Sunday, 21 August 2016

Is it incorrect to say that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate our ego?

I began to write this article this morning as a comment in reply to one written by a friend called Roger on my previous article, Why is it so necessary for us to accept without reservation the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings?, but since my reply ran to more than two thousand words, I decided to post it as this article instead. The comment that I reply to here is the latest of many in which Roger argued that it is wrong for me and others to say that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can eradicate our ego, because he believes that making such a claim is egotistical and competitive, so my aim here is to explain why I believe that we are justified in making this claim on the basis of the fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings.

Roger, lest I become proud of the praise I have received from Mouna for my ‘very eloquent’ silence, I will now break this silence by trying to reply to your latest comment.

If it were just a matter of two conflicting opinions — your opinion being that ātma-vicāra is not the only or the most direct path to God or wherever, and my opinion being that ātma-vicāra is the only direct means by which we can experience ourself as we actually are and thereby eradicate our ego (in the sense that no matter how far we may progress spiritually by following any other paths (which incidentally I have never said ‘have no value’, as you seem to assume), we must sooner or later look at ourself very carefully in order to see what we actually are) — neither of our opinions would be of much value to anyone else unless we were able to provide adequate reasons in support of whatever opinions we may express.

As far as I can see, the reasons you give for your opinions are largely based on hearsay. That is, instead of giving any arguments that explain in a logical manner on the basis of our own experience how any other means can lead directly to clear awareness of ourself as we actually are, you merely argue that since many spiritual teachers have taught many different paths, there cannot be only one direct path. But why should we believe any of those spiritual teachers when we see that they express so many conflicting and even contradictory opinions about what the ultimate goal is and how we can reach it? And how can we know whether all or any of those spiritual teachers had actually reached the ultimate goal of life, which is the annihilation of one’s own ego? Since we have no means of knowing who is actually ‘realised’, ‘enlightened’ or whatever, how can we know whom to believe?

Surely there must be some better way than merely relying on hearsay and the opinions of others, because if there is no better way, we would all be just floundering around in the dark not really knowing where we are going or why we are doing whatever we are doing. Is there no logical means by which we can know what our goal should be and how we can reach that goal? Perhaps there is, but logic works from premises to a conclusion, so it is useful only if we have strong premises to start from. If our premises are mere assumptions that we have never subjected to critical evaluation, our logic is likely to lead us to erroneous or at least dubious conclusions.

Therefore if we are to follow a logically sound spiritual path, it must be based on premises that can stand up to critical evaluation and cautious scepticism. This is why Bhagavan taught us how we should critically analyse our own experience of ourself in our three familiar states of consciousness, waking, dream and sleep, and how we should question all our assumptions about these states and the reality of whatever we experience in them. From this analysis he taught us how we can logically infer certain simple principles, which he presented in a clear, logical, coherent and systematic manner in his own original writings, particularly in three core texts, namely Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and Upadēśa Undiyār.

If we critically analyse our experience of ourself in these three states and question all our own former assumptions, we will be able to recognise the plausibility of the simple and fundamental principles that he taught us in these texts. However, though we can accept these principles as plausible and therefore use them as good working hypotheses, Bhagavan made it clear that he did not expect us merely to believe them, because if we did so we would just be replacing one set of beliefs with another (albeit a complex and dubious set of beliefs with a simpler and logically more robust one). Just as in science any hypothesis needs to be rigorously tested, the principles that Bhagavan taught us need to be tested and verified by each one of us, which we can logically do only by a deep inward investigation of ourself.

If we accept the fundamental principles that Bhagavan has taught us, it logically follows from them that the only direct means by which we can see what we actually are and thereby destroy the illusion that we are this ego is keen investigation or scrutiny of ourself — that is, of our fundamental self-awareness, which is the only thing that we experience throughout all our three regular alternating states, waking, dream and sleep.

For example, in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and elsewhere Bhagavan pointed out that our ego rises, stands, feeds itself and flourishes by ‘grasping form’, which means by being aware of anything other than itself, and that it cannot stand or endure without constantly clinging to other things (that is, to ‘forms’ or phenomena of one kind or another). He also explained that this ego is not actually real, and that it seems to exist only when it is aware of things other than itself, so if we look at it carefully, it will subside and disappear.

This principle is very plausible, because it tallies with our own experience. Throughout waking and dream we are aware of phenomena (things other than ourself, things that appear and disappear and that we therefore do not experience constantly), and while being aware of phenomena we are always aware of ourself as a separate subject, which is what is called ‘ego’, whereas in sleep we are aware of no phenomena and are therefore not aware of ourself as this separate subject or ego. As soon as we cease being aware of phenomena, our ego subsides in sleep, and as soon as it rises again in either waking or dream we become aware of phenomena once again.

Since we fall asleep or into some other similar state of manōlaya whenever we cease being aware of phenomena, and since we always rise again sooner or later from any such state of manōlaya with all our viṣaya-vāsanās intact and undiminished, merely ceasing to be aware of phenomena is not by itself a means to annihilate our ego. Our ego rises and stands whenever we are aware of phenomena, and subsides whenever we cease to be aware of them, so how can we destroy it? We obviously cannot do so either by being aware of phenomena or by not being aware of them, so what other option is open to us?

Since the ego rises, stands and flourishes by attending to phenomena, and since it subsides only when it ceases attending to them, in order to destroy it not attending to or being aware of phenomena is necessary but not sufficient. So what is the missing ingredient? By what means can our ego subside not just temporarily in manōlaya but permanently in manōnāśa? The missing ingredient, which is the only other option and therefore the only means by which we can eradicate our ego forever, is self-attentiveness.

Though we cease to be aware of any phenomena whenever we subside in sleep or any other state of manōlaya, we do so due to tiredness or some other extraneous cause, such as breath-restraint (prāṇāyāma), but since we subside without being keenly self-attentive, our ego is not thereby annihilated. Therefore according to Bhagavan the only means by which we can annihilate our ego is by being so keenly self-attentive that we thereby cease to be aware of anything else whatsoever. This is a perfectly reasonable proposal, because since we cannot destroy our ego by attending to anything else or by merely ceasing to attend to anything else, the only other possibility is that we could destroy it by attending to ourself alone.

This is also plausible for another reason. That is, our ego is an illusory and erroneous awareness of ourself, because it is an awareness of ourself as a body and certain other associated phenomena, none of which can actually be ourself, since they appear only in waking or dream and disappear in sleep, even though we continue to be aware of ourself while asleep. Since this ego is an erroneous awareness of ourself as something other than what we actually are, it can be destroyed only by a correct awareness of ourself as we actually are. Therefore, since we can be aware of ourself as we actually are only by looking very keenly at ourself in complete isolation (kaivalya) from everything else, self-attentiveness must be the only way we can destroy this illusory self-awareness called ‘ego’.

Therefore when I argue that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is the only direct means by which we can annihilate this ego (as Bhagavan himself said explicitly on many occasions), I argue it logically on the basis of the simple principles that he taught us. Hence, if you want to repudiate what I say, you must offer us logical reasons to convince us that the fundamental principles taught by him in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and elsewhere are not correct, or that there is a flaw in the simple logic by which we infer this conclusion from those premises.

As you are hopefully aware, there are only two ways in which one can effectively refute or at least repudiate any logical argument, namely either by showing that the premises are false or dubious, or by showing that the logic employed to arrive at the conclusion is flawed. It is not sufficient merely to assert a contrary opinion, or to cite the authority of anyone else’s opinion, even if the person or people whose opinion one is citing are reputed to be great spiritual teachers.

Truly great spiritual teachers do not ask us to merely believe blindly whatever they assert, but give us clear logical reasons to convince us that what they say is correct or at least extremely plausible — reasons that can withstand critical evaluation and all reasonable doubt — and they also give us an equally logical means by which we can experientially test the truth of what they say, as Bhagavan has done.

Regarding what you often write about answers supposedly given by Bhagavan that are recorded in various other books, particularly in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, there are many books (of which Talks is the largest) that record some of the answers that he gave to a wide variety of different questions asked by people, many of whom were not actually sincerely seeking to eradicate their own egos, but these records only show us whatever the respective recorders were able to grasp, understand and remember of what he said, so they are often not very reliable, and they may not adequately convey the clarity and all the nuances in what he said. Whatever he wrote or said was always very clear and simple, though also quite subtle and extremely deep, so simplicity and clarity are the hallmark of all he taught, but in Talks and other such books that simplicity and clarity is often not adequately conveyed, and many passages in them are so confused and unclear that we cannot be sure what he intended to convey, which is a compelling reason for us to doubt whether what is recorded in such passages is what he actually said. Therefore though there are many useful ideas in such books, they are not the most reliable records of his teachings, so we have to read them with discrimination and to judge each word, phrase, sentence and paragraph in them in the bright light of the clear, simple and coherent principles that he teaches us in his original written works.

If we take stray passages from Talks and view them outside the context of the fundamental principles he teaches us in Nāṉ Yār?, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, Upadēśa Undiyār and his other written texts, we are likely to form a very distorted and mistaken understanding of his teachings. What he wrote in these three texts was for those who are truly dedicated to understanding the essence of his teachings and putting it into practice, whereas much of what is recorded in other books is what he said in reply to questions asked by people who had other interests, concerns and goals, and who were therefore not yet ready to learn what his outward form primarily existed to teach us.

If we carefully and thoughtfully study these three texts, reflecting on them deeply and repeatedly and thereby imbibing all the principles that he teaches us in them, and if we try to practice self-investigation as he advised us, we will be able to understand why he said so often that self-investigation is not only the direct means but also the only one by which we can experience ourself as we really are. This does not mean that other spiritual practices are of no value, but only that if we follow any of them it cannot lead us directly to our ultimate destination, but must sooner or later lead us to investigate ourself in order to reach that final goal, as Bhagavan clearly explained in the first fifteen verses of Upadēśa Undiyār, most of which I have discussed in detail in two of my earlier articles, Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)? and Prāṇāyāma is just an aid to restrain the mind but will not bring about its annihilation.

81 comments:

Zubin said...

What a wonderful and detailed posting.

I don’t want to wade into whether self-enquiry is the only means to permanently eradicate the ego. I will leave that for others to debate.

But as to whether self-enquiry is the only way to temporarily eradicate the ego the moment it arises, that is another story.

Looking directly at anything that is a lie will obliterate it, just like moving your head up against your computer monitor will show you the pixels rather than the image.

