal is the effort we need put on the partial clarity of our self-awareness by attending to ourself alone and this is the means, and the effortless state of absolute clarity of self-awareness which is our goal.

I thought that this could be an additional, important reflection on our topic of discussion. Regards.

Wittgenstein said...

Sanjay,

Thanks for your comments. The terms self, self-awareness and clarity of self-awareness are all useful pointers and they are all equivalent. What you have quoted from Michael’s article is related to the pointer ‘clarity of self-awareness’ (aham sphurana), while the verse from GVK is related to ‘self’. There are also pointers from Bhagavan related to aham sphurana, as in Vichara Sangraham.

dr.sundaram said...


may i have the view points of mr michael james fro my below posted here few days ago.thanks
dear sir
"Yes, everything is predetermined. … As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities.”
—Sri Ramana Maharshi (Day by day with Bhagavan, 4-1-46 Afternoon)"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
referring to the above
in fact the points that is lingering in me since so many years and i stand always confused to understand what precisely is freedom and free wills. example: if i am predetermined that i will not get mukti or will not be self realised in this birth how i stand to be benefitted by my earnest athma vichara process if the predetermined order on me is opposite. there are so many learned projecting so many views on this hard core topic.
would feel much obliged for enlightening me the fate of my individual efforts vis a vis the predetermined factors i am born with, which i dont know like any one.
awaiting to hearing from you
thanks
om namo bhagavathe ramanaya
i am yet to know what is free will and what is that we should or can do having taken birth

what is ideal & practical and suggested way as per sastras for me to do to justify our birth and thus fulfill our obligations to oneself

Sivanarul said...

Dr. Sundaram,

With respect to your question on predetermination and the use of Sadhana, such a conundrum only applies if you use predetermination for every other aspect of life (not just for Sadhana alone). For example, can any one of us really apply predetermination to food? Can we say, if it has been predetermined that I eat food, then somehow I will get food and someone by force will open my mouth and feed me? Can we jump off a cliff and say if I am predetermined to live, then someone will save me at the bottom of the cliff.

Since we use our free will (whether real or illusory) to satisfy our basic needs and use the same free will to protect us from dangers, why is free will any more special when it comes to Sadhana? Any earnest sadhana done, never goes to waste, as per sashtras. A Yoga Brashta resumes his yogic practice in a future life.

There is not much use in pondering on predetermination. In the here and now, we have two choices. One is whether we walk further along the path of samsara or we turn within and without towards Ishvara/I-I. Whether these two choices are real or illusory or predetermined or not is not of much use. Let it be whatever it be.

As long as we exercise free will in all other matters of life, we certainly can exercise the same free will towards Sadhana, if we want to. If that Sadhana happens to be a waste of time, it is a better waste of time than samsara (if one is convinced that Samsara is not the answer).

Michael James said...

Sundaram, regarding the passage from Day by Day with Bhagavan (4-1-46 Afternoon: 2002 edition, page 92) that you referred to in your comment, though this passage does seem to convey more or less accurately what he generally replied to such questions, we can never be sure how accurately his words were recorded in such books, and often some of the nuances in what he said may have been missed. Therefore if we want an entirely accurate and reliable account of his teachings on any given subject, we have to depend on his own original writings, and regarding the subject of fate and free will, his teachings are most clearly expressed in the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898.

In the second and third sentences of this note he says, ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu), which means ‘What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]’, from which we can infer that we are not free to change anything that we are destined to experience (that is, we cannot experience anything that we are not destined to experience, nor can we avoid experiencing anything that we are destined to experience), but we are free to want to change it and to try to change it. This is the extent of our freedom as far as karma is concerned.

However, our freedom is restricted only with respect to karma and its fruits, and they are applicable to us only when our mind is turned outwards (that is, when we are attending to or aware of anything other than ourself), because our mind rises and is active only when we are attending to other things. When we attend only to ourself, our mind and its activity subsides, so there is then no karma or restriction imposed on us by it.

This is why Bhagavan used to say that prārabdha (destiny or fate) applies only to the outward-turned mind and not the inward-turned mind, and that it can therefore never restrict our freedom to turn within, as he implied when he said in the passage recorded in Day by Day that you referred to, ‘As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities’. We identify ourself with a body and therefore experience the prārabdha allotted to that body only when we attend to anything other than ourself, so we can avoid identifying ourself with a body and experiencing its prārabdha only by attending to ourself alone.

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sundaram:

Regarding your question, ‘If I am predetermined that I will not get mukti or will not be self realised in this birth how I stand to be benefitted by my earnest athma vichara process if the predetermined order on me is opposite?’, predetermination, destiny or prārabdha has absolutely nothing to do with attaining mukti or true self-knowledge, because prārabdha is the fruit of our past actions (actions that we did by our own free will), and as Bhagavan says in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār, action (karma) cannot give liberation (mukti). We can attain liberation only by turning our mind inwards to be attentively aware of ourself alone, and by doing so we automatically give up all action.

That is, self-attentiveness is not an action (karma) or mental activity but is simply an actionless state of just being (summā iruppadu), because it is a focusing of our awareness on ourself alone, and being aware of ourself alone is our real nature. This is why Bhagavan said in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār, ‘தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம், தான் இரண்டு அற்றதால்’ (tāṉāy iruttalē taṉṉai aṟidal ām, tāṉ iraṇḍu aṯṟadāl), which means ‘Being oneself alone is knowing oneself, because oneself is not two’.

Therefore the answer to your final question is that the ideal and practical way suggested by Bhagavan to free yourself from all forms of karma is only to try to be self-attentive as much as possible, because self-attentiveness alone will dissolve the primal illusion that we are this ego, the doer of actions and the experiencer of their fruits, as he implies in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:

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 mukti [liberation], which is eternal.

Kurnda mati said...

Michael,
could I request some clarification ?
you say in your recent reply to Dr. Sundaram:
"...because self-attentiveness alone will dissolve the primal illusion that we are this ego, the doer of actions and the experiencer of their fruits, as he implies in verse 38 ...".
I understand clearly that we are not this ego.
1.)But does that statement mean that this ego is also the doer of actions and the experiencer of their fruits ?
2.)Who is really the doer of action ?
The following remarks seem to me/be in some way cryptic:
"However when we know ourself by investigation who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three karmas will slip off...."
3.)Again: Who is the doer of action ?
4.)Asking in other words: Which knowledge exactly about which doer of action will let doership depart and all the three karmas slipp off ?

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding your questions about the distinction between our ego and whatever person we currently experience as if it were ourself, though we as this ego always experience ourself as a person, we do not always experience ourself as the same person. Now we experience ourself as a person called ‘Sanjay’ or ‘Michael’, but before the birth of this person we would have experienced ourself as some other person, and if our ego is not destroyed by true self-knowledge, after the death of this person we will experience ourself as yet another person.

If the person we currently experience as ourself were identical with our ego, the death of this person would be the death of our ego, and hence all our problems would be over. However, they will not be over, because this ego can project any number persons one after another to experience as itself. As Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்’ (uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum), which means ‘leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form’. Whatever person we currently experience as ourself is a form, so prior to this form our ego has grasped and left so many other forms, and it will continue to do so until it is destroyed by our experiencing ourself as we actually are.

You are almost correct when you say, ‘Ego as we experience it is a seeming mixture of our pure consciousness and our insentient body. Therefore this mixture is the person (Sanjay or Michael) that we take ourself to be’, but what you seem to infer from this is that ‘ego’ and ‘person’ are therefore synonymous terms, which is not correct, because the ego is a tricky fellow who poses as one person at one time and another person at another time. A person is a seeming mixture of pure self-awareness and a particular body, whereas the ego is a seeming mixture of pure self-awareness and any body, not just a particular one.

