Thursday, 27 July 2017

Any experience that is temporary is not manōnāśa and hence not ‘self-realisation’

A recent post on the Facebook page of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK was a partial quotation of a paragraph in A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi (3rd edn, 1976, pp. 52-3), in which Alan Chadwick wrote:
Before I came to India I had read of such people as Edward Carpenter, Tennyson and many more who had had flashes of what they called “Cosmic Consciousness.” I asked Bhagavan about this. Was it possible that once having gained Self-realization to lose it again? Certainly it was. To support this view Bhagavan took up a copy of Kaivalya Navanita and told the interpreter to read a page of it to me. In the early stages of Sadhana this was quite possible and even probable. So long as the least desire or tie was left, a person would be pulled back again into the phenomenal world, he explained. After all it is only our Vasanas that prevent us from always being in our natural state, and Vasanas were not got rid of all of a sudden or by a flash of Cosmic Consciousness. One may have worked them out in a previous existence leaving a little to be done in the present life, but in any case they must first be destroyed.
Referring to this, a friend wrote to me: ‘Having once attained is there a chance of unattaining again? This question has confused me for many weeks. I was under the impression that once the ego had been completed annihilated it will never rise again. Yet discussions with fellow devotees on the Ramana Maharshi Foundation page seem to indicate that even once attained it is possible to be lost again if all vasanas [are] not destroyed. What was Bhagavan’s view on this? It disturbs me immensely that having attained one can fall again into the illusion, it also seems to render our practise quite meaningless if that is the case’. The following is my reply to her.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

What is aware of the absence of the ego and mind in sleep?

A friend wrote to me today asking:
If pure awareness simply is and is not aware of anything else because only it exists, and the ego is not there during deep sleep, what knows the absence of the ego and mind during deep sleep?

After waking up, I know for a fact that the ego-mind wasn’t there (in deep sleep). I also know that (due to not having investigated keenly enough) it appears to be here now (in waking).

So my question is, what is aware of both the presence of the ego-mind in waking/dream and its absence in deep sleep? It can’t be pure awareness nor the ego-mind itself.
The following is what I replied to him:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Pure self-awareness is not nothingness but the only thing that actually exists

A friend recently wrote to me asking, ‘What is the difference between nothingness and complete self-awareness? I understand the destruction of the mind is the ultimate goal of the practice, but does that mean we aim to just be nothing at all?’, but then added, ‘Obviously this question arises from an ego that is afraid to not be, but I am curious’. The following is adapted from my reply to him:

Friday, 7 July 2017

The non-existence of the ego, body and world in manōlaya is only temporary, whereas in manōnāśa it is permanent

In a comment on one of my recent articles, There is absolutely no difference between sleep and pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna), a friend called Roger asked me why, if there is no difference between sleep and self-awareness, Gaudapada says in Māṇḍukya Kārikā 3.44 that (in Roger’s words) ‘when during meditation the mind becomes inactive in oblivion (susupti / sleep) the mind should be awakened again, just the same as if the mind is distracted’. From this verse and Sankara’s commentary on it Roger inferred that ‘It seems you teach that sleep is the highest state, your whole teaching is oriented toward this, but Shankara explicitly warns against it’. Therefore this article is written in reply to this and a subsequent comment by Roger.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

What we actually are is just pure self-awareness: awareness that is aware of nothing other than itself

A friend recently wrote to me:
You say that the Self is always self-aware. What about then the concept of Parabrahman (where awareness isn’t aware that it is aware). Isn’t this a contradiction? Ramesh Balsekar used this phrase a lot in his teaching for instance.

Can you comment on this please.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

There is absolutely no difference between sleep and pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna)

After I wrote the reply that I reproduced in the article I posted here yesterday, namely Māyā is nothing but our own mind, so it seems to exist only when we seem to be this mind, the friend to whom I wrote it replied, ‘Thank you, Michael, but I assume ‘realisation’ is not quite the same as deep sleep?’, to which I replied:

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Māyā is nothing but our own mind, so it seems to exist only when we seem to be this mind

A friend wrote to me today:
Someone wrote this on FB yesterday and I am getting confused again because I thought the idea of becoming realised is to put an end to Maya:

“According to Adi Shankara (7th century father of modern non-dual philosophy), Maya is eternal. At no point does “form” cease to exist. It (maya/form) never had a beginning because it is eternal. It will also never have an end. The difference between enlightened and unenlightened is in the mind only. The universe doesn’t disappear. The mind ceases to be confused about the nature of one’s own Self. Bodies may come and go but the enlightened mind is not attached to them or identified with them. Yet they come and go like clouds in the sky.”

