Saturday 29 August 2015

What is meditation on the heart?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself, a friend called Viswanathan quoted the following passage from chapter 13 of Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi by S. S. Cohen:
Now we turn to the positive side of the question, whether meditation on the Heart is possible. Bhagavan declares it to be possible, but not in the form of investigation, as it is done when the ‘I’ is the subject. Meditation on the Heart must be a special meditation, provided the meditator takes the Heart to be pure consciousness and has at least, an intuitive knowledge of what pure consciousness is. Only that meditation succeeds which has this intuitive knowledge, and is conducted with the greatest alertness, so that the moment thoughts cease, the mind perceives itself in its own home — the Heart itself. This is certainly more difficult to do than to investigate into the source of the ‘I’, because it is a direct assault on, rather direct contact with, the very source itself. It is no doubt the quickest method, but it exacts the greatest alertness and the most concentrated attention, denoting a greater adhikara (maturity).
This passage is the later half of Cohen’s commentary on the following passage from section 131 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, page 119):
D.: There are said to be six organs of different colours in the chest, of which the heart is said to be two finger-breadths to the right of the middle line. But the Heart is also formless. Should we then imagine it to have a shape and meditate on it?

M.: No. Only the quest “Who am I?” is necessary. What remains all through deep sleep and waking is the same. But in waking there is unhappiness and the effort to remove it. Asked who wakes up from sleep you say ‘I’. Now you are told to hold fast to this ‘I’. If it is done the eternal Being will reveal Itself. Investigation of ‘I’ is the point and not meditation on the heart-centre. There is nothing like within or without. Both mean either the same thing or nothing.

Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the heart-centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still; whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active.

Saturday 22 August 2015

‘That alone is tapas’: the first teachings that Sri Ramana gave to Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri

In the comments on one of my recent articles, Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?, a friend argued that self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is a two-stage process, and though I tried to explain in my latest article, Trying to distinguish ourself from our ego is what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), that it is actually a single seamless process with no distinct stages, various friends have continued discussing this idea, and at one point this discussion branched off into a discussion about the reliability of what is recorded in the ‘Talks’ section of Sat-Darshana Bhashya, which prompted me to explain (here, here and here) why I generally do not consider anything written or recorded by Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri or Kapali Sastri to be reliable.

Since discussion of these two separate subjects continued side by side for a while, in one comment a friend called Wittgenstein suggested that it would be useful to consider the first teaching that Bhagavan gave to Kavyakantha in order to see whether he gave any indication at that time that ātma-vicāra is a two-stage process. Wittgenstein concluded that there was no such indication, but asked me to correct him if he had drawn any wrong conclusions from that teaching, so this article is written in reply to him.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Trying to distinguish ourself from our ego is what is called self-investigation (ātma-vicāra)

In a comment on one of my earlier articles, Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?, a friend called Shiba wrote about the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) as if it consists of two distinct stages, saying that to ‘concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage’ and that the next stage is ‘real atma-vichara’, which begins ‘when our minds are fixed in Self’. In reply to this I wrote a comment in which I said:
Shiba, when you write in your first comment, “Atma is true Self. To fix attention on I-thought leads to Atma. Real atma-vichara begin when our minds are fixed in Self. I-thought is best clue to reach Atma and begin real atma-vichara. To concentrate on I-thought is preliminary stage and when other thoughts disappear and I-thought go back to the source (Atma), the next stage, real atma-vichara begin. I think those who can graduate from the preliminary stage are rare. I don’t know when I can graduate from the preliminary stage...”, you imply that ātma-vicāra consists of two distinct stages, and that only the second of these is ‘real atma-vichara’, but this is not actually the case.

Ātma-vicāra does not consist of any distinct stages, because it is a single process in which our self-attentiveness is progressively refined until we experience nothing other than ourself alone. Moreover ātman is ourself as we really are, whereas our ego or ‘I-thought’ is ourself as we now seem to be, so these are not two distinct things, but only one thing appearing differently. Since what we now experience as ourself is only our ego or ‘I-thought’ (which is a confused mixture of ourself and adjuncts), when we investigate ourself we are investigating ourself in the form of this ego, but as we focus our attention or awareness more and more keenly and exclusively on ourself, our ego subsides more and more, until eventually it will vanish in pure self-awareness, which is ourself as we really are (our real ātman).

Tuesday 11 August 2015

What is cidābhāsa, the reflection of self-awareness?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, Can we experience what we actually are by following the path of devotion (bhakti mārga)?, an anonymous friend quoted a translation of verses 8 and 9 from Ātma-Vicāra Patikam (a song of eleven verses composed by Sri Sadhu Om about self-investigation, which is the first appendix in Sādhanai Sāram). What he wrote in verse 9 is:
நானெதென் றாய வஃது நலிவதற் கேதே தென்றால்
நானெனு மக விருத்தி ஞானத்தின் கிரண மாகும்
நானெனுங் கிரணத் தோடே நாட்டமுட் செல்லச் செல்ல
நானெனுங் கிரண நீள நசித்துநான் ஞான மாமே.

nāṉedeṉ ḏṟāya vaḵdu nalivadaṟ kēdē deṉḏṟāl
nāṉeṉu maha virutti ñāṉattiṉ kiraṇa māhum
nāṉeṉuṅ kiraṇat tōḍē nāṭṭamuṭ cellac cella
nāṉeṉuṅ kiraṇa nīḷa naśittunāṉ ñāṉa māmē

பதச்சேதம்: நான் எது என்று ஆய அஃது நலிவதற்கு ஏது ஏது என்றால், நான் எனும் அக விருத்தி ஞானத்தின் கிரணம் ஆகும். நான் எனும் கிரணத்தோடே நாட்டம் உள் செல்ல செல்ல, நான் எனும் கிரண நீளம் நசித்து நான் ஞானம் ஆமே.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): nāṉ edu eṉḏṟu āya aḵdu nalivadaṟku ēdu ēdu eṉḏṟāl, nāṉ eṉum aha-virutti ñāṉattiṉ kiraṇam āhum. nāṉ eṉum kiraṇattōḍē nāṭṭam uḷ sella sella, nāṉ eṉum kiraṇa nīḷam naśittu nāṉ ñāṉam āmē.

English translation: If anyone asks what the reason is for it [the ego] being destroyed when one investigates what am I, [it is because] the aham-vṛtti [ego-awareness] called ‘I’ is a [reflected] ray of jñāṉa [pure self-awareness]. When together with the ray called ‘I’ the investigation [attention or scrutinising gaze] goes more and more within, the extent [or length] of the ray called ‘I’ being reduced [and eventually destroyed], [what will then remain as] ‘I’ will indeed be jñāṉa [pure self-awareness].