Wednesday, 25 May 2016

How to attend to ourself?

In a comment on my previous article, We can separate ourself permanently from whatever is not ourself only by attending to ourself alone, a friend called Chinmay Shah wrote, ‘I just wanted to know some practical methods/techniques by which one can attend to the self. I have read the 7th & 8th chapter of Path of Ramana - part 1, & understood that self attention is indeed the only way towards being SELF. But it would be really helpful, if some simple practical methods/techniques are given wherein any one who reads all this can really pay attention to the SELF practically’, so this article is addressed to him in reply to this.

Chinmay, regarding your request for ‘some practical methods/techniques by which one can attend to the self’, being self-attentive (or at least trying to be so) is itself the practical method or technique, so no other method or technique is required to be self-attentive.

Is there any method or technique to see whatever is in front of you? Just looking at it is the method or technique. To look at it and thereby see it no other method or technique is required. Likewise to see what we actually are we just need to look at ourself. Just looking at ourself is the method or technique. To look at ourself and thereby see what we actually are no other method or technique is required.

Of course, what we actually are is not anything physical, so we cannot see ourself with our physical eyes or any of our other physical senses, so when it is said that we should just look at ourself and thereby see what we actually are, the terms ‘look at’ and ‘see’ are used in a metaphorical sense, not a literal one. Though we cannot look at or see ourself with our physical eyes, we can do so with our mental eye, which is our power of attention, so what is meant in this context by ‘look at’ and ‘see’ is just ‘attend to’ and ‘be aware of’.

We are always aware of ourself, but we are generally not attentively aware of ourself, because we tend to be more interested in being aware of other things, so we devote all or most of our attention in waking and dream to things other than ourself, and hence we neglect to attend to ourself. This self-negligence is what is called pramāda, which is the root of all our problems, so the solution to it is only sadā-apramāda — perpetual non-negligence — which means constant self-vigilance or self-attentiveness.

However, when we start this practice we will not be able to be self-attentive perpetually, but we can at least be so intermittently, and by persevering in our attempts to be self-attentive as much as possible we will gradually cultivate the skill to hold on to being so even while we are engaged in other activities. So to get started all we need to try to do is just draw our attention back to ourself whenever we notice that it has been diverted away towards anything else.

Now we are aware of many things, but whatever else we may be aware of we are always aware of ourself. Even when we are aware of nothing else, as in sleep, we are aware of ourself, so self-awareness is our fundamental experience, and the background or screen on which awareness of other things appears and disappears. Therefore what is this fundamental self-awareness that we always experience? We just need to look at it — attend to it — and see.

This fundamental self-awareness is what we actually are, so it is not an object, and hence being self-attentive does not entail attending to any object. It is just a matter of being attentively self-aware — that is, being attentively aware of the awareness that we actually are.

How to do so, you may ask, to which the only practical answer is: just try. Just as the only way to learn how to ride a bicycle is to persistently try to do so, the only way to learn how to be attentively self-aware is to persistently try to do so. Only by persistent practice can we learn any art, whether it be a physical art such as riding a bicycle, a mental art such as understanding a foreign language, or this subtlest art of all: the art of just being attentively self-aware.

In your second comment you describe other practices that you have done in the past, but all such practices entail attending to and being aware of something other than yourself. But who is the one who is aware of all those other things? That is what you need to see. Whatever else you may be aware of, you just need turn your attention back towards yourself, the one who is aware.

Being attentively self-aware is an extremely subtle practice, so it may seem too difficult or abstract if you have not tried it, but if you persevere in trying it will become increasingly clear to you what it actually is, and how easy it actually is.

Of course how easy or difficult it will seem to be depends on how much love we have to be aware of ourself alone, and conversely how much desire we have to be aware of anything else. So long as our desires to be aware of any other things are strong, they will tend to draw our attention away from ourself towards those other things, so we will experience an inner resistance to our attempts to be self-attentive, and hence being steadily self-attentive will seem to us to be difficult.

However, even though it may be difficult for us to hold on to being steadily self-attentive, if we persevere in trying it will become increasingly clear to us that being self-attentive is itself very easy, and that what make it seem difficult is only our own reluctance to be perpetually self-attentive and hence aware of nothing other than ourself, which is what we should be aiming for. Nevertheless, no matter how strong our desires to experience other things may be, if we persevere in our attempts to be steadily self-attentive, or at least intermittently self-attentive for brief moments here and there, our desires for other things will be gradually weakened, and thus we will eventually succeed in our efforts to be aware of ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of everything else.

Therefore if you really want to know how to attend to yourself, the only way is to try to do so, and to persevere in trying until you succeed. There is no other way, and there are no shortcuts. This is the direct path back to ourself, so it entails nothing other than just attending to ourself alone. Any other method or technique would involve attending to something other than ourself, so it would be an unnecessary distraction. Let us therefore be bold and embark on this path with single-minded determination to try as much as possible to attend to ourself alone.

As Bhagavan advised us in 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 [inclinations or desires to be aware of things other than oneself], which come from time immemorial, rise 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. [...]
Let us therefore follow his advice by tenaciously trying to cling fast to being self-attentive and thereby avoid being distracted by any thoughts about our own inability, because our inability is not real, but seems real only because we imagine it to be so, and we imagine it to be so only because we still have lingering viṣaya-vāsanās — desires to be aware of things other than ourself. The only way to vanquish such desires is by clinging tenaciously to self-attentiveness, as he advises us here.