Why do people have different ideas on self-realisation?
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to her:

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Concern about fate and free will arises only when our mind is turned away from ourself

What I wrote in one of my recent articles, Do we need to do anything at all?, triggered a discussion about the roles of destiny (prārabdha) and the ego’s own volition or free will (though free will was referred to only implicitly, not explicitly) and how we can determine whether any particular thought arises due to destiny or due to free will. This discussion started from the first comment, in which a friend called Samarender Reddy wrote:
There seems to a problem with what you say. If whatever is to happen is decided by my prarabdha, then whatever motions the body is to go through and whatever the mind has to “think” to get the body to do actions as per prarabdha are also predetermined and “I, the ego” have no say in it. But you also say, “therefore we need not think”. And yet the mind will necessarily think some thoughts as per prarabdha. How do I distinguish thinking or thoughts associated with prarabdha and the other non-prarabdha associated thinking I seem to indulge in? Whenever any thought occurs, how do I know if it is prarabdha or the ego thinking? If I say, ok, whatever thoughts have to occur will occur to make the body do whatever it has to do, then it would seem that one has to be totally silent and not thinking and whenever any thought arises involuntarily I have to consider that as prarabdha thought and act accordingly? Is that what you are saying? Also, in that case will only such prarabdha thoughts then occur which require the body to do something or will such thoughts also occur which do not require the body to do something? I would really appreciate if you can clarify these doubts of mine.
This article is my reply to this comment, and also less directly to some of the ideas expressed in subsequent comments on the same subject.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Why should we believe that dream is anything other than a fabrication of our dreaming mind?

A friend wrote to me last night saying that his father and brother believe that when one dreams ‘the dream is really you leaving the physical body and going to some other realm and interacting with other souls’, and that he always had trouble believing this idea, but asked me: ‘What is the best argument philosophically to counter such an assertion?’ The following is what I replied to him:

Thursday, 1 June 2017

What is the purpose of questions such as ‘To whom have these thoughts arisen?’?

A friend wrote to me today saying that he is practicing a Buddhist tradition of investigating ‘Who is reciting the Buddha?’, which he considers to be ‘no different from Ramana Maharshi’s teaching of self-enquiry’, and he asked whether there is spiritually any difference between investigating ‘to whom have these thoughts arisen?’ and ‘who is giving rise to these thoughts?’. The following is what I replied to him:

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Do we need to do anything at all?

During a recent meeting of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, which was recorded on the video 2017-05-13 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on importance of practice, a friend called Alasdair was questioning me, and from 33.46 to 39.51 our dialogue was as follows:
Alasdair: OK, so, if I am lying in bed, and I manage to remind myself that the first thing I have got to think of is ‘who am I?’ and keep the ‘I’-current running, but I also know that shortly after I get out of bed I have got to do certain things in the kitchen, or I have got certain tasks to …

Michael: Who has all these tasks?

A: The little ‘I’, and it is precisely that which …

M: No, it is not the little ‘I’. The little ‘I’ doesn’t have any tasks. It’s Alasdair who has all these tasks, isn’t it?

Saturday, 13 May 2017

How to avoid following or completing any thought whatsoever?

A friend recently wrote to me:
I have a question on self-investigation:

I clearly understand that I do not have to complete any of my thoughts when they arise, but, as you explain in your book, have, instead, to use my rising thoughts to remind myself of my thinking mind, that is ‘I’, which in its turn should remind me of ‘I am’.

But I have a problem: when some useful thought (in my opinion) rises, I lose my strong intention to not complete it and just use it as a reminder of everything that it has to remind me. When some thought that I think to be good or useful rises, I try to use it as a reminder, but unsuccessfully and the idea given me by that thought continues living in my mind. That is, usually I do not tend to just stop such thoughts and cannot help completing them.

