Sunday 30 November 2014

How to experience the clarity of self-awareness that appears between sleep and waking?

A friend wrote to me recently saying that she had been following various spiritual paths since childhood and that finally last year Sri Ramana had appeared in her life as the ultimate teacher, but that eight years ago she had had an experience while waking from sleep that she later identified with what Sri Ramana said about the clarity of self-awareness that can be experienced immediately after we wake from sleep and before it becomes mixed with awareness of a body and world. She tried her best to describe what she had experienced, but if it was indeed the adjunct-free clarity of self-awareness that Sri Ramana referred to, it would be impossible to describe it in words or even to conceive it by thoughts, because it would have been (and could only ever be) experienced in the complete absence of any thoughts or words, and hence it is beyond their reach.

Therefore from her description of her experience I cannot say for certain that it was that adjunct-free clarity of self-awareness, or if not, exactly what it was, but it may well have been such a clarity. However, whenever we do experience such an intense clarity of self-awareness, we lose it as soon as our mind becomes active, and if we then remember or think about it, whatever we remember or think is something other than what we actually experienced, because what we experienced was ‘I’ without any mental activity such as thinking or remembering. Therefore, though we may think that we can ‘relive’ such an experience by remembering it, we cannot actually relive it except by persistently trying to experience perfect clarity of self-awareness here and now.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Other than ourself, there are no signs or milestones on the path of self-discovery

A few months ago a friend wrote to me asking in Tamil:
ஆத்ம விசாரம் என்பது ‘தன்மையுணர்வை நாடுதல்’ எனப் புத்தகங்கள் கூறுகின்றன. இதையே நானும் நேரம் கிடைக்கும்போதெல்லாம் பயின்றும் வருகிறேன். இவையெல்லாம் மிகச் சுலபமாக தோன்றினாலும் உண்மையில் இது ஓரு சூட்சுமமான பாதையாகவே இருக்கிறது. நான் சாதனையைச் சரியாகத்தான் செய்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா, பகவானின் வாக்குகளை சரியாகப் புரிந்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறேனா என்ற சந்தேகம் எப்போதும் என்னை வாட்டி வதைக்கிறது. இந்தப் பாதையில் சரியாகப் போய்க்கொண்டிருக்கிறேன் என்று அறிந்துக் கொள்ள ஏதேனும் அறிகுறிகள் அல்லது மைல்கற்கள் உள்ளனவா?
which means:
Books say that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is ‘investigating the first person awareness’. I too am practising only this whenever time is available. Though all these appear to be very easy, in truth this is such a subtle path. The doubt ‘Am I doing sādhana correctly? Am I understanding Bhagavan’s words correctly?’ is always vexing and tormenting me. Are there any signs or milestones [to enable me] to know that I am proceeding correctly on this path.
The following is adapted from the reply I wrote (in English):

Sri Ramana’s path is a path of vicāra — investigation or exploration — so we can follow it only by trying to investigate what this ‘I’ is and thereby learning from our own experience what following it correctly actually entails.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Is there any such thing as a ‘self-realised’ person?

In the comments on my previous two articles, Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep and Why should we believe that ‘the Self’ is as we believe it to be?, there has been some discussion about the subject of being a ‘self-realised’ person, with one friend claiming ‘I have realised who I am’ and others expressing doubts about that, so in this article I will examine this concept of being a ‘self-realised’ person and consider whether it accurately represents anything that truly exists.

Firstly I will consider the common use of the term ‘self-realisation’ as a translation of the Sanskrit terms ātma-jñāna or ātmānubhava, which respectively mean self-knowledge and self-experience in the sense of experiencing or being clearly aware of ourself as we really are. Though ‘realise’ can mean to recognise, understand, ascertain or become clearly aware of something, it is a rather vague and ambiguous term to use in this context, because it has various other meanings such as to accomplish, achieve, fulfil, actualise, effect, bring about, acquire or cause to happen, so ‘self-realisation’ is not the most appropriate term to use as a translation of ātma-jñāna or ātmānubhava, particularly since in psychology the term ‘self-realisation’ means self-actualisation or self-fulfilment in the sense of achieving one’s full personal potential.

Though he did not speak much English, Sri Ramana understood it enough to recognise that ‘self-realisation’ is not a particularly appropriate term to use in the context of his teachings. He therefore used to joke about it saying that ourself is always real, so there is no need for it to be realised, and that the problem is that we have realised what is unreal (that is, we have made the unreal seem to be real), so what we now need to do is not to realise our ever-real self but only to unrealise everything that is unreal, particularly our seemingly real ego, which is the root cause of the seeming reality of everything else.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Why should we believe that ‘the Self’ is as we believe it to be?

In a comment on my previous article, Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep, a friend called Joel wrote:
Why do you talk of the Self remembering itself? It IS itself, so what is there to remember? The notion of the Self ‘remembering’ the Self during deep sleep when now awake is merely a creation of the mind to justify a continuity through the three states that actually is not in need of justification, because apart from the mind there are no three states.
The following is my reply to this comment:

One of the mistakes you are making here, Joel, is that you are taking an argument, assuming its conclusion to be true, and claiming that the argument is therefore unnecessary. But without the argument, what reason do you have for believing its conclusion to be true? If we believe a certain proposition to be true, but have no reason for believing it, our belief in it is unjustified. An argument is simply a reason or a set of reasons for believing a certain proposition or idea to be true, so when we consider whether or not a certain belief is true or justified, we need to consider whether the arguments or reasons for believing it are sound.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep

In one of my recent articles, The essential teachings of Sri Ramana, I wrote:
Though we generally believe that we are not aware of anything in sleep, it would be more accurate to say that we are aware of nothing. The difference between what I mean here by ‘not being aware of anything’ and ‘being aware of nothing’ can be illustrated by the following analogy: if a totally blind person and a normally sighted person were both in a completely dark room, the blind person would not see anything, and hence he or she would not be able to recognise that there is no light there. The normally sighted person, on the other hand, would see nothing, and hence he or she would be able to recognise the absence of light. The fact that we are able to recognise the absence of any experience of anything other than ‘I’ in sleep clearly indicates that we exist in sleep to experience that absence or void.

The fact that we do actually experience sleep can also be demonstrated in other ways. For example, if we did not experience sleep, we would be aware of experiencing only two states, waking and dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between each successive state of waking or dream. But we are aware that sometimes there is a gap that we call sleep, in which we experience neither waking nor dream. We do not merely infer the existence of this third state, sleep, but actually experience it, and that is why we are able to say after waking from a period of deep sleep: ‘I slept peacefully and had no dreams’.