According to your transcript of the extract from the video you refer to, I said, ‘The person which I take to be myself (Michael) I can say is my objective self, whereas ego is my subjective self’, but you ask, ‘What exactly is this subjective ego? How is our subjective ego really different from our objective ego or person?’ There is no such thing as an objective ego, because our ego is just our subjective experience of ourself as a body or person, so in this sense our ego is always subjective and can never be experienced as an object. When I said that the person I take myself to be is my objective self, what I meant by ‘my objective self’ is myself as I appear to be in the view of others (or as I would appear to be if there were others in whose view this person seemed to exist), but I drew this distinction between my ‘objective self’ and my ‘subjective self’ only to help explain the distinction between the person and the ego who experiences that person as itself.

Other people see me as a person called Michael, who is someone with certain outwardly visible physical and mental characteristics, but they can never see or experience my ego. If I behave in an egotistical manner, they can say that they see my egotism, but though my egotism is an effect of my ego, it is not my ego itself but only its outward symptom or manifestation. My experience of my ego is entirely private or subjective in the sense that only I can experience it, whereas the person I experience as myself is public or objective in the sense that he can be seen by anyone.

dr.sundaram said...

thank you very much, MR MICHAEL JAMES, for your elaborate clarifications. To help me further may i request you to explain self attentiveness about as how to practice self-attentiveness in all our duties/responsibilities ,so on and so forth of day today activities before sleep and during waking states. as one practices self attentiveness, will not the work on hand being done or any thing being done may be pranayamam /meditation /prayers get their due enough attention for doing the same appropriately with out the work job being compromised. i sincerely trust i have placed my question sufficiently clear. in nutshell how to practice self attentiveness at the same day not to falter doing worldly daily day to day live events... await to hearing from you sir ..namasthe and thanks

dr.sundaram said...

dear MR MICHAEL JAMES....i was reading again your kind replies but please explain in continuity your point [ 1st portion ,dated 17th april 2016 second para last but one line...." but we are free to want to change it and to try to change it"..
some how what you try tell me in this does not get into me
thanks and namasthe

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you very much for your clarification on the topic - that is, on the distinction between our ego, this person called 'Sanjay' or 'Michael' and our 'objective ego'. As you write, 'A person is a seeming mixture of pure self-awareness and a particular body, whereas the ego is a seeming mixture of pure self-awareness and any body, not just a particular one'. This is an important clarification, and I believe I was confused here.

If I have understood clearly, in the beginning of this birth - that is starting of a new dream - my ego creates or imagined this person called 'Sanjay', and this 'Sanjay' is my ego's form for this birth. This ego or 'Sanjay' in my case creates or projects and experiences this entire dream world. This 'Sanjay' not only creates the seen world but also projects and experiences the body of 'Sanjay' as itself. Therefore 'Sanjay' is not only the creator of this universe, but is also a created being within this universe. I think when you spoke about the 'objective ego', you were talking about the 'visible physical and mental characteristics' of the created being 'Sanjay'. I hope you will agree with this, if not please correct me.

As you had written, this ego is an 'enigma', a thing that does not exist but takes on so many disguises and mysteriously projects this seemingly vast and unfathomable universe. If we look at it sufficiently keenly and precisely, it will vanish like a non-existent snake superimposed on a rope. Until then this enigma called our ego will always play its tricks and keep us bound.

Thanking you and pranams

Bob - P - said...

[If the person we currently experience as ourself were identical with our ego, the death of this person would be the death of our ego, and hence all our problems would be over. However, they will not be over, because this ego can project any number persons one after another to experience as itself.]

Micheal this was very helpful in reinforcing my understanding that Bob is just a mask so to speak as any other personality the ego projects. Bob as a personality continues to change, Bob as a 2 year old is not as complex as Bob now as a middle aged man. Before I knew lanuguage my internal chatter would not be in english. Everythig is learned and my personality has grown from Birth. But the one changeless thing is the observer the 1st person, I / we must investigate this 1st person as earnestly as we can and we will discover it is nothing but ourself as we really are. Then we can rest in eternal happiness, peace and joy with no more rebirths of any more persons, no more dreams.

In appreciation
Bob

In appreciation
Bob

vritti-jnana said...

Bob-P,
are you sure that the 'one changeless thing ' is the observer of the '1st person' ?
I for myself do not want such 'eternal happiness, peace and joy with no more rebirths of any more persons, no more dreams'. I think the mentioned 'observer' is just an other name for the ego/mind.
Do you want really start dreaming just another dream of self-deception or delusion ?

Bob - P said...

Hi vritti-jnana

Sorry if my comment was misleading, I am sure this one is also incorrect in some way, I find it hard to write about it.

It is my understanding that.

Nothing observes the 1st person / ego / it is the observer of duality and all 2nd & 3rd persons during waking and dream. But this egoic consciousness is not what it seems. If I investigate it I will realise it was nothing but myself as I really am and when I manage to do that or turn completely 180 degrees and attend to myself alone there will be no more dreams no more waking, no more re births (from the egoic perspective)Just eternal sleep and happiness. I will be the non dual self aware being, which is all there is.

In appreciation
Bob

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, in my last comment addressed to you I wrote, 'I think when you spoke about the 'objective ego', you were talking about the 'visible physical and mental characteristics' of the created being 'Sanjay'. I hope you will agree with this, if not please correct me'.

I would like to change this to, 'I think when you spoke about the 'objective self', you were talking about the 'visible physical and mental characteristics' of the created being 'Sanjay'. I hope you will agree with this, if not please correct me'.

I have changed 'objective ego' with 'objective self', since you had clarified in your recent comment addressed to me that there is no such thing as an 'objective ego'. Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding the comment in which you say, ‘This ego or ‘Sanjay’ in my case creates or projects and experiences this entire dream world’, you are again confusing your ego with the person called ‘Sanjay’. Though your ego currently experiences itself as this person called ‘Sanjay’, what has created or projected this entire dream world including this person called ‘Sanjay’ is only your ego and not this person called ‘Sanjay’.

In your present dream, Sanjay is as much a projection as any other person, so it cannot be Sanjay who has projected all this. The creator of a dream is not any person in that dream, not even the person the dreamer experiences as itself, but is only the dreamer, who is our ego.

When Bhagavan advises us that we should vigilantly investigate or observe our ego, the one who experiences this entire dream, he does not mean that we should observe the person who seems to be ourself in this dream, but only that we should observe the one who is aware of that person as if that person were itself. The person we experience as ourself is dṛśya, an object experienced by us (this ego), whereas we are dṛś, the experiencer of this and all other objects, so we need to distinguish ourself (this experiencing ego) from everything else that we experience, including the person that we currently seem to be.

When by keen self-investigation we are able to isolate and be aware of ourself alone, we will cease to be the experiencer of any other thing, so we will no longer seem to be even this experiencing ego, but will be just the pure self-awareness that we actually are. This is how our illusory ego is completely dissolved by keen self-investigation (self-observation, self-attentiveness or whatever else we may call it).

In terms of the discussion about the term ‘witness’ that we have been having on another thread (starting from this comment), we need to give up witnessing anything else and witness only ourself, the witnessing ego, because when we manage to witness only the witness (that is, to be aware only of ourself), we will cease to be this witness (our ego) and will remain only as pure self-awareness, which is the metaphorical ‘witness’ in whose presence alone our ego and all its dreams seemed to appear and disappear like a phantom seen fleetingly in the shadows of darkness (but a phantom that was seen or witnessed only by itself and not by the presence in which it seemed to appear).

Mouna said...

