Thursday, 25 June 2015

The term nirviśēṣa or ‘featureless’ denotes an absolute experience but can be comprehended conceptually only in a relative sense

In a comment on one of my recent articles, The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom, a friend called ‘Sleepwalker’ quoted a sentence from its thirteenth section, Can self-awareness be considered to be a feature of the ego? (which I had quoted from We are aware of ourself even though we are featureless, the second section in one of my earlier articles, Being attentively self-aware does not entail any subject-object relationship), namely “When we say, ‘I slept peacefully last night’, we are expressing our experience of having been in a state in which we experienced no features”, and asked whether the peacefulness of sleep is not just a feature.

Since the concept of nirviśēṣatva (featurelessness or absence of any distinguishing features) is a significant and useful idea in advaita philosophy, and since it is very relevant to the practice of self-investigation, I decided to write the following detailed answer to this question:
  1. In what sense is the peacefulness of sleep not a feature?
  2. Sat, cit and ānanda are not features
    1. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 23: what exists is what is aware
    2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 28: sat-cit-ānanda is eternal, infinite and indivisible
  3. Our ego is distinct from brahman only in appearance, not in substance
    1. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 24: our ego and God are only one substance
    2. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 25: knowing ourself without adjuncts is knowing God
    3. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: if investigated, this phantom ego will vanish
  4. Featurelessness is a vital clue in self-investigation
  5. The blossoming of pure self-awareness will consume our ego and everything else
1. In what sense is the peacefulness of sleep not a feature?

Whether we consider the peacefulness of sleep to be a feature or not depends upon what exactly we mean by the term ‘feature’. Generally I use this term in the same sense as the Sanskrit word viśēṣa, which means anything that is special, peculiar, different or distinctive, as I explain in the second paragraph of the same thirteenth section of that article:
The Sanskrit equivalent of what we call ‘feature’ in English is viśēṣa, and brahman (our real self) is defined as nirviśēṣa — non-viśēṣa or devoid of viśēṣa. ‘Feature’ is not quite an adequate translation of viśēṣa, because the term ‘viśēṣa’ denotes a somewhat more abstract concept than ‘feature’. What viśēṣa means exactly is what is special, peculiar, different or distinctive, or the abstract quality of being special, peculiar, different or distinctive, so a feature is something that is viśēṣa. That is, a feature of anything is what is special, peculiar, different or distinctive about that thing.
Therefore in the context of Bhagavan’s teaching or advaita philosophy in general, the term nirviśēṣa or ‘featureless’ is used in a relative sense, even though it denotes an experience that transcends all relativity, because something can be said to be special, peculiar, different or distinctive only in relation to some other thing. In the absence of any other thing, what exists is not different or distinct from anything, and hence brahman, the sole existing reality, which is our own essential self or ātma-svarūpa, is said to be nirviśēṣa or featureless.

Since this term nirviśēṣa or ‘featureless’ is thus used in a relative sense, we could say for example that relatively speaking a cinema screen is nirviśēṣa or featureless, because relative to the pictures that are projected on it it is featureless in that it is just a smooth white surface. If it had any other features, such as red stripes or any other coloured pattern, or if its surface was crumpled or uneven, it would not serve its purpose of being a featureless background on which pictures could be projected and yet seem real.

Likewise, our self-awareness is the featureless background on which the features of phenomenal experience are projected and seem real. Just as a cinema screen remains unchanged whether pictures are projected on it or not, self-awareness remains unchanged whether phenomenal experiences are projected on it (as in waking or dream) or not (as in sleep). This is why our experience in sleep seems featureless, because all that we experience in sleep is the background of self-awareness on which all the features of phenomenal experience are projected in waking and dream.

Since our self-awareness remains unchanged whether phenomenal experiences are projected on it or not, it is immutable and hence perfectly undisturbed or peaceful, so the peace that we experience in sleep is the essential nature of our self-awareness, and hence it is the background on which all the features of phenomenal experience are projected. As such, the peacefulness of sleep is not a feature, because just like the screen in a cinema it is always present, whether we experience it as it is or whether it seems to be concealed by all the disturbing or non-peaceful features of the phenomenal experiences that are projected on it in waking and dream.

Another way of explaining this is to say that a feature is something that stands out and thereby distinguishes itself from other features. Because a cinema screen does not stand out or distinguish itself in any way from the pictures that are projected on it, relative to the features of those pictures it is featureless. In one sense we could say that the smoothness and whiteness of the screen are its features, but in another sense we can say that these features are in effect featureless, because they are the very features that make it not stand out or be distinguishable from the pictures that are projected upon it.

Just as the smoothness and whiteness of the screen are always present but stand out only when no pictures are projected upon them, the essential peacefulness of self-awareness is always present but stands out only when no phenomenal experiences are projected upon it, as in sleep. Therefore the essential peacefulness of self-awareness that we experience in sleep is in effect a featureless feature because it does not stand out except when no other features are projected upon it.

2. Sat, cit and ānanda are not features

The idea that brahman is nirviśēṣa or featureless is often criticised by dvaita philosophers, because they consider sat (existence), cit (awareness) and ānanda (happiness) to be features, and hence they argue that if brahman were featureless it would not be sat-cit-ānanda, and thus would not exist, be aware or experience happiness. This argument is based not only on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what advaitins mean by the term nirviśēṣa, but also on a misunderstanding of the concept of sat-cit-ānanda.

The existence of any phenomenon could be argued to be a feature in a certain sense, because no phenomenon exists forever, so though any phenomenon may seem to exist at some time, there will be other times when it does not seem to exist, and hence its temporary existence is relative to its temporary non-existence. Thus its existence is distinct from its non-existence, so in this sense its existence is viśēṣa — special, peculiar, different or distinctive — and can therefore be called a feature. For example, we now seem to exist as a certain body, but we did not exist as this body a hundred years ago and we will not exist as this body a hundred years from now, so our existence as this body is viśēṣa — something that is special, peculiar, different or distinctive.

However, it is only relative or temporal existence that can thus be considered to be viśēṣa or a feature. Absolute or eternal existence cannot be considered to be viśēṣa in the same way, because the existence of what always exists is not distinct from its non-existence, since it is never non-existent. Therefore the existence of brahman, our own real self, is not viśēṣa, because it is eternal and hence absolute. Thus, since the term sat in sat-cit-ānanda does not refer to any temporal existence but only to the eternal existence of brahman, it is not viśēṣa but only nirviśēṣa — something that is not special, peculiar, different or distinctive in any way whatsoever. It is simply the eternal background on which all viśēṣa things seem to appear and disappear.
2a. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 23: what exists is what is aware
Just as the existence (sat) of brahman is not viśēṣa or a distinctive feature, its awareness (cit) and happiness (ānanda) are also not features, because they are eternal and absolute, and hence not special, peculiar, different or distinctive. Moreover, the awareness (cit) of brahman is not anything distinct from its existence (sat), because being self-aware is its very nature. As Bhagavan says in verse 23 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
உள்ள துணர வுணர்வுவே றின்மையி
னுள்ள துணர்வாகு முந்தீபற
      வுணர்வேநா மாயுள முந்தீபற.

uḷḷa duṇara vuṇarvuvē ṟiṉmaiyi
ṉuḷḷa duṇarvāhu mundīpaṟa
      vuṇarvēnā māyuḷa mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: உள்ளது உணர உணர்வு வேறு இன்மையின், உள்ளது உணர்வு ஆகும். உணர்வே நாமாய் உளம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uḷḷadu uṇara uṇarvu vēṟu iṉmaiyiṉ, uḷḷadu uṇarvu āhum. uṇarv[u]-ē nām-āy uḷam.

அன்வயம்: உள்ளது உணர வேறு உணர்வு இன்மையின், உள்ளது உணர்வு ஆகும். உணர்வே நாமாய் உளம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uḷḷadu uṇara vēṟu uṇarvu iṉmaiyiṉ, uḷḷadu uṇarvu āhum. uṇarvē nām-āy uḷam.

English translation: Because of the non-existence of [any] awareness (uṇarvu) other [than what is] to know what is (uḷḷadu), what is is awareness. We exist as ‘consciousness alone is we’.
Here உள்ளது (uḷḷadu) means ‘what is’ or ‘what exists’, so it is the Tamil equivalent of the Sanskrit word सत् (sat), and உணர்வு (uṇarvu) means awareness or consciousness in the sense of ‘what is aware’ or ‘what is conscious’, so it is the Tamil equivalent of the Sanskrit word चित् (cit). In order to experience what is (uḷḷadu or sat), there is nothing that is aware (uṇarvu or cit) other than uḷḷadu itself, because if what is aware were other than what is, it would not exist, and if what is were other than what is aware, it would not be aware of itself. Therefore, since what is (uḷḷadu) is aware of itself as ‘I am’, it alone is what is aware (uṇarvu). Moreover, since what exists is only ourself, we alone are both what exists (uḷḷadu) and what is aware (uṇarvu).

Just as what is (uḷḷadu or sat) and what is aware (uṇarvu or cit) are one and the same thing, namely ourself, so too is happiness (iṉbu or ānanda), because when we are aware of ourself alone, we are perfectly happy. If happiness was anything other than ourself, when we are aware of ourself alone (as we are in sleep, for example) we would not be happy, so since we are perfectly happy when we are aware of ourself alone, happiness must be what we really are. We experience a deficiency in happiness only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, and that is because we are then not experiencing ourself as we really are but only as an ego, so it is only the rising of this illusory ego and its experience of other things that obscures our awareness of ourself as the infinite happiness that we really are.
2b. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 28: sat-cit-ānanda is eternal, infinite and indivisible
Therefore sat, cit and ānanda are not three separate things, but one and the same, and they seem to be separate only when we rise as an ego and thereby experience otherness or differentiation. Our natural state of egolessness is completely devoid of all otherness and differentiation, so it is a nirviśēṣa or featureless state, because the only thing that exists in it is ourself, whose nature is beginningless, endless, infinite and indivisible sat-cit-ānanda, as Bhagavan clearly implies in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தனாதியல் யாதெனத் தான்றெரி கிற்பின்;
னனாதி யனந்தசத் துந்தீபற
      வகண்ட சிதானந்த முந்தீபற.

taṉādiyal yādeṉat tāṉḏṟeri hiṯpiṉ
ṉaṉādi yaṉantasat tundīpaṟa
      vakhaṇḍa cidāṉanda mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: தனாது இயல் யாது என தான் தெரிகில், பின் அனாதி அனந்த சத்து அகண்ட சித் ஆனந்தம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉādu iyal yādu eṉa tāṉ terihil, piṉ aṉādi aṉanta sattu akhaṇḍa cit āṉandam.

அன்வயம்: தான் தனாது இயல் யாது என தெரிகில், பின் அனாதி அனந்த அகண்ட சத்து சித் ஆனந்தம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): tāṉ taṉādu iyal yādu eṉa terihil, piṉ aṉādi aṉanta akhaṇḍa sattu cit āṉandam.

English translation: If oneself knows what the nature of oneself is, then [what exists is only] beginningless, endless [or infinite] and unbroken sat-cit-ānanda.
In the absence of anything other than ourself nothing is viśēṣa — special, peculiar, different or distinctive — because there is nothing from which we could be different or distinct, or which could be different or distinct from ourself, so we must be nirviśēṣa or featureless, and hence sat, cit and ānanda are not features in the sense of being anything that is different or distinct either from each other or from anything else. That is, since sat-cit-ānanda alone exists, there is nothing that is not sat-cit-ānanda, so being sat-cit-ānanda is in no way viśēṣa, special, peculiar, different or distinctive, and is hence not a feature or something that stands out.

Therefore the argument made by dualist philosophers (dvaitins) that if brahman were nirviśēṣa or featureless it would not be sat-cit-ānanda and hence would not exist, be aware or be happy cannot stand up to careful scrutiny. Only if anything other than brahman, our own real self, actually existed would it logically follow that in order to exist, be aware or be happy brahman must be viśēṣa or endowed with features, but since what actually exists is only brahman, it must be nirviśēṣa.

3. Our ego is distinct from brahman only in appearance, not in substance

Among advaitins, therefore, it is universally accepted that brahman is nirviśēṣa or featureless, and that sat, cit and ānanda are not viśēṣa or distinctive features, because they are not distinct either from each other or from anything else. However the idea that our ego is also essentially featureless is not familiar to most advaitins, but as I argued in The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom, it is clearly implied by Bhagavan Ramana when he describes the ego as ‘உருவற்ற பேய்’ (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy), a ‘formless phantom’, in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Like brahman, which is what we actually are, our ego, which is what we now seem to be, has no form and hence no features of its own, but whereas brahman exists whether or not any forms or features seem to exist, our ego seems to exist only when forms and features seem to exist, and in their absence it does not seem to exist. Therefore brahman is never affected in any way whatsoever by the appearance or disappearance of any forms or features, whereas our ego is affected by their appearance and disappearance. That is, though our ego is essentially formless and hence featureless when it is abstracted from all the forms that it grasps, it comes into existence and stands only by grasping forms, and when it grasps any forms it itself seems to be a feature-laden form.
3a. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 24: our ego and God are only one substance
In its essence or substance, our ego is nothing other than brahman, which is nirviśēṣa or featureless, but since it comes into existence as a seemingly separate entity only by grasping forms, whenever it exists as such it seems to be a form (a body), which is viśēṣa or feature-laden. Thus the difference between our ego and brahman is not any difference in substance but only a difference in appearance. That is, when we rise as this ego, we do not cease to be brahman, even though we seem to be something else. Therefore the difference between ourself as this ego and ourself as brahman is not any difference in what we actually are, but only a difference in what we seem to be. This is what Bhagavan implies in verse 24 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
இருக்கு மியற்கையா லீசசீ வர்க
ளொருபொரு ளேயாவ ருந்தீபற
      வுபாதி யுணர்வேவே றுந்தீபற.

irukku miyaṟkaiyā līśajī varga
ḷoruporu ḷēyāva rundīpaṟa
      vupādhi yuṇarvēvē ṟundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: இருக்கும் இயற்கையால் ஈச சீவர்கள் ஒரு பொருளே ஆவர். உபாதி உணர்வே வேறு.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): irukkum iyaṟkaiyāl īśa jīvargaḷ oru poruḷē āvar. upādhi-uṇarvē vēṟu.

English translation: By [their] being nature, God and souls are only one substance. Only [their] awareness of adjuncts is different.
இருக்கும் இயற்கை (irukkum iyaṟkai) means ‘being nature’ or ‘nature which is’, so இருக்கும் இயற்கையால் (irukkum iyaṟkaiyāl) literally means ‘by nature which is’, but in this context means in their essential nature, which is just being or what actually is. This essential nature or ‘what is’ (uḷḷadu) is the one substance of both God and the soul or ego, so in this respect there is absolutely no difference between them. The only difference between them is not in what they actually are but only in what they seem to be, and whatever they seem to be is just a set of extraneous adjuncts.

Adjuncts (upādhis) are whatever forms or features the ego or soul grasps as itself and whatever forms or features it attributes to God, but all such forms and features exist only in the view of the ego and not in the view of God as brahman, so the only difference between the ego and God is that the ego has உபாதி உணர்வு (upādhi-uṇarvu) or ‘awareness of adjuncts’ whereas God does not.
3b. Upadēśa Undiyār verse 25: knowing ourself without adjuncts is knowing God
Therefore in order to experience ourself as brahman, all that we as this ego need do is to experience ourself in complete isolation from all adjuncts, forms or features, as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
தன்னை யுபாதிவிட் டோர்வது தானீசன்
றன்னை யுணர்வதா முந்தீபற
      தானா யொளிர்வதா லுந்தீபற.

taṉṉai yupādhiviṭ ṭōrvadu tāṉīśaṉ
ḏṟaṉṉai yuṇarvadā mundīpaṟa
      tāṉā yoḷirvadā lundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை உபாதி விட்டு ஓர்வது தான் ஈசன் தன்னை உணர்வது ஆம், தானாய் ஒளிர்வதால்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai upādhi viṭṭu ōrvadu tāṉ īśaṉ taṉṉai uṇarvadu ām, tāṉ-āy oḷirvadāl.

