Thursday 12 June 2014

What do we actually experience in sleep?

A friend wrote to me recently asking me to further clarify what I had written in Chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being about sleep being a state in which we are still conscious or aware that we exist, and after I replied to him he wrote again saying that though he would like to be convinced that he is aware in sleep, he is still not entirely sure that this is the case. The following is adapted from the replies that I wrote to his two emails.

First reply:

When you say, ‘I fall asleep and I’m not aware of anything’, what exactly do you mean by saying ‘I’m not aware of anything’? Do you mean that you are not aware at all, or that you are aware of nothing? Please do not rush to answer this question to yourself, but think about it carefully.

Consider the difference between the experience of a totally blind person (B) and a normally sighted person (S) when they are both in a completely dark room. B does not see anything because he does not see at all, so he does not know that the room is dark, whereas S sees nothing, so he knows that the room is dark. Is our experience in deep sleep like that of B or S?

If our experience was like that of B, who cannot distinguish any difference between a lighted room and a dark room, we would not be able to distinguish any difference between waking and dream on one hand and sleep on the other hand. Since we can distinguish this difference, does this not suggest that our experience is more like that of S? Just as S can clearly distinguish the difference between a lighted room, in which he can see many things, and a dark room, in which he can see nothing, we can clearly distinguish the difference between waking and dream, in which we experience many things, and sleep, in which we experience nothing.

How does S know that the room is dark, whereas B does not? S knows it because he actually sees the absence of any light, whereas B does not know it because he cannot see either light or its absence. Like S, we know that sleep is a state in which we experience nothing because in sleep we experience the absence of any experience of any particular thing.

Other than ‘I’, everything that we experience in waking or dream (every thought, feeling, emotion, sight, sound, taste, memory, belief, desire, hope, fear and so on) has certain features, and it is the features of each thing that enable us to distinguish one thing from another, so what characterises our experience in waking and dream is that it is multi-featured (that is, it is a viśēṣa anubhava), whereas our experience in sleep is featureless (that is, it is a nirviśēṣa anubhava). Therefore we can rephrase the final sentence of the previous paragraph thus: Like S, we know that sleep is a state in which we experience nothing because in sleep we experience the absence of any features.

Just as seeing the absence of any light is still a state of seeing (not a state of blindness), so experiencing the absence of any features in sleep is still a state of experiencing — that is, a state of consciousness or awareness (not a state of complete unconsciousness or non-awareness), because it is a state in which we are conscious or aware of the absence of any features.

If we did not experience sleep as a state in which we are not aware of any features, we would not be aware of any gap between successive states of waking and dream, so it would appear to us that we experience just these two states, one following immediately after another. But we are aware of an empty (featureless) gap called sleep that occurs between some successive states of waking and dream, and we could not be aware of this gap if we did not actually experience it.

Because we were not aware of any features in sleep, it seems to us that we were not aware of anything then, but actually we were aware of the absence of any features (or rather, we were aware of being in a state in which no features were present or experienced). Because we generally associate the idea of consciousness or awareness with any state in which we are conscious or aware of features, we mistake a state in which we are conscious or aware of no features to be a state of unconsciousness or non-awareness. In other words, because we mistake ‘consciousness’ to mean consciousness or awareness of features, and because we are not aware of any features in sleep, we mistake sleep to be a state of unconsciousness. However, if we were actually unconscious in sleep, we would not be conscious or aware even of the absence of any features, and hence we would not be aware that there is any state called sleep at all.

However, what is most important to note from our experience or awareness of the absence of any features in sleep is that in order to experience that absence we must have existed and have been aware in that state. And since we were aware then, we were not only aware of no features, but were also aware of our existence, ‘I am’, because in order to be aware of anything (whether the presence or absence of any features) we must be aware that I am aware. That is, whatever is aware is always aware of itself as ‘I’.

