Saturday, 1 September 2018

Like everything else, karma is created solely by ego’s misuse of its will (cittam), so what needs to be rectified is its will

In the comments on my previous three articles there was an ongoing discussion about the role of free will and the law of karma in general, and various friends have expressed differing views about this matter, so this article was originally intended to be a reply to some of those views but it has developed into a broad and detailed discussion about the key role of our will and the paramount need for us to rectify or purify it.
  1. What binds us is not action itself but the desire or will with which we do it
  2. Desireless action (niṣkāmya karma) can purify our mind only to a limited extent, so to purify it completely we must turn it back towards ourself
  3. Will is the key to both bondage and liberation, so we must use our will wisely by choosing to turn back within in order to merge forever in our real nature
  4. Rather than concerning ourself with actions we should concern ourself with the will that drives them
  5. The practice of self-surrender entails surrendering the will that drives us to rise as ego and thereby go outwards
  6. To turn within and surrender the ego entirely we need to cultivate intense vairāgya or desirelessness
  7. The key to success in self-investigation, self-surrender or any other spiritual practice is our will, so we succeed to the extent that our will is purified by our practice
  8. Will and free will are two distinct concepts, because though many people deny the existence of free will, no one can reasonably deny the existence of will
  9. The ego and its will are two distinct things
  10. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 19: the origin, root and foundation of both fate and will is the ego
  11. In the dispute about which prevails, fate or will, both sides are incorrect, because fate and will each prevail in their own sphere
  12. Freedom of will is an essential premise of the law of karma and of all that Bhagavan taught us about spiritual practice
  13. Limitations on the freedom of our will are internal rather than external
  14. Since we are free to choose what we attend to, we can choose which vāsanās we feed with our attention and which we deprive of our attention
  15. Self-attentiveness is the most effective means to purify our will (cittam), but not the only means
  16. Fate does to some extent limit our freedom to act as we choose, but it does not even to the slightest extent limit our freedom to choose how we wish to act
  17. Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 9: to accomplish the aim of self-investigation we need the strength of one-pointed love to surrender ourself
  18. The role and influence of the will in the antaḥkaraṇa or ‘inner instrument’
  19. Our viṣaya-vāsanās are the bonds that keep us bound to saṁsāra, so we need to cleanse our mind of them in order to free ourself from this bondage
  20. We cannot get rid of the sense of doership merely by telling ourself that we are not the doer but only by eradicating ego by means of self-investigation
  21. The ego and its sense of doership are such a deep-rooted pair of identifications that they cannot be eradicated by any means other than self-investigation
  22. To free ourself from harmful desires, we must cultivate desires that support us in our efforts to turn within to merge in that which is desireless
  23. Whether a certain action is predetermined by prārabdha or not, if we have even the slightest liking or wish to do it or to achieve anything thereby, it is to that extent driven by our will
  24. Our will drives not only the actions we do by mind and speech but also those that we do by body, as Bhagavan implies in verse 4 of Upadēśa Undiyār
  25. Those who recorded what Bhagavan said in reply to questions about predetermination and freedom of will often failed to grasp all the nuances in his replies
  26. Everything that comes under the jurisdiction of prārabdha is predetermined, and everything that comes under the jurisdiction of our will, including āgāmya, is not predetermined
  27. Freedom to do whatever we want is not freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) but freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra), which is limited
  28. The pravṛtti elements of our will are the cause of our bondage and its nivṛtti elements will be the cause of our salvation
  29. No thought can rise unless we, the ego, are willing to attend to it, so we are ultimately responsible for everything we think
  30. The fog of avivēka consists of the pravṛtti elements of our will, and the clear light of vivēka is what remains when this fog is dispersed
  31. Whatever Bhagavan said about God was nuanced and adapted to the context and to the needs of whoever he was addressing
  32. Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 15: God does not actually do anything, but everything that happens or is done happens only by his mere presence
  33. Desires and other elements of our will are not predetermined but determined only by ego, whose will it is
  34. There is no will in sleep, because there is no ego then, and because it is ego’s will and therefore cannot exist without it
  35. Einstein was wrong to believe that we cannot want what we want and that our will is therefore not free
  36. Schopenhauer believed that the will is not free because there must be sufficient reason for it, but the nature of the ego is the sole reason for it, so it has no external cause and is therefore free
  37. Though ego and its free will are ultimately unreal, in prātibhāsika satya they are in effect real
  38. Love for happiness alone is what gives rise to and is the driving force behind every element of our will, so our will is essentially just love for happiness, and as such it is not illusory but real
  39. Sam Harris’s arguments against free will are superficial and based on faulty assumptions
  40. Whether our will is free or not is a metaphysical issue, and metaphysical issues cannot be resolved by science but only by considering deep metaphysical questions
  41. If we believe that we do not have any freedom of will, we cannot coherently believe that we are free to investigate or surrender ourself
  42. Freedom of will does not mean that our will itself is free, but that as ego we are free to want whatever we want
  43. Prārabdha is selected by grace, which is the infinite love that we as we really are have for ourself as we really are
  44. Liberation or ‘self-realisation’ is determined by nothing other than love, which is the focusing of our entire will on ourself alone
  45. The power that drives our mind, whether outwards or inwards, is our will, so grace works from within us to induce us to willingly rectify our will so that it drives us back within
  46. Self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is not imagining, which is a mental activity, but the cessation of all mental activity
  47. Love to be aware of ourself alone can be cultivated by bhakti practices, of which self-investigation and self-surrender are the most efficacious
  48. In order to be still we must persistently try to be self-attentive, which we will do to the extent that we love to be aware of ourself as we actually are
  49. For eradicating ego, śubha vāsanās are generally more conducive than aśubha vāsanās
  50. Without rectifying its will, ego will not investigate itself keenly enough to see what it actually is
1. What binds us is not action itself but the desire or will with which we do it

In a comment on the first of my previous three articles, The ego does not actually exist, but it seems to exist, and only so long as it seems to exist do all other things seem to exist, a friend called John C asked me:
Do you think Bhagavan’s teachings linked to karma were diluted and intended for those not willing to accept the only choice we have is to turn within or let our attention go outwards? [...] I know you often talk about how simple Bhagavan’s teachings are and how they are based on simple coherent foundational principals even a child could understand. With that in mind it does seem compared to other aspects of his teachings the whole karma theory is rather complex and can lead to confusion (in my case that is).

Or am I misunderstanding in your opinion? Is it a core and foundational part of his teachings?

Believing I have choice to do something and not to do other things and actions performed with free will in this life (dream) are stored for next lives Prarabdha does seem to lack simplicity and beyond the understanding of a child.
John, you are correct in thinking that the karma theory is not exactly a central part of Bhagavan’s teachings, but it is very closely related to their core principles, and though it is often referred to as ‘the karma theory’ he did not actually teach it just as a theory but as a fundamental law of nature, so we should not dismiss what he taught us about it as being unimportant or something that we can ignore entirely, because he taught it for a good reason and if we understand it correctly and apply it effectively it can help us to free our mind from its concern with external matters and thereby to surrender ourself entirely to the clear light of pure self-awareness that is always shining in our heart without any change as ‘I am’.

The law of karma is somewhat more complex than the core principles of his teachings, but it is still relatively simple, because it is based on a few simple principles: firstly that by rising as ego we experience ourself as a body, a form composed of five sheaths (namely a physical form, the life animating that form, and the mind, intellect and will that function within it and through it), and consequently we experience all the actions done by these sheaths as actions done by ourself; secondly that the force driving most of these actions is our will; thirdly that actions driven by our will (which are what are technically called āgāmya karmas, or just āgāmya) have consequences, which are of two kinds, namely their fruit, which are their moral consequences (good actions will result in good experiences, bad actions will result in bad experiences, and morally neutral actions will result in experiences that are neither good nor bad), and their seeds, which are karma-vāsanās, propensities or inclinations to do such actions again; fourthly that the fruit of our actions will not be experienced by us in the lifetime of our present body, but will be added to the store of yet to be experienced fruits of past actions (which is what is called saṁcita or sañcita), from which they may later be selected by God for us to experience as part of our fate (prārabdha) in the lifetime of a future body; fifthly that therefore whatever we do by our will in each lifetime cannot change what we are destined to experience in that lifetime, because all that we are to experience in each lifetime is determined by the fate God has allocated for that lifetime; and sixthly that even after the fruit of one of the āgāmyas we have done in an earlier life has been experienced by us as part of our prārabdha in a later life, the seed or karma-vāsanā left by that āgāmya will remain until it is either replaced by other vāsanās or eradicated by self-investigation and self-surrender, so karma is self-perpetuating, as Bhagavan says in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
வினையின் விளைவு விளிவுற்று வித்தாய்
வினைக்கடல் வீழ்த்திடு முந்தீபற
      வீடு தரலிலை யுந்தீபற.

viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivuṯṟu vittāy
viṉaikkaḍal vīṙttiḍu mundīpaṟa
      vīḍu taralilai yundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினையின் விளைவு விளிவு உற்று வித்தாய் வினை கடல் வீழ்த்திடும். வீடு தரல் இலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaiyiṉ viḷaivu viḷivu uṯṟu vittāy viṉai-kaḍal vīṙttiḍum. vīḍu taral ilai.

English translation: The fruit of action having perished, as seed it causes to fall in the ocean of action. It is not giving liberation.

Explanatory paraphrase: The fruit of an action having perished, [remaining] as a seed [a karma-vāsanā or propensity to do the same kind of action] it causes [one] to fall in the ocean of action. [Therefore] it [action] does not give liberation.
Action (karma) cannot give liberation because it is done by ego, its fruits are experienced by ego, and its seeds drive ego to do more such actions, so it helps to perpetuate the illusion that we are this ego, the doer of actions and the experiencer of their fruit. However, though karma can never give liberation, if it is done because of love for God and therefore without desire for any fruit, it can help to purify the mind or will (cittam) by weakening or reducing its outgoing propensities (viṣaya-vāsanās and karma-vāsanās), and will thereby enable one to recognise that the means to liberation is not going outwards to do any actions by mind, speech or body but only turning back within to investigate whether one is actually this ego, the one who does action and experiences its fruit, as Bhagavan implies in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
கருத்தனுக் காக்குநிட் காமிய கன்மங்
கருத்தைத் திருத்தியஃ துந்தீபற
      கதிவழி காண்பிக்கு முந்தீபற.

karuttaṉuk kākkuniṭ kāmiya kaṉmaṅ
karuttait tiruttiyaḵ dundīpaṟa
      gativaṙi kāṇbikku mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: கருத்தனுக்கு ஆக்கும் நிட்காமிய கன்மம் கருத்தை திருத்தி, அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): karuttaṉukku ākkum niṭkāmiya kaṉmam karuttai tirutti, aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum.

English translation: Niṣkāmya karma [action not motivated by desire for its fruit] done [with love] for God purifies the mind and [thereby] it will show the path to liberation.
Why is desireless action (niṣkāmya karma) prescribed as a means to purify the mind or will? Because what binds us is not action itself but the desire or will with which we do it, so if we do any action just for the love of God and therefore not for the love of anything that we hope to gain from it, either in this life or in any future life, that will gradually cleanse the mind of the grosser forms of its outgoing desires.

2. Desireless action (niṣkāmya karma) can purify our mind only to a limited extent, so to purify it completely we must turn it back towards ourself

However, desire to go outwards and experience things other than itself is the very nature of ego, which is the root and core of the mind, so as ego or mind we can never act in an entirely desireless manner. We can merely reduce the intensity of our desires and replace our desires for phenomena (viṣaya-vāsanās) and for doing actions to experience them (karma-vāsanās) with love for God, thereby purifying our mind to at least a limited extent.

However, so long as we take God to be something other than ourself, even our love for God is love for something other than ourself, but as our love for him matures the strength of ourself as ego is weakened, so our longing to surrender ourself entirely to him increases, until eventually our mind is sufficiently pure for us to understand: Who am I other than God? If God is the infinite whole, he is the sole reality, so how can I be anything other than him? Therefore if he alone is I, and if there is therefore no difference or separation between us, the correct way to meditate upon him is not as another but only as I.

In this way the desire to meditate upon and adore God as if he were something other than ourself slips off and is replaced by a steadily increasing love to turn within and meditate upon and adore only I, which is his real form or svarūpa. Therefore after explaining in verses 4, 5, 6 and 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār that the mind is purified by niṣkāmya pūjā (worship), japa (repetition of a name of God or a sacred phrase) and dhyāna (meditation), which are respectively actions of body, speech and mind and which are in this order progressively more purifying, in verse 8 he implies that what is most purifying of all is meditating only upon oneself:
அனியபா வத்தி னவனக மாகு
மனனிய பாவமே யுந்தீபற
     வனைத்தினு முத்தம முந்தீபற.

aṉiyabhā vatti ṉavaṉaha māhu
maṉaṉiya bhāvamē yundīpaṟa
     vaṉaittiṉu muttama mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: அனிய பாவத்தின் அவன் அகம் ஆகும் அனனிய பாவமே அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): aṉiya-bhāvattiṉ avaṉ aham āhum aṉaṉiya-bhāvam-ē aṉaittiṉ-um uttamam.

English translation: Rather than anya-bhāva, ananya-bhāva, in which he is I, certainly is the best among all.

Explanatory paraphrase: Rather than anya-bhāva [meditation on anything other than oneself, particularly meditation on God as if he were other than oneself], ananya-bhāva [meditation on nothing other than oneself], in which he is [considered to be] I, is certainly the best among all [practices of bhakti, varieties of meditation and kinds of spiritual practice].
What he implies by saying that meditation on nothing other than oneself (ananya-bhāva) is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best of all’ or ‘best among all’ is that it is the most effective means to purify the mind. Whereas desireless action (niṣkāmya karma) can purify it to a limited extent, only meditation on oneself (self-attentiveness), which is the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), can purify it completely, because it is the only means by which we can eradicate ego, which is the root of all impurity.

Meditating upon anything other than oneself (anya-bhāva) is an action (karma), because it entails directing one’s mind or attention away from oneself towards something else, whereas meditating only upon oneself (ananya-bhāva) is not an action but a state of just being, a cessation of all activity, because it does not entail directing one’s mind or attention away from oneself but only allowing it to return to and rest in its source. Therefore in verse 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan says:
பாவ பலத்தினாற் பாவனா தீதசற்
பாவத் திருத்தலே யுந்தீபற
     பரபத்தி தத்துவ முந்தீபற.

bhāva balattiṉāṯ bhāvaṉā tītasaṯ
bhāvat tiruttalē yundīpaṟa
     parabhatti tattuva mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: பாவ பலத்தினால் பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தலே பரபத்தி தத்துவம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): bhāva balattiṉāl bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttal-ē para-bhatti tattuvam.

English translation: By the strength of meditation, being in sat-bhāva, which transcends bhāvana, is certainly para-bhakti tattva.

Explanatory paraphrase: By the strength [intensity, firmness or stability] of [such] meditation [ananya-bhāva or self-attentiveness], being in sat-bhāva [the state of being], which transcends [all] bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation], certainly [or alone] is para-bhakti tattva [the real essence or true state of supreme devotion].
Thus in verses 3 to 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan explains how the path of bhakti begins with niṣkāmya actions of body, speech and mind (which is the path of niṣkāmya karma) but eventually leads to and culminates in the path of jñāna, which is the practice of self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna) or self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), and which is not an action (karma) but just one’s natural state of being (sat-bhāva), in which the ego surrenders itself entirely and remains subsided in the source from which it arose. This is the ultimate culmination and goal of all forms of spiritual practice, as he says in verse 10 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
உதித்த விடத்தி லொடுங்கி யிருத்த
லதுகன்மம் பத்தியு முந்தீபற
     வதுயோக ஞானமு முந்தீபற.

uditta viḍatti loḍuṅgi irutta
ladukaṉmam bhattiyu mundīpaṟa
     vaduyōga ñāṉamu mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: உதித்த இடத்தில் ஒடுங்கி இருத்தல்: அது கன்மம் பத்தியும்; அது யோகம் ஞானமும்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uditta iḍattil oḍuṅgi iruttal: adu kaṉmam bhatti-y-um; adu yōgam ñāṉam-um.

English translation: Being [by] subsiding in the place from which one rose: that is karma and bhakti; that is yōga and jñāna.
The first action and the root of all other actions is our rising as this ego, so until and unless we subside back into our source, the place from which we arose, namely our own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is just pure self-awareness and therefore eternally free of any action or doing whatsoever, we cannot remain for a moment without doing action of one kind or another, whether by mind, speech or body. However what are truly harmful are not actions themselves (because they are jaḍa (devoid of awareness), as Bhagavan says in verse 1 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and are therefore phenomena just like any other phenomena, all of which seem to exist only in the view of the ego) but only the desires or will with which we do them.

3. Will is the key to both bondage and liberation, so we must use our will wisely by choosing to turn back within in order to merge forever in our real nature

Will is the cause of both bondage and liberation, self-ignorance and self-knowledge, doing and being. By misusing our will we have risen as this ego and thereby got ourself entangled in the web of doing (action or karma), which is bondage and self-ignorance, and by using it correctly we can subside back into our real state of just being (summā iruppadu), which is liberation (mukti) and self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna).

Since all these are the result of our own will, the choice is ours, and we are always free to make whichever choice we prefer. Which do we want more: self-knowledge, liberation and just being, or self-ignorance, bondage and doing? At present we still prefer bondage, because of our avivēka or lack of clear judgement, but if we patiently and persistently follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender as taught by Bhagavan, our mind or will (cittam) will be gradually cleansed of its outgoing desires or viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or urges to be aware of phenomena) and thereby we will gain the clear vivēka (discernment, discrimination or judgement) to recognise that true happiness does not lie in anything outside ourself but only in ourself, as a result of which our love just to be as we actually are (sat-vāsanā or svātma-bhakti) will become stronger than all our viṣaya-vāsanās, whereupon our mind will instantly turn back 180 degrees towards ourself and will thereby merge forever in and as our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is the source from which it arose.

As Bhagavan often used to say, bhakti (love) is the mother of jñāna (true knowledge or pure awareness), because without all-consuming love to be as we actually are we will not be able to turn our entire attention back within and thereby surrender ourself forever to pure, infinite and immutable self-awareness, which is our real nature. Since love to be as we actually are is the correct use of our will, by saying that bhakti is the mother of jñāna Bhagavan clearly implied that the key to knowing and being what we actually are is to use our will correctly by desiring nothing other than to be aware of ourself alone.

4. Rather than concerning ourself with actions we should concern ourself with the will that drives them

To return to your question, John, the law of karma as taught by Bhagavan is not a fundamental part of the core of his teachings, but it is very closely related to their core and is not something we can afford to ignore if we want to have a clear, complete and coherent understanding of them. His teachings are primarily concerned with being, not with doing, but since doing (action or karma) is a distortion or aberration of being, understanding how it arises and therefore how we can extricate ourself from it is necessary.

Though the law of karma is somewhat more complex than other more fundamental aspects of his teachings, what makes it liable to be confusing is not so much its complexity as its subtlety, or rather the subtlety of one particular aspect of it, namely the seeming opposition of fate and will. The confusion arises because the actions that we do by mind, speech and body in each lifetime are driven by these two forces, fate and will, and it is not possible for us to distinguish to what extent exactly each of our actions are driven by each of these.

That is, the actions that we do in accordance with our will and the ones that we do in accordance with our fate are so intricately interwoven and entangled that we cannot distinguish one from the other. In this respect our actions are like a tangled and tightly knotted ball consisting of two more or less identical multi-coloured threads, so looking at the ball we cannot distinguish which strand belongs to which of these two threads. Only God or guru in its function as the ordainer of the fruits of our āgāmya karmas (actions driven by our will) can distinguish the extent to which each of our actions is driven either by our will or by our fate (prārabdha) or by both simultaneously.

However, if we understand clearly and correctly what Bhagavan has taught us in this regard, we will not try to distinguish to what extent each of our actions are driven by each of these two forces, will and fate, because there is no need for us to do so. Actions that we are destined to do we will be made to do, whether we want to or not, so they need not concern us, and actions driven by our present will (our desires, fears, likes, dislikes and so on) will continue to happen so long as we direct our will outwards and give it free rein, so rather than concerning ourself with any actions we should concern ourself with the will that drives them.

5. The practice of self-surrender entails surrendering the will that drives us to rise as ego and thereby go outwards

The best use we can make of our will is to choose to try patiently and persistently to turn our attention back within whenever it goes outwards, but unless we have all-consuming love to do so, which most of us now lack, much of the time we succumb to our outgoing desires and fears (viṣaya-vāsanās), so at such times we need to keep a tight rein on our will, trying as much as we can to reduce the enthusiasm and impetus with which we go outwards. This is the practice of self-surrender. As much as possible we direct our will and attention back within, towards ourself alone, and even when we allow them to go outwards we try to face the outside world with the attitude ‘Thy will be done’, ‘Not my will, but only yours’, ‘நின் இட்டம் என் இட்டம்; இன்பு அது எற்கு’ (niṉ iṭṭam eṉ iṭṭam; iṉbu adu eṟku), ‘Your iṣṭam [will, wish, desire or liking] is my iṣṭam; that is happiness for me’ (Śrī Aruṇācala Padigam verse 2), ‘எண்ணம் எதுவோ, அது செய்வாய். கண்ணே, உன்றன் கழல் இணையில் காதல் பெருக்கே தருவாயே’ (eṇṇam eduvō, adu seyvāy. kaṇṇē, uṉḏṟaṉ kaḻal iṇaiyil kādal perukkē taruvāyē), ‘Whatever be [your] thought [or wish], do that. [My] eye [my most beloved, my own awareness], just give [me] only a flood [overflow, fullness, abundance, surge or increasing intensity] of love for your pair of feet’ (Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai verse 7).

Complete self-surrender entails giving no room to the rising of the ego along with its concomitant will, and that entails being so keenly self-attentive that we give no room to the rising of any other thought, as Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām.

Being ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ [one who is steadily fixed in and as oneself], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any cintana [thought] other than ātma-cintana [‘thought of oneself’, self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God.
However, unless we have extremely intense love for just being we will not be able to cling so firmly to being self-attentive that we never give any room to the rising of the ego and its other thoughts, so when we do give room to such rising, we should keep it in check as much as possible by trying to limit the impetus of our outgoing will. In other words, we should try as far as possible to surrender our will by desisting from using it to achieve any outward purpose (any purpose other than subsiding and merging back within), and for doing so we need to have complete trust in the all-loving power that we call ‘God’, which is what shapes and drives all that happens to us, as Bhagavan implies in the other three sentences of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
ஈசன்பேரில் எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும், அவ்வளவையும் அவர் வகித்துக்கொள்ளுகிறார். சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்? புகை வண்டி சகல பாரங்களையும் தாங்கிக்கொண்டு போவது தெரிந்திருந்தும், அதி லேறிக்கொண்டு போகும் நாம் நம்முடைய சிறிய மூட்டையையு மதிற் போட்டுவிட்டு சுகமா யிராமல், அதை நமது தலையிற் றாங்கிக்கொண்டு ஏன் கஷ்டப்படவேண்டும்?

īśaṉpēril e-vv-aḷavu bhārattai-p pōṭṭālum, a-vv-aḷavai-y-um avar vahittu-k-koḷḷugiṟār. sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl, nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cintippadēṉ? puhai vaṇḍi sakala bhāraṅgaḷaiyum tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu pōvadu terindirundum, adil ēṟi-k-koṇḍu pōhum nām nammuḍaiya siṟiya mūṭṭaiyaiyum adil pōṭṭu-viṭṭu sukhamāy irāmal, adai namadu talaiyil tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu ēṉ kaṣṭa-p-paḍa-vēṇḍum?

Even though one places whatever amount of burden upon God, that entire amount he will bear. Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen], instead of we also yielding to it, why to be perpetually thinking, ‘it is necessary to do like this; it is necessary to do like that’? Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it, instead of remaining happily leaving our small luggage placed on it [the train], suffer bearing it [our luggage] on our head?
By carrying our small luggage on our head, thinking ‘it is necessary for me to do this; it is necessary for me to do that’, we cannot stop the train or alter its course even an iota. This is why Bhagavan said in the note that he wrote for his mother in December 1898:
அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந் தாட்டுவிப்பன். என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று.

avar-avar prārabdha-p prakāram adaṟkāṉavaṉ āṅgāṅgu irundu āṭṭuvippaṉ. eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu. iduvē tiṇṇam. āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu.

According to their-their prārabdha, he who is for that being there-there will cause to dance [that is, according to the destiny (prārabdha) of each person, he who is for that (namely God or guru, who ordains their destiny) being in the heart of each of them will make them act]. What will never happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what will happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]. This indeed is certain. Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good.
Everything that is destined to happen to us according to our prārabdha (fate or destiny) will definitely happen, no matter what we may do (or try to do) to prevent it, and whatever we must do to make it happen we will be made to do. Likewise, whatever is not destined to happen to us will definitely never happen, no matter what we may do (or try to do) to prevent it happening. This is certain, says Bhagavan, so whatever we may do or try to do by our own will will not alter anything that happens to us.

This is why he ends this note by saying: ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’. But what exactly does he mean by ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’? It obviously does not mean that no actions should be done by our mind, speech or body, because whatever actions they are destined to do in order to enable the unfolding of prārabdha they will be made to do, whether we like it or not. So long as we rise and stand as ego prārabdha will continue and will make the ego’s mind, speech and body do whatever is necessary in order for it to experience whatever is destined to happen to it.

The only actions we can avoid doing are āgāmya, which are those that are driven by our current use of our will. Many of the actions done by our mind, speech and body are driven both by our fate (prārabdha) and by our current will (likes, dislikes, desires, aversions, hopes, fears and so on), so we cannot avoid doing such actions, but we can curb the will with which we do them by gradually cultivating vairāgya (freedom from desire or passion) and thereby being increasingly indifferent to whatever happens to us according to our fate.

Since we cannot tell which actions are done according to prārabdha, which are done according to our will, and which are done according to both acting in unison, it is not action that we should focus on but only our will and the use we make of it. This is why Bhagavan asks rhetorically in the third sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்?’ (sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl, nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cintippadēṉ?), ‘Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen], instead of we also yielding to it, why to be perpetually thinking, ‘it is necessary to do like this; it is necessary to do like that’?’, thereby implying that it is not necessary for us to think at all about what we need or need not do. What we need to do by mind, speech and body we will be made to do by our prārabdha, so we need not concern ourself with it at all.

What drives us to think that we need to do this or that for one reason or another is our will, which is what we need to surrender to the will of God, knowing that all that happens or does not happen is according to his will (since he has chosen which fruits of our past āgāmya karmas we should experience in this lifetime) and is intended to be most conducive to our spiritual development. If our will were surrendered entirely to his will, we would not be concerned in the least about whatever happens or does not happen, so none of the actions done by our mind, speech or body would be driven by our will (and hence they would not be āgāmya). Remaining thus without directing our will or concern towards anything other than ourself is what Bhagavan meant by ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’.

However, as we all know from experience, surrendering our will entirely is no easy task. In fact it is not possible for us to surrender it entirely without surrendering the ego, whose will it is. So long as we rise and stand as ego, we cannot entirely avoid having likes, dislikes, desires, aversions, hopes and fears. Even the young boy Venkataraman was overwhelmed by an intense fear of death, but he used that fear to turn his mind within to investigate whether he was something that would die with the death of the body, and by his keenly focused self-attentiveness he became aware of his real nature (ātma-svarūpa), thereby surrendering his ego entirely and forever.

6. To turn within and surrender the ego entirely we need to cultivate intense vairāgya or desirelessness

Venkataraman was able to turn his mind within so effectively because of the vairāgya he had cultivated by whatever spiritual practices he had been doing in previous lives, and after he had thereby ceased to exist as Venkataraman and shone forth as Bhagavan Ramana he taught us the most effective means to cultivate such vairāgya in the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைக ளிருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானா ரென்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும். நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை; தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் ஞானம். உண்மையி லிரண்டு மொன்றே. முத்துக்குளிப்போர் தம்மிடையிற் கல்லைக் கட்டிக்கொண்டு மூழ்கிக் கடலடியிற் கிடைக்கும் முத்தை எப்படி எடுக்கிறார்களோ, அப்படியே ஒவ்வொருவனும் வைராக்கியத்துடன் தன்னுள் ளாழ்ந்து மூழ்கி ஆத்மமுத்தை யடையலாம். ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும். கோட்டைக்குள் எதிரிக ளுள்ளவரையில் அதிலிருந்து வெளியே வந்துகொண்டே யிருப்பார்கள். வர வர அவர்களையெல்லாம் வெட்டிக்கொண்டே யிருந்தால் கோட்டை கைவசப்படும்.

maṉattiṉgaṇ edu-varaiyil viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ irukkiṉḏṟaṉavō, adu-varaiyil nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇai-y-um vēṇḍum. niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum. aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal vairāggiyam alladu nirāśai; taṉṉai viḍādiruttal ñāṉam. uṇmaiyil iraṇḍum oṉḏṟē. muttu-k-kuḷippōr tam-m-iḍaiyil kallai-k kaṭṭi-k-koṇḍu mūṙki-k kaḍal-aḍiyil kiḍaikkum muttai eppaḍi eḍukkiṟārgaḷō, appaḍiyē o-vv-oruvaṉum vairāggiyattuḍaṉ taṉṉuḷ ḷ-āṙndu mūṙki ātma-muttai y-aḍaiyalām. oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum. kōṭṭaikkuḷ edirigaḷ uḷḷa-varaiyil adilirundu veḷiyē vandu-koṇḍē y-iruppārgaḷ. vara vara avargaḷai-y-ellām veṭṭi-k-koṇḍē y-irundāl kōṭṭai kaivaśa-p-paḍum.

As long as viṣaya-vāsanās [inclinations or desires to experience things other than oneself] exist within the mind, so long is the investigation who am I necessary. As and when thoughts appear, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [investigation or keen self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. Not attending to anything other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; not leaving [or letting go of] oneself is jñāna [true knowledge or real awareness]. In truth [these] two [vairāgya and jñāna] are just one. Just as pearl-divers, tying stones to their waists and sinking, pick up pearls that are found at the bottom of the ocean, so each one, sinking deep within oneself with vairāgya [freedom from desire to be aware of anything other than oneself], may attain the pearl of oneself [literally: attaining the pearl of oneself is proper]. If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own form or real nature], that alone is sufficient. So long as enemies [namely viṣaya-vāsanās] are within the fort [namely the mind], they will be continuously coming out from it. If one is continuously cutting down [or destroying] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] be captured.
Bhagavan explains the real meaning of vairāgya by saying: ‘அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை; தன்னை விடாதிருத்தல் ஞானம். உண்மையி லிரண்டு மொன்றே’ (aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal vairāggiyam alladu nirāśai; taṉṉai viḍādiruttal ñāṉam. uṇmaiyil iraṇḍum oṉḏṟē), ‘Not attending to anya [anything other than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]; not leaving [or letting go of] oneself is jñāna [true knowledge or real awareness]. In truth [these] two [vairāgya and jñāna] are just one’. Why do we let go of ourself and attend to other things? Only because of our liking, passionate interest (rāga) or desire (āśā) to be aware of things other than ourself, so attending only to ourself and thereby not attending to anything else is true vairāgya (freedom from passion or interest) or nirāśā (freedom from desire), and since that entails being aware of ourself alone, it is also jñāna (real awareness).

Everything other than ourself is a viṣaya (phenomenon), so the inclinations, likings, desires or interests we have to be aware of other things are called viṣaya-vāsanās, and hence the strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās and the strength of our vairāgya are inversely proportional to each other. The more our viṣaya-vāsanās are weakened by the practice of self-attentiveness, the stronger our vairāgya will thereby become, and since vairāgya is the stone to which we need to be tightly tied into order to sink, subside or penetrate deep within ourself, we will be able to turn away from everything else and penetrate deep within ourself only to the extent that our viṣaya-vāsanās have been weakened by persistent practice of self-investigation.

To weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby cultivate vairāgya the most effective means is to be persistently and uninterruptedly self-attentive, as Bhagavan implies when he says ‘ஒருவன் தான் சொரூபத்தை யடையும் வரையில் நிரந்தர சொரூப ஸ்மரணையைக் கைப்பற்றுவானாயின் அதுவொன்றே போதும்’ (oruvaṉ tāṉ sorūpattai y-aḍaiyum varaiyil nirantara sorūpa-smaraṇaiyai-k kai-p-paṯṟuvāṉ-āyiṉ adu-v-oṉḏṟē pōdum), ‘If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own form or real nature], that alone will be sufficient’, but in order to be uninterruptedly self-attentive we need to have already cultivated unshakeably firm vairāgya. Therefore we will not be able to cling fast to uninterrupted self-remembrance (svarūpa-smaraṇa) until we have been patiently and persistently trying to do so for as long as it takes, so we should not expect to see quick results, but must be ready to gently and calmly preserve until we are able to be constantly self-attentive no matter what activities our mind, speech or body may or may not be engaged in.

Until we are able to cling fast to uninterrupted self-attentiveness we will continue spending much of our time floating among phenomena on the surface of our mind. What keeps us floating in this way are our viṣaya-vāsanās, and what enables us to sink deep within is vairāgya, so in order to be able to sink deep enough to retrieve the ஆத்மமுத்து (ātma-muttu), the ‘self-pearl’ or ‘pearl that is oneself’, we need to weaken our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby cultivate vairāgya. This may seem to be a daunting task, but it is by no means impossible, because no matter how strong our viṣaya-vāsanās may be or what bad actions (pāpa or sins) they may have caused us to do, we can each succeed in this endeavour by patiently and persistently clinging fast to self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna), as Bhagavan assures us in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
தொன்றுதொட்டு வருகின்ற விஷயவாசனைகள் அளவற்றனவாய்க் கடலலைகள் போற் றோன்றினும் அவையாவும் சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப அழிந்துவிடும். அத்தனை வாசனைகளு மொடுங்கி, சொரூபமாத்திரமா யிருக்க முடியுமா வென்னும் சந்தேக நினைவுக்கு மிடங்கொடாமல், சொரூபத்யானத்தை விடாப்பிடியாய்ப் பிடிக்க வேண்டும். ஒருவன் எவ்வளவு பாபியாயிருந்தாலும், ‘நான் பாபியா யிருக்கிறேனே! எப்படிக் கடைத்தேறப் போகிறே’ னென்றேங்கி யழுதுகொண்டிராமல், தான் பாபி என்னு மெண்ணத்தையு மறவே யொழித்து சொரூபத்யானத்தி லூக்க முள்ளவனாக விருந்தால் அவன் நிச்சயமா யுருப்படுவான்.

toṉḏṟutoṭṭu varugiṉḏṟa viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ aḷavaṯṟaṉavāy-k kaḍal-alaigaḷ pōl tōṉḏṟiṉum avai-yāvum sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba aṙindu-viḍum. attaṉai vāsaṉaigaḷum oḍuṅgi, sorūpa-māttiram-āy irukka muḍiyumā v-eṉṉum sandēha niṉaivukkum iḍam koḍāmal, sorūpa-dhyāṉattai viḍā-p-piḍiyāy-p piḍikka vēṇḍum. oruvaṉ evvaḷavu pāpiyāy irundālum, ‘nāṉ pāpiyāy irukkiṟēṉē; eppaḍi-k kaḍaittēṟa-p pōkiṟēṉ’ eṉḏṟēṅgi y-aṙudu-koṇḍirāmal, tāṉ pāpi eṉṉum eṇṇattaiyum aṟavē y-oṙittu sorūpa-dhyāṉattil ūkkam uḷḷavaṉāha v-irundāl avaṉ niścayamāy uru-p-paḍuvāṉ.

Even though viṣaya-vāsanās, which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts or phenomena] in countless numbers like ocean-waves, they will all be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness or contemplation on one’s ‘own form’ or real nature] increases and increases [in depth and intensity]. Without giving room even to the doubting thought ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vāsanās and remain only as svarūpa [my own form or real nature]?’ it is necessary to cling tenaciously to svarūpa-dhyāna. However great a sinner one may be, if instead of lamenting and weeping ‘I am a sinner! How am I going to be saved?’ one completely rejects the thought that one is a sinner and is zealous [or steadfast] in self-attentiveness, one will certainly be reformed [transformed into what one actually is].
How tenaciously we cling to self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna) is determined by how much we want to do so, and how much we want to do so is determined by the extent to which we have weakened our viṣaya-vāsanās and thereby strengthened our vairāgya. However, even if our vairāgya and consequent love to be self-attentive are still relatively weak, we can strengthen them by persistently trying, at least little by little, to be self-attentive as much as we can.

As Bhagavan says in verses 27 and 28 of Bhagavad Gītā Sāram (which are his translations of Bhagavad Gītā 6.25 and 26), our approach to the practice of self-investigation should be ‘மெல்ல மெல்ல’ (mella mella), slowly slowly, softly softly, gently gently, calmly calmly, quietly quietly, gradually gradually, steadily steadily, little by little, step by step:
தீரஞ்சேர் புத்தியினாற் சித்தத்தை மெல்லமெல்ல
நேரச் செயவேண்டு நிச்சலன — மாரதனே
சித்தத்தை யான்மாவிற் சேர்த்திடுக மற்றெதுவு
மித்தனையு மெண்ணிடா தே.

dhīrañcēr buddhiyiṉāṯ cittattai mellamella
nērac ceyavēṇḍu niścalaṉa — mārathaṉē
cittattai yāṉmāviṟ cērttiḍuka maṯṟeduvu
mittaṉaiyu meṇṇiḍā dē
.

பதச்சேதம்: தீரம் சேர் புத்தியினால் சித்தத்தை மெல்ல மெல்ல நேர செய வேண்டும் நிச்சலன. மா ரதனே, சித்தத்தை ஆன்மாவில் சேர்த்திடுக; மற்று எதுவும் இத்தனையும் எண்ணிடாதே.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): dhīram sēr buddhiyiṉāl cittattai mella mella nēra seya vēṇḍum niścalaṉa. mā rathaṉē, cittattai āṉmāvil sērttiḍuka; maṯṟu eduvum ittaṉaiyum eṇṇiḍādē.

அன்வயம்: தீரம் சேர் புத்தியினால் சித்தத்தை மெல்ல மெல்ல நிச்சலன நேர செய வேண்டும். மா ரதனே, சித்தத்தை ஆன்மாவில் சேர்த்திடுக; மற்று எதுவும் இத்தனையும் எண்ணிடாதே.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): dhīram sēr buddhiyiṉāl cittattai mella mella niścalaṉa nēra seya vēṇḍum. mā rathaṉē, cittattai āṉmāvil sērttiḍuka; maṯṟu eduvum ittaṉaiyum eṇṇiḍādē.

English translation: It is necessary by a courage-imbued intellect to gently gently [calmly and gradually] make the mind achieve motionlessness. Great charioteer, fix the mind [your attention] in [or on] ātman [yourself]; do not think even the slightest of anything else at all.

எதுவுந் திரமின்றி யென்றுமலை சித்த
மெதெதனைப் பற்றியே யேகு — மததினின்
றீர்த்தந்தச் சித்தத்தை யெப்போது மான்மாவிற்
சேர்த்துத் திரமுறவே செய்.

eduvun thiramiṉḏṟi yeṉḏṟumalai citta
mededaṉaip paṯṟiyē yēhu — madadiṉiṉ
ḏṟīrttandac cittattai yeppōdu māṉmāviṟ
cērttut thiramuṟavē sey
.

பதச்சேதம்: எதுவும் திரம் இன்றி என்றும் அலை சித்தம் எது எதனை பற்றியே ஏகும், அது அதினின்று ஈர்த்து அந்த சித்தத்தை எப்போதும் ஆன்மாவில் சேர்த்து திரம் உறவே செய்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): eduvum thiram iṉḏṟi eṉḏṟum alai cittam edu edaṉai paṯṟiyē ēhum, adu adiṉiṉḏṟu īrttu anda cittattai eppōdum āṉmāvil cērttu thiram uṟavē sey.

அன்வயம்: எதுவும் திரம் இன்றி என்றும் அலை சித்தம் எது எதனை பற்றியே ஏகும், அது அதினின்று அந்த சித்தத்தை ஈர்த்து ஆன்மாவில் சேர்த்து எப்போதும் திரம் உறவே செய்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): eduvum thiram iṉḏṟi eṉḏṟum alai cittam edu edaṉai paṯṟiyē ēhum, adu adiṉiṉḏṟu anda cittattai īrttu āṉmāvil cērttu eppōdum thiram uṟavē sey.

English translation: Whatever the mind, which is always wavering without any steadiness, grasps and [wherever it consequently] wanders, drawing that mind back from that and fixing it in [or on] ātman [yourself], make it be always steady.
To patiently and persistently practise self-investigation in this way requires steadiness of purpose or will, so any of us can succeed in this path if we sincerely want to and are therefore ready to persevere in drawing our mind back to ourself whenever it wanders away towards anything else.

7. The key to success in self-investigation, self-surrender or any other spiritual practice is our will, so we succeed to the extent that our will is purified by our practice

Therefore the key to starting, persisting in and eventually succeeding in this path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is our will, and it is also the key to self-surrender or to any other spiritual path we may follow. Even in the path of niṣkāmya karma what is important is not the actions we do but the bhakti (love for God) and vairāgya (absence of desire for anything else) with which we do them, which is why it is called ‘niṣkāmya karma’, which means action done without desire (kāma).

Therefore the sole purpose of all that Bhagavan taught us about the law of karma is to enable us to understand that we need not and should not be concerned with anything that happens to us or in our outward-facing view, because that is already fixed by prārabdha, or even with the actions that are done by our mind, speech or body, because they are determined either by prārabdha, in which case we cannot alter them, or by our will, in which case the problem is not the actions per se but only our will, which is what drives them. What we should be concerned with is only our will (our likes, dislikes, desires, fears, interests, cares, concerns and so on), because if we can divert all our interests, concerns and desires back towards ourself and thereby away from everything else, whatever actions may be done by our mind, speech or body will not be driven by our will but only by our prārabdha.

However, though we should be primarily concerned with what we will (what we like, dislike, want, desire, fear and so on) rather than with what we do, this obviously does not mean that we can do whatever we like. We should not like to do anything at all. Nor should we even like to not do anything. We should only like to be just as we always actually are.

Just being as we actually are is what Bhagavan calls ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’, and what we actually are is beyond all pairs of opposites, including doing and not doing, because it is the immutable source and substratum of the ego, in whose view alone all pairs of opposites seem to exist. Actions are done only by mind, speech or body, so they seem to be actions done by us only because we have risen as ego, the false self-awareness ‘I am this body [which consists of five sheaths, including the mind]’. Therefore our aim should not be to do anything by mind, speech or body, nor should it be to prevent these instruments doing their respective actions, but should only be to refrain from rising as ego and thereby experiencing their actions as actions done by ourself.

We rise as ego because we want to do so in order to experience phenomena (viṣayas), so to refrain from rising as ego and thereby experiencing ourself as the doer of actions we need to purify our will (cittam) by replacing our viṣaya-vāsanās (our inclinations or urges to be aware of phenomena) with sat-vāsanā (the inclination or urge to be aware of nothing other than our own being, which is just pure self-awareness). Though (as described by Bhagavan in verses 3 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār) we can purify our cittam to a certain extent by various practices of niṣkāmya karma, which are the preliminary practices on the path of bhakti, we can purify it most effectively and completely only by the practice of self-investigation, which is the ultimate practice on the path of bhakti.

To the extent that our will is purified by such practices, the extent to which (or impetus with which) we do āgāmya (actions driven by our will) will be reduced, and whatever āgāmya we do do will tend to be actions that are less selfish and hence more righteous and less harmful either to ourself or to others. However, though this is a natural and beneficial by-product of the purification of our mind, our aim should not be just to do more virtuous āgāmya but to avoid doing any āgāmya whatsoever.

In other words, we should use our will wisely by choosing only to try to turn within and to remain firmly established as pure self-awareness, which is our real nature, thereby surrendering our outgoing will entirely along with its root, the ego (because it is only in the absence of ego and its concomitant will that we can avoid doing any āgāmya whatsoever). This is what Bhagavan meant by the term ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’, when he concluded his note for his mother by writing: ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’.

8. Will and free will are two distinct concepts, because though many people deny the existence of free will, no one can reasonably deny the existence of will

The ongoing discussion about the role of free will and the law of karma in general that I referred to at the beginning of this article seems to have started from what I wrote in Doership is the very nature of the ego, because it always experiences the instruments of action as itself (the third section of the first of my previous three articles, The ego does not actually exist, but it seems to exist, and only so long as it seems to exist do all other things seem to exist), in which I explained the meaning of the first sentence of verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு’ (uḍal pañca kōśa uru), ‘The body is a form of five sheaths’, by writing, ‘The body is pañca-kōśa-uru [a form composed of five sheaths, namely a physical structure, life, mind, intellect and what is described both as the darkness of self-ignorance and as the will, the totality of the ego’s vāsanās (propensities, inclinations or urges), which are the seeds that sprout as its likes, dislikes, desires, fears and so on]’, and in which I mentioned ‘though talking is a physical action, what we talk is determined by the mind, intellect and will, and the same applies to many other actions done by our physical body. Likewise, though breathing and living are actions of the prāṇa, the urge to breathe and live is a function of the will. Therefore, since the will is also the driving force that determines to a large extent what we think, feel, reason and judge, it is involved in the actions of all the other four sheaths’.

Referring to this a friend called Sanjay wrote a comment in which he reflected, ‘will is also the very nature of the ego. In other words, whenever we experience ourself as this ego, we cannot exist as such without having a will of our own. [...] many believe that we have no free-will, but as we have seen above, the very nature of the ego is to have a will of its own, and without such a will the ego cannot even exist’, to which I responded in another comment:
Sanjay, I do not think any reasonable person would deny that we have a will (likes, dislikes, desires, fears and so on), but saying that we have a will does not necessarily imply that that will is free. When people argue that everything is predetermined (whether by fate or by the laws of physics) and that we therefore have no free will, what they are denying is not that we have a will but that our will is free, so arguments about predetermination versus free will would generally be simplified and clarified if the concept of ‘free will’ were unpacked more explicitly by distinguishing its two components, ‘will’ and ‘freedom of will’. The dispute is in most cases not a dispute about the existence of will but about the existence of freedom of will, because if everything were predetermined even our will would be predetermined and hence not free.

In verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu the two terms that Bhagavan uses are விதி (vidhi), which means ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ [in the sense of what is given, apportioned, allotted or ordained, being derived from the Sanskrit verb vidhā, which means to distribute, allot, bestow, enjoin, ordain, prescribe, fix or command], and மதி (mati), which in this context means ‘will’. However in English translations of this verse மதி (mati) is generally interpreted as ‘free will’, and this interpretation can be justified by the fact that Bhagavan is talking about ‘விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம்’ (vidhi mati vellum vivādam), which means ‘dispute about which prevails, fate or will’, and will obviously could not prevail over fate unless it had a certain degree of freedom. If our will were entirely bound by fate (that is, if whatever we like, dislike, desire or fear were wholly determined by our fate), we would have no freedom of will at all.

However, though in this context மதி (mati) does imply ‘free will’, translating it as ‘free will’ does slightly obscure the simplicity of what Bhagavan is actually saying in this verse, so though I used to translate it as ‘free will’, I now consider that it is preferable to translate it more literally as just ‘will’.
9. The ego and its will are two distinct things

I also added in a second comment:
Sanjay, there is one other point in your comment that needs clarification, namely when you write ‘the ego’s very nature is this darkness of self-ignorance’ and ‘will is also the very nature of the ego’. The darkness of self-ignorance and the resulting will are one of the five sheaths (albeit the subtlest of them, as you say), so they are distinct from the ego, even though the ego cannot rise or stand without grasping them and the other four sheaths as itself. This is important to understand, because in order to effectively investigate what we (this ego) actually are we need to distinguish and isolate ourself from all the five sheaths (as Bhagavan implies, for example, when he says in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?: ‘ஆகையால், பஞ்ச கோசங்களையும் நீக்கி விசாரிக்க வேண்டிய தன்னை நூல்களில் விசாரிப்பது வீணே’ (āhaiyāl, pañca kōśaṅgaḷai-y-um nīkki vicārikka vēṇḍiya taṉṉai nūlgaḷil vicārippadu vīṇē), ‘Therefore investigating in texts [in order to know] oneself, whom it is necessary to investigate [by turning one’s attention within and thereby] setting aside [excluding, removing, giving up or separating from] all the pañca-kōśas [five sheaths], is useless’).
The will (cittam) is the ego’s will, and though it appears, endures and disappears along with the ego, it is not the ego, and hence it is called the ‘causal body’ (kāraṇa śarīra) or the ‘sheath composed of happiness’ (ānandamaya kōśa), which implies that it is distinct from the ego itself. The ego is the ‘I’ that likes, dislikes, desires, fears and so on, but it is not its likes, dislikes, desires or fears, because it remains the same even though these elements of its will can and do change over time. As this ego we need to harness our will to investigate ourself, but what we must investigate is not our will but only ourself, the ‘I’ whose will it is.

10. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 19: the origin, root and foundation of both fate and will is the ego

In my first reply to Sanjay I referred to verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which Bhagavan says:
விதிமதி மூல விவேக மிலார்க்கே
விதிமதி வெல்லும் விவாதம் — விதிமதிகட்
கோர்முதலாந் தன்னை யுணர்ந்தா ரவைதணந்தார்
சார்வரோ பின்னுமவை சாற்று.

vidhimati mūla vivēka milārkkē
vidhimati vellum vivādam — vidhimatigaṭ
kōrmudalān taṉṉai yuṇarndā ravaitaṇandār
sārvarō piṉṉumavai sāṯṟu
.

பதச்சேதம்: விதி மதி மூல விவேகம் இலார்க்கே விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம். விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை உணர்ந்தார் அவை தணந்தார்; சார்வரோ பின்னும் அவை? சாற்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): vidhi mati mūla vivēkam ilārkkē vidhi mati vellum vivādam. vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai uṇarndār avai taṇandār; sārvarō piṉṉum avai? sāṯṟu.

அன்வயம்: விதி மதி மூல விவேகம் இலார்க்கே விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம். விதிமதிகட்கு ஓர் முதல் ஆம் தன்னை உணர்ந்தார் அவை தணந்தார்; பின்னும் அவை சார்வரோ? சாற்று.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): vidhi mati mūla vivēkam ilārkkē vidhi mati vellum vivādam. vidhi-matigaṭku ōr mudal ām taṉṉai uṇarndār avai taṇandār; piṉṉum avai sārvarō? sāṯṟu.

English translation: Only for those who do not have discernment of the root of fate and will is there dispute about which prevails, fate or will. Those who have known themself, who is the one origin for fate and will, have discarded them. Say, will they thereafter be associated with them?

Explanatory paraphrase: Only for those who do not have vidhi-mati-mūla-vivēkam [ability to distinguish or discern the root of fate (vidhi) and will (mati), namely the ego] is there dispute about which prevails, fate or will. Those who have known [the reality of] themself [the ego], who is the one origin [cause or foundation] for fate and will, have [thereby] discarded them [because the ego as such does not actually exist, since its reality is not what it seems to be but just pure self-awareness, so when one knows oneself as pure self-awareness the appearance of the ego will be dissolved forever, and thus one will have discarded not only the ego but also its fate and will]. Say, will they thereafter be associated with them?
Ego is the மூலம் (mūlam), the root, base, foundation or origin, and the ஓர் முதல் (ōr mudal), the one origin, cause, root or base, of both fate and will, because it alone is what has a will and consequently experiences fate. Therefore until and unless we are able to distinguish ego from all its adjuncts and thereby know its reality, we cannot fully comprehend how will and fate work side by side, sometimes in sync with one another and sometimes out of sync or in opposition to one another, and if we do know the reality of ego, we will know that it is not what it seems to be and therefore as ego it does not actually exist, so by thus discarding ego we will also discard both will and fate along with it, because without their root and foundation they do not actually exist. Therefore will and fate seem to exist only so long as we seem to be this ego, and we cannot free ourself from them without eradicating the ego that we now seem to be.

As ego we have no control over our fate, because it is the fruit of actions that we have done by our own will or volition in previous lives. It is like an arrow that we have already discharged from our bow and therefore can no longer control its trajectory or what it will hit. However we do have control over our will, so whereas it is futile to concern ourself with our fate, we should be concerned about the use we now make of our will.

We sometimes seem to have no power to control our desires or fears, so it may seem that we do not have complete control over our will, but this is because different elements of our will (different vāsanās) are in conflict with one another, in which case the stronger element will prevail. If, for example, we have a certain desire or fear from which we want to free ourself, we will be able to free ourself from it only if our wish to be free of it is stronger than our inclination to indulge it or be carried away by it. If we happen to be carried away by a certain desire or fear, that is not because we cannot control it, but because our liking to control it is not sufficiently strong.

11. In the dispute about which prevails, fate or will, both sides are incorrect, because fate and will each prevail in their own sphere

Just as our will is often in conflict with itself, it is also often in conflict with our fate, because fate is what determines all that we are to experience in each life, whereas will is what determines what we want or do not want to experience, and often we do not want to experience what we are destined to experience, and we want to experience things that we are not destined to experience. Because of this conflict, which we all experience, some people conclude that fate is all-powerful, so our will has no power of its own and is shaped only by fate, whereas others conclude that our will is more powerful and can shape or at least modify our fate.

Both of these views are incorrect, and the dispute between them is what Bhagavan describes in this verse as ‘விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம்’ (vidhi mati vellum vivādam), ‘dispute about which prevails, fate or will’. The reason why both sides in this dispute are incorrect is that fate and will each prevail in their own sphere, and neither can encroach into the sphere of the other. The sphere of fate is all that we are to experience (or all that is the happen to us) in each life, whereas the sphere of will is what we want or do not want to experience (or to happen to us).

No matter what we want to experience or do not want to experience, we cannot even to the slightest extent change (modify, add to or subtract from) what we are to experience, so our will can never encroach into the sphere of our fate. In other words, our fate, which is all that we are destined to experience in each life, is completely independent of whatever our will may currently be (though it may happen to be, or rather may be designed to be, in accordance with at least some elements of our current will). Likewise, no matter what our fate may be, our will is completely independent of it, so it can never encroach into the sphere of our will. Sometimes what we experience in accordance with our fate may prompt us to curb or modify some of our desires and other elements of our will, but whether or not we choose to curb or modify our will in response to our fate is not determined by our fate but only by our will.

Therefore there is no question of our will prevailing over our fate, or our fate prevailing over our will, except in their own respective spheres, over which the other has absolutely no jurisdiction whatsoever. Whatever we are or are not to experience in each life is determined only by our fate and can never be altered by our current will, and whatever we want or do not want to experience is determined only by our will and can never be altered by our fate.

The only sphere in which fate and will may appear to clash or compete with each other is the sphere of the actions done by our mind, speech and body, because these are driven by both fate and will. However even in this sphere the rules demarcating the jurisdiction of each are quite clear. Whatever actions these three instruments (mind, speech and body) must do in order for us to experience our fate they will be made to do, whether we like it or not, but beyond this restriction our will is free to make these instruments do whatever it wants them to do. That is, our will (or rather ourself, this ego, whose will it is) can use these three instruments in any way it wants so long as what it wants them to do does not conflict with anything that we are destined to experience, in which case it is still free to try to use them to do what it wants them to do but it will not achieve whatever it wants to achieve thereby.

Since we cannot know what our fate will be until it has unfolded, we cannot know which of the actions done by our mind, speech or body are driven by our fate and which are driven by our will. Since we want to experience many of the things that we are destined to experience, and since we want to avoid experiencing many of the thing that we are not destined to experience, many of the actions of these three instruments that are driven by our fate are simultaneously driven by our will, so just because a certain action resulted in an experience we cannot conclude that it was driven only by our fate and not by our will. Unless we wanted to avoid that experience and knew that that action would result in it, the action that resulted in it was probably driven both by our fate and our will.

The entire process by which the actions of our mind, speech and body are driven either by our fate or by our will or by both simultaneously is far too subtle and complex for us to be able to distinguish to what extent each action is driven by either or both of them, and there is no need for us even to try to distinguish this, because our only concern should be to try to turn within and thereby weaken the outward-going elements of our will, namely our viṣaya-vāsanās and karma-vāsanās. The more we weaken and curb these outward-going vāsanās, the less the actions of our mind, speech and body will be driven by them, so āgāmya karmas (actions driven by our will) are just symptoms, whereas the will that drives them is the disease, and hence we should focus on treating the disease rather than concerning ourself with the symptoms.

12. Freedom of will is an essential premise of the law of karma and of all that Bhagavan taught us about spiritual practice

Though most people would agree that we have a will (likes, dislikes, desires, aversions, hopes, fears, interests, aspirations, cares, concerns and so one), because it would be extremely difficult to justify a claim that we have no will, there is widespread disagreement about whether or not our will is free, and even among those who believe it is free, there is disagreement about the sense in which it is free and the extent to which it is free, so the concept of ‘free will’ is extremely contentious, and if we begin to talk about it we are entering murky territory, because it is a term without a clear or fixed definition. This is why I pointed out in section 8 of this article that ‘will’ and ‘free will’ are two distinct concepts, because ‘free will’ implies not only will but also freedom of will.

Moreover ‘free will’ is a very loaded term, because it is generally taken to mean more than what it literally means. Literally it means a will that is free, so in this sense it does not imply more than freedom of the will itself, which when critically considered means essentially that as ego we are free to want whatever we want, which is an obvious tautology (because by definition we want whatever we want, and we do not want whatever we do not want, so nothing can prevent us wanting what we want or make us want what we do not want, and hence in this sense we are perfectly free to want whatever we want), so it is necessarily true and should therefore not be contentious. However, ‘free will’ is generally taken to mean freedom not just to want what we want but also to do what we want and even to achieve what we want, so in either of these latter two senses it is a contentious issue. Therefore when we use terms such as ‘free will’ or ‘freedom of will’, we need to be clear what we mean thereby. Do we mean freedom to want what we want, to do what we want or to achieve what we want?

In verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Bhagavan does not explicitly refer to ‘free will’ at all, because the term he uses is மதி (mati), which in this context means ‘will’, so the simple teaching that he gives us in this verse is rather obscured and complicated when மதி (mati) is translated as ‘free will’. However, ‘விதி மதி வெல்லும் விவாதம்’ (vidhi mati vellum vivādam), ‘dispute about which prevails, fate or will’, arises because those who claim that will prevails must believe that it is in some sense and to some extent free, since if it were not in some way free or independent of fate it would not be able to prevail over it.

For the reasons I explained in the previous section Bhagavan does not support either side in this dispute but implies that the dispute itself is based on an erroneous foundation, namely ego, which is the root and origin of both will and fate (because it is what experiences fate as a result of previously exercising its will in a wrong manner), but if ego investigates itself, it will turn out to be non-existent, whereupon its will and fate will also turn out to be non-existent. Therefore will and fate both seem to exist only so long as we seem to be this ego, the one who has a will that drives it to act though mind, speech and body, and who consequently experiences fate, which is the fruit of such actions.