49 comments:

Pachaiamman said...

Michael,
the link to "your second comment" does not work , at least not on my computer.

without giving room said...

Michael,
thank you for describing the topic a little. Maybe I till now have thought about self-attention in a more complicated manner. However, I feel encouraged to try it again.

Michael James said...

Pachaiamman, sorry, if you refresh your screen the link ‘your second comment’ should now work. I noticed the error only after I had posted the article (and presumably after you began to read it), so I corrected it immediately, but corrections will not appear on a screen in which it is already open, so a screen refresh is required.

Pachaiamman said...

Michael,
thanks, after refreshing my screen the given link works perfectly.
Thank goodness, our screen of pure self-awareness does never require any refreshing/renovation/rejuvenation.
It is eternal freshness itself - at least that is my supposition.

Michael James said...

Pachaiamman, yes, our screen of pure self-awareness is immutable and eternally fresh, so it never needs refreshing. The error that has occurred (or rather that seems to have occurred) is not in the screen but in the picture that appears on it. That error is our ego, because it alone is what sees pictures on this pure and immutable screen, so this ego needs to refresh its own outlook by looking inwards. The error (this ego) will then disappear, and along with it all pictures will also disappear, leaving the screen pure, fresh and immutable as ever.

Pachaiamman said...

Michael,
your given analogy of the pictures on our screen is the appropriate way of looking at things. Thanks. Nanri.

Michael James said...

Without Giving Room, being self-attentive is the simplest possible state, because it entails nothing other than oneself being attentively aware of oneself, so it is a state of perfect oneness and non-duality. Complexity arises only when there is more than one thing involved, so self-attentiveness is the very antithesis of complexity.

If it seems at all complicated, that complexity exists only in distorted view of our outward-looking mind. If we turn our mind inwards to look at ourself alone, all complexity will vanish and only simple self-awareness will remain.

Now you are reading some words on a computer screen, which seems to be a very simple activity that we do every day, but it is actually very complicated, because so many factors are entailed in it. To name just a few, there must be our awareness, an extremely complex organism called a human body, at least one functioning eye in that body, prior training that enables the mind associated with that body to decipher the marks on the screen as intelligible words, further training that enables that mind to recognise what each of those words and their various combinations and arrangements represent. In a similar manner, most of the seemingly simple activities we do each day are actually extremely complex.

In comparison to all such complex tasks, being self-attentive is infinitely more simple, yet it seems to us to be difficult. Why? Because we are more interested in and concerned about other things than we are in simply being aware of our own self-awareness, which alone is what we actually are.

One of the definitions of māyā is that it is that which makes what alone exists seem non-existent, and what does not exist seem existent. Likewise it is also that which makes what is actually extremely simple seem complex, and what is complex seem simple. To free ourself from māyā, therefore, all we need do is just turn our back on everything complex and face only that which is most simple, namely our own self-awareness.

To attend to or be aware of anything other than ourself is relatively complex, because it entails at least two things, namely a subject (our ego) and an object (whatever phenomenon that subject is aware of), whereas attending to ourself alone is absolutely simple, because it entails neither any subject nor any object, but only pure self-awareness, which is the one fundamental reality and what we always actually are. Being self-attentive is therefore the direct and immediate means to return to our source, the pure self-awareness from which we have risen as this ego.

without giving room said...

Michael,
thank you for your comment. But about what you write : "... whereas attending to ourself alone is absolutely simple, because it entails neither any subject nor any object, but only pure self-awareness, which is the one fundamental reality...".
I always have assumed that self-investigation has to be practised just by the ego.
Does not the ego function hereby as subject ? Hopefully I did not lead me into gross error of judgement.
Could you please make that topic more accessible to me ?

without giving room said...

Michael,
I forgot to express that I have to rack my brains about the mentioned clause.

Sundar said...

Michael,
Is not the movie more interesting that the blank white screen? The resulting movie is worth the complexity, it would appear. It is true that the movie contains some very unhappy scenes. But, should the alternative be just a blank screen? How does dwelling on the pure self-awareness give the oft quoted blissful situation? What is the explanation for why it is preferable to maya?
sundar

Sandhya said...

Michael
I have same question as sundar. So what i have noticed so far is, being self attentive seems to be more peaceful only when i try to ungrasp a phenomena that is painful/unnecessary. But there are phenomenos that give more pleasures/happiness than being self attentive. Eg. Being with family/children , i experience more love and peace than being self attentive. What is then the motivating factor to turn our attention inwards? Is suffering the only trigger to turn the attention inwards?

Michael James said...

Without Giving Room, yes, self-investigation has to be practised just by the ego, because it is only as this ego that we need to turn our attention back towards ourself alone, but to the extent that we manage to attend to ourself alone we thereby subside and cease to be this ego. If our entire attention is focused on ourself alone, then there is no ego but only pure self-awareness.

The subject is a subject only when it is aware of objects, because when such awareness (transitive awareness) ceases what remains is only pure self-awareness (intransitive awareness). The subject is this ego, which can rise and stand only by ‘grasping form’, which means being aware of objects, which are things other than itself. Therefore if the subject attends only to itself, it ceases to be the subject and remains as it actually is, which is just pure self-awareness.

