Saturday, 22 December 2018

Why is self-investigation the only means to eradicate ego but not the only means to achieve citta-śuddhi?

In a recent comment on my previous article I wrote:
Today a friend wrote to me:
I noticed today in GVK verse 622, Bhagavan is recorded as saying: “When rightly considered, nothing will be more wonderful and laughable than one’s toiling very much through some sadhana to attain Self in the same manner as one toils to attain other objects, even though one really ever remains as the non-dual Self.”

This seems to contradict his teachings in Naan Ar?, where he says ‘ippadi pazhaga pazhaga, manathirkku than pirappidathil thangi nirkum sakthi athikarikindrathu’ [‘When one practises and practises in this manner, to the mind the power to stand firmly established in its birthplace will increase’ (sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?)]. In other words, toiling is needed.

Only way to reconcile these two comments is that by ‘some sadhana...’, he is referring to methods other than self enquiry. Can you please comment? Thanks.
In reply to this I wrote:

There is actually no contradiction here. Practice and effort are certainly necessary, but why? What can be easier than knowing and being what we actually are? So why do we need practice and effort to be what we always are?

The problem is that we as ego do not want to be what we actually are, because to be what we actually are we need to give up everything else, including ourself as ego. Therefore practice and effort are required because they are the means (sādhana) by which we can reduce our desires and attachments for other things and thereby become willing to surrender ourself entirely.

So what practice and effort are required? The most effective means to reduce our desires and attachments are self-investigation and self-surrender, so the முறை (muṟai: means or sādhana) that Bhagavan referred to in verse 622 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai is any means whatsoever, including self-investigation and self-surrender.

Self-investigation and self-surrender are both necessary, but what do we achieve by them? Nothing whatsoever, because we end up just being what we always have been. However, the purpose of self-investigation and self-surrender is not to achieve anything but to lose everything, and for that they are the only entirely effective means.
Referring to the last sentence of this comment a friend called Josef asked ‘By losing everything who will be the winner?’ and ‘By losing everything who will be the loser?’, to which I replied: ‘Josef, there will be neither any winner nor any loser, only what is (uḷḷadu)’. There will be no winner because there is nothing that could ever win or gain anything real. Why? Because what actually exists (yathārthamāy uḷḷadu), namely the real nature of oneself (ātma-svarūpa), always exists as it is, without ever undergoing any change, so it need not and cannot gain itself, and because everything else is merely a false appearance, since it does not actually exist but merely seems to exist, so nothing else actually exists to gain what actually exists. Likewise there will be no loser, because what needs to lose everything is only ego, which itself needs to be lost, since it is the root and foundation of everything else, so when ego does lose itself and everything else, it will no longer exist, and hence it will not be a winner, a loser or anything else whatsoever.

Referring to the whole of my comment another friend called Roger wrote a comment saying:
There is a contradiction in your email reply above. The questioner asks: is he referring to some other way than self inquiry? You translate verse GVK 622 as “any means whatsoever, including self-investigation and self surrender”. Then you jump to “self-investigation... the only entirely effective means”.

How did we get from “any means whatsoever.. INCLUDING self-investigation” to “self-investigation ... the ONLY ...means”? GVK 622 “any means whatsoever” is certainly not the same as “self-investigation is the only way”. You’ve made a presumption.

The “any means whatsoever” is a link into Talks where Bhagavan repeatedly says such things like “[instructions] differ according to the temperaments of the individuals and according to the spiritual ripeness of their minds. There cannot be any instruction en masse.

Actual scholarship requires open mindedness and consideration of alternatives?
Therefore the rest of this article is written in reply to this comment.
  1. Guru Vācaka Kōvai verse 622: since we are always that, nothing is as astonishing as our striving to achieve that as if it were something other than ourself
  2. In order for us to lose everything, including ego, the root of everything, self-investigation and self-surrender are the only entirely effective means
  3. Why is self-investigation the only means to eradicate ego?
  4. Bhagavan gave different levels of teaching to suit different levels of spiritual maturity, but this does not mean that it is not correct to say that self-investigation is the only way to eradicate ego
  5. We should consider alternatives wherever they are possible, but should not look for them where they are logically impossible
1. Guru Vācaka Kōvai verse 622: since we are always that, nothing is as astonishing as our striving to achieve that as if it were something other than ourself

Roger, contrary to what you suppose, there is actually no contradiction in the reply I wrote to my friend’s email, as I will explain below.

Firstly, verse 622 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai does not refer explicitly but only implicitly to ‘any means whatsoever’. What Bhagavan says in this verse is:
தானதுவா யென்றுந் தனித்திருந்தே தானதனை
ஏனையது போலே யிசைந்திடுதற் — கானமுறை
மேற்கொண் டுழைக்கு மிறைபோலே காணுங்கால்
ஏற்குமிறும் பூதொன் றிலை.

tāṉaduvā yeṉḏṟun taṉittirundē tāṉadaṉai
ēṉaiyadu pōlē yisaindiḍudaṟ — kāṉamuṟai
mēṟgoṇ ḍuṙaikku miṟaipōlē kāṇuṅgāl
ēṟgumiṟum būdoṉ ḏṟilai
.