If fate is the fruit or result of our previous misuse of our will (the wrong choices we have willingly made in previous lives), as Bhagavan taught us, it would be unreasonable to claim that our will is determined by our fate and therefore not free, because that would imply that fate is antecedent to will, whereas what he taught us implies just the opposite, namely that will is antecedent to fate. Moreover, if our will were determined by our fate (vidhi or prārabdha), that would mean that whatever āgāmya we do is likewise determined by our fate (because āgāmya is by definition actions that are driven by our will), in which case whatever fate we now have to experience would be the result of actions that we had previously done in accordance with some earlier fate and not in accordance with our free choice. If such were the case, the law of karma would not be a morally just system based on the principle ‘as you sow so you shall reap’, but would be an unjust system of rewarding or punishing ego for actions that it was forced to do without any freedom of choice on its part.

The law of karma taught by Bhagavan consists of a set of principles, of which one of the most fundamental is that whatever fate we may experience is the fruit of actions that we have done in previous lives according to our own will or volition, and that we are free to exercise our will as we wish when doing such actions. If we choose to deny this we are denying the fundamental principle underlying all that he taught us about karma.

Moreover, what he taught us about karma is intimately connected with everything else that he taught us, so this principle that we are free to exercise our will as we wish and, within certain limits, to act accordingly (which is what Sadhu Om describes as icchā-kriyā-svatantra, which means freedom or independence of will and action) is a fundamental principle that underlies not only all that Bhagavan taught us about karma but also all that he (and all other sages and śāstras) taught us about all forms of spiritual practice, including self-investigation and self-surrender, because why should we be taught to do any spiritual practice if we are not free to willingly choose whether to do it or not?

This is what is implied in a passage in section 426 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (1978 edition, page 393; 2006 edition, page 409), in which it is recorded that in answer to someone who asked ‘Has man any Free-Will or is everything in his life predestined and preordained?’ Bhagavan replied something to the effect: ‘Free-Will holds the field in association with individuality [ego]. As long as individuality lasts so long there is Free-Will. All the sastras are based on this fact and they advise directing the Free-Will in the right channel’.

13. Limitations on the freedom of our will are internal rather than external

Then in what sense and to what extent is our will free? Are there any constraints on it, and if so what are those constraints? Is fate a constraint on it? That is, can fate limit the freedom of our will in any way? Or if fate does not constrain or limit it, does anything else do so? These are questions we will consider in this and the following three sections.

Our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) is infinitely free, because there is nothing other than it that could ever limit its freedom, but when we rise as this ego we impose limitations on ourself, so as this ego our freedom is limited. However, though there are limits on what we can do and on what we can achieve, there are no limits on what we can want to do or to achieve, so in this sense our will is perfectly free. Whatever constraints or limitations there may seem to be on our will, they are self-imposed ones, because they are internal rather than external. That is, our will is constrained only because different elements of it are in conflict with one another.

For example, we may have a desire or a fear from which we would like to free ourself, but often in such cases we are unable to get rid of it. This is not due to any external constraint, but only because that desire or fear is stronger than our wish to be free of it. That desire or fear and our wish to be free of it are both elements of our will, and when elements of our will are in conflict with each other like this, whichever is stronger will prevail.

Since our will consists of numerous elements, which are what are called vāsanās (propensities, inclinations or urges) and which are of various kinds (likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, fears and so on) and varying degrees of intensity, they are often in conflict with one another, so we frequently find that we seem to be unable to control, restrain or get rid of them. Our inability to do so is not due to any external forces or influences but is simply because our liking to do so is not sufficiently strong. This is why we often seem to be overwhelmed or carried away by certain vāsanās against our will. Of course we can never actually be swayed by any vāsanā against our will, because each vāsanā is an element of our will, so if we are swayed by it that is because it is stronger than our desire not be to swayed by it.

14. Since we are free to choose what we attend to, we can choose which vāsanās we feed with our attention and which we deprive of our attention

These internal conflicts between different elements of our will are the reason why our will often seems to be weak and fragmented, and also why any spiritual practice, particularly self-investigation and self-surrender, generally seems to be so difficult. In order to succeed in our practice of self-investigation and self-surrender we need to reduce the strength of all our outgoing vāsanās and develop sat-vāsanā (the inclination or love to just be) by patiently and persistently persevering in this practice.

Just as plants thrive so long as they receive adequate water but wither and die when deprived of water, vāsanās thrive so long as we feed them with our attention but wither and die when deprived of our attention.
Without use when left to stay,
Iron and mischief rust away.
This is Sadhu Om’s translation of a Tamil proverb, which aptly describes what happens to our vāsanās when we refrain from nourishing them with our attention. Since we are free to choose what we attend to, we can choose which vāsanās we feed with our attention and which we deprive of our attention, and in this way we can weaken the hold of some vāsanās while cultivating and nourishing other ones.

This is what is happening when we practise or at least try to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). By turning our attention back towards ourself and thereby away from everything else (all of which are a projection of our viṣaya-vāsanās, our inclinations to be aware of viṣayas or phenomena), and by holding fast to self-attentiveness (svarūpa-dhyāna), thereby not allowing our attention to be distracted away towards anything else, we are depriving our viṣaya-vāsanās of the water of our attention, thereby weakening them by leaving them to dry up and wither away, and at the same time by attending only to ourself and thereby abiding in (or at least close to) our natural state of pure self-awareness, which is the state of just being (summā iruppadu), we are nourishing and strengthening our sat-vāsanā.

This is what Bhagavan refers to when he says in the first sentence of the tenth paragraph and the second sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
தொன்றுதொட்டு வருகின்ற விஷயவாசனைகள் அளவற்றனவாய்க் கடலலைகள் போற் றோன்றினும் அவையாவும் சொரூபத்யானம் கிளம்பக் கிளம்ப அழிந்துவிடும்.

toṉḏṟutoṭṭu varugiṉḏṟa viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ aḷavaṯṟaṉavāy-k kaḍal-alaigaḷ pōl tōṉḏṟiṉum avai-yāvum sorūpa-dhyāṉam kiḷamba-k kiḷamba aṙindu-viḍum .

Even though viṣaya-vāsanās, which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts or phenomena] in countless numbers like ocean-waves, they will all be destroyed when svarūpa-dhyāna [self-attentiveness] increases and increases [in depth and intensity].

நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும்.

niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum.

As and when thoughts [which means phenomena of any kind whatsoever] appear, then and there it is necessary to annihilate them all by vicāraṇā [investigation or keen self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise [namely ourself].
So long as our viṣaya-vāsanās are still relatively strong, our progress in weakening and eradicating them by this practice of self-attentiveness will be relatively slow, because the enthusiasm and impetus with which we practise it will be correspondingly weak, but if we persevere patiently and persistently we will certainly weaken them in due course and correspondingly increase the love with which we cling to being self-attentive. This is the most effective means to purify our will (cittam), as Bhagavan implies in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and therefore it is the best use we can make of our will and our freedom to use it as we like.

15. Self-attentiveness is the most effective means to purify our will (cittam), but not the only means

However, though self-investigation (which is what Bhagavan refers to as ananya-bhāva, ‘meditation on what is not other [than oneself]’, in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār) is the most effective means to purify our mind or will, it is not the only means. Just as we can cultivate sat-vāsanā and weaken all other vāsanās by persistently turning our attention back towards ourself and thereby away from all other things, we can cultivate devotion and an attitude of surrender and reliance on God and thereby weaken other vāsanās by other practices of niṣkāmya bhakti as described by Bhagavan in verses 3 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār. Moreover, even without any such formal practices of bhakti we can cultivate a liking (vāsanā) to yield our will to the will of God (an attitude of surrender and vairāgya) in our normal daily life by choosing which types of thoughts to dwell on and which types to avoid, reject or ignore.

All such things are possible because we are free to choose how we want to use our power of attention. If it were not possible for us to choose in this way which kind of vāsanās to cultivate and which to weaken and eradicate, there would be absolutely no benefit in doing any kind of spiritual practice, because the sole purpose of all spiritual practices is to purify our mind, or more precisely our will (cittam).

The impurities in our cittam (mind or will) are its outgoing propensities (vāsanās), so complete purification of the mind entails the destruction of all vāsanās (vāsanākṣaya), and we can destroy all of them only by eradicating their root, the ego, because so long as ego survives it will to a greater or lesser extent have a will of its own, the elements of which are what are called vāsanās. So long as the root survives, branches and leaves in the form of vāsanās of one kind or another will continue sprouting from it, so complete purification of the mind can be achieved only by rooting out ego. Therefore complete purification of the mind or vāsanākṣaya entails annihilation of the mind itself (manōnāśa).

Since we can eradicate ego only by investigating it so keenly that we see that what actually exists is only pure self-awareness, which is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), and that there is therefore no such thing as ego at all, complete purification of the mind can be achieved only by means of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). All other spiritual practices are means by which we can purify our mind to a certain extent, but none of them can eradicate ego itself, so the purity of mind (citta-śuddhi) achieved by such means can only be partial and never complete.

However partial purity of mind is better than no purity at all, because with purity of mind comes vairāgya (dispassion, detachment or desirelessness) and clarity of mind, both of which are required for us to succeed in the ultimate practice of self-investigation and complete self-surrender. This is why Bhagavan says in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār that when purity of mind is achieved by other means, ‘அஃது கதி வழி காண்பிக்கும்’ (aḵdu gati vaṙi kāṇbikkum), ‘that will show the way [or path] to liberation’. That is, by whatever means it may be achieved, purity of mind (citta-śuddhi) gives one the clarity of vivēka (discernment, discrimination or judgement) to recognise that the only means by which ego can eradicate itself is to turn its attention back towards itself in order to see what its real nature actually is.

Purity of mind or will (citta-śuddhi) gives not only vivēka but also vairāgya, both of which are required for us to succeed in the practice of self-investigation, and we are able to cultivate such purity only because we are free to choose which kinds of vāsanās we wish to develop and which kinds we wish to scorch. If we did not have such freedom, we would be forever bound by our own desires, fears and other passions, and we could never develop the dispassion (vairāgya) that we require in order to be able to turn our attention back keenly towards ourself and thereby sink deep into our heart to retrieve the ஆத்மமுத்து (ātma-muttu), the infinitely precious ‘self-pearl’ or ‘pearl that is oneself’.

This is why Bhagavan often said that we are always free to turn our mind within, or at least to try to do so to the extent that we have cultivated vairāgya by persistent practice of self-attentiveness or any other means. Some people believe that our freedom to do so is obstructed by our fate or prārabdha, but whenever anyone expressed such a belief he explained that prārabdha is what we are destined to experience, but we can experience it only so long as our attention is turned away from ourself, so it affects only the outward-turned mind and can never obstruct us from turning it within.

Some people infer from this that turning our attention within is the only freedom we have (and some records of what Bhagavan is supposed to have said that make it appear as if he sometimes said something to this effect), and therefore that we have no freedom of choice other than this binary one, to turn within or to turn outwards, but this is a gross oversimplification and does not reflect the nuances in whatever he said in this regard. We are free to turn our attention within because we are free to attend to whatever we want, so the same freedom that enables us to choose to turn within if we want to also enables us to choose whatever else we want to attend to.

Purification of our mind is a gradual process, and it is only after we have achieved a certain degree of purity that we will choose to try to turn within, so if we could not purify our mind at least to that extent by other means, we would never even begin to practise self-investigation. Therefore before we first choose to try to turn within we must have been making choices that led to the purity of mind that resulted in our making this choice, so it cannot be correct to say that the only freedom of choice we have is whether to turn within or not.

What Bhagavan wrote in verses 3 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār clearly shows that he did not consider freedom to turn within to be the only freedom of choice we have, because none of the practises that he describes in those verses as being progressively more effective means to purify our mind entail turning it within. It was only in verse 8 that he first referred to the practice of turning our attention within, which he described as ananya-bhāva, ‘meditation on what is not other [than oneself]’, and said that it is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), the ‘best of all’ or ‘best among all’, thereby implying that it is the most effective of all means to purify the mind.

Just as we can choose to attend to ourself rather than to anything else, we can choose to think of a name or form of God, for example, rather than of any other thing, and if our motive for thinking of that name or form is love for God rather than for anything else that we may hope to gain thereby, that will purify our mind (as Bhagavan says in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār), strengthening our devotional inclinations (bhakti-vāsanās) and weakening our inclinations (vāsanās) to be concerned about other things. Likewise, rather than allowing ourself to worry about any problems we may face and think about what we can do to solve them, we can choose to develop an attitude of surrender and indifference, leaving all such concerns to the care of Bhagavan. By means such as these we can purify our mind (our will or cittam), reducing the strength and impetus of our outgoing vāsanās even when we are not deliberately trying to be self-attentive.

If we could not purify our mind in this way by choosing to surrender all our cares and concerns to Bhagavan (leaving our small luggage on the train instead of carrying it on our head), he would not have prescribed such a practice in the final three sentences of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?. Why would he have asked rhetorically in the third sentence, ‘சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால், நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்?’ (sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl, nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cintippadēṉ?), ‘Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen], instead of we also yielding to it, why to be perpetually thinking, ‘it is necessary to do like this; it is necessary to do like that’?’ if we did not have freedom to choose to yield ourself and thereby refrain from constantly thinking like that? This is the practice of self-surrender, and every moment that we choose to yield ourself in this way we are rectifying our will (purifying our mind) by weakening our inclinations to be concerned about other things and strengthening our inclination to surrender our will to his.

The inclinations (vāsanās) we have now are the result of choices we have made in the past, so by making more appropriate choices now we can weaken and erase old inclinations and replace them with ones that are more conducive to turning our mind within. In other words, the impurities in our cittam (mind or will) were created by our misuse of it (our wrong choices) in the past, so by rectifying the use we make of it now (what choices we make at each moment) we can purify it. Since it was only by our own wrong choices in the past that that we polluted our will with all our present likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, fears and other passions, it is only by our present choices that we can now cleanse it of all such unwanted passions.

16. Fate does to some extent limit our freedom to act as we choose, but it does not even to the slightest extent limit our freedom to choose how we wish to act

Since there is a popular belief that fate (or predetermination) and freedom of will are mutually exclusive, the question of which of these two prevails is a contentious issue (which is why Bhagavan refers to it in verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), and most people who consider this issue tend to believe either that everything is predetermined and therefore we have no freedom of will, or that we do have freedom of will and therefore everything is not predetermined. Even among the devotees of Bhagavan there are many who believe that because he said that whatever is destined to happen will certainly happen and whatever is not destined to happen will not happen, fate leaves no room or at most very little room for any freedom of our will.

If such were the case, that would mean that fate always prevails over the freedom of our will, but this is not what Bhagavan implies in verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. In fact he implies that this dispute is a fallacious one, because fate and will both originate from the ego and exist so long as the ego survives. Therefore Bhagavan’s verdict on this dispute is that fate and freedom of will are not mutually exclusive, because as he often explained fate is the fruit of actions that we have done of our own free will in previous lives.

What he taught us about fate presupposes not only the freedom of our will but also our freedom to act (at least to some extent) in accordance with our will, because fate (prārabdha) is the fruit of āgāmya, which is by definition actions that we have chosen to do in accordance with our will. To many people this seems to be a contradiction. How can fate determine all that is to happen yet leave us the freedom to act as we choose?

Fate does limit our freedom to act as we choose, but it limits it only partially and not completely, because if it limited it completely there would be no such thing as āgāmya, and hence no fruit to experience as fate. We are free to act as we want provided that whatever actions we want to do would not in any way obstruct what is destined to happen or cause anything to happen that is not destined to happen. We are even free to try to do actions that would either obstruct what is destined to happen or cause something to happen that is not destined to happen, but our attempts to do such actions will not succeed in doing so.

However, the limitation imposed by fate is only a limitation on our freedom to act as we want, but it is not a limitation on the freedom of our will. Fate can never in any way limit or obstruct the freedom of our will. That is, though we are not free to change, add to or subtract from anything that we are destined to experience according to our fate, we are free to want to do so and to try to do so, so though fate constrains what we can achieve by what we want to do and try to do, it cannot prevent us either wanting to do so or trying to do so.

17. Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 9: to accomplish the aim of self-investigation we need the strength of one-pointed love to surrender ourself

As I wrote in the second paragraph of section 13, our will is constrained only because different elements of it are in conflict with one another, so to the extent that the elements of it are aligned towards one aim (that is, the more ēkāgratā or one-pointedness our will has), the stronger it will be. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ applies to our will as much as it to any external forces. The strength of unity lies in the combined strength of all the elements that stand united. This is why single-mindedness or one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) is considered to be a requisite in any kind of spiritual practice, and why Bhagavan explains its necessity in the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
பிரணாயாமம் போலவே மூர்த்தித்தியானம், மந்திரஜபம், ஆகார நியம மென்பவைகளும் மனத்தை அடக்கும் சகாயங்களே. மூர்த்தித்தியானத்தாலும், மந்திரஜபத்தாலும் மனம் ஏகாக்கிரத்தை யடைகிறது. சதாசலித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் யானையின் துதிக்கையில் ஒரு சங்கிலியைக் கொடுத்தால் அவ்யானை எப்படி வேறொன்றையும் பற்றாம லதையே பற்றிக் கொண்டு செல்லுமோ, அப்படியே சதாசலித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் மனமும், அதனை ஏதோ ஒரு நாமம் அல்லது ரூபத்திற் பழக்கினால் அதையே பற்றிக் கொண்டிருக்கும். மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும். எல்லா நியமங்களிலுஞ் சிறந்த மித ஸாத்விக ஆகார நியமத்தால் மனத்தின் சத்வ குணம் விருத்தியாகி, ஆத்மவிசாரத்திற்கு சகாய முண்டாகிறது.

piraṇāyāmam pōla-v-ē mūrtti-d-dhiyāṉam, mantira-japam, āhāra niyamam eṉbavaigaḷum maṉattai aḍakkum sahāyaṅgaḷ-ē. mūrtti-d-dhiyāṉattālum, mantira-japattālum maṉam ēkāggirattai y-aḍaigiṟadu. sadā-calittu-k koṇḍirukkum yāṉaiyiṉ tutikkaiyil oru caṅgiliyai-k koḍuttāl a-v-yāṉai eppaḍi vēṟoṉḏṟaiyum paṯṟāmal adaiyē paṯṟi-k-koṇḍu sellumō, appaḍiyē sadā-calittu-k koṇḍirukkum maṉamum, adaṉai ēdō oru nāmam alladu rūpattil paṙakkiṉāl adaiyē paṯṟi-k-koṇḍirukkum. maṉam aḷaviṟanda niṉaivugaḷ-āy virigiṉḏṟapaḍiyāl o-vv-oru niṉaivum adi-bala-v-īṉam-āha-p pōgiṉḏṟadu. niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum. ellā niyamaṅgaḷilum siṟanda mita sātvika āhāra niyamattāl maṉattiṉ satva guṇam virutti-y-āhi, ātma-vicārattiṟku sahāyam uṇḍāgiṟadu.

Just like prāṇāyāma [breath-restraint], what are called mūrti-dhyāna [meditation upon a form of God], mantra-japa [repetition of a sacred word or phrase, usually consisting of or containing a name of God] and āhāra-niyama [restriction of diet, particularly the restriction of consuming only vegetarian food] are also only aids that restrain the mind [but will not bring about its annihilation]. Both by mūrti-dhyāna and by mantra-japa the mind gains ēkāgratā [one-pointedness]. Just as if one gives a chain in the trunk of an elephant, which is always moving [swinging about trying to catch hold of something or other], that elephant will proceed grasping it without grasping anything else, in exactly that way the mind, which is always moving [wandering about thinking of something or other], will, if one makes it habituated [to holding] on any one name or form, remain grasping it alone [without thinking unnecessary thoughts about anything else]. Because of the way in which the mind spreads out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. When thoughts reduce and reduce, for the mind which, gaining ēkāgra-taṉmai [one-pointed nature], has thereby gained strength ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished. By mita sāttvika āhāra-niyama [the restriction of consuming only sattva-conducive food in moderate quantities], which is the best among all restrictions, the sattva-guṇa [the quality of ‘being-ness’, calmness and clarity] of the mind increasing, for self-investigation help will [thereby] arise.
Though Bhagavan does not explicitly refer to will in this paragraph, when he says ‘மூர்த்தித்தியானத்தாலும், மந்திரஜபத்தாலும் மனம் ஏகாக்கிரத்தை யடைகிறது’ (mūrtti-d-dhiyāṉattālum, mantira-japattālum maṉam ēkāggirattai y-aḍaigiṟadu), ‘Both by mūrti-dhyāna and by mantra-japa the mind gains ēkāgratā [one-pointedness]’, and ‘நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்’ (niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum), ‘When thoughts reduce and reduce, for the mind which, gaining ēkāgra-taṉmai [one-pointed nature], has thereby gained strength ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished’, the one-pointedness (ēkāgratā) he is referring to is one-pointedness not only of thoughts but also of will, because the power that gives rise to and drives all our thoughts except those that are necessary to enable our fate (prārabdha) to unfold, and that makes us attend even to the latter, is our will. If our will is one-pointed the thoughts driven by it will likewise be one-pointed, and if our will is scattered the thoughts driven by it will likewise be scattered.

Moreover, when he talks here about mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa, he is referring to niṣkāmya mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa, that is, mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa done for the love of God and not for anything else that one hopes to gain thereby, because the one-pointedness that will give the mind the strength to turn within and accomplish the aim of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is only one-pointed love for God, who always shines within us as ‘I’, our real nature, and not one-pointed desire for anything else. If we do mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa in order to achieve some desired aim (other than love for God (bhakti) and the desirelessness (vairāgya) that results thereby), whatever one-pointedness we may gain thereby will give us the strength to pursue that aim with single-minded determination, but it will not give us the strength that is required to turn our mind within and thereby surrender it along with all its desires.

The mind or will is a two-edged sword, because we can use it either to go outwards or to turn back within, so when we do any practice to gain one-pointedness of mind we are sharpening one or other of its two edges. If our practice is motivated by love to surrender ourself to God, we are sharpening the inward-facing edge of this sword, whereas if it is motivated by desire for anything else, we are sharpening its outward-facing edge. The one-pointedness we require to accomplish the aim of self-investigation is one-pointedness of love to surrender ourself entirely, not one-pointedness of desire to achieve anything else.

When we rise as ego we are in effect separating ourself from our real nature, which is infinite self-awareness and happiness and therefore the state of absolute fullness or wholeness (pūrnatva), so we can never be satisfied until we return and merge back into this infinite source from which we arose. This fundamental dissatisfaction with the finite state of being ego is what gives rise to our will (cittam), and we can seek the satisfaction we crave either in things outside ourself or in ourself alone. Due to our avivēka or lack of clear judgement, as this ego we generally seek satisfaction outside ourself, and by doing so we have since time immemorial developed numerous viṣaya-vāsanās, propensities, inclinations, urges or desires to experience things other than oneself, and it is these viṣaya-vāsanās that manifest as thoughts, dragging our mind hither and thither.

Therefore as Bhagavan indicates in the next two paragraphs of Nāṉ Ār? (the tenth and eleventh ones) our aim should be to purify our will by weakening and eventually eradicating our viṣaya-vāsanās. To the extent that our viṣaya-vāsanās are weakened, our mind will gain the strength that it needs in order to turn back within to investigate itself.

If we practise mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa in order to achieve anything other than increasing and deepening love of God, we may thereby be weakening certain viṣaya-vāsanās but would be strengthening other ones, so we would not be reducing the overall strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās but may instead be increasing it. Therefore our mind can be purified by practices such as mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa only if we do them for the love of God and not for any other desired aim, as Bhagavan implies in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār, because if love for God is our sole motivation, such practices will strengthen this love and correspondingly reduce the overall strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās.

Since our viṣaya-vāsanās are what manifest as thoughts or mental activity, the more the overall strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās is reduced the more the force and impetus of our thoughts will be reduced, so when Bhagavan says ‘நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்’ (niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum), ‘When thoughts reduce and reduce, for the mind which, gaining ēkāgra-taṉmai [one-pointed nature], has thereby gained strength ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished’, what he implies by the clause ‘நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க’ (niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga), ‘When thoughts reduce and reduce [or subside and subside]’, is the reduction in the overall strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās, which can be achieved to some extent by devotional practices such as niṣkāmya mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa, but to a much greater extent and more effectively by self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

What we seek to accomplish by practising self-investigation is not only the purification of our mind but the eradication of ego, which is the root of all its impurities, namely its viṣaya-vāsanās, so the one-pointedness we require in order to accomplish this aim is one-pointedness of love to surrender ourself, which we can gain by doing mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa only if we do them in a niṣkāmya spirit for the love of God. What determines whether or not doing mūrti-dhyāna, mantra-japa or any other such practice will purify our mind is the will or motivation with which we do them. If we do them in a niṣkāmya spirit for the love of God, that will purify our mind and strengthen our love to surrender ourself, whereas if we do them in a kāmya spirit for achieving any other aim, that will not purify our mind or give us the strength of one-pointed love that we require to succeed in the practice of self-investigation.

When Bhagavan says ‘மனம் அளவிறந்த நினைவுகளாய் விரிகின்றபடியால் ஒவ்வொரு நினைவும் அதிபலவீனமாகப் போகின்றது. நினைவுக ளடங்க வடங்க ஏகாக்கிரத்தன்மை யடைந்து, அதனாற் பலத்தை யடைந்த மனத்திற்கு ஆத்மவிசாரம் சுலபமாய் சித்திக்கும்’ (maṉam aḷaviṟanda niṉaivugaḷ-āy virigiṉḏṟapaḍiyāl o-vv-oru niṉaivum adi-bala-v-īṉam-āha-p pōgiṉḏṟadu. niṉaivugaḷ aḍaṅga v-aḍaṅga ēkāggira-t-taṉmai y-aḍaindu, adaṉāl balattai y-aḍainda maṉattiṟku ātma-vicāram sulabham-āy siddhikkum), ‘Because of the way in which the mind spreads out as innumerable thoughts [thereby scattering its energy], each thought becomes extremely weak. When thoughts reduce and reduce, for the mind which, gaining ēkāgra-taṉmai [one-pointed nature], has thereby gained strength ātma-vicāra [self-investigation] will easily be accomplished’, this could seem to imply that if we are able to focus on only one aim or one narrow set of aims to the exclusion of all other interests, even if that aim or set of aims is some worldly achievement, that will prevent our mind spreading out as innumerable thoughts and thereby give it the strength required to succeed easily in self-investigation, but this is not actually what Bhagavan intended to imply, because what would be strengthened thereby would be the desire to achieve whatever we aim to achieve. Moreover, if we practise mūrti-dhyāna, mantra-japa, prāṇāyāma or any other such exercise in order to achieve some selfish or worldly aim, the strength of our desire for that aim may enable us to focus one-pointedly on whatever we are practising to achieve it and thereby to reduce the number or our thoughts on a temporary basis, but in the long term that will not reduce the overall number or impetus of our thoughts, because it will not reduce the overall strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās, and hence it will not give our mind the strength it requires to succeed in the practice of self-investigation.

So long as we have desire for anything other than to surrender ourself entirely, we will not be satisfied even if we achieve whatever we desire to achieve, and since dissatisfaction is what causes the mind to spread out as innumerable thoughts, no kāmya karma (action done for the satisfaction of desire) of any kind whatsoever can prevent it spreading out thus. Even if by concentration on some practice such as mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa we are temporarily able to prevent the mind spreading out as innumerable thoughts, viṣaya-vāsanās, which are the seeds that give rise to so many thoughts, will remain undiminished in our heart or will (cittam) waiting to sprout again at any moment and thereby cause our mind to spread out once again as innumerable thoughts. Because deep dissatisfaction is what lies at the heart of every desire, if our one-pointed desire is not fulfilled, the dissatisfaction underlying it will agitate our mind and give rise to a surging flood of numerous thoughts, and even if it is fulfilled, we will not be satisfied for long, so once again our mind will be agitated by other desires. Therefore the strength of one-pointedness that we require in order to accomplish the aim of self-investigation can never be achieved by any amount of mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa done with a kāmya motive, but can be achieved by such practices only if they are done in a niṣkāmya spirit for the love of God.

Hence when Bhagavan discusses the potential efficacy of practising mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa in this ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, he is not implying that we should use either of them as a mere exercise in concentration, but that if we use either of them as a practice to develop niṣkāmya bhakti and thereby to purify our will (cittam), we will thereby achieve the strength of one-pointed love that we require to succeed easily in the practice of self-investigation. What purifies our will is not the action of either mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa but only the love with which we do them, so it is only by our will that we can purify our will. That is, it is only by wanting to cultivate love to surrender ourself entirely and thereby free ourself from all other desires that we can achieve the citta-śuddhi (purity of heart, mind or will) that we require in order to succeed in investigating and seeing what we actually are.

18. The role and influence of the will in the antaḥkaraṇa or ‘inner instrument’

In advaita and other systems of Indian philosophy the mind is often referred to as the antaḥkaraṇa, which means the ‘inner instrument’ and which is said to consist of four components, namely manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), cittam (will) and ahaṁkāram (ego). Though these are often considered to be four separate instruments, Bhagavan clarified that they are actually just different functions or roles of the same one thing, just a person may be called a son, a husband, a father, a clerk, a pūjāri and so on according to the different roles he plays in society.

Though these four are usually listed in the order manas, buddhi, cittam and ahaṁkāram, this is listing them from the grosser to the more subtle functions, so the subtlest of them and the root of the other three is the ego (ahaṁkāram), which is the ‘I’ that rises and experiences each of them as one of its own functions: ‘I desire, wish, fear and so on’, ‘I distinguish, judge and reason’ and ‘I think, feel and perceive’. Cittam is the ego’s will, buddhi is the ego’s intellect and manas is the ego’s mind.

Though it is the ego that functions as the will, the intellect and the mind, and hence though none of these three functions can exist independent of the ego, whose functions they are, none of them is what the ego essentially is, so they are each described as a sheath or covering (kōśa), and what is covered by each of them is the ego. In this sense of a covering of the ego, one of the five coverings (pañca-kōśas) that it always mistakes itself to be, the mind is called the manōmaya kōśa (the sheath composed of mind, thinking or cognition), the intellect is called the vijñānamaya kōśa (the sheath composed of discernment, understanding or intelligence), and the will is called the ānandamaya kōśa (the sheath composed of happiness, so called because the essence of the will is just our natural love for happiness). The will is also called the kāraṇa śarīra or ‘causal body’ because it is the primary and most fundamental sheath, the one that gives rise to all the other four.

Since our will is more subtle than either our intellect or our mind, it is more powerful than them and hence it influences them more than they influence it. Likewise, since our intellect is more subtle than our mind, it is more powerful than it and hence it influences it more than it is influenced by it. The influence that our intellect has over our mind is quite obvious, because by our intellect we decide what is true and what is good and we think accordingly, but the influence that our will has over our intellect is more subtle and hence not so obvious. Generally it seems to us that it is by our intellect (our reasoning and judgement) that we decide what is true or what is good, and that our beliefs are therefore determined by our intellect, but if we believe that this is the case, that is because we are overlooking the role that our will has in deciding such things.

Consider philosophers, for example. Most of them believe that their beliefs are determined by their reasoning, but why do equally intelligent philosophers come to such widely different conclusions on each subject that they consider? There is almost no subject on which all philosophers are agreed, but they each believe that their own conclusions on any subject are the most reasonable ones. Why is this? It is because ultimately we each believe whatever we want to believe, and we try to find good reasons and arguments to justify our beliefs. This is not to say that our intellect plays no role in our deciding what to believe, or that our beliefs are never changed by good arguments, but our most fundamental beliefs are determined largely by our will, and they are the core premises that we accept as the basis of all our reasoning. We may reason and decide our other beliefs on the basis of logical arguments, but if we do so that is largely because we want our entire set of beliefs to be coherent and logically consistent. However we seldom change our most fundamental beliefs even when faced with reasonable arguments against them, because we can usually find some counterarguments to support what we want to believe, and on the rare occasions when we do change any of our most fundamental beliefs on the basis of a convincing set of arguments, we do so only because we are willing to give up our former beliefs and to embrace new ones. Therefore our will has a much greater influence over the reasonings, judgements and conclusions of our intellect than most of us are generally willing to accept.

Another example that illustrates the power of our will over our intellect is this: if we are in madly love with something, whether it be a person, an ideology, a cause, a country or whatever, our love for that person or thing can blind us to its defects. A similar point is made by Bhagavan in verse 74 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, in which he says that trying to foist reality on the world is like an infatuated lover foisting chastity on a prostitute. When we have no evidence or adequate reason to suppose that anything we perceive exists independent of our perception of it, if we assume that this or any other world exist independent of our perceiving mind, we are allowing our judgement to be governed by our desire to believe that such a world is real.

The ability of our intellect to distinguish one thing from another (such as the perceiver from what is perceived, or what actually exists from what merely seems to exist) and therefore to judge correctly what is real and what is actually the source of happiness and therefore worth aspiring for is what is called vivēka, so since this ability is heavily influenced by our innermost desires and fears, the clarity of our vivēka is determined by the purity of our will (citta-śuddhi). The more our will is purified by self-investigation or any other means, the clearer and more effective our vivēka will be. Therefore since we need an extremely sharp, subtle and clear power of vivēka in order to achieve the aim of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), namely the eradication of the ego, we will progress and succeed in this path to the extent that our will is purified (which means to the extent that our viṣaya-vāsanās are weakened and erased).

19. Our viṣaya-vāsanās are the bonds that keep us bound to saṁsāra, so we need to cleanse our mind of them in order to free ourself from this bondage

As I explained earlier, the only means by which we can purify our cittam (will or mind) entirely is self-investigation, because the impurities in our cittam are our viṣaya-vāsanās (and also karma-vāsanās, which are products of our viṣaya-vāsanās and inseparable from them), and we can eradicate all such vāsanās only by eradicating their root, the ego, which can be eradicated only by means of self-investigation. The true purpose and only real benefit of all other spiritual practices is the purification of our cittam (even though the purification that can be achieved from them is only partial and not complete), because unless our cittam is purified to a certain extent by such practices we will not have the clarity, subtlety and acuity of vivēka that we need to recognise and accept that liberation is just the annihilation of ego and that the only means to attain it is therefore self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), as Bhagavan implies in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār by saying that niṣkāmya karma (action not motivated by desire for its fruit) done for God will purify the mind and thereby show the path to liberation.

In the Tamil original of this verse the phrase that means ‘purifying the mind’ is ‘கருத்தை திருத்தி’ (karuttai tirutti), which literally means ‘rectifying [polishing or cleansing] the will [or mind]’, because கருத்தை (karuttai) is the accusative case form of the noun கருத்து (karuttu), which means intention, aim, wish, desire, inclination, will, belief, judgement or mind (being derived from the verb கருது (karudu), which means to intend, desire, wish for, believe, judge or think), and திருத்தி (tirutti) is the adverbial participle of the verb திருத்து (tiruttu), which means to rectify, reform, correct, repair, cleanse or polish, and in his Sanskrit version of this verse Bhagavan translated this as ‘चित्त शोधकम्’ (citta-śōdhakam), which means ‘will-purificatory’ or ‘purifier of the will’.

However, in the comments he wrote on my previous three articles a friend called Salazar repeatedly disparaged the idea of purifying the mind, referring to it as ‘improving the ego’ (such as here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and saying that it is ‘perpetuating samsara’ (such as here, here and here), which suggests that he has not correctly understood what purification of the mind means or why it is so necessary. What is often called ‘purification of the mind’ is actually purification of the will (cittam), because the impurities in the mind are its viṣaya-vāsanās, which are elements of its will. Purifying the will is ‘improving the ego’ only in the sense that, since it is the ego’s will, the ego is better off with a purer will than with a less pure one, because the impurities in its will are what impel it to face outwards and attach itself to things other than itself, so with a purer will the ego will be more inclined to turn back within and to surrender itself.

Salazar, it is not clear to me why you object so strongly to the idea of that it is necessary for us to purify our will, because this is a basic principle not only of Bhagavan’s teachings but of all other genuine spiritual paths. Bhagavan refers directly or indirectly to the need for a pure mind in so many of his writings. For example, in verse 47 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai he prays:
தூய்மன மொழியர் தோயுமுன் மெய்யகந்
      தோயவே யருளென் னருணாசலா

tūymaṉa moṛiyar tōyumuṉ meyyahan
      dōyavē yaruḷeṉ ṉaruṇācalā


பதச்சேதம்: தூய் மனம் மொழியர் தோயும் உன் மெய் அகம் தோயவே அருள் என் அருணாசலா.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tūy maṉam moṙiyar tōyum uṉ mey aham tōyavē aruḷ eṉ aruṇācalā.

English translation: My [beloved] Arunachala, be gracious [enabling me] to bathe [immerse and merge] in ‘I’ [the heart], your reality, in which [only] those who are pure in mind and speech [or those whose pure mind has subsided or ceased] can bathe [immerse and merge].
And in verse 3 of Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam he sings:
அகமுகமா ரந்த வமலமதி தன்னா
லகமிதுதா னெங்கெழுமென் றாய்ந்தே — யகவுருவை
நன்கறிந்து முந்நீர் நதிபோலு மோயுமே
யுன்கணரு ணாசலனே யோர்.

ahamukhamā randa vamalamati taṉṉā
lakamidudā ṉeṅkeṙumeṉ ḏṟāyndē — yahavuruvai
naṉgaṟindu munnīr nadipōlu mōyumē
yuṉgaṇaru ṇācalaṉē yōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகமுகம் ஆர் அந்த அமல மதி தன்னால் அகம் இது தான் எங்கு எழும் என்று ஆய்ந்தே, அக உருவை நன்கு அறிந்து, முந்நீர் நதி போலும் ஓயுமே உன்கண் அருணாசலனே. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahamukham-ār anda amala mati-taṉṉāl aham idu-tāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu āyndē, aha-v-uruvai naṉgu aṟindu, munnīr nadi pōlum ōyumē uṉgaṇ aruṇācalaṉē. ōr.

English translation:: By that immaculate mind that is completely ahamukham [inward facing, selfward-facing or self-attentive] investigating where this ‘I’ itself rises and [thereby] clearly knowing the form [or real nature] of ‘I’, one will certainly cease in you, Arunachala, like a river in the ocean. Investigate [or know].
In the second line of verse 5 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam he compares the purifying effect of self-attentiveness to polishing a gem on a grinding stone:
மணிகளிற் சரடென வுயிர்தொறு நானா
      மதந்தொறு மொருவனா மருவினை நீதான்
மணிகடைந் தெனமன மனமெனுங் கல்லின்
      மறுவறக் கடையநின் னருளொளி மேவும்
மணியொளி யெனப்பிறி தொருபொருட் பற்று
      மருவுற லிலைநிழற் படிதகட் டின்விண்
மணியொளி படநிழல் பதியுமோ வுன்னின்
      மறுபொரு ளருணநல் லொளிமலை யுண்டோ.

maṇigaḷiṯ caraḍeṉa vuyirdoṟu nāṉā
      matandoṟu moruvaṉā maruviṉai nīdāṉ
maṇigaḍain deṉamaṉa maṉameṉuṅ galliṉ
      maṟuvaṟak kaḍaiyaniṉ ṉaruḷoḷi mēvum
maṇiyoḷi yeṉappiṟi doruporuṭ paṯṟu
      maruvuṟa lilainiṙaṟ paḍidagaṭ ṭiṉviṇ
maṇiyoḷi paḍaniṙal padiyumō vuṉṉiṉ
      maṟuporu ḷaruṇanal loḷimalai yuṇḍō
.

பதச்சேதம்: மணிகளில் சரடு என உயிர்தொறும் நானா மதந்தொறும் ஒருவனா மருவினை நீ தான். மணி கடைந்து என மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் மறு அற கடைய நின் அருள் ஒளி மேவும். மணி ஒளி என பிறிது ஒரு பொருள் பற்றும் மரு உறல் இலை. நிழல் படி தகட்டின் விண்மணி ஒளி பட நிழல் பதியுமோ? உன்னின் மறு பொருள் அருண நல் ஒளி மலை உண்டோ?

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṇigaḷil saraḍu eṉa uyirdoṟum nāṉā matandoṟum oruvaṉā maruviṉai nī tāṉ. maṇi kaḍaindu eṉa maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil maṟu aṟa kaḍaiya niṉ aruḷ oḷi mēvum. maṇi oḷi eṉa piṟidu oru poruḷ paṯṟum maru uṟal ilai. niṙal paḍi tagaṭṭiṉ viṇmaṇi oḷi paḍa niṙal padiyumō? uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ aruṇa nal oḷi malai uṇḍō?

அன்வயம்: மணிகளில் சரடு என உயிர்தொறும் நானா மதந்தொறும் நீ தான் ஒருவனா மருவினை. மணி கடைந்து என மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் மறு அற கடைய நின் அருள் ஒளி மேவும். மணி ஒளி என பிறிது ஒரு பொருள் பற்றும் மரு உறல் இலை. நிழல் படி தகட்டின் விண்மணி ஒளி பட நிழல் பதியுமோ? அருண நல் ஒளி மலை, உன்னின் மறு பொருள் உண்டோ?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṇigaḷil saraḍu eṉa uyirdoṟum nāṉā matandoṟum nī tāṉ oruvaṉā maruviṉai. maṇi kaḍaindu eṉa maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil maṟu aṟa kaḍaiya niṉ aruḷ oḷi mēvum. maṇi oḷi eṉa piṟidu oru poruḷ paṯṟum maru uṟal ilai. niṙal paḍi tagaṭṭiṉ viṇmaṇi oḷi paḍa niṙal padiyumō? aruṇa nal oḷi malai, uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ uṇḍō?

English translation: Like the thread in [a string of] gems, you alone shine as the one [real substance] in every soul and every mata [philosophy, religion or system of belief]. Like grinding a gem [to polish it], when one grinds the mind on the stone called mind to remove [its] blemishes, the light of your grace will shine forth. Like the light of a gem [whose brightness and colour are unaffected by nearby objects], attachment to any other thing will not occur [in a mind that has thus been polished]. After sunlight has fallen on a photographic film, can any shadow [or image] be imprinted on it? Aruna, hill of intense light, is there anything other than you?
Here he uses the term மறு (maṟu), which means blemish, defect or fault, as a collective noun referring to all the blemishes or impurities of the mind, namely its viṣaya-vāsanās, and as he implies these can be removed by ‘மனம் மனம் எனும் கல்லில் கடைதல்’ (maṉam maṉam eṉum kallil kaḍaidal), ‘grinding the mind on the stone called mind’, or in other words, by keeping the mind fixed firmly on itself. That is, when the mind (the ego) faces anything other than itself it accumulates dirt in the form of viṣaya-vāsanās, but when it turns back to face itself alone it sheds that dirt and like a polished gem its natural inner clarity begins to shine forth, as Bhagavan implies by concluding this sentence with the main clause: ‘நின் அருள் ஒளி மேவும்’ (niṉ aruḷ oḷi mēvum), ‘the light of your grace will shine forth [or manifest]’.

As he implies in the next sentence of this verse, ‘மணி ஒளி என பிறிது ஒரு பொருள் பற்றும் மரு உறல் இலை’ (maṇi oḷi eṉa piṟidu oru poruḷ paṯṟum maru uṟal ilai), ‘Like the light of a gem [whose brightness and colour are unaffected by nearby objects], attachment to any other thing will not occur [in a mind that has thus been polished]’, purification of the mind is necessary because unless and until all impurities are removed from it attachment to other things will continue. Only in a mind from which all viṣaya-vāsanās have been ground off by the practice of self-investigation will all attachment cease, and such a mind is no mind at all, because in the absence of attachment what remains is only the infinitely clear light of pure self-awareness, in which nothing else can ever appear, as he implies in the final two sentences of this verse: ‘நிழல் படி தகட்டின் விண்மணி ஒளி பட நிழல் பதியுமோ? உன்னின் மறு பொருள் அருண நல் ஒளி மலை உண்டோ?’ (niṙal paḍi tagaṭṭiṉ viṇmaṇi oḷi paḍa niṙal padiyumō? uṉṉiṉ maṟu poruḷ aruṇa nal oḷi malai uṇḍō?), ‘After sunlight has fallen on a photographic film, can any shadow [or image] be imprinted on it? Aruna, hill of intense light, is there anything other than you?’

Purification of the mind is therefore the central process happening in any spiritual path from the beginning up to the very end. The blemishes or impurities that are constantly being ground away by self-investigation, self-surrender or any other genuine spiritual practice are viṣaya-vāsanās, but the final one that needs to be removed is ego itself, since it is the root of all other impurities, and when it is eventually removed what will remain shining is only the immaculate light of pure self-awareness, which is what Bhagavan calls the ‘அருள் ஒளி’ (aruḷ oḷi) of Arunachala, its ‘light of grace’, other than which nothing actually exists.

So for how long is it necessary for us to continue purifying the mind in this way? The answer that is implied in this verse is stated more explicitly by Bhagavan in the first sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘மனத்தின்கண் எதுவரையில் விஷயவாசனைக ளிருக்கின்றனவோ, அதுவரையில் நானா ரென்னும் விசாரணையும் வேண்டும்’ (maṉattiṉgaṇ edu-varaiyil viṣaya-vāsaṉaigaḷ irukkiṉḏṟaṉavō, adu-varaiyil nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇai-y-um vēṇḍum), ‘As long as viṣaya-vāsanās exist within the mind, so long is the investigation who am I necessary’. We need to continue purifying the mind until all its viṣaya-vāsanās are eradicated completely, and since viṣaya-vāsanās will continue to exist at least to some extent so long as their root, the ego, endures, we must continue purifying the mind until ego is eradicated and thus there is no mind left to purify.

Salazar, in several comments, such as this, this and this, you implied that by trying to purify or ‘improve’ our mind we are perpetuating saṁsāra and keeping ourself bound in it, whereas in fact quite the opposite is the case. What creates, perpetuates and strengthens saṁsāra and bondage is ego and all its viṣaya-vāsanās, so to the extent that we purify our mind by weakening and eradicating our viṣaya-vāsanās we are extricating ourself from saṁsāra and bondage and hastening their eventual demise.

Our viṣaya-vāsanās are the seeds that manifest as our desires, attachments, fears and other such passions, so they are the bonds that keep us bound to saṁsāra, and hence to free ourself from saṁsāra we need to break these bonds, which are the blemishes or impurities that we must eradicate from our mind by self-investigation, self-surrender or other practices of bhakti. To break these bonds entirely we need to eradicate their root, the ego, but we cannot eradicate ego until we have weakened these bonds to a considerable extent, because they are the army that protect it and make it such a seemingly invincible foe.

Therefore as Bhagavan says in the final two sentences of the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘கோட்டைக்குள் எதிரிக ளுள்ளவரையில் அதிலிருந்து வெளியே வந்துகொண்டே யிருப்பார்கள். வர வர அவர்களையெல்லாம் வெட்டிக்கொண்டே யிருந்தால் கோட்டை கைவசப்படும்’ (kōṭṭaikkuḷ edirigaḷ uḷḷa-varaiyil adilirundu veḷiyē vandu-koṇḍē y-iruppārgaḷ. vara vara avargaḷai-y-ellām veṭṭi-k-koṇḍē y-irundāl kōṭṭai kaivaśa-p-paḍum), ‘So long as enemies [namely viṣaya-vāsanās] are within the fort [namely the mind, or more precisely the will], they will continue coming out from it. If one continues cutting down [or destroying] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] be captured’. Purification of the mind must continue until all of the enemy have been killed along with their commander-in-chief, the phantom monarch whom they serve, namely ego.

20. We cannot get rid of the sense of doership merely by telling ourself that we are not the doer but only by eradicating ego by means of self-investigation

Bhagavan often said that what binds us are not actions (karmas) themselves but is only our sense of doership (kartṛtva buddhi), because actions are done by mind, speech and body may be impelled by fate (prārabdha), and hence we experience actions as being done by us only because we experience mind and body as ourself. However this important teaching of his is often misunderstood, because some people interpret it to mean that we can continue doing actions so long as we do them without a sense of doership, which would be an incoherent and meaningless endeavour, because how can we do anything without a sense of doership? The very feeling ‘I am doing this’ is itself the sense of doership, so as long as we are doing anything, we are necessarily doing it with a sense of doership.

As he often said, we are not the doer, because actions are done by three instruments, namely mind, speech and body, which are not ourself. We experience any action done by these three instruments as ‘I am doing this’ because we mistake ourself to be the person of whom these instruments are parts (and two of them, namely mind and body, are essential parts). Being aware of ourself as this or some other such person is the very nature of ego, so as long as we rise and stand as this ego, we cannot avoid having a sense of doership. Doership is therefore the very nature of ego, and hence to imagine that we can ever do actions without a sense of doership amounts to supposing that we can experience ourself as a person without rising as ego.

Therefore when Bhagavan said that we should give up the sense of doership, he meant that we should eradicate ego, the false awareness ‘I am this person, who does actions by mind, speech and body’. We should not be concerned about whatever actions these three instruments are impelled to do by prārabdha, because we are not the person whose instruments they are, so we are not actually doing anything. However, it is not sufficient just to say that we are not this person and therefore not the doer, because until and unless we eradicate ego, we will continue to experience ourself as some person or other, and hence we will continue to experience ourself as the doer of whatever actions the three instruments of that person are doing.

Moreover, we need to understand each teaching of Bhagavan in the context of his entire teachings, so when he says that that we should give up the sense of doership, we should understand that that is our ultimate goal and should not imagine that it is an aim that we can achieve before we eradicate ourself, this ego. So long as we rise as ego, we are in effect the doer of whatever actions are done by the mind, speech or body of whatever person we currently experience ourself to be, so until we eradicate this ego we can extricate ourself from the pernicious effects of doing actions (karmas) only to the extent that we surrender our will (our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, fears and so on), which is what impels us to do actions in addition to or alongside of those that we are impelled to do by our prārabdha.

This surrendering of the will that drives us to do anything is what Bhagavan described as ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’, in the final sentence of the note that he wrote for his mother in December 1898. But how in practice can we surrender our will? The elements of our will that impel us to do actions are what are called karma-vāsanās, but every karma-vāsanā is the outer shell, so to speak, of a viṣaya-vāsanā, because the reason we want to do any action (karma) is in order to experience some phenomenon (viṣaya), so at the heart of every karma-vāsanā is a viṣaya-vāsanā, and hence in order to surrender our will what we need to focus on freeing ourself from our viṣaya-vāsanās.

Though we can free ourself from our viṣaya-vāsanās slowly and to some extent by other practices of bhakti, as he implies in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār and confirms in the tenth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Ār? the most effective means to eradicate them is self-investigation, which is the ultimate practice of bhakti and the only means to eradicate them entirely. Therefore if we want to free ourself entirely from the entangled and tightly binding web of karma we must patiently and persistently persevere in practising self-investigation, and we must give up the mistaken belief that we can act without a sense of doership before eradicating ego, which is what Bhagavan refers to as வினைமுதல் (viṉai-mudal), the doer and root of all actions, in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
வினைமுதனா மாயின் விளைபயன் றுய்ப்போம்
வினைமுதலா ரென்று வினவித் — தனையறியக்
கர்த்தத் துவம்போய்க் கருமமூன் றுங்கழலு
நித்தமா முத்தி நிலை.

viṉaimudaṉā māyiṉ viḷaipayaṉ ḏṟuyppōm
viṉaimudalā reṉḏṟu viṉavit — taṉaiyaṟiyak
karttat tuvampōyk karumamūṉ ḏṟuṅkaṙalu
nittamā mutti nilai
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம். வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி தனை அறிய, கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும். நித்தமாம் முத்தி நிலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm. viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi taṉai aṟiya, karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum. nittam-ām mutti nilai.

English translation: If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit. When one knows oneself by investigating who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three actions will slip off. The state of liberation, which is eternal.

Explanatory paraphrase: If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit. [However] when one knows oneself [as one actually is] by investigating who is the doer of action, [the ego, which is what seemed to do actions and to experience their fruit, will thereby be eradicated, and along with it its] kartṛtva [doership] [and its bhōktṛtva, experiencership] will depart and [hence] all [its] three karmas [its āgāmya (actions that it does by its own free will), sañcita (the heap of the fruits of such actions that it is yet to experience) and prārabdha (destiny or fate, which is the fruits that have been allotted for it to experience in its current life] will slip off. [This is] the state of mukti [liberation], which is eternal [being what actually exists even when we seem to be this ego].
As Bhagavan implies here, doership will depart only when we know ourself as we actually are, and when it departs all three karmas (āgāmya, sañcita and prārabdha) will depart along with it, so we could never experience a state in which we can do actions without doership. When we get rid of doership by eradicating the ego, all actions will cease forever.

Bhagavan did sometimes talk about action being done without doership, but he was then referring to the actions done by the mind, speech or body of the ātma-jñāni, and he clarified that the jñāni does not actually do any action, but seems to do action only in the self-ignorant view of the ego, which mistakes the jñāni to be a person with a body and mind. The person that the jñāni seems to be does do actions by mind, speech and body, but there is no ego in that person to experience ‘I am this person’ or ‘I am doing these actions’, so the actions done by that person are done without any doership.

However, what the jñāni actually is is not that person but only the infinite space of pure self-awareness, in whose clear view neither that person nor anything else exists at all, so the jñāni never actually does any action, either with or without doership, as Bhagavan clarifies in verse 15 of Upadēśa Undiyār and verse 31 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
மனவுரு மாயமெய்ம் மன்னுமா யோகி
தனக்கோர் செயலிலை யுந்தீபற
     தன்னியல் சார்ந்தன னுந்தீபற.

maṉavuru māyameym maṉṉumā yōgi
taṉakkōr seyalilai yundīpaṟa
     taṉṉiyal sārndaṉa ṉundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மன உரு மாய மெய் மன்னும் மா யோகி தனக்கு ஓர் செயல் இலை. தன் இயல் சார்ந்தனன்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉa uru māya mey maṉṉum mā yōgi taṉakku ōr seyal ilai. taṉ iyal sārndaṉaṉ.

English translation: When the form of the mind is annihilated, for the great yōgi who is [thereby] established as the reality, there is not a single doing [or action], [because] he has attained his [true] nature [which is actionless being].

தன்னை யழித்தெழுந்த தன்மயா னந்தருக்
கென்னை யுளதொன் றியற்றுதற்குத் — தன்னையலா
தன்னிய மொன்று மறியா ரவர்நிலைமை
யின்னதென் றுன்ன லெவன்.

taṉṉai yaṙitteṙunda taṉmayā ṉandaruk
keṉṉai yuḷadoṉ ḏṟiyaṯṟudaṟkut — taṉṉaiyalā
taṉṉiya moṉḏṟu maṟiyā ravarnilaimai
yiṉṉadeṉ ḏṟuṉṉa levaṉ
.

பதச்சேதம்: தன்னை அழித்து எழுந்த தன்மயானந்தருக்கு என்னை உளது ஒன்று இயற்றுதற்கு? தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?

Padacchēdam (word-separation): taṉṉai aṙittu eṙunda taṉmaya-āṉandarukku eṉṉai uḷadu oṉḏṟu iyaṯṟudaṟku? taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?

அன்வயம்: தன்னை அழித்து எழுந்த தன்மயானந்தருக்கு இயற்றுதற்கு என்னை ஒன்று உளது? தன்னை அலாது அன்னியம் ஒன்றும் அறியார்; அவர் நிலைமை இன்னது என்று உன்னல் எவன்?

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): taṉṉai aṙittu eṙunda taṉmaya-āṉandarukku iyaṯṟudaṟku eṉṉai oṉḏṟu uḷadu? taṉṉai alādu aṉṉiyam oṉḏṟum aṟiyār; avar nilaimai iṉṉadu eṉḏṟu uṉṉal evaṉ?

English translation: For those who are happiness composed of that, which rose destroying themself, what one exists for doing? They do not know anything other than themself; who can conceive their state as ‘like this’?

Explanatory paraphrase: For those who are [blissfully immersed in and as] tanmayānanda [happiness composed of that, namely brahman, one’s real nature], which rose [as ‘I am I’] destroying themself [the ego], what one [action] exists for doing? They do not know [or are not aware of] anything other than themself; [so] who can [or how to] conceive their state as ‘[it is] like this’?
To free ourself from action (karma) entirely and forever we must get rid of our sense of doership, and to get rid of our sense of doership we must destroy ourself (the ego or mind) by investigating and knowing what we actually are. We cannot get rid of our sense of doership merely by telling ourself that we are not the doer or that we are not actually doing anything, nor can we get rid of it by any other means, but only by self-investigation.

21. The ego and its sense of doership are such a deep-rooted pair of identifications that they cannot be eradicated by any means other than self-investigation

The sense of doership arises because we experience ourself as a person, so whatever actions this person does by its mind, speech or body are experienced by us as ‘I am doing these actions’: ‘I am thinking these thoughts’, ‘I am saying these words’ or ‘I am walking, eating, holding, giving, writing and so on’. These experiences, ‘I am this person’ and ‘I am doing these actions’, are what Bhagavan calls thoughts, but in this and many other contexts what he means by the term ‘thought’ is not just a superficial idea on the surface of our mind, which we could easily replace with a contrary idea, but is something rooted so deep in our heart that we cannot eradicate it so long as we survive as ego. In fact the experience (or awareness) ‘I am this person’ or ‘I am doing these actions’ is itself ego, the root of all other thoughts.

What Bhagavan means by the term ‘thought’ is a mental phenomenon of any kind whatsoever, so in this sense all our perceptions and experiences are just thoughts, and the first thought of all is the ego, because it is only in the view of the ego that the ego and all other thoughts seem to exist. Some thoughts are relatively superficial, whereas others are extremely deep-rooted, and the most deep-rooted of all is the ego, which rises as the false awareness ‘I am this person (a body composed of five sheaths)’, and which therefore gives rise to and is inseparable from the sense of doership, the false awareness ‘I am doing this’. Whereas we can quite easily get rid of superficial thoughts either by ignoring them or by replacing them with other thoughts, we cannot so easily get rid of more deep-rooted thoughts, and we cannot get rid of the most deep-rooted of all thoughts, namely the ego and its inherent sense of doership, by any means other than extremely keen self-investigation.

The false awareness or experience ‘I am this person’ or ‘I am this body’ is often referred to as the identification of oneself with this person or body, and likewise the false awareness or experience ‘I am doing this’ is often referred to as the identification of oneself as the doer. Though it is not wrong to use the terms ‘identify’ or ‘identification’ in this context, we should understand that this is an extremely deep-rooted identification and is therefore quite unlike other more superficial kinds of identification. For example, I could identify myself with a particular football team just by deciding ‘this is the team I want to support’, so this is ‘my team’, but this is a relatively superficial identification, and can therefore be easily replaced, so if my team is not performing well enough, I may decide that it would be better to support some other team, thereby switching my identification from one to another. Unlike such a superficial identification, our identification with this person and consequently with the sense of doership is so deep-rooted that it seems inseparable from ourself, and therefore it cannot be removed without eradicating the ego, whose very nature is to experience itself as a person (who is a body, a form composed of five sheaths, as Bhagavan says in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) and as the doer of whatever actions are done by this person through its mind, speech and body.

Therefore if we use the terms ‘identify’ or ‘identification’ in this context, we should be careful not to regard either one of this pair of fundamental identifications (identification with whatever person we currently seem to be and consequent identification as the doer of whatever actions this person does) as superficial identifications that we get can rid of as easily as switching our loyalty from one football team to another, and should bear in mind that our identification with this person and consequently with its actions is inseparable from ego and can therefore be eradicated only by eradicating ego, whose identification it is. However, from the way these terms were used in some of the comments on my previous three articles, it appears that those who wrote those comments believe that the ego is free to choose whether or not it identifies with whatever actions are done by the person it currently experiences as itself.