அன்வயம்: தானாய் ஒளிர்வதால், தன்னை உபாதி விட்டு ஓர்வது தான் ஈசன் தன்னை உணர்வது ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): tāṉ-āy oḷirvadāl, taṉṉai upādhi viṭṭu ōrvadu tāṉ īśaṉ taṉṉai uṇarvadu ām.

English translation: Having relinquished [one’s own] adjuncts, experiencing oneself is itself experiencing God, because [he] shines as oneself.
As this ego, we seem to have adjuncts only so long as we attend to or experience anything other than ourself, so the only way to leave, give up or relinquish all our own adjuncts is to attend to ourself alone. When we attend to ourself alone, we separate and isolate ourself not only from all our own adjuncts but also from everything else, because we experience other things only when we experience ourself mixed with adjuncts. Therefore by attending to ourself alone, we will experience ourself alone, and thus we will experience God or brahman, because he or it is nothing other than ourself as we really are.

Whatever form or feature we as this ego may grasp as ourself is not what we actually are, even though it is temporarily what we seem to be, so in order to experience ourself as we actually are we need to cease grasping forms, which we can do only by trying to grasp ourself alone — that is, by attending to and thereby trying to experience nothing other than ourself. However, until we succeed in this endeavour we will continue to experience ourself as one form or another, and since all forms have features, we as this ego will always seem to have features, even though we are actually featureless.

Though the ego always seems to be a form, the reason why Bhagavan says it is formless is that no form that it seems to be is essential to it, because it does not seem to be the same form whenever it rises. In one state it seems to be one form and in other states it seems to be other forms, so there is no form that can be called its own.

Since it is essentially formless and hence featureless, in some respects the ego partakes of the nature of brahman, but since it cannot come into existence without grasping the form of a body as if it were itself, in other respects it partakes of the nature and features of whatever body it currently experiences as itself. Thus the ego is a spurious hybrid, which is in some respects formless and featureless, but is in other respects temporarily endowed with form and hence laden with features. It itself is neither this nor that, because it does not exist except as a fusion of these two contradictory elements. In every way possible the nature of a body is contrary to the nature of brahman, yet the ego somehow manages to combine together these two contradictory natures as if they were one.
3c. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 25: if investigated, this phantom ego will vanish
Therefore, though this ego seems to exist, it is not real, but so long as it experiences anything other than itself it seems to be real, so if we investigate it by trying to be aware of it alone, it will dissolve and disappear. This is why Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

uruppaṯṟi yuṇḍā muruppaṯṟi niṟku
muruppaṯṟi yuṇḍumiha vōṅgu — muruviṭ
ṭuruppaṯṟun tēḍiṉā lōṭṭam piḍikku
muruvaṯṟa pēyahandai yōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும், உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṯkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum, uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai. ōr.

அன்வயம்: உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும். ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṯkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum. ōr.

English translation: Grasping form, the formless phantom-ego rises into being; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows [spreads, expands or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form. If sought [examined or investigated], it will take flight. Investigate [or know thus].
4. Featurelessness is a vital clue in self-investigation

In the second paragraph of this article I mentioned that the concept of nirviśēṣatva or ‘featurelessness’ is a significant and useful idea that is very relevant to the practice of self-investigation, so let us now consider how it is relevant to this practice.

In order to experience ourself as we actually are, we need to isolate ourself from everything else, and to isolate ourself we need to distinguish ourself from everything that seems to be ourself but is not what we actually are. Therefore understanding that what we are is essentially featureless is a vital clue without which we would not be able to distinguish ourself from all other things, each of which has features of one kind or another.

In this respect our experience in sleep is also a vital clue, because sleep is the only featureless state that we are familiar with. From the perspective of ourself as this ego, sleep seems to be a state of complete ignorance or non-awareness, but since we experience the seeming ignorance of sleep, it is not actually a state in which we are not aware. What we are not aware of in sleep is anything other than ourself, so since we are essentially featureless, sleep is a featureless experience. Therefore the very featurelessness of sleep is a valuable clue for us when we are trying to investigate what we actually are.

So long as we experience anything that we do not experience in sleep, we are experiencing features, and hence we are not experiencing ourself as we actually are. Therefore whatever feature or viśēṣa (anything that is in any way special, peculiar, different or distinctive) we may experience, we should always try to investigate who is experiencing it. In other words, we must persevere in trying to be aware of ourself alone until we succeed in experiencing ourself without any features whatsoever.

From the perspective of ourself as this ego, penetrating deep within ourself in order to experience ourself alone may seem to be like plunging into complete darkness, but that darkness is only an absence of any phenomenal experience, so it is only in that darkness that we will discover the full clarity of perfect, undiluted self-awareness, which alone is what we actually are. Therefore we must persevere in penetrating into the very darkest depths of ourself until we experience the infinitely bright light that shines in that darkness — the light of pure, featureless, non-dual self-awareness — which will consume our illusory ego forever.

5. The blossoming of pure self-awareness will consume our ego and everything else

This is precisely what Bhagavan taught us to pray for in verse 27 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai and verse 1 of Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam:
சகலமும் விழுங்குங் கதிரொளி யினமன
      சலச மலர்த்தியி டருணாசலா.

sakalamum viṙuṅguṅ kadiroḷi yiṉamaṉa
      jalaja malarttiyi ḍaruṇācalā
.

பதச்சேதம்: சகலமும் விழுங்கும் கதிர் ஒளி இன மன சலசம் அலர்த்தியிடு அருணாசலா

Padacchēdam (word-separation): sakalamum viṙuṅgum kadir oḷi iṉa, maṉa-jalajam alartti-y-iḍu aruṇācalā.

English translation:: O Arunachala, sun of bright rays which swallow everything, make [my] mind-lotus blossom.

அருணிறை வான வமுதக் கடலே
விரிகதிரால் யாவும் விழுங்கு — மருண
கிரிபரமான் மாவே கிளருளப்பூ நன்றாய்
விரிபரிதி யாக விளங்கு.

aruṇiṟai vāṉa vamudak kaḍalē
virikadirāl yāvum viṙuṅgu — maruṇa
giriparamāṉ māvē kiḷaruḷappū naṉḏṟāy
viriparidhi yāha viḷaṅgu
.

பதச்சேதம்: அருள் நிறைவு ஆன அமுத கடலே, விரி கதிரால் யாவும் விழுங்கும் அருணகிரி பரமான்மாவே, கிளர் உள பூ நன்றாய் விரி பரிதி ஆக விளங்கு.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aruḷ niṟaivu āṉa amuda-k-kaḍalē, viri kadirāl yāvum viṙuṅgum aruṇagiri paramāṉmāvē, kiḷar uḷa-p-pū naṉḏṟāy viri paridhi āha viḷaṅgu.

English translation:: O Ocean of amṛta [the ambrosia of immortality], which is the fullness of grace, O Supreme Self, Arunagiri, who swallow everything by [your] spreading rays [of pure self-awareness], shine as the sun that makes [my] budding heart-lotus blossom fully.
What Bhagavan describes in these two verses as the blossoming of the mind-lotus or heart-lotus is the blossoming of pure self-awareness within us, and what he describes as swallowing everything is what results from such blossoming. That is, when we penetrate deep within and thereby experience ourself alone, we will experience ourself as the pure and featureless self-awareness that we always actually are, and in the infinite clarity of this pure self-awareness our ego and everything else will be swallowed forever, just as a picture projected on a screen would be swallowed entirely if the bright light of the sun fell upon it.

106 comments:

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, there is a typo in this article. Please see the last paragraph of section 1:

Just as the smoothness and whiteness of the screen are always present but stand out only when no pictures are projected upon them, the essential peacefulness of self-awareness is always present but stands out only when no phenomenal experiences are projected upon it, as in sleep. Therefore the essential peacefulness of self-awareness that we experience in sleep is in effect a featureless feature because it is does not stand out except when no other features are projected upon it.

I think 'is' should be deleted. You have quoted in this article verse one of Sri Arunachala Pancharatnam:

O Ocean of amṛta [the ambrosia of immortality], which is the fullness of grace, O Supreme Self, Arunagiri, who swallow everything by [your] spreading rays [of pure self-awareness], shine as the sun that makes [my] budding heart-lotus blossom fully.

I find the five verse of Sri Arunachala Panchratnam most beautifully written. These verses are very rich in meaning, but in a compact and concise five verses poem. Moreover these verses equally appeal to bhaktas and vicharis. May be you can consider writing a fresh article on these verses. You may take up one or two verse in each article and expand its meaning and give the necessary commentary on it. If you have time please consider this request.

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, thanks for pointing out that typo, which I have now corrected.

Yes, like all of Bhagavan’s original writings, there are many valuable ideas in Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam and they are expressed in a beautiful manner. I would like to write more about each of his original writings as and when I find time, but in the meanwhile (as you are probably aware) there is a commentary on Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam by Sri Sadhu Om, which I compiled with his help and guidance from various explanations about it that I heard from him.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, I was listening to Michael video dated 9th July 2011 (from 111 minutes onwards). He says in this as follows (not recorded verbatim):

Guru is not a body, therefore he is deathless. Sadhu Om used to say, 'Guru alone is living, we are dead'. What is a living guru? When people generally talk of a living guru, they generally mean 'guru in the body', but such a 'living guru' is not necessary!

In most Hindu traditions, they call 'sampradayas' (particular traditions), most gurus belong to a sampradaya, because of their inner lineage or by getting realisation themselves they become the founder of their sampradaya. Like Vivekananda started a sampradaya after Sri Ramakrishna gave up his body. Every guru like the Shankaracharyas, Prabhupada and others, they all belong to sampradayas. They have their guru, and their guru's guru and they in turn initiate one of their disciples to take over as guru after they leave their body.

In Bhagavan's case he had no guru except Arunachala, and Arunachala is one guru who is never going to die. It will always remain there. Bhagavan never said that he had any disciples, nor did he acknowledged anyone as his disciple.

Thus in our path Bhagavan is the only guru, he is the guru for all. Murugunar used to say that, Sadhu Om used to say that. Bhagavan has brought a new tradition in which sampradayas are nor necessary. According to Bhagavan guru is not the body so death is out question for the guru, so in his view sampradayas are not necessary.

So in a very subtle and quiet way, Bhagavan has revolutionized spirituality. Therefore if we want to guide others, the best way to guide others is to subside ourself, and then the guru which is Bhagavan will shine on everyone.




Michael James said...

The following is a link to the point in the video taken on 9th July 2011 where the discussion about the supposed need for a ‘living guru’ that Sanjay refers to begins: 1.50.14.

who? said...

I've noticed a typo in the last paragraph of section 2a.

We experience a deficiency in happiness only when we are aware of another other than ourself, and that is because we are then not experiencing ourself as we really are but only as an ego, so it is only the rising of this illusory ego and its experience of other things that obscures our awareness of ourself as the infinite happiness that we really are.

I believe you wished to say 'anything' instead of 'another'.

Michael James said...

Thank you, ‘Who?’, for pointing out that typo, which I have now corrected.

Bob - P - said...

Dear Michael
Thank you for this wonderful article.
With regards what you said below.

{so the peace that we experience in sleep is the essential nature of our self-awareness, and hence it is the background on which all the features of phenomenal experience are projected}


Michael please could you help with my understanding. I am sorry my comment is long when my question is simple. I am just trying to express myself as best as I can. It is very hard and I fully appreciate that I have repeated myself on several occasions !! Please also excuse any typo's.

Is it right to say that when we are in the waking sate (dualistic knowing consciousness) and we try to recollect what it was like or what we experienced in deep sleep all we can remember is a blank ... or rather we can't remember anything at all apart from that we existed. Is this because the illusory dualistic knowing consciousness cannot conceive the real non dual being consciousness. The dual can never conceive the non dual because it is beyond its comprehension.

( I appreciate there is not two separate consciousness's by the way, the non dual being consciousness is all there is. )

So as the experience of deep sleep is completely beyond what our false finite knowing consciousness can conceive of it appears to it as a blank or gap or nothingness. The only thing known is that we existed there.

Michael speaking from my own perspective I would be lying to you if I said that surrendering myself (the dualistic egoic knowing consciousness "Bob" to the non dual being consciousness "I am " my real self what I really am isn't scary. It is very scary as I am scared of dissolving into the unknown.

It is like letting go of the cliff and falling into nothingness , the complete unknown .. the cold empty void.

However is it more accurate to say that myself as I really am the infinite non dual being consciousness that experiences everything as itself is not a mere blank void or cold nothingness but is just a reality completely beyond the conceptualisation of my limited dualistic egoic mind "Bob" before I dissolve into it.

This seems to make letting go less scary as I am not falling into a cold empty void at all.

I appreciate Bob is not going anywhere Michael , Bob is not going to experience anything as Bob is going to dissolve into the truth, sacrifice myself to the truth to what I really am.

So to conclude is it right to say the non dual infinite being consciousness is not a blank void of nothingness it is just a reality beyond what the limited mind can understand so it appears a blank when tried to be recollected from the illusory dualistic waking state.

Michael is it right to say when I experience myself as I really am with perfect clarity of self awareness this previous seeming blank empty nothingness / void I once linked to deep sleep will now be the one true reality as waking & dream would have dissolved into it and the deep sleep state will now be all there ever was / has been. The veil of lack of clarity would have been lifted for ever.

Waking and dream are linked to duality and duality is only perceived by the illusory egoic dualistic knowing consciousness.

Therefore this once seeming cold empty blank void perception of the deep sleep state will not be so but in contrast it will be a reality of pure bliss .. pure happiness of being were I experience everything as my self .. it won't be cold empty void at all.

If you could please shed some light on this long rambling of a comment of mine and help with my understanding it would be so helpful to me.

Thank you so much Michael.

In appreciation as always.
Bob







Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan sings in verse 66 of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai:

O Arunachala, having removed my madness (for the world), You have made me a madman like You. Graciously grant me the medicine (of self-knowledge) which will clear away even this madness (of intense longing for you).

Sri Sadhu Om has explained this verse as follows:Lord Siva came as a madman to claim Sri Sundaramurthy as His Own. Just as the Lord is mad in His gracious love to claim the devotee as His own, He makes the devotee mad like Himself, that is, mad with love for him, thereby removing the devotees madness for the world. The medicine to cure this madness of devotion is only jnana (the non-duality).

Yes, we all are mad to a smaller or a larger extent! Who but a madman will write so many comments on this blog, like I am doing for sometime now. What Sri Sadhu Om writes about our Bhagavan is inspiring. He writes, 'Just as the Lord is mad in His gracious love to claim the devotee as His own, He makes the devotee mad like Himself, that is, mad with love for him, thereby removing the devotees madness for the world'. So we may fail in our love for him, but how can our sadguru's love for us fail. Therefore our ego's annihilation is certain, as Bhagavan himself is working on this job like a madman! What grace!

Does anybody know the full story of Sri Sundaramurthy referred to by Sadhu Om? If yes, please share it with us. Thanks.

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay,

Sundaramurthy Nayanar is one of the four leading Saivite gurus (Naalvar / Four) and demonstrated the path of salvation through Friendship with the Lord. His full story is remarkable and very long and I will provide links below if you want to read further.