பதச்சேதம்: தான் அதுவா என்றும் தனித்து இருந்தே, தான் அதனை ஏனையது போலே இசைந்திடுதற்கு ஆன முறை மேற்கொண்டு உழைக்கும் மிறை போலே, காணுங்கால், ஏற்கும் இறும்பூது ஒன்று இலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ aduvā eṉḏṟum taṉittu irundē, tāṉ adaṉai ēṉaiyadu pōlē isaindiḍudaṟku āṉa muṟai mēṟgoṇḍu uṙaikkum miṟai pōlē, kāṇuṅgāl, ēṟgum iṟumbūdu oṉḏṟu ilai.

English translation: When one sees, there is not anything as astonishing that happens as the trouble [or torment] of oneself toiling hard undertaking [or attempting] means for bringing about [or achieving] that [one’s real nature] as if it were what is other [than oneself], [in spite of] oneself always actually existing solitarily as that.
The word that I have translated here as ‘means’ is முறை (muṟai), and my friend wrongly inferred that this must refer to ‘methods other than self-enquiry’, so I explained that it actually refers to any means whatsoever, including self-investigation and self-surrender. That is, toiling hard by any means (sādhana) to achieve what we already are is something that is truly astonishing.

2. In order for us to lose everything, including ego, the root of everything, self-investigation and self-surrender are the only entirely effective means

However, though Bhagavan said this, he made it clear in so many ways that practice and effort are necessary, so in reply to that friend I explained why our practice and effort are laughable but nevertheless necessary. While explaining this I mentioned that for us to lose everything self-investigation and self-surrender are the only entirely effective means, but you suppose that this contradicts my earlier saying that in this verse முறை (muṟai) or ‘means’ implies not just means other than self-investigation but ‘any means whatsoever, including self-investigation and self-surrender’.

I do not deny that there are many means by which we can try to achieve what we always actually are, nor do I deny that means other than self-investigation and self-surrender are necessary or effective. All I implied by saying that self-investigation and self-surrender are the only entirely effective means is that other means are not by themselves sufficient. There is a simple reason for this.

In order to achieve what we always actually are we need to surrender ourself, this ego, because ego is what prevents us being aware of ourself as we actually are. However, so long as we have strong desires for and attachments to things other than ourself we will not be willing to surrender ourself, so before we can surrender ego we must first surrender to a considerable extent its desires, attachments, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears and so on.

Desires, attachments and such like are often referred to collectively as impurities in the mind, so surrendering them or reducing their intensity is what is called citta-śuddhi, purification or cleansing of the mind or will. For achieving citta-śuddhi self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is the most effective means, because it is cutting down ego, the root of all impurities, but it is not the only means (and contrary to what you imply in so many of your comments, I have never said that it is the only means).

Other means such as niṣkāmya karma, bhakti and yōga can all help us to achieve citta-śuddhi, but they are not all equally effective, and none of them are as effective as self-investigation. This is why in verses 3 to 7 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan grades various practices of niṣkāmya karma and bhakti in ascending order of efficacy, but concludes in verse 8 by saying that ananya-bhāva (meditation on what is not other), which is an alternative description of self-investigation, is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), ‘best among all’, implying that it is the most effective among all means for achieving citta-śuddhi.

Since self-investigation is the most effective of all means, in what sense are other means also necessary? Though self-investigation is sufficient by itself, we would not be attracted to practising it unless we had already achieved a certain degree of purity of mind (citta-śuddhi), so until we are drawn to the practice of self-investigation other means are necessary in order for us to achieve sufficient purity of mind for us to be attracted to this ultimate practice.

Though self-investigation is not the only means to achieve citta-śuddhi, it is ultimately the only means to eradicate ego and thereby achieve complete and absolute purification. Why is this the case?

The root of all impurities is ego, because it is what likes, dislikes, desires, hopes, fears, is attached and so on, so purification of mind (citta-śuddhi) can be complete only when ego is eradicated. No matter how much we may reduce our likes, dislikes, desires, attachments, hopes and fears, whether by self-investigation or by any other means, we cannot be entirely free of such impurities until we are free of ego, their root. So long as ego survives, likes, dislikes, desires and so on will continue sprouting from it, like branches and leaves sprouting from the root of a trimmed back bush, so how can we eradicate ego?

3. Why is self-investigation the only means to eradicate ego?

In order to answer this question we first need to understand exactly what ego is. As Bhagavan explained, it is the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so it is a wrong knowledge or erroneous self-awareness, an awareness of ourself as something other than what we actually are. Therefore, since it is an erroneous awareness of ourself, it can be removed or eradicated only by correct awareness of ourself: that is, awareness of ourself as we actually are. In other words, it is only by correct self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) that we can eradicate ego.

This is one of the fundamental principles of advaita philosophy, but in ancient texts it is generally expressed in slightly different terms. Since ego is nothing but a wrong knowledge of ourself, it is often referred to as avidyā (ignorance, in the sense of self-ignorance), and the only remedy for avidyā is vidyā (knowledge, in the sense of ātma-vidyā or self-knowledge). This is such a fundamental principle that everyone who considers themself to be a follower of advaita vēdānta will agree about it. They may disagree about many other principles and interpretations, but they all agree that avidyā can be destroyed only by vidyā, because simple logic demands that this must be the case.

Even in other contexts, such as any form of mundane knowledge, no reasonable person would believe that ignorance can be removed by any means other than knowledge, because knowledge and ignorance are a pair of opposites. If you are ignorant of the taste of a mango, for example, the only means to remove that ignorance is to gain knowledge of its taste by eating one.