As Devaraja Mudaliar recorded in two passages in Day by Day with Bhagavan, Bhagavan said: ‘The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world’ (11-1-46: 2002 edition, page 106), and ‘The mind, turned outwards, results in thoughts and objects. Turned inwards, it becomes itself the Self’ (8-11-45: 2002 edition, page 37).

That is, the mind is the mind, ego or subject only so long as it is turned away from itself towards other things, so when it turns back inwards to be aware of itself alone, it ceases to be a mind, ego or subject and remains just as pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are (and what Bhagavan was referring to when he used whatever Tamil term Devaraja Mudaliar translated as ‘the Self’).

without giving room said...

Michael,
thank you for your explanation.
As a beginner on the path of self-investigation I see the things from the view of the ego. Therefore I have to start as this ego as a subject. Consequently in my case of a beginner attending to myself alone entails well - contrary to the mentioned general remark in your yesterday comment - (any) this ego-subject.

Sanjay Lohia said...

without giving room, sorry for this interjection. You wrote, 'As a beginner on the path of self-investigation I see the things from the view of the ego. Therefore I have to start as this ego as a subject'.

We all have to start with this ego as a subject, whether we consider ourself a 'beginner' or an 'advanced' sadhaka. Since self-investigation or any of our actions can only be started by our ego, it is always the starting point of whatever we 'do'. Furthermore, we all see the things only from the view of our ego. So long as we experience ourself as this ego, we will see or experience things which will seem to be things which are other than ourself, so any thing we see or experience is only because of our ego. However, when we manage to experience ourself as we really are, we will not see or experience anything other than ourself.

without giving room said...

Sanjay Lohia,
you need not regret commenting.
If you want understand my point of view different from Michael please you may read the last paragraph of Michael's comment of 25 May 2016 at 19:45 in reply to my comment at 15:29 of the same day. Based on the facts of my poor experience regarding the final aim of self-investigation I had to come down to earth. Therefore Michael's viewpoint of claiming that self-attention does entail 'neither any subject nor any object' seemed to me like putting the cart before the horse.

Sanjay Lohia said...

without giving room, Michael was right when he had written, 'attending to ourself alone is absolutely simple, because it entails neither any subject nor any object, but only pure self-awareness'. If I may use your analogy of a cart and a horse, we can say that the 'horse' in this case is our self-attentiveness, and the 'cart' is the subsidence of our ego, the subject, which had commenced this self-attentiveness. I know it is a very crude analogy, and it may not convey the exact picture of our practice of self-attentiveness.

Noob said...

The desire to know the truth is the one of the motives to investigate "I" until one can touch upon the bliss offered by Truth. Then a motive is no longer needed.

Noob said...

Another motive is a fear of death.

Noob said...

Is there a person who would not want to know the truth?

without giving room said...

Sanjay,
the reason why I used that pictorial comparison (horse-cart) was only that I wanted to express that a beginner in his practice don't or cannot start at the goal but from the beginning. A beginner naturally/usually cannot start attending to himself alone by denying his risen ego and instead pretending not to be aware of this arisen ego but only of pure self-awareness. Otherwise the ego would have not at all to return to its source when it has never risen from there and consequently there would be no need for the special practice of self-attention.

Michael James said...

Without Giving Room, until our ego is eradicated by perfect self-attentiveness we cannot but see everything from the perspective of this ego, because it is what we now seem to be. Therefore as I wrote in my previous comment it is only as this ego that we need to and are able to investigate ourself in order to find out what we actually are.

However, in order for us to investigate ourself effectively we need to clearly understand the theoretical basis of self-investigation as taught to us by Bhagavan, just as in order to practice medicine effectively a doctor needs to clearly understand the theoretical basis of medicine. If a medical student were to say to his professors impatiently that he just wants to practise medicine and does not want to learn any theory, they would not allow him to begin practising until he had acquired a thorough understanding of the requisite theories.

Therefore we should not be impatient about having to learn and understand clearly all the basic principles that Bhagavan taught us, because without understanding these principles and what the practice of self-investigation actually entails we will not be able practise it correctly. The principles he taught us are actually very simple, but to imbibe them we need to free our mind from many of our preconceptions, assumptions and former beliefs, so we need to be patient in doing the required śravaṇa and manana repeatedly along with our nididhyāsana, which is the actual practice of trying to be self-attentive.

One of the important principles we need to understand is that we are not an object or any sort of phenomenon but only awareness, so when we try to attend to ourself we should not attend to any object but only to the one who is aware of all objects. So long as we attend to any object, we are the subject, but when we attend only to ourself, we cease to be this object-knowing subject (the ego) and remain just as pure self-awareness.

However, because we are attached to being aware of objects (things other than ourself), when we try to attend to ourself alone we are not immediately able to let go of all objects entirely, so our ego will subside only to the extent that we attend to ourself alone and thereby cease attending to anything else. Therefore we will be completely free of this ego (the subject) only when we manage to attend to ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of everything else, because when we manage to do so for a moment, our ego will be annihilated and will therefore never arise again.