It is only a matter of trying it. Next time you experience, say, sadness, look at your breath and realize the feeling of sadness lingers. Look at anything and the feeling of sadness is still in the background.

But look directly at the feeling of sadness itself and it subsides. One moment you are looking at this feeling you believe to be true, then like water through your fingers it slips away and all that you are left looking at is I AM.

Bob - P said...

Dear Michael thankyou for writing this recent article I found it very helpful as always as I am sure others did.
In appreciation.
Bob

venkat said...

Swami Satchidanandendra dedicated his life to clarifying the true teachings of Sankara, and removing the dross that accumulated around them. As far as I know, he was not a follower of Bhagavan. However, here are some beautifully pertinent quotes by him distilling Sankara's jnana yoga:

"As long as the mind continues to be a mind, it becomes distracted or gets disturbed and keeps on hovering from one object to another. But when the mind starts flowing inwards towards Atman alone, then by virtue of its contact with Atman, the mind is rendered to be a 'no-mind' . . . The chitta (mind) merging in this Atman becomes verily Chit (Pure Consciousness) - just as it is rendered to be one with It in deep sleep; that alone is the really real Samadhi. For those who have cognised or intuited Atman's chitswarupa properly, sahaja samadhi accrues."

"How at all can we cognise, know such a (subtle) Atman by means of Jnana (intuitive knowledge)? The answer is: by means of Adhyatmayoga . . . We should make a sincere and assiduous attempt needed to give up our vain pride in, or sense of identification with, not-selves like the body, the sense, etc; we must also make all efforts to acquire, earn Pratyagdrishti (inner vision, introspection, introvertedness). Only such a person who has thus cognised Atman by himself, within himself, by means of Adhyatmayoga goes beyond, nay conquers Harsha-Shoka (the pairs of opposites like happiness and misery)."

“. . .At last the aspirant should objectify his ‘I’-sense or ego taking a stand in the true nature of his own Self, that is the Witness of the ‘I’-sense. To objectify the ‘I’-sense the only method is through discrimination . . . Through the practice of this Adhyatma Yoga at last one cognises that “my true nature of Being is beyond the ‘I’-sense or ego". When one cognises this Truth then he remains unto himself as of the nature of the Witness of the ego. Hence ‘to know the Self is to be the Self and to be the Self is to cease the identification with the not-self’. This utterance of Sri Ramanamaharshi is to be remembered by the sadhaka of Adhyatma Yoga. Here the sadhaka has traversed inwards, as it were, with a concentrated mind, followed by discrimination, and has arrived at the brink of all duality and at the very core of life. And he himself has remained as the Witness of the ego or as the Pure Self.”

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

I was thinking how helpful is to remember one of your last dreams and remember that "you" were there... Judging that "we" (as the real us, the Self, the I AM) exist in dreams, we can then intuite that we existed in dreamless sleep also because we can't cease to be/exist. If we remember clearly one of our last dreams and realize we were there we can conclude easily that we exist always without interruption, and we can well exist withouth a body and a mind...

Roger Isaacs said...

Part 1:
Hi Michael,

Thank you for this post. We've talked about this too much. I now accept your teachings but with provisions. And I have a remaining question below.

What do I mean by "I accept your teachings but with provisions"?
The story of the blind men and the elephant exemplifies the Jain philosophy of Anekantavada:
One blind man grabs the trunk of the elephant and declares "ah, an elephant is like a thick rope",
another grabs a leg and declares "No!, you are wrong! an elephant is like a stout tree trunk",
another grabs an ear and declares "you are both wrong! an elephant is like a fan"..... but of course none knows the true elephant.

The story explains the Jain philosophy of Anekantavada. This philosophy states that the world is very complex, diverse and constantly changing and evolving. No single point of view could ever be the complete truth, yet, when multiple viewpoints are considered, we are closer to the truth. Very important: the position of Anekantavada (an acceptance & investigation into diversity) is NOT taken to be superior either. I accept your teaching as a partial & genuinely valid viewpoint, one of many. I am not required to believe it all, nor am I required to surrender any positions that I might have, but I respect your teachings and I will continue to study them because I benefit.

And I accept (for example) that you have the authority to determine what materials will be used for your teaching: fine if you want to exclude "talks" or whatever.

I also understand that your teaching is religious exclusivism, the doctrine that only one spiritual practice is true which is common to many religions. You are an exclusivist and I am an inclusivist. But... I am not saying that you are wrong, I am actually including your position within mine.

So... I have no more arguments or challenges to your teaching.

Someone will surely ask: But Roger you dunce (is that the right word or should I use something stronger?), you are playing games, the idea is to PRACTICE atma vicara and surrender to Bhagavan unconditionally, not just be a spectator. Well, if this is your challenge, then read Michael's recent blog on "asparsa yoga" which is a response to me and then tell me that I don't already practice atma vicara. I believe I am in tune with Bhagavan, does he broadcast on different channels?

Roger Isaacs said...

My remaining question:
Now that we know that atma vicara is the most direct way (provisionally for me) an issue still remains.

Seekers can take this assertion "most direct..." and become identified with it. There is a terrible history associated with religious exclusivism, a huge pool of collective and personal vasanas of terrible suffering and violence. The religions Christianity, Islam, Judaism all believe just as you do that they have the only true way. These religions have been involved in conflict with each other for thousands of years almost continuously, and to this day. Eventually, various branches even then start fighting within each religion.

Of course open warfare will never happen with atma vicara... but pride, intolerance, prejudice can happen and most importantly: this blocks self inquiry. I am simply making the case that pride (etc) is an issue and I am asking you about it.

In your teaching, do you see pride (etc) coming from religious exclusivism as a problem?
How will you deal with it?

I looked at the 2 articles about ahimsa on the topic index. They don't seem to address this directly.

I will be honest about my experiences here and state issues that relate to pride (etc):
You say above "I have never said the other paths have no value."

I accept this as your intent, but it seems then we have misunderstood each other. Consider the quote below our first interaction from your blog: 2016/5 we-can-separate you wrote to me:
nēti nēti ... is not intended to be a spiritual practice or a direct means to know what we actually are, but is simply an intellectual analysis

And in the initial old article which lead me to your blog " Atma-vichara and the practice of neti-neti" you say:
"Any practice other than atma-vichara — which is the non-dual practice of thought-free self-conscious being — is merely a mental activity,..."

Maybe my impression from these quotes is simply a misunderstanding, I may be focused on isolated comments that are not representative.

When you tell me that what I am doing is "not intended to be a spiritual practice" this feels like you are judging my practice without ever having asked me specifically what I do (prejudice). Perhaps you think that my practice may have value, but you state explicitly that the value can't be spiritual. And in the second quote... you seem to denounce all other practices. You call all other practices "mental activity" which hardly equates with any real "value".

Also... we hear from posters who say virtually all other spiritual practices are ineffective (prejudice & intolerance). It comes out of "atma vicara is the most direct..." (which I accept provisionally as being true)

You translate Bhagavan: It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to enter [or interfere] in the affairs of other people.

Is calling other practices ineffective an obsession with what other people are doing? Should we really care about what others are doing? Are they our responsibility? It seems that a significant amount of interaction on this blog is about other peoples practices.

What are your feelings on these issues?

My impression is that when Bhagavan was in the body, his extraordinary presence and transcendental stillness was overwhelming. But now... this "most direct" assertion (even though I provisionally accept "most direct" as true) has become an egoic theme. Did people at the ashram stand around talking about "most direct" and comparing other paths? I doubt it. I believe there was a great benevolence with Bhagavan's presence, he wrote "atma vicara is the most direct"... but it seems he never forced it on anyone, where as here, it's a regular theme. At least that is my perspective as an outsider.

thanks,
Roger

venkat said...

Roger,

Advaita has developed lots of methods to help use reasoning as a way of pointing to the truth - neti, neti, and the three states analysis (as Dragos mentioned in his post) are two examples. Logical reasoning such as this IS mental activity, IS intellectual analysis.

There is nothing wrong with that - and it is not being denounced. Michael uses logical analysis all the time to make his case for atma vichara. Mental activity, intellectual analysis is how we convince ourselves of the truth of this philosophy. And continually recalling it (e.g. using neti neti) to remind ourselves of its veracity is part of the process of developing conviction. But as some point, the thinking needs to fall away, and one needs to just abide in the Self. I think that is what Michael is saying.

As for exclusivism, it is an issue only if you seek to impose / force your beliefs on others. The religious conflicts you speak of were / are not about religion, about a compassionate urge to help people find god / truth / whatever, but about men using religion as a pretext to further their own greed for money, power and resources; it was about imperialism.

Atma vichara is only about self-investigation and discovery. It can never be an evangelical creed - how can it be, when the "others" and the "I" are all illusory. As Bhagavan used to say, first find out who you are, and then worry about the world. This is an inward quest, requiring detachment from all others.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Zubin, when you write: ‘Next time you experience, say, sadness […] Look at anything and the feeling of sadness is still in the background. But look directly at the feeling of sadness itself and it subsides’, it doesn’t appear to be in perfect tune with Bhagavan’s teachings.

If we look directly at the feeling of sadness, this sadness will not subside, but instead its intensity will increase. Why? It is because we will thereby be attending to the thoughts of sadness, and thoughts gain strength when we attend to it. Therefore, according to my understanding, the effective ways to make this feeling of sadness subside could be as follows:

• We could start attending to some other types of thoughts, say engage ourself in some engrossing hobby – like music, painting, etc. While we are occupied with any hobby, our sad thoughts will subside, at least intermittently.

• We can try to go to sleep. As there are no thoughts in sleep, our sad thoughts will also vanish, at least as long as we are fast asleep.

• However, the only way to make the feeling of sadness subside permanently is by attending to the one who has this sadness. The one who projects and experiences this sadness, and all its other thoughts, is only our ego, ‘I’. Since our ego comes into existence by attending to things other than itself, it would subside by attending only to itself. If we are able to make our ego subside permanently by such self-attentiveness, all our feelings of temporary sadness and happiness, which are all dependent on our ego, will vanish forever - never to reappear again.

Viveka Vairagya said...

I Wonder What Buddha Means

"Events happen, deeds are done,but there is no individual doer thereof... Paradoxical though it may sound: There is a path to walk on, there is walking being done, but there is no traveller. There are deeds being done, but there is no doer."---Buddha

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, it has been said by Bhagavan, Lord Jesus and Sri Krishna that sincere or mature sadhakas are given some 'extra amount of grace' - that is, some extra protection by the supreme ruling power. Like Jesus said: seek the kingdom of heaven and everything else will be added onto you. Like Bhagavan once said: grace is vouchsafed only to a yogi or a devotee who has striven hard on the path to liberation, or something to that effect. And like Krishna said: I will take care of the yogashema (all the spiritual and material needs) of the devotees who are devoted only to me.

