Tuesday 25 October 2016

The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive

I wrote my previous article, As we actually are, we do nothing and are aware of nothing other than ourself, in reply to various comments written by a friend called Ken, and in reply to it he wrote another comment in which he argued:
Thank you for your thorough research on these topics, they are a significant aid in understanding Ramana’s teaching.


Beyond that, it seems to me that we are getting into an area ruled by semantics.

For example, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character. As such, he “is unreal and never existed”. However, his lack of existence is a semantic one. From our viewpoint, we certainly find a difference between our current world (with at least two different Sherlock Holmes series in production) and an alternative universe where Conan Doyle never invented the character Sherlock Holmes.

In a similar way, we go to sleep and have a dream. When we wake up, we realize that the events in the dream were unreal. “Nothing ever happened”. But we cannot say that our night was the same as a night where we did not dream at all.

And, if we go into the dark garage and mistake the coiled rope for a snake, we can certainly say “the snake is unreal and never existed”. However, there is a difference between going into the garage and immediately recognizing the rope, or else going into the garage and mistakenly seeing the snake. If there were no difference, then Ramana would not have advised, in Ulladu Narpadu 35:

“The subsided mind having subsided, knowing and being the Reality, which is (always) attained, is the (true) attainment (siddhi). [...] (Therefore) know and be (as) you (the Reality) are.”

If there were no difference between seeing the snake and seeing the rope, then he would have said instead:

“The mind is unreal and does not exist, so do not practice self-attention, go home, watch cricket and stop bothering me.”

So, a universe where there was never any appearance of temporary phenomena, never any maya, never any mistaken identification, never any ego... just satchitananda.... is perhaps theologically, metaphysically, and/or philosophically identical to this universe.... but it is not entirely identical, otherwise Ramana would have never answered Pillai’s question of “Who Am I?”.

The Advaita Vedanta standard of “real” and “exists” is very meaningful — it tells us what is important. But if we use it in all contexts, we end up with “Neo-Advaita”, i.e. “Nothing ever happened, the ego never existed, so go home and watch T.V., that will be $50, thanks.”

In Path of Sri Ramana, Sadhu Om is careful to apply absolute metaphysical standards to theology and philosophy, but not otherwise. For example, he stated:

“The sole cause of all miseries is the mistake of veiling ourself by imagining these sheaths to be ourself, even though we are ever this existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda).”

This is similar to my statement quoted from 9 September 2016:

“Because there is nothing other than the Self, so there is nothing that can force the Self to do anything. The Self is alone, so it decides to “veil” itself and limit itself as a multitude of ‘individuals’. This is the Lila, the play.”

The Upanishads, Shankara and Ramana all agree that there is nothing other than the Self. So, there cannot be anything that forces the Self to do anything.

Sadhu Om characterizing veiling as a “mistake”, while I characterize it as a “decision”. Well, certainly those two things are compatible. Plenty of decisions are found to be mistakes (such as deciding to drive when you have drunk far too much alcohol).

Before the “veiling”, there was no ego, so Sadhu Om can only be referring to the Self as the one who veils.
Therefore in this article I will try to explain to Ken why these arguments of his do not adequately address the issue I was discussing in my previous article, namely the confusion that arises if we believe that our actual self veils itself and sees itself as numerous phenomena.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

As we actually are, we do nothing and are aware of nothing other than ourself

In several comments on one of my recent articles, What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?, a friend called Ken wrote:
Note that the Self is what is watching the movie [...] (4 September 2016 at 17:45)

[...] the ego is actually the Self in another form. (4 September 2016 at 23:27)

The Self is God [...] The Lila (play) of the Self (Brahman/Atman) is that it “veils” itself so it itself thinks it is limited. As “veiled”, it is watching the movie. When it decides to stop watching the movie, and the lights go on, it then sees it is actually the Self. Hence “Self-” “realisation”, i.e. realizing that it is the Self. (5 September 2016 at 04:16)

The ego stops giving attention to “2nd person and 3rd person”, i.e. sense perceptions and thoughts. The Self sees this and if it is convinced of complete sincerity, then it terminates the ego (this is the “action of Grace performed by the Self” according to Ramana — paraphrased). [...] since the Self IS your own basic awareness, then it is entirely aware of everything you have ever thought, said or done. (5 September 2016 at 04:26)