For example, in one comment Salazar wrote, ‘Let’s say it is preordained that you’ll hit your neighbor (doesn’t matter why or how) then that action by itself will not create any karma. However it will create karma when there is even the slightest identification with that act’, which seems to imply that we could hit our neighbour without identifying ourself as this person who is hitting, but if we did not identify ourself as this person, then we would not be the one who is hitting. So long as we rise and stand as ego, we experience ourself as a certain person, and hence we experience whatever actions that person does as actions done by ourself. We rise and stand as ego only by identifying ourself as a particular person, so now that we have identified ourself as this person, we cannot but identify whatever actions this person does as actions done by ourself.

Salazar, I assume that what you mean by saying ‘it will create karma’ is that it is an āgāmya karma and therefore creates a fruit, which is added to our saṁcita and may therefore be experienced as part of our prārabdha in some future life. However, since we now experience ourself as a person, we cannot but identify whatever actions this person does as actions done by ourself, so our identification with the actions done by this person is not what determines whether or not any particular action is an āgāmya. If according to our prārabdha we are to hit someone by mistake, without any intention to do so, that action would not be an āgāmya, even though we would naturally feel sorry that we had done so and would apologise saying, ‘I am so sorry I hit you. I did not mean to do so’. Though we experience ourself as the person who hit that other person, the action of hitting was not an āgāmya because it was an accident, an action that we had no intention to do.

What determines whether a particular action is an āgāmya or not is whether or not it was done with intention, that is, with any desire or liking to do it. If we have even the slightest liking or wish to do an action, or to experience anything as a result of doing it, even if only the satisfaction of doing it, that action is an āgāmya. It may also be prārabdha, if we were destined to do it anyway, but whether it was prārabdha or not does not matter, because that is out of our hands, since prārabdha is a predetermined set of the fruit of actions that we have done with intention in previous lives, and hence it cannot be changed in any way by anything we want or do in this life. Prārabdha takes its own course, whether we like it or not, so it need not concern us.

What we should be concerned about is our present intentions and choices, and the likes, dislikes, desires, hopes, attachments, fears and such like that underlie them. These are all features or elements of our will, which is what impels us to do āgāmya in the midst of whatever prārabdha we are currently experiencing. By choosing to try to turn our attention within and to be indifferent to whatever is happening outside according to our prārabdha we can rectify our will, weakening its elements that impel us to go outwards and strengthening its elements that draw us to turn back within.

This should be the sole aim of all our endeavours. It is futile to imagine that we can avoid doership or identification with the actions done by whatever person we currently seem to be by any means other than eradicating ourself, this ego, and in order to eradicate ourself we need to curb and weaken all our viṣaya-vāsanās, the outward-driving elements of our will.

In the same comment you refer to ‘good ethical qualities’ and say about them, ‘However they create karma because instead of identifying with the screen, we participate in the movie’. Good ethical qualities will develop automatically as our mind is purified by the weakening of our viṣaya-vāsanās, but developing them is not our aim, because the one pair of qualities we need above all others is bhakti and vairāgya, love to turn and remain within and concomitant freedom from desire to go outwards, and these are the real benefit we gain by purifying our mind.

However the point I wanted to discuss in this sentence of yours is ‘because instead of identifying with the screen, we participate in the movie’. In this case the screen is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is pure and infinite self-awareness, and the movie is all the phenomena that appear in our awareness when we rise and stand as ego. So long as we rise and stand as ego we seem to be part of this movie, because as ego we experience ourself as a person, who consists of a set of phenomena and is therefore part of the movie. The reason the movie appears is because we have risen as ego, so since this ego is just an erroneous awareness of ourself, we can get rid of it and bring the movie to an end only by investigating ourself keenly enough to see ourself as we actually are. As ego we should not try to ‘identify with the screen’, because that would be a form of sōham bhāvana, imagining ‘I am the screen of infinite awareness’, but should only investigate ourself in order to find out by direct experience what we actually are. Let the movie go on as it is destined to, because in the midst of it our only concern should be to investigate ourself by trying as much as possible to be keenly self-attentive.

Our aim should not be to identify with or as anything, whether it be one of the images on the screen or the screen itself, but should only be to identify what our real identity actually is by keenly investigating ourself. We ourself are the screen, so if we look at ourself keenly enough we will see the screen that we actually are. If on the other hand we attempt to identify with the screen, that would entail ego imagining what the screen is and thinking itself to be that, so this would not remove our fundamental self-ignorance, which is the very nature of ego.

The root and cause of all our problems is ego, whose nature is to identify itself always as a person, and consequently to identify the actions done by that person by mind, speech or body as actions done by itself. Until and unless we eradicate the ego by self-investigation we cannot avoid either of these two kinds of false identification, so trying to do so by any means other than self-investigation is futile.

Since all phenomena perceived by the ego are its own creation or projection, and since the ego rises by projecting and simultaneously identifying itself with a set of phenomena (a person, or as Bhagavan generally called it a body, by which he meant not just a physical body but also the other four sheaths, which are always associated with and tightly bound to whatever physical body we currently experience ourself to be), this false identification called ego is what creates all karma (āgāmya, sañcita and prārabdha), so in this sense you are correct in saying that identification creates karma, but it does not determine whether or to what extent a particular karma is either āgāmya or prārabdha, because whatever action (karma) is done by mind, speech or body, whether it is impelled by the ego’s will, its prārabdha or both, is experienced by the ego as ‘I am doing this’.

In another comment you wrote, ‘It really doesn’t matter at all if he has the habit of looking at his phone or is yelling at his wife. WHAT MATTERS is if he is identifying that he is doing it!’ but this seems to imply that it is possible for us to look at our phone or yell at someone without identifying that we are doing it, which is clearly not the case. So long as we rise and stand as ego we experience ourself as a person, and consequently we experience whatever actions are done by this person as actions done by ourself. Therefore if we want to refrain from identifying that we are doing such actions, we must refrain from rising as ego, which we can do only by investigating ourself so keenly that we identify once and all what we actually are. Until then, we cannot avoid identifying ourself as the doer of whatever actions are done by whatever person we currently mistake ourself to be.

In the same comment and in another one you refer to ‘identifying with the ego’, but what do you mean by this? Who or what can identify with ego? What identifies itself with anything is only ego, so ‘identifying with the ego’ implies that ego is identifying itself with itself, which does not really mean anything. The problem with ego is that its nature is to always identify itself with things other than itself, that is, with phenomena that it has projected from within itself. Ego is the phantom ‘I’ that rises and stands as ‘I am this’, so it cannot seem to exist without identifying itself with some set of phenomena.

Therefore I assume that what you mean by ‘identifying with the ego’ is rising and standing as ego. Whenever we wake up from sleep, whether in our current state, which we mistake to be waking, or in any other dream, we are rising as ego, and throughout waking and dream we are always standing as ego, so it is only when we subside and rest in sleep that we are not rising and standing as ego. Therefore if this is what you mean by ‘identifying with the ego’, there is never a moment either in waking or in dream when we are not in this sense ‘identifying with the ego’.

In the second of these two comments in which you refer to ‘identifying with the ego’ you imply that doing ātma-vicāra or at least japa is ‘better than identifying with the ego’, but who is to do either vicāra or japa? When we do not rise and stand as ego, as in sleep, we cannot do either ātma-vicāra or japa, or anything else for that matter, and we have no need to do so. It is only because we have risen and are standing as ego that it is necessary for us to investigate what we actually are, and it is only as ego that it is possible for us to investigate ourself. Our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) need not investigate itself and cannot do so, because there is nothing other than itself, so it has no choice about whether to attend to itself or anything else.

Self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is not an alternative to rising and standing as ego, but is the means by which ego can once and for all put an end to its rising and standing. Likewise japa is not an alternative to rising and standing as ego, and it is not even a means by which ego can put an end to its rising and standing, but if it is done as a practice of niṣkāmya bhakti it will slowly purify the will, clarify the intellect and thereby enable ego to recognise that the only means by which it can put an end to its rising and standing is ātma-vicāra.

22. To free ourself from harmful desires, we must cultivate desires that support us in our efforts to turn within to merge in that which is desireless

The context in which Salazar wrote the two comments in which he referred to ‘identifying with the ego’ was a discussion that began with a comment in which another friend called Sanjay wrote about giving up bad habits and gave an example to illustrate what he was saying: ‘For instance, as soon I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is to look at my mobile phone for any emails and messages. I think this is a bad habit. Therefore, I will try and not look at my mobile the first thing in the mornings. After I get up I will try to sit for a few moments in silence’.

Salazar responded to this in the next comment: ‘Sanjay, if and when you look at your mobile phone or not is not “your” decision, it never is, never was and never will be. Even though an ego has risen, that doesn’t mean it can change its outward circumstances and actions. The ego tells itself via a thought that it made the decision, but that is not true, it CANNOT EVER direct the actions of the body! The ego just erroneously believes that. That is a fact and it is necessary to be accepted in order to progress spiritually. The ego can DESIRE to change habits but if that is happening or not is not up to the ego. It never is, was, and will be. ANY desire, even the desire to be a saint, has to be discarded. Because desires guarantee another birth, and that is not desired :) So instead wasting ones time to desire to be a “better” fictitious ego, why not stopping this inane game and go directly to the root of the problem? Bhagavan’s upadesa is clear and essentially is only one thing, atma-vichara/surrender. Anything else was only given to those who were not mature enough to comprehend that this is enough, that nothing else is required. Out of compassion he catered to the immaturity of those who cannot even conceptually grasp that there is no body and mind and therefore added all of these concessions to his core teaching’.

So is it wrong for Sanjay to try to give up a habit that he considers bad, such as looking at his phone as soon as he wakes up? Will his attempt to do so perpetuate saṁsāra, the cycle of births and deaths, or will it help to bring it to an end? To answer this we need to consider his motives. If, for example, his aim in life were to earn as much money as possible, and if he lived according to the principle ‘time is money’ and therefore considered that the habit of looking at his phone was a waste of valuable time that he could instead spend working to accumulate more wealth, his attempt to give up that habit would be part of a whole web of activities that are perpetuating saṁsāra. However, since his aim is to free himself from ego and all its viṣaya-vāsanās, which support and sustain it, he presumably considers looking at his phone as soon as he wakes up to be a bad habit because it distracts his attention away from himself (as he implied in a later comment) and because the interest and eagerness with which he does so are symptomatic of the viṣaya-vāsanās that stand in the way of his eradicating ego, in which case his wish to give up this habit is conducive to the ending of saṁsāra.

The real problem with a habit such as this is not the action itself but the interest and enthusiasm with which we do it. If it happens to be our prārabdha that we should look at our phone for five minutes every morning (perhaps because doing so is a necessary part of our job, or because we need to do so for some other reason), we will do so whether we like it or not, so if we are truly disinterested in and therefore indifferent to doing so, we will be able to be keenly self-attentive even when we seem to be looking at the phone. However, even if such an action is our prārabdha, we are generally interested in it, so our interest in it not only distracts our attention away from ourself but also causes that action to be an āgāmya in addition to being prārabdha.

If we are able to give up a habit such as this, would our doing so be beneficial to us in our endeavour to eradicate ego? It depends. If we force ourself to avoid looking at our phone for five minutes but spend those five minutes hankering to look at it, that would be of little or no use to us unless we take that opportunity to lessen our hankering either by trying to be self-attentive or by some other suitable means, such as thinking about Bhagavan’s teachings or reminding ourself that real happiness lies only within and not in such outward pastimes. The less we feel any hankering to look at our phone or to distract ourself with any other such pastime the more beneficial it will be for us.

What binds us to saṁsāra is not so much the actions we do as the interest and liking with which we do them, so is there any benefit to be gained from giving up certain habits of behaviour? Since actions done with desire (kāmya karma), as actions generally tend to be to a greater or lesser extent, not only create fruit but also leave seeds (namely viṣaya-vāsanās and concomitant karma-vāsanās), as Bhagavan points out in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār, they are self-perpetuating, so the more we desist from doing such actions the less we will be either creating new seeds or strengthening existing ones. In other words, since habits such as looking at our phone as soon as we wake up tend to nourish and strengthen the interest and liking that we have to do so, giving up such habits may help us to weaken the viṣaya-vāsanās that rise as such interests and likings.

According to Salazar, however, it is not possible for us to give up such habits, because he believes that all bodily actions are driven by prārabdha and therefore cannot be changed by us. This is a misinterpretation of Bhagavan’s teachings, as I will explain in more detail in the next four sections, but even if for the sake of argument we accept his premise that every action done by our body is driven by prārabdha, does this mean that we should assume that whatever bad habits we have now are destined to continue and therefore that we should make no effort to give them up?

Even if all our bad habits could be attributed to prārabdha, since we do not know what our prārabdha will be until it unfolds, we cannot know whether any bad habit is destined to continue or not, so once we recognise it as a bad habit (one that is not conducive to our turning within), there seems to be no good reason why we should not try to give it up, so long as we do not allow ourself to be perturbed if we are not able to so, because our inability may be due to the fact that it is destined to continue.

Whether all our bodily actions are determined only by prārabdha or not, we seem to be able at least to a certain extent to control such actions by our will. If I want to type certain words, for example, I seem to be able to do so. Therefore if all such actions are predetermined by prārabdha, my will and my prārabdha must be working in synch whenever I do any bodily actions that I want to do. Most of the actions that we do are ones that we want to do, even if in many cases we do not wholeheartedly want to do them (such as if we are employed to do some work that we would prefer not to be doing, but we do it nevertheless because we want to earn our livelihood thereby), so when we are constantly choosing to do actions either because we want to do them or because we want to achieve some benefit from doing them (or to avoid some penalty for not doing them), if we want to give up a bad habit why should we not try to do so? Since we are able to do other actions that we choose to do, even if only because we would anyway be made to do them by prārabdha, why should we not choose to give up a bad habit and try to do so?

However, as I said earlier, our main concern should not be just to give up all our bad habits, but should be to free ourself from the vāsanās that make us want to do such habitual actions. If we are following Bhagavan’s path of self-investigation and self-surrender most of the habits that we judge to be bad are probably not doing harm to anyone but ourself, and the main harm they are doing to us is either nourishing and sustaining our viṣaya-vāsanās or creating new ones, which we need to do all that we can to avoid. If we are trying our best to practise these twin paths of self-investigation and self-surrender throughout our life, our bad habits will tend to drop off of their own accord, so we need not give too much attention to giving them up, but we will naturally try to avoid continuing any habit that we know to be detrimental to our efforts to investigate and surrender ourself.

Salazar, you contend that any desire will guarantee another birth and therefore needs to be discarded, but this is not actually correct, because though most desires drive our mind outwards, there are some desires, such as the desires to investigate what we actually are, to surrender ourself and to be desireless, that either draw our mind back to face ourself or that are at least conducive to our turning back within. We may prefer to call such favourable desires as love, but whatever we may call them, whether likings, longings, yearnings, desires or love, they are elements of our will, but unlike so many other elements that support the rising and flourishing of the ego, they undermine it.

As I explained earlier in this article, the elements of our will are often in conflict with one another, and from a spiritual perspective the major conflict is between those elements that drive our mind outwards and those that draw it back within. Indeed the entire spiritual path from beginning to end is a battle fought between different elements of our will, and this battle is what is depicted metaphorically in mythological stories (purāṇas) and epics (itihāsas) as the war between gods (dēvas) and demons (asuras), as Bhagavan says in verse 396 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai:
பயிற்சி வயத்தாற் பராமுகமாந் தன்னை
அயர்ச்சியற நானொரென் றாயும் — முயற்சியாம்
ஆன்மவிசா ரத்தா லகமுகமாக் குஞ்செயலே
தான்மலைதே வாசுரயுத் தம்.

payiṟci vayattāṯ parāmukhamān taṉṉai
ayarcciyaṟa nāṉoreṉ ḏṟāyum — muyaṟciyām
āṉmavicā rattā lahamukhamāk kuñceyalē
tāṉmalaidē vāsurayud dham
.

பதச்சேதம்: பயிற்சி வயத்தால் பராமுகம் ஆம் தன்னை அயர்ச்சி அற நான் ஆர் என்று ஆயும் முயற்சி ஆம் ஆன்ம விசாரத்தால் அகமுகம் ஆக்கும் செயலே தான் மலை தேவ அசுர யுத்தம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): payiṟci vayattāl parāmukham ām taṉṉai ayarcci aṟa nāṉ ār eṉḏṟu āyum muyaṟci ām āṉma vicārattāl ahamukham ākkum seyalē tāṉ malai dēva asura yuddham.

அன்வயம்: பயிற்சி வயத்தால் பராமுகம் ஆம் தன்னை நான் ஆர் என்று அயர்ச்சி அற ஆயும் முயற்சி ஆம் ஆன்ம விசாரத்தால் அகமுகம் ஆக்கும் செயலே தான் மலை தேவ அசுர யுத்தம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): payiṟci vayattāl parāmukham ām taṉṉai nāṉ ār eṉḏṟu ayarcci aṟa āyum muyaṟci ām āṉma-vicārattāl ahamukham ākkum seyalē tāṉ malai dēva asura yuddham.

English translation: The action [process or operation] of making oneself [the ego or mind], who is parāmukha [facing away, towards things other than oneself] because of force of habit [or practice], ahamukha [facing inside, towards I] by ātma-vicāra [self-investigation], which is the effort of untiringly investigating who am I, alone is the dēvāsura-yuddha [the war between gods and demons] that one fights.
Since time immemorial we have been habituated to facing outwards in our search for happiness because, due to our avivēka or lack of clear judgement, we seem to derive happiness from phenomena (objects and events), so what Bhagavan refers to here as ‘பயிற்சி வயம்’ (payiṟci vayam), the force, sway, influence, control or dominion of habit or practice, is the power of viṣaya-vāsanās, which we have cultivated since the beginning of time. வயம் (vayam) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit term वश (vaśa), which not only means power, control, dominion, influence, sway or authority but also will, wish or desire (in fact the latter set is its primary meanings whereas the former set is its derived meanings, because being subject to a desire means being under its sway or control), so ‘பயிற்சி வயம்’ (payiṟci vayam) also implies habituated desires, which are what cause us to be parāmukha, facing away from ourself towards other things.

Just as one kind of desire or wish impels us to face outwards, another kind impels us to face back within to investigate what we actually are. The former kind, namely our viṣaya-vāsanās, are what Bhagavan likens here to demons, while the latter kind are what he likens to gods. Therefore in this war against our viṣaya-vāsanās, the demonic elements of our will, we need to rally all the favourable elements of our will together in order to defeat our enemy as fast and as efficiently as we can. Hence if any habits of mind, speech or body lend support to our demonic enemy, we should try to give them up and replace them with more favourable habits.

This war between good and evil, between our love to surrender ourself entirely and our viṣaya-vāsanās, is also referred to by Bhagavan in verse 74 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai:
போக்கும் வரவுமில் பொதுவெளி யினிலருட்
      போராட் டங்காட் டருணாசலா.

pōkkum varavumil poduveḷi yiṉilaruṭ
      pōrāṭ ṭaṅkāṭ ṭaruṇācalā
.

பதச்சேதம்: போக்கும் வரவும் இல் பொது வெளியினில் அருள் போராட்டம் காட்டு அருணாசலா.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): pōkkum varavum il podu veḷiyiṉil aruḷ-pōrāṭṭam kāṭṭu aruṇācalā.

English translation: Arunachala, in the common space devoid of going and coming [that is, in the infinite and eternally immutable space of pure self-awareness, in which, having known one’s real nature, one will know that one could never have gone out anywhere or come back] show [me] the warfare of grace [destroying in me the vast army of demons, namely ego and all its viṣaya-vāsanās, its outwards-impelling propensities, desires and fears].
Since this is a war that is being fought within us between grace and ego, and since the ultimate victor will only be grace, which is the infinite love that we as our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) have for ourself, Bhagavan calls it ‘அருள் போராட்டம்’ (aruḷ-pōrāṭṭam), the ‘warfare of grace’. And since our prārabdha has been allotted by grace in such a way that it will be most favourable and conducive to our winning this war, we should not hesitate to try to give up any bad habit thinking that if it is our prārabdha to have such a habit we cannot choose to give it up.

Prārabdha is just what we are destined to experience so long as we are facing outwards, away from ourself, so it drives only those actions of our mind, speech and body that are necessary for it to unfold, and hence it has no jurisdiction over what we want, which is the domain of our will, so it cannot prevent us wanting or trying to give up any bad habit or anything else. If continuing a bad habit happens to be part of our prārabdha, we will not be able to give it up even if we want to and try to, but this possibility should not deter us from wanting and trying to give it up.

As Bhagavan implies in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, our ultimate aim is to give up everything, including its root, the ego, which we can do only by investigating what this ego is. Therefore Bhagavan’s path is the path of complete renunciation (a term that in this context means the same as surrender), so while following this path we need to give up anything that obstructs or stands in the way of our following it effectively, which is why Bhagavan often used to quote verse 341 of Tirukkuṟaḷ:
யாதனின் யாதனி னீங்கியா னோத
லதனி னதனி னிலன்.

yādaṉiṉ yādaṉi ṉīṅgiyā ṉōda
ladaṉi ṉadaṉi ṉilaṉ
.

பதச்சேதம்: யாதனின் யாதனின் நீங்கியான், நோதல் அதனின் அதனின் இலன்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): yādaṉiṉ yādaṉiṉ nīṅgiyāṉ, nōdal adaṉiṉ adaṉiṉ ilaṉ.

அன்வயம்: யாதனின் யாதனின் நீங்கியான், அதனின் அதனின் நோதல் இலன்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): yādaṉiṉ yādaṉiṉ nīṅgiyāṉ, adaṉiṉ adaṉiṉ nōdal ilaṉ.

English translation: From whatever, from whatever if one turns away [leaves, separates, gives up, abandons or renounces], from that, from that one is free of suffering.
In other words, whatever we give up, we are free of the suffering caused by that, so the way to be free of all suffering is to give up everything, including its root, the ego. This is the first verse of chapter 35, which is called துறவு (tuṟavu), ‘Renunciation’, and Bhagavan also often quoted the last verse of this chapter, namely verse 350, which is also relevant in this context:
பற்றுக பற்றற்றான் பற்றினை யப்பற்றைப்
பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு.

paṯṟuha paṯṟaṯṟāṉ paṯṟiṉai yappaṯṟaip
paṯṟuha paṯṟu viḍaṟku
.

பதச்சேதம்: பற்றுக பற்று அற்றான் பற்றினை. அப்பற்றை பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): paṯṟuha paṯṟu aṯṟāṉ paṯṟiṉai. a-p-paṟṟai paṯṟuha paṯṟu viḍaṟku.

அன்வயம்: பற்று அற்றான் பற்றினை பற்றுக. பற்று விடற்கு அப்பற்றை பற்றுக.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): paṯṟu aṯṟāṉ paṯṟiṉai paṯṟuha. paṯṟu viḍaṟku a-p-paṟṟai paṯṟuha.

English translation: Cling [or be attached] to attachment to he who is devoid of attachment. Cling [or be attached] to that attachment for leaving [or giving up] attachment.
பற்று (paṯṟu) is both a verb that means to grasp, catch, hold, embrace, cling to, adhere to or be attached to, and a noun that means grasping, clinging, attachment, desire, affection, love or devotion, and it is a word that Bhagavan often used, such as in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he implies that பற்று (paṯṟu), clinging, attachment or desire, is the very nature of ego, saying in the first four sentences: ‘உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்’ (uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṟkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum), ‘Grasping form it comes into existence; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly; leaving [one] form, it grasps [another] form’.

Since desire or attachment is the very nature of ego, it can free itself from all its other desires and attachments only by developing desire or attachment for that which is completely devoid of all desire and attachment, namely its own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is always shining within it as its fundamental self-awareness, ‘I am’. As Bhagavan used to say, bhakti or desire for our real nature is like a thorn that we use to remove another thorn that has become embedded in our foot, because it is the only means to remove all the other desires and attachments that have become embedded in our heart.

Therefore, contrary to what you contend, Salazar, not all desires will cause rebirth. So long as we rise as ego we cannot remain without desire, so we should choose carefully what we desire. Whatever desires make us preoccupied with things other than ourself need to be given up sooner or later, but in the process of giving them up we should cultivate desires that support or are conducive to our attempts to turn within and surrender ourself.

Desire is born of dissatisfaction or discontent, and we cannot but be dissatisfied so long as we rise as ego and thereby separate ourself from the infinite happiness that we actually are, so as this ego we can never be satisfied and can therefore never be free from desire. Therefore we need to cultivate favourable desires in order to vanquish all the demonic desires that drive our mind outwards, away from ourself.

23. Whether a certain action is predetermined by prārabdha or not, if we have even the slightest liking or wish to do it or to achieve anything thereby, it is to that extent driven by our will

As I said in the seventh paragraph of the previous section, in this and the next three sections I will discuss Salazar’s contention that all our bodily actions and habits are preordained and that it is therefore futile to try to change them. This was a view expressed by him in numerous comments besides the one I quoted in the second paragraph of that section, such as in these remarks, ‘So nothing happens except that which is divinely ordained. That makes the ego/mind totally powerless (in terms of outward action/intention)’, ‘ANY outward action is preordained’ and ‘To worry about certain habits is forgetting that these are preordained too’, this one, ‘What we do outwardly in this life is 100% determined by karma’ (in which what he means by ‘karma’ is presumably prārabdha), these ones, ‘Prarabdha karma, according to Bhagavan, determines EVERY action of the body in this life’ and ‘So [...] it is delusional to believe that the ego could change the actions of the body in this life’, and this one, ‘the actions of your body cannot be controlled by your ego’.

Salazar, what Bhagavan taught in this regard was more nuanced than your interpretation of it, and also than what has been recorded in various English books, particularly in some passages written by Devaraja Mudaliar. According to the law of karma as taught by Bhagavan, prārabdha (fate or destiny) is the fruit of āgāmya (actions of mind, speech and body done with volition or intention, or in other words, actions driven by our will) that we had done in previous lives, which like this life were just dreams occurring in our long sleep of self-ignorance, but since the prārabdha allotted for each life or dream is just a tiny fraction of all the yet-to-be-experienced fruit of āgāmyas that we have done in the past, it has been carefully selected by God or guru in such a way that it will be most conducive to our progress in the long journey of our spiritual evolution or development.

Since it is the fruit of past actions, prārabdha determines all that we are to experience (or all that is to happen to us) in this life, and since it has been allotted by God or guru for our own good, it cannot be changed by anything that we may do in this life. To this extent what you say about prārabdha and predetermination is correct.

However where your interpretation seems to go wrong is with regard to what determines or drives the actions we do by mind, speech or body. The primary role of prārabdha is to determine not what we do but what we experience, and it determines what we do only to the extent that we need to do certain actions in order to experience whatever is allotted in our prārabdha, so it drives us to do such actions. This does not mean that all the actions we do by mind, speech and body are driven only by our prārabdha, because many of the actions we do are not necessary for us to experience our prārabdha, in which case they are driven by our will, and even those that are necessary are in many cases driven not only by our prārabdha but also by our will.

As Sadhu Om often used to explain, our mind, speech and body are like a single pen that is used by two clerks, namely our will and our prārabdha. Of these two clerks, the senior one is prārabdha, so when they disagree he always has the upper hand, and hence the junior clerk can never stop him or delay him writing what he has to write. In many cases the junior clerk wants to write more or less whatever the senior clerk has to write, so in his view the pen is writing that because he wants it to. Since the senior clerk has a specific and limited remit, he will use the pen to write only what he has to write, so in the gaps between his doing so the junior clerk is free to use the pen to write whatever he wants so long as it does not in any way obstruct, cancel or neutralise what his senior colleague has to write.

In other words, prārabdha is like a rigid framework, so ego cannot bend it in any way whatsoever, no matter how much it may like to do so, but within this framework ego has plenty of room to wriggle around, so it wriggles according to its will (its likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, desires, fears and so on), and hence the wriggling actions of its mind, speech and body are āgāmya, the fruit of which are added to saṁcita, the accumulated heap or store of such fruits that are yet to be experienced, and may therefore be selected for us to experience as part of our prārabdha in some future life. This rigid and inflexible framework of prārabdha is what Bhagavan describes in the second and third sentences of the note that he wrote for his mother in December 1898: ‘என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்ப தென்றடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது’ (eṉḏṟum naḍavādadu eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum naḍavādu; naḍappadu eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum nillādu), ‘What will never happen will not happen whatever effort one makes [to make it happen]; what will happen will not stop whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does [to prevent it happening]’.

Our wriggling according to our will within the rigid framework of prārabdha is what he refers to here when he says ‘என் முயற்சிக்கினும்’ (eṉ muyaṟcikkiṉum), ‘whatever effort one makes’ or ‘though one makes whatever effort’, and ‘என்றடை செய்யினும்’ (eṉ taḍai seyyiṉum), ‘whatever obstruction [or resistance] one does’ or ‘though one does whatever obstruction [or resistance]’, and our not wriggling at all (that is, our not wanting or liking to do or not to do anything, or to achieve or not to achieve anything) is what he refers to as ‘மௌனமா யிருக்கை’ (mauṉamāy irukkai), ‘silently being’ or ‘being silent’, in the final sentence of this note: ‘ஆகலின் மௌனமா யிருக்கை நன்று’ (āhaliṉ mauṉamāy irukkai naṉḏṟu), ‘Therefore silently being [or being silent] is good’.

What you and some others who write comments here seem to have not understood is the amount of wriggle-room ego has to do actions by mind, speech or body according to its will within the rigid framework of prārabdha. Since most of the actions that we do by each of these three instruments are actions that we want to do, either for their own sake or for the sake of what we want to achieve thereby, all such actions are āgāmya, even though many of them may also be according to prārabdha, in which case these instruments would do them even if we had no particular wish or liking to do them, and even though those of them that are not in accordance with prārabdha will not and cannot in anyway alter what we must experience as per prārabdha.

As Bhagavan implies in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār (which I cited in the first section of this article), what binds us to the relentless wheel of karma or saṁsāra, which is like a great ocean in which we have been immersed and drowning since time immemorial, is not the fruits of our past actions, a small selection of which are what we experience as prārabdha in each life or dream, but is our will (the desire or liking that we have to continue doing such actions and experiencing whatever we seem to achieve thereby), which is like a large bag of seeds, each of which is waiting to sprout as thoughts, words or deeds (actions of mind, speech or body) whenever conditions are favourable.

Therefore as I have been arguing throughout this article, what we need to be concerned about and to try to change or rectify is not whatever we are destined to experience according to prārabdha, which we cannot change no matter how much we may want to and try to, but is only our will, which we can and must rectify if we wish to be liberated from ego and all its pravṛttis (outward-going activities), which are driven by our will to experience anything other than ourself. We need be concerned about the actions of our mind, speech and body only to the extent that they are driven by our will, but what we need be concerned about is not so much the actions themselves as the will that drives them.

Whether or not any particular action is determined and driven by prārabdha need not concern us, because so long as we have even the slightest liking or wish to do it or to achieve anything thereby, it is to that extent driven by our will and is therefore āgāmya. Since the elements of our will that drive us to do any actions by mind, speech or body are what keep us bound to the wheel of karma, we need to eradicate them, and the most effective means to do so is the single path of self-investigation and self-surrender.

If we believe that all the actions done by our mind, speech and body, or even just all those done by our body, are driven only by our prārabdha, we will thereby be in denial about the significant role that our will plays in driving such actions. Many if not most of the actions done by these three instruments are symptomatic of the desires, attachments, fears and other such elements of our will that drive them (even if some of them also happen to be driven by our prārabdha), so they should keep us alert to the sway that such passions or propensities (vāsanās) still hold over us, and should prompt us to be vigilant to reduce and eventually break that hold.

24. Our will drives not only the actions we do by mind and speech but also those that we do by body, as Bhagavan implies in verse 4 of Upadēśa Undiyār

Salazar, from what you wrote in many of your comments, such as the ones from which I gave some extracts in the first paragraph of the previous section, you seem to believe that every action done by our body (or ‘outward action’, as you often refer to such actions) is determined entirely by prārabdha and that such actions therefore have nothing to do with our will, but denying that our will plays any role in such actions is contrary not only to our experience but also to what Bhagavan taught us in this regard. For example, after saying in verse 3 of Upadēśa Undiyār that niṣkāmya karma done for God purifies the mind and thereby shows the way to liberation, in verse 4 he says:
திடமிது பூசை செபமுந் தியான
முடல்வாக் குளத்தொழி லுந்தீபற
     வுயர்வாகு மொன்றிலொன் றுந்தீபற.

diḍamidu pūjai jepamun dhiyāṉa
muḍalvāk kuḷattoṙi lundīpaṟa
     vuyarvāhu moṉḏṟiloṉ ḏṟundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: திடம் இது: பூசை செபமும் தியானம் உடல் வாக்கு உள தொழில். உயர்வு ஆகும் ஒன்றில் ஒன்று.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): diḍam idu: pūjai jepam-um dhiyāṉam uḍal vākku uḷa toṙil. uyarvu āhum oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu.

அன்வயம்: பூசை செபமும் தியானம் உடல் வாக்கு உள தொழில். ஒன்றில் ஒன்று உயர்வு ஆகும். இது திடம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): pūjai jepam-um dhiyāṉam uḍal vākku uḷa toṙil. oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu uyarvu āhum. idu diḍam.

English translation: This is certain: pūjā, japa and dhyāna are actions of body, speech and mind. One than one is superior.

Explanatory paraphrase: This is certain: pūjā [worship], japa [repetition of a name of God or a sacred phrase] and dhyāna [meditation] are [respectively] actions of body, speech and mind, [and hence in this order each subsequent] one is superior to [the previous] one.
In this context the pūjā, japa and dhyāna he refers to are niṣkāmya pūjā, japa and dhyāna, and what he means by saying ‘உயர்வு ஆகும் ஒன்றில் ஒன்று’ (uyarvu āhum oṉḏṟil oṉḏṟu), ‘one than one is superior’, is that in this order each one is more effective in purifying the mind than the previous one, so japa is more effective than pūjā, and dhyāna is more effective than japa. Thus he clearly implies that we can do niṣkāmya actions of body, speech and mind, which in turn implies that we could alternatively do kāmya actions of body, speech and mind. In other words, when doing any action by body, speech and mind we can do it either with desire to achieve some benefit thereby or without any such desire but just for the love of God.

Sri Ramakrishna, for example, worshipped Kali, and millions of other people also worship her, particularly in Bengal, but what is the difference between his worship and the worship done by the majority of other people? Most people who worship Kali or any other form of God do so hoping to gain some benefit thereby, so their love is not for God but for what they hope to gain from him or her. This is kāmya bhakti, which is not real bhakti at all, but which will gradually over the course of numerous lives lead them to niṣkāmya bhakti, which alone is real bhakti, love for God for his or her own sake and not for the sake of anything else that one wants to gain thereby. Sri Ramakrishna’s worship was pure niṣkāmya bhakti, so though the action of pūjā that he did may have been the same as that done by those who worship with kāmya motives, the heart-melting love with which he did it was completely different to their desires. Therefore what is important is the love or will with which we do any action, whether by body, speech or mind.

You may argue that the worship done by Sri Ramakrishna was in accordance with his prārabdha, and that the worship done by others is likewise in accordance with their prārabdha, and that may be the case, but it is of no relevance here. According to their respective prārabdhas, two people may be made to do exactly the same action, but the effect of that action may be quite different, because one of them may be driven to do that action by pure love for God, whereas the other may be driven to do it by desire for some selfish aim.

Can you not see the importance of the will that drives us to do any action, whether or not prārabdha also happens to drive us to do it? Whatever role prārabdha has to play it will play, so we can leave it to take care of itself, but the role our will has to play is in our hands, so that alone is what should concern us.

The main purpose of all that Bhagavan taught us about the law of karma was to make us understand this. No matter how much we may want to and accordingly try to, we cannot change even an iota of prārabdha, so we should give up wanting to do so, and to the extent that we give up wanting to do so we will also give up trying to do so. We cannot change prārabdha, but we can change our will (what we want and what we do not want), so the entire purpose of all spiritual practice is to change our will.

If we wanted nothing but to turn within and surrender ourself, we could and would do so here and now, so the only reason we continue to rise and stand as ego is because we want to do so, and even if we also want to turn within and surrender ourself, our liking to do so is not yet strong enough, because our liking to rise, go out and experience so many seemingly wonderful and alluring phenomena is stronger than our liking to surrender ourself.

Our will impels us to rise and stand as ego, and so long as it does so it also plays a significant (and in most cases huge) role in driving us to act by mind, speech and body, so if we want to surrender our will and thereby subside back into our source, we need to do all we can to rectify our will, and that entails recognising the role it plays in driving our actions. If we deny that it plays any such role, we are turning a blind eye to its workings, and thereby we are hoodwinking ourself into believing that we need not be concerned about it. How can we surrender our will along with its root, the ego, if we are not even willing to recognise the extent to which it is ruling our life and keeping us bound in this state of self-ignorance?

This is not to say that we should be concerned about our actions, but just that we should be concerned about the vāsanās (the desires, hopes, attachments, fears and such like) that drive us to do whatever actions we do, because these vāsanās are what impel us to rise as ego and engage in pravṛtti. We may not be able to eradicate all these vāsanās immediately, but by practising the twin paths of self-investigation and self-surrender taught by Bhagavan we can gradually free ourself from the sway they hold over us.

25. Those who recorded what Bhagavan said in reply to questions about predetermination and freedom of will often failed to grasp all the nuances in his replies

In one of your comments you quote something that Devaraja Mudaliar recorded in Day by Day with Bhagavan (1-6-46: 1989 edition, page 211; 2002 edition, page 245), namely that according to his understanding and memory Bhagavan said something that more or less means ‘All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence’, and in another comment, in which you seem to refer to what he recorded either in Day by Day (4-1-46 Afternoon: 1989 edition, page 78; 2002 edition, pages 91-2) or in My Recollections of Bhagavan Sri Ramana (Chapter 4: 1992 edition, pages 90-1), you say: ‘I fail to understand how people can misconstrue Bhagavan’s statement when Bhagavan was asked by a doubting devotee re. predestination and the devotee asked if he raises at this moment his arm if that was predetermined too and Bhagavan answered, “yes!”. So if any little movement like raising an arm is predetermined then it is COMMON SENSE and LOGICAL that any action of the arms (and anything else by the body) MUST be predetermined too’.

As I explained with regard to such recordings in Those who recorded what Bhagavan said in reply to questions about fate and free will often failed to grasp all the nuances in his replies (the seventh section of an article I wrote in reply to you and others last year, If we choose to do any harmful actions, should we consider them to be done according to destiny (prārabdha)?), whenever Bhagavan spoke about such matters he did so in a very nuanced manner, but in most cases those who recorded what he said did not have sufficient subtlety of understanding to grasp such nuances, so what they recorded (which they generally did in English) does not adequately convey all the crucial nuances in what he said in Tamil. Therefore if we want to have a suitably nuanced understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings, we should not rely on such recordings, but should consider the matter deeply in the light of his own writings and come to our own conclusion about he meant us to understand.

An example of the nuanced manner in which he expressed his teachings can be seen in verses 17 and 18 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. If we view these verses superficially, it may seem to us that what he is saying is that an ātma-jñāni experiences a body as ‘I’ and the world as real, and therefore some people interpret these verses to mean that even after the ego has been eradicated we will continue to be aware of our body and this world. However, if we read and consider these verses more carefully, it is clear that what Bhagavan is actually saying in a nuanced manner is quite contrary to this.

In the third sentence of verse 17 he says, ‘உடல் உள்ளே தன் உணர்ந்தார்க்கு எல்லை அற தான் ஒளிரும் நான்’ (uḍal uḷḷē taṉ-ṉ-uṇarndārkku ellai aṟa tāṉ oḷirum nāṉ), ‘for those who have known themself within the body, oneself, I, shines without limit’, and likewise in the third sentence of verse 18 he says, ‘உலகினுக்கு ஆதாரமாய் உரு அற்று ஆரும் உணர்ந்தார் உண்மை’ (ulahiṉukku ādhāram-āy uru aṯṟu ārum uṇarndār uṇmai), ‘for those who have known, reality pervades devoid of form as the support for the world’. Every form has limits or boundaries, so when Bhagavan says that for the ātma-jñāni ‘I’ shines without limit or boundary, he clearly implies that it shines without form and therefore without any body. Likewise when he says that for the ātma-jñāni the reality pervades devoid of form as the ādhāra (support, foundation or container) for the world, he clearly implies that what is real is only formless awareness, which is that in which the ego and world appear and disappear.

Why then does he say that for the ātma-jñāni the body is actually ‘I’ and the world is real? Because what actually exists and is therefore real is only ‘I’, so what the ajñāni sees as a body and world is seen by the ātma-jñāni only as the limitless and therefore formless reality, which alone is ‘I’. This is like saying that whereas the ajñāni sees the rope as a snake, the jñāni sees the snake as a rope. Does this mean that the jñāni actually sees a snake? No, obviously not: what it sees is only a rope, and it sees it only as a rope, so it does not see any snake at all. Why then is it said that the jñāni sees the snake as a rope? Because what the ajñāni sees is a snake, even though that snake is not actually a snake but only a rope, so what the ajñāni sees as a snake is what the jñāni sees as it is, namely as a rope.

If Bhagavan were to say what he wrote in these two verses, and if he were heard by someone who did not grasp the nuanced meaning that he intended, what that person would record from their understanding and memory would not correctly convey his meaning. That person may be a sincere devotee, like Devaraja Mudaliar, and may genuinely believe that he had recorded what he heard as he heard it, but what he would actually have recorded was what he understood as he understood it.

Devaraja Mudaliar was a friendly, humble and very lovable person, and Sadhu Om told me that once when they were discussing this subject together, Devaraja Mudaliar told him what he remembered Bhagavan saying, and when Sadhu Om pointed to him that he had not fully grasped the nuances in what Bhagavan had said, he replied as he often did: ‘You understand these things better than I do. I have no head for this vicāra. I just love our Bhagavan and surrender to him as best as I can, knowing that he will save me’.

Since Bhagavan wrote and spoke in such a carefully nuanced manner, every word he used was potentially very significant, so since what he said in Tamil was in most cases not recorded exactly as he said it, and since most of what was recorded was recorded only in English and not in Tamil, we cannot rely on such recordings to give us a clear picture of exactly what he said or meant. If we consider the example of the sentence from Day by Day (1-6-46: 2002 edition, page 245) that I referred to at the beginning of this section, namely ‘All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence’, the phrase ‘all the activities that the body is to go through’ could mean either of two things, namely ‘all the activities that the body is meant to go through’ or ‘all the activities that the body is going to go through’.

There is a significant difference between these two interpretations. ‘All the activities that the body is meant to go through’ would mean all the activities that are determined by prārabdha, and would not include any activities that are driven only by the will and not by prārabdha, whereas ‘all the activities that the body is going to go through’ would include all activities, whether driven by will, by prārabdha or by both. The actions that are determined when the body first comes into existence are only the actions that are driven by prārabdha, so if Bhagavan said something in Tamil that means ‘All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence’, the activities he would have been referring to were only such actions.

The actions that we do by mind, speech and body are driven by two forces, fate (prārabdha) and will, so some actions are driven only by fate, others are driven only by will, but most are driven to a greater or lesser extent by both fate and will. Actions that are driven only by will are not determined when the body comes into existence, because only fate is predetermined, and will does not come under the jurisdiction of fate.

Fate and will each have their own jurisdiction, and neither can encroach into the jurisdiction of the other, which is why Bhagavan says in verse 19 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that dispute about which of these two prevail will arise only for those who cannot discern or distinguish the root of both of them, namely ego. If we interpret the statement ‘All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence’ to mean that even activities driven only by will are predetermined, we would in effect be contending that fate always prevails over will, which is clearly not what Bhagavan intended us to believe. Therefore we should interpret the phrase ‘all the activities that the body is to go through’ to mean ‘all the activities that the body is meant to go through’ and not ‘all the activities that the body is going to go through’.

26. Everything that comes under the jurisdiction of prārabdha is predetermined, and everything that comes under the jurisdiction of our will, including āgāmya, is not predetermined

Therefore just because what is recorded in certain books may give the impression that Bhagavan said that all actions done by our body are predetermined, we should not assume that this is exactly what he meant or that he did not actually speak in a more nuanced manner. For example, in one of the passages of Day by Day that I referred to earlier (4-1-46 Afternoon: 2002 edition, pages 91-2), Devaraja Mudaliar recorded that he had asked Bhagavan whether even actions ‘such as taking a cup of water or moving from one place in the room to another’ are predetermined, to which he replied, ‘Yes, everything is predetermined’, but in the context what he presumably meant is that everything that we experience (such as enjoying a cup of water) is predetermined by our prārabdha, so every action that is necessary for us to do in order to experience whatever is predetermined is likewise predetermined.

This does not mean that our desire for a cup of water, for example, plays no part in driving us to drink it. If we have such a desire, our drinking a cup to satisfy that desire would be driven by both our will and our prārabdha, so the fact that an action is driven by prārabdha does not preclude the possibility (or in most cases the probability) that it is also driven by our will. However this seems to be what you and some others assume.

If we take the words that Devaraja Mudaliar recorded, namely ‘everything is predetermined’, at face value, we could interpret them to mean that literally everything is predetermined, including things such as the rising of the ego, its likes, dislikes, desires, attachments and fears, its āgāmya, its bhakti and vairāgya, its effort to turn within and surrender itself, and its eventual annihilation. However, interpreting whatever Bhagavan said to mean this would clearly be absurd, because it should be fairly obvious to anyone who is familiar with his teachings that he would not have meant that all such things are predetermined, so if he did say ‘everything is predetermined’, what he meant by ‘everything’ in this context would not be literally everything but all of a particular subset of everything. So what is the subset he would have referred to in this context?

According to the law of karma that he taught us, what is predetermined is all that we are to experience or that is to happen to us in each life or dream, and since in order for us to experience that it is necessary for us to do certain actions by mind, speech or body, such actions are also predetermined. In other words, everything that comes under the scope or jurisdiction of prārabdha is predetermined, but not anything else. Since our will does not come under the jurisdiction of prārabdha, it is not predetermined, and likewise since āgāmya (all the actions that our will drives us to do by mind, speech and body) does not come under the jurisdiction of prārabdha, it is also not predetermined.

These are the most elementary principles of the law of karma, and extremely simple and easy for anyone to understand, so it is in the clear light of these principles that we should try to understand whatever Devaraja Mudaliar or anyone else has recorded Bhagavan saying about this subject. If anything that they have recorded contradicts these principles, we can safely assume that they did not correctly record whatever he said.

In the same passage of Day by Day Devaraja Mudaliar recorded that when Bhagavan replied to him, ‘Yes, everything is predetermined’, he then asked, ‘Then what responsibility, what free will has man?’ to which Bhagavan replied, ‘What for then does the body come into existence?’ From these words recorded by Devaraja Mudaliar it is not entirely clear what Bhagavan would have actually said here, let alone what he would have meant, but if this is more or less what he replied, I would assume that he meant it as a rhetorical question, and that what he implied was that the body comes into existence only to enable the ego to rectify its will. In other words, the entire purpose of our life in this body is for us to weed out all the elements of our will that drive our attention outwards, away from ourself, and thereby impel us to engage in pravṛtti, and to cultivate in their place elements that will help to draw our mind back to face ourself alone and thereby subside back into our natural state of nivṛtti.

The next two sentences recorded by Devaraja Mudaliar are a continuation of Bhagavan’s supposed reply, namely ‘It is designed for doing the various things marked out for execution in this life. The whole programme is chalked out’. However, I doubt whether this is exactly what Bhagavan said, because it seems to imply that the reason why the body comes into existence is just for us to experience what is chalked out or predetermined, namely our prārabdha, which would not be a good reason for us to spend an entire lifetime. There must be more purpose to life than just experiencing prārabdha.

Prārabdha is not an end in itself, but is just a series of favourable conditions that we should make use of to progress in our spiritual development, and what spiritual development entails is the purification of our will. Therefore though Bhagavan may have expressed most of the ideas that Devaraja Mudaliar recorded in that final paragraph of that section, he would presumably have said more than that, and would not have implied that the body comes into existence just for us to experience prārabdha.

However in the final sentence of that paragraph Devaraja Mudaliar records that Bhagavan said, ‘As for freedom for man, he is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities’, which comes closer to expressing the real purpose for which the body has come into existence. How can we not ‘be affected by the pleasures or pains consequent on the body’s activities’? We are affected by pleasures and pains because we have likes, dislikes and other such elements of our will, so we can avoid being affected by them only by surrendering our will, which we can do entirely and most effectively only by turning our mind within to investigate what we actually are.

Still more importantly, how can we avoid identifying ourself with the body? The very nature of ego is to rise and stand only by identifying itself with a body, so we cannot avoid identifying ourself with a body so long as we rise and stand as ego. Therefore we need to surrender not only our will but also ego, whose will it is, and we can surrender ego only by investigating what it actually is. Therefore as Bhagavan often used to say, we need to harness our entire will to doing just one task, namely investigating ourself and thereby surrendering ego. This is the sole purpose for which this body (or any other body that we may experience ourself to be) has come into existence.

27. Freedom to do whatever we want is not freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) but freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra), which is limited

Salazar is not the only friend who seems to be convinced that all actions, or at least all actions done by our body, are preordained and that our will therefore has no influence over any such actions. Another friend called John C (in reply to whom I began to write this article) seems to be of much the same opinion. For example in one comment he wrote, ‘Personally I find it helpful to believe I have no free will at all in terms of the body’s actions’, so in this section and the next one I will reply to this statement of his.

John, do you not want to do most or at least many of the actions you do, and do you not do them with some intention, wanting or hoping to achieve some benefit thereby? For example, if you go to a shop to buy some food, do you not do so because you are either hungry or anticipate being hungry later, so you want to be able to cook and satisfy your hunger? Or when you read this blog and write comments on it, do you not do so because you enjoy discussing Bhagavan’s teachings and because you want to understand them more clearly? In this way are not most of your actions driven by some desire, fear, hope, want, wish, liking, disliking or some other form of volition?

Even if many (or perhaps even all) of your actions are driven by prārabdha, that does not mean that they are not also driven by your will or volition. We do not know what our prārabdha will be until it unfolds, so it is only very vaguely or in retrospect that we can see it driving our actions, but we are (or certainly should be) acutely aware of the workings of our will (our likes, dislikes, desires, fears, attachments, hopes and so on) at every moment in our life, so we can see very clearly how it is driving us to act by mind, speech and body.

Therefore how can you truly believe that you ‘have no free will at all in terms of the body’s actions’? Do you mean to say that your will is not at all involved in any of the actions done by your body? If so, that would amount to saying that you are completely unconcerned about whatever actions your body does or does not do, or about whatever you experience as a result of it doing or not doing any action. If you were so completely unconcerned, that would mean that you had attained a very exalted state of perfect vairāgya and surrender, in which case you would be able to turn your attention very easily back towards yourself alone and thereby merge forever in your real nature (ātma-svarūpa), the source from which you have arisen.

If you have not attained such a state of vairāgya and surrender, you must still like doing certain actions and dislike doing other ones, and must also like experiencing certain things that seem to result from some actions and dislike experiencing other things that seem to result from other actions. So long as you have such likes and dislikes, you must also have numerous wants, wishes, desires, attachments, hope, fears and such like, and these elements of your will must be constantly be driving you to do certain actions and to avoid doing certain other actions as much as possible.

When you say, ‘I find it helpful to believe I have no free will at all in terms of the body’s actions’, what exactly do you mean? Do you believe that no elements of your will ever drive you to do any bodily actions, or just that your will is not free? If you mean that your will is not free, in what sense is it not free? Do you mean that you are not free to want whatever you want, or not free to do whatever you want, or not free to achieve whatever you want?

According to Bhagavan whatever we are to achieve or experience in each life or dream is determined by fate (prārabdha), so we are not free to achieve whatever you want, and if we do achieve certain things that we want that is only because we are destined to achieve them and not because we want to achieve them. However within the constraints of fate we are free to do whatever we want, so our freedom to do what we want is limited but not non-existent. However, as I explained in section 12 of this article, there is absolutely no limit on our freedom to want whatever we want, because by definition we want whatever we want, so in this sense our will is perfectly free.

It may be argued that we are not completely free to want whatever we want, because often we want to give up wanting something but are unable to do so. However the reason why we cannot give up certain wants or desires is because the desire in question is stronger than our desire to give it up, so different elements of our will are often in conflict with one another, and hence as I explained in section 13 the freedom of our will is limited only by internal constraints any not by any external ones. Nothing outside our will can make us want what we do not want or prevent us wanting what we do want, and even when different elements of our will are in conflict with each other, our will as a whole is perfectly free.

If we want something we want it because we want it, and if we want to give up wanting it, we want to do so because we want to do so. Though these two elements of our will are in conflict with one another, they are both our wants, and we are perfectly free to want both of them, but whichever want is stronger will prevail, and sooner or later we may give up one entirely in favour of the other, in which case we would do so because that is what we most strongly want. Therefore we are always perfectly free to want whatever we want, and we will want it more than anything else if it is stronger than all our other wants.

In this sense our will is perfectly free, but this does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want, because freedom to do whatever we want is not freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) but freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra). Though we are free to want whatever we want, we are not free to do whatever we want, because what we do is constrained to some extent — but not completely — by prārabdha, so our freedom of will is unlimited whereas our freedom of action is limited. We can do whatever we want provided that doing so would not result in changing in any way or to any extent whatever we are destined to experience, because whatever we are destined to experience cannot be changed even an iota by our will or by anything we do by our will.

Many of the actions done by our mind, speech and body are driven by prārabdha, because such actions are necessary for us to experience our prārabdha, but this does not mean that all of the actions done by these three instruments are driven only by prārabdha. Some actions are driven only by prārabdha while others are driven only by our will, but many are driven by both, because we often want to experience what we are anyway destined to experience.

Accidental actions or actions that we do not do deliberately are driven only by prārabdha, but most other actions done by our mind, speech and body are driven to a greater or lesser extent by our will, whether they are also driven by prārabdha or not, because our will is constantly working and is therefore involved in one way or another in almost everything that we do. If we want to avoid letting our will be involved in any way in the actions of our mind, speech and body, we need to harness all of it in the single task of turning our entire attention inwards to investigate what we actually are and thereby to surrender ourself, this ego, whose will it is. Until we do so, various elements of our will will to a greater or lesser extent be involved in and driving in one way or another the actions done by our mind, speech and body.

28. The pravṛtti elements of our will are the cause of our bondage and its nivṛtti elements will be the cause of our salvation

You say, ‘Personally I find it helpful to believe I have no free will at all in terms of the body’s actions’, but even if you are able to turn a blind eye to the obvious way in which various elements of your will are driving you to act by mind, speech and body, how can doing so be helpful to you in any way?

Denying the huge influence that our will holds over us cannot help us to progress spiritually, because the pravṛtti elements of our will (that is, elements that urge us to rise, go outwards and engage in activity), which are what drive us to do āgāmya by mind, speech and body, are the obstacles that stand in the way of our spiritual progress, since they are what impels our mind to face away from ourself and thereby rush outwards. Only if we are ready to acknowledge their existence and the pernicious influence that they have over us can we begin to eradicate them by self-investigation, self-surrender or other practices of bhakti.

The inseparable twin paths of self-investigation and self-surrender that Bhagavan taught us are the paths of jñāna and bhakti, so whereas the former requires increasing clarity of vivēka (judgement, discernment or the ability to distinguish what is real, namely oneself, from what is unreal, namely everything else), the latter requires redirection of our will by weeding out all its pravṛtti elements and cultivating nivṛtti elements (that is, elements that urge us to withdraw, turn back, cease or desist from rising and going outwards) in place of them. At heart these two paths are one, so they are not two alternatives, and hence we cannot go deep into either of them without going equally deep into the other one.

Therefore if we want to go deep in this path, we cannot afford to neglect the need either for developing increasing clarity of vivēka or for redirecting our will. In fact these are both the same process, because to the extent that we purify our will by eradicating its pravṛtti elements our natural inner clarity will shine forth, and the more such clarity shines forth the more the pravṛtti elements of our will will naturally be replaced by nivṛtti elements. This is why it is so important for us to clearly recognise the key role that our will plays in every aspect of our life, and to understand that its pravṛtti elements are the cause of our bondage and its nivṛtti elements will be the cause of our salvation.

29. No thought can rise unless we, the ego, are willing to attend to it, so we are ultimately responsible for everything that we think

In their comments Salazar, John and others did not stop just at saying that the actions done by our body are all predetermined and therefore not influenced by our will, because in some of their comments they went so far as to contend that even the actions done by our mind are likewise all predetermined and therefore not influenced by our will. For example, in one comment Salazar wrote: ‘the actions of your body cannot be controlled by your ego nor can your ego control what kind of thoughts it thinks. […] If thoughts could be controlled nobody would be sad or suffering because the ego would not allow any thoughts which could trigger these emotions. And per Bhagavan, if you raise your arm or not is also not in the control of your ego but controlled by the shakti of Ishwara, in fact any action of the body is controlled by Ishwara and not by your ego. Therefore you cannot control your thoughts nor the actions of your body’.

Salazar, as ego we experience sadness or suffering when our desires are not fulfilled or when we experience something we dislike, so since desires and dislikes are elements of our will, our will is what causes us to suffer or be sad. Since we do not like to suffer or be sad, we do actions by mind, speech and body that we hope will avert suffering and sadness and enable us to be happy, but the very likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, fears and other elements of our will that drive us to do such actions to avoid suffering and to experience happiness are what cause us to suffer and be sad.

