Thursday, 30 May 2019

How can we refine and sharpen our power of attention so that we can discern what we actually are?

In a comment on my previous article, How to practise self-enquiry (ātma-vicāra)?, a friend called Rajat Sancheti wrote:
Desires, fears, etc belong to the ego or to the person? The person is insentient and cannot desire or fear anything, so they must belong to ego, I suppose. But then why do these desires and fears have such a personal nature? For example, the desire for money, lust, status, etc, they are only the body’s desires. Is it that when ego identifies this body as ‘I’, it takes this body’s desires and fears to be its own? Or are desires and fears only the ego’s desires and fears?

While doing atma vichara, one big challenge seems to be recognising that I’m thinking of things other than myself. Almost the whole day I’m too busy thinking of the world to remember that I should instead be trying to do atma vichara. If sometimes I remember and if the cloud of thoughts clears a little, then I try to investigate to whom the thought arose. But the cloud of thoughts is so dense that mostly I don’t remember. Is that the function of a ‘kurnda mati’, to recognise when thoughts arise, and then to discard the thought and focus on the thinker? Is this ‘sharp intellect’ in any way like the intellect required by a scientist or a mathematician?
Rajat, the following is my answer to this comment of yours.
  1. Desires, fears and so on are part of the person whom we seem to be, but what desires, fears and so on is not this person but only ourself as ego
  2. If we do not constantly remember to attend to ourself, that is because of our lack of sufficient vairāgya, freedom from desire to be aware of anything other than ourself
  3. What blunts our power of attention and thereby prevents us attending to ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are is our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, hopes and fears for things other than ourself
  4. The simple, keen and subtle intellect that we require in order to discern what we actually are can be cultivated only by our trying to be self-attentive as much as we are willing to be
1. Desires, fears and so on are part of the person whom we seem to be, but what desires, fears and so on is not this person but only ourself as ego

A person is a bundle of five sheaths, namely a physical body and the life, mind, intellect and will that animate it, whereas ego is not this person but that which is aware of itself as ‘I am this person’. Desires, fears and so on, which in their seed forms are what are called viṣaya-vāsanās (propensities to like, dislike, desire, be attached to, want, wish for, hope for or fear viṣayas or phenomena), are elements of the will (cittam), which is the subtlest and deepest of these five sheaths, namely the ānandamaya kōśa (the ‘sheath composed of [love for] happiness’), which is also called the kāraṇa śarīra (the ‘causal body’), so being elements that constitute this sheath, likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on are a part of the person.

However, as Bhagavan points out in verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār, all these five sheaths are jaḍa (insentient or non-aware) and asat (unreal or non-existent), so though all the elements of the will are part of the person, the person as a whole is non-aware, so it is not what likes, dislikes, desires, feels attached, wants, wishes, hopes or fears. What actually experiences these elements as ‘I like’, ‘I dislike’, ‘I desire’, ‘I am attached’, ‘I want’, ‘I wish’, ‘I hope’, ‘I fear’ and so on is only ego. Therefore likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on belong only to ego, and they are a part of the person whom ego experiences as ‘I’.

Desires and fears may pertain to the body or appear to be personal, but that is because ego is aware of itself as ‘I am this body’ or ‘I am this person’. The body itself is insentient, so it has no desires or fears, not even the desire to live or the fear of death. What desires to live as this body and consequently fears its death is only ego.

2. If we do not constantly remember to attend to ourself, that is because of our lack of sufficient vairāgya, freedom from desire to be aware of anything other than ourself

Our attention is distracted away from ourself towards other things to the extent to which we care about, are concerned with or are interested in those other things, so our attention will dwell on ourself to the extent to which we care about, are concerned with or are interested in being aware of ourself as we actually are. Your condition that you describe in the second paragraph of your comment, namely ‘While doing atma vichara, one big challenge seems to be recognising that I’m thinking of things other than myself. Almost the whole day I’m too busy thinking of the world to remember that I should instead be trying to do atma vichara. If sometimes I remember and if the cloud of thoughts clears a little, then I try to investigate to whom the thought arose. But the cloud of thoughts is so dense that mostly I don’t remember’, is the condition that most of us are in most of the time, but if we patiently and persistently try to be self-attentive as much as we can, our liking to be aware of ourself as we actually are will gradually increase, until eventually it will overcome and consume all our other likes, dislikes, cares, concerns and interests, and we will thereby be able to turn our entire attention back to face ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of all other things.

The reason we do not constantly remember to attend to ourself is not an issue to do with our memory but an issue to do with our interests: our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, cares, concerns, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on, or in other words, our viṣaya-vāsanās. If we were not concerned with anything other than knowing and being what we actually are, we would never forget to be keenly self-attentive, so the extent to which we are self-attentive is a measure of the extent to which we love to know and be ourself, which is proportionate to our vairāgya (freedom from desire to be aware of anything other than ourself). As Bhagavan says in the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைக ளிருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானா ரென்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும். நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை; தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் ஞானம். உண்மையி லிரண்டு மொன்றே. முத்துக்குளிப்போர் தம்மிடையிற் கல்லைக் கட்டிக்கொண்டு மூழ்கிக் கடலடியிற் கிடைக்கும் முத்தை எப்படி எடுக்கிறார்களோ, அப்படியே ஒவ்வொருவனும் வைராக்கியத்துடன் தன்னுள் ளாழ்ந்து மூழ்கி ஆத்மமுத்தை யடையலாம். ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும். கோட்டைக்குள் எதிரிக ளுள்ளவரையில் அதிலிருந்து வெளியே வந்துகொண்டே யிருப்பார்கள். வர வர அவர்களையெல்லாம் வெட்டிக்கொண்டே யிருந்தால் கோட்டை கைவசப்படும்.

maṉattiṉgaṇ edu-varaiyil viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ irukkiṉḏṟaṉavō, adu-varaiyil nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇai-y-um vēṇḍum. niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum. aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal vairāggiyam alladu nirāśai; taṉṉai viḍādiruttal ñāṉam. uṇmaiyil iraṇḍum oṉḏṟē. muttu-k-kuḷippōr tam-m-iḍaiyil kallai-k kaṭṭi-k-koṇḍu mūṙki-k kaḍal-aḍiyil kiḍaikkum muttai eppaḍi eḍukkiṟārgaḷō, appaḍiyē o-vv-oruvaṉum vairāggiyattuḍaṉ taṉṉuḷ ḷ-āṙndu mūṙki ātma-muttai y-aḍaiyalām. oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum. kōṭṭaikkuḷ edirigaḷ uḷḷa-varaiyil adilirundu veḷiyē vandu-koṇḍē y-iruppārgaḷ. vara vara avargaḷai-y-ellām veṭṭi-k-koṇḍē y-irundāl kōṭṭai kaivaśa-p-paḍum.

As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [inclinations or desires to experience anything other than oneself] exist within the mind, so long is the investigation who am I necessary. As and when thoughts appear, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [investigation or keen self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. Not attending to anything other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; not leaving [or letting go of] oneself is jñāna [true knowledge or real awareness]. In truth [these] two [vairāgya and jñāna] are just one. Just as pearl-divers, tying stones to their waists and sinking, pick up pearls that are found at the bottom of the ocean, so each one, sinking deep within oneself with vairāgya [freedom from desire to be aware of anything other than oneself], may attain the pearl of oneself [literally: attaining the pearl of oneself is proper]. If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own form or real nature], that alone is sufficient. So long as enemies [namely viṣaya-vāsanās] are within the fort [namely one’s heart], they will be continuously coming out from it. If one is continuously cutting down [or destroying] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] be captured.
Just as a pearl-diver cannot sink deep enough into the ocean to gather the pearls that lie at the bottom without have a sufficiently heavy stone tied to his waist, we cannot sink deep enough into ourself to see what we actually are without sufficient vairāgya or willingness to cease being aware of anything else. Likewise, without sufficient vairāgya we will not be able to cling fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa (self-remembrance or self-attentiveness) and thereby cut down each and every one of our enemies (our viṣaya-vāsanās) as and when they appear as thoughts or phenomena. However, the most effective means to cultivate the vairāgya and love to be aware of ourself as we actually are that we require to cling fast to self-attentiveness and thereby sink deep within ourself is to patiently and persistently try to be self-attentive as much as we can.

3. What blunts our power of attention and thereby prevents us attending to ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are is our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, hopes and fears for things other than ourself

The term ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), which Bhagavan uses in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, means a sharpened, pointed, keen, acute, penetrating and discerning mind or intellect, and it is similar to the term ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati), which he uses in verse 23 and which likewise means a subtle, refined, sharp, keen, acute, precise, meticulous and discerning mind or intellect, so both these terms imply a very keen, sharp, refined, subtle and discerning power of attention, and in both verses he implies that this is the instrument we require in order to see ourself as we actually are. What currently blunts our power of attention and thereby prevents us attending to ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are is our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears, cares, concerns and interests for things other than ourself, but if we patiently and persistently try to be self-attentive as much as we can, all these impurities will gradually be cleansed from our mind, and thus our power of attention will be correspondingly sharpened and refined, thereby eventually enabling us to be aware of ourself as we actually are.

The intellect required by a scientist or a mathematician is an intellect that is efficient in discerning and understanding the complex workings of and the relationships between phenomena, which are all relatively gross, so it is quite different to the கூர்ந்த மதி (kūrnda mati) or நுண் மதி (nuṇ mati) that we require for self-investigation, because the latter is an intellect that is efficient in discerning the simplest and subtlest of all things, namely pure awareness, by distinguishing it from all other things. Likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears, cares, concerns and interests for things other than oneself need not be an obstacle to the efficiency of the intellect required by a scientist or a mathematician, because they are investigating things other than themself, whereas these are necessarily an obstacle to the efficiency of the extremely refined, sharp and subtle intellect that we require in order to discern our real nature, because they make us reluctant to let go of everything else, and unless we let go entirely of everything else we will not be able to be aware of ourself as we actually are, since what we actually are is never aware of anything other than itself.

People who have intellects that are brilliant for other more complex and gross purposes may not be able to understand Bhagavan’s teachings at all, because in most cases they will be unwilling to accept that all phenomena are no more real than any phenomena that we perceive in a dream, and that though we now seem to be a person consisting of five sheaths, this person cannot be what we actually are, because we exist and shine even in its absence in sleep. To understand and accept such teachings of Bhagavan, we do not need the sort of intellect that is brilliant in understanding the complexities of science, mathematics or other such outward endeavours, but need a more simple, clear and subtle intellect that can distinguish and recognise the absolute simplicity of the fundamental awareness that underlies the appearance of all the seemingly infinite complexity of phenomena.

4. The simple, keen and subtle intellect that we require in order to discern what we actually are can be cultivated only by our trying to be self-attentive as much as we are willing to be

Such a simple, keen and subtle intellect (kūrnda mati or nuṇ mati) cannot be cultivated by dwelling on complex or gross matters but only by dwelling calmly, patiently and persistently on one’s own perfectly simple and subtle self-awareness, ‘I am’. In other words, it can be gained only by self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), for which we need to be willing to give up being aware of anything else, including ego, as Bhagavan implies in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

ahandaiyuṇ ḍāyi ṉaṉaittumuṇ ḍāhu
mahandaiyiṉ ḏṟēliṉ ḏṟaṉaittu — mahandaiyē
yāvumā mādalāl yādideṉḏṟu nādalē
yōvudal yāvumeṉa vōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr.

அன்வயம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், அனைத்தும் இன்று. யாவும் அகந்தையே ஆம். ஆதலால், யாது இது என்று நாடலே யாவும் ஓவுதல் என ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, aṉaittum iṉḏṟu. yāvum ahandai-y-ē ām. ādalāl, yādu idu eṉḏṟu nādal-ē yāvum ōvudal eṉa ōr.

English translation: If ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if ego does not exist, everything does not exist. Ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that investigating what this is alone is giving up everything.

Explanatory paraphrase: If ego comes into existence, everything [all phenomena, everything that appears and disappears, everything other than our pure, fundamental, unchanging and immutable self-awareness] comes into existence; if ego does not exist, everything does not exist [because nothing other than pure self-awareness actually exists, so everything else seems to exist only in the view of ego, and hence it cannot seem to exist unless ego seems to exist]. [Therefore] ego itself is everything [because it is the original seed or embryo, which alone is what expands as everything else]. Therefore, know that investigating what this [ego] is alone is giving up everything [because ego will cease to exist if it investigates itself keenly enough, and when it ceases to exist everything else will cease to exist along with it].
We can go deep in the practice of self-investigation only to the extent to which we are willing to give up being aware of everything other than ourself, because our awareness of other things is what sustains our seeming existence as ego, the subject or perceiver of all other things. The more keenly we attend to ourself, the more we as ego will subside and dissolve, and the more we subside the more our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears, cares, concerns and interests for other things will subside along with us.

Therefore what is required now is that we try to be self-attentive as much as we are willing to be, because this practice of self-attentiveness is a cumulative process. Every effort we make to be self-attentive takes us one step closer to our goal, which is the complete eradication of ego and everything else, and the closer we get to our goal the more our love to surrender ourself entirely will increase and therefore drive us to make greater and more persistent effort to be keenly self-attentive.

33 comments:

Lewis Oakwood said...


Hello Michael,

It's difficult to distinguish between the ego being absent or not.

During those periods when all there is-is Awareness: the apparent world of objects is none other than Awareness.

But, sometimes, along with this way of being there comes a great fear: I want to be back as I was; seeing/experiencing life as a person/body-mind.

Does that fear come from the belief of the ego that it is the person/body-mind and if it looked itself (truly) in the face it would be no more?

Is it like the sun looking outward/away from itself and mistaking the sunlight for itself, I mean somehow imagines the light as something separate/other than itself?


Thank you.


Michael James said...

Lewis, so long as we are aware of anything other than what we are aware of in sleep (that is, dreamless sleep), we who are aware of that thing are ego. Our real nature is pure awareness, which is never aware of anything other than itself (ourself as we actually are), so it is never aware of anything that either appears or disappears. Anything that appears or disappears (in other words, anything that is not permanent), including time itself, seems to exist only in the deluded view of ourself as ego, and not in the clear view of ourself as we actually are.

Can you not distinguish sleep from waking and dream? We recognise waking and dream by the presence of phenomena (things that appear and disappear), and we recognise sleep by the complete absence of all phenomena, so it is easy for us to distinguish sleep from waking and dream. Since phenomena seem to exist only in the view of ego, and since ego seems to exist only when it is aware of phenomena, we can distinguish the presence of ego from its absence by exactly the same yardstick that we distinguish waking and dream from sleep.

No fear cannot arise in sleep, because there is no ego there to experience fear, so if fear does arise, that clearly shows that we are present as ego. When we rise and stand as ego, we are aware of ourself as if we were a person consisting of five sheaths (body, life, mind, intellect and will), and consequently we fear the death of this person and any other harm that may happen to it, such as injury, disease or loss of loved ones, property, wealth, job, security, social status or reputation. But whatever we may fear in waking or dream, all our fears disappear along with ego when we subside back into sleep.

During waking and dream we may sometimes believe that everything we perceive is just awareness, but so long as we are experiencing any world or anything else other than ourself (anything that appears or disappears), we are not experiencing pure awareness as it is but only as the impure awareness called ego. At other times we may believe that we are not experiencing anything other awareness, but unless we are experiencing nothing other than what we experience in sleep, we are still experiencing phenomena of one kind or another, no matter how subtle they may be, and hence we are still present as ego.

Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my videos, 2017-11-04 Sri Ramana Center, Houston: discussion with Michael James on Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 10, a friend wrote: ‘At the end of the talk you say that the body is insentient, just jada. Yet in many places Bhagavan Himself has advised not to hurt the body whether that be the body of a human, animal, plant or a tree. If we keep saying the body is just jada, insentient, doesn’t that create an easement by which we can harm it? How do we reconcile these two seemingly different standings according to Bhagavan, one that the body is insentient and unreal and the other that we should not harm anything that is sentient?’

In reply to this I wrote:

Yes, the body is jaḍa (insentient or non-aware), so it is not aware of any harm and does not feel any pain, but there is an ego that is aware of the body as ‘I am this body’, so whatever harm we may do to the body or whatever hurt we may cause it is experienced by that ego as harm or hurt done to itself.

Of course we are directly aware of just one ego, namely the ego that we now seem to be, but because we as ego mistake this body to be ourself, it seems to us that every other body is animated by an ego, so if we do harm to any body it seems to us that we are doing harm to the ego who seems to experience that body as ‘I’. We are concerned to avoid any harm happening to the body we experience as ‘I’, so we should be equally concerned to avoid causing any harm to any other body. This is why ahiṁsā (non-harm, that is, not causing harm to any sentient being) is considered to be the most important moral principle and the foundation of all other moral principles.

Lewis Oakwood said...


Okay, Michael, thank you, but in dreamless sleep, there isn't anything to be aware of except awareness itself, so, that's simple enough.

However, in the waking and dream state, there are things and sensations everywhere. It's as if you are implying that were ego to disappear the world would actually disappear along with it and, only awareness remains. I don't see how that is possible.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Michael, unless of course, you mean like those periods when there isn't anything considered to be other than myself— I just am. A sort of there isn't any need to say anything about it. Light and effortless being.

Michael James said...

Lewis, do you agree that whatever world you perceive in a dream exists (or rather seems to exist) only so long as you perceive it, and that it therefore ceases to exist as soon as you stop perceiving it? How can you be sure that you are not now dreaming? According to Bhagavan any state in which we perceive phenomena is just a dream, so if this is the case, the world that you now perceive is no more real than whatever world you perceive in any other dream, which means that it seems to exist only so long as you perceive it, and that it therefore ceases to exist as soon as you stop perceiving it.

Lewis Oakwood said...


Yes, Michael, I can agree to that.

However, if this world is a dream am I then the perceiver of it?

And we are told there are not two— perceiver + dream (perceived), three, if you include perceiving.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Unless, where there is the perceiver/perceiving/perceived there is ego and ego is the world.

Michael James said...

Yes, Lewis, in a dream there seem to be three sets of things, namely ourself as the perceiver (the subject or ego), things that we perceive (the objects or phenomena) and our perception or perceiving of them. Since these all appear and disappear, none of them are real (that is, they do not actually exist but merely seem to exist). What is real is only the fundamental awareness ‘I am’, from which they appear and into which they disappear. This fundamental awareness is our real nature, and it is permanent, because it exists and shines whether ego and other things appear or disappear.

Lewis Oakwood said...

So, like a dream, the world appears in Awareness and it is seemingly real whereas the only actual reality is awareness.

Michael James said...

Yes, Lewis, except that the awareness in which the world appears is not real awareness but only the mind, which is a mere semblance of awareness. That is, the world appears only in the clouded view of ego, the perceiving element of the mind, and not in the clear view of pure awareness, which is what we actually are.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Michael, just when it begins to make sense the confusion reappears.

I don't understand— 'the world appears only in the clouded view of the ego, the perceiving element of the mind, and not in the clear view of pure awareness, which is what we actually are.'

Is then pure awareness only self-aware and as if a container for the appearance of ego/the world?

Like the ego is the dreamer and the world is the dream but pure awareness is the space in which it all seemingly takes place.

Michael James said...

Lewis, yes, as you say, ‘the ego is the dreamer and the world is the dream [that is, what is being dreamt by ego] but pure awareness is the space in which it all seemingly takes place’. That is, the space in which the world appears is the mind, and the space in which the mind appears is pure awareness (but this does not mean that pure awareness is aware of the mind, but only that there is nothing else in which the mind could appear). The perceiving element of the mind, and hence its root, is ego, whereas the perceived element of the mind is the world and all other phenomena.

And yes, pure awareness is aware only of itself and not anything else whatsoever. That is, what is aware of mind and world is only ourself as ego, and not ourself as pure awareness, which is what we actually are. If we see the world or other phenomena, we are seeing ourself as ego, whereas if we see only ourself, we are seeing ourself as we actually are.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Michael, once again, thank you for your patience.

I feel the sticking point is the part about ourself AS ego— 'That is, what is aware of mind and world is only ourself as ego, and not ourself as pure awareness, which is what we actually are.

I will read and reread your last comment and let it sink in overnight.

Michael James said...

In reply to my reply that I reproduced in my comment of 31 May 2019 at 16:16 the same friend wrote: ‘Thank you Michael, but this really begs the question, can we really live like this? If I perceive the plant body to be I too, which I do, how would I eat? In my opinion the plant is sentient, it grows, even feels, like Ramana’s mango tree. How can I refrain from hurting it by choosing to consume it's tender leaves. Which diet is possible to follow adhering strictly to non violence? (I am already a vegan). I’m sure you are able to understand my confusion.’

In reply to this I wrote:

Plants may have some degree of sentience, but it is of a different order to the sentience of animals. Moreover, there is a symbiotic relationship between plants and animals. For example, many plants produce edible fruit so that we animals eat them and thereby distribute their seeds.

Obviously our bodies are designed to eat plant foods, and they could not survive without doing so, so if we want to cause no more harm than necessary, eating a plant-based diet is the only option.

Regarding the mango tree incident, Bhagavan was not objecting to people eating mangoes, but to their callous attitude to the mango tree. Instead of waiting for the fruit to ripen naturally on the trees and then gather them as and when they fall, those people were beating the branches with sticks, making the unripe fruit fall prematurely along with many leaves and twigs. And why were they doing so? To get all the fruit for themselves and thereby deprive the monkeys of their fair share.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
you wrote "we animals". Are we really animals ?

Michael James said...

Yes, Anadi-ananta, if we are this body we are certainly animals, but are we this body? That is what we need to investigate.

The reason I wrote ‘we animals’ is that I was answering a question about what sort of diet we should eat, and the ‘we’ who eat are bodies, which are animal bodies. If we did not mistake ourself to be an animal body, we would not need to eat any food, and we could not do so. Therefore the level of the answer was according to the level of the question.

anadi-ananta said...

We accept when it is said that the world i.e. things that we perceive (the objects or phenomena) is unreal because what is real is only the fundamental awareness 'I am', from which they appear and into which they disappear.
We accept further that "what is aware of mind and world is only ourself as ego, and not ourself as pure awareness, which is what we actually are."
However, this ego lives or at least seemingly lives in this egomanic/egotistic, callous and violent world (nuclear wars, mass murder, climate catastrophes, persecutions, expulsions, cruelty to animals and so on, to name only a few "peculiarities").
So I would raise the question whether it is not imperative to live in that world as it were real - despite its unreality.
And generally how lives one in such a world of confusion "correctly"/sensibly/appropriately ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,
"A person is a bundle of five sheaths, namely a physical body and the life, mind, intellect and will that animate it, whereas ego is not this person but that which is aware of itself as ‘I am this person’."
Is it therefore correct to assume that the asat/unreal/non-existent ego is at present seemingly aware of about 8 billions persons ?

anadi-ananta said...

sorry, Michael, correction of the last line of my recent comment is needed:
it should be 'that world as if it were real'.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,

"...whereas ego is not this person but that which is aware of itself as ‘I am this person’."
Is it correct to call/consider such a 'jada-asat-person' as only an adjunct of ego or its expansion ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
if a person's physical body comes to an end by death it seems that elements of the will (cittam) which constitute this subtlest of the five sheaths as a part of the person (namely likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on) continue to exist at least in their seed form as 'causal body' and may as such being causal to take rebirth late in a new physical body, if necessary. Is that a wrong assumption ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
can ego be aware of itself also as 'I am this animal' being similar to a human person ?
If yes, is that regularly so or only an exceptional case ?

Lewis Oakwood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
in alteration of my comment/question of 2 June 2019 at 10:46,

if a person's physical body comes to an end by death does any (part of) sheath of that person survive ?
If yes, which sheath is the holder of that part of the person whom ego experiences as 'I' and which sheath stores the viṣaya-vāsanās i.e. likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on which belong only to ego ?

Am I right in assuming that the answer will be: yes, ānandamaya kōśa (the 'sheath composed of [love for] happiness'), which is also called the kāraṇa śarīra (the 'causal body') because they are elements of the will (cittam), which is the subtlest and deepest of these five sheaths ?


anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
1., regarding the concept of pañca-kōśas which are annamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of food), prāṇamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of prāṇa, breath or life), manōmaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of mind), vijñānamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of discernment or intellect) and ānandamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of happiness),

All these names hold the stem of the word 'maya' which means 'that what is not'.
Is that the reason why Bhagavan points out in verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār, all these five sheaths are jaḍa (insentient or non-aware) and asat (unreal or non-existent) ?

2., What term in Tamil or Sanskrit used Bhagavan to describe a person and to state that
the person as a whole is non-aware and that it is not what likes, dislikes, desires, feels attached, wants, wishes, hopes or fears ?

[As you said in that context in section 1." Desires, fears and so on are part of the person whom we seem to be, but what desires, fears and so on is not this person but only ourself as ego.
What actually experiences these elements as ‘I like’, ‘I dislike’, ‘I desire’, ‘I am attached’, ‘I want’, ‘I wish’, ‘I hope’, ‘I fear’ and so on is only ego. Therefore likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, wants, wishes, hopes, fears and so on belong only to ego, and they are a part of the person whom ego experiences as ‘I’.
Desires and fears may pertain to the body or appear to be personal, but that is because ego is aware of itself as ‘I am this body’ or ‘I am this person’. The body itself is insentient, so it has no desires or fears, not even the desire to live or the fear of death. What desires to live as this body and consequently fears its death is only ego."]

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
"As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [inclinations or desires to experience anything other than oneself] exist within the mind, so long is the investigation who am I necessary."

"Not attending to anything other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; not leaving [or letting go of] oneself is jñāna [true knowledge or real awareness]."

When I cross a busy road I certainly have to be aware of myself (also) as a body-mind which is according to the above stated rule anything other than I/myself. If I would cross this busy road without being aware of myself as a body-mind I would highly run the risk to get knocked down. So in this case the viṣaya-vāsanā to survive as a body is just a justified means saving my bodily life.
There are many situations in everyday (bodily) life where we could not allow us to lose our awareness as a limited body for instance as a mountain climber or swimming in sea near sharks or as a tightrope walker and so on.:-)
My point is that condemnation of our everyday consciousness as a body-mind-complex/unity is for most of us indispensable. In other words: is having love to be aware of ourself as we actually are and thus clinging fast to self-attentiveness and thereby sinking deep within ourself not also possible during maintenance of some (low) degree of our sense-perception ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
"... our liking to be aware of ourself as we actually are will gradually increase, until eventually it will overcome and consume all our other likes, dislikes, cares, concerns and interests, and we will thereby be able to turn our entire attention back to face ourself alone, to the complete exclusion of all other things."

Our liking to be aware of ourself as we actually are will perhaps be not exactly anything to write home about when we do not know how it is to be aware of ourself as we actually are. Because for my part I have at best a diffuse vague idea of what it means being aware of myself/ourself as I/we actually am/are my liking to be aware of myself as I actually am is comparatively not particularly mighty albeit it is said that we are in our real nature anyway in every phase of deep sleep. So in view of my previous lack of success in my attempts of being sufficiently deep self-attentive it is actually surprising to me that I still am basically interested in knowing/being what I really am. Possibly I am interested only out of sheer curiosity. Thank Arunachala, on the other hand tenacity is not foreign to my nature.

Felipe said...

¿The attention that is required is like that of a scientist or doctor, this implies a certain kind of desire to observe ourself?, or ¿ is it just a concentrated and dedicated observation ?

Yo Soy Tu Mismo said...

it requires devotion or bhakti to attend to ourselves for what we really are only and that devotion and desire grows and nourishes precisely from the fact of attending to ourselves

anadi-ananta said...

Sorry about a correction of my comment of 8 June 2019 at 12:35 is needed:
the penultimate sentence should be:
"My point is that condemnation of our everyday consciousness as a body-mind-complex/unity is not helpful because for most of us it is indispensable."

anadi-ananta said...

Yo Soy Tu Mismo,
how do or did you get the required devotion or bhakti to attend to yourself ("for what we really are") ?

Rajat Sancheti said...

Thank you for this helpful article, Michael 🙏

Could you please explain the difference between the 'nominative' form of 'I', and the 'dative' form of 'I' in the following passage from The Path of Sri Ramana -
"It is only as a contrivance to win back Self- attention from thought – attention that Sri Bhagavan advised us to ask, ’To whom do these thoughts appear?’ Since the answer ‘To me’ is only a dative form of ‘I’, it will easily remind us of the nominative form, the feeling ‘I’. However, if we question, ‘Who thinks these thoughts?’, since the nominative form, the feeling ‘I’, is obtained as an answer, will not Self-attention, which has been lost unnoticed, be regained directly? "
In what way is the question 'Who thinks these thoughts?' more direct than 'To whom do these thoughts appear?', as Sri Sadhu Om seems to be implying above?

In an article I was reading, the author was saying that people in the mental asylum sometimes mistake themselves to be something they are clearly not, like say a broomstick, and how they might even put the broomstick to bed and go stand in the corner themselves. This mistaking oneself to be a broomstick seems clearly like an absurd idea to me, but the 'I am the body' idea does not seem equally absurd or insane. Michael in his videos has said, if I remember correctly, that we are all mad people too. Taking this body to be 'I'. I wonder whether the 'I am the body' idea is as absurd as this 'I am the broomstick' idea. Or whether the latter is simply more absurd, because at least in the case of the 'I am the body' idea, the body seems to be conscious, while the broomstick is obviously insentient.