Sri Sekkizhar who composed Periya Puranam wrote that he thanked his birth for giving him the opportunity to write about Sundarar. The friendship of Sundarar with Lord Siva is unparalleled in Saivite history. I am also very thankful, like Sri Sekkizhar, for this birth that afforded me to read, listen and meditate on Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar.

http://www.shaivam.org/nachundh.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund1.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund2.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund3.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund4.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund5.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund6.html
http://www.shaivam.org/nachund7.html

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you Sivanarul for providing me with the links to the life details of Sundramurthy Nayanar.

Sivanarul said...

I just listened to an excellent lecture from Swami Sarvapriyananda titled "Defining God, based on Taittiriya Upanishad". It was very joyous and rewarding listening to it and hence I am passing it on. I have included the link below. Highly recommended.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftn4zCnheBk

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan sings in verse 94 of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai:

O Arinachala! Did You not tell (me) to come (to You)? (Therefore, now that I have come to You) come and give (me) my measure (all that I need). Suffer (thus for me). (This is) Your fate.

Sri Sadhu Om explains this as follows: Having once called the devotee to Him, it is the duty and fate of the Lord to suffer by providing all his needs, both spiritually and materially.

Reflections: 1. Does the Lord really suffer by providing all the needs of the devotee? Not really, though in poetic mysticism one may say so, as Bhagavan and Sadhu Om are implying here. Our Lord, our sadguru is more than glad to take over all our trivial responsibilities if we follow the path shown by him.
2. Bhagavan has also said that it is foolishness to carry our luggage on our head when we are travelling in a train. We should remember that it is the train which is carrying us, and also carrying our any amount of luggage. Likewise, our sadguru takes care of us and all our spiritual and material needs. Moreover if we are following his path he is certainly taking extra care, as it were, of all our needs. Bhagavan has specifically said this.
3. All our problems, suffering and other misfortunes are also part of our prarabdha, and it has been decided this way by our sadguru only for our own spiritual good. Therefore, in a way we should thank all the problem-makers in our life. They are Bhagavan's agents to push us within, in the safe, problem free harbour of our true self.
4. Bhagavan says, 'He knows what is best and when and how to do it. Leave everything entirely to Him. His is the burden, no longer you have to have any cares. All your care as His. This is surrender'.
5. Sadhu Om used to say (as told to us by Michael) that Bhagavan is the best 'servant' we could ever imagine. He, like our most faithful servant, will do any and everything for us, plus he can even think for us. Our worldly servant cannot think for us. Of course for this we have to give him the Power of Attorney, meaning we have to surrender our ego to his loving presence in our heart through attending to him constantly.
6. In short, our worldly duties will not be effected if we attend to our Lord in our heart, but will be taken care by him in much more efficacious manner. We just have to attend to out prime task, which is to know who am I?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan sings in verse 108 of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai:

O Arunachalaramana, having bestowed upon me the garland (of your grace), graciously wear my garland (this Bridal Garland of Letters), O Arunachala.

Please note the use of the word Arunachalaramana by Bhagavan. What a clear way of indicating that he and Arunachala are one and the same! Thus not only is Bhagavan the only 'living guru', because he is ever living in our heart as 'I am', but his form is also ever available to us in the form of this enduring Arunachala hill. Thus only Bhagavan is truly living in all ways!

Sivanarul said...

Thayumanavar Swami (whose songs Bhagavan quoted often) left this note outside his room before giving up his body in Samadhi. These are his final instructions and the wisdom imparted in this is something applicable to many spiritual aspirants.

"Dear friends,
withdraw the mind from the senses
and fix it in meditation.
Control the thought-current.
Find out the thought-centre and fix yourself there.
Then you will be conscious of the Divine Self;
you will see it dancing in ecstasy.
Live in that delight.
That Delight-Consciousness, is the God in you.
He is in every heart.
You need not go anywhere to find Him.
Find your own core and feel Him there.
Peace, bliss, felicity, health - everything is in you.
Trust in the Divine in you.
Entrust yourself to His Grace.
Be as you are.
Off with past impressions.
He who lives from within an ingathered soul-life
is a real Sage though he may be a householder.
He who allows his mind to wander with the senses
is an ignoramus, though he is learned.
See as a witness, without the burden of seeing.
See the world just as you see a drama.
See without attachment, Look within.
Look at the inner light unshaken by mental impressions.
Then, floods of conscious bliss
shall come pouring in and around you from all directions.
This is the supreme Knowledge;
realise! Aum Aum!"

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sivanarul, yes I have often read Bhagavan quoting Thayumanavar. What he says in his final instructions are similar to Bhagavan's teachings, especially when he says:

1. Find out the thought-centre and fix yourself there.
2. He is in every heart. You need not go anywhere to find Him.
3. Find your own core and feel Him there.
4. Trust in the Divine in you. Entrust yourself to His Grace. Be as you are.
5. Look at the inner light unshaken by mental impressions.

Thank for this message by the sage Thanumanavar.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan has said:

Prarabdha concerns only the out-turned, not the in turned-mind.

A friend of mine explained this beautifully today. While explaining this quotation of Bhagavan he said that 'destiny' comes from 'destination'. Therefore the destination of our mind is fixed as per Isvara's command. In other words whenever the mind wants to act, it can only act as per the script laid down in our prarabdha, and thereby reach the particular destination in each action. Though our prarabdha controls our mind's outward activities, it is free to turn within and subside within any time it wants. This freedom is absolute.

Amboseli said...

Sivanarul,
Thayumanavar's testamentary advices are really well-balanced, well-considered, well-founded, well-meaning and well-meant.
But unfortunately his recommendations do not provide any tangible evidence or instructions how to deal with a resolute,rebellious, resisting, uncooperative, stubborn, resistant and reluctant ego. For instance :"He who allows his mind to wander with the senses is an ignoramus,...". Dear Thayumanavar, tell us what we should do with that allowing ego. Shall we jump out of the window or from the top of the templetower/gopuram ? Or shall we better be burnt at the stake ?

Sivanarul said...

Amboseli,
Thayumanavar answers that in a separate verse (Kadum Karaiyum ManaKurungu...) where he asks the Sadhaka to see what gain has he gained by going after the monkey mind's jumping here and there. One of the insights one gains along the path (experientially) is the clear seeing that the body and mind can never be satisfied. The body, provided it is healthy, can be reasonably satisfied, for periods of time, with basic needs met. The mind is never going to be satisfied, other than for very brief period of time when a desire gets fulfilled. Once this is seen clearly, the monkey's mind's activities automatically start to decline.

Then one needs to look at what the mind is feeding on a daily basis. In the current era of non-stop entertainment and information, the mind’s insatiable hunger can be fed non-stop. When one realizes their favorite tv shows has really no larger purpose in life, the desire for them weans automatically. Similar thing happens in the area of information seeking. While in today’s connected world, it may be impossible to be fully disconnected with events, it nevertheless will be seen as pointless in knowing about various things on a daily basis.

As Bhagavan has said “If the world appears, Self will not appear. If the Self appears, world will not appear”. Basically the aspirant has to make firm choice. He is not going to get both the world and the Self. Once the above has happened, this choice becomes easy as the aspirant sees that the world cannot really be had. Hence the only choice left for him is to have the Self.

At this point serious Sadhana begins and grace has started its work. The power of Maya is still in play and will do its best to interest the Sadhaka in the world again (by changing the person’s circumstances etc). But since grace has started its work (it was always working, but now it’s action can be felt), Maya does not have the same influence it had before and hence Sadhaka has a powerful ally in defense. Nevertheless the sadhaka is strongly advised to be on the lookout. Once serious Sadhana has commenced, it is out of the hands of the Sadhaka and fully in the hands of grace. The only thing the Sadhaka can do is to intensify his effort to the extent his responsibilities let him do and wait for the grace to consume him.

Here is the verse from Thayumanavar:
What availeth it to run after mind monkey
That raceth fast through plain and forest?
This indeed is the opportune time
To love and seek the Grace
Of the Pervasive Light of Compassionate Grace
That danceth as the One, the many and the Life of life.
Come, come together, ye men of the world.

Sivanarul said...

The full songs of Thayumanavar is available for free from:
https://www.himalayanacademy.com/view/the-songs-of-tayumanavar

Here is a sample:

Thou, the Being Absolute beyond speech!
The Ocean of Bliss!
The Light Effulgent!
Leaving me in invincible maya,
Where did Thou hide?
Alas! Alas!
Thou have offered me
A victim to that dark God of Death.
So hard hearted is he
that easier far is it
to spin yarn out of stone
Then to expect mercy from him.
So tightfisted is he
That he would contain a whole sea
In a grain of mustard.
Oh! Why did Thou do this -
I know not.

Knowing not night from day,
Will I be immersed in the Sea of Bliss?
Will I be dissolved and melted
In Love Infinite?
Hailing Thee as ''My Father, my Love!''
Will I like a child, plaintive weep,
Shedding tears in streams
And so grow mad?
Will I ever swim ashore from
The sea of sorrows?
Thou, that is Bliss Form!
Thou, that is Light Divine!

Sivanarul said...

In fullness undiminished,
Immersed in the blemishless water of jnana,
And verily drowned there.
And without allowing me to raise my head,
Imparting from deep within,
Thou, Lord, granted the shining sword of silentness!
I will not live apart from Thee.
Never apart from Thee!

Neither coming nor going,
Ever in the same state unchanged,
Thou art the Supreme Bliss
That hath in me mixed
As cane, honey and the triple fruit, as it were!
I think not of Thee
And melt not in love of Thee.
Is my heart steel, stone or wood -
I know not which.

Carlos Grasso said...

Sivanarulji,

Beautiful my friend, beautiful...

Yours in Bhagavan,
Carlos

R Viswanathan said...


Probably many might know that Sri David Godman along with Sri Robert Butler and Dr. T.V. Venkatasubramanian wrote an interesting article on Bhagavan and Thayumanavar.
They stated that Bhagavan was some times so emotionally moved when he read out verses by
Thayumanavar, he would be unable to continue.

Here is the link if anyone will be interested:
http://davidgodman.org/rteach/Thayumanavar.pdf

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Michael writes in this article (in the last paragraph of section 4):

From the perspective of ourself as this ego, penetrating deep within ourself in order to experience ourself alone may seem to be like plunging into complete darkness, but that darkness is only an absence of any phenomenal experience, so it is only in that darkness that we will discover the full clarity of perfect, undiluted self-awareness, which alone is what we actually are. Therefore we must persevere in penetrating into the very darkest depths of ourself until we experience the infinitely bright light that shines in that darkness — the light of pure, featureless, non-dual self-awareness — which will consume our illusory ego forever.

Why does Michael say that our practice is like 'penetrating deep within ourself in order to experience ourself alone may seem to be like plunging into complete darkness'? It is very dark in our deep core within, firstly because we will experience 'absence of any phenomenal experience' here, and secondly because this darkness is the also the background darkness of our self-ignorance. It is only this background darkness or avarana maya, which gives rise to our ego and mind.

Therefore until and unless this avarana is destroyed by our penetrating beyond and beneath its darkest layer, we cannot experience ourself as we really are. Michael describes this final experience as 'infinitely bright light that shines in that darkness'. Thus our practice should be akin to diving deeper and deeper within the ocean to find the pearl. This pearl in our case in only our absolutely clear self-awareness, without the least trace of any objective awareness.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in this article (in its section 3b):

Though the ego always seems to be a form, the reason why Bhagavan says it is formless is that no form that it seems to be is essential to it, because it does not seem to be the same form whenever it rises. In one state it seems to be one form and in other states it seems to be other forms, so there is no form that can be called its own.

Yes, this is clear. Therefore we can say that this ego in its essential, unmanifested nature is formless, but we can only recognise it when it manifests as a form - as any mind and body.

Please correct the ideas expressed by me in my various comments wherever or whenever you feel it needs correction or refinement. I will be most glad and thankful if and when this is done, as I should not be stuck up with any wrong understanding on any aspect of Bhagavan's teachings.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan sings in verse 3 of Sri Arunachala Padigam:

Having by the rope of Your grace drawn me, who did
not have (the least) idea to think of You, the Lord, You
stood (determined) to kill (me) without (leaving even) a
little life. What wrong have I, (this) poor wretch, done (to
you)? What little obstacle now (remains to prevent You
from destroying me completely) ? Why to torture me thus,
keeping (me) half-alive? O Arunachala, who are the Lord!
Fulfilling (Your) intention (to destroy me completely), may
You live for long aeons (for all eternity) as the (only
existing) one!


Bhagavan is describing here the inner, hopeless state of many of the devotees. Many of us are irresistibly drawn to Bhagavan and his teachings. Thus a time comes when we no longer remain of the world, however we still do not have enough svatma-bhakti to let go of all our desires and attachments and merge forever in the absolute clarity of self-knowledge (another name for the true nature of Bhagavan).

Thus Bhagavan beautifully describes the inner state of many of his devotees. We are hopelessly hanging in the tiger's mouth and this torture is unbearable, but we foolishly go on struggling to escape our annihilation by our outward going mind. Thus our absolute annihilation is in best interest of both the tiger and its suffering victim. In other words it will bliss for both Bhagavan and this ego if it surrenders here and now.

who? said...

Therefore we can say that this ego in its essential, unmanifested nature is formless, but we can only recognise it when it manifests as a form - as any mind and body.

Sanjay , it is true that 'this ego in its essential, unmanifested nature is formless' , because in its essential nature this seeming ego is what we really are.

However , if by the word 'recognize' , we mean 'see what it really is' , then it is incorrect to say that 'we can only recognise it when it manifests as a form - as any mind and body'. When we 'recognize' the ego , it 'takes flight' (Ulladu Narpadu verse 25) , and what remains is what we really are.

Bhagavan's story about 'the wayfarer and marriage function' is apt in this context. We can say that the bride's family 'recognized' the wayfarer as being an important member of the bridegroom's family , and vice-versa.

However , in truth what they merely recognized was what the wayfarer claimed to be. When they began to doubt his identity and started to investigate into it , then only did they actually recognize him for what he really was.

So also with this ego. It only recognizes the names and forms that it takes to be itself , but if it tries to recognize its own form , it will experience itself as the formless self.

Ferryman said...

who ?,
now you mentally know all what to do.
What are you waiting for ?
You will recognize that mentally knowing (about the nature of the ego)
alone will not defeat it.
In my experience only grace will ever chase away the enemy.

Amboseli said...

Sivanarul,
thank you for description of your ideas.
Thank you too for conveying to us Thayumanavar's emotional, uplifting poetry, which is refreshing and heartrending. Surely Thayumanavar should serve for us as a shining example.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Who?, you write:

Sanjay , it is true that 'this ego in its essential, unmanifested nature is formless' , because in its essential nature this seeming ego is what we really are.

However , if by the word 'recognize' , we mean 'see what it really is' , then it is incorrect to say that 'we can only recognise it when it manifests as a form - as any mind and body'. When we 'recognize' the ego , it 'takes flight' (Ulladu Narpadu verse 25) , and what remains is what we really are.


What I meant is that how do we recognise that our ego exists, or seemingly exists? I think the only point when we recognise its seeming existence is when we experience ourself as this body and mind. That is why Bhagavan also called this ego by various other names, like, the thought called 'I' or 'I am this body idea'. We cannot experience ourself as this formless ego, and if and when we experience ourself as absolutely formless, as in our state of sleep or on atma-jnana, we experience ourself as we really are and not as an ego.

However when we look at this ego with keen interest it will definitely disappear and reveal its true form, but it will no longer remain as are ego but ourself as we really are.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Ferryman, you write:

You will recognize that mentally knowing (about the nature of the ego) alone will not defeat it. In my experience only grace will ever chase away the enemy.

Yes, I agree, but knowing about the nature of the ego is a good starting point for most us. If we come to know (as Bhagavan says in v. 25 of Ulladu Narpadu ) that this ego comes into existence only by grasping forms, we will also understand that by attending to itself alone it will certainly disappear.