The Self (atman) is: The present moment [and] That which is looking. (7 September 2016 at 03:26)

This is what is called “The Play of Consciousness” (lila in Sanskrit). [...] The Self makes the “mistake” of identifying with a character in the world. (8 September 2016 at 02:09)

The Self definitely wants to see the movie, otherwise the movie would not even exist. (8 September 2016 at 17:49)

Because there is nothing other than the Self, so there is nothing that can force the Self to do anything. The Self is alone, so it decides to “veil” itself and limit itself as a multitude of “individuals”. This is the Lila, the play. (9 September 2016 at 00:04)
Ken, in these remarks you have attributed properties of our ego (and also properties of God) to ‘the Self’, which is ourself as we actually are, so in this article I will try to clarify that our actual self does not do anything and is neither aware of nor in any other way affected by the illusory appearance of our ego and all its projections, which seem to exist only in the self-ignorant view of ourself as this ego.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

An explanation of the first ten verses of Upadēśa Undiyār

For nearly five years I have been editing notes I made in 1977 and 78 of useful ideas and explanations that I heard Sadhu Om telling me or other friends, and since April 2012 these have been serialised in each issue of The Mountain Path under the title ‘The Paramount Importance of Self-Attention’. Since the notes I made at that time were intended just to remind myself of some of the explanations Sadhu Om gave, they are too sketchy to publish as they are, so I have had to edit and elaborate them in order to make them more understandable and to represent more faithfully and in more detail the type of explanations and clarifications he used to give, so while editing them I have freely drawn on my memory of what he would generally say about each subject. Therefore the final edited form in which my notes are published in The Mountain Path does not record the exact words of Sadhu Om, but it does convey reasonably faithfully ideas that I remember him frequently expressing.

Recently while preparing the next instalment for the January 2017 issue I came across the notes I had made on 19th August 1978 of an explanation that Sadhu Om had given about the first ten verses of Upadēśa Undiyār, but as usual my notes were not very detailed and I could see that in some respects I had not accurately recorded what he used to explain about each of those verses, so I had to edit and elaborate them in order to convey what I remember him explaining about them on various occasions. Since in its final edited form this portion of my notes conveys quite clearly what he often used to explain about these verses, I decided to reproduce it here:

Thursday 6 October 2016

God is not actually the witness of anything but the real substance underlying and supporting the illusory appearance of the witness and of everything witnessed by it

A friend wrote to me recently and asked me whether ‘the witnessing or observing consciousness within’ is the same as the ultimate ‘I’, referring in particular to the clause ‘he [God] exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts’ in the following passage of one of my earlier articles, Dhyāna-p-Paṭṭu: The Song on Meditation:
In accordance with this important teaching of Sri Ramana in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in this song Sri Sadhu Om gently weans the minds of those who may consider God to be other than what they experience as ‘I’ away from that idea, firstly by emphasising that his real form is suddha-mauna-cit or ‘pure silent consciousness’ (verse 3); secondly by implying that he is the ‘one blissful substance’ that exists within our heart and that we can experience by seeking it with love (verse 4); thirdly by saying that only after we experience him within ourself will we be able to experience that everything that exists is him (verse 5); and fourthly by saying that he exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts, and that he will appear clearly within us only where and when all our thoughts subside (verse 6).
The following is what I wrote in reply to her question:

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Why does the term ‘I am’ refer not just to our ego but to what we actually are?

In a comment on my previous article, ‘I am’ is the reality, ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego, a friend called Mouna raised several objections to what I had written in it, so in this article I will try to reply to his objections.

Sunday 2 October 2016

‘I am’ is the reality, ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego

In a comment on my previous article, What is the ‘self’ we are investigating when we try to be attentively self-aware?, a friend called Viveka Vairagya quoted an extract from chapter 99 of I am That in which it is recorded that Nisargadatta Maharaj said, ‘Relax and watch the ‘I am’. Reality is just behind it’, which prompted another friend who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Extremely Simple’ to ask, ‘But why should reality be “just behind the ‘I am’”?’