Could you please tell me what you do in such cases? Sri Bhagavan says that we should not complete any of our thoughts, and as I understand he means exactly what he says: any of our thoughts. He calls them ‘enemies’ that must be destroyed. What does the situation which I describe should look like ideally? How can I ignore such thoughts in a sense of treating them as well as all other thoughts? Please give me an explanation based on your own experience and understanding.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to her:

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Does anything exist independent of our perception of it?

In a comment on my previous article, Why is effort required for us to go deep in our practice of self-investigation?, a friend called Samarender Reddy asked:
Take the case of anesthesia. I may be undergoing an operation, for which anesthesia is given. Under the influence of anesthesia, I am unaware or do not perceive the world. But once the operation is done and the anesthetic wears off and I wake up, I might see a big scar with stitches on my abdomen. Can I not thereby conclude that the world existed during the anesthesia for the operation to have taken place even though I was not perceiving it due to the effect of anesthesia. Otherwise, how to account for the fact of the scar on the abdomen, and the consequent relief from pain I might be experiencing. If the world did not exist when I was under anesthesia, then how did the operation take place, as evidenced by the scar and relief of symptoms, and maybe, say, even a specimen of my gallbladder taken out. And if we so concede that the world existed during anesthesia, then analogously can we not conclude that the world exists even during deep sleep. Perception is not the only means to establish a fact, right, with inference and verbal testimony being the other means of knowledge to establish a fact. In the case of anesthesia and deep sleep, while I cannot resort to perception as a means of knowledge to establish the fact of the existence of the world during those states, but surely inference (with regard to cause-and-effect) and the verbal testimony of others can lead me to conclude that the world does indeed exist during anesthesia and deep sleep, right?
In reply to this I wrote the following comment:

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Why is effort required for us to go deep in our practice of self-investigation?

A friend recently wrote to me asking:
My question about I-Alone is this: in relaxing attention from objects I can be keenly aware of my existence as Sat Chit. That is effortless, but it is not completely and exclusively ‘I’-Self-aware. Other objects are also ‘known’.

But, today I have read from you [in Our aim should be to experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else]: “Our real aim should not be just longer durations of self-attentiveness but should be more deep, intense and clear self-attentiveness — that is, attentiveness that is more keenly and exclusively focused on ‘I’ alone, without the least trace of any awareness of anything else.”

First of all, wow! My experience so far is that this is not effortless, but an intense, actively engaged ‘focusing down’, so to speak, on Self.

I just wanted to ask you if that is correct. That intense active focusing is required.
The following is adapted from what I replied to him:

Friday, 24 March 2017

After the annihilation of the ego, no ‘I’ can rise to say ‘I have seen’

In Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 33: the ‘I’ that rises to say ‘I have seen’ has seen nothing, which is the final section of one of my recent articles, There is only one ego, and even that does not actually exist, I quoted a Tamil saying, ‘கண்டவர் விண்டில்லை; விண்டவர் கண்டில்லை’ (kaṇḍavar viṇḍillai; viṇḍavar kaṇḍillai), which means ‘those who have seen do not say; those who say have not seen’, and then verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Bhagavan says:

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

To eradicate the mind we must watch only its first thought, the ego

A friend recently wrote to me saying that a friend of his had advised him that the way to quieten the mind is to watch it, and he implied that watching it means watching whatever thoughts flow through it, because he claimed that ‘once you start watching it [the flow of thoughts] you get separated from your thoughts’, thereby implying that we can detach ourself from thoughts by watching them. This article is adapted from the reply that I wrote to him.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

What is ‘remembering the Lord’ or ‘remembrance of Arunachala’?

This article is adapted from the reply that I wrote to a friend who asked: ‘In Hinduism, it is written that if one remembers the Lord at the time of death one will obtain Moksha. Ramana Maharishi seems to endorse the same teaching with regards to Arunachala. I have read the path of Sri Ramana by Sadhu Om and practiced for many years what he calls Jnana japa. I have visited the holy mountain Arunachala many years ago. I am now over 60 and in the last years of my life. I am wondering whether it would be better to change my practice to remembering the Name of Arunachala. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated’.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Is ‘guided meditation’ possible in Bhagavan’s path of self-investigation?