I thought that when Bhagavan, Jesus and Krishna said such things, it was merely to encourage us to undertake our spiritual pursuits with one-pointed attention, forgetting all our worldly cares. But there could be more in these assurances that I have been able to understand. You have also indicated (in one of your recent videos) that grace looks after sincere sadhakas in some special way, or something to that effect.

Since grace is nothing but our true self - which is 'available to us in equal quantity' - in what way does it show 'favours' to, or take care extra care of sincere devotees who have striven hard on the path to liberation? Could you please explain this?

With regards,

Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Venkat,
I was hoping you would respond to this as there has long been a misunderstanding between us (and Michael) that I wanted to try and clear up.

In the 1200 years since Sankara, there have been innumerable teachers and despite the writings and everyone's best efforts the understanding has drifted. Apparently we both have had teachers that tried to get back to the roots in their different ways.

As I understand it from our previous discussions, your practice of Jnana Yoga is something like:
1: go direct to attention on self if possible
2: notice when outward activity of the mind arises and introduce "who am I?" in some way, perhaps it is only "attention"
3: then you are at step 1

Is this correct? I'm sure you'd have refinements.

And, neti-neti for you is the preliminary manana (or other stage) dealing with an outward level of contemplation. From this viewpoint, Michael's statement "neti-neti is intellectual activity" is correct. This makes sense from the teaching of Jnana Marga which I take to be the general final advaita level.

If this is your perspective, I don't have any issues with it, I'm not trying to correct it. I am only pointing out differences in an attempt to reach deeper understanding. I did not understand the subtleties of our different perspectives for some time.

Your school's statement that "neti-neti" is only a mental activity accidentally imposes on what I have been taught. And, perhaps due to my inability to be precise & patient enough... it was not possible to see this and resolve it earlier. Although in addition to my perhaps lack of patience, Michael is, shall we say, pretty confident in his opinions? (this is meant to be friendly & slightly provocative)

What I have been taught is:
1: go direct to attention on self if possible
2: notice when outward activity of the mind arises, and just seeing whatever it is that arises is "not this!"
3: then you are at step 1

So I have been taught that "not this" has the outward preliminary learning about negation, we agree on this. But... this initial teaching finds fruition in the practice of negating all outward activity of the mind & emotions. This negation leaves us back at attention on self with no outward movement of the mind/emotions.

So... in summary, I agree with the approach you guys are stating, and I hope you can see that although I am doing virtually the same thing, by naming the steps differently we can run into difficulties.

Regarding exclusivism:
I am only trying to state that exclusivism is a problem, and... "not this exclusivism!"

Exclusivism exists apparently at a developmental stage of being human. For example, the "spiral dynamics"hypothesis in Wilbers teaching notes different ascending levels of cultural & individual development.

1: survival: caveman or below
2: tribal cooperation towards survival
3: egocentric development of self: feudal lords
4: authoritarian: feudal advances to religiously ordered empires (as you say)
5: rational scientific thinking
6: egalitarian: "green thinking": ecology based perspective: greenspeace.
7: integrative: seeing the world as interlocking series of systems.
8: holistic: consciously accept the value of all the different levels, perhaps as spirit.

For me, this whole elaboration is just a refined attempt at realizing what impulses we are negating. Realize what we are not, so that what we are can be realized.

"Exclusivism" is natural and actually beneficial at the lower levels. Imposing order has life sustaining benefit. BUT... it must also drop away if we are to know Self. Eventually, exclusivism can become life threatening. If we can simply see what it is, we can drop it.

Regards,
R

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Zubin,

"Looking directly at anything that is a lie will obliterate it"

According to Bhagavan we should not look at anything whatsoever (like a thought or emotion) but to "What is aware of it?". This is the question "Who am I?" he is asking us to investigate. "Who am I?" or "Nan Yar?" or literraly "I what?" or " What is "I"? ". This is what he wanted us to do, this is the path. ("I" or "I am" is what is aware of anything else)

It is true that some emotions dissapear when we look carefully at them, or when we ignore them by fixing our attention on something else. But here we are told to look for the "I", or to "see the seer (of thoughts, emotions)".

So to follow you example, if I am aware of some sadness inside me, according to Bhagavan I should try to see what is aware of it not look carefully at the emotion of sadness. We are told we will eradicate all such vasanas in this way and finally subside in our source and accomplish the goal when such "enemies" are destroyed by this process, as is said in Nan Yar?, paragraph eleven

"So long as enemies are within the fort, they will continue coming out from it. If [one] continues cutting down [or destroying] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] come into [one’s] possession."

The process of "cutting down" is explained in paragraph six of Nan Yar? (I added in {} my own words words, I hope Michael won't mind)

"If other thoughts rise {like the sadness you talk about}, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred {or what is aware of them}. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? As soon as each thought appears, if [one] vigilantly investigates to whom it has occurred {or what is aware of it}, it will be clear that [it is] to me {to "I"}. If [one thus] investigates who am I {what is is that is aware of sadness}, the mind will return to its birthplace [the innermost core of one’s being, which is the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought which had risen will also subside."

This is the path He has show us...

Thank you for your comment here,
Dragos

venkat said...

Roger,

In a way, atma vichara is the fundamental means of negation: by carefully watching the I-thought, the ego, it evaporates on its own. Not that you intellectually try to negate it; just the careful watching of it reveals its non-existence.

On Wilber, I've never been a fan. He over-complicates unnecessarily. Whilst this path is about discarding concepts, he seems to revel in building further concepts. I guess it serves his consulting work.


Viveka Vairagya,

Could I ask you for the source of that Buddha quote? Ramesh Balsekar was fond of saying it, or something like it, but I have never been able to find the source of it. Thanks.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viveka Vairagya, we can try and interpret what Buddha said in the light of Bhagavan’s teachings. Buddha says, ‘Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof...’ Yes, our ego cannot act in any way, because it is a nonexistent phantom. How can a nonexistent entity do anything? Then who does all these actions which we experience happening around us? It is the supreme governing power of God. Only this power is responsible for all the seeming actions we see around us, but our ego erroneously attributes God’s actions as its own actions.

God makes us act in various ways, and since we (our ego) take ourself to be this mind, speech and body, we falsely imagine the actions of our mind, speech and body to be our ego’s actions. As a famous Tamil saying goes: ‘not a single atom can move without God's power impelling it to act’, or something to that effect. So our ego just usurps the actions of God, and assumes that these are its actions.

Therefore, as Buddha says, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer. However, Buddha does not specify or makes clear: if there is no individual doer, who is the doer? Because logically all actions must have a doer or actor, and an action without an actor will be a logical contradiction. We can say that all the actions we see around us are like dream events; therefore, in reality nothing is happening, so there is no actor. However, since we see seeming actions happening around us, we have to postulate a seeming actor responsible for these actions, and this seeming actor is the supreme power of God - it can be called maya or grace.


Ken said...

Roger,

Two quick answers to your questions:

1) I am very far from an expert on Advaita Vedanta, but I think that the problem here (not unusual) is semantic. Your "neti-neti" technique above is different from what I have seen associated with the sanskrit phrase "neti-neti". So, back a few months ago, when you mentioned "neti-neti" and some people mentioned problems with "neti-neti" they were referring to another practice that is customarily associated with the phrase.

Since I am not a Sanskrit scholar, I don't know what the correct usage is of "neti-neti". But, in my reading of Ramana Maharshi, I do not think he used it to mean your practice.

2) While each person's mental state is different, I do not think "pride" is a problem here. Here is why:

Ramana Maharshi died before most of us were born. I'm pretty sure none of our parents raised us as Ramana devotees.

So, why would we follow Ramana Maharshi?

From logic.

We are in this world. In order to choose to do anything in the next second, we first need to know:

* What is the world?
* What am I?

When we are helpless children, we are taught many things for 20 years, but much of what we are taught is incorrect - not just Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Just about everything taught about "what is a human being" is false. That's too long a topic for now.

But the point is that we need to challenge all our assumptions, and investigate our situation logically.

Ramana Maharshi analyzed our situation as human beings, and logically came up with a system to investigate it.

If I need to remove a screw, I go through the tool chest. A hammer wiil not work, a wrench will not work, but a screwdriver will work. Do I have pride that I am using a screwdriver? No. Do I throw out the hammer and wrench? No.

Religious pride has nothing to do with religion.

Hooligans are football fans who get together under the flag of their chosen team and violently attack the fans of other feams. They do not actually care much about football.

Religious extremists get together under the flag of their chosen religion and violently attack the adherents of other religions. THey do not actually care much about religion.

Zubin said...

Sanjay & Dragos,

Thanks for your comments on my comment.

Language gets in the way, and I may not have explained myself with the right terminology, but I stand by my original comment.

When shining awareness on anything directly, especially adjuncts of the ego, they will disappear and all that is left is awareness, or the feeling of I AM.

There are two ways to end the ego arising in a moment, in my experience. Ultimately, however, they are the same means: self-enquiry.

One is to shift your awareness back to the thinker (by whatever means, such as asking Who am I?), and another is to stop thinking and look at the feeling of something

So I agree that if you, for example, are feeling sadness, and continue to think, then the sadness will continue.

But looking directly at something does not involve thinking. It is the exact same process as asking yourself Who Am I? or Who is feeling this?

Looking directly at something means the I-thought is cut off immediately, and you, as awareness, are left looking at any lingering bodily sensations. If you continue to look at those sensations, you see that they are no different than the I AM feeling, and that the mind, for an instant, is assuming those I AM feelings are infusing the body.

You can then continue to look directly at the I AM feeling and see that it is only the mind assuming it is bounded by the body.

So, in effect, to summarize what I am trying to say, for me, looking directly at something may be broken down to these steps:

1- Sadness passes through
2- Stop thought by asking Who is feeling sad?
3- Awareness is left looking at itself, or the I AM feeling, but there may be lingering and very subtle bodily sensations left.
4- Ask who is aware of these subtle feelings?
5- An even deeper feeling of I AM is left looking at an even deeper feeling of I AM

But, for me, looking directly at something doesn't need me to ask those questions, it just happens automatically when I look directly at something that my attention shifts back to I AM, then continues to shift to even more expansive feelings of I AM as I rout out any subtle, lingering feelings.