This is why I wrote in my previous reply, ‘to the extent that we manage to attend to ourself alone we thereby subside and cease to be this ego’. Since we have not yet managed to attend to ourself alone, our ego has not yet subsided completely, so we must continue trying to attend to ourself alone until it is eradicated.

In other words, to the extent that we attend to ourself alone, our attention will thereby be withdrawn from objects, and to the extent that it is withdrawn from objects we will cease to be the subject. Therefore the point I was making was that when our self-attentiveness is 100% pure (which is what we are now aiming for), there will neither be any subject nor any object, but until then the subject (our ego) will linger to the extent that it is still aware of any objects.

However the fact that both subject and objects are still lingering on while we are trying to be self-attentive does not mean that self-attentiveness itself entails either subject or object. The subject and whatever subtle objects (phenomena or viṣayas) it may be aware of linger on only because we are attending to ourself only partially and not completely.

We do not need to be advanced in our practice in order to understand this simple theory, and if we understand it clearly it will help us to advance further in the investigation that we have now begun.

without giving room said...

Michael,
thank you very much for pointing out again what self-attentiveness itself entails. Now I see my misunderstanding of the meaning of the term self-attentiveness. I took the term self-attentiveness erroneously not as a spiritual state but as the process of self-investigation itself. Therefore I made the lodged objection only on the basis of this misunderstood meaning of the term self-attentiveness. Metaphorically speaking I evidently did not look keenly enough at the rope and saw therefore the seeming snake..

Michael James said...

Without Giving Room, being self-attentive is both a spiritual state and the actual practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). If we want to investigate whether something that seems to be a snake is actually a snake or something else, how could we do so? Obviously the only means to investigate it would be simple observation — that is, just looking at it carefully to see what it actually is. Likewise, the only means to investigate ourself is simple observation — that is, just looking at or attending to ourself keenly to see what we actually are.

However, there is an important difference between investigating what seems to be a snake and investigating ourself, who now seem to be this ego, because the thing that seems to be a snake is an object (that is, something other than ourself), so when we see it, observe it or look at it carefully we are the subject, whereas we ourself can never be an object, so when we attend to ourself we are not a subject looking at an object but only ourself being aware of ourself, which is our natural state.

When we attend to anything other than ourself, we are the subject and whatever we are attending to is an object, so there is a distinction between ourself (as the subject) and that thing (as an object), whereas when we attend to ourself alone we are neither the subject nor an object, because there is absolutely no distinction between ourself and what we are attending to. We are the subject (this ego) only so long as we are distinct from whatever we are aware of, so to the extent that we are aware only of ourself, we cease to be the subject or this ego.

Therefore trying to attend only to ourself is the direct means to be what we actually are, which is just pure self-awareness, and hence self-attentiveness is what is also described as the state of just being (summā iruppadu) or being as we actually are. Though in practice we may not yet be able to attend only to ourself (that is, to focus our entire attention on ourself alone, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness), we should understand that this alone is what we are aiming for when we practise ātma-vicāra, and that to the extent to which we manage to focus our entire attention exclusively on ourself, we are thereby just being the pure self-awareness that we always actually are.

Thus both the practice of ātma-vicāra and the theory underlying it are extremely simple, so if we have any difficult in understanding it clearly, what that indicates is just that we need to simplify our understanding still further. As Bhagavan used to say, in this path it is not so much a matter of learning anything new but of unlearning all our old ideas, preconceptions and beliefs and thereby viewing our entire experience in extremely simple and fundamental terms.

We are always aware of ourself, but in waking and dream we seem to be aware not only of ourself but also of other things, and hence we seem to be this ego, a subject who is aware of objects, which are things other than itself. In sleep, on the other hand, we are aware only of ourself and not of anything else whatsoever, so we do not then seem to be this ego or subject. Therefore this ego is not what we actually are, but just what we seem to be whenever we are aware of anything else, so in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are we just have to be aware of ourself alone, which we can be even now in waking or dream if we focus our entire attention on ourself alone.

without giving room said...

Thank you Michael,
but I have to leave my hometown immediately and cannot reply earlier than next Monday.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael writes in his latest comment addressed to 'without giving room' a follows:

However the fact that both subject and objects are still lingering on while we are trying to be self-attentive does not mean that self-attentiveness itself entails either subject or object. The subject and whatever subtle objects (phenomena or viṣayas) it may be aware of linger on only because we are attending to ourself only partially and not completely.

I also used to wonder, how can our practice of self-investigation be called a non-dual practice. Even though while we practice subtle objects still appear in our awareness, atma-vichara, as I have gradually came to understand, is an non-dual sadhsana. When our ego (subject) begins to attend to itself alone it begins to subside, and to the extend that it subsides to that extent it also makes its thoughts (objects) subside.

That being the case, this is only spiritual practice in which the subject (our ego) tries to attend only to itself. In this practice our subject (ego) does not try to attends to objects, for it is only when this subject tries to cling to objects that duality creeps in. Retention of a subtle subject and some thoughts, while we practice, doesn't make this practice a dual one.

For example, we take two glasses that are both half filled with water. We may consider water in one glass to be the subject (ego), and water in other glass to be various objects (thoughts). Since there are two glasses of water, there is duality here. Further, suppose we keep these two uncovered glasses outside our house (in its veranda) for a few hours. Obviously some dust and dirt will fall into the water of both these glasses.

