Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Which comes first: ego or self-negligence (pramāda)?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, Is there any such thing as ‘biological awareness’?, a friend called Lewis wrote:
I have just finished reading your article— There is only one ‘I’, and investigation will reveal that it is not a finite ego but the infinite self.

As part of your reply (13 November 2014 at 10:01) to Amai Parai in the comment section you wrote—

‘We (as our real self) always experience ourself as we really are, so we are never guilty of the ‘original sin’ of self-negligence (pramāda), which alone is the cause of the seeming rising of our ego, whereas we (as this ego) do not experience ourself as we really are, so we alone are guilty of this ‘original sin’.’

If self-negligence is the cause of the seeming rising of our ego then what is it that is being self-negligent in the first place, I mean, according to the statement the implication is self-negligence was there prior to the rising of ego.
The following is my reply to this:

Lewis, in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan says ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandaiyē yāvum ām), ‘If ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if ego does not exist, everything does not exist. Ego itself is everything’, so since nothing exists prior to or independent of ego (except of course pure awareness, which is our real nature, but which does not cause anything and can never be self-negligent), nothing can be said to be the cause of our rising as ego. Everything other than ego seems to exist only because we have risen as ego, so ego is the first cause: the cause of all other causes.

Therefore, whenever Bhagavan seems to say that something is the cause of the rising of ego, what he means is that that something is the very nature of ego. For example, we can say that we rise as ego because of self-negligence (pramāda), but this does not mean that self-negligence exists prior to or independent of ourself as ego. Self-negligence is the very nature of ego, so we cannot rise as ego without being self-negligent, and we cannot be self-negligent without rising as ego.

In verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan describes ego as ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy), a ‘formless phantom’, and says ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṟkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum), ‘Grasping form it comes into existence; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly’. The first sentence of this verse, ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām), ‘Grasping form it comes into existence’, may seem to imply that ego comes into existence by grasping form, which is true in a certain sense, but should not be taken to mean that its grasping precedes its coming into existence, because it must exist in order to grasp anything. What Bhagavan implies in these three sentences, therefore, is that grasping form is the very nature of this formless phantom called ego, so it cannot come into existence, stand or flourish without grasping form.

Therefore if, instead of grasping form, we try to grasp ourself alone, we as ego will subside and dissolve back into our real nature, which is the source from which we rose. This is implied by him in another sentence in this same verse: ‘தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும்’ (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), ‘If sought, it will take flight’.

Being self-negligent and grasping form are two sides of the same coin, because being self-negligent means not attending to ourself alone, and grasping form means attending to things other than ourself. So long as we attend to any form (anything other than ourself), our attention is thereby directed away from ourself, and thus we are being self-negligent.

Since self-negligence is the very nature of ego, we rise as ego by being self-negligent, and we become self-negligent by rising as ego, so which is the cause and which is the effect? This is not exactly a case of cause and effect, because ego and self-negligence cannot be separated from each other. There is no ego without self-negligence, and no self-negligence without ego, so essentially they are one and the same thing.

Since self-negligence is the very nature of ego, the antidote for this poison called ego is the opposite of self-negligence, namely keenly focussed self-attentiveness. This is why Bhagavan often used to say that we rise and stand as ego because of avicāra (non-investigation), which means the same as pramāda (self-negligence), because by saying this he implied that avicāra is the very nature of ego, so the means to eradicate ego is vicāra (investigation), which in this context means ātma-vicāra (self-investigation).

As Bhagavan often said, ego is māyā, which means ‘what is not’ (or more literally ‘she who is not’), and māyā is anirvacanīya, which means ‘indescribable’ or ‘inexplicable’. Therefore whatever may be said about ego does not adequately explain it, because we cannot explain something that does not actually exist, but our aim is not to explain it but only to eradicate it, so whatever Bhagavan told us about the nature of ego was intended to help us understand more clearly the means to get rid of it.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

https://www.aham.com/RamanaPeriyaPuranam/RamanaPeriyaPuranam.pdf

Lewis Oakwood said...


Thank you, Michael.

Sometimes I find your replies to my questions unconvincing (obviously, there isn't anything wrong with your replies it's I do not understand them) however, on this occasion what a pleasure it is to read your clear and honest reply, in particular—

'As Bhagavan often said, the ego is māyā, which means ‘what is not’ (or more literally ‘she who is not’), and māyā is anirvacanīya, which means ‘indescribable’ or ‘inexplicable’. Therefore whatever may be said about ego does not adequately explain it, because we cannot explain something that does not actually exist...'

*

Some thoughts—

So, the ego does not exist at all: only seems to— like a mirage, appearing in the desert.

We imagine something terrible will happen if the ego is seen to be illusory, and yet, every night in sleep, the ego subsides for a while and, no real harm was done.

And the fact that there isn't anything that 'can be said to be the cause of our rising as ego' seems somehow an end to all the speculating about why and how it could have done so.

The ego is an illusion believing itself to be real.

'If sought, it will take flight', just like, as soon as we become aware that we are daydreaming it (the daydream) disappears.

The one who says 'I am this body' is the illusory ego.

For as long as we do not investigate the snake, we will never see the rope.

It is we as the ego that can look keenly enough at itself.

The ego comes only seemingly into existence.

Pure-awareness doesn't come into nor go out of existence.

The ego is an illusion, that seems to rise as the seeing of itself as an actual thing among other things.

If I say: I see a ghost you may reply: Lewis, you simply imagine it. As though the ego is the rising of imagination.

The real mystery is not what we actually are, which is self-evident— I am self-aware, instead, it is the seeming appearance of a body and, a world that does not actually exist.

Best to follow this advice— 'He (Bhagavan) implied that avicāra (non-investigation) is the very nature of ego, so the means to eradicate ego is vicāra (investigation), which in this context means ātma-vicāra (self-investigation).'

Michael, I welcome all corrections you may care to give to what I have written. 💖

Lewis Oakwood said...

Self-negligence (pramāda).

Occasionally, while at secondary school we were taught basic Greek. This morning, I remembered the word (πράγματα) 'prágmata' which means 'things'.

Keep in mind, (prágmata) in Greek the letter (t) is pronounced as a (d).

Prágmata seems remarkably similar to the word 'Pramāda'.

Maybe there is a connection, in the sense 'self-negligent means not attending to ourself alone, and grasping form means attending to 'things' other than ourself. So long as we attend to any form (anything other than ourself), our attention is thereby directed away from ourself, and thus we are being self-negligent.'

*

'Since self-negligence is the very nature of ego, we rise as ego by being self-negligent, and we become self-negligent by rising as ego, so which is the cause and which is the effect? This is not exactly a case of cause and effect, because ego and self-negligence cannot be separated from each other. There is no ego without self-negligence, and no self-negligence without ego, so essentially they are one and the same thing.'


I wonder if this is similar to —

Dream and dreaming 'cannot be separated from each other. There is no dream without dreaming, and no dreaming without a dream, so essentially they are one and the same thing.'

Lewis Oakwood said...


'Who am I?'— 'I am this body' aware of that question.

Where there is 'Who am I?'— 'I am this body' that is the arising of ego.

'Who am I?'— 'I am this body', in pure awareness that question and answer do not arise.

Bob said...

Lewis
About two weeks ago, or thereabouts, it appeared you were ready to or where going to leave this blog, if my defective memory is correct....
I'm glad you did not do so. I enjoy your posts.
In my opinion, this is the place to be and learn.

Cheers my friend

Lewis Oakwood said...

Hi Bob,

I agree with you 'this is the place to be and learn.'

Ha, yes, you're correct about me wanting to leave but, I can't get away from Bhagavan!

I'm glad you enjoy the posts/comments. To be honest, they're my way of trying to understand.

Best wishes to you, Bob 🙂

Lewis Oakwood said...

A strange dream

An eye saw things where it imagined not seeing itself.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Sometimes it's as though self-attentiveness is too much to bear and, all the senses will be by a great pressure crushed into a single point and then forever like a dot disappear from the radar screen.

*

Meeting Bhagavan at the Seashore

For the fifth time, the breath in and out through the nose as I walk and hear the sound of the sea as though breathing and the taste of salt on the tongue flicking away the feeling of the sand between toes here along the seashore see, the seagull dive into the water she is Ātma-vichāra.

How painful that dive to the great depth of itself and fear of equal measure rises to the surface of familiar air, where before me stands the figure of a man seems to move and yet still as a rock on the shoreline is Bhagavan.

Bob said...

There come times when we are pulled this direction and that direction. We know not what to do. The status quo has the upper hand, but that is not where we want to be, we want to go the other direction. We try and we try, and finally give in once again to where we feel comfortable. Of course, this worldly comfort zone is only temporary, always has been temporary, and always will be temporary.

Remember how hard it was when learning to ride a bicycle? We kept falling again and again, but with time, practice and patience we succeeded. What a great feeling that was, we felt free and never wanted to get off that bicycle.

This narrow path sure is different from the path we have always followed. Should we turn around and get back on the broad and spacious path? We know where that leads, been there, done that.

Bhagavan is calling, he has revealed to us the way. He will give us the strength to overcome any adversity.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Thank you, Bob and Michael,

Lately, travelling through life seems to be like going through a patch of stormy weather.

Someone kindly shared one of Sadhu Om's Tamil poems:

He knows the best of all;
Leave it to him. Be calm.
Believe him the most of all,
Then rests the mental storm.


Which brought to mind—

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Ávila.


Bob, I love this— 'Remember how hard it was when learning to ride a bicycle? We kept falling again and again, but with time, practice and patience we succeeded. What a great feeling that was, we felt free and never wanted to get off that bicycle.'

A memory of childhood when a group of friends and I cycling up a hill and once we had gone over the top how much we laughed at the sense of freedom as we were carried without any effort on our part down the path to where we eventually came to rest at the bottom of the hill and got off our bicycles lay on the grass looking up at the wide-open space of a clear blue sky relaxed and without any thought of what to do next.

Thank you, Michael, if we could simply remain with this—

'Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it, instead of remaining happily leaving our small luggage placed on it [the train], suffer bearing it [our luggage] on our head?'

Kind of like if while standing (no seats available) in a bus travelling along a bumpy road, it makes sense for support to hold onto the handrail.

Sometimes, I feel like a leaf in stormy weather, looking desperately to find some way out but, how exhausting it is trying to do so I patiently wait for the weather to change.

'Bhagavan is calling' and can be heard even in a violent windstorm.


zoran said...

On fb there is Sri Ramana Maharshi page and there are constant posts from books of Sadhu Om. One recent is Self enquiry and four Yogas. There Sadhu Om wrote that practices like dhyan or japa prevents mind from running after objects but weakening it for self enquiry make it unfit for it. I have never read from Bhagavan Ramana anything like that. Actually have read something like this : "japa and dhyan purify mind and such mind is one pointed and for such mind self enquiry is easy". So Ramana said that japa and dhyana help self enquiry and not make it unfit for it. Also what sadhu om thought about dhyana ? True dhyana is certainly not attention to second objects as sadhu om wrote. It is being aware of thoughts, emotions and breath. Eventually thoughts are less and there are gaps or breath often stops by its observation and then mind stops. Gradually one is aware of witness itself. So when meditation matures than observer unite with observed or mind merges with Self. I dont know what Sadhu om meant by dhyan or meditation cause he wrote about concentration on something like flame, light , mantra etc That concentration is actually called dharana and not meditation. What is self enquiry if not mature meditation which progress into effortless (samadhi). Many think meditation is just concentration on something but that is not so. That is preparation for it. First purification is needed then pratyahara (senses turned inward or introvertion) Then practices like pranayamas or advance prana vidya are practiced
and mind gets strong and purified. But dhyan is awareness not concentration so I dont know where this idea came from. Mind is then expanded yet one pointed. Such dhyan gradually lead into samadhi which is effortless awareness which cause great peace and blissfulness. Even about japa Ramana said that first mantra is loudly chanted then whispered and then mentally. Then mantra dissolves and that is samadhi. So actually Ramana turned any such practice into self enquiry. He said : observe source of mantra or source of breath or source of thoughs.. samadhi or self awareness is natural then. So Sadhu om said that japa and dhyan, nada etc weaken mind for self enquiry. Maybe if dhyana or japa is practiced with extroverted mind like loud mantra or tratak on the flame. But in both cases that is not dhyan but pratyahara and dharana. Also I never read from Bhagavan that such sadhanas weaken mind. Did Bhagavan approved and authorised such Sadhu om sayings and did those books were written after Bhagavan dropped body so actual authorising is not possible ? Also I know that Sadhu om stayed 5 years with Bhagavan but did he actually had proper knowledge about yogic sadhanas, yoga sutras and specially what dhyan truly is ? Again not concenteation but pure awareness..

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
you say on July 30 2019 at 23:33 under "some thoughts":
"The one who says 'I am this body' is the illusory ego."
"The ego is an illusion, that seems to rise as the seeing of itself as an actual thing among other things."
Because both statements are made by the illusory ego, should we not have no confidence in ego itself ? Therefore let's say no more about it.:-)

Lewis Oakwood said...

Anadi-ananta,

Okay, I'll try not to say any more about the ego. I mean, I won't post any more comments about it.

However, if I do that will it make you or I truly happy?

*

I would like to point out that everything I say here is simply the sharing of some thoughts- I do not know the truth of any of it.

*

I thought it was about investigating our ego. Perhaps, I misunderstood.

To all those who feel I post too many comments, sorry, I'll try to not post as often. 🙂

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis,
my comment in reply to you was not meant critically but only with a smile.
Of course, you may post whatever and however much you want.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

How are Feelings and Thoughts connected? In my observation of myself, whenever I resolve a negative feeling , thoughts automatically seems to reduce. Is feeling also part of mind? The sense of relief or relaxation is also a feeling. Does this belong to mind too? If mind is covered by a negative feeling, it becomes impossible to do self enquiry, so the time is spent on resolving the negativity rather than looking for I . So is this right approach?

anadi-ananta said...

Anonymous,
if you allow to jump in,
feelings and thoughts are all mind.
As you already have experienced any negative feeling certainly makes self-investigation more difficult.
But even just such negative feelings or for instance violent or burning sensual/sexual desires can be used as a good starting position for self-investigation - provided that you have a strong will to cast off the yoke of bondage/tyranny exerted by the thought 'I am the body'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anadi-ananta

Rajat Sancheti said...

I can relate with the 'leaf in stormy weather' analogy of Lewis. It reminds me of verse 79 of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai -
Mīhā/ma/ni'/lāmal
Mā/kāt/ralai/kalam
Ā hā/mal/kāt/tarul
Arunā/chalā.

Guard me lest I flounder storm-tossed like a ship without helmsman, Oh Arunachala!

It seems like some verses in Aksharamanamalai are from the perspective of a devotee close to realization and some from the perspective of somebody like me still very much caught up in the world. Michael could you please elaborate a little on the above verse, what does Bhagavan mean when he says storm-tossed like a ship without helmsman?

Lewis, could you please elaborate what you mean in your comment above when you say 'An eye saw things where it imagined not seeing itself'? Does it have anything to do with the important clue shared by Michael, that even when we are seeing the world and phenomena, we are aware of our self, that we are always self-aware but mostly negligently so? So you called that dream to be strange where you saw things but weren't simultaneously self-aware? Or do you mean something else?

Lewis Oakwood said...

Rajat Sancheti,

A strange dream

An eye saw things where it imagined not seeing itself.

*

(These are simply some thoughts that appeared after that dream and I apologize if what I have written isn't very clear— that is a reflection of my own uncertainty).


In that dream, there is an eye—

The eye is the perceiver, the perceiving and the perceived—

The eye, the seeing and the seen—

The appearance of the thought— 'I am this body' and then the next thought— 'I see other things' and then the next thought— 'all these things as a whole make the world.'

'I am this body', 'I see other things' and 'all these things as a whole make the world'— are all thoughts.

So, in that dream—

An eye saw things where it imagined not seeing itself.

The eye, the seeing and the seen— all one and the same.

The initial thought 'I am this eye' is the dream.

Without that initial thought, 'I am this eye' there isn't a dream.


*

The end of that dream— the eye tired of looking outward (away from itself) placed its focus of attention so intensely upon itself so that it merged into the One True Seeing Of Itself (Pure-Awareness)— I Am I. Eye Am Eye.


*

A thought-clue:

If you pour water into a cup, you have a cup filled with water.

If you pour imaginary water into a cup there is simply a cup.