Yes, eventually 'only grace will ever chase away the enemy' or this ego, but grace is also helpless if we do not love to chase it away by our inward directed efforts.

Ferryman said...

Sanjay Lohia,
You say: "we will understand that by attending to (the ego) itself alone it will certainly disappear".
But this mentally understanding alone will not be a sufficient recipe to chase away our deadly enemy.
Only lasting or long-lasting, unswerving and persistent fearless absolutely determined attentive self-investigation will be the appropriate weapon/tool.
Grace will never be helpless, because grace is just the unshakable love to chase away the enemy through untiring incessant constant atma-vichara.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Yes Ferryman, as you say, 'mentally understanding alone will not be a sufficient recipe to chase away our deadly enemy', and only our persistent, vigilant practice of self-investigation will dissolve our ego.

Yes, grace is actually never helpless because it alone exists, but it seems to be helpless as long as we experience ourself as this ego, because grace will not force 'realisation' on the ego which does not want to subside.

Actually grace is omnipotent, omniscient and an infinitely benevolent presence, and as Bhagavan has said grace is the beginning, the middle and the end of sadhana. Bhagavan acknowledges the power of grace (or power of Arunachala) in almost every second verse of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai.

However our sadhana seems to be a joint venture of grace and personal effort, at least until we experience ourself as this ego which has a will of its own. Bhagavan has clearly spoken about the need of our personal effort in the eleventh paragraph of Nan Yar?, where says emphatically, '[...];nevertheless it is necessary to proceed [behave or act] unfailingly according to the path the guru has shown'.

Therefore our sadhana entails our attending to ourself alone, so that the power of grace in our heart can operate unobstructed. Eventually our ego will subside because of the massive attracting power of grace, and what will then remain is only the infinitely bright light of pure, featureless, non-dual self-awareness (to use Michael's words).

Ferryman said...

Sanjay Lohia,
When you say, "Eventually our ego will subside because of the massive attracting power of grace..." it should make you think/suspicious that many of us seem to be under the spell of the massive attracting power of delusion/maya.
However, let us place our trust in the omnipotent power of the incomparable and superb grace Sri Arunachalaramana's who taught us how to remain as the pure self-awareness.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Ferryman, do you not experience yourself as this person, 'Ferryman', a mind and body? Do you not have highs and lows of you mind? Do you not encounter problems and disappointments in your worldly life? Do you not experience duality - that is, do you not experience a limited 'I' as separate from others? If your answer to all these questions is 'yes', then you are definitely under the spell of mind or maya, and you need to make effort to annihilate your mind.

If I ask myself all the questions which I have asked you to consider, my answer to all such questions is a clear 'yes'. Therefore my ego is under the spell of maya, and therefore I need to make effort to subside my ego in the absolute clarity within, which is Bhagavan.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, though our ego and our true self are both formless, there is a difference between these two. Though Bhagavan calls the ego a formless-phantom ego in verse 25 of Ulladu Narpadu, we can never actually experience our ego its formless nature. If we experience it as such it not our ego but what we really are.

Therefore we can experience ourself as the formless, featureless reality, but this formless ego is just a concept for us. We can only experience our ego's form, which is the thought called 'I' , or this 'I am this body' idea. Though the ego catches hold of various forms at various times, it essentially remains a formless-phantom which has no form of its own but comes into existence only by catching hold of different forms at different times.

Any comment on this? Thanks.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan says in verse 8 of Sri Arunachala Padigam:

Having destroyed (in me) the intelligence to know the way of making a living in the world, You have made (me) worthless. If You keep (me) thus (in this condition), it will not be happiness for anyone (for me, for You or for the world) but only misery. Death indeed is better than this (kind of) life. O supreme who have taken the form of Aruna Hill, which shines on earth as the medicine for the madness (of desire for the world)! Graciously bestow upon me who, (in spite of) being possessed by the madness (of love for You), am deprived of the fruit (of Jnana), the rare medicine (of your grace) which will unite (me) with your Feet (that is, which will make me one with your supreme state of Self).

Yes, many of us have lost our intelligence and have forgotten the art of making more and more money, thus we are to a more or a less degree worthless from the worldly perspective! Having come to such a state if we do not still attain the state of atma-jnana, will we not be in no man's land, that is, we will neither remain of the world nor of the spirit.

This we have no option now but to strive like a madman to complete the task of annihilating our ego, by our practice of self-investigation.

Ferryman said...

Sanjay Lohia,
when I quoted you saying "Eventually our ego will subside because of the massive attracting power of grace..." I only wanted to direct your attention to the fact that two main driving forces are at work:grace and maya.
I did not make any assertion that I am not under the spell of maya -as you seem to insinuate that I have said. In no way I did exempt myself when I have said "many of us seem to be under the spell of the massive attracting power of delusion/maya".
Nothing could be further from my mind than to hurt your feelings or to critisize your comments, but to my mind in some of your numerous comments you seem to prefer plagiarizing garrulousness to careful formation of own opinion/correspondence.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Ferryman, you have written in your comment,'to my mind in some of your numerous comments you seem to prefer plagiarizing garrulousness to careful formation of own'.

I was not clear about the meaning of the terms 'plagiarizing' and 'garrulousness', so looked at a dictionary and found that they mean:

plagiarism (n.): an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author.

garrulous (adj.): excessively talkative in a rambling, roundabout manner, especially about trivial matters.

Yes, I agree that I write in a garrulous manner. What to do, our love for Bhagavan's teachings sometimes makes us just ramble unnecessarily, but as Michael has said, it is better to ramble around the topic of Bhagavan and his teachings than to ramble around trivial worldly topics.

I really thought that you are saying that you are not effected by maya , when you wrote, 'When you say, "Eventually our ego will subside because of the massive attracting power of grace..." it should make you think/suspicious that many of us seem to be under the spell of the massive attracting power of delusion/maya.
However, let us place our trust in the omnipotent power of the incomparable and superb grace Sri Arunachalaramana's who taught us how to remain as the pure self-awareness'.

I am sorry if I misunderstood your comments. Anyway thank you for clarifying you stand, which is, 'I did not make any assertion that I am not under the spell of maya -as you seem to insinuate that I have said. In no way I did exempt myself when I have said "many of us seem to be under the spell of the massive attracting power of delusion/maya'.

Yes, are sadhana is only because we seem to be under the sway of maya.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Michael had written in a comment address to Sivanarul dated 24 May 2015 as follows:

1. Because it needs to be constantly grasping and experiencing other things, the ego is always looking for the stimulus of fresh experiences, which are like a drug to which it is addicted, and thus this is why solitary confinement with minimum variety of sensual stimuli becomes such a torture for it.

2. For the 'one' the present is ever present, so it revels blissfully in that ever-present presence, which is itself, because it is not only presence (sat or asti) but also awareness (cit or bhati) and happiness (ananda or priya).


In our sastras it is said that our atma-svarupa is an ever new and an ever fresh experience, but our ego only goes after ever fresh and ever new experience of a different variety, by constantly trying to cling to stimulus of its fresh sensory experiences and other thoughts. Thus to get over this drug like addiction, we need to constantly cling to ourself alone.

In the beginning our mind will strongly rebel against our trying to investigate ourself alone constantly, but we should persevere in it. There is no other way to get over our addiction to our thoughts and sensory objects.

Thus, however boring our practice of self-attentiveness will seem in the beginning, we should continue it with our whole hearted interest. Eventually we will find it to be a torture to think thoughts or to look at sensory objects. In fact no thoughts or sensory objects will remain when we destroy our ego by merging it permanently in our atma-avarupa. What will then remain is only our non-dual experience of sat-chit-ananda or asti-bhati-priya. We should just revel or take delight in it alone!

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, on the July 2015 page of Sri Ramanasramam calendar the following quote of Bhagavan is printed. It has been taken from Padamalai, page 175, vv. 122, 123:

A mind that has dissolved in the state of God, and ceased to exist, will not be aware of any activity that needs to be performed because, when the ego, which has the idea that it is the performer of actions, has been completely destroyed, the idea that something needs to be accomplished ends.

Reflections: 1. 'State of God' is same as our true state of absolutely pure, featureless, non-dual self-awareness, without the least trace of any objective awareness.
2. According to Bhagavan the term 'mind' means either the ego or ego plus all its thoughts. In the context of this quote it means specifically only the destruction of our ego, but when our ego is destroyed, all its thoughts are automatically destroyed.
3. As long as we have even the least notion of doership (notion that any activity needs to be performed), our ego is intact.
4. Other names for the term 'mind' are ego, chit-jada-granthi, thought called 'I', 'I am the body' idea, self-ignorance and maya.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, in my previous comment I had quoted from Padamalai. Are these verses written by Bhagavan or by Muruganar? I suspect these are by Muruganar, and not by Bhagavan, as I had written earlier.

Thanking you and pramams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, the verses of பாதமாலை (pādamālai) were all composed by Sri Muruganar, but in many of them he quotes what Bhagavan said, and those verses in which he does so generally end with the words ‘என் பாதம்’ (eṉ pādam), which mean ‘say the feet’, in which ‘the feet’ (pādam) refer to Bhagavan. For example, the two verses you quote are verses 515 and 516 in the original, both of which end ‘என் பாதம்’ (eṉ pādam), so they both record what Bhagavan said.

R Viswanathan said...


There is a book in English on 'Padamalai' Author: Muruganar Edited and translated by David Godman, T. V. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler.

This is what Sri David Godman stated in the link: http://davidgodman.org/books/padamalai.shtml

Padamalai contains well over a thousand teaching statements made by Sri Ramana Maharshi, none of which has appeared in English before. They were recorded in two-line Tamil verses by Muruganar, one of Sri Ramana’s foremost devotees.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you Michael and Vishwanathan for the information about Muruganar's work Padamalai. As we know Muruganar was so attuned to his sadguru's teachings that even if did not write en padam (say the feet), we should assume that whatever he wrote are Bhagavan's undiluted or undistorted teachings. Moreover I believe Bhagavan had himself confirmed that Muruganar had attained jnana, thus a jnani's grasping and understanding power is a thousand times better than our grasping or understanding ability.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Michael has written in his article titled: The need for manana and viveka: reflection, critical thinking, discrimination and judgement (in its section 9) as follows:

Arunachala, who shine as the form of guru, accept [me as your slave and rule over me], completely destroying [my] defects and making me be perfection.
[v. 19 of Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai]

The fact that Sri Ramana indicated that the silent and motionless (acala) form of Arunachala is the external form of the guru accords perfectly with his teaching that the real teaching is silence. The silence he was referring to is the real nature of ourself, so to experience it or to ‘listen’ to its teaching we must turn our mind within to attend to ourself alone. Arunachala is therefore an external symbol or manifestation of the silence that we really are, and hence he taught that it has an incomprehensible and ineffable power to turn our mind inwards.

Therefore whatever external help we may need to motivate, encourage or impel us to turn within is already provided to us in the form of the clear teachings of Sri Ramana and the silent presence of Arunachala, so we cannot reasonably expect to gain anything from any ‘living guru’ or ‘human Guru’ that we cannot gain from either or both of these two external sources. Whatever else we may need can be found only within — by turning our mind away from all external things and trying to experience ourself alone.


Yes, as Michael says here, 'The fact that Sri Ramana indicated that the silent and motionless (acala) form of Arunachala is the external form of the guru accords perfectly with his teaching that the real teaching is silence'. Bhagavan's guru, Arunachala, and Bhagavan's teachings are both pointing towards the same practice - that is, we should remain silent (self-focused) and motionless and this is the only way to attain supreme happiness which is our true nature. The form of Arunachala is as abstract as the practice of self-investigation, which Bhagavan is trying to teach us

Therefore, I am fully convinced when Michael says, 'Therefore whatever external help we may need to motivate, encourage or impel us to turn within is already provided to us in the form of the clear teachings of Sri Ramana and the silent presence of Arunachala'. I believe that all the various teachings of all the spiritual literatures available in the world are only coming close to pointing to us what Bhagavan has explained us so clearly in his crisp, concise and simple teaching.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan's poem Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai is unsurpassed in its beauty and sublimity. Some even say that no other spiritual hymn comes anywhere near its heart melting love and prayer to God.

It mainly teaches us how and for what we should pray for, when we pray to our sadguru or God. That is, it teaches us that we should pray to our sadguru only for his unlimited grace, or to destroy our ego. In short we should pray only for more and more jnana and vairagya. Any other prayer for our worldly wants or desires is foolishness, or at least shows our spiritual immaturity.

In Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, Bhagavan also subtly and as an undercurrent to the poem, teaches us the practice of atma-vichara (implicitly or explicitly). A few of such verses are typed below:

V.1: O Arunachala, You root out the ego of those who think 'Arunachalam' in the heart.
V.8: O Arunachala, Show me your beauty so that, by seeing you uninterruptedly, my mind, which (by nature) wanders about the world, may subside (in You, the real Self, and never leaving you).
V.44: O my Arunachala, you said, 'Turning back, daily see the 'I' with the inner eye; it will (then), be known'.
V.46: O Arunachala, of what use is this birth without vichara-jnana (knowledge born of self-enquiry)? (Therefore) come to make it (my birth) worthy (by graciously enabling me to attain such knowledge).
V.47: O my Arunachala, bestow Your grace to make me merge in Self, Your reality, in which only those who are pure in mind and speech can merge.
V.57: O Arunachala, when will the waves of thoughts in me cease, so that I unite with You, the form of the extremely subtle space (of self consciousness)?
V.59: O Arunachala, when, melting more and more (with intense devotion), I merged in you as my refuge, you stood unveiled (as the mere existence-consciousness-bliss, devoid of the veiling adjuncts of name and form).
V.101: O Arunachala! like ice in water, graciously melt me as love in you, the form of love.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, I received the latest Mountain Path (July-September 2015 issue) today, and read the article: The Paramount Importance of Self Attention by Sadhu Om, as recorded by Michael James. I found its following portions interesting and worth remembering:

1. Even the jnani is ignorant, because there is nothing other than himself for him to know.
2. When we are able to abide as self, books are unnecessary, but if our minds are still drawn outwards due to the power of our vishaya-vasanas [inclinations or desires to experience things other than ourself], then Bhagavan's teachings are necessary. Reading his works is sat-sanga [association with what is real]. [...]Whenever our minds go outwards, Bhagavan draws us back to the shore by the single rope of his teachings, the study of which is sat-sanga, sravana and manana.
3. There is a Tamil saying that Bhagavan, his teachings and his devotees are one.
4. Time and place are each like a triangular prison. The three walls of the time prison are the past, present and future, whereas the three walls of the place prison are the first, second and third persons. We seem to be bound within these triangular prisons because we are always attending only to the past or future or to second or third persons, but never try to attend to the precise present moment or the first person alone. [...]Therefore to 'escape' from the triangular prison of time and place, all we need to do is to turn our attention back towards the non-existent first person or present moment, because we will then find that we have always been in the vast open space of pure self-awareness.
5. All we need to understand is that whatever we see outside is only our own being-consciousness projected through the lens of our mind and senses.
6. Those who are fortunate to come to Bhagavan and to study his teachings deeply will learn more from them than they could learn from studying all other sacred texts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
Arunachala Venba ! Arunachala Venba ! Arunachala Venba !
Bye !

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, in the latest Mountain Path there is an article by Kitty Osborne, titled When I was a Little Girl. This is her reminiscence, as she and her family had lived at Tiruvannamalai during the days when Bhagavan was in body. I have taken some interesting portions of the article (typed in bold) and have typed my reflections on it below each portion:

1. Everyone showed Bhagavan their letters, either from home about family or if they were of significance in any other way, and Bhagavan took a keen interest in it all.
Thus Bhagavan's love was open to all, and all could feel and reciprocate this love by sharing the inner most details of their lives with him.

