Saturday, 4 December 2021

What are vāsanās and how do they work?

A friend wrote to me asking whether the following is ‘a reasonable terse description of the meaning of the term vāsanā’:

vāsanā: an inclination, which has been imprinted through one’s past actions and experiences, to desire having a particular or type of experience
This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to this friend.

Friday, 26 November 2021

The Ramaṇa mahāvākya: ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ) or ‘अहम् अहम्’ (aham aham), ‘I am I’

I have recently been trying to complete a detailed explanation about the song Āṉma-Viddai that I began to write more than two years ago but never had time to complete, so if it is Bhagavan’s will I hope to be able to post that here within the next few weeks. In the meanwhile, since the teaching ‘நான் நான்’ (nāṉ nāṉ) or ‘अहम् अहम्’ (aham aham), ‘I am I’, is such a fundamental and central principle of his teachings, but one that is sadly so overlooked and neglected due to a widespread misinterpretation of it and a consequent failure to recognise its profound significance, I decided to post this extract from the explanation I have written for verse 2 of Āṉma-Viddai:

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Appaḷa Pāṭṭu (The Appaḷam Song): Tamil text, transliteration, translation and explanation

Bhagavan lived mostly in Virupaksha Cave on the eastern slopes of Arunachala from 1899 till sometime around the middle of 1916, when he moved higher up to Skandasramam. A few months before this move, in about January 1916, his mother, Aṙagammaḷ, came to live with him, and it was during the brief period when she lived with him in Virupaksha Cave that he composed this song, அப்பளப் பாட்டு (Appaḷa-p-Pāṭṭu), ‘The Appaḷam Song’. One of the most detailed accounts of how he came to compose this song is what has been recorded by Suri Nagamma in Letter 102 of Letters from Ramanasramam (2006 edition, pages 208-11), but in brief the story is as follows:

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Other people seem to be real because we seem to be a person

A friend asked me, ‘As we believe there is only one dreamer so why is it that when this dreamer awakens all don’t awaken?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Is anything other than ourself intrinsically existent?

A friend wrote to me:

Thank you very much for all your contributions to elucidate Bhagavan’s teachings. One of the points (or implications?) of the teachings that confuses me the most is the statement that the world that I’m so sure exists independently of ‘me’ is exactly a dream (yes, the difficulty is "exactly", or maybe "literally"?). In fact, strangely, that statement didn’t shock me too much in the sense that I naturally had some acceptance for it the first time I heard about it. However, after much thinking (although I know that one can’t intellectually figure this thing out), I still can’t figure out how one can reject the following alternative hypothesis. Please help explain if you find some time. Sorry for the English because I’m not a native speaker.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

We abide as ourself only to the extent to which we attend to ourself alone

A friend wrote to me today:

When I abide in the self an intense nose pressure comes out. On previous paths this has happened with a chest pressure then a nose pressure which have both released. Now this nose pressure is getting stronger and stronger the more I abide in the self. Has Ramana talked about anything like this happening? Any advice?
In reply to this I wrote:

Monday, 12 July 2021

Freedom, surrender and clinging fast to ‘I am’

This brief article is adapted from a reply I wrote to a friend today.

As you say, our life (in the sense of our outward life as a person in this world) is preordained, so it is not in our hands, but though we are not free to change what has been allotted to us to experience, we are free to want to change it and to try to change it, but using our freedom in such a way is obviously futile and just immerses us further in saṁsāra, the great ocean of incessant activity. The only wise way to use our freedom is to turn within to cling firmly to ‘I am’, thereby surrendering ourself completely to him.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The nature of ego and its viṣaya-vāsanās and how to eradicate them

A friend wrote to me about an experience that happened to him one evening in a particular set of circumstances:

As I was walking home, my mind suddenly entered into a very quiet state. The rate of new thoughts arising became very slow, and I found that with only a tiny amount of effort, I could just remain in the quiet space without verbal thoughts.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Self-investigation is not a matter of one ‘I’ looking for another ‘I’

A friend wrote to me recently asking, ‘When I try to look within for “I”, I am unable to find it or its source. What is my mistake and how should I practice vichara correctly?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Monday, 17 May 2021

Can self-investigation boost the mind or kuṇḍalinī or cause sleeplessness and other health issues?

A friend wrote to me saying ‘I keep on practicing Self-Enquiry and I feel that the practice of Self-Enquiry affects the kundalini in my body and for some reason boosts my mind’, and he went on to describe other problems that he felt were caused by his practice, particularly sleeplessness and other health issues. This article is adapted from the replies I wrote to him.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Learning how to be self-attentive

A friend sent me a series of three emails, in the first of which he wrote:

With regards to Self-investigation, I have a few questions:

1. Am I investigating the ego/individual self, with the aim of finding the falsity of it?
2. Or am I investigating the true Self, with the aim of uncovering my true nature?
3. What is the best approach to achieve the goal?

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Could what exists ever not exist?

A friend wrote to me:

I recently watched your YouTube video discussing the above verse [the first maṅgalam verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu] as I was having some troubles understanding it. I have a few questions that have not been cleared yet. It is about the first sentence of that verse:

Monday, 22 March 2021

The second and third paragraphs of Nāṉ Ār?

In this article I will discuss the history behind the second paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? and the practical and philosophical significance of what Bhagavan teaches us in the third paragraph.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

In what sense is ego actually just pure awareness?

In my previous article, In what sense is it true to say ‘everything is one’?, I wrote:

So Bhagavan is the ultimate reductionist: All phenomena are just thoughts; thoughts are just mind; mind is just ego; and if instead of looking at anything else we look keenly at ourself alone, we will find that ego is actually just pure awareness. Therefore pure awareness is all that actually exists: it is ‘one only without a second’ (ēkam ēva advitīyam).

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

In what sense is it true to say ‘everything is one’?

A friend wrote to me recently, ‘I think I got this part wrong: “Everyone is oneself”. You would say I am saying “Many is one”, right? What would you say? There is just one?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Is it possible for us to have a ‘glimpse of Self’?

A friend wrote to me asking, ‘Can the practice become constant? Turning attention inward, I remain there (I-AM). Where does effort stop? I had glimpses of Self, how to remain there? Is it at all possible?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Bhagavan’s verses on birthday celebrations

Bhagavan was born at one o’clock in the morning on 30th December 1879, which was during the lunar constellation (nakṣatra) of punarvasu, which this year occurs today, 31st December 2020, so according to the Hindu custom of celebrating a person’s birthday on their birth nakṣatra, today his 141st birthday or jayantī is being celebrated by devotees all over the world.

Friday, 18 December 2020

If everything is predestined, how can the law of karma be true?

Last month a friend wrote to me posing two questions, ‘If everything is predestined, how can the law of karma be true? And if it is true, how can everything be predestined?’, to which he offered his own answers based on his understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings. This article is adapted from the replies I wrote to this and several subsequent emails, because what Bhagavan taught us about the law of karma in general and the scope of predetermination in particular is an area of his teachings that have been widely misunderstood and misinterpreted, and hence I am often asked about this subject.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Dīpāvali Tattva: the reality of Deepavali

In Guru Vācaka Kōvai there is a chapter called Naraka Jaya-t-Tiṟaṉ (Explaining the Conquest of Naraka), which consists of five verses, three composed by Muruganar and two composed by Bhagavan. The former are verses 181 to 183, in which Muruganar recorded what Bhagavan explained about the real import of Naraka Caturdaśi and Dīpāvali, and the latter are verses B4 and B5 (and verses 2 and 3 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ), in the first of which Bhagavan summarised the ideas expressed in verses 181 and 182, and in the second of which he expressed the same idea as verse 183 but in a simpler and clearer manner.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

If this world is just a dream, why should we justify to others that it is so?

Yesterday a friend called Asiakas posted a comment on one of my videos, 2020-03-14 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Ēkāṉma Pañcakam verse 4, asking, ‘Dear Michael. Why try to justify that this world is a dream? Do we try to justify to people in our dreams, that it is a dream? Who realizes it is a dream?’, but before I had time to reply to this it was deleted. However, these are questions that deserve a reply, so the following is my reply to them:

Sunday, 1 November 2020

We can practise self-abidance only by being self-attentive

A friend asked me to adjudicate on a disagreement that he and another friend had about self-abidance and self-investigation. One of them believed that “the terms ‘self-abidance’ and ‘self-investigation’ mean two different things. That is, according to his understanding, in self-abidance we do not use our sharp mind (nun mati or kurnda mati). However, in self-investigation, we are using our sharp mind (nun mati or kurnda mati)”, whereas the other believed that “both these terms, ‘self-abidance’ and ‘self-investigation’ mean the same thing as long as we are practising self-attentiveness. These terms — self-abidance and self-investigation — are just two different ways of describing the practice of atma-vichara”.

The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to them:

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Doership, sleep and the practice of self-attentiveness

A friend wrote to me saying:

It appears that the doership tendency is one of the hardest to overcome. I grapple with it quite often these days. Although I am more acutely aware and do recognise it most of the time when it arises, it simply refuses to disappear altogether. I sometimes wonder as to whether attempting to be self-attentive in all three states will eventually reduce one’s identification with the body, and thereby destroy the doership tendency. Getting into a state of complete stillness prior to falling asleep does sometimes help one experience the Self in deep sleep. However, I haven’t so far been able to become self-attentive at all in the dream state. I should perhaps just concentrate on being more keenly self-attentive, and leave the rest to Bhagavan.
In reply to this I wrote:

Monday, 26 October 2020

How to practise surrender when faced with a dilemma?

A friend wrote to me asking for some personal guidance regarding a dilemma he was facing, in which whatever choice he made would have a major impact on his life and possibly on his health, and which also had a moral dimension to it. Faced with this dilemma, he found that his mind tended to become agitated, making it difficult for him to cling calmly to the practice of self-investigation. In reply to him I wrote:

Friday, 16 October 2020

The direct path to direct perception of our real nature

A friend wrote to me recently:

I wondered if you could shine some light on something regarding Ramana’s Enlightenment for me. I’ve always thought that when the moment of Enlightenment transpires for anyone that it is instantaneous & does not involve time, even though there may have been a Spiritual progression up to that point. It is commonly said that when Ramana laid down & watched the death of his self at that point he was instantly Enlightened.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

How is ego to be destroyed?

A friend wrote to me recently:

I came across the following quote supposedly by Bhagavan:
Question: How is the ego to be destroyed?

Maharshi: Hold the ego first and then ask how it is to be destroyed. Who asks this question? It is the ego. Can the ego ever agree to kill itself? This question is a sure way to cherish the ego and not to kill it. If you seek the ego you will find it does not exist. That is the way to destroy it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

The return of the prodigal son

A friend wrote to me recently asking:

If all the Bhagavan’s teachings are telling us to ignore the world and only look within, then why does the world of thoughts and things manifest at all? Is it there for us to be seduced by to suffer in until we voluntarily start the journey home to the only true reality, the I am? Is this the meaning of the Parable of the prodigal son in Christianity?
In reply to her I wrote:

Monday, 24 August 2020

Praising or disparaging others is anātma-vicāra

In a comment on 18 July 2020 at 11:27 I appealed to everyone writing comments on this blog:

I have not had time to read most of the comments that have been posted here recently, but a friend has written to me pointing out that of late many of the comments have been blatantly transgressing the Guidelines for Comments, so could I please ask you all to abide by these guidelines for the sake of all who read your comments. That is, please do not allow any discussion about Bhagavan’s teachings to deteriorate into a series of ad hominem attacks and abuse. If you disagree with any idea expressed by anyone else, you are welcome to explain why you disagree with it, but please do not criticise personally whoever has expressed whatever ideas you disagree with.
I still have not had time to read most of the recent comments, but from the few I have read and from emails I have received from several friends deploring the tone of many of them I understand that what I wrote in this comment had little or no effect, because the same behaviour seems to have been continuing. This is very sad, because it shows a lack of respect for Bhagavan and his teachings, and it is inconsiderate, because it deters many serious aspirants from taking part in what could otherwise be useful discussions about his teachings.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Why did Bhagavan sometimes say the heart is on the right side of the chest?

A friend sent me a WhatsApp message yesterday saying that while explaining the first verse of Saddarśanam someone had said, ‘Many ask why Ramana Maharshi stated that heart is on your right. It is because you think that it is on the left. Heart actually is where one experiences the existence as consciousness’. I understood this to mean that that person had implied that the right side of the chest is where one experiences existence as consciousness, so I replied accordingly, but later my friend clarified that what that person was trying to convey was that ‘ullam or heart is not on right or left or nothing to do with the position in the body, but where or what one experiences as consciousness — not the body or mental consciousness which many associate this word with’.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

How do we remember being asleep?

A friend wrote to me today asking, ‘In the deep sleep state, it is said that there is no mind. In that case, what is it that carries through the information back to the waking state that one has experienced deep sleep? Is the mind present but it is dormant (thereby registering experience and creating memory)? In other words, is there anything other than the true I (I-I) in the deep sleep state?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

We can be self-attentive in waking and dream but not in sleep

A friend recently wrote to me:

It seems to that “Self-Attention” as taught by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi is possible only when I am in the Waking State, and not when I am in the Sleeping State and in the Dreaming State. In that case, what do I have to do in the latter two states, according to the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi? If I cannot do anything in those two states, will that be a problem or should I take it that as long as I am doing “Self-Attention” correctly during the Waking State, that will be enough?

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Though we are not aware of any phenomena in sleep, we are aware of our own existence, ‘I am’

A friend recently wrote to me:

There is something I find hard to “understand”. You say that Sri Ramana Maharshi said that when we are in deep sleep, without dreams, that we have let go of the ego and are still aware of our self existence.

How can we know that, when seemingly there is no awareness in that time? It leads me to think that if the oneness of the true self, of existence/god itself is nothing, no experience at all, then why would I want to get there? While there is suffering in this life with the ego here, there is also pleasure. As I get closer to non-attachment I suffer far less (I witness the suffering), but if I achieve complete non-attachment I will cease to exist in this way. In my form as a human I reach states of freedom and happiness but I am experiencing/aware of that. In sleep (and therefore death) am I really experiencing that?

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Self-investigation as the way to love

In April of last year a Finnish friend, Jussi Penttinen, invited me to Helsinki, where he had arranged for me to give a talk and answer questions at a meeting organised by Forum Humanum. A video of this meeting, 2019-04-03 Forum Humanum, Helsinki: Michael James discusses self-investigation as the way to love, is available on my YouTube channel, Sri Ramana Teachings:

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The dreamer is ourself as ego, not whatever person we seem to be in a dream

A friend called Reinhard recently sent me what he described as ‘a pleasant exchange with David [Godman] about ajata and the discrepancy to ‘our’ ordinary perception’ and wrote, ‘If you have some comments, they are always welcome’.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

How can we just be?

In a comment on my previous article, What can be simpler than just being self-attentive?, a friend called Chandra asked: ‘how to practice self enquiry sir? has just to be not doing anything without activity of mind and body, just be?’ The following is my reply to this:

Thursday, 12 March 2020

What can be simpler than just being self-attentive?

A friend wrote to me recently saying that he had been reading about self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) but was unable to understand ‘how can the I enquire into the I itself’, and while expressing his confusion he asked several questions such as: ‘So how do we comprehend SELF? How do we enquire this SELF? And Who enquires SELF? The mind?’ In reply to this I wrote:

Monday, 9 March 2020

Though we appear in two distinct modes, we are just one awareness

When I woke up on Saturday morning, a fresh clarity occurred to me. If I try to put this clarity into words, as I will do in this article, it is what I knew already, but somehow on that morning I saw it with a fresh clarity. In words I cannot actually express this clarity, but I can explain what it is about: that is, what it is that somehow became more clear.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Though we now seem to be ego, if we look at ourself keenly enough we will see that we are actually just pure awareness

A question that troubles some people when they want to understand the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is whether the ‘self’ or ‘I’ we are to investigate is ego or our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), but as I will try to make clear in this article, investigating ego is itself investigating our real nature, because what seems to be ego is just our real nature, just as what seems to be a snake is just a rope. We are just one self or ‘I’, not two different selves or ‘I’s, but when this one ‘I’ remains just as it is, without any adjuncts, it is pure awareness, which is our real nature, whereas when it seems to be conflated with adjuncts, it is what is called ego.

Friday, 7 February 2020

To curb our rising as ego, all we need do is watch ourself vigilantly

A friend wrote a long email to me recently asking for advice about how we should behave in this world, and in particular about how we should respond to certain challenging situations. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

There are many interpretations of advaita, but Bhagavan’s teachings are the simplest, clearest and deepest

In a comment on my previous article, To know what we actually are, we need to cease being interested in any person, a friend called Mouna referred to one of my recent videos, 2020-01-19 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses why Bhagavan’s path is a path of unlearning, and wrote:
Michael mentioned in one of his recent videos (I’ll be paraphrasing) that one of the problems of vedantic teachings is that historically, the simple teachings of the Upanishads started to be complicated to understand because all the commentaries, and the commentaries on the commentaries (and the commentaries on the commentaries on the commentaries!) appeared...

Thursday, 23 January 2020

To know what we actually are, we need to cease being interested in any person

A friend wrote to me recently saying he wants to know more about me as a person, including about my family background, such as whether my parents were devotees of Bhagavan and whether all my siblings are also interested in his teachings, and he asked me whether he should try to convince his brothers and sisters to learn about his teachings, because they have other interests and opinions, some of which he disagrees with. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

What does Bhagavan mean by the term ‘mind’?

In a comment on my previous article, Self-investigation is the only means by which we can surrender ourself entirely and thereby eradicate ego, a friend called Rajat referred to two sentences in the fifth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘மனதில் தோன்றும் நினைவுக ளெல்லாவற்றிற்கும் நானென்னும் நினைவே முதல் நினைவு. இது எழுந்த பிறகே ஏனைய நினைவுகள் எழுகின்றன’ (maṉadil tōṉḏṟum niṉaivugaḷ ellāvaṯṟiṟkum nāṉ-eṉṉum niṉaivē mudal niṉaivu. idu eṙunda piṟahē ēṉaiya niṉaivugaḷ eṙugiṉḏṟaṉa), ‘Of all the thoughts that appear [or arise] in the mind, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the first thought [the primal, basic, original or causal thought]. Only after this arises do other thoughts arise’, and asked, ‘I am unable to understand this. Isn’t the “thought ‘I’” same as the mind, or ego? If yes, then how does the I-thought appear or arise in the mind, because they are the same thing? Should this be understood to mean that the first thing the I-thought sees is itself?’, and in a subsequent comment he referred to this and asked ‘Since “the thought I” is nothing but “our mind”, how to understand Bhagavan’s statement that the thought ‘I’ alone is the first thought that appears in our mind? If I-thought were to arise in the mind, then mind must exist prior to the arising of I thought’.

This article is written primarily in reply to these two comments, but also in reply both to a later comment in which Rajat asked some other questions related to the nature of the mind, and to another related subject that was discussed in other comments on the same article.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Self-investigation is the only means by which we can surrender ourself entirely and thereby eradicate ego

A mutual friend recently wrote to David Godman and me asking us to confirm his understanding on various points concerning Bhagavan and his teachings, including that silence is his highest teaching, that he gave ‘Realization’ to his mother and Cow Lakshmi, that some other people got ‘enlightenment’ just being in his presence, that he ‘said that people come to him in various maturity levels’, that he ‘did not speak about “Atma-Vichara” unless someone asked [him] the easiest and quickest way for Realization’, but that ‘at the same time he has guided few others towards realization’ (referring to what seems to me to be a dubious claim that he ‘never mentioned about Atma-Vichara to Natesa Iyer’ but ‘mentioned to him to look at “Nothing”’), that ‘Time and again Bhagawan said that HE is not the body, which implies that he is LOVE & Awareness’, that he is therefore ‘available to anyone Here and Now’, that ‘on the “Karma” theory/aspect anyone who is destined to succeed in “Atma-Vichara” will get irrespective of they want it or not’, and that ‘He also have mentioned that the effective way for MUKTI/ liberation is either by practice of Atma-vichara or Self Surrender’.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Why do we need to distinguish ourself as ego from whatever person we seem to be?

A friend recently wrote a comment saying ‘I cannot easily see the importance of stressing the necessity of a clear distinction between ego and person’, and while considering what to reply to him I remembered a reply that I had written to another friend back in April regarding the importance of this distinction, which at the time I had intended to adapt as an article, but in the midst of other work it had somehow slipped down my mental list of priorities. Therefore in the first four sections of this article I will reproduce the reply I wrote in April, and then in the final section I will reply specifically to the recent comment asking about this distinction.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

What we need to investigate is not the act of witnessing but the witness itself

Referring to a passage I wrote in If any state that we take to be waking is actually just a dream, we can infer that there is just one perceiver (ēka-jīva) and that its perception of phenomena is what creates them (dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi) (section 14 in one of my previous articles, Which is a more reasonable and useful explanation: dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda or sṛṣṭi-dṛṣṭi-vāda?), namely “Therefore ēka-jīva-vāda does not deny that there are many people, nor does it deny that each person seems to be a perceiver. What it denies is that any person is actually a perceiver, because just as a dream is perceived only by the dreamer, namely ego, who is one and the same in every dream, our present state is perceived only by this one ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, who is what dreams any state in which phenomena seem to exist”, a friend wrote to me:

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Why should we try to be aware of ourself alone?

Referring to two sentences I wrote while explaining the second sentence of verse 5 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam in one of my recent articles, How to merge in Arunachala like a river in the ocean?, namely ‘How can we grind the mind on the stone called mind? By attending to ourself alone’, a friend wrote to me asking what exactly I meant by ‘alone’ here, and though there is only one in enlightenment, how we can be alone while making an effort to turn 180 degrees. In reply to this I wrote:

Thursday, 5 December 2019

How to deal with whatever feelings may arise while we are investigating ourself?

Referring to what I wrote in What did Sadhu Om mean by the ‘ascending process’ and ‘descending process’? (the third section of one of my recent articles, Upadēśa Undiyār verse 16: a practical definition of real awareness), a friend wrote to me:
I think that I understand your explanation on the descending and ascending process but when I try to write something on the subject, I become wordless-thoughtless and, instead of feeling freedom, since there are not walls from every angle which, at first, enabled me to turn towards myself to a great extent, now I’m having the opposite feeling of being immured and paralyzed and don’t know how to proceed from here. Does it make any sense? Why is it so?

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Are there three states, two states or only one state?

Referring to one of my videos, 2019-08-10 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Āṉma-Viddai verse 1, a friend wrote an email (which I have lightly edited here for clarity, including adapting the punctuation and adding some explanatory words in square brackets, but without changing the wording or substance):