Saturday 25 January 2014

Why do we not immediately experience ourself as we really are?

In answer to a friend who wrote, ‘...then why the realization is not happening suddenly? I feel like I am someone who is locked inside this body-mind mechanism’, I wrote:

We can experience ourself as we really are at any moment, provided that we really want to, so if we do not experience this now, it is because we do not yet want it enough.

Now we experience ourself as a body and mind, but this experience is illusory, so when we do experience ourself as we really are, this illusory experience that we are a body and mind will be destroyed. Since everything else that we experience through this body and mind is an illusion based on our primary illusion ‘I am so-and-so, a person composed of body and mind’, when this primary illusion is destroyed by clear self-experience (so-called ‘realisation’) the illusion that we experience anything else will also be destroyed.

As Sri Ramana says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
அகந்தையுண் டாயி னனைத்துமுண் டாகு
மகந்தையின் றேலின் றனைத்து — மகந்தையே
யாவுமா மாதலால் யாதிதென்று நாடலே
யோவுதல் யாவுமென வோர்.

ahandaiyuṇ ḍāyi ṉaṉaittumuṇ ḍāhu
mahandaiyiṉ ḏṟēliṉ ḏṟaṉaittu — mahandaiyē
yāvumā mādalāl yādideṉḏṟu nādalē
yōvudal yāvumeṉa vōr.

பதச்சேதம்: அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும். அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம். ஆதலால், ‘யாது இது?’ என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் என ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum. ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām. ādalāl, ‘yādu idu?’ eṉḏṟu nādal-ē ōvudal yāvum eṉa ōr.

If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist. [Hence] the ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that investigating ‘what is this [ego]?’ is alone giving up everything.
When we investigate this ego (the false experience ‘I am so-and-so, a person composed of body and mind’), it will subside and eventually disappear, because it seems to exist only so long as we attend to anything other than ‘I am’. Therefore, since everything else seems to exist only so long as this ego seems to exist, when we experience ourself as we really are and thereby discover that this ego is non-existent, everything else will also cease to exist. Hence experiencing ourself as we really are entails giving up everything, so until we are ready to give up all our desires to experience anything other than ‘I am’, we do not really want to experience ourself as we really are.

I think you will agree that if we are honest with ourselves, we will each have to admit that our love to experience only ‘I am’ and nothing else whatsoever is not yet strong enough, and until it is strong enough, we will not be able to overcome all our other desires.

In order to strengthen our love to experience only ‘I am’ and thereby to weaken all our other desires, we need to practise trying to experience only ‘I am’. Other than this practice of ātma-vicāra (self-investigation), there is no effective means by which we can cultivate increasing love to experience only ‘I am’.

Until we experience ourself (‘I am’) as we really are, we will continue to feel that we are someone ‘locked inside this body-mind mechanism’, as you so aptly put it. This is what is called bondage, and the only liberation from this bondage is to experience ourself as we really are. As Sri Ramana says in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
பந்தத்தி லிருக்கும் தான் யாரென்று விசாரித்து தன் யதார்த்த சொரூபத்தைத் தெரிந்துகொள்வதே முக்தி.

bandhattil irukkum tāṉ yār eḏṉṟu vicārittu taṉ yathārtha sorūpattai-t terindukoḷvadē mukti.

Knowing one’s one’s own real self [by] investigating who is oneself who is in bondage, alone is liberation.


R Viswanathan said...

Thank you so much for letting us understand why we do not immediately experience 'I am'. It is only in the immediately previous blog that there is a sentence whether or not one experiences 'I am': ‘I am’ is actually the one self-experiencing reality, and everything else that is experienced is experienced only because ‘I am’ is present to experience it.

Therefore, I feel that if only we stop for a moment and shift our thought during any normal experience (whatever be its type, happiness or anger or frustration or depression) to remind us that what we just experienced is actually an experience of 'I am' but through that impression or residue that remains in our mind as vasana, it will represent a very beneficial practice of getting rid of vasanas or of trying to experience 'I am'. Furthermore, I also feel that such a practice with time could turn into an effortless effort.

What I learnt from Nochur's discourses is that any normal experience is due to vasanas (impressions) and it is by the fire of jnana that these vasanas could be burnt or it is by the boat of love and devotion that this sea of vasanas could be travelled past.

Bereft of vasanas, any experience will just be directly that of Self or 'I am' as one will only see the light of the lamp on a cinema-screen, if the film in the projector is blank. Let us therefore get determined to experience 'I am'.

Palani said...

Thank you Michael James. Have been reading and trying to put into practice of Bhagavan's Self Enquiry where he puts it very simply, ignore the thought world and come back again and again to IAM, pay attention to Iam ness.

I know it is silly and stupid to ask, what is this Iam? When it is said pay attention to "Iam", it looks it is an object to be paid attention to, but understanding from various writings, I get that it is subjective experience of one feels of oneself. Why is that I'm finding difficult to recognize the Iam?

Palani said...

Thanks Michael James.

I have been trying to understand Bhagavan's teaching and trying to put into practice. The essence is to ignore all forms of thought world and turn one's attention to Iam. Come back to this Iam again and again not giving any attention to second and third person objects.

And when I try to put this practice, I feel that I don't recognize what this Iam is. Initially it looked as paying attention to "Iam" was like looking into something called "Iam" inside me but further reading various blogs I understood it is not an entity to be looked upon or scrutinized but a subjective experience of my own self of what it is. But I keep having this doubt and confusion what this Iam is and how is it feels to be Iam and this doubt lingers in mind without allowing me to pay attention to what is Iam.

Michael James said...

Chidambaram, it is certainly not silly or stupid to ask what this ‘I am’ is, because this is precisely what Bhagavan advised us to investigate and find out.

However, we should not expect to find an answer in words, nor should we expect any other person to be able to give us the answer, because we must each experience for ourself what this ‘I’ actually is.

As you say, the ‘I am’ that we are trying to experience is not ‘something inside me’ (that is, it is not an object or anything other than ourself), but is only ourself (‘me’ myself) — what we actually are (and not just what we now seem to be).

As Bhagavan often used to say, there are no two ‘I’s for one ‘I’ to become an object known by the other ‘I’. I am only one, so self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) is just this one ‘I’ experiencing itself as it actually is, and it can experience itself thus only by trying to focus its entire attention upon itself alone.

In Talks section 435 it is recorded that when someone once asked him how to concentrate on self, Bhagavan replied: ‘If that is solved everything else is solved’. That is, our sole aim while practising self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) should be to concentrate our entire attention on ourself (‘I am’) alone, and if we succeed in doing this for even a single moment, we will thereby experience ourself as we really are, and thus our mind will be completely annihilated.

Because we are not yet able to concentrate our entire attention on ‘I am’ alone, we must continue trying until we succeed. This is all that the practice of ātma-vicāra entails: trying to concentrate our entire attention on ‘I am’ alone and thereby to find out what this ‘I am’ actually is.

We all recognise that I am, but we do not yet recognise what I am, so the purpose of ātma-vicāra is just to recognise this: what or who am I. In other words, our aim is to experience ourself as we really are, and the only way to experience ourself thus is to try to concentrate our entire attention on ‘I am’ alone.

There is no other way by which we can find out what this ‘I’ or ‘I am’ (ourself) actually is.

ahankara said...

admitting that my love to experience only 'I am' and nothing else whatsoever is not strong enough, breaks my heart. Even this sometimes broken heart produces not yet more perseverance in trying to experience myself as I really am. But I do not want start wailing.