Friday 7 October 2011

Manōnāśa – destruction of mind

Someone wrote to me recently saying that he thinks the use of the word ‘destruction’ in ‘destruction of mind’ (manōnāśa) is just ‘Indian hyperbole’ and should not be taken literally, because of it is obvious that Bhagavan and other jñānis think, since without thinking they could not walk or talk. I hope there are not many other people who have misunderstood Bhagavan’s teachings about manōnāśa in such a way, but since manōnāśa is the goal that he has taught us that we should aim to attain, I believe that the following adaptation of my reply to this person may be helpful to other devotees.

In order to understand what Bhagavan means by manōnāśa (the destruction, annihilation, elimination, ruin, disappearance or death of the mind), we should first consider what he means by ‘mind’ or manas. In verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār (the original Tamil version of Upadēśa Sāram) he says:

Mind is only thoughts. Of all thoughts, the thought called ‘I’ is the root. [Therefore] what is called ‘mind’ is [in essence just this root thought] ‘I’.
In verse 2 of Āṉma Viddai he indicates that what he means here by ‘the thought called I’ is the thought ‘I am this body’ (the illusion that the physical body is ‘I’):
Since the thought ‘this body composed of flesh is I’ alone is the one thread on which [all] the various thoughts are strung, if [one] goes within [investigating] ‘Who am I? What is [its] place [the source from which this ‘I’ has risen, and the ground on which it stands]?’ thoughts will cease, and in the cave [of one’s heart] ātma-jñāna [self-knowledge] will shine spontaneously as ‘I [am only] I’. This is silence, the one [empty] space [of consciousness], the abode of bliss.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Experiencing the pure ‘I’ here and now

In a comment on my previous article, How to avoid creating fresh karma (āgāmya)?, an anonymous friend quoted the following passage from Lucy Cornelssen’s book Hunting the ‘I’ (5th edition, 2003, pp. 20-21):

There are other opportunities, when we could experience this pure ‘I’ consciously. One such is during the tiny gap between two thoughts, when the attention has given up its hold on one thought and not yet caught the next one. But since we never tried our attention is not trained this way, and we will hardly succeed in the attempt.

There is a better chance to catch it between sleeping and awaking. It is very important to try it, if you are serious in your hunting the ‘I’. Take care of a few conditions: Try at night just before you fall asleep to keep as the last thought your intention to catch as the first thing of all on waking in the morning the experience of your true ‘I’.
What Lucy describes here as the pure ‘I’ or true ‘I’ is simply the one and only ‘I’ as it really is — in other words, ourself as we really are. Therefore the pure ‘I’ is not something distant (in either time or space) or other than ourself, but is simply what we always actually are. It appears to be something unknown to us only because we have obscured it by confusing it with adjuncts such as a physical body and a thinking mind.

Friday 21 January 2011

How to avoid creating fresh karma (āgāmya)?

In a reply that I wrote to one of the comments on my previous article, Second and third person objects, I wrote:

Whatever we experience in either waking or dream is determined by our destiny (prārabdha), so we have no power to alter any of it. However, though we cannot change what we are destined to experience, we can desire and make effort to change it, and by doing so we create fresh karma (āgāmya).

Since all such desire and effort to change what we are destined to experience is futile and counterproductive, we should refrain from all such extroverted desire and effort, and should make effort only to subside within by focusing our entire attention upon ourself (the first person, the experiencing subject, ‘I’) and thereby withdrawing it from everything else (every second or third person object).

By making such selfward-directed effort, we will not alter what the mind is destined to experience, but will remove the illusion that we are this experiencing mind. This is what Sri Ramana teaches us in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
If we are the ‘doer’ of actions, which are like seeds, we will experience the resulting ‘fruit’. [However] when we know ourself by investigating ‘who is the doer of action?’, ‘doership’ will depart and all the three karmas will slip off. This indeed is the state of liberation, which is eternal.

Monday 10 January 2011

Second and third person objects

Three significant Tamil words that Sri Ramana often used in his own writings and in his oral teachings are தன்மை (taṉmai), which literally means ‘self-ness’ (taṉ-mai) or ‘selfhood’ and which is used in Tamil grammar to mean ‘the first person’, முன்னிலை (muṉṉilai), which etymologically means ‘that which stands in front’ and which is used in Tamil grammar to mean ‘the second person’, and படர்க்கை (paḍarkkai), which etymologically means ‘that which has spread out’ and which is used in Tamil grammar to mean ‘the third person’.

Of these three words, the most significant is of course தன்மை (taṉmai), the first person, the subject ‘I’, but in this article I will focus more on the other two words in order to clarify their meaning in the context of Sri Ramana’s teachings.

Though these words are all grammatical terms, in his teachings Sri Ramana did not use them in their usual grammatical sense but in an epistemological sense. That is, தன்மை (taṉmai), the first person, is the epistemic subject, the knower or experiencer, whereas முன்னிலை (muṉṉilai) and படர்க்கை (paḍarkkai), second and third persons, are epistemic objects, things that are known or experienced by the subject as other than itself.

The question then is why Sri Ramana used these two terms — instead of just one term — to describe all objects? Which objects are second person objects, and which are third person objects? These are some of the principal questions that I will consider in this article.