Therefore the reason we experience sadness and suffering is not because we have no control over what we think but because of our avivēka (lack of clear judgement, discrimination or ability to distinguish one thing from another) and the resulting misdirection of our will, as Bhagavan points out in the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
சுகமென்பது ஆத்மாவின் சொரூபமே; சுகமும் ஆத்மசொரூபமும் வேறன்று. ஆத்மசுகம் ஒன்றே யுள்ளது; அதுவே ஸத்யம். பிரபஞ்சப்பொருள் ஒன்றிலாவது சுகமென்பது கிடையாது. அவைகளிலிருந்து சுகம் கிடைப்பதாக நாம் நமது அவிவேகத்தால் நினைக்கின்றோம். மனம் வெளியில் வரும்போது துக்கத்தை யனுபவிக்கிறது. உண்மையில் நமது எண்ணங்கள் பூர்த்தியாகும்போதெல்லாம் அது தன்னுடைய யதாஸ்தானத்திற்குத் திரும்பி ஆத்மசுகத்தையே யனுபவிக்கிறது. அப்படியே தூக்கம், சமாதி, மூர்ச்சை காலங்களிலும், இச்சித்த பொருள் கிடைக்கிறபோதும், வெறுத்த பொருளுக்கு கேடுண்டாகும் போதும், மனம் அந்தர்முகமாகி ஆத்மசுகத்தையே யனுபவிக்கிறது. இப்படி மனம் ஆத்மாவை விட்டு வெளியே போவதும், உள்ளே திரும்புவதுமாக ஓய்வின்றி யலைகிறது. மரத்தடியில் நிழல் சுகமா யிருக்கிறது. வெளியில் சூரியவெப்பம் கொடுமையா யிருக்கிறது. வெளியி லலையு மொருவன் நிழலிற் சென்று குளிர்ச்சி யடைகிறான். சிறிது நேரத்திற்குப் பின் வெளிக்கிளம்பி வெப்பத்தின் கொடுமைக் காற்றாது, மறுபடியும் மரத்தடிக்கு வருகின்றான். இவ்வாறு நிழலினின்று வெயிலிற் போவதும், வெயிலினின்று நிழலிற் செல்வதுமாயிருக்கிறான். இப்படிச் செய்கிறவன் அவிவேகி. ஆனால் விவேகியோ நிழலைவிட்டு நீங்கான். அப்படியே ஞானியின் மனமும் பிரம்மத்தை விட்டு நீங்குவ தில்லை. ஆனால் அஞ்ஞானியின் மனமோ பிரபஞ்சத்தி லுழன்று துக்கப்படுவதும், சிறிது நேரம் பிரம்மத்திற்குத் திரும்பி சுக மடைவதுமா யிருக்கிறது. ஜக மென்பது நினைவே. ஜகம் மறையும்போது அதாவது நினைவற்றபோது மனம் ஆனந்தத்தை யனுபவிக்கின்றது; ஜகம் தோன்றும்போது அது துக்கத்தை யனுபவிக்கின்றது.

sukham-eṉbadu ātmāviṉ sorūpamē; sukhamum ātma-sorūpamum vēṟaṉḏṟu. ātma-sukham oṉḏṟē y-uḷḷadu; aduvē satyam. pirapañca-p-poruḷ oṉḏṟil-āvadu sukham-eṉbadu kiḍaiyādu. avaigaḷilirundu sukham kiḍaippadāha nām namadu avivēkattāl niṉaikkiṉḏṟōm. maṉam veḷiyil varum-pōdu duḥkhattai y-aṉubhavikkiṟadu. uṇmaiyil namadu eṇṇaṅgaḷ pūrtti-y-āhum-pōdellām adu taṉṉuḍaiya yathāsthāṉattiṟku-t tirumbi ātma-sukhattaiyē y-aṉubhavikkiṟadu. appaḍiyē tūkkam, samādhi, mūrccai kālaṅgaḷilum, icchitta poruḷ kiḍaikkiṟa-bōdum, veṟutta poruḷukku kēḍuṇḍāhum-bōdum, maṉam antarmukham-āhi ātma-sukhattaiyē y-aṉubhavikkiṟadu. ippaḍi maṉam ātmāvai viṭṭu veḷiyē pōvadum, uḷḷē tirumbuvadum-āha ōyviṉḏṟi y-alaikiṟadu. marattaḍiyil niṙal sukham-āy irukkiṟadu. veḷiyil sūriya-veppam koḍumai-y-āy irukkiṟadu. veḷiyil alaiyum oruvaṉ niṙaliṯ ceṉḏṟu kuḷircci y-aḍaikiṟāṉ. siṟidu nērattiṟku-p piṉ veḷi-k-kiḷambi veppattiṉ koḍumaik kāṯṟādu, maṟupaḍiyum marattaḍikku varugiṉḏṟāṉ. ivvāṟu niṙaliṉiṉḏṟu veyiliṯ pōvadum, veyiliṉiṉḏṟu niṙaliṯ celvadum-āy-irukkiṟāṉ. ippaḍi-c ceygiṟavaṉ avivēki. āṉāl vivēkiyō niṙalai-viṭṭu nīṅgāṉ. appaḍiyē ñāṉiyiṉ maṉamum birammattai viṭṭu nīṅguvadillai. āṉāl aññāṉiyiṉ maṉamō pirapañcattil uṙaṉḏṟu duḥkha-p-paḍuvadum, siṟidu nēram birammattiṟku-t tirumbi sukham aḍaivadum-āy irukkiṟadu. jagam eṉbadu niṉaivē. jagam maṟaiyum-bōdu adāvadu niṉaivaṯṟa-bōdu maṉam āṉandattai y-aṉubhavikkiṉḏṟadu; jagam tōṉḏṟum-pōdu adu duḥkhattai y-aṉubhavikkiṉḏṟadu.

What is called sukha [happiness, satisfaction, joy, ease, comfort or pleasantness] is only the svarūpa [the ‘own form’ or real nature] of ātmā [oneself]; sukha and ātma-svarūpa [one’s own real nature] are not different. Ātma-sukha [happiness that is oneself] alone exists; that alone is real. What is called sukha [happiness or satisfaction] is not found [obtained or available] in even one of the objects of the world. We think that happiness is obtained from them because of our avivēka [lack of judgement, discrimination or ability to distinguish one thing from another]. When the mind comes out [from ātma-svarūpa], it experiences duḥkha [dissatisfaction, discomfort, uneasiness, unpleasantness, unhappiness, distress, suffering, sorrow, sadness, pain or affliction]. In truth, whenever our thoughts [wishes or hopes] are fulfilled, it [the mind] turns back to its proper place [the heart, our real nature, which is the source from which it rose] and experiences only ātma-sukha [happiness that is oneself]. Likewise at times of sleep, samādhi [a state of manōlaya or temporary dissolution of mind brought about by prāṇāyāma or other such yōga practices] and fainting, and when anything liked is obtained, and when destruction [damage, elimination or removal] occurs to anything disliked, the mind becomes antarmukham [inward facing] and experiences only ātma-sukha. In this way the mind wanders about incessantly, going outside leaving oneself, and [again] turning back inside. At the foot of a tree the shade is pleasant [comfortable or delightful]. Outside the heat of the sun is severe [or harsh]. A person who is wandering outside is cooled [literally, obtains coolness or cooling] [by] going into the shade. After a short while emerging outside, [but] being unable to withstand [or bear] the severity of the heat, he again comes to the foot of the tree. In this way he remains, going from the shade into the sunshine, and going [back] from the sunshine into the shade. A person who does thus is an avivēki [someone lacking judgement, discrimination or ability to distinguish]. But a vivēki [someone who can judge, discriminate or distinguish] will not depart leaving the shade. Likewise the mind of the jñāni [one who is aware of one’s real nature] will not depart leaving brahman [that which alone exists, namely pure awareness, which is infinite happiness and one’s own real nature]. But the mind of the ajñāni [one who is not aware of one’s real nature] remains experiencing duḥkha [dissatisfaction or suffering] [by] roaming about in the world, and for a short while obtaining sukha [satisfaction or happiness] [by] returning to brahman. What is called the world is only thought [because like any world that we experience in a dream, what we experience as the world in this waking state is nothing but a series of perceptions, which are just thoughts or mental phenomena]. When the world disappears, that is, when thought ceases, the mind experiences happiness; when the world appears, it experiences duḥkha [dissatisfaction or suffering].
Because of avivēka we believe that happiness can be obtained from things other than ourself, and that unhappiness is also caused by such things, so we like and desire things that we believe will make us happy, and dislike and fear things that we believe will make us unhappy, and hence driven by such likes, dislikes, desires and fears our mind roams about outside seeking happiness, but is inevitably disappointed, because happiness is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) and therefore cannot be obtained from anything other than ourself. This is the essence of what Bhagavan says in this paragraph, so he clearly implies here that the activity of our mind is driven to a large extent by our will, as he stated more explicitly in eighth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? when he wrote: ‘ஆனால் பிராண னடங்கியிருக்கும் வரையில் மனமு மடங்கியிருந்து, பிராணன் வெளிப்படும்போது தானும் வெளிப்பட்டு வாசனை வயத்தா யலையும்’ (āṉāl pirāṇaṉ aḍaṅgi-y-irukkum varaiyil maṉam-um aḍaṅgi-y-irundu, pirāṇaṉ veḷi-p-paḍum-bōdu tāṉ-um veḷi-p-paṭṭu vāsaṉai vayattāy alaiyum), ‘but so long as prāṇa [life, as manifested in breathing and other physiological processes] remains subsided mind will also remain subsided, [and] when prāṇa emerges it will also emerge and wander about under the sway of [its] vāsanās [propensities, inclinations, impulses or desires]’.

The vāsanās under whose sway the mind wanders about are its likes, dislikes, desires, fears and other such elements of its will, so the primary force that drives the activity of our mind is our will (cittam), and our will-driven mind in turn drives our speech and body to act in accordance with its thoughts. However in addition to our will (the totality of all our vāsanās) there is a secondary force that drives some of the actions of our mind, speech and body, namely prārabdha, but the only actions of these three instruments that are driven by prārabdha are those that are necessary in order to bring about whatever we are destined to experience, and even such actions are in many cases driven not only by prārabdha but also by our will.

As I have repeatedly emphasised in this article, whatever prārabdha may make us do or experience need not be of any concern to us, because we cannot change it and therefore need not even attend to it, and indeed it should not concern us at all, because by attending to it we are allowing our attention to be distracted away from ourself. What should be of concern to us, however, is our will, because the pravṛtti elements of our will (namely our viṣaya-vāsanās and associated karma-vāsanās) are what impel us to continue rising as ego or mind and wandering about outside, and its nivṛtti elements (namely sat-vāsanā, which manifests as bhakti and vairāgya) are what draw us back to face ourself and thereby subside back into our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), the source from which we have risen.

Therefore, Salazar, exaggerating the role of prārabdha or predetermination and disregarding or downplaying the far more significant role of our will, as you and others seem to be intent on doing, is really not helpful to us if our aim is to follow Bhagavan’s path of self-investigation and self-surrender, because we can follow this path successfully only by harnessing our entire will, diverting it from going outwards and focussing it on the one truly worthwhile task of being self-attentive. In order to harness our will in this way, we need to be clearly aware of how it is the ultimate driving force behind every thought that rises in our mind, which means every phenomenon that appears in our awareness.

We are aware of things other than ourself only because we attend to them, and we attend to them only because we want to do so. This is why Bhagavan taught us that all phenomena are just a projection of our own vāsanās. Which vāsanās we project at any moment is to some extent determined by prārabdha, but we project them only by attending to them, so if we withdraw our entire attention back towards ourself, away from everything else, nothing will be projected and prārabdha will thereby be bypassed. This is why he often used to say that prārabdha affects only the outward-facing mind and cannot prevent us turning back within to face ourself.

What prārabdha determines is the bigger picture, so to speak, but within that bigger picture there is plenty of room for our will to drive our mind, speech and body to do actions that are not determined by prārabdha, so whereas some of the vāsanās we project are determined by prārabdha others are determined by our will. What is projected according to prārabdha need not concern us, because it can affect us only if we attend to it, but what is projected according to our will should concern us, because we need to curb all the elements of our will that impel us to project anything (namely its pravṛtti elements), which we can do most effectively by trying to be self-attentive.

What we attend to is determined entirely by our own will, so prārabdha cannot make us attend to anything unless we want to attend to it. Therefore since thinking or mental activity is nothing but the attention we pay to things other than ourself, no thought can arise unless we as ego are willing to attend to it. Therefore contrary to what you contend in the comment I referred to at the beginning of this section, namely ‘nor can your ego control what kind of thoughts it thinks’ and ‘you cannot control your thoughts’, what ultimately controls all our thoughts is ourself as this ego.

When we do not attend to anything other than ourself, as in sleep, no thoughts can arise, so thoughts arise only when we attend to things other than ourself. As this ego we are free to attend either to other things or to ourself alone, so if thoughts arise they arise only because we are willing to allow them to rise. And even when we attend to things other than ourself, we are free to choose which other things we attend to, so if any particular thought arises, it arises only because we are willing to allow it to rise.

If this were not the case, we would not be free to destroy thoughts by being self-attentive, as Bhagavan says we should do in the second sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘நினைவுகள் தோன்றத் தோன்ற அப்போதைக்கப்போதே அவைகளையெல்லாம் உற்பத்திஸ்தானத்திலேயே விசாரணையால் நசிப்பிக்க வேண்டும்’ (niṉaivugaḷ tōṉḏṟa-t tōṉḏṟa appōdaikkappōdē avaigaḷai-y-ellām uṯpatti-sthāṉattilēyē vicāraṇaiyāl naśippikka vēṇḍum), ‘As and when thoughts appear, then and there it is necessary to destroy [or annihilate] them all by vicāraṇā [investigation or keen self-attentiveness] in the very place from which they arise [namely ourself]’.

Attention is the key by which we allow thoughts to rise, and by which we can instead destroy them, so since attention to anything other than ourself is a thought, we can destroy all thoughts only by attending to nothing other than ourself, and since we attend to other things only if we want, desire or are willing to do so, in the very next sentence of this eleventh paragraph he defines desirelessness or vairāgya by saying: ‘அன்னியத்தை நாடாதிருத்தல் வைராக்கியம் அல்லது நிராசை’ (aṉṉiyattai nāḍādiruttal vairāggiyam alladu nirāśai), ‘Not attending to anything other [than oneself] is vairāgya [dispassion or detachment] or nirāśā [desirelessness]’.

No thought can arise unless we, the ego, give room for it to rise, and we give room for thoughts to rise only by attending to them. If we were not free to choose what we attend to, we would not be able to choose which thoughts we give room to and which thoughts we deny room to, in which case we could not surrender ourself as Bhagavan says we should in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்’ (āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām), ‘Being ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ [one who is steadily fixed in and as oneself], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any cintana [thought] other than ātma-cintana [‘thought of oneself’, self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God’.

Though ātma-cintana literally means ‘thought of oneself’, Bhagavan uses it here as a metaphorical description of self-attentiveness, because any thought is just the attention we pay to whatever we are thinking of. That is, if we think of something, we are attending to it, and if we attend to something, we are thinking of it. Without attention there are no thoughts, so by controlling what we attend to we control our thoughts. If we give room to the rising of any particular thought, we do so because we are willing to attend to it, so if we are not willing to attend to it, we are thereby giving no room for it to arise, and accordingly if we were not willing to attend to anything other than ourself, we would thereby be ‘giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintana’.

Therefore prārabdha cannot make us think any thought unless we are willing to attend to it, so if we were not willing to attend to anything other than ourself, prārabdha would be powerless to make us think, do or experience anything. Even when we are still willing to attend to things other than ourself, we are nevertheless free to choose what we attend to, so to the extent that we do not attend to other things we will not only avoid doing āgāmya by mind, speech or body but will also avoid being affected by prārabdha.

When Bhagavan says in the third sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? that not attending to anything other than oneself is vairāgya or freedom from desire, he implies that we attend to things other than ourself only because of desire or liking to do so. In other words, if we think of anything, we do so only because we like or are willing to do so. It may be objected, however, that we often attend to or think of things that we would prefer not to attend to or think of, but that is because different elements of our will are in conflict with one another, so if we attend to anything we do so because at that moment our liking to attend to it is stronger than our liking to attend to anything else. Therefore what we attend to or think of is determined primarily by our will, and even the thoughts that rise due to prārabdha can rise only if we are willing to give room to their rising.

30. The fog of avivēka consists of the pravṛtti elements of our will, and the clear light of vivēka is what remains when this fog is dispersed

As Bhagavan implies in the fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, the reason why we attend to anything other than ourself is avivēka (lack of vivēka), but why do we have avivēka, and how or from where can we obtain vivēka? What is called vivēka (judgement, discrimination, discernment or the ability to distinguish one thing from another) is inner clarity of mind and heart by which we are able to distinguish what is real, namely ourself, from what is unreal, namely everything else. Infinite clarity is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), because what we actually are is only pure awareness (prajñāna), but our natural clarity is clouded or obscured by the pravṛtti elements of our will (our viṣaya-vāsanās), which impel us to face outwards, away from the clarity that is always shining in our heart.

Therefore vivēka is not something that we need to obtain or create, because the clear light that manifests as it already exists within us as our real nature. All that is required is that we remove the obstacles that obscure this clear light, namely our viṣaya-vāsanās along with their root, the ego. To the extent that we weaken and eradicate our viṣaya-vāsanās, or in other words, to the extent that our mind or will is purified, the ever-present light of vivēka will shine clearly within us.

Purity of will (citta-śuddhi), desirelessness (vairāgya) and discernment (vivēka) are inseparable and proportional to each other. To the extent that one increases the other two will also increase along with it, because they are all essentially features of the same quality, namely clarity of heart or self-awareness. The impurities of the mind or will are its pravṛtti elements, which are desires for things other than oneself, and since they impel us to wander about outside in the world of phenomena (viṣayas), they divert our attention away from ourself and thereby conceal from our view the clarity of pure self-awareness that is always shining in our heart, thereby resulting in the clouded or foggy state of mind called avivēka. Therefore the only way to free ourself from avivēka and from all the desires or pravṛtti elements of our will that accompany it is to purify our will by gradually weakening our viṣaya-vāsanās and eventually eradicating all of them along with their root, the ego.

Though the blossoming of vivēka begins to manifest within us as an ability to understand conceptually why no phenomenon (nothing that appears or disappears) can be what we actually are, why the happiness that we seem to derive from things outside ourself (objects, events or circumstances) actually comes only from within, and so on, vivēka is actually something much deeper and more subtle than mere conceptual understanding or reasoning. Though we can understand conceptually, for example, what Bhagavan says in fourteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, namely that happiness is our real nature, that there is no happiness in any other thing, that we experience duḥkha (dissatisfaction or unhappiness) whenever we rise as this mind or ego, that the happiness or pleasure that we experience briefly whenever we obtain anything we want or avoid anything we do not want does not come from outside ourself but only from within as a result of the satisfaction of that want, which had been previously agitating our mind and was temporarily calmed by its satisfaction, and so on, our conceptual understanding does not remove our avivēka, so deep down we continue to believe that our happiness and unhappiness are dependent on things other than ourself. From this we can infer that what Bhagavan means by vivēka is a clarity much deeper and more powerful than mere conceptual understanding.

Likewise we may understand conceptually why we cannot be this body, mind or any other phenomena, but such understanding is only a very superficial form of vivēka, because we are not yet able to distinguish ourself clearly from all the phenomena that seem to be ourself, so though we often try to turn our attention within to investigate what we are, we have not yet experienced ourself thereby in complete isolation from all phenomena. However by persistently trying to be so keenly self-attentive that we exclude everything else from our awareness we are gradually purifying our will by weakening its pravṛtti elements and strengthening its nivṛtti elements, and thereby we are thinning the dense fog of avivēka and allowing the natural light of vivēka to shine forth in our heart.

The more we remove the fog of avivēka in this way, the more our intellect will become clear, sharp and subtle, and thereby we will be able to distinguish ourself more clearly from all the adjuncts that we now mistake ourself to be. This clarity, sharpness and subtlety of mind or intellect is what the term ‘vivēka’ actually refers to, and it is the instrument that we must hone and use in order to be able to investigate ourself so keenly that we distinguish ourself clearly from everything else and thereby see what we actually are, as Bhagavan indicates in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu by using the terms ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati), which means a subtle, refined, sharp, keen, acute, precise, meticulous and discerning mind or intellect, and ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), which means a sharpened, pointed, keen, acute, penetrating and discerning mind or intellect, in verses 23 and 28 respectively: ‘இந்த நான் எங்கு எழும் என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்’ (inda nāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu nuṇ matiyāl eṇ), ‘Contemplate [investigate, discern, determine or ascertain] by nuṇ mati where this I rises’, and ‘எழும்பும் அகந்தை எழும் இடத்தை […] கூர்ந்த மதியால் பேச்சு மூச்சு அடக்கிக் கொண்டு உள்ளே ஆழ்ந்து அறிய வேண்டும்’ (eṙumbum ahandai eṙum iḍattai […] kūrnda matiyāl pēccu mūccu aḍakki-k-koṇḍu uḷḷē āṙndu aṟiya vēṇḍum), ‘sinking within restraining speech and breath by kūrnda mati it is necessary to know the place where the rising ego rises’.

Because of our avivēka we are at present not able to distinguish ourself clearly enough from the body, mind and other adjuncts that we now seem to be, but as our mind is purified by persistent practice of being self-attentive we will refine our power of attention and thereby be able to distinguish or discern what we actually are. Such a refined, sharpened, acute, keen, subtle and penetrating power of attention or discernment is what Bhagavan describes in those two verses as ‘நுண் மதி’ (nuṇ mati) and ‘கூர்ந்த மதி’ (kūrnda mati), and this is the real meaning of the term ‘vivēka’.

The more we hone our vivēka by persistently practising self-investigation and self-surrender the more clearly and deeply we will be able to understand all that Bhagavan has taught us, but understanding his teachings clearly and deeply is not our ultimate aim but just an integral part of the process of reaching it, because our ultimate aim is only the complete eradication of ego and all its viṣaya-vāsanās, which we can achieve only by distinguishing or discerning what we actually are. The ability to discern ourself thus is the full blossoming of vivēka, towards which we are working by persistently trying to be self-attentive and to surrender ourself, this ego, along with our entire will.

The pravṛtti elements of our will were born in the fog of avivēka and will perish in the clear light of vivēka, whereas its natural nivṛtti elements have withered because of the fog of avivēka and will be revived by the clear light of vivēka. However it is equally true to say the fog of avivēka consists of nothing but the pravṛtti elements of our will and the clear light of vivēka is what remains when this fog is dispersed, because the relationship between the pravṛtti elements of our will and avivēka is symbiotic, as also is the relationship between its nivṛtti elements and vivēka. Neither its pravṛtti elements nor avivēka could survive or thrive without each other, and likewise neither its nivṛtti elements nor vivēka could survive or thrive without each other.

31. Whatever Bhagavan said about God was nuanced and adapted to the context and to the needs of whoever he was addressing

Salazar, in the comment I referred to at the beginning of section 29 you wrote, ‘And per Bhagavan, if you raise your arm or not is also not in the control of your ego but controlled by the shakti of Ishwara, in fact any action of the body is controlled by Ishwara and not by your ego’, but whatever he said about all actions being done by God (īśvara) needs to be understood in context, and what he said in this regard was not always exactly the same, because whatever he said was adapted and suited to the context in which he said it.

If we had surrendered our will entirely, it would be appropriate to say that all the actions done by our mind, speech and body are done by God, but so long as we rise as ego (which is not according to the will of God), we have a will of our own, so many of the actions done by these three instruments are driven by our will, and hence it would not be correct for us to attribute such actions to God. We are the doer of whatever actions we do by our will, so we alone are responsible for them. This is why Bhagavan said in the first sentence of verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம்’ (viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm), ‘If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit’.

Everything that happens to us is the fruit of actions that we have done by our own will or volition in past lives, and since those fruit have been selected by God for us to experience in this life, it is appropriate to say that whatever happens to us is done by God, in the sense that it is according to his will. However we need to distinguish what happens by us (that is, everything we do by our will) from what happens to us (that is, everything we are destined to experience, and everything that we are made to do in order to experience it). Since we are following the path of surrender, it is good to consider what happens to us as being done by God or by his will, but we should not consider what we do by our will as being done by him, because our aim should be to surrender our will to him, not to attribute it to him.

Everything that happens to us is prārabdha, which is according to the will of God, whereas everything that happens by us is āgāmya, which is according to our own will. Whatever happens by us (namely whatever actions we willingly do by mind, speech or body) will not change even an iota of what happens to us, but it will create fresh karma-phala (fruit of action), which we may have to experience as part of our prārabdha in some future life, if such is the will of God, and more importantly, it will nourish, sustain and strengthen whatever elements of our will prompted us to do such actions.

When Bhagavan says in the second sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘ஈசன்பேரில் எவ்வளவு பாரத்தைப் போட்டாலும், அவ்வளவையும் அவர் வகித்துக்கொள்ளுகிறார்’ (īśaṉpēril e-vv-aḷavu bhārattai-p pōṭṭālum, a-vv-aḷavai-y-um avar vahittu-k-koḷḷugiṟār), ‘Even though one places whatever amount of burden upon God, that entire amount he will bear’, what he means by placing one’s burden on God is refraining from rising as ego and thereby doing anything according to one’s own will, so he implies that even if we refrain from doing anything according to our will, everything will happen to us according to his will just as it would happen if we did not refrain from doing so.

When he says in the first clause of the next sentence, ‘சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால்’ (sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl), ‘Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen]’, he implies that whatever is meant to happen or to be done (namely whatever is predetermined according to prārabdha) is made to happen by God, and when he asks in the rest of this sentence, ‘நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல், ‘இப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டும்; அப்படிச் செய்யவேண்டு’ மென்று ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்?’ (nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal, ‘ippaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum; appaḍi-c ceyya-vēṇḍum’ eṉḏṟu sadā cintippadēṉ?), ‘instead of we also yielding to it, why to be perpetually thinking, ‘it is necessary to do like this; it is necessary to do like that’?’, he implies that when everything else yields to God and is therefore driven solely by him, we should do likewise by surrendering even the work of thinking to him.

By saying ‘நாமு மதற் கடங்கியிராமல்’ (nāmum adaṟku aḍaṅgi-y-irāmal), ‘instead of [or without] we also yielding to it’, he clearly implies that we are free to choose whether to act according to our will or to yield ourself and our will entirely to the divine power that makes everything else happen as it is meant to happen. In other words, our will is under our control, and so too is everything that we do by our will. God does not make us want anything other than ourself, and he does not make us do any of the actions that we do seeking to satisfy such wants. What he wants (so to speak) is that we should love nothing other than ourself, because true happiness lies only in this love and not in any other want, desire or liking.

This is also implied by the question he asks at the end of this sentence, ‘ஸதா சிந்திப்பதேன்?’ (sadā cintippadēṉ?), ‘why [to be] perpetually thinking?’ This is a rhetorical question, so it implies that it is not necessary for us to be perpetually thinking that we should do this or that. If it were necessary for us to think whatever we think, that is, if we were bound by our prārabdha to think thus, he would not have asked ‘why [to be] perpetually thinking?’ Since it is not necessary for us to think everything that we think, we are free either to think or not to think whatever unnecessary thoughts we think.

This freedom to think or not to think is a freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra), but freedom of action would not be possible or at least would not be meaningful if we did not have freedom of will (icchā-svatantra), because freedom of action means freedom to do what we want, and we are only free to do what we want if we are free to want what we want. If whatever we want were determined by some force or forces outside our will, our will would not be free, in which case our freedom to act according to our will would be no freedom at all, because whatever we do according to our will would be determined by the same external force or forces that determined whatever we will. Therefore when Bhagavan asked rhetorically why we should be always thinking that we should do this or that, he implied not only that we are free to think or not to think thus, but also that we are free to want or not to want to think thus. From this we can conclude that according to him we have both freedom of will and freedom of action.

The freedom of our will, and the freedom we have to do actions according to our will, even though everything else is driven entirely by God, is illustrated by the analogy he gives us in the fourth and final sentence of this thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘புகை வண்டி சகல பாரங்களையும் தாங்கிக்கொண்டு போவது தெரிந்திருந்தும், அதி லேறிக்கொண்டு போகும் நாம் நம்முடைய சிறிய மூட்டையையு மதிற் போட்டுவிட்டு சுகமா யிராமல், அதை நமது தலையிற் றாங்கிக்கொண்டு ஏன் கஷ்டப்படவேண்டும்?’ (puhai vaṇḍi sakala bhāraṅgaḷaiyum tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu pōvadu terindirundum, adil ēṟi-k-koṇḍu pōhum nām nammuḍaiya siṟiya mūṭṭaiyaiyum adil pōṭṭu-viṭṭu sukhamāy irāmal, adai namadu talaiyil tāṅgi-k-koṇḍu ēṉ kaṣṭa-p-paḍa-vēṇḍum?), ‘Though we know that the train is going bearing all the burdens, why should we who go travelling in it, instead of remaining happily leaving our small luggage placed on it [the train], suffer bearing it [our luggage] on our head?’

In this analogy God is likened to the train, and all the burden carried by him (that is, the burden of ensuring that all that is meant to happen according to the prārabdha that he has allotted for us happens exactly as it is meant to happen) is likened to the passengers and luggage carried by the train. As a passenger on this train we cannot do anything to stop it, make it go faster or change its course, because it will carry us and everything else exactly as it is meant to until we reach our destination. Since it is doing everything for us that is meant to be done, we can just sit back and relax, enjoying the journey without any concern.

However, though we need not do anything, and though nothing we may do will make even the slightest difference to which route the train takes us, what schedule it follows or how much burden it carries, we do not have to relax and enjoy the journey as it is. If we do not trust the train to carry our luggage, we can carry it on our head. If we are impatient with the speed of the train, we can get up and pace back and forth. If we are not satisfied with the food or entertainment available on the train, we can complain to the train staff. If we take a dislike to any of our fellow passengers, we can pick up a fight with them. But no matter what we may do on the train, it will carry on regardless, and we will suffer needlessly.

Doing anything other than relaxing with full confidence that the train will take us and our luggage unfailingly and punctually to our destination is futile. Likewise, instead of being satisfied with whatever we are destined to experience, doing anything in accordance with our own will is futile and will not alter anything that is meant to happen to us, but it will result in us suffering unnecessarily.

While travelling on a train we are free to want whatever we want, but we are not free to do whatever we want. Some things we are free to do, such as carrying our luggage of our head, pacing back and forth, complaining to the staff or quarrelling with our fellow passengers, whereas other things we are not free to do, such as stopping the train, changing its course or enjoying any food or entertainment that is not available on it.

Likewise during the course of each life or dream we are free to want whatever we want, but we are not free to do whatever we want. Within the constraints of our prārabdha we can do whatever we want, but we cannot do anything that would in any way alter what is predetermined by prārabdha to happen.

Everything is done by God in the same sense that the entire burden is carried by the train, but just as we cannot blame the train for anything we may choose to do while travelling in it, such as carrying our insignificant luggage on our head, we cannot blame God for whatever we choose to do by our own volition. If we surrender ourself entirely and therefore do not rise as ego, we will have no will or volition of our own, so whatever might happen would be done only by God (if at all anything could happen in the absence of ego), but so long as we rise as ego we inevitably have a will of our own, and our will will drive us to do actions by mind, speech and body, for which we alone are to blame.

Whatever Bhagavan taught us about God or about actions done by God was nuanced and finely tuned to suit the context in which he was talking and whoever he was talking to, so what he said in different contexts will seem contradictory if we do not appreciate how he adapted his teachings to suit the context or the needs of each particular person. Even in Nāṉ Ār?, which consists of his answers to just one person, there are seeming contradictions or inconsistencies in what he said about God. For example, in the seventh paragraph he implies that God is as unreal as the jīva (the soul or ego) and the world, saying, ‘ஜக ஜீவ ஈச்வரர்கள், சிப்பியில் வெள்ளிபோல் அதிற் கற்பனைகள். இவை மூன்றும் ஏககாலத்தில் தோன்றி ஏககாலத்தில் மறைகின்றன’ (jaga-jīva-īśvarargaḷ, śippiyil veḷḷi pōl adil kaṟpaṉaigaḷ. ivai mūṉḏṟum ēka-kālattil tōṉḏṟi ēka-kālattil maṟaigiṉḏṟaṉa), ‘The world, soul and God are kalpanaigaḷ [fabrications, imaginations, mental creations, illusions or illusory superimpositions] in it [our real nature, ātma-svarūpa], like the [illusory] silver in a shell. These three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously’, whereas in this thirteenth paragraph he explains how we should surrender ourself to God, saying that he bears whatever burden is placed on him and he is the power that drives all kāryas (everything that is to be done or that is to happen). In other places, such as in verses 24 and 25 of Upadēśa Undiyār and verses 20 and 22 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, he implies that God is our real nature, the light that illumines our mind and the source from which we have risen as this ego.

As the power that decides our prārabdha and consequently makes whatever is to happen happen, God is separate from ourself and therefore only as real as the ego, but as our real nature he alone exists and is therefore infinite and immutable, so he does not actually do anything at all. However though the term ‘God’ is used in these two distinct senses, firstly to refer to the illusory third entity that appears and disappears along with ego and world and that is therefore no more real than either of them, and secondly to refer to our real nature, Bhagavan often blends these two senses together, seemingly referring to the former while actually referring to the latter, or simultaneously speaking at more than one level, thereby deliberately giving room for his words to be legitimately interpreted in two ways or even in a range of different ways. Therefore though in some cases we should distinguish these two senses, in other cases we should not do so, because in such cases if we try to give a fixed or rigid interpretation to his words we would thereby fail to appreciate important nuances in what he is saying.

32. Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 15: God does not actually do anything, but everything that happens or is done happens only by his mere presence

What he means by saying in the first clause of the third sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘சகல காரியங்களையும் ஒரு பரமேச்வர சக்தி நடத்திக்கொண்டிருகிறபடியால்’ (sakala kāriyaṅgaḷai-y-um oru paramēśvara śakti naḍatti-k-koṇḍirugiṟapaḍiyāl), ‘Since one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen]’, is clarified by him in the fifteenth paragraph:
இச்சா ஸங்கல்ப யத்நமின்றி யெழுந்த ஆதித்தன் சன்னிதி மாத்திரத்தில் காந்தக்கல் அக்கினியைக் கக்குவதும், தாமரை மலர்வதும், நீர் வற்றுவதும், உலகோர் தத்தங் காரியங்களிற் பிரவிருத்தித்து இயற்றி யடங்குவதும், காந்தத்தின் முன் ஊசி சேஷ்டிப்பதும் போல ஸங்கல்ப ரகிதராயிருக்கும் ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரத்தால் நடக்கும் முத்தொழில் அல்லது பஞ்சகிருத்தியங்கட் குட்பட்ட ஜீவர்கள் தத்தம் கர்மானுசாரம் சேஷ்டித் தடங்குகின்றனர். அன்றி, அவர் ஸங்கல்ப ஸஹித ரல்லர்; ஒரு கருமமு மவரை யொட்டாது. அது லோககருமங்கள் சூரியனை யொட்டாததும், ஏனைய சதுர்பூதங்களின் குணாகுணங்கள் வியாபகமான ஆகாயத்தை யொட்டாததும் போலும்.

icchā-saṅkalpa-yatnam-iṉḏṟi y-eṙunda ādittaṉ saṉṉidhi-māttirattil kānta-k-kal aggiṉiyai-k kakkuvadum, tāmarai malarvadum, nīr vaṯṟuvadum, ulahōr tattaṅ kāriyaṅgaḷil piraviruttittu iyaṯṟi y-aḍaṅguvadum, kāntattiṉ muṉ ūsi cēṣṭippadum pōla saṅkalpa-rahitar-āy-irukkum īśaṉ saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttirattāl naḍakkum muttoṙil alladu pañcakiruttiyaṅgaṭ kuṭpaṭṭa jīvargaḷ tattam karmāṉusāram cēṣṭit taḍaṅgugiṉḏṟaṉar. aṉḏṟi, avar saṅkalpa-sahitar allar; oru karumam-um avarai y-oṭṭādu. adu lōka-karumaṅgaḷ sūriyaṉai y-oṭṭādadum, ēṉaiya catur-bhūtaṅgaḷiṉ guṇāguṇaṅgaḷ viyāpakam-āṉa ākāyattai y-oṭṭādadum pōlum.

Just like in the mere presence of the sun, which rose without icchā [wish, desire or liking], saṁkalpa [volition or intention] [or] yatna [effort or exertion], a sun-stone [sūryakānta, a gem that is supposed to emit fire or heat when exposed to the sun] emitting fire, a lotus blossoming, water evaporating, and people of the world commencing [or becoming engaged in] their respective kāryas [activities], doing [those kāryas] and ceasing [or subsiding], and [just like] in front of a magnet a needle moving, jīvas [sentient beings], who are subject to [or ensnared in] muttoṙil [the threefold function of God, namely the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the world] or pañcakṛtyas [the five functions of God, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace], which happen by just [or nothing more than] the special nature of the presence of God, who is saṁkalpa rahitar [one who is devoid of any volition or intention], move [exert or engage in activity] and subside [cease being active, become still or sleep] in accordance with their respective karmas. Nevertheless, he [God] is not saṁkalpa sahitar [one who is connected with or possesses any volition or intention]; even one karma does not adhere to him. That is like world-actions [the actions happening here on earth] not adhering to [or affecting] the sun, and [like] the qualities and defects of the other four elements [earth, water, air and fire] not adhering to the all-pervading space.
In the first sentence of this paragraph Bhagavan explains that God does not actually do anything at all, and that everything that seems to be done by him, such as the pañcakṛtyas (his five functions, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace), happens ‘ஸங்கல்ப ரகிதராயிருக்கும் ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரத்தால்’ (saṅkalpa-rahitar-āy-irukkum īśaṉ saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttirattāl), ‘by just [or nothing more than] the special nature of the presence of God, who is saṁkalpa rahitar [one who is devoid of any volition or intention]’, and in this respect he compares God to ‘இச்சா ஸங்கல்ப யத்நமின்றி யெழுந்த ஆதித்தன்’ (icchā-saṅkalpa-yatnam-iṉḏṟi y-eṙunda ādittaṉ), ‘the sun, which rose without icchā [wish, desire or liking], saṁkalpa [volition or intention] [or] yatna [effort or exertion]’, in whose mere presence diverse activities happen on earth, and also to a magnet, in front of which a needle will move.

Just as the sun does not do anything, make any effort or have any will, volition or intention, yet because of its mere presence lotuses blossom, water evaporates and other activities happen on earth, and just as a magnet does not do anything or have any intention, yet because of its mere presence needles move, God does not do anything, make any effort or have any will, volition or intention, yet because of his mere presence the pañcakṛtyas happen and living beings (jīva) engage in their respective activities.

He concludes this first sentence of this paragraph saying, ‘பஞ்சகிருத்தியங்கட் குட்பட்ட ஜீவர்கள் தத்தம் கர்மானுசாரம் சேஷ்டித் தடங்குகின்றனர்’ (pañcakiruttiyaṅgaṭ kuṭpaṭṭa jīvargaḷ tattam karmāṉusāram cēṣṭit taḍaṅgugiṉḏṟaṉar), ‘jīvas, who are subject to [or ensnared in] the pañcakṛtyas, move [exert or engage in activity] and cease [subside, become still or sleep] in accordance with their respective karmas’. Since the pañcakṛtyas happen by the mere presence of God, without his doing anything or having any intention, the implication is that jīvas likewise engage in their respective activities and periodically subside by his mere presence. However Bhagavan qualifies their engaging in cēṣṭā (movement, activity or exertion) by saying ‘தத்தம் கர்மானுசாரம்’ (tattam karmāṉusāram), in which தத்தம் (tattam) means ‘their-their’ and implies ‘their respective’, and கர்மானுசாரம் (karmāṉusāram) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit term कर्मानुसार (karmānusāra), which is a compound of two words, karma-anusāra, which means following, going after or in accordance with karma, so ‘தத்தம் கர்மானுசாரம்’ (tattam karmāṉusāram) means ‘in accordance with their respective karmas’.

In this context ‘karma’ refers not only to prārabdha but also āgāmya, and by implication to the will (the viṣaya-vāsanās and karma-vāsanās) that drives us to do āgāmya, so what Bhagavan says in this sentence is a much more refined and nuanced expression of the truth than the simple statement ‘everything is done by God’. Yes, in a certain sense everything is done by God, but the sense in which he does everything is clarified by Bhagavan in this sentence. God does not actually do anything, but everything happens or is done by the power of his mere being, because he is the fundamental awareness that illumines the mind, without which nothing would seem to happen at all.

What happens by the power of his mere presence is in accordance with the law of karma, according to which the primary originator or initiator of all action (karma) is ego. In the first sentence of verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, namely ‘வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம்’ (viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm), ‘If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit’, Bhagavan refers to ego as ‘வினைமுதல்’ (viṉaimudal), which in grammar means the subject, doer or agent of an active verb, and therefore in this context means the doer of action, but which is a compound formed of two words, namely வினை (viṉai), which means action or karma, and முதல் (mudal), which means beginning, origin, cause, base or foundation, so it is a term that clearly expresses the role of the doer as the initiator, origin, cause and foundation of all action or karma.

The very first action is the rising of ego, and as soon as it rises it begins to engage in other actions by mind, speech and body. What force drives it to do such actions? Its will, or rather the pravṛtti elements of its will. By rising as ego we separate ourself from the infinite whole that we actually are, so we cannot be satisfied until we merge back in and as that whole. Due to our dissatisfaction (duḥkha) we are driven to seek satisfaction (sukha), but because our attention is turned outwards, away from ourself, we lack the clear vivēka required to recognise that the satisfaction or happiness that we seek is our real nature and can therefore be found only within ourself, so we foolishly seek it in things other than ourself. Thus our innate yearning for satisfaction gives rise to desire for things other than ourself, and this desire gives rise to all the other pravṛtti elements of our will, such as likes, dislikes, cares, concerns, hopes, fears and attachments, which drive us to do actions to acquire the things we like or desire and to avoid the things we dislike or fear.

Actions that are thus driven by our will are āgāmya, which give rise to fruit (karma-phala), which are what we subsequently experience as prārabdha. However while experiencing prārabdha we continue to act according to our will, thereby creating more fruit, and the reason we continue acting in this way is that such actions not only create fruit but also seeds, which are the vāsanās or elements of our will that drive us to do the same kind of action over and over again, each time seeking in vain for the infinite satisfaction from which we have separated ourself by rising as ego.

Therefore though everything happens in and by the power of the mere presence or existence of God, who is our own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), the mechanism by which it happens is the law of karma, which is driven by ego (the viṉaimudal, the doer, initiator, origin, cause and foundation of all karma) and its will. Hence God himself does not do anything, nor does he desire or intend that anything should happen, as Bhagavan emphasises again in the second and third sentences of this fifteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘அன்றி, அவர் ஸங்கல்ப ஸஹித ரல்லர்; ஒரு கருமமு மவரை யொட்டாது’ (aṉḏṟi, avar saṅkalpa-sahitar allar; oru karumam-um avarai y-oṭṭādu), ‘Nevertheless, he [God] is not saṁkalpa sahitar [one who is connected with or possesses any volition or intention]; even one karma does not adhere to him’.

The third sentence, namely ‘ஒரு கருமமு மவரை யொட்டாது’ (oru karumam-um avarai y-oṭṭādu), ‘even one karma does not adhere to him’, implies that God is not bound or affected even to the slightest extent by any karma or action that may happen in his presence (even though it happens by the mere special nature of his presence), which Bhagavan illustrates in the fourth and final sentence by saying: ‘அது லோககருமங்கள் சூரியனை யொட்டாததும், ஏனைய சதுர்பூதங்களின் குணாகுணங்கள் வியாபகமான ஆகாயத்தை யொட்டாததும் போலும்’ (adu lōka-karumaṅgaḷ sūriyaṉai y-oṭṭādadum, ēṉaiya catur-bhūtaṅgaḷiṉ guṇāguṇaṅgaḷ viyāpakam-āṉa ākāyattai y-oṭṭādadum pōlum), ‘That is like world-actions [the actions happening here on earth] not adhering to [or affecting] the sun, and [like] the qualities and defects of the other four elements [earth, water, air and fire] not adhering to the all-pervading space’, thereby emphasising that God is completely aloof from and untouched by any action that may seem to happen in his presence.

Actions seem to happen only when our attention is facing away from ourself, so the awareness in whose view they seem to happen is only the ego or mind, which is not real awareness but just a semblance of awareness (cidābhāsa), and the awareness that illumines the mind and thereby enables it to be aware of actions and all other things is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is what Bhagavan refers to here as God (īśaṉ). Since our real nature alone is what actually exists, it is only in and by its mere presence that everything else seems to exist, so it is in this sense that Bhagavan says that everything that seems to happen or to be done happens ‘ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரத்தால்’ (īśaṉ saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttirattāl), ‘by just the special nature of the presence of God’, and it is likewise in this sense that he said in other contexts that all actions are done only by God.

Therefore when he said that all actions are done only by God, he was not contradicting the law of karma or implying that ego does not act in accordance with its own will, but was merely pointing out that though ego is driven to act by its own will and though its doing so is the basis of the law of karma, none of this could happen but for the presence of God, who is like the light by which pictures are projected on the screen in a cinema. Whatever pictures are projected were not created by that light but are just the results of actions that ego has done by its own will or volition in the past, but since ego is not only a spectator but also an eager (or at least to some extent willing) participant in whatever movie it is currently watching, by doing actions in accordance with its will while watching this film it is creating fresh footage, which is added to the vast store of footage that it is yet to watch, and which may later be included in a future movie (the prārabdha of a future life or dream).

33. Desires and other elements of our will are not predetermined but determined only by ego, whose will it is

As I mentioned at the beginning of section 29, in their comments Salazar and others contended that not only the actions done by our body but even the actions done by our mind are all predetermined and therefore not influenced by our will, but in some of their comments some of them went still further by contending that even our will is predetermined. For example in one comment a friend called Noob wrote, ‘If desires and dislikes are nothing but thoughts, created by us, then they are also predetermined’, but his reasoning here seems to be based on the erroneous assumption that all thoughts are predetermined, which is not the case, as I have explained earlier.

What is predetermined is only our prārabdha, and what is determined by our prārabdha is all that we are to experience (in the sense of all that is to happen to us, which does not include whatever we do according to our own will) and all that we need to do by mind, speech or body in order to experience it. Our will, which includes all that we desire or dislike, is not determined by anything outside itself, but only by ego, whose will it is, and who is its core and root. That is, our will is the totality of all our likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, desires, fears, hopes, cares, concerns and so on, and since we as ego are the one who likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, desires, fears, hopes, cares and so on, and since nothing else makes us like whatever we like, dislike whatever we dislike, want whatever we want and so on, what determines what we like, dislike, want and so on is nothing but ourself, this ego.

Some people wrongly believe that we are not free to like what we like, to dislike what we dislike, to want what we want and so on because what we like, dislike, want and so on is determined by our vāsanās (propensities, inclinations or urges), but this is like arguing that we are not to free to like what we like because what we like is determined by what we like. The term ‘vāsanās’ refers to nothing other than the various elements of our will such as our likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, desires, fears, hopes, cares and concerns, but rather than referring just to the manifest forms of these elements, it refers to their seed forms. That is, vāsanās are the seeds that sprout in our mind as the likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, desires, fears, hopes, cares, concerns and other elements of our will that we are currently aware of. For example, when we are preoccupied with other matters, desire for sexual satisfaction may not manifest in our mind, but it still exists within us as a seed, ready to rise to the surface of our mind at any time, and that seed is what is called a vāsanā. Therefore to say that I am not free to desire sexual satisfaction because my desire for it is determined by my vāsanās is like saying I am not free to desire it because my desire for it is determined by my desire for it.

Because we are free to desire whatever we desire, we are also free not to desire it. The choice is ours, but in order to choose not to desire something our desire to be free of that desire must be stronger than that desire itself. This is why we often seem to be bound by our desires, and to be unable to give them up or change them. However, even if we cannot immediately give up certain desires that we want to be free of, we can gradually weaken them by not feeding them with our attention. If for example we often think about whatever would satisfy our sexual desires (albeit only temporarily), the attention we give to such thoughts would sustain and strengthen our desire, whereas if we persistently choose to divert our mind away from such thoughts to other things that interest us (such as being aware of ourself as we actually are), our desire will be gradually weakened (though this particular desire is an extremely deep-rooted one, being intimately associated with the very nature of ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, and is therefore generally very strong, so even if we weaken it to some extent it would still remain in seed form, albeit a somewhat weakened seed, and would be destroyed completely only when its root, the ego, is destroyed).

In order to weaken our desires, we need to persistently divert our attention away from whatever it is that we desire, but we will do so only if we desire to do so. Therefore what we desire is determined only by our will, which is the totality of all our desires. If we desire to be free of all desire, we must cultivate desire only for that which is always ours, namely ourself, because this desire alone will free us of all other desires, and thereby it will satisfy us infinitely and eternally. This is the implication of verse 350 of Tirukkuṟaḷ, which I cited in section 22.

Noob, regarding your argument that desires are predetermined because they are thoughts, according to Bhagavan everything other than our real nature is a thought, including ego, whose thoughts they all are, so in this sense desires and all the other elements of its will are thoughts. However not all thoughts are equal, and of all thoughts other than ego, the thoughts that constitute its will are the most subtle and most fundamental, because they are the seeds that give rise to all other thoughts.

You conclude that since desires are thoughts, they are predetermined, but what do you suppose predetermines them? Since everything other than our real nature (including everything that we perceive as a seemingly external world) is a thought, and since our real nature does not do anything, if desires were predetermined they could only be predetermined by some other thought or thoughts, whereas in fact they are what directly or indirectly determines all other thoughts (that is, they directly determine all thoughts that are impelled by our current will, and they indirectly determine all thoughts that are impelled by our prārabdha, because prārabdha consists of the fruit of what we were impelled to do by our will in previous lives).

If our desires were determined by any other thoughts, those other thoughts would be causally antecedent to them, but the only thought that is causally antecedent to them is ego, so they are not determined by anything other than ego. Everything that is predetermined is a part of prārabdha, which is the result of āgāmya that we have done in past lives, and āgāmya is whatever we do according to our will, so desires and all the other elements of our will are causally antecedent to āgāmya, which in turn is causally antecedent to everything that is predetermined. Therefore predetermination is a consequence of our will and hence cannot be what causes or determines it.

It could be argued that just as prārabdha is decided or determined by the will of God, our will is likewise determined by his will, but if this were the case, it would mean that God wants us to desire things other than ourself. However if we believe this, we have not understood either his nature or the nature of his will, because he is nothing but our own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), and his will is nothing but the infinite love that he has for himself, so he loves us and everything else as himself. Since he is infinite happiness, in loving himself he loves happiness, and in loving us as himself he loves us to be infinitely happy, as he is.

Therefore the will of God that we see operating in the form of our prārabdha is nothing but his love for us to be infinitely happy, so prārabdha is allotted by his will in such a way that will be most conducive to our surrendering our will and thereby eventually surrendering ourself, because we cannot be infinitely happy until we have surrendered ourself (this ego) entirely along with our will. Since all the pravṛtti elements of our will lead us away from infinite happiness, which is our real nature, they are directly opposed to the will of God, and hence they cannot be determined by his will.

The only elements of our will that can be attributed to his will are its nivṛtti elements, which is why whatever bhakti and vairāgya we may have are said to have arisen in us solely due to the grace of God. However his grace, which is his infinite love for us as himself, is not anything external to ourself, because he is our real nature, so his love for us is nothing but the infinite love that our real nature has for itself. Since our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) is the source, substance and real nature of ourself as ego, its love for itself manifests through this ego as the nivṛtti elements of its will. All the other elements of its will, namely the pravṛtti elements, are determined only by ego itself and cannot be attributed to anything else.

In an earlier comment Salazar wrote: ‘How much of what the ego “wills” is determined by actions and desires of past lives? I’d say probably most of it if not all. Since we luckily do not remember our past lives the ego just references everything by this very life and omits the huge impact of previous lives’. Though there is certainly some truth in this, in order to understand this matter more clearly and coherently we need to consider it more carefully and deeply.

The elements that constitute our will are what are called vāsanās, and vāsanās do not change spontaneously or all of a sudden, so the vāsanās we have at the beginning of each life are the same vāsanās we had at the end of our previous life. However, during the course of each life we are free either to weaken or to strengthen old vāsanās and to cultivate new ones, so over the course of time our vāsanās do change gradually, and the purpose of any spiritual practice is to change them in a way that is favourable to our ultimately eradicating their root, the ego.

Therefore you are correct, Salazar, in saying that what we desire now is to a large extent determined by what we have desired till now, but this does not mean that we are not free to change what we desire. We can and should change what we desire, because all our desires that drive our attention to go outwards (the pravṛtti elements of our will, also known as viṣaya-vāsanās) are what sustain and strengthen ourself as ego, so we will get closer to our goal of eradicating this ego only to the extent that these desires are weakened and replaced with the love to be calmly and steadily self-attentive (the nivṛtti element of our will, also known as sat-vāsanā or svātma-bhakti).

Regarding your suggestion that what the ego wills is to a large extent determined not only by what it desired in past lives but also by actions it did in past lives, whatever actions we may have done are only indirectly responsible for what we now desire, because desires and other elements of our will are antecedent to whatever actions we do, so they are not caused by our actions. However, though it is our will that drives us to do actions (karmas) by mind, speech and body, and not actions that cause us to will anything, when we do actions by our will we are thereby feeding and nourishing those elements of our will that drive us to do those actions, so in this way our actions contribute to the sustenance and strengthening of our existing desires.

This is why we need to refrain as far as possible from doing actions driven by our will, but we can refrain from doing such actions only to the extent that we curb the pravṛtti elements of our will, which are what impel us to do them, so what we should primarily be concerned with is not so much the actions we do as the will with which we do them. However this does not mean that we should be wholly unconcerned about our actions, because they are symptoms of our vāsanās, and curbing our vāsanās entails curbing whatever actions our vāsanās impel us to do by mind, speech or body.

34. There is no will in sleep, because there is no ego then, and because it is ego’s will and therefore cannot exist without it

Salazar, in the same comment you asked rhetorically, ‘Is there a “will” or “free will” in deep sleep?’, implying that there is not, which is obviously the case, because the will is ego’s will, and free will is ego’s freedom to want whatever it wants, so in the absence of ego there is neither will nor free will. As Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ‘அகந்தை உண்டாயின், அனைத்தும் உண்டாகும்; அகந்தை இன்றேல், இன்று அனைத்தும்’ (ahandai uṇḍāyiṉ, aṉaittum uṇḍāhum; ahandai iṉḏṟēl, iṉḏṟu aṉaittum), ‘If ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if ego does not exist, everything does not exist’, and as he says in verse 7 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam, ‘இன்று அகம் எனும் நினைவு எனில், பிற ஒன்றும் இன்று’ (iṉḏṟu aham eṉum niṉaivu eṉil, piṟa oṉḏṟum iṉḏṟu), ‘If the thought called ‘I’ [the ego] does not exist, even one other [thought or thing] will not exist’, so since ego does not exist in sleep, nothing else exists there.

However in many standard texts of advaita it is said that though everything else ceases to exist in sleep, the kāraṇa śarīra (causal body) or ānandamaya kōśa (sheath composed of happiness), which is the will (cittam), does remain, because it consists of all the ego’s vāsanās, which are what impel the ego to rise from sleep. This explanation is given as part of a broader explanation, namely that the body the ego identifies with in waking is the sthūla sarīra (gross or physical body, which is annamaya kōśa, but which contains and could not seem to be ourself without the other four sheaths), the body it identifies with in dream is the sūkṣma sarīra (subtle body, which consists of prāṇamaya kōśa, manōmaya kōśa and vijñānamaya kōśa), and the body it identifies with in sleep is kāraṇa śarīra.

Though Bhagavan sometimes seemed to concur with this explanation when replying to people who were satisfied with it and were not ready to question any further, when replying to anyone who asked deeper questions or was willing to have a deeper understanding, he explained that there is no difference between the nature of whatever body we experience as ourself now and the nature of whatever body we experience as ourself in any other dream, because whatever body we experience as ourself in any state is just a mental creation, but while we experience it it seems to physical, so whatever body we experience as ourself in a dream seems to be just as physical (sthūla) as the body we now experience as ourself. He also explained that though from the perspective of the ego sleep seems to be a state of darkness or non-awareness, it is actually a state of pure awareness, and since we are then not aware of ourself as anything other than ourself (that is, as any body or other phenomenon), there is no ego in sleep, and hence nothing else exists then.

The reason why ancient advaita texts generally say that in sleep ego remains dormant in the form of its kāraṇa śarīra or will is to explain why it rises again in waking or dream. However it is only in the view of ego in waking and dream that it seems to have risen from sleep, so it is only from this perspective that any such explanation is required. In sleep there is no ego at all, because what exists in sleep is only pure self-awareness, which is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), and from the perspective of pure self-awareness no ego ever rises at all. Therefore if we are willing to accept that though ego now seems to exist, it does not actually exist at all, and therefore it has never actually arisen, we will not feel the need to find any explanation why it arose from sleep, but will be concerned only to investigate it in order to find out whether it actually exists even now.

Since the ego does not actually exist, no adequate reason can be given to explain why it seems to have arisen. Trying to explain its rising is like trying to explain the birth of a barren woman’s child. We do not need to explain why it has arisen, and we should not try to explain it, because any explanation would reinforce our belief that it has actually arisen. Even the will to rise cannot precede ego’s rising, because it is ego’s will and therefore cannot exist in its absence.

Therefore in spite of the contrary account given in many ancient texts, you are correct, Salazar, in implying that there is no will whatsoever in sleep. The will seems to exist in seed form in sleep only from the perspective of ego in waking and dream, because in sleep there is no ego to have any will at all, even in seed form.

35. Einstein was wrong to believe that we cannot want what we want and that our will is therefore not free

If our will were predetermined or determined by anything other than ourself as ego, it would not be free, and if it were not free, we would not be free to investigate ourself, surrender ourself or do any other kind of spiritual practice. If we do any such practice, we would do it only because our doing it is either predetermined or determined by something that is outside our control. We would not even be free to want to do any such practice, because whatever we want would be predetermined. The implications of supposing that our will, rather than being free, is predetermined or determined by anything other than ourself are therefore extremely serious, particularly for those of us who aspire to follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender that Bhagavan has taught us.

All that he has taught us clearly implies that our will is free, which means we are free to want whatever we want, and also that within the constraints of prārabdha we are free to do whatever we want, including any kind of spiritual practice, and in particular we are perfectly free to investigate ourself or to surrender ourself if we want to do so, because our freedom to do so is in no way constrained by prārabdha, since both self-investigation and self-surrender come solely under the jurisdiction of our will and not in the slightest under the jurisdiction of prārabdha.

Freedom of our will and consequently freedom to investigate ourself and to surrender ourself are fundamental principles of his teachings, yet some of the friends who commented on my recent articles seem to be convinced that we do not have any freedom of will and that whatever freedom of will we may seem to have is just an illusion. For example, a friend called Mouna wrote in one comment, ‘I am a staunch defender in the absence of free will for ego or the person’, and in many other comments he claimed that free will is illusory.

However Mouna did not give any clear arguments in support of his belief that ego has no free will, so before considering some of his ideas more closely I will first consider a statement by Albert Einstein about his not believing in freedom of will, which was quoted by an anonymous friend in a comment on my previous article (and variations of which were also quoted and discussed in several other comments in recent years, such as here, here, here, here, here, here and here, and again more recently here). The statement in question, which was part of a brief talk entitled Mein Glaubensbekenntnis (My Creed) written by Einstein in German in August 1932 and recorded one or two months later, means: “I do not believe in the freedom of the will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘The human being can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants’, accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the unfreedom of the will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper” (this is not the usual translation found online, because I adapted parts of it to make it more literal, since the terms he used in German, namely ‘die Freiheit des Willens’ and ‘der Unfreiheit des Willens’, which mean ‘the freedom of the will’ and ‘the unfreedom of the will’ respectively, are more precise than ‘free will’ and ‘lack of free will’, as they are generally translated).

While the sentiments expressed by Einstein in that brief talk are worthy of appreciation, he did not explain in it why he did not believe in freedom of the will, but gave a clue by referring to words that he attributed to Schopenhauer, namely ‘Der Mensch kann wohl tun, was er will, aber er kann nicht wollen, was er will’, which means ‘The human being can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants’. Whether these words were actually Schopenhauer’s or not, Einstein seems to have believed them to be true, and that they were grounds for not believing in freedom of will, so is it true to say either that we can do what we want, or that we cannot want what we want?