2. Bhagavan said, "If Kitty remembers Bhagavan then Bhagavan will remember Kitty." That remark of his has helped me through many of life's vicissitudes in times to come.
This is oft-repeated comment of Bhagavan, and deeply significant. Our love for our sadguru has to be a two-way affair. He is always loving us as his own self, but are we reciprocating his love? It is this reciprocation which will produce results in our inward efforts.

3. Every morning he [Bhagavan] read the newspapers and Mouni Swami would bring in the post
Though in Bhagavan's view their were no others and no world separate from him, but in our view he led a most normal outward life, as if the world was real for him.

4. Bhagavan loved to hear the Vedas and when the pujaris came in and sat near his couch and started to sing, then he sat up straight and listened with intense concentration.
Thus Bhagavan by his example showed us the importance of Vedas, and the knowledge it contains.

5. If he gave a hint [...] his touch was so light and subtle that one person in a room full of people might get a message and know it was for him, while the rest just carried on with whatever they were discussing and not realise that anything momentous had happened.
A fine example and hint for us, aspirants to share Bhagavan's teachings with others as lightly as possible. Bhagavan valued humility a lot. As he says in the twentieth paragraph of Nan Yar?, 'To the extent we behave humbly, to that extent there is goodness [or virtue]'.

6. My brother and sister and I would show Bhagavan our toys and he would inspect them gravely, giving as much attention to a doll which could open its eyes as he did to a question of deep philosophical meaning; but when the story and chat time were over we knew at once.
As Michael has also told us that when he lived on the hill, he used to play firecrackers with little children who used to come to him. How natural he was!

Sir (Michael), did you meet Kitty and her family while you were in Tiruvannamalai?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan says in verse 1076 of GVK:

One’s becoming confused by scrutinizing, due to delusion, principles [tattvas] other than the supremeprinciple, Self, is just like undergoing the pain of thoroughly scrutinizing a barber’s worthless rubbish instead of collectively discarding it.

Sadhu Om: The same idea is also expressed by Sri Bhagavan in the following passage of Who am I?: “Just as it is fruitless for one to scrutinize the rubbish which should be collectively discarded, so it is fruitless for one who should know himself to count the number and scrutinize the properties of the tattvas [the principles which constitute the world, soul and God] which are veiling oneself,
instead of collectively casting all of them aside.” Sri Bhagavan here condemns the way in which scholars waste their time by reading, learning by heart, discussing and endlessly arguing about the details regarding how the universe is created from the five elements, regarding the functioning of the pranas, jnanendriyas,
karmendriyas, nadis and so on in the body, regarding the various kinds of jivas, and regarding all the other innumerable such classifications given in the scriptures. Since all these principles or tattvas are only second or third persons, the non-Self [anatma], one should not waste one’s time in scrutinizing them, but should instead scrutinize Self, the only real principle, through the enquiry
‘Who am I?’



In fact our entire study and almost infinite experiments in science and medicine is nothing but similar to scrutinizing a barber's worthless rubbish. Likewise, our various performing and other forms of arts are nothing but investigating the same worthless rubbish. In this entire world-appearance is exactly like a dream, our trying to know anything about this person we take to ourself, this world and God which we take to be other than ourself is like trying to know about our dream objects or dream experiences. Thus as Sri Sadhu Om says, 'one should not waste one’s time in scrutinizing them, but should instead scrutinize Self, the only real principle, through the enquiry ‘Who am I?’

Sivanarul said...

Sanjay wrote “In fact our entire study and almost infinite experiments in science and medicine is nothing but similar to scrutinizing a barber's worthless rubbish”

Sanjay, when you write statements like that, the credibility of Bhagavan’s teaching goes down. I understand you write it out of enthusiasm for Bhagavan’s teachings, but it does not have to be shown by calling science and medicine as worthless rubbish. The very medium you are using to communicate is based on science. So it is worthful, at least to the extent it allows you to call it worthless, using it.

Unless one has attained the state Bhagavan did, like undergoing a surgery without anesthesia, there is no point in calling medicine rubbish. Please try having a root canal without local anesthesia and let us know how it went. Until then, it is better to be thankful to the incredible benefits science and medicine has provided us.

Ferryman said...

Sivanarul,
our dear fellow man Sanjay Lohia consistently seems to be convinced that there can be no other/better sadhana for him than freqent enthusiastical exchange of words.

Sivanarul said...

Ferryman,
Each of us is at a different level of spiritual maturity and for some I can understand that Sadhana entails frequent exchange of words, like it does for our friend Sanjay. The conversations I have had in this blog have helped me, so I don’t find anything astray in having frequent conversation. In my opinion, it has gone astray when the conversation involves frequent putting down of everything other than what one likes and practices.

Some of our friend’s recent writings included:
“Friends, Bhagavan's poem Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai is unsurpassed in its beauty and sublimity. Some even say that no other spiritual hymn comes anywhere near its heart melting love and prayer to God.

It mainly teaches us how and for what we should pray for, when we pray to our sadguru or God. That is, it teaches us that we should pray to our sadguru only for his unlimited grace, or to destroy our ego. In short we should pray only for more and more jnana and vairagya. Any other prayer for our worldly wants or desires is foolishness, or at least shows our spiritual immaturity.”

Well, Bhagavan prayed to Arunachala asking Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill (Typhoid) and grant her Moksha. He could have prayed for her only getting Moksha. By praying for his mother’s bodily cure, his prayer can be construed as a worldy want. Was he spiritually immature? If one does not believe in prayer for worldy things, that’s fine. But you don’t have to put it down. Worldy thing does not mean more money and more comforts alone. It could mean a cancer patient’s silent prayer to God to provide relief from pain. It could mean a depressed man asking for help to combat depression. It could mean a person who is going through a difficult time asking God to give him the strength to combat it. Prayer is a time tested powerful tool affirmed by Bhagavan’s action.

Bhagavan never permitted anything being put down in his presence. He did not even put down the robbers who hit him. He said it was their Dharma to hit and it is our Dharma to bear it. When devotees did things that everyone else would call it wrong, he simply told that it was their vasanas coming out. When devotees compared Sri Ramakrishna’s Jnana with his, he admonished and dismissed any such comparison immediately.

I have written this a few times before and I will write it again. It is my firm belief that for many spiritual aspirants, a careful study of Bhagavan’s actions is more useful than his writings.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Ferryman, You have written a comment as follows:

our dear fellow man Sanjay Lohia consistently seems to be convinced that there can be no other/better sadhana for him than freqent enthusiastical exchange of words.

In this regards I would like to share with you what Michael wrote in a comment addressed to Palaniappan dated 8 August 2014 14:03:

Bring self-attentive is the best sat-sanga, and the next best sat-sanga is keeping our mind dwelling on his [Bhagavan's] teachings.

Therefore it is certainly much better if we are able to constantly practise self-attentiveness instead of writing on this blog, but since I am not able to achieve this constantly, the next thing best thing in my view is to do as much sravana and manana of Bhagavan's teachings. I consider writing on this blog to be a powerful form of manana.


As Sivanarul implies in his latest comment, we each have to decide what works for us best. Until the means is serving our end or purpose, we should stick to it. The purpose of our sravana and manana is just to motivate us to practise more and more self-investigation. Of course our sravana and manana itself does makes us do at least some nididhyasana.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sivanarul, you have written:

Sanjay wrote "In fact our entire study and almost infinite experiments in science and medicine is nothing but similar to scrutinizing a barber's worthless rubbish".

Unless one has attained the state Bhagavan did, like undergoing a surgery without anesthesia, there is no point in calling medicine rubbish. Please try having a root canal without local anesthesia and let us know how it went. Until then, it is better to be thankful to the incredible benefits science and medicine has provided In fact our entire study and almost infinite experiments in science and medicine is nothing but similar to scrutinizing a barber's worthless rubbish".
us.


You are right from the perspective of our vyavahrika satya (transactional or wordly truth), but I reflecting on this topic from the perspective of our paramarthika satya (the absolute truth). Let us reflect on Bhagavan's words:

Bhagavan says in the seventh paragraph on Nan Yar: That which actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self]. The world, soul and God are kalpanaigaḷ [imaginations, fabrications, mental creations or illusory superimpositions] in it, like [the imaginary] silver [seen] in a shell. These three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously. Svarūpa [our ‘own form’ or essential self] alone is the world; svarūpa alone is ‘I’ [our ego, soul or individual self]; svarūpa alone is God; everything is śiva-svarūpa [our essential self, which is śiva, the absolute and only truly existing reality].

A visitor said, 'All are said to be Brahman.' Bhagavan replied, 'Yes, they are. But so long as you think that they are apart they are to be avoided. If on the other hand they are found to be Self there is no need to say "all". For all that exists is only Brahman. There is nothing besides Brahman... When you see them as many they are asat, i.e., unreal. Whereas, when you see them as Brahman they are real,...
(Talk 310, 1st Jan. 1937)

(I will continue this in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

(continued from my previous comment)

Therefore science and medical advancements are useful to us if we consider ourself and this world-appearance to be real, but are they real? According to Bhagavan, all the three, ego, world and a separate God are just our imaginations. If suppose this waking state is a dream, will not all its scientific discoveries and
medical advancements be also part of our dream? It is only from this angle that I had written that 'In fact our entire study and almost infinite experiments in science and medicine is nothing but similar to scrutinizing a barber's worthless rubbish'.

Incidentally root canal is dangerous treatment with a lot of harmful side effects. You can see internet on this topic. Like chemotherapy and radiation are controversial medical procedures for the treatment of cancer, likewise root canal is strongly opposed by even many medical doctors. This is not to say that we should not have ourself or our near and dear ones treated when they fall ill. It is just that we may be over treating ourselves in many cases, when simple, natural, home and diet treatments can work better.



Sanjay Lohia said...

Sivanarul, since we are discussing on the topic of science, the following extracts from Michael's article Science and self-investigation will be worth considering:

If there is no external world, all the theories of science are false, because they are all beliefs that entail belief in an external world. Therefore, to try to prove the existence of an external world by means of any scientific theory would entail circular reasoning — that is, it would assume as one of its premises the conclusion that it is trying to prove.

When Sri Ramana says that the world is unreal, he is not merely saying as modern physics says that it is not as it appears to be, but is saying that it does not exist at all independent of our mind that experiences it. And according to him, even the mind that experiences this world is itself unreal: it does not actually exist at all, so if we investigate it it will disappear, and along with it the entire appearance of this world will also cease to exist.

Thinking about science or anything else other than ‘I’ is a distraction that diverts our attention away from ourself towards other things. Therefore, if we are to experience what this ‘I’ is, we must give up investigating or attending to anything else, and must instead investigate only ‘I’ by attending to it exclusively.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sivanarul, this is in response to your comment in response to my post on Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai and prayer. You have written:

Well, Bhagavan prayed to Arunachala asking Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill (Typhoid) and grant her Moksha. He could have prayed for her only getting Moksha. By praying for his mother’s bodily cure, his prayer can be construed as a worldy want. Was he spiritually immature?

Was he spiritually immature? My counter question to you will be, was he doing any sadhana or was his ego intact, when Bhagavan prayed to Arunachala for union with it or prayed for the destruction of his ego? Certainly not, as we know that his ego had been destroyed long before these verses were composed. Therefore he was acting as a sadhaka in many of the verses of Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai. He was just praying on our behalf as an example to us. You have also written:

Bhagavan never permitted anything being put down in his presence. He did not even put down the robbers who hit him. He said it was their Dharma to hit and it is our Dharma to bear it. When devotees did things that everyone else would call it wrong, he simply told that it was their vasanas coming out. When devotees compared Sri Ramakrishna’s Jnana with his, he admonished and dismissed any such comparison immediately.

Yes, his actions are his powerful teachings for our vyavaharika or worldly life. No doubt it is worth emulating as we consider ourself to be a person, but we cannot ignore his written and spoken teachings which are constantly directing us within to investigate ourself alone in complete isolation from everything else, and to experience ourself as we really are.

You write, 'Well, Bhagavan prayed to Arunachala asking Arunachala to cure his mother’s bodily ill (Typhoid) and grant her Moksha. He could have prayed for her only getting Moksha. By praying for his mother’s bodily cure [...]'. Yes, for some of us his prayer to Arunachala asking Arunachala to cure his mother's typhoid is more important, and for some of us his prayer to grant her moksha is more important. Bhagavan did ultimately grant moksha to his mother, so that is more important from my perspective.

Yes, prayers to sadguru or God are needed by many, but for many their prayers are only for jnana or moksha. Sri Sadhu Om says that we usually graduate from kamya bhakti to nishkamya bhakti to our sadguru or God, and this in turn matures us to turn to only niskamya, svatma-bhakti. In this sense I wrote that prayer for worldly wants is a sign of our immaturity.
(I will continue this in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

(continued from my previous comment)

Moreover when I wrote, 'It mainly teaches us how and for what we should pray for, when we pray to our sadguru or God. That is, it teaches us that we should pray to our sadguru only for his unlimited grace, or to destroy our ego. In short we should pray only for more and more jnana and vairagya [...]', I was writing from the perspective of his poem Sri Arunachala Aksaramanamalai (which does represent Sri Arunachala Stutu Panchakam as a whole). In these poems does he ever pray for anything even remotely connected to our worldly wants? I do not think so.

Moreover Bhagavan has already decided our good and bad worldly experiences for this life (as he does for our every embodiment), and this is for our own spiritual good. So why should he change this only because of our prayer. Our prayers could be like going to cinema show and praying that the preordained script in the cinema should change as per our likes and dislikes. Well the director and the editor of the cinema have already decided the script and we will see only that. Likewise, we will experience only what is written in our prarabdha. As Michael had once said, our prayers are not always answered, and thank God they are not always answered because we pray for all sort of foolish things. Even when our prayers are seemingly answered, this is most likely because this was already written in our prarabdha.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to write my views. We may differ on some matters, but our love for Bhagavan and his love for us makes us one in our pursuit.

Sleepwalker said...

Michael,
You say in the last sentence of section 2a. Upadesa Undiyar verse 23: What exists is what is aware:
"We experience a deficiency in happiness only when we are aware of anything other than ourself, and that is because we are then not experiencing ourself as we really are but only as an ego, so it is only the rising of this illusory ego and its experience of other things that obscures our awareness of ourself as the infinite happiness that we really are".
The heading of section 3.is: "Our ego is distinct from brahman only in appearance, not in substance"
I make a protest against that statement, for the simple reason that if you describe something as illusory , you mean that although it seems true , it is in fact false. Consequently it follows from this that a false thing cannot have any substance at all.
Often in your articles you say that the ego comes into existence only as a seeming entity. How can a only seeming thing and confused mixture which is not real have any substance ?
Seeming means appearing to be the case but not necessarily the case.

For instance you say in the headings of section 2 , 11 and 12 of the mentioned article of 28 May 2015 The ego is essentially a formless and hence featureless phantom:
"The ego is a phantom and hence insubstantial"
"The ego does not actually exist"
"The ego is a confused mixture of self-awareness and awareness of other things".

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Sivanarul had referred to Bhagavan's prayer to Arunachala for his mother's recovery. I have located this in the The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi by Arthur Osborne:

Arthur Osborne: In 1914 Bhagavan's mother paid a brief visit to him at Tiruvannamalai. While there she had a severe attack of fever, which some thought to be typhoid. Her life was despaired of and Bhagavan composed the following verses for her recovery. Needless to say, she recovered. Two years later she came and took up her abode permanently at Bhagavan's ashram on the hill.
* * * * * * * * *
* Oh Lord, Hill of my refuge, who curest the ills of recurrent births, it is for Thee to cure my mother's fever.
* Oh God who slayest death! Reveal Thy feet in the Heart-Lotus of her who bore me to take refuge at Thy Lotus-Feet and shield her from death. What is death if scrutinized?
* Arunachala, thou blazing fire of Knowledge! Enfold my mother in Thy Light and make her one with Thee. What need then for cremation? (1)
* Arunachala, Dispeller of illusion! Why dost Thou delay to dispel my mother's delirium? (2) Is there any but Thee to watch as a Mother over one who has sought refuge in Thee and to rescue from the tyranny of karma?
* * * * * * * *
Notes by the editor: (1) In India the body of the Sage is buried after death, whereas others are cremated. Having passed through the fire [of jnana] during life, he does not need to do again after death. The Mother attained Liberation before death and was buried, as this verse foresees.
(2) By delirium is meant not merely the physical fever but the 'I-am-the-body' illusion.