Therefore according to this simple principle of logic, since ego is self-ignorance (avidyā), being a wrong knowledge or mistaken awareness of ourself, it can be removed only by correct self-knowledge (vidyā), which means being aware of ourself as we actually are. So how can we be aware of ourself as we actually are? Or in more metaphorical terms, how can we see what we actually are?

If we want to see the sun, there is only one way to do so: we must turn and look at it. Unless we look at it, we will never see it. Likewise, if we want to see what we actually are, there is only one way to do so: we must turn and look at ourself very keenly. Unless we look at ourself keenly enough, we will never see what we actually are.

In other words, in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are, we must observe or attend to ourself keenly and carefully enough. Keen and careful observation or attention is the only means to gain direct experiential knowledge, and only direct experiential knowledge of ourself can destroy ego.

If we mistake a rope to be a dangerous snake, we cannot kill that snake by beating it but only by looking at it very carefully, because if we look at it carefully enough we will see that it is only a harmless rope and was therefore never the snake that it seemed to be. Likewise, since we now mistake ourself to be ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, we cannot kill this ego by any means other than by looking at it very carefully, because if we look at it carefully enough we will see that it is only pure and infinite awareness and was therefore never the body-mixed and hence limited awareness that it seemed to be.

This is why Bhagavan often said that whatever other spiritual path we may follow, in order to eradicate ego we must eventually turn back to look at ourself. In other words, to reach our final destination we must sooner or later follow the simple path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). There is no other way.

This is not intended to devalue or denigrate other spiritual practices. There is only one gate by which we can enter the fortress, but there are many roads leading to that gate. When it is said that the gate is the only way into the fortress, this does not mean that roads are not necessary to reach that gate. In order to arrive at the gate, we must travel alone one road or another, but having arrived at it we have to leave all roads behind into order to pass through it.

4. Bhagavan gave different levels of teaching to suit different levels of spiritual maturity, but this does not mean that it is not correct to say that self-investigation is the only way to eradicate ego

In your comment you quote an answer that Bhagavan gave to Swami Yogananda, as recorded in section 107 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (2006 edition, page 105), namely that spiritual instructions ‘differ according to the temperaments of the individuals and according to the spiritual ripeness of their minds. There cannot be any instruction en masse’. This is obviously true. It would be foolish to try to teach children in kindergarten to do PhD-level research. Some or all of those children may later go on to do such research, but in kindergarten they are not yet ready to learn how to do it. They first need to learn to read, write and do simple arithmetic. At each level, kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, undergraduate and postgraduate studies, we each have to be taught what is appropriate for us at that level. However, just because different levels of teaching are appropriate for different levels of academic development, this does not mean that it is not correct to say that the only way to achieve a PhD is to do PhD-level research. Of course a lot else needs to be learnt before one is ready to do such research, but after learning whatever else needs to be learnt, ultimately doing PhD-level research is the only way to achieve a PhD.

In this context achieving a PhD is analogous to eradicating ego, which is our ultimate goal, and doing PhD-level research is analogous to self-investigation. Just as doing PhD-level research is the only way to achieve a PhD, investigating what we actually are is the only way to eradicate ego. All the levels of study that are required before one can do PhD-level research, from kindergarten to Master’s degree, are analogous to all the other kinds of practice that enable one to develop sufficient citta-śuddhi to make one willing to practise self-investigation.

Until we are attracted to the practice of self-investigation, other means of developing citta-śuddhi are certainly required, but once we have been attracted by Bhagavan’s grace to try this simple and ultimate practice, other means become no longer necessary. This is why Bhagavan would generally encourage anyone who came to him seeking spiritual guidance to investigate who or what they actually are, but if he saw that they were not interested in undertaking such investigation he would give whatever level of teaching was appropriate to their level of spiritual development.

In books that record conversations that he had with a wide variety of visitors and devotees, such as Maharshi’s Gospel, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan, we can see many examples of this, whereas in his own writings such as Nāṉ Ār?, Upadēśa Undiyār and Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu the emphasis is very clearly on the practice of self-investigation.

Though in the first half of Upadēśa Undiyār and in the eighth and ninth paragraphs of Nāṉ Ār? he does mention other practices such as niṣkāmya karma, dualistic forms of bhakti and prāṇāyāma, he clearly indicates that they are all preliminary practices that must eventually lead to the practice of self-investigation, because self-investigation is the only means to bring about eradication of ego, also known as destruction of mind (manōnāśa), as he implied in the following statements in Nāṉ Ār?: ‘நானார் என்னும் விசாரணையினாலேயே மன மடங்கும்’ (nāṉ-ār eṉṉum vicāraṇaiyiṉāl-ē-y-ē maṉam aḍaṅgu), ‘Only by the investigation who am I will the mind cease’ (first sentence of the sixth paragraph), ‘மனம் அடங்குவதற்கு விசாரணையைத் தவிர வேறு தகுந்த உபாயங்களில்லை’ (maṉam aḍaṅguvadaṟku vicāraṇaiyai-t tavira vēṟu tahunda upāyaṅgaḷ-illai), ‘For the mind to cease, except vicāraṇā [self-investigation] there are no other adequate means’ (first sentence of the eighth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?), and ‘மனத்தை யடக்குவதற்குத் தன்னை யாரென்று விசாரிக்க வேண்டுமே’ (maṉattai y-aḍakkuvadaṟku-t taṉṉai yār eṉḏṟu vicārikka vēṇḍumē), ‘For making the mind cease it is necessary to investigate oneself [to see] who [one actually is]’ (sixteenth paragraph).