Still not sure if I've explained myself properly :-)

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Zubin,

I believe that "Looking directly at anything" in the way you suggest is the path of Buddhist vipassana (or a specific form of it if I am not mistaken). Basically you sit in meditation or even while engaged in activities and look AT whatever arises in the way of like studying something minute you hold in your hands for example. Doing this keen looking at "what rises" would make them dissapear (the practice says). The path says that if you keep this practice for a long time (like life long Budhhist meditators do), all that is within the mind will rise and you will erase them like this and then pure being will remain (self realization). I think this is that specific path, correct me if I am wrong. The path would start with a concentration meditation to fortify the power of attention (like watching your breath or a candle etc..) and then you use the sharpened attention to look AT the rising objects to dissolve them by what is called "insight".

I believe in this kind of sense Roger asks if other practices would not accomplish the same goal.

Bhagavan says otherwise... He says that by other practices (which would include this also) except the way of Who am I above we would never completely eradicate the ego... we may even create a subtle form of ego in the end, when some of the gross, more "visible" vasanas would be eradicated, but some very subtle ones would remain (perhaps, who knows, feelings of deep peace and bliss, experiencing some kind of expanded consciousness...feeling ourselves like a pervading ether or essence...etc... and then thinking we are enlightened (read experiences many people have..)). The reason He says this would not work, is that now matter what we are eradicating from the mind we are still left with something, something to observe, now matter how subtle. He takes the Direct Way, we should turn from everything else towards what observes it... even if we dissolve many things with other meditations (sadhanas) we still have to turn to what observed the whole process, Bhagavan says. This is what all the articles on this blog are about, this is what Bhagavan says and Michael explains everywhere in his own style.

For example read the article ( although I think you already did) http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.ro/2015/01/the-fundamental-law-of-experience-or.html where he explain this basic, fundamental principle, I don't have the skill to put it better into words.

It can be a matter of endless debate, but as this was discovered by Ramana (and therefore by all Sages since this is timeless knowledge) we only have to make a test. There's no other way.

I DO NOT KNOW to be honest if that way you suggest leads to self realization. I did not follow it. Judging by what Bhagavan says it would not lead to it. I am following this one because there are compelling reasons for following it. These reasons are explained in great detail on this blog...

Thank you for you time, and I don't want to sound like I am an expert or something... (I did not follow that specific path, just tossing around some ideas, personally I am fully dedicated to atma-vichara in the way I explain above in my own words)

Perhaps Roger would like to comment... (Is this the sense you refered of other practices that would achieve the same goal?!)

Thank you all,
Dragos



Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Zubin this last comment of mine was supposed to be in front of your last comment... I pressed publish immediately after you and it came after...

Thank you,
Dragos

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

I don't get it... I wrote a long comment and now it dissapeared... let's wait a little... it happened before... it will reappear...

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Zubin,

I believe that "Looking directly at anything" in the way you suggest is the path of Buddhist vipassana (or a specific form of it if I am not mistaken). Basically you sit in meditation or even while engaged in activities and look AT whatever arises in the way of like studying something minute you hold in your hands for example. Doing this keen looking at "what rises" would make them dissapear (the practice says). The path says that if you keep this practice for a long time (like life long Budhhist meditators do), all that is within the mind will rise and you will erase them like this and then pure being will remain (self realization). I think this is that specific path, correct me if I am wrong. The path would start with a concentration meditation to fortify the power of attention (like watching your breath or a candle etc..) and then you use the sharpened attention to look AT the rising objects to dissolve them by what is called "insight".

I believe in this kind of sense Roger asks if other practices would not accomplish the same goal.

Bhagavan says otherwise... He says that by other practices (which would include this also) except the way of Who am I above we would never completely eradicate the ego... we may even create a subtle form of ego in the end, when some of the gross, more "visible" vasanas would be eradicated, but some very subtle ones would remain (perhaps, who knows, feelings of deep peace and bliss, experiencing some kind of expanded consciousness...feeling ourselves like a pervading ether or essence...etc... and then thinking we are enlightened (read experiences many people have..)). The reason He says this would not work, is that now matter what we are eradicating from the mind we are still left with something, something to observe, now matter how subtle. He takes the Direct Way, we should turn from everything else towards what observes it... even if we dissolve many things with other meditations (sadhanas) we still have to turn to what observed the whole process, Bhagavan says. This is what all the articles on this blog are about, this is what Bhagavan says and Michael explains everywhere in his own style.

For example read the article ( although I think you already did) http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.ro/2015/01/the-fundamental-law-of-experience-or.html where he explain this basic, fundamental principle, I don't have the skill to put it better into words.

It can be a matter of endless debate, but as this was discovered by Ramana (and therefore by all Sages since this is timeless knowledge) we only have to make a test. There's no other way.

I DO NOT KNOW to be honest if that way you suggest leads to self realization. I did not follow it. Judging by what Bhagavan says it would not lead to it. I am following this one because there are compelling reasons for following it. These reasons are explained in great detail on this blog...

Thank you for you time, and I don't want to sound like I am an expert or something... (I did not follow that specific path, just tossing around some ideas, personally I am fully dedicated to atma-vichara in the way I explain above in my own words)

Perhaps Roger would like to comment... (Is this the sense you refered of other practices that would achieve the same goal?!)

Thank you all,
Dragos

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

"4- Ask who is aware of these subtle feelings?"

... my bad then :)

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Zubin,

I believe that "Looking directly at anything" in the way you suggest is the path of Buddhist vipassana (or a specific form of it if I am not mistaken). Basically you sit in meditation or even while engaged in activities and look AT whatever arises in the way of like studying something minute you hold in your hands for example. Doing this keen looking at "what rises" would make them dissapear (the practice says). The path says that if you keep this practice for a long time (like life long Budhhist meditators do), all that is within the mind will rise and you will erase them like this and then pure being will remain (self realization). I think this is that specific path, correct me if I am wrong. The path would start with a concentration meditation to fortify the power of attention (like watching your breath or a candle etc..) and then you use the sharpened attention to look AT the rising objects to dissolve them by what is called "insight".

I believe in this kind of sense Roger asks if other practices would not accomplish the same goal.

Bhagavan says otherwise... He says that by other practices (which would include this also) except the way of Who am I above we would never completely eradicate the ego... we may even create a subtle form of ego in the end, when some of the gross, more "visible" vasanas would be eradicated, but some very subtle ones would remain (perhaps, who knows, feelings of deep peace and bliss, experiencing some kind of expanded consciousness...feeling ourselves like a pervading ether or essence...etc... and then thinking we are enlightened (read experiences many people have..)). The reason He says this would not work, is that now matter what we are eradicating from the mind we are still left with something, something to observe, now matter how subtle. He takes the Direct Way, we should turn from everything else towards what observes it... even if we dissolve many things with other meditations (sadhanas) we still have to turn to what observed the whole process, Bhagavan says. This is what all the articles on this blog are about, this is what Bhagavan says and Michael explains everywhere in his own style.

For example read the article ( although I think you already did) http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.ro/2015/01/the-fundamental-law-of-experience-or.html where he explain this basic, fundamental principle, I don't have the skill to put it better into words.

It can be a matter of endless debate, but as this was discovered by Ramana (and therefore by all Sages since this is timeless knowledge) we only have to make a test. There's no other way.

I DO NOT KNOW to be honest if that way you suggest leads to self realization. I did not follow it. Judging by what Bhagavan says it would not lead to it. I am following this one because there are compelling reasons for following it. These reasons are explained in great detail on this blog...

Thank you for you time, and I don't want to sound like I am an expert or something... (I did not follow that specific path, just tossing around some ideas, personally I am fully dedicated to atma-vichara in the way I explain above in my own words)

Perhaps Roger would like to comment... (Is this the sense you refered of other practices that would achieve the same goal?!)

Thank you all,
Dragos

Ken said...

PS Regarding Wilber:

The physical world has infinite complexity. One could spend millions of lifetimes finding patterns within it.

Intertwined with the physical world, including our own physical body, are many invisible and unseen things. An easy example is memory. We try to remember a name... and then it pops up in our mind, seemingly out of nowhere.

In the 19th and 20th Century, the unseen aspects of the physical world became popular, and became associated with the word "spirituality". But that is just mechanics.

Ramana has said (loose paraphrase) that there is no point to learning about the 64 this or the 8 that, it doesn't get you anywhere.

If your chosen profession is healing, then in addition to learning about the physical body, there is also benefit to learning about the unseen mechanics of nadis, meridians, etc. But that is just maintenance and repair.

Nan Yar - Ramana's logical explanation of Life, the Universe and Everything is roughly 12 pages long. (There are far longer Ramana books, but they are all collections of questions and answer sessions, rather than writings.)

So, when I see people writing an endless stream of 800 page books, I know they are just talking about mechanics.

Ken said...

Roger, one additional clarification might be helpful:

You wrote: "the idea is to PRACTICE atma vicara and surrender to Bhagavan unconditionally".

Assuming that you mean "Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi" (as is used on this site), then that is inccorect.

Ramana said that the idea is to practice atma vicara. Period.

He did say that one can alternatively practice "surrender to Ishvara" and that this would lead, in the end, to atma vicara. (Ishvara is the Personal God of the physical world.)

In Advaita, Guru = God = Self (atman). When people had a vision of Ramana, and would ask him about it, he always said (paraphrase) "I did not do that".

Another teacher of non-dualism once said "Worship your own Self. Meditate on your own Self. God dwells within you as you." (What he meant by "Meditate on your own Self" was essentially atma vicara.)

So, in Advaita, grace comes from the Self.

There are articles on this site about how atma vicara is surrender to God (since God = Self).

Viveka Vairagya said...

Hi Venkat,

I took that quote from a website. But since you asked for the source, I did some digging around, and it turns out that apparently Buddha did not say it. As is said on http://christophertitmussblog.org/no-doer-of-a-deed

"From time to time, Dharma and Advaita friends ask me where does the Buddha say in the Pali suttas; “Deeds are done but there is no doer of.”

There is nowhere that the Buddha makes such a statement. The statement appears on page 700 of The Path of Purification, (Visuddhimaggaa), a very influential sixth century commentary by the influential Theravada monk, Venerable Buddhaghosa of Sri Lanka. Venerable Buddhaghosa wrote:

“There is no doer of a deed
Or one who reaps the deed’s result
Phenomena alone flows on
No other view than this is right.”