‘The human being can do what he wants’ is true only if suitably qualified, because though we may be able to do some things that we want, there are many things that we cannot do even though we may want to do them. Therefore the first half of these words that he attributed to Schopenhauer is at best only partially true, but the interesting question is why Einstein believed the second half to be true, namely ‘but he cannot want what he wants’, because this is patently untrue. Not only can we want what we want, but we must necessarily want it, because the proposition ‘we want what we want’ is a logical tautology, so it is necessarily true. Therefore to say the opposite, namely ‘we do not want what we want’ or ‘we cannot want what we want’ is necessarily untrue.

However, though the proposition ‘he cannot want what he wants’ is obviously self-contradictory and therefore not true, it seems that Einstein believed it to be true, because if he did not believe it to be true, why would he say that these words ‘accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me’? Therefore why did he believe it to be true, and what did he take it to mean? From the context in which he wrote it, particularly from the fact that he said it reconciled him with the actions of others and implied that it did so because it supported his belief in the unfreedom of the will, we can infer that he took it to mean that we cannot choose what we want and are therefore not responsible for it.

However is it correct to say that we cannot choose what we want? To answer this we first need to consider in what sense the term ‘choose’ is used in this context, because it is often used as a synonym for ‘want’, as for example in the statement ‘I will do as I choose’, in which case saying that we cannot choose what we want would mean that we cannot want what we want, which would not clarify what Einstein meant when he wrote that a person ‘cannot want what he wants’. However if we take ‘choose’ in this context to mean an action that is distinct from wanting, saying that that we cannot choose what we want would mean that whatever we want was not chosen by us but by something else, so in this sense is it correct to say that we cannot choose what we want?

In this latter sense of the term ‘choose’, if it were said either that we can choose what we want or that we cannot choose what we want, that would imply that choosing is antecedent to wanting, whereas in fact wanting is antecedent to choosing, because whatever choice we may make, we make it because it is the choice we want to make. Even if we are coerced into making a choice that we do not want to make, or if circumstances force us to make such a choice, that choice is ultimately decided by what we want, because for one reason or another we take it to be preferable to any other choice we could make, perhaps because we fear the consequences of not making it, or because some other cares or concerns override our wanting not to make it. That is, our desires, fears, cares, concerns and other elements of our will are often in conflict with one another, so whichever element prevails at a particular moment determines what choice we make at that moment.

When taken to mean anything other than wanting, choosing is an action, so freedom to choose is a freedom of action, whereas freedom to want is a freedom of the will. External circumstances or influences may restrict our freedom of action, but they cannot restrict the freedom of our will, because we are free to want whatever we want, and nothing external to our will can make us want what we do not want. The only restrictions on the freedom of our will are internal, because various elements of it are often in conflict with one another, so conflicting elements restrict each other to a greater or lesser extent, and stronger elements prevail over weaker ones.

If anything external to our will could make us want what we do not want or prevent us wanting what we do want, then we could say that our will is not free, but since nothing can make us want what we do not want or prevent us wanting what we do want, our will is free. Even when our desires are in conflict with one another, we still want whatever we want, and we will stop wanting something only when our wanting to stop wanting it is stronger than our wanting it.

Freedom means freedom from external compulsion, so since nothing outside our will can compel us to want anything or not to want anything, our will is free. Therefore Einstein was wrong firstly to believe that we cannot want what we want, and secondly to believe that our will is therefore not free, so it seems that before arriving at this conclusion he had not thought deeply and clearly enough about the matter.

36. Schopenhauer believed that the will is not free because there must be sufficient reason for it, but the nature of the ego is the sole reason for it, so it has no external cause and is therefore free

By attributing the words ‘The human being can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants’ to Schopenhauer, Einstein implicated him in making the same logical error that he himself made, but did Schopenhauer actually say or write these words? According to a footnote given in the Wikipedia article on Schopenhauer these were not his actual words, but though that footnote suggests that they were a paraphrase of a sentence in the second chapter of his 1839 essay On The Freedom Of The Will, namely ‘Du kannst tun was du willst: aber du kannst in jedem gegebenen Augenblick deines Lebens nur ein Bestimmtes wollen und schlechterdings nichts anderes als dieses eine’, which means ‘You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing’, it seems to me more likely that they were a misleadingly simplified summary (and therefore misrepresentation) of an argument that Schopenhauer gave in the first section of the first chapter of that essay, namely in a paragraph that is translated on pages 5-6 of a document that is available here and here.

Schopenhauer’s argument in that paragraph is based on his definition of the terms involved, so it is largely semantic. He had earlier defined physical freedom as the ability to do physical actions in accordance with one’s will, but he says that this definition of ‘free’ as meaning ‘in conformity with one’s own will’ cannot be appropriately applied when deciding whether willing itself is free, because if we ask whether the will is free in this sense, ‘we are asking whether it is in conformity with itself; and this of course is self-evident, but it also tells us nothing’. By saying that it is self-evident that the will is in conformity with itself, he is saying precisely the opposite to the words that Einstein attributed to him, namely ‘he cannot want what he wants’, so it seems unlikely that he ever said or wrote such words.

Since he said that the commonly accepted definition of physical freedom is that ‘I am free if I can do what I will’, he considered what conclusion we would be led to if we were to ask ‘Can you also will what you will?’, but says: ‘This appears as if the willing depended on yet another willing lying behind it’. However the proposition ‘we can want what we want’, or more simply ‘we want what we want’, would seem to imply this (namely that behind each desire is another desire on which it depends) only if we interpret it to mean this, because we can equally well interpret it more simply as a straightforward tautology in which the ‘want’ in ‘we want’ and the ‘want’ in ‘what we want’ are the same ‘want’. However because Schopenhauer interprets the first ‘want’ as being a different ‘want’ that lies behind the second one and on which it depends, he argued that this would lead to an infinite regression in which each willing would be ‘dependent on a previous or deeper willing’, so we would ‘thus in vain endeavour to arrive ultimately at a willing that we were bound to conceive and accept as being dependent on absolutely nothing’. Therefore he concluded that if we assume that there is a willing that is not dependent on any other deeper willing, we may as well assume that the first willing we considered is not dependent on any deeper willing, but he says this does not settle the question whether the will is free.

From this he concluded, ‘Therefore to be able to apply to the will the concept of freedom, one had to modify it by grasping it in a more abstract way. This is done by conceiving through the concept of freedom only the absence of all necessity in general’, so he begins the next paragraph by considering what is meant by necessity, and after considering this he concludes that ‘a free will would be one that was determined by nothing at all’, but he says that to accept this we would have to give up the principle of sufficient reason (the contention that everything must have a sufficient reason, cause or ground). That is, his reasoning was that everything must have a sufficient reason, cause or ground, and whatever has a sufficient reason, cause or ground is determined by that, so as the effect of a cause it is not arbitrary but necessary, and whatever is necessary is not free. Thus it seems that Schopenhauer could not bring himself to accept that the will is free because he believed that if it were free that would contravene the principle of sufficient reason, which he and many other philosophers considered to be sacrosanct.

Let us therefore consider this argument more carefully in the light of Bhagavan’s teachings. Firstly according to Bhagavan there is at least one thing that does not conform to the principle of sufficient reason, namely the rising of the ego, firstly because it is the first cause, the cause of all other causes, so it has no cause or antecedent, and secondly because it does not actually exist, even though it seems to exist in its own view, so trying to find a cause or reason for its rising is like trying to find a cause or reason for the birth of a barren woman’s child. Therefore Bhagavan does not hold the principle of sufficient reason to be sacrosanct or universally applicable. When we look outwards, away from ourself, it may seem to apply to everything, but if we look back at ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are, the ego will dissolve and everything that seemed to have a sufficient reason will cease to exist along with it.

There is no sufficient reason for the rising of ego, but is there sufficient reason for its will? In a sense there is, because our real nature is infinite happiness, but when we rise as ego we seemingly separate ourself from the infinite happiness that we actually are, so as this ego we cannot be satisfied until we become aware of ourself as we actually are, whereupon this ego will be found to be ever non-existent. Due to our dissatisfaction (duḥkha), which is the very nature of ego, we cannot but desire infinite satisfaction or happiness (sukha), and because as ego our nature is to face outwards, away from ourself, who are the light that illumines everything, our natural inner clarity is clouded over, so we lack clear vivēka, which is the ability to recognise that happiness does not lie in anything other than ourself, and hence believing that happiness can be gained from other things, we like and desire those things that we believe will make us happy and dislike and fear those that we believe will make us unhappy.

Therefore, since there is sufficient reason for our will, does this mean that it is not free or independent? If the reason for (or cause of) our will were anything external to ourself, what we want would be determined by that external thing, in which case it would not be free, but the reason for our will is not anything outside ourself as ego, but is the very nature of ego itself. Therefore whatever ego likes, dislikes, wants, desires, hopes, fears or cares about is determined by nothing other itself, so its will is completely free from external compulsions or constraints, and hence in this sense it is free and independent.

The only sense in which our will is bound is that it is bound by the very nature of ego, whose will it is, so as ego we are bound to have a will. However, though we are bound to have a will, what we will or want is not bound by anything other than ourself, so we are free to want whatever we want, and hence freedom of will (freedom to want whatever we want) is the very nature of ego.

So long as we look outside ourself for the cause of anything, we are liable to conclude that even we ourself are caused by external things (forces, objects and events, such as God or a big bang, the subsequent expansion of the universe, the evolution of life on earth, our parents and their sexual union) and that our will is likewise caused by such external things. However Bhagavan asks us to question this idea of external causation and to look within ourself to find the cause of everything, which according to him is only ourself as this ego. As ego we are the original cause of all things, and other things appear only because of our will. We alone are the cause of our will, and our will is in turn the cause of everything else. This is why our will (cittam) is said to be the innermost and subtlest of all the five sheaths that we experience as if they were ourself, and why it is called kāraṇa śarīra, the ‘causal body’.

Though Schopenhauer went deeper in his philosophical investigations than many other philosophers, it seems that he was still looking outside himself for sufficient reasons, causes or grounds for everything, including his own will, so since he believed that the causes of his will must be external, he concluded that the will cannot be free. Though he was the first major western philosopher to have studied a translation of the upaniṣads, and though he expressed admiration for their philosophy, how deeply he could have understood the philosophy of advaita from the books available to him at that time is doubtful, to say the least. Moreover unlike us he did not have the benefit of studying the simple and clear but exceedingly deep and radical expression of advaita contained in the teachings of Bhagavan, who introduced one extremely important clarification that is not stated so explicitly elsewhere, whether in the upaniṣads or in any other ancient advaita texts, namely that the original cause of all phenomena is only ego, so ‘if ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence’, and ‘if ego does not exist, everything does not exist’ (as he says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu). Therefore it is unlikely that Schopenhauer would ever have considered the possibility that ego and its will alone are the cause of (and sufficient reason for) everything else, just as the dreamer and its will alone are the cause of (and sufficient reason for) everything it experiences in a dream.

37. Though ego and its free will are ultimately unreal, in prātibhāsika satya they are in effect real

As I mentioned in the third paragraph of section 35, freedom of our will and consequently freedom to investigate ourself and to surrender ourself are fundamental principles of Bhagavan’s teachings, yet some of the friends who commented on my recent articles seem to be convinced that we do not have any freedom of will and that whatever freedom of will we may seem to have is just an illusion. One such friend is Mouna, who expressed this idea in several comments. For example, in one comment he wrote, ‘I am a staunch defender in the absence of free will for ego or the person. What I tried to say is that one needs to take life as if we had free will, even if [we] really understand that is a fallacy and an illusion. [...] I don’t have free will but I play the role as if I had it, knowing quite well the script for Mouna is already written’; in another one he wrote, ‘I am not against making efforts turning attention inwards, sadhana, etc… for whatever reasons: thinning the ego, purify the mind, etc… as instructed by Bhagavan. All I’m saying is that we are using an illusory free will to perform those actions’; and in yet another one he wrote, ‘What people call free will is a direct result of the sense of doership, one of the pillars sustaining the illusion of being a “person” (aka body-mind), which in turn is a projection of ego (maya) which identifies with and feeds on it. […] Who really cares if there is free will, or everything is predetermined, or is a little bit of both or none?’

Mouna, what you wrote in these comments raises various questions that need to be considered and settled if we are to have a clear and coherent understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings. Firstly, should we care whether there is free will? We should, because if our will were not free, whatever actions we do would not be free, and we would not be free even to investigate ourself or to surrender ourself. If everything were predetermined, including our will, we would have absolutely no freedom, in which case whether or not we investigate ourself, surrender ourself and experience ourself as we actually are would all be predetermined and would be out of our hands, which is clearly not what Bhagavan intended us to believe.

Secondly, is free will actually ‘a direct result of the sense of doership’? Freedom of will and sense of doership are both the nature of ego, but if we were to say that one is the result of the other (which is not really necessary, because neither exists without the other), it would be more correct to say that the sense of doership is a result of the will (which is free by nature) rather than vice versa. One reason for this is that doership arises only when we begin doing, and we do because we want to do, so logically (though not chronologically, because they all occur simultaneously as soon as we rise as ego) our will is antecedent to action, and action is antecedent to doership. Another reason is that doership arises because the nature of ego is to experience itself as a body, which is a form consisting of five sheaths, so whatever actions are done by these five sheaths are experienced by ego as ‘I am doing this’, and hence since the first and most fundamental of these five sheaths is ānandamaya kōśa (the ‘sheath composed of happiness’, which implies the sheath composed of love for happiness), which is another name for the will, the ego’s will is logically antecedent to its sense of doership. This is why the will is called kāraṇa śarīra, the causal body, because it is what causes everything else.

The third question to consider is this: If free will did not exist (as you imply), would we be free to act as if we had free will? If we are free to act as if our will were free, that means we have freedom of action, and since freedom of action means freedom to act according to our will, it would not be real freedom if our will were not free. Therefore we would not be free to act as if we had free will unless our will were actually free. If our will were not free, yet we acted as if it were, we would do so only because we were predetermined to do so, so it would not be up to us whether we do so or not.

If you believe that your will is predetermined, what is it predetermined by? And if you do not know what has predetermined it, how can you be sure that it is predetermined and not free? Schopenhauer believed that our will is predetermined because he believed that everything must have a sufficient reason, but how can we be sure that everything has a sufficient reason if we do not know what the reason for each thing is? If we believe that our will is not free but predetermined, yet we do not know what it is predetermined by, our belief in its predetermination is a mere dogma.

In the second of your comments that I cited above you say that to make efforts to turn our attention inwards or to do any other sādhana ‘we are using an illusory free will’, so the fourth question that arises is this: If free will is illusory, can we use it to do anything? To answer this we need to consider what is meant by ‘illusory’. An illusion is a false appearance, something that does not actually exist even though it seems to exist, or something that is not what it seems to be. Since you say that you are ‘a staunch defender in the absence of free will for ego’ and that you ‘don’t have free will’, what you seem to mean by saying that free will is an illusion is that it does not actually exist even though it seems to exist.

If this is what you mean, how can you use such a non-existent free will to do anything? When I try to think of what use one could make of something that is illusory, the only use I can think of is to deceive. For example, if you have a coin that looks like gold but is not actually gold, you can use it to deceive me and thereby sell it to me for the price of gold. Except to deceive, can you think of any other use we could make of something that is illusory? If you cannot, how can you be sure you are not deceiving yourself when you say that you are using an illusory free will to turn within?

If free will does not actually exist, what are you actually using to turn within? You say you are using an illusory free will, but if it is illusory, it is not actually free will, so what actually is it that you are using to turn within? It seems to me, therefore, that the idea that we could use an illusory free will to turn within is very confused and has no clear meaning.

The fifth and most important question that arises from what you wrote in the comments I cited above is this: Is free will actually an illusion? An illusion is a false appearance, so it can exist (or rather seem to exist) only if there is someone to whom it appears or seems to exist. Whatever appears or seems to exist appears only in the view of ego, because ego alone is the perceiver of all phenomena, so without ego to be aware of it, there could be no illusion. However according to Bhagavan ego itself is an illusion, because it does not actually exist even though it seems to exist, and it seems to exist only in its own view. Therefore it is māyā, ‘she who is not’, which means that it is entirely non-existent, because how can a non-existent thing seem to exist only in its own view, since it and therefore its view are both non-existent?

Since ego is an illusion, everything that appears or seems to exist in its view must also be an illusion. This is vivarta vāda, the contention that everything (both subject and object, what perceives and what is perceived) is vivarta, an illusion or false appearance. The only thing that is not an illusion is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is pure self-awareness, because it is that from which and in which ego and everything else appear in waking and dream and into which they disappear in sleep.

In this sense free will is certainly an illusion. However it is no more an illusion than ego or any other phenomenon, and so long as we seem to be this ego, free will is for all practical purposes real, because ego seems to be what we are, so it seems to be real, and hence its will and everything experienced by it also seem to be real. Self-investigation and self-surrender are necessary only because we seem to be this ego, so what needs to investigate itself and to surrender itself is only this ego. In order to investigate or surrender itself ego must be willing to do, and in order to succeed in its effort to investigate and surrender itself ego must wholeheartedly want to eradicate itself, so to dismiss its will as illusory at this stage is not at all helpful.

When we investigate ourself keenly enough to see that ego does not actually exist, we will thereby see that its will does not exist, but until then both ego and its will seem to exist and to be real. This is why a distinction needs to be made between pāramārthika satya (ultimate or absolute reality) on the one hand, and prātibhāsika satya (seeming reality) or vyāvahārika satya (transactional or mundane reality) on the other. From the perspective of pāramārthika satya there is no ego, no will, no phenomena, no ignorance, no bondage and no liberation, nor is there anything else other than our real nature, as expressed by Bhagavan in verse 24 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (which he composed as a condensation of verse 1227 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, in which Muruganar expressed the idea in a Sanskrit verse that Bhagavan often used to quote, which occurs in various texts such as Amṛtabindōpaniṣad verse 10, Ātmōpaniṣad 2.31, Māṇḍukya Kārikā 2.32 and Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi verse 574):
ஆதலழி வார்ப்பவிழ வாசைமுயல் வார்ந்தாரில்
ஈதுபர மார்த்தமென் றெண்.

ādalaṙi vārppaviṙa vāśaimuyal vārndāril
īdupara mārttameṉ ḏṟeṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஆதல், அழிவு, ஆர்ப்பு, அவிழ ஆசை, முயல்வு, ஆர்ந்தார் இல்; ஈது பரமார்த்தம் என்று எண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ādal, aṙivu, ārppu, aviṙa āśai, muyalvu, ārndār il. īdu paramārttam eṉḏṟu eṇ.

English translation: There is no becoming [or coming into existence], destruction, bondage, desire to untie [bondage], effort [made for liberation], [or] those who have attained [liberation]. Know that this is paramārtha [the ultimate truth].
However so long as we experience ourself as ego, we seem to be not experiencing this pāramārthika satya, so what now seems to us to be real, namely ourself as ego and all the phenomena that we therefore perceive, is called prātibhāsika satya or vyāvahārika satya. Though a distinction is sometimes made between prātibhāsika satya and vyāvahārika satya on the grounds that prātibhāsika satya is what we experience in dream whereas vyāvahārika satya is what we experience in waking, according to Bhagavan this distinction is false, because what we now take to be waking is just a dream, and whenever we are dreaming we seem to be awake. Prātibhāsika satya means seeming reality and vyāvahārika satya is only seemingly real, so vyāvahārika satya is nothing other than prātibhāsika satya.

As Bhagavan often used to say, dream hunger can be satisfied only by dream food, even though both are unreal from the perspective of waking. What he implied by saying this is that though our present state as ego and all the problems we experience in this state are unreal, they can only be solved by what seems to be real in this state. Now we seem to be this ego, and as such we seem to desire happiness as if it were something other than ourself, so we can satisfy our desire for happiness only by investigating ourself and thereby discovering that infinite and eternal happiness is our real nature. Though our seeming to be ego, our seeming to be dissatisfied and suffering, our seeming to have desire and our seeming to investigate ourself are all unreal, because we are immutable self-awareness, and as such are eternally and perfectly satisfied, our seeming to investigate ourself, which is driven by our seeming dissatisfaction, will eradicate our seeming to be this ego and thereby reveal to us what we always are.

Our rising as ego, our being dissatisfied and consequently desiring satisfaction or happiness, and our therefore making effort to investigate ourself and surrender ourself are all unreal, but they are seemingly real, so they are called prātibhāsika satya or vyāvahārika satya. Therefore since we are now operating in prātibhāsika satya (since in pāramārthika satya there is no operating, doing or happening at all), we must operate as if all these things were real. If we are hungry, we eat food to satisfy our hunger, and do not just keep quiet, saying hunger is an illusion, and so too is food.

Therefore in a sense, Mouna, you are correct to say that free will is an illusion, but why do you single out free will as if it were more illusory or unreal than anything else? When you say, ‘I don’t have free will but I play the role as if I had it, knowing quite well the script for Mouna is already written’, you seem to imply that Mouna and his script are in some way more real your free will, but how can that be so? Mouna is a person consisting of five sheaths, and the most fundamental of those five sheaths, the one that gives rise to the other four, is your will, so if there is no will there is also no Mouna.

Even the knowledge you refer to when you say ‘knowing quite well’ is a knowledge or belief born of your intellect, and your intellect arises from and is controlled by your will, so you would not believe or ‘know’ that ‘the script for Mouna is already written’ if you did not want to believe it. Like all your other beliefs, this belief (which you take to be ‘knowledge’) is determined by your will, so as long as you have any beliefs you also have a will.

The script you refer to when you say ‘the script for Mouna is already written’ is prārabdha, which is a selection of the fruit of actions that you have done in past lives of your own free will, so your free will is causally antecedent to your script, and hence so long as you experience and act according to a script, you must also have free will. None of these things are actually real, so they are all just an illusion, but so long as you seem to be Mouna, you have risen as ego and therefore all these things seem real, and for all practical (vyāvahārika) purposes they are real, though their reality is just a seeming reality (prātibhāsika satya).

38. Love for happiness alone is what gives rise to and is the driving force behind every element of our will, so our will is essentially just love for happiness, and as such it is not illusory but real

Though ego and all the phenomena perceived by it are equally unreal, there is an element of reality in ego that does not exist in any phenomenon, namely awareness (cit), because whereas all phenomena are entirely jaḍa (insentient or devoid of awareness) ego is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a knot (granthi) formed by the entanglement of awareness with non-aware phenomena (namely the five sheaths) as if they were one. Likewise, though the will is jaḍa, like the other four sheaths, unlike them it does contain an element of reality, because underlying and supporting every desire and every other element of our will is only one fundamental desire, namely ego’s desire to be happy, which in essence is nothing other than love for happiness, which is the real nature of ourself.

That is, our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) is described as sat-cit-ānanda (existence-awareness-happiness) or asti-bhāti-priya (being-shining-love), and in the latter of these two compound terms asti corresponds to sat, bhāti corresponds to cit and priya corresponds to ānanda, because existence (sat) is what there is (asti), awareness (cit) is what shines or illumines (bhāti), and in the state of non-duality love (priya) and happiness (ānanda) are one. Only in the state of duality do they seem to be separate, but even then they are intimately related, because love for happiness is our real nature, so we love whatever makes us happy, and we are happy when we obtain whatever we love. As Bhagavan says in the third clause of the first sentence of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘பிரியத்திற்கு சுகமே காரண மாதலாலும்’ (piriyattiṟku sukhamē kāraṇam ādalālum), ‘and since happiness alone is the cause for love’, and as he says in the fourth clause of the first sentence of his introduction (avatārikai) to Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi, ‘பிரியம் சுகத்திலன்றி யுண்டாகாததாலும்’ (piriyam sukhattil-aṉḏṟi y-uṇḍāhādadālum), ‘and since love does not arise except in [or for] happiness’.

Since love for happiness alone is what gives rise to and is the driving force behind every element of our will, our will is essentially just love for happiness, which is our real nature, so in this sense it is more real than any other phenomenon. This is why Bhagavan often said that bhakti is the mother of jñāna, implying that love alone is the means to self-knowledge. By loving ourself as we actually are, we know ourself as we actually are, and by knowing ourself as we actually are, we are as we actually are. Love (priya), knowledge or awareness (cit) and being (sat) are inseparable, because they are one and the same thing.

Since love is the key to both self-investigation and self-surrender, and since self-investigation and self-surrender are the only means to eradicate ego, dismissing our will (and hence by implication our love or bhakti) as illusory is not merely not at all helpful to us so long as we rise and stand as ego, but is fundamentally misleading. If anything is real in this unreal world or in this unreal person we mistake to be ourself, it is the love that Bhagavan has so lovingly planted in our heart, so let us follow his example and pray that our love for him (as demonstrated by our love to follow the path he has shown us) may constantly increase so that we may eventually melt as love in him, the form of love, as he prayed in verse 7 of Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai, ‘எண்ணம் எதுவோ, அது செய்வாய். கண்ணே, உன்றன் கழல் இணையில் காதல் பெருக்கே தருவாயே’ (eṇṇam eduvō, adu seyvāy. kaṇṇē, uṉḏṟaṉ kaḻal iṇaiyil kādal perukkē taruvāyē), ‘Whatever be [your] thought [or wish], do that. [My] eye [my most beloved, my own awareness], just give [me] only a flood [overflow, fullness, abundance, surge or increasing intensity] of love for your pair of feet’, and in verse 101 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai:
அம்புவி லாலிபோ லன்புரு வுனிலெனை
      யன்பாக் கரைத்தரு ளருணாசலா.

ambuvi lālipō laṉburu vuṉileṉai
      yaṉbāk karaittaru ḷaruṇācalā
.

பதச்சேதம்: அம்புவில் ஆலி போல் அன்பு உரு உனில் எனை அன்பு ஆ கரைத்து அருள் அருணாசலா.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ambuvil āli pōl aṉbu-uru uṉil eṉai aṉbu ā karaittu aruḷ aruṇācalā.

English translation: Arunachala, be gracious, melting me as love in you, the form of love, like ice in water.
The free will (or free willingness) with which we investigate and surrender ourself is what is called svātma-bhakti, love for our own self, which means love to know and to be what we actually are. If we consider such love to be unreal and illusory, we are seriously confused, because it is our real nature and what is otherwise called grace, which is the sole reality.

39. Sam Harris’s arguments against free will are superficial and based on faulty assumptions

Mouna, though you did not explain in clear terms in your comments why you consider free will to be non-existent and hence illusory, you gave a clue in one of your more recent comments, in which your give a link to a video by Sam Harris, which you introduce as ‘For those interested in widen their mental landscape, one of the best talks on Free Will (or its absence/illusion) by one of the foremost thinkers of our time, Sam Harris’. In order to understand why, in spite of being so familiar with Bhagavan’s teachings, you are nevertheless firmly convinced that we have no free will, I listened to some of this talk by Sam Harris, but I found that his arguments were all superficial and none of them provided strong grounds for believing that there is no such thing as free will.

Like many people, Sam Harris conflates freedom of will with freedom of action, which are actually two distinct things, so when he repudiates the idea that we have free will, what he means by ‘free will’ is in most if not all cases not actually freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) but only freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra), particularly freedom of thinking. One of his arguments against ‘free will’ in this sense is that we are not free to decide what we think, because in order to decide to think a certain thought we would have to decide before thinking it, which means we would have to think it before thinking it. This argument is based on two fallacious assumptions, firstly that deciding to think a thought and thinking it are two separate actions, and secondly that the deciding must precede the thinking. They are not actually two separate actions, because by deciding to think a thought we are thinking it, and even if we consider them to be separate, they must occur simultaneously.

This argument is also misleading because it ignores the fact that we generally think about what interests or concerns us, so we are habituated to thinking thoughts about such matters, and hence what we should consider is not just individual thoughts but patterns or habits of thinking, because individual thoughts generally do not arise in isolation but as part of a pattern or habit. Since interests and concerns are aspects of our will, the fact that we generally think about what interests or concerns us clearly indicates that our thinking about such things is driven by our will.

Moreover there is an important distinction between deciding and wanting, but Sam Harris ignores or glosses over this distinction by equating deciding with free will. Deciding is a function of the intellect (buddhi) whereas wanting is a function of the will (cittam), and deciding is an action (kriyā) whereas wanting is more of a state than an action, so freedom to decide is a freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra) rather than freedom of will (icchā-svatantra). However these two are closely related, because as a function of our intellect what we decide is to a large extent driven by what we want, which is a function of our will.

However, though most of our decisions are driven by our will, whether in conjunction with our fate or not, some of them are driven only or primarily by fate (prārabdha). For example, if it is my fate to be hit by a car while crossing the road, my intellect will be driven to make the wrong decision to cross, mistakenly judging that I can cross fast enough to avoid the car. Therefore not all our decisions can be attributed solely to our will, and even when a decision is driven solely by our will, we need to distinguish our will (what we want) from whatever decision it drives us to make. Sam Harris fails to make this distinction, and therefore believes that the question of whether or not there is free will can be decided on the basis of whether or not we can decide what we think or what thought arises in our mind.

Whatever decision we make is a thought, so the action of deciding is a part of the whole process of thinking, but what is it that drives us to think and to make decisions? Some of our thoughts and decisions are driven by prārabdha, but even those that are driven by prārabdha are in many cases also driven by our will. I decide to cross the road because it is my prārabdha to be hit by a car, but I also make that decision because I want to cross the road quickly and am therefore impatient. Therefore the major driving force behind most of our thoughts and decisions is our will.

For example, when Sam Harris asked his audience to think of a film, they each thought of some film because they wanted to do as he said. What film they happened to think of does not matter so much, though it may have been one that they particularly liked or disliked, in which case it was determined by their will. What matters most of all is that they were willing participants in his audience, so they wanted to take part in his experiment and therefore tried to think of some film. If any of them were not interested in his talk, or if they did not want to take part in his experiment, they would not have tried to think of a film. The role played by their will in trying to think of a film is therefore very clear, but most of them probably did not see this, because their intellects would have been confused firstly by his equating free will with decision making, and secondly by his making a false distinction between deciding and thinking. Whatever film they happened to think of, that is the film they decided to think of (whether or not they recognised that they were making a decision), and the reason why they decided to think of any film at all is because they wanted to do so.

Many of his other arguments are in one way or another based on neuroscience and the metaphysical assumption that thinking is either just neurological activity in the brain or is caused by such activity, which in turn is based on the more fundamental assumption that brains, bodies and other things that we perceive exist independent of our perception of them, which is one of the basic assumptions that Bhagavan asks us to question and not just take for granted, as most people (including most philosophers and scientists) do. Since the body and brain, like all other phenomena, seem to exist only when we perceive them or think of them, what grounds do we have (other than wishful thinking) for assuming that they exist independent of our perception or thought of them? (And note that, as the term implies, ‘wishful thinking’ is thinking that is driven by our will.)

Even if we wish to assume that phenomena such as our body and brain do exist independent of our perception of them, and if we therefore accept the finding of neuroscience that there is a correlation between what we think, feel or perceive and neurological activity in our brain, this correlation does not prove that the former is caused by the latter. Unless we assume that only physical things are real, as metaphysical materialists or physicalists do, the neurological activity in our brain could equally well be caused by what we think, feel or perceive, or both could be simultaneously caused by something else, whatever that may be.

Whatever conclusions anyone may draw from neuroscience or any other science are necessarily based on certain metaphysical assumptions, one of the most fundamental and prevalent of which is that what is perceived exists independent of the perceiver’s perception of it, which is an assumption that Bhagavan challenges and repudiates. Therefore if we have critically considered and understood the reasons he has given us for rejecting this assumption, we will give no weight to any argument based either on neuroscience or on any other objective science, and if we do still give weight to such arguments, we have obviously not understood deeply and clearly enough what he has taught us.

According to Bhagavan, what gives rise to any thoughts (and hence to any phenomena, since he says that all phenomena are just thoughts) is only our viṣaya-vāsanās, which are elements of our will, so viṣaya-vāsanās are like seeds and thoughts or phenomena are like plants that sprout from them. If we understand and accept this basic teaching of his, we will see that in this way ego and its will are the fundamental cause of every thought and every phenomenon without exception.

40. Whether our will is free or not is a metaphysical issue, and metaphysical issues cannot be resolved by science but only by considering deep metaphysical questions

Mouna, in one of your subsequent comments you say, ‘people like Sam Harris actually help develop critical thinking when it comes discussing ideas and concepts’, but we cannot develop critical thinking by uncritically accepting whatever any philosopher or thinker may say or write, but only by critically considering their ideas and arguments. No one can think critically for us, so we each need to develop our own capacity for critical thinking, and if we have trained ourself to think critically by considering deeply and critically all that Bhagavan has taught us, and more importantly by practising self-investigation and self-surrender and thereby refining and honing our vivēka (power to distinguish subtle differences, such as between the perceiver and all that is perceived, or between cit and jaḍa), when we read or listen to most other philosophers or thinkers we will be able to see the fallacies in their arguments, which in most cases are not fallacies in their logic but in the premises (assumptions) on which their logical arguments are based.

Whatever argument we may read or hear, we need to assess it critically by questioning not only its logic but more importantly its premises, both those that are stated explicitly and those that are implicit. Recognising faulty logic is generally quite easy, but recognising questionable premises or assumptions, particularly metaphysical ones, will come easily to us only if we have already thought deeply and critically about the subject in question, because any argument, particularly one about a deep and subtle subject such as freedom of action and freedom of will, will be based not only on premises that are stated explicitly but also on many that are hidden. For example, when Sam Harris made arguments based on the findings of neuroscience, he did not say that his arguments are based on the metaphysical assumption that the brain exists independent of our perception of it, but this assumption is a hidden premise in all such arguments.

When it is contended either that our will is free or that it is not free, that contention is a metaphysical one, so any argument for or against it must likewise be metaphysical. Metaphysical questions cannot be settled by any findings of science, because all scientific ‘knowledge’ is just a set of beliefs that are based on certain metaphysical assumptions, and the role of metaphysics is to question all such assumptions. Any scientific theory or belief is an interpretation of whatever has been observed, and how each person or group of people interprets what has been observed is to a large extent determined by their metaphysical assumptions or beliefs. Even the belief that metaphysical questions can be settled by science is itself a metaphysical assumption that we need to question.

Therefore when Sam Harris or anyone else gives arguments for or against the existence of free will that are based on neuroscience or science more generally, we should immediately recognise that such arguments are fallacious, because they are based on the erroneous assumption that scientific observations or theories can settle metaphysical questions. Nowadays many philosophers base their metaphysical beliefs on science, but any philosopher who does so is not a deep metaphysician and consequently their beliefs are very shallow, no matter how complex and abstruse their arguments may seem to be, or in how many peer-reviewed journals they may have been published.

Bhagavan’s teachings are in a different league altogether, because he challenges us to question all our most dearly held metaphysical assumptions, including the most fundamental one of all, namely ‘I am this body’. Since that which is aware of itself as ‘I am this body’ (in which the term ‘body’ includes not only a physical structure but also the life, mind, intellect and will that operate in it and thereby animate it) is ego, the first person, subject, perceiver or observer, in whose view alone all phenomena appear or seem to exist, if this fundamental awareness ‘I am this body’ is erroneous, the reality of everything that is perceived, observed, known or believed by this ego is to be doubted, because it is all based on a fundamental metaphysical error.

Therefore if we want to understand whether our will is free or not, we need to set aside all shallow arguments about free will offered by people like Sam Harris and consider the matter from a much deeper and more abstract perspective, as we can do most effectively in the clear light of Bhagavan’s teachings. Logically in our experience which comes first, ego or phenomena, subject or objects, perceiver or perceived, first person or second and third persons? Obviously ego, the subject, perceiver or first person, must precede whatever it perceives, namely phenomena, objects or second and third persons. Therefore when we consider any metaphysical question, we should take ego as our starting point (whereas most philosophers and all scientists take phenomena as their starting point).

Phenomena appear because ego perceives them, and ego perceives them because it looks away from itself. Why does it look away from itself? Because it chooses to do so. And why does it choose to do so? Because it wants to do so. Therefore what ego wants, or in other words its will, is what enables phenomena to appear. This is why Bhagavan says that the seeds that give rise to the appearance of all phenomena (viṣayas) are viṣaya-vāsanās, which are elements of ego’s will. Therefore since ego’s will is what gives rise to the appearance of phenomena, it logically precedes them as their cause (even though they may appear and disappear simultaneously) and must therefore be independent of them, and to be independent is to be free, so ego’s will is free. That is, ego is free to want whatever it wants, because its wanting precedes all other things.

41. If we believe that we do not have any freedom of will, we cannot coherently believe that we are free to investigate or surrender ourself

Freedom of our will is therefore a fundamental principle of Bhagavan’s teachings, and as such it is a key component of their core, which consists of several such principles that together form a single coherent whole. Having a clear and firmly rooted understanding of this principle is essential if we are to practise his teachings effectively, because if we believe that we are not free even to want to follow the path he has shown us, or if we not sure whether we are free to want to do so or not, our motive for trying to follow it will be undermined.

Freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) is the most fundamental of all freedoms, because without it no other freedom would exist. Freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra), for example, is freedom to do whatever one likes, so if we were not free to like whatever we like, it would be meaningless to say that we have freedom of action, because we would be bound to like whatever we like, in which case even if we could do whatever we like we would do it only because we are bound to like it. Likewise, freedom to investigate and surrender ourself entails our being free to like to do so, because if we were bound to like whatever we like, we would investigate and surrender ourself only if we were bound to like to do so, and if we were bound not to like to do so, we would be bound not to do so.

The natural inclination of ego is to like to rise and go outwards, attending to things other than itself, so it will investigate or surrender itself only when its liking to do so is stronger than its liking to face outwards. Therefore we can investigate or surrender ourself only if we have sufficient liking to do so, so if we believe that we do not have any freedom of will, we cannot coherently believe that we are free to investigate or surrender ourself.

Therefore if we are not willing to accept that our will is free, we are thereby impeding our progress in this path of self-investigation and self-surrender, which Bhagavan has taught us is the only means by which we can eradicate ego and be aware of ourself as we actually are.

42. Freedom of will does not mean that our will itself is free, but that as ego we are free to want whatever we want

When it is said that our will is free, what exactly does this mean? Does it mean that each individual element of our will, such as each like, dislike, want, desire, hope, fear, care or concern, is free, or that the totality of these elements is free? No, it does not mean either, because each of these elements is jaḍa, since it is not aware either of itself or of anything else, and hence the totality of these elements is likewise jaḍa. What freedom of will (icchā-svatantra) means, therefore, is not that the will itself is free, but that we as ego, whose will it is, are free either to or not to like, dislike, want, desire, hope for, fear, care about or be concerned about anything. Nothing other than ourself, this ego, compels us to have whatever likes, dislikes, wants, desires, hopes, fears, cares or concerns we currently have, nor can anything other than ourself compel us to change or give up entirely any or all of these elements of our will. We alone are the master of our will, and as such we have freedom of will, which means freedom to want whatever we want or to give up wanting it if we want to.

Likewise freedom of action (kriyā-svatantra) does not mean that our actions themselves are free but that we, whose actions they are, are free to do actions by mind, speech and body in accordance with our will, albeit within certain constraints, namely constraints imposed by what is predetermined by our prārabdha. However, though our freedom of action is restricted by our prārabdha, our freedom of will is not restricted by anything. As ego we are free to want whatever we want, because nothing other than ourself can compel us to want anything or prevent us wanting anything. This is the sense in which our will is free.

If we claim that our will is not free, that means that whatever we want is not determined by ourself but by something else. Therefore those who deny freedom of will do so because they attribute all our likes, dislikes, wants, desires, hopes, fears, cares, concerns and other elements of our will to some cause or causes external to ourself. This is quite contrary to the teachings of Bhagavan, because according to him the ultimate cause for everything is not anything outside ourself but only ourself as ego. All other things seem to exist only because we have risen as ego, and the seeds that give rise to all those other things are our viṣaya-vāsanās, which are elements of our will.

43. Prārabdha is selected by grace, which is the infinite love that we as we really are have for ourself as we really are

In other words, all other things appear only because we want them to appear. They may not all appear exactly as we would want them to appear, but this is because the way in which our viṣaya-vāsanās are projected as phenomena is to a large extent determined by our prārabdha, which is a selection of the fruits of actions that we have done in previous lives in accordance with our will.

So who or what selects which of the countless fruits of our past actions are to be experienced by us in each life? Is it ourself or something other than ourself? It is not ourself as ego, nor is it anything other than ourself, so what is it? It is generally said to be God, but according to Bhagavan God is nothing other than ourself. However God is not ourself as ego but only ourself as we actually are.

Does this mean that we as we actually are (in other words, our real nature or ātma-svarūpa) select which fruits we as ego are to experience as our prārabdha in each life? No, because as we actually are we do not do anything and are not even aware of anything other than ourself, and this is why in the fifteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? Bhagavan says that God does not actually do anything, even though everything happens ‘ஈசன் சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரத்தால்’ (īśaṉ saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttirattāl), ‘by just the special nature of the presence of God’.

What does it mean, then, when it is said that God ordains our prārabdha for each life by selecting which fruit of our past actions we are to experience in that life? In this context the term ‘God’ is used as a metaphor for his grace, because he and his grace are one, and since he is our real nature, his grace is the infinite love that we as we really are have for ourself as we really are. Since our real nature is not aware of anything other than itself, because nothing other than itself actually exists, it is aware of everything as itself alone and therefore loves everything as itself alone, so in effect it loves us to see ourself as nothing other than itself, as it sees us. Because of the mere existence or presence of this love in our heart, our prārabdha is automatically selected in such a way as will be most conducive to the maturing of our mind and heart, which means the gradual purification of our will, because only to the extent that our will is purified will the love to face inwards and thereby to surrender ourself entirely blossom within us.

44. Liberation or ‘self-realisation’ is determined by nothing other than love, which is the focusing of our entire will on ourself alone

If we believe that our will is not free, we are attributing what causes or determines it to something other than ourself, and so long as we do so we are in effect attributing the cause of both bondage and liberation to something other than ourself, because bondage and liberation are both determined only by our will. That is, we seem to be this ego, which is by its very nature bound by its own limitations (which is why Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that ego itself is bondage), only because we like to be aware of things other than ourself, and we will therefore attain liberation only when our love to be aware of ourself alone is greater than our liking to be aware of anything else.

Therefore if our will were determined by anything other than ourself, even our liberation would likewise be determined by that other thing or things. This seems to have been the conclusion reached by Robert Adams, if Salazar was correct when he wrote in one of his comments, ‘according to Robert Adams Self-realization is pre-ordained too’. This contention is obviously contrary to all that Bhagavan taught us, because what is predetermined is only prārabdha, which is the fruit of actions that we have done in previous lives, so if liberation or ‘self-realisation’ were predetermined, that would mean that it is the fruit of our past actions.

Actions are finite, so the fruit of actions are likewise finite, and hence if liberation or self-realisation were the fruit of any action or actions, it would be finite. However according to Bhagavan what is called liberation or self-realisation is nothing other than our own real nature, which is infinite and eternal self-awareness, so it cannot be the fruit of any action or actions, nor can it be predetermined by anything, because nothing exists prior to it.

This is why he says explicitly in verse 2 of Upadēśa Undiyār that action cannot give liberation. Since liberation is our real nature, we cannot ‘attain’ it by doing anything but only by being what we actually are, and we can be what we actually are only by knowing what we actually are, and we can know what we actually are only by loving what we actually are. Being what we actually are is sat, knowing what we actually are is cit, and loving what we actually are is priya, otherwise known as happiness or ānanda.

What binds us firstly as ego and consequently to action (karma) is our self-ignorance and consequent desires, so to be liberated from both ego and action we must be aware of ourself as we actually are, and in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are we must love nothing other than to be aware of ourself alone. This is why Bhagavan often said that bhakti is the mother of jñāna. Therefore liberation, ātma-jñāna or ‘self-realisation’ is not determined by anything other than love, which is the focusing of our entire will (and hence our entire attention) on ourself alone, and which is what is otherwise called the shining forth of grace in our heart.

45. The power that drives our mind, whether outwards or inwards, is our will, so grace works from within us to induce us to willingly rectify our will so that it drives us back within

Salazar, in the same comment in which you wrote ‘according to Robert Adams Self-realization is pre-ordained too’ you try to explain this bizarre contention, saying: ‘My question is, what triggers the mind to be attentive to “I am”? We know what holds it back and that is these (imagined) vasanas. It is important to note that vasanas are entirely imagined. So what is it that makes (or triggers) Mike’s mind being attentive and what is it what makes Sanjay’s mind attentive? What is the real power behind the mind? IT IS SELF OF COURSE!!!!!!!!’

There are several points here that need clarification. Firstly, what exactly do you mean when you say that vāsanās are entirely imagined? I assume you mean that they are thoughts or mental phenomena, in which case I discussed this idea in section 33 in answer to Noob’s contention that ‘If desires and dislikes are nothing but thoughts, created by us, then they are also predetermined’. As I explained there, according to Bhagavan everything other than our real nature is a thought (in the sense of a mental phenomenon), including ego, whose thoughts they all are, so in this sense vāsanās are also thoughts, but of all thoughts other than ego, they are the most subtle and most fundamental, because they are the seeds that give rise to all other thoughts.

However, since everything other our real nature is a thought or imagination, why do you consider it so significant in this context to note that vāsanās are also entirely imagined? Do you mean to say that they are not our real nature? If so, that is certainly true, but who ever suggested that they are our real nature?

Secondly you say that vāsanās are what holds the mind back, meaning that they are what prevents it being self-attentive. This is certainly true, and also hugely significant, because vāsanās are the elements that constitute our will (cittam), so by saying that they hold the mind back, you are acknowledging that our will is what prevents us being self-attentive, from which we must infer that our will is what we need to rectify.

However our will consists of vāsanās of many different kinds, and all those that draw our mind to face away from ourself are what are called viṣaya-vāsanās, which are what I referred to earlier as the pravṛtti elements of our will. Therefore to rectify our will in the required manner we need to weaken and weed out all our viṣaya-vāsanās and replace them with nivṛtti elements, which are vāsanās that will draw our attention back within to face ourself alone.

The nivṛtti elements of our will include elements such as love to surrender ourself, love to be free of viṣaya-vāsanās, which are what prevent us surrendering ourself, and love to be self-attentive, which is not only the most effective means to surrender ourself but also the only means to do so entirely. These nivṛtti elements are what are collectively called bhakti (in the purest sense of this term, as it is used by Bhagavan), and their corollary is what is called vairāgya, which is freedom from viṣaya-vāsanās.

Therefore the simple answer to your question, ‘what triggers the mind to be attentive to “I am”?’, is bhakti and vairāgya. Hence we need to cultivate bhakti and vairāgya, which we can do most effectively by trying to be self-attentive as much as possible. However we can be self-attentive only to the extent that we surrender the pravṛtti elements of our will, so throughout our life, even when we are engaged in various activities, we must be constantly vigilant to rein in and keep a tight curb on these pravṛtti elements. Doing so is the single path of self-investigation and self-surrender in practice, because we can keep a curb on them most effectively by keeping a curb on the rising of ourself as ego, which we can do only by being self-attentive.

You ask ‘What is the real power behind the mind?’, to which the most immediate answer is its will. If its will is filled with pravṛtti elements, it will constantly be rushing outwards with great impetus, whereas if it is filled with nivṛtti elements, it will constantly be turning back to face itself and will thereby subside back within. Therefore it is only to the extent that nivṛtti elements have replaced pravṛtti ones that we will love to and be able to follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender that Bhagavan has so lovingly taught us.

However you skip over our will and say that the real power behind the mind is ‘SELF’, by which I assume you mean our real nature (ātma-svarūpa). Yes, this is true, ultimately the only real power is ātma-svarūpa, because nothing other than it actually exists. However, having risen as ego or mind, we seem to be functioning independently according to our own will, so how does ātma-svarūpa draw us back to face itself and thereby be itself?

Though it is the ultimate and only power, ātma-svarūpa never actually does anything, because it is the power of being or absolute stillness (motionlessness or acalatva). However whatever is done or happens (not in its view, of course, but in only the view of ego, because in its view nothing is ever done or happens) is done or happens only by the power of its mere presence or being. Therefore, since it does not do anything, how does ātma-svarūpa help us to turn back within to face ourself alone?

It does so only through our will, because its nature is infinite love for itself, so since we are not other than it, its love for itself shines in us as our will. So long as we lack vivēka, we direct our will away from ourself towards other things, wrongly believing that we can obtain happiness from things other than ourself. Therefore our infinite love for ourself functions as grace, allotting our prārabdha in each life in such a way that we gradually come to understand that we cannot obtain happiness from anything other than ourself. Thus grace initiates the process of lessening the strength of our viṣaya-vāsanās and increasing the strength of our bhakti and vairāgya.

However, it does not just initiate this process, but drives it all the way through to its conclusion, which occurs when our love to be aware of ourself alone grows to be stronger than our love to be aware of anything else, whereupon we will turn the full 180 degrees back towards ourself and thereby merge forever in the infinite light of pure self-awareness. This is why Bhagavan used to say that grace is the beginning, the middle and the end of this spiritual path, meaning that our entire journey along it is driven only by grace.

However, it is important to understand that grace is not anything outside ourself or other than ourself, but is our own love for ourself as the infinite happiness that we actually are. Therefore grace does not work from outside of ourself as ego, but only from within our own will, of which it is the source and only real substance. Moreover grace does not actually do anything, but just by being itself it drives the entire process of purification of our will, inducing us to willingly give up our viṣaya-vāsanās by cultivating bhakti and vairāgya in their place. Therefore, though this process is ultimately driven only by grace, we progress along the spiritual path only to the extent that we willingly bring about the required changes in our own will.

46. Self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is not imagining, which is a mental activity, but the cessation of all mental activity

After saying that the real power behind the mind is ‘SELF’ you added: ‘If that is accepted and grasped then we really know what joke this whole enlightenment process is and that ridiculous notion that the ego is actually doing anything but imagining. It even imagines “doing vichara” but then imagining suddenly stops and only Self prevails. And that is called enlightenment – hahaha’.

However, this is not correct, because what you call ‘doing vichara’ is nothing but being self-attentive, and being self-attentive is not an imagination or act of imagining, because pure self-awareness is our real nature, so by being self-attentive we are just subsiding and merging back into and as pure self-awareness, which is what we always actually are. So long as we direct our attention away from ourself towards anything else, that outward flow of our attention is what is called thinking or imagining, but when we direct our attention back towards ourself alone, that is the subsidence or cessation of all thinking or imagining.

This cessation of all thinking or imagining is what Bhagavan refers to as பாவனாதீத (bhāvaṉātīta), ‘transcending [or beyond] bhāvana [thinking, imagination or meditation]’, in verse 9 of Upadēśa Undiyār when he says ‘பாவ பலத்தினால் பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தல்’ (bhāva balattiṉāl bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttal), ‘by the strength of meditation, being in bhāvana-transcending sat-bhāva’, in which ‘பாவ பலத்தினால்’ (bhāva balattiṉāl), ‘by the strength of meditation’, means by the strength, intensity, firmness or stability of self-attentiveness, which is what he referred to in the previous verse as ‘அனனிய பாவம்’ (aṉaṉya-bhāvam), ‘meditation on what is not other [than oneself]’, and ‘பாவனாதீத சத் பாவத்து இருத்தல்’ (bhāvaṉātīta sat-bhāvattu iruttal), ‘being in bhāvana-transcending sat-bhāva’ or ‘being in sat-bhāva, which transcends bhāvana’, means being in one’s real state of being (sat-bhāva), which is beyond all thinking, imagination or meditation (bhāvana). Being in this natural state of just being, which is devoid of any mental activity such as thinking, imagining or meditating, as a result of keenly focussed self-attentiveness, is what he declares to be ‘பரபத்தி தத்துவம்’ (para-bhatti tattuvam), ‘the real essence or true state of supreme devotion’ (para-bhakti tattva).

Therefore the very aim and purpose of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is to be so keenly self-attentive that we go beyond all imagining or mental activity (bhāvana) and thereby remain firmly fixed in our natural state of just being (sat-bhāva), which is what is otherwise called summā iruppadu, the state of just being the pure self-awareness that we actually are instead of rising as the adjunct-mixed self-awareness called ego or mind. Therefore it is not correct to consider the practice of ātma-vicāra to be imagining anything.

If we are imagining anything, we are not practising ātma-vicāra, because to the extent that we are being keenly self-attentive, mental activity will cease, and without mental activity there can be no such thing as imagining. Therefore imagining will not suddenly stop of its own accord, as you seem to suggest, but will stop only to the extent that we are keenly self-attentive, and we will be keenly self-attentive only to the extent that we love to be so. So long as we, this ego, attend to anything other than ourself, we are thereby engaging in mental activity and hence ‘doing’, whereas when we attend only to ourself, we cease engaging in any mental activity or doing and instead remain calmly and peacefully in our natural state of just being.

As Bhagavan says, remaining thus is supreme devotion (para-bhakti), because it is only by intense and overwhelming love for ourself alone, which entails giving up all desire for or concern about anything else, that we can remain firmly established in the state of being keenly self-attentive. Therefore it is all a matter of what we actually want. Do we want to continue rising as ego and thereby being aware of things other than ourself, or do we want to be aware of nothing other than ourself and thereby cease rising as ego? The choice is ours, because we are always free to want whatever we want to want.

47. Love to be aware of ourself alone can be cultivated by bhakti practices, of which self-investigation and self-surrender are the most efficacious

Salazar, in an earlier comment you agree that ‘love is important for vichara’, but you argue that the kind of love that is required for vicāra cannot be cultivated, and also express various other ideas about it that require clarification.

Firstly you ask, ‘Does [such love] come from the mind or (physical) heart?’ and reply, ‘I don’t believe so’. Obviously no love of any kind comes from the physical heart, but ‘heart’ is often used as a metaphor for the will, which is in a sense the source from which love comes, though it would be more accurate to say that love is one (or a group) of the elements that constitute the will, and is actually the most fundamental of all its elements, because our natural love for happiness is what underlies and drives all the other elements of our will.

Like ‘heart’, ‘mind’ is a term that is used in various different senses, so whether the love required for self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) comes from the mind or not depends on the sense in which one is using the term ‘mind’. In one sense the mind is one of the four components of the ‘inner instrument’ (antaḥkaraṇa), the other three being the intellect, will and ego, so in this sense it could be considered to be distinct from the will and hence not where love comes from, but it is more correct to consider the will to be a deeper part of the mind, in which case love does come from or reside in this part of the mind. That is, mind is the outermost part of the antaḥkaraṇa, within which resides intellect, within which resides will, within which resides ego. This is why all four components of the antaḥkaraṇa are often referred to collectively as the mind or heart, so in this sense the will is part of it. In other contexts the term ‘mind’, like ‘heart’, is used to refer to the will (cittam), and Bhagavan often used it to refer to the ego, the ‘I’ whose will it is, so whenever this term is used we need to understand from the context the sense in which it is being used.

The love required for ātma-vicāra is love to be aware of ourself alone, which is what is sometimes described either as sat-vāsanā (the propensity or inclination to just be as we actually are) or as svātma-bhakti (love for one’s own self). Though this is an element of our will, the source from which it ultimately originates is our own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), because love for ourself is our real nature, and this is why its arousal in our heart is generally attributed to grace, which is another name for the infinite love that we have for ourself and that we actually are.

The important point to understand is that the love required for ātma-vicāra, like all the other elements of our will, originates only from within ourself and not from outside. Within mind is intellect; within intellect is will; within will is ego; and within ego is our real nature. From our real nature arises ego; from ego arises its will; and from its will arises intellect, mind and everything else. Therefore though the ultimate source of the love required for ātma-vicāra is our real nature, which is the ultimate source of everything, it is an element of the will, and as such its immediate source is ego, whose will it is.

Our real nature always loves itself, because love is what it actually is, but ego loves not only itself but also certain other things, because it believes that other things contribute to its happiness or unhappiness, so for ego to investigate itself it needs to love itself (its fundamental self-awareness) above all other things. Therefore the love required for ātma-vicāra is the ego’s love to be aware of itself as it actually is, so contrary to what you wrote in that comment (namely that this love is ‘something an ego cannot really comprehend nor do or have’) it is a love that we as ego can and must have if we are to investigate and know what we actually are.

You ask, ‘Can an ego really love?’ and reply, ‘An ego can only “love” an object in the form of attachment’. The very nature of ego is to love to be aware of things other than itself, because it is only by being aware of other things that it seems to exist, but this does not mean that as ego we cannot love to be aware of ourself alone. In fact, despite our love to be aware of other things, we are able to be aware of them only for a limited duration, after which we become tired, whereupon our love to be aware of ourself alone begins to manifest itself, and if we continue being aware of other things for long enough, we reach a point of exhaustion in which we love nothing more than to sleep (which means to be aware of nothing other than ourself), at least until we have thereby recuperated sufficient energy to rise and continue being aware of other things for a while.

Because of the strength of our love to be aware of other things, we do not want to rest in sleep eternally, aware of nothing other than ourself, so we alternate between on the one hand rising and being aware of other things in waking or dream and on the other hand subsiding for a while in sleep. Though we are peaceful and happy in sleep, and therefore love to sleep for a while each day, due to our avivēka or lack of clarity as this ego we also love to be aware of other things, so we spend our life bouncing out of sleep and subsiding back into it like a yo-yo.

Our love for sleep clearly demonstrates that we all love to be aware of ourself alone, no matter how strong our love to be aware of other things may be. However, until our love to be aware of other things is eradicated entirely, we cannot remain peacefully in the eternal sleep called ātma-jñāna or self-knowledge, and since love to be aware of other things is the nature of ego, we cannot eradicate it without eradicating ego.

Since ego is sustained by its love to be aware of other things, to eradicate it we need to weaken to a considerable extent its love for other things, which we can do only by increasing our love to be aware of ourself alone, and the means to increase this love is the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender. What is to investigate and surrender itself is obviously not our real nature (ātma-svarūpa) but only ourself as ego, so as ego we can and must learn to increase and strengthen our love to be aware of ourself alone.

You ask: ‘Can love be cultivated? Well who would do the cultivating?’ The answer to the second of these two questions is: Who needs to love to be aware of itself alone? What needs such love is only ego, so as ego we must cultivate it. But can we cultivate it? Though you argue that we cannot, towards the end of this comment you in effect concede that we can, because you write: ‘In my experience an attitude of surrender (and not by the mind, the mind cannot intentionally surrender) will trigger the necessary grace for that impersonal love and nothing else in this life. The continuous practice of vichara/surrender itself triggers the impersonal love without any involvement of the mind’.

The most effective means to cultivate love to be aware of ourself alone are self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) and self-surrender, as you seem to imply, but you say that these must be done ‘without any involvement of the mind’ because ‘the mind cannot intentionally surrender’. If the mind is not to investigate itself or to surrender itself, who else is to do so? Obviously our real nature does not need to do so, because it is immutable and always clearly aware of itself as it actually is, so nothing other than the mind need do so or could do so.

When Bhagavan used the term ‘mind’ in contexts such as this he meant ego, which is the perceiving or aware element of the mind, and he made it clear that this is what needs to investigate itself and thereby surrender itself, as he implies, for example, in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

அன்வயம்: மனம் வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே உண்மை உணர்ச்சி ஆம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṉam veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē uṇmai uṇarcci ām.