Finally we bring these two glasses inside our house, and mix the water and make it just one glass of water. Our self-investigation is somewhat like this. The two glasses of water (our subject and objects), which represented duality, becomes non-dual. Of course some dirt and dirt (subtle object and some objects) will remain in this one glass, but the one glass will only be called one (non-dual) glass of water. I believe, this is how this self-attentiveness is a non-dual sadhana.

Bob - P said...

- [However, there is an important difference between investigating what seems to be a snake and investigating ourself, who now seem to be this ego, because the thing that seems to be a snake is an object (that is, something other than ourself), so when we see it, observe it or look at it carefully we are the subject, whereas we ourself can never be an object, so when we attend to ourself we are not a subject looking at an object but only ourself being aware of ourself, which is our natural state.] -

Thank you Michael, very helpful.

I remember in the past Michael langford used the term:
"Awareness watching awareness"

I found this term confusing as it indicates one awareness watching another awareness.

I find the below more helpful with regards my own practise:

- Awareness being awareness
- Awareness being itself
- Awareness ivestigating itself

In appreciation
Bob

Michael James said...

Sundar, regarding your questions, when an analogy is used we should understand what it is intended to illustrate, and should not interpret it in any other way. The analogy of the screen on which pictures appear and disappear, but which remains unchanged whether they appear or not, is intended to illustrate the immutability of our fundamental self-awareness, which remains unchanged whether awareness of anything else is superimposed on it or not.

When you ask, ‘Is not the movie more interesting than the blank white screen?’, you are reading more into this analogy than it is intended to illustrate, because a cinema screen is insentient, so in that respect it is quite unlike our fundamental self-awareness, which is not only pure awareness (cit) but also pure happiness (ānanda), and hence if we use our power of discrimination (vivēka) wisely, we should understand that it is infinitely more interesting than any of the fleeting phenomena that appear within it. Moreover, all these phenomena (the pictures that appear on the screen of pure self-awareness) appear only in the view of ourself as this ego, and so long as we experience ourself as this finite ego we cannot experience ourself as the infinite happiness that we actually are.

This is why we are taught that we are not only sat (which means uḷḷadu or what actually exists) and cit (which is pure self-awareness) but also ānanda (which means eternal and infinite happiness). Not only is this what Bhagavan and other sages have taught us, but it is also what we can infer from our own experience in sleep, because in sleep we are not aware of anything other than ourself, yet we are aware that we exist and we are perfectly happy just being aware of our own existence.

Desiring anything more than the perfect happiness we experience in sleep is what is called māyā, and as we know from our experience in waking and dream, being aware of anything other than ourself entails a mixture of fleeting pleasures and pains and the ever-present certainty that sooner or later this dream will end in death, but even death will not free us from this perpetual cycle of dreams interrupted only by temporary periods of rest in sleep.

If we are satisfied with this movie of successive dreams, we can go on enjoying and suffering it as long as we like, but sooner or later we will come to understand that rising as this ego to enjoy and suffer all these dreams is sheer folly, and then we will begin to be motivated to put an end to our rising, which we can do only by attending to ourself, the one who now seems to have arisen and consequently to be aware of things other than ourself.

Michael James said...

Sandhya, regarding what you ask in your comment, suffering can be a motivating factor, but it will not always motivate us to be self-attentive, because most people who suffer would not try to be self-attentive even if they were advised to be so, and it is also not the only factor that can motivate us. If we lack the clarity of mind and heart to discriminate wisely nothing will motivate us to be self-attentive, whereas if we have sufficient clarity everything will motivate us, because we will recognise that being aware of ourself alone is the only state of perfect peace and happiness, whereas being aware of anything else can at best give us only fleeting happiness accompanied by unhappiness in one form or another.

What we are seeking when we investigate ourself is not any fleeting or finite happiness but only eternal and infinite happiness, which is what we actually are, so we need not be disappointed if we do not experience peace or happiness while trying to be self-attentive. So long as we still have any liking to be aware of things other than ourself, such likings (which are what are called viṣaya-vāsanās) will make us resist our own efforts to be self-attentive, so there will always be an internal conflict between our love to be attentively aware of ourself alone and our desires to be aware of other things, and hence our attempts to be self-attentive will generally entail an inward struggle. However, to the extent that we manage to be keenly and steadily self-attentive we will experience peace and happiness, though not the infinite peace and happiness that we are seeking, which we will experience only when we manage to be attentively aware of ourself alone, thereby eradicating our ego entirely.

Sundar said...

Michael,
I agree that when ego is present there can only be interrupted happiness at best. This has been our experience.

But, You have not explained the logic by which you say that we can get infinite peace and happiness when we manage to be attentively aware of ourself alone.

I am curious to be attentively aware of ourself alone. Hence I am working on it. But, the logic for the ananda part in sat chit ananda is not well explained.

Also, you say: "in sleep ........... we are perfectly happy just being aware of our own existence.". I can only be certain of having had a sleep with dreams. Because I can recall some of these dreams in the morning. But, I can not be sure of even having had a dreamless sleep. Hence, I can not speak of a 'perfectly happy' time during the dreamless sleep.

sundar


venkat said...