The Buddha would not make express such a view. If there were deeds without a doer, then the doer would be absolved of all responsibility for what he or she has done, is doing or will be done. The individual could claim there is only the deed but no doer, only phenomena flowing on.

The Buddha challenged this view of no-self – as it would mean that there would also be no responsibility for the results of what we did. There is the doer, the doing and the done, namely the results. All three go together or none. The doer arises in accordance with the dependent arising of the doing and the done.

Various teachers in Advaita often quote the Buddha as the one who spoke this verse rather than a scholar monk 1000 years later."

Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Ken,
Have you checked out Franklin Merrell-Wolff?

He seems to pass one of your criteria: unlike BL, Brunton and Wilber... he did not write 800 books.
And... with "formal education in philosophy and mathematics at Stanford and Harvard", and as a professor of mathematics at Sanford, he was smarter than I will ever be in any lifetime.

I'm sure you'll be able to sniff out the truth instantly. :-)


Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Dragos, Zubin,

Dragos, yeah, I see your post disappeared from the blog. You must have said something REALLY bad?

I am somewhat reluctant to talk about other approaches now. The thing I needed to say was "religious exclusivism can breed pride". Having said that, Michael's teaching seems like one entirely valid approach. And... as you say, debates can be endless. I could discuss alternatives endlessly but I'm not sure that it is appropriate on Michael's blog?

It took me a while to see that Michael's approach involves excluding everything from awareness except the essence of attentive awareness, even excluding the body and world. So... perhaps he would not mind if we discuss things to do while we are awake in activity?

I agree with your comments, Zubin, regarding "when shining awareness on anything directly... what is left is awareness, or the feeling of I AM". And also "stop thinking and look at the feeling of something". And "continues to shift to even more expansive feelings of I AM as I rout out any subtle, lingering feelings". That description is inspiring. You must be on the right track... but you already knew this.

Nisargadatta Maharaj said that after his guru instructed him to stay in "I AM" as much as possible it took 3 years, and he was working supporting his family at that time too

Having found a way to step into "I AM" (clear attentive continuous awareness on self)... then passion seems valuable.

A quote from "Self Realization in Kashir Shaivism" by Swami Lakshmanjoo:
"To achieve this highest state you cannot practice half-heartedly for half and hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening and a hour at midnight. That won't help you. You have to do it with continuity. Otherwise there is no hope in this life, there is only hope in the next life."

And I'll also repeat this story:
"The master holds the disciple underwater till the disciple is very nearly drown. Then tells the disciple 'the passion you had for air when you were near drown points to the level of passion required for realization.'"

Sanjay Lohia said...

If we remove all the rubbish, all the thoughts, from our minds, the peace will become manifest ~*~ (Day by Day with Bhagavan * 31-1-46)

Introduction: We all want peace, but where can we find it? Bhagavan was emphatic: ‘peace and happiness is your nature, look within and find it for yourself’. Such a simple place to find this peace, but we ignore and overlook it by constantly paying attention to outside things. Therefore, self-attentiveness is the only way to get in touch with our innate peace, and eventually to merge and become one with it. Now let us read Bhagavan’s words:

Bhagavan: That which is, is peace. All that we need do is keep quiet. Peace is our nature. We spoil it. We are not going to create peace anew. There is space in a hall, for instance. We fill up the place with various articles. If we want space, all that we need do is to remove all those articles, and we get space. Similarly if we remove all the rubbish, all the thoughts, from our minds, the peace will become manifest. That which is obstructing the peace has to be removed. Peace is the only reality.

Conclusion: At another place Bhagavan said: ‘Peace is our nature. Indeed we are peace. Forgetting that, we seek peace from external sources’. Therefore, if we want peace, we have no option but to seek it within, because everything outside is just a manifestation or expansion of our thoughts, and thoughts are nothing but ‘noise’. Bhagavan labels all our thoughts as 'rubbish', whereas we take pride in our thinking power and our intellect. How foolish is our way of looking at things!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjay,

I suspect Bhagavan's words here are perhaps not recorded correctly by Thiru Devaraja Mudaliar Avargal. When Bhagavan says, "Similarly if we remove all the rubbish, all the thoughts, from our minds, the peace will become manifest", it creates an impression, at least in my mind, that we should be involved in removing thoughts, whereas I understand Bhagavan would say we should pay attention to only our essential self, without caring for any thoughts whatsoever, and in any manner whatsoever.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...


"involves excluding everything from awareness except the essence of attentive awareness"
so basically you understand what needs to be done, therefore "religious exclusivism can breed pride" is out of place. You are contradicting yourself.

Truth be told, you (your ego more specifically) got probably offended that you perceived Michael's lack of interest in what you practice as some kind of personal offense. Why not tell it directly?!..

This is just a blog that explains Bhagavan's path. We like Michael because he explains things better. He is just another practitioner with more skilled words (he said that many times). You may perceive this as some kind of cultish gathering around just some selective ideas from Bhagavan's teaching. It just shows how litte you have studied the teaching in its entirety, failing to understand how well encapsulated this teaching really is when you take into account ALL ideas Bhagavan expressed which form a very coherent whole.

You seem to understand the practice. If you do, and if you were to practice it seriously (which I kinda doubt since there can be no talk of religious exclusivism or "this is the only true path" if the practice taken seriously + doing careful reflection on ALL the coherent ideas of the teaching) such questions that you asked and all the "kebab with everything" you make of all the teachers and books you have read would not arise.

Sorry for the bluntness,
Dragos



Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, what has been recorded in Day by Day (in the extract I cited) seems to be quite clear to me, and it does not appear to be a case of faulty recording. Bhagavan says that we should remove all the rubbish, all the thoughts, from our mind, and then our inner peace will become manifest. Yes, we should try and pay attention to ourself alone, and thoughts will automatically subside, but until the thoughts are there they obstruct or spoil our innate peace. For example, we experience no thoughts in our deep sleep, and we are in perfect peace there. But as soon as our thoughts arise in our waking or dream, our peace is disturbed and we start experiencing all sorts of problems.

As you rightly imply, our primary task is only to know ourself as we really are, and for which we have to ignore all our thoughts and attend to ourself alone. However, why do we want to experience ourself as really are? It is because our thoughts are creating all the troubles for us - troubles like, unhappiness, mental tension, anger, jealousy, pride, lust, desires, attachments, and so on. In fact, this list can go on and on, as this body and world itself are the result of our thoughts. We can never be satisfied and content as long as we experience thoughts in one form or another, because it is only our thoughts that drag us away from our natural peace and happiness.

Therefore, if we were perfectly comfortable and satisfied with our thoughts (and this thought created world) there would have been no need for us to seek self-knowledge. So thoughts are definitely our problem - in fact, our only problem - and these thoughts can only be destroyed by destroying our ego, and the ego can only be annihilated by looking at it keenly and intently.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Hi Venkat,

More confusion because if you read Visuddhimagga, it is merely quoting the text by phrasing, "It was said thus by the Ancients". Moreover, according to http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg41.htm Buddha did say (as per "Name and Form" section of Buddha, The Gospel by Paul Carus - http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/index.htm),

"Paradoxical though it may sound: There is a path to walk on, there is walking being done, but there is no traveler. There are deeds being done, but there is no doer. There is a blowing of the air, but there is no wind that does the blowing. The thought of self is an error and all existences are as hollow as the plantain tree and as empty as twirling water bubbles.

"Therefore, O bhikkhus, as there is no self, there is no transmigration of a self; but there are deeds and the continued effect of deeds. There is a rebirth of karma; there is reincarnation. This rebirth, this reincarnation, this reappearance of the conformations is continuous and depends on the law of cause and effect. Just as a seal is impressed upon the wax reproducing the configurations of its device, so the thoughts of men, their characters, their aspirations are impressed upon others in continuous transference and continue their karma, and good deeds will continue in blessings while bad deeds will continue in curses.

"There is no entity here that migrates, no self is transferred from one place to another; but there is a voice uttered here and the echo of it comes back. The teacher pronounces a stanza and the disciple who attentively listens to his teacher's instruction, repeats the stanza. Thus the stanza is reborn in the mind of the disciple. The body is a compound of perishable organs. It is subject to decay; and we should take care of it as of a wound or a sore; we should attend to its needs without being attached to it, or loving it. The body is like a machine, and there is no self in it that makes it walk or act, but the thoughts of it, as the windy elements, cause the machine to work."

Sanjay Lohia said...

Anonymous, I had mentioned a list of troubles which our thoughts create for us. In that list, I should have also added the following: pain, suffering, misery, disease, old age, death . . . All These are our thoughts. I am sure we want to get out of these horrible miseries.

Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Dragos,
Perhaps there is a misunderstanding:

"religious exclusivism" is entirely different than the process of excluding everything in awareness. Excluding everything in awareness is the practice recommended by Michael.

Religious exclusivism is when any religion says they have the only true way: Christianity, Islam, Judaism as well as many others make this claim "ours is the only true way", and you make it too.

I'm not saying that your way is wrong, I'm just stating the obvious: if we accept that atma vicara is the only true way... the claim of "only, best, most direct" etc may result in pride, intolerance, prejudice and these are ego. Agreed? Have you seen any of that here? Ever? Shall we at least be attentive and watch for it?

Michael relies on logic. It is interesting that the claim of "only true way" is made by BILLIONS of people (if you include all christians, moslems, jews etc) so they must be just as convinced as you are. All of these people totally believe that they have the only way... and are frequently in conflict with each other. Seems like a disease to me, certainly the pride, intolerance, prejudice is a disease. I am not saying that your practice is wrong, I'm pointing to possible dangers associated with believing you have the only way.

Dragos says: Truth be told, you (your ego more specifically) got probably offended that you perceived Michael's lack of interest in what you practice as some kind of personal offense. Why not tell it directly?!..

Michael has written here that "all other paths are just mental activity". I'm not even sure he believes this anymore. If he doesn't believe it anymore, then, when I challenge those words, Michael and I are in agreement!!! Why shouldn't I challenge such statements? (there are a lot of them here)

Dragos says "if you were to practice it seriously (which I kinda doubt since there can be no talk of religious exclusivism or "this is the only true path" if the practice taken seriously + doing careful reflection on ALL the coherent ideas of the teaching) such questions that you asked and all the "kebab with everything" you make of all the teachers and books you have read would not arise."

This is what happens with religious exclusivism: people have their different kebab's and then they start poking at each other with their kebab skewers.