If you consider what you mean when you say that you do not remember being aware of anything in sleep, I hope you will agree that what you actually do not remember is being aware of any features, but that you do remember being in a completely featureless state. Therefore rather than describing sleep as a state of unconsciousness, would it not be more accurate to describe it as a state of featurelessness — a state in which we are conscious of no features whatsoever?

When we say that in sleep we are conscious that we exist — that is, that we are conscious that I am — we should not think that this conflicts in any way with saying that we are not conscious of any features in sleep, because what I am is essentially featureless. In waking and dream we mistake a body and mind to be ‘I’, so ‘I’ seems to have features (the features of the body and mind that we experience as ourself), but when we separate ourself from all our extraneous adjuncts (such as this body and mind), as we do in sleep, what remains as ‘I’ has no features whatsoever.

However though I have no features, I nevertheless know that I am, because I do not need any features to know myself. Whereas I know everything else only by their respective features, I know myself simply by being myself, because what I am is essentially self-aware — that is, aware of itself as ‘I’.

Therefore in sleep we know that we are (that is, that I am) even though we are aware of no features, and hence when we wake up we recognise that we were asleep. When we remember ‘I was asleep’, we are remembering that we existed in sleep even though we were not aware of any features then. Except for the absence of any features, all we can remember about sleep is ‘I was asleep’ because all we were aware of in sleep was ‘I am’.

Our featureless experience of ourself in sleep is a very valuable clue for us when we are trying to investigate who am I. That is, from our experience in sleep, we can understand that anything that has features of any kind whatsoever is not ‘I’, because in sleep we experience ourself without experiencing any features. Therefore so long as we are experiencing any features — anything that we can describe in words or form any thought or mental impression about — that is not what I essentially am, so we have to go still deeper within ourself to experience what I essentially am.

That is, since I am featureless, in order to experience myself as I really am, I need to experience myself clearly in the complete absence of any features. Though I experience myself in the complete absence of any features in sleep, the required clarity is somehow lacking there, because I enter sleep due to exhaustion and not due to attentive and keenly focused self-awareness. Therefore, to experience myself clearly in the complete absence of any features, I need to enter a sleep-like state attentively and with keenly focused self-awareness.

This is what we try to achieve when we practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). That is, by keenly focusing our entire attention only on ‘I’, we try to experience ourself clearly in complete isolation from all things that have features of any kind whatsoever.

Second reply:

I think that perhaps ultimately the only means by which any of us can gain a firm conviction that in sleep I am aware (and that actually I am never not aware) is by practising ātma-vicāra and thereby familiarising ourself with being attentively self-aware, because this practice and the resultant familiarity (self-familiarity) alone will give us the clarity and subtlety of awareness to recognise that whether or not I am aware of anything else, I am always aware of myself — that is, aware that I am.

Since what we essentially are is featureless, and since all features are therefore extraneous to ourself, to the extent to which by practising ātma-vicāra we familiarise ourself with experiencing ourself alone, without any (or hardly any) awareness of any features, to that extent — and that extent only — will it become clear to us that we were aware of ourself in sleep even though we were not aware of any features then.

Another line of thinking that may help you to convince yourself that you are always aware is to consider carefully the relationship between ‘I’ and awareness. Anything that is not aware does not experience itself as ‘I’, because only something that is aware can be aware that I am, so whatever experiences itself as ‘I’ is something that is aware. Moreover, whatever is aware will always be aware of itself as ‘I’, the first person, whether or not it is aware of anything else, because it cannot be aware without being aware that it is aware, and being aware that it is aware necessarily entails being aware of itself, its own existence.

In other words, whatever is aware is always self-aware, so self-awareness (awareness of itself as ‘I’) is the very nature of whatever is aware. Therefore whatever is aware is that which is aware of itself as ‘I’, so what is called ‘I’ is whatever is aware. In other words, experiencing oneself as ‘I’, the first person, is an essential characteristic of the experience of being aware. Therefore awareness and ‘I’ are inseparable, because unless we are aware we cannot be aware of ‘I’, and if we are aware we cannot but be aware of ourself as ‘I’, the first person, the one who is aware.