Michael, greetings

You wrote: "The creator of a dream is not any person in that dream, not even the person the dreamer experiences as itself, but is only the dreamer, who is our ego."

If I understand correctly, this notion (and subsequent paragraphs) explains, clarifies and is tied up with the difficult to understand notion of "only one jiva or ego" (eka jiva vada).
If in my case, I think that "Mouna" is projecting all of this we would have the problem of solipsism, but the fact that Mouna is also part of the projection "de-personifies" (for lack of a better word) ego and we are a step closer to understand what the famous "knot" is tying and what the nature of the snake is, while the nature of the rope could never be understood because we are it and can only be reached with the collapse of the "only one ego."

That is also why deep sleep is the most clear indication for the person "Mouna" of what a state without Mouna is.

Michael James said...

Kurnda Mati, regarding your questions about what we should understand and infer from what Bhagavan says in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I had cited in an earlier comment), all actions (karmas) are done by one or other of three instruments, mind, speech and body, and since our ego is what experiences these instruments as itself, as this ego we experience whatever actions are done by any of these instruments as action done by ourself. Therefore in this sense our ego is the doer of all actions, and since it is what experiences everything other than itself, it is also the sole experiencer of the fruits of its own actions.

Bhagavan begins verse 38 by saying, ‘வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம்’ (viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm), which means ‘If we are the doer of actions, we will experience the resulting fruit’. What he means by ‘if we are the doer of actions’ is that if we experience ourself as this ego, which always experiences itself as a body and mind, we will thereby experience ourself as the doer of whatever actions are done by that body and mind and their speech, and hence we will have to experience the fruit or moral consequences of those actions.

In the next sentence of this verse he says, ‘வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி தனை அறிய, கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும்’ (viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi taṉai aṟiya, karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum), which means ‘When we know ourself by investigating who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three karmas will slip off’. What he means by ‘வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி’ (viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi), ‘investigating who is the doer of action’, is investigating our ego, which seems to do all the actions of mind, speech and body. Since this ego is just an illusory phantom, a false apparition, it seems to exist only so long as we do not look at it carefully, so if we carefully investigate it, it will disappear, and along with it its sense of doership (its feeling ‘I am doing these actions’) and its sense of experiencership (its feeling ‘I am experiencing this or that’) will vanish, and hence all its three karmas (prārabdha, saṁcita and āgāmya) will also cease to exist.

Regarding your final question, ‘Which knowledge exactly about which doer of action will let doership depart and all the three karmas slip off?’, as I have already explained, in this context the ‘வினைமுதல்’ (viṉaimudal) or ‘doer of action’ means only our ego, and since our ego is just a false knowledge of ourself (that is, an illusory awareness of ourself as something other than what we actually are), it can be destroyed only by correct knowledge of ourself (that is, awareness of ourself as we actually are), as Bhagavan implies when he says ‘தனை அறிய’ (taṉai aṟiya), which means ‘when we know ourself’.

What we actually are is only pure, infinite and indivisible self-awareness, so when we know ourself as we actually are, we will clearly know that we are not this finite ego, and hence true self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) entails knowing the non-existence of the ego. Therefore the knowledge that will destroy our ego, who is the doer of all actions, and thereby free us from our false sense of doership and all its consequent karmas, can be described either as knowledge of ourself as we really are or as knowledge of the non-existence of this ego, because these are just two alternative ways of describing exactly the same knowledge, which is just pure self-awareness, the only true knowledge that exists.

Michael James said...

Mouna, yes, as you imply in your latest comment, ēka-jīva-vāda (the contention that there is only one jīva) is intelligible only if we understand the ‘one jīva’ to be our own ego and not if we understand it to mean just one person. Contending that there is only one person would be patently false, because we experience ourself living in a world populated by seven billion people in human form and numerous other people in non-human forms (dogs, cats, cows, elephants, tigers, rats and so on), so the ‘one jīva’ referred to in ēka-jīva-vāda or solipsism can only mean one ego (or mind), that is, one dreamer, experiencer or witness of this dream.

In a dream we see many people, of whom we seem to be one, but though each of those people seem to be experiencing the world in our dream just as we are, when we wake up we recognise that it was just a dream and that we were therefore the only one who experienced it. Though we realise this in retrospect, we do not say that there were no other people in our dream, but only that none of the other people we saw in it were actually experiencers or witnesses of it.

While we are dreaming, each other person in our dream seems to have an ego or mind just like our own, so if for example we find ourself naked in the midst of a crowd, we feel embarrassed when other people look at us. However if we wake up our embarrassment vanishes, because we realise that none of those other people actually had an ego or mind, so no one actually saw us naked. The egos and minds we saw in other people were just a reflection of our own ego and mind.

According to Bhagavan our present state is just a dream, as also is any other state in which we are aware of phenomena (anything other than our fundamental self-awareness), so though we see many other people in this dream, and though each of these people seem to us to have an ego or mind just like our own, we are actually the only ego — the only experiencer or witness of this dream. However, if we investigate this sole ego by trying to be aware of ourself alone, it will eventually disappear, being just an illusory phantom — something that does not actually exist even though it seems to exist — and when it does finally disappear, all its dreaming will also cease, and what will then remain is only pure self-awareness, which alone is what we actually are.

Incidentally, though you are correct in saying, ‘deep sleep is the most clear indication for the person “Mouna” of what a state without Mouna is’, the state without Mouna (the person) is the only state in which you experience what real mauna (silence) actually is.

Kurnda mati said...

Michael,
many thanks for clarification my doubts regarding doership, experiencership and the three karmas of the ego.
I enjoy the good statement that (our) pure self-awareness is the only existing (one) true knowledge.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for your clarification in which you make it clear that my ego and the person I take to be myself are two completely different things. It is my ego which projects and experiences its dream projections, and this person called 'Sanjay' is as much a creation of my ego as anything else is, though this ego is currently experiencing itself as 'Sanjay'.

I will try and explain why I am confused between the terms 'my ego' and 'the person called Sanjay'. If we just describe our ego as an illusory phantom that has no form, it is not much of a problem conceptualising it. However when we describe our ego as chit-jada-granthi, my confusion starts. How? It is because I take this jada element in this chit-jada-granthi to be my current body, and it is here that I start relating or equating 'my ego' with the person 'Sanjay'.

Now let me share my current understanding on this topic. What I currently experience as my ego (or the ego) is just an illusory entanglement of pure consciousness and a form - this body. This is an illusory entanglement of pure consciousness, with just the form of this body without bringing in the physical and mental characteristics of this body and mind into the picture. Currently this body or mind that forms a part of my ego does not include the upadhis, or adjuncts and attributes of this body and mind like their weight, height, complexion, social status, memory, intellect, worldly knowledge and so on.

In short this seeming mixture of only pure consciousness, with my body's physical form (without its attributes) is my ego, because this ego at any given time can hold only one form and presently it is holding the form of my body. This subjective but illusory experience of pure consciousness, which seems to be holding on to my present body (without its attributes) is my ego. On my death this ego will detach itself from this body and catch hold of some other body for its survival.

This subjective ego projects and experiences an objective self or person, and experiences it as itself, and this objective self is a person with a body and a mind, and all of the attributes of the person (say 'Sanjay' or 'Michael').

I am sure my understanding is still far from perfect, therefore please correct me.

Thanking you and pranams.

Mouna said...

Thanks Michael for further clarifying.
M

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I did not think deeply when I wrote my last comment on the topic of the ego, the person and so on. I would like to rectify my comment. I have written below, how I understand the subject now.

