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.
  1. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: the ego will be eradicated only when it attends to itself alone
  2. The mind cannot be quietened permanently by any means other self-attentiveness
  3. Upadēśa Undiyār verses 17 and 18: what we should watch is only the ego, the root thought called ‘I’, and not any other thought
1. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: the ego will be eradicated only when it attends to itself alone

According to Bhagavan the ego rises, stands, feeds itself and flourishes by ‘grasping form’, as he explains in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

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

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

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

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

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

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows [spreads, expands, increases, rises high or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
What he means here by ‘உரு’ (uru), ‘form’, is phenomena of any kind whatsoever, because every phenomenon (everything that appears and disappears in our awareness) is a form of one kind or another, and every form is a phenomenon. Since the ego is an ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy) or ‘formless phantom’, it has no hands or limbs with which to grasp anything, so it can grasp forms only by attending to or being aware of them, and hence what he means by ‘உருப்பற்றி’ (uru-p-paṯṟi), ‘grasping form’, is attending to or being aware of any phenomena.

According to him all phenomena are mental phenomena, because whatever appears in our awareness is a projection or creation of our mind, and since mental phenomena of any kind whatsoever are what he means by the term ‘thought’ (நினைவு (niṉaivu) or எண்ணம் (eṇṇam) in Tamil), every phenomenon is a thought. Therefore by watching thoughts we are ‘grasping form’ and thereby nourishing and sustaining the ego. This is why he taught us that whatever thought may arise, and however many of them may arise, we should constantly turn our attention back towards ourself, this ego, who is the thinker and knower of all of them.

That is, the nature of the ego is to be nourished and strengthened by attending to anything other than itself (any thought other than ‘I’), but to subside and dissolve forever by attending only to itself, the primal thought called ‘I’. This is the unique secret revealed by Bhagavan, and is the cornerstone of his teachings.

By watching or attending to any thought other than this primal thought called ‘I’, the ego, we are grasping it in our awareness, so we are not detaching ourself from it but attaching ourself to it. Therefore the only way to detach ourself from all other thoughts is to cease attending to them by directing all our attention back towards ourself, the one who is aware of them.

The one who watches other thoughts is not ourself as we actually are but only ourself as the ego that we now seem to be, because other thoughts arise only when we rise as this ego, so by watching other thoughts we are not only attaching ourself to them but are also perpetuating the delusion that we are this ego. Whenever we seem to be this ego, we are aware of other thoughts, and whenever we are aware of other thoughts, we seem to be this ego, so there is a clear causal connection between being aware of other thoughts and seeming to be this ego. This is why Bhagavan says in this verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that the ego comes into existence, stands, feeds itself and flourishes by ‘grasping form’ (that is, by grasping the appearance of other thoughts in its awareness).

Whereas the ego is nourished and sustained by watching, attending to or being aware of anything other than itself, its seeming existence is dissolved by its watching, attending to or being attentively aware of itself, as Bhagavan implies when he says in this verse, ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which means, ‘If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight’. The reason for this is that the ego does not actually exist, but it seems to exist so long as it is aware of anything other than itself, so just as an illusory snake would cease to exist only if we were to look at it carefully enough to see that it is just a rope, this ego will cease to exist only if we were to look at it carefully enough to see that it is just pure and infinite self-awareness (awareness that is aware of nothing other than itself). Therefore vigilantly watching oneself, who now seems to be this ego, is the means to detach oneself not only from all other thoughts but also from the ego itself, which is the root and cause of all of them.

2. The mind cannot be quietened permanently by any means other self-attentiveness

Trying to quieten the mind by any means other than self-attentiveness can at best lead only to manōlaya (a state of temporary suspension of mind, like sleep), because if we focus our attention for long enough on any other thought or phenomenon, we will sooner or later subside into laya due to sheer exhaustion. However, subsiding into any kind of laya is of no spiritual benefit, any more than subsiding into sleep (which is one kind of laya) is of any spiritual benefit, because whenever the ego subsides in laya it will sooner or later rise again with all its viṣaya-vāsanās (its tendencies, inclinations or desires to be aware of viṣayas or phenomena) intact, so the only way not only to quieten the mind permanently is to destroy it along with its root, the ego, and the only way to destroy it is for the ego to attend only to itself.

