Wednesday 31 December 2008

Self-attentiveness and time

With reference to a reply that I had written to an earlier comment quoting pages 584-5 of Happiness and the Art of Being, last week the following anonymous comment was posted on one of my recent articles, Making effort to pay attention to our mind is being attentive only to our essential self:

When once one has the intensity, there is no question of doing meditation or vichara in short periods with various intervals or going in for long ardous sessions as time itself is a subsequent factor having no relevance to our essential being of, “I AM”, unless one does some yoga exercise.
Yes, time is a phenomenon that appears to exist only when our mind is active — that is, when it is attending to anything other than itself — so when we are wholly absorbed in self-attentiveness time is truly non-existent. Therefore, all questions and concern about time exist for us only when our love to abide in our natural state of clear thought-free self-conscious being is not yet sufficiently intense for us to remain without ever being distracted from it.

However, since most of us do not yet have sufficiently intense love to be able to abide thus without being repeatedly distracted by our viṣaya vāsanas — our desires to think of things other than ourself — it is necessary for us to try to spend as much time as possible without being distracted from our self-attentiveness.

Of course, this does not mean that we should watch the clock while practising self-attentiveness, or that we should try to measure the time that we spend being self-attentive, because any such effort would be useless and would only distract our attention away from ourself. All it means is that we should repeatedly and persistently try to be self-attentive whenever our mind is not wholly absorbed in any mundane activity that requires our full attention.

By such repeated and persistent practice of self-attentiveness we will gradually weaken our viṣaya vāsanas and increase our sat-vāsana — our love just to be — and thus we will gain a steadily increasing ability to remain undistracted by thoughts about anything other than ourself. But so long as we are still in this stage of abhyāsa or practice and have not yet attained our real state of sadā-apramāda — eternal self-vigilance — time does appear to be real, so we must aim to spend as much time as possible absorbed in self-attentiveness, vigilantly avoiding pramāda or self-negligence.

Only when — by repeated and persistent practice of such vigilant self-attentiveness — we have finally cultivated sufficiently intense love to be able to subside and merge forever in the clear light of true self-knowledge will we actually experience the complete non-existence of time.


Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time understanding exactly what Self-attentiveness is. I just don't see where the 'attentiveness' part comes from. The way i understand it Self-attentiveness is the practice of simply remaining without thought while not falling asleep (being keen and vigilant to prevent any thoughts from rising) However, as i noticed, Sri Ramana says this isn't so because if this were the case, one could simply practice pranayama, and Sri Ramana said that the effect of this was only a temporary subsidence of mind and not the annihilation of it. So getting back to my question, what am i supposed to be attentive to? Self. Well what is Self? Self is the I thought. Unfortunately, I can't find this I thought anywhere! how am i to be attentive to it? please elaborate. As i said earlier, the way i understand Self-attentiveness currently is simply being keen and vigilant not to let any thoughts rise. Yet I don't think that when i remain without thoughts i am being self-attentive, because when i remain without thought i am actually not paying attention to anything!(I believe) Yet, isn't the goal of self-attentiveness merely to destroy all thoughts? can't i do that without focusing on some obscure "Self"? Am i supposed to be additionally Self-attentive? if so, can you please really break it down for me so that there is absolutely no doubt as to whether I'm doing it right?
Thank you very much,
With Much Love, Jon
Happy New Year's! (even though time is merely a figment of our imagination) Ha!

Anonymous said...

" Am i supposed to be additionally Self-attentive? if so, can you please really break it down for me so that there is absolutely no doubt as to whether I'm doing it right?"

With reference to the above comment of John, I might state that self-attentiveness and eschewing thoughts would constitute a unitary process, there being no additional self-attentiveness over and above not paying attention to thoughts

Anonymous said...

There is a verse in Guruvachaka Kovai imagining the idea of the rope itself constituting the Self, there being nothing alien for it to see. This verse seems to be very complicated. Does it import the idea that unlike the example of the phenomenal world given, in the case of the self there is no question of any initial bondage and its subsequent cancellation?

Anonymous said...

thank you anonymous for your comment. just to be clear, you're saying that the sole purpose of self-attentiveness is to ignore thoughts, therefore if i simply ignore thoughts i would be Self-attentive? Michael's opinion on this would be greatly appreciated as well.

Michael James said...

Jon, thank you for your first and second comments above.

My thanks also to Anonymous for the reply that he or she wrote to your first comment.

In reply to these (and to many other related comments that have been posted in the meanwhile on another recent article, Self-attentiveness, intensity and continuity) I have written a very long new article, What is self-attentiveness?.