Sundar

I would suggest ananda is best described as peace, freedom from desires / fears and the consequential absence of agitation / suffering. This after all, is our experience in deep sleep.

venkat

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael,

I think I have finally been able to figure out the I-feeling or "I am" feeling. It seems to be nothing but the inner sense of awareness (or consciousness or being)/self-awareness one has when one is off the movement of thought, correct?

Sundar said...

Venkat,
I agree with your first sentence. I guess ananda with that kind of a meaning is a big deal. Some greedy minds, like mine, want ananda to mean lot more than that, an even bigger return on investment.

With respect to your second sentence, please take a look at the last para in my prev post. I can only recount dream filled sleeps. Not deep sleep. I do feel relaxed after sleeps. But, I am not sure if I had dreamless deep sleep.

sundar

Sivanarul said...

Sundar,

"But, You have not explained the logic by which you say that we can get infinite peace and happiness when we manage to be attentively aware of ourself alone. I am curious to be attentively aware of ourself alone. Hence I am working on it. But, the logic for the ananda part in sat chit ananda is not well explained"

If you cannot accept the explanation based on peace in deep sleep, alternatively, you can experience small portion of that ananda experientially in the waking state itself, which will prove beyond doubt that when I stands alone (apart from the 36 tattuvas, infinite peace and happiness will follow).

Here is the Sadhana:
1. Withdraw the mind, slowly at a pace that is comfortable to you, from all unnecessary things in your life. Being honest to yourself, you can decide what is necessary and unnecessary.
2. Contemplate whenever you can on death (the uncertainty, the immediate disappearance of world objects etc). This will provide a sense of urgency.
3. Develop deep trust in Ishvara/Grace/Guru/I-I/Self

As desires start to wind down, the mind will gain a state of peace, stillness, joy and happiness. This is certainly NOT the ananda part in sat chit ananda, but simply a dust of that. Once you experience this, you will be convinced of the real ananda (so to speak) in waking state itself by noting that the dust of real ananda has happened due to I leaving behind things. That should convince you that as I gets more alone, peace and happiness increases. I write this from experience and not from theory. I am only a beginner and that too on the long path, so this is certainly possible to be experienced by everyone. Pratyahara really works wonders. Try it and experience it for yourself.

With regards to the ananda of sat chit ananda, it really cannot be explained in words, but needs to be experienced.

Here are some inspiring verses regarding that:

குறள் 365
அற்றவ ரென்பார் அவாவற்றார் மற்றையார்
அற்றாக அற்ற திலர்

Couplet 365
Men freed from bonds of strong desire are free;
None other share such perfect liberty

Saint Arunagirinathar'sKandar Anubhuthi:
ஆசா நிகளந் துகளா யின்பின்
பேசா அநுபூதி பிறந் ததுவே

After the chains of desire was broken
the state of Mouna was born

தன்னந் தனி நின்றது தானறிய
இன்னம் மொருவர்க் கிசைவிப் பதுவோ

It has to be realized, with I standing alone.
How can I tell someone else such realization? (They themselves have to realize by standing alone)

venkat said...

Hi Sundar,

As for sat and chit: to be able to know that you exist requires chit; similarly to have chit, there must be existence. Hence sat and chit go together, are inseparable.

You know / are aware (chit) of your existence (sat) before you fall into sleep. Similarly you know you exist after you awake. So in the intervening period, your existence must have continued, as must have consciousness. However the consciousness that was there in sleep is entirely devoid of subject (ego) and object, and hence it seems like unconsciousness to the ego, which was not there. But the substratum must have been there all along. And this substratum is colourless, adjunct-free, quiet and free of any desires, fears and suffering. Hence why 'we' feel refreshed when we awaken - because our ego has temporarily subsided into this peaceful substratum.

This substratum, this ocean, is what we always are in essence. But the ego, the wave, that arises mistakes itself to be real and separate. And hence our ananda is lost.

Sundar said...

Venkat,
Thanks. I can accept the logic of continuity - Consciousness was there before and after sleep. Hence, it must have existed during sleep also.

As to the presence of a period of sleep (dreamless, deep sleep), you have not given proof. I suppose we need to turn to science,MRI scans etc to get proof for dreamless, deep sleep.

As for ananda, as you have said before, we have to be satisfied with an ananda, that is defined as an absence of fear, anxiety, incomplete feeling etc characteristic of an ego filled existence. Nothing more.

sundar

venkat said...

Sundar

"We have to be satisfied with [an] ananda . . . nothing more".

You sound disappointed! If you carefully examine the lives we live (both yours and others), you will see the selfishness, the sorrow, the desire, the fear permeating every minute. Our minds are never content with with resting in the present (summa iru), but are always going backwards and forwards in time. We are never satisfied.

Therefore this ananda, this peace is truly non-trivial. It is just our selfish, pleasure-seeking ego, that wants to imagine some kind of ecstasy, and cannot rest content to simply be. Which neatly brings us back to Bhagavan's self-enquiry - who is it that wants to experience bliss?

Sundar said...

Sivanarul,
Thanks. You are asking me to extrapolate the happiness, peace that I find in a limited sense during my meditations. And, you are likens the current bouts of happiness / peace to dust. I suppose you can not give me a logic for the claim that it is as minuscule as dust.

I guess, until I find it out myself, I should just believe it, when the masters say that it is ananda or great bliss.



sundar

Sundar said...