Therefore being aware is the very nature of ‘I’, and ‘I’ is the essential nature of being aware. Hence, if what we call ‘I’ does exist in sleep (or in a state of complete anaesthesia, coma or whatever), it is certainly aware of itself as ‘I’ in that state, whereas if on the contrary it were not aware of itself in sleep, it would not exist then, because it cannot exist (that is, it cannot be ‘I’) without being aware. That is, since ‘I’ would not be ‘I’ if it were not aware of itself, it cannot exist without being aware of itself

Are you convinced that you do exist when you are asleep (and that likewise you did exist when you were in a state of general anaesthesia)? If you are convinced that you do not cease to exist in such states, then you should be equally convinced that you do not cease to be aware of yourself as ‘I’, because what you essentially are is something that is aware of itself as ‘I’ — something whose very nature is to be aware of itself as ‘I’.

If you ever ceased to be aware, you would cease to be ‘I’, so you would no longer be you. Since you cannot not be you, if you ever ceased to be aware, you would cease to exist. In other words, if I ever ceased to be aware, I would cease to be I, so I would cease to exist. Since what we call ‘I’ is the experience or awareness of being the first person, the thing that is aware, I am I only so long as I am aware of myself as I.

Therefore if I existed in sleep, I was aware of myself then, or if on the contrary I was not aware of myself then, I was not — that is, I did not exist at all. If I ceased to be aware when I fall asleep, I would cease to exist, and if I ceased to exist, whatever would later come into existence on waking would not be me — could not be me, because I would have ceased to exist. When something has ceased to exist, it cannot come back into existence, because whatever comes into existence cannot be the same thing as something that has earlier ceased to exist.

Since I am the same I who yesterday experienced whatever I then experienced, and who last year or fifty years ago experienced whatever I then experienced, I must have existed continuously from then till now, so I must have existed at every moment and in every sleep or other state that occurred between then and now. Since I existed continuously, I must have been continuously aware, because if at any time or in any state I had ceased to be aware, I would have ceased to be I, so I would have ceased to exist.

Therefore if you are the same you who existed yesterday, before you fell asleep last night, you must have existed even while you were asleep, because if you had ceased to exist then, you would not now be the same you who existed yesterday. And if you existed during your sleep, you must have been aware then, because what you essentially are is only ‘I’, the first person, whose very nature is to be aware, and who therefore cannot exist without being aware.

An unaware ‘I’ is self-contradictory concept, because being ‘I’ entails being aware, since what is called ‘I’ is our first person experience — the experience of being that which is aware. Therefore there can never be a time when I am not aware or a state in which I am not aware. In other words, so long as I exist I am always aware. What I am always aware of is myself, ‘I am’, but sometimes I am also aware of other things (as in waking and dream) whereas at other times I am aware of nothing other than myself (as in sleep).

Thinking along these lines can be very helpful to us in our practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), because it helps us to centre our attention upon ‘I’ — that is, not upon ‘I’ as a person or as any particular thing, but upon what ‘I’ essentially is, namely that which is always aware of itself (and sometimes aware of other things also).

Who or what is this ‘I’? The answer to this question can be found only within ourself. Words and ideas may help to point us towards it, but ultimately we can know what it is only by experiencing it clearly in completely isolation from anything else that we have ever been aware of. Therefore though pondering over the nature of ‘I’ may help us to turn our attention within, in order to actually penetrate deep within ourself to experience ourself as we really are we have to leave all words and ideas behind us by focusing our entire awareness on ‘I’ alone.


R Viswanathan said...

Thanks for such a nice explanation of actual experience in sleep. In this context, I would like to give English translation of verses 279,280,281 of Sadhanai Saram (3rd part of Ramana Vazhi by Sri Sadhu Om; page 94; 2008 edition).

279: Though we consider sleep as darkness because we don't see (or are not aware of) anything, learn that no one can deny one's existence in sleep. To describe your experience viz., it was dark, there were no thoughts, the state of sleep was very pleasant, did you not exist in sleep? Who was that you?