Dragos says "would not arise"

Is there anything "arising" in you now?

venkat said...

Viveka Vairgagya

Thanks very much for looking into my request.

Best wishes,
venkat

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

With all due respect, I don't think you did sufficient manana for the path. It certainly comes with time if you practice seriously.(not implying I'm an expert, Michael here did more than enough to ease my manana ) And in the end, practice and dedication can certainly help more that all the books we read.

Bhagavan (and Michael as an aspirant) said this is the only direct means not the only true way (implying all the other paths with their goals are flase)...there's a lot of room for (unnecessary) interpretation ...
I'll leave it here unfortunately. I wish I had discussed more but we are all missing to point of this blog (discussing the actual practice and complementary philosophy).

I wish you success on this field (spirituality) and please don't take personally what was said...

Regards,
Dragos

Ken said...

Roger,

You state "the only true way" and "only, best, most direct".

As pointed out many times in this blog, Ramana never said "only".

He did say "best" and "most direct".

Providing the best and most direct spiritual path is a huge benefit to human beings, not an insult.

Note that religious pride has nothing to do with religion.

Hooligans are football fans who get together under the flag of their chosen team and violently attack the fans of other feams. They do not actually care much about football.

Religious extremists get together under the flag of their chosen religion and violently attack the adherents of other religions. THey do not actually care much about religion.

People will get angry if you say "my sports team is the best" or if you say "my religion is the best".

The origin of this anger is tribal istinct - a huge survival instinct from back in the days before civilization when there were only tribes.

It requires one to have linked one's personal identity with your sports team and your religion. But personal identity ("ego") is exactly what religion requires us to drop. "Not my will, but thy will". "Turn the other cheek".

Tribal identity instincts are hard-wired in human beings, just like hierarchical status competition, sex drive, and many other things that were important 100,000 years ago. It's just the lay of the land on Earth.

Ken said...

Roger,

You wrote earlier today:
"Michael has written here that "all other paths are just mental activity". I'm not even sure he believes this anymore."

Okay, let us go back to the original statement by Michael on this blog which caused you to post for the very first time:

"Any practice other than atma-vichara — which is the non-dual practice of thought-free self-conscious being — is merely a mental activity, so it can be practised only when we have risen as this thinking mind, which is our primal thought ‘I’, the subject or first person who thinks all other thoughts."

You quoted only the first half, because you clearly stopped at the word "merely" and did not spend time thinking about the whole sentence.

I really think that your entire problem with this web site is the word "merely" in that sentence. You took it out of context. You assumed that it was being used to sneer at other practices.

Let us take out the word "merely":

Any practice other than atma-vichara — which is the non-dual practice of thought-free self-conscious being — is a mental activity, so it can be practised only when we have risen as this thinking mind, which is our primal thought ‘I’, the subject or first person who thinks all other thoughts.

Now it does not look like a slam on other religions, eh?

Note that you also took the word "practice" and read it as "path". A path is a much larger grouping, containing many practices, many teachings, as well as specific teachers. Not the same thing.

So, you took a technical analysis as a prideful affront on other religions that simply was not there.

Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Dragos,
I am insulted when you say that I have not done sufficient manana.
I remember hearing about "manana" in a song on the radio when I was just a child, and since then... it has always been foremost for me. You are referring to the spanish word "manana" which can be used to mean to procrastinate something to "tomorrow" or some other time in the future?

Steve said...

Roger

It's interesting that you bring up Swami Lakshmanjoo. Let's see what he has to say about the efficacy of different practices:

"The first and highest means is called sambhavopaya. The second, for aspirants with medium qualifications, is called saktopaya. The third means, called anavopaya, is regarded as inferior. Abhinavagupta tells us in his Tantraloka that the aspirant should always try for the highest and best thing first. Failing that he should try the next best, and so on."

"Anavopaya, considered inferior to the other two upayas in Kashmir Shaivism, is so named because it is the means concerned with anu, the individual soul. In anavopaya, the aspirant needs support and help from all sides to focus, maintain and strengthen his awareness. We have seen how the saktopaya aspirant has developed more strength of awareness. His strength of awareness is such that only one point is needed as a support for his concentration, namely, the center. And, in sambavopaya, the aspirant has developed such strength of awareness that he only needs to will to be in his own nature, and this takes place. There is nowhere for him to go and nothing to be done; he is already residing in the object of this upaya. So, in anavopaya the aspirant needs all support, in saktopaya the aspirant needs some support, and in sambavopaya the aspirant needs no support."

"In anavopaya, the aspirant takes the help of many different processes to aid him in maintaining and strengthening his awareness. He may employ concentration on breathing, concentration on experience through a particular sense organ, meditative contemplation, or concentration on some particular place in the body."

"[In sambhavopaya] you maintain awareness in thoughtless. You do not use thought, mantra or any other aid to meditation. In order to succeed in sambhavopaya, the yogi must possess firm strength of awareness so that he does not need support to maintain his consciousness of Self. Shaiva masters tell us that, in sambhavopaya, the aspirant has only to continually maintain the thought-less (nirvikalpa) state. For this reason, sambhavopaya is said to be the most refined upaya. Here the aspirant must reside in the subtlest state of awareness."

"...Because in sambhavopaya the yogi has only to maintain thoughtless-ness (with full awareness) he has nowhere to go and nothing to do. Residing in the thoughtless state is the means and the end. The yogi just wills to be there, and he is there in his own subjective awareness, maintaining the continuity of thoughtless-ness."

"In this state, the yogi, maintaining unbroken thoughtless-ness, is waiting at the threshold of universal consciousness. Having accomplished this much, there is nothing left for him to do. For Trika Shaivism, this state is significant because, up to this point, the yogi has depended primarily on self effort....from this point onwards, the entry into universal God consciousness is automatic."

"When the disciple, by maintaining thoughtless-ness (with full awareness), reaches the entrance of the sambhava state, he is said to be capable of receiving the master's grace."

Steve said...

I think it is abundantly clear from the above exposition that what Bhagavan teaches, the practice of atma vichara, is none other than what is known in Kashmir Shaivism as sambhavopaya, the highest and most direct means. The means, from anavopaya, to saktopaya, to sambhavopaya are clearly rated from inferior, to medium, to superior both scripturally and by Swamiji. So based on all of your previous and current arguments, would you now accuse Swami Lakshmanjoo of promoting prejudice, bigotry and elitism in the spiritual realm? I think after more than 6 months of arguing with Michael and everyone else on this blog, at some point you finally need to concede that atma vichara is the most direct spriritual practice, the most effective, and the one that all saints of the highest caliber recommend for a serious aspirant who's one and only goal is to merge with God in the core of his own Self and attain the highest spiritual state possible.

I know that your next argument is "well be that as it may, if people state this fact publicly they are only inflating their own egos and fueling prejudice against other practices etc etc etc..." To this I would respond, don't worry about other people and what they think. As Bhagavan said more than once, "Attend to what you came here for." This knowledge is for you to apply to your own self, your own life and your own practice for you own spiritual upliftment. If you start worrying about what others will do with that knowledge, I am afraid you have sorely missed the mark. And all that Michael has done with extreme patience over the past few months now, is simply point out what Swami Lakshmanjoo has stated above about different practices and their relative efficacy, which incidentally, is exactly what Bhagavan has taught on the matter.

Please don't turn this into another argument!! At some point it really may benefit you greatly to just listen and not take everything personally and get so defensive about everything!! Spirituality is not about sadhakas arguing about who knows more. It's about humility and practice, and taking the words of the masters (which I am clearly not) and having unreserved faith in them and applying the teachings to oneself. I think if we all simply try and do that there will be a lot less arguing here.

Hope the above info from Swamiji is helpful in clarifying things a bit in terms of different practices and their respective efficacy, as well as understanding Bhagavan's own teachings on self investigation and maintaining vigilant self awareness.

Roger Isaacs said...

Billions of egos: Christian, Muslim, Michael-ism, Judaism, Nazism, sexism, racism, nationalism, atheism... Each ego rising and grasping the form of it's ideas then defending and hurling their ideas at the others as words, stones, clubs, spears, bullets, bombs, H-bombs.

Hi Steve & Ken,
With all do respect, what is your problem???
This is not an open forum to criticize people.
I know what your next argument is. People do not want to hear it.
You have made it quite clear from all of your posts that you have some kind of personal vendetta.

I'm sure that you will post two or three very long paragraphs arguing with what I just said here as that seems to be your sole aim and motivation of being on this blog.

It has really gotten to the point of being in very poor taste and is quite against the spirit of this blog.

Please don't turn this into another argument!!

At some point it really may benefit you greatly to just listen and not take everything personally and get so defensive about everything!!

Spirituality is not about sadhakas arguing about who knows more.

Please respect the members of this blog by not continuing to post this negativity and vitriol.

This is not the place for the type of personal attacks you have been waging and the negativity that goes along with it.

And please note that I have no interest in engaging you in a discussion or argument about what I have just written, so know ahead of time that I will not respond to any lengthy retorts you have regarding this post.

Anything beyond this please respectfully take somewhere else.

venkat said...

Steve

Thanks for the quote on Kashmir Shaivism - interesting.

Just one point which you addressed to Roger, which I would challenge:

"at some point you finally need to concede that atma vichara is the most direct spriritual practice, the most effective".

It is fair enough to write that Bhagavan stated this, but actually your wording puts practically the same demand on Roger that Roger put on Michael - 'to accept and state that other paths are just as effective'. Why are we all so worried whether someone endorses our views or not? How do we KNOW atma vichara is the most direct? Only because Bhagavan told us, and there is a logic to it (and for the avoidance of doubt, I subscribe to it too). Until we become jnanis, we can't KNOW for certain. What element of bhakti or karma yoga is required in there? None? Are you sure?

As you say, we shouldn't worry about other people, what they think, whether they endorse atma vichara or not. We should attend to ourselves and use discussion to clarify our understanding - which may well require stating what we believe in order for it to be tested, but surely not insisting / requiring that others believe it too?

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Like the term here Roger (http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.ro/2014/12/the-need-for-manana-and-viveka.html )

To be honest I was kind annoyed by your style but in the end Michael let the comments open for this blog so I guess he was expecting this kind of confrontation sooner or later... let's hope it will be of benefit in the end...

Ken said...

Just FYI -

quote: "Spirituality is not about sadhakas arguing about who knows more."

Please show me where I argued about who knows more ?

quote:"Please respect the members of this blog by not continuing to post this negativity and vitriol."

