Monday, 24 June 2019

How can we be sure that we can wake up from this dream of our present life?

Yesterday in a comment on one of my videos, 2019-01-12 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 14, a friend called Saroj wrote:
Thank you for this video, Michael. We can think of the dream state only with respect to (what seems to be) the waking state. So when Bhagavan says that waking state also is only a dream, how to understand this statement? Since we know the dream state only with respect to this waking state, if the waking state too is a dream, then there is no longer any standard left against which to place dream and thus to make sense of it. Typing this question, it seems like the standard must be the state of deep sleep. So basically, there is no state that can be called the waking state? Only dream and sleep? Also, it seems like no rational person will deny that this world is quite possibly only a dream or mental imagination. But how can we be sure that we can ‘wake’ up from this dream, and how? Bhagavan has taught that this is possible, should we take this on faith? And try to experience it ourselves through our practice? I ask because previously, I have followed several different people, some whose teachings were very superficial although at that time I may have felt otherwise, but with Bhagavan’s teachings I feel sure that I don’t have to search any further, I don’t have to dig any more wells, as Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said in an analogy. But this feeling is not sufficiently empowered by a clarity of understanding Bhagavan’s teachings or doing deep self-investigation, but largely just a feeling in my heart, if [I] may put it like that. So I am still very immature and lacking in both bhakti and vairagya.
The following is my reply to this:

Saroj, as a general rule, a dream seems to us to be waking so long as we are dreaming it, but we recognise that it was just a dream as soon as we begin to experience some other similar state, which we then take to be waking. This gives us sufficient reason to suspect that whatever state we take to be waking is actually just another dream, in which case what we experience is not actually three states but only two, namely dream and sleep, as you say. Our belief that our present state is not a dream is not based on any adequate evidence, so it is an unjustified assumption. Therefore it is by comparing our present state to any dream and seeing that there is actually no substantive difference between them that we come to suspect that this is just another dream.

Bhagavan explains his teachings on the basis of a simple, radical, clear and logical analysis of our experience in what initially seem to us to be three distinct states, namely waking, dream and sleep, and in doing so he challenges us to question all our most basic assumptions and thereby to see that they are not actually justified, and he offers us in their place a much simpler but perfectly coherent interpretation of our experience. Therefore rather than accepting his teachings on the basis of faith, we can accept them with greater clarity and conviction on the basis of radical scepticism and deep critical thinking.

Two fundamental features of dream and of any state we take to be waking are that in all such states we are aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’ and we are also aware of things other than ourself, whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself without being aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’ and without being aware of anything other than ourself. However, though we are now aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, this body cannot be what we actually are, because in any other dream we are aware of ourself without being aware of this body, and in sleep we are aware of ourself without being aware of any body at all. The same is the case with whatever body we mistake ourself to be in any other dream: while dreaming that body seems to be ourself, but now we are aware of ourself without being aware of that body, except perhaps as a memory, which will sooner or later fade away. Whatever body we may seem to be appears and disappears, but whether it appears or disappears we remain, so it cannot be what we actually are. Therefore the awareness ‘I am this body’ is a false awareness of ourself.

Only when we are aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’ (where ‘this body’ refers to whichever body we currently mistake ourself to be) are we aware of things other than ourself, so our awareness of other things is based on this false awareness ‘I am this body’. When we are not aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, as in sleep, we are not aware of anything other than ourself. Therefore since our awareness of other things is based on this false awareness ‘I am this body’, it must also be false.

This false awareness ‘I am this body’ is what is called ego, because as ego we are always aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, and we are consequently aware of other things also. Therefore the very nature of ourself as ego is to be always aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’ and consequently to be aware of other things. Hence ego is the foundation on which any dream appears. No dream ever appears except in the view of ourself as ego, this false awareness ‘I am this body’. In sleep there is no ego, because we are not then aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, and consequently there is no awareness of anything else.

All dreams occur in the sleep of self-ignorance, which is nothing other than ego, this false self-awareness ‘I am this body’, so in order to wake up in such a way that we can never dream again we need to eradicate ego. Since ego is self-ignorance, the false awareness of ourself as ‘I am this body’, it can be eradicated only by true self-knowledge, the clear awareness of ourself as we actually are.

So how can we be aware of ourself as we actually are? So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are aware of ourself as ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are we need to cease being aware of anything else whatsoever. However, though ceasing to be aware of anything else is necessary, it is not sufficient, because we cease to be aware of anything else in sleep, and though ego is temporarily absent in sleep, it is not thereby eradicated, because sooner or later it rises again by projecting either a new dream or a resumption of a previous dream.

Therefore in order for us as ego to eradicate ourself permanently, we not only need to cease being aware of anything else, but also need to be attentively and clearly aware of ourself alone. This is what Bhagavan teaches us in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

அன்வயம்: மனம் வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṉam veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

English translation: Leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena], the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real awareness [true knowledge or knowledge of reality].
What he refers to here as ‘வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு’ (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu), ‘leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena]’, is ceasing to be aware of anything other than ourself, and what he refers to as ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), ‘the mind knowing [investigating or observing attentively] its own form of light’, is being attentively self-aware. Whereas ‘விட்டு’ (viṭṭu), ‘leaving aside’, ‘letting go of’, ‘removing’, ‘getting rid of’ or ‘ending’, is an adverbial particle, ‘ஓர்தலே’ (ōrdalē), ‘knowing’, ‘investigating’ or ‘observing attentively’, is a verbal noun, so ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), ‘the mind knowing [investigating or observing attentively] its own form of light’, is the subject of this sentence, whereas ‘வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு’ (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu), ‘leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena]’, is just an adverbial clause. Therefore by the grammatical structure of this sentence Bhagavan clearly indicates that what is primarily required is that the mind (which in this context means ego, because ego is the knowing, cognising or perceiving aspect of the mind) must attentively observe and thereby know its own form of light, for which ceasing to be aware of any phenomena is a secondary requirement.

That is, the mind cannot know its own form of light without thereby ceasing to be aware of anything else, but it can cease to be aware of anything else without thereby knowing its own form of light. What Bhagavan refers to here as ‘தன் ஒளி உரு’ (taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), ‘its own form of light’, is pure self-awareness, which is the light that illumines the mind, thereby enabling it to know all other things, so what he means by ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē), ‘the mind knowing [investigating or observing attentively] its own form of light’, is our being attentively aware of our own fundamental self-awareness, ‘I am’.

Therefore what he clearly implies in this verse is that ‘உண்மை உணர்ச்சி’ (uṇmai uṇarcci), ‘real awareness’, ‘true knowledge’ or ‘knowledge of reality’, is not being aware of anything other than ourself but only being aware of our own real ‘form of light’ or fundamental self-awareness by observing ourself so keenly and attentively that we thereby cease to be aware of anything other than ourself. Awareness of anything other than ourself (our own ‘form of light’) is not real awareness, because what is real and what we actually are is just pure awareness (awareness that is not aware of anything other than itself), so in order to know what is real and thereby to be aware of ourself as we actually are we need to attend to ourself so keenly that we cease to be aware of anything else whatsoever.

Since ego is just a false self-awareness, an awareness of ourself as something other than what we actually are, it can be and certainly will be annihilated entirely by our being aware of ourself as we actually are, and since it alone is the dreamer of all dreams, when it is annihilated all its dreams will be annihilated along with it, and what will then remain is just pure awareness, which is what we always actually are.

Therefore Bhagavan’s teachings are not only extremely simple and clear but also logically coherent, and they do not require us to believe anything that we do not already know or cannot logically infer from our experience of ourself in what now seem to us to be our three states of waking, dream and sleep. If we carefully, critically and deeply consider the fundamental principles of his teachings, which I have briefly outlined here, we can be sure that we now seem to be dreaming this dream only because we have risen as ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so we can certainly wake up from this dream and from the underlying sleep of self-ignorance, in which it and all other dreams occur, simply by turning our entire attention back towards ourself (our own real ‘form of light’ or fundamental self-awareness) so keenly that we see what we actually are and thereby cease being aware of anything else at all.

16 comments:

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
the cardinal question is: what practical verifiability do we have for the first part of the saying that "...(1.) (2.)<< without being aware of any body at all >>" ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
and also the third part of the mentioned statement "<<>>" should be practically verifiable.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
"When we are not aware of ourself as 'I am this body', as in sleep, we are not aware of anything other than ourself."
That is only a negative differentiation/demarcation.
But can we and if yes how can we verify what we are actually aware of in sleep ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
"In sleep there is no ego, because we are not then aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, and consequently there is no awareness of anything else."
Again you show us the negative differentiation. But what awareness is then actually present in sleep ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
sorry, in my second comment I forgot to insert the third part (3.)<<>> of the mentioned statement.

Michael James said...

Anandi-ananta, you should be able to verify all of that from your own experience. Are you not clearly aware that you slept? That is, that you existed in a state in which you were not aware of any phenomena — anything other than yourself? How can you be aware of having been in such a state if you were not aware of being in it while you were in it?

This should be quite clear to you, particularly if you consider your experience carefully and deeply. If it is not yet clear enough, the only way to make it clear is to persevere in trying to be self-attentive as much as you can be while in waking or dream. The more you become familiar with being aware of yourself as something distinct from any phenomena (that is, from anything that appears or disappears in your awareness), the clearer it will become to you that you were clearly aware of yourself in sleep, even though you were then not aware of anything else whatsoever.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
many thanks for your reply.
Unfortunately the copied sentence "...whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself without being aware of ourself as 'I am this body' and without being aware of anything other than ourself." did not appear in my first comment - obviously with using the signs < and >.
As you explain it is highly necessary to intensify my practical attempts of keen self-investigation.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Hello Michael,

These are not questions I am just thinking out loud (so to speak.)

It's almost as though awareness drifts off into the states of waking and dream and then goes back into the state of being without identification to a dream-body: dreamless sleep.

How can we be sure that the so-called natural state of self-awareness also isn't another dream state, I mean, perhaps there is some state beyond awareness that is unattainable/unknowable that dreams all three states: Sleep, dream and waking.

Just because in sleep there isn't any experience of a body doesn't mean that there isn't one. Maybe sleep is simply a state in which there doesn't appear to be an experience of a body.

Also, there does appear to be a difference between the states of waking and dream in the sense that in a dream all sorts of weird things happen and in a haphazard manner: small dinosaurs pushing trolleys around while shopping in the local supermarket and then suddenly they're gone and on the t.v someone reading the news announces that a lollipop has become prime minister.

And, I am confused by — 'So long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are aware of ourself as ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are we need to cease being aware of anything else whatsoever.' —

This leaves me with the impression that should the ego be 'eradicated' there would exist only the dreamless state and no experience except that of ourself as awareness without content/the appearance of the world.

Thank you.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
regarding your last reply to me,
can one actually try to be self-attentive also in dream ?

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
when ego is eradicated then what remains is our real nature of pure self-awareness.
Because there is actually nothing but pure awareness - how could there be any appearance of any world ?

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, our present state is just a dream, so if we can be self-attentive in this dream, we can be self-attentive just as well in any other dream. However, in many dreams our attachment to whatever body we then mistake to be ourself is less strong than our attachment to the body we now mistake to be ourself, so when such is the case even a little self-attentiveness will cause us to wake up (that is, to return to this dream or to begin some other dream).

anadi-ananta said...

Thanks Michael,
so in my next 'other dream' I will try at least "a little self-attentiveness".:-)

Lewis Oakwood said...

Hello Anadi-ananta,

'When ego is eradicated then what remains is our real nature of pure self-awareness...Because there is actually nothing but pure awareness - how could there be any appearance of any world?'

There certainly is the appearance of a world but, currently, my understanding is that that world is not my true nature.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Hello Michael,

Recently, while putting into practice ātma-vicāra there seems to be the subtle hint that there is indeed a world but, it is only imagined which could be likened to the attention drifting away from the current situation and into a daydream and in that sense, the daydream appears but only as a fabrication. So, the world exists only in/as thought.

So, this whole thing is not about making the world disappear (or trying to live in a state where the appearance of the world is no longer present) instead, to see that the world is a mental fabrication and therefore, not my true self.

Michael, how accurate is this point of view which I gather is only the view of ego (the focus of attention away from its source: Awareness.)

Almost as though awareness sometimes wonders what it would be like if it had a body and lived in a world of other things. —

You would probably not phrase it that way but, it's just a mental picture to create some kind of sense of it.

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
when you say "There certainly is the appearance of a world but, currently, my understanding is that that world is not my true nature." you may also consider:
if there is no ego but only pure awareness, to whom could appear any world ?
Let us assume that pure awareness cannot be affected by any separate world appearance.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Anadi-ananta,

Whenever there is ego there is the appearance of the world.

'Let us assume that pure awareness cannot be affected by any separate world appearance.'

As paint remains unaffected by the pictures (sad or happy) painted with it.