280: Does it not show not only your existence in sleep but also that you were aware of the above three experiences? Thus, that you learned in sleep as knowledge of existence is the matchless Sat- Chit (existence-consciousness). This indeed is your own established state of Self-revelation.

281: Remaining merely as Sat-Chit swarupam (existence - consciousness) in sleep, without any materialistic assets that one searches in waking state to be happy, and without any miseries, too, were you not a happy person in sleep? That happiness indeed is you, the bliss.

Michael James said...

The three verses of Sādhanai Sāram that Viswanathan quoted in his comment above are verses 122-4 in the English translation, which was published under the title A Light on the Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Essence of Spiritual Practice.

R Viswanathan said...

Yes, I failed to see that the three verses I quoted are already in the published English translation, which are better worded and conveyed than they were in my comment.

When I read the sentence "In other words, experiencing oneself as ‘I’, the first person, is an essential characteristic of the experience of being aware.", I recollect how Sri Nochur Venkataraman used to convey this truth by describing two anecdotes:

1) suppose that you are sitting in hall with so many others, and the room becomes totally dark; and if others get out of the hall without making any noise, you would not be aware whether they are still in the hall or have left unless you use your sense of touch or sound or smell etc. However, to be aware of whether or not you are still present in the hall, you won't need to use any of your five senses at all because you are always aware of your real Self as existence-consciousness-bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda).

2) A grand father was showing to his grandson a photo of a baby and telling 'it is me in this photo'. But the grandson refuses to accept it and says 'it is not you; you are so old where as in this photo there is a baby'. The grand father reiterates, 'no grand son, it is me only. I was like that long ago'. Although the grand father is describing about his own physical features then as a baby, he indeed is telling the truth that it is the same I that exists in him all along unchanged: the body has changed, the mind has changed, intelligence has changed, but the 'me or I' has not changed. It is the nature of I that it is one changeless truth, and hence irrespective of passage of time or of changes in physical appearance (space occupied), the self-awareness remains the same.

Sri Nochur Venkataraman also used to add that the feeling of I is one and of the same nature to all species, but only when it comes to a stage of expressing it, there surfaces apparent differences in sounds or in words like Aham in Sanskrit, I in English, Nan in Tamil, Mein in Hindi ....

Anonymous said...

Revered Sir,

Since this is an article on sleep, I thought of asking you the following question:

Sometimes when I am in deep vichara, I lose awareness of my thoughts and outside objects. When I regain my awareness of my thoughts and objects, I am not sure whether I was sleeping (that is, in laya) or in deep vichara. Is it necessary to distinguish between these two while we are practicing self-attentiveness? If yes, how can I find out whether I was in deep vichara or in laya?

Thanking you and pranams

Michael James said...

When practising vicāra we are trying to be exclusively self-attentive and thereby to remain balanced between falling asleep and being distracted by thoughts. So long as we cling fast to self-attentiveness, we cannot fall asleep or succumb to thinking, so if we do fall asleep or get distracted by thoughts, that would indicate that we have lost our hold on being self-attentive.

Just as we do sometimes get distracted by thoughts when trying to be self-attentive, we also sometimes fall asleep when trying to be self-attentive. In either case, as soon as we notice that we have been distracted by thoughts or have fallen asleep (which we can obviously notice only after waking up), we should try again just to be self-attentive.

What distinguishes vicāra from sleep is that the former is a state of clarity of self-awareness whereas the latter is a state in which (at least from the perspective of our waking mind) there seems to be a lack of clarity of self-awareness. Therefore, after waking from the state described in the anonymous comment above, we can make out whether it was a state of deep vicāra or sleep by whether we remember it as a state of clear self-awareness or as a state in which such clarity seemed to be lacking.

If it was a state in which clarity of self-awareness seemed to be lacking, it was sleep, but we should not worry about this, but should just try to resume being self-attentive. If we find that we are being repeatedly overwhelmed by sleep in this way, that indicates that our mind is tired, so we should just allow ourself to sleep well and should resume our self-attentiveness after we wake up feeling fully rested and alert again. After all, there is a limit to how much we can sleep, so when we have had sufficient sleep it should be easy for us to resume being self-attentive without feeling any urge to fall asleep again.