Ego is just a formless ghost, an illusory entity, which has no form of its own. When it gives up its hold on one body at one body's death, it grasps another body at a new body's birth. It mysteriously carries forward all its vishya-vasanas, karma-vasanas and sat-vasanas, and also its sanchita-karmas to its new body, and these start operating there.

This ego is formless ghost, and Bhagavan has explained us that it can only rise or come into seeming existence by grasping form, and it sustains itself again by continuously grasping one form after another. It comes into existence by grasping the form of a body (at body's birth), and very soon it starts grasping not only this person's body, but also tries to oscillate between various other forms by projecting and grasping a mind and other upadhis of this body and mind - like body's weight, height, complexion and so on, and mind's memory, intellect, will and so on.

Therefore it is this body and mind and all its adjuncts that as a whole can be described as this person 'Sanjay'. Therefore the ego projects and simultaneously grasps this person called 'Sanjay', and it is in this way that it comes into seeming existence. This ego not only projects and grasps this person called 'Sanjay', but it also experiences itself as 'Sanjay'.

I hope I am more correct this time then I was in my previous comment on this topic. Thanking you and regards.

Sanjay Lohia said...

You had written in a comment dated 17th April 2016 at 20:36 addressed to me:

There is no such thing as an objective ego, because our ego is just our subjective experience of ourself as a body or person, so in this sense our ego is always subjective and can never be experienced as an object. [...] Other people see me as a person called Michael, who is someone with certain outwardly visible physical and mental characteristics, but they can never see or experience my ego. [...] My experience of my ego is entirely private or subjective in the sense that only I can experience it, whereas the person I experience as myself is public or objective in the sense that he can be seen by anyone.

You write here, 'our ego is just our subjective experience of ourself as a body or person, so in this sense our ego is always subjective and can never be experienced as an object'. What exactly does this 'subjective experience of ourself as a body or person' mean? Generally we consider any body and person as 'objective', but you write here that as far as our ego is concerned this body and mind is a subjective experience, and that other people can never see or experience our ego, or this body and person. In the beginning I was slightly confused thinking that how can our ego consist of a body and mind, and still be subjective? I share my reflections on this below.

I think the ego that you are trying to describe here is when we just experience ourself as a presence located in a body. When I say, 'I am going'; 'I am hungry'; 'I am sad'; 'Give it to me'; 'This is my book' and so on, the 'I'; 'me' and 'my' refer to my ego in its most basic manifested form, and this 'I'; 'me' and 'my' is our ego and it is just our subjective experience of ourself as a body or person.

Therefore though our body and mind are objective, because others and ourself can see and experience these as objects, as something other than ourself, in another sense the same body and mind (the person) become subjective when we speak about our mere presence, which we indicate to others by speaking, 'I'; 'me'; 'my' and so on.

I do not know how correct I am. If I am wrong please correct whatever I have written here. Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Kurnda Mati, what you describe as ‘the good statement that (our) pure self-awareness is the only existing (one) true knowledge’ (referring to the final sentence of my previous reply to you, in which I wrote that pure self-awareness is ‘the only true knowledge that exists’) was just a restatement of what Bhagavan clearly implies in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār:

வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

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

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

English translation: Leaving aside external phenomena (viṣayas), the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real knowledge [or knowledge of reality].

The subject of this sentence is ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), which means ‘the mind knowing its own form of light’, and what Bhagavan describes as ‘தன் ஒளி உரு’ (taṉ oḷi-uru), ‘its own form of light’, is just pure awareness, which is what the mind essentially is and what illumines all that it knows, so ‘knowing its own form of light’ means being aware of itself as the pure awareness that it actually is. Since we seem to be this mind only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, when we are aware of ourself alone we cease to be this mind, so ‘the mind knowing its own form of light’ implies the state in which we are aware of ourself as we actually are and have thereby ceased to be a ‘mind’ at all. In other words, ‘the mind knowing its own form of light’ is our natural state of pure self-awareness — the state in we are aware of nothing other than ourself — and as Bhagavan says here, this alone is ‘உண்மை உணர்ச்சி’ (uṇmai uṇarcci), ‘real knowledge’ or ‘knowledge of reality’.

The first clause of this verse, ‘வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு’ (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu), means ‘leaving [or leaving aside] external phenomena (viṣayas)’, which implies ceasing to attend to or be aware of anything other than ourself. This is an adverbial clause, because it is just giving us supplementary information about the state of pure self-awareness, which he describes as ‘the mind knowing its own form of light’. That is, in order to be aware of our ‘own form of light’, which is what we actually are, we must cease being aware of ourself as this ego or mind, and since we rise as this ego only by ‘grasping form’, which means being aware of phenomena (anything other than ourself), we must give up being aware of any phenomena in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are.

Thus in this verse Bhagavan gives us a very neat, comprehensive and coherent definition of what true knowledge actually is, implying that it is nothing other than just being aware of ourself alone.

Kurnda mati said...

Thank you Michael,
I enjoy now just being aware of myself alone.
Ceasing being aware of myself as this ego or mind and giving up being aware of any phenomena in the present moment demands full surrender of my ego. Can you hear my ego's awful and terrible moaning and groaning ?

Michael James said...

Sundaram, regarding the first of your latest two comments, what is it that induces us to attend to anything? It is only our interest in or concern for that thing. For example, if we were interested in a particular football match that is being played now, we would be thinking about it even if we were not able to watch it, whereas if we were not at all interested in it, we would not pay attention to it even if we were in the stadium in the midst of a crowd of enthusiastic spectators. Likewise, if we are enthusiastically interested in experiencing ourself as we actually are, we will attend to ourself as much as possible even while engaged in various activities or outward duties and responsibilities, whereas if we are not sufficiently interested in experiencing what we actually are, we will find one pretext or another to avoid attending to ourself.

If a very dear friend of yours had had an accident and was critically ill in hospital, would you not be thinking about him even when you are engaged in other work? Even if you were to try to concentrate on your work, the thought of your friend would frequently come to you, so only half your mind would be on your work and the rest would be thinking about your friend.

If you were as concerned about experiencing what you actually are as you would be concerned about your friend’s welfare, you would likewise be attending to yourself even while you are engaged in other work. Just as the thought of your friend would frequently come to your mind no matter what else you needed to be doing, the remembrance of yourself (your fundamental self-awareness) would frequently come to your mind no matter what else you may need to be doing.

As Bhagavan said in the first sentence of the note he wrote for his mother in December 1898, ‘அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன்’ (avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ), which literally means ‘According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to act [or dance]’ and which implies ‘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’, so you need not worry about whether or not you will be able to do all your duties or fulfil all your responsibilities if you preoccupy yourself with being self-attentive, because you will be made to do whatever you are destined to do. Therefore our only concern should be with trying to be self-attentive as much as possible.

Most of the actions that we need to do each day actually require relatively little attention. For example, if you drive your car to work every day, you will be so familiar with the route that you will hardly notice that you are driving, and for most of the journey your mind will be preoccupied with thinking of other matters or talking with a friend who is travelling with you. Therefore instead of thinking other unnecessary thoughts while doing our normal activities, as we usually do, we could be making better use of our time by trying to be self-attentive. Most of the thoughts we think each day are not actually necessary, so if we could replace each unnecessary thought with being self-attentive, we would spend most of our time each day being self-attentive.

Michael James said...

Sundaram, regarding the second of your latest two comments, in which you ask about the statement in my earlier reply to you that ‘we are not free to change anything that we are destined to experience ([...]), but we are free to want to change it and to try to change it’, do you not see that this is what we have to infer from Bhagavan’s statement in his note to his mother, ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu), which means ‘What is never to happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what is to happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]’?