Reflection: Are these verses merely a prayer by Bhagavan for mothers's recovery from bodily fever, or are these prayers to grant her mukti? In my opinion these are clearly prayers to grant his mother mukti. Physical fever is a metaphor for our fever of ajnana, the fever of 'I am the body' idea.

R Viswanathan said...

"I consider writing on this blog to be a powerful form of manana."

This statement of Sri Sanjay is very similar to what Sri Michael James wrote once in the article: http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-to-write-about-self.html

"For me any writing that I do is a form of manana, and therefore I write in order to keep my mind dwelling upon the need to be constantly self-attentive.

In other words, I write primarily for my own spiritual benefit, but if in this dream life — in which other people seem to be as real as our mind, which alone knows them — there are people who feel it beneficial to read what I have written, I am happy to share my writings with them.

I suppose you could call it compassion, but it is just like the compassion that a group of terminally ill patients would feel for each other. We are all after all in the same boat, struggling to overcome the self-imposed delusion in which we each now find ourself."

Ferryman said...

Sivanarul,
I did not want to "put down" Sanjay's comments.
But I hope you will applaud me or at least I will meet with your approval when I on my own part will start to copy/paste my many Ramana books and inundate Michael's blog incessantly with my comments.

Anonymous said...

It is like saying "I am going to put dust on the mirror, then I will be sure to remember I have to clean it" ! So strange the ego is, isn't it ?

Ferryman said...

Anonymus,
what other quality then did you expect from an insubstantial phantom ?

venkat said...

Dear Michael

Apologies for posting this question as a comment, but not sure if you saw the email that I sent to you a few weeks back . . .


I have just been reading Sri Ramana Darsanam by Sadhu Natanananda.

In it, on p.99, he says: Bhagavan was asked about this traditional classification [of the 7 stages of knowledge] in Upadesa Manjari. Bhagavan replied to the effect that a jnani belongs to the fourth stage (self-realisation), and the further stages of non-attachment, non-perception of objects and transcendence are based on the experiences of a jivanmukta. But that as far as knowledge and release are concerned, no distinction is made.

I've never read Bhagavan talking about these stages before - esp in Guru Vachaka Kovai - so was wondering how these stages fitted in with abiding in the self until no subject / object duality is perceived, which seems to be the 6th stage in this schema?

Sorry to trouble you yet again.

Best wishes,

venkat

Sanjay Lohia said...

Thank you, Viswanathan, for sharing with us this comment of Michael:

For me any writing that I do is a form of manana, and therefore I write in order to keep my mind dwelling upon the need to be constantly self-attentive.

Yes, this is the very reason I seem to be writing on this blog. Bhagavan has emphasised that there is only one jiva and that jiva is 'you'. Therefore everything or everybody else I experience has to be my imagination or my dream, so how can I really write for somebody else when others actually do not exist? Therefore our reflections, whether they are mental or in writing, has to be primarily for our (this one jiva's) benefit only.

Obviously as long as we experience ourself as this person, 'Sanjay' or 'Viswanathan', there is an apparent joy in sharing, especially if such sharing entails our beloved sadguru's teachings.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, since we were discussing 'prayers' yesterday, I thought it fit to share with you all some extracts from Michael's comment dated 12 September 17:58:

If it was a general rule that all prayers are answered, it would be disastrous and create chaos, because people pray for all sort of things, and what they pray for is not necessarily good for themselves or for others. Moreover, in war, for example, or even in a sports match, there will be people on both sides praying that their side will win, so whose prayer is to be answered?

If he [Bhagavan] said that prayers are granted, perhaps he meant that if we pray for the annihilation of our ego, it will be granted sooner or later, because our liking to be free of our ego will create in us the love to turn within to investigate whether this ego is real.

Any prayer is a karma, so it could be impelled either by our prarabdha or by our free will, but since in his note to his mother Bhagavan said that we cannot alter what we are destined to experience according to our prarabdha, no matter how much effort we may make to do so, we should understand that whether a prayer is made either according to prarabdha or according to free will, it will not and cannot change prarabdha.

If he [Bhagavan] has ordained our prarabdha knowing what is best for us, why should he change it just to suit our whims and fancies?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, Bhagavan prepared the translation of Adi-Shankara's Atma Bodha [68 verses in Sanskrit] in Tamil. He completed the whole work in one night! On this occasion he wrote, 'Can Shankara, the Enlightener of the Self, be different from one's own Self? Who but he, does this day, abiding as the innermost Self in me, speak this in Tamil language'?

Reflection: Bhagavan, Shankara and ourself as we really are, are one and the same. We can say the same thing about Bhagavan, 'Can Bhagavan Ramana, the enlightener of self, be different from one's own self'? Obviously he cannot be!

Since Bhagavan is not different from self, or is rather self only, he can reveal all its secrets. That is, he clearly tells us how to reach this clear self-experience. He clearly tells us how to stay with this experience. He knows its true nature. Therefore whatever Bhagavan has told us about his clear self-experience is purely based on his direct experience, with no help from scriptures.

For example in the second paragraph of Nan Yar? he says, '[...]knowledge that stands alone is 'I'. The nature of [this] knowledge ['I am'] is sat-chit-ananda [being-consciousness-bliss]'. When he said this, this was surely said because this was his clear experience. Similarly when he says in the seventh paragraph of Nan Yar?, 'That which actually exists is only atma-svarupa [our own essential self]. The world, soul and God are kalpanaigal [imaginations, mental creations or fabrications] in it [our essential self]', he was clearly speaking about his own true nature.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, you have written in a comment dated 12 October 2014 18:29, addressed to anonymous as follows. I have taken some extracts from this comment:

Though our karma-vasanas do constrain our free will to some extent, they do not bind it entirely, so if we wish we can control whether or not we allow ourself to be compelled by our karma-vasanas.

[...]though karma-vasanas do influence whatever agamya-karma we may do, the ultimate cause of it is only free will, which formed our karma-vasanas in the past and which has a controlling influence over them now.

Every thought is formed by our vasanas and is therefore a manifestation of them. Hence, since everything that we experience is a thought (that is, a mental phenomenon of one kind or another), the entire world that we experience is formed by our vasanas.


How exactly is our free will different from our karma vasanas? Do we not exercise our free will through our thoughts only? If yes, then our free will could be more closely liked with our karma-vasanas than you have mentioned above. A small clarification, whenever you get time, will be highly appreciated.

Thanking you and pranams.

R Viswanathan said...


"How exactly is our free will different from our karma vasanas? Do we not exercise our free will through our thoughts only?"

I find it hugely beneficial the notes by Sri S.S.Cohen for the chapter "Destiny and Free will" in his book "On Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi".

Some selected passages from this chapter are given below:

"Karma is the destiny created for oneself by one's free actions. In actions are included thoughts and sensations, motives, good and bad emotions etc. While working out an old destiny one is bound to create a new one by the manner in which one reacts to its operation. Here then comes the place of free-will. We are not free to alter the trend of an old karma, for example in the choice of our parents, country, the circumstances of our birth and environments; of our physical and mental fitness and abilities. These are forced on us: we cannot change them. What we can change is the manner in which we receive and work them out. We are all agreed that there are many things in which the decision lies in our hands: the decision is ours, the action is ours, the mental attitude with which we do the action is ours too. This then is the field in which we are allowed freedom of will, and it contains the seeds of our future destiny. We can shape that destiny as we will, and if, like most people, we are not aware of this truth, we allow ourselves to be carried away by our impulses and eventually land in worse trouble than we are in already. Most often, the new karma does not follow on the heel of the one which is being worked out now, so that we drag the chain of our slavery through several lives."

"Jnana is brought about by a good karma, generated by a good free-will, which is the result of persistent suffering from a bad karma, generated by a bad free-will. Karma is like an inanimate machine, which yields up what you put into it."

"the action of karma through suffering gives the impetus to jnana which destroys karma".

"Karma and free-will are, like the body, insentient, and can affect only the body and never the intelligent being who operates it and who transcends them both. Therefore, so long as the body -'I' sense prevails, they continue to function and the jiva continues to take one body after another for working out of karma; but as soon as jnana dawns they cease to bear fruit. Karma will end with the last body (of the jnani) and free-will no longer be the will of the jiva (which usually decides on the body-'I' basis) but that of Brahman into which the jiva has now completely merged."

R Viswanathan said...


The title of the book by Sri S.S. Cohen is "Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi". I missed the 'reflections' in the above post. I regret the error.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, I just now read a quote of Bhagavan Ramana on the topic of 'prayer'. I do not know its source:

A time comes when a man will no more pray for the fulfilment of material desires but for God Himself. God then appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him to Himself in answer to his prayers and according to his needs.

Therefore Bhagavan makes it clear here that a stage will come when all our prayers to God will be only in niskamya bhava (that is, prayers which are not for material things).

Does anybody know why do many sadhus and sages grow long beard? They also shave only on a particular day, I belief which is on a full moon day. What it the significance of this, if at all there is any significance? Michael also grows his beard, which becomes quite long at times. Bhagavan also used to shave on a particular day.

If nobody can throw light on this, I believe only Michael can clarify this as a last resort. Thanks.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, I agree with Cohen's view on the topic of karma, except perhaps when he says:

Jnana is brought about by a good karma, generated by a good free-will [...] Karma is like an inanimate machine, which yields up what you put into it.

What we have learnt form Bhagavan, Sri Sadhu Om and Michael is that no karma can give us jnana, at least directly. Only akarma, that is, our practice of vigilant self-investigation can give us jnana. But yes, as Cohen says, Jnana is generated by correct use of our free will. Also it is not proper to say, 'Karma is like an inanimate machine, which yields up what you put into it'. Bhagavan has explained us that all our karmas or actions are jada, hence they cannot yield their own fruit without God, the conscious power, deciding its fruits. It is only this power of God which decides the appropriate fruits of our various karmas and in which order we experience them.

It will be appropriate to look at some of the portions from the chapter Karma in Sri Sadhu Om's book, The Path of Sri Ramana - Part Two:

This Will-Power is our own Power and It is We. We and our Power are one and the same. He who has such Freedom can by His all-powerful Power either remain in His unchanging state of Self or He can bring about an imaginary change, limiting the oneness of His unlimited nature as if He had forgotten the Self.

The same power - our Perfect Freedom, which imagined a separate entity as a doer, when now, on the contrary, acts in the form of an intense Power to Will (Ichcha Shakti) and an intense Power to act (Kriya Shakti) to BE STILL, this un-equalled Power - The DYNAMIC STILLNESS destroys the insignificant, false and imaginary 'ichcha and kriya shakti' used for the creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe.

Bhagavad Gita says that it is difficult to find out the secret of karmas and how they bear fruit, and only God knows all its secrets. However Bhagavan has explained us that by investigating our ego and finding that it does not exist, we will be totally destroying our free will, destiny, vasanas, all at one time. What will remain as residue is only ourself as we really are.

But for this freedom alone, Moksha or Liberation or the complete relief from miseries would be absolutely impossible and all Gurus and scriptures from time immemorial would become unnecessary and in vain!

R Viswanathan said...

Sri Sanjay Lohia, thanks for the extracts from Sadhu Om's book, which I have read both in English and Tamil (after Sri Michael James encouraged me to read in Tamil which happens to be my mother language). I did not give full extract from Cohen's book. He brings it out beautifully thus:

"Here the salutary percepts of the Scriptures come to our rescue to make us rectify our views on life and our attitude towards others. These and the persistent knocks of destiny gradually soften our impulses, modify our outlooks, sharpens our intellect, and slowly but surely turns us into seekers; then into yogis, and finally into full-fledged Jnanis, when karma ceases. Jnana totally annihilates it. Let us not forget that all these improved changes or evolution - take place not in the man himself, but in the faculties which are superimposed on him, that is, in his views and actions."

In another place he brings in the role of grace thus:

"It may be asked that if a persistently bad free-will caused by the embitterment resulting from a persistently bad karma brings about a worse karma, which drags us down and down, where is the chance of our ever coming up to the surface again? We must not forget the saving Grace of suffering and the inherent purity of our nature, which will not permit us to remain forever insensible to degradation and misery: we cannot forever remain sunk in bottomless ignorance and never attempt to climb up to freedom. Suffering and the intense urge to return to ourselves act as floats and buoy us up from the depths of vast ocean of samsaras. Thus the action of karma through suffering gives us the impetus to jnana which destroys karma."

More often that not, I see that the comments section slowly takes us away from the main subject of the article itself, the discussion on Karma now also aiding such a drift.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Viswanathan, thank you for this additional extracts for Cohen's book. According to me, we should repeatedly read such books, especially those written by Bhagavan Ramana, Sri Muruganar, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Michael James. Their writings are constantly directing us only in one direction - towards ourself alone. Therefore such readings are a form of sat-sanga.

Yes, as Cohen says, only when our karmas cease can we become jnanis, and karma cannot cease without vigilant and prolonged practice of self-investigation. You have written:

More often that not, I see that the comments section slowly takes us away from the main subject of the article itself, the discussion on Karma now also aiding such a drift.

I do not see any harm in our such discussions, even if it drifts away from the topic of the article. As long as we are discussing spirituality in general or Bhagavan's teachings in particular, there should not be a problem. I was recently reading Maha Yoga of Bhagavan Sri Ramana by 'Who'. In the preface to the book T. N. Venkataraman (asram's ex-President) writes:

For two or three years he [K. Lakshamana Sarma] went on repeatedly revising his translations with the close help and guidance of Sri Bhagavan, who always appreciated his sincere efforts and once remarked, "It is like a great tapas for him to go on revising his translation so many times". Because of his repeated efforts to make such a faithful Sanskrit rendering of Ulladu Narpadu, Lakshmana Sarma was blessed with the opportunity of receiving long and pertinent instructions from Sri Bhagavan about the very core of His teachings.

Likewise, I believe repeating Bhagavan's direct teachings has immense value, and writing these on this blog can help all of us.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I am at present reading the book Maha Yoga of Bhagavan Sri Ramana by K. Lakshmana Sarma ('Who'). As you have written in one of your comments that this book describes the philosophy of Bhagavan's teachings quite competently but is lacking in the correct practice instructions. Yes, as I read it after a long time, what you had written seems to be true.

Lakshmana Sarma was a sincere devotee of Bhagavan who had received direct instructions from him. Thus his writings have value. Though I am enjoying reading it, it is not as clear as say Sri Sadhu Om's The Path of Sri Ramana -Part One or Michael's Happiness and the Art of Being. In one portion Lakshmana Sarma writes (chapter six, The Soul, page 86, eighth edition 1984. Please see its paragraph starting from the words 'Such a one asked the sage....').

This ego is neither the body, nor the real Self, but something arising between the two.