When we are fully rested and alert, if we resume our self-attentiveness we are unlikely to fall asleep again, so the only potential obstacle to being self-attentive that we are then likely to face is allowing ourself to be distracted by thoughts of anything other than ourself. That is, the urge to fall asleep will then be greatly diminished, but the urge to think of other things will be correspondingly increased, so we still have to remain as vigilant as ever in order to avoid losing our hold on being self-attentive.

Anonymous said...

Revered Sir,

Thank you for your above clarification. Yes,as you have said in your last meeting of Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, our practice of self-investigation is like walking on the razor's edge. One side is the danger of falling asleep and on the other side is the danger of succumbing to thinking, and we have to carefully and vigilantly avoid both of these dangers and walk in-between in perfect balance - in sama-dhi.

Thanking you and pranams

Wittgenstein said...

It is said in the post that " experience myself clearly in the complete absence of any features, I need to enter a sleep-like state attentively and with keenly focused self-awareness". I guess this is what jagrat-sushupti is - the topic discussed in previous post. As I can see, understanding the state of sleep leads to an understanding of the possibility of jagrat-sushupti and it has tremendous practical implications for vichara .

Besides, even in the 'watching the breath' technique, at the verge of entering into sleep like state, the attention can be switched over to self-awareness, enabling the entry into jagrat-sushupti, avoiding laya, if one can not [for the time being] enter into jagrat-sushupti without any aid.

Common sense says world and body are there in sleep while we are not. Non-duality says otherwise. Understanding the state of sleep and our continued existence [as pure consciousness] in it is at the heart of non-duality [and distinguishes it from duality], as the dualists continue to believe we exist as a causal body in sleep and equate our existence with that body. Even the fallacy in such arguments can be established by simply asking who is aware of the causal body. Inability to understand the fact that we do exist in sleep and our existence and consciousness are inseparable will only prolong the experience of the clarity of the essential self one seeks in vichara.

Western Philosophy and Psychology cannot explain the continuity of the self. As any change [in features of anything] can be detected only against the backdrop of unchanging Reality and since such a Reality should be essentially featureless [and hence not measurable or quantifiable], it remains perplexing to the researchers in these fields. Hence sleep does not get much attention from these departments. On the whole, therefore, only non-duality gives us the correct understanding and we do find it with striking clarity in the works of Bhagavan and Sri Gaudapada.

It is amazing [and also ironical] to notice that in what we call as waking state, we are completely asleep to our essential self.

Most of Bhagavan’s teachings on vichara and the required background philosophical concepts are in poetic Tamil [most required philosophy is in Ulladu Narpadu], which makes it difficult for many of us to understand. Your blog comes as a blessing for us with clear exposition of his teachings. I have not come across that ‘gap’ argument before in any expositions of Ramana’s teachings and it is a very powerful one. In fact if one reads through the entire post carefully, pausing to think on what is being said, a release from several dualistic vasanas can be felt. I must thank you in abundance for passing on such a clarity.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, I used the same ‘gap’ argument in a slightly different way in the following passage in Chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being:

We can employ another parallel line of reasoning to demonstrate the fact that we were conscious of our existence in sleep. After we wake up from sleep, do we not have a clear memory of having slept, and of having known nothing while we slept? Since we can have no memory of something unless we have actually experienced it, our memory of having slept and having known nothing while asleep is a clear proof of the fact that we did experience ourself sleeping and knowing nothing at that time.

If we did not truly remember our experience in sleep, we could not know with such certainty that we were unconscious of anything at that time. What we would know about sleep is not the positive knowledge that we slept and knew nothing at that time, but merely a negative knowledge that we do not remember any such state at all.