That is, if we could not want and try to experience something that is not destined to happen, there would have been no reason for Bhagavan to say ‘என் முயற்சிக்கினும்’ (eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum), ‘whatever effort one makes’, and likewise, if we could not want and try to avoid experiencing something that is destined to happen, there would have been no reason for him to say ‘என்றடை செய்யினும்’ (eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum), ‘whatever obstruction one does’. In other words, if we were not free to want to change or to try to change anything, it would have been sufficient for him just to say, ‘என்றும் நடவாதது நடவாது; நடப்பது நில்லாது’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu naḍavādu; naḍappadu nillādu), ‘What is never to happen will not happen; what is to happen will not stop’. It would also have been unnecessary for him to conclude his note by saying, ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), which means ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’. In fact if we had no freedom to want or to try to do anything, all that he taught us would be unnecessary, because we would not be free to follow his advice or instructions, or even to want to do so.

All spiritual teachings and practices, whether elaborate rituals, yōgas or meditations, or simple self-attentiveness and self-surrender, and also every moral principle as well as the entire karma theory in all its various forms are predicated on the premise that we are free at least to a limited extent to want and to try, and they would all be completely unnecessary and would serve no purpose at all if we were not free to choose what we want and what we try either to do or to avoid doing. Therefore unless we want to be completely nihilistic, we must accept that we have at least some freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra).

Sanjay Lohia said...

I was reflecting on the above two comments by Michael addressed to Sundaram. Michael explains here, why his statement ‘we are not free to change anything that we are destined to experience ([...]), but we are free to want to change it and to try to change it’ makes perfect sense as this has to be the inference from Bhagavan’s statement in his note to his mother. As he also writes, 'we must accept that we have at least some freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra). It is this freedom to will and act that creates our agamya-karmas.

I was reflecting on the different types of freedom which we have to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra). I think we can divide our freedom to will and act into four different types of actions. Out of these four, three types of actions creates agamya, and one type does not create any agmaya but still is a freedom to will and act, or to be more accurate it is a freedom to will but not act. Let me try to expand on this.

1. First type of freedom we have, as Michael writes, is that ‘we are not free to change anything that we are destined to experience ([...]), but we are free to want to change it and to try to change it’. This type of action of wanting to change and trying to change our destined experiences creates agamya.

2. Second type of freedom we have is that we are free to want to achieve and try to achieve any object or goal which our destiny has anyhow already decided for us. Suppose if we are destined to become a rich businessman, our destiny will somehow ensure that we become one even if we do not desire this goal. Circumstances will somehow push us into this achieving this gaol. However our free-will may also make us want this same goal and may make us work towards becoming a rich businessman. So our desires here will not be opposing our destiny, but still the use of our free-will in trying to attain our goal will create agamya. Michael had written to me on these lines about three years back.

(I will continue this in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

(Continued from my last comment)

3. Third type of freedom we have is our original freedom to will and act, and this is inherent in our chit-skati. Our pure self-awareness has no vasanas or prarabdha, but our original round of actions has supposedly started without these vasanas or prarabdha prompting us to act. Therefore our all powerful chit-shakti has this seeming power to will and action, and it is these actions which lead us to more and more actions. However in this process our original freedom of our chit-shakti is not lost. The actions originating from this freedom also creates agamya.

4. Fourth and the last is our freedom to will and act by trying to remain in vigilant self-attentiveness. Though this self-attentiveness is not an action, but this practice requires will and effort. Only this type of freedom, if used properly and with love, is beneficial, and will not create any harmful vasanas or karmas.

Any correction or expansion of my ideas by anyone will be appreciated. Our whole aim here should be to refine our understanding Regards.

dr.sundaram said...

sir, how to do "vigilant self-attentiveness" in all our daily walks of life. Self attend to what?among other parallel responsibilities and focus needed thereof in day to day activities and also another query is if this is not an action what is this. is not practice also an doing an action? this is what i had requested mr MICHEL JAMES to help me clarify and understand but i am yet to receive updates from you on this..any way i still look for guidance on this stated above from any other learned.............. thanks

Bob - P said...

Michael your last two comments above were very helpful, thank you.
Thank you too Sanjay for your reflections on them.

I use to think everything was pre ordained and I had no choice as any decision I made were I had a so called choice was not actually the case as the choice I decided to make was pre ordained. However Bhagavan's note to his Mother and Michael's recent comment make me realise I do have a choice but what is meant to happen and not happen in my life will happen and not hapen regardless of what I do. But I do have the "choice" to try to attain or avoid positive or negative experiences.

The best use of my free will is to practise attending to myslef which is what I am going to do now.

Thank you Michael.
In appreciation
Bob

waving cornfield said...

Dr.Sundaram,
the main thing of practising self-attentiveness is to be vigilant self-attentive which means to try looking carefully and permanently at the=your ego in all your activities and 'daily walks of life'.
Do not care about if that is called an action or not. That is of minor or secondary importance.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Please refer to my point number 3. in my recent comment typed in two parts (Date 21 April 10:11 and 10:45). I wrote there:

Third type of freedom we have is our original freedom to will and act, and this is inherent in our chit-skati. [...]

Out of the four types of freedom I mentioned in these comments, I am most unsure about what I wrote here, but I believe I was just trying to look at our original freedom to will and act logically because if we do not have this freedom, how can we originate our actions before it enters the cesspool of more actions, more vasanas, prarabdha, further actions and so on? Also I was alluding here to what Sri Sadhu Om has written in his book The Path of Sri Ramana - Part Two, under the chapter Karma - page 144. He writes here:

As we have such Will-Power it is correct to say that we have perfect freedom. This Will-Power is our own Power and It is We. We and our Power are one the same.

He who has such freedom can by His all-powerful Power either remain in His unchanging state of Self or He can bring about an imaginary change, limiting the oneness of His unlimited nature as if He had forgotten the Self.

I am not sure whether what I wrote in my point number three in my previous set of comments and what Sri Sadhu Om is trying to explain here is same, but this much is sure that the type of freedom which Sri Sadhu Om is trying to explain here can be successfully acted upon, whereas as per Bhagavan we are not free to change anything that we are destined to experience. Therefore it would be nice if Michael comments on this topic and clarifies, what exactly is Sri Sadhu Om trying to explain to us here and how can we reconcile this explanation with Bhagavan's teaching on destiny - that is, we not free to change our predestined experiences by any means. Regards.

ankle-deep pramada said...

Sanjay,
is not the will included the will-power a function of the ego ?
So why should we and our will-power be one and the same ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

ankle-deep pramada, yes, superficially 'will' or 'will power' is a function of our ego, but from where does this power originate? Our ego is a fictitious, non-existent and illusory entity, therefore nothing really belongs to it. The reality of our ego is only pure self-awareness, therefore the 'will power' or all other powers must only reside in our true self. This is why our true self is called chit-shakti or awareness-power. Therefore this power in inherent in ourself as we really are.

We can use our power to remain as we really are, or we can use this power to bring about an imaginary change by distorting the oneness of our true nature, by projecting multiplicity. This imaginary change which we bring about makes us forget our true non-dual nature, thereby making us bound to maya,which is another name for our mind. This is what I think Sri Sadhu Om is trying to teach us. Regards.






Sivanarul said...

dr sundaram,

“how to do "vigilant self-attentiveness" in all our daily walks of life. Self attend to what?among other parallel responsibilities and focus needed thereof in day to day activities”

It is by attending to the person who is doing those activities. Michael has written extensively about it in various articles. For example, if you are working in an office in a very demanding job, it will certainly require 100% attention and focus. But the job itself will involve several tasks in a day. There will be some brief intervals between those tasks. It is in those intervals; you turn the focus on yourself and try to hold on to that focus to the best of your abilities. It may be just for a few seconds or for a minute or so. Then go back to the next task.
If attending to you is found to be difficult, then alternatively, one can attend or focus on the breath or OM or any other thing that one finds easy to attend to (this is not encouraged in this blog, but be rest assured that Bhagavan fully supported and encouraged it for people who have a natural affinity to it).