5. We should consider alternatives wherever they are possible, but should not look for them where they are logically impossible

In the final paragraph of your comment you indirectly admonish me to be open-minded and consider alternatives. I agree that we should be open-minded and wherever possible we should consider alternatives, but there are some contexts in which it would be foolish to look for alternatives because logically it is obvious that no alternatives are possible. For example, in order to see the sun directly, is it not obvious that the only way is to look at it? How could there be any alternative? Certain preparations may be necessary before we can look at the sun, such as moving to a place where it is visible and making ourself willing to be blinded by seeing it, but after all the preparations have been completed, we still need to look at the sun, because unless we do so we will not be able to see it.

Likewise, in order to eradicate ego, is it not obvious that the only way is to see what we actually are? And in order to see what we actually are, is it not obvious that the only way is to look at ourself keenly enough? How could there be any alternative? Certain preparations may be necessary before we can begin looking at ourself, such as cultivating sufficient citta-śuddhi by other means, because without sufficient citta-śuddhi we will not be willing even to try to look at ourself, let alone to surrender ourself entirely, but after all the preparations have been completed, we still need to look at ourself very keenly and carefully, because unless we do so we will not be able to see what we actually are. There are no doubt many alternative ways to cultivate citta-śuddhi, but other than looking at ourself keenly enough there is no alternative way to see what we actually are and thereby surrender ourself, this ego, entirely and forever.

34 comments:

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael,
thank you for your additional explanations to the mentioned questions which were evidently asked by me without deep consideration but more on impulse.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Religion is about belief, but the spiritual path is investigation

Religion is about belief, but the spiritual path is an investigation. Bhagavan taught us atma-vichara, which means self-investigation. The investigation requires us to question everything.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-03-19 Conscious TV interview with Michael James: The Real Behind All Appearances (4:00)

Reflections: No real spiritual aspirant will ever tie himself to any particular religion. They are like free birds that cannot be bound to any set of beliefs or rituals.


Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Michael,
I am engaged with holiday activities for a while. But perhaps I can try to deliver a response.

You said in this blog in multiple places "this is why Bhagavan..."
At other times you've said "this is what Bhagavan meant when he said...."

How do you know absolutely what Bhagavan meant or why he said things?
You claim to be able to speak for Bhagavan !? You do!!! You claim to have the "correct" understanding!!!

As far as I know there are no teachers approved by Bhagavan, nobody ever who was approved to speak for Bhagavan.

This is a very serious point that I am trying to address:
Repeatedly historically there have been atma-jnanis who spoke... then a-jnani followers took the message, the philosophy, the words... and proclaimed that their a-jnani understanding was the only correct way and corruption followed.

The point is that the true is a state of consciousness which no doubt Bhagavan is/was.
BUT, truth can not be contained in any concepts or any intellectual teaching or philosophy.

The words coming from Bhagavan pointed to truth. But when the same words come from an a-jnani they are empty because the a-jnani does not have the realization. The realization or state of Being is the truth, not the words.

Your argument is that your teaching is the ONLY way to eradicate ego, the ONLY entirely effective means, the ONLY means....
If so... why hasn't it worked for you?

There have been many philosophies. For example hindu, jain, buddhist, christian.
Decartes says "I think therefore I am" which we know is putting the cart before the horse.
There have been countless philosophers each using logic to support their position but it ALL amounts to not much more than horse poo simply because the truth is a state of consciousness which CAN NOT be effectively reduced to concepts.

How can genuine truth which is the state of Being enter when the mind clings rigidly to any concepts? There is no room for truth when the ego clings to a philosophy and engages in competition with others.

I actually support your philosophical investigations and ideas.
But your attempt to put yourself on a pedestal by proclaiming that you, virtually you alone, know the only means is laughable. You're not realized, you do not know the truth.
Your philosophical investigations are your personal manana, please do not put it on me, that is don't tell me what I should believe or practice because this would be your ego. Manana is choiceless reflection.... not competition of spiritual philosophies in the world.

There is no path to truth, and there are not two truths. Truth is not of the past or of the present, it is timeless; and the man who quotes the truth of the Buddha, of Shankara, of the Christ, or who merely repeats what I am saying, will not find truth, because repetition is not truth. Repetition is a lie. Truth is a state of being which arises when the mind—which seeks to divide, to be exclusive, which can think only in terms of results, of achievement—has come to an end. Only then will there be truth. The mind that is making effort, disciplining itself in order to achieve an end, cannot know truth, because the end is its own projection, and the pursuit of that projection, however noble, is a form of self-worship. Such a being is worshipping himself, and therefore he cannot know truth. Truth is to be known only when we understand the whole process of the mind, that is, when there is no strife. Krishnamurti

Roger Isaacs said...

Sanjay,
you say "religion is about belief, but the spiritual path is investigation".

But then you repeatedly tell us what we should believe!
MJ tells us what to believe!
Therefore, although you claim that Bhagavan's teaching is consistent... your words aren't.

You say "no real spiritual aspirant will ever tie himself to any particular religion".... but you are tied to MJ's version of Bhagavan.

