Sunday 26 October 2014

There is only one ‘I’, and investigation will reveal that it is not a finite ego but the infinite self

A friend wrote to me a few months ago saying that after reading the teachings of Sri Ramana and Nisargadatta he was confused about whether the ‘I’ we should investigate in ātma-vicāra (self-investigation) is the ego (the jīvātman or finite individual self) or our real self (the ātman or infinite self), and he asked whether there is any difference between their respective teachings, and whether perhaps Sri Ramana refers to the jīvātman whereas Nisargadatta refers to the ātman. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

Your comment that you are a little confused about the ‘I’ referred to in ātma-vicāra suggests that there could be more than one ‘I’, which is obviously not the case. As we each know from our own experience, and as Sri Ramana repeatedly emphasised (for example, in verses 21 and 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘தான் ஒன்றால்’ (tāṉ oṉḏṟāl), ‘since oneself is one’, and ‘தனை விடயம் ஆக்க இரு தான் உண்டோ? ஒன்று ஆய் அனைவர் அனுபூதி உண்மை ஆல்’ (taṉai viḍayam ākka iru tāṉ uṇḍō? oṉḏṟu āy aṉaivar aṉubhūti uṇmai āl), ‘To make oneself an object known, are there two selves? Because being one is the truth of everyone’s experience’), there is only one ‘I’. When this one ‘I’ experiences itself as it really is, it is called self or ātman, whereas when it experiences itself as something else it is called ego, jīva or jīvātman.

Sunday 19 October 2014

We cannot experience ourself as we actually are so long as we experience anything other than ‘I’

In one of my earlier articles, Ātma-vicāra: stress and other related issues, I wrote:
You also ask: ‘when you are doing self-inquiry should your concentration be so good that you are not even aware of what’s going on around you, like the ceiling fan running, a baby crying etc. or is it OK if you are aware of the background noises like that?’ Yes, ideally you should not be aware of anything other than ‘I’. For example, if you were absorbed in reading a book that really interests you, you would not notice the sound of a fan or any other background noises, and if you did notice some sound such as a baby crying, that would mean that your attention had been distracted away from the book. Likewise, if you are absorbed in experiencing only ‘I’, you will not notice anything else, and if you do notice anything else, that means that your attention has been distracted away from ‘I’, so you should try to bring it back to ‘I’ alone.

Sunday 12 October 2014

The essential teachings of Sri Ramana

A friend wrote to me recently saying, ‘My humble opinion with total respect: far far too many words. Can you indicate where in your web page is your essential succinct truth’, to which I replied trying to give a simple summary of the essential teachings of Sri Ramana as follows:

You are probably right: far too many words.

Sri Ramana’s teachings are actually very simple, and can therefore be expressed in just a few words, but our minds are complicated, so sometimes many words are necessary in order to unravel all our complex beliefs and ideas and to arrive at the simple core: ‘I am’.

‘I’ is the core of our experience (since whatever we experience is experienced only by ‘I’), and is also the core of his teachings. Everything that we experience could be an illusion, and everything that we believe could be mistaken, so it is necessary for us to doubt everything, but the only thing we cannot reasonably doubt is ‘I am’, because in order to experience anything, to believe anything or to doubt anything I must exist.

Sunday 5 October 2014

We can believe vivarta vāda directly but not ajāta vāda

In a comment on my previous article, The perceiver and the perceived are both unreal a friend called Sanjay asked whether advaita vāda is a synonym of vivarta vāda, to which I replied in another comment:
Sanjay, advaita means ‘non-two-ness’ (a-dvi-tā), so advaita-vāda is the argument or theory that there is absolutely no twoness or duality. The most complete and radical expression of advaita-vāda is therefore ajāta-vāda, because according to ajāta-vāda not only does twoness not actually exist but it does not even seem to exist.

However, vivarta vāda is also compatible with advaita-vāda, because according to vivarta vāda twoness does not actually exist even though it seems to exist. That is, vivarta vāda accepts that distinctions (dualities or twonesses) such as the perceiver and the perceived (the ego and the world) seem to exist, but it argues that their seeming existence is just a false appearance (vivarta) and hence unreal.