Please show me where I posted negativity or vitriol?

quote:"This is not the place for the type of personal attacks you have been waging and the negativity that goes along with it. "

I have definitely not engaged in any personal attacks.

Explaining why a statement is wrong is not a personal attack.


For example, suppose Joe Bob states: "The sky is green".

For someone to state "No, the sky is blue" is NOT a personal attack.

A personal attack would be "Joe Bob - you are an idiot who is incapable of understanding anything about the sky."

From my reading, no one has done the latter in the comments on this blog, and certainly I have never done so.

Ken said...

This is an important point, so I am going to restate it.

Here is an example.

Suppose Joe Bob states: "The sky is green".

For someone to state "No, the sky is blue" is NOT a personal attack.

It is not "negativity", and it is not violating someone's right to their opinion.

It is correcting a false statement.

A personal attack would be "Joe Bob - you are an idiot who is incapable of understanding anything about the sky."

That latter statement only talks about the person, not about the truth of a statement, and so is "personal".

This is important, because it is the basis of discussion that is about true ideas, rather than about socializing.

Steve said...

Hi Venkat

Point taken - I see what you are saying. Thanks for pointing it out. Was not my intention to come across so dogmatic. Was just hoping that with the teachings of another highly regarded saint in pretty much strict accordance with Bhagavan's own teachings, it might lend a little more strength the statements being made about the efficacy and uniqueness of atma vichara, or the path of sambhavopaya as the Kashmir Shaivite's would call it.

Steve said...

Roger

I am genuinely sorry if anything I said hurt your feelings. I did not mean to make anything personal and if it came across that way, I apologize. I wish you the best of luck with your sadhana and your life, and hope you can forgive me for anything unpleasant I may have said.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

By discussing so much I began to realize I am beginning to make a basic error. All I ever need to know and do is to turn back from whatever I am aware to what is aware of it. Basically this is all I ever need to know and practice... It's easy to slip into complicated thinking... Even Bhagavan's philosophy (consider this a dream etc etc) are just a help, like the good gear we need when climbing a mountain. But the important part in the journey is to keep walking (turn to what is aware of phenomena). We can reach the top even naked...

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

That being said, I have a question...

Many have experienced lucid dreams (when you become aware you are dreaming and can consciously interact with the environment). Since the body is more ethereal in most dreams it seems that if I do atma vichara then (try to see who is aware of all that I experience there) I would wake up in pure self awareness and achieve the goal more easily. There would be less attachment due to the ethereal body and this would work faster. If we say that doing so would probably make us snap from the dream in our waking state, then if we do atma vichara in our waking state we may well snap into another dream. So why would not this work better in a dream?!

Thanks,
Dragos

(PS: if this has already been answered please just point the article)

Anonymous said...

Dragos,

Bhagavan does not distinguish between 'waking' and 'dreaming' [Please read, Nan Yar?, Paragraph 18, second sentence to draw this inference].

Therefore, if self-attention is there 100%, it doesn't matter whether we are 'dreaming' or 'awake', mano-nasa is guaranteed 100%.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

Yes, that is understood already. I was just wondering if it would not be easier to do it in a lucid dream since the body is more ethereal and consequently the attachment less tight...

I hope to try it in my next lucid dream... they happen sometimes. Problem is I get excited the dream has become lucid and roam around in the environment :)

Sanjay Lohia said...

Our knowledge about our exact identity is confused and unclear ~*~ (HAB pdf * page 422 * chapter The Science of Consciousness)

Michael: Our knowledge about our exact identity is confused and unclear because, though we mistake the form of this body to be ourself, we still know ourself to be consciousness. Since this body and our mind, which mistakes it to be ‘I’, are actually experienced by us as two different things, we are unsure which is really ourself. When we say ‘my body’, we are identifying ourself with our mind, which cognizes this body as an object. But we also sometimes say ‘my mind’, as if our mind were something distinct from ourself.

Because we know ourself to be consciousness, which is in fact infinite, but at the same time imagine ourself to be a body, which is finite, we are perpetually confused about our true identity. However, as a result of this confusion we feel ourself to be something limited, and hence we are able to know things as other than ourself.

Reflections: Our ego is confusion itself. As Michael says, sometimes we consider ourself to be a body, and sometimes a mind (consciousness), and sometimes we consider ourself to be both, a body and mind. For example, we may say, ‘I think, I will not go to office today’. Here we are identifying ourself with our mind (consciousness) when we say ‘I think’, and simultaneously we are also identifying ourself with our body when we say, ‘I will not go to office today’. Thus our ego is in perpetual confusion.

We are caught between our desire for the objects of this world and our love for Bhagavan, and are attracted towards both the sides. Therefore we are again confused. Question is, how to end this confusion? We can end this confusion only by seeking our innate, natural and primal clarity of our pure-awareness, because only clarity can end confusion. This clarity can be attained only by persistent self-investigation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we can experiment - nothing wrong, Dragos.

However, the idea of 'less attachment to phenomena in certain states' is a deceptive game played by ego. In the investigation where the ego's very existence is questioned, everything related to it (like less or more attachment) should not be taken for granted. Similarly, since time is a product of ego, there is nothing like a 'favorable time' for atma vichara (like when we go to sleep in a short while from now with the expectation that we will lucid dream).

Anonymous said...

So Much Chit-Chat
So Many Ego's
So Little Time
He Said, She Said, I Did Not, Yes You Did..............
Death Is Knocking At The Door
Is All This Back & Forth Really Worth It?

Don't answer that question until you slowly count to 10 while taking deep breaths.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Dragos, this is in response to your comments about ‘lucid dreams’ and our practice of atma-vichara. Dreams are dreams, whether we call it ‘lucid’ or ‘normal’ or whatever. The substance of these dreams is the same, though their quality may differ. It is like a movie: it can be in black and white, or colour. The substance of these movies is the same, although they differ in their quality. So also lucid dreams and all other types of dreams are essentially the same.

Suppose if we were dreaming a lucid dream, and in this dream we happen to be crossing a road. If while crossing, suddenly a speeding car comes towards us, would we not hurriedly step aside? We surely will. Therefore, while dreaming we take all our dreams to be real - to a greater or lesser degree. We may feel that our current waking state is just a dream, but this thought may anytime be broken if we suddenly lose our entire family in a car accident, or whatever. So there is no importance of lucid dreams, as far as our practice of self-attentiveness is concerned.

Yes, from the perspective of our ego our dreams and waking states seems to be two different states. Our attachment towards our dream-body is much more tenuous and weak than our present attachment towards our waking-body. Therefore, as Sri Sadhu Om and Michael have explained, if we try to attend to ourself in our dream, very soon we will wake up to our present waking state. Why? Because in our dream we are not able to attend to ourself with sufficient intensity, and just a tenuous and slight self-attentiveness wakes us up. However, our attachment to our present waking body is very strong; thus, our self-attentiveness in this state can be more sustained, keen and penetrating. Only such deep self-attentiveness will destroy our ego, and thereby enable us to experience ourself as we really are.

Dragos Nicolae Dragomirescu said...

You are righ Anonymous, too much Chit-Chat... :)

Michael James said...

We need only chit, no chat

Ken said...

I remembered Dragos' question in this thread, while I was reading another thread, and a similar question of being self-attentive in a dream is discussed in the comments, first posed by Wittgenstein and then replied to by Michael James (and back and forth) at

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2015/08/trying-to-distinguish-ourself-from-our.html

Anonymous said...

Self Attention is the only raft with which the jiva can cross the ocean of
unending births

Ken said...

Actually Chit Chat would be a good name for an Advaita discussion forum. ;)

Ken said...

A question related generally to the subject of the blog, but not to the question of this particular blog post:

Which picture(s) of Ramana do you find are best for "making a connection to Bhagavan through the medium of his photograph" or "give you a feeling of closeness to Bhagavan" ?

Any second hand information, such as ("Joe Bob always said that this picture of Bhagavan made him feel stillness") is fine.

Obviously, a web link to a picture somewhere on the Internet is necessary, otherwise there is no point to it. ;)

Thanks!

John said...

Hi Michael,

My apologies for barging in with a (somewhat) unrelated issue, but I was hoping you could answer a couple of quick questions for me.

Is consciousness ‘awareness of awareness’? If so, is experiencing that ultimately all I really need to concern myself with?

I wish I could better describe what I’m asking, I just find myself unable to better articulate the question(s). It’s like I’m trying to describe how to ride a bicycle by saying, “Sit on the seat, grab the handlebars and start peddling,” all the while leaving out a critical element that makes riding a bike ‘riding’ a bike. I’m hoping you can see through to the gist of what I'm asking, though.

Thanks,
John

Ken said...

Hi John,

I'm sure Michael will answer at some point, but he may be busy with other things, so I hope the following is helpful:

1 - You did not mention your goal. "all I really need to concern myself with?" ... for what?

2 - Your question is highly dependent on the definitions of "consciousness" and "awareness". In discussions on other web sites of similar issues, people often have different meanings. For example, some people use the two words interchangeably to mean the same thing.

3 - Michael has many articles on the site where he has already answered somewhat similar questions. Probably this one seems similar:

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/self-attentiveness-and-self-awareness.html

4 - If your answer to point 1 above is "Understand and practice what Ramana Maharshi recommends to achieve Self-Realization (aka liberation)", then there is a free book available on this web site written by a disciple of Ramana Maharshi that most people consider the clearest exposition. It can be downloaded for free as a PDF at:

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

Ken said...

If the article in point 3 does not answer the question, then here is a list of all articles by Michael:

http://www.happinessofbeing.com/articles.html

John said...

Thanks, Ken. The article in point 3 was exactly what I was looking for. Per my earlier analogy, after I finally made it up and down the street on my bike without falling, I found myself spending more and more time reading up on the art of bike riding and less and less time out riding.
Thanks again,
John

Anonymous said...

Death is coming, Death is always knocking at the door

As I gasp my last breath could my final thought be; I need more time, I wasted so much of it?

Zubin said...

Hi Roger,

Only just now noticed your comment to me on the 23rd. I like the challenge of trying to find the right language for these things, so I thought I'd comment.

Regarding passion and self-enquiry vs other practices:

Personally, I only like to mention my own experiences with self-enquiry, since I am not one to get into debates on teachings.

Everything I am describing is self-enquiry and not other practices. For me, self-enquiry is the only practice which cuts through the distractions and the reinforcing of the ego.