3. Upadēśa Undiyār verses 17 and 18: what we should watch is only the ego, the root thought called ‘I’, and not any other thought

The term ‘watching the mind’, which is frequently used nowadays, is ambiguous and therefore misleading, because it can mean either attending to other thoughts or attending to the first thought, the ego. Most people take it to mean watching other thoughts, which come and go, whereas according to Bhagavan what we should watch is only the ego, the primal thought called ‘I’, which is thinker and perceiver of all other thoughts and therefore their root and foundation. Since the ego is the essence of the mind, the only effective means to investigate what the mind actually is is for us to attend only to the ego and not to any other thought whatsoever.

This is why after saying in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār that if one investigates the form of the mind without forgetting, neglecting, ceasing or giving up (which means without succumbing to pramāda or inattentiveness), no mind will exist at all, in verse 18 he clarified that though the term ‘mind’ generally refers to thoughts as a whole, since the root of all thoughts is only the ego, the primal thought called ‘I’, what the mind essentially is is only the ego:
மனத்தி னுருவை மறவா துசாவ
மனமென வொன்றிலை யுந்தீபற
      மார்க்கநே ரார்க்குமி துந்தீபற.

maṉatti ṉuruvai maṟavā dusāva
maṉameṉa voṉḏṟilai yundīpaṟa
      mārgganē rārkkumi dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. mārggam nēr ārkkum idu.

அன்வயம்: மறவாது மனத்தின் உருவை உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. இது ஆர்க்கும் நேர் மார்க்கம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṟavādu maṉattiṉ uruvai usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. idu ārkkum nēr mārggam.

English translation: When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting [neglecting, ceasing or giving up], anything called ‘mind’ will not exist. This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone.

எண்ணங்க ளேமனம் யாவினு நானெனு
மெண்ணமே மூலமா முந்தீபற
      யானா மனமென லுந்தீபற.

eṇṇaṅga ḷēmaṉam yāviṉu nāṉeṉu
meṇṇamē mūlamā mundīpaṟa
      yāṉā maṉameṉa lundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: எண்ணங்களே மனம். யாவினும் நான் எனும் எண்ணமே மூலம் ஆம். யான் ஆம் மனம் எனல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): eṇṇaṅgaḷ-ē maṉam. yāviṉ-um nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam-ē mūlam ām. yāṉ ām maṉam eṉal.

அன்வயம்: எண்ணங்களே மனம். யாவினும் நான் எனும் எண்ணமே மூலம் ஆம். மனம் எனல் யான் ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): eṇṇaṅgaḷ-ē maṉam. yāviṉ-um nāṉ eṉum eṇṇam-ē mūlam ām. maṉam eṉal yāṉ ām.

English translation: Thoughts alone are mind. Of all, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the root. What is called mind is ‘I’.

Elaborated translation: Thoughts alone are mind [or the mind is only thoughts]. Of all [thoughts], the thought called ‘I’ alone is the mūla [the root, base, foundation, origin, source or cause]. [Therefore] what is called mind is [essentially just] ‘I’ [the ego or root-thought called ‘I’].
The thought called ‘I’, which is the ego, is the root of all other thoughts because it is what thinks them, and thinking them entails forming them in its awareness. Therefore without the ego no other thought could be formed or perceived, so whatever other thought may appear, it could not do so without being formed and cognised by the ego. Therefore so long as any other thought seems to exist, the ego must be present to cognise it, so whereas other thoughts come and go and are constantly changing, the ego remains as the root and foundation of all of them, and hence it cannot subside until it ceases thinking (forming and cognising other thoughts).

Therefore the ego is the essence of the mind, and hence what the mind essentially is is only the ego. Therefore when Bhagavan says in verse 17, ‘மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை’ (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai), ‘When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting, anything called ‘mind’ will not exist’, what he means by ‘மனத்தின் உரு’ (maṉattiṉ uru), the ‘form of the mind’, is only the ego, the root-thought called ‘I’.

Therefore whoever advised you to watch other thoughts has failed to understand the simple but fundamental principle on which the entire core of Bhagavan’s teachings is based, namely that the ego rises, stands, feeds itself and flourishes only by attending to anything other than itself, and hence it will subside and cease to exist only by attending to itself alone.

15 comments:

tāṉ aṟivu āhum said...

Michael,
in my experience attending to the ego itself somehow seems to be difficult.
Something - perhaps the ego's viṣaya-vāsanās (its tendencies, inclinations or desires to be aware of viṣayas or phenomena) makes it sluggish or dragging. It is terrible: anything seems to support/force succumbing to pramāda or inattentiveness.

Michael James said...

Tāṉ aṟivu āhum, your experience is the same as that of most of us egos, because as egos we do not want to let go, since we come into existence, stand, feed ourself and flourish as this ego only by grasping things other than ourself (as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), so we cannot survive without clinging to such things.

This is why it seems so difficult for us to be deeply, keenly and persistently self-attentive. However according to Bhagavan (and to simple logic) there is nothing easier than being self-attentive, because perfect and absolute self-attentiveness (pure self-awareness) is our real nature, so what we now need to do is to cultivate deep and abiding love (bhakti) to be self-attentive and consequent desirelessness (vairāgya) towards attending to anything else.

So what is the most effective way to cultivate such bhakti and vairāgya? Trying patiently and persistently to be self-attentive as much as we can, because every moment that we choose to attend to ourself rather than to anything else we are strengthening our love to be self-attentive and weakening our viṣaya-vāsanās (our liking or desires to attend to other things).

It does not matter how many times we fail in our efforts to be deeply, keenly and persistently self-attentive, because what is important is our love to be self-attentive, and every faltering effort we make is a result of such love and will help to strengthen it. When a small child is learning to walk it has to fall so many times before it can learn to walk and stand steadily, but no child ever gives up trying just because it keeps on falling, because it believes instinctively that by persisting it will succeed eventually. Likewise, no matter how many we may fail in our efforts, if we persevere we will surely succeed sooner or later.

As Bhagavan says in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

கடவுளும் குருவும் உண்மையில் வேறல்லர். புலிவாயிற் பட்டது எவ்வாறு திரும்பாதோ, அவ்வாறே குருவினருட்பார்வையிற் பட்டவர்கள் அவரால் ரக்ஷிக்கப்படுவரே யன்றி யொருக்காலும் கைவிடப்படார்; எனினும், குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்.

kaḍavuḷ-um guru-v-um uṇmaiyil vēṟallar. puli-vāyil paṭṭadu evvāṟu tirumbādō, avvāṟē guruviṉ-aruḷ-pārvaiyil paṭṭavargaḷ avarāl rakṣikka-p-paḍuvarē y-aṉḏṟi y-oru-k-kāl-um kaiviḍa-p-paḍār; eṉiṉum, guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum.

English translation: God and guru are in truth not different. Just as what has been caught in the jaws of a tiger will not return, so those who have been caught in the look [or glance] of guru’s grace will surely be saved by him and will never instead be forsaken; nevertheless, it is necessary to walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown.

‘குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடப்பது’ (guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍappadu), ‘walking unfailingly along the path that guru has shown’, means trying patiently and persistently to be self-attentive, as Bhagavan taught us.

tāṉ aṟivu āhum said...

Thank you Michael for your encouraging words.
Although I often feel caught "in the jaws of Bhagavan" sometimes I am not sure whether he already has spat me out again. But as you write what Bhagavan said in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? it is necessary to walk unfailingly along the path that guru has shown, that is, trying patiently and persistently to be self-attentive as much we can, as Bhagavan taught us.
Having failed in my efforts even in the physical presence of the mighty Aruna Hill (while sitting on its slopes) is a sign of lacking bhakti. Yes I felt not at all happy about it, like a small child that keeps on falling. Nevertheless, as you say, no child ever gives up trying to learn to walk. So I too will develop perseverance in trying to sufficiently purify my mind because I believe instinctively that I am on the right track/trail/path.

gargoyle said...

Tan arivu ahum

I have often felt exactly like you and I wondered what happened as my progress would suddenly come to a stop. Some days my practice of atma vichara would go very well and then regardless of how hard I tried I was not able to repeat the wonderful previous days. I almost felt I was being abandoned by Bhagavan and wondered if I did something wrong to lose favor.

After careful consideration I would realize it was only the mind that is standing in my way, trying hard to keep me from my practice. Over the years this had become less of a problem although the mind never gives up and will take over at every opportunity.

If it were not for Michael’s articles and book I would be lost. When I start becoming negative I realize the mind has taken control so I read and reflect on Bhagavan’s teachings and the mind fades away once more.


tāṉ aṟivu āhum said...

Gargoyle,
thank you for your sympathetic comment.
Yes, the mind or more accurate the ego tries always to have things under control.
The mind blocked even my attempts to bow its/my head with deep humility by dragging itself in fields of dense sluggishness, contrariness and a kind of paralysis. Anyway my unjustified high expectations of achieving rapid success this Southindian winter have dampened my enthusiasm. However, this experience taught me a lot and let me grow in my ripening. Maturity cannot be forced. It is simply good that my 'spiritual progress' did/does not dance to the mind's/ego's tune.

gargoyle said...

I have some confusion between the words 'mind' and 'ego' but I don't give it much thought as both words only mean negativity to me. I'm probably wrong in my understanding but this how I approach it. If there is a negative there has to be a positive. Bhagavan is my positive.
Everything else is negative and I have no use for it.
take care my friend

tāṉ aṟivu āhum said...

Gargoyle,
there is no need of any confusion:
the primal 'I'-thought is also called "ego" and is the source of the mind which is said to be only a bundle of thoughts.
Best wishes, look after yourself !

Vita Krnac said...

Hello Michael,

first of all thank you for your perfect blog.

All the time I have been trying to be only the SELF (awareness) I have been thinking that it is something behind the "i" (ego). But all I can do is only be aware of my self (pure and clean mind, consciousness) as you say.

What is the step to move me from the pure EGO atention only to some state not feeling the EGO (behind the ego)? Is it possible anyway in this daily routine full of personal responsibillities?

I have been trying to investigate "Who am I" almost 2 years. But I can feell myself as a pure consciousness (mind?) only at the times when nothing else is happening.

Ho to exist during the daily life and not be attached to anything but only pure (clean) "I" (Ego?)?

We must still pay attention not only to this but have to care of our daily responsibillities.

It seems to me that I am loosing the strenght to focus only on "I" and my attention is (must be) devided into many other things, because I would not be able to survive in this world than.

What is your advice please?

Thank you.

With peace.

Vita

Bohinjsko jezero said...

Vita Krnac,
not anticipating Michael's reply:
daily life does not exclude self-attention. On the contrary our daily work and responsibilities is the very field of our practice. We must develop an "understream" of vigilant awareness during the whole day.

Male Karpaty said...

Vita,
try uninterruptedly to let subsiding the 'I'-thought in its source - the heart.

Tim said...

As long as I stand up just one more time than I fall down, in the end I will be standing (speaking metaphorically, not intending that the "I" here is the ego).
It is grace, faith and the love of standing that helps me back up.
Gratitude to all who come here and help support each other to get back up through our sharing.

karuttu said...

Hey you, bhakti, love to be self-attentive,
are you strengthened sufficiently, deep and abiding enough ?
Or are you merely dozing drearily in small drops and even dreadfully weakened by viṣaya-vāsanās (my liking or desires to attend to other things)?
Hey you, wake up, there is no more much sand in the upper space of the sandglass.

kandavan said...

Michael,
"Therefore vigilantly watching oneself, who now seems to be this ego, is the means to detach oneself not only from all other thoughts but also from the ego itself, which is the root and cause of all of them."
To carry out this task/means could it be an aid to look intensively/deeply in the reflection of my eyes in a mirror (mirror image) ?

mula said...

Kandavan,
that is not really a beneficial practice, because thus you are focussing your attention to the other phenomenon of your mirror-image-eyes. Therefore it will lead at best only to manolaya and not to the subsidence of the root-thought of the mind.

Unknown said...

Really nice postings. I am benefiting so much. As all of you, I am on this quest but I will not despair no matter how many times I fail. As Maharaj Nisargadatta and Swami Ramana advise...ONLY EARNESTNESS AND DETERMINATION AND SINCERITY ARE THE SADHANAS REQUIRED on this road to liberation.

Good to all of us