Josef Bruckner said...

Roger,
as you say only a jnani knows the truth. How then can you judge whether MJ knows the truth or not ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

Our prayers arise in us because of our love for Bhagavan. He is that love. So there is no prayer other than Bhagavan.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-04-07 Sri Ramana Center, Houston: discussion with Michael James on Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 15 (1:18)


Josef Bruckner said...

Roger,
you state that Sanjay is tied to MJ's version of Bhagavan.
Is it not naturally for all of us that every person has its own picture of Bhagavan so long as we experience us as a person ? Just you are a good example for that.

Josef Bruckner said...

Is reproaching somebody with being an ajnani not absurdly enough if one himself did evidently not break up the chains of ajnana ?

Sanjay Lohia said...

How fortunate are we to follow such a guru as Bhagavan who asks us only to be happy

Bhagavan only wants us to be happy, but how to be happy? Leave the burden to him. And where is happiness? It is inside. So turn the mind within. In order to do so successfully, we should surrender all our cares, concerns and anxieties to Bhagavan and peacefully turn within.

So Bhagavan’s path is a path of happiness. To the extent we are truly happy, to that extent we are truly following Bhagavan’s path. If we follow his path wholeheartedly, if we surrender everything to him and turn within, we will be swallowed by happiness and that happiness is Bhagavan. That is his real nature. So let us drown ourselves in that happiness; let us lose ourselves in that happiness. That is the path of Bhagavan.

So how fortunate are we to have such a guru who asks us only to be happy. He not only asks us to be happy, but he also shows us how to be truly happy. So with firm faith in his path, let us follow it happily.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-12-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to increase trust in Bhagavan’s path (46:00)


Sanjay Lohia said...

The problem is not what we experience but our desire for that experience

Sensory pleasures are not a problem as such. The problem is our desire for them because our desire for them draws our attention outwards. So it is turning our mind outwards which is a problem. So long as we have a desire for sensory pleasures we have a problem, and we do have a desire for sensory pleasures. In fact, the sensory pleasures are pleasurable only because of our desire for them. For example, a tasty meal gives us pleasure because we desire it. When our desire is satisfied, it gives us pleasure. So eating tasty food cannot get in the way of our liberation but our desire for that does get in the way.

We may try living a celibate life, eat very simple and so on, and these can help us get over our desires to some extent. However, it does not mean that being married or eating tasty food when it comes our way will obstruct our liberation. The problem is not what we experience but our desire for that experience.

Most of us have a desire to have a loving relationship and to express that in a physical way. Basically, this is part of being an animal, not just human beings. How to free ourself from that desire? We can try to live a celibate life, but that doesn’t solve the problem of desire. We can live a celibate life but can still have a desire for that. So merely denying ourself can be an aid in certain cases but is not necessarily the best solution.

If it is our destiny to live a married life, we cannot avoid it. Likewise, if it is our destiny to live a celibate life as a monk, we cannot avoid that. So Bhagavan says, ‘don’t be concerned by these outward things’. It is not the pleasure of the married life that is an obstacle - the problem is deeper and subtler. The problem is desire and attachment for that.

How to wean ourself away from desires? Simply trying to deny ourself those pleasures is not necessarily a solution. Bhagavan has given us a practical solution. He asks us to leave the burden to God. Slowly-slowly cultivates the liking to turn within. The more we cultivate the liking to turn within, the more we have the love to surrender ourself, the more the other desires will drop off.

So Bhagavan does not ask us to fight our desires. If we fight with our desires we are just giving it more strength. So we have to divert our attention away to something else. The more we cultivate our love to surrender all our cares and concerns to Bhagavan, the more other desires and attachments will drop off automatically.

We have to be wise and take a middle path between two extremes. Trying to deny ourself the pleasure when we have a desire for them does not solve the problem. Trying to satisfy doesn’t solve the problem because that is like pouring petrol on the fire.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-12-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to increase trust in Bhagavan’s path (53:00)

Sanjay Lohia said...

If we do our little part, Bhagavan will do everything else for us

When our mind is purified, even the smallest impurity will seem very big. So it will seem to us that we are not getting better. We are getting worse, but it is good to see that because that will keep us humble. If we think that by following this path we have become a better person or a good person that will be a very big ego.

In Aksaramanamalai, Bhagavan sings in one of the verses, ‘How can I who am worse than a dog seek you and attain you’. So the more we follow this path, the more we will feel our total unworthiness. Even our smallest imperfections will seem to us to be very big, and we will feel that we are totally unfit for this path. The more we feel that the more our heart will melt with love and gratitude for Bhagavan for saving us from ourself.

That is, we will reflect, ‘I am so unworthy but still you have brought me to your path, and you have enabled me to follow it’. So his way, the humbler we become the more our ego subsides, the closer we are to surrendering ourself to Bhagavan. So when we see our own imperfections, we will naturally feel extremely humble – ‘I can’t follow this path by myself. It is only by Bhagavan’s grace that I am able to follow it’. It is because only when we melt in love for Bhagavan will our ego truly be dissolved.