Is it an accurate statement? Yes, the ego is an formless ghost which takes on the characteristics of both, a body and our true self, but it does imagine itself to be a body. That is why Bhagavan also describes it as the 'I am this body' idea. Just thought to have your views on this. Please reply whenever you are free.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Friends, I have a habit of asking too many questions to our friends and guides like Michael. This is good in one sense because it shows earnestness and a open mind to learn. My questions and their answers have helped me in my inward journey. But there is another side to it. Too many questions may not be needed if we do our own sravana and manana on a regular basis. Sri Lakshmana Sarma has written on the topic of doubts in his book Maha Yoga. He writes under the chapter The Egoless State:

The Sage of Arunachala points out that the ego itself - the arch-enemy of Happiness - is the parent of all doubts. He is raising them as a means of postponing the day of his own extinction. To entertain these doubts and waste our time and energies in seeking solutions for them is to play into the hands of the enemy. The right thing to do, says the Sage, is not to go on framing questions and seeking answers - which are of little value, being merely intellectual - but to arrest the culprit - the ego -, put him in the dock, and dispose of him by the Quest of the real Self, who is the final answer to all questions. Every question that rises is vitiated by the ignorance which takes the ego at its face value, as the real Self. All questions are therefore reducible to the one: "Who am I?" This question is the Quest of the Self and nothing else, and hence there are no questions and no answers, but only Silence: so says the sage.

I think it is beautifully put by Lakshmana Sarma, except when he says, 'All questions are therefore reducible to the one: "Who am I?" This question is the Quest of the Self and nothing else, and hence there are no questions and no answers, but only Silence: so says the sage'. We have learnt from Bhagavan, Sadhu Om and Michael that our practice of self-investigation does not necessarily entails asking ourself questions such as 'who am I', but is rather a turning of our attention towards ourself alone whenever it strays towards objective thoughts and objects.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Sanjay,

I admit to being somewhat frustrated by your posts going off topic.

Sravana, manana and nididhyasana... You have said it yourself my friend. Best way!

For example your second to last question needs no more than verse 24 of Ulladu Narpadu.

My apologies if this a rather curt interjection. I tried for more words and got lost in them. Genuinely you have helped me reflect on that which is most important to me, which is my relationship with Bhagavan. Thank you.


All my best,

Neil C




Sivanarul said...

Neil C,

Sanjay left himself a way out by saying "My questions and their answers have helped me in my inward journey.". So we can expect lot more :-)

While I mostly believed that all spiritual paths ultimately led to liberation, I occasionally used to criticize certain observances (religious observances, various temple visits etc) as childish and expressed that they have a long way to travel. Our friend Sanjay, really helped me get over that and now I do not even criticize materialists :-)

So I also thank him.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Neil C., I thank you for referring verse 24 of Ulladu Narpadu. This verse and Sri Sadhu Om's explanation of it have clarified my doubt on this topic.

I am sorry to have irritated you by my irrelevant comments on this blog. I also apologise to other friends to whom I have offended or annoyed by my personal reflections as comments. I will try to post more relevant comments (that is, relevant to our discussions on this blog) in future. My apologies to Michael also.

Bob - P said...

Dear Sanjay
From my own perspective please post as much as you like I always enjoy reading your posts along with everyone elses.

The more I come to understand Bhagavan's teaching the more I see the funny side in everything and it reinforces that I must never take myself or my opinions too serioulsy.

Some times someone will post something that I disagree with, I am about to write in response with my opinion about their commnent and argue my case. But then I stop and laugh at myself. Even though I don't experience this I appreciate that according to Bhagavan there are no others even my false knowing counciouness "Bob" all there is is the one real being counciouness.

There is no one to get irritated or angry with apart from myslef and in reality there is no Bob (lol)!!!

But I still do believe myslf to be the body in the world ...

So back to practise and investigate who this Bob is who has just written this to Sanjay (lol)!!

Very funny.

In appeciataion as always to everyone who comments.
Bob

Anonymous said...

From http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/index.php?topic=7903.0


(Tr. Sadhu Tanamaya Chaitanya)

Arunachala Dhyanam:

This is Arunachala Siva who being the ocean of Grace bestows liberation upon mere remembrance!

Prefatory Verse:

Sadguru Bhagavan Sri Ramana took us as His own protege and fed us with the great mantra upadesa of 'Arunachala Siva.'.
With this name of the supreme Lord, vouchsafed to us by the grace of Sadguru Ramana, this Arunahala Venba - a hymn
of 100 verses - is composed to the sweet delight of our tongues that chant it, for the purpose of attaining salvation.

Invocation:

Sadguru Ramana Himself manifests before me as Lord Ganesa with His eyes overflowing with love and grace. Thus, may
His holy feet, which trod upon the blessed earth remain as the protection and refuge for composing this hymn on Arunachala.

Main Text:

1. For liberation from bondage, life on earth is most conducive among the three worlds (heavens, earth, and netherworlds).
Upon the face of this earth itself, India that is Bharat is the most favorable for gaining salvation. Within the Indian
subcontinent, there are several holy centers (kshetras) shining with manifold spiritual glories. The foremost among such
exalted mokshapuris is the peerless Arunachala.

2. Puranas assure liberation for any soul who takes birth in the holy town of Tiruvarur of Tyagaraja, or to anyone who visits
Chidambaram and has darshan of Lord Nataraja or who sheds his mortal coil in the holy city of Kasi. However, they assure
liberation to anyone who merely thinks of Arunachala! (Not everyone can have the blessed prarabdha merit of taking birth
in Tiruvarur or visiting Chidambaram or dying in Kasi. But anyone can remember Arunachala. Therefore self effort (purusharta)
is best invested in being devoted to Arunchala, thus bypassing the crutches of prarabdha boon).

3. Arunachala possesses ten divine faces, out of which eight are the slopes of this Holy Hill facing eight directions. While the
remaining two are the saguna aspects in the form of Arunachaleswara and His holy consort Apeetakuchamba in the great temple
distinct from the Hill at the gross physical level.

4. The holy mountains of Meru, Mandara Giri, the sky high Kailas of the Himalayas, the Vindyachala, unlike the above abodes
of Siva, Arunachala Hill is unique and most glorious as It is the very form of Siva, (Sri Bhagavan has said that the Lord Siva
identifies with this Hill as His very body just we identify ourselves with our body).

5. Lord Siva who has been worshipped in most loving hymns by such exalted saints like Tirunavukkarasar, Karaikal Ammaiyar,
and Sundaramurti Nayanara and who resides at the summit of Mount Kailas with the holy Ganga adorning His head as the
crown jewel, shines here in the form of Arunachala Hill.

continued.....

Arunachala Siva.

Anonymous said...

continues....

6. Brahma and Vishnu with the duties of creation and sustenance of this manifest universe once forgot their source which is
the Supreme Brahman and got perturbed with a rising ego, each claiming to be the foremost power. Then the 'Supreme Self
(paramtama vastu) manifested as this Hill of Fire (Agni Lingam) Arunachala upon this earth and nonchalantly quelled their egos
by turning their minds inwards.

7. If a spiritual aspirant (a tapsvi, sadhu) yearns to become sthithaprajna (that is a jnani of stead fast intellect) by dissociating
from the dreadful temptations of sense of objects worse than poison, then this Arunachala kshetra is the most conducive
place of residence for such a tapasvi (as staying near the Hill), going around the Hill as pradakshina etc., are powerful modes
of satsangh, association with sat vastu).

8. Lord 'Siva first manifested in the form of an infinite column of fire as the primordial Linga (Lingodbhava) which subsequently
settled in the form of Arunachala Hill. Upon mere remembrance of the name of or form of Arunachala, the Lord bestows
liberation to devotees. Sadguru Sri Ramana declared authentically to all his devotees that A-ru-na-cha-la is the incomparable
five syllabled mantra (panchakshari) by chanting which liberation is gained easily,

9. When a sincere seeker feels helplessly stranded and stunned as to what else to do for attaining liberation, when he finds
finally that even mastery of all scriptures and practice of all austerities are all futile in gaining Self Knowledge, and thus yearns
intensely for Grace alone in total surrender, then the Holy Hill of Arunachala beckons him to Its Lap (as the unfailing means
of liberation).

10. For those who devotees who lovingly seek refuge in Arunachala, the Hill becomes the guru who enters their hearts
and annihilates all the tormenting vasanas, causing the bliss of grace, to well from within and eventually swallowing their
misery causing individuality.

11. 'Do not delude yourself that I am merely this finite human body but know Me to be the Supreme Self by turning the
mind inward. The consciousness that is shining as 'I' is My real nature, svarupam.' - thus saying Sri Ramana, the supreme
space of pure consciousness, bestowed Grace upon those us of His own accord and took us into His fold. He is none other
than the human manifestation of this Arunachala.

12. Having composed the Bridal Garland of Letters and offered it to the bridegroom Arunachala in celebration of their wedding
and then by virtue of merging into Him, Sri Bhagavan Ramana became my loving mother and Arunachala, my father. Thus for
my eyes, this Arunachala Hill ever shines as Lord Siva with His consort Mother Parvathi.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Anonymous said...

continues.....

13. If we deem ourselves to be this perishing body, surely we shall die. However, Arunachala accomplishes the union
of the mortal Jiva with the immortal Siva by bestowing the immediate and non dual knowledge that 'I am Siva'. Lo!
There is not an iota of doubt that Arunachala is the supreme Lord who converts our mortality into His own immortal essence.

14. This little separative 'I'-thought (ego) assumes myriad roles one after another as its mask and shelter, thus perpetuating
samsara. Arunachala is the compassionate Lord who isolates the ego from its myriad false identities and finally extinguishes
it without a residue, leaving only the Self that ever shines without a veil in the Heart.

15. This separate I-thought, limiting itself to a finite mortal body suffers endless misery through sheer alienation from the
all pervasive Lord., Arunachala absorbs this divisive ego unto Itself and eliminates once for all the entirely false notion
'I am separate from the Lord'. Achieving such a wondrous seamless fusion, Arunachala alone remains as the non dual
Self, in pure kaivalya sthithi.

16. At the tender age of mere sixteen years, Maharshi Ramana attained the purest supreme Knowledge as His own
real nature and thus became the embodiment of absolute bliss reveling ever as Siva Consciousness. Surely, this divinely
austere life of Sri Ramana is suffused with Arunachala.

17. To those seekers who surrender to Arunachala as the ultimate refuge, in sheer despair with the thought: 'I am a
wretched jiva whose lot is to suffer unendingly; is there any hope at all for me?' Arunachala bestows the happiness of
such freedom that is far superior to all heavenly pleasures by revealing to them the supreme Self Knowledge. Arunachala
is indeed the Jnana-kalpataru (the famed wish fulling celestial tree).

18. Arunachala wears the hymn garlands strung by the famed Saivite saints, viz., Tirunavukkarasar, Jnana Sambandhar,
Sundarar and Manikkavachagar in the divine outpourings of Tevaram and Tiruvachakam. In recent times, Arunachala shines
with added lustre by wearing one more of such divine garland in the form of "The Bridal Garland of Letters' that poured
forth from the divinely sweet countenance of Sri Ramana.

19. Great saints practicing intense devotion to Lord Siva in different births and thereby attaining siddhi of composiing
heart-melting hymns in countless variety and offering those hymn-garlands to Arunachala and thus stay clinging to His
lotus feet which are littered with such glorious garlands.

20. Many seekers crying in anguish 'O Lord! I am crushed in suffering by my lot of prarabdha karma. I am unable to
endure them any longer, Please protect me!', take refuge in the proximity of Arunachala. Arunachala enters the hearts
of such sincere seekers and bestows liberation. Thus Arunachala is indeed the ultimate refuge surpassing all.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Anonymous said...

21. Seekers, unable to endure any longer the scorching heat of worldliness, come and take shelter in the cool shade of
the sannidhi (Presence) of Guru Ramana. Without any further worldly straying, they experience forever the abiding peace
of the Self, which is manifest here as the Hill of Arunachala.

22. The entire forest of vasanas -- of both good and bad kinds -- prompting the surging of the ego, is burnt down by the
fire of Jnana lit by opening of the third eye of the Lord Ramana, who is none other than Siva, in human form, for all those
seekers who have surrendered to Him as the supreme Sadguru. The ineffable peace that such devotees experience in their
cool hearts, through the extinction of all vasanas, is the peace of Arunachala.

23. When the intense seekers (mumukshus) discard as pithless straw even the exalted heavenly pleasures, attainable by means
of Vedic rituals (karma kanda or veda purva) and hunger only for the knowledge of the Self, the very same Vedas in their final
portion, (Vedanta) serve the liberating feast of mahavakya 'Thou art That' to those ripened sweet souls. Arunachala is indeed
the eternal silent embodiment of the Tat Tvam Asi teaching.

24. All human relationships pertain only to the physical status and well being of the seeker and are not always helpful to the
spiritual upliftment of one's soul. Unlike such ephemeral and unreliable relatives, Arunachala remains forever our true and absolute
relative! Arunachala never deserts us even for a moment and finally saves us from the fearsome clutches of Yama, the lord of
death, by revealing our true immortal essence.

25. If only a person thinks just once the glory of Arunachala among so many billions of thoughts in his long life, the fruit
of that meritorious remembrance of Arunachala manifests in the form of Arunachala before his vision when he is in the throes
of imminent death. As a result, he is once for all delivered from the cycle of birth and death.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Anonymous said...

continues....

26. When a sincere seeker attempts to immerse himself in the blissful sadhana of Self attention, the ego (in the form of
I am the body i.e dehatma buddhi) instinctively fearing of its own annihilation, surges forward asserting the finite individuality
and shakes him out of inward sadhana. For the devotee of Arunachala, at such moments of slipping from Self abidance
called pramada, which is verily called death by Sanatsujatha, Arunachala declares His formless presence in the form of
aham sphurana, driving away the yama of pramada.

27. In the words of Sadguru Ramana, "You are One without a second. To see yourself as many (jiva and worlds) by
the power Maya contradicts the Advaitic vision and this is the only great sin. Without getting swayed by Maya, to abide
as Self is the real virtue and duty, dharma." Understanding this Jnana Upadesa, ripe devotees immerse in the experience
of turiya sthithi (which transcends all states of experiences) by His Grace. Arunachala shines as the Truth of such Jnanis
reposing in Sahaja Samadhi.

28. When a child is stricken with fear, the loving mother takes it in her own lap and caressing it with soothing words
of comfort, she wards off all fear of harm from the child, infusing joy and courage. While the mother's compassion for the
child is supreme among all human relationships, the Grace and compassion of Arunachala for a genuine seeker far exceeds
that of even such a loving mother. It shines in unrivaled glory with no example to match Its supreme compassion other
than Arunachala Itself.

29. The divine comely form of Sri Ramana has not truly deserted us in grief stricken tears, even for a moment. In place of a
limited human body, now Guru Ramana stands shining eternally in the imperishable macro cosmic form of Arunachala, thus
ever assuaging the sense of personal loss in the bosoms of His loving devotees.

30. Sadguru Ramana by the exemplary personification of the Stillness principle, in all the three aspects of body, mind, and
speech all through His divine life, and further by His piercing look, has kindled the non verbal inquiry of Who am I? in the depths
of the devotee's heart. He thus demonstrated vividly the science of initiation through look, chakshu deeksha, which eventually
pulverizes the ego of the seeker. The unfailing impact of Sri Ramana's gracious look is truly the missile of Jnana. Such indeed
is the power of Arunachala.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.,

Anonymous said...

continues......

31. It is possible for a seeker to deviate from the goal of abidance in the Self due to a variety of factors like name and fame,
intellectual brilliance, wealth and position, temptations of gross objects and subtle occult powers (siddhis), and lose the
blissful peace of immersion in the Heart. As a consequence, one may wander again outward in futile suffering. Arunachala
does not tolerate such straying away from the Self-attention and brings back the seeker in mysterious ways to the core of
one's antarmukha sadhana.

