Friday, 12 January 2007

Where can we find the clarity of true self-knowledge?

In answer to the question at the end of the comment that Erwin appended to my earlier post, Is a 'human guru' really necessary?, I would say that whatever external help we may need will be provided to us by Sri Ramana, so if the physical presence of a true sage or jnani may help us, he will arrange our outward life accordingly. If, on the other had, such help is not necessary for us, he will arrange our outward life otherwise.

Either way, we need not actively seek any such outward help, because that may not be necessary and would anyway distract us from our real aim, which is to seek the truth within ourself. If we truly wish to know what we really are, there is only one way to do so, and that is to turn our entire attention inwards, focussing it wholly and exclusively upon our natural consciousness of our own essential being, 'I am'.

It is true that our mind is weakened and impeded by the strength of its desires, which constantly impel it to turn outwards, towards things that it imagines to be other than itself, so it is natural for us to feel that we need help in our efforts to turn inwards. If we think that we need help from outside, the best external help is available to us in the form of the teachings of Sri Ramana. By reading and reflecting upon his teachings, which constantly emphasise the need for us to turn within, we will keep this need fresh in our mind, and our love to turn inwards will be sustained and increased.

However, though such reading and reflection can be a great help to us in our efforts to turn within, they are helpful only to the extent that we actually make the necessary effort to practise turning our mind towards our basic self-consciousness, 'I am'. Therefore, though reading and reflection are the best possible aid to us in our effort to turn selfwards and thereby to know what we really are, we should always see their role and the role of any other form of external help in their correct perspective. That is, no external help can ever be a substitute for the actual practice of self-attentiveness, which is the only means by which we can actually know our true self.

Because reading and reflecting upon the teachings of Sri Ramana will motivate and encourage us in our efforts to know ourself, they are the best external form of satsanga or 'association with the truth'. However, we should remember that the real meaning of the word sat is 'being', and that what is truly denoted by this word is therefore our own being, our true and essential self, which we always experience as our fundamental consciousness, 'I am'. Therefore, in the final analysis, the only true form of sanga or 'association' with sat, the absolute reality or being, is our association with our own essential being, the reality that is our own true self.

In other words, the practice of self-attentiveness, in which our entire attention or consciousness is focussed wholly and exclusively upon our own essential being, 'I am', alone is true satsanga. Instead of taking refuge in such true satsanga, if we seek satsanga outside ourself, we are only diverting our mind away from our true aim.

Ultimately all the help that we need to succeed in our efforts to scrutinise and know ourself, our own true being or sat, is available to us within ourself. Once we have learnt from Sri Ramana that the absolute reality, true knowledge and perfect happiness are all our own essential, single and non-dual self, and that we can therefore experience them only by turning our entire attention within, towards our consciousness of our own being, we should not allow our mind to be distracted by the false notion that we need to seek any form of external help.

What we are seeking when we practise self-attentiveness, which is the true spiritual practice that is denoted by terms such as self-enquiry, self-investigation or self-scrutiny, is only clarity — true clarity of self-consciousness or self-knowledge. That is, since our present lack of clarity is the only obstacle that lies in our way of our knowing ourself as we really are, only clarity can help us to know what we actually are — to ascertain 'who am I?'

From where can we attain such clarity? The ultimate source of clarity is our own real self, which we seek to know, because it alone is the light that illumines all other forms of light. That is, it is the fundamental consciousness by whose light we are able to know both our own being and the appearance of all other things. Therefore to attain true clarity, the only real means is to focus our entire consciousness upon ourself, our own essential self-conscious being, which Sri Ramana describes as 'our own form of light' (tan oli uru) in verse 16 of Upadesa Undiyar (which I quoted in my previous post, Self-consciousness alone is true knowledge, and the meaning of which I have discussed in detail on pages 273 to 277 and 335 to 337 of Happiness and the Art of Being).

When the clarity that we seek is our own true self, why should we delude ourself into believing that we must seek that clarity outside ourself, in the physical presence of some person who is reputed to be a guru or a jnani, an 'enlightened' or 'self-realised' sage? All we can learn from a true guru or jnani is that the clarity that we seek can be found only within ourself, but since we have learnt this already from the teachings of Sri Ramana, why should we now imagine that we need to find some other guru or jnani in order to discover true clarity in his or her physical presence? So long as we imagine that the true clarity of self-knowledge can be found outside ourself, our mind will not be willing to turn within to find the real light within itself, and hence we will not find the clarity that we seek even in the presence of a true guru or jnani.

Therefore, if we are earnest in our desire to know ourself, we should concentrate all our effort in the simple practice of self-attentiveness or self-consciousness, rather than allowing our mind to be diverted outwards in the expectation that we may find the clarity that we seek in some external place.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for your considerate answer. I can agree to it; it is not an ego-answer but my bhakta-heart can receive it.

I read the first chapter of your book and like your clear and detailed style.

I would like to further contemplate the question of the maturing of us, the sadhakas, with you.

Till this day a strong factor and pull in my life is to go into retreat and cultivate concentrated mind-states, with the difference to those days that it is focussed on the Self ItSelf today. I feel that it is much easier to be aware during active hours when it is balanced with enough time for sitting meditation.

Of course one might say that there are no preconceived concepts and rules, still there seems to be the necessity of an enormously concentrated and clear mind.

My point is: to my personal experience collectedness, a more sattvic state that develops through sitting, is of great help to be less lost in thought during the day.

I must admit that although Bhagavan is the deity of my heart I always have had some doubts that it is possible in the way Bhagavan taught that you can work inside independently of your environment (at least all the way through). Maybe it is my conditioning of many years of sitting-practice that has formed and strengthened the feeling that deep transformation and surrender of mental tensions is the result of a growing silence and collectedness and a sattvic mind-state.

Of course I am aware that we can hardly judge our own ripeness. I only know that I find it still difficult to remain in the Self during everyday-life (although there is definitely a maturing in that regard) and there is always a pull for retreat-times. I also know that sitting is no end in itself and that clearer states of mind can also breed attachment.

Seen from one angle is the question 'what should I do?' — never a truly Self-oriented one, as you pointed out already, as Bhagavan's guidance and His grace work in their own way and very individually too. I do trust in this...

Two quotes concerning the topic:

The first from Spiritual Instruction, Ch II, 4 "But the act of communion with the intense activity which is performed with the entire mind and without break. Maya which cannot be destroyed by any other act is completely destroyed by this intense activity which is called mouna."

Talk 624 is very substantial concerning mano-nasa: "..What is needed is to fix the attention on the pure I after the subsidance of all thoughts and to not lose hold of it. ... For ...ignorance to be destroyed this subtle state of mind (vritti-jnanam) is necessary."

Doesn't this sound like a most intensified and purified concentrated mind? Do you expect this to develop in the midst of everyday-life? The point that we always have to start inside and not with outer change is obvious (as Sadhu Natananda, the author of Spiritual Instruction had to learn like many others).

So anyway, it is valuable to muse over these matters — and then again surrender to Him !


Karen Taylor said...

Even though this was written in 2007, it has brought such depth of understanding that it's arisen to express much gratitude to you, Sri Michael, as you are such a blessed instrument of Bhagavan. Namaste'.