So let us not be worried about our imperfections. Let us leave that worry to Bhagavan. Let us do our best to surrender and investigate ourself. If we do our little part, Bhagavan will do everything else for us. So let us try our best to follow what Bhagavan has told us even if we fail any number of times – let us continue trying. He will take care of everything else.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-12-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to increase trust in Bhagavan’s path (1:28)

Reflections: Bhagavan has been doing everything for us and he will continue doing everything for us. His grace is like the mighty Ganga river. There is no stopping it. We just need to take a dip into this Ganga and give up our hold of everything else. The extremely strong currents of the river will take us to the ocean of infinite and never-ending bliss.


Sanjay Lohia said...

Michael: Humour is a good thing, but instead of laughing at others let us laugh at ourself. It is very easy to laugh at other people, but it is not so easy to laugh at ourselves.

A friend: How about telling a joke!

Michael: I can’t tell a joke; I myself am a joke.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-12-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to increase trust in Bhagavan’s path (1:44)

Reflections: Yes, we are a joke, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘ego’. This ego is the most perverse type of joke. It is neither awareness nor any insentient object, but it takes on the properties of both awareness and an insentient body. It does not really exist even though it may seem to exist. It not only seems to exist, but it projects from within itself this entire vast and unfathomable universe. Isn’t this ego a big-big joke? It is.

Sanjay Lohia said...

It is almost as if sadhana is happening to us, not that we are doing sadhana

Sadhana should be going on all the time. I don’t have any set times for meditating or anything like that. I just try to be self-attentive throughout the day as much as possible. To the extent that we don’t feel that we are doing sadhana, to that extent sadhana is happening to us.

When we are talking about Bhagavan’s teachings, when we are thinking about it, we are constantly talking about ourself, ‘I’. So even without our noticing it, our attention is turning little by little to ourself. It is almost as if sadhana is happening to us, not we are doing any sadhana. All is happening by his grace and in the end, this grace will swallow us. Grace is nothing but Bhagavan’s infinite love.

Edited extract from the video: 2018-12-23 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to increase trust in Bhagavan’s path (1:47)

Josef Bruckner said...

Sanjay,
"Bhagavan has given us a practical solution. He asks us to leave the burden to God."

I cannot imagine that Bhagavan would be very pleased when he sees the immense burden of my desires. Because he certainly would regard them as a nuisance I will try to cope with my desires by own endeavours - of course in cooperation with him which I at any time readily welcome.

Josef Bruckner said...

Sanjay,
"All is happening by his grace and in the end, this grace will swallow us. Grace is nothing but Bhagavan’s infinite love."
May I assume that you would you also maintain "All is happening by his grace" even when you for instance have lost your whole family and your house by a tsunami in Indonesia/Sumatra/Java/Sulawesi ? Would you also be loud in your praises of Bhagavan's grace when you are born now in Syria, Yemen or another theatre of war or have to die of starvation or Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ?

Josef Bruckner said...

Does anyone in the waking-world now see himself as he actually is ?

Mouna said...

Joseph, greetings

"Does anyone in the waking-world now see himself as he actually is ? “

You can’t actually “see” what you actually are for this exact reason that you are it.
You can only be it abiding “in it” (figure of speech…), and for that retrieval for the outgoing tendency of mind is necessary.

m

Aham said...

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Thank you for sharing your understanding Mr James. Your devotion to Sri Ramana's Teachings is inspiring.

Above you write,

"...since we now mistake ourself to be ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, we cannot kill this ego by any means other than by looking at it very carefully..."

Regarding your use of the word looking,

1] is to pay attention to, or be aware of, 'I-me-mine' thoughts, a form of looking?
2] is to mentally question the 'I-thought' as it arises (such as, "I, what is that?") a form of looking?

Do you think Sri Ramana would sanction such an approach?


Incidentally, in Talks Sri Ramana is recorded as having said,

"The ego is itself unreal. What is the ego? Enquire. The body is insentient and cannot say 'I'. The Self is pure consciousness and non-dual. It cannot say 'I'. No one says, 'I' in sleep. What is the ego then? It is something intermediate between the inert body and the Self. If sought for it vanishes like a ghost….All that is required is only to look closely and the ghost vanishes. The ghost was never there. So also with the ego. It is an intangible link between the body and Pure Consciousness. It is not real. So long as one does not look closely it continues to give trouble. But when one looks for it, it is found not to exist."


But as you have previously stated, Sri Ramana did not edit Talks, so we cannot be sure of its authenticity.

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Josef Bruckner said...

At a meeting of ‘Yo Soy Tu Mismo’ (a group of Spanish devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana) on 23rd December 2018 (via Zoom), in answer to the request of a friend Michael James says to the Spanish group:(1:55:02)
Bhagavan beautifully sings (from the standpoint of a jiva/person) in Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai, verse 101: "Oh Arunachala, the form of love, melt me as love in you, the form of love."
Michael then explains analogously: We - as the ego-person - are like an iceberg, therefore we should melt/dissolve like ice in water in him/infinite love/Arunachala/Bhagavan.
Thank you Michael for that nice explanation.
Thanks also for the metaphorical picture that we are like a straw which has fallen in the river of Bhagavan's grace which is taking us down to the ocean...(1:51:52)

Josef Bruckner said...

Mouna, greetings,
of course, from the linguistic viewpoint you are right, but I used the verb 'see' just in the sense of 'be'.

Michael James said...

Aham, the passage that you quote from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, section 612 (2006 edition, page 591), expresses the essence of Bhagavan’s teachings very clearly, because it closely echoes what he says in verses 23, 24 and 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.

