Friday 31 July 2015

By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself

In certain contexts it is of course necessary for us to distinguish our ego from ourself as we actually are, because our ego is not what we actually are, but drawing this distinction is not necessary or helpful in every context, because what seems to be our ego is nothing other than ourself as we actually are. This seeming paradox can be reconciled by considering the analogy of a rope that seems to be a snake. The snake is not what the rope actually is, but what seems to be the snake is nothing other than the rope as it actually is.

If we were walking along a narrow path in semi-darkness and were to see what seems to be a snake lying on the path ahead of us, we would be afraid to proceed any further and would wait till the snake had moved away. However, if after waiting for a while we see that the snake does not move, we may begin to suspect that it is not actually a snake, in which case we would cautiously move forwards to look at it more closely and carefully. If it were not actually a snake but only a rope, our investigation or close inspection of it would reveal to us that what we had been looking at and afraid of all along was only a rope, so our fear of it would dissolve, and with a sigh of relief we would continue our walk along the path.

Our investigation or close inspection of the seeming snake would begin only after we have begun to suspect that it may actually not be a snake but only something else, such as a rope, so once this suspicion has arisen, we would stop insisting to ourself that it is a snake that we are looking at, but would instead consider it to be a seeming snake and perhaps a rope. This is similar to our position when we begin to investigate ourself, this ego. We investigate ourself or look closely at ourself only because we suspect that we may actually not be the ego that we now seem to be, but may instead be something else altogether. Now that this suspicion has arisen in us, we need not continue insisting to ourself that we are only an ego, but can with an open mind begin investigating ourself in order to find out whether we are this ego or something else.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, In order to understand the essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings, we need to carefully study his original writings, a friend called Sanjay wrote, ‘I have also noticed that many of the current devotees of Bhagavan somehow are not able to reconcile to the advaitic standpoint of Bhagavan, Shankara and others, but are more comfortable to accept and believe in all their own dualistic ideas’, and this triggered a long discussion, with some other friends defending the path of dualistic devotion against what was perceived to be criticism of it by those who are more attracted to Bhagavan’s non-dualistic path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). This article is written partly in response to that discussion.

However, I actually began to write this article before that discussion started, and I did so in response to a comment on one of my earlier articles, What is unique about the teachings of Sri Ramana?, in which a friend called Viswanathan wrote:
[...] I feel that if one continues with total faith in whatever path one goes in, be it Bakthi Margam or Jnana Margam, the destination will be the same — realization of self. [...] it appears to me that it might be just an illusory divide in one’s mind that the two paths are different or that one path is circuitous and the other path is shorter.
Though there is some truth in what he wrote, we cannot simply say that the path of devotion (bhakti mārga) and the path of knowledge (jñāna mārga) are not different without analysing what is meant by the term bhakti mārga or ‘the path of devotion’, because bhakti mārga encompasses a wide range of practices, of which only the ultimate one is the same as self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), which is the practice of jñāna mārga.