32. Whatever austerities one may do, the 'I'-thought (ego) cleverly continues to survive in the form of 'I am doing this exalted
mode of sadhana'. In order to eliminate this primal thought and thus take one to the blissful, thought free state of Self awareness,
Sadguru Ramana instructs the seeker to inquire, 'Who is this 'I' which makes such a claim?', thus facilitating the inward orientation
of the mind. Inquiring 'Who is this Guru Ramana?', the seeker finds Him to be none other than Arunachala Himself manifest in
human form.

33. The exalted glory, attainable through great scholarship, and amassing of great wealth are truly speaking deadlier than
even the cobra's venom. The latter causes only physical death while the former weans away the mind from the Self and thus
perpetuates spiritual death, namely self ignorance. Hence these are surely to be eschewed by a seeker of Self Knowledge.
Scholarship and wealth are all attained only by the mind and for the enjoyment of the mind alone. However, the greatest good
accrues only upon the annihilation of the mind itself (mano nasa), that is, the falsification of the 'I'-thought (badhita ahamkara).
This alone results in supreme silence (maha mounam), which is verily the truth of Arunachala.

34. The Jnani is truly no more a person, as attaining Jnana irreversibly devours the individuality or personality (vyakitvam).
The enlightened one is thus no more a limited human being but a condensed mass of pure Awareness. Elucidating thus
the ineffable status of a Jnani, Sri Ramana Sadguru remained as such in His pristine Being of supreme silence of Consciousness,
transcending the three states of existence, sleep, dream and waking, untouched by their alternating cycles. His skill of
remaining rooted in the pinnacle of spiritual attainment is the ever effulgent Grace of Arunachala.

.35. The mechanism governing the law of karma has been designed in such a manner that even after taking millions of bodies,
and enjoying all the experiences of the world, for several cycles of creation, karma vasanas and karma phala never get
exhausted. The only way to eradicate the endless misery of karma is to drive away the thick mass of darkness of ignorance
through the rising of sun of knowledge. Arunachala is indeed such a Sun of Jnana who puts an end to all samsaric afflictions
of desire and delusion, which are the products of primal ignorance.

contd.,

Anonymous said...

It is possible to read Arunachala Venba here :

http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/index.php?topic=7903.0

and there :

http://www.sadhuom.net/e-books/verses.html

This poem comes from the Self, and is not the fruit of a intellectual effort or forced thinking.

Now, the question is : HOW ABOUT A FRESH TRANSLATION MICHAEL ?

Anonymous said...

What a nice verse from Arunachala Venba !

31. It is possible for a seeker to deviate from the goal of abidance in the Self due to a variety of factors like name and fame, intellectual brilliance, wealth and position, temptations of gross objects and subtle occult powers (siddhis), and lose the blissful peace of immersion in the Heart. As a consequence, one may wander again outward in futile suffering. Arunachala does not tolerate such straying away from the Self-attention and brings back the seeker in mysterious ways to the core of one's antarmukha sadhana.

"caught by the tiger..."

Anonymous said...

Sanjay, thank you for your gracious response. Like Bob I really enjoy reading all the posts. For some reason I felt compelled to break my 'internet silence' for the first time, whilst also knowing I would regret it. Bhagavan's teachings are so simple, yet I find my own emotions so strange and complex. Bhagavan offers the perfect remedy for my confusion and pain, yet I refuse it again and again, with such fatal consistency. Oh dear, here is the point where I need to let go and surrender to his grace once again... (and Sivanarul, I was one of those 'materialists' less than a year ago, my last passport application stated 'science' under religion!)

I certainly do not wish to limit or censure anyone or anything. Please, Sanjay there is no need to apologise. In fact I just read verse 3 of Sri Arunachala Padigam that you previously posted and it was the perfect medicine! You have exposed many gems that I had previously overlooked or not encountered before, and more importantly caused me to reflect deeply on my own limited understanding of Bhagavan's teachings and expose where I lack both intellectually and devotionally.

And I really do lack terribly. It is true when I say I was frustrated, but what I don't think I got across very well, if at all, is that you have helped me see once again is that my getting rather unhumorously frustrated over a few posts is an error within myself, and is a reflection of my own state of mind. When Bhagavan found me he helped me put my extensive collection of esoteric/philosphical books into storage. Quite literally! I cannot express how important this was to me and how wonderful this was, and something I could not do by my own volition. I had a print out of Nan Yar, Bahgavan in my heart and faith that there was a way- finally what I had been searching for, for who knows how long! I sat in His silence and it felt like home and it felt like love so far beyond what I can express in words.

Now I have a shelf of Ramana literature, multiple Upanishad translations creeping in, scholastic Vedanta, more commentaries... to what end? I think it is time this goes under my bed for a while and I sit at the feet Bhagavan again once again, alone.

So thank you my friends who are essentially myself! :") I pity you reading this!

Nx





Bob - P said...

Good stuff Neil !!
All the best with your practise ...
We are all in the same boat my friend (lol) !!
Bob

Sivanarul said...

Neil,

Well said. Those who frustrate us, in a way, are more helpful in the spiritual path than those who agree with us. I will admit, I have been frustrated by Sanjay's putting down of things that he doesn't approve of (many discussions happened based on that). But those discussions helped me lose my attachment to my position without losing my position itself. Also I have gotten into the habit of reading Sanjay's comments everyday. I will start getting withdrawal symptoms, if he stops abruptly :-).

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sivanarul, in order to avoid your withdrawal symptoms, here is one comment from me.

Kabir says (in old Hindi):

Nindak niyare rakhiye, Angan kuti chawai,
bin pani sabun bina, nirmal kare subhaiy


which means-
Keep your critiques close to you, let their hut be in your courtyard,
That way you don’t need soap and water to cleanse your nature.

It is true. If the criticism comes from a well wisher, those who have no ill-will or malice towards us, it should be welcomed.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, Bhagavan Ramana's books(that is, written by him or written on his life and teachings) are many, but only a few are needed to really understand his teachings correctly. According to me the following are his MUST READ and SHOULD ALSO READ book list. I need your views on this. The books are listed in no particular order.

MUST READ

1. Nan Yar? (essay version - see Michael's website)
2. Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai - by Sri Sadhu Om (especially for Ulladu Narpadu)
3. Upadesa Saram - The complete version in four languages
4. Guru Vachaka Kovai by Muruganar (Translation and commentary by Sri Sadhu Om)
5. The Path of Sri Ramana - Part One by Sri Sadhu Om
6. Arunachala Stuti Panchakam - commentary by Sri Sadhu Om
7. Happiness and The Art of Being - by Sri Michael James

SHOULD ALSO READ

That is, we should read the following books only after understanding Bhagavan's clear teachings, after thoroughly reading the above MUST READ list of books and understanding its content.

1. The Path of Sri Ramana - Part two by Sri Sadhu Om
2. Sadhanai Saram by Sri Sadhu Om
3. Maha Yoga - by 'Who'
4. Maharshi's Gospel
5. Day by Day with Bhagavan
6. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
7. Letters from Sri Ramanasramam by Suri Nagamma
8. Guru Vachaka Kovai by Muruganar - edited by David Godman

In your view or from your perspective, are thee any other Bhagavan Ramana's books which should be included in my MUST READ or SHOULD ALSO READ list?

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, can I reword my last question? It could be read as, if you were to prepare your MUST READ and SHOULD ALSO READ lists of Bhagavan's books, what would these be?

Thanking you and pranams.

venkat said...

Sanjay

I would suggest also considering:
- Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai, by Smt T.R. Kanakammal
- Reality in Forty Verses - Commentary by Lakshmana Sarma

Sanjay Lohia said...

Venkat, thank you for suggesting these two (or is it three) books in the recommended list of Bhagavan's books. I think I will agree with your suggestion to included Reality in Forty Verses - Commentary by Lakshmana Sarma. I recently re-read his book Maha Yoga, and found it quite helpful in explaining Bhagavan's teachings. I do not know much about the commentaries by Smt T R Kanakammal to comment on it. But I have a feeling that if we have to read one commentary on Ulladu Narpadu, Sri Sadhu Om's commentary should be our first choice. His understanding of Bhagavan's teachings comes from his inner state of clear self-abidance. Moreover, Sri Sadhu Om and Sri Michael James combination have explained the practice of self-investigation much more clearly. For example:

1. Only Sadhu Om and Michael's combination tells us that self-investigation is just attending to ourself alone, by completely ignoring everything else.
2. Only they tell us that once we manage to turn a 180 degrees towards ourself alone, our ego or mind will be destroyed forever and this is atma-jnana.
3. Only they let us know that self-enquiry is not any sort of questioning, such as 'who am I?'
4. Only this combination lets us know that though we should try and make exclusive efforts to turn towards ourself alone intermittently, but we should also try and maintain an undercurrent of self-attentiveness throughout our waking hours.
5. Lakshmana Sarma uses the term 'quest of self' very frequently. Michael has described it much more accurately by his use of terms such as 'self-attentiveness' and 'self-investigation'.

However in spite of these shortcomings, I will still include Lakshmana Sarma commentary in my SHOULD ALSO READ list, as his theoretical understanding of Bhagavan's teachings is sound.

venkat said...

Sanjay

The book that I suggested by Kanakammal is just one - though she has written a couple of other commentaries on Bhagavan's Tamil translations of Vedantic works. She came to Bhagavan relatively young, and was with him in the last 4 years of his life. She remained at Arunachala thereafter, and subsequently absorbed the teaching of Murugunar, both in formal classes and subsequently when she attended to him in his old age. She was encouraged to write a commentary by Kunjuswami, another old devotee. She died in early 2000s I think, in the Ashram hall.

As for Lakshmana Sarma's commentary on Ulladu Narpadu, he received verse by verse instruction on this from Bhagavan. Bhagavan, when he was encouraging the Ashram authorities to publish this work, is reported to have said:
"Everyone is saying that Lakshmana Sarma's commentary on Ulladu Narpadu is the best. Nobody has studied Ulladu Marpadu the way Sarma has"

Sanjay Lohia said...

Venkat, thank you for your last comment. Yes, I have also heard that Smt T R Kanakammal laid down her body on a Bhagavan's jayanthi day inside Bhagavan's Samadhi-shrine. In fact she just went around Bhagavan's shrine on a jayanthi and bowed down to do pranams to her sadguru, and never got up again. It was one of the most fitting symbol of her final surrender to Bhagavan.

I have located the book Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai by Smt T R Kanakammal. On cursory glace inside it, it appears to be a good commentary but I would like to reserve my final comment on it until I read it fully. She writes on her commentary of v. 26 of Ulladu Narpadu:

There is glory in the loss of the ego. one who renounces one's ego is the emperor among renunciates. Sarva sangha parithyagam (total renunciation) is nothing but crushing the ego at its place of origin or to cut it at its very source.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, I am at present reading the Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai by Smt T R Kanakammal. In this she writes while describing verse 22 of Ulladu Narpadu:

[...]How can the mind, devoid of light of its own, inert by nature, which cannot be aware of itself, measure or estimate the One who bestows it with light and intelligence?

According my understanding this statement is partly true and partly false. That is, it is true that the mind is devoid of light of its own, and therefore it cannot measure or estimate the one reality who bestows it with light and intelligence, but according to me it is not true to say that the mind is inert by nature and it cannot to aware of itself. We have understood from you that the ego or mind is the conscious subject, thus it is aware of both itself and other thoughts or objects.

Therefore whatever has been written by Kanakammal is either wrongly translated, or is an inaccurate statement. Do you agree?

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Venkat, I have read T R Kanakammal's commentary on Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar, printed in her book Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai, and I have to say that I will have no hesitation in including this book in my SHOULD ALSO READ list of Bhagavan's books.

I think the 40 verses of Ulladu Narpadu, the 30 verses of Upadesa Undiyar and the 30 paragraphs of Nan Yar? (essay version), contains the essence of entire sastras put together, and if anything is not mentioned in these works it is not worth knowing. Kanakammal has put it aptly in her translation by stating, 'If the source of the thinker is sought, the thinker himself perishes. This, the essential teaching of Bhagavan, - most direct and rare way of quest - cannot be found with such clarity and brevity in any of the Sastras'.

Though her commentary is not as clear as say Sri Sadhu Om's commentaries, but still these are quite useful and valuable, as per my understanding. Though the translation may not be entirely accurate or clear at places, but still it has benefited me. Thank you for recommending this book.

R Viswanathan said...

"Like brahman, which is what we actually are, our ego, which is what we now seem to be, has no form and hence no features of its own, but whereas brahman exists whether or not any forms or features seem to exist, our ego seems to exist only when forms and features seem to exist, and in their absence it does not seem to exist."

This statement from Sri Michael James is a crisp one, while to the same effect, the note by Sri S.S. Cohen in his book "Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi" makes it a little more descriptive:

"The Self is pure awareness or knowledge. And, because it is pure knowledge, it has to be present in every experience as its knower, or else how can a thing or state be known? This knower we call Self. So the Self is the knower of all things and all states. It must be present in the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states, which “belong to the ego”, that is, which every individual or ego — Peter — experiences. Therefore the ego is the Self itself. But, because the Self is one and indivisible, being pure consciousness, and the ego is known by names, such as Peter or John, and by form — the form of Peter or of John — that we say that the Self
transcends the ego, that is, being without names and forms. Names and forms are thus the cause of the illusion of a difference between the two, because they make the one consciousness to appear many."

Subsequently, Sri S.S. Cohen also explains the importance of sadhana in waking state by describing in brief the aspects related to the three states. The above passage and the following passages appealed to me as very beneficial.

Now the sadhaka arrives at the knowledge of his being nameless and formless, one in all names and forms — in all beings — by arguing his positions, as Bhagavan does in this text, in every one of these three states and relates them to each other. In jagrat, for example, I am aware of all the jagrat things that surround me, including my own self as Peter, and my body, or form, which measures so much by so much. Then I go to the dream state, where I am neither Peter, nor have his form, but somebody else, say, X, with the form of X. Then I pass on to the dreamless state, where I am aware of nothing, of neither name nor form, neither Peter nor X.

Reviewing in jagrat the whole of this process, I sum it up thus: I, the conscious knower, assume the name and form of Peter in jagrat, of X in svapna, but remain nameless and formless, as my pure self, in sushupti. Therefore Peter and X, are not I. Similarly the gross body of the former and the subtle body of the latter are not essential to me, but superimposed on me when I witness the first two states. With the removal of the restrictions of names and forms from myself, I remain the same being alone, free from all limitations and qualities. This aloneness is known as kaivalya. And to experience it in jagrat we have to take to sadhana, which removes the obstructions and enables the ‘I’ to perceive itself as the pure, eternal Self. This sadhana and this knowledge of the Real are the main purpose of the Vedas. The state of kaivalya for the embodied obtains only in sushupti and samadhi, unconsciously in the former but consciously in the latter."

Michael James said...

Sanjay, regarding your comment of 13 July 2015 at 08:53, I hope you can find an answer to it in my latest article, What is cidābhāsa, the reflection of self-awareness?. Though our mind seems to be aware, its awareness is not real awareness (or rather is not awareness as it really is), because real awareness is only pure self-awareness, which is aware of nothing other than itself. This is why in verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan says that all the five sheaths including mind and intellect are jaḍa (non-conscious).

This may seem paradoxical unless we consider the fact that according to Bhagavan the mind does not actually exist, and though it seems to exist it does not seem to exist in any view other than its own. In other words, it is a non-existent mind that seems to exist only in its own view, so it really does not exist at all. Therefore, since it does not really exist, how can it really be conscious or aware?

Regarding Kanakammal’s statement that the mind ‘cannot be aware of itself’, though it now seems to be aware of itself as mind, it is not aware of itself as it really is. That is, so long as we seem to experience ourself as this mind, we are not aware of ourself as we really are. Therefore what she wrote is correct, but it is a subtle point that we need to understand correctly.

Michael James said...

Bob, I have replied to your comment in a separate article: Self-knowledge is not a void (śūnya).

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