So, in my own experience, the best way to create a passion for truth is to create a passionate curiosity for knowing who you are.

And, subsequently, the best way to create a passion for knowing who you are is effortlessly feeling the truth and lies of identity over and over again.

When I look at anything, including a thought or a feeling, and see that it is made up of I AM, I know I am practicing self-enquiry, because my attention is always resting in I AM.

But it has the added bonus of a slight ‘shock’, for a fraction of a second, when a thought (which I thought was me) fades into I AM, and thus giving me an even more rabidly passionate desire to resolve this conundrum, resolve it by continuing self-enquiry and fully removing any doubt about who I am.

Ken said...

Anonymous wrote:
"Death is coming, Death is always knocking at the door

As I gasp my last breath could my final thought be; I need more time, I wasted so much of it? "

Actually that would be the perfect situation for immediate Self-Realisation, as demonstrated by Ramana Maharshi's realisation experience.

So please stop with the "I am more correctly focused than thou" fundamentalist posts, okay?

Ken said...

Ramana Maharshi's disciple Sri Sadhu Om once said:

" If you quietly keep the fire of devotion to ‘I’, which Bhagavan has kindled within you, burning within your own heart by repeated sravana, manana and nididhyasana [studying, reflecting upon and practising his teachings], that is the best way to teach the world to follow him. "

Since participating in this blog is "sravana" (studying Ramana Maharshi's teachings), then it falls within the recommendations of Sri Sadhu Om.

So, it is not "idle chit chat" and not a "waste of time".

Just within the last 24 hours, a visitor to the blog was helped in his understanding by "chit chat".

Shifting to "Anonymous" does not make your trolling any less ego-filled than it was before.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Advaita-Vedanta shows us our goal; Bhagavan shows us the clear and direct means to reach that goal ~*~ (HAB pdf * page 20 * Introduction)

Michael: Since the means to attain self-knowledge is for some reason seldom stated in clear and unambiguous terms in the classical literature of advaita Vedanta, many misconceptions exist about the spiritual practice advocated by advaita Vedanta. Therefore perhaps the most significant contribution made by Sri Ramana to the literature of advaita Vedanta lies in the fact that in his teachings he has revealed in very clear, precise and unambiguous terms the practical means by which self-knowledge can be attained.

Not only has he explained this practical means very clearly, he has also explained exactly how it will lead us infallibly to the state of self-knowledge, and why it is the only means that can do so. Unlike many of the older texts of advaita Vedanta, the teachings of Sri Ramana are centred entirely around the practical means by which we can attain self-knowledge, and all that he taught regarding any aspect of life was aimed solely at directing our minds towards this practice.

Reflections: For example, if advaita-Vedanta tells us that the moon (ourself, as we really are) is the ultimate place of bliss and that we should somehow go to moon, Bhagavan gives us the practical means (atma-vichara) to reach moon. As Michael explains, advaita-Vedanta is vague, unclear and ambiguous regarding the means to attain our true state: non-dual self-awareness. Bhagavan has prepared for us a spacecraft (the practice of self-attentiveness), and we just have to get inside this spacecraft, and he will take us directly to our destination. Such a simple and direct path to liberation!

Or to put it in another way, Bhagavan is waiting for us with a boat, and we just have to get inside it, and he will take us to the other shore – the land of bliss. He is boat and also the helmsman, and he is eagerly waiting for us to get into his boat.

Therefore, as Michael says, perhaps the most significant contribution made by Sri Ramana to the literature of advaita Vedanta lies in the fact that in his teachings he has revealed in very clear, precise and unambiguous terms the practical means by which self-knowledge can be attained.

Ken said...

Quote:"Michael: Since the means to attain self-knowledge is for some reason seldom stated in clear and unambiguous terms in the classical literature of advaita Vedanta, many misconceptions exist about the spiritual practice advocated by advaita Vedanta."

The reason is well known, and is the same in many other Eastern religious or spiritual systems.

The philosophy (metaphysics, theology) of those systems are spelled out in texts (scriptures), but the practices are only vaguely described.

Lay people (householders) were expected to do pujas, and donate money to support renunciants, and hope for a better rebirth.

Since realisation is depicted as often taking lifetimes, it is assumed that anyone truly interested would renounce everything and become a full-time student. Then they would do beginning purification practices for years, until the teacher thought they were ready, and then give them more advanced practices orally.

Only starting in the 19th Century, and moreso in the 20th Century, did some teachers start giving advanced and specific practice instruction to anyone who asked, and allowed them to write it down.

The general perception is that this is due to the large changes in human society that continue to this day.

Some contend that this liberalisation was needed to counteract some of those changes. Or it may be that it was needed because the renunciant system will soon become less viable.

In any event, we now find mindfulness and meditation courses in many universities and often prescribed by doctors to combat stress. This is a huge shift from 50 years ago.

Most people do not follow dead teachers, and thus we find more influence due to Ramana when he was alive (such as the best-selling novel and hit movie of the late 30's "The Razor's Edge", which introduced many Westerners to the idea of Eastern spirituality, and was inspired by the author's visit to Ramana and the ashram).

Viveka Vairagya said...

A Query to Michael (and anyone else inclined to answer)

Michael,

You say self-enquiry is nothing but "attentive self-awareness". I get the "attentive" and "awareness" parts. I don't get the "self" part coz all I am aware of now is my body and thoughts, including the "I-thought". So, do you mean I should be attending to the awareness of "I-thought". That could make sense coz it is kinda attending to the snake (I-thought) and finding lo and behold that it is a rope (self). So, why then don't you say self-enquiry is "attentive I-thought-awareness"? I hope my doubt makes sense.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viveka Vairagya, when we say ‘attentive self-awareness’, ‘self’ in ‘self-awareness’ can either mean what we really are, or can mean what we take ourself to be. Self in this context can mean our actual non-dual essential awareness, or our ego, which we now take ourself to be. When you say, ‘I don’t get the “self” part’, or ‘I am now aware’, or ‘I should be attending’, or ‘I hope my doubt makes sense’, all the ‘I’s here refer to yourself. We can take this ‘I’ to be our ‘I-thought’, or we can take it to be our true underlying pure self-awareness. How we interpret the word ‘self’ really makes no difference, as far as our practice of self-investigation is concerned.

Therefore, as you say, we can call our self-enquiry ‘attentive I-thought awareness’; however, ‘attentive self-awareness’ is much more clear description of our practice. Though we are trying to attend to our ego (I-thought), but are final aim is only to attend to ourself as we really are.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Sanjay, that makes sense.

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, I have replied to your recent questions in a new article, What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks Michael. I have just now finished reading the article. It clarifies my doubt, in that it is the chit-portion of I-thought that one should be attentively aware of, the "I am"ness.

I have comment to make, correct me if I am wrong. Bhagavan says (in a couple of places in Day by Day) the real meaning of "Who am I?" is to trace the source of I-thought. Your (and Sri Sadhu Om's) interpretation of self-enquiry is that it is self-attention or being "attentively self-aware". I was trying to connect these two seemingly distinct viewpoints. Then I remembered that Bhagavan says somewhere that self-enquiry is like a dog trying to trace its master by merely sticking to the scent of its master. That seems to tie up the seemingly distinct viewpoints of Bhagavan and you (and Sri Sadhu Om) - namely, self-enquiry is tracing the source of I-thought (master, that is, self) by sticking to the scent of the self (that is, the chit portion of I-thought) and how do you stick to that, it is by paying sole attention to the scent or the chit portion of the I-thought, that is, being "attentively self-aware". Ain't that right?

Michael James said...

Yes, Viveka Vairagya, that is right. Bhagavan described the practice in various different ways, but what all his various descriptions of it imply is simply being self-attentive or being attentively self-aware, as he explicitly explained on many occasions. One of the principle terms he used in Tamil to describe the practice was தன்னாட்டம் (taṉṉāṭṭam or taṉ-nāṭṭam), which means self-investigation, self-examination, self-scrutiny, self-observation or self-attentiveness, and self-attentiveness is clearly implied in many of the other terms he used to refer to it and in the various analogies he used to explain it.

As you say, one such analogy is the way in which a dog holds one-pointedly on to a scent in order to trace it back to its source. One place where this analogy occurs is in the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 86-7), where it is recorded that he said:

“Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master’s scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature etc., counts. The dog holds on to that scent undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him.”

Many useful ideas expressed by Bhagavan regarding the practice of self-investigation are recorded in that final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel, so I suggest you read it carefully and repeatedly and imbibe all the valuable clues that he gives us in the various answers recorded there.

The source of the ‘I’-thought (ahaṁ-vṛtti) is only ourself as we actually are, so by attending keenly to ourself, who now seem to be this ‘I’-thought but who are actually just pure self-awareness, we will be led infallibly back to the pure and fundamental self-awareness that we actually are.

Ken said...

Viveka -

Once Michael has responded to you with a new post, then logically, he is going to look to answer questions about that new post in the comments below that new post, not below the previous posts.

I would also point out that self-enquiry is a non-verbal real-time occurrence, and so words are only pointers to it.

So, any particular phrase is not going to be 100% descriptive for 100% of students.

In fact, the more different (but accurate) descriptions we read, the more likely we are to actually be able to identify the real life occurrence.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks Michael. I will look up the final chapter of Maharshi's Gospel. It is a boon to people like me and other visitors to this blog that you are there to turn to with all our doubts and you answer them so patiently and clearly that all our doubts are set at rest. Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.

Sanjay Lohia said...

In his comment, Michael has quoted from the final chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, p. 86-7), where it is recorded that Bhagavan said:

‘Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master’s scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature etc., counts. The dog holds on to that scent undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him’.

Reflections: This is a very powerful analogy, especially in the context of our practice of self-investigation. We should try and trace within the scent of our awareness, the scent of the subject who is aware of all its objects. We might wrongly assume that our master (our true self) is at some distant, unknown place, but this is our wrong understanding. Our master, our essential pure-awareness, is what we really are; therefore, we just have to look at it, and it will be ‘traced’.

Like for the dog, the master’s scent is an infallible clue, and nothing else, such as the dress his master wears, or his master’s build and stature etc. counts. Similarly we should try to ignore the dress we wear, our build and stature – that is, we should try and ignore our adjunct-awareness, and concentrate undistractedly on attending to our self-awareness alone.

The dog will surely trace its master if it perseveres in its search, likewise we will also surely find our master – who is none other than Bhagavan existing in and as our heart - if we persevere in our attempts at self-investigation.