Thanks, Venkat,

I agree with you. I should not belabour the point about Ananda. Instead get on with self enquiry.
sundar

Sanjay Lohia said...

Recently Venkat, Sunder and Sivanarul had a discussion on the subject of ananda. I share my reflection on some of their comments:

Sunder addressed Michael and wrote a comment dated 28 May at 03:55 as follows: 'But, the logic for the ananda part in sat chit ananda is not well explained'. I once asked a similar question to Michael, and he answered me as follows. I reproduce our discussion as I remember it now:

Sanjay: Sir, as I understand, sat-chit-ananda is also called asti-bhati-priyam (asti means 'what is' or existence, bhati means 'what shines' or consciousness, and priyam means limitless love or happiness). My question is, why does sat-chit or asti-bhati have limitless love for itself?

Michael: You have asked a question which has no answer. Existence exists because it exists, it is conscious because it is conscious and it loves itself because it loves itself. No cause can be attributed to this ever-present, infinite reality.

As Michael explained to us in a recent comment of his, the chain of cause and effect begins only with the rising of our ego; therefore, no cause can be attributed to what exists before of beyond this ego.

Sunder further writes in this comment: 'But, I cannot be sure of even having had a dreamless sleep. Hence, I cannot speak of a 'perfectly happy' time during the dreamless sleep'.

If we did not have a perfectly happy time in sleep, we will not look forward to our sleep. Bhagavan used to explain, even a king asks his most favourite queen to leave his company when he feels sleepy, thereby indicating that our sleep in a joyous state. Furthermore, do we not feel refreshed and relaxed when we awake up from our sleep? This also indicated that we were in a happy state then. As a matter of fact, we all experience deep sleep and remain only as pure-awareness, bereft of our ego, while asleep.

Sunder writes in his comment dated 29 May 01:27 as follows: 'I should not belabour the point about Ananda. Instead get on with self enquiry'. Yes, I agree. Intellectual discussions and arguments have limitations. As Sunder implies, we cannot experience ananda or limitless happiness just by discussing about it, though this discussion (manana) has a role in pointing us towards the right direction. Eventually it is only our persist effort to be self-attentive that can enable us to experience this infinite ananda.

Sandhya said...

Thank you Michael

Michael James said...

Sundar, I have replied to your second comment in a separate article: What is the logic for believing that happiness is what we actually are?.

without giving room said...

Michael,
thank you for your further reflections about being self-attentive which is both a spiritual state and the actual practice of self-investigation(atma-vicara).
You write about the distinction between ourself as the subject and anything other than ourself as an object,
"whereas when we attend to ourself alone we are neither the subject nor an object, because there is absolutely no distinction between ourself and what we are attending to. We are the subject (this ego) only so long as we are distinct from what ever we are aware of, so to the extent that we are aware only of ourself, we cease to be the subject or this ego."
I think it is only a matter of name or the way of describing or view point.
According Oxford Dictionary of English in philosophy a ‚subject‘ is a thinking or feeling entity; the conscious mind; the central substance or core of a thing as opposed to its attributes.
Therefore in my opinion it may not be wrong to say : sat-chit-ananda as being conscious of the happiness of the self and being pure self-awareness, that is non-objective awareness of the absolute Brahman, and experiencing that primal state ‚I am‘ or the pure 'I' am 'I' is not a thought but non-dual. Hence attending to ourself alone cannot be any distinction between ourself and what we are attending to. As such an self-consciousness we can be named as the subject without any object.
When we define the term 'subject' as a knowing entity provided with consciousness then every carrier of self – consciousness can in the sense of that definition be named a 'subject' albeit without an object. Therefore beyond the epistemological basic-structure of the splitting between subject and object we can understand reality as unsplitted.

Michael James said...

Without Giving Room, words are vehicles for conveying meaning, so as long as we make clear what we intend each word to mean it will mean just that, and hence within reasonable limits we are free to use words as we want to use them. Therefore we should not get entangled in disputes about words unless we are trying to clarify what they mean, and if someone has made clear the sense in which they are using a particular word, we should avoid confusing ourself or others by interpreting their use of that word in some other sense.

Regarding the word ‘subject’, it may be used in different senses in different contexts, so we cannot claim that it has a single fixed meaning. However in the context of epistemology and metaphysics, there is a clear distinction between subject and object, and ‘subject’ means what knows or is aware of any object, whereas ‘object’ means whatever thing it is aware of. Therefore it was in this sense that I used the term ‘subject’ to refer to our ego and wrote:

‘When we attend to anything other than ourself, we are the subject and whatever we are attending to is an object, so there is a distinction between ourself (as the subject) and that thing (as an object), whereas when we attend to ourself alone we are neither the subject nor an object, because there is absolutely no distinction between ourself and what we are attending to. We are the subject (this ego) only so long as we are distinct from whatever we are aware of, so to the extent that we are aware only of ourself, we cease to be the subject or this ego.’

I believe that in this passage I made the sense in which I was using the term ‘subject’ quite clear, and that that sense is perfectly acceptable, easily understandable and in accordance with the sense in which it is generally used in such contexts. For example, you cited the two philosophical definitions of ‘subject’ given here in the online Oxford Dictionaries, but you omitted an important portion of the main definition and merged the secondary definition with the remaining portion of it. The main definition in the philosophy section (section 5 of the definitions for the noun), which is the only one of these two that is relevant in our present context, is: ‘A thinking or feeling entity; the conscious mind; the ego, especially as opposed to anything external to the mind’, which is very close to the sense in which I was using it.