“and also another query is if this is not an action what is this. is not practice also an doing an action? this is what i had requested”

Again there are several articles written by Michael explaining why this is not an action. More importantly, it is worthwhile examining what if it is an action? Aren’t we doing an action when we eat, discuss in this blog, exercise and so on and so forth? Can we really exist without doing any action? So let’s say that all sadhana (including self-attentiveness) is an action that produces agamiya. Why is this problem? Isn’t Bhagavan on record saying that the self-attentiveness aka agamiya that he did in previous lives was the reason why in this life, his vichara was over in a matter of seconds. So you can be rest assured that the self-attentiveness or any other sadhana that you do will bear fruit in due course. There is nothing to gain in analyzing whether it is an action or not.

VM said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you for all your work. I have a question on the understanding of some of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.
Some teachers in line with Ramana Maharshi (as Francis Lucille, student of Jean Klein) explain that the investigation should be to see if I have any proof that awareness (defined as that which is hearing these words right now) is limited and personal. To investigate this at the level of the mind and of the body and realise that I have no proof that awareness is limited and personal. This brings us to be open to the possibility that awareness is in fact unlimited and universal. The ultimate proof of this is to live our life from the point of view of not knowing and to be open to the possibility that awareness is unlimited and universal and to realise experiments. To live life as if awareness was unlimited and universal and to see how life responds to this. Increased serendipity and happiness in all areas of life are to be the “proof in the pudding” which confirms that everything is consciousness.
This teaching seems to differ from some conclusions in your blog based on Ramana Maharshi’s teachings. Ultimately, one is to be self attentive to the exclusion of anything else. If one manages this just one instant, this will lead to Manonasa and permanent experience of Self as in deep sleep. Once this happens, the world and the body do not rise anymore, only the Self is experienced. The body may still appear to be doing things but this appears so due to the wrong outlook of those looking at the Jnani.
My experience: I had an awakening experience some years ago. Now, I try just to be. I have the impression that things are made of the same “stuff” that one may call awareness. It is unclear if the ordinary awareness looking through my eyes is the same awareness with which this computer is made. I have the impression that this awareness is unlimited, I am open to the possibility that all bodies may share the same awareness. When I try to be aware of being I try to just be. My eyes don’t focus on anything special, they just gaze at air. The more I just rest in being the more things become subtle. My focus of attention is often distracted towards other things, so I just bring back my attention to being. I do not see how I could do this during work even though I have read that it is possible to do this during moments where I have nothing to do. I don’t see how it is possible to be attentive to awareness to the exclusion of anything else as eyes will always try to rest on something be it air. It is also unclear how everything is thoughts: the world, this computer etc… My theoretical understanding is that they are mentations made up of mind which is made up of awareness. It seems that my only hope is to try to be self attentive to the maximum and hope that one day everything will disappear and only the formless, featureless Self (which is said to be already present) will remain. Meanwhile, pain and pleasure alternate in the world. The other day, I had a strange experience, I was everything and everything was me, it didn’t last. As Ramana says, anything impermanent is not worth striving for.
All in all, there is just being as the background of experience, one can calm the mind to experience this peace, this is common to most teachings. It is the part about manonasa which is hard for me to integrate in my life. Are there any living beings in this world who have experienced manonasa? What about Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om? I’m not quite convinced about the fact that multiple lives may be necessary for this to happen. All I know is that I am and I know this absolutely, all else is open to doubt.
I have been reading your blog for a while now, I haven’t read all articles but I’ve read quite a few such as the one on manonasa.

Mouna said...

Dr. Sundaram, pranams
For what is worth, as a fellow in the quest like you, this is my experience and understanding regarding one of the questions you asked.

If someone were to ask you: "Do you exist now?" Or "Is there existence now?" your immediate response will have to be "yes", don't you agree? For a split second your attention just turned from the external to the internal. You wouldn't have been able to respond "no" because the very fact of responding proves there is existence, "something" or "someone" (in this case you) exists in order to answer the question.
At the same time, the knowledge/awareness of existence (or that I exist) doesn't require any effort since there cannot be sense of existence without awareness/knowledge of it and vice-versa.

So to start answering your question: "Self attend to what?"
This sense of existence/awareness is what is aimed at and the means is turning the attention inwards towards it.
This "turning of the attention" inwards could be done in several ways but the most effective at the beginning (at least for me) is Bhagavan's "to whom this is happening?"... to me.. "Who am I?" or "Who or what is this me"... and of course, there shouldn't be any answer because there will be no personalized "entity" found inside!
Asking these questions consistently at any moment (even while engrossed in activity) will make the mind turn inwards...

The only "effort" seemingly involved will be turning attention, that usually is focused on objects other than oneself, towards that same sense of existence/awareness which is the ground, substratum and essential nature of everything we objectify, being material objects or psychological ones like thoughts/emotions/sensations.

Summarizing, all that is required is to investigate the nature of the one "I" that says "I am walking down the street", "I am angry at you", "I think he is talking nonsense", "I love my children", etc... And when doing so we cannot not arrive to the awareness and existence that underlies our quest because not only that is who and what we are, but because we will not be able to find any personalized entity inside our body or skull that is "I".

Resting/abiding in That is all we need, and when the mind seemingly pops-in again then we start all over: "to whom is this happening?"... etc..
After a while we would not need ask the question anymore, the attention will turn and abidance will ensue.

dr.sundaram said...

many thanks Sivanarul sir
but you have not said still how to be self attentive? what exactly one has to do when you say self attentive? i mean the detail of self attentiveness please
bhagavan says to do athma vichara? self attentiveness is even while in life's activities, ...........right? when I devote some hours exclusively for athma vicharam, the self attentiveness is ever all day along required..right?
please explain if you can along with how?
om namo bhagavathe sri ramanaya

dr.sundaram said...

very well said mr Mouna thank you so much. will reflect on this and should i get any more while doing so ,in depth, hope i can post it for you
om namo bhagavathe sri ramanaya

Sanjay Lohia said...

I had written a series of comments (in three parts) dated 21 April 10:11, 10:45 and 14:04. In the first of these comments I wrote:

As he [Michael] also writes, 'we must accept that we have at least some freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra)'. It is this freedom to will and act that creates our agamya-karmas.

I was reflecting on the different types of freedom which we have to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra). I think we can divide our freedom to will and act into four different types of actions. Out of these four, three types of actions creates agamya, and one type does not create any agmaya but still is a freedom to will and act, or to be more accurate it is a freedom to will but not act. Let me try to expand on this. [...]

I think I did not formulate or conveyed my thoughts very clearly here and at other places on this thread, and also I could have been factually incorrect. On thinking more deeply, I think we have only one type of freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra) and not four types as I had mentioned on this thread, and this power to will and act is inherent in our ego. It is just that our inherent freedom to will and act can be acted upon in different ways, like the four ways I had mentioned in my relevant thread. I hope I am more accurate now.

I had written in the second comment on this thread:

Third type of freedom we have is our original freedom to will and act, and this is inherent in our chit-skati. Our pure self-awareness has no vasanas or prarabdha, but our original round of actions has supposedly started without these vasanas or prarabdha prompting us to act. Therefore our all powerful chit-shakti has this seeming power to will and action, and it is these actions which lead us to more and more actions. However in this process our original freedom of our chit-shakti is not lost. The actions originating from this freedom also creates agamya.

The question can arise as to how did this original freedom to will and act originate? It is like trying to find out as to how and when our ego came into existence? Answer to both questions are, as Michael had written, 'both cause and effect and logic come into existence only when this ego [or actions] arises, so its origination and cessation are the very borders beyond which no logic or ideas about cause and effect can apply'.

However, as Michael says, Bhagavan teaches us that the ego comes into existence by 'grasping form' or being self-negligent, therefore only our self-attentiveness or sada-apramada (eternal non-negligence) - that is, grasping ourself alone instead of any other thing can dissolve the illusion of our seeming existence.
As our ego comes into seeming existence, its freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra) also comes into seeming existence simultaneously, because without acting in one form or another our ego cannot rise or come into existence.

A question may arise: Do we practise self-attentiveness by making use of our freedom to will and act (icchā-kriyā-svatantra? I think we can say that our practice of self-attentiveness is just due to our freedom to will (icchā-svatantra, that is, since there is no action or kriya involved in our this practice, it is an actionless state of just being. Regards.

waving cornfield said...

Dr. Sundaram,
as I already wrote attending vigilantly to yourself is looking/hearing etc. extremely watchful/heedful/meticulous/scrupulous/thorough/precise towards the 'I'-thought. Who am I ? That means on close inspection, closer inspection and closest inspection of your thoughts, particularly when you are abandoning yourself to your thoughts or you are lost in thought. Watch your emotional life: Ascertain by sight !
With the powers of observation keep yourself under keen, sharp, penetrating, incisive, diligent scrutiny.
You must try it by yourself. As nobody can tell you how to breathe, more cannot be said about the method of practising self-attentiveness.

Michael James said...

Sundaram, regarding your question ‘Self attend to what?’, self-attentiveness means just being attentively aware of oneself alone, or at least trying to be so. We are now aware of many things, and among these many things we attend to those that interest or concern us most, so since we are interested in many things other than ourself, we tend to spend most of our waking and dreaming hours attending only to other things instead of to ourself. However in order to investigate what we are and thereby to experience ourself as we actually are, we need to try to attend to ourself alone, so ātma-vicāra is simply the practice of trying to be self-attentive — that is, attentively aware of oneself alone.

To the extent that we manage to be attentively aware of oneself alone, our attention will thereby be withdrawn from other things. However, unless our mind or power of attention is already very pure, clear, subtle, sharp and discerning, we will not at first be able to focus our entire attention only on oneself, so our self-awareness will still be mixed to some extent with awareness of other things, even if those other things are just very subtle thoughts or phenomena.

However this does not matter, because if we persevere in trying as much as possible to be attentively aware of oneself alone, our mind will thereby be progressively purified and clarified, until eventually it will be subtle and sharp enough for us to discern and be aware of ourself alone, whereupon it will merge back into our actual self, which is just pure, infinite and immutable self-awareness, never to rise again.

Until we thereby merge back forever into ourself, the source from which we seem to have risen as this ego or mind, we will continue to be aware of other things in waking and dream, and in each of these states we will be aware of ourself as if we were a particular body. As such we will seem to have duties, cares and responsibilities, which will require at least some of our attention. However, even in the midst of attending to such things, we will be able with persistent practice to hold on to self-attentiveness at least to a certain extent in the background, as it were, because whatever else we may be aware of, we are always aware of ourself, so at least a part of our attention can always be on ourself.

The extent to which we are thus able to be self-attentive even in the midst of other activities depends upon our love to be so, and our love to be so will steadily increase as our mind is purified by persistent practice. At present, however, all we need be concerned with is trying to be self-attentive as much as possible. Like a small child learning to walk, we will fall over many times, but however many times we fall we should just persevere in trying. As Bhagavan often used to say, no one succeeds in this path without patient perseverance.

Michael James said...

Waving Cornfield, in your latest comment there seems to be some confusion about what self-attentiveness actually is, because you refer to ‘inspection of your thoughts’ and say ‘Watch your emotional life’. Our thoughts, emotions and all other phenomena are things other than ourself, so inspecting them, watching them or attending to them is not being self-attentive. The only thought we should inspect or watch is our primal thought called ‘I’, which is our ego, the subject that is aware of all objects or phenomena.

As Bhagavan advises us, whenever we become aware of any thought (that is, anything other than ourself) we should turn our attention back to ourself (our fundamental self-awareness) by investigating to whom it appears, and in this way ‘நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும்’ (niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum), which means ‘As and when thoughts appear, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [self-investigation] in the very place from which they arise’ (eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?).

As he explains in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the nature of our ego is to rise, stand and nourish itself by ‘grasping form’, which means by attending to or being aware of any phenomena — anything other than our fundamental self-awareness — so it will subside and cease to exist only by trying to attend to itself alone. Therefore we should try to cling firmly to being attentively aware of ourself alone, because this is the only way to deprive our ego of the food it depends for survival and thereby to dissolve the illusion that it is ourself.

waving cornfield said...

Michael and Dr.Sundaram
Michael, thank you for pointing out my wrong view about self-attentiveness
and for characterizing the correct way to deprive our ego oft he food it depends for survival.
Please, Michael do always delete if inapplicable !
Dr.Sundaram, I must apologize to you for my improper comment.
Thank goodness , Michael, you did revise my misleading incorrect, erroneus and highly inapproriate recommendation to Dr. Sundaram in time before he could act on /follow my inadequate advice. If I may say something in my defence: to my regret while writing my comment I obviously was still haunted by my experience in my struggle with myself when in my practice I have to fight frequently bitter battles against overpowering thoughts in order to turn my attention back to myself. Annihilating thoughts in the very place from which they arise and hereby clinging firmly to be attentively aware of myself alone is by no means a simple matter for me to do it.

Sivanarul said...

Dr Sundaram,

“but you have not said still how to be self attentive? what exactly one has to do when you say self attentive? i mean the detail of self attentiveness pleasebhagavan says to do athma vichara? self attentiveness is even while in life's activities, ...........right? when I devote some hours exclusively for athma vicharam, the self attentiveness is ever all day along required..right?
please explain if you can along with how?”

Vichara is not my main Sadhana. So please take whatever I write with a grain of salt. One of the techniques I do is as follows (Based on your name I assume you know Tamil):

Mentally bring up the thought or mentally say நான் (I). If Tamil is your mother tongue then நான் is preferred than I, since the inward turning will be better, if the thought voice is in mother tongue (just my opinion). As soon as நான் is said (mentally, not verbally), a focus on Thanmai Unarvu (I feeling, for lack of better word) will happen. Hold on to that Thanmai Unarvu to the extent possible. A thought, feeling or perception will arise pretty quickly. You know that it arose in you (to நான்). Turn to நான் again. If the turning does not happen, then again mentally say நான். Rinse and Repeat.

Before you start Vichara, it may be helpful to focus on the breath with diaphragmatic breathing (When you breathe in, belly should go out. When you breathe out, belly should go in). Doing this for a several minutes, will make the mind very calm and will prepare it for Vichara.

With respect to doing Vichara during life activities, it is indeed very difficult to do while working on something critical. But like I said in my last reply, there will be small intervals available during the day. I have been able to do Sadhana (Focus on the breath with diaphragmatic breathing) only during those intervals. As Michael writes, in many of us, the desire to end Samsara once and for all is not strong enough. Until that desire gets very strong, doing Vichara during life activities is very difficult and we would have to settle for doing during those small intervals.

In my next comment I will post the technique Swami Ramanagiri used that you may find helpful.

Sivanarul said...

Techinque used by Swami Ramanagiri:

http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2009/01/swami-ramanagiri.html

Our own mind is the greatest cheater in the world. It will make thousands of different reasons to go its own way. There are three ways of handling this cheat, who is nothing but a bundle of thoughts creeping into the conscious mind.
The third way is the way taught by Sri Ramana in the days of silence at the foot of sacred Arunachala. This way, which has been adopted by this fool, is to treat the mind as a patient, or rather several patients who are coming to a doctor to complain about their various ailments.

Just as a doctor sits in his room receiving different kinds of patients, this fool imagines himself sitting in the sacred cave of the Heart and receiving the different thought-patients. You know that a sick person likes to babble for hours about his complaint. In the same way a thought likes to multiply itself, but the doctor always cuts it short, saying, ‘Very good. Take this medicine. Thank you very much.’ And then he calls for another patient. This is how this fool decided to meditate.

First the fool slows down his breath as much as possible, but only to the point where there is no discomfort. To this fool, two breaths per minute is the proper speed, but that may not be possible for you because this fool has practised for a long time. You may be able to decrease your breathing to 8-10 per minute in the beginning. Don’t get to a level where you are uncomfortable, because that discomfort will give rise to thoughts.

This fool decided to receive twenty patients before closing the dispensary of the Heart. He calls out ‘Number one!’ and he waits for thought patient number one to come. The thought patient may say, ‘Smt such-and-such is not well. Sri so-and-so is worried.’

Then this foolish doctor says, ‘Oh, you are number one. Very good. The name of Lord Murugan will cure you. Thank you very much.’

Then he calls for number two, and he waits till the second patient is entering the room. ‘Mr so-and-so may get mukti this life,’ he says.

‘Very good. You are number two. The whole world is benefited if one soul gets liberated. Thank you very much.’

Numbers three, four, five, and so on are dealt with in the same way. When all the twenty thought patients have come and gone, the doctor closes the room to the Heart, and no one else is allowed to come inside. Now he is alone. Now there is time for atma-vichara.

He asks himself, ‘To whom have all these thoughts come?’

Three times he slowly repeats the same question, along with the outgoing breaths.

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment:

Then he, in that same slow manner, answers, ‘To me, to me, to me’.

‘Then who am I? Then who am I? Then who am I?’

All questions and answers are repeated three times, very slowly.

‘This “I” is not a thought. This “I” is not a thought. This “I” is not a thought.’

‘Then who is the receiver of the thought? Then who is the receiver of the thought? Then who is the receiver of the thought?’

‘”I” – “I” – “I”’ Now the mind is centralised in the source itself. ‘

‘Then who am I? Then who am I? Then who am I?’

Now the breath comes to an end and the attention is concentrated 100% on the sound caused by the palpitation of the heart, as if the sound would give the answer to our questions. This is nothing but the pranava itself. If, during this time, the sakti which was static is converted to movements or becomes dynamic, trance will occur. If the primal energy reaches the space between the eyebrows, savikalpa samadhi will occur. If the energy rises up to the top of the head, nirvikalpa samadhi will occur, which is nothing but the Self itself.

However, you should also know that even if the doctor has closed the dispensary door, some patients may come and peep in through the window to complain about their ailments. At the beginning of atma-vichara, the patients at the window are many. In the same way, although the door to the cave of the Heart is closed, some thoughts may occur at the time of dhyana.

For example, a thought may come: ‘Mr Iyer’s sushumna nadi has opened up.’

Since the patient has not come at the proper time, the doctor doesn’t attend to him.

Instead, he continues the quest: ‘To whom has the thought of Mr Iyer come?’ ‘To me, to me, to me.’

‘Then who am I? Then who am I? Then who am I?’


Sivanarul said...

Whenever I read about Swami Ramanagiri, I get reminded of how one can personalize Sadhana and how Yoga, Vichara, Bhakthi and Imagination all nicely melded together that resulted in the final awakening. It is such an inspiration and treat to read it. Thanks for David Godman for writing it and Michael for finding it (David says: About twenty years ago I was given a seventeen-page manuscript about Swami Ramanagiri by Michael James, who had received it from a devotee of Swami Ramanagiri.)

dr.sundaram said...

namaskaram sivanarul sir
do u mind passing a pdf or a copy k on swami ramanagiri, please

om namo bhagavathe sri ramanaya

dr.sundaram said...

thank you sivanarul sir

yes yes my mother tongue is tamil and hence i can and will use நான் for clarity of purpose

will update you

om namo bhagavathe sri Ramanaya

cross-check said...

Quotes of Sri Ramanasramam :

"Not to desire anything extraneous to oneself constitutes vairagya(dispassion) or nirasa (desirelessness).
Not to give up one's hold on the Self constitutes jnana(knowledge).
But really vairagya and jnana are one and the same."

But I did neither even keep distance from desires nor got I the hold on the Self.
So what shall I do ?

Ken said...

I doubt Steve D will see this, so this is mainly for future readers of this thread.

Steve D wrote a long defense of Papaji, ending with "I can only suspect that a lot of the animus for Papaji comes from misplaced and misdirected anger towards all the clowns who claim to be his devotees and subsequently claim to be enlightened, give satsang and generally behave like fools. But this does not and should not in any way reflect on Papaji as a teacher or as a saint of the highest caliber. "

Steve's source for his impression is David Godman's biography of Papaji. I want to point out that:

* Godman has confirmed that all of the interactions between Papaji and Ramana Maharshi described in the biography are from interviews with Papaji, and that no confirmation of those interactions exist from other people. (The book is mostly an autobiography, since it is based largely on interviews with Papaji, although also includes interviews with family members, but those don't involve Papaji's internal state, nor can they.)

* Whether or not anyone is a "teacher or saint of the highest caliber" is entirely subjective and without any objective way of verification.

* Teachers have claimed enlightenment, taught others who exclaimed about their wonderfulness, and then subsequently admitted they are not enlightened and made many mistakes. So, impressions of students is never proof.

* Papaji admitted to Godman in the book that he LIED to his disciples about the disciples being enlightened, in order to get them to go away because they were bugging him. Leaving aside the ethical problem of lying, this seems to be entirely contrary to the teacher's responsibility for his students. Real teachers do not pick and choose which students' welfare they are responsible for.

* The result of those lies weas that those students started teaching other people, even though they were not qualified to teach. This started the Neo-Advaita movement and a new wave of fake teachers. All that was the direct result of Papaji's lies, not an accidental result.

* We know that it is very easy for a fake to put up a picture of Ramana, repeat the very simple Advaita philosophy and then collect the donations. Why do we not think that Papaji is just the same? The very long biography - all dictated by himself. Note that other disciples of Ramana have simply said "My life is unimportant, just do self-enquiry".

* Note that the real chronology is:

- Papaji starts teaching in Lucknow
- Rajneesh disciples discover Papaji (since Rajneesh was the biggest fake ever, those disciples are the worst possible judge of a real teacher)
- Someone suggests to Godman that he should check out Papaji
- Papaji asks Godman to write his biography

Note that biography gives the impression that Papaji teaching is the last thing in the chronology, which reinforces the impression of "all these spiritual and religious events, followed by enlightenment, followed by teaching", but again that is only according to Papaji's account.

At this point, since Papaji is dead, there is ZERO reason to read anything he wrote or said instead of Ramana Maharshi.

Generally, there are two viewpoints:
* Those who are students of disciples of Papaji, who need him to have been an enlightened sage.
* Those who hate the Neo-Advaita movement, who want to use his statement to Godman that "none of my students understood" to discredit the movement. These people seem to need to preserve Papaji's credibility in order to discredit his students using that statement.

However, due to his self-admitted lying to his disciples, I would say that he is the last person I would consider to have been an authentic teacher.