English translation: Leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena], the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real awareness [true knowledge or knowledge of reality].
Here ‘மனம்’ (maṉam) means ‘mind’ in the sense of ego, ‘தன் ஒளி உரு’ (taṉ oḷi-uru), ‘its own form of light’, means our real nature, which is the light of pure awareness, and ஓர்தல்’ (ōrdal) means knowing, investigating, examining or considering attentively, so by saying ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தல்’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdal), ‘the mind knowing [or investigating] its own form of light’, Bhagavan clearly indicates that it is mind or ego that must investigate and know its own real nature. Of course mind or ego itself cannot actually know its real nature or ‘form of light’, because as soon as we know our own real nature we cease to be mind or ego.

In other words, as soon as mind knows its own form of light it is dissolved in that, so what actually knows its form of light is only its form of light. However, though the mind or ego can never know its form of light, it must try to do so, because only by trying to do so will it be swallowed by that light and thereby become one with it. This merging of the mind in and as the light of pure awareness is what Bhagavan refers to in this verse as ‘மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தல்’ (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdal), ‘the mind knowing [or investigating] its own form of light’, and he says that this alone is ‘உண்மை உணர்ச்சி’ (uṇmai uṇarcci), which means ‘real awareness’, ‘true knowledge’ or ‘awareness of reality’.

Likewise in verse 3 of Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam he says:
அகமுகமா ரந்த வமலமதி தன்னா
லகமிதுதா னெங்கெழுமென் றாய்ந்தே — யகவுருவை
நன்கறிந்து முந்நீர் நதிபோலு மோயுமே
யுன்கணரு ணாசலனே யோர்.

ahamukhamā randa vamalamati taṉṉā
lakamidudā ṉeṅkeṙumeṉ ḏṟāyndē — yahavuruvai
naṉgaṟindu munnīr nadipōlu mōyumē
yuṉgaṇaru ṇācalaṉē yōr
.

பதச்சேதம்: அகமுகம் ஆர் அந்த அமல மதி தன்னால் அகம் இது தான் எங்கு எழும் என்று ஆய்ந்தே, அக உருவை நன்கு அறிந்து, முந்நீர் நதி போலும் ஓயுமே உன்கண் அருணாசலனே. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ahamukham-ār anda amala mati-taṉṉāl aham idu-tāṉ eṅgu eṙum eṉḏṟu āyndē, aha-v-uruvai naṉgu aṟindu, munnīr nadi pōlum ōyumē uṉgaṇ aruṇācalaṉē. ōr.

English translation:: By that immaculate mind [intellect or will] that is completely ahamukham [inward facing, selfward-facing or self-attentive] investigating where this ‘I’ itself rises and [thereby] clearly knowing the form [or real nature] of ‘I’, one will certainly cease in you, Arunachala, like a river in the ocean. Investigate [or know].
Just as he says in this verse that we must investigate our real nature, which is the source from which ego rises as ‘I’, ‘அகமுகம் ஆர் அந்த அமல மதி தன்னால்’ (ahamukham-ār anda amala mati-taṉṉāl), ‘by that immaculate mind [intellect or will] that is completely ahamukham [inward facing, selfward-facing or self-attentive]’, in verse 23 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says that we must investigate where ‘I’ rises ‘நுண் மதியால்’ (nuṇ matiyāl), ‘by a subtle [refined, sharp, keen, acute, precise, meticulous and discerning] mind [intellect or will]’, and in verse 28 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he says that we must investigate where ego rises ‘கூர்ந்த மதியால்’ (kūrnda matiyāl), ‘by a sharpened [pointed, keen, acute, penetrating and discerning] mind [intellect or will]’.

In all these three cases the term he uses to refer to mind is மதி (mati), which more specifically means intellect, the discerning and distinguishing function of the mind, but can also mean will. However in this context it refers to the entire ‘inner instrument’ (antaḥkaraṇa), namely mind, intellect, will and ego, because in order for us to know ourself as we actually are and thereby merge in our real nature like a river in the ocean all these four aspects of our mind must function together as an inseparable whole and be keenly focused on ourself alone.

When Bhagavan says so clearly in verses such as these that it is by the mind that we must investigate ourself, and when he defines self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) in sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? saying, ‘சதாகாலமும் மனத்தை ஆத்மாவில் வைத்திருப்பதற்குத் தான் ‘ஆத்மவிசார’ மென்று பெயர்’ (sadā-kālam-um maṉattai ātmāvil vaittiruppadaṟku-t tāṉ ‘ātma-vicāram’ eṉḏṟu peyar), ‘The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to [the practice of] always keeping the mind in [or on] ātmā [oneself]’, why do you contend that we should practise vicāra and surrender ‘without any involvement of the mind’? Unless we turn our mind within to face ourself alone, how can we investigate ourself or surrender ourself entirely?

In the same comment you wrote that though you tried to cultivate the love required for vicāra many years ago ‘it did not work at all’, and that ‘much later I figured out why and that, of course, has something to do with our prarabdha karma and the erroneous notion that the ego could gain or create anything’. However, whether or to what extent we have the required love has nothing whatsoever to do with prārabdha, because prārabdha is the fruit of actions that we have done in the past and determines only what we are to experience (what is to happen to us) and whatever actions we must do in order to experience it, whereas what we love comes under the sole jurisdiction of our will, which is completely independent of prārabdha.

To believe that as ego or mind we can cultivate love to be aware of ourself alone is not an ‘erroneous notion’, as you claim, because cultivating such love is the very purpose of self-investigation and self-surrender, which can be done only by us as ego. Love to be aware of ourself alone increases to the extent that our viṣaya-vāsanās are weakened, and as Bhagavan assures us in the tenth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Ār? by persistent practice of self-investigation we can and certainly will weaken and eventually destroy all our viṣaya-vāsanās.

In the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? Bhagavan describes how we must persistently practise self-investigation and then says: ‘இப்படிப் பழகப் பழக மனத்திற்குத் தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற் றங்கி நிற்கும் சக்தி யதிகரிக்கின்றது’ (ippaḍi-p paṙaga-p paṙaga maṉattiṟku-t taṉ piṟappiḍattil taṅgi niṟgum śakti y-adhikarikkiṉḏṟadu), ‘When one practises and practises in this manner, for the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace increases’. The power (śakti) that he refers to here is the power of love, because it is only by love that we can persevere in this practice and thereby stand firmly established in our real nature, which is the ‘birthplace’ or source from which we rose as this mind. Thus in this sentence he clearly implies by persistent practice of self-investigation our love to be aware of ourself alone will increase.

And whose love is this? It is the mind’s love to be aware of its real nature, as he clearly indicates by saying that this power will increase ‘for the mind’ (maṉattiṟku).

You also wrote in this comment, ‘It is said that devotion, prayer, and what not is going to “increase” that love but since that prayer and devotion and all “cultivating” is the [outward] activity of the mind, that can only come into fruition in a later life’, but this is a misunderstanding of what Bhagavan teaches us in verses 3 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār, because though he says in verse 3 that niṣkāmya karma done for God purifies the mind and though in the subsequent verses he explains the relative efficacy of niṣkāmya pūjā, japa and dhyāna, which are respectively actions of body, speech and mind, he does not mean that the actions themselves will purify our mind (because if they would then the same actions would purify it even if they were done with a kāmya motive) but only that the love with which we do them will purify it. Love alone begets love, and it alone can overcome all desires and other pravṛtti elements of our will.

The impurities in our mind that we need to remove are our viṣaya-vāsanās, which are the pravṛtti elements of our will, so they can be weakened and eventually rooted out only by contrary elements of our will, namely nivṛtti elements such as the love to surrender ourself and thereby eventually be aware of nothing other than our real nature. Whereas we cannot experience the fruit of any action that we do in this life till some later life, the purification of our mind that is brought about by practices of niṣkāmya bhakti happens immediately, because it is not the fruit of any action but only the fruit of love, which is not an action but an element of our will.

Actions such as niṣkāmya pūjā, japa and dhyāna are just vehicles that we can use to focus our love on God, so their efficacy in purifying our mind depends on the intensity of the love with which we do them, because it is love alone and not any action per se that can purify our mind. This is why Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? that practices such as mūrti-dhyāna and mantra-japa are ‘மனத்தை அடக்கும் சகாயங்களே’ (maṉattai aḍakkum sahāyaṅgaḷē), ‘only aids that restrain the mind’, and implies that like prāṇāyāma they will not being about its destruction (manōnāśa). That is, if we practise mūrti-dhyāna or mantra-japa for no purpose other than the love of God alone, the love with which we practise them will purify our mind and thereby help us to keep it in check, but in order to destroy it entirely we need to surrender ourself completely by keenly investigating ourself.

48. In order to be still we must persistently try to be self-attentive, which we will do to the extent that we love to be aware of ourself as we actually are

Salazar, in the comment of yours that I discussed in the previous section you implied that we should practise vicāra and surrender ‘without any involvement of the mind’, and in another comment that I discussed in sections 45 and 46 you implied that doing vicāra is not ‘doing anything but imagining’, which seem to be two somewhat contradictory ideas, because if vicāra were nothing but imagining, how could we do it without any involvement of the mind? However, as I explained in the previous two sections, what needs to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is only the mind or ego, but the practice does not entail imagining or any other mental activity but a cessation of all mental activity.

Another confused idea you expressed about this practice is that we should not try to do it because trying will ‘keep us in duality and bound’. You expressed this incorrect belief in a comment in which referring to Robert Adams you wrote: ‘Robert liked to say, “do not try to be still” and “do not try to not be still” because both keep us in duality and bound. [...] No “trying”, just being – huge difference. The former is samsara, the latter freedom’.

The state of ‘being still’ or ‘just being’ is what Bhagavan generally referred to as ‘சும்மா விருப்பது’ (summā v-iruppadu), and he explained that it can be achieved only by self-investigation, because ego or mind rises and engages in mental activity by attending to anything other than itself, so it will subside and just be only to the extent that it attends to itself alone. As he says in the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘சும்மா விருப்பதாவது மனத்தை ஆன்மசொரூபத்தில் லயிக்கச் செய்வதே’ (summā v-iruppadāvadu maṉattai āṉma-sorūpattil layikka-c ceyvadē), ‘What just being (summā iruppadu) is is only making the mind dissolve [disappear or die] in ātma-svarūpa [the ‘own form’ or real nature of oneself]’, and we can make the mind dissolve in ātma-svarūpa only by investigating ourself, as he says in the first sentence of the same paragraph, ‘நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum), ‘Only by the investigation who am I will the mind cease [stop, subside or disappear forever]’, and in the first sentence of the eighth paragraph, ‘மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை’ (maṉam aḍaṅguvadaṟku vicāraṇaiyai-t tavira vēṟu tahunda upāyaṅgaḷ-illai), ‘For the mind to cease [settle, subside, yield, be subdued, be still or disappear], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means’.

Since the nature of ego or mind is to attend to things other than itself, and since it does so in order to survive, because it seems to exist only when it is aware of other things, it cannot turn back to face itself alone without making effort to do so, just as one cannot swim against the current of a river without making effort to do so. Therefore since we cannot just be (or be still) without attending only to ourself, and since we cannot attend only to ourself without trying to do so, it is necessary for us to try to be still by making effort to attend to ourself alone.

In an answer he gave to Swami Natananandar, which is recorded as the answer to question 4 in the second chapter of Upadēśa Mañjari (which I discussed in detail in one of my earlier articles, Just being (summā irukkai) is not an activity but a state of perfect stillness), Bhagavan said unequivocally and emphatically that effort is required for us to just be. The question asked by Swami Natananandar was: ‘சும்மாவிருக்கை யென்பது முயற்சியுள்ள நிலையா? முயற்சியற்ற நிலையா?’ (summā-v-irukkai y-eṉbadu muyaṟci-y-uḷḷa nilai-y-ā? muyaṟci-y-aṯṟa nilai-y-ā?), ‘Is what is called summā-v-irukkai [just being] a state in which there is effort? [Or] is it a state in which effort has ceased?’, to which Bhagavan replied:
அது முயற்சியற்றதோர் சோம்பல் நிலை யன்று. வெளிமுகத்தில் முயற்சிகளென்று சொல்லப்படுகிற உலக வ்யவகாரங்க ளவ்வளவும் பரிச்சின்ன மனத்தாலும் இடைவிட்டும் செய்யப்படுகின்றனவே. அகமுகத்தில் சும்மா இருக்கை யென்னும் ஆன்மவ்யவகாரமோ முழு மனத்துடனும் இடையின்றியும் செய்யப்படும் பூர்ண முயற்சியாகும்.

வேறெவ் வகையானும் நாசமாகாத மாயையானது முழுமுயற்சி யென்னும் இம்மோனத்தாற்றான் நாசமாக்கப்படுகிறது.

adu muyaṟci-y-aṯṟadōr sōmbal nilai y-aṉḏṟu. veḷi-mukhattil muyaṟcigaḷ-eṉḏṟu solla-p-paḍugiṟa ulaha vyavahāraṅgaḷ avvaḷavum paricchiṉṉa maṉattāl-um iḍaiviṭṭum seyya-p-paḍugiṉḏṟaṉavē. aha-mukhattil summā irukkai y-eṉṉum āṉma-vyavahāram-ō muṙu maṉattuḍaṉ-um iḍai-y-iṉḏṟi-y-um seyya-p-paḍum pūrṇa muyaṟci-y-āhum.

vēṟev vahaiyāṉum nāśam-āhāda māyai-y-āṉadu muṙu-muyaṟci y-eṉṉum i-m-mōṉattāṯṟāṉ nāśam-ākka-p-paḍugiṟadu
.

That is not a state of sōmbal [idleness, lethargy, drowsiness or dullness], one in which effort has ceased. The entire extent of worldly activities, which are described as efforts in facing outwards, are only done intermittently and by paricchinna maṉam [a divided mind or limited part of the mind]. In contrast, the ātma-vyavahāra [spiritual practice] called aha-mukhattil summā irukkai [just being in facing inwards or selfwards] is a full effort done with the entire mind and without interruption.

What is māyā, which cannot be destroyed by any other means, is destroyed only by this mauna [silence], which is called complete effort.
As we actually are we do not need to make any effort to just be, because just being is our real nature, but having risen as ego we do need to make effort to just be until this ego is dissolved forever in the infinite clarity of pure self-awareness.

When you say that trying to be still will ‘keep us in duality and bound’, it seems that you have not understood the nature of the effort required to just be (or be still). If we were to try to just be by attending to anything other than ourself, then that effort would keep us bound in duality, because so long as we attend to anything other than ourself we are perpetuating the fundamental duality of subject and object, perceiver and perceived, but we cannot just be by attending to any other thing, because attending to other things is a mental activity (a doing) and hence not a state of stillness or just being.

The only effort required to just be is the effort to be self-attentive, and to the extent that we are self-attentive we will be close to the state of just being. Only when we manage to attend to ourself alone and not anything else whatsoever will we actually achieve the motionless and actionless state of just being, and only at that moment will all duality and bondage cease. If we do not manage to attend to ourself keenly enough, duality will linger on and hence bondage will linger with it, but to the extent that we manage to attend keenly to ourself duality and bondage will recede into the background and thereby make less impression upon us.

You say ‘No “trying”, just being – huge difference’, but how can we just be if we do not try to be self-attentive? Having risen as ego, self-attentiveness does not come naturally to us, because as ego our nature is to constantly attend to things other than ourself.

You say that trying is saṁsāra whereas just being is freedom. The latter is certainly true, because just being is the state devoid of ego, and hence it is infinite freedom, but the former is true only if you are referring to trying to do anything other than just being self-attentive, which is what Bhagavan described in the above answer to Natananandar as ‘அகமுகத்தில் சும்மா இருக்கை’ (aha-mukhattil summā irukkai), ‘just being in facing inwards [or selfwards]’, because trying to do anything else entails mental activity, which is saṁsāra, whereas trying to be self-attentive entails the cessation of mental activity.

The practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is just trying to be completely self-attentive, and if we succeed for a moment in this endeavour, ego will be dissolved forever in the infinite clarity of pure self-awareness. Therefore so long as we are still practising self-investigation (or still need to practise it) ego has not yet been eradicated, so we have not yet succeeded in our effort to be perfectly self-attentive. Therefore we must continue trying to be as keenly and persistently self-attentive as we can until we eventually reach the point of perfect self-attentiveness (the full 180 degree turn back to face ourself alone), whereupon ego will be eradicated and hence there will be no return to saṁsāra, bondage or duality, all of which affect only ego, since they and their effects seem to exist only in its view.

In order to practise self-investigation effectively we need to understand very clearly what we are trying to do, because if we do not understand it we will not practise it correctly. We can understand the practice only to the extent that we understand Bhagavan’s teachings clearly, deeply and as a coherent whole, so śravaṇa (studying them carefully) and manana (thinking deeply about them, considering all the connections between different aspects of them and constantly reviewing, questioning and refining our own understanding) are both necessary, but real depth, subtlety and clarity of understanding will not arise unless we persistently put them into practice to the best of our understanding.

What needs to investigate and surrender itself is only ego, which is the fundamental perceiving element of the mind and therefore the root of all the other elements of it, and in order to investigate and surrender itself ego must make effort to do so. However, though it is done by ego and entails making effort, it is not a mental activity of any kind, such as an imagination, but is just an attempt by ego to turn its entire attention back within to face itself alone and thereby to see what it actually is.

Most importantly, in order to make this effort ego needs to muster its entire will and deploy it tirelessly behind this one task, because it will try to be self-attentive only to the extent that it wants to surrender itself and thereby be aware of nothing other than its real nature, which is pure self-awareness. So long as it still wants to be aware of other things, it needs to overcome all such desires by persistently trying to turn its attention back towards itself, the ‘I’ that rises with desire to be aware of other things.

The extent to which we try to be keenly and persistently self-attentive is the measure of our love or bhakti to be aware of ourself as we actually are, so let us not listen to the foolish advice of anyone who says that we should not try and instead follow only Bhagavan’s advice to try patiently and persistently to be as keenly self-attentive as we can. This is the simple path of self-investigation and self-surrender that he has taught us, and as he says in the final sentence of the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘குரு காட்டிய வழிப்படி தவறாது நடக்க வேண்டும்’ (guru kāṭṭiya vaṙi-p-paḍi tavaṟādu naḍakka vēṇḍum), ‘it is necessary to walk unfailingly in accordance with the path that guru has shown’.

49. For eradicating ego, śubha vāsanās are generally more conducive than aśubha vāsanās

In their seed or latent form the elements that constitute our will are what are called ‘vāsanās’, which means inclinations, propensities, desires or likings, and these can be classified in various different ways. From the perspective of Bhagavan’s teachings the most significant way of classifying them is to distinguish vāsanās that incline us to pravṛtti (going outwards, rising, appearing or being active) from those that incline us to nivṛtti (coming back, returning, withdrawing, ceasing, subsiding, resting or being inactive). The former are what are generally called viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or desires to be aware of phenomena) while the latter are sat-vāsanā (inclination to just be) and other associated vāsanās, such as the inclination to trust in God and consequently surrender all one’s cares and concerns to him.

Though this is the most significant distinction to draw between different types of vāsanās, it is not a simple black and white classification, because not all viṣaya-vāsanās are equally bad or harmful, and some of them are certainly more conducive to progress on the spiritual path than others. Therefore Bhagavan also classified vāsanās as śubha (pleasant, agreeable, suitable, good, righteous or virtuous) and aśubha (unpleasant, disagreeable, unsuitable, bad, unrighteous, wicked or harmful), as he did, for example, in the nineteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:
நல்ல மன மென்றும் கெட்ட மன மென்று மிரண்டு மனங்களில்லை. மன மொன்றே. வாசனைகளே சுப மென்றும் அசுப மென்று மிரண்டுவிதம். மனம் சுபவாசனை வயத்தாய் நிற்கும்போது நல்ல மன மென்றும், அசுபவாசனை வயத்தாய் நிற்கும்போது கெட்டமன மென்றும் சொல்லப்படும். பிறர் எவ்வளவு கெட்டவர்களாய்த் தோன்றினும் அவர்களை வெறுத்தலாகாது. விருப்பு வெறுப்புக ளிரண்டும் வெறுக்கத் தக்கன. பிரபஞ்ச விஷயங்களி லதிகமாய் மனத்தை விடக் கூடாது. சாத்தியமானவரையில், அன்னியர் காரியத்திற் பிரவேசிக்கக் கூடாது. பிறருக் கொருவன் கொடுப்ப தெல்லாம் தனக்கே கொடுத்துக்கொள்ளுகிறான். இவ் வுண்மையை யறிந்தால் எவன்தான் கொடா தொழிவான்?

nalla maṉam eṉḏṟum keṭṭa maṉam eṉḏṟum iraṇḍu maṉaṅgaḷ illai. maṉam oṉḏṟē. vāsaṉaigaḷē śubham eṉḏṟum aśubham eṉḏṟum iraṇḍu vidam. maṉam śubha-vāsaṉai vayattāy niṟgum-bōdu nalla maṉam eṉḏṟum, aśubha-vāsaṉai vayattāy niṟgum-bōdu keṭṭa maṉam eṉḏṟum solla-p-paḍum. piṟar e-vv-aḷavu keṭṭavargaḷāy-t tōṉḏṟiṉum avargaḷai veṟuttal āhādu. viruppu-veṟuppugaḷ iraṇḍum veṟukka-t takkaṉa. pirapañca viṣayaṅgaḷil adhikam-āy maṉattai viḍa-k kūḍādu. sāddhiyamāṉa-varaiyil, aṉṉiyar kāriyattil piravēśikka-k kūḍādu. piṟarukku oruvaṉ koḍuppadu ellām taṉakkē koḍuttu-k-koḷḷugiṟāṉ. i-vv-uṇmaiyai y-aṟindāl evaṉ-dāṉ koḍādu oṙivāṉ?

There are not two minds, namely a good mind and a bad mind. Mind is only one. Only vāsanās [inclinations, propensities, impulses or desires] are of two kinds, namely śubha [agreeable, virtuous or good] and aśubha [disagreeable, wicked, harmful or bad]. When mind is under the sway of śubha vāsanās it is said to be a good mind, and when it is under the sway of aśubha vāsanās a bad mind. However bad other people may appear to be, disliking them is not proper [or appropriate]. Likes and dislikes are both fit [for one] to dislike [spurn or renounce]. It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to intrude in other’s affairs. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If one knew this truth, who indeed would remain without giving?
What are śubha vāsanās? Obviously all vāsanās that incline us to nivṛtti are śubha, and of all śubha vāsanās they are the most śubha. However when Bhagavan refers to śubha vāsanās he does not mean only such vāsanās, because in a relative sense many vāsanās that incline us to pravṛtti are nevertheless śubha, albeit not as śubha as those that incline us to nivṛtti. For example, inclinations to be kind, caring, considerate, compassionate, tolerant, forbearing, patient, unselfish, generous, gentle, non-harming, non-competitive and non-combative are generally śubha vāsanās, even though they may incline one to rise, go outwards and be active.

Therefore some pravṛtti elements of the will may be relatively more śubha whereas others may be relatively more aśubha, and śubha ones generally bring us closer to nivṛtti than aśubha ones. For example, if we are inclined to be greedy, avaricious, uncaring, selfish, jealous, proud, arrogant, intolerant, irritable, impatient, assertive, competitive, combative, aggressive, angry, cruel, hateful, opinionated, fanatical or strongly attached to identities such as race, religion, nationality, language, class, caste, wealth or social status, such inclinations will be a greater obstacle to making any spiritual progress than inclinations to be kind, caring, gentle, passive, unselfish and so on.

Therefore if we aspire to follow the spiritual path we should take particular care to curb any aśubha vāsanās that we may have, not just because we want to be a better person, but because we recognise that such vāsanās are particularly strong obstacles to our being able to turn within and surrender ourself completely. Ultimately our aim is to free ourself from all viṣaya-vāsanās along with their root, the ego, but in order to progress towards this ultimate goal we need first of all to free ourself from the more harmful of our viṣaya-vāsanās.

For example, in a comment on one of my recent videos, 2018-07-14 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 8, a friend wrote: ‘Michael, a dear relative of mine is addicted to alcohol. Can he resign himself to his fate as an alcoholic or can he do something about it? Is it just his prarabdha? I have been pondering this question for some time and I can’t seem to find an answer. Some of us are born with an addictive personality. Others have the type of temperament that allows them to lead a healthy life eating the right diet and getting enough exercise. The rest of us spiral out of control into apparent self-destruction. Aren’t our temperaments also given to us by destiny/God. Makes me think we have no will at all. You have spoken about this but it’s still not clear in my mind’.

In reply to this I wrote the following comment (which I reproduced in a comment on my previous article):
I am sorry to hear about your relative, but he can do something about his alcohol addiction if he wants to.

Fate or destiny (prārabdha) determines what we are to experience in each life, whereas our will determines what we want to experience. In order to experience whatever we are destined to experience we need to do certain actions by mind, speech and body, so such actions are driven by prārabdha, but because we desire to experience many things that we may or may not be destined to experience, and because we also desire to avoid experiencing many things that we likewise may or may not be destined to experience, many of the actions of our mind, speech and body are driven by such desires. Therefore will and fate are the two forces that drive our actions, and often they are both driving them in the same direction, but often in different directions.

Whatever we do by our will cannot change even an iota of what we are destined to experience, but nevertheless we do it or at least try to do it, because it is what we want to do. Therefore if a person is destined to suffer from an addiction, they can give up that addiction only if they are destined to do so, but destiny does not prevent them wanting to give it up and trying to do so.

However destiny is tailor-made to suit our present level of spiritual development, so if a person sincerely wants to and tries to give up an addiction, it is quite likely that they are already destined to give it up, as if as a result of their current desire and effort to do so. Therefore, since we do not know what our destiny will be until we experience it, we should not conclude that we are destined to remain an addict, but should try to give it up, knowing that it is not good for us. Even if we are not able to give it up, because we are not destined to do so, our wanting to give it and trying to do so is good for us in the sense that it will help our spiritual development.
The same friend replied in another comment saying, ‘I just wanted to add that even his wanting to quit seems to not be in his control. One week he does and the next he doesn’t. It’s as though even the desire to do and not to do, isn’t up to us’, to which I replied:
Each like, dislike, desire, fear, hope, attachment and so on is an element of our will, and often the elements of our will are in conflict with one another. We want to do something, such as drinking alcohol, but we consider it to be bad for us, so we also want to give up wanting to do so. Our wanting to do it and our wanting to give up wanting to do it are obviously in conflict with one another, so whichever desire is stronger will win most of the time. This seems to be what is happening in the case of your relative.

Though we know that trying to satisfy a certain desire is not good for us, our desire to give up that desire is not yet strong enough. So in such cases we have to work hard to cultivate the desire to give up and to weaken the desire that we consider bad. This is what spiritual practice is all about: cultivating the better elements of our will and thereby weakening the worse elements, until we reach the point where our one desire is to give up all desires, which we can do only by eradicating their root, the ego, which is the sole aim and purpose of the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender, the path that Bhagavan taught us.
Addiction to a substance such as alcohol is an aśubha vāsanā, because it is harmful to us (and potentially to others also), and because by definition any addiction is a particularly strong desire and therefore one that is difficult to give up, since to give it up one must have an equally strong desire to do so. Therefore if we have any such vāsanā we should try to give it up, even if we can do so only by cultivating some other less harmful vāsanās.

Some of the friends who commented on my recent articles seem to believe that if we try to give up our more harmful vāsanās we are just trying to be a better person and are thereby perpetuating saṁsāra, because whatever efforts we make in this life cannot bear fruit until some later life. This argument of theirs is based upon a confusion that can arise only if we fail to distinguish actions from efforts to curb certain elements of our will. Whatever actions we do by our own will or volition cannot change anything that we are destined to experience in this life, so we can experience the fruits of such actions only in some future life, if at all. However curbing our viṣaya-vāsanās is not an action per se, though often it may result in our refraining from doing certain actions, and sometimes it may result in our choosing to do some other less harmful actions instead, but whatever effect it may have on our actions is incidental, because the purpose and aim of curbing such vāsanās is the purification of our will, which is not an action (karma) and can therefore benefit us immediately.

In this context one example that is often discussed in comments on this blog is whether we are free to choose to eat vegetarian or vegan food. Whenever Bhagavan was asked about such matters, he strongly recommended a vegetarian diet (and considering the immense cruelty involved in the modern dairy industry he would nowadays presumably recommend a vegan diet), and in the final sentence of the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? he wrote: ‘எல்லா நியமங்களிலுஞ் சிறந்த மித ஸாத்விக ஆகார நியமத்தால் மனத்தின் சத்வ குணம் விருத்தியாகி, ஆத்மவிசாரத்திற்கு சகாய முண்டாகிறது’ (ellā niyamaṅgaḷilum siṟanda mita sātvika āhāra niyamattāl maṉattiṉ satva guṇam virutti-y-āhi, ātma-vicārattiṟku sahāyam uṇḍāgiṟadu), ‘By mita sāttvika āhāra-niyama [the restriction of consuming only sattva-conducive food in moderate quantities], which is the best among all restrictions, the sattva-guṇa [the quality of ‘being-ness’, calmness and clarity] of the mind increasing, for self-investigation help will [thereby] arise’, in which the term ‘sāttvika āhāra’ (sattva-conducive food) excludes any food that is not vegetarian or that is produced by means that cause harm (hiṁsā) to any sentient being.

However in their comments on this blog some friends argue that whether we eat a vegetarian diet or not is determined by prārabdha, so we are not free to choose what we eat, and if we try to change our diet that effort would be āgāmya, which would perpetuate saṁsāra and bondage. If this argument were correct, why did Bhagavan recommend mita sāttvika āhāra-niyama, the restriction (niyama) of consuming only sattva-conducive food in moderate quantities, which implies a vegetarian diet? Obviously there is some flaw in this argument, because he would not recommend something that would perpetuate saṁsāra and bondage, and he certainly would not say that such a thing is an aid (sahāyam) to self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

Whenever possible, do we not generally choose to eat whatever type of food we like to eat and to avoid whatever type we dislike? What we eat is no doubt determined by prārabdha, but since we generally eat what we like to eat, we can infer that our prārabdha has been tailor-made, so to speak, to suit our likes and dislikes. This does not mean that we will always experience only what we like to experience, because experiencing what we do not like is often good for our spiritual development, but since the power that has allotted our prārabdha is not only a benevolent power that aims to prompt and aid us in our spiritual development, but also an omniscient power and hence one that is not blind to our spiritual needs, it has allotted for us a prārabdha that will suit our present level of spiritual development and thereby help us in the further purification of our mind. Hence if we like to eat vegetarian or vegan food our prārabdha will have been allotted to suit this liking, so the chances are that it will make it possible for us to eat such food.

Moreover, we do not know what our prārabdha will be until it unfolds, so even if we have not been vegetarian till now, we should not assume that our prārabdha will make us eat non-vegetarian food for the rest of our life. When we are faced with choices in life, as we are at every moment, we generally choose whatever we prefer for one reason or another, and what we prefer is determined by our will, which consists of numerous competing vāsanās. Many of the choices we make may be driven to a greater or lesser extent by prārabdha, but our will is generally involved to a greater or lesser extent even in such choices, so it is not possible for us to distinguish to what extent, if any, each particular choice is driven by prārabdha and to what extent, if any, it is driven by our will.

We are not free to change our prārabdha even to the slightest extent, but we are free to change our will, so we need not and should not be concerned about prārabdha, but should be concerned about our will. If we rectify our will, the actions driven by our will will thereby be rectified accordingly, so if, for example, we prefer to eat non-vegetarian food or food that is for any other reason not sāttvika, we should understand that such a preference is an aśubha vāsanā and should therefore try to eliminate it from our will, which we can do by cultivating a liking for sāttvika food.

One important reason why we should like food that is vegetarian and produced only by means that do not cause harm (hiṁsā) to any sentient being is that if we choose to eat the flesh of any animal or any other food that is produced by means that cause any animal to suffer, we are thereby giving more value to our liking for such food than to other beings’ liking to live and be free from suffering, which means that we are being selfish and heartless. By such selfishness and heartlessness we are reinforcing the illusory distinction between ourself and others and thereby strengthening our own ego, giving priority to ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ rather than to the needs and wishes of others, whereas if we like to eat only food that is produced without causing any suffering or loss of life, we are being compassionate and kind and thereby dissolving this illusory distinction and its root cause, ourself as ego.

Though a liking for sāttvika food is a viṣaya-vāsanā, it is nevertheless a śubha one, so it is a lot less harmful (either to ourself or to others) than a liking to eat any kind of non-sāttvika food. Ultimately we need to destroy all viṣaya-vāsanās along with their root, the ego, but since some viṣaya-vāsanās will inevitably remain so long as ego survives we should give priority to getting rid of the more harmful (aśubha) ones and leave the least harmful ones to die eventually along with ego.

When Bhagavan says in the final sentence of the ninth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘எல்லா நியமங்களிலுஞ் சிறந்த மித ஸாத்விக ஆகார நியமத்தால் மனத்தின் சத்வ குணம் விருத்தியாகி, ஆத்மவிசாரத்திற்கு சகாய முண்டாகிறது’ (ellā niyamaṅgaḷilum siṟanda mita sātvika āhāra niyamattāl maṉattiṉ satva guṇam virutti-y-āhi, ātma-vicārattiṟku sahāyam uṇḍāgiṟadu), ‘By mita sāttvika āhāra-niyama [the restriction of consuming only sattva-conducive food in moderate quantities], which is the best among all restrictions, the sattva-guṇa [the quality of ‘being-ness’, calmness and clarity] of the mind increasing, for self-investigation help will [thereby] arise’, he clearly implies that a liking to eat only sāttvika food will help us to increase other sāttvika qualities in our mind, such as the liking to be self-attentive and thereby to surrender ourself, and this is why he says that opting to eat such food will help us to progress in this path of self-investigation.

What is important, therefore, is not so much what food we eat as what food we like to eat (which in most circumstances will determine what we actually eat), because our likes and dislikes are what determine the quality (guṇa) of our mind. Even if our prārabdha were to place us in circumstances in which we had no choice other than to eat non-sāttvika food in order to survive, we should nevertheless retain our liking to eat only sāttvika food and aversion for any other type of food.

In the Bhagavad Gītā Sri Krishna does not say what type of foods are sāttvika, rājasika or tāmasika, but in verses 8, 9 and 10 of chapter 17 he describes what types of food are liked by people of these three qualities, because we each like to eat the type of food that will nourish not only our body but also the predominant guṇa of our mind. As a general rule what we eat is determined by what we like to eat, and eating sāttvika food helps us to increase the sattva-guṇa of our mind, thereby making it more conducive to the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra).

So long as we rise as ego we will experience ourself as a body, and since bodies require food in order to survive we will like food of one kind or another. What kind of food we like indicates the quality (guṇa) of our mind, and since neither rajōguṇa nor tamōguṇa are conducive to self-investigation (because as Bhagavan said trying to investigate and see what we actually are with rajōguṇa is like trying to find a minute object with the aid of a lamp flickering in the wind, and trying to do so with tamōguṇa is like trying to separate the fine threads of a silk cloth with the aid of the blunt end of a thick iron bar), we should avoid any type of food that gives rise to such guṇas and should like only food that will help us to maintain and nourish sattva-guṇa.

Just as the quality of our mind is indicated by the kind of food we like, it is also indicated by our other likes and dislikes, because they are what determine the extent to which our mind is either sāttvika, rājasika or tāmasika. A mind filled with only śubha vāsanās is predominantly sāttvika, whereas one filled with aśubha vāsanās is predominantly rājasika, tāmasika or a mixture of both. Therefore the more aśubha a vāsanā happens to be, the greater obstacle it will be to self-investigation and self-surrender, so in the process of purifying our mind by weakening and eradicating our viṣaya-vāsanās we first of all need to get rid of aśubha vāsanās, such as desires to eat rājasika or tāmasika foods, even if that entails cultivating certain other viṣaya-vāsanās of a more śubha nature, such as a liking for sāttvika foods. As Bhagavan used to say in such contexts, sometimes we need to use a thorn to extract another thorn that is stuck in our foot, and after doing so we can discard both of them.

When he says in the final six sentences of the nineteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘பிறர் எவ்வளவு கெட்டவர்களாய்த் தோன்றினும் அவர்களை வெறுத்தலாகாது. விருப்பு வெறுப்புக ளிரண்டும் வெறுக்கத் தக்கன. பிரபஞ்ச விஷயங்களி லதிகமாய் மனத்தை விடக் கூடாது. சாத்தியமானவரையில், அன்னியர் காரியத்திற் பிரவேசிக்கக் கூடாது. பிறருக் கொருவன் கொடுப்ப தெல்லாம் தனக்கே கொடுத்துக்கொள்ளுகிறான். இவ் வுண்மையை யறிந்தால் எவன்தான் கொடா தொழிவான்?’ (piṟar e-vv-aḷavu keṭṭavargaḷāy-t tōṉḏṟiṉum avargaḷai veṟuttal āhādu. viruppu-veṟuppugaḷ iraṇḍum veṟukka-t takkaṉa. pirapañca viṣayaṅgaḷil adhikam-āy maṉattai viḍa-k kūḍādu. sāddhiyamāṉa-varaiyil, aṉṉiyar kāriyattil piravēśikka-k kūḍādu. piṟarukku oruvaṉ koḍuppadu ellām taṉakkē koḍuttu-k-koḷḷugiṟāṉ. i-vv-uṇmaiyai y-aṟindāl evaṉ-dāṉ koḍādu oṙivāṉ?), ‘However bad other people may appear to be, disliking them is not proper [or appropriate]. Likes and dislikes are both fit [for one] to dislike [spurn or renounce]. It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to intrude in other’s affairs. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If one knew this truth, who indeed would remain without giving?’, he clearly implies that we should curb the harmful elements of our will (viṣaya-vāsanās in general and aśubha vāsanās in particular), such as likes and dislikes (particularly more harmful ones), interest in worldly matters, inclination to interfere in other’s affairs, and selfishness, which is what makes us disinclined to share freely whatever we have with others.

Likewise in the next and final paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, namely the twentieth one, he implies that throughout our life we should be constantly trying to curb all the pravṛtti elements of our will and thereby bring about the subsidence and ultimate cessation of ego:
தானெழுந்தால் சகலமு மெழும்; தானடங்கினால் சகலமு மடங்கும். எவ்வளவுக்கெவ்வளவு தாழ்ந்து நடக்கிறோமோ அவ்வளவுக்கவ்வளவு நன்மையுண்டு. மனத்தை யடக்கிக்கொண் டிருந்தால், எங்கே யிருந்தாலு மிருக்கலாம்.

tāṉ eṙundāl sakalam-um eṙum; tāṉ aḍaṅgiṉāl sakalam-um aḍaṅgum. evvaḷavukkevvaḷavu tāṙndu naḍakkiṟōmō avvaḷavukkavvaḷavu naṉmai-y-uṇḍu. maṉattai y-aḍakki-k-koṇḍirundāl, eṅgē y-irundālum irukkalām.

If oneself [as ego or mind] rises, everything rises; if oneself subsides [is subdued, shrinks or ceases], everything subsides [is subdued, shrinks or ceases]. To whatever extent being subdued [subsided, low or humble] we behave, to that extent there is goodness [benefit or virtue]. If one is [continuously] restraining [curbing, subduing or reducing] mind, wherever one may be one can be [or let one be].
Throughout this paragraph Bhagavan is emphasising the need for us to subside and be subdued. In the second sentence, ‘தானடங்கினால் சகலமு மடங்கும்’ (tāṉ aḍaṅgiṉāl sakalam-um aḍaṅgum), ‘if oneself subsides [is subdued, shrinks or ceases], everything subsides [is subdued, shrinks or ceases]’, the verb he uses is அடங்கு (aḍaṅgu), which means to yield, submit, be subdued, shrink, subside, settle, cease, disappear, set or be still. In the third sentence, ‘எவ்வளவுக்கெவ்வளவு தாழ்ந்து நடக்கிறோமோ அவ்வளவுக்கவ்வளவு நன்மையுண்டு’ (evvaḷavukkevvaḷavu tāṙndu naḍakkiṟōmō avvaḷavukkavvaḷavu naṉmai-y-uṇḍu), ‘To whatever extent being subdued [subsided, low or humble] we behave, to that extent there is goodness [benefit or virtue]’, the verb தாழ் (tāṙ) means to become low, descend, decline, sink, diminish, decrease, hang down, bend, bow, be bowed down, be low or be subdued, and in this context it also implies to be humble. And in the fourth and final sentence, ‘மனத்தை யடக்கிக்கொண் டிருந்தால், எங்கே யிருந்தாலு மிருக்கலாம்’ (maṉattai y-aḍakki-k-koṇḍirundāl, eṅgē y-irundālum irukkalām), ‘If one is [continuously] restraining [curbing, subduing or reducing] mind, wherever one may be one can be [or let one be]’, the verb அடக்கு (aḍakku), which is the causative form of அடங்கு (aḍaṅgu), means to control, restrain, constrain, curb, tame, subdue or cause to subside, settle or cease.

How to subside, be subdued or cease? The answer to this was already given by him in earlier paragraphs. In the first sentence of the sixth paragraph he said, ‘நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgum), ‘Only by the investigation who am I will the mind cease [stop, subside or disappear forever]’, in which the verb he uses is அடங்கு (aḍaṅgu), which in this context means to cease forever; in the first sentence of the eighth paragraph he said, ‘மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை’ (maṉam aḍaṅguvadaṟku vicāraṇaiyai-t tavira vēṟu tahunda upāyaṅgaḷ-illai), ‘For the mind to cease [settle, subside, yield, be subdued, be still or disappear], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means’, in which the verb he uses is again அடங்கு (aḍaṅgu); and in the sixteenth paragraph he said in the first clause of the first sentence ‘முக்தி யடைவதற்கு மனத்தை யடக்க வேண்டும்’ (mukti y-aḍaivadaṟku maṉattai y-aḍakka vēṇḍum), ‘for attaining mukti [liberation] it is necessary to make the mind cease’, and in the first clause of the second sentence ‘மனத்தை யடக்குவதற்குத் தன்னை யாரென்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டும்’ (maṉattai y-aḍakkuvadaṟku-t taṉṉai yār eṉḏṟu vicārikka vēṇḍum), ‘For making the mind cease it is necessary to investigate oneself [to see] who [one actually is]’, in both of which the verb he uses is அடக்கு (aḍakku), which in this context means to make it cease forever.

Therefore in this final sentence of the final paragraph ‘மனத்தை யடக்கிக்கொண் டிருந்தால், எங்கே யிருந்தாலு மிருக்கலாம்’ (maṉattai y-aḍakki-k-koṇḍirundāl, eṅgē y-irundālum irukkalām), ‘If one is [continuously] restraining [curbing, subduing or reducing] mind, wherever one may be one can be [or let one be]’, what he means by ‘மனத்தை யடக்கி’ (maṉattai y-aḍakki), ‘restraining [curbing, subduing or reducing] mind’, is making it subside in such a way that it will eventually cease forever, and since there is no adequate means to do so other than self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), what he implies when he says ‘மனத்தை யடக்கிக்கொண் டிருந்தால்’ (maṉattai y-aḍakki-k-koṇḍirundāl), ‘If one is [continuously] restraining [curbing, subduing or reducing] mind’, is that we should be so steadily self-attentive that we thereby keep the mind constantly in check, curbing the extent to which and impetus with which it rises and goes outwards.

When we attend to anything other than ourself we rise as mind and thereby become active, and the more we attend to other things the more the mind flourishes and grows strong, so in order to curb its rising we need to be steadily and vigilantly self-attentive. This curbing or restraint of the mind is what Bhagavan means by the term மனோநிக்ரகம் (maṉōnigraham) when he says in the second clause of the first sentence of the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? ‘மனோநிக்ரகமே நூல்களின் முடிவான கருத்து’ (maṉōnigrahamē nūlgaḷiṉ muḍivāṉa karuttu), ‘manōnigraha [restraint, subjugation or destruction of the mind] alone is the ultimate intention [aim or purpose] of [all spiritual] texts’.

In some of the comments on my recent articles various friends have questioned whether it is possible for us to control our mind, and some even argued that it is not possible and therefore futile to try to do so, but the verb அடக்கு (aḍakku) means to control in the sense of curb, restrain or cause to subside or cease, so Bhagavan would not have used this verb in these sentences of Nāṉ Ār? if it were not possible for us to control our mind in this sense. If it were not possible for us to do so, we would not be able to attain liberation, because as he said in the first clause of the first sentence of the sixteenth paragraph, ‘முக்தி யடைவதற்கு மனத்தை யடக்க வேண்டும்’ (mukti y-aḍaivadaṟku maṉattai y-aḍakka vēṇḍum), ‘for attaining mukti [liberation] it is necessary to control the mind’, meaning that it is necessary for us to curb the rising of our mind and thereby make it subside and cease forever, which we can do by being keenly self-attentive.

When Bhagavan talks about ‘மனத்தை யடக்குவது’ (maṉattai y-aḍakkuvadu), controlling, curbing, restraining or causing mind to subside or cease, he implies that we should do so by trying to be self-attentive as much as we can, but for most of us it seems to well-nigh impossible to constantly and steadily self-attentive, so why does it seem so difficult? Nothing could actually be easier than being self-attentive, because self-awareness is our real nature, but to us it seems difficult because we have more liking to be aware of other things than to be aware of ourself alone.

Therefore in order for us to curb the rising of our mind it is necessary for us to nourish the nivṛtti elements of our will and to curb its pravṛtti elements, namely those elements that cause us to rise and go outwards, which are what are called viṣaya-vāsanās, desires or inclinations (vāsanās) to be aware of phenomena (viṣayas). Some viṣaya-vāsanās are stronger and more harmful than others, because they drive us outwards more forcibly and thereby blind our vivēka more effectively, bloating ourself as ego to a greater extent, and these are what are called aśubha vāsanās, so they are the ones that we need to curb most urgently.

However our ultimate aim is to curb not only our aśubha vāsanās, which are the grosser manifestations of ourself as ego, but all our pravṛtti vāsanās, because though some of them are relatively more aśubha than others, even the more śubha ones are nevertheless still aśubha in the sense that they impel us to rise and go outwards, albeit somewhat less forcibly and in a less unpleasant manner. To the extent that we curb the more aśubha elements of our will, it will become easy for us to curb the rising of ourself as ego, at least to a certain extent, and to the extent we curb the rising of ego, we will thereby curb all of its pravṛtti vāsanās, including the more śubha ones.

Therefore curbing the pravṛtti elements of our will is an inherent and indispensable part of the process of curbing and eventually eradicating ego, because ego is their root and foundation, and they are the fuel that sustains it. If we tell ourself that eradication of ego is our sole aim, yet refuse to recognise the need for us to curb the pravṛtti elements of our will, particularly the more aśubha ones, we do so at our peril, because we will never be able to eradicate ego until we have curbed all such elements of our will to a considerable extent. We cannot proceed along this path of self-investigation and self-surrender without progressively purifying our will along the way, so when we find aśubha vāsanās lurking in our heart or manifesting in our behaviour, we should do our best to curb them and should not fool ourself into believing that we need not be concerned about them because we are practising self-investigation. Without curbing our aśubha vāsanās to a considerable extent we will not be able to go deep in the practice of either self-investigation or self-surrender, and without going deep in this practice we will not be able to curb all the other more subtle viṣaya-vāsanās, which, though more śubha, nevertheless impel us to rise and go outwards.

50. Without rectifying its will, ego will not investigate itself keenly enough to see what it actually is

Finally a word about the title of this article, ‘Like everything else, karma is created solely by ego’s misuse of its will (cittam), so what needs to be rectified is its will’, before anyone objects either that ego does not exist and therefore trying to rectify its will is an unnecessary distraction that will only perpetuate the illusion that it does exist, or that what is required is not to rectify its will but only to investigate it to see that it does not exist. Such objections would arise only in the minds of those who do not understand how strongly ego is bound to its will — so strongly that the two cannot be separated except by the dissolution of ego, whereupon its will will be dissolved along with it.

The will (cittam) is what is called the ‘causal body’ (kāraṇa śarīra) and it is the subtlest of the five sheaths that constitute whatever body (or person) ego currently mistakes itself to be, so as Bhagavan implies in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ego comes into existence, stands, feeds itself and flourishes only by grasping or attaching itself to the will and other four sheaths. Therefore without its will ego would not even seem to exist.

The reason why the will is called the ‘causal body’ is that the seeds that sprout as all other phenomena, including the other four sheaths, are viṣaya-vāsanās, which are the pravṛtti elements of its will, so without these vāsanās there would be nothing for ego to grasp or attach itself to. Therefore ego is completely dependent on these pravṛtti elements of its will for its survival.

This can also be explained in another way. Ego seems to exist only because it attends to things other than itself, because if it were to attend only to itself, it would dissolve in and as pure self-awareness, which is its real nature, and it attends to things other than itself only because it wants to, so its viṣaya-vāsanās, which are its wants or desires to be aware of other things (viṣayas or phenomena), are what causes it to face away from itself and thereby sustain its seeming existence. Therefore we cannot eradicate ego without first weakening its viṣaya-vāsanās to a considerable extent.

Yes, ego does not actually exist, and therefore it needs to investigate itself very keenly in order to see that it does not exist, but the reason why it does not investigate itself keenly enough to see that it does not exist is that its liking, desire or inclination to be aware of other things is stronger than its liking to be aware of itself alone. Therefore without rectifying its will by strengthening its love to be aware of itself alone and thereby weakening its desire to be aware of other things, ego will not investigate itself keenly enough to see what it actually is.

Likewise without rectifying its will ego will not be willing to surrender itself entirely. Therefore rectifying our will is part and parcel of the process of both self-investigation and self-surrender, so anyone who believes that rectifying the will is unnecessary has not understood what the practice of both self-investigation and self-surrender actually entail.

Though the will can be rectified to a certain extent by other practices of love or devotion (bhakti), it cannot be rectified entirely by any means other than self-investigation, which is the culmination of self-surrender. Not only is self-investigation the only means to rectify or purify the will entirely, because it is the only means to eradicate ego, which is the origin, root and foundation of the will, being the one whose will it is, but it is also the most effective and rapid means to rectify it, because it is the practice of sending the mind in diametrically the opposite direction to the one in which all its impurities (namely its pravṛtti elements or viṣaya-vāsanās) are sending it.

The more we turn our attention back to ourself, the more the nivṛtti elements of our will will be strengthened and its pravṛtti elements will be correspondingly weakened, but even when we are facing outwards we need to keep its pravṛtti elements in check, trying to avoid being carried away by them as much as possible. In this way our whole life should be dedicated to this mission of rectifying our will by weakening its pravṛtti elements and strengthening its nivṛtti elements, which we can do most effectively by minimising the attention we pay to other things and maximising the attention we pay to ourself.

In brief, the ego seems to exist only because it wants to exist and thereby be aware of things other than itself, so it will cease to exist only when it is wholeheartedly willing to surrender itself entirely along with all its desires and other elements that constitute its will. Therefore it is all a matter of what we want, so rectifying what we want is not only the key that unlocks access to the path of self-investigation and self-surrender but is also a crucial part of the benefit to be gained by diligently following this path.

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Sanjay Lohia said...

When we die, we will be allowed to carry our diamonds along with whatever rubbish we have

It is believed that when Alexander was on his deathbed, he told his three last wishes to the people around him. Out of these three, his two wishes were as follows:

Strew gold, silver and other precious stones on the way to the graveyard to let the people know that though I spent all my life accumulating riches, not even a grain of gold will come with me when I leave this world. I want people to understand that it is a sheer waste of time, energy, and peace of mind when one yearns to be rich.

Have my hands dangling out of the coffin, I want people to know that I came empty handed into this world and likewise will go empty-handed from this world.

Reflections: The following is an imaginary conversation between Bhagavan and one of his devotees:

Devotee: Bhagavan, do you know about Alexander’s last three wishes?

Bhagavan: Yes, I had read somewhere.

Devote: Isn’t it a great lesson for all of us? We spend all our life accumulating things only to leave everything behind and leave. Aren’t we foolish?

Bhagavan: Yes, you leave everything behind, but if you leave before your ego is annihilated, you will have to carry two things with you. Do you know what they are?

Devotee: No, please enlighten me.

Bhagavan: You have some diamonds and also a huge pile of rubbish with you. You will have to carry both of these with you when you die, so be prepared. Don’t accumulate too much rubbish; otherwise, it will be a problem for you to carry it. [Bhagavan’s gives a hearty laugh]

Devotee: Bhagavan, please make this clear. I am not able to understand anything.

Bhagavan: Ok, listen. These diamonds are your sat-vasana (inclination just to be) and this rubbish is your vishaya-vasanas (inclination to be aware of phenomena). Whatever sat-vasana and vishaya-vasanas you accumulate until you die, you will have to carry these with you in your next life (dream), is it clear now?

Devotee: Yes, I am trying but it is not easy to grasp these things in one go.

Bhagavan: Yes, your life should have only one goal, that is, you should single-mindedly endeavour to try to experience yourself as you really are, and you can do this only be self-investigation. Even if you fail in this life, at least in this process you will accumulate a huge amount of sat-vasana. Such sat-vasana will give you a head start in your next life.

Devotee: So no effort goes to waste?

Bhagavan: Yes, no effort at self-investigation goes to waste. However, all your outward directed efforts will certainly go to waste. Such efforts are like the all the rubbish I was talking about earlier.

Devotee: Thank you Bhagavan. I think now is the time to gather some diamonds.

Bhagavan [laughs]: Very good!






venkat said...

Michael

Until one is a jnani, one cannot know the answer to this question. You say that quoting texts is insufficient, but you are quoting and interpreting Bhagavan's writings to support your contention. I interpret Bhagavan in line with the Upanishads, which do clearly say that consciousness is the light by which all this is seen.

This is also in line with the Muruganar quote that I set out:

"This true seeing is another, wondrous kind of seeing unlike the differentiated vision based on mental imagination in which we perceive in terms of the triad seer, sight and thing seen. It is for this reason that it is termed 'seeing without seeing' . . . It should be realised that that which witnesses the jiva, that which - as the soul of the soul, and the pure consciousness at the core of objectifying consciousness - is known as the indwelling godhead, is only Arunachala. Just as the eye can know that which is seen, but that which is seen cannot know the eye that sees it, THE WITNESS CAN KNOW THE JIVA BUT THE JIVA CANNOT KNOW THE WITNESS"

To be honest, I'm not sure this really matters - and I'm happy to agree that I may well be wrong. We both agree that we need to turn inwards and do self-investigation. There is little purpose in conceptualising and arguing over what remains thereafter.

Best wishes,
venkat

venkat said...

Thank you Samarender. No, I have not come across him - I will listen.

By the way, I also liked John Wheeler - he seemed to meet with people for free, and he now seems to have disappeared without trace or fanfare.

venkat said...

Michael,

Just reading Sadhu Om's commentary on v.15 of Aksharamanamalai:

"ARUNACHALA IS THE EYE TO THE EYE, THAT IS, IT IS THE CONSCIOUSNESS WHICH ILLUMINES THE MIND, WHICH SEES THROUGH THE PHYSICAL EYES. Since the very nature of the mind is to see only second and third person objects through the eyes and other senses, how and by what eye can it see Arunachala, which the the reality of itself, the first person. . . Since the mind is only a reflection of Arunachala, the real Self, it can see Arunachala only when Arunachala graciously sees it."

venkat said...

Michael

I think Sadhu Om's "A Light on the Teaching", v102 is helpful in interpreting this:

"That state in which any object seen is not experienced as other than the one who sees, is alone the state of reality. If the seer, who is an un-real ego rises, then only will all the unreal objects other than 'I' rise and seem to exist".

I understand Sadhu Om to be saying that "the state of reality", ie pure consciousness, is one in which objects are seen, but are not experienced as other that oneself, ie everything (not just the body-mind) is since as one-Self.

When the ego arises, it differentiates between the body-mind ("me") and others, and thus separate subject - objects are believed to exist.

Rukmani said...

Michael,
I am pleased that you considered my (rhetorical) question (asked to venkat on 17 September 2018 at 20:25) "How can pure self ever witness the ego ?" as perfectly reasonable. Thank you.

* said...

So disappointing, Sanjay and Michael. Two endlessly flowing fountains of wisdom, yet we are unable to answer a simple question.

I've already posted what Ramana had to say about 'authorities' like Sanjay and Michael - the blind leading the blind - and since this website is dedicated to Ramana's teachings, I'll leave it there.

It's been a pleasure.

...just one more thought: if I ever get a parrot, I'm definitely going to name it Sanjay.

Unknown said...

Venkat,

While you are at it, you might also want to listen to Swami Sarvapriyanandaji's series of lectures (12 in all) on Drik-Drsya Viveka (titled "Introduction to Vedanta") here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx7O2zDqi6I&list=PLBh-iYJ1Q_hRn-1WgwiBj7CfasK6TOqG5

Swamiji's latest videos are put up here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/vedantany1894/featured

Glad you liked John Wheeler. Yes, he has disappeared from the scene. Earlier he used to hold free satsangs somewhere in California. I read somewhere that the reason for his disappearance is that he is keeping bad health.

Halfway through Sri Srinvasa Rao's transcribed talks on Aparokshanubhuthi. I am finding them very good. Thanks for referring them to me.

Dharmacakra said...

Sanjay Lohia,
"So our urgent question should be how do I get out from here? It is not much use enquiring how or why did ego come into existence, or enquiring how did I get all these vishaya-vasanas and so on."
My objection:
In order to become free from samsara it can be quite well very useful to know how or why did ego come into existence, or enquiring how did I get all these vishaya-vasanas and so on. Because with entire understanding the way and cause for having fallen into samsara we will find the way back much easier.

Athos said...

Sanjay Lohia,
"When we die, we will be allowed to carry our diamonds along with whatever rubbish we have".
Thanks for your good story you told us about Bhagavan and his devotee.:-)

Epikur said...

Sanjay Lohia,
you write "We want to enjoy this world because we are not willing to accept that all this is unreal."
You do not understand that nothing is unreal.
Because there is only svarupa how can there exist anything unreal ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Dharmacakra, I said it is ‘not much use enquiring’ about ego, vasanas and such things. By using the term ‘much’ (which means ‘a large amount’ or ‘to great extent), I did admit that some information about ego, vasanas is useful. But once we have known sufficiently about them, we should focus only on trying to surrender our vishaya-vasanas and eradicate ego. However, Bhagavan did tell us about the nature of ego and how we have accumulated all these vasanas.

He explained that ego is a formless phantom which comes into existence by grasping form and it sustains itself by grasping more and more forms. This ego is chit-jada-granthi (entanglement of awareness and insentient things) or cidabhasa (a semblance of awareness). Likewise, he informed us that our every action done by our will leaves behind a vasana (an inclination to do such again and again). He also explained that we should continue self-investigation until even a single vasana remains. In order to experience ourself as we really are, we need to entirely give up our interest in everything else.

However, once we have understood these, we should focus our entire attention on eradicating our ego and its vasanas. There is no use dwelling too much on the past history of these things. We have taken a monumental task, so we should be uni-focused. We should try and practise surrender and self-investigation as much as possible and as intensely and deeply as possible.

So Bhagavan gave us a bit of theory of ego and vasanas to help us in our surrender and investigation. We should not be preoccupied with such theories but ignore everything by focusing on our practice. Bhagavan’s path is all about practice, practice and more practice.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Dharmacakra, this is in continuation of my previous comment. I just remembered one point:

If we find that a thief has entered our house and is trying to take away our valuables, what will we do? We will obviously try and chase him out by whatever means – may be by calling the police if needed. Before chasing him out, we will not sit and analyse, ‘how did he get in; who helped him in; since how long has he been here?’ and so on.