Instead of remembering a clear gap between one period of waking and the next – a thought-free gap in which we were clearly unconscious of anything other than our own being – we would remember no break at all between two such consecutive periods of waking. The end of one period of waking would in our experience simply merge without any perceptible break into the beginning of the next period of waking, and all our many consecutive periods of waking would appear to us to be one single continuous and unbroken period of waking, just as the many frames of a movie film when projected in rapid succession upon a screen appear to be one single continuous and unbroken moving picture. If there were no continuity of our consciousness during sleep, the gap that exists between one period of waking and the next would be imperceptible to us, just as the gap between each frame of the movie film is imperceptible to us.

Deep sleep is thus a state of which we do have a direct and first-hand experience. Since there can be no experience without consciousness, the fact that we experience sleep clearly proves that we certainly do have some level of consciousness even in that state. That level of consciousness that we experience in sleep is our deepest and most fundamental level of consciousness – our simple non-dual consciousness of our own essential being, which is our true self-consciousness ‘I am’.

Wittgenstein said...

I was not aware of this in HAB. Thanks for providing this.

As a corollary to the argument, the ‘gap’ we talk of also characterizes the discontinuity of world-body [they always pair up], space-time, causation and ego [all belonging to non-self, jada]. So, in a single attempt we do come to know the continuity of the background self [sat-chit] and the discontinuity of the non-self. Further, such discontinuous entities should be unreal even when they appear.

Duality mistakes the physical eye to be the perceiver, in the worst case. In the best case, it mistakes the mind to be the perceiver. Both being jada, vision is impossible without the self. Since the self is continuous, we can know the world in sleep, except that there is really no world [and other non-self items] in sleep and hence we [the self] really do not experience it in sleep. The ‘I’ is the real [limitless] ‘eye’, not the physical eye - கண் அது தான் - அந்தம் இலாக் கண்.

Among Bhagavan’s devotees, some are conscious of their [dualistic] ignorance while others are not. When Bhagavan’s teachings are expounded by anecdotes, tales and analogies, the second category is satisfied [due to its mass appeal, as in modern day satsangs]. The problem with analogies is that unconscious ignorance interprets them as explanations. Of course everything can not be explained, like our featureless self. Even in that case we should know why it is so - otherwise one will be looking for a feature-rich self. Therefore, arguments and analysis are inevitable in this path. Some argue that arguments and analysis are irrelevant. However, in such cases, the hidden dualistic notions will be operating as vasanas, tossing the mind into turbulent confusion and we know vasanas are obstacles in this path.

I am happy and thankful to you for using a balanced approach of analogies and good arguments to free the mind from dualistic notions while expounding Bhagavan’s teachings. I am also very happy that you do not hold any satsang and respond only when asked [Ask, thou shall be given].

Anonymous said...

Yes, as Wittgenstein says, Michael does not hold satsangs in the sense in which the word is popularly used, by he participates or answers the questions of devotees whenever he attends the meetings of Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK and also answers devotees' questions through e-mails.

However, he motivates or better still he inspires us to do our own sat-sangs. He has repeatedly clarified that 'sat' only means our true, non-dual self, 'I am', in the correct meaning of the term, and 'sang' means association. Therefore true sat-sang is only our (meaning ego or mind here) associating with our true true, infinite self within. Thus the practice of self-attentiveness is the truest and best satsang, Bhgagavan has also said the same thing.

Thanking you and pranams

Wittgenstein said...

Anonymous on 14 June 2014 at 13:37:

I doubt if a senior like Michael would say satsang is our 'associating' with our true nature and self-attentiveness is to bring about such an 'association'. Association can happen only when there is a prior dissociation. Such an [unreal] association can diassociate any time, being in time. Our fundamental nature [sat] can not be dissociated from us [in fact, it is us] and we are in eternal [timeless or prior to the very formation of the concept of time] association with it [in fact, we are it]. If there is a dissociation, it is only our erroneous notion. To remove such erroneous notions [of prior dissociation] is the exact objective of self-attentiveness, not to bring about any association.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Dear Wittgenstein, I think only Michael can clarify my above comment (written as anonymous) and your reply to it.