Regarding your question about the word ‘looking’, what Bhagavan means when he says we should look closely at ego is that we should be keenly self-attentive. That is, we should attend only to ourself, the one who is aware of all other things.

What exactly do you mean by ‘I-me-mine thoughts’? What Bhagavan often referred to as ‘the thought called I’ (or ‘I-thought’, as it is often translated in English) is ego, which is the subject or perceiver, and therefore one and not many.

What we refer to as ‘I’ or ‘me’ may sometimes be this ego, but more often it is whatever person this ego mistakes itself to be, and what we refer to as ‘mine’ is whatever things we consider to be possessions of this person (and hence of ego). Ego is neither the person that it mistakes itself to be nor any of that person’s possessions, so attending to this person (who consists of five sheaths, namely a physical body, life, mind, intellect and will) or to any of its possessions is not attending to or looking at ego.

Mental questioning entails attending to a question, so that is also not looking at ego. Who is aware of such mental questioning? That is what we need to see. So we should look only at ourself, the one who is aware of everything else, and not at anything else whatsoever, not even at whatever person we currently seem to be.

Aham said...

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Thank you for your reply Mr James.

You write,
"...what Bhagavan means when he says we should look closely at ego is that we should be keenly self-attentive. That is, we should attend only to ourself, the one who is aware of all other things."


If I understand you correctly,....does that mean it is only when mentally still, that one is attending to the ego? As anything other than mental stillness would in fact be the ego attending to something other than itself!

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Josef Bruckner said...

Aham,
regarding your question and concluding statement in the last paragraph of your recent comment:
"If I understand you correctly,....does that mean it is only when mentally still, that one is attending to the ego? As anything other than mental stillness would in fact be the ego attending to something other than itself!",


if my understanding is correct you understand the mentioned explanation given in Michael's reply* quite correctly.

*[MJ:"Regarding your question about the word 'looking', what Bhagavan means when he says we should look closely at ego is that we should be keenly self-attentive. That is, we should attend only to ourself, the one who is aware of all other things."]

Michael James said...

Aham, I have replied to your latest comment in a separate article, We should ignore all thoughts or mental activity and attend only to ourself, the fundamental awareness ‘I am’.

Rajat Sancheti said...

I am having difficulty understanding the following point by myself. It is said that 'I am' never experiences anything other than itself, but that only the I-thought ('I am' + this body) experiences otherness. But since the experiencing part of the I-thought is only 'I am' or cit, and since there is only one 'I am', whether it exists in isolation in deep sleep or along with adjuncts as in waking and dream, is not that which experiences otherness also, the same I am which is the only real thing, existing alone in deep sleep? What can experience anything whatsoever (duality or itself alone), other than cit? Are there two kinds of cit, outward going and inward going? Thanks.

Josef Bruckner said...

Rajat Sancheti,
may I for the present answer your questions ?
1. The same 'I' which experiences otherness is in essence the only one real thing.
Ego is in essence brahman.
2. Only the cit-aspect of the ego can experience anything whatsoever (duality or itself alone).
3. There is only one cit. If cit is directed or going outwardly it is called 'mind'.

Aseem Srivastava said...

Rajat Sancheti,

But since the experiencing part of the I-thought is only 'I am' or cit, and since there is only one 'I am', whether it exists in isolation in deep sleep or along with adjuncts as in waking and dream, is not that which experiences otherness also, the same I am which is the only real thing, existing alone in deep sleep?

If we accept as true the proposition that the 'I am' of deep sleep is the one that experiences otherness in waking/dream, while maintaining that the 'I am' of deep sleep is aware of nothing other than itself, then we would contradict ourself.

The logically consistent position is that the 'I am' of deep sleep is ever-aware of only itself, and that the one that experiences otherness is the spurious adjunct-mixed self-awareness called ego.

Ego - the awareness 'I am this' - is inextricably intertwined with awareness of phenomena, some of which it appropriates as 'I'. So long as it is aware of phenomena, ego seems to be an awareness distinct from pure self-awareness. Therefore, it is only ego that experiences otherness in waking/dream.


What can experience anything whatsoever (duality or itself alone), other than cit? Are there two kinds of cit, outward going and inward going?

There is only one cit, the self-awareness 'I am'. So long as this cit seems to be accompanied by awareness of otherness, it is not pure cit but ego.

Cit is motionless self-awareness. Ego is distorted adjunct-mixed self-awareness. What moves inward or outward is only attention.

Rajat Sancheti said...

Thank you for your reply Josef Bruckner. The matter is still not clear. 'I' alone experiences otherness, and 'I' is in essence Brahman, this would imply that Brahman experiences otherness, but Brahman cannot experience otherness surely, because by definition there is nothing other than Brahman for it to experience. So who can experience duality? I guess the mistake is I'm trying to understand through logical reasoning or manana, what can only be understood through actual practice, through the enquiry Who experiences otherness?, hence this confusion. Michael himself has said that the appearance of the ego cannot be adequately explained, because "[...] it is māyā, which means ‘what is not’ or ‘what does not exist’, and māyā is rightly said to be anirvacanīya or inexplicable."

Mouna said...

Rajat Sancheti, greetings

You said: "'I' alone experiences otherness, and 'I' is in essence Brahman, this would imply that Brahman experiences otherness...”