However, rather than defining the subject as ‘the ego, especially as opposed to anything external to the mind’, I would define it as ‘the ego, especially as opposed to anything else known by it’, because according to Bhagavan none of the phenomena known by the ego are external to the mind as a whole (though they are all in a sense external to the ego), because they are all thoughts or ideas created by the ego within the mind (of which it is the root and essence). In other words, the mind as a whole consists of two distinct parts, the subject (the essential portion that is aware, namely the ego) and the objects (the portion consisting of all its other thoughts, which all the phenomena of which this ego is aware).

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

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Without Giving Room:

There are several benefits in using the term ‘subject’ in this sense in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings. Firstly, by using it thus we are emphasising and clarifying the distinction between ourself as this ego, which the subject, and all the phenomena of which we are aware, which are objects. Secondly, we can thereby say that we are the subject only so long as we are aware of any objects (that is, anything other than ourself), which is what Bhagavan implies when he teaches us in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that we rise, stand and flourish as this ego only by ‘grasping form’. Thirdly, since all objects (that is all phenomena or things other than ourself) are known only by ourself as this ego, it is logical to define this object-knowing ego as the referent or meaning of the term ‘subject’. And fourthly, by using the term ‘subject’ to refer specifically to this ego, which alone is what is aware of all objects, we can clearly distinguish this object-knowing subject that we now seem to be from the pure self-awareness that we actually are.

If on the other hand we choose to interpret the term ‘subject’ in the less precise sense in which you propose we use it, we would not thereby be clarifying anything, but would simply be glossing over important distinctions and thereby helping to perpetuate our confusion about what we actually are. Moreover, since according to your interpretation pure self-awareness is ‘the subject without any object’, you are thereby implying that brahman or sat-cit-ānanda is the subject, which seems absurd, especially when we consider the above-cited definition of ‘subject’ from the Oxford Dictionaries, particularly the portion ‘the ego, especially as opposed to anything external’, because brahman is pure awareness (prajñāna), which is opposed to nothing and to which nothing is external, because it is the infinite whole (pūrṇa), other than which nothing can exist.

Regarding your final remark, ‘beyond the epistemological basic-structure of the splitting between subject and object we can understand reality as unsplitted’, all splitting or division begins with the fundamental distinction between subject and object, which seems to exist only in the view of ourself as this ego, because this ego is the subject (according not only to my interpretation but also to the standard definition given in the Oxford Dictionaries), in whose view alone all objects seem to exist. Therefore we cannot evade or bypass all the distinctions that we now experience merely by reinterpreting the term ‘subject’ to mean not only this ego but also the one infinite self-awareness from which it arises and which always underlies its seeming existence. The only means by which we can truly and completely ‘understand reality as unsplitted’ is by eradicating this ego entirely by investigating it keenly, because only when we have eradicated it will we experience ourself as the anādi ananta akhaṇḍa sat-cit-ānanda (beginningless, limitless and undivided existence-awareness-happiness) that we actually are (as Bhagavan teaches us in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār).

without giving room said...

Michael,
thanky you for your explanation.
Again I can reply only next week.

without giving room said...

Michael,
many thanks for your detailed explanation about your interpretation of the term 'subject'. Therefore I do not raise any further objection to it.
Regarding your comment of 27 May 2016 at 10:01, last sentence of the third paragraph: ["We are the subject(this ego) only so long as we are distinct from whatever we are aware of, so to the extent that we are aware only of ourself, we cease to be the subject or this ego."] I simply wanted to object that from the viewpoint of grammar also (a) consciousness which is aware only of itself would not lose its position called the 'subject'of a sentence in this grammatical sense. In grammar probably of all world languages the term 'subject' is used in the connection with the component parts of a sentence (main/matrix clause ) for example: "I am" : 'I' is the 'subject' and 'am' is the predicate of the sentence. Because the 'subject' of a sentence is (that) what can asked with "who"? or "what"? the 'subject' as a part of the clause is mostly represented by a noun or a pronoun.
Therefore let us try to eradicate this ego entirely by investigating it keenly, as Bhagavan teaches us .

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, I have replied the question you asked in your comment in a separate article, What is ‘the I-feeling’, and do we need to be ‘off the movement of thought’ to be aware of it?

Who? said...

So many words. So simple a thing made so complicated. Go to youtube and search "Being Aware of Being Aware" by Rupert Spira. Much simpler clearer pointing. This isn't rocket science, it isn't difficult or special or unique or hard to do. You don't need to be gifted or an intellectual or a savant or an advanced yogi. You are always aware and you simply need to be AWARE of being AWARE. What is aware that you are breathing? What is it that is aware of your speaking? The same awareness that was aware of your breathing 2 years ago, 20 years ago. It is always right there, it is what you are. You could not read this sentence if you were not aware. What is witnessing you read this sentence? Awareness is.... Abide there.

Who? said...

Simpler, clearer approach to self investigation

http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/watch/true-self-investigation-is-self-abidance-or-self-remembering