You could be right in one sense but when we take ourself to be this ego or mind or jiva, which imagines a body to be ‘I’, we have already limited and separated ourself (though this separation is our delusion) from our true non-dual, infinite self. In this sense we – that is, this imaginary ego associates with our true self when we practice vichara or self-attentiveness.

However Michael will be the right person to clarify and explain this.

Thanking you and pranams

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, in reply to your latest comment, we should not always interpret the meaning of terms too literally, particularly in spiritual writings or sayings, because owing to the inherent inadequacy of words to express the experience of non-duality, they often have to be used in a figurative or metaphorical sense. Therefore we should always try to understand the intended meaning (lakṣyārtha) rather than the literal meaning (vācyārtha) of any words that are used by Bhagavan or by others in the context of his teachings.

That is, whatever words may be used can seem to imply duality, but in the context of his teachings we should look beyond that seeming duality to recognise the actual meaning that the words are intended to convey.

Sat-saṅga does literally mean coming together, meeting or associating with sat (reality, being or what is), and hence Bhagavan (and also Sadhu Om) used to explain sometimes that since sat is only ourself, true sat-saṅga is only ‘associating’ or ‘coming together’ with ourself, which we can do only by attending to ourself alone. That is, how can the mind associate with what is real except by turning within and thereby subsiding and merging in it?

Incidentally, earlier today I began to draft a reply to your previous comment (which I by and large agree with), but my reply has become longer than I expected, so I will probably post it here tomorrow as a new article.

Wittgenstein said...

Two points are in order:
(a) Since you are still saying, "we have already limited and separated ourself", I do think satsang [in the sense you mention] is required. It appears Bhagavan used to say, "Why do you assume you are a beggar before opening your coffer? Put your attention on opening it first" [Sri Sadhu Om says this in Sri Ramana Vazhi].
(b) I used "satsang" by qulaifying it as, "as in modern day" [like the traditional and neo- types] and it was within that context any comment was made. Now I have a feeling I am getting into something out of its original context. I would leave it at that.

Regarding attending to ourself alone, Sri Sadhu Om says, "As soon as the attention is fixed on the first person, it loses its mean names such as mind, intellect or ego sense", in The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One, p. 129. I wonder what could be the kind of association for such a mind ["As soon as" also indicates it is a stage of practice and he is not intending to mean manonasa here]. One may still argue that after the "as soon as", following few seconds, there was an association for it, just before losing its mean names. I feel I am getting nowhere here. When you say something technical I find I need a lot of time to assimilate things. Probably on this occasion too you are saying something which I am missing. Things will clear up in due course and I would like to leave this here.

Michael James said...

Wittgenstein, in answer to the query you express when you write in your latest comment, ‘I wonder what could be the kind of association for such a mind [that has ceased to be ‘mind’ because its attention is now fixed on itself]’, bearing in mind that ‘association’ and related terms are used here in a metaphorical not literal sense, we could say that when we rise as a mind, we are dissociating (or separating) ourself from what we actually are (which is sat: what is), so when we turn our attention back towards ourself, the first person, and thereby subside in and as what we actually are, we are reassociating (or reuniting) ourself with ourself (or in other words with sat, and hence we are in sat-saṅga).

Michael James said...

Yes, Wittgenstein, I agree by and large with what you infer in your comment of 14 June 2014 05:56, and I have written my own reflections on this matter in a new article, Why do we not experience the existence of any body or world in sleep?, which I have just posted on this blog.

As you can see, contrary to your high opinion of me, I do not always respond only when asked, because I have now responded to your reflections without you asking me for any response. My only excuse for this is that I love this subject so much that when I meet someone like you who likes to discuss it in depth, I cannot resist the urge to share my own reflections.

As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say, when one drunkard meets another drunkard, they will both be very happy. He said this to illustrate the joy that a devotee of God feels on meeting another devotee, and we can apply it equally well to our case by saying that it also illustrates the joy that one lover of ātma-vicāra feels on meeting another lover of ātma-vicāra.