This implied statement (Brahman experiences otherness) is false in relation to what was stated before ('I' alone experiences otherness, and 'I' is in essence Brahman).
The rope does not “experience” the snake, the snake is only “experienced" by a separate observer ignorant (due to insufficient light) of its essence.
The screen doesn not "see, watches or experiences" the movie that is projected upon it, only a separate observer does.
H2O does not “experience” ice, liquid or gas, only an observer does perceive those names and forms.

While the movie is running, although we look or see the screen, it is veiled by the play being projected on it

The “I” that you quote in those two statements before the third one about "Brahman experiences otherness” is ego (which sees snake, movie and different forms of H2O) and ego is, at the same time Brahman (the snake is actually the rope, ego/“I“ is Brahman) but also completely different from Brahman (the rope is not the snake, Brahman is not ego/“I”).

The “logic” implication of all this is that ego (“I”-thought) is the one perceiving names and forms (every-thing and otherness) while Brahman (“real” “I”) does not, since first, it does not have the necessary “equipements” (limitations) to do so and second, names and forms never came into existence in the first place (according to Bhagavan).

Who thinks, tries to understand, comments and applies logic?
Ego, of course!

Josef Bruckner said...

Rajat Sancheti,
it is said that the ego is a mixture of brahman and jada. Only as that mixture it experiences otherness and duality. As youself state your inference that brahman ultimately could perhaps experience otherness via (by) his share of the mixture is therefore evidently improper. As you say the appearance of the seeming veiling power of maya is inexplicable to the mind which - according to Bhagavan - itself does not really exist. Yes, logical reasoning reaches soon its limits.
Nevertheless, I wish you a happy self-investigation and fortunate discovery !

Aham said...

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The same 'I' which experiences otherness is in essence the only one real thing.
Ego is in essence brahman.



Very good point Mr Bruckner.

There is only one, not two. At times that one appears to contract into concepts, expressing itself as limited and finite (ego). When that contraction ceases, unlimited and infinite I Am remains (pure ego).


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Josef Bruckner said...

Aham,
"When...unlimited and infinite I Am remains (pure ego)."
Generally we call the infinite 'I' or 'I am' pure self-awareness whereas the limited 'I' is named 'ego'.
May we all be happy now and always.

Rajat Sancheti said...

There may be just one chit, but I think it would be right to say that that is not our experience. Michael has said that we must make a distinction between the consciousness that continues unbroken in all the three states, and the consciousness that knows things and appears only in waking and dream. The astonishing thing is that the real consciousness which people like me have trouble attending to, is perhaps actually much simpler than the false consciousness, it is closer to me than the false consciousness. And according to Bhagavan it is ever-present, even in the midst of activity. So is my confusion a cunning tactic of ego, which is me, to evade selfinvestigation? So I am being a hypocrite then, in trying to understand something I may not 100% want to understand even though I may quite earnestly think that I want to. But even the cure of this hypocrisy must be vichara I'm sure. Likewise, is sleep while doing vichara another escape mechanism of the ego, or a genuine response of body to being quite relaxed and relatively thought-free?

Roger Isaacs said...

Hi Michael,
1: Manana

Michael, what role does manana (contemplation) play in your practice and what are your recommendations about it?

Michael, you teach certainty. You are 'wise' and can proclaim such things as: 'my teaching is the ONLY means to eradicate ego'.
I capitalize the word "ONLY" because you used the word 200+ times in a recent post.

Intellectual certainty blocks manana or contemplation.
That which is beyond the ego may be revealed in receptivity.
But when one claims to already know the truth intellectually how can there be space for further insight?

For example, many christians take John 14:6 "no one can come to the Father but thru me" as proof that Jesus is the only way. The ego grasps at such ideas.
And the same with your statements such as "self investigation is the only means...".

2: Michael James teaches "the only means to eradicate ego"?

Michael you claim "self-investigation [is] the only means to eradicate ego".

This is disproven in Bhagavan's own words.

Godman posts the following account of Bhagavan's "death experience" "in his own words".
http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/05/bhagavans-death-experience.html

Bhagavan says that he is a "current or centre of energy" (aka kundalini). Search for the word "current" in your browser on the preceding link.

And in the following entries from Talks Bhagavan describes Kundalini (the current of energy) as a direct way to God, the ego arises from kundalini etc...

Talk 78:The Self is called by different names - Atman, God, Kundalini, mantra, etc. Hold any one of them and the Self becomes manifest. God is no other than the Self. Kundalini is now showing forth as the mind. When the mind is traced to its source it is Kundalini.

Talk 131: It is that from which the ego and the prana rise. It is sometimes called Kundalini.

Talk 195: The ‘I-thought’ also will sink along with breath. Simultaneously, another luminous and infinite ‘I-I’ will become manifest, which will be continuous and unbroken. That is the goal. It goes by different names - God, Self, Kundalini Sakti, Consciousness, Yoga, Bhakti, Jnana, etc.


In "A search in secret India" Bhagvan is quoted multiple times extolling "the current of energy".

Here are three authors each quoting Bhagavan speaking about kundalini (the current of energy) and other "means" in the highest possible way. Therefore, according to Bhagavan kundalini MAY be a "means" IF the practice resonates with the seeker.

Micheal, your translations may be good for contemplation. I'm not saying that your angle is wrong, only
that the claims that your teaching is "the ONLY means to eradicate ego" or that you have the only correct perspective are laughable.
It seems that you may have mistaken intellectual certainty for "the way"?