Saturday 31 May 2014

Since we always experience ‘I’, we do not need to find ‘I’, but only need to experience it as it actually is

In my previous article, The mind’s role in investigating ‘I’, I replied to some of the comments on my earlier article, How to attend to ‘I’?, and in this article I will discuss some of the other issues raised in the comments on that article.

In some of the later comments on that article, mention is made about the difficulty some people have in ‘finding I’ in order to attend to it, which suggests that what I tried to explain in that article was not sufficiently clear. What I tried to explain there was that the idea ‘I cannot find I’ or ‘I have difficulty experiencing I’ implies that there are two ‘I’s, one of which cannot find or experience the other one, whereas in fact there is only one ‘I’, which we each experience clearly, and which there is therefore no need for us to find.

Sri Ramana used to say that trying to find ‘I’ as if we do not already experience it is like someone searching to find their glasses when in fact they are already wearing them. Whatever else we may experience, we always experience it as ‘I am experiencing this’, so any experience presupposes our fundamental experience ‘I am’. We have never experienced a moment when we have not experienced ‘I’, but because we are so interested in the other things that we experience, we tend to take ‘I’ for granted (just as we take the screen for granted when we are watching a film), and hence we usually overlook the fact that we always experience ‘I’.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The mind’s role in investigating ‘I’

In a comment that he wrote on my previous article, How to attend to ‘I’?, Jacques Franck referred to a sentence in which I wrote, “Therefore our aim is to experience ‘I’ alone, in complete isolation from all other things, and in order to experience it thus, we need to try to be aware only of ‘I’ and thereby to ignore everything else”, and commented: ‘It sounds simple and complicated at the same time [...] Because when I try to do this, I have the feeling that my mind is trying to do this. So is it normal that in first place the mind is a little involved or much involved [...]?’

Yes, since our mind or ego is what we now experience as ‘I’, the ‘I’ that investigates itself is only our mind. One obvious reason for this is that our real self (what we actually are, or in other words, ‘I’ as it actually is, rather than as the mind that it now seems to be) always experiences itself as it actually is, so there is no need for it to investigate itself. The mind seems to be ‘I’ when I do not experience myself as I actually am, so it is only this mind that needs to investigate itself in order to experience ‘I’ as it actually is.

When we try to investigate ourself by attending only to ‘I’, it is our mind that is trying, but in its attempt to attend to ‘I’ it is actually undermining itself — that is, it is undermining our illusion that it is ‘I’, and when this illusion is dissolved our mind itself ceases to exist, since it seems to exist only when we experience it as ‘I’.

Friday 16 May 2014

How to attend to ‘I’?

A friend wrote to me recently saying that he had been practising meditation for many years, and that since he heard of Sri Ramana he had become fascinated by him and had read as much as he could about his teachings, but that he could not understand how to concentrate on and experience ‘I’. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

When you write, ‘I am having some trouble experiencing the I’, that seems to imply that there are two ‘I’s. The first ‘I’ (the ‘I’ in ‘I am having some trouble’) is clearly experienced by you, because if it were not you would not be aware that it is having some trouble, so why should this ‘I’ that you clearly experience take the trouble to experience some other ‘I’, which you think you are not able to experience?

The fact is that we all experience ‘I’ or ‘I am’, and the ‘I’ that we experience is the one and only ‘I’ that we can ever experience. Moreover, ‘I’ is our most fundamental experience, and is the basis for everything else that we experience. However, though we clearly experience that I am, we do not clearly experience what I am, so we need to investigate this ‘I’ in order to experience it as it really is.

Friday 9 May 2014

There is no difference between investigating ‘who am I’ and investigating ‘whence am I’

Recently a friend wrote to me a series of emails asking many questions about the practice of ātma-vicāra. The following is adapted from the three replies I wrote to him:

First reply:

Bhagavan never advised us to ask ‘who am I?’ but only to investigate who am I. In this context, the verbs he used most frequently in Tamil were நாடு (nāḍu) and விசாரி (vicāri), both of which mean to investigate or examine.

Because such verbs are often translated as ‘enquire’, and because enquire can mean either investigate or ask, in many English books it is recorded as if Bhagavan said ‘ask’ whereas in fact he meant investigate.

Friday 2 May 2014

Ātma-vicāra: stress and other related issues

A friend recently wrote to me asking whether ātma-vicāra should be a state of relaxation or whether it can create stress, and also several other questions about the practice of ātma-vicāra and its relationship with Sri Ramana’s praise of Arunachala. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

When practising vicāra, our entire attention should be focussed only on ‘I’, and since such self-attentiveness is our natural state, it should not involve any stress whatsoever. It is only when we try to resist being self-attentive by thinking of anything other than ‘I’, that we unnecessarily create conflict, and as a result of such conflict stress may be experienced.

When our attention moves away from ‘I’ towards anything else, we create the appearance of multiplicity, and in multiplicity conflict and stress can arise. But when our attention does not move away from ‘I’, we experience no multiplicity and hence there is no scope for any conflict or stress. Therefore any stress that we may experience is a clear sign that we have allowed our attention to move away from ‘I’, so we should try to turn our attention back towards ‘I’ alone.