In April the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK are organising a non-residential retreat in London, which they have asked me to lead, and recently a friend wrote suggesting that ‘in addition to the usual question and answer sessions, some sessions could be devoted to practising guided meditations’, so that ‘the sessions in the retreat should go beyond clarifying doubts to practising focussed meditation’. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

There is only one ego, and even that does not actually exist

A friend recently wrote to me asking various questions about what I had said in some of the videos on my YouTube channel, Sri Ramana Teachings, and also about several other related topics, so this article is adapted from my reply to her.

Rather than being aware of being aware, we should be aware only of what is aware, namely ourself

This article is my reply to a recent comment on one of my earlier articles, How to attend to ourself?, in which a friend wrote: ‘I have tried being aware of being aware. I find it slightly different than being aware of myself. In being aware of being aware, it is more like getting more awake towards entire gamut of experience. While being aware of myself is more like somewhat withdrawing from other experiences. There is more effort involved in the latter. What is your experience?’

Sunday, 5 March 2017

What is the real ‘living guru’, and what is the look of its grace?

A friend wrote to me recently asking ‘is it really not necessary to have a living guru if one truly opens oneself to Sri Ramana, and tries as best as one can to live the teachings with devotion and sincerity?’, to which I replied:

Sunday, 26 February 2017

I certainly exist, but I am not necessarily what I seem to be

A friend wrote to me recently explaining how he feels most of the time, and he started by saying, ‘I know for sure, that whatever I say, think or do, there is no “I” who is doing anything’, so the following is adapted from what I replied to him:

Sunday, 19 February 2017

What is the difference between God and the ego?

After I wrote the article What is the difference between pure awareness and the ego, and how are they related? yesterday, the same friend replied asking me to explain to her the difference between īśvara and the ego, so the following is what I replied to her:

Saturday, 18 February 2017

What is the difference between pure awareness and the ego, and how are they related?

A friend recently wrote asking me to explain the difference between awareness and consciousness and how consciousness is connected to the ego, so the following is what I wrote in reply to her:

Monday, 6 February 2017

How can we see inaction in action?

A friend recently wrote asking me to explain Bhagavad Gītā 4.18, in which Krishna says that whoever sees inaction (akarma) in action (karma) and action in inaction is wise (buddhimān), and how to apply this in practice in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings, so the following is an elaboration of my reply to him:

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 12: other than the real awareness that we actually are, there is nothing to know or make known

In section 16 of one of my recent articles, What is aware of everything other than ourself is only the ego and not ourself as we actually are, I quoted and discussed verse 12 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, after reading which a friend who has translated many of my articles into Italian and posted them on his blog , La Caverna del Cuore, wrote asking me to explain the exact meaning and implication of a word in the third sentence that I had translated as ‘for causing to know’. Since this is a very significant word that has a deep and broad meaning in this context, I will explain its significance in this article.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

What is aware of everything other than ourself is only the ego and not ourself as we actually are

In a comment on one of my recent articles, Why does Bhagavan sometimes say that the ātma-jñāni is aware of the body and world?, a friend called Ken wrote, ‘Ramana states: “The ego functions as the knot between the Self which is Pure Consciousness and the physical body which is inert and insentient.” Therefore, there is nothing that can experience other than the Self. [...] since the body is insentient (cannot experience), and only the Self can experience, then any experience that occurs, can only be experienced by the Self’, but contrary to what he argues in this comment and in several other ones, what experiences everything (all forms or phenomena) is not ‘the Self’ (ourself as we actually are) but only ourself as this ego, as I will try to explain in this article.

Friday, 6 January 2017

When this world is nothing but an illusion, why do we run after it?

A friend wrote to me this morning, ‘When this world is nothing but an illusion... Why run after it; why try to change it; why try to enjoy its seeming pleasures; why be over concerned about expected profits and losses; why look forward to various relationships... why? Why not just remain still, now and always...When this world is nothing but an illusion...’, to which I replied:

Whether it be called ‘yōga nidrā’ or ‘nirvikalpa samādhi’, any kind of manōlaya is of no spiritual benefit

A friend recently wrote to me describing how he sometimes goes involuntarily into a sleep-like state, and he asked me about the significance of such experiences, referring to what he had read about the distinction that some people make between ‘yōga nidrā’ or ‘nirvikalpa samādhi’, so the following is what I replied to him: