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?

A: Alasdair the ego.

M: No, Alasdair is not the ego. Alasdair is the one whom the ego says is ‘I’. Who is it who says, ‘I am Alasdair’? That is the ego.

A: Yes, OK, but nevertheless …

M: So because you feel ‘I am Alasdair’, because of that identification with Alasdair, and because Alasdair has to do things (Alasdair is a body, a person, and this person needs to eat, it needs to pay the bills, it needs to do this, it needs to do that, all these things), so, so long you are Alasdair, you will be feeling ‘I need to do all these things’. That is what is called the kartavya buddhi: kartṛtva buddhi means the sense of doership [ ‘I am doing’]; kartavya buddhi means the sense ‘I have to do’.

That kartavya buddhi is the real problem, because …, it is because we take ourself, because I feel ‘I am Michael’, I feel I have so many responsibilities, and I think …, but actually according to Bhagavan we don’t have any responsibilities. Bhagavan says your only duty is not to be this or that; your only duty is to be.

We don’t actually … [have any need to do or think anything], we think it is necessary, we think: ‘How can I carry on … with my life, how can I look after my family, how can I do this, how can I do that, if I don’t think?’ According to Bhagavan it is not necessary to think at all, because as he said in the note to his mother: that which is to happen will happen, however much we try to obstruct it; that that which is not to happen will not happen, however much we try to achieve it; therefore we should keep quiet.

Does that mean we shouldn’t do anything? No, we shouldn’t do anything. But, it doesn’t mean the body, speech and mind shouldn’t do things. The body, speech and mind will be made to act, as he says in the first sentence [of that note]: ‘அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன்’ (avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ). That literally means: ‘அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம்’ (avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram) means ‘According to their-their prārabdha‘, ‘their-their destiny’, that means according to the destiny of each person; ‘அதற்கானவன்’ (adaṟkāṉavaṉ) means ‘he who is for that’, which means God or guru; ‘ஆங்காங்கிருந்து’ (āṅgāṅgu irundu), ‘being there-there’, that means in the heart of each one; ‘ஆட்டுவிப்பன்’ (āṭṭuvippaṉ), ‘ஆட்டுவிப்பன்’ (āṭṭuvippaṉ) means ‘will make them dance’.

So it is Bhagavan who …, according to our destiny Bhagavan will make our body, speech and mind do the actions that they need to do. We don’t have to attend to that. It will all go on … [automatically]. If we have sufficient faith in Bhagavan … [we need not do or think anything]: Sadhu Om used to say, if, supposing you had a servant who came to you and said, ‘I will do whatever you want me to do’, how much we would feel relieved from all the responsibilities that we have, because this servant is ready to do everything. But such a servant has come into our life. That servant is Bhagavan. He has come and he has offered even to think for us.

If we have trust in what Bhagavan has taught us, we can give even the burden of thinking to him. That is why he says in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, after saying, ‘Being firmly fixed in oneself, giving no room to the rising of any thought other than the thought of oneself, is surrendering oneself to God’, then in the following sentences he explains why it is not necessary to think of anything else. He says however much burden we place on God, he will bear all of it. After all, God is bearing the burden of all this universe, isn’t he? So when that one paramēśvara śakti, that one ruling power, is driving all the activities in this universe, why should we be thinking, ‘I should act in this way, I should act in that way’? When you are travelling in a train, you know that the train is carrying all the burden, why don’t you just put your suitcase down beside you or on the luggage rack or wherever? Why do you insist on carrying it on your head?

Our thinking any thought is carrying luggage on our head. It is not necessary to do so. Because what is to happen is going to happen anyway. We don’t have to think about it. It is because of our lack of faith in Bhagavan that we think anything. So none of us here really have faith in Bhagavan. Because if we had faith in Bhagavan we’d let him do all the thinking for us.

We can’t have faith in Bhagavan, we can’t have full faith in Bhagavan, we can’t get that full trust in Bhagavan, so long as the ego exists, because the nature of the ego is grasping things, the nature of the ego is feeling ‘I am this person, I need to survive as this person, I need food, I need shelter, I need this, I need that, I have to act in this way, I have to act in that way’: ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும், அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்’ (ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum) [‘it is necessary to do like this, it is necessary to do like that’], as Bhagavan says in that paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?.

Why should we be thinking that, he asks us. But we all say, ‘Oh no no, Bhagavan, it is necessary, it is necessary. How will I get my food if I don’t go and work for it? How will I pay the rent? How will I do this, how will I do that? And I have got my family I need to look after’. Bhagavan says, ‘Why you carry the luggage on your head?’ … So we are all sitting here carrying our luggage on our head.
Referring to my second answer in this portion of our dialogue, namely ‘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?’, a friend wrote to me:
This is not very clear to me. As you have explained elsewhere, a person is a set of mental and physical adjuncts centred around a body. Therefore a person is just a set of jada (insentient) adjuncts, and these insentient adjuncts, according to my understanding, can have no real tasks. If any entity feels it needs to do something, if any entity feels it needs to achieve this or that, it can be only the ego, because it is only a sentient being which can have such ideas of doership. But you say ‘No, it is not the little ‘I’; the little ‘I’ doesn’t have any tasks, its Alasdair who has all these tasks, isn’t it?’ This is not very clear. I would appreciate if you would be kind enough to explain this.
The following is adapted from my reply to him:

Your confusion here is due to your not distinguishing the need to do tasks from the feeling ‘I need to do tasks’. The person called Alasdair is what needs to do tasks, but it does not feel ‘I need to do tasks’, because as you say it is jaḍa: insentient, devoid of awareness. What feels the need to do anything is only the ego, because it alone is aware, and since it mistakes itself to be Alasdair, it feels that it needs to do whatever Alasdair needs to do.

You say that since a person is just a set of insentient adjuncts, it can have no real tasks, but a person is a living body, and in order to survive, does not the body need to do certain tasks, such as breathing, eating and acquiring the resources needed to maintain itself (food, clothing and shelter)? Therefore the body does need to do certain things, but do we need to do anything? If we are the body, we do need to do things, but are we this body?

As soon as we rise as this ego, we experience ourself as if we were a certain body, and hence it seems to us that we need to do certain things. This kartavya buddhi (the sense that we need to do this or that) and its concomitant kartṛtva buddhi (the sense that we are doing this or that) are the very nature of the ego, because the ego always experiences itself as ‘I am this body’.

Therefore we need to avoid rising as this ego, which means that we need to cease identifying ourself as a body. This is why I pointed out to Alasdair that the one who has to do so many tasks is not the ego but only Alasdair. So long as the ego experiences itself as ‘I am Alasdair’, it seems to be doing things and to have the need to do things, but all the ego actually needs to do is to look at itself to see whether it is really Alasdair. When it looks keenly enough, it will see what it actually is, and thereby it will cease to be the ego, and hence cease to be Alasdair or any other person.

That is, the nature of the ego is to experience itself as ‘I am this person’, so to eradicate it we need to constantly question and investigate whether we are actually the person that we seem to be. As a person we have needs, duties and responsibilities, but are we this person?

As Bhagavan explained in the note that he wrote for his mother in December 1898, so long as it seems to exist, the person that we seem to be will be made to do whatever it has to do according to its destiny, and no matter how much effort we may make we cannot even to the slightest extent change, add to or subtract from what is destined to happen, so we need not concern ourself with any of the needs, duties or responsibilities of this person. Let it do whatever it is destined to do. Our only concern should be to investigate and find out what we ourself actually are.

This is why in all his core teachings Bhagavan is constantly turning our attention back to ourself. As he made abundantly clear, both in his original writings and in the answers that he gave to numerous questions, we do not actually need to do anything or think anything at all, but need only try to be so keenly and steadily self-attentive that we see what we actually are, whereupon we will find that we are just pure and infinite self-awareness, which never does or needs to do anything at all.

44 comments:

D Samarender Reddy said...

Michael,

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. Thanks in advance.

R Viswanathan said...


".. 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 remember that there was an old article, a small but very beneficial one, by Sri Michael James. Somewhat pertinent to this important question.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Thinking, free will and self-attentiveness
http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.in/2009/08/thinking-free-will-and-self.html

daisilui said...

Michael would probably respond too but i jump in as this was a confusion that gave me trouble in the past.

To your first part- 'the ego has no say'; true but the ego denies this and it does believe it has 'a say'. Better simplify and accept predestination without too much analysis [as this would just feed the mind/ego- who wants to distinguish between different types of thoughts?].

The other part, that gave me most difficulty was looking at the role of the mind in making the body take action. Ramana says no mind is required at all, the body will do what is meant to do, according to its predestined 'script'. To me, not separating the body and the mind but making them body-mind= ego provided the answer. The ego saying 'i am this body' includes 'i am this mind' and further, 'i am the body-mind doer'. The ego/doer would take certain steps in accomplishing a task, following a plan [that believes its own, which however is also part of the 'script']. For example, let's say you need to build something so you plan certain steps, you make errors [criticize yourself] and adjust, you accomplish the task [praise yourself]. If you look at the 'you' who did all this as 'i am the doer' you get stuck with the illusory projection of doers and things getting done and miss the substratum of existence/being on which the ever changing world appears to appear. In truth, all this is illusion; only the 'substratum' is unchanging, permanent and self evident. To me it is a matter of focus- either on the illusion or on the substratum; remaining as the substratum would take care of the rest, whatever that would look like- good or bad, has no relevance [and evaluation doesn't even arise as these are ego concepts, and there is no ego in the substratum]

Sanjay Lohia said...

I found the following portions of this article worth reflecting upon.

1) Your confusion here is due to your not distinguishing the need to do tasks from the feeling ‘I need to do tasks’. The person called Alasdair is what needs to do tasks, but it does not feel ‘I need to do tasks’, because as you say it is jaḍa: insentient, devoid of awareness. What feels the need to do anything is only the ego, because it alone is aware, and since it mistakes itself to be Alasdair, it feels that it needs to do whatever Alasdair needs to do.

My note: Michael is explaining a very subtle point here. The ego feels the need to do tasks, whereas the person whom the ego takes to be itself actually needs to do certain tasks in order to survive as that person. As Michael explains, the person cannot survive without doing certain tasks – tasks like breathing, eating and so on. In other words, the ego feels that it needs to do all these tasks because it feels it cannot exist without doing these tasks, but actually it is just trying to fulfil the needs of the person whom it identifies as itself.

The ego needs to do nothing, because, as Bhagavan has explained, it is just a formless phantom. How can a formless phantom have any need to do tasks, when it does not even exist? The ego comes into existence by grasping and attaching itself to a body/person. Since this body/person has many physiological and existential needs, the ego acts by trying to fulfil these needs.

I would request Michael to correct my note, if he feels the need to do so.

2) If we have sufficient faith in Bhagavan … [we need not do or think anything]: Sadhu Om used to say, if, supposing you had a servant who came to you and said, ‘I will do whatever you want me to do’, how much we would feel relieved from all the responsibilities that we have, because this servant is ready to do everything. But such a servant has come into our life. That servant is Bhagavan. He has come and he has offered even to think for us.

If we have trust in what Bhagavan has taught us, we can give even the burden of thinking to him.

My note: Bhagavan is ready and fully capable to fulfil all our material and physical needs - he is willing to even think for us. However, since we do not trust him or do not trust his enough, we feel that we need to do this, we need to do that. What a waste of time, energy and effort! Why should we not just attend to the only task that Bhagavan has given us: the task of discovering who we actually are?

If we are mind and body, we do need to think and do so many thinks for their survival. But are we this mind and body? If we are not, why should we work for someone else (this body and mind)? Therefore all our thinking is futile; all our doing is futile – the only thing which is worthwhile is to investigate: who is thinking? who is doing all these tasks? Who am I?

Noob said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oceg1K1wc9U
Can any one post the lyrics, I am not an native english speaker and the singer is not as well?

Aseem Srivastava said...

D Samarendra Reddy

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? [.....] 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?

We cannot distinguish thoughts which are destined and the ones which seem not be destined. All movement of thought, speech, and body is predetermined - it is all dictated by destiny. The activities of thought, speech, and body are analogous to the bodily actions performed by characters in a tightly-scripted play. However, the problem arises when the ego jumps in and takes these actions as its own actions. The ego has likes and dislikes, which compel it to think certain thoughts - these thoughts comprise the agama karma. The agama karma does not affect the prarabdha in any way, but will bear fruit only in a future lifetime, thus perpetuating the karmic cycle. There is no possible way in which the ego can distinguish between prarabdha and agama karma, so long as it is takes these actions as its own actions.

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?

The best thing to do is to be totally silent and not think of anything else other than oneself. However, if done correctly, then there will be no need to 'consider that [thought] as prarabdha thought and act accordingly', since the one in whose view any thought - whether prarabdha or agama - arises is the ego, which will be seen to be non-existent in the total silence of pure self-awareness.

D Samarender Reddy said...

Dear Aseem,

Aren't you contradicting yourself when you say " All movement of thought, speech, and body is predetermined - it is all dictated by destiny." and at the same time you say, "The ego has likes and dislikes, which compel it to think certain thoughts - these thoughts comprise the agama karma." implying thereby we have a choice whether to do agama karma or not. How can that be when it is all dictated by destiny. Thinking does not come with the labels "prarabdha thinking" and "agama-oriented thinking", so how do "I, the ego" know which thoughts to arrest and which not to. You say, "The best thing to do is to be totally silent", but don't you think your silence will be interrupted by prarabdha thinking, and so whenever a thought occurs when I am trying to be silent, how do I know it is prarabdha thought or my mind refusing to be silent and hence agama thinking? I hope you appreciate my difficulty in understanding this point. However, I appreciate your reply because there seems to be some wisdom hidden in it, which I am not able to appreciate as of now. If you clarify these doubts I have expressed now then perhaps I can appreciate the wisdom behind your counsel.

Aseem Srivastava said...

D Samarendra Reddy, I was not clear enough in stating that point. In this comment I attempt to clarify further.

All movement of thought, speech, and body, for a particular mind-body, is predetermined - it is all dictated by destiny. Whatever actions are to be done by speech and body, and whatever necessary thoughts are to be thought in order to perform those actions, and whatever mental thoughts are to be had in the course of a lifetime - all are predetermined for a particular mind-body complex.

These actions are analogous to the movements of a puppet controlled using strings. Here, the body-mind is represented by the puppet, and the controller is a postulated entity called God/Iswara.

Till this stage, it is clear enough to understand conceptually. The problem arises because we, the ego, take these actions as being our actions. The ego - itself a formless phantom according to Bhagavan - has likes and dislikes, and consequently sees certain actions, thoughts, and situations as being favourable/appropriate/righteous/ethical, certain others as being neutral, and the rest as being unfavourable/inappropriate/unrighteous/unethical.

The ego does have a free-will - it can choose to either observe these phenomena, or else attend to itself. By the dint of its efforts in observing and attending to phenomena, and consequently liking or disliking these phenomena, it performs agama karma. Prarabdha karma is performed mechanically, irrespective of the ego's likes or dislikes, but the ego's likes and dislikes give rise to agama karma. Both prarabdha and agama karma are as real as the one who does them. It is only the ego that feels it is performing karma, so if the ego is unreal, all these karma are equally unreal. When the ego attends to itself, all karma, along with their root -
the ego - dissolve.



You say, "The best thing to do is to be totally silent", but don't you think your silence will be interrupted by prarabdha thinking, and so whenever a thought occurs when I am trying to be silent, how do I know it is prarabdha thought or my mind refusing to be silent and hence agama thinking? I hope you appreciate my difficulty in understanding this point.

The silence is itself the cessation of all thoughts. It is not a state of relative quiescence of thoughts, but the absolute lack of thoughts - similar in this regard to the state of sleep. Whenever a thought occurs during self-attention - and it inevitably will during practice - we should not concern ourselves with determining what type of karma it is (seeing that it is impossible for us to determine it in the first place), but we should rather focus our attention on the one who seems to have that thought. We need to persevere in this practice till we get a clear experiential knowledge of our own self, bereft of all confusion and misidentification. This is the practice of atma-vichara.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Here is the complete causal link, starting from the ego's likes and dislikes and ending in its performing karma.

The ego has likes and dislikes. These likes and dislikes give rise to desires and fears - the ego desires what it likes and fears what it dislikes. These desires and fears cause the ego to perform actions in order to satisfy its desires and to avoid experiencing or diminishing/eliminating what it fears.

D Samarender Reddy said...

Aseem,

My doubts still remain, but I am afraid they seem solvable only in a verbal discussion and not in this back-and-forth written form, unless Michael works his magic and somehow clears my doubts.

Mouna said...

Within the current discussion, if I may, I would like to introduce one or two thoughts.

One of the difficulties presented is that there is a tendency to disassociate the ego (or maya) from phenomena, in part because we heard the figure of speech given by Bhagavan that it is the knot between the “sentient” and the “insentient”, like if on one side there is chit (consciousness), in the middle there is the ego (granthi or knot) and on the other side there is the insentient matter (jada), so when ego dies, matter, distinct from consciousness, continues it course under the laws of karma until prarabdha exhausts itself, comes to a stop and everything ends. This dualist scenario (which may be valuablr as a teaching tool for the vivarta point of view) is incomplete from a higher perspective.

Let us remember that maya (ego), with its vikshepa power, projects "its body" and the rest of phenomena (sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings) and that includes the world and god. We can’t separate the ego and its projection, is like two sides of the same coin, united by the “sense of doership"

That brings us to the conclusion that when the illusion of ego comes to and end by means of vichara or complete surrender, everything goes since the ego is everything.
As Muruganar put it so eloquently in the commetary of verse 13 of Aksharamanamalai:
"Through the wondrously dexterous imaginative power of maya, with its ability to perform the impossible, it exists as all that is, but from the standpoint of absolute truth, whose nature is the pure peace of Sivam in which that imaginary world is not, it exists devoid [of any such mayic creation]."(Vritti Urai Commentary - Transl. Robert Butler)

But in the meanwhile, as understanding grows, the idea of seeing the world and inner processes as predetermined by karmic laws and realizing the sense of doership as essentially egoic in nature, helps starting to untie the knot, until the moment comes where we finally realized that the chords that were seem to be tied together where just one and the same, like the magic trick performed by magicians who cut a chord, tie the segments together and finally, to the awe of the public they stretch the one and only chord that apparently was ever cut in two.

Sanjay Lohia said...

The following is an extract from the video: 2017-04-15 Sri Ramana Center, Houston: discussion with Michael James on Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 3 (1:05 onward):

Michael: We are very attached to this person … I have been living with this person - Michael - for last 62 years, so I have become very fond of him. I don’t want to let him go. So when I turn within and find that this Michael doesn’t exist, I am reluctant to do so. Whenever I turn within, I keep on jumping out again to protect Michael.

In fact, I am not only protecting Michael, I am protecting the ‘I’ that rises saying ‘I am Michael’. This is the problem. Michael is not a problem. Michael comes and goes. He appears every day in waking and sleep, and disappears in sleep, so he is not a big problem. Who is it that rises and says ‘I am Michael’? Who am I?

Sanjay Lohia said...

The following is an extract from the video: 2017-04-15 Sri Ramana Center, Houston: discussion with Michael James on Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 3 (00:59 onwards):

Michael: Sometimes we have to turn our attention away from the world, to let go of the world - to ignore all the suffering in the world - to find out ‘how all this suffering came into existence’? To whom all this suffering seems to exist? In my view that it seems to exist, so ‘who am I’? That is the only way to alleviate all the suffering in the world.

Escapism … well, yes, we want to escape from suffering. If we just bury our head in the sand and pretend that there is no suffering in the world; that is escapism. But if we are tackling the root cause of suffering – which is the rising of ourself as this ego – that is not escapism. That is, dealing with or tackling the root cause of all problems. So that’s the very opposite of escapism.

Doing anything other than self-investigation is escapism. Because we are beating around the bush … we are trying to find a way around a problem, instead of tackling it directly. There is only one problem in the world, and that is ourself. So rising of the ego is the sole problem of this world. When we look at it, it subsides.

Devotee: So, Michael, what can I do?

Michael: You say ‘what can I do?’ That is the ego. Look at yourself – Who is this I? What am I?

Leigha Pree said...

I went to the Stonehenge today. I asked the rocks if they had a message for me, they spoke in silence, Be still. Does not our Great Guru say the same thing. In fact it is from this great stillness all so called action emerges and eventually dissolves into. We could not even move a pen up from its surface without his Grace, let alone pay our bills and raise our children and do our work. Indeed He makes us dance as we are meant to so we can find out who we truly are!

praetorian guard said...

Sanjay Lohia,
regarding your first comment about video discussion with Texas:
"Michael comes and goes. He appears every day in waking and sleep, and disappears in sleep, so he is not ...".
Instead of "waking and sleep" you certainly wanted to write: "He appears every day in waking and dream, ...

Anonymous said...

Activities belong to God. But God is not aware of activities. Ego is aware of them , since ego thinks ego is performer of activities. Now, does activities exist? Yes, but only in ego's perception. So, can thoughts(activities) arise without ego? Seems to be 'yes' according to above post. The mistake is : ego identifies itself with activities/thoughts. Still there is some piece missing in the puzzle. Not sure what it is.

Noob said...

The best example would be our dreams, in our dreams the same "I" seems like it is acting/feeling/speaking, but we know that there is no action in our dreams and the script of the dream has been written and it is impossible to alter the script while dreaming. The dream arises because "I" rises with its tendencies, desires and fears. And in fact a dream is inseparable from "I". Thus the need to investigate this "I".

tane tan(e) said...

Anonymous,
no, thoughts (activities) cannot arise without an ego, not even when it seems so.

tane tan(e) said...

Noob,
the best example for what ?

Noob said...

the best example of so called doership, karma , etc

Sanjay Lohia said...

The following extract (not verbatim) is taken from the video: 2017-05-13 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on importance of practice:

Michael: Because we take ourself to be a body, we take Bhagavan to be a body, but according to Bhagavan he was not that body.

Once Janakimata came to the ashram, and Bhagavan was just returning from the gosala, the cowshed. Seeing Bhagavan coming there she thought it is a nice opportunity. She came to him, prostrated and caught hold of his feet. Bhagavan stood there and asked her ‘what are you doing?’ She said: ‘I am holding the feet of my Guru'. He said: ‘These are not the feet of your Guru. These feet are perishable. The feet of your Guru are shining in you as ‘I’. Grasp those feet; only those feet will save you’.

The whole point is Bhagavan is constantly turning our attention back towards ourself.

tane tan(e) said...

Sanjay Lohia,
it was Sri Janaki Mata of Tanjavur.

luggage on the head said...

"So it is Bhagavan who …, according to our destiny Bhagavan will make our body, speech and mind do the actions that they need to do. We don’t have to attend to that. It will all go on … [automatically]."
"After all, God is bearing the burden of all this universe, isn’t he? So when that one paramēśvara śakti, that one ruling power, is driving all the activities in this universe, why should we be thinking, ‘I should act in this way, I should act in that way’?"
Obviously God needs our collaboration/assistance in order to bear the burden of this world.

luggage on the head said...

"So it is Bhagavan who …, according to our destiny Bhagavan will make our body, speech and mind do the actions that they need to do. We don’t have to attend to that. It will all go on … [automatically]."
So Bhagavan is also that one ruling power (paramēśvara śakti).

luggage on the head said...

"So it is Bhagavan who …, according to our destiny Bhagavan will make our body, speech and mind do the actions that they need to do. We don’t have to attend to that. It will all go on … [automatically]."
Yes, we should put our body, speech and mind at Bhagavan's disposal - to be precise uninterruptedly. Let us hold ourself ready.

Sanjay Lohia said...

The following is an extract (it is not verbatim) from the video: 2017-05-13 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on importance of practice.

My introduction: Bhagavan's teachings cannot be properly understood without understanding what the ‘ego’ is. It would be useful to consider verse 24 of Ulladu Narpadu to understand more about the ego:

The insentient body does not say (or feel) ‘I’. Existence-consciousness (sat-chit, the real self) does not rise (or subside), (but) in between (these two) an ‘I’ rises as the measure of the body (that is in between the body and the real self a limited ‘I’- consciousness in the form ‘I am this body’ rises in waking and subsides again in sleep). Know that this (‘I am the body’- consciousness) is (what is called by various names such as) the knot between consciousness and the insentient (chit-jada-granthi), bondage (bandha), the individual soul (jiva), subtle body (sukshma sarira), ego (ahantai), this mundane state of activity (samsara) and mind (manas).

Michael (what he says in the video): The ego, the first of all thoughts, is chit-jada-granthi. It has got the real component (which is the chit aspect), and it has got the unreal component (which is the jada aspect). In the thought ‘I am Michael’, Michael is the jada portion, and ‘I’ is the chit portion. These two combined or entangled together is the ego – this mixed awareness is the ego.

When we experience ourself or fly off with a tangent as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’, this combination is the ego. If we remove the unreal jada portion - that is, if we remove all the adjuncts, what remains is ‘I’ alone. That is pure-awareness.

My note: Until we experience ourself as pure-consciousness - which is our goal - we should continue with our self-investigation.

luggage on the head said...

Sanjay Lohia,
" if we remove all the adjuncts, what remains is 'I' alone. That is pure-awareness."
The same subject who bears the responsibility for the original addition of adjuncts to the pure 'I'-awareness should remove all the adjuncts.
So who takes the responsibility for that disastrous/catastropic hare-brained idea ?

luggage on the head said...

Aseem Srivastava,
"Here is the complete causal link, starting from the ego's likes and dislikes and ending in its performing karma."
You start from the ego's likes/dislikes.
Where do these likes/dislikes come from ?
So you must complete your "complete causal link" which is possibly uncomplete.

Aseem Srivastava said...

luggage on the head,

The ego's likes and dislikes are coetaneous and concomitant with the ego's appearance. The ego in its function as the mind, has likes and dislikes; therefore, the latter cannot be said to be caused by the former. Furthermore, if the ego were real, only then it could have an antecedent cause. But, is it real? It seems to exist and appear real so long as we are not looking carefully at what it is. However, it subsides in sleep (where only our self-awareness remains), thus putting to question the assumption that it exists eternally. And, if investigated, it will disappear, according to Bhagavan. Therefore, the reality of the ego is dubious at best, and thus no cause can be attributed to its appearance.

Therefore, since the ego is uncaused, we cannot go back any further in the causal link.

luggage on the head said...

Aseem Srivastava,
because I cannot find the word 'coetaneous' in my dictionary please do paraphrase this term. At least the seeming ego may/must have a kind of seeming 'antecedent cause'.
The mentioned concomitance of the ego's appearance and its likes and dislikes
reminds me of the question what was prior the egg or the hen.
Regarding the other question whether and how the ego can investigate itself till we discover its non-existence we have to rely on Bhagavan's experience and teaching.
To me/my mind it is scarcely conceivable that the ego could be an 'uncaused' phantom.

luggage on the head said...

Assem Srivastava,
now I found the definition of 'coetaneous' in the Oxford Living Dictionaries:
Having the same age or date of origin; contemporary. So I can well understand - as you said - that the ego's likes and dislikes are contemporary with its 'original' appearance.

Aseem Srivastava said...
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Aseem Srivastava said...
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Aseem Srivastava said...

'luggage on the head', you seem to have difficulty in understanding that the ego is an uncaused phantom. The following arguments might help in understanding the reasons for this conclusion.

A cause, by its very definition, must exist prior to or be concomitant with its effect. When we analyse the potential cause of the ego's appearance - for by its very nature the ego appears and disappears in the alternating states of waking/dream and sleep respectively - we find that everything - even cause and effect - comes into existence only when the ego comes into existence (refer also Ulladhu Narpadhu verse 26).

We can argue that phenomena cause the ego, but an assumption implicit in this argument will be that phenomena exist independent of the ego which perceives it. This assumption has no corroborating evidence in our experience - in fact, our experience points to the opposite. All phenomena are experienced by ourselves as an ego, and in sleep awareness of phenomena disappears and only self-awareness remains. There is an asymmetric relationship between the ego and phenomena - the existence of all phenomena depends on the seeming existence of the ego, but the ego does not depend on any one particular phenomena for its seeming existence. In other words, so long as there is perception of phenomena the ego is implicit. This is but reasonable, seeing that the ego itself projects and perceives all phenomena during its seeming existence, and withdraws the same during states such as sleep/coma etc (refer Nan Yar? Paragraph 4). Thus, this argument fails.

We can argue that the ego is its own cause, but an assumption implicit in this argument will be that the ego actually exists. This assumption, as we have seen, does not hold up to a logical scrutiny of our experience of the states of waking, dream, and sleep. Therefore, this weak assumption weakens the argument to the point of falsifying it.

We can argue that our real self is the cause of the ego. This also is not true. Our real self is the substratum - the base - on which the ego seems to exist, just like the rope is the substratum on which a snake can be seen to exist. The rope does not cause the appearance of the snake; similarly, our real self, which is pure eternal immutable self-awareness, does nor cause the ego.

Thus, we can conclude that the ego has no cause for its seeming existence. It is only assumed to exist so long as we are aware of any phenomena.

luggage on the head said...

Aseem Srivastava,
thank you for your reply.
You are backing your arguments with sound reasons.
We agree that the ego's existence is not real because it is not permanent
But there seem to be also some unconfirmed assumptions.
We do not know the whereabouts/staying/fate of the ego during deep sleep. Even though we are aware in waking or dreaming that the ego did not appear in sleep can we conclude/assume with certainty that it did not at all exist in that period ?
Yes, the rope alone does not cause the remarkable perception of a snake. That deception was caused partly due the dim light. Similarly our pure self-awareness alone cannot cause the seeming rising of the ego. In combination with (the dim light of) ignorance the ego could possibly have been initiated.
As you said: "...we find that everything - even cause and effect - comes into existence only when the ego comes into existence (refer also Ulladhu Narpadhu verse 26)." Therefore all our arguments are only the ego's work even when they seem to be perfectly logical. So we as the only seeming/transitory but actually non-existent ego do not know anything with certainty about our real nature.

jeremy lennon said...

"Actions form no bondage. The only bondage is the false notion. “I
am the doer.” Leave off such thoughts and let the body and senses
play their role, unimpeded by your interference".

I have personally been struggling to grasp the full meaning of Michael's article. It is indeed subtle, but the quote above, from Bhagavan, which I just came across, has been helpful...sometimes it just takes longer for the penny to drop!

Mouna said...

Aseem Srivastava and Luggage on the Head, greetings. May I jump briefly in the discussion?

Aseem Srivastava, thank you for your very clear posting.
Although there is a paragraph that is a little bit confusing when you say: "There is an asymmetric relationship between the ego and phenomena - the existence of all phenomena depends on the seeming existence of the ego, but the ego does not depend on any one particular phenomena for its seeming existence."
I think I understand what you were trying to say but I am not sure of it. In fact the relationship between illusory ego and phenomena is quite "symmetric" (although for some reason I don't think is the right word), any or all phenomena depends on the existence of ego and ego depends on its turn on the existence of phenomena (no matter which kind).
I believe that what you were trying to say was that while thinking of an elephant needs ego to be present, ego doesn't need to be thinking of an elephant to be present. Although true, that line of thought is insufficient because ego, for its existence, needs another kind of phenomena to replace the thought of an elephant. So, illusory ego always need phenomena (of any kind and quantity) to apparently exist and viceversa.

luggage on the head, you say: "Even though we are aware in waking or dreaming that the ego did not appear in sleep can we conclude/assume with certainty that it did not at all exist in that period ?"
Yes we can, because of what has been said before, that ego needs phenomena for its existence and viceversa, and during deep sleep there is no phenomena at all, otherwise would be called dream or waking.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Mouna,

You are correct in your assessment of what I wrote in that slightly ambiguous sentence. It is only with reference to a particular phenomenon that the ego shares an asymmetric relationship, as your example of the elephant aptly demonstrates. Also, the logical conclusion So, illusory ego always need phenomena (of any kind and quantity) to apparently exist and vice-versa stands to reason. The ego fulfils this need by projecting phenomena and simultaneously grasping at least one of them as 'I am this'.


luggage on the head,

In response to your question, "Even though we are aware in waking or dreaming that the ego did not appear in sleep can we conclude/assume with certainty that it did not at all exist in that period ?", what Mouna wrote is a sufficient reason. To explain further, in sleep we exist and know that we exist, bereft of knowledge of otherness. This is self-awareness. In waking/dream, we exist, but also know and experience phenomena/otherness. This is ego, and awareness of phenomena is a necessary condition for its seeming existence. Since in sleep phenomena is not experienced, we can conclude that the ego did not exist in sleep.

luggage on the head said...

jeremy lennon,
you are right: comprehending fully Bhagavan's statement requires total detachment from the ego-mind born idea of personal doership.
May the penny have dropped in the centre of our/any false notion.

luggage on the head said...

Mouna, greetings,
how do you assess the following cases:
1. elephant as an abstract term
2. being an elephant
3. thinking on an elephant
4. perceiving an elephant ?
If any what is the difference between the four above cases ?
Is not the abstract existence of an elephant imaginable/conceivable - leaving out of it any thought on an elephant or perception of an elephant ?

luggage on the head said...

Aseem Srivastava,
what you name the awareness of phenomena Bhagavan called the form-grasping ego.
Your argument is consistent. The conclusion that the ego did not exist in sleep is therefore permissible. I have to give my unreserved consent.

Mouna said...

luggage on the head, greetings back

"how do you assess the following cases: etc.."

Let’s keep it simple. Anything sensed, perceived, felt or thought (including the capacity for abstraction of ideal forms) is in itself a movement/projection of mind (ego), according to Bhagavan.
Investigating the source of all these “phenomena” is what he suggested to solve all the puzzles and answer all questions, including the most fundamental one “Who (or what) am I?".

luggage on the head said...

Mouna, greetings again,
what you say is correct. Let us immediately come back and drive on the main road of self-investigation : "Who (or what) am I ?"

Michael James said...

Samarender, I have replied to your first comment on this article, and also indirectly to some of the subsequent comments on the same subject, in a new article: Concern about fate and free will arises only when our mind is turned away from ourself.