Sunday 15 June 2008

Where to find and how to reach the real presence of our guru?

In reply to my recent article, Which sat-sanga will free us from our ego?, Anonymous wrote a comment in which he or she said:

Thanks for your reply to my (anonymous) concerns. “Merely being in the physical presence of a true guru is not the most efficacious form of sat-sanga” — yes I accept that, but I’ve heard so many stories of people experiencing the Self effortlessly in the presence of a true guru after many years of failure through their own attempts to experience the Self and that’s why I was tempted to ask that question. ...
If we truly have faith in the grace and guidance of our sadguru, Sri Ramana, we will have no doubt about the simple truth that he can and does provide us with all the help — both inward and outward — that we need to enable us to scrutinise and know our real self.

If we would really be helped by being in the physical presence of a true guru, would he not place us in such a presence? And if he has not placed us in such a presence, should we not understand that we do not actually need such help now?

Everything that we experience in our life is ordained by him for our true spiritual benefit, and conversely, whatever we do not experience is not ordained by him for the same reason. The outward situation in which we are placed at any given time is what is truly best for us at that time.

If, as in the stories that you have heard, any person has experienced self effortlessly in the presence of a true guru after many years of failure through his or her own attempts to experience it, it is because they have gained the required maturity through all their previous efforts. None of their sincere attempts to experience self had really failed, because each attempt had helped them mature to the point that they were ready to sink effortlessly into the innermost depth of their own being as soon as they came into the guru’s physical presence.

Coming to the physical presence of a true guru is not something that is in our hands, because like every other outward experience, it is according to our destiny or prarabdha, which is ordained by the grace of God or guru in accordance with our real spiritual needs. What is in our hands — that is, what we have the freedom either to do or not to do — is liking and making the effort to turn within to attend only to our own essential self-conscious being, ‘I am’, thereby surrendering ourself entirely to God or guru, who is that ‘I am’.

Therefore, instead of concentrating all our love and effort on just being ever self-attentive, let us not get distracted looking for help outside ourself in this unreal world. If we truly want help from our guru, Sri Ramana, we should seek it where he has told us to seek it, namely within ourself, in the innermost depth of our own being, where his real presence is always shining as our own clear non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’.

Anonymous continued the same reply saying:
... “If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarupa-smarana [self-remembrance]” — the word ‘uninterrupted’ seems to suggest that even a tenuous current is not enough. ...
The word that Sri Ramana actually used in this sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Nan Yar? (Who am I?) is nirantara, which means ‘uninterrupted’ in the sense of ‘having no interval’, ‘constant’ or ‘continuous’.

Therefore this word nirantara or ‘continuous’ does not actually suggest that even a tenuous current of self-remembrance is not enough. On the contrary, in this sentence Sri Ramana states very clearly that an uninterrupted or continuous current of self-remembrance is alone enough, because he ends this sentence with the emphatic words “அது வொன்றே போதும்” (adu ondre podum), which means ‘that alone is sufficient’.

Just because this current of self-remembrance may at times be only tenuous, that does not mean that it is not continuous, uninterrupted or without any interval. Even a tenuous current or continuity of self-remembrance will be sufficient to weaken our vasanas — our latent impulsions or desires to attend to things other than ourself — and thereby purify or clarify our mind, and as our mind thus becomes purer the eternal continuity of our natural self-consciousness, ‘I am’, will shine ever more clearly, even in the midst of seeming outward activity.

Every moment in which we are self-attentive — no matter how tenuous or fine that self-attentiveness may be — we are gradually but effectively purifying our mind, cleansing it of all its vishaya-vasanas or desires for external objects and experiences. The clearer, keener and more deep and firm our self-attentiveness is, the more effectively and quickly it will be purifying our mind, but even the most tenuous or momentary self-attentiveness will not fail to purify it at least to some extent.

Since the degree of purification that we achieve at any moment is proportionate to the depth, intensity and clarity of our self-remembrance, self-attentiveness or self-consciousness at that moment, we should always aim to be as exclusively, deeply and clearly self-conscious as possible. However, since even a tenuous degree of clear self-consciousness will purify our mind in proportion to that degree, and since the more our mind is cleansed of its outward-going desires the deeper we will be able to sink into our natural state of clear thought-free self-conscious being, we should aim to maintain at all times at least a tenuous current or continuity of self-remembrance.

At times our self-remembrance or self-consciousness will be more tenuous, and at other times it will be deeper, clearer and more intense, but each moment of relatively clear self-consciousness will be more or less quickly and effectively leading us closer to our final goal of absolutely clear self-consciousness, in which we will drown and lose ourself forever in the real presence of our sadguru, Sri Ramana, who is none other than our own true self — our essential non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’.

Further on in the same reply Anonymous wrote:
... I do have svatma-bhakti but the fact that ‘I am the doer’ idea is still strong prevents svarupa-smarana especially when work involves deep mental activity. I suppose the only solution is to persist and get to the point where svatma-bhakti is strong enough to help self-remembrance in the midst of all activities. I wonder when that’ll happen. ...
The cultivation of true self-love or svatma-bhakti, and the consequent deepening and increasing clarity of our self-remembrance or svarupa-smarana, is not something that will happen suddenly, but will develop steadily and gradually as we persevere in our practice. Though the final complete surrender of our mind and consequent blossoming of the non-dual experience of true self-knowledge will ‘happen’ instantaneously, the development of the maturity — the true self-love and pristine clarity of mind — that we require in order to be willing thus to surrender ourself entirely in the absolute clarity of that non-dual self-experience will occur gradually during the process that we call sadhana or spiritual practice.

Anonymous is correct in supposing that “the only solution is to persist”. As Sri Ramana repeatedly emphasised, we will succeed only by tenaciously persevering in our practice of self-remembrance or self-attentiveness, and those who have succeeded have all done so because they had already persevered in such practice sufficiently earnestly, steadily and long enough. That is, whenever our mind is distracted even in the least by its deeply engrained desire to experience anything other than our own essential being, ‘I am’, we should tenaciously persevere in drawing it back and keeping it fixed firmly in our natural state of thought-free self-conscious being.

Sri Ramana emphasises the importance of such tenacious perseverance in a very clear and simple manner in paragraphs six, ten and eleven of Nan Yar?, which I quoted in my previous article, Self-enquiry, personal experiences and daily routine. The essence of what he teaches us in these three paragraphs is clearly expressed by him in just a few simple words in the tenth paragraph, “... நினைவுக்கும் இடம் கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும்” (... ninaivukkum idam kodamal, sorupa-dhyanattai vidappidiyayp pidikka vendum), which means, “... without giving room even to [the least] thought, [we] should cling tenaciously to svarupa-dhyana [self-attentiveness or meditation upon our own essential nature, ‘I am’]”.

Just as the stems, branches, leaves, flowers and fruit of a tree will continue sprouting so long as its root survives, so our vasanas, desires and thoughts will continue rising and distracting us away from our self-attentiveness so long as their root, our mind, survives. Therefore Sri Ramana begins the eleventh paragraph of Nan Yar? by saying:
As long as vishaya-vasanas exist in [our] mind, so long nanar ennum vicharanai [the investigation ‘who am I?’] is necessary. As and when thoughts arise, then and there it is necessary [for us] to annihilate them all by vicharanai [investigation, that is, self-investigation or keen and vigilant self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. ...
Until we achieve by our persistent practice of atma-vicharanai — self-investigation, self-scrutiny or self-attentiveness — sufficient maturity to be willing and able to surrender our mind entirely in the absolute clarity of pure self-consciousness, we will continue to be distracted by our thoughts, which we form in our mind due to the driving force of our own vishaya-vasanas, our desires to think of and experience things that appear to be other than ourself. Therefore the struggle between our svatma-bhakti — our love just to be and to know only our own real self — and our vasanas or outward-going desires will continue in us until our mind is completely destroyed by the clear light of true self-knowledge.

Therefore, though we should always aim to maintain an unbroken continuity of self-attentiveness or self-remembrance, and thereby to sink deep into our own self-conscious being, ‘I am’, in practice our attempts to do so will often fail, and we will therefore repeatedly succumb to the powerful attraction of our desires and consequent thoughts. However, we should not be disheartened by our repeated failure to be constantly self-attentive, but should just calmly persevere in our efforts to restore our self-attentiveness whenever we find that we have lost our hold on it.

This constant struggle between self-attentiveness and pramada — self-negligence or self-forgetfulness — is the nature of true sadhana or spiritual practice, so calm, patient and steady perseverance is required to win this battle. However many times and however frequently we may fall from our natural state of serene self-conscious being, we should rise again and try our best to stand firm in it.

In this long inner warfare we are never alone, because the grace of our sadguru, Sri Ramana, is always shining peacefully in our heart as ‘I am’, giving us all the subtle help and support that we need in our earnest efforts to return to his real presence by sinking into the innermost depth of our own clearly self-conscious being, which is his own true form. As we strive to turn wholly selfwards, the powerful attraction of his grace is always drawing us inwards, waiting to consume us entirely whenever we are ready to yield ourself completely to him.


Anonymous said...

"If we would really be helped by being in the physical presence of a true guru, would he not place us in such a presence? And if he has not placed us in such a presence, should we not understand that we do not actually need such help now?" I guess it's all about keeping the faith in troubling times and going forward with the practice of self-enquiry. "In this long inner warfare we are never alone, because the grace of our sadguru, Sri Ramana, is always shining peacefully in our heart as ‘I am’, giving us all the subtle help and support that we need". I just hope the inner warfare ends quickly and ends forever because I'm weary of the constant suffering (not from the warfare, but from life as a body. Bhagavan's statement comes to mind - "Wherever there is a body, there is suffering"). Once again, thanks!

Michael James said...

Yes, that is true, very true, both about having faith and devotedly persevering in our practice of self-enquiry, and about the inevitable suffering caused by our imagining ourself to be this body.

“Wherever there is a body, there is suffering”. This is true not because the body itself is the real cause of our suffering, but because wherever there is a body, there is a mind that imagines that body to be ‘I’. The real culprit and cause of our suffering is only this mind.

Therefore ignoring this body, we should scrutinise this mind, which now poses as ‘I’, because only when we do so will this unreal mind dissolve and disappear, leaving only sat-chit-ananda — our ever-blissful self-conscious being, ‘I am’.

Anonymous said...

What is the distinction between Witness and Iswara? There is a verse in the Bhagavat Geetha to the effect that the Iswara does not award the fruits of good and bad to the jiva, but they are on account of the fact of Knowlege being covered up by Ignorance, Iswara being merely a Witness. This is counter to the popular view of obtaining the Grace of Iswara to mitigate the bad karmas, relegating the position of the individual only to avidya. What does Bhaghavan say on this?

Anonymous said...

Is Iswara synonymous with the Witness, which idea is strengthened by a verse in the Geetha to the following effect?:" Iswara does not award the fruits of jiva's action, good and bad, which are only by virtue of avidya, Knowledge being covered by Ignorance. Iswara is only an onlooker incapable of any activity. Then what is the signifiacance of the Grace of Iswara supposed to mitigate the karma of the jiva? What has Bhaghavan said on this?

Michael James said...

Anonymous, please tell me the chapter and verse number of the verse of the Bhagavad Gita that you refer to in your two comments (10 July 2008 08:41 and 10 July 2008 08:48) above, and I will then try to answer your question.

Please bear with me if I cannot answer it promptly, because I have a backlog of e-mails and blog comments asking me questions to which I have not yet had time to reply.

nonduel said...

This has been a serious subject for the past months for me. The question about the need of a living guru for self-realisation.
Sri Lakshmana Swami has in fact, suggested the need for a living
Guru, and that very, very few will succeed without a living guru.
Sri Ramana, to my knowledge never answered clearly on this.
Quote: ""Bhagavan.: The master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only external. If he were some stranger whom you awaited, he would be bound to disappear also. What would be the use of a transient being like that? But as long as you think you are separate or that you are the body, so long is the outer master also necessary and He will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of yourself with the body ceases, the master will be found to be none other than the Self.""
In this example, he is saying yes and no. Or does he mean that once you are convinced (Bhavana) that you are not the body, then you do not need a living guru. Then this implies that you are already Self-Realized.
I still haven't figured it out.

Anonymous said...

Guru is an indivisible whole with his consciousness concentrated in
core of his being.Where as a disciple in the initial stages is a body bound mind with his attention seemingly uninterruptedly
passes from his source of being
towards the objective world.The
consciousness of the disciple is
basically objective consciouness
so he always tries to find the Guru
in the objective world with a body.
He imagines himself to be a body and expects the Guru with a body
only.Adjunctless consciousness is
beyond the comprehension of his
mind.Such people require a Guru
with human body or some other gross form.But the holy hill of Arunachala is available to all of us as our Guru in hill form.Even
Bhagawan claimed that the holy hill
is his Guru in AKSHARA MANA MALAI.
Some refer Bhagawan in past tense.
I feel that it is wrong to refer
like him because his living presence is palpable even now and
it is not his body that conferred
grace on his devotees but his
eternal presence only.If we can stop the uniterrupted leakage of attention from the source of our being towards objective reality
our consciousness will be concentrated in the core of our being without any oscillations and
we will recognise Bhagawan is none
other than our self conscious being.We should not make it a problem for finding Guru because
for those with gross intellect the holy hill is always available as Guru and for those with subtle,sharp intellect their self conscious inner being is their Guru.