Likewise, we now find a big thief within us – this ego. It is stealing our happiness. What do we do? Should we sit and analyse, 'how or when or why has ego come into existence’? No, our urgent and immediate task is to chase this thief - ego - out of our house. We can do so only by attending to it closely and intently. This ego-thief will surely take to its heels if it discovers that it has been.

Moreover, this ego and its vasanas have no real existence, even though they seem to exist. So why should we reify them by analysing them too much?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Correction: This ego-thief will surely take to its heels if it discovers that it has been seen.

Dharmacakra said...

Sanjay Lohia,
of course,
1. "we should continue self-investigation until even a single vasana remains. In order to experience ourself as we really are, we need to entirely give up our interest in everything else. "
2. "we should focus our entire attention on eradicating our ego and its vasanas."
3. "we should be uni-focused."
4. "we should try and practise surrender and self-investigation as much as possible and as intensely and deeply as possible."
5. "we should not be preoccupied with such theories but ignore everything by focusing on our practice. "

But I should like to emphasize that understanding the way and cause for having fallen into samsara will let us find the way back much easier. Such understanding will have an effect like a red thread on our way back home.

Salazar said...

Sam, about 10 years ago I attended a lecture by John Wheeler in a bookstore in Mountain View, CA. I found his interpretation of Advaita Vedanta refreshingly simple but also profound. I started an email exchange with him which culminated into a personal meeting in Santa Cruz, CA. An unassuming guy, he certainly didn't play the "guru" and he also didn't hang up any pictures of sages or anything like that.

He is influenced by Nisar. and Bob Adamson, I do not agree with all he had to say, but his stuff and that by Bob Adamson gave me some interesting insights which I didn't find anywhere else.

Bob Adamson's, "what is wrong right now unless you think about it?" sounds simple and unassuming but is more profound than any talk about vasanas.

Roger said...

Section 46 of the blog above is perhaps the only useful statement here: "Self-investigation (atma vicara) is not imagining..."

MJ has written 77 printed pages in the blog above and all of it is an invitation to imagination.
The majority of posts here are about imagination.
Sadhu Om is quoted "That state in which any object seen is not experienced as other than the one who sees, is alone the state of reality."
Sadhu Om is speaking from philosophical imagination and not direct experience.

Why should we consider even for an instant some projected philosophical imagination or grovel in the imagined superiority of Atma Vicara when in EVERY moment the opportunity exists to place attention within?

Salazar said...

Roger, I concur with your section 46 assessment. That section is a good interpretation of Bhagavan's teaching. However then in section 47 imagination is introduced again with the concept of "love".

So what is the difference for you between atma-vichara and "to place attention within"?



Sanjay Lohia said...

nin ishtam en ishtam: meaning 'your will is my will'

The following is based on Michael’s views from the video: 2018-09-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: discussion with Michael James on the practice of self-surrender (46:00 to 1:02). How do we surrender to Bhagavan? Michael explains this beautifully:

Whatever worries and concerns trouble us, we should hand them over to Bhagavan with an attitude – ‘Bhagavan this is your problem. Please take care’. But we should have no expectations. We should not expect him to solve our problems. Whatever the outcome – favourable or unfavourable or whatever – we should take it as Bhagavan’s will. The problem may get worse, but still, we should accept it as Bhagavan’s will.

My grandmother is extremely ill. I try to give that worry to Bhagavan by saying, ‘Bhagavan, please take care of her. You know what is best’. If we do this we should accept whatever the outcome may be. She may recover or she may die the next day, it is all Bhagavan’s will. This outcome is what is best for her spiritual development and best for all of us.

Everything happens according to prarabdha, which are the fruits to be experienced by us in this lifetime which is most favourable for our spiritual development. The seemingly bad outcome may turn out to be something different. However, even the bad things are given to us for a purpose.

In verse two of Sri Arunachala Padigam, Bhagavan sings, nin ishtam en ishtam - meaning ‘your will is my will’ and that is happiness for me. That should be our attitude. ‘Thy will be done’ – that is surrender. We have truly surrendered only when we give up all our worries and concerns about our problem.

Reflection: Bhagavan is the infinite love which is taking care of us and all our near and dear ones. Can we ever fathom his infinite knowledge, power and love? No, so what Bhagavan can do or is doing is way beyond our imagination.



Michael James said...

In a comment on my latest video, 2018-09-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: discussion with Michael James on the practice of self-surrender, I was asked, ‘Do you suggest to put attention on the I-thought which is still an object... or on the PURE awareness devoid of the I-thought?’, to which I replied:

The ‘I-thought’ is just another name for ego, which is not an object but just the subject, the perceiver of all objects.

What is aware of phenomena of any kind whatsoever is only this ego or ‘I-thought’, which rises and stands as the false adjunct-mixed awareness ‘I am this body’, but what appears as this false awareness called ego is only pure awareness, just as what appears as a snake is only a rope. If we look at the rope carefully enough, what do we see? Only a rope. Likewise, if we attend to ego keenly enough, we will see only pure awareness, because that alone is real.

The snake seems to exist only so long as we do not look at it carefully enough. Likewise, ego or ‘I-thought’ seems to exist only when we do not attend to it carefully enough.

Therefore the only way to remove the ‘I-thought’ and see pure awareness devoid of it is to look at it (ourself) very keenly, because when we do so we will see that we are not the ‘I-thought’ that we seemed to be but only pure awareness.

Kunlun said...

Roger Isaacs,
nothing prevents you to take the opportunity to place attention within in EVERY moment.
There is really no need to grovel before your own imaginations.

By the way I admire you for assuming to know that Sadhu Om is speaking from philosophical imagination and not direct experience.

Michael James said...

After seeing the reply I reproduced in my previous comment, the same friend wrote another comment: ‘Thanks Michael! The reason I asked because from what I understood is that Ramana said to stay on the i-thought until it dissolves and then the real pure I will take place... He said to repeatedly return to this pure I. So I was wondering if one could stop looking at this i-thought and instead to go Directly to the pure awareness. (Nisargadatta said this i-thought is still an object that needs to be transcend)’.

In reply to this I wrote:

So long as we mistake the rope to be a snake, what we see seems to us to be only a snake and not a rope. Since we do not seem to see any rope at all, we can only look carefully at the snake, but if we look at it carefully enough we will see that what we were looking at all along was not actually a snake but only a rope.

Likewise, so long as we mistake ourself to be this ego, the subject or perceiver, what we seem to be is only this ego and not pure awareness. Since we do not seem to be pure awareness at all, we can only look carefully at ourself as this ego, but if we look at ourself carefully enough we will see that what we were looking at all along was not actually an ego but only pure awareness.

Therefore attending keenly to ego or ‘I-thought’ is the only means to transcend it and thereby go directly to pure awareness.

In other words, ego is the doorway to pure awareness. However, we are now looking outwards from this doorway at the world, so to return to pure awareness we must turn back and look inwards through this same doorway through which we are now looking outwards.

Kunlun said...

Sanjay Lohia,

you quote: "Whatever worries and concerns trouble us, we should hand them over to Bhagavan with an attitude – ‘Bhagavan this is your problem. Please take care’. But we should have no expectations. We should not expect him to solve our problems. Whatever the outcome – favourable or unfavourable or whatever – we should take it as Bhagavan’s will. The problem may get worse, but still, we should accept it as Bhagavan’s will."

Why shall we not try to solve our problems firstly by our own effort ?
Why should we not lie in our bed which we have made our own ?
Why should we weigh upon Bhagavan and burden him with our home-made worries ?

Devaraja said...

Roger Isaacs and Salazar,
regarding the assessment "Section 46 of the blog above is perhaps the only useful statement here: "Self-investigation (atma vicara) is not imagining...".

Perhaps some readers may be interested to know in which way and to which order you can or do use section 46 of Michael's recent article.

Michael James said...

In continuation of the conversation that I reproduced in my previous two comments (this and this), the same friend wrote a third comment, ‘I just want to ask one last question... regarding Sadhu OM, was he realized? did he ever claim to be?’, to which I replied:

No, he did not claim any such thing, because only ego can say ‘I am realised’. What is real is always realised, but will never say ‘I am realised’, and what is unreal can never be realised.

What he would have replied to such a question is: ‘If I am Sadhu Om, I am not realised, and if I am realised, I am not Sadhu Om’. Why? Because ‘Sadhu Om’ is the name of a person, and a person can never be realised. So long as we are aware of ourself as ‘I am this person’, that is self-ignorance, and when we realise what we actually are, we will realise that we were never a person but were always just pure and infinite self-awareness.

According to a Tamil proverb that Bhagavan often referred to: ‘கண்டவர் விண்டில்லை; விண்டவர் கண்டில்லை’ (kaṇḍavar viṇḍillai; viṇḍavar kaṇḍillai), ‘those who have seen do not say; those who say have not seen’.

And as he said in verse 33 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:

“Saying ‘I do not know myself’, ‘I have known myself’, is ground for ridicule. Why? To make oneself an object, are there two selves? Because being one is the truth, the experience of everyone.”

Incidentally, Sadhu Om wrote a poem, யார் ஞானி? (yār jñāni?), ‘Who is a Jñāni?’, which will enable you to understand his view about all such questions. A translation of it is available here.

Salazar said...

Devaraja, I do not “use” section 46, I did atma-vichara before I came across Michael’s blog and I didn’t change anything since. It is something you do not learn from reading descriptions about it but by simply doing it (without being [or believing to be] the doer).

A huge obstacle though is the belief one could “enhance” atma-vichara besides simply “doing” it.

Devaraja said...

Salazar,
thanks for your reply.

Kunlun said...

Michael,
thank you for giving the link to your translation of Sadhu Om's poem யார் ஞானி? (yār jñāni?), ‘Who is a Jñāni?
One cannot take it to heart often enough.

counter said...

Michael,
your recent comment of 24 September 2018 at 19:51 appeared first with time-stamp 24 September 2018 at 19:44 - which then disappeared.

Unknown said...

Salazar,

Nice to know you met John Wheeler. I agree with you that his message is very, very simple and yet profound. Definitely, a shift happened for me after I read his books.

Like you say, he is a disciple of Bob Adamson, who in turn had met Nisargadatta. By the way, I have been in touch with Wheeler's disciple Stephen Wingate over email and spoke to him a couple of times (via Whatsapp - I found him very gentle and amiable), and find his message also very refreshing (not that it is any different from John Wheeler's). Wingate lives in Boston and holds meetings there.

Roger said...

Hi Michael James,
You have crafted a noose that precisely fits your own neck.
you SAY:
those who have seen do not say; those who SAY have not seen

Then why do you SAY soooo much? LOL!

Michael, you constantly SAY things such as "The ‘I-thought’ is just another name for ego, which is not an object but just the subject, the perceiver of all objects.

You are confined to mechanical repetition of the texts. Nothing but philosophical imagination. If you actually experience that which you speak about why don't you describe your experience using your own words?

The best thing would be for you to withdraw into seclusion and practice what you preach.
Then perhaps there is a chance that you might someday teach from experience.
As it is now... there is this comical situation where you preach that you have the ONLY way and yet apparently no recent teachers in your lineage have successfully applied this "ONLY" way!! HA!!!





Roger said...

Hi Salazar,
What is the difference between atma-vicara and "to place attention within" ?
Fine by me if you mentally replace the two. I know how particular things get here.

The only thing of real value is YOUR actual practice.
You seem to describe the spontaneous experience of Being without effort. What subtle effort for you (something like Atma Vicara?) leads to a quiet focused receptive inner state ripe for repeat occurrences? If thought or grasping takes you out... how to reduce that effect? Of course I do not expect an answer.

Salazar, section 47 on "love" is long and rambling. Do you have a specific thought about it?

Devaraja,
How do you personally take your mind out of imagination and remain centered in some inward way? Can you do this based on help that you have heard here? If Michael's advice is not sufficient then find another teacher.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Kunlun, you ask, ‘Why shall we not try to solve our problems firstly by our own effort?’ Surrender to Bhagavan does not mean that we should not let our body, speech and mind act because they will act as they are meant to act. So we shouldn’t try to give up our actions but should try to give up our desires behind our actions. We should try and give up our expectations. The outcome is decided by Bhagavan, and we cannot influence it in any way. I think this is one of the important messages in Gita.

So what we should surrender to Bhagavan are our concerns, worries, attachments, fears and so on. In short, we should try to surrender our will by saying nin ishtam en nishtam - ‘your will is my will’. We should happily accept whatever Bhagavan has decided for us because he loves us more than we love ourselves. Our love is divided between our love for ourself and for others. But Bhagavan loves us as himself. So our love for ourself is finite, but his love for us in infinite.

You also ask, ‘Why should we weigh upon Bhagavan and burden him with our home-made worries?’ First of all, all our worries are ‘home-made’. We fabricate our own worries by misusing our will. Bhagavan doesn’t want us to worry about anything because he knows that our worries and concerns are unnecessary. Bhagavan is taking more than perfect care of us in all possible ways.

When we hand over our burdens to Bhagavan, are we giving him headaches? No, because Bhagavan is effortlessly but loving taking care of this universe, so our small burden doesn’t trouble him in any way. In fact, by carrying our burdens on our heads we are unnecessarily straining ourselves. Bhagavan is like a train which is carrying us and all our cares and concerns. The question is why should we be bothered about something where we have no say? We cannot change our worldly circumstances even if we want to. So why waste our time and energy on such things?

Yes, Bhagavan has given us one duty which only we can do. He wants us to unceasingly practise self-investigation until we experience ourself as we actually are. Unfortunately, he is incapable of doing this for us. In fact, we have no other duty in the actual sense.



Sanjay Lohia said...

Our devotional practices lead to self-surrender, and self-surrender leads to self-investigation

Most people who worship God in one form or another do so because they expect various things from God. They do not really love God and therefore are not willing to surrender to God. That is why we see so many people who outwardly appear to be pious but are not actually good people. They will be ruthless in their business; they will be ruthless in their treatment of others. However, they will piously pray every day - go to temples, mosques, and churches. This sort of kamya-bhakti (devotion for worldly gains) is not true path of devotion but is a precursor to devotion.

To the extent we love for Bhagavan, we would like to give ourself to Bhagavan. If, for example, we claim to love a person but are always thinking about what we can get from that person, that is not true love for that person. True love is not about taking but about giving. So the ultimate gift is the gift of ourself. So if we truly love Bhagavan, we must be willing to give ourself to him wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

So all devotional practices lead to self-surrender, and self-surrender leads to self-investigation. Self-investigation is the culmination, the last stretch on the path of self-surrender. Likewise, self-surrender is the last stretch on the path of devotion.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-09-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: discussion with Michael James on the practice of self-surrender (16:00)

Kunlun said...

Sanjay Lohia,
you say "We should happily accept whatever Bhagavan has decided for us because he loves us more than we love ourselves. Our love is divided between our love for ourself and for others. But Bhagavan loves us as himself. So our love for ourself is finite, but his love for us in infinite."
Is it not said that Bhagavan is atma-svarupa and as such nothing but pure self-awareness. How can we expect then to get his decisions for us out of his all-embracing love ? Can pure self-awareness at all facilitate making decisions ? Does not making decisions come into conflict with pure self-awareness as a contradiction per se ?

Kunlun said...

Sanjay Lohia,
thanks again for your transcription of an extract of a Michael-James-video.
You quote "Most people who worship God in one form or another do so because they expect various things from God. They do not really love God and therefore are not willing to surrender to God."
Because of our sensation of shortage of satisfaction people must resort to God. To whom else shall they resort if not to God ? How can people love God for their lack of happiness ? Shall they love God already/merely for the fact of their plain existence ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Kunlun, Bhagavan, who indeed in pure-consciousness, does not help us to make decisions. We make our own decisions by using our will. Yes, we do act in some cases without having to use our will because such actions are in accordance with our prarabdha. However, prarabdha is primarily concerned with our preordained experiences in each life, but in order to bring such experiences to fruition, we do need to act using our body, speech and mind. So sometimes we are forced to act in certain predetermined ways whether or not our will also coincides with such actions.

Bhagavan merely ordains our prarabdha, but in which case he is not making any decisions for us but is merely dispensing the fruits of our past actions.

You seem to suggest that people worship God because they are always dissatisfied, and they feel that God can remove their dissatisfaction? Yes, when we start worshipping God, we do go to him with a sort of a shopping list: ‘Bhagavan I want this, this and this, and since you have the power to give such things, why not do it for me. Bhagavan, you know I have nowhere else to go’. This is how we begin our so-called devotion to God.

However, is this real devotion to God? No, we are actually devoted to the things which we want from God than to God himself. Since love is the main thing in our devotion, without such love our ‘devotion’ does not purify our minds. The mere actions of worshipping will not purify us. It is because to the extent we love God, to that extent our desires and attachments towards other things are reduced. However, when we practise kamya-bhakti (devotion to fulfil our desires), our desires and attachments are not reduced.

However, even such kamya-bhakti has one use. That is, even if we indulge in such kamya-bhakti, we are at least recognising the existence of some higher power. So, as Michael says, ‘this sort of kamya-bhakti is not the true path of devotion but is a precursor to devotion’. So to this extent, even such kamya-bhakti is better than no bhakti at all.

Salazar said...

Hi Roger, I also do not see a difference between atma-vichara and “placing attention within” and I agree with your statement that the only thing of real value is actual practice. Or just to be.

You asked, “If thought or grasping takes you out... how to reduce that effect?”

That’s tricky because that what takes it out (mind/thoughts) cannot reduce it. The mind cannot reduce that effect because any activity IS the cause of seemingly been taken out. Any attempts of the mind to find a "solution" must backfire.

Sri Ramana’s clue of asking oneself (in that special circumstance) “who is trying to reduce that effect” is the only constructive contribution of the mind which (ideally) leads the mind back to the thought-less “state” of ‘I am’. Anything else by the mind is an impediment.

Regarding section 47 and “love”, I repeat, it is an imagination. Subject-object related “love” can be an aid but as with all aids, it needs to be dropped eventually, it will be an obstacle. I categorically maintain that subject-object related love or personal love is an impediment for atma-vichara. Sri Ramakrishna’s and Ramana’s love is impersonal, something impossible for the jiva. It is inherent with Jnana, and as with everything with Jnana, it cannot be cultivated nor attained.

I have to admit, I had to chuckle when I read the first part of your comment on 25 September 2018 at 02:21



Salazar said...

Roger, in my previous comment I said, “[…] which leads the mind back to […]” and that is actually incorrect. The mind cannot be led to a thought less state that is impossible, it is inherently a thought and cannot be led away from that. As much as water cannot become dry.

So the question, “who is trying to reduce that effect ..." is a helpful aid by the mind to ***remember*** “I am”, which is always there, but is forgotten most of the time with mind activity. When you “love” God then you have forgotten Self. When you plan your diet you have forgotten Self. When you think the thought “I should” you have forgotten Self. And so on ...


Salazar said...

Roger, one more thing. “Turning within” or vichara is what it is. To elaborate about “distinctions” of practice is an impediment. It is said that it is more important of the quality of turning within rather than the length.

Sounds like a nice idea. But how is that accomplished? Any ideas or attempts of “vichara with quality” can only backfire since it is a mind activity and therefore obstructs vichara. The intention to ‘do quality vichara’ is samsara and a delusion. As is the intend to do vichara for a long period of time.

That is not vichara nor being. It is being with “adjuncts”; adjuncts of delusion.

There is absolutely no need to add something to ‘I am’ or being. That must be understood!

It just IS, with no concerns of quality nor time.

Salazar said...

I also find the abstract description of how to turn the mind within at various degrees, 120 degrees, 150 degrees, with a final 180 degrees (= self-realization according to Michael) not only as not helpful but also misleading.

Why? Because it is useless while "doing" vichara and an impediment if one beliefs that reminding oneself of that abstract model would actual have an impact. It does and cannot and as such not helpful at all!

Furthermore it misleads because it implies a certain amount of time "needed" to acquire the desired. That itself is an impediment and prevents any possible "acquisition" like "self-realization". The belief in time is ego and as long as that belief is not relinquished ego will prevail. To mix vichara with the notion of future attainments is a self-deluding activity.

Also, the ego can never EVER become self-realized with its own effort. That is impossible and Bhagavan has never said nor implied that.

Salazar said...

The seemingly "final" step is entirely independent from an ego/mind/individual entity.

Roger said...

Hi Salazar,
I'll leave you with some Annamalai Swami quotes.

Continuous attentiveness will only come with long practice. If you are truly watchful, each thought will dissolve at the moment that it appears. But to reach this level of disassociation you must have no attachments at all. If you have the slightest interest in any particular thought, it will evade your attentiveness, connect with other thoughts, and take over your mind for a few seconds; and this will happen even more if you are accustomed to reacting emotionally to a particular thought. ~ Annamalai Swami

Self-inquiry must be done continuously. It doesn't work if you regard it as a part-time activity. ~ Annamalai Swami

In every moment you only have one real choice: to be aware of the Self or to identify with the body and the mind. ~ Annamalai Swami

Meditation must be continuous. The current of meditation must be present in all your activities. With practice, meditation and work can go on simultaneously. ~ Annamalai Swami

If you can hold on to this knowledge 'I am Self' at all times, no further practice is necessary. ~ Annamalai Swami

When I say, "Meditate on the Self" I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it. Be aware of what remains when thoughts stop. Be aware of the consciousness that is the origin of all your thoughts. Be that consciousness. Feel that this is what you really are. If you do this you are meditating on the Self. But if you cannot stabilize in that consciousness because your vasanas are too strong and too active, it is beneficial to hold onto the thought, "I am the Self; I am everything." If you meditate in this way you will not be cooperating with the vasanas that are blocking your Self-awareness. If you don't cooperate with them, sooner or later they are bound to leave you. If this method doesn't appeal to you, then just watch the mind with full attention. Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other and watch how this ghost called mind catches hold of all your thoughts, saying, "This is my thought". Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us a knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts. Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts. ~ Annamalai Swami

Sanjay Lohia said...

Roger has posted a few sayings of Annamalai Swami. I would like to share my reflections on these quotes. The intention is not to criticise Annamalai Swami but to deepen our understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings:

(Annamalai Swami = AS)

AS: Continuous attentiveness will only come with long practice. If you are truly watchful, each thought will dissolve at the moment that it appears. But to reach this level of disassociation you must have no attachments at all.

Reflection: Yes, continuous self-attentiveness will come with long practice. Yes, we need to be watchful and not let our thoughts arise and do so we need to turn our attention on the thinker each time a thought arises. However, this is the way to deal with the thoughts which seem to arise only in our mind. How do we deal with all the phenomena that seem to exist in front of us because all these are also thoughts?

The only way to permanently destroy all our thoughts from arising is to destroy the thinker, and we can do so only by deep and sustained self-investigation. The thinker has to vanish forever, and without the thinker how can there be any thoughts (phenomena of any sort)?

He says, ‘But to reach this level of disassociation you must have no attachments at all’. He implies that to destroy our thoughts as and when they arise, we should have no attachment at all. However, if we have no attachment at all no thought can ever arise, and therefore without any attachments, we will need no further practice of any sort.

AS: In every moment you only have one real choice: to be aware of the Self or to identify with the body and the mind.

Reflection: Yes, I fully agree. Every moment we have a choice: do we face outwards or face inwards. If we face away from ourself we will experience ourself as this body and mind and will consequently also experience phenomena.

AS: Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us knowledge of its inner processes.

Reflection: This is a complete misunderstanding of Bhagavan’s teachings. Bhagavan doesn’t talk about ‘watch the mind wandering here and there’ even in one place in Nan Ar?, Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar.

The more we watch our thoughts, the more attached we become to those thoughts, so how can we get rid of our thoughts by this practice? We need to unceasingly watch or attend to the thinker (ego, ‘I-thought’) until the thinker dissolves forever along with all its thoughts.






Anonymous said...

LOL...

Sanjay Lohia, the ultimate devotee of Ramana, even better than Annamalai Swami.

Kunlun said...

Sanjay Lohia,
because I do not consider Annamalai Swami as a complete beginner I am sure that he knew how to do self-investigation correctly.

Salazar said...

Sanjay Lohia, with all due respect, you are not in the position to judge Annamalai Swami's teaching at all. Your last comment is a production of your hubris. Funny, the guy who likes to palaver endlessly about the importance of humility cannot see his own arrogance.

Since you like to judge Annamalai Swami, here is my opinion about your "comments": As I said before, they are best to be avoided. People who actually ask you questions should examine their heads, they are much better off to read a book, like GVK, instead.

IMO, Annamalai Swami got self-realized (that is also David Godman's opinion) and was one of Bhagavan's foremost disciples. Frankly, I am not so sure about Sadhu Om. He made a few statements which are kind of strange too.

Sanjay, you are picking up all of Michael's bad habits .... You'll not get realized aping him and his interpretations and bad judgments :)

Your sense of discrimination is terrible.

Wutai Shan said...

Now we see who is the real jnana-guru :-)
Welcome in Salazar's world of pure discrimination!

Roger said...

Hi Sanjay,

MJ strives to intellectually grasp and define precisely the teaching through his interpretations. This is an admirable attempt but doomed to utter failure because it's based on intellect rather than realization.

Unfortunately, neither Michael James nor his predecessor Sadhu Om were realized. Nor were MANY other anonymous (winking at Anonymous, no not you) people who were responsible for determining the "proper" interpretation of the teachings over the century.

Sanjay, your email shows the state of things.

In this intellectual attempt to grasp the teachings the focus becomes about "what is the correct interpretation and all other ideas are wrong". And... as so often happens with intellectual things the focus is on "this is the ONLY way".

So the teaching here is argument about what is the true teaching and the only way. The teaching here is divisive and argumentative, elitist and superior. These are qualities of the ego.
In the ashram in Bhagavan's presence (and I agree that his presence must continue here in the subtle realm) was there argument and a contest to see which follower had the correct interpretation? Ha! Ha! Ha!

The student here is taught "what are the correct teachings" and NOT how to realize. The teaching here is becoming an outward movement of intellectually asserting the correctness of the teachings RATHER THAN effectively looking within.

The teaching of Michael James is significantly ego based and encourages the ego.

Perhaps looking at other traditions we can see how this works.
Jesus realized God, surely there is no doubt about that.
But over 2000 years... his followers have emphasized "what are the correct beliefs?" based on intellectual interpretation of the scriptures. The result is division and ego in the worst way. Some think the Christians have killed and tortured more people than Hitler after all they had 2000 years to do it.

So I am totally serious. If Michael James really believes what he teaches then the ONLY viable course is for Michael James to retire into seclusion and practice what he preaches with absolute passion. And then there is the possibility however remote that he may actually realize God and revitalize the teachings.
Michael James, this is complete hypocrisy that you claim to know the "only way" while not speaking from realization. Shame on you.

Salazar said...

Come on "Wutai Shan" or better, "abusive Anonymous" (I see you hide behind another moniker, how many now, 20?), drop your obsession with "Salazar". It's getting old.

Nothing better to do? Maybe another round of your slimy flattery for Sanjay and Michael is in order? Or another round as "Anonymous" attacking Sanjay and then later claim it was me? You are pathetic!

Why do I even bother commenting to you ..............




Salazar said...

Roger, well put, I do not share Michael's style and not some of his interpretations. But what changed my sentiment re. Michael is his insistence of a "correct" translation. Now I juggle with more than one language too and can see the pitfalls of a bad translation but Michael takes this way too far.

In fact, he has made that to a monopoly that only a "good" Tamil-English translator is actually picking up Bhagavan's teaching. And who happens to be a Tamil-translator? Michael! Therefore it can only be him who could convey the actual meaning of Bhagavan, anybody else lacks the skill.

Sorry, that is only partially correct and only if one clings at every word or sentence by Bhagavan. Alas, one cannot "squeeze out" the meaning in dissecting sentences and texts no matter how well translated. That is a pitfall.

The true meaning can only come in silence, reading and reflection is a kindergarten aid and can become quickly an obstacle as I can observe on this forum. Mouna left for just that reason and I don't blame him for that.

Anyway, at first, two, three years ago I could not get what you, Roger, were referring to but now it has become clear to me. See Sanjay, I have progressed and revised my original assessment, I believe a sign of increasing maturity for you .... LOL

Nah, that is only reserved for Michael .... He already changed "Self" to "self", next it will be a change to "elf". :)

The naivete is mind-boggling.

Wutai Shan said...

Salazar,
do not look so whiningly. Your comments addressed to others are not just an example for excessive scruples.
Incidentally, I never - since 2006 - commented with "Anonymous".

muddy waters said...

Ah, Roger Isaacs sings again his old song of "superior" or "only way".
Could one ever stop his bewilderment and hopeless muddle ?

Salazar said...

"Wutai", so you admit hiding behind a new moniker .... if I can believe your statement (not to be "abusive Anonymous") what is a big IF. No matter what, you are deceptive and a coward.

If you do not like what I have to say (Garima perhaps? LMAO), show your pettiness in using always the same moniker. You ARE pathetic.

Besides personal attacks, do you have actually a constructive argument why do you not like my comment to Sanjay? I am all ears ....

Wutai Shan said...

Salazar,
now lets do something better.

Salazar said...

I already did and do something "better" (except responding to you :), you are the one with the pathetic personal attacks.

Roger said...

Hi Salazar,
Thanks, I read your earlier posts, however, I struggle to say anything definitive.

Whatever thing is said, it may have partial truth but the opposite is often also partially true.
The hindus have a point: the material layer manifests as the pairs of opposites: cold-hot, dark-light etc on forever.
Conceptual thinking (and teaching) is on the same level and can only express a limited perspective in a sea of opposites.

For example, Annamalai Swami says "Self-inquiry must be done CONTINUOUSLY."
Surely this is the absolute truth? No, it's just a very very important partial truth.
Salazar, your comment is also an equally important partial truth: "...The belief in time is ego"
"Continuously" is both partially true and yet it is not absolute because it contains the seed of time which is relative.

Michael James makes a FATAL BLUNDER: Michael teaches that all names and forms are relative... and repeatedly declares his NAMES (words) to be the ONLY WAY. MJ says names/words are relative yet declares his words to be absolute: this is delusion. Does everyone get this?!?

MJ's words have some favor of truth, just as the garbage heap may still have some remaining hint of palatable aroma.
Yes, MJ declares the ONLY truth... and then over time it shifts and there is a new absolute truth. Ha!

A huge problem here is that the words and personalities are given priority. The secrets of Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana have been lost. No words can be absolute. It's not about the words. Use the words as seeds for contemplation. The only truth is within. The inner truth is NOT discovered by outwardly asserting that a certain set of words is the only way. Contemplation is successful when the idea being held vanishes and nothing is left but profound stillness.

It seems there are dozens if not hundreds who claim lineage from Bhagavan and claim (falsely) to know. Yesterday I heard of another. But of all these, I celebrate one above all of them: Andrew Cohen. And this is for the single reason that he eventually realized (duh!) that he was not enlightened and retired into seclusion at least for a few years. This is the most profound example that Michael James could make. Michael, please withdrawn into silence as the ultimate example to your followers and the highest way for your own spiritual unfoldment.

Please join me in asking Michael James to stop teaching and writing and ask him to withdraw into silence. If what he's teaching works then it's time for him to demonstrate that he can become enlightened and speak from that state.

Salazar said...

Roger, I get your struggle to say any definitive. In my comments I make confident and absolute sounding statements, but they cannot be that at all. None can be, including statements by sages. Conceptual thought and statements have to be seen always in a relative light, they cannot be pinpointed the way Michael likes to do it, that is false and an impediment.

Your Annamalai Swami example makes a point, when he said “continuously” he of course referred to “time” but only in the context to distinguish between doing Self-enquiry for two hours in the morning or other set times and to do it always.

Self-enquiry is properly done without any acknowledgment of time; anything else is mind/ego and as such can never lead to realization. It goes along with Bhagavan’s suggestion to never acknowledge that “somebody” [me] goes to sleep. That acknowledgment is delusion.

Now you suggest asking Michael to stop teaching but I won’t join that appeal. Why? Even though I agree that Michael should not teach in a public manner (he lacks the qualification for it), it is not my job to interfere with anybody’s karma or actions. There are plenty who teach and most, if not all of them, do not have the qualification. According to Nisar., only somebody who is Self-realized has that qualification and he told David Godman that nobody else should teach publicly and David took his advice, others seem to have a different opinion, ignoring an advice of a sage.

Michael does what he does according to his prarabdha, maybe he “should” ( ;) inquire within ‘who is the teacher’ and stop identifying with that role. The interest to teach will then naturally drop ….

Overall I concur with most of your last comment, too bad that some Michael groupies do not get you and feel the need for snide remarks. People love to put somebody on a pedestal, they need the father figure who shows them “the way” and gladly relinquish for that any sound discrimination. That’s the way it is, look at these silly young girls who deliriously stammer “I love you Mooji!”.

Devaraja said...

Roger Isaacs,
"If what he's teaching works then it's time for him to demonstrate that he can become enlightened and speak from that state."
Why should Michael have a need to demonstrate seeming enlightenment ?
A sincer seeker has anyway nothing to show or demonstrate. Demonstration of liberation for whom and for which order ? Your lack of understanding is evidently unfavourable.
Should you not better withdraw your mind into silence than offer recommendations to Michael ?

Salazar said...

"Should not Michael withdraw his mind in silence than to offer recommendations to all who listen?"

One can use that argument always to "others" conveniently looking away that "Devaraja" should do exactly that instead to make that empty comment to Roger.

The most stupid and ignorant comments here are by those who demand a certain action by a certain other but forget of course themselves AND, even more hypocritically, they should direct that to ANYBODY else including Michael. Because that is true for all. Since nobody here seems to adhere to it, evoking it is pure ignorance and hypocrisy.

Devaraja said...

Salazar,
one can use that argument always to "others" conveniently looking away that "Salazar" should do exactly that instead to make that empty comment to Devaraja.
Alas, do you not too get stuck in pure ignorance and hypocrisy ?

Garima said...

Oh great Salazar and Roger are now bosom buddies, rejoice, what a double act they make. I actually think Salazar is Ed 'Edji' Muzika to be honest, very similar personalities. If you don't like Michael, his blog and the people on it why don't you both go and join a Sailor Bob Adamson forum I know you think highly of him Salazar / Edji unlike Sadhu Om who you are not sure about now because he says strange things. LMAO!! I forgot you meet John Wheeler, respect where respect is due there. Why don't you both hook up and start your own blog and pinch disillusioned Ken Wilbur devotees Ha !! Or take a leaf out of Mouna's book.

And for God's sake please don't reply you two. This blog is turning into the Salazar and Roger show.

Garima.

P.S - I am not Wutai, I am Garima, that's why I post as Garima.

Anonymous said...

No one has explained the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Mahasrhi better than Sir Micheal James has done as far as in English is concerned. I do not know if anyone else has done so in other languages. It is really sad that only posts and comments by Sir Michael James and Sanjay Lohia among so many here in this blog are actually are worth reading here and make sense. All others are absolute trash and posted by arrogant and ignorant egos who merely wish to show off, boast and brag about their own worthless egos. Salazar is the worst serial offender. Roger Issaacs or whatever zacks that is, is another.

Anonymous said...

Garima,

Well said indeed Garima. At last another wise comment from a very wise person (other than Sir Michael James and Sanjay) indeed.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Garima,

Salazar is not Ed Muzika. Edji is too proud to post any comment here in this blog or in any other except his own. I would not be surprised if the circus clown and buffoon Salazar has met Ed Muzika also.

Anonymous said...

Devaraja,

Well said indeed.

venkat said...

Sanjay

"AS: Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us knowledge of its inner processes.

Reflection: This is a complete misunderstanding of Bhagavan’s teachings. Bhagavan doesn’t talk about ‘watch the mind wandering here and there’ even in one place in Nan Ar?, Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar."

Really? Really??? You believe you are qualified to comment on Annamalai Swami's teaching - a man who has spent the majority of his adult life in Bhagavan's presence and humbly following his teaching. Who is it that you think you are?

If you actually had the humility to reflect on what Annamalai Swami might have meant, you would realise that this is one of the stages to see for oneself the futility of thought and the inner processes that trigger them. This them leads you to deeper vichara and self-abidance.

For the record, here is what Sadhu Om wrote:
"Whatever satisfies this definition of reality, having all the aforesaid three characteristics [existing always, without change, and self effulgent]. Therefore scrutinise and see whether there is anything in this world that can satisfy this definition. If you scrutinise carefully, you will find that every object exists for some time and then disappears, that every object undergoes change and is devoid of stability, and that every object is known only by the aid of some other thing".

When he talks about scrutinising objects, clearly the most subtle and difficult layer is that of thoughts. So pray, how is this different from what Annamalai Swami wrote? Or perhaps you now believe that Sadhu Om also completely misunderstood Bhagavan's teachings?

Anonymous said...

To Sanjay, Mouna is an idiot. He is reading all comments just like before and post his arrogant comments once again like before. Such is the nature of ego. Ego is addiction itself.

Anonymous said...

So much worthless trash from the fart producer Salazar over the years, not one has any worthwhile value relating to Bhagavan's teachings as beautifully explained by Sir Michael James. Each of Sir Michael James's article, comment and reply is such a gem. My only wish is Sir Michael James who is no less than Bhagavan himself is able to answer and post more of his precious thoughts on Bhagavan and his message.

Anonymous said...

To (Salazar-obsessed, abusive) Anonymous, and his aliases such as Garima, Wutai and other Chinese mountains:

You seem to misunderstand the purpose of life. It is not to beautifully explain the teachings of Ramana. It is not to produce articles, comments, replies as "gems". It is not to become a scholar, a preacher, or a teacher. It is to reach moksha.

Even a scholar like Michael cannot deny that there are people, who possess none of his qualities, but are enlightened nevertheless.

You are mistaking the finger for the moon. You are okay with people discrediting Ramana devotees like Annamalai Swami. Is it not fair that you "should" (as Sanjay likes to say) be okay with people 'discrediting' 'your favorite' devotee(s)?

Anonymous said...

Garima,

Roger Isaacs and fart making expert Salazar is the same schizophrenic moron talking to itself. Lol! Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

27 September 2018 at 00:17 comment was posted by Fartmaker Salazar as "Anonymous". Lol! Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

26 September 2018 at 07:34 comment to Sanjay Lohia was posted by none other than the "fake guru and schizophrenic Fartmaker Salazar itself a Anonymous. Lol! Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

Fartmaker Salazar posts some comments as "Anonymous" to put blame on another Anonymous person. What a circus buffoon Salazar is. How can such a worthless fartmaker like Salazar even deserve moksha? It will always exist as a "worthless ego" as it deservedly should. Lol! Hahaha!

ahamkara said...

Sanjay Lohia:

Mouna is reading the comments. It will be a matter of time before he breaks his vow of mouna and embarrasses himself. Not that it really matters anyway. Like you said he could have just kept mouna instead of taking a public vow.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Venkat, as quoted by Roger, Annamalai Swami said, ‘Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other […] Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts […]’

Please let us know where did Bhagavan give us such an advice? I believe, such techniques are recommended in vipassana meditation, and these were even recommended by Nisargadatta, but has Bhagavan ever recommended such practices? I do not think so.

Bhagavan said that a thing is real only if it is ever-existing, unchanging and self-effulgent. Sadhu Om commented on this by saying that by this standard of reality, no phenomena can be real. But this is all part of our process of manana. Our manana requires us to think deeply about Bhagavan’s teachings.

However, we have to give up all our manana when we try to turn within in order to practise self-investigation. Therefore Sadhu Om never meant that we should watch our thoughts as part of our practice. On the contrary, he once clarified to Michael that such watching of thoughts can never help us ‘to stay detached from all our thoughts’, as claimed by Annamalai Swami. Sadhu Om told this to Michael when they were discussing Nisargadatta’s teachings.

This is not to say that practises such as watching of thoughts are without any merit. It may help some but this was not a practice recommended by Bhagavan.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

In continuation of my reply to Venkat:

Self-investigation entails giving up all our mental activities, but watching of thoughts feeds our mental activity. So Bhagavan asks us to give up our mental activities. He says in paragraph six of Nan Ar;

If other thoughts rise, without trying to complete them it is necessary to investigate to whom they have occurred. However many thoughts rise, what [does it matter]? As soon as each thought appears, if [one] vigilantly investigates to whom it has occurred, it will be clear that [it is] to me. If [one thus] investigates who am I, the mind will return to its birthplace [the innermost core of one’s being, which is the source from which it arose]; [and since one thereby refrains from attending to it] the thought which had risen will also subside.

Bhagavan asks us to ignore our thoughts by investigating ‘to whom has this thought occurred’, so how can we agree with Annamalai Swami’s advice which is contrary to Bhagavan’s advice?

One may stay in Bhagavan’s presence for any number of years, but that does not imply that one has perfectly understood Bhagavan’s teachings? Why should we not critically examine whatever they say in the light of Bhagavan’s teachings? Bhagavan would say that like there is a shadow under the light of a lamp-post, there are many who remain near a jnana-guru for a long time but still, the darkness of their ego is not destroyed.

This is not to criticise Annamalai Swami personally. Obviously, he was a sincere devotee; otherwise, he would not have stayed with Bhagavan for so long. However, what matures our understanding in not the number of years we spend with sadguru but the depth and intensity of our sravana, manana and nididhyasana.

However, this is not to deny the benefit that one derives by being in one’s sadguru’s presence. It does mature us, but it may not fully purify our mind if we do not put their teachings into practice wholeheartedly. I do not claim that my understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings is perfect, but from whatever I know, I cannot agree with Annamalai Swami’s interpretation (as quoted above) of Bhagavan’s teachings.








Anonymous said...

The degree of arrogance being displayed by some on this blog is incredible. Time to wind it up. SL - get up on your own pulpit dude, instead of hijacking someone else's platform.

venkat said...

Sanjay

No one is arguing that we need to reach the state without thoughts. If you had actually read Annamalai Swami or the upanishads in general, that is not in contention. You take one quote of his, without the context of to whom and why he was addressing it.

The turn towards atma vichara requires an understanding of the futility of thoughts, and that is why Annamalai Swami, Nisargadatta, JK and others have suggested this approach of choiceless awareness. No one is saying that this is the only step. Clearly Sadhu Om suggested this himself, in the context of a broader sadhana.

People when they come to this teaching initially can't just pick up atma vichara, without actually seeing for themselves the futility of the world and thoughts. That is when proper self-investigation can start.

Fanaticism is not a route to moksha.

Anonymous said...

Muddy Waters,

regarding your comment of 26 September 2018 at 17:49.

Roger Isaacs and Salazar are one and the same person. Unscrupulous Salazar also posts comments under hundreds of other pseudonyms.

Anonymous said...

Sir Michael James is the owner of this blog. He can post whatever he wishes to do and to his credit he is doing an excellent job without making mistakes. Foolish and imbecilic morons who cannot understand what he says have no right to tell him to remain silent. Instead those who wish Sir Michael James to remain silent should themselves remain silent.

Anonymous said...

To Sir Michael James and Sanjay Lohia

"27 September 2018 at 13:21 comment" was posted by Salazar posing as "Anonymous". As blog owner and administrators you are welcome to check and verify.

Anonymous said...

To blog owner and administrators.

If I suspect any comment posted by Salazar posing as "Anonymous" and someone else, I will just say it so even if no one else cares about it. Why Should Salazar hijack this blog and post nonsense and lies about Sir Michael James and Sanjay Lohia? These kind of unpleasant posts about them are always from Salazar anyway. They can easily check which comments are posted from my computer if they seriously wish to do so.

Anonymous said...

Just like Sanjay believes that there are no other realized beings in the world except Michael and Ramana, there can also be nobody in this world other than Salazar who writes things which offend me.

My mind is smaller than a walnut, so I cannot imagine the possibility that there are OTHER people in this world who may agree with Salazar.

-abusive Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Abusive Anonymous, you are more than welcome to get out of this place. Your Salazar-obsessed rants are no longer funny.

Anonymous said...

27 September 2018 at 13:41 was posted by Salazar posing as Anonymous.

"Fartmaker expert Salazar", you are not the blog owner to tell me to get out. I will post my rhetorical comments about your schizophrenic worthless farts whenever I wish to do so. You are welcome to read them. Lol! Hahaha!!!

Anonymous said...

To Sir Michael James and Sanjay Lohia:

This is how the kind of respect Salazar has for both of you by posting unpleasant and derogatory comments about both of you under the user name "Anonymous, Roger Isaacs, * and many other pseudonyms. I am quite sure you must both have realized by now what this shameless and unscrupulous fellow Salazar is up to. Salazar does not have the basic language skills to even start a blog of his own. That is why Salazar is here in your blog farting away to glory toward his anticipated moksha.

Anonymous said...

Fartmaking expert Salazar, most of those who supposedly agree with your worthless schizophrenic farts are your own worthless and shameless ego posing as those very others you pretend to be and who agree with you. So it is your own idiotic and unrealized ego which agrees with your own worthless BS you post.

The most important people in this blog who really matter, namely Sir Michael James and Sanjay Lohia who post valuable posts relating to Bhagavan and his message do not agree with your unpleasant farts. In fact in of Sir Michael James's recent reply to you he correctly ridiculed you for the nonsense you have been farting.

மௌனமா யிருக்கை said...

Anonymous:

Salazar got humiliated by Michael James's recent reply to him. He did not even bother to respond to MJ's reply. Instead he got angry and offended at MJ and has been posting bad gossip about MJ and SL because his useless colossal ego got hurt. What an immature idiot Salazar is and this fellow is anticipating moksha for himself as you say? Will never happen to Salazar in eons of his lifetimes as an arrogant ego that he is.

Sanjay Lohia said...

We should do our best to curb our aśubha vāsanās

The following is an extract from section 49 of this article:

Therefore curbing the pravṛtti elements of our will is an inherent and indispensable part of the process of curbing and eventually eradicating ego, because ego is their root and foundation, and they are the fuel that sustains it. If we tell ourself that eradication of ego is our sole aim, yet refuse to recognise the need for us to curb the pravṛtti elements of our will, particularly the more aśubha ones, we do so at our peril, because we will never be able to eradicate ego until we have curbed all such elements of our will to a considerable extent. We cannot proceed along this path of self-investigation and self-surrender without progressively purifying our will along the way, so when we find aśubha vāsanās lurking in our heart or manifesting in our behaviour, we should do our best to curb them and should not fool ourself into believing that we need not be concerned about them because we are practising self-investigation. Without curbing our aśubha vāsanās to a considerable extent we will not be able to go deep in the practice of either self-investigation or self-surrender, and without going deep in this practice we will not be able to curb all the other more subtle viṣaya-vāsanās, which, though more śubha, nevertheless impel us to rise and go outwards.

Reflections: Pravrtti means rising, going outwards and being active.

It will help all of us if we try to understand what Michael is trying to explain here, particularly in the context of the current set of comments on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I bet my life that I read somewhere on this blog that the way to purify 'vasanas' is by carrying out self-investigation. Self-investigation IS the way to curb the vasanas.

But now Sanjay/Michael say there's something other than vichara, which needs to be done to curb those vasanas. You guys sure like to play whack-a-mole with situations and teachings.

Where was your sense of curbing your vasanas when you dared to claim that Annamalai Swami 'completely misunderstood' a piece of Ramana's teachings? If he didn't, you are a fool. If he did, it made no difference at all in order to reach realization. So why undue importance on splitting hairs?


If Sanjay decides to carry out self-investigation every time a vasana arises in him to point fingers at other realized beings and devotees, you will very quickly reach moksha. Instead of abusing Buddha and Swami and other beings, abuse your own vasanas into pushing you towards the goal. Or keep quiet.

Salazar said...

Anonymous, why does Sanjay need to believe that Annamalai Swami has misunderstood Bhagavan's teaching? Because otherwise he needs to let go of his clinging to a certain truth which he decided to be the "right" truth.

And, he was not criticizing Annamalai Swami, no no no, he was "deepening" our understanding with Sanjay's version of the truth. LMAO

If that is not a sign of confusion and ignorance mixed with hubris I don't know what is.

At least Michael has some seasoning and actual practice behind his back, Sanjay is just a little kid playing in the mud spouting out his undigested drivel. He is good in paraphrasing Michael's lectures, but quickly shows his vast ignorance when it comes down to his "reflections".

I find these mostly offensive and that he loves to exhibit this drivel to the public is born out of very poor judgment.

Salazar said...

I noticed that my good friend Garima, a devout admirer of "Salazar", confuses me with the uber-Guru Ed Muzika, a jiva gone over the edge[y] (pun intended :) of sanity. Thanks for the laugh, I needed that :)

Ed Muzika, who considers Sri Ramana as overrated and a mere peer of him, made a number of funny comments [although quite seriously meant by him) on his blog:

On 2-21-2015 he said, "[...] There is no final state, no ultimate teachings, Sahaja Samadhi is just another dead end path for me no matter how happy it makes some others, or provides some with a captivating goal. Ditto attaining the Void, or attaining constant bliss, or stillness or Christ Consciousness.

All of these I have experienced and they are all transcient, even as is life. What I am transcends all of these teachings and experiences. I am beyond all teachings, all experiences, all truths because I contain them all. Still, for me, the most important thing in life is having somebody or something to love. It keeps the ever-present Void from getting too cold, too remote, too dispassionate. [...]"

And then on 9-11-2016 he said, "[...] However, old habits die hard, and [Nisargadatta] Maharaj visited prostitutes after his wife died, and Robert Adams became a notorious womanizer, both, I think, trying to overcome periods of emptiness or boredom. [...]"

On 8-6-2018 he posted an email of a female admirer to him, "I love you. I feel you in my body as waves of energy pleasing me. The feel of these energies changes in different parts of my body. I don’t know how to describe it; it’s like a holy spirit. I’m contracting, my vagina... It’s like you enter me, but it’s so effortless, like a gentle wind. I’m so happy to be emptied from my diaphragm to my feet and filled with a sense of presence, going to my head also. It’s like when you say ‘Shakti is licking me all over."

On 7-10-2018 he revealed, "[...] But the desire for the total love or another, to physically possess and have wild sex is a tool I use to awaken Shakti in others, leading to total one-pointed worship and surrender that I went through before awakening. And I also teach others after their Shakti awakening about the power of love and sex to awaken love and desire in others.

That is why I believe this is the yoga of our times. It encourages love beyond all things, and surrender to one other. The desire for sex ups the processes power of awakening one’s entire energy network, Chakras, nervous system, and Nadi. Everything comes on fire leading to a generalized healing of body and mind, and the realization that we are not our bodies, but as Ramana put it, we are “spirit.” Even then your realization deepens and all the secrets of Consciousness and the Unborn are revealed, and it all starts with a surrendering to love."

***************************

This guy is nuts and a sad example how an ego gets corrupted by the desire to be a teacher. That's what "Edgy" recently has revealed, he only wants to be a teacher.




General Medical Council said...

Isn't Salazar's version of the truth very interesting ?
He ought to see the doctors at the loony bin, in the company of "Anonymous".

Salazar said...

I have no version of the truth you fool. It's not about personas, it's about waking up. But please keep slumbering.

The point is, only a sage can teach. Anybody else who teaches spirituality is a fool because it can only bite him eventually.

We talk here as peers, besides a few trolls who get off on projecting their shit onto others. They are like pesky mosquitoes, best ignored like you fool.

venkat said...

Salazar

Reflections: I have to concur with your comments about hubristic, offensive, juvenile drivel.

Best wishes,

venkat

Aham said...

Well this has deteriorated.

I suspect the frustration of at least some participants here is that the website and its discussion sections ironically emphasise intellectualisation and with that comes inflated self-importance.

Sri Ramana warned us about this in paragraph 16 of Nan Yar?, when He effectively stated mind should remain still and not over indulge in an intellectualisation of the Teachings.

This creates a dilemma for the ego. On the one hand it wants to associate with the written Teachings and people of like mind. On the other hand its primary job is to subside.

What to do?

A greater emphasis upon ātma-vicāra and less upon posting, reading, intellectualising is always the answer. This journey is an inward and solitary one.

Control said...

Regarding the last two comments above this very sad indeed and a bit scary to be honest. Salazar you once said you don't really take notice of people who don't have blogger accounts. Well I shall not be opening one in case you and your anonymous friend start delving into my private life and then post LINKS !!!! On a public Platform.

What are you going to say it wasn't me it was pre ordained. Doing this is the lowest of the low. It is pathetic, vicious and cruel. I am not singling Salazar out this is directed to anonymous too.

Who cares if Sanjay has a business or not whether he is rich or poor. Who cares if he donates to Michael to help him run his free blog which he only recently added a donate button to. Do you donate? If yes or no that's you business.

I don't post much and although the recent comments section has been full of unhelpful content I just ignore it but with regards this I wanted to express my concern.


Salazar and anonymous I would like your feedback on what I have said please.

Michael James said...

May I remind everyone who chooses to comment here that this blog is dedicated to ‘discussing the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana’, so please limit your comments to this subject and avoid all kinds of personal attacks, ad hominem arguments and abusive language, no matter whom it may be directed at.

Each one of us understands Bhagavan’s teachings from our own perspective and at our own level, so it is natural that our views about them differ, and hence it is appropriate for us to discuss our differing views and to offer well-reasoned arguments against views we disagree with, provided our sole aim in having such discussions is to refine and deepen our own understanding. However, though it is reasonable to argue against views that we consider to be incorrect, no matter who else may hold those views, our arguments should only be against the concerned views and not against any person who holds them. In other words, what we should discuss is only the merits and demerits of particular ideas, and not the merits or demerits of anyone who has expressed those ideas.

Some friends who comment here seem to regard anyone who does not agree with their own views to be stupid (‘knucklehead’ is a term that such friends sometimes use to refer to those they disagree with), but if we abuse such friends, as some others have been doing here, we are stooping to their level, and in some cases stooping much lower by using even more abusive language.

Therefore even if you notice that anyone else commenting here is criticising people rather than just their ideas, please do not resort to criticising them personally, let alone using abusive language about them. By all means argue in a reasonable manner against any ideas expressed by them that you disagree with, but please do not stoop to using ad hominem arguments or abusive language.

As I wrote in an earlier comment a few weeks ago, I have neither time nor inclination to police all the comments that are posted here, so I respectfully ask all of you to refrain from writing comments that include any form of personal criticism or abuse, and to limit all discussions to the subject of Bhagavan’s teachings.

banana breeder said...

"control"
hey you, do not use that identity anymore because I have used it sometimes already in the past (also control tower). And I do not want to get mistaken for you.

Milarepa said...

How did Michael and the major part of this sanga deserve all that idiotic rubbish of personal attacks ?
In the worst case Michael will close that blog for ever or at least for a while.

As far as I'm concerned I feel much dislike for such abusive language.

So I continue investigating : To whom is coming that dislike ?

Anonymous said...

Don't take a myopic approach, Milarepa.

Ask these:

To whom is 'coming' that vasana of claiming Buddha, Annamalai Swami and other realized beings as those who "misunderstood"?

To whom is 'coming' the vasana of claiming oneself as a scholar when one has large gaps in his understanding?

Anonymous said...

Milarepa, Anonymous 12:14, banana bender, control, general medical council,
same person playing games

....very creative

Anonymous said...

Good Michael, Thank you for policing out the business details of Sanjay and his family. It seems fear is what motivates people to remain straight, and with Sanjay that remains to be seen.

Don't worry Sanjay, your details are all available and safe on the internet, since you yourselves have decided to become a public figure. I suppose you thought that association with Ramana will always bring you adulation.

As we all know, his spirituality and his business are "completely separate" - given that he named his business "Ramana's", something which is not at all related to Ramana.



There's a saying in Gujarati w.r.t you two duo: "kuva ma hoy to havada ma ave". Literally, the water will pour out into the trough, only if it is first present inside the well.

You are smart enough to know what it means.

Oh, and if you handled your favorite devotee's ego well, you'd not need to police this blog.

I think I know the reason for your emphasis on discussions and philosophy - that is the major source of income for you. Since you are not yet realized, you are afraid of your livelihood. A realized being is not afraid; you are pretending to not be afraid, and then seek out sources of income to support your "essential" needs.

Do you know what is essential for a jnani? Just the ability to remain a jnani. Once that is achieved, food, water, shelter, businesses do not matter. Find an alive, human guru Michael, before it is too late.

Control said...

Banana breeder,
I was unaware "Control" was taken, I remember seeing "Control Tower" sporadically in the past anyway not sure why you need so many identities? But that is your business of course. From now on I will use just one " Ego21 " and will not use it much as I rarely post.
Regards.

Anonymous

You said.
Milarepa, Anonymous 12:14, banana bender, control, general medical council,
same person playing games

....very creative

You are mistaken, I posted as control and never posted as Milarepa, Anonymous 12:14, banana bender, general medical council. I can not speak on behalf of the others.

Regards.

banana breeder said...

Michael,
thank you for removing the seven most unpleasant and inappropriate comments.

banana breeder said...

Thank you Michael.

I am a very sophisticated and delicate jiva, just like you.

I am so sensitive, I cannot stand knowing that seven most unpleasant and inappropriate comments were lying there on the blog. Just look at my sensitivity; surely, I am eligible for your grace and teachings.

banana breeder said...

Control,
thank you (Ego21) for giving way.

banana breeder said...

False banana breeder, who writes about my thanking to Michael,
what's got into you, my dearest ?

Salazar said...

Michael, with all due respect, the deletion of my comment re. Sanjay's connection with you and its implications was entirely inappropriate. In fact that you have deleted it is proof for me that I hit a nerve and you are just covering up an unpleasant truth.

Of course that is your egos blog and as such it can't help it but do what it must.

P.S. To the others, if you believe that this was the low of the low then you have lost your sense of discrimination. I did not reveal any "secrets", nothing what is not already readily available on the net. The post of Anonymous triggered my curiosity and after less than five minutes casually on the net I got that info.

If Sanjay is concerned about his "privacy" he might have used a different moniker.

Michael, you just have lost my respect.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Pranam Michael James.

In light of the recent spate of ad-hominem deployed by some participants and the fact that you state that you have neither time nor inclination to police comments, I have a suggestion: consider changing the settings of this blog to allow only users with Google accounts to comment. Doing so will help in reducing the number and frequency of comments that include personal criticism and abuse. Of course, some participants may still frequently resort to ad hominem, but no one will have the cover of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay's (extended) family is a large business family with diversified businesses running in 3-4 states in India. And all of this can be found by searching on the internet. No wonder he has struggles detaching from such a comfortable and affluent life.

There's probable reasons to believe that they are funding Michael, publishers, ashrams and other gurus, at least partially, and at least as a way of 'cleaning' up the 'black' money/cash inherent in such large (but not too large) scale operations.

Sanjay cannot use a different moniker. How is he going to get his daily ego-fix?

Aseem, just go read your beloved's posting and see what Sanjay and MJ think about women. Of course, since you believe the same about women, you won't find it offensive. So what you are suggesting is anonymous posts are not allowed, but 'state-sanctioned' misogynistic behavior is all OK?

Ego21 said...

Salazar

You said.

"P.S. To the others, if you believe that this was the low of the low then you have lost your sense of discrimination. I did not reveal any "secrets", nothing what is not already readily available on the net. The post of Anonymous triggered my curiosity and after less than five minutes casually on the net I got that info.

If Sanjay is concerned about his "privacy" he might have used a different moniker.

Michael, you just have lost my respect."

Salazar you honestly condone what you and your anonymous friend did. You don't think it was inappropriate? You don't regret it at all on reflection? How would of you reacted if Sanjay had done a similar thing to you and started to nose around your affairs regardless of how easy it is to access the information? The fact is you spent time investigating then posted what you found so others could see. Why? Do you not think this is a bit childish and immature?

You say you have lost respect for Michael.

I wonder if visitors to this blog have lost respect for you.

Regards.

P.s - I changed from using "Control" to "Ego21" as I was asked to.

Salazar said...

Anonymous, LOL - now it make sense for me that Sanjay had at the top of his "bad" vasanas food.

Since it is sex for almost everybody else it sounded weird. Now it makes sense, growing up like a prince he must have gone quite attached to good food. Poor him :)

It now also makes sense why he needs to change his cell-phone habits (LOL), being such an "important" person he must be on his cell constantly.

All of my hunches re. Sanjay as a rookie with no clue are now confirmed.

Ego21 said...

My previous comment to Salazar is also directed to his Anonymous friend.

Salazar said...

Ego21, Sanjay could not have done the same with me because I guard carefully my privacy and only a lot of money and internet hacking could lead a path to me. Since I do not have ANY info of me on the net no info can be taken.

I just have taken something PUBLIC and re-posted that info on another PUBLIC forum. There is no wrong doing whatsoever! Not even on ethical grounds.

Sorry, better review your discrimination skills my friend.

Anonymous said...

Salazar, yup. I always wondered why he would say things like "if you take this life to be real, it'll be difficult for us to turn away from it". It makes sense from the perspective of a luxurious life. Even when they are trying to walk on the path of renunciation, they can't let the idea of luxury go.




Ego21, don't play respect/disrespect/childish/immature card while ignoring Sanjay and Michael.

Sanjay's business information is all available on the internet. Don't use things without knowing how they work; and for Sanjay that includes women (see his prejudiced post on a later thread).

Nobody is asking you to be "BRAVE" and use your real name everywhere. If you do not know how internet works, stay away from it.


Spirituality is a private affair, but the likes of Sanjay want to beat their large drums to show off their 'spiritual' advancements/nature. Who told him to link his business and spirituality together?

Most business owners don't go around brandishing their spiritual erections like Sanjay does. They keep a foto or two of their guru/God behind and on top of their counter, pray to him may be 2-3 times a day, some dhup/agarbatti, visit temples,etc. on occasions/festivals, and that's it.


If you all want people to agree with each other, that's not going to happen, especially when scholars like Sanjay hold negative/prejudiced/harmful views towards women/realized beings/other devotees, all the while being supported and condoned by MJ.

I am just here long enough to see my tolerance level, of the shenanigans that Sanjay and Michael pull here together, drop below the minimum threshold that I can bear. Latest: who wants to learn from a guru-shishya duo who thinks women are men's 'possessions', that women exists to be 'used' by men. These are not the biblical ages we live in.

You may want to try to reason with Salazar, since he does seem to genuinely respect Michael (if not Sanjay) and so his contributions can be of help here.

Salazar said...

Anonymous, as a default I have a good opinion of people I meet for the first time, especially if they are interested in spirituality. If I meet spiritual people I automatically assume that they adhere to an ethical basis and especially are sincere and truthful.

Now we are all human or better, we carry that ego around with us. And as long as that ego seems to exist, we fall prey to it, in obvious ways and not so obvious and more subtle ways. That’s why even people who possess a good conceptual knowledge of a teaching and with many years of practice are as much vulnerable to the antics of the ego as the “common” person on the street.

In the beginning I respected Sanjay and even enjoyed many of his comments, but often he made comments which seemed off to that what he quoted by Bhagavan. And over a course of months and years, still giving him reasonable doubt, I realized that he is just regurgitating Bhagavan’s teaching without having them digested in any way. He just blabbers concepts without any depth which can only arrive through the fire of actual practice and facing the demons and angels of the inner world.

Now that is a step anybody must take, but he just jumped ahead and is sharing his confusion with the world. Alas he has not the maturity to share his opinions on a public forum, that he nonetheless does reveals a lack of discrimination and a certain arrogance. He may be ready in a next life or the one after that, but not in this life.

Of course he’ll do whatever his desires drive him to and that’s it.

As I said, Michael has just lost my respect, the respect I reserve for those I deem spiritual mature or have impeccable integrity. Alas his recent action and his silence to the nonsense of Sanjay’s comments have changed my mind. I still respect Sam, Agnostic, venkat, mouna (miss you my friend) and a few others.

And I agree with you, those comments about “women” are inappropriate but since he is Indian I am not surprised since the Hindu culture including the Muslims considers usually women as second class entities whose role is to obey and serve their men.



Salazar said...

On second thought, since Sanjay has this antiquated opinion about women, what is his opinion about the homosexuals and lesbians in his country including the transgender?

Yes Sanjay, what is your opinion about them?

Ego21 said...

Salazar & Anonymous.

Feel free to justify your behaviour to yourself, maybe it is helpful to you in some way and helps you turn within as Bhagavan recommends. I will leave it there.

Bhagavan said...

To my dear children Salazar and Anonymous:

To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to intrude in other’s affairs. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself.

Salazar said...

Where did I intrude in Sanjay's affairs? That is bull shit.

An intrusion looks differently and actually then your two comments to me are intrusions as well in that f.ed up logic.

It is really offensive that one has to deal with these kind of inane comments! Do you guys have any common sense? I guess not.

Salazar said...

Ego21, you can put your "holier than thou" attitude where it belongs, in the gutter.

What do you not seem to get, I do not need to justify posting a link to Sanjay's business because there was absolutely nothing wrong with that!

My response was geared to help you out with your confusion. But I am afraid that was misunderstood too.

I am sorry, but that kind of attitude and thinking is confusion and ignorance of Bhagavan's teaching at its best.

Salazar said...

Hey Sam and Agnostic and many others, you are guilty of "intrusion"! You have posted multiple times links on this forum to other people's websites and business'. How dare of you to intrude into their affairs! Shame on you!

Salazar said...

By the way, to the guy who uses the moniker "Bhagavan":

That use is offensive for me on several levels and is not appropriate at all. I find that much more wrong than i.e. re-posting everything of Lohia's family business one could find on the net.

But then how can one enlighten ignorance?

Michael James said...

In order to reduce the amount of personal abuse and ad hominem attacks that have become so prevalent in recent comments, I have decided to follow the suggestion offered by Aseem in his most recent comment, namely to change the settings of this blog to allow comment only from users with Google accounts. I apologise to all those who wish to post comments about Bhagavan’s teachings but prefer not to use a Google account, but I hope you will understand the need for this (at least on a temporary basis) in view of all the personal abuse posted recently by anonymous users.

I am aware that this may not stop all personal abuse, so if any further comments contain personal abuse of any kind I will not hesitate to delete them.

Salazar, regarding the comment in which you say, ‘with all due respect’, that I have lost your respect, so be it. You are welcome to say whatever you like about me, because I have nothing to hide and am happy to admit that as an ego I am imperfect and still have plenty of desires, attachments and other shortcomings, but I decided to delete one of your comments (the only one of yours that I have ever deleted) because in it you directed personal criticism not only at a fellow devotee but also at his family. In doing so you crossed a red line that by any normal standards of common human decency would make your comment unacceptable. You may feel no shame in doing so, but I would consider it shameful to allow such a comment.

Why do you consider it acceptable to abuse others and their families in this way? Do you think that what Bhagavan wrote in the nineteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? does not apply to you but only to the rest of us?

“There are not two minds, namely a good mind and a bad mind. Mind is only one. Only vāsanās [inclinations, propensities, impulses or desires] are of two kinds, namely śubha [agreeable, virtuous or good] and aśubha [disagreeable, wicked, harmful or bad]. When mind is under the sway of śubha vāsanās it is said to be a good mind, and when it is under the sway of aśubha vāsanās a bad mind. However bad other people may appear to be, disliking them is not proper [or appropriate]. Likes and dislikes are both fit [for one] to dislike [spurn or renounce]. It is not appropriate to let [one’s] mind [dwell] excessively on worldly matters. To the extent possible, it is not appropriate to intrude in other’s affairs. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If one knew this truth, who indeed would remain without giving?”

Salazar said...

I directed personal criticism to Lohia's family? What? You must have read a different comment. I stated that his wife runs a business and that's it. That is not a personal criticism.

Regarding Sanjay I mentioned the same thing that they own several business' (at that time it was a pure assumptions by they way until you deleted that comment) and that they are wealthy. Where is criticism there?

I guess you didn't like me implying that Sanjay considers you as a guru and therefore funds you with generous donations. Again, where is the criticism. I stated a mere fact backed by Sanjay's own comments about you.

It must be then the end where I asked if we know the saying, that "one does not bite the hand that feeds you".

If you personally felt criticized by that then you must consider at least a kernel of truth in that. Otherwise, why deleting it? So it seems you are the party with a grievance because it cannot be the Lohias since I stated merely facts about them.





anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
good idea to put the brakes on that orgy of anonymous boos.

Aham said...

Sri Ramanasramam would have been a wild place had it not been managed by Sri Ramana's brother.

Good decision Mr James.



Bob said...

Like a breath of fresh air....

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Michael James said...

Samarender, in your comment of 20 September 2018 at 04:26 you have used various terms such as ‘I’, ‘ego’, ‘I-thought’, ‘Chidabhasa’ and ‘chit-jada granthi’, all of which refer to same thing, namely yourself, the subject, perceiver or one who is aware of all this.

You say, ‘I think Bhagavan gave different definitions of ego and mind at different places, so it can be tricky to tease out one unambiguous viewpoint’, but though he used the term ‘mind’ in various different senses in different contexts (usually as a synonym for ego, but sometimes in a more general sense as the totality of all thoughts or mental phenomena), he used the terms ‘ego’ and ‘thought called I’ (or ‘I-thought’, as it is often translated in English) in just one unambiguous and clearly defined sense, which he explained in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: “The jaḍa body does not say ‘I’; sat-cit does not rise; in between one thing, ‘I’, rises as the extent of the body. Know that this is cit-jaḍa-granthi, bondage, soul, subtle body, ego, this saṁsāra and mind”.

That is, ego is neither the body (a term that he used to refer to all the five sheaths collectively) nor real awareness (sat-cit), but just the spurious ‘I’ that rises between them, so to speak, as the false adjunct-mixed self-awareness ‘I am this body’. Since this is a confused mixture of real awareness (cit) and a body, which is non-aware (jaḍa), it is called cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) that seemingly binds cit and jaḍa together as if they were one.

This is what he meant by the terms ‘ego’ and ‘thought called I’, and he never gave any definition of these terms that conflicted with this definition. Since this ego is not real awareness (sat-cit) but just a semblance of awareness (cidābhāsa), he clarified elsewhere that this alone is what the term ‘cidābhāsa’ refers to. That is, other than ego there is no such thing as cidābhāsa.

You say that cidābhāsa is ‘the consciousness portion of the ego’, but this is not correct. The consciousness portion of the ego (the cit portion of the cit-jaḍa-granthi) is just pure awareness, which is our real nature and what he refers to in verse 24 as sat-cit (being-awareness or real awareness).

You say, ‘Ego is nothing but the belief on the part of the Chidabhasa that it is the body and mind’, but ego is not a mere belief. It is the believer, the ‘I’ that believes this or that. Moreover, it does not merely believe that it is body and mind; it is actually aware of itself as body and mind, and it itself is nothing but this false awareness ‘I am this body’.

Because ego is a kind of awareness, albeit just a semblance of awareness (cidābhāsa), it has likes and dislikes, desires and attachments, hopes and fears, and so on, so it can want either to perpetuate its seeming existence or to surrender itself entirely so that it subsides and dissolves back into its source, the pure and infinite self-awareness from which it appeared.

Though I referred to it in the previous sentence as ‘it’, it is what we currently experience as ‘I’, so the meaning of that sentence would be clearer if I rephrase it thus: Because I, as this ego, am a kind of awareness, albeit just a semblance of awareness (cidābhāsa), I have likes and dislikes, desires and attachments, hopes and fears, and so on, so I can want either to perpetuate my seeming existence as this ego or to surrender myself entirely so that I subside and dissolve back into my source, the pure and infinite self-awareness from which I appeared as this ego.

Unknown said...
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anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
thanks for your clear statement about the (real) nature of ego (cidābhāsa).

anadi-ananta said...

Unknown,
are you not suffering from flatulences ?

Unknown said...
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anadi-ananta said...

Unknown,
at any rate we kiss. But you seem to have been kept unfortunately on a tight rein.:-)

Unknown said...

Thanks, Michael, that is pretty clear, except I would like to trouble you to clarify further.

1. You write "That is, ego is neither the body (a term that he used to refer to all the five sheaths collectively) nor real awareness (sat-cit)". So, clearly you are implying the ego is NOT the mind because the mind is a part of the five sheaths. But does not Bhagavan equate in many places the mind with ego or I-thought, because what can have thoughts, including the I-thought, except the mind endowed with reflected consciousness. Not only that, even in the verse you quote from Ulladu Narpadu (Verse 24), does he not use the terms subtle body and ego as being synonymous, and what is the subtle body except the mind plus a few other things, so again there is a conflation of the mind and ego.

2. Bhagavan says in some place (Maharshi, Sri Ramana (1996), Self-Enquiry. In: Words of Grace, 3rd ed., Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, p 22; but of course it could have been the mistake of the person who wrote self-enquiry based on what Bhagavan said or meant, but it could not be that he was so mistaken and Bhagavan would have let it pass through if there was such a gross error) that manas, buddhi, and ahamkara (ego) all refer to the same entity in its different functional capacities. And that accords with traditional Advaita, in which mind is classified as consisting of those manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara (ego). But this is going against your interpretation that the ego and mind are different entities.

If it is difficult to tease out these doubts of mine in writing I could call you on WhatsApp at a time convenient to you if you would email me your telephone number. Of course, I will understand fully well if you do not want to be disturbed on that medium.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

To Mr. James: Sir, regarding your explanation of cidabhasha and sat-cit on 30 September 2018 at 10:47, you have contradicted yourself like you have done it consistently before. If you say you have not realized the atma-swaroopa as your mentor did then how will you know for sure what exactly is sat-cit?

I only know what cidabhasha is, which is as you say a semblance of awareness or reflected consciousness but I cannot say for sure what sat-cit is which is absolute consciousness-awareness (not mere reflection) because I have never experienced it without the ego in the waking state.

I know this may make you angry but you cannot say different things about cidabhasha. Once you say cidabhasha is mere semblance of awareness or reflected consciousness, another time you say the cit portion of cidabhasha is only the pure awareness or cit. Then what is sat-chit that I am unaware of in waking and dreaming?

So you can correct me sir if you wish to, where I have misunderstood you? My apologies to you if I offended you.

anadi-ananta said...

Unknown,
if I may jump in,
referring to your statement "Once you say cidabhasha is mere semblance of awareness or reflected consciousness, another time you say the cit portion of cidabhasha is only the pure awareness or cit.",

Would you tell where you find any contradiction ?
You seem to overlook that the consciousness portion of the 'cit-jada-granthi' is just pure awareness (as Michael wrote), whereas 'cidabhasa' is just the ego which is the false adjunct-mixed self-awareness 'I am this body'.

Unknown said...

Josef, the ordinary day and night awareness-consciousness which I experience during waking and dreaming as cidabhasha is not the absolute or pure awareness-consciousness or sat-cit which Sri Venkataraman experienced as sahaja samadhi in his entire lifetime. If such was the case why would I even post comments here. Yes, I agree that Mr. James has a thorough understanding of Sri Venkataraman's life's experience which I do not. Mr.James can correct me if he wishes to.

Unknown said...

Michael,

You quoted Verse 24 of Ulladu Narpadu of Bhagavan, which says, "The jaḍa body does not say ‘I’; sat-cit does not rise ...". How is that Advaita or Nonduality, because Bhagavan seems to be saying there are insentient things like body and sentient thing like sat-chit or being-consciousness, which is clearly a case of duality because he is positing two things, one insentient and another sentient. That smacks of the dualist Sankhya philosophy, which talks of Purusha (or consciousness) and prakriti (or insentient nature) as being separate.

In my opinion, everything is consciousness and only Consciousness exists, and body-mind is a mere name and form that consciousness assumes, and not an existing thing or substance, much like pot is not an existent thing except as name and form, the substance or thing being clay alone. Hence, it does not make sense to talk of body as jada or insentient because there is no such "thing or substance" called a body except in name and form to which the labels of sentient or insentient can apply. Body "exists" only in as much as a pot "exists", that is, only in name and form, the substance which has assumed that form being Consciousness and clay, respectively, and going by the name of body and pot, respectively.

I would like to know your opinion on the above matters.

anadi-ananta said...

Unknown,
you are right in saying that Sri (Venkata-) Ramana experienced sahaja samadhi in his entire lifetime.
And we all see that Mr. Michael James has a deep and thorough understanding of Sri Ramana's teaching. That is the reason why we endeavour to study his articles and comments with keen attention.

anadi-ananta said...

It is evidently clear that in matters of everyday life non-duality is not promisingly applied.

venkat said...

Josef,

Michael has done us a great service in carefully translating Bhagavan's writings, and I am truly grateful for this.

However, it is not self-evident that he has a "deep and thorough understanding" of Bhagavan's teaching. Michael's interpretation diverges in important respects from the writings of Muruganar, Sadhu Om, Annamalai Swami, Lakshmana Sarma, Sadhu Natanananda, key texts that Bhagavan recommended (e.g. Ashtavakra Gita, Kaivalya Navaneeta) and Sankara's advaita (which Bhagavan always concurred with).

Therefore rather than set Michael up as an undisputed authority on Bhagavan's teaching, we would be well-advised to develop our own understanding of this. This is not to question Michael's sincerity. But freedom is too important to not reason out for oneself.

Salazar said...

venkat, well said and I can wholeheartedly endorse your entire comment!

Michael's articles addressed to me have clarified any residual doubts I still had on a few subjects and there is no need for me to frequent this blog and/or his website any longer.

By the way, I still stand to most what I've said about prarabdha, origin of thought, the nature of ego's "will", etc. Michael's articles addressed to me were helpful in that regard that my disagreement with quite a few of his interpretations and the subsequent articulation in form of several comments by me let any residual doubt which were lingering vanish.

Thank you for all of your comments.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
I agree that we must develop our own understanding of Bhagavan's teaching.

I admit that I did not much study the mentioned texts. However, I do not think that Michael's interpretation diverges in important respects or is considerably different from the writings of Muruganar, Sadhu Om, Annamalai Swami, Lakshmana Sarma, Sadhu Natanananda, key texts that Bhagavan recommended (e.g. Ashtavakra Gita, Kaivalya Navaneeta) and Sankara's advaita (which Bhagavan always concurred with).
Perhaps one's own different interpretations or own level of understanding may give that impression.
Shall we not limit ourself to the essentials namely to avoid falling victim to the ego's traps ?
But in order to get clarity you might reveal where Michael deviates in fundamental points from the opinion of the mentioned prominent contemporaries.

Aham said...

I admire Mr James' dedication to Truth. I bet he practices vichara constantly.

If I agree or disagree with his words, or if what Mr James says/writes I deem "right" or "wrong", it is irrelevant!!; these are merely passing clouds.

The great treasure is ones dedication to the practice of vichara. To remain as the boundless sky, to Be.



.

Unknown said...

Ramana Maharshi on Names and Forms

Q: What is the difference between the mind and the Self?
A: There is no difference. The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world. Cotton made into various clothes we call by various names. Gold made into various ornaments, we call by various names. But all the clothes are cotton and all the ornaments gold. The one is real, the many are mere names and forms.

(Source: David Godman, Be As You Are, 1985, Chapter 1, The nature of the self)

Unknown said...

David Godman on Ramana Maharshi's Highest Teaching

These [Ramana Maharshi's] verbal teachings flowed authoritatively from his direct knowledge that consciousness was the only existing reality. Consequently, all his explanations and instructions were geared to convincing his followers that this was their true and natural state. Few of his followers were capable of assimilating this truth in its highest and most undiluted form and so he often adapted his teachings to conform to the limited understanding of the people who came to him for advice. Because of this tendency it is possible to distinguish many different levels of his teachings. At the highest level that could be expressed in words he would say that consciousness alone exists.

If this was received with skepticism he would say that awareness of this truth is obscured by the self-limiting ideas of the mind and that if these ideas were abandoned then the reality of consciousness would be revealed. Most of his followers found this high-level approach a little too theoretical - they were so immersed in the self-limiting ideas that Sri Ramana was encouraging them to drop that they felt that the truth about consciousness would only be revealed to them if they underwent a long period of spiritual practice. To satisfy such people Sri Ramana prescribed an innovative method of self-attention which he called self-enquiry. He recommended this technique so often and so vigorously that it was regarded by many people as the most distinctive motif in his teachings.

Even then, many people were not satisfied and they would continue to ask for advice about other methods or try to engage him in theoretical philosophical discussions. With such people Sri Ramana would temporarily abandon his absolute standpoint and give appropriate advice on whatever level it was asked. If he appeared on these occasions to accept and endorse many of the misconceptions which his visitors had about themselves it was only to draw their attention to some aspect of his teachings that he felt would help them to better understand his real views.

Inevitably, this policy of modifying his teachings to meet the needs of different people led to many contradictions. He might, for example, tell one person that the individual self is non-existent and then turn to another person and give a detailed description of how the individual self functions, accumulates karma and reincarnates. It is possible for an observer to say that such opposing statements may both be true when seen from different standpoints, but the former statement clearly has more validity when it is viewed from the absolute standpoint of Sri Ramana's own experience. This standpoint, summarized by his statement that consciousness alone exists, is ultimately the only yardstick by which one can realistically assess the relative truth of his widely differing and contradictory statements. To whatever extent his other statements deviate from this it may be assumed that to that extent they are dilutions of the truth.

(Source: David Godman, Be As You Are, 1985, Introduction)

anadi-ananta said...

D Samarender Reddy,
thanks for that well written summary of Ramana's teaching which I consider as very plausible.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Samarender, you have quoted David Godman as saying, ‘To satisfy such people Sri Ramana prescribed an innovative method of self-attention which he called self-enquiry. He recommended this technique so often and so vigorously that it was regarded by many people as the most distinctive motif in his teachings’.

The way David has put it dilutes the importance Bhagavan gave to the practice of self-attention (self-enquiry). Bhagavan did recommend it often because this was his only real teaching. This was the most distinct motif of his teachings. Simple!

Why say, as David says, ‘it [self-attention] was regarded by many people as the most distinctive motif of his teachings’. By saying so he is implying that Bhagavan's teaching has a more distinct motif than self-attention. This is not true.

NN said...

Mr. Lohia, the most important method of teaching of Ramana was not imparted through words; it was imparted through silence, a concept which you and your beloved guru Mr. James are not familiar with.

But, since you are incapable of realizing your own shortcomings, it is only expected that you go around, along with Mr. James, trying to be the TRUE voice of Ramana.

Unknown said...

Sanjay,

David did point out in that introduction that not all can accept and realise the truth enunciated by Bhagavan, and hence need to practice self-enquiry. Why should it matter where it falls in the hierarchy of things? After all, the purpose is to realise the truth and not hold on to one technique or the other as being superior to others. After all, when you are trying to cross a river to get to the other shore you will use any and all means to do so, and not sit on the shore evaluating which mode of transport is best. It all boils down to self-evaluation of where one stands as of now. Personally speaking, I have no qualms in practicing self-enquiry if mere listening to Bhagavan's words does not do the trick because my purpose is to realise the Truth and not be overly bothered about the means of getting there.

As David points out in his introduction to Chapter 2 (self-awareness and self-ignorance) in Be As You Are book:
"Sri Ramana occasionally indicated that there were three classes of spiritual aspirants. The most advanced realize the Self as soon as they are told about its real nature. Those in the second class need to reflect on it for some time before Self-awareness becomes firmly established. Those in the third category are less fortunate since they usually need many years of intensive spiritual practice to achieve the goal of Self-realization. Sri Ramana sometimes used a metaphor of combustion to describe the three levels: gunpowder ignites with a single spark, charcoal needs the application of heat for a short time, and wet coal needs to dry out and heat up over a long period of time before it will begin to burn.
For the benefit of those in the top two categories Sri Ramana taught that the Self alone exists and that it can be directly and consciously experienced merely by ceasing to pay attention to the wrong ideas we have about ourselves. These wrong ideas he collectively called the 'not-Self' since they are an imaginary accretion of wrong notions and misperceptions which effectively veil the true experience of the real Self. The principal misperception is the idea that the Self is limited to the body and the mind. As soon as one ceases to imagine that one is an individual person, inhabiting a particular body, the whole superstructure of wrong ideas collapses and is replaced by a conscious and permanent awareness of the real Self.

"At this level of the teaching there is no question of effort or practice. All that is required is an understanding that the Self is not a goal to be attained, it is merely the awareness that prevails when all the limiting ideas about the not-Self have been discarded."

Bhagavan himself says in that chapter of David's book: "Some extraordinary people get unshakable jnana after hearing the truth only once. These are the advanced seekers. Beginners take longer to gain it."

Sanjay, if you still cannot accept Godman's views, then don't. Tell yourself that it is his viewpoint and you do not agree with his views. Why should you set up Godman as an authority in your mind and then be overly bothered by what he has to say. Use your own intuition, judgement and understanding to come to a conclusion about Bhagavan's teachings.

venkat said...

Salazar,

I've learnt from the conversations that you've provoked. I agree, discussing (even heatedly!) these points, putting pen to paper as it were, helps to clarify one's own thinking and doubts. It sounds like you are leaving, so best wishes to you - it is probably high time I followed suit.


Josef

if you have been following this blog for a while you'll see comments from various participants that disagree with Michael's interpretation.

For me the most interesting observation is that Michael articulates a conceptual model in which the ego arises from the knot between sentient consciousness / Self, and insentient matter (the body), and thereafter this ego projects, and is aware of, the world that is perceived, and all the thoughts and feelings that are generated. Brahman / the Self / pure consciousness is not conscious of anything because the jiva/ ego is unborn, never really created (ajata vada). Therefore on liberation, when the ego dies, the world disappears.

There is the obvious logical problem in this, of how the ego can arise from a combination of consciousness and insentient matter, when the ego is required to project / imagine matter in the first place.

More importantly Advaita teaches that pure consciousness is that which is aware of all that is, and is non-separate from it - as in our awareness of a dream. The Upanishads clearly state that Brahman is the Knower from which all this emanates. The ego is a result of an erroneous thought patterns identifying consciousness with this particular body-mind, as separate and distinct from everything else that is in awareness. Consequently liberation entails the end of this exclusive identification and utter detachment from a particular body-mind. This is what the upanishads, Shankara and other modern sages have taught - including, I believe Bhagavan. Please refer to my comment in the more recent article "Must we purify our mind . . ."

You need to do your own research into this, and not rely purely on Michael, or anyone else, as the authoritative source of Bhagavan's teaching. You may well conclude that Michael is right, but at least you've done that for yourself.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Samarender, you advise me, ‘Why should you set up Godman as an authority in your mind and then be overly bothered by what he has to say’. In what way have I indicated that I consider David to be the authority? If I am disagreeing with many of his views, that means he is not the authority in my view. I would respond to some of the points raised by you.

You say, ‘David did point out in that introduction that not all can accept and realise the truth enunciated by Bhagavan, and hence need to practice self-enquiry’. How can one realise the truth enunciated by Bhagavan if one does not practise self-enquiry? The truth will reveal itself as a result of successful self-investigation. In other words, practising self-enquiry is our only option if we want direct self-knowledge. It is not our action plan two, as David seems to indicate.

You say, ‘Why should it matter where it falls in the hierarchy of things? After all, the purpose is to realise the truth and not hold on to one technique or the other as being superior to others’. However, Bhagavan has himself indicated the correct hierarchy of the practice of self-investigation. He teaches us in verse 8 of Upadesa Undiyar:

Rather than anya-bhāva [meditation on anything other than oneself, particularly meditation on God as if he were other than oneself], ananya-bhāva [meditation on nothing other than oneself], in which he is [considered to be] I, is certainly the best among all [practices of bhakti, varieties of meditation and kinds of spiritual practice].

Ananya-bhava is another way of describing the practice of self-attentiveness. So, according to Bhagavan, self-attentiveness is certainly the best among all practices.

You say, ‘my purpose is to realise the Truth and not be overly bothered about the means of getting there’. What exactly do you mean by ‘realise the truth’? If you want to experience yourself as you really are by destroying ego, self-investigation is insensible, at least in the final stages of your spiritual journey. If we want to destroy the idea ‘I am Sanjay’ or ‘I am Samarender’, we have to practice self-investigation sooner or later. Bhagavan clarifies this in paragraph 8 of Nan Ar?:

For the mind [ego] to subside [permanently], except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means. If made to subside by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided, [but] will emerge again.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment)

Sanjay Lohia said...

In continuation of my reply to Samarender:

However, this is not to deny the usefulness of other practices which do purify our mind if done with niskamya-bhava. Thus show us the way to liberation. The way to liberation being self-investigation. Bhagavan makes it clear in verse 3 of Upadesa Undiyar:

Niṣkāmya karma [action not motivated by desire] done [with love] for God purifies the mind and [thereby] it will show the path to liberation.

You quote David as saying, ‘For the benefit of those in the top two categories Sri Ramana taught that the Self alone exists and that it can be directly and consciously experienced merely by ceasing to pay attention to the wrong ideas we have about ourselves. […] As soon as one ceases to imagine that one is an individual person, inhabiting a particular body, the whole superstructure of wrong ideas collapses and is replaced by a conscious and permanent awareness of the real Self’.

I am afraid this is not the case, according to Bhagavan. We cannot experience ourself merely by ceasing to pay attention to our wrong ideas. We need to ignore all our wrong ideas along with all other phenomena and turn our entire attention within. This is the way to experience ourself as we really are. He made it clear repeatedly throughout Ulladu Narpadu, Nan Ar? and Upadesa Undiyar. He says, for example, in verse 22 of Ulladu Narpadu:

Consider, except by, turning the mind back within, completely immersing it in God, who shines within that mind giving light to the mind, how to fathom God by the mind?

So we need to turn the mind back within in order to fathom God, which in this case means our true self. Bhagavan again reiterates this in of verse 25 of Ulladu Narpadu:

If it [ego] seeks [examines or investigates] [itself], it will take flight [because it has no form of its own, and hence it cannot seem to exist without grasping the forms of other things as itself and as its food or sustenance]. Investigate [this ego] [or know thus].

Mere intellectual knowledge of our true nature is not enough, as David seems to suggest. In order to experience our true self, we need to keenly and vigilantly investigate ourself until ego is destroyed.







Sanjay Lohia said...

Correction:

If you want to experience yourself as you really are by destroying ego, self-investigation is indispensable.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
the ego does not arise from the knot but is only called the knot (cit-jada-granthi).
On liberation the world may disappear or at least cease to be perceived as a separate object.
Because the rising of the ego happens only seemingly I do not even try to mentally pore over such an "obvious logical" problem you mentioned.
When you say " You need to do your own research into this, and not rely purely on Michael, or anyone else, as the authoritative source of Bhagavan's teaching."
I want to reply that it is or at least should be my primary concern to free myself of the firm grip of wrong awareness by own endeavour.

A bit later today I will have a look to your comment on Michael's recent article.

NN said...

For the love of God, what is Mr. Lohia's problem? Cannot anyone quote David Godman here? Or is quoting David Godman an offence in the eyes of Mr. James? (Mr. Lohia is nothing more than a puppet, or given the recent discussions, it may be the other way around).


What does Mr. James stand to gain by encouraging such narrow-mindedness in the name of devotion?

These two have not experienced the self even for a few minutes, but they are ready to take the world on a ride? And the world is gullible enough to believe that these two can help it reach its goal?

India has a wealth of sources (Vivekchudamani, Mandukya Upnashida, Ashtavakra/Ribhu/Bhagavat Gita to name a few) which have been or are told to have been written by characters of far purer credibility than Mr. Lohia and Mr. James. It may come as a surprise to many of you, but there are other translators (check out Chinmaya Mission), who, in my direct experience, do not fall into the trap of self-righteousness.

Yet, the world (especially the western world) does not want to leave the side of two dubious clowns and their circus.

anadi-ananta said...

Apparently only our magnificent "self-experiencer" sent by God NN has ever heard of "Upnashida".:-)

NN said...

That's actually very nice Josef.

It is great to see that you could not find anything better than a typo in my statements to pin down upon me. I really do understand your urge to attack me, but the weapon you chose was a very weak one.

Do you belong to regions in/around Germany or Austria? I think you can be more inspired a certain fella from the early to mid 20th century for your attacks. :)

Good luck.

Unknown said...

Michael James, Sanjay Lohia, Josef, Venkat and Gentlemen,

Salazar is posting his comments as usual as NN. One can easily make out from his posts. There is no way he can quit, he is addicted to this site. He will never quit until he drops dead, I mean really DEAD, like kicking the bucket.

anadi-ananta said...

Sorry Salazar, I've got the wrong century. :)
All the best.

Unknown said...

Hi Sanjay,

You are entitled to your differing viewpoint on this issue.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat, in your comment on 1 October 2018 at 16:55 you write that:

For me the most interesting observation is that Michael articulates a conceptual model in which the ego arises from the knot between sentient consciousness / Self, and insentient matter (the body), and thereafter this ego projects, and is aware of, the world that is perceived, and all the thoughts and feelings that are generated.
[bold emphasis mine]

Please provide a link and/or reference to even a single place where Michael has actually articulated a conceptual model in which 'the ego arises from the knot between sentient consciousness / Self, and insentient matter (the body)'.

If you are unable to provide any such citation, then you need to reconsider what you call 'the most interesting observation'.

If you need an evidence of Michael's actual view on this topic, please read the first sentence of section 38 of this article: Though ego and all the phenomena perceived by it are equally unreal, there is an element of reality in ego that does not exist in any phenomenon, namely awareness (cit), because whereas all phenomena are entirely jaḍa (insentient or devoid of awareness) ego is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a knot (granthi) formed by the entanglement of awareness with non-aware phenomena (namely the five sheaths) as if they were one.
[bold emphasis mine]

Another evidence can be found in Michael's comment in this article, having the timestamp 30 September 2018 at 10:47.

In light of the evidence above, you can resolve what you refer to as the 'obvious logical problem in this, of how the ego can arise from a combination of consciousness and insentient matter, when the ego is required to project / imagine matter in the first place', when you realise that you have misunderstood Michael's contention and proceeded to find find logical problems in that straw man.

venkat said...

Aseem

Really? You want to try to brow beat me with your attempts at logical linguistic play?

OK, lets play.

I wrote "ego ARISES from the knot between sentient consciousness and insentient matter". You point out that Michael has actually written that "ego IS the knot formed by the entanglement of awareness with non aware phenomena". Brilliant, well done, a wholly different contention that I have misunderstood and misstated, and I should now withdraw into my illogical inconsistent shell, in awe at your logical (legal?) prowess. Except . . .

Let me rephrase the logical problem since you seem not to be able to see the wood from the linguistic trees. What non-aware phenomena can there be (to form an ego knot with awareness) that precedes the ego, when Michael's contention is that the ego projects all phenomena?

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat, you ask that:

What non-aware phenomena can there be (to form an ego knot with awareness) that precedes the ego, when Michael's contention is that the ego projects all phenomena?

Concise Answer: Ego projects all phenomena, and so is causally antecedent to all phenomena. Ego is neither phenomena nor self-awareness, but is that which simultaneously in time projects phenomena and conflates self-awareness with some of these phenomena, and therefore is called the knot between self-awareness and phenomena.

In other words, there is no insentient/non-aware phenomena that precedes the ego, and ego is the knot between self-awareness and insentient phenomena that is formed simultaneously in time with the projection of phenomena.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Aseem, this is in reference to your comment addressed to Venkat. A agree whatever you write but when you say ‘Ego is neither phenomena nor self-awareness’, it is not clear.

Ego is an entangled mixture of a body and pure-awareness, but it is still a phenomenon. Anything that appears and disappears is a phenomenon. So ego is a phenomenon because it appears and disappears. This is why Bhagavan also described ego as the thought called ‘I’. However, this thought called ‘I’ is unlike other thoughts: other thoughts are neither aware of itself nor aware of any other thought, but this first thought ‘I’ is aware both of itself and of other thoughts.

Ego is a phenomenon because a part of this ego is a phenomenon, namely a body. So ego as a whole is phenomena though it is quite unlike other phenomena. It is a phenomenon which is permanent and unchanging as long as we are aware of other phenomena. In this context we can reflect on verse 18 of Upadesa Undiyar:


Thoughts alone are mind [or the mind is only thoughts]. Of all [thoughts], the thought called ‘I’ alone is the mūla [the root, base, foundation, origin, source or cause]. [Therefore] what is called mind is [essentially just] ‘I’ [the ego or root-thought called ‘I’].

Michael has explained this verse in his article: Drg-drsya-viveka: distinguishing the seer from the seen (published on 20 May 2015). In its 4th section he writes:

The reason he distinguishes this one thought from all other thoughts and says that it is the root or origin of them all is that it is the only thought that experiences anything (since it is the only thought that is aware or conscious), so no other thought could arise or appear if it were not experienced by this original thought called ‘I’, the ego. This ‘I’ is therefore the experiencing subject, the dṛś or ‘seer’ (that is, the perceiver, cogniser or experiencer), whereas all the other thoughts are objects experienced by it, and hence they are dṛśya or the ‘seen’ (that is, they are what is perceived, cognised or experienced).

venkat said...

Aseem

For a person who relies upon logic, your comment is not logical. An effect (phenomenon) cannot arise from a cause (ego), when that cause itself is a result (entanglement) of the effect.

If you read my broader comment, rather than trying to pinpoint linguistic / logical flaws, you would note that Advaita ultimately teaches that everything is consciousness / Brahman; Brahman is the knower of everything, including the superimposed ego-thought that differentiates between subject and object (suttarivu); the I-thought cannot be a subject / experiencer - it is just a series of further thoughts that say it is. That is why Bhagavan says that if you look for the I-thought, it 'disappears' - because it was never there in the first place - it was a superimposition, an error.

The comment on drg-drsya viveka is not what Shankara's book of the same title taught. Or indeed any of the upanishads and his commentaries on them. Or indeed read Kaivalya Navaneeta that Bhagavad recommended.

I adore Bhagavan - he was, as Sw Chinmayananda called him, "the cream of the upanishads", a living example of what a jnani is. Michael has interpreted his writing too narrowly, dismissing the broader context of Advaita, Shankara and Bhagavan's disciples who lived with, and as such missed the point. However that is my opinion. You are of course welcome to hold to yours.

As I have also said, it doesn't really matter, since the end practice is still summa iruttal, and if not that, then atma vichara.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
opinions may always differ. As you imply, the main thing of spirituality is whether you manage to be entirely free of any desires by being what you really are.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat, my intention in starting this discussion with you was to address what you wrote in the following passage of your comment on 1 October 2018 at 16:55:

For me the most interesting observation is that Michael articulates a conceptual model in which the ego arises from the knot between sentient consciousness / Self, and insentient matter (the body), and thereafter this ego projects, and is aware of, the world that is perceived, and all the thoughts and feelings that are generated. Brahman / the Self / pure consciousness is not conscious of anything because the jiva/ ego is unborn, never really created (ajata vada). Therefore on liberation, when the ego dies, the world disappears.

There is the obvious logical problem in this, of how the ego can arise from a combination of consciousness and insentient matter, when the ego is required to project / imagine matter in the first place.


The observation and arguments you present here are about a topic central to the written teachings of Bhagavan, namely the topic of ego. I felt that what you wrote in this passage merits a critical analysis and consequently wrote a comment on it, subsequent to which you replied with a comment which you ended by asking a specific question, to which I gave a concise answer. From your latest comment in this connection, I am unsure as to whether you wish to continue this discussion.

If you do wish to continue this discussion, consider the following comment in which I address one of your contentions expressed in your latest comment.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat, you state in your comment today at 8:50 that:

An effect (phenomenon) cannot arise from a cause (ego), when that cause itself is a result (entanglement) of the effect.

You contend that ego is the result of phenomenon.

Please read the following argument, and answer Question 1:

Premise 1: X is the cause of Y; in other words X is causally antecedent to Y
Premise 2: X simultaneously in time causes Y and does Z
Conclusion: therefore, Y does not cause X

Question 1: Do you agree that the above argument is valid?

[NOTE: in a valid argument, whenever all the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true]

Now, substitute X = ego; Y = the appearance of phenomena; Z = conflates some of the phenomena with self-awareness

The argument now becomes:

Premise 1: ego is the cause of the appearance of phenomena; in other words ego is causally antecedent to the appearance of phenomena
Premise 2: ego simultaneously in time causes the appearance of phenomena and conflates some of the phenomena with self-awareness
Conclusion: therefore, the appearance of phenomena does not cause ego

Question 2: Do you agree that the above argument is valid?

Once we are clear about the validity of the argument, we consider the veracity of the premises in order to determine whether the argument is sound.

venkat said...

Aseem

Keep going with your argument, I'm not going play your patronising game of teacher - pupil with you.

venkat said...

Aseem

Cutting to the chase . . .

Your formulation of premise 2 is the problem.

Bhagavan / advaita does not teach that the ego arises and simultaneously causes the appearance of phenomena and conflates this with self-awareness (not sure what "self" means in this context - ego or Brahman?). Michael's translation of UN24 states:

"The insentient body does not say 'I'. Existence consciousness (the real Self) does not rise or subside. But IN BETWEEN THESE TWO, an 'I' RISES, as the measure of the body that is in between the body and the real Self, a limited 'I'-consciousness. Know that this is what is called the knot between consciousness and the insentient."

So Bhagavan is stating that the I RISES from ("as", if you prefer) the knot between awareness and the insentient body.

Therefore the ego cannot be antecedent to the appearance of the insentient body. The I / ego rising has to follow the appearance of an insentient body, and rises as the knot between the Self and the insentient body. [If there is no insentient body, how can there be an 'I'?]. This is what advaita says as well.

So the I-thought cannot be the cause of the insentient body and the world, BUT it can be the cause of the differentiating subject-object thoughts that then interprets the world.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
your conclusion "Therefore the ego cannot be antecedent to the appearance of the insentient body. The I / ego rising has to follow the appearance of an insentient body, and rises ..." is not necessary correct.
Firstly one must note that an insentient body cannot appear without the ego, the 'I-thought'. Can an insentient body exist or even seem to exist at all without the ego ?

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat,

In your reply, you did not answer the two specific questions I asked about the validity of the argument, which you could have answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Instead, you jumped ahead in the discussion and questioned the veracity of Premise 2. This was unwarranted at this stage of the discussion because, as I assured in my comment, we would question the veracity of the two premises AFTER we are clear about the validity of the argument.

You may feel it to be a 'patronising game of teacher-pupil', but I contend that a thorough critical analysis necessitates meticulously analysing each contention in a step-by-step manner. Jumping ahead may be an evidence of evasion.

Anyhow, now that you have 'cut to the chase', I'll ask you a question (similar to what Josef Bruckner has already asked in his comment at 00:43) wrt your conclusion:

Therefore the ego cannot be antecedent to the appearance of the insentient body. The I / ego rising has to follow the appearance of an insentient body, and rises as the knot between the Self and the insentient body. [If there is no insentient body, how can there be an 'I'?].

Question 3: To whom does an insentient body appear, if as you contend there is no ego prior to the appearance of an insentient body?

I will address what you conclude from UN v.24, after around 7 PM IST, as I have to rush to office now.

Closing Statement: The fact that an insentient body appears logically necessitates SOMEONE to whom it appears. Who is it, if not ego?

venkat said...

Aseem

Read Bhagavan's quote. Bhagavan himself says the ego rises between the consciousness and the insentient. Ask yourself the question:

Question 3: To whom does an insentient body appear, if as you contend there is no ego prior to the appearance of an insentient body?

Have a go at reading the Upanishads, or any of the texts I've suggested before - Mundaka is pretty straightforward - it talks about 2 birds on a tree, one that eats and plays, and the other that quietly witnesses. What do you think that Upanisdhad is trying to say?

venkat said...

Josef, Aseem

You both seem to believe, as Josef quotes

"one must note that an insentient body cannot appear without the ego, the 'I-thought'."

What is the basis of that belief? Advaita, and Bhagavan, says to us that the world is a projection by Brahman / Self. That is the Knower, and the Maya is the identification with one particular body-mind. I can quote endless from advaita to support that - and have done so in the past.

What is the basis for your contention - apart from following Michael's interpretation of what Bhagavan said? Provide us with some quotes from Bhagavan rather than Michael.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
unfortunately I a not able to quote Bhagavan in the mentioned regard.
Only from my poor understanding I may give a short explanation:
Does brahman need a human body ?
Certainly you agree: no !
So what else would be in the position to project a body if not the ego ?
Maya is nothing other than ego.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat, sorry,
it shall be: I am not able...

venkat said...

Josef,

Your question: "So what else would be in the position to project a body if not the ego ?"

Mandukya Upanishad:

2.12: Atman, the self-luminous, through the power of his own Maya, imagines in himself by himself. He alone is the cogniser. That is the decision of the Vedanta.

From Bhagavan's translation of Shankara's Vivekachudamani:

"Now I am going to tell you about the real nature of the supreme Self, by realising which man attains liberation and is freed from bondage. That realisation of 'I' is indeed the Self which is experienced as 'I-I' shining of its own accord, the absolute Being, the witness of the three states, distinct from the 5 sheaths. That Self sees all of its own accord but is never seen by any of this. It gives light to the intellect and ego, but is not enlightened by them. It pervades the universe and by its light all this insentient universe is illumined, but the universe does not pervade it even to the slightest extent. In its presence the body, senses, mind and intellect enter upon their functions as if commanded by it. By that unbroken knowledge, all things from the ego to the body, objects and our experience of them, occur and are perceived."

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
as you can see from your quotations:

Mandukya Upanishad:
The imagining power of Maya is the same as the projecting power of the ego.

Shankara's Vivekachudamani:
The self gives the unbroken light to the ego for projecting the body, senses, mind and intellect. Therefore by that unbroken knowledge of the self, all things beginning with the ego to the body, objects and our experience of them, occur and are perceived.

venkat said...

Sure Josef. Let's leave it at that.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat, in this comment I’ll address what you wrote about UN v.24 in your comment on 3 October 2018 at 20:46.

The translation of this verse by Sri Michael James that you quoted is:

“The insentient body does not say 'I'. Existence consciousness (the real Self) does not rise or subside. But IN BETWEEN THESE TWO, an 'I' RISES, as the measure of the body that is in between the body and the real Self, a limited 'I'-consciousness. Know that this is what is called the knot between consciousness and the insentient.”

You interpret this verse to mean:

So Bhagavan is stating that the I RISES from ("as", if you prefer) the knot between awareness and the insentient body.

In this verse, the rising ‘I’ is explicitly referred to as the knot between consciousness and the insentient. Therefore, regardless of anyone’s personal preference, it is more accurate to state that ‘I’ rises as the knot between consciousness and the insentient body than to state that ‘I’ rises from the knot between consciousness and the insentient body.

You go on to conclude that:

Therefore the ego cannot be antecedent to the appearance of the insentient body. The I / ego rising has to follow the appearance of an insentient body, and rises as the knot between the Self and the insentient body.

This verse does not state that an insentient body exists prior to ego. You have incorrectly concluded this to be the case. This conclusion can be demonstrated to be false by quoting what Bhagavan explicitly states in UN v.23, v.25 and v.26.

In verse 23 (link = https://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2017/10/ulladu-narpadu-tamil-text.html#un23), Bhagavan explicitly states that ‘After one thing, ‘I’, rises, everything rises’. ‘Everything’ includes the insentient body.

In verse 25 (link = https://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2017/10/ulladu-narpadu-tamil-text.html#un25), Bhagavan explicitly states that ego comes into existence by grasping form (phenomena).

In the Kaliveṇbā version of verse 26 (link = https://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2017/12/upadesa-kalivenba-extended-version-of.html#uk26), Bhagavan explicitly states that if the ego, which is the embryo [womb, efficient cause, inner substance or foundation] comes into existence, everything - including the insentient body - comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything - including the insentient body - does not exist; the ego itself is everything - including the insentient body.

v.23 to v.26 in conjunction lead to the conclusion that ego is causally antecedent to yet rises simultaneously in time with everything.

You closed your conclusion with a question:

[If there is no insentient body, how can there be an ‘I’?].

Certainly there is no ego - ‘I am this’ - without (the perception of) an insentient body.

But we exist in sleep, without an (the perception of) insentient body. Therefore, ‘I’ without adjuncts exists irrespective of whether or not an insentient body is perceived.


I’ll close this comment with a suggestion for you: whenever in future you refer and quote a verse from UN translated into English by Michael, go for a ’bare translation, which is as accurate, clear and simple as possible, followed by an explanatory paraphrase in order to make its meaning and most important implications more clear’ provided by the same translator (link = href=“https://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2017/10/ulladu-narpadu-tamil-text.html).

venkat said...

Aseem

I understand why you interpret UN as you do.

Lakshmana Sarma's commentary on UN23 reads:

"The Self is declared to be the true meaning of the term 'I', the Atman. Admixing with the mind, It gets constricted as the dwarf of the ego and is regarded as just a speck of a trifle, while in truth It is the whole unbroken being and awareness. Since the Infinite appears limited as the finite jiva, the jiva is often called an element or aspect of Reality. But never did that Impartite and Unbroken Content ever get fragmented into aspects or strands . . . That 'I' unfortunately is identified with the body - a creation of the mind - and know indistinguishably with the Self, 'I'. This misconception is called an adhyasa, or a superimposition. On account of this superimposition, the Light of Awareness of the Self is conjoined with the bodies (both gross and mental), and the impurities and deficiencies associated with the bodies are added on to the Atman, and between the two, a new entity - purely an imaginary one - springs up. This is the story of the jiva."

Sarma's commentary is consistent with Mandukya Upanishad which says the Atman "imagines in himself, by himself"; ie which imagines the body-mind-world, and the real 'I' / Self / Awareness mistakenly identifies with the body, and from this the jjva arises.

Bhagavan writes in aphoristic verse. He is not that interested in philosophical debates on the cause of creation, fate vs free will, real vs unreal, as he demonstrates in various verses in UN. He is only interested in asking us to turn within. He is unarguably right in this, because we all search for rational explanations of what ultimately our minds cannot explain / conceive. The upanishads in defining Brahman can only say "neti, neti", and that from which words turn back.

I apologise for the tone of my responses to you. Our minds try to understand Bhagavan's teachings from different perspectives and backgrounds, and in trying to assimilate it, I think many of us (certainly me) try to convince ourselves and everyone else, that we have the 'right' interpretation.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
as you say "...because we all search for rational explanations of what ultimately our minds cannot explain / conceive."

Is not searching for rational explanations of what ultimately our minds cannot explain / conceive a brilliant idea ? :-)

Aseem Srivastava said...

Sanjay Ji, in your comment on 3 October 2018 at 07:25, you provide two arguments for the contention that ego is a phenomenon.

The first one is:

Premise 1: anything that appears and disappears is a phenomenon
Premise 2: ego appears and disappears
Conclusion: therefore, ego is a phenomenon

This is a valid argument - if the premises are true, the conclusion will follow.

However, it is not a sound argument, as the first premise is incomplete because it does not state that all phenomena are insentient.

The correct Premise 1 is: anything that appears and disappears and is insentient is a phenomenon

This corrected premise leads to the conclusion that ego is not a phenomenon, as although it appears and disappears in its own view, it has an element of consciousness (namely our ever present self-awareness).


The second argument you provide for the contention that ego is a phenomenon is:

Premise : a part of ego (namely the body) is a phenomenon
Conclusion : therefore, ego is a phenomenon

This is an invalid argument. Why? Because we can use the same argument form as follows:

Premise : a part of ego (namely self-awareness) is eternal, immutable and self-shining
Conclusion : therefore, ego is eternal, immutable and self-shining

You will agree that the conclusion does not follow in this case. Therefore, this is an invalid and consequently unsound argument.


You state that ego ‘is quite unlike other phenomena’, in that it is ‘permanent and unchanging as long as we are aware of other phenomena’. This is not correct, as what is permanent and unchanging is only being-awareness.

What ego is aware of is ever-changing; the being-awareness aspect of ego is unchanging; but ego itself is neither changing nor unchanging.


In v.24 of UN, Bhagavan states three contentions which can be considered as premises:

Premise 1: The insentient body does not say ‘I’
Premise 2: being-awareness does not rise
Premise 3: in between one thing, ‘I’, rises as the extent of the body

Using the above, an argument for the contention that ego is neither phenomena nor self-awareness is as following:

Conclusion: that which rises in between insentient body and being-awareness is neither insentient body nor being-awareness

This is a valid argument, as the conclusion follows if the premises are true.

I believe you will agree that the premises are true. If so, you will agree that this is a sound argument.

Aseem Srivastava said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aseem Srivastava said...

Corrigendum:

For some reason, the hyperlink tag of HTML is not functioning properly in the comment.

The link to v.24 of UN is the following: https://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2017/10/ulladu-narpadu-tamil-text.html#un24

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat,

I understand why you interpret UN as you do.

I am unable to see where I have interpreted UN in my last comment in our discussion.

I only quoted ‘a bare [English] translation, which is as accurate, clear and simple as possible’ of what Bhagavan wrote in UN.

I did clarify that ‘everything’ includes the insentient body. This is not an interpretation, but a logical necessity.

I also used ‘phenomena’ in parenthesis along with ‘form’. Again, this is not an interpretation, but these terms as used in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings are synonymous.

Except for clarifying the term ‘embryo’, I did not refer to Michael’s explanatory paraphrase in any of those verses in that comment.

The conclusion I drew, namely that ‘v.23 to v.26 in conjunction lead to the conclusion that ego is causally antecedent to yet rises simultaneously in time with everything’, is the logical culmination of what Bhagavan explicitly stated in v.23 to v.26.

Please provide evidence as to where I have interpreted UN in my comment on 5 October 2018 at 03:30.

venkat said...

Aseem

I'm not particularly interested in continuing this conversation with you, but if you wish to, please read and respond to the rest of my comment - specifically the commentary by Lakshmana Sarma, at 10.33.

venkat said...

Aseem

Having asked you to respond to my comment, I will do the same.

I'm reading from Michael's UN translation. I won't write out the full verse, but just the pertinent section.

UN23: "After an 'I' rises, everything rises". This supports your contention that I is antecedent to everything.

UN24: "In between these two, an I rises as the measure of the body, that is in between the body and the real Self".
IF this is read in the absence of UN23, the body should be antecedent to I, since "I rises as the measure of the body", the knot between the Self and the insentient body. There can be no knot if there is no insentient body.

UN25: "This ghostly ego which is devoid of form, COMES INTO EXISTENCE BY GRASPING FORM"; it endures by grasping a form; it waxes more by grasping and feeding upon forms".
Again, this would imply that form is antecedent to the coming into existence of the ego.

UN26: "If the ego comes into existence, everything will come into existence. If the ego does not exist, everything will not exist."

This again supports your contention. [Though here I would question what Bhagavan means by existence. Does a dream exist - we take it to exist and be real whilst dreaming, but when we awake, we not longer take it to be real, to have existed. In the same way, once we realise the ego is not real, it is a fabrication, then there is no "other" for the ego to fight against.}

In any event, Bhagavan would appear to be inconsistent in UN23 to UN26.

Similarly UN 17 reads:
"To those who have not known the Self and to those who have known, this defective body is 'I'. But to those who have not known Self, I is only the measure of the body, whereas to those who have known Self within the body, I, the Self, shines without limit".

So here he seems to be saying that even for the jnani there is still a body, but he does not identify with it because everything is the Self for him. This does not imply that the body ceases to exist, because he says for both those who have known and those who haven't known the body is I.

So the question is how does one reconcile these inconsistencies? This is why I think Muruganar comments about suttarivu, the subject-object separating tendency of the ego. I don't think Bhagavan literally meant everything disappears in a puff of smoke, but that it is no longer taken to be real, as a mirage in the desert is no longer taken to be water. This is in line with Advaita.

anadi-ananta said...

venkat,
you write:
UN24: "In between these two, an I rises as the measure of the body, that is in between the body and the real Self".
"IF this is read in the absence of UN23, the body should be antecedent to I, since "I rises as the measure of the body", the knot between the Self and the insentient body. There can be no knot if there is no insentient body."


This description is only a pictorial figure of speech and not a matter of any sequence or succession.
However, UN23 is present just to being read !!!
Without the "real Self" there can be neither rising of any knot(ego) nor the appearance of an insentient body.
The seeming rising of the ego is the only "antecedent" occurrence if at all. Otherwise there are no preceding events, no earlier, no prior, no previous, no anterior
nor following, nor subsequent, nor successive, nor resulting, nor later.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Venkat,

UN24: "In between these two, an I rises as the measure of the body, that is in between the body and the real Self".
IF this is read in the absence of UN23, the body should be antecedent to I, since "I rises as the measure of the body", the knot between the Self and the insentient body. There can be no knot if there is no insentient body.


Even if UN v.24 is read in absence of v.23, it still would not necessarily imply that an insentient body has to be antecedent to ego. Why? Because there is one other implication: ego rises by simultaneously projecting phenomena and grasping a part of the phenomena - namely this body - as “I”.

If there are two possible implications of a given statement, then we can argue for either of them as being the implicit one.

Therefore, you can argue that v.24 implies that insentient body exists prior to ego, and I can argue that v.24 implies that ego simultaneously projects body and grasps it as “I”.

Both of them can be correct. But which is actually correct?

To determine this, we need at least one EXPLICIT statement from Bhagavan. When we are clear on what his contention is, then we can correctly deduce which among the two implications he supports.

Thankfully, Bhagavan has not kept us in the dark. He has explicitly and unambiguously stated in v.26 that everything comes into existence only if ego comes into existence. This statement leaves absolutely no doubt that no phenomena exist prior to ego. Therefore, it is now clear which among the two implications is correct in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings.


Further, “I rises as the measure of the body” means that “I” rises by being identified to and therefore limited by the body. Again, this does not necessitate that the body exists prior to rise of ego.



UN25: "This ghostly ego which is devoid of form, COMES INTO EXISTENCE BY GRASPING FORM"; it endures by grasping a form; it waxes more by grasping and feeding upon forms".
Again, this would imply that form is antecedent to the coming into existence of the ego.


This verse does imply that form is antecedent to coming into existence of ego.

However, there is one other implication: ego rises by simultaneously projecting phenomena and grasping a part of the phenomena - namely this body - as “I”.

If there are two possible implications of a given statement, then we can argue for either of them as being the implicit one.

Thankfully, Bhagavan has not kept us in the dark. He has explicitly and unambiguously stated in v.26 that everything comes into existence only if ego comes into existence. This statement leaves absolutely no doubt that no phenomena exist prior to ego. Therefore, it is now clear which among the two implications is correct in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings.


Moreover, when read after Bhagavan’s explicit and unambiguous contention in v.26, a corollary of v.25 is that ego and phenomena rise simultaneously in time.



Therefore, what Bhagavan states in v.23 to v.26 - when read and understood in conjunction - lead to the conclusion that ego is causally antecedent